Tag Archive | courtesan

Jude Knight: A notorious woman visits the Parlour

Rebecca, Lady Overton prefers to be out of the public eye. Before she consented to join her author for tea in Susana’s Parlour, she extracted a promise that this interview would not be published until more than 200 years in her future.

“I have had notoriety and notice enough for a lifetime, Jude,” she says. “You saw to that.”

Becky is right. As the Rose of Frampton, treasured mistress to the notorious Marquis of Aldridge, she was whispered about (but not acknowledged) the length and breadth of polite Society. It is no consolation to her that I was only doing my job, nor that I did not know anything about her history when I started. I thought to write a cheerful romp about a dissolute rake, not a story about how a woman with few choices nonetheless made the best ones she could, and eventually won her way to a happy marriage and a secure family.

She does not wait for an answer to her remark. “And you are still doing it,” she scolds. “This latest start of yours has spread my story to countries that did not even exist when I was alive. That smug look does not make me feel better, you know!”

I wipe the grin off my face. I have been posting A Baron for Becky on Wattpad for months, one chapter a week until it was completed. In the past month it has taken off, garnering hundreds of reads every day. I am particularly thrilled that 15% of my reads are from India, another 10% from the Philippines, and more than 50% overall from countries in Africa and Asia where I do not normally sell books.

“You have to admit,” Becky continues, “it is not at all a light, frothy read. Girlhood trauma? Years of suffering? Two heroes, Jude, and neither of them particularly heroic seen in a certain light.”

“It is a story of resilience, Becky. You survived, and eventually you thrived. And both your first hero and your second helped with that. More than they hindered, I am sure you will agree. Did you know that Susana, our hostess today, has a story on Wattpad that is actually called ‘Resilience’? You might enjoy meeting her heroine. You have some sad circumstances in common.”

“Ah,” Becky says. “Betrayed into a brothel, was she? Poor girl.”

“It comes right in the end,” I sooth. “After all, we write happy endings, Susana and I.”

Becky’s speaking look states her opinion as loudly as words. Perhaps that which does not kill you makes you stronger, but the memories and the scars remain, giving a dark underpinning the future happiness. I dream that people who have had their choices torn from them will find hope and the courage to find new choices by reading stories about heroines like Becky. But pain endured and overcome is still pain.

“We are about to start posting a new book, Mari Christie and I,” I tell Becky, hoping to change the direction of her thoughts.

It works. “Mari Christie? She writes as Mariana Gabrielle, does she not? She created my dear friend Kali. Is the book about her?”

“No, indeed. This is something different. Never Kiss a Toad is about the romance between Aldridge’s daughter Sal and his friend Wellbridge’s son David. The first part goes up next Friday.”

About Never Kiss a Toad

Never Kiss a Toad copyDavid “Toad” Northope, heir to the Duke of Wellbridge and rogue in the mold of his infamous father, knows Lady Sarah “Sal” Grenford, daughter of the once-profligate Duke of Haverford, will always hold his heart. But when the two teens are caught in bed together by their horrified parents, he is sent away to finish school on the Continent, and she is thrown into the depths of her first London Season.

Can two reformed rakes keep their children from making the same mistakes they did? The dukes decide keeping them apart will do the trick, so as the children reach their majority, Toad is put to work at sea, learning to manage his mother’s shipping concern, and Sal is taken to the other side of the world, as far from him as possible.

How will Toad and Sal’s love withstand long years of separation, not to mention nasty lies, vicious rumors, attractive other suitors, and well-meaning parents who threaten to destroy their future before it has begun?

To be published in weekly instalments on Wattpad, alternating between Mariana Gabrielle’s page and Jude Knight’s.

Jude Knight

Mariana Gabrielle

(Mariana Gabrielle is also posting Royal Regard, in which you can read about the fraught and beleaguered courtship of Toad’s parents, and Jude is posting stories from her collection Hand-Turned Tales.)

About A Baron for Becky

BfB cover final small copyBecky is the envy of the courtesans of the demi-monde – the indulged mistress of the wealthy and charismatic Marquis of Aldridge. But she dreams of a normal life; one in which her daughter can have a future that does not depend on beauty, sex, and the whims of a man.

Finding herself with child, she hesitates to tell Aldridge. Will he cast her off, send her away, or keep her and condemn another child to this uncertain shadow world?

The devil-may-care face Hugh shows to the world hides a desperate sorrow; a sorrow he tries to drown with drink and riotous living. His years at war haunt him, but even more, he doesn’t want to think about the illness that robbed him of the ability to father a son. When he dies, his barony will die with him. His title will fall into abeyance, and his estate will be scooped up by the Crown.

When Aldridge surprises them both with a daring proposition, they do not expect love to be part of the bargain.

Follow A Baron for Becky on Wattpad, or purchase while it is on sale for 99c

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About the Author

Jude Knight copyJude Knight has been telling stories all her life: making up serial tales to amuse her friends and children, imagining sequels to books that have moved her and left her wanting more, occasionally submitting short stories to magazines and the radio, starting more than a dozen novels set in different times and places.

She has devoted most of the last forty years to a career in commercial writing and raising a large family (most recently as grandmother-in-residence while a daughter was out of action for three years). She and her own personal romantic hero, with whom she has shared those forty+ years, now live with two cats and frequent visitors in a small town in rural New Zealand.

Judy wrote and published her first historical romance in 2014, and now has the wind in her sails and a head full of strong determined heroines, heroes with the sense to appreciate them, and villains you’ll love to loathe.

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Jude Knight: A Baron for Becky

BfB cover final small copy

Aldridge Interviews His Creator

by Jude Knight

In the rush to launch A Baron for Becky, this past month I’ve given the study no more than a flick with a duster and a lick and a promise from the vacuum. Every surface is covered with papers and books. The Marquis of Aldridge looks out of place, prowling the limited space between the clutter, the two computer stations, the stack of printers, and the bookshelves.

I can’t mistake him, though. This invention of my overactive mind is actually here, in the 21st century, in my work room, tipping his head to read the book spines, and picking up the pair of copper seals on the window ledge.

Aldridge

Anthony Grenville, Marquis of Aldridge

He is such a peacock, with his highly embroidered waistcoat, the jewelled pin placed just so in a cravat knot of his own devising, the pantaloons and coat fitting so tightly to to every muscled inch of him that my mouth goes dry. I have been happily married for forty-three and a half years, but I am neither blind nor dead, and anyone can admire the conformation of a fine thoroughbred.

What is he doing here? One of my friends had a similar visit when she offended a character by not knowing how to pronounce his name, and I must admit to providing Aldridge with plenty of reason to be annoyed with me.

“Good morning, Aldridge.”

He quirks one corner of his mouth, the signature half-grin I’ve seen so many times in my imagination. “So this is where you make us all,” he says.

“Here, on the way to and from the office, sitting up in bed, out in the lounge,” I tell him. I write all my first drafts on the iPad, which goes everywhere with me. And even when I’m not writing I’m often thinking about little bits of dialogue or ways to solve plot issues, or details of character background.

He nods as if I’ve said all that aloud. “We never leave you alone, do we?” His warm voice is sympathetic.

“Take a seat, Aldridge,” I suggest, but he shakes his head.

“There is only the one chair, ma’am,” he points out. True. I work at a standing desk and the room is small, so the only chair is the one my husband uses at his workstation. And Aldridge, whose manners are impeccable, would never sit while I remain standing.

“Fetch a chair from the next room,” I tell him, and he brings in a dining room chair, which he turns back on to the seat I’ve now taken and straddles, resting his elbows on the curved wooden top rail.

I return to his question. “You never do,” I agree. “You, in particular, Aldridge. This latest book was not on my publication schedule, but you insisted.” I have around 40 plots roughly sketched covering 20 years in the fictional world that Aldridge inhabits, and A Baron for Becky was not one of them.

He dismisses my complaint with a casual wave. “You are pleased with this book,” he reminds me. “And it is not my book, anyway. It is very much Becky’s book.”

This is true, but it was Aldridge who bothered me until I began writing. And his presence in the book is not inconsiderable.

“Is there something I can do for you, Aldridge?” I asked.

He widens his eyes, cocks his head to one side, and straightens his lips to look sincere. “I thought it would be nice to visit.” His guileless look wouldn’t fool me even if I had not made him. I raised six children. I know when someone is trying to feed me a line.

“You have some questions?” I ask.

I see the calculation in his eyes as he considers, and the moment when he decides to come clean; the relaxation of tiny muscles around the eyes and mouth, the sudden warmth in the gold flecks that lighten the brown of his eyes.

“How long do I have to wait?”

I know what he is asking, but I’m not sure what I can safely answer. It wouldn’t do to give him information he could use to avoid the stories to come. I had better find out what he already knows. “What year are you in, Aldridge?”

“1810, ma’am. The wedding was last week.”

Edward Archer by Andrew Plimer, 1815 copy

Anthony Grenville, Marquis of Aldridge

Ah. It will be a while then. In 1810, Aldridge’s happy ending was still four years in the future.

“I’m sorry, Aldridge. You will have to be patient. But trust me. I do believe in happy endings, you know.”

He stands abruptly, tipping the chair then catching it with a casual hand before pacing again—two paces to the paper store, two paces back to the bookshelf. With his back to me, he combs the fingers of one hand through his hair, a dearly familiar gesture that ripples the muscles of his shoulder in interesting ways.

When he turns again, his face is calm, set in its usual amused lines though the twinkle is missing from his eyes.

“I have no choice but to trust you, ma’am.” Then, suddenly wistful, “You will see us happy, will you not? As you did Rede and Anne, and their friends Candle and Min? A real marriage, with friendship and mutual respect as well as passion?” His brows draw together, and his voice is stern. “You are not always so kind to your characters, ma’am.”

I remember what happened to John, and am silent. Aldridge is right, but so am I. To be fair to my readers means being unfair to my characters, and happy endings for some may involve unhappy endings for others.

Aldridge will have his happy ending. I cannot promise him that, since his future must remain a mystery to him, but I know it. He has some trials to come, poor bedevilled rake that he is, but he will have his happy ending.

Perhaps he sees the truth in my eyes, because he leans over and kisses my cheek. “I know you will do your best,” he says. “I will talk to you soon.”

He fades from view, as if someone slid a transparency control, leaving nothing behind but the lingering scent of bergamot and wintergreen.

I have no doubt I’ll be hearing from him again; perhaps not in person, but certainly at 1.30am when I wake with his voice in my ears, telling me more of his personal story. Yes. Aldridge will certainly have his happy ending. In time.

A random commenter will receive a digital copy of A Baron for Becky.

About A Baron for Becky

Becky is the envy of the courtesans of the demi-monde—the indulged mistress of the wealthy and charismatic Marquis of Aldridge. But she dreams of a normal life; one in which her daughter can have a future that does not depend on beauty, sex, and the whims of a man.

Finding herself with child, she hesitates to tell Aldridge. Will he cast her off, send her away, or keep her and condemn another child to this uncertain shadow world?

The devil-may-care face Hugh shows to the world hides a desperate sorrow; a sorrow he tries to drown with drink and riotous living. His years at war haunt him, but even more, he doesn’t want to think about the illness that robbed him of the ability to father a son. When he dies, his barony will die with him. His title will fall into abeyance, and his estate will be scooped up by the Crown.

When Aldridge surprises them both with a daring proposition, they do not expect love to be part of the bargain.

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Excerpt

The maid must have added a fresh log to the fire just before they arrived. The top was still uncharred, but flames licked up from the bed of hot embers. A twig that jutted from one side suddenly flared, turned black, and shrivelled. The bottom of the log began to glow red.

The duchess spoke again, startling Becky out of her flame-induced trance.

“What do you want for your daughter, Mrs Darling?”

“A better life,” Becky said, suddenly fierce. “A chance to be respectable. A life that does not depend on the whims of a man.”

“The first two may be achievable,” the duchess said, dryly. “The third is unlikely in the extreme. And you expect my son to help you to this goal, I take it.”

Becky was suddenly tired of polite circling. “I was saving so that I could leave this life; start again in another place under another name. But my last protector cheated me and stole from me.

“I do what I must, Your Grace. Should I have killed myself when I was disgraced? I had no skills anyone wanted to buy. I could play the piano, a little; sew, but others were faster and better; paint, but indifferently; parse a Latin sentence, but not well. Should I have starved in the gutter where they threw me?

“Well, I wasn’t given that choice. Those who took me from the gutter knew precisely what I had that others would pay for. As soon as I could, I began selling it for myself, and I Will. Not. Be. Ashamed.”

Her vehemence did not ruffle the duchess’s calm. “We all do what we must, my dear. I am not judging you. Men have the power in this world, and we women of the gentry are raised to depend on them for our survival. But you must know that Aldridge cannot offer marriage to a woman with your history.”

About the Author

Jude Knight copyJude Knight writes strong determined heroines, heroes who can appreciate a clever capable woman, villains you’ll love to loathe, and all with a leavening of humour.

Jude Knight is the pen name of Judy Knighton. After a career in commercial writing, editing, and publishing, Jude is returning to her first love, fiction. Her novella, Candle’s Christmas Chair, was released in December 2014, and is in the top ten on several Amazon bestseller lists in the US and UK. Her first novel Farewell to Kindness, was released on 1 April, and is first in a series: The Golden Redepennings.

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Mariana Gabrielle: La Déesse Noire (Giveaway)

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A Hearty Welcome to Fellow Bluestocking Belle

 Mariana Gabrielle

Susana: How long have you been writing?

Mariana: I’ve been a professional writer almost twenty-five years, writing fiction since 2009.

Susana: What advice would you give to writers just starting out?

MarianaGabrielle copyMariana: Write. Write some more. Keep writing.

Susana: Do you ever suffer from writer’s block? If so, what do you do about it?

Mariana: I tend not to get writer’s block, because I am well-used to switching among projects and formats and genres. On the rare occasions when I do, I typically switch to marketing work for a while.

Susana: What comes first: the plot or the characters?

Mariana: Characters, with plot not far behind. The first draft is almost always the characters filling me in on the story, before I fictionalize [what they think are] their nonfiction accounts.

Susana: Are you a plotter or a pantser?

Mariana: Panster. Full stop. Even in nonfiction, I almost never start with a plan, and if I do, it gets tossed out the window very early. The work evolves.

Susana: Tell us something about your newest release that is NOT in the blurb.

Mariana: There are two heroes, three villains, and two sidekicks in this short novel. I am told I managed to pull it off.

Susana: Are you working on something at present that you would like to tell us about?

Mariana: I am working on a series of three prequel novellas connected to my first novel, Royal Regard, the first of which will appear in the Bluestocking Belles’ holiday box set. In ‘Tis Her Season, Charlotte and Alexander start their life together; in Shipmate, readers will learn how Bella ended up with her first husband; and in the unnamed third book, Bella’s brother, John, meets his wife, Rose.

Susana: What did you want to be when you grew up?

Mariana: I wanted to be a musical theatre star.

Susana: What is one thing your readers would be most surprised to learn about you?

Mariana: I am not—in the least—a romantic (not even a little bit).

Susana: What would we find under your bed?

Mariana: Dust. (Cats, if there are other people in the house.)

Susana: Do you write in multiple genres or just one? If just one, would you consider straying outside your genre?

Mariana: Thus far, I have only published Regency romance, but next year, I will release Blind Tribute, a mainstream historical about a Civil War newspaper reporter with divided loyalties. I am currently working in non-fiction on a marketing book, and I have already released a book-length epic poem about the Mayan underworld. As far as fiction, though, I don’t foresee straying from some form of historical.

Susana: What is something you’d like to accomplish in your writing career next year?

Mariana: I’d like to release all three Royal Regard prequel novellas, and I would like Blind Tribute to be on the verge of publication by this time next year. I wouldn’t mind having a good start on Book One of my Regency family series.

Susana: When was the moment that you knew you had to be a writer

Mariana: During the same week, in my third year of college (the first time around), I was offered an internship at the Denver Post, and was also approached by the Music Department chair to try for an audition at the National Musical Theater Conservatory. I decided writing was a more stable career path. Largely, I was correct.

Susana: Describe the “perfect hero.” What about the “perfect hero” for you?

Mariana: I am the perfect hero (and heroine) for me.

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About La Déesse Noire

Sired by a British peer, born of a paramour to Indian royalty, Kali Matai has been destined from birth to enthrall England’s most powerful noblemen—though she hadn’t counted on becoming their pawn. Finding herself under the control of ruthless men, who will not be moved by her legendary allure, she has no choice but to use her beauty toward their malicious and clandestine ends.

When those she holds most dear are placed in peril by backroom political dealings, she enlists some of the most formidable lords in England to thwart her enemies. But even with the help of the prominent gentlemen she has captivated, securing Kali’s freedom, her family, and the man she loves, will require her protectors stop at nothing to fulfill her desires.

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Excerpt

Mayuri had done her no favors, preparing her for the worst. Fitz had no reason to be gentle, she had been warned, no cause to concern himself with her wishes, desires, or fears. No matter how handsome, how charming, how solicitous in the drawing room, Mayuri had said, there was every possibility he would be driven entirely by his own lust, disregarding even the most basic courtesies. And no matter what he did, Kali was to pretend she had never been more excited by anything in her life.

She turned away to stare into the corner of the garish red-and-gold room, wishing it felt less like a cheap brothel, fingers tripping over the buttons of her dress, trying to speed things up to be finished that much faster.

She couldn’t help glancing at the bed, with a frame as large as a farm wagon. Piles of pillows in shades of rose, bed curtains of garish silk velvet, and a red satin eiderdown quilt nearly as thick as the feather-filled mattress. As comfortable as it all must be, she glared like it concealed a hungry crocodile.

He tugged the shirttail from his waistband and unbuttoned it over his broad chest, then came to her and held her hands motionless, kissing her fingertips.

“I will not hurt you, my sweet, I promise. No more than a pinprick, as with any woman’s first time. Mayuri explained?”

She nodded again, trying to bring her voice back under her own control. “Yes, my lord.” She’d known exactly what to expect for at least ten years.

“My name is Fitz,” he said, recalling her attention to his face, “not ‘my lord.’ I cannot bear such formality from you, Kali. Can you indulge me?”

“Yes, Si—Fitz.”

“Much better,” he said, kissing her cheek, then her earlobe, murmuring, “Now then, I prefer a woman who would invite me to her bed for the enjoyment, so I plan to ensure it. May I bring you pleasure, sweeting? Will you allow it?”

She had no right to deny him anything he wanted in bed, nor anywhere else, truth be told, and she probably knew more than he—theoretically—about the pleasures of the flesh. That he was asking her agreement and treating her as an innocent predisposed her to look past her fear.

“It is my fondest desire to please you in all things, my lor…” She trailed off when she saw his frustration at the pat response. She struggled to salvage the moment, but had no untutored words. She tried to explain this inadequacy with her eyes as she offered, grasping his hands more tightly, “Perhaps I might dance? Or indulge your… more exotic pleasures.”

She had been trained to expect anything and to use every part of her body, her mind, her wardrobe, and myriad implements to enhance any sexual act he chose. She had been told of every possibility before she was fourteen, then experienced all but the final act of coition at the hands of another, older tawaif, or the castrati who staffed Mayuri’s house of male delights.

She had not been trained in how to explain she was frightened, that she couldn’t remember how to put either of them at ease, that she was afraid of what he might ask if he kept her, but petrified he would find her wanting and send her away. It would be much simpler if he threw her across the bed and took his pleasure like a rutting dog. If, in the morning, she could remain indifferent.

About the Author

Mariana Gabrielle is a pseudonym of Mari Christie, a professional writer, editor, and designer with almost twenty-five years’ experience. Published in dozens of nonfiction and poetry periodicals since 1989, she began writing mainstream historical fiction in 2009 and Regency romance in 2013. In all genres, she creates deeply scarred characters in uncommon circumstances who overcome self-imposed barriers to reach their full potential. She is a member of the Bluestocking Belles, the Writing Wenches, and the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers. Her first Regency romance, Royal Regard, was released in November 2014.

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