Blog Barrage: The Cuvier Widows Series by Sylvia McDaniel

Hi!!!! & welcome to my stop in this blog barrage. There will be a Giveaway (Tour-wide) at the end of this post...good luck chucks!

Wronged (The Cuvier Widows #1)
by Sylvia McDaniel
Historical Romance
Categories: Mystery/Thriller, Bigamy
Publisher: Virtual Bookseller
Release Date: December 30, 2012
Heat Level: Sensual
Word Count: 100,000

Buy Links
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Marian Cuvier didn't know how to react when she learned that the man she called husband and father to her children, Jean Cuvier, had been murdered. Yet, the biggest surprise was when the detective informed her that she's not the only woman Jean married. There are three Cuvier Widows and one is suspected of murder.

When Marian learned of her husband's death, humiliation, shock and anger were the only emotions she felt for Jean. For the last several years, their marriage has been in name only. Now she's determined to safeguard her children's future and save their only source of income, Cuvier Shipping. Jean's handsome business partner, Louis Fournet thinks Marian's should not be leading her husband's business. The man has a way with women that Marian finds alluring and arouses feelings she's never experienced. Louis Fournet is a temptation she finds hard to resist.

Betrayed (The Cuvier Widows #2)
by Sylvia McDaniel
Historical Romance
Categories: Bigamy
Publisher: Virtual Bookseller
Release Date: December 30, 2012
Heat Level: Sensual
Word Count: 100,000

Buy Links
Amazon | B&N | Smashwords

Nicole Cuvier went to New Orleans to share the most wonderful news with her husband only to discover him in a hotel room murdered, with two other women claiming to be his wife. It seems there are three Cuvier Widows and one is suspected of murder.

For years, Nicole Cuvier had tried to erase the shame of her illegitimate birth and start the family she longed for with her husband, Jean. As the mistress of Rosewood, she owns one of the largest plantations on the River Road in Louisiana. Now, she's pregnant, unmarried-a widow with a plantation dependent upon the sugar cane crop to survive. She needs a temporary husband. Handsome Maxim Viel, a drifter, comes to her rescue and marries her, but unbeknownst to Nicole, Maxim wants more than a temporary arrangement. He has the power to heal her shattered heart, but could his past be intertwined with Rosewood?

Beguiled (The Cuvier Widows #3)
by Sylvia McDaniel
Historical Romance
Categories: Mystery/Thriller, Bigamy
Publisher: Virtual Bookseller
Release Date: December 30, 2012
Heat Level: Sensual
Word Count: 100,000

Buy Links
Amazon | B&N | Smashwords

Jean Cuvier forced Layla's father to sell his shipping company and marry his daughter, or so she believed. Until the morning the servants wake her with the news that Jean is dead and she quickly learns she's not the only Mrs. Cuvier. Jean has three widows, but Layla is the only one accused of Jean's murder.

The District Attorney has enough motive and evidence, to send Layla to the gallows. Forced to turn to the man she blames for the sale of her father's shipping company, she must trust Drew Soulier, to save her life. Though Drew's the best attorney in New Orleans, he doubts her innocence. As tensions mount, Drew and Layla face a passion they can't deny. Can Drew save her from hanging?

Beguiled (The Cuvier Widows Book 3)
By Sylvia McDaniel

New Orleans, 1895
Sunlight glittered through the windows of the St. Louis Hotel, casting bizarre shadows over the dead body of Jean Cuvier. A sparrow trilled a happy song in the courtyard outside the posh hotel suite, the sound eerie and disturbing. Layla Cuvier stared at the corpse of her husband lying on the floor and knew that from this day forward, her life would forever be changed.
No longer will I have to endure his touch.
Her eyes confirmed what Colette, her servant, had told her. Jean lay sprawled on the floor, his brown robe wrapped around him, his face a peculiar shade of pink. Needing the confirmation of what seemed so obvious, she reached down and touched his hand. The feel of cool flesh beneath her fingers sent a shudder through her and she recoiled in revulsion.
"Mrs. Cuvier, a doctor is on his way and the hotel manager has sent for the police," said Colette, wringing her hands in an anxious manner.
Layla felt numb as she stared at the man she had shared a house with for the last year. As his wife, she should feel sorrow at his death, but relief and a sense of peace filled her. She had barely tolerated Jean’s presence.
She rose and nodded to her servant and friend. "Please help me dress before the doctor arrives."
"Of course," the maid said, but glanced at her hesitantly.
"Did Mr. Cuvier say anything about feeling ill?" Layla asked, gazing at her husband’s still form.
"No. But I went to bed before you retired," the maid said. "Did you hear him call out?"
"After I shut my bedroom door, I heard nothing last night," Layla said, knowing the sleeping draught had ended her insomnia. The draught created a dream world filled with people and color, and a world so different from reality. Yet she would have heeded Jean’s call if she had heard his cry for help. "So many nights he slept in the chair."
And Layla loved the nights he left her alone.
"It’s so sudden. How do you think he died?" Colette asked.
"I don’t know. He hasn’t been ill." Layla gave Jean one last glance, stunned at his death. Their last conversation was an ugly reminder of his evil ways and she couldn’t help but wonder if his heart could have failed him. Though their marriage had been a farce, she had never expected him to die. "Let’s hurry. I’d rather greet the authorities fully dressed."
"Are you all right?" Colette asked gazing at her worriedly as they entered Layla’s bedroom. "You seem so composed."
Layla gave the woman a quick glance as she shed her nightgown. "I’m a little shaken, yet I feel strangely calm."
Calm and relieved, she hoped that now his ugly secrets would die with him and she could escape this farce of a marriage and return to her home.
Hurriedly Layla chose a black dress appropriate for a widow. She had barely gotten her ebony hair swept up off her neck in a coiffure that left wisps of curls swirling around her face when Colette opened the door to the police. They swarmed into the suite, covering the rooms like a bevy of ants.
Layla stepped out of her bedroom, and into the doorway of Jean’s bedroom to watch with interest as a uniformed policeman leaned over Jean’s prostrate body lying on the floor.
The voices of the officers seemed distant and removed and the scene before her surreal, like a colorful nightmare.
A short ugly little man dressed in a shabby brown suit separated from the others and walked toward Layla.
"Mrs. Cuvier?" he asked, his intimidating eyes focused on her.
"Yes?" She felt as if he stared deeply into her soul, but she had nothing to hide and met his gaze, undaunted by his beady gaze.
"Detective Dunegan of the New Orleans Police."
They walked the short distance to the lavishly decorated parlor of the suite.
"Please sit." She pointed to a chair in the small sitting area as she sat across from him.
"How did your husband die?" he asked. He took out a notepad and a pencil from his tattered coat pocket.
"I don’t know. My maid awakened me this morning with the news that she’d found Mr. Cuvier lying on the floor of his bedroom. I hurried into his room, where I found him lying there, his body already cold," she said, clenching her hands in her lap. "I have no idea how long he's been dead."
Layla glanced toward the bedroom, half expecting Jean to walk through the door, laughing that he had fooled them all.
"When did you last see him alive?" the detective asked.
She thought back to the night before. They had fought fiercely and she had been determined to return home to Baton Rouge this morning. She had intended to meet with an attorney to see what kind of legal recourse was available to her, but miraculously nature had taken care of things.
Now she prayed the ugly truth would die with Jean and she could return to her previous life. She licked her lips nervously.
"The last time I saw Mr. Cuvier was around midnight," she said, remembering how she had left him in the parlor asleep in the very chair the detective occupied.
A man stood in the doorway to Jean’s room with a stethoscope hanging around his neck. "Detective Dunegan, can I speak with you a moment5"
Through the open window, she could hear laughter in the courtyard of the hotel, the sound incongruous with the atmosphere in the suite.
The two men disappeared into the bedroom. Their muffled voices held an excited undertone, though she could not understand what they said. As the minutes passed, she sat feeling more nervous, wondering whom she should contact regarding jean’s death.
"Now where were we?" he asked. "Oh, that’s right. You said the last time you saw the deceased was around midnight." He paused and frowned at her. "Did you and Mr. Cuvier sleep in separate rooms?"
"Yes. My husband kept odd hours, and I have trouble sleeping and don’t like to be disturbed."
"So, you heard nothing in the night? He didn’t call out to you for help or assistance?"
"No, I took a dose of a sleeping draught not long after he came home." She gave the detective a puzzled glance. "Do you always ask these kinds of questions when a man dies?"
"I’m just doing my job, Mrs. Cuvier," he said matter-of-factly.
Layla glanced around and noticed that more and more policemen seemed to be filling the hotel suite. They stood around in little clusters talking, occasionally glancing in her direction. A few of the officers seemed to be combing the room as if they were looking for something.
"What are they doing?" she asked alarmed. She had never heard of the police doing this when someone died.
The atmosphere seemed charged with some ominous foreboding that she didn’t understand.
He ignored her question. "How would you describe your marriage to Mr. Cuvier?"
"Why are you asking me these questions? How could my relationship to my husband be any of your business?" she asked, distressed. "He’s dead! Shouldn’t you be calling the coroner?"
"Ma’am, the coroner is with your husband. Now please, Mrs. Cuvier, just answer the question."
She gazed at the detective, feeling suddenly uneasy.
"Our marriage was fine. My husband traveled frequently and we seldom saw one another," she said, a cold chill going down her spine. She glanced back to see a policeman coming out of her room holding her vial of laudanum in his hand. "Where is he taking my medicine?"
"Don’t worry, Mrs. Cuvier, it will be returned to you in good time," the detective said, not looking at her, but nodding to the policeman.
Uneasiness filled her every breath and she didn’t understand why the police seemed so engrossed with Jean’s death. "How did my husband die?"
"I’m asking the questions, Mrs. Cuvier," the detective said, ignoring her query. "Did you and your husband have an argument last night?"
She paused looking at the man, uncertain how to answer the question. "We had a slight disagreement"
You selfish bastard! The words she had yelled at Jean reverberated through her mind and she knew she could never tell them the whole truth about their quarrel. Otherwise they would think she had been involved in his death.
"What was the fight about?"
"It was such a minor disagreement, I scarcely recall," she lied. "I think I’ve told you enough. You need to tell me why you’re asking all these questions."
The detective gazed at her, his eyes cold. The room became silent and she felt like hundreds of eyes were focused on her. A creeping sensation started along the base of her spine and suddenly she felt afraid. Everyone stared at her as if she had done something horrible.
Even the bird that chirped noisily through the window had ceased its singing and all sound was suspended in uncanny silence.
"How did my husband die?" she insisted, her voice rising. The detective watched her, his beady eyes intent. "Tell me!"
"According to Doctor Benson, your husband was poisoned."
The room seemed to fade as Layla felt her body go numb. Poisoned? "Oh—Oh my. No. It couldn’t be, that’s impossible."
As soon as she uttered the words, she knew a whole host of people who would like to see her husband dead. And before the day was over, there would probably be even more who cheered at the news.
"Oh, God!" she said, realizing the depth of trouble that would soon surround her.
"Can you tell me what your husband ate or drank last night?"
Uneasy, Layla swallowed. "I don’t know what he had for supper, since he wasn’t here. I gave him his usual cup of tea before he went to bed."
She knew she had put laudanum in his drink, as she often did, but she had not intentionally killed him, and she had definitely not poisoned him.
Could she have given him too much?
A shiver ran through her. Did she, accidentally kill Jean with her antidote for passion? The detective stared at her, waiting.
He leaned in close, his voice demanding. "Did you poison your husband, Mrs. Cuvier?"
Her heart pounded in her chest. They would think that she killed Jean if they found out what she had learned last night, the reason for their fight, the fact that her marriage was a complete farce.
"Of course not! I would never kill anyone," she said emphatically.
"You’re extremely calm and cool, considering your husband just died. You haven’t shed a tear."
Layla couldn’t help but realize what he said was true. She didn’t feel any grief or remorse that Jean was dead, only a sense of relief at being free, but that didn’t mean she had killed him.
"My father arranged my marriage to Jean. Ours was more a marriage of convenience. But I would never poison him. That would be a sin."
Silence echoed in the room filled with people eager to hear her every word. She closed her eyes, hoping that when she opened them, she would awake and realize this was just a nightmare, not reality.
"You said you gave your husband a cup of tea. Did you put anything in his tea last night Mrs. Cuvier?" She glanced away, wanting to lie, knowing whatever she said would incriminate her even though she was innocent.
"I didn’t kill Jean!" she said gazing at him.
"Answer the question, Mrs. Cuvier," he said, his voice harsh and forceful. "Did you put anything in Mr. Cuvier’s tea?"
She swallowed nervous, knowing no one would believe her innocent. "I—I put a touch of laudanum in his tea."
A gasp sounded in the room.
She responded quickly. "To help him sleep. He didn’t sleep well. I did it all the time and he’s never had a reaction before." She clenched her fists. "I didn’t kill Jean."
The detective tensed, but said nothing. His pencil scratched noisily against his notepad as he hurriedly wrote her comments.
When he looked up, his face was expressionless, his eyes intense, like a hunter closing in on its prey.
"Mrs. Cuvier, I need to interview your servants. Could I ask you to wait in your bedroom? When I’m ready to continue our interview, I’ll let you know."
"You want me to just sit in my room and wait for you?"
He raised his bushy brows. "Yes, ma’am."
Layla stared at him in shock. How could he think she killed Jean? Sure, she hated him, but she could never harm him or anyone else, for that matter. This was crazy. Everything seemed to be spinning out of control. Since yesterday her life had disintegrated into shambles.
"I didn’t kill my husband," she said one more time as she rose from her chair. She walked toward her bedroom, her head held high, wanting to pack her suitcase, knowing instinctively that it would be the wrong thing to do. She sat down in a chair by the window and stared out at the courtyard below. How could this be happening?
She hated Jean, but to the world they had presented the image of a happily married couple, keeping their problems behind the closed doors of her bedroom. But to physically harm him would damn her forever, and even Jean wasn’t worth spending eternity in hell. She had prayed her life would change, but never this drastically. And never like this.
For what seemed like forever, though probably less than an hour, Layla sat looking out the window, watching the birds flitter about the courtyard as they flew from one tree to another. Caged and restless, she wished she could fly away so easily. Finally, the door opened and the detective walked in followed by two women. Layla refused to acknowledge them, fear gripping her insides with a tightening hook.
"Ma’am," the detective said, releasing a young blonde woman who had come in with him. "Tell these women how the man you’re suspected of killing was related to you."
What? They hadn’t officially charged her with anything. Was this some kind of trick? She turned toward the door and gazed at the detective, trying not to react to his words and contain a cool composure. "I told you I did not kill my husband."
The blonde woman with eyes red-rimmed from crying moaned. "What are you saying? No! You lie. You can’t be married to Jean."
Layla knew in that instant who the two women were and she didn’t know how to respond. She felt so ashamed, yet she had done nothing wrong. Jean had duped her just like the others.
"Did you marry Jean Cuvier?" the older distinguished-looking woman asked, her expression calm, though her green eyes shimmered with tears.
"Yes," Layla responded, a slight quiver to her voice.
"That can’t be. He married me. He’s my husband," the blonde woman said, her voice rising, her pain and hurt audible in the bedroom.
Layla resisted the urge to tell her she could have Jean. She had never wanted him.
"And mine," the other woman said quietly, as she sank down onto a nearby chair. "I’m Marian Cuvier. I married Jean twelve years ago at Saint Anne’s Cathedral."
The blonde turned abruptly and stared at her in disbelief. "No. That’s impossible." She paused, her face twisted into a mask of horror. "No. We were married four years ago. I don’t understand. He would never do something so horrible."
"And I married him a year ago," Layla whispered, painfully aware of how they had been deceived and how the world would soon know of Jean’s deceit.
"Impossible. Jean loved me. That’s . . . that’s bigamy!" the blonde woman said, shaking her head from side to side.
"Yes, it is bigamy. We were all married to the same man," Marian replied. Her voice sounded hollow and she appeared to be in shock. "And now we’re all Jean’s widows. The Cuvier Widows."
Layla stared at Jean’s wives and knew that though she had only found out about her husband’s perfidy twenty-four hours earlier, she would never reveal she knew beforehand of Jean’s terrible deeds. For if the detective found out, he would surely believe that she had killed Jean in response to learning of his deceit. And though she hated him for his lies, she could never have killed him.

Sylvia McDaniel and the love of her life, Don, live in Texas with son Shane, Putz the klutzy dachshund and Ashley our shy dachshund. During the day, she works for a small insurance agency, helping clients with their commercial insurance coverage.

The weekends are spent working out in the garden until the temperature climbs above ninety degrees. Recently, with the help of her husband, she learned to make homemade blueberry and blackberry jam. Cooking is not her favorite past-time and she prefers Don’s cooking any day of the week.

Currently, she’s written fourteen novels. Her novel, A Hero's Heart, was a 1996 Romance Writers of America Golden Heart finalist. Sylvia is President Elect of Dallas Area Romance Authors.

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Giveaway Info:Prize is 10 eBook copies (1 each to 10 winners) of “Wronged (The Cuvier Widows #1)”. Contest is tour-wide and ends Apr 30. Must be 18 years of age or older to enter

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