News & Events

The Haunting is OUT in Ebook and Audiobook

My paranormal romance, The Haunting is out in ebook and audiobook with Scribd! Read or listen to the book for free when you sign up for a 30-day free trial.

Set in my former home of Frederickburg, VA, The Haunting is a steamy, second-chance-at-love story — my very favorite kind. Framed for treason by his nemesis, Union army captain Ethan O’Malley is hanged in 1862. Even as he walks toward the Eternal Light, Ethan vows to wait for his beloved Isabel on the Other Side.

Flash forward to present day. American History professor, Dr. Maggie Holliday moves into her dream home in the Fredericksburg Historic District and discovers the diary of Isabel Earnshaw while cleaning the attic. Reading of Isabel’s breathless encounters with a certain dashing Union army captain, Maggie begins to feel as if she’s not reading a stranger’s words but her own. Searching for answers, she encounters a sexy Civil War reenactor squatting in her attic, who insists she’s his Isabel. And that he’s “her” Ethan.

Can these star-crossed lovers find their way back to one another before the portal to the past closes, this time forever?

The inspo for The Haunting, its twisty ending especially, is the film, “Somewhere in Time” with Jane Seymour and Christopher Reeve, a comfort watch I still go back to. The notion that time isn’t linear but layered, more like an onion than a straight line, has always fascinated me. And of course that true love is truly timeless appeals to my incurably romantic heart.

Another reason I so love The Haunting is that my real-life Maine Coon kitty, Willie, appears as Maggie’s (and Isabel’s) beloved fur child. Because, you know, soulmates don’t have to be only two-legged. Willie passed over the Rainbow Bridge in 2014, but he lives on in our hearts–and in these pages.

Enjoy The Haunting and my other books, too. Find my complete book list here.

Hope

Hurry! Get ALL FOUR Suddenly Cinderella Ebooks for 99 Cents/ea thru 4/6

ALL FOUR Suddenly Cinderella Ebooks 99 Cents/ea

To help ease everyone’s cabin fever, my fab publisher, Entangled has put ALL FOUR of my Suddenly Cinderella series ebooks on sale for 99 cents/each. Now the proverbial clock is ticking – the sale ends Monday, 4/6 at 12 midnight EDT.

The Cinderella Makeover: A Suddenly Cinderella Series Book Kindle Edition by Hope TarrA Cinderella Christmas Carol hope tarr

#TBT Interview with Julia Quinn

This interview with historical romance bestseller Julia Quinn was originally published in RT BOOK Reviews magazine (print edition) as “Sitting Down with Julia Quinn.” An abridged version appears below. Enjoy and happy #TBT!

Interview with Historical Romance Author Julia Quinn

I recently chatted up bestselling historical romance novelist and triple RITA® Award winner, Julia Quinn. Here’s what she had to say about globetrotting on the cheap, the unexpected inspiration of really bad music, and why Happily Ever After really is the best way to go in real life as well as fiction.

Infrequently Known JQ Facts

HCT: You sat down to write your first romance novel when you were a college senior at Harvard and went on to publish your first few novels when you were going back-and-forth in your head about pursuing medical school. Less well known is that in the early ‘90s you worked as a writer and researcher for Let’s Go: Europe. That must have been a fun job. Can you tell us a bit about that?

JQ: It was a terrific job, but I don’t think I’d describe it as fun.  Let’s Go: Europe is designed for the budget traveler, so to make sure it contains the most relevant information, researcher/writers are dispatched on strict budgets.  I was given airfare and $32 a day to survive on Crete and Cyprus.  Trust me when I tell you that $32 a day did not go far even in 1990.  I stayed in many youth hostels, survived an infestation of fleas and was propositioned by a monk.

But on the other hand, I learned a tremendous amount about resourcefulness and resilience.  It was the first time I’d ever spent more than a week in a non-English-speaking country (most important words in Greek: “Oil,” “Vinegar,” and “Boyfriend in America”), and this was pre-Internet, pre-cell phone.  I was truly separated from my friends and family.  If I wanted to call home, I had to find a hotel that didn’t charge exorbitant rates and get them to place an international call for me, which might or might not go through.

1990 was also pre-laptop, so I had to do all of my writing and editing by hand.  I traveled with a copy of the previous year’s books (both Let’s Go: Europe and Let’s Go: Greece & Turkey), several 8.5 x 11 notebooks, carbon paper, scissors, and a glue stick.  Anything I wanted to keep from the previous edition I had to cut carefully from its pages and glue-stick it into the notebook.  New stuff I wrote by hand.  Oh, and I had to use carbon paper so that I had copies in case my writing got lost in the mail. I’m not sure what we would have done if that had actually happened. The carbon copies were missing all of my glued-in bits. I have a feeling current researcher writers have it a lot easier.

HCT: You were the first romance writer to ever do a book signing at the Borders in Singapore. What does it feel like to meet fans of your books in a culture so different from the U.S. but also from the U.K. where your historical romances are set? Is the language of love and love stories truly universal? Are there any differences, cultural or other, that stand out in memory?

JQ: I visited Singapore in 1999 before my career had really taken off, so I don’t know if I actually had any fans there before my signing!  Mostly I remember how grateful everyone was that an American author had taken the time to visit their country and do a book signing.  I would love to do more international signings.  I have a very active Facebook Fan Page, and I’m constantly amazed at how international my readership is.  Sadly, I have not yet managed to convince my publishers that I need to be sent on a world tour. 😉

What’s Next in Historical Romance for JQ?

HCT: You recently contributed to a three-part novel, The Lady Most Likely, with fellow bestselling romance authors, Eloisa James and Connie Brockway. How did the project come about? What process did you three follow for brainstorming, plotting out, and finally writing and editing the work? Were there any ahem…clashes?

JQ: No clashes!  I think there might have been one time where we argued over comma usage, but that’s it.

The project came about during a conversation Eloisa and I were having about anthologies.  We both love writing in the novella format, but several readers had told us that they found novellas to be too brief.  Eloisa came up with the idea of integrating three love stories into one longer, cohesive novel.  We asked Connie to join in because we’re both such big fans of her writing.

We had a terrific time putting the project together.  We had a very brief three-paragraph description of the plot when we sold the book, but that was it, so we met for a long weekend in New Orleans to work out the plot and characters.  Then there was quite a bit of emailing that went back and forth.  We had such a good time with it that we’re already planning another!

HCT: Your latest release, Just Like Heaven, went on sale May 31st. This is the start of yet another new series for you, the Smythe-Smith Quartet. Can you tell us a bit about who we’ll meet as the hero and heroine in the book and about the series overall?

JQ: Years ago I wrote a scene in which my hero and heroine found themselves at the worst musical concert known to man.  It was the annual Smythe-Smith Musicale, during which Mozart was butchered so badly it was a wonder he didn’t rise up from his grave in agony.  I had so much fun with the scene that I found myself bringing back the Smythe-Smiths in later books.  I figured it was an annual event—there was no reason my other heroes and heroines couldn’t be forced to sit through bad music.

But there was always one girl up on the stage who seemed to understand just how bad the quartet really was. Readers begged me to tell her story.  So of course I decided to write one for one of the other girls—Honoria Smythe-Smith, who smiled widely during the concert as she attacked her violin. It turns out she is very much not in love with Marcus Holyroyd, her brother’s best friend since childhood.  And Marcus is definitely not in love with her.

That’s when the fun begins.

But for those of you wanting the story of the girl who actually can play music, have no fear—it’s coming.  Since there are four musical spots in a quartet, I decided to write a quartet of books.

HCT: More so than a rapport, you really seem to have a relationship with your readers. Offering up the epilogues to your Bridgerton books—second epilogues, even—as e-downloads seems to underscore the reciprocity of that loyalty. Most authors write sequels or novellas in anthologies, not 30 page epilogues. How did you first come up with this innovative idea? Any update on when the publisher, Avon/ HarperCollins, will be issuing the compilation of the eight epilogues into a print volume?

JQ: The 2nd Epilogues came about because so many readers were contacting me and asking, “What happened next?”  And all I could answer was, “I don’t know.”  The great thing about writing romance is that it ends rather neatly.  The main characters fall in love and we all know that they will live happily ever after.  So when I finish a book, I don’t really think about what happens to my characters unless I have some compelling reason to do so—usually if they are going to make an appearance as secondary characters in another book.

After I’d said, “I don’t know,” about a hundred times, I started thinking—if I were to offer updates on the characters, how would I do it?  I came up with the idea of “2nd Epilogues,” which are essentially short stories that take place sometime after the novel ends.  The novel is absolutely 100 percent complete without these 2nd Epilogues; rather, they are extras or treats if you will, for my most devoted readers.

Right now the 2nd Epilogues are only available as electronic downloads, but we do plan to release them in a print collection, hopefully at the end of 2011.

Final Thoughts

HCT:  Have you ever had a Fan Girl Moment with another Big Name Author? You know, one of those tongue tying, almost pants’ peeing moments of sheer, awestruck delight?

JQ: I do remember being terrified to meet Lisa Kleypas very early on in my career.  I was such a fan of her work. I think I’d read Then Came You and Dreaming of You a hundred times each.  Now it seems ludicrous to have been so scared.  Lisa is quite possibly the nicest, most approachable, and generous person I’ve ever met.  But hey, I didn’t know that then!

HCT: Your undergraduate degree is in Art History and you were accepted into Yale School of Medicine and Columbia College of Physicians & Surgeons. Quelle choice! You’ve been a researcher/reporter for a well–known travel magazine and have traveled widely both personally and professionally. Oh, and you’ve written a bunch o’ bestselling books, including your famous Bridgerton series, beloved the world over. On the personal front, you’ve been married to your personal Prince Charming since 1996. To stave off the rest of us from spiraling into existential insecurity, tell us, JQ, is there anything you can’t do really well that you wish you could? Even better, is there anything you positively suck at?

JQ: I can’t turn a cartwheel.  I cannot tell you how much emotional anguish this has caused me.  (And lest you think I’m being sarcastic, ask any fourth-grade girl!  Cartwheels are a necessity!) I actually decided that I was going to learn how to cartwheel for my 40th birthday.  It seemed like one of those awesome, I-Am-Woman-I-Can-Do-Anything things that are perfect for milestones.

Didn’t happen.

HCT: I adore the tagline used throughout your web site: Because happily ever after is a whole lot of fun. It feels like a philosophy of life as much as a branding device. And it certainly fits with your books which even for romances stand out as so sunshiny and upbeat, as well as meticulously well-researched and, for want of a better word, smart, that reading one is like biting into a crisp autumn apple—good all the way through. The first JQ book I read was The Viscount Who Loved Me and I still remember that after I finished my face hurt from so much smiling. Have you always subscribed to happily ever after is a whole lot of fun? Or is this something you’ve come to over time? Feel free to borrow Lady Whistledown’s infamous quill and give us some pithy commentary or better yet, advice.

JQ: I’ve never been attracted to bad boys.  I just don’t think love should be hard.  Life throws you enough curve balls—illness, money woes, freak accidents—love should be the easy part in all of this.  It should be thing that gets you through all the other stuff.  I married my best friend, and it sure has made my happily ever after a lot of fun.

HCT: Your website at JuliaQuinn.com is so cool and comprehensive. It covers everything to do with your books, which are listed by series and title, your news & events, the charities you favor (love that!), and your roster of not only the foreign language editions of your books but also your personal overseas travels. Can you tell us one thing, PG-13, of course, that isn’t there?

JQ: It all comes back to that lecherous monk… 😉

The Duke and I, historical romance by Julia Quinn

NEWS! Men of Roxbury House Victorian Romance Trilogy in Audiobook – in Spanish!

NEWS! Men of Roxbury House Victorian Romances in Audiobook in Spanish!

My fabulous Barcelona-based publisher, Libros de Seda will release my Men of Roxbury House Victorian romances in audiobook in Spanish. Soon Spanish-speaking historical romance readers in the U.S. as well as Spain and Central America will have the chance to listen to these very special stories. Stay tuned for release dates.

Vencida by Hope Tarr

 About the Series

Orphans Harry – Hadrian – St. Claire, Patrick O’Rourke, Gavin Carmichael and Daisy Lake meet, and become fast friends, at Roxbury House, a Quaker-run orphanage in Kent. One by one, Fate intervenes to separate the self-avowed inseparables. But friendship and love are their own forces of nature, reuniting the quartet as adults, much-changed by the intervening years, each still haunted by the secrets of the past.

Get the complete series, in Spanish, as kindle ebooks here.

Read the prologue of Vencida – in Spanish – for FREE here.

Reviews

“An intelligent, sexy romance.” – Booklist

“VANQUISHED is a must-read!” – Romance Junkies

“A touching story of salvation and renewal in authentically depicted Victorian London.” – Bestselling author, Madeline Hunter

“Tarr pegs Victorian-era London perfectly! Poignant and romantic…” – Faith V. Smith, RT Book Reviews

BURIED TREASURE. “VANQUISHED is worth searching out. This is a very rich book… I love the late Victorian and Edwardian periods and VANQUISHED really captured the atmosphere of that time.” – All About Romance

FIVE BLUE RIBBONS! “Hope Tarr is simply amazing. With ENSLAVED she has written yet another story that sucks you in and won’t let you go.” – Romance Junkies

“Don’t miss it!” – Romance Reviews Today


Get TEMPTING for FREE thru 3/19/20

Get the TEMPTING Ebook FREE

The pleasure of a good book has seen me through the toughest of times – and these certainly qualify. Which is why I’m offering TEMPTING as a FREE ebook on Kindle through Thursday, March 19 (offer ends midnight). Download the book and discover why RT BOOKReviews selected it as “Best Unusual Historical.” If you enjoy Christine and Simon’s unique love story, please take two ticks to pay it forward – leave a short review.

Tempting by Hope Tarr

Be well,

Hope

#TBT – Sitting Down with the Ah-Mazing Nora Roberts

#TBT – Sitting down with…Nora Roberts

Happy #TBT! When last I sat down with mega-bestseller, Nora Roberts, it was October 2011. I was still single, she a happily married new grandma on her 100th book, me on my fifteenth. I’ve added about ten more novels to my stack since then, she… well, I’ve lost count. (For a printable book list by year and pub date, go here). What hasn’t changed is my enduring admiration for Nora, not only as a superbly talented and dizzyingly prolific author but as a first-rate human being. (Per the latter, you can read her 12/29/19 response to the ongoing RWA debacle here). Nine years later, I still want to be Nora Roberts when I grow up. Enjoy the following unedited original interview.

She is a living legend, one of the most read and wealthiest writers on the planet, romance publishing’s answer to Oprah.

Photo courtesy NoraRoberts.com.

She is Nora Roberts and for anyone who hasn’t spent the last twenty years buried beneath a rock, “Nora,” like Oprah or Cher, suffices as her sobriquet and her calling card.

I first met Nora in 1997 at a writers’ retreat in Columbia, MD. I say met because I mostly stared at her goggle-eyed from behind the hotel’s potted plants and the paperback book I pretended to be reading. Then I was a starry-eyed yet-to-be published newbie with big dreams and a lot to learn—about craft, about the romance industry, and about life overall. She was then, as now, a total rock star as well as gracious to the bone.

More than a decade later, I recently sat down with The Nora to dish on her books and how she manages to keep her life so wonderfully real amidst all the mega success.

HCT: Recently The New Yorker called you “America’s favorite novelist.” Between your Nora Roberts and JD Robb brands, you’ve written more books than many Americans have read (or will read) in their lifetimes. Today every Nora Roberts and JD Robb book is an automatic NYT bestseller. Most recently, you were the third author to sell more than one million Kindle books. And then there are your eight books adapted into TV movies for Lifetime.  When Irish Thoroughbred, your first book, came out in 1981 did you ever dream that one day you’d be this…b-i-g?

NR: Who knew from big? When I started out I just wanted to write books. I still do. It’s the best job in the world for so many reasons. I wanted the thrill of seeing my books on the shelves in bookstores. I still do. The idea of someone reading my work, enjoying it was just amazing—and it still is.

The bar rises, and that’s a good thing. It pushes us to write smarter, write better, to dig deeper creatively. The best-seller lists, the awards, the sales or movies, they’re all really delicious icing. But the work—the stories, the books—that’s the cake. Too much icing without a really good, solid cake? It’s going to make you fat, lazy and maybe a little bit sick. It’s always about the cake first.

HCT: Irish Thoroughbred, a category romance for Silhouette, came out in 1981. Your first NYT bestseller was in 1991. Can you talk about what went on during that decade? Did you have a Master Plan for building your career to mega bestseller-dom?

NR: I never had a plan, except to write. I love what I do, and have from the beginning. Loving what you do makes it a lot easier to work, every day, to face the tough spots and heel in for the long haul. Nothing against plans; they work for some people. But for me, if I’d been planning, worrying about numbers, trying to micro-manage my career I wouldn’t have focused on the writing. If you don’t write, you’re not read. If you’re not read, you don’t sell. So that’s my Master Plan, I guess. Write the books, let the agent agent, the editor edit, the publisher publish.

HCT: Chasing Fire, which released in April 2011, explores the world of elite firefighters. Can you tell us a bit about how you came up with the concept for the book, the kinds of research you did?

NR: You know I can’t remember where I got the idea. I hardly ever remember where I got the idea. This is a single title. I wanted to show not only want went on inside the world of smoke jumping, but what goes on inside the heads of those who risk their lives to fight fire in the wilderness every season.

Research was intense. I often think after I start researching: Why, Dear God, why did I think this was a good idea? I read and read about smokejumpers—the difference between the round canopy, the square—and which organization uses which, and why. Their training—jeez, you have to be crazy! Their routines, the science of it, the physicality, on and on.

I read about wilderness fires. About planes, hoses, retardant, spotters, gear, equipment, food, tools. I know I came away from this book with an incredible admiration and gratitude for the men and women who jump fire—and the certainty that they’re all—God bless them—out of their minds.

Inn BoonsBoro, photo courtesy of innboonsboro.com.

HCT: The Inn Boonsboro, the Western Maryland historic property you and your husband purchased and restored, suffered a devastating fire during the first rehab/restoration process. Happily it is now open as a boutique inn offering eight guest rooms themed for famous fictional romantic couples, onsite upscale dining and other wonderful amenities. Did that experience at all influence your interest in the firefighting world?

NR: I guess I’ve always had an interest and admiration for firefighters. I wrote about arson investigation and fire in Blue Smoke. Certainly my admiration grew on a personal level when we experienced the devastating fire in Boonsboro. The responders were simply amazing, fighting for hours to stop the fire from spreading. Because of their work and skill no one was injured, and while our property was taken down to the old stone walls, they saved those old stone walls. And we were able to rebuild. Inn Boonsboro is not only beautiful, it not only offers guests a unique and lovely experience, but its character and its history remain vibrant. And we owe the firefighters a great debt for that.

HCT: In 1997 you won the Lifetime Achievement Award from The Romance Writers of America. I’d just joined RWA a few months before as unpublished newbie. I was way too shy to approach you one-on-one, but not too shy to ask you in a Spotlight Session if it was okay to use contractions in the dialogue for my WIP. Contractions! You could have made fun of me big time. Instead you graciously answered my question without so much as an eye roll. Afterward, I covertly watched you and your girlfriend posse—Pat Gaffney, Mary Kay McComas, Ruth Ryan Langan, Donna Kauffman, and maybe Mary Blaney—in the hotel lobby bar from behind the book I pretended to read—no iPhones then—which sounds incredibly creepy, but I was that s-h-y.  Have you ever had a Fan Girl Moment when you were first starting out?

NR: Gosh, we were all so new it seemed like everyone was a newbie. I met Ruth Langan at the first RWA conference, and we were both so shy and intimidated. We didn’t know anybody. My first book had just come out, and hers was coming out in another month or two. Both of us sold to Silhouette Romance—and were too terrified to even speak to any of the editors. They were like GODS to us.

I remember Karen Solem, who was editor-in-chief for Silhouette at the time, introducing herself to us at a party, chatting away. I honestly heard nothing but Charlie Brown’s mother’s voice because I couldn’t get over the fact Karen Solem spoke to me.

HCT: Amidst all the accolades and stunning successes, you’re a very down-to-earth person. You still live in your original log cabin-style home atop the mountain. (Okay, you’re married to a brilliant carpenter/builder, but still…). You garden. I’ve heard you say more than once that you cook dinner every night. You quietly give to charity in a major way. And most recently you’ve given back to your local community by purchasing what was for many years a vacant, even derelict, historical property and restored it to grandeur, revitalizing the historic Boonsboro downtown in the process. In an era when so many celebrities—Charlie Sheen, Lindsey Lohan, the list goes on and on—seem to be losing it, how do you manage to keep your life and yourself so together and so…real?

NR: I really like my life. I love my family, my home, my dogs, my place. I like my routine. I’m not looking for party time—mostly. My husband can’t even drag me out of the house for dinner. You have to put on real clothes and makeup to go out to dinner, right? I like having my kids and grandkids over. Nothing keeps you grounded like a houseful of noisy kids or finding stray dog poop on the carpet.

Life is real, and real is pretty good. I have two terrific sons, their wonderful ladies, fun, interesting grandkids, amusing, demanding dogs and a great husband who enjoys them all with me. It’s a really good deal.

HCT: Readers want to know about the woman wielding the pen or rather tapping away at the keyboard. Your web site kindly takes us through a typical Day in the Life of NR? Where do you find your self-discipline? For those of us who struggle with procrastination, guilt over not doing other non-writing things etc., can you offer any suggestions?

NR: I really do love the work, so that’s key. And I have my Catholic education in the mix. The nuns really do instill a solid sense of discipline and guilt, both essential writers’ tools. I’m cranky if I’m not doing my job. Why would I want to feel cranky?

There are a lot of things that mix in and mess up the routine for me and that makes me cranky enough. The business around the writing, obligations, a dentist appointment, or a phone call I have to take. Nothing makes me happier, or easier to live with, than days without those distractions or interruptions. I like the feeling I have at the end of a good writing day.

Who wouldn’t rather have that lovely feeling of accomplishment and anticipation for the next round instead of the: oh, crap, I didn’t get it done.

HCT: In the 90s we had The Rules. In the last decade there were a plentitude of advice and self-help books focused on how to bag your man, such as Why Men Marry Bitches. I doubt the trend will abate anytime soon, if ever. But are we perhaps looking for love (advice) in all the wrong places? Name one thing (or several things) we Single Girls can learn from a Nora Roberts romance heroine.

NR: I’d have to say respect yourself first. Build a life that satisfies you. Learn how to deal with your own messes and how to stand up for yourself—and how to compromise when compromises are needed. Let yourself lean a little when you need support—and be the support when someone needs to lean. Believe in love, and open yourself to it.

Create that good, solid foundation, and the man who comes into your life can be that delicious icing. It’s an excellent combination.

With Nora, Boonsboro, MD February 2001

***

Originally published October 5, 2011

WETA, InReads Magazine

Copyright Hope C. Tarr

Twitter @hopetarr & IG @hopectarr

Stay in touch – sign up for my newsletter.

Stinky Boots – Hygiene and Hot Sex in Historical Fiction

Getting Down and Dirty in Historical Fiction

Chamber pots, head lice, the pox—and I don’t mean the kind prefaced by “chicken”—writing historical fiction, especially romantic historical fiction, calls for striking a balance between authenticity and contemporary sensibilities. I still recall, with lingering discomfort, watching Braveheart for the first time. Spending nearly three hours with Mel Gibson’s William Wallace and his men blanketed in sweat, blood, and woad was nearly as excruciating for me as the final execution scene.

In PBS’s Sanditon, adapted from Jane Austen’s unfinished novel set in an upstart coastal resort striving to be the next Brighton, Sidney Parker (Theo James) opts for a refreshing — and unencumbered — solo sea bath, emerging from the cleansing froth just as Charlotte Heywood (Rose Williams) trots up. The birthday suit booty comes early on in episode two, which surely would send Miss Austen clutching her pearls. Or, more properly, turning in her tomb.

Sanditon, PBS.org

Getting Wet

In Medieval times, providing a bath was part and parcel of the hospitality on offer to visiting knights and other honored male guests. The ritual was performed in private and hands-on by the chatelaine of the castle—talk about your potentially sexy novel scenario!

England’s Queen Elizabeth I couldn’t abide malodors from her courtiers or herself. Her commitment to cleanliness called for hauling her private bath on every stop of every Royal Progress.

But what about everyone else, those whose social station fell somewhere between lordly and lowly?

Making an indoor bath happen was a time-consuming labor. Water was brought in from an outside well, heated in the kitchen, and then carried in heavy, copper-lined buckets up flights of often steep, winding stairs. But there were alternatives. The remains of hot rocks baths, communal bathing pools lined with smooth stone and sometimes roofed against inclement weather, have been excavated throughout Scotland and parts of Ireland. Some sites were proximate to naturally occurring thermal springs, but others were not. In the latter case, buckets of heated stones or rocks were periodically added to the water, maintaining a semi-constant warmish temperature. Quelle steamy story setup for an historical romance writer!

Regency rake and original male fashionista, Beau Brummell is known as much for bringing fastidiousness into vogue as he is for his elaborate snowy waterfall neck cloth and champagne-based boot blacking. We have Brummell to thank for bringing regular bathing to the in crowd.

Toothsome Tales

Medieval people also took regular care of their teeth, and I don’t only mean visiting the blacksmith or other local tooth puller once things got… ugly. Tooth powders were the precursors to Crest and Colgate. Certain wood barks were ideal for cleaning between teeth. Chewing fennel and other breath-freshening seeds was a common practice between and after meals—early Altoids! Recipes for soaps and bath salts were passed down from mother to daughter.

Getting Physical

By the late 1990’s and early aughts, historical romances began embracing grittier, less airbrushed depictions of hygiene and intimacy. Take, for example, Outlander by Diana Gabaldon, the launch to her brilliant and beloved Scottish time travel series. During Jamie and Claire’s wedding night lovemaking, his curious kisses stray… south. The usually randy Claire halts him, protesting that he must be put off by her unwashed state. Smiling, Jamie likens the situation to a horse learning his mare’s scent. And proceeds to prove how very not put off he is.

We don’t call them “heroes” for nothing. 😉

Outlander, Starz

By now most of us are familiar with the infamous tampon scene in Fifty Shades of Grey by E.L. James. In historical romances, our heroines rarely have their periods until they don’t and then only in the service of the story, notably advancing the tried-and-true “marriage of convenience” trope. Rarely do we see in fiction what dealing with menstruation must have meant for our foremothers. Plug-like devices for blocking flow are traceable to ancient Egypt (papyrus) and Rome (wool). The modern, mass-produced tampon wasn’t invented until 1929. Patented in 1931 by creator Dr. Earle Haas, this remarkably liberating new product was later trademarked “Tampax.”

Such advances are all well and good but what about having the personal space to put them into practice? Not even gentlewoman Jane Austen had a room of her own. In Irish Eyes, my women’s historical fiction debut (on submission), my Irish immigrant heroine shares a three-room Lower East Side, New York tenement flat with a family of seven. Finding the privacy to change clothes, bathe, relieve herself and manage menstruation as she must is a challenge few of us can imagine facing. Yet as documented by turn-of-the-century reformer, Jacob Riis in How The Other Half Lives, those were the very circumstances in which the vast majority of immigrant arrivals to New York found themselves.

Jacob Riis

Historical fiction fans are an exceptionally savvy lot. Anachronisms invariably jar us from the story; too many may well have us pulling the plug without reaching the end. And yet none of us truly knows what it was to live in a previous century or, for that matter, generation. We conduct our research in the service of the story. Fortunately, romantic historical fiction focuses not on the ordinary but on the extraordinary. Not on tepid tenderness but on grand passion and great stakes. Not on how dark, dreary and dirty life can be but on how amazing real love is and always will be.

PBS's Sandition, based on Jane Austen's unfinished historical fiction novel
PBS.org

An earlier version of this article appeared in Heroes & Heartbreakers.

Copyright Hope C. Tarr

Read the first chapter of Tempting, my award-winning Victorian-set historical here, then get the book on Amazon and elsewhere for #99cents.

Twitter @hopetarr Instagram @hopectarr

 

The London Foundling Hospital

I recently ran across Orphans of Empire by Helen Berry, a new nonfiction book chronicling the history of the London Foundling Hospital, Britain’s first home for abandoned children, a find that thrilled me to no end because a) lifeline Anglophile b) lifelong history geek and c) the LFH is the principal setting for my late Regency romance, Claimed By the Rogue.

The LFH was founded by sea captain Thomas Coram, a childless widower with a hefty purse and the heart to match it. Appalled by the 1,000 children abandoned to the London streets each year, Captain Coram resolved to put his money where his morals were. In 1735 he petitioned Britain’s King George II to establish a “hospital” (a philanthropic institution dispensing hospitality) for the education and maintenance of foundlings. Twenty-one aristocratic ladies signed on to Coram’s petition, which quickly picked up steam as a fashionable philanthropy. Coram received his Royal Charter in 1739; the first children were admitted in 1741. Prominent patrons included the painter, William Hogarth and composer George Frideric Handel; the latter served as the hospital’s first governor.

The LFH no longer exists – the gracious Georgian brickwork building in Bloomsbury was demolished in 1926 and the institution ended in the 1950s – but its 200+ year history is preserved in the Foundling Museum in Brunswick Square. Perhaps the most feeling artifacts on exhibit are also the humblest: the museum’s collection of Foundling Tokens – buttons, jewelry, coins etc. – left behind by the mothers, a last tangible link to the child they hoped one day to reclaim. Sadly, such hoped for reunions were rare; the vast majority of tokens remain with the museum.

If an orphanage sounds like an unconventional setting for a Regency romance, you would be right! In Claimed By The Rogue, my heroine, Lady Phoebe Tremont, volunteers at the LFH after her fiance, Captain Robert Bellamy, is presumed lost at sea. Six years later, Robert returns to find a very different Phoebe than the sweet, pampered miss he left behind. Fiercely devoted to the foundlings under her care, determined to continue in her duties despite her impending marriage to an expat French aristocrat, Phoebe is very much a woman ahead of her time. To win her back, Robert makes an offer not even Phoebe can refuse. He’ll donate 100 pounds a day to the institution she lives and breathes provided Phoebe allows him to shadow her in her daily duties.

Spoiler Alert! He falls head over feet for the new impassioned, socially-minded Phoebe – it IS a romance – as well as the adorable orphans under her care.

Enjoy this short excerpt from Claimed By The Rogue and join me on Twitter @hopetarr and Instagram @hopectarr where I post fun historical tidbits at #HistoryMatters.

“Don’t you ever rest?” Robert asked, trailing Phoebe down yet another labyrinthine passageway. So far they’d visited the governors’ court room, chapel, girls’ dormitory, boys’ dormitory, sundry classrooms, and even the morgue, all of it at a brisk to breakneck pace.

She glanced back at him over her shoulder. “I haven’t the need, but don’t let me hinder you from doing so.”

“No, I’m fine. I was only concerned for you.”

“Hmm,” was all she said before darting down yet another white-walled corridor.

Lengthening his stride, he found himself wondering how it was that such a graceful woman managed to move so swiftly. The indolent maid of his memory seemed to have acquired the gait of a racehorse, not that he considered complaining of it. Admiring the hind view of those slender, swaying hips made for a deucedly pleasant pastime even if the reek of turpentine and lemon oil was beginning to block his nose.

The ended their tour at the infirmary. The strong smell of vinegar permeated the vicinity. A glass-front apothecary cabinet containing myriad meticulously labeled clear jars, a washing bench outfitted with a bandage roller and stacked bedpans and a leather bound ledger presumably for recording the circumstances of patients comprised the long, narrow room. Phoebe’s hushed conference with the attending nurse secured their admission. Robert followed her along the queue of narrow cots, all but one of them unoccupied.

“Feeling a bit better today, Sally?” Phoebe asked, pausing to rest her hand upon the child’s brow, her swollen jaw banded by a camphorous cloth.

The girl, Sally, shook her head, wincing. “Tooth hurts terrible.”

Phoebe stroked a hank of brown hair back from the girl’s forehead. “I’m sure it does, poppet, but at least your fever’s down. Once the foulness finishes draining, you’ll be right as rain.”

Dull eyes looked up into hers. “Yes, miss.”

Most in Phoebe’s position would have moved along but instead she lingered. “I was going to give this to you later but now shall serve.” She reached into her gown’s pocket and pulled out a cloth-covered doll.

The fevered little face lit. “Oh, miss, thank you!”

Phoebe tucked the doll into the crook of Sally’s arm and straightened. “Not only a doll but a magic doll. Whenever your tooth troubles you, squeeze upon her and she’ll help keep the pain away.”

Looking on, Robert felt a powerful pull in the vicinity of his heart. Phoebe had the makings of a marvelous mother. The earlier scene in the classroom and now this strengthened his resolve to do all in his power to ensure that her future children would be his, not Bouchart’s.

Seeing her about to turn back to him, he quickly made a mask of his face. “You needn’t fear infection,” she said archly, misreading him yet again. “Mostly we treat minor injuries, sprained ankles and, in Sally’s case, toothache. More serious cases are transported to St. George’s.”

“My constitution is that of an ox,” he answered, no idle boast. Given the fevers and pestilence to which he’d been exposed, an abscessed tooth and a few running noses hardly seemed of note. Stepping away from the beds with Phoebe, he asked, “How did you come to volunteer here?”

She hesitated. “In an odd way, I have you to thank for it.”

“I?” Even strongly suspecting he would regret it, he had to ask, “How so?”

“After we were told you were…lost, I wasn’t entirely certain what to do with myself, how to go on. Coming here began as a crutch, a reason to rise from bed each morning. Over time I began adding days, heartened that it was in my power to do some good.”

His kitchen conversation with Chelsea came back to him. She draped herself in black crepe and bombazine for a full year as though she were your widow in truth. There were times we feared she might take her own life.

“How does your mother feel about your laboring?”

She lanced him a look. “You mean my eccentricity, or so Mother calls it. She’s pinning her hopes on marriage proving the cure. To be fair, I should admit that she is hardly alone in her censure. Barring Chelsea and Anthony, most members of the ton think I’m daft to spend my days fraternizing with orphaned children, whom they’re convinced will amount to nothing more than cutpurses and prostitutes.

Watching her closely, he ventured, “And Bouchart, what does he say?”

She hesitated, the pause telling or so it seemed to Robert. “Aristide tolerates my employment for the present though he too assumes I’ll give it up of my own accord once we’re wed.” She paused, her quicksilver gaze honing onto his. “He’s mistaken.”

“I admire you for following your passion.”

She looked at him askance.

A renegade curl clung to the side of her cheek, which was neither pale nor waxen as it had been after her faint but a healthy, becoming pink. Resisting the urge to reach out and brush it back, he shook his head. “No really I do.”

Admire her though he did, he was in no way inured to how enticing she not only looked but smelled—vanilla from the milled soap she’d always favored, lavender from the eau de cologne she preferred to perfume, and some spicy citrus scent he didn’t recall from before but badly wanted to sample.

A baby’s balling drew their attention outside. Robert joined her at the window overlooking the front lawn. Fifty-odd women and children, the latter of various ages from infancy to adolescence, stood in queue extending from the arcaded entrance gate to the circular drive. The group had grown considerably since Robert had arrived. Passing them by, he’d seen more than one cheek tracked with tears but aside from the occasional wailing infant, they’d waited in stoic silence. It seemed they waited still.

“Good God, there are so many of them.”

Letting the curtain drop, Phoebe sighed. “I know. Every Monday brings the same sad sight. I’d thought by now to be accustomed to it, but after five years it still breaks my heart.”

“Have the London parish houses grown so lax in dispensing relief?

Her arch look told him he’d said the wrong thing—again. “They’ve not come for alms but to surrender their children. Only babes of twelve months or younger are accepted, and the mother must stipulate that the child is the fruit of her first fall—born out of wedlock. Admission is by ballot. Every Monday, a man is sent out with a leather bag of colored marbles. Each woman is entitled to draw only one from the bag. White entitles her child to admission subject to passing the medical examination, red to be put on a waiting list in case one of the accepted children is found to suffer from a malady of an infectious nature, and black—”

“Mother and child are turned away?”

Eyes suspiciously bright, she nodded. “It sounds heartless, I know, and in a way it is, but we haven’t beds for them all. Truth be told, we haven’t room for the ones we do take in. Presently we’re at four hundred and ten and that’s with several of the younger boys and girls sleeping two to a cot.”

He’d thought himself hardened to sad, suffering sights, but apparently he wasn’t as toughened as he’d supposed. “What will happen to them?”

“Once they pass the medical examination, they’re sent to the country for fostering. At four or five years of age, they’re brought back here, the boys to learn a trade, the girls to train for domestic employment. When the boys reach fourteen, the governors arrange indentures for them; many end up enlisting in the army. Settling the girls is more difficult, but every effort is made to find them suitable situations.”

Like a surgeon probing a wound, he had to know. “And what of those who are turned away?”

She shrugged but once again her eyes, silver blue irises awash in unshed tears, confirmed how very deeply she cared.  “Some will be abandoned. Others will starve alongside their mothers. Still others still will seek refuge in the workhouses or…worse.” A pained look crossed her face. “Last winter a newborn was discovered in a…rubbish bin behind the hospital kitchen. He’d been dead some hours, of exposure or so the resident physician judged.” She turned her face away.

He braced a hand upon the sill, bringing their bodies ever so slightly brushing. “Surely something more may be done?  What of the fathers?  Haven’t they any say in whether or not their children are given up?”

She turned back to glare at him, her quicksilver gaze once more sharp as Damascus steel. “Do you honestly believe that even one of those women standing out there would give up her child if she might choose another course, if she herself hadn’t been abandoned?”

Abandoned—so there it was, the crux of Phoebe’s philanthropic passion. Clearly she felt an affinity with these women who’d been abandoned by their men to fend for their offspring and themselves.

“I only meant that it seems a father should have some rights, some say at the very least. Conceiving a child requires both parties, after all.” Gaze on hers, he owned how very much he wanted to make love with her and babies with her, the yearning to plant his seed inside her so fiercely primal he felt a sudden aching in his loins.

“One of the prerequisites for participating in the balloting is that the father must have deserted both mother and child. Deserted, Robert. I’d think you of all people would understand that.”

He swallowed against the pain pushing a path up his throat. “I didn’t desert you.”

She answered with a sharp laugh. “You chose to stay away and leave me to think you dead. If that’s not desertion, what is?”

“I chose to return when I knew I might be a fit husband for you in every way.”

After the torturers had gotten through with him, it had taken him months before he’d been able to stand the sight of himself in a mirror; closer to two years before he could bear so much as a hand upon his shoulder without flinching. How could he have come to her then, broken, a wreck? Better to allow her to think him dead and remember him as he’d been then to foist the leavings of himself upon her, a shell empty of all but pain and horror. Returning ere now would have been the ultimate selfishness or so he’d told himself. But staring into Phoebe’s face, he was no longer so supremely certain. The woman before him was fashioned of sturdier stuff than the girl he’d left behind. That girl would have crumpled at the sight of him but the strong, poised woman he saw before him might have proven equal to the task.

Her gaze narrowed. “And now you are too late, for I have a husband or at least I shall before the month is out.”

Before the month is out! Robert felt as though an invisible fist plowed him in the solar plexus. In the past, controlling his reaction to the pain, pretending to no longer feel or care, had served as his best defense, his strongest weapon.

Calling upon that hard-learned stoicism now, he summoned a smile. “What a coincidence, for I too will be embarking upon my next voyage at the month’s end but not before I have the pleasure of seeing you as a bride, I hope.”

Phoebe’s smile slipped.

“For now, I am afraid I must away. I have another appointment to attend.”

“Pray do not let me keep you from your pressing business,” she retorted, sounding much like her mother. Judging from her planted stance, he gathered she didn’t mean to walk him out. Just as well, he supposed for he needed some time to recover from the blow she’d just dealt him.

Heading for the door, he turned back. “What ungodly hour shall I arrive tomorrow?”

She shrugged. “Anytime or not at all, as you wish.”

“If you treat all your benefactors in such a shrewish fashion, ‘tis a mercy you have a roof and four walls,” he answered, a deliberate reminder that he was, in point, paying for her company if not her goodwill.

Releasing a sigh, she capitulated, “Oh, very well, nine o’ clock sharp and mind if you’re late, I shall bar the classroom door and you may wait out in the hallway until the session finishes.”

“My dearest Phoebe, I wouldn’t dream of being late.”

Stepping out into the hallway, Robert considered that six years was quite late enough. He didn’t mean to waste so much as a single second more.

Copyright: Hope Tarr

To read the rest of Lady Phoebe and Robert’s second chance at love story, buy the ebook at any of these online retailers.

 

 

Tomorrow’s Destiny in Ebook AND Audiobook!

Seasons Greetings!

I’m thrilled to announce that Tomorrow’s Destiny, my beloved Victorian paranormal romance, is out in time for the winter holidays thanks to the good people at Scribd. Even better, the audiobook is narrated by my fellow Victorian ghost-loving author, Leanna Renee Hieber. Having Leanna lend her lovely, lilting voice to my heroine, Fiona is a wee dream-come-true.

A bit about the book:

Approaching her thirtieth birthday on Christmas Day, 1890, bookshop proprietress Fiona MacPherson is in danger of becoming a Scrooge on par with Mr. Dickens’ curmudgeon. With her beloved Da dead, she’s set to lose her treasured bookshop to a mysterious antiquities collector. Fortunately for Fiona, her guardian angel-in-training, Fern, is determined to set her stubborn charge’s life, and future, back on track. Masquerading as the Angel of Christmas Future, Fern has until the final stroke of midnight on Christmas to persuade Fiona to embrace her destiny, and her one true love.

Antiquarian Tobias Templeton has been cursed from birth with an unknown form of albinism, a condition that renders him unable to endure sunlight and overly sensitive to touch. For five years he’s been obsessed with an ancient Aristotelian text on alchemy; Tobias is convinced the book holds the key to his cure. Unfortunately, it was snatched away at auction by MacPherson, a Scottish bookseller and rival collector. Five years later, success is in sight! Tobias has the deed to MacPherson & Daughter Booksellers in his pocket.

When Tobias shows up on Fiona’s doorstep on Christmas Eve to claim his property, will her scheme to save her shop, and his certainty that his condition makes him unlovable, keep them apart? Or will they embrace the magic of the holiday season and accept the destiny that eluded them five years ago?

Not subscribed to Scribd? Not a problem. Click on the link and get a 30-day free trial during which you can savor so many wonderful books including Tomorrow’s Destiny.

Happy Christmas! Merry Hanukah!! Fabulous Festivus!!!

Follow me on Twitter @hopetarr and Instagram @hopectarr.

Tempting back in paperback! Enjoy the first chapter FREE

Just in time for the winter holidays, Tempting is once more available in paperback! Check out the book, which RT BOOK Reviews nominated for “Best Unusual Historical Romance” on Amazon.

Tempting by Hope TarrAnd of course ebook readers can continue to find the Tempting ebook on Kindle Nook iBooks Kobo Smashwords — everywhere ebooks are sold. Meanwhile, enjoy the first chapter, my compliments, here.

Chapter One
London, October 1867

Simon Belleville was no stranger to squalor. He’d passed his first fifteen years in Whitechapel, the worst of the London stews, among the moneylenders, whores, and immigrants of Eastern Europe. The brothel staircase upon which he stood was every bit as narrow, as filthy, as dank as the ones he’d played upon as a child. Only now he was a man of four-and-thirty. A man of property and experience. A man who’d traveled to India and back—to Hell and back—to make his fortune. A fortune he’d doubled, no, quadrupled, many times over since his return. In a country where wealth and position were bestowed by birth or not at all, he was a self-made man, a living legend. At East India Company headquarters in Leadenhall, directors and shareholders and counting house clerks all uttered his name in reverent whispers. When he walked into the Royal Exchange, a hush fell over the central court as investors strained to hear what stocks he would buy, what others he would sell. And now he was poised to realize his next great ambition: a seat in the House of Commons.

Backing his aspiration was the Chancellor of the Exchequer in Lord Derby’s Conservative government, Benjamin Disraeli. When Disraeli had suggested Simon head Her Majesty’s Morality and Vice Commission, he’d had no thought of refusing. Distasteful as his duties were—if women elected to sell their bodies for a few quid and food in their bellies, who was he to stop them?—still the appointment was his chance to prove his worth to Disraeli, to the Conservatives, perhaps even to Victoria herself.

Over the past six months, Simon had led raids on twenty-odd brothels. The present establishment, Madame LeBow’s, was the very last on his list. Like the others, it offered the standard fare of flagellations, deflorations, and fellatio at working-class prices. Patrons liked their sex rough, their wine cheap, and their whores young. The close air stank of spilled seed and stale beer, and at least four of the eight prostitutes incarcerated in the police wagon outside were younger than sixteen.

Stopping on the stairwell, he stripped off his gloves and stuffed them in his coat pockets. Gloves were de rigor, of course, the hallmark of a gentleman, and yet wearing them he never felt as though his flesh could properly breathe. Wrapping one blissfully bare hand about the scarred newel post, he looked below to the four blue-suited police sergeants flanking the first floor entrance. A fifth officer was posted outside to guard the women. Simon had been about to issue the order to pull out when he’d overhead two of the prisoners whispering about the new girl in the attic. He might dislike discharging this particular set of duties, still he was a thorough man. A clean sweep meant just that, and he had no intention of allowing even one rabbit to escape from its warren.

Inspector Tolliver, lantern in hand, walked up the stairs, stopping a few steps below him. “Shall I light the way, sir?”

Simon shook his head. “That won’t be necessary. I’ll go alone.” He reached for the lantern, which Tolliver reluctantly handed up.

At the last whorehouse where he’d allowed Tolliver to lead an arrest, the madam had emerged with a blackened eye and split lip. Tolliver claimed she’d tripped and fallen on her way down the stairs. Simon had his doubts.

Tolliver twisted one waxed end of his handlebar mustache. “Are you certain, sir? It could be a trap.”

Unaccustomed to having his judgment questioned, Simon snapped, “I believe I can handle it, Inspector. By all accounts, there’s but one woman up there, and if she’s anything like the others, she’s little more than a child.”

Tolliver shifted his narrow shoulders. “Have it your way, guv. The lads and I’ll be below if you need us.” He patted the club swinging from his belt.

Watching him fumble his way back down in the dark, Simon suppressed a snort. With its bicycles and billy clubs and smart blue uniforms, London’s eight-man detective department fancied itself a force to be reckoned with. But then Tolliver and his men rarely ventured into the East End. Those dark, crooked lanes with their stench of urine, rotting rubbish, and spoiled dreams were a foreign land to them. To Simon, they would always be home.

He continued up the remaining three flights to the attic, rotting floorboards groaning beneath his boot soles. It was nearly twenty years, and yet it might have been yesterday that he’d listened for the landlord’s footfalls on a set of creaking stairs much like these.

“This isn’t a charity house,” the landlord, Mr. Plotkin, had said, after delivering what amounted to a death sentence. The three of them—Simon, his mother, and Rebecca—had twenty-four hours to gather their belongings and quit the premises; otherwise, he’d have them all hauled to debtors’ prison.

It was the first time Simon had seen his mother cry since his father’s death. Wringing her work-roughened hands, Lilith Belleville had looked from one child to the next and then back at the landlord. Then she’d done the unthinkable. She’d sunk to her knees and begged.

“Have pity, Mr. Plotkin. If you turn us out, where shall we go?”

“That is not my affair.” Stepping past her, Plotkin’s shoe had landed on the hem of her worn dress, leaving a dusty footprint on the clean calico.

The scene, like so many painful episodes from his past, remained branded on Simon’s brain. Now someone else, some other cringing scrap of humanity, waited behind a closed attic door for him to deliver the edict that would result in her being dispatched to Newgate Gaol or, worse still, one of the prison hulks moored along the Thames.

Like grinding an insect beneath his boot heel, Simon moved to squash what piddling pity still lived inside him. “That is not my affair,” he said softly, gaining the landing.

The attic door was a narrow planked archway barely broader than his shoulders. He slid back the bolt and the warped wood moaned open on rusted hinges. Ducking beneath the low lintel, he entered.

Inside the air was foul as a draining ditch, the heat as stifling as Calcutta at midday, the darkness unrelieved by any light save the one Simon bore. A latticework of cobwebs hung from the eaves, catching on the crown of his beaver hat. Brushing them aside, he held up the lantern and took stock. There was an old seaman’s chest, a slop bucket—full, judging from the stench—and a rope bed wedged beneath the slanted roof, an elaborately arranged pile of rags draped atop.

Securing the door, Simon moved toward the center of the room, his free hand pushing through dust motes, his footfalls on the floorboards sending mice scuttling. As he closed in, the bundle on the bed shifted as he’d well suspected it would.

He centered his light on the bed. “You can come out now.”

A gasp greeted that suggestion. Flinging the bedclothes aside, the girl bolted upright. “Ye keep away from me, d’ye hear?” Wide set eyes of an undeterminable color flashed in warning, the eyes of a wilding.

Simon shone the light on her. “Easy now, no one will harm you.”

She blinked owlishly, her little face puckering. This girl looked to be the youngest yet, but then those in the maiden trade were adept at the art of illusion. The childish night rail she wore, white cotton and buttoned to the neck, made her appear innocent, almost virginal.

Simon knew better.

Whatever her age, she was no beauty. Her eyes were too large, her breasts too small, and her waist-length hair of brownish hue hung in greasy strands about her pinched face. That any man would pay to lie with such a sad little waif was almost impossible to fathom. Then again London was rife with males who found it diverting to prey on the young and innocent. He thought again of Rebecca, and the familiar ache in his chest throbbed.

A few more measured steps brought him to the foot of the bed. She cringed when he closed in, falling back on her hands as though the light hurt her eyes. There was a dark blotch on her forehead that could have been a bruise, a birthmark, or simply more of the same filth that stained the front of her night rail. But there was no doubt that the small reddish crescent on her left cheek was anything but what it appeared.

A freshly cut scar.

Simon’s anger, never far from the surface, surged. No woman, lady or whore, deserved to be so foully abused. Resolved that the manacles he’d brought would remain in his coat pocket, he summoned his most soothing voice to say, “I’ve come to take you away.”

She lifted her face, pinning him with her wide-eyed stare. “Truly?”

Before he could answer, she did the one thing for which he was completely unprepared. She drew up on her knees and hurled herself against him.

“Oh sar, I’ve prayed and prayed that someone would come and just when I were a’most ready to give up, ’ere ye are.” She snatched his hand and pressed the palm to her mouth.

Her lips were cool on his flesh, cool and ever so slightly trembling. Startled, Simon dropped his gaze and quite nearly the lantern. She still knelt before him, thin night rail twisted tight so that it hugged not only her hips and thighs but the mound between. The sudden urge to reach down with his kiss moistened hand and stroke her there, just there, shocked and sickened him. He’d never considered himself a passionate man, certainly not uncontrollably so. Self-mastery was everything to him, the cornerstone of his existence, the bulwark holding back the shadows. He couldn’t afford to lose it now. He forced his gaze back up to her face, safer terrain or so he thought. But the manner in which she met his stare, as though he was her personal messiah, unnerved him even more than his sordid, sensual fancies.

He snatched his hand away and set the lamp down. “How long have you been here, in the attic, that is?”

Kneeling still, she fretted her bottom lip. “A’most a week, I think, though ’tis terrible hard to tell night from day.”

Whoever she was, she was no Londoner. The rounded vowels of the Midlands were plain in her low voice. He looked beyond her to the small sealed casement window, the glass pane painted over with blacking. For a country-bred girl, being shut up thus would be an earthly hell.

Pity pricked his conscience. He fought it back, beckoning a businesslike briskness he couldn’t quite bring himself to feel. “Yes, well, you must dress and gather up your things. The others are waiting for us below. Outside,” he added by way of an enticement.

She beamed at him. “Oh, lovely, are ye rescuing ‘em too?”

The poor girl must be dim-witted indeed or mad or an opium fiend, perhaps all three. Looking into her dirty face for some sign of derangement, he observed that her eyes—brown, he decided—were clear, her cheekbones high, and her mouth full, the top and bottom lips near mirror images, an unusual and oddly tempting feature. How would it feel to have that mouth moving against his rather than only his hand? Soft, he imagined, and endearingly sweet.

He dealt himself a sound mental shake. Perhaps he was the one in danger of separating from his sanity? This girl was no sheltered innocent but an artful actress, a whore. Her feigned naïveté had likely persuaded a good many fools to part with their coin.

Simon was no fool.

He folded his arms lest she reach for him again. “You and the others will be conducted to Newgate where you will pass the night. In the morning you will be brought up before the Central Criminal Court.”

Her smile flattened and a furrow split her smooth brow. “The Old Bailey! But I’ve done naught wrong.”

Still hoping to take her the easy way, Simon steeled himself to patience. “Prostitution is a serious offense. Still, considering your youth… By the by, how old are you?”

“Nineteen.”

Nineteen was well above the age of consent and yet young enough for Simon to feel sorry for her failed future. He cleared his throat, reminded of how very much older he was than she. “The judges may be prepared to show mercy… provided you surrender yourself quietly.”

Mercy? The workhouse instead of prison? Or perhaps if she were really fortunate, she’d be set free to… starve?

That is not my affair. He had only to carry out this last arrest and write up his report to Parliament, and then his obligation would be fulfilled. And another step—no, giant leap— toward the Parliamentary bench would have been made.

All he need do to get there was to stay strong, stay the course. Determined to squelch any remaining soft sentiments, he unfolded his arms and reached for her wrist. “Come, get up and get dressed.” Beyond all, he desperately needed her to be covered with clothes.

She wrenched free, the fierceness on her face confirming that further kisses were an unfounded fear. “I won’t.”

But she was trapped, and they both knew it. The window, assuming it could be opened, was too small for crawling through and, even if it weren’t, they were four flights above the ground.

Simon reached into the pocket for the manacles, hoping he’d only need them for show. “You are coming with me—now. Of your own accord, clothed or unclothed, matters not to me.”

Her bravado broke. She shrank away. “Oh please, sar, I’ve done nothin’ wrong. Can’t ye set me free?” She folded her hands, lacing the slender, nail-bitten fingers as if in prayer.

With her white clad form and guileless eyes, she was the very image of a supplicating saint he’d once seen in a stained glass window of St. Paul’s Cathedral, a saint with whom mere seconds ago he’d fantasized lying. His conscience niggled anew. Why not simply go below and say he’d found the attic empty?

Doing so would make me a damned fool, that’s why.

Disraeli rewarded those who served him well. He was equally lavish in punishing those who failed him. Without his endorsement, Simon’s dream of holding a seat in the Commons would remain just that, a dream.

“Regrettably I cannot.” Leaning over, he grabbed her sharply boned wrists in one hand, pulling her back up onto her knees, this time taking care to keep his gaze trained on her face.

“I ain’t goin’.” She hesitated. “Leastwise not wi’out Puss.” She swiveled to look over his right shoulder.

“Puss?” Still holding her, he swung around, wondering if she might have a roommate or, worse still, an armed keeper lying in wait.

Then he saw it. A skinny black-and-silver tabby cat slinked out from a wicker basket set in the corner. It stopped to stretch, striped forepaws straining as it regarded Simon with its slanted eyes. Rebecca had kept a cat just like it once. This flea-bitten beast might have been its twin. For the second time in as many minutes, Simon felt the keen stab of unwanted memory, a resurrection of the old soul splitting ache.

Stiffening, he turned back to the girl, her eyes vast and luminous in her thin, pale face. “You cannot keep a cat in a gaol cell.” Self-loathing roughened his voice. “And cease looking at me like that.”

“Like what?” Her eyes widened even further, making her look even more guileless if that was indeed possible.

“Like you’re some damned… innocent.” Maddened by the skill with which she worked her ruse, he seized hold of her upper arms, his fingers biting into flesh-veiled bone.

His manhandling won her wince. “But I am innocent! And I won’t go to gaol or anywhere else without my cat.”

Gentling his grip, he said, “You’ll go and do as you’re told from here on.”

She glared. “Your arse I will.” She turned her head and suddenly his left hand sang with pain.

Releasing her, he jerked back and stared down.

By God, the little bitch had bit him!

Pinpoints of blood welled where her teeth had torn. He reached inside his breast pocket for a handkerchief, allowing that shucking off his gloves had been an exceptionally bad idea. Wrapping the linen about his throbbing palm, he fumbled in his other pocket for the iron cuffs.

But when he turned his attention back to the girl, he saw the restraint would not be needed after all.

She’d fainted.

Holding his bleeding hand aloft, he ran his gaze down the length of her, doing his level best to observe her with a dispassionate eye. She was skin-and-bones to a shocking degree, shocking for all that Simon full knew what it was to hunger.

Feeling awkward, he gave her shoulder a sharp poke. “Girl, wake up.” Belatedly it occurred to him he hadn’t thought to take down her name.

He brushed a tickling finger across the bottom of one long, slender foot. She still didn’t stir. Satisfied she wasn’t feigning, he straightened, wondering what the devil he was to do. When she’d been awake and fighting him, the path had seemed so clear, but now… She was completely senseless, completely vulnerable, completely at his… mercy?

His gaze settled once more on the raw mark marring her cheek. He’d spent years armoring his soul until he’d satisfied himself it must be as callused as once his hands had been. But somehow this slip of a girl seemed to have located a heretofore hidden chink.

But it wouldn’t do to let Tolliver and the others see the damage his foolish dallying had wrought. He took a moment to pull on his gloves, wincing when the tight leather rolled over his swelling skin, the hand she’d bit as any cornered animal would do. Try as he might, he couldn’t hold it against her.

He slipped a forearm beneath her limp form and lifted her against him. She was so slight he might have held a bale of feathers in his outstretched arms rather than a woman grown.

Simon let out a curse from his dockyard days. “Whoever you are, girl, you’ve shown yourself a more formidable foe than the entirety of the Liberal Party leadership.”

Newgate Gaol would have to make do with one fewer inmate.

********************************************************************************

BUY THE BOOK: