Ah, springtime. The flowers are in bloom, the weather’s nice, and tax season has ended. Time to relax in the park on a sunny day with a book. I’m so happy to be invited here again to celebrate the release of THE INDUSTRIAL SPY, the newest in my Curiosity Chronicles series.
Start: April 17, 2014 at 8:00 Pacific
End: April 23, 2014 at 12:00AM Pacific
Let the Revelry begin! Bring on the music. Pass the hors d’oeuvres and the red wine. THE INDUSTRIAL SPY is a romantic steampunk tale of secret agents, eclectic engines, and surprising alliances. The story takes place in the coastal and pastoral regions of France. To celebrate the book’s locale and the arrival of spring, I’m giving away a pair of beautiful silver fleur-de-lis earrings.
Read the excerpt, play the TwoChops crossword puzzle game, and enter the Rafflecopter for a chance to win the earrings or a $10 Gift Card from the Coffee Time Romance eBook Store.
PRIZE UPDATE: Congrats to Ruth and Diana!
Excerpt from The Industrial Spy
Northern France, August 1838
Dominique lined up along with the other female flour mill workers as they prepared for Broussard’s inspection. She adjusted her apron before the French industrialist sidled up to the front of the line to begin what had to be the most tawdry employee evaluation in all of French industry.
“Too scrawny.” Monsieur Emile Broussard gave his first verdict to a meager slip of a woman. Dominique watched in anger as one of Broussard’s cronies took the woman by the arm and dragged her away.
The industrialist proceeded to the second female. Towering over the petite mill worker by at least a foot and a half, he looked down his fleshy nose at her. “Too pale.”
Another crony came forward to take her away. Broussard stepped heavily to the third. Possessing a barrel chest and thick limbs, he had to weigh as much as two stout men. He assessed the third woman and sniffed. “Too ugly.”
She immediately burst into tears, not because he wasn’t fond of her looks, but because she was now out of work.
“I do not employ unattractive female workers in this mill,” he announced over her growing sobs. The remaining female workers cowed in fear for what his razor assessment would bring each of them.
Dominique only became disgusted. Ever since she began working undercover at the mill for the French government agency Bureau de l’Industrie, she’d seen violation after violation of employee rights and machine safety procedures. As if endangering his workers wasn’t enough, now Broussard wanted to transform the mill into a brothel to increase his profits in the sleepy villages outside Le Havre.
It was up to Dominique to dismantle his scheme and bring him into custody. But first, Broussard had to decide if she was pretty.
She placed a hand on her hip and waited for the pompous industrial crime lord to strut his way down the line. He rejected two more workers.
Just as he reached her, Monsieur Delacroix, the mill overseer, burst out of his office. “Monsieur Broussard, you must see this.”
Broussard looked away from Dominique. “I instructed all of the men to wait outside. What is it?”
Yes, Dominique wondered. What could make the normally unaffected overseer look as though he were ready to jump out the window and into the Seine River?
Monsieur Delacroix stopped short before Broussard. “The bolting machine is fit to burst. Our new engineer says he saw cracks forming.”
“I didn’t give you license to hire an engineer. Where is this man?”
Delacroix jabbed his thumb backwards.
Dominique turned and saw a man emerge from the office. With confidence, he strode forward. Dominique heard the women behind her murmur as he passed them, tall and steady in his gait. He stopped beside her.
He matched Broussard in height, but that was where the two men’s physical similarities abruptly ended. The newcomer was built lean and strong. Muscles shown in his forearms where he had rolled up the sleeves of his cambric work shirt.
Dominique’s gaze rose higher to the engineer’s face. A square jaw sat firmly anchored below a sensual mouth, a small nose, gray eyes, and a wide, creaseless brow. What was most striking was his hair, a thick shock of copper.
He must have been hired only today or she would have noticed him long before, the way he stood out from among the other male workers.
“You say you’re an engineer?” Broussard demanded, sizing up the man that stared him eye to eye.
Dominique listened to his French carefully. He had the words correct, but something was wrong with his regional accent.
The engineer saw her stare and boldly returned her gaze. Strength and resolve were in his eyes, as well as a hint of youthful rebellion. He was a grown man, but couldn’t have been past his mid-twenties, only a few years older than she was.
She felt a heavy hand come down upon her shoulder.
“You look like a man who knows his women,” Broussard said to the engineer. “What do you think of this one?”
“She’s not too plain.”
Well, then. Dominique found herself reacting. Why did she suddenly care about a perfect stranger’s estimation of her appearance? The engineer turned his attention away as swiftly as it had been directed towards her.
“Monsieur Broussard, the bolting machine,” Monsieur Delacroix reminded.
Broussard’s hand slid off Dominique’s shoulder. “I’ll get to it. Un moment.”
But Dominique heard a shrill whistle from the back of the mill. Seconds later, she saw flames burst from the bolting machine.
The mill workers fled for the door leading downstairs in a collection of shrieks. Broussard exited with surprising speed for his formidable size, flanked by the overseer.
Dominique didn’t know how that fire started, but now was her chance to raid the overseer’s office and get what evidence she could find to incriminate Broussard. She darted forward.
Right into the arms of the engineer.
“You should be running,” she said.
“As should you, in the opposite direction.”
“I must see if other workers remain inside.” She pushed against him, but his grip was strong and sure.
“They’ve all fled, Dominique Fontaine.”
She ceased struggling. “How do you know my name?”
“Every agent has secrets.” He refused to let her go as he pulled her with him to the nearest window. “I’m Colton Smythe. I’m with New Britannia’s Cabinet of Intellectual Curiosities. And you, mademoiselle, are wanted by my agency for questioning.”
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THE INDUSTRIAL SPY is the third book in my Curiosity Chronicles series, but all books can be read independently.
The Curiosity Chronicles series is set in a fictional world, similar to what our own past looked like in the 1830s-40s. Yet amid this age of rival empires and steam-driven industry, you are sure to notice a few differences. This series follows the agents and affiliates of the Cabinet of Intellectual Curiosities (COIC), a group of brave men and women from very different walks of life who discover scientific feats, engineering marvels, and that most rewarding of findings, love.
Ava Morgan loves history, retro style, and reading everything she can get her hands on, especially steampunk, fantasy, and old pulp fiction. The Curiosity Chronicles series came from her affinity for the romance of history as well as its quirky anachronisms. When Ava isn’t planted in her writing chair, she can be found sampling mead and turkey legs at a Renaissance Festival alongside her husband or running up a tab at the local coffeehouse.