Her reputation in tatters following a lapse of judgement with the handsome Lord Randolph Cressy, Amelia Keystone returns to London destitute and alone. Events rapidly unfold on the platform of Victoria Station and Amelia is plunged into a deadly adventure.
Charles Graves, charming Agent of the Queen, is quick to engage Amelia’s skills as a sketch artist to help solve a murder and save the empire. Meanwhile she is stalked by an indefatigable assassin.
Lord Cressy insists on making amends for his role in her disgrace, and the three brave souls face an unseen killer. Will true love blossom, or will bloody murder destroy Amelia’s chance for happiness?
Praise for Sketching Love (Empire of Hearts 1)
"...very hot and steamy book... steam punk and very well done. It is also a thrilling mystery with danger, action, and adventure. Our heroine is a very interesting lady in fact both Amelia and Rachel are very intriguing characters. I cannot wait to see what the next book will bring to the table."
-- 5 Stars from Crystal Crossings, Amazon Review
"Mikala's novel is an excellent addition to the steampunk genre. The characters are well-written, trope-subverting, and the stakes in the story are believable. It is a book worth reading."
-- 5 Stars from Di Kecap, Amazon Review
"I'm a sucker for steampunk... and this book certainly has a lot of steam. Great characters, an awesome world, and a really fun murder-mystery plot. The heat on this book is top notch, definitely a steamy read start to finish!"
-- 5 Stars from NewInTown, Amazon Review
"...the best thing about Ms. Ash’s books is her ability to write characters like Amelia that sound like they are from that era. The dialogue, thoughts, attitudes and expectations of all the characters are a big part of what makes these books interesting to me. When you add in the exciting plots, the steampunk elements and the (supposed) unconventional attitude to relations then you get a smashing great read. If you like Victorian steampunk romance then try this book."
-- 5 Stars from Suzanne Irving, Kobo Review
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Sketching Love (Empire of Hearts 1)
All rights reserved.
Copyright ©2022 Mikala Ash
Victoria Station, London 1862
The morning I stepped off the train all the church bells of London were tolling. The strangely muffled, yet powerfully solemn din rose even above the roar and hiss of the steam engines as every bell, from the greatest cathedral to the smallest church, created a mournful symphony of grief that reverberated inside one’s chest, and no doubt shook the vault of heaven itself.
The bells pealed not for me, of course, though my wounded pride and profound disillusionment would have received some solace had I been the subject of the city’s collective anguish.
Such sombre clamour would not be raised for the likes of me, a debased finishing schoolteacher, dismissed without a character. The crime? Flagrant promiscuity. A false charge I continue to maintain, and will do so most vehemently till the day I die. I did not wantonly seduce the father of a recalcitrant and pernicious pupil, as the apoplectic headmistress, Madame Gobere, insisted. Rather it was a mutual attraction that transcended the time, place, and purpose of our meeting. That we, the handsome and charming Lord Cressy and myself, were surprised in a state of dishabille in the study of the aforementioned headmistress was unfortunate in the extreme, and of course, had I been thinking rationally it would not have happened. My humble defence being I had been consumed by feelings of desire I’d never experienced before, volatile emotions that overwhelmed all sense of propriety and good breeding.
So, I accept half the blame for what happened, for it seemed to me that his lordship had been similarly overpowered. The banal purpose of our discussion had been his daughter Felicity’s indifferent progress in the romance languages and sketching, from which we strayed to a more wide-ranging and pleasant conversation about music, the arts, and what constitutes beauty. This took us from classical painting to current fashions comparing dress at home to continental styles. My inadvertent blushing when he complimented the manner in which my dress displayed to advantage the narrowness of my waist, and the plumpness of my bosom, encouraged him to take the initiative, and most precipitously grasp my hands in his. I cannot blame him for mistaking my innocent cheeks flushed red for a wanton’s permission to draw me in for a kiss, which I gladly returned, and then caress the swell of my breasts with his manicured fingertips. Raising my skirts seemed a natural progression, which after asking permission and having it granted, he proceeded to commence. I was not a passive recipient of his attentions. I fervently encouraged him, and in a sudden frenzy of lust was fully employed in undoing the buttons of his trousers. Alas I did not ask his permission as my mouth was engaged with his, and with exposing his rampant cock -- when we were discovered by Madame Gobere.
It all happened so quickly. The headmistress’s gasp of surprise to see the rich and important English lord being kissed and handled by one of her supposedly respectable teachers swiftly turned into a deluge of angry denunciations. I was a “schamlose” or “shameless harlot,” a “succubus aus der Hölle,” a “succubus from hell,” and a “verderber der Seelena,” a “corrupter of souls.” In the confusion it took me a few moments to realise she meant me. I was the harlot! The furious woman descended on us like a banshee, wrenching me away from his lordship’s arms. Lord Cressy’s struggles to rearrange his clothes were barely completed before she ushered him out of the room, despite his trousers having fallen to his ankles, smothering his stumbling protests with profuse apologies. Madame Gobere returned a few minutes later, and insensitive to my protestations, dismissed me from her service, and demanded my immediate removal from the premises.
That summary dismissal meant that Lord Cressy had failed to preserve my honour and admit his fault disappointed me sorely. I had truly expected him to return and rise to my defence, or at least take on half the blame. When it became clear he was going to do nothing of the sort, I admit to becoming angry at what I then determined was his base dishonour. That is what distressed me most grievously about the incident, though upon reflection, after several days had passed, I found it hard to blame him exclusively. Our mutual passion had taken us both out of the normal bounds of propriety. No doubt his failure at the moment of crisis to defend me, and save my reputation, not to mention my employment, was due to his total and complete shock at what he had allowed to happen. It had, I supposed, robbed him not only of the wit to efficiently recover his trousers from where they lay around his feet, but also the power of speech.
Be that as it may, here I was, four days later virtually penniless and completely alone in London...