Marsha Canham's Blog

July 24, 2011

Sample Sunday CJ Archer

Filed under: Caesars Through the Fence — marshacanham @ 2:12 pm

First, let me say…no one has come up with even a hint of what the cow book might be, featured on my last blog *sigh* I’d offer my first born son as further incentive, but if you don’t talk baseball or football he pretty much tunes you out.

Secondly, I’m totally STOKED that Jimmy Thomas likes my new cover for the Pirate Wolf Duet enough to make his profile pic today. You can see it here

On to today’s sample. It comes all the way from Down Under, please give a warm welcome, and wave a touque (I’m Canadian, eh) to CJ Archer…


Hi everyone, I’m C.J. Archer.  I’m an Australian writer of historical romances mostly set in Elizabethan and Victorian England.  Some of the 6 ebooks I’ve released have paranormal elements in them and some don’t.  I’m eclectic that way.  Even more than I like to write, I like to read.  Dorothy Dunnett, Jane Austen, Juliet Marillier, Janet Evanovich and many more – like I said, eclectic.

Reading, writing and research are my passions.  Yes, research is a passion.  I love history.  All of it, no matter the time or place.  Historical documentary on TV?  I’ll watch it.  A repeat of Time Team?  Yep, I’ll watch that too.

The book Marsha is featuring today is A Secret Life which is set in Shakespeare’sLondon.  Like me, the heroine is passionate about her writing.  In her case she writes plays in a time when female playwrights were frowned upon.  Also like me, the heroine has a scientist father but I’ll leave it up to you to decide if her relationship with her father parallels the one I have with my dad :).  The premise for A Secret Life is a little like Remington Steele.  Remember that old 80’s TV show starring Pierce Brosnan where the female P.I. uses him to be the “front” for her detective agency? I loved that show.

Here’s the blurb  from A Secret Life

Minerva Peabody needs a man.  Unfortunately she picked the wrong one.  The impoverished playwright has a dream to see her plays performed on stage but in Elizabethan England, not only are women considered the inferior sex, they simply do NOT write plays.  Faced with rejection after rejection, she decides to take one more chance with the most desperate theater manager inLondon, only this time she’ll use the cover of a man.  Sucked in by a pair of bright blue eyes and impressive shoulders, she chooses Blake out of the crowd, never thinking he’ll actually play an active role in her ruse.  But when he does, he gets under her skin in the most alarming way.

Privateer (don’t call him a pirate to his face), Robert Blakewell, accepted Min’s proposal in order to discover which cur among Lord Hawkesbury’s Players got his sister with child.  But when his mission threatens to destroy Min’s fledgling career, he must make a choice: protect his family or the woman he has grown to love.  Either choice will see him lose something precious.


Onto the excerpt. This scene is the second meeting between Blake and Min. She has already asked him to act as the writer of her play and now he wants to find out more about it…


Min continued towards him, her head down, not watching where she was going.  Again.  He shook his head.  Hadn’t she learned from the last time?  Just as she was about to pass him, he stepped in front of her.

She bumped into him and he caught her shoulders, stopping her falling on her arse. 

“What—?”  She shook herself free then, several moments too late, finally looked up at him.  “Oh.  Blake.”  Recognition dissolved the irritation in her gray eyes. 

“Hoping to avoid me?” he said.

Her gaze didn’t quite meet his.  He had his answer.

“It’s too late to back out now,” he said.  “I’m here.  And I think I’d like to be a playwright.”

She scanned the faces of passersby, perhaps searching for the elaborately feathered hat Style seemed to favor.  Or perhaps she was simply avoiding looking at Blake.  “Part of me was hoping you wouldn’t be here,” she admitted.

“Sorry to disappoint you.”

“No you’re not.”  She chewed her lower lip and he lifted a hand to stop her destroying the succulent morsel, but dropped it before she noticed.  Touching her had shocked his senses awake.  He couldn’t risk touching her again. 

“You see, it’s just that…I really don’t…”

“Want me to ruin this opportunity for you?”

“That’s it!”  She smiled at him, leaving her harried lip alone.  “Thank you for understanding.  So you’ll leave?”


Her face fell.  More lip chewing.  Reading her emotions was like reading a book, and not a very difficult one.  “Perhaps you could hide then,” she said.  “Just over there.”  She nodded in the direction of a tavern where several barrels were being unloaded from a cart.  A group of men, some swaying, one singing loudly and out of tune, hovered around the barrels like flees on a dog.  He grunted.  If he was going to hide, he wouldn’t choose a place where he’d stand out like a mermaid on a rock.

“No,” he said again.  “I’m staying here.  I want to meet Style.”

She stared at him for a long moment.  He accepted the challenge and stared back.  It gave him a chance to study her.  A splash of freckles decorated both cheeks, and one had slipped down to the corner of her mouth, giving the impression she was constantly smiling.  Her nose was slightly crooked and a tiny pock scar marked her chin.  Her hair was tucked tightly beneath her hat so that not a strand escaped but he could see that it was fair with only a hint of red, not quite as dark as the queen’s.  It reminded him of sunrise over a Saracen desert. 

Ha!  Poetry.  Any half-wit could do it.

Min clicked her tongue.  “Very well, you may stay,” she said as if it had been up to her.  “But,” she pointed a finger at him, “do not speak to Style unless he directly asks you a question.  I’ll do all the talking.  And do not, under any circumstances, say anything about the play.  I’ve told him you’re shy, so…act shy.  You can do that can’t you?”

“I can try.”  He glanced towards the White Swan but Style was still nowhere to be seen.  The company’s performance for the day had ended a while ago and yet he’d not appeared amongst the audience leaving the inn. 

The crowd was thinner today.  Word must have spread through the City that it was more interesting watching two ants crawling up a wall than the dung Lord Hawkesbury’s Men called a play.  He wondered if Min’s play was any better.  It couldn’t be much worse.  But what if it wasn’t good enough

Blake would need to find another way, that’s what.  He could just barge in, fists and accusations flying, but Lilly wouldn’t speak to him if she ever found out.  No, he needed to be more subtle.  Damn.  He wasn’t very good at subtle. 

Thank god for Min. 

“However,” Blake went on, “perhaps you should tell me about your play so I can answer any questions he may ask me directly.”  Better to be armed and ready than caught unprepared.

“He won’t.”

“He might.”

“Very well,” she said and he was surprised that she acquiesced so easily.  She’d seemed ready for a battle.  He even looked forward to one.  “It’s set in Ancient Rome and is about a young couple who fall in love but through a series of unfortunate events directed by the Gods, they’re kept apart.  It’s too complicated to go into more detail.”

“It’s a tragedy?”

“No, a comedy.”

“A romance?”


He watched her, trying to determine if she was being serious or making fun of him.  By the set of her jaw, she didn’t look like she was about to laugh.  Bollocks.

“You don’t like romantic comedies?”  The sun chose that moment to appear from behind a cloud and she narrowed her eyes against it.  Or was she narrowing them against him?

“No.  It’s not that.”  A few moments ago, he’d thanked Fortune that this opportunity had fallen into his lap.  Now he wasn’t so sure.  A romantic comedy?  Min thought him a suitable candidate for writing a romantic comedy?  She expected Style to believe it too?  He was a privateer for God’s sake, captain of his own brigantine.  He’d made life hell for Spanish galleons from theLevant to theNew World.  He’d been chained up in jails not fit for a dog.  He’d killed pirates, got drunk with brigands and fought for his country, his honor and just because he damn well felt like it.  Now this girl expected him to pass for a writer of romantic comedies?  His crew would laugh him off his ship if they found out. 

He blew out a breath.  Perhaps it wasn’t as bad as he thought.  “Does anyone get murdered?” he asked.  “In this play?”

She frowned.  “No.”

Pity.  “Is there a pirate?  Or an evil emperor?”

“No, no villains.  Although one of the Gods is quite competitive and thinks up some cruel scenarios to keep the lovers apart.”

What sort of play doesn’t have a villain?  He sighed.  A romantic comedy apparently.  “What about a cannon?”

“Not in ancientRome.”  She looked apologetic.  “No guns either.”  She suddenly brightened.  “But there is a sword fight.”

“Just the one?”

“Yes.  Sorry.”  There was a long pause in which he could see her warring with herself.  Eventually her playwright’s curiosity, as she had called it, won.  “You like violence.”  She pulled the edges of her cloak together as if fending off the cold, but the day was reasonably mild.  Did he frighten her?  He spent much of his day trying to frighten people so it wouldn’t surprise him.  However it did surprise him to realize he didn’t want to frighten her.

“If I wrote a play,” he said, “it would at least have a murder in it.  Probably two.  And a villain.  A really bloodthirsty one.”

“You didn’t write it,” she said irritably.  Irritation was better than fear.

“But if people are to think I did, there should be a dead body.”

“Oh.  I see what you mean.”  She sounded genuinely concerned.  “You do seem like a man who would have no qualms killing a character.”

“Thank you,” he said then wondered why he’d said it.  This woman addled his mind.  He’d had two conversations with her and so far she’d managed to make him do things he wouldn’t normally do.  Like this.  He was actually agreeing to act as the writer of her romantic comedy?

He’d done many foolish things in his life, but this was top of the list. 

You’d better appreciate what I’m doing for you, Lilly.  And you too, Mother.

“If it’s a comedy, does it have a clown?” he asked.  There’d better be a clown.  All good comedies had clowns dancing jigs.  

“There’s a comedic servant,” she said.

He sighed.  “That’ll have to do.”

“Yes, it will.”  She crossed her arms and lifted her chin.  Had he offended her?

He didn’t have a chance to ask because Style appeared.  When she saw him, Min caught hold of Blake’s hand in a grip that could put many men to shame.  Her hands weren’t as soft as he thought they’d be.  Small calluses marred her palm.  The sort of calluses that come from continuous hard work, not the lifting of a quill. 

It was wrong.  Min was an educated woman of gentle birth.  She should have smooth hands—perfect palms to match the perfect fingers.  He rubbed his thumb along the hardened bumps, annoyed at them, at whatever had put them there, and at whoever was supposed to be taking care of her.  Who could allow a daughter or sister such as Min to do a servant’s work?  Wrong, wrong, wrong.

With a strangled sound, she suddenly dropped her hand and stared at him like a startled cat.  He flexed his fingers, still able to feel the weight of her hand, the warmth of her touch against his skin. 

He formed a fist and beat back the fire spreading through him.  There was no room for those kinds of fires in his world.  Not the ones started by innocent, big-eyed gentlewomen.




Amazon UK:

My blog:




  1. Hi C.J.
    A SECRET LIFE sounds like a wonderful book!
    Thank you so much, Marsha, for providing a sample.

    Comment by Phoebe Conn — July 24, 2011 @ 9:44 pm | Reply

  2. Hi Phoebe – thank you for your kind words about A Secret Life.
    Marsha – thanks for featuring my book today!

    Comment by C.J. Archer — July 24, 2011 @ 11:23 pm | Reply

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