Once again, please help me welcome my dear friend, historical romance author, Beverley Oakley to the Diva couch,
Yesterday, from my dad’s house in South Australia I watched the awful television footage of the Victorian fires encroach on my home town of Gisborne and the house round the corner go up in flames. At the time I didn’t know where my kids or husband were, so it was very frightening. Especially since I had no wifi or phone connection.
Anyway, all was well when I flew in, though the sky was thick with smoke and as I drove from the airport I could see both sides of the Calder Freeway disappear into fields of charcoal, a desolate wasteland as I drew closer to my home. Many people had evacuated but fortunately, unlike Black Saturday’s fires of 5 years ago, when 173 people burned to death, no one was caught by surprise.
So, now to what’s occupying me at present. Yes! I have a new book out with Ellora’s Cave called Dangerous Gentlemen and I’m delighted to be a guest on Down Under Divas to talk a little bit about it.
Regency London’s underbelly of vice and vermin is as fascinating to me as the glitz and glitter, and Dangerous Gentlemen, an erotic Regency intrigue, has a good dose of both. It’s about a viscount’s daughter who poses as a prostitute in order to save her life.
I love stories of mistaken identities, and there are plenty in this one. My heroine, Hetty, believes her life depends on pretending to be someone else, my hero is mistakenly believed to be a villain, while Hetty’s sister has her own little scheme up her sleeve, based on her own deception. (Believe me, beautiful Araminta is a real piece of work!)
So do read on. There’s plenty to whip up your indignation, horror and lustful fantasies with a guaranteed HEA (bearing in mind that my wonderful editor on the first round of structural edits demanded to know when she got to the last chapter: “BEVERLEY, WHAT WERE YOU THINKING?” – but I’m happy to report all was happily resolved.
Here’s the blurb followed by an extract:
Sequel to Her Gilded Prison
Shy, self-effacing Henrietta knows her place—in her dazzling older sister’s shadow. She’s a little brown peahen to Araminta’s bird of paradise. But when Hetty mistakenly becomes embroiled in the Regency underworld, the innocent debutante finds herself shockingly compromised by the dashing, dangerous Sir Aubrey, the very gentleman her heart desires. And the man Araminta has in her cold, calculating sights.
Branded an enemy of the Crown, bitter over the loss of his wife, Sir Aubrey wants only to lose himself in the warm, willing body of the young “prostitute” Hetty. As he tutors her in the art of lovemaking, Aubrey is pleased to find Hetty not only an ardent student, but a bright, witty and charming companion.
Despite a spoiled Araminta plotting for a marriage offer and a powerful political enemy damaging his reputation, Aubrey may suffer the greatest betrayal at the hands of the little “concubine” who’s managed to breach the stony exterior of his heart.
A Romantica® historical Regency erotic romance from Ellora’s Cave
And here’s the extract:
By reading any further, you are stating that you are at least 18 years of age. If you are under the age of 18, please exit this site.
An Excerpt From: DANGEROUS GENTLEMEN
Copyright © BEVERLEY OAKLEY, 2014
All Rights Reserved, Ellora’s Cave Publishing, Inc.
This takes place during a ball when Hetty has nicked off to the mending room to nurse her wounds after her sister has been perfectly hateful. Here she meets a young lady in a similar state of dismal spirits.
Miss Hoskings, who declared she was not going to emerge from the mending room until the night was over, bade Hetty a gloomy farewell once Hetty’s skirt was mended but Hetty wasn’t sure she felt like reentering the ballroom either. The only person of any interest had left and she had no wish to endure Araminta’s preening self-satisfaction as she recounted her success with Sir Aubrey who, if he really were such a dangerous man, would consequently be of even greater interest to her sister, she supposed. No, Hetty had no chance.
“Make sure you turn the right way. The ’ouse is a fair rabbit warren of rooms and the gennulmen’s quarters that way.” The old crone stabbed a finger up the stairs to the left. “Even that Sir Aubrey what’s staying ’ere got hisself lost. Put ’is head in ’ere just afore you came to inquire as to which way was the lobby so he could order hisself a carriage.”
Miss Hoskings straightened, her look suddenly interested. “Sir Aubrey is a houseguest, I believe,” she said with a sharp look at Hetty. “Handsome gentleman, don’t you think? And with that unusual hair.”
Just the mere mention of him made Hetty’s heart leap. So Sir Aubrey’s room was just down the passage and up the stairs? She hesitated as the old seamstress closed the door behind her, plunging her into the gloom of the dimly lit corridor.
The stairs beckoned a short distance away.
What would be the harm in a quick look? No one would see her and she could always claim she’d lost her way. She’d be believed and besides, all the chambers would be empty since everyone was at the ball. The night was still young and no one would be returning yet.
Hetty, curious by nature, found this too tantalizing an opportunity to resist. With a furtive look around her, she hurried left and up the stairs, at which point two corridors at right angles disappeared into darkness. Choosing the one to the right, she found herself face-to-face with a series of closed doors.
Foolish, she chided herself. Of course they were closed and she could hardly open them. As she turned back toward the ballroom, a faint light shining from the crack beneath a door that was slightly ajar gleamed beckoningly.
With a furtive look over her shoulder, she approached it, and when she gave the door a little nudge with her foot, it swung open.
Excitement rippled through her.
“Hello?” she asked in a low voice. She took another step into the room. “Is anyone in here?”
Silence greeted her. A low fire burned in the grate before which was a table, against which were propped several items, including a familiar silver-topped cane. Her breath caught in her throat. The last time she’d seen that cane was when Sir Aubrey had exchanged several words with Araminta in the street as Hetty had been bringing up the rear with Mrs. Monks. Of course Sir Aubrey had not looked twice at her, excusing himself before having to be introduced to the younger sister and the chaperone who’d nearly closed the gap.
Heart hammering, Hetty closed the door behind her and went to pick up the cane.
How fortunate to have stumbled into Sir Aubrey’s room, she thought when she observed the fine coat lying upon the bed, apparently discarded in favor of what he was wearing tonight.
He really was a nonpareil, wearing his clothes as if they were an extension of his athletic physique.
Yet he was dangerous, she had to remind herself. Meaning she should not be here, which of course she shouldn’t, regardless of whether he was dangerous or not.
But how such a scion of good breeding and genteel society could be guilty of such a heinous crime as treason, Hetty could not imagine. And surely the story of the runaway wife was a gilded one. It was all the stuff of make-believe and Cousin Stephen was only telling Hetty he was dangerous to curb her schoolroom daydreams.
Turning, she saw half protruding from beneath the suit of clothes what appeared to be the edge of a silver, filigreed box. It was partly obscured by the overhang of the counterpane, as if it hadn’t properly been returned to its hiding place.
A moment’s indecision made her pause but soon Hetty was crouching on the floor, closing clammy fingers around the box. Might it contain secrets? Ones that would reveal, conclusively, what Cousin Stephen claimed was true?
Alternatively, proof that would exonerate Sir Aubrey?
Hetty fumbled for the catch. Dear Lord, this was too exciting for words. Perhaps Sir Aubrey was a secret agent working for the English, and Stephen had no idea.
Perhaps he was—
Protesting door hinges made her squeal as the door was flung wide. Hetty let the lid of the box fall and retreated into the shadows as Sir Aubrey strode into the room.
He was breathing heavily as he shrugged off his jacket with a curse, raindrops spattering into the hissing fire as he raked his fingers through his hair. A curious stillness overtook him and he froze, obviously sensing all was not as he left it.
He sniffed the air. “Orange flower water,” he muttered, stepping closer to the fire, fumbling for the tinderbox on the mantelpiece to light a candle.
Immediately he was thrown into sharp relief and as he stared at Hetty, it was not his look of shock and suspicion that made her scream—but the copious amounts of blood that stained his shirtsleeves and once snowy linen cravat.
“God Almighty, who are you?” he demanded as his gaze raked her finery. “You’re no parlor maid, that’s for certain.”
Gaping, unable to formulate a sensible answer, Hetty finally managed, “What happened to your arm, Sir Aubrey? Are you injured?”
“Sir Aubrey, is it? So you know who I am but you still haven’t told me who you are?” He grunted as he looked down at his arm, the bloodied linen shredded over the long graze. “It’s not as bad as it looks and I assure you, I gave a good account of myself.” His laugh was more a sneer. “Indeed, my assailant lies dead in the gutter.”
Hetty gasped. “Dueling?” Myriad questions crowded her mind. Could this be to do with Araminta? Had Sir Aubrey left Araminta in the middle of the ball to fight some other contender for her affections?
“Dueling?” he repeated. He shook his head and Hetty drew back at the coldness in his eyes. “There was nothing noble about my activities this evening. I was set upon in a dark alley. A short scuffle ensued, I drew my knife, then…” With his hand, he made a gesture like the slitting of his throat, adding, “I am slightly wounded but as I said, my attacker does not live to repeat the insult.”
Her horror clearly amused him, for his eyes narrowed while his generous mouth quirked. He looked like an incarnation of the most handsome demon she’d ever seen depicted in the fairy stories she loved to read.
“We all have enemies, madam. Enemies who must be eliminated if we are to breathe freely.”
Aubrey was enjoying the girl’s wide-eyed terror. No doubt she imagined he’d sliced the throat of a footpad, not the snarling, mangy cur who had leapt upon him as he’d been returning from his brief assignation to settle a gaming debt incurred by his favorite reprobate nephew.
Taking pity on her, he said reassuringly, “Don’t worry. I won’t hurt you.’ Her wide-eyed look as he removed first his jacket, then the bloodied shirt he tossed upon the bed before he rose to his full height, bare chested, afforded him the most amusement he’d had in a long time. “So, you’re the girl Madame Chambon sent?”
She simply stared at him and he nodded appraisingly as he sat on the bed and pulled off his boots. “You had me fooled for a moment. I thought you really were some innocent who’d lost her way in these catacombs.” Had he not been so jaded he might have been ashamed at the assessment in his tone when he added, “My faithful procuress threatened to one day surprise me—and that I’d not be able to tell the difference.” He chuckled and put out his hand. “Well, come into the light so I can see you better. After the god-awful night I’ve had, you might be just what I need. The retiring sort—for I’m sick to death of women who like to play games.”
Like that Miss Araminta Partington, he thought. Now didn’t she like to play games, with her speaking looks and half-whispered promises? Which wasn’t to say he hadn’t enjoyed his brief assignation with her in an antechamber behind the supper room. He’d been on his way out to settle his nephew’s wager when Miss Partington had waylaid him before proving extremely amenable to a kiss and a fondle. But of course that was as far as it could go and the throbbing of his engorged cock after that little encounter had been one good reason to slip unnoticed out of Lady Knox’s townhouse.
Unsatisfied desire had made him restless in every sense, and while he’d imagined a feisty coupling with whichever ladybird sent to him, this young lady’s contrived innocence was having a curious effect upon him. It would seem Madame Chambon had read him correctly, for even he hadn’t realized how tired he was of worldly sophistication.
“Yes, here.” He patted his knees. “No need to carry the pretense to quite such extremes. That’s right. I want you to sit on my lap so I can…observe you better.”
“Sit on your lap?” she squeaked as he tugged at her hand and her rounded bottom landed on his thighs.
He ran his hands over her contours appreciatively. She was rather a nice little thing with a familiarity that tugged at his memory. Plump and almost pretty. Not quite, but with that slightly gawkish look about her that indicated she was in transition to womanhood and might go either way—turn into a swan. Or not.
He rather fancied she had the makings of a beauty, though that didn’t concern him now since he had her only for one night. Madame Chambon would have sent her on approval. She seemed vaguely familiar. It was quite possible he’d seen the chit at the brothel and unconsciously dismissed her on account of the very reasons Madame Chambon had sent her—for her innocence and youth.
He ran his fingers through her fine light-brown curls and contoured her neck appreciatively, amused that she tensed as if this had never happened to her before. Well, if he liked her, he’d see her as often as he wished over the following month. By the time the abbess presented him with one of her exorbitant accounts, he’d know whether the girl gave value enough to continue the arrangement.
If she pleased him as much as his former mistress Jezebel had, Aubrey would indeed be seeing more of her. The next hour or so would tell.
“Oh sir!” she cried, jumping up as his hand came into contact with her breast. “What are you doing?”
He grinned as he tugged her back down and resettled her across his knees. “Madame Chambon has trained you well. Now I suppose you’ll tell me you’re a virgin.”
She nodded vigorously. “I am, sir. Indeed I am and—”
His scowl made her stiffen with apparent terror. Oh, she was good.
“Really?” He reached for the cutlass that had fallen from his belt and now lay at his feet. Idly he stroked the blade, stained with the dead dog’s blood, while he contemplated her. She was indulging in the charade perhaps a little too enthusiastically but then, as he narrowed his gaze and saw how frightened she really seemed, it occurred to him that every whore had to be broken in sometime and perhaps Madame Chambon had decided to play a little trick on him.
She’d told him he needed softening. That the effects of the opprobrium directed at him since poor Margaret’s death had stripped him of his humanity. Perhaps tonight was the time to cultivate his more tender side.
“A virgin?” Before, he’d spoken with blatant skepticism. Now he would allow that she could be telling the truth.
She nodded, her eyes riveted on the blade he was now using to clean his fingernails.
“So this will be your first time with a man?”
She drew in a trembling breath and repeated stupidly, “First time with a man?”
He tried not to sound irritated. There was only so much of the play-acting he could take. “Madame Chambon obviously selected you on account of your innocence. She knows my proclivities and that experience is my preference but I can be gentle. I won’t hurt you.” He grinned as he was struck by the responsibility of breaking in a virgin. One who would always remember her first time with him, no matter how many paying customers she serviced in her working life.
He licked his lips as he watched understanding dawn, adding as he traced the edge of her décolletage with his right forefinger, “In fact, I promise that you’ll quite enjoy the experience. God knows, you’re going to endure enough during your career, so you might as well start off on a good note. Now, shall we begin?”
AND NOW FOR THE VIDEO WHICH YOU CAN SEE HERE:
Or twitter: @BeverleyOakley
And you can buy Dangerous Gentlemen here.