Welcome Denise Agnew – Interview – Excerpt & Contest

Please join  me in welcoming and congratulating Denise Agnew on her latest release BEFORE THE DAWN.

Denise is here to chat with us, share an excerpt of BEFORE THE DAWN and is offering a prize for one lucky blog commentator (details below).

I’ve had the honor and pleasure to critique Denise Agnew’s latest release BEFORE THE DAWN.

I highly recommend this beautifully written historical.

The chemistry between Elijah and Mary Jane is strong from the moment they meet, increasing with every encounter. A tortured hero, a strong heroine, both vulnerable and in danger, makes for high suspense, sizzling sexual tension and great love scenes.

Interview with Denise Agnew:

Selena: If you could go into a travel machine, which time period would you travel to and why?

Denise: I’d travel between 1890 to 1910 during what was considered first a Guided Age and then a Golden Age. From 1890 to 1900 was a time of great opulence and from 1900 to 1910 many people considered it an ideal time of peace and harmony before the Great War started (World War I) and the Spanish Flu. Realistically speaking we know that everything wasn’t peachy keen during those times, but the clothing and a lot of things during that twenty year time period fascinates me. As for where I’d travel, I’d do a first leg through the United States and then do it all over again in Great Britain and Ireland.

Selena: Pick four writers you would love to sit around, have lunch and discuss writing. Who would they be and why?

Denise: Four? Yowza. If they didn’t have to all be living…

Well, I’d chat with Edgar Allan Poe first. He’s a favorite. I’ve always loved dark and gloomy tales with paranormal as a major element and Edgar really knew how to create that ambiance. Plus, he’s a very tortured character himself, and I’d like to see what he was really like. Next might be H. P. Lovecraft because of his terrifying tales. Dean Koontz also intrigues me, and I’d love to talk with him about writing. And last but not least it would be a fight to pick the brains of more than one romance author because I have dozens of favorites. I’d have to choose between Barbara Samuel and Connie Brockway because they both wrote what I’d consider to be two of my favorite historical romances ever, Lucien’s Fall (Samuel) and As You Desire (Connie Brockway).

Selena: What theme song would you allocate for Before the Dawn?

Denise: The theme song that is on the trailer right now: Constancy by Kevin MacLeod.

Selena: That trailer captures the story perfectly. For any of you who haven’t had a chance to see it, visit Denise’s websiteit’s extremely well done. Back to the interview: What is the most fascinating thing you discovered while researching Before the Dawn?

Denise: The railroad system between Pittsburgh and Philadelphia at that time included rail cars that traveled as boats on part of the journey. Yep, that’s right. You’ll have to read the book to find out how.

Selena: What would you like to know about the future?

Denise: I’m not sure I want to know anything. I believe we shape our own future, so it’s variable. I believe humans get premonitions because I do, but as for knowing something with absolute certainty…don’t think I want to know.

Selena: What’s up next for your writing career?

Denise: I’m self publishing a couple of backlist books later this year. I have a trilogy with historical and paranormal elements that I hope will start coming out early next year, and I’m very excited about those stories. I’ll trickle out details on my website as they become available, and I have a clearer picture on where and when these books are to be published.

A fallen woman must decide to stay down, or rise and fight…

Elijah McKinnon has been found innocent of a heinous murder, but it doesn’t erase the hellish years in prison he endured. He boards the train to Pittsburgh a changed man, certain he will never feel free until he’s wreaked revenge on the brother who ruined his life.

The passenger who catches his eye is intriguing, but he’s seen her kind before. The kind who puts on airs—and looks down on Irishmen. Still, he can’t seem to stop himself from stepping between her and a pack of ruthless cads.

Mary Jane Lawson is grateful for the handsome stranger’s help, but her journey has a higher purpose: to rise above her shattered reputation and declare her independence, come flood or famine. Propriety says she should refuse Elijah’s suggestion they pose as husband and wife—for her own protection, of course. Her practical side says it won’t hurt to pretend, just this once.


Product Warning:

A hot Irish accent mixed with high adventure may cause combustion. Beware of falling for this hunk. The heroine says he’s hers.


She stumbled along in his wake, no energy to ask why they pushed onward into the woods where no one from the train could help them. Thinking that far ahead caused more trepidation, so she concentrated on planting one shoe in front of the other. After what seemed an endless time, a rocky outcropping and massive hill rose in front of them.

“Thank the saints.” He tugged her forward. “Here.” He released her hand long enough to shove aside shrubbery and reveal a tall opening. She saw his throat work as he swallowed hard. “Damnation. I don’t want to go in here, but we must. I’ll go first, you follow.”

His voice snapped like a general, and she flinched. His eyes went hard, unyielding.

The darkness beyond the crevice appeared to be a wide mouth without teeth. What horrors lay inside? Unreasoning fear stilled her courage. She sucked in a quick breath. If Elijah could conquer his apprehension, so could she.

He crawled in, headfirst. When he disappeared into the maw, all went quiet. Even the wind didn’t stir, and the rain stopped. Her entire body quaked. Nightmares of deep, unknown places from childhood tormented her from the edges. They beckoned, dared her to stay brave and to remain sane.

Elijah’s hand came out and then his head. “It’s larger than I thought. It’s a deep rock shelter.”

She clasped his hand and leaned down. He released her once she started inside. She crawled on hands and knees and discovered enough headroom to stand and several feet on both sides. Light penetrated from a large crack in the ceiling.

He inched around in front of her and made certain the hole stayed thoroughly covered by the foliage. Turning back, he stopped. He put one finger to his lips in a gesture of silence. He pulled his weapon from the inner waistcoat pocket and held it, prepared for use. They stayed that way for several minutes. Time stretched in front of her, an eternity of waiting, of anxiety ridden breaths and heart pounding apprehension. Safety still felt far removed. Now that they had stopped running, she heard her own breath rasping, her heart pounding in her ears as her body slowed. Reaction came without remorse. Tears flowed and fell to her cheeks. She regulated her breath by slow turns, and yet her body remained tense. After what seemed an eternity, he made his way past her and sat against one wall. He gestured for her to come closer.

She eased towards him on her hands and knees, her crinoline bunching up in the way. Frustrated, she frowned. She never hated fashion more than this moment.

“Take off the crinoline. We’re leaving it and the corset behind,” he said.

She hesitated and then realized the wisdom in his request. Mary Jane rose to her feet. “Help me. I have to remove the dress first.”

He nodded, his face etched with a harsh determination. She turned away from him. Methodically he unbuttoned the back of the dress while she pulled the hatpins out of her hat and hair. As his fingers moved, a fleeting thought raced by. Even in these desperate moments of flight, his fingers brushing with heat through dress, corset and chemise somehow made her incredibly aware of him as a man. Then the thought fled.

She tossed the pins in a corner and flung the hat aside. She was surprised the thing had not fallen off before now. Her dress stuck to her, sodden with rain and made the buttons more difficult to undo. She would have to dress in it again once she removed the corset and crinoline, but what choice did she have? Before she knew it the shoulders and the tight sleeves eased away from her skin. Eager, she pulled the garment off her arms until she peeled it all the way down and it fell around her waist. She wriggled to shove it off her hips. She stepped out of the dress and worked on the ties that held the crinoline in place. As they remained quiet, a sense of urgency filled the air. They must hurry in case his brother found them and they must fight. She shoved the horsehair padding downward, and he came around to the front and knelt in front of her.

“Here,” he whispered. “Lift your legs one at a time, and I’ll pull it off.”

She complied, and quicker than she expected, Elijah crumpled the nuisance and shoved it into a corner. Without speaking he returned to stand behind her and made short work of the corset laces. When it loosened around her ribs, she sucked in a breath. That felt so much better. Though she never worn her corset particularly tight, removing the garment was liberating. She took one deep breath after another. When he loosened it completely, he pulled it over her head. It, too, went into the corner.

Now that she stood in nothing but chemise, pantalets, stockings and boots, she trembled with cold. His hands rested on her shoulders for a second, and then he turned her around.

His eyes had lost their harshness, but they held no awareness of her as a woman. He had shut down for the fight, all efficiency in the face of danger. “I know the dress is cold and wet, but you have to put it back on. If they find us here…”

She put her fingers over his lips. For a few unguarded seconds, his eyes flared. She’d never imagined green eyes could burn this bright and hot with emotion. Quickly he shut it off, like a flame doused under a rush of water. He helped her back into the dress, which went much faster.

Once done, he sat, propped his back against the wall and stared at her. He drew up one leg and propped his forearm on his knee. With his disheveled hair, sweat beading on his forehead, and a harsh look in his eyes, he looked every inch the dastardly criminal. Part of her wanted to run from him too. After all, she was in this predicament because his brother had a vendetta with Elijah. His rumpled waistcoat hung open, dirt and something red smeared over one side. Worry speared her.

She sank to her knees in the damp earth in front of him. She grabbed the lapels of his waistcoat and parted them. “You are bleeding.”

“No. I’m not. That’s the blood of the man I killed.”

Her lips parted but nothing came out at first. She struggled with her words. “We both… I hit that man with a rock, Elijah. I killed him.”

“I know, darlin’.” His voice softened, the rough understanding lowering his husky voice. “I know.”

More tears came, and as they rained down, her face crumpled.

“Shhh…” He reached for her and pulled her into his lap.

He cuddled her close, his powerful arms providing shelter she desperately craved. She wept quietly, holding back the rage screaming fear. She shuddered and quaked. She saw a misery in his gaze, a genuine sorrow. She touched his face and felt the bristle of beard growing there. In those quiet moments, Mary Jane heard nothing more than gentle breaths, felt nothing more than his heat beneath her, cradling and comforting.

Understanding, like that she had witnessed before, warmed his eyes and softened his visage. His lips parted. She stared at that handsome mouth and wanted it on hers with undeniable desperation.

Closer, closer still, he tilted towards her until…his mouth touched hers with exquisite gentleness. When her lips parted under pressure, his tongue pushed inside. Retreated. Caressed. Owned her mouth with sweet, deep thrusts. She arched into that kiss, breath puffing into him, mouth moving in response, tongue tangling in carnal dance.

Elijah broke away with a gasp, eyes still blazing.

He leaned closer until he whispered in her ear. “If we were anywhere else and completely safe, you would be beneath me. Naked.”

Blunt as his words were, they excited Mary Jane and made her forget their harrowing flight.

“But we can’t.” His burning gaze lingered on her mouth, then recaptured her eyes. “I would put you in danger, and that’s the last thing I want. Promise me something.”

“Anything.” The word, so definitive and complete, left her throat without a pause.

“If they find us here and anything happens to me, you fight with everything in you. You fight to live. You understand?”

“No—I— you are not going to die.” Her voice broke. “That will not happen.”

“If there’s one thing I learned incarcerated in Eastern State, it was that bad things happen and you cannot always stop them. If that bad thing happens, and I cannot keep you safe…you do what you need in order to live.” His gaze was fierce and demanding. “You understand me?”

“Yes.” The excruciating thought twisted a hot knife in her breast. “Yes.”

* * *


Denise has graciously offered to give away a gift certificate. To be eligible to win, please post a comment or ask Denise a question on the blog.

Thank you for joining us, Denise.

* * *

Congratulations go out to Catslady and Teresa K, their names were drawn in Nancy Lauzon’s guest blog and they each will receive a copy of Saving Haley.

Until next time. . . . .

61 responses to “Welcome Denise Agnew – Interview – Excerpt & Contest”

  1. Loved the interview & the excerpt. I’m not sure I would like to know what the future could hold either. BEFORE THE DAWN looks wonderful.



    1. I’m with you and Denise on not wanting to know about the future, but thought it was interesting to ask since I know people who go to Psychics to find out. My theory on that is, if the Psychic knows what’s going to happen, why doesn’t see buy lottery tickets? LOL


  2. Great excerpt and interview. My question for you Denise is did you ride the railroad from Philly to PIttsburgh for research or can you still ride it? Trains have always fascinated me and my dad has a whole room dedicated to his trains. Yes, he has three tracks up.

    Amtrak still runs from Dallas (where I grew up) to my mother’s hometown of Pauls Valley, OK. My brother took his kids one time to visit our grandmother and they loved it.


  3. Thank you for the win and congrats to Teresa.

    I enjoyed the excerpt and hope to find out more 🙂 I too enjoy some of thethe same authors as you but will have to look into Babara Samuel as she is a new author for me. I’m definitely going to have to find out about that railroad system since I live in Pittsburgh, Also wanted to say how much I enjoyed the trailer and what a great cover!


  4. Great questions, and I loved your answers, Denise. This is a story I’ve had my eye on, and the trailer and excerpt will definitely have it moving to the top of my list. I agree with catslady, I will have to check out Barbara Samuel’s book as well.

    caity_mack at yahoo dot com


  5. Wow,

    I love this excerpt! Anything that has a historical ring to it, I love. I just recently stumbled across a couple of Kresley Coles Historicals and they are great.

    I loved the interview and I really enjoyed finding out more about you. Congratulations on the new release. As far as knowing the future, I have dreams that come to pass. It can be tomorrow or it can be 10 yrs from now but the dreams will play out for real eventually. Sometimes it can be scarey.

    Especially when you know something bad is going to happen to someone. My dreams are a warning or something similar to the problem. For example: My parents were in Vegas. The night before when they were due home I woke up crying for my dream showed me that my mom and dads plan crashed.
    So of course the next day when I knew they were coming in I called. I got no answer and I kept calling till late for I figured maybe there plane was delayed. The very next day I called and still no answer so I called my sister.

    She told me that they had met up with some friends and that my parents decided to stay a little longer. That was on a Tuesday. I believed her at first but by Thursday my gut was gnawing at me. On Friday my sister called me and told me that mom and dad would be home on Sunday and that she could tell me now what was going on.

    While my parents were in Vegas something had happen to my mom. They thought she had a stroke and she was in the hospital. I told my sister I knew something was wrong for I dreamed about it and I wanted to know why no one called me? My mom knew I was having finals in college all that week and she didn’t want me upset so I would do good on those exams.

    So I guess you can see how knowing something in advance can be frightening.

    Teresa K.


    1. I’m glad your dream didn’t come to fruition, but sorry to hear your mom had such a hard time while away. I’ve also had scary dreams, but after thinking about them, I realize our unconscious state is tied to our emotional waking state. Our worries, anxieties and fears. I could also understand why your parents didn’t want to upset you during your exams. Here’s to sweeter dreams!


  6. the book sounds wonderful and the excerpt was awesome. i can’t wait to read it and find out what happens next. congrats on the new release.


  7. I can’t view any trailers as I’m using a 3g wifi stick in the bush north of Fairbanks, so my internet connect just isn’t quite strong enough to download any of them….grrr.
    But I’ve read the excerpt several times and just the love the description the their desperate run to a temporary place of safety. The time period was such a change in history from past to present. Literally a sweep of economic difference across the United States, and the peace before the storm of world war. So many changes in the world at that time.
    I love the excerpt, and the struggle for their very survival, and their determination to just fighting for their lives. I love strong female characters, who do not just stand silently to accept their lot in life. Instead they stand up and fight back for their right to be heard.
    Thank you Denise for your sharing of your experiences in the unknown. I’ve learned to trust that “hinky” feeling when it happens, and know that when it happens for a good reason I better listen to it.
    I’ve already put this book on my gotta have list, and love the cover…*S*
    Thank you!


    pommawolf @hotmail.com


  8. Hi Mary! Thank you for stopping by to say hello. Glad you enjoyed the excerpt. 🙂


  9. Hi Marika! Great question about the railroad. No, I did not take the railroad trip for research. In fact, the same exact route isn’t used any more. The route was changed several years after the 1850 time period. Was fortunate enough to have a ton of resources to help me with research, though. 🙂


  10. Catslady, thanks so much for saying hello. And yes, Barbara Samuel is an absolutely wonderful, wonderful author.


  11. Cathy M, glad you could stop by to say hello. I’m pleased the trailer caught your eye, too.


  12. Teresa,
    Thanks for sharing your premonition story with us. That is scary stuff! And yes I’ve had premonitions that have come true, so I know how you feel. Warnings if you will. Learning to trust our gut can be a very valuable thing!


  13. Hey Windwhisper, thank you for stopping by to say howdy! So glad you enjoyed the excerpt. 🙂


  14. Hey there Darcy, so glad you could say howdy! The 1850’s is definitely not a time period you see too often in romance novels written today, but I’m a rebel. I always seem to be writing in time periods no one else wants to tackle. 🙂


  15. Great interview! Would it not be awesome to chat with H. P. Lovecraft? I do not think I would want to interview him alone though, haha 😉
    Thanks for sharing an excerpt! Love me some guys with hot Irish accent! Yum 🙂




  17. jennifer mathis Avatar
    jennifer mathis

    LOve the cover the colors are beautiful . The book sounds very exciting


    1. Thanks Jennifer. It is a fantastic cover!


  18. The product warning is brilliant!! BEFORE THE DAWN looks amazing.



    1. Mary, Samhain is so clever putting those warnings on there!


  19. Great interview there, and that one’s already on my To Buy list, although I may have to push it up the queue after that extract.


    1. Stevie,
      So glad I could intrigue you enough so that you’d want to push it up the line. 🙂


  20. Sounds like a great read – and the cover is just gorgeous! How happy were you when you saw that? 🙂

    smaccall AT comcast.net


    1. Book, I was very ecstatic. Samhain has done some of the most amazing covers for me. My historicals are especially beautiful. For A Roman’s Heart has, I think, one of the best covers I’ve ever seen. In my opinion any way. 🙂


  21. Great post! Sound like a fabulous read and I can’t wait to read it. Do you ever write things in your books that happened to you in real life or friends lives?


    1. Quilt Lady. 🙂 I think every writer is inspired by things they’ve seen, heard, experienced. But I don’t ever write something that’s happened exactly like something in my life or a friend’s life. The historicals all have the historical facts, of course. 🙂 Or they are inspired by a real event, like the Great Earthquake and Fire in San Francisco in 1906 which is in my book LOVE FROM THE ASHES.


  22. Hello Denise!
    Congratulations on the release of Before the Dawn. I have always thought rail travel was romantice. I’ve always wanted to travel in the luxury of the Orient Express. I have been fortunate to see some beautiful countryside while taking the Eurostar between London and Paris as well as between Rome and Venice. I have to say that it is so much easier to travel by train than plane. There almost seems to be more intimacy between train passengers than on planes. I think we tune each other out when we fly. I can totally see how a romance could start on a train.


    1. I’ve only been on one train trip way back in ’80 I think it was. The Durango, Silverton trip in Colorado. 🙂 Fun! It sounds like you had a wonderful time on your trips.


  23. Loved the interview and excerpt. Can’t wait to read the book.


    1. Rita, thanks so much for stopping by and saying howdy!


  24. Interesting choices of authors to dine with, made me think about my choices. Steinbeck, Margaret Mitchell, Harper Lee and Laura Esquivel. Do you think he could hold his own with the ladies?


    1. Steinbeck, Mitchell and Lee are also on my dream list, what a luncheon that would be. Of course, to spice things up, I’d love to have Nora Roberts and Stephen King join us. 😉


    2. I’d like to pick Steinbeck’s mind for sure. And I’d be eater to ask Mitchell and Lee if they ever regretted only having one book published. Mitchell only had one, right? Gone With The Wind?


  25. I really enjoyed the interview and the trailer. Before The Dawn is going on my TRL. I look forward to reading about Elijah and Mary Jane. Loved the excerpt.Count me in also.
    Carol L
    Lucky4750 (at) aol (dot) com


    1. You’re counted in Carol. Thanks for stopping by! 🙂


  26. Sorry ladies who replied earlier in the blog. I didn’t use the reply button for each reply. So I replied down the line to your comments and questions. My bad! 🙂


  27. I really enjoyed the interview and the excerpt. I don’t think I would like to know my future it could be pretty depressing. What is your favorite genre to read and write? Do you have a favorite author?

    sstrode at scrtc dot com


    1. Hi Sherry. I don’t actually have a favorite genre within romance to read. If I love an author, I love anything usually that he/she writes within that genre. As for writing, I love combining historical/paranormal/suspense/adventure all together. I think my voice can shine that way. That being said, BEFORE THE DAWN doesn’t have anything paranormal in it. I do have a couple of historicals coming up next that have paranormal elements in it. I have several favorite authors, actually. One of my favorites isn’t in the romance genre…Dean Koontz.


  28. Greatly enjoyed your interview and the excerpt. BEFORE THE DAWN sounds like an exciting book and I love the warning! 🙂



    1. Hi Annalisa. Yep, those warnings are always intriguing. And thanks much for stopping by to say hello. 🙂


  29. Stacey A Smith Avatar
    Stacey A Smith

    Sounds Good been awhile sence I read a Historical Romance but I do read them just been reading a lot of Paranormal right but will be going back to reading Historical books soon.my Historical pile is piling up!but would still love to add to it.


    1. Hi Stacy,
      Thanks for stopping by. I love writing outside of the box in historicals and because there are so many Regency era romances being written these days, it’s hard for me to find a historical I want to read. 🙂


  30. Hello, All.

    I enjoyed the interview and the excerpt. Before the Dawn sounds great and I’m adding it to my must have list.

    booklover0226 at gmail dot com


    1. Thanks very much for adding it to your must have list! Appreciate you stopping by to say hello. 🙂




  32. Hello – Congrats on your new book. I’ve always loved rail travel. My hubby and I have taken the rail from Windsor to Toronto many times. We would like to take the Agaway Canyon train at some point.

    I’m a subscriber and a follower!


    1. Thanks for dropping by, Brenda. I’ve taken that train trip as well. I love travel by train, it feels historic and so much more comfortable than airplanes in my opinion. Thanks for supporting the blog with your follow and subscription. 🙂


  33. Audra Holtwick Avatar
    Audra Holtwick

    This is a great post and I can’t wait to read this book.


    1. Hi Audra,
      Thanks so much and thanks for stopping by. 🙂


  34. Would love to win this book I have read books by Denise Agnew before and liked them.


    1. Joyce, thanks for stopping by. And I’m pleased you enjoyed my books!


  35. I always like reading about tortured heros and how the heroine saves him ….this book would be a great read. Thanks for the info.


    1. Hi Jackie,
      Thanks for saying hello and I’m glad you enjoyed the interview and excerpt. 🙂


  36. Thanks so much everyone for staying with me all week! The winner of a Samhain gift certificate is TeresaK! I’m emailing you right now. 🙂




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