Monday, November 7, 2011

Guest Post & Giveaway: AWAKENING by Scarlett Valentine

Hi Everyone! I would like to welcome author Scarlett Valentine to the blog. She has a great new historical romance, Awakening out that you will definitely want to read. Scarlett is here today to talk about the history and inspiration behind the setting and characters for this wonderful novella.

Snowdonia and Rhyd Ddu Castle

First let me say, thanks for having me here today. I’ve been looking forward to this for weeks. And thanks for asking me to talk about the setting for Awakening.

Let me start by saying, I love Wales. Yeah, I know. I’ve lived in Ireland for nearly fifteen years and love it too, but I loooooove Wales. From the moment I stepped onto Welsh soil, I fell madly, deeply and irreversibly in love. Everything I love about Ireland is multiplied with Wales—the people are proud to be Welsh, the scenery is amazing, the culture is fascinating, the history is incredible, and I can’t forget the castles. Welsh castles are simply stunning. And fortunately, Wales is about three hours by car ferry so my husband and I go over as often as we can.

My favorite part of Wales is north Wales, particularly around Gwynedd. Snowdonia is a range of peaks in the Snowdonia National Park, which is at the heart of the old Kingdom of Gwynedd. Mount Snowdon is the highest peak in Wales and England at 3560 feet above sea level, but not as high as some in the Highlands of Scotland. But from Snowdon’s peak, on a clear day and in the right conditions, one can not only see southern and eastern England, but also mountains in the Scottish Highlands AND across the Irish Sea to Ireland. As the crow flies, that’s about one hundred to one hundred and fifty miles in each direction. Until then, I thought it was cool seeing Scotland’s Kintyre Peninsula from the shores of Northern Ireland . . . a distance of only about ten miles! But seeing over a hundred miles? Wow!

As mountain ranges go, Snowdonia is as diverse as any, with rocky slopes, low-growing grasses and tiny wild flowers. But due to its unique microclimate, Snowdonia is perfect for rare yet thriving Alpine flowers, such as the Snowdon Lily. 

Wales is also the traditionally richest place in Great Britain for mining, both coal and slate. Particularly around Snowdonia where slate has been mined for the last two centuries. Some of the old narrow gauge rail lines have reopened over the years, now taking tourists to the top of Snowdon for the outstanding views.

Today, the ancient Kingdom of Gwynedd is now just one of several Welsh counties, but it has retained its uniqueness in the country. It’s the largest county in Wales, but it’s also the most sparsely populated. Probably due to such a huge mountain range in the center of it! The people have fought for centuries to keep their Welsh identity intact. They’ve succeeded to such a degree that nearly everyone grows up speaking the native Welsh language as a first language. It’s heard everywhere from cafes and shops to the dinner table at home. And while this part of Wales has welcomed the modern world, they have not forgotten their rich and diverse history as the most powerful of the medieval Welsh kingdoms.

It was my love of North Wales and Snowdonia, and its medieval history that inspired me to write Awakening. While Awakening is first and foremost an erotic tale of love, the historical backdrop is based on real Welsh history—of two kings vying for more land, wealth and power who eventually become related through dynastic marriage and return to war as brothers-in-law. King Owain Gwynedd had twenty one documented children, most of whom were illegitimate, so it was easy to create my Bedwyr.

But as the tale goes, Bedwyr is also being forced into a dynastic marriage to the Prince of Powys’ ward. A man of war, Bedwyr argues with his father until the pot is sweetened to the point that Bedwyr cannot refuse—land, a keep, title and wealth. Unheard of for a bastard son in those days.

So, I had the setting for Awakening—Snowdonia; my time period—1149; and my characters—Bedwyr and Ysbail. Now I just needed a keep, one that promised everything Owain promised his son, and one as formidable as Bedwyr himself. Dolwyddelan Castle.

I love Dolwyddelan Castle. It’s a boxy stone keep set high on a precipice overlooking wide valley. It served as an important outpost to protect the Kingdom of Gwynedd. The site itself included the keep, outbuildings and courtyard, all surrounded by high, protective walls. Compared to the grander castles in Wales, Dolwyddelan was a simple keep meant for a small retinue of soldiers, a few household staff, and a small family. Small as it was, it was also stately enough to welcome guests for a night or two. This was the kind of keep I wanted for Bedwyr and Ysbail, and Rhyd Ddu was created.

While Rhyd Ddu Castle is a work of fiction, there is a small village of the same name located on the southwestern side of Snowdonia. From the late 19th century, Rhyd Ddu was one of the stops on a narrow gauge rail system linking slate mines in south Snowdon with harbor towns such as Portmadog where slate was exported.

I’ve been on some of the narrow gauge rail journeys around Snowdonia, and it’s a very interesting mode of transportation. And I can tell you, the view from the top of Snowdon is truly breathtaking and remarkable. Standing at the summit with Wales, England, Scotland and Ireland at one’s feet, one can image all is right and peaceful in the world.

Thanks for visiting me today and letting me share one of my favorite places on Earth.


Thank you, Scarlett for sharing with us. Wales sounds lovely!

And now for the blurb and an excerpt of Awakening. Please come back tomorrow for my review.

by Scarlett Valentine
Release Date: October 8, 2011

Ysbail of Ellesmere is a pawn in her guardian's war. For decades there has been unrest between the marcher lords and Owain Gwynedd ap Gruffydd, King of Gwynedd. The most recent war had been the bloodiest she could remember in her eighteen years. Madog ap Maredudd, Prince of Powys, and his allies lost untold numbers of men at the hands of Owain's soldiers. When a settlement of truce is presented to Madog, it's at Ysbail's expense. She is to marry Bedwyr ap Owain, one of King Owain’s bastard sons, and his most notorious henchman. If all the rumors and stories she's heard are true, she knows her marriage will be rife with horror and fear.

Since proving himself worthy with his sword, Bedwyr fights at his king's side. He's shed oceans of blood and sent untold numbers of men to their graves. He's become what his name foretold—the grave-knower. He's afraid of nothing, least of all death. All men fear him, including those who fight at his side, and sometimes even his own king. Terror of him lives within women's hearts; only the bravest of whores accept him into their beds. And children weave their own tales of the monster they hear him to be, embellishing the details to their own gruesome degrees.

When King Owain informs Bedwyr that he's to marry Ysbail of Ellesmere as part of a peace settlement with Madog, Bedwyr is furious. A man such as Bedwyr can only survive on the battlefield. For without love, hatred will send a man like him to the edge of insanity. Then push him over. But when Bedwyr sees Ysbail for the first time, blood-thirst turns to blood-lust, and he vows to show her that she should have no fear of him.

Book Excerpt

He glanced at his wife lying beside him, panting as hard as he. When she looked his direction she gave him a broad smile. Her face was awash with light that had nothing to do with that which emanated from the hearth. She held passion’s glow.

Rolling over, he pulled Ysbail onto her side to face him. He stroked her cheek with the back of his finger.

“Ysbail, what is it you are doing to me?” It was a rhetorical question, but she replied anyway.

“What do you want me to do to you, my lord?”

Such an innocent question, yet it was loaded with so much intimation.

“You know not what you are asking, cariad.”

“I may be naïve in the ways of lovemaking, but I am not a simpleton.”

She did not say this with malice, but of forthrightness.

“You are anything but simple, Ysbail. Everything about you speaks of dignity and pride.” When she tried to look away, he steadied her gaze with his. “You would have had to be raised in a nunnery not to know the stories surrounding me. Yet, you held your head high when you were forced to wed with me. If you were not a strong woman, I fear you could not adapt to life with a man such as me. For you will need to be strong to be my wife. My life is not an easy one.”

Ysbail raised herself onto an elbow and gazed down at him. He was not prepared for what she asked him.

“Will you grant me a boon?”

“A boon? You need ask no favors from me. Ask and I will give you want you want.”

That must have pleased her, as she reached down to smooth the damp hair from his face. She delicately stroked the scar over his left eye, and said, “Tell me how you came to be the Grave Knower.”

Author Bio:

Scarlett Valentine is the alter ego of award-winning romance author, Kemberlee Shortland. Together they write Erotomance -- Erotic Romance.

Originally from Northern California, Scarlett has spent the last fourteen years living in Ireland. She's traveled extensively through Ireland and Wales. When she's not writing, she can often be found castle hunting.

Scarlett's stories cross subgenres to explore hetero, gay and bisexual relationships in a series of stories that include time periods from historicals and contemporaries, futuristics and science fiction, paranormal and suspense, and more.

Awakening is the first book in The ABCs of S-E-X: Love by the Letter series and is available 2 November 2011 though Highland Press.


Scarlett will be giving away a $25 Amazon gift card to one randomly drawn commenter during the tour, plus she will occasionally give "surprise" gifts to other commenters on the tour. The more comments you leave the better your chances of winning.
To Enter:
Leave a comment or question with your email address.
Be sure to visit the other blogs on this wonderful tour. Click on the tour button below for a list of participating blogs.


  1. My parents have been to Wales & they love it too. AWAKENING looks amazing & I want to know how Bedwyr became a Grave Knower too. (I don't even know what that is YET.)


  2. Hi Marybelle,

    If you follow me over to Wednesday's tour stop at Erotica for All,, I'll be talking about names and name translations. Including the translation for Bedwyr!

    I hope you get a chance to visit Wales one day. You'll love it! And I hope you get a chance to read Awakening. I'm sure you'll love it too ;-) I'd love to hear your comments.

    Thanks for stopping by today.

  3. It's new discovery for me but i love it

    thanks you


  4. Hi Miki,

    Thanks for stopping by. I hope you enjoy Awakening. I'd love to hear your comments.

  5. That excerpt is hot! Those are very strange names, btw. I'm curious to know what they mean.

  6. Hi Bee,

    Drop over to my tour Wednesday at Erotica for All (link above) to see what Ysbail and Bedwyr translate to ;-)

    Thanks for your comments and for stopping by.

  7. Beautiful photos, Scarlett! I took a tour of Great Britain in the early '90s, and we only "dipped" into Wales--Ruthin, IIRC. Following your book tour really makes me want to go back and explore it all!

  8. Hi Grainne,

    You really must come back this direction.

    If you were in Ruthin, you were midway between the Marches (west of Wrexham and Chester) and Snowdonia. A really lovely part of the country. Next time you're over this direction, fly into Dublin then get the car ferry over to Wales via Holyhead. The road from there will take you right into the heart of Gwynedd and Snowdonia. And Rhyd Ddu Village and Dolwyddelan Castle if you veer off the main road ;-)

  9. Hi Scarlett,

    Your travelogue today makes me want to jump on the first plane to Wales! I've never really thought much about that area but it does deserve more attention.

    When writing a book, what comes first for you, the setting, the time period or the characters?

    kareninnc at gmail dot com

  10. Hi Karen,

    You really must see Wales. And if you're going that far, I highly recommend Ireland too ;-)

    Good question about writing. The answer is all of it, and some times none of it. I get ideas for stories when I hear songs, look at photos, visit interesting places, etc., so it really depends on the situation.

    As an example, I saw a photo over the weekend of hunky man holding a woman, her back to him. She's wearing a lacy blindfold. The embrace is very intimate, but the image isn't sexually suggestive--they're both fully dressed but the overall feeling of the photo is that the couple are in love.

    It got me thinking . . . why is she wearing the blindfold . . . is he surprising her with something . . . is he taking her someplace secret . . . is she kidnapped . . . is the kidnap for real or part of a game, etc. I can pick any of these scenarios and plot a story to it.

    For me, the plot and setting mostly go hand in hand--with the plot I'll already know the time period and the setting.

    Like with Awakening, once I knew the basics of the plot {a tortured hero with a bloody past and a secret that could change his life and a strong enough woman to live with a man like this yet allow him to face his own fears and learn to love . . . and they'd have to be thrown together and find a way to make it work} I knew it would have to be a historical. Dynastic marriages were very popular in Medieval times, and still are in some cultures. But it's one thing growing up knowing you're promised to someone and something different altogether when you're a war prize.

    I've written Irish set stories before and wanted to try a new location. Since I love Wales and have been there numerous times, the setting was a no-brainer.

    Characters are always very important -- I always endeavor to write strong characters, human faults and all. Doesn't matter where a story is set, if the characters aren't likeable the story fails.

    Another example -- Over the summer I had visited a castle near where I live, and at one point while I was wandering around I thought, "I'm setting a story here!" I hadn't set out write another book with a castle as the stage, but a story suddenly came to me about a ghost hunter and what/who he discovers on this site. Thus, Beguiler was created, the second book in The ABCs of S-E-X series. As you can already tell, Beguiler is a ghost story. It's set in contemporary times, but with paranormal elements. And of course, lots of hot reading ;-)

    Thanks for your question, Karen, and for your visit!

  11. I really like the sound of the story, and the setting is one of my favorite to read. Scarlett Valentine is a new author to me and this books sounds great.


  12. Hi Na,

    Thanks for stopping by. I hope you like Awakening. I'd love to hear your thoughts after reading it.

  13. Congrats on the new release. I am a huge historical romance fan and would love to win and read this book. I love to read and always looking for new authors to check out. Thanks for the giveaway and the chance to win. Love the cover and loved the excerpt.
    My question for you is do you have a favorite authors/book that you recommend to others? Also if you could write another genre besides historical, what would you write?
    Thanks for the giveaway and the chance to win.
    GFC & blog follower: Chris Bails

  14. Hi Christine,

    Actually, I do write in another genre. Scarlett is my erotica persona. My real name is Kemberlee Shortland. To date, I've published contemporary romance, but I cut my teeth on historicals. My current work in progress is a time travel back to Ireland 1014. It's straight romance, not erotica, but the love scenes are just as intimate. Just not as many of them ;-)

    You can get more info at if you're interested.

    If I wasn't writing romance at all, I'd love to try thrillers/mysteries/detective kind of stuff. I like suspence rather than horror. Example: I'd rather write what Dean Koontz writes over Stephen King, if that makes sense.

    I have loads of favorite authors I can recommend. The first if you're looking for romantic suspense is Linda Howard. She writes straight romance for Harlequin, but her single titles are romantic suspense. I think they're her best. My favorite or 'go to' book that I reread is called Mr. Perfect, but really, they're all good.

    My reading tastes are all over the board, but here are a few. This list is no way complete --

    Elizabeth Chadwick for historical fiction

    Dean Koontz for thrillers

    Charlene Raddon for westerns (she hasn't published in a couple years but word on the street is she's going to release a new book, hopefully next year, as well as her backlist),

    Denise Lynn writes Harlequin medievals

    Isabo Kelly for sci fi and futuristics

    Cathie Dunn writes a unique blend of historical romance blended with mystery

    Diane Chamberlain for straight women's fiction

    I pretty much have preferred authors for all genres ;-)

    Keep in mind, too, that while Awakening is a historical, this is just the first in a long series. I will be writing in as many genres as possible. The next book up is Beguiler which is set in contemporary times but a ghost story. The C book could be anything from fantasy to sci fi to a detective story. There are 26 books in the series, so a lot to look forward to.

    Thanks for stopping by! I'd love to hear your comments on Awakening if you decide to read it.

  15. Thanks everyone for stopping by the blog today & a huge thank you to Scarlett!

    When will you be releasing Beguiler?

  16. Hi AsianCocoa!

    It's been great being here today and chatting with everyone.

    I'm currently writing Beguiler. I'm hoping it will be available sometime in 2012. My other self is publishing the next book in the Irish Pride series this summer. And I just got the rights back for a nunch of short stories, which will also be republished in the new year. Watch my other site for those releases, and my FB page, for Kemberlee Shortland. And of course, watch my site for Scarlett Valentine for more info on Beguiler and the rest of the series :-)

  17. I love visiting places I can only dream of going. Thanks for sharing it with us.
    Your book sounds very enticing as well.

  18. Hi Kimmyl,

    Thanks for visiting and for your comment. Send your email address so I can enter you in the draw on Friday. Email it to me at

  19. Hey, Scarlett,

    Hope you're having fun on your tour. Never been out of the USA, but Whales sounds and looks beautiful.

    Good luck with the new release!

  20. wow i like the blog and the picture are great would like to read the new book for you and then congrats on it and then you have more

  21. Sounds lovely! I wanna go! :-)


  22. Hi Toni,

    I think you'd love Wales. It's really underrated as far as tourist destinations go. A lot of people think it's just the weird part of England. But hey, if Wales is weird, it's my kind of weird! Every town is different from the next, each has it's own unique identity. And the people, especially in the north, love their language and traditional Welsh culture. We're due back on our annual visit. Can't wait!

  23. Hi Desitheblonde,

    Thanks for your comments. I hope you enjoy Awakening when you read it, and I'd love to hear your comments.

    Thanks for visiting!

  24. Hi Chelsea,

    As I said to Toni, you'll love it. There's so much to see and do in Wales. If I could, I'd move over for a few years so I could explore on a daily basis.

    Thanks for visiting!

  25. A big THANK YOU to everyone who joined me here for a great chat. I had a lot of fun and some interesting questions were brought up for discussion. Thanks for helping me kick off the second week of my virtual book tour and I hope to see you during the week.

    Thanks to AsianCocoa for hosting me {hug}

  26. I've wanted to visit Ireland & Scotland for a long tme, mostly because I fell in love with the way they are described in historical romances. It sounds like I need to add Wales to that list as well. Thanks for sharing your pictures & feelings about the area that Awakening is set in.

    drainbamaged.gyzmo at

  27. To begin with, Wales sounds absolutely AMAZING! Must add "visit Wales" to bucketlist! Next, I love the premise of Awakening. The hero sounds practically unloveable...until he meets Ysbail! Can't wait to read it! You're planning 26 books? That's huge...and very clever!


  28. Thank you for the great excerpt want to read more so good! Thank you for the fun blog tour love the post!

  29. I can't wait to start reading!



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