I’m thrilled to welcome author Veronica Scott to my blog. I’m a big fan of her last Science Fiction Romance, Wreck of the Nebula Dream (I chat about it here) so I was glad to hear that she had a new SFR release. Want the details? Take it away, Veronica…
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Thanks for having me as your guest today, Diane! I’m happy to say my new Science Fiction Romance novel, ESCAPE FROM ZULAIRE is available now. The story takes place in the same universe as WRECK OF THE NEBULA DREAM, but the two novels aren’t connected in any way. My heroine in the new book, Andi Markriss, does work for the same galactic shipping company that Mara was employed by in WRECK, but that’s the only tiny connection. Good old Loxton Galactic Trading – they like to hire strong willed, independent women who stay cool in a crisis.
Here’s the book’s blurb:
Andi Markriss hasn’t exactly enjoyed being the houseguest of the planetary high-lord, but her company sent her to represent them at a political wedding. When hotshot Sectors Special Forces Captain Tom Deverane barges in on the night of the biggest social event of the summer, Andi isn’t about to offend her high-ranking host on Deverane’s say-so—no matter how sexy he is, or how much he believes they need to leave now.
Deverane was thinking about how to spend his retirement bonus when HQ assigned him one last mission: rescue a civilian woman stranded on a planet on the verge of civil war. Someone has pulled some serious strings to get her plucked out of the hot zone. Deverane’s never met anyone so hard-headed—or so appealing. Suddenly his mission to protect this one woman has become more than just mere orders.
That mission proves more dangerous than he expected when rebel fighters attack the village and raze it to the ground. Deverane escapes with Andi, and on their hazardous journey through the wilderness, Andi finds herself fighting her uncomfortable attraction to the gallant and courageous captain. But Deverane’s not the type to settle down, and running for one’s life doesn’t leave much time to explore a romance.
Then Andi is captured by the rebel fighters, but Deverane has discovered that Zulaire’s so-called civil war is part of a terrifying alien race’s attempt to subjugate the entire Sector. If he pushes on to the capitol Andi will die. Deverane must decide whether to save the woman he loves, or sacrifice her to save Zulaire.
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So the idea for ESCAPE’s plot is based in a real life incident that happened in India in 1857. The events in India during this period go by many names, depending who’s telling the story, but one common term is the Sepoy Rebellion. I was always fascinated how so many British women and children in India at the time were caught totally unaware, suddenly in the middle of a really awful war, and the people they trusted and looked to for help were the very ones determined to kill them. I always wondered how it would feel to be in the middle of such a situation and what I’d do.
My novel is not a retelling of the Sepoy events in any way. Unlike WRECK, which was loosely based on the sinking of the Titanic, ESCAPE only takes the very basic idea and then runs with it. When the book starts, the heroine knows things aren’t quite right, she’s a guest at an isolated compound hundreds of miles from safety…and then one afternoon Sectors Special Forces Captain Tom Deverane shows up and says it’s time to leave now.
Here’s an excerpt from events later that night:
A pair of night hunting birds called from the woods behind them. In the parking area on the other side of the celebration hall, a groundcar alarm blared then abruptly cut off.
Andi stood up, putting her glass down on the bench before resting her hand on Deverane’s arm. “I think we’d better go. Everything you’ve told me today is making me nervous, although I still find it hard to believe there’s danger to Lord Tonkiln’s family, or any of the others out here.”
“Maybe the Naranti mediators can reduce the tension levels. I understand it’s worked before,” he said. “Not my problem, however. Command doesn’t want any Sectors citizens caught in a Zulairian concern.”
She turned her head away from him. Even with their own citizens getting killed in the crossfire, the Sectors would take a hands-off stance, leaving the people of Zulaire to solve the problems. The offworld government didn’t care if it meant years of local bloodshed. “Sectors doesn’t want to have to get involved, you mean.”
“Right.” Crisply, Deverane nodded. “Zulaire provides some essential minerals, from the Abuzan Range, but we’ve secured and supplied the mine to withstand a two-year siege.”
Andi took a last look at the lake, trying to imprint the quiet scene on her memory. “What did Lady Tonkiln say when you decided to spend the night?”
“A lot of gracious nonsense. The old harridan didn’t mean a word of it. She left it to Iraku to decide where to quarter us. He must dislike outworlders even more than she does, because he stuck us in the big transport barn with our vehicles.” He smiled, but his clenched jaw betrayed his true feelings on the subject.
“You’re not serious?” Andi did a double take. “You’re an officer. Weren’t you provided a room in the main house?”
“Iraku offered a room to me. But I’ll be damned if I’m going to sleep in a posh mansion while my men bunk in a garage.” Tossing the remainder of his drink into the shrubbery, Deverane set the heavy, engraved glass on the bench.
She shivered, rubbing her arms, trying to soothe away the goosebumps brought on by the night breeze.
Giving her a concerned look, he stood up. “I’m an idiot. I should have thought to ask if you had a wrap before we came out here.”
“It’s all right. I’ll be fine. I’m upset about my friends and concerned about everything you just told me.”
“The situation report was a lot to take in, I know.” Deverane moved closer to her, heat radiating from his body. Slowly he reached out with one hand to circle her wrist, tugging her gently closer, until she was right up against him. “Better?”
Andi nodded, placing her hands on his chest, enjoying the feeling of their bodies together, the implicit intimacy holding promise for what might happen later.
The lights along the path and beside the benches flickered and went out, plunging them into darkness.
Glancing around, Deverane frowned in the moonlight. He released her, keeping one hand around her wrist and putting the other on the butt of his blaster. “Is that normal?”
“The generators have been known to be troublesome in the summer. Probably nothing.” The moment was gone, the spell she’d been under broken. Am I disappointed? Relieved? Things had been moving way too fast between them for people who had just met. “Fortunately, we still have enough moonlight to see the path.” Andi took a step toward the clubhouse.
He tightened his grip on her wrist, forcing her to stop. “Wait.”
Yelling broke out in the large building on the rise behind them. Glaring, sporadic flashes burst from the general direction of the parking area and from the main wing of the celebration hall itself. Making the forest brighter than day, a sizable explosion obliterated the light of the two moons for a moment. Clapping her hands to her ears at the concussion, Andi ducked, crowding into the reassuringly hard-muscled captain.
In one fluid motion, he had his blaster in hand. Still keeping his grasp on her wrist, he drew Andi farther away from the path, taking cover behind a wide, multiple-trunked tree. Placing himself between her and the building, he leaned out, reconnoitering the pathway. The screams and shouts were increasing in intensity and number.
Andi huddled against the tree, rough bark scraping her arm. He was right, this sounds like the beginning of war. Trembling, she had to lock her jaw to keep her teeth from chattering as one piercing shriek rose above the rest of the general uproar.
“I’m afraid we missed our deadline for a clean escape.” His voice was harsh, the words angry. “Come on.” Pulling Andi to her feet, he laced his fingers in hers and drew her from the safety of the tree, setting a course around the edge of the lake to the east. Andi stumbled in her high-heeled dancing shoes over rocks and branches.
“Wait.” Digging her heels into a softer patch of ground, she forced him to stop, yanking her hand free. “Shouldn’t we go back, try to help?”
“We’re overwhelmingly outnumbered.” He frowned at her, nostrils flared as if he could scent the enemy forces. His stare was unblinking.
Eyeing the blaster in his hand, Andi raised her eyebrows.
Deverane sighed. “Even with a blaster. This was a well-planned, well-timed attack. You and I can’t afford to be caught in the middle of it. We’ve got to get back to the Tonkiln house and my men.”
Across the lake, one of the Obati mansions on the far shore exploded into flames. Andi gasped. “The attack is spreading.”
“This is worse than I thought.” Grabbing her shoulder, he turned her toward the lake and gave her a gentle push. “Are there any boats? We need to keep this head start. No time to creep around the edge of the lake.”
“The boats were drawn up on shore late this afternoon for the end of the season. This way.” She led him to the lakeshore, where the going was easier. Kicking off her stiletto heels as soon as the ground changed to beach sand, Andi ran faster than she’d ever managed in her life.
Not even breathing hard, the captain kept pace. Swiveling his head, he evaluated the situation. “I don’t like us being so exposed in the open.”
“There are the boats.” Andi pointed to the line of gaily painted pleasure craft resting in the sand about ten yards ahead. Holstering his blaster, Deverane sprinted, grabbing the first boat in the line. He dragged the small craft across the sand into the lapping water. By the time she skidded to a halt, his hand was stretched out to her as he gestured impatiently. “I’ll boost you in. Come on.”
Holding her shoes above her head, she waded out, gasping a little at the coldness of the water. With one hand he helped her shimmy up and over into the boat, where she landed with a thud. Scrambling on hands and knees to the stern, she sat at the control panel, trying to remember the simple instructions she’d received earlier in the week. As Deverane fell over the side, she had the motor revving to the red line. Leaving a broad wake gleaming in the moonlight, the little pleasure craft shot straight across the lake.
He crouched low on the bench amidships and ran his hand over his hair. She hoped he was planning their next move. Blaster in his hand again, he reconnoitered the shore with deep suspicion. “Any obstacles in this water?”
Chilled in her half-drenched party clothes, she shook her head, wishing her expensive dress could shed water the way his uniform was engineered to do. “Not this direction. Can you contact your squad?”
“I’m trying right now.” He showed her the tiny comlink cradled in his other hand. “No answer, which could mean anything or nothing, but probably isn’t good.”
“Do you think the Tonkiln house has been attacked?” Andi worried about heading into an even worse situation than the one they’d left behind.
Not looking at her, he just shook his head. “Let’s deal with that when we come to it. Don’t steer straight to the dock—we’d be too obvious, sitting ducks. We need to land and work our way to the house without attracting attention.”
Angling the boat off to the east, Andi set a course to avoid the dock as ordered. “I never considered an attack on the family’s home. Lords of Space, what about the kids? Sadu and his two little visiting cousins—their Shenti nurse went home to her village last night—there’s only old Iraku and a few of the housemen there to protect them.” Worry about the younger family members gnawed a pit in Andi’s gut. “Lady Tonkiln must be terrified.”
“I have to extract the Sectors citizens, not risk my men trying to rescue anyone else against overwhelming odds. The Tonkilns aren’t my concern, understand?” His voice was flat, the words dismissive.
Andi jerked her head around to stare at him. “We can’t ignore the danger to them.”
“Lady, I have orders.”
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