Guest Author & Giveaway: Meredith Duran featuring A Lady's Lesson in Scandal

Tuesday, June 28

Today, it is my great honor to have the author who wrote, what I consider to be, the best first line in a romance novel last year.  So often books blur together, especially historical romances (at least for me since I read so many).  But when I can remember a specific line from a book that I read months and months ago, I consider that AMAZING storytelling!

Historical romance author Meredith Duran is my special guest today to share with us her newest novel, A Lady's Lesson in Scandal, which I have no doubt will contain many memorable lines and/or moments.  Read and enjoy!

Welcome back to Seductive Musings Meredith!

Thanks so much for having me!

For some readers the first sentence/beginning of a book is one of the most important moments, maybe even just as important as the last sentence/ending in the story.  I still remember the first line from Wicked Becomes You, and how much I absolutely loved it, “England was a wicked bitch who wished him ill”.  LOVE. IT!  What is the first sentence from A Lady’s Lesson in Scandal?  What do you think it says about the story to come?  And how important is this to you to get just the right line/beginning?

The first sentence of A Lady’s Lesson:
“By the time the whistle finished shrilling, Nell was already out the door.”
This opening line isn’t quite so vivid as Alex’s opinion of England in Wicked Becomes You, but it certainly hints at Nell’s feelings about the factory where she works—and the fact that she’s willing to hustle (in the figurative as well as the literal sense) to achieve her goals.

As for how to determine the “right” beginning (a great question!), I’m never clear on where to start until I’m well into writing the book and have a good grasp on the characters’ deepest fears and needs. To wit: A Lady’s Lesson originally started with the excerpt now featured on my website, in which Nell breaks into Simon’s house. That’s quite an action-packed scene and it captures Nell in a moment of profound crisis. Ultimately, though, I realized that we needed to know who she had been right before her world shattered. So, I backed up in the narrative and began with what appears to be another ordinary day in Nell’s life, but which, by midnight, has called into question everything she thought she knew about herself.

Most authors have a synopsis, outline or idea of what the story they are about to write will be.  However, sometimes during the writing process your “Muse” might speak to you and lead you in a different or unplanned direction.  What surprised or changed the most from your original intent of A Lady’s Lesson in Scandal?

I am wholly unaccustomed to writing about well-adjusted men, but Simon—despite my intentions, and his own personal history—turned out to be one!

To be fair, he didn’t appear well-adjusted when I started writing this book. He’s downright beautiful, popular with widows and wives, bored with social niceties, and makes a performance of being untroubled by the world’s good opinion. That sounds like the classic rake, does it not? And since I’d never written a true rake before, I was game to do so.

But, no. Whereas a true libertine is completely self-involved and singularly intent on his own pleasure, Simon is full of curiosity and thoroughly intent on making others enjoy themselves (even—and despite—their intentions to the contrary). He’s too pleased with himself to indulge in the sort of self-loathing that motivates true libertines–and too curious about other people, about what motivates and impedes them; too imaginative and too compassionate in some ways to count as a true rake.

It took me about 120 pages to realize that his resemblance to a libertine was, in fact, his camouflage. Once I did, and went back and rewrote him, voila: true chemistry was born between him and our heroine.

Tell us about your hero, Simon St. Maur.  What do you think will make readers, much like his heroine Nell , fall in love with him? And can you tell us a little bit about their story in A Lady’s Lesson in Scandal?

Occasionally in life you meet someone whose extreme charisma is born of his complete comfort in his own skin. Simon is one of these people. He knows his own strengths but he also has no illusion regarding his flaws.

The very fact that he’s not hard on himself (or on anybody else: he doesn’t judge the milkwater misses for behaving as debutantes must; doesn’t scoff at pompous landowners for prating about their hunting hounds; doesn’t revile the trappings of his station, rather enjoys them, in fact) makes him a fascinating match for Nell.

Nell has lived a hard life. By necessity, she is wary, mistrustful, and ungenerous in her judgments. Moreover, she has every reason to scorn this man’s promises until he has proved that he will honor them.

She’s a challenge to Simon, who rarely runs up against anyone he can’t persuade. That said, he also understands her at an intuitive level, because he has a strong instinct for self-protection (born of his upbringing) that borders on wariness. Most people in Simon’s life, even his friends, don’t know him nearly as well as they think they do. He simply protects himself more subtly than Nell does–-not with defiance but with layer upon layer of impenetrable charm.

This is a romance, then, between two people who don’t trust anyone—Nell, because she has been burned; Simon, because, among other things, social success in his world punishes honesty and true intimacy. At the start of the book, both of them are very comfortable with their own strategies of self-protection. But these begin to fracture and fail as they fall in love with each other, which makes for some splendid tension and conflict.

To sum it up: A Lady’s Lesson in Scandal is a variation on the classic Pygmalion tale. The East End slum rat becomes a lady. But Simon’s transformation is no less dramatic.

What's your favorite scene or moment from A Lady’s Lesson in Scandal, and why? Can you describe it (or provide a short excerpt) for us without giving too much away?

Initially, forced into Simon’s world, ignorant of the rules that govern it, Nell is at a real disadvantage. But gradually the balance of power between them begins to shift. A pivotal moment in this transformation takes place after Nell has successfully completed her etiquette training, proving herself adept at a dinner table where each place setting comes with seven pieces of silverware. Afterward, sensing her exhaustion, Simon decides to give her the night off, and asks her, for once, what she would like to do.

I had so much fun writing the pool game that follows. I won’t spoil it, but I’ll share the lead-up.

The white ball cracked into the red, sending it spinning into the top pocket. Nell straightened with a broad grin. She had an unlighted cigar clamped between her teeth, and as she cast down her cue, her hand went to the glass of whisky she’d balanced on the table’s edge. “Three more strokes to me,” she said. She plucked the cigar from her mouth and pointed it at his eye. “How’s that feel, laddie?”
“I’m trembling,” Simon drawled.

“As you should be.” She winked at him, then tipped back her glass for a long, unfeminine swig. Simon’s gaze wandered down the line of her throat to the low neckline of her golden gown. The lean, graceful tension of her bare upper arms fascinated him. He regretted the long white gloves that disguised the tender curve of her inner elbow. Uncreative schoolboys might dream of orgies featuring nuns, but the truly precocious dreamed of a woman like this: bohemian and endlessly surprising. Self-possessed and quick-witted enough to keep any man on his toes.

Generally boys grew up to realize that such women existed only in dreams. Finding one in his billiards room somewhat took his breath away.

Her swallow was noisy. She smacked her lips as she set down the glass. He’d invited her to behave without a care for propriety, and she’d spent the last half hour testing the sincerity of his offer. “A dead heat,” she said gleefully.

He retrieved his cue, grabbing a length of sandpaper to roughen the leather tip. “Not for long, of course. But by all means, enjoy it while it lasts.”

“Oh, I expect it won’t be long,” she said comfortably. “You’ll be fouling, this next strike.”

He snorted. “My dear, misguided twit, you’re playing the top scorer in the Oxford-Cambridge matches of seventy-five and seventy-six. I never left St. James’s Hall that I wasn’t carried out shoulder-high.”

“Oh ho, a sharper!” She retrieved her glass to make him a toast. “My sympathies on your coming defeat, then, boy-o. Bound to be bitterer than your whisky.”

He laughed as he exchanged sandpaper for chalk. She was a sharp-toothed tiger wrapped up in silk. “I think I’ll make you pay for that taunt.”

“Will you, now! And what price for your arrogance, me pretty lad?”

He looked up from the chalk, smiling slowly. “I am pretty, aren’t I? High time you noticed.”

Color rose in her face, but she did not look away—not even as she returned the glass to the small shelf behind her and placed her cigar beside it. Eyes remaining on his, she came padding around the billiards table in her stocking feet.

It was he who broke the gaze to look downward, to the white silk stockings that revealed glimpses of the slim shape of her toes. Her small feet flexed gracefully, the arches deep, her ankles trim—she was lifting her skirts higher than her short steps required.

He felt his smile deepen. Oh, he knew what she was on about, here.

As she arrived at his side, the delicate scent of lilies reached him. Somebody, the French maid, had put perfume on her, and it seemed to spread tendrils that twined into his brain and tightened around it, strangling his good sense.

Her breasts brushed his arm as she leaned past him to set the red ball at the billiards spot. “You’re going to lose,” she purred, glancing up at him from beneath her long, dark lashes. “In that dining room, you may know what’s what, but this is my sort of table.”

“Hmm.” He held her eyes, arrested by the glint in them. That glint invited him to commit mischief: she wasn’t the only one intending to misbehave. “Perhaps we should make a wager on it.”

I assure you, this is a wager he will come to regret. :)

What are five fun facts about you or this book, that readers would love to know?
  1. Nell was originally called Polly. The name began to seem too soft for her. She conceals her tenderness as a survival strategy. I couldn’t picture her answering to such a mellifluous name.
  2. I cannot outline. I have outlined several books from A to Z. All of these outlines sound good to me, but I’ve never finished one of these books. Oh, to be a plotter! But after so many false starts, I’ve resigned myself to the fact that the only way I can prepare for writing a book is by developing the characters. Knowing what will happen to them vitiates my enthusiasm.
  3. Certain gymnasiums in Victorian London had swimming pools! I’m not sure why this surprised me so much, but it did. Simon’s a habitual swimmer (with a body to match :).
  4. Most parts of the East End did not have a steady public water supply until the 1900s. Before doing the research for this book, I hadn’t realized quite how dire life was in the slums of late Victorian London.
  5. In primary sources from late Victorian England, factory girls appear to be the natural forerunners to flappers! Bold, independent, spirited, outspoken, these girls were famous for not taking any guff. My only regret is that I did not get to include a scene I wrote in which Nell and her best friend, Hannah, head off to the music hall to see a show. Factory girls did not sit at home at night embroidering. Many of them had very active social lives after dark!
Can you tell us about some of your upcoming releases, or new projects that we can look forward to?  Will you be writing any series that we can eagerly anticipate?

I’m finishing up my next book, At Your Pleasure, which has a tentative release date of May 2012. This is my first Georgian, set very early indeed (1715, the year George I took the throne). I had a glorious time researching this era! The conflict in AYP revolves around an aspect of the Jacobite movement not often explored in historical romances – namely, Jacobitism in non-Catholic English circles. As I mentioned on twitter recently, the hero of this book may be my first true, undisputed, sword-wielding, bad-ass Alpha. I adore him... but as husband material, I’m pretty certain I’d prefer Simon. :)

If you could ask readers to finish a sentence, what would it be?

Ha.  “I’d be shocked and thrilled to read about a hero who...”

Finally, just for fun…if you could write the “fortune” in a fortune cookie what would it be?

Happiness is not a gift, but a practice to be cultivated daily.


When Nell Whitby breaks into an earl’s house on a midnight quest for revenge, she finds her pistol pointed at the wrong man—one handsome as sin and naked as the day he was born. Pity he’s a lunatic. He thinks her a missing heiress, but more to the point, he’ll help her escape the slums and right a grave injustice. Not a bad bargain. All she has to do is marry him.


A rake of the first order, Simon St. Maur spent his restless youth burning every bridge he crossed. When he inherits an earldom without a single penny attached to it, he sees a chance to start over—provided he can find an heiress to fund his efforts. But his wicked reputation means courtship will be difficult—until fate sends him the most notorious missing heiress in history. All he needs now is to make her into a lady and keep himself from making the only mistake that could ruin everything: falling in love. . . .

Read Chapter 1, and an additional excerpt (the original beginning of the book)

Congratulations Meredith!  Today is A Lady's Lesson in Scandal's official release day, so if you've been tempted hopefully you will be able to find it at your favorite local bookseller....if not you can always find it online :) 

If you would like to learn more about Meredith Duran and the historical romances that she writes, you can find her at her website, the blog she shares with fellow romance writer Sherry Thomas, Twitter, and Facebook.  One of my favorite things on her website is the section for each book called the "stories behind the story" I absolutely love this!  It's basically the literary equivalent of a "cutting room floor."  I'm always fascinated by things like this :)

To celebrate the release of Meredith's newest historical romance, A Lady's Lesson in Scandal, her publisher Pocket books would like to giveaway one copy of the book to a very lucky Musings follower.  Here's how you can enter to win:

Ways to earn entries:
  • Mandatory:   Complete the sentence that Meredith asked readers to finish in the interview, AND  leave some additional comment love for the author regarding her books that you may have read, or what intrigued you the most about A Lady's Lesson in Scandal. (good for 1 entry)
  • Mandatory: You MUST be a Google Friend Connect (GFC) follower in order to be eligible to win (unfortunately an email subscriber, or subscription in Google reader, and a follower are not the same thing so make sure you are signed up as a follower if you'd like to win this book)
  • If you have a blog, or even if you don't, you can earn extra entries by telling your friends. If they successfully enter to win and mention that you sent them you can each earn extra entries. You can blog about it with a link to this post, post it on Facebook, Twitter, email...or even word of mouth (good for 5 entries for the referrer and the commenter for each friend) . Please note that to earn the points they must mention your GFC name so that I can match you.
  • Purchase any item from the Seductive Musings Amazon store by using this link, or the Amazon widget contained within this post and email a copy of your purchase receipt to me no later than the deadline to enter (email available in sidebar). Sorry purchases made prior to this date do not apply, and link contained in this post must be used. No faxes or snail mail copies are allowed. No purchases are necessary to win. (good for 25 entries, or 50 entries if a purchase is made from the featured author's available titles)
How to enter:
  • You can choose to enter as many different ways that you want, but please place all of your entries in ONE comment 
Rules and disclaimers:
  • This contest is open to US addresses only
  • You must be at least 18 years or older, or of legal age in your country
  • The contest will end on July 2nd at 11:59 pm EST and winner will be posted after they have been selected
  • Winner(s) will be selected using
  • The winner(s) will have THREE days from the date they are posted to provide a mailing address. If you do not contact me within three days a replacement winner will be selected. NO EXCEPTIONS
  • The book(s) will be mailed directly from the publisher or author and no substitutions are allowed
  • Winners will be subject to one copy per household, which means that if you win the same title in two or more contests, that you will only receive one copy of the title in the mail
  • Seductive Musings is not responsible for prizes that are not honored, distributed in a timely manner, lost, stolen, or damaged during transit 
  • All giveaways are subject to change/cancellation without prior written notice
Good Luck!

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*I am an Amazon affiliate and receive a small (and I mean very small) referral fee for purchases made using a link on this blog. I don't use Amazon to earn money, I use it because the widgets are cool, easy to use, and serve my purposes to showcase books & such with minimal effort, but most importantly they have great prices and offer both new and used items. As a book addict I love that I can find just about anything I want in one place. If you are going to purchase a featured book anyway, and you know you won't pay more by using the links on this blog than you would by visiting Amazon on your own, I will be eternally grateful for supporting this blog by using the links, and don't forget that the referral fees from your purchases will sponsor the "Reader Rewards" giveaways :)


Jane June 28, 2011 at 3:21 AM  

Happy Release Day to Meredith. "Written On Your Skin" is one my favorite romances. I’d be shocked and thrilled to read about a hero who exercises(boxing, fencing, swimming) in the nude.

GFC follower.

lindalou June 28, 2011 at 7:41 AM  

“I’d be shocked and thrilled to read about a hero who...loves dogs.”

Here's my fav fortune cookie saying: IF you eat a box of fortune cookies, anything is possible.

Thanks so much for the giveaway!

lindalou June 28, 2011 at 7:44 AM  

P.S. I'm a GFC Follower! Sorry I forgot to confirm that! I was so into my fortune cookies... LOL!

Bethie June 28, 2011 at 9:51 AM  

I’d be shocked and thrilled to read about a hero who...traveled the world.

I love the cover of this book. Can't wait to read it.

I follow on GFC

lizzi0915 at aol dot com

Tore June 28, 2011 at 10:04 AM  

I would be shocked to read about a hero who really loves to cook. I am a follower and email subscriber. Please enter me in contest. I would love to read this book.

Chele Blades June 28, 2011 at 11:08 AM  

“I’d be shocked and thrilled to read about a hero actually looking for his soul mate instead of pretending to want to remain single....not enough confident heroes...they all seem to be running and smash into there HEA...ok maybe it would not make a great story...everyone loves a commitment-phobe

gfc follower

Meredith Duran June 28, 2011 at 11:23 AM  

I love all these comments! I'm off to NYC for RWA week madness, otherwise I would hang out here all day, collecting these cracking ideas you're giving me for new heroes. ;)

Thanks so much for your interest in A Lady's Lesson! Can't wait to check back here when I find internet in the Big Apple...

Maria June 28, 2011 at 3:00 PM  

Congratulations on the new release! "I’d be shocked and thrilled to read about a hero who...truly understands a woman's heart and helps her to be the best that she can be". I love the cover to Meredith's books- they are all beautiful! I especially like the cover for "A Lady's Lesson in Scandal" - it really intrigues me.

I am a GFC Follower

Barbara E. June 28, 2011 at 6:51 PM  

I’d be shocked and thrilled to read about a hero who...loves animals and small children and offers to help the heroine with her menagerie of both.

June M. June 28, 2011 at 8:21 PM  

I would be shocked and thrilled to read about a hero who is a virgin, but falls for a woman who is not.

The book sounds great! Love a confident heroine.

GFC follower: June M.
manning_j2004 at yahoo dot com

Artemis June 28, 2011 at 9:56 PM  

Meredith, how have I missed your books? Well, I'm still a rookie when it comes to reading romance, but no more! I can't wait to read this one. OMG! The first chapter has me hook, line and sinker.

I would be shocked and thrilled to read about a hero who, without being asked, sweeps the keep, washed the dishes, takes out the trash, empties the chamber pot, feeds the dog/cat, you get the idea.

Yep, I'm a GFC Follower!

JenM June 28, 2011 at 11:10 PM  

This book sounds great. I love it when there are class differences between the lead characters and it being set in Victorian times is an added bonus.

I’d be shocked and thrilled to read about a hero who...has totally ordinary looks and is of average height.

GFC follower.
jen at delux dot com

Sheree June 29, 2011 at 2:59 AM  

Congrats on your new release!

I'd be shocked and thrilled to read about a hero who can play the pianoforte well (because all I've read is that the heroines play that instrument). Heck, any musical instrument will do.

I also agree with Artemis. LOL

GFC follower
ironss [at] gmail [dot] com

Maureen June 29, 2011 at 6:04 AM  

Congratulations on your new release Meredith! It sounds like another great story. My favorite book by Meredith is Bound by Your Touch. I love good endings because I think they are tough for romance authors to make different and the ending of Bound by Your Touch is the best ending of a romance I have ever read. There is no doubt that this couple will always be together.
I'd be shocked and thrilled to read about a hero who is shy and awkward with women.
mce1011 AT aol DOT com

CrystalGB June 29, 2011 at 2:12 PM  

I’d be shocked and thrilled to read about a hero who is the benefactor of a school to reform courtesans.
GFC follower

gamistress66 June 29, 2011 at 10:35 PM  

the book sounds great & hope to get a chance to read it. regarding the question you asked:

I'd be shocked and thrilled to read about a hero who ... knew how to cook & clean (ie: take care of the daily necessities of home) some during the regency period. :)

gamistress66 (at) aol (dot) com

Pam S (pams00),  July 2, 2011 at 1:08 AM  

I'd be shocked to read about a hero who obtains a dress shop just to meet women...

Congrats on our latest release so looking forward to it. I really enjoyed the post was very interesting. Looking forward to more info on your next book as well in the upcoming months.

Pam S (pams00),  July 2, 2011 at 1:08 AM  

sorry gfc follower pams00

pams00 @

Penfield July 2, 2011 at 3:25 PM  

It sounds like an interesting story. I've read Meredith's other books and enjoyed them.

GFC follower

Penfield July 2, 2011 at 3:30 PM  

Sorry. I forgot to answer the question. “I’d be shocked and thrilled to read about a hero who is klutzy and inept, but suddenly becomes competent."

GFC follower

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