Welcome to Beverley Oakley - fellow Aussie and debut Total-e-bound author!
Thanks, Maggie, for having me here today. It’s always fun to talk about the background to one’s latest release.
Since the age of twelve I’ve been addicted to reading social histories, particularly between 1750 and 1875, and it’s usually a reference to a woman’s struggle to escape her circumstances which ignites a story idea.
We take for granted so many of our liberties that it’s easy to forget that until relatively recently men held the cards and women had no power – either political or financial – unless they were widowed or special legal licence were granted them.
In my recently-released novel, Rake’s Honour, my heroine, Fanny Brightwell, must marry money if her family is not to lose their standing in society. Her mama has a suitor lined up but Lord Slyther’s superating sores and foul breath, not to mention his clearly stated intention to break her spirit, acts as a powerful motivator to Fanny to find a man who will fulfil her mama’s marital criteria and please Fanny’s heart.
Below is an excerpt showing just how loathsome Lord Slyther is and why Fanny will do anything to escape marriage to him.
“Ah, but, Miss Brightwell, your misfortune is that you have miscalculated, and my fortune is that it gives me all the bargaining power in the world.”
Her already great horror was compounded as she felt his hand upon her neck, gently caressing her skin. Frozen, unable to move as she accepted the truth of his assessment, she trembled as she tried to assimilate his words. Until last night, she had conducted herself with all the decorum required by a chaste innocent, hopeful of contracting a suitable marriage. True, she wasn’t decorous by nature, but only the gleam in her eye when a handsome gentleman showed interest would give her away, surely? Not her actions. Her mother had spent her lifetime trying to subdue that reckless, adventurous streak Fanny had inherited from her ill-fated father and, until last night, Fanny could not have been accused of anything that would compromise her reputation.
“It is true, my lord, that I accompanied Lord Alverley to Vauxhall, alone, in masquerade,” she whispered, “but my virtue is unblemished.”
“Surely the boy tried to kiss you.” In the firelight she saw Lord Slyther’s stained teeth bared with prurient interest before he burst out laughing. “You didn’t enjoy it, eh? Well, that’s good, because as your future husband it’s my job to show you how to kiss. Now stand up, Miss Brightwell, if you please, and face me.”
Fanny rose, silent while her mind whirled at this new and dreadful situation. Her mother was in the next room with Antoinette. When Fanny emerged with Lord Slyther to announce the news of their engagement, Lady Brightwell would clasp Fanny tenderly to her bosom in perhaps the only gesture of genuine pleasure she’d ever extend towards her eldest daughter—the daughter upon whom she was pinning all her hopes. All the family’s hopes, Fanny amended silently. Either she or Antoinette was required to make a decent marriage if the Brightwell family was not to slide into worse than simply genteel poverty. If Fanny was not prepared to sacrifice herself to this horror, there would be no more rubbing shoulders with the haut ton. No, she’d be rubbing the chilblains of some crotchety old woman to whom she’d be paid companion, while Antoinette worked as a governess and their mother lived out her days beholden to her detested cousin, having never forgiven Fanny for failing in her duty.
“Show me your ankles.”
Fanny swallowed down her surprised outrage, only raising the skirts of her cerulean blue lutestring gown when he repeated the command, his voice now cajoling.
He relaxed deeper into his chair with a sigh. “Such prettily turned little ankles, Miss Brightwell.” He patted his heart. “Indeed, you are going to bring me much pleasure in my dotage. Now let me feel your ankle, if you please. That’s right—raise your leg upon the footstool so I may bend forward and caress your pretty little limb.”
At this, Fanny objected while trying not to cry. Never had she been so demeaned in all her life. “With all due respect, my Lord, I committed no sin greater than conversing alone with Lord Alverley.”
“And kissing him.”
“Your reputation is besmirched, Miss Brightwell, and only I will be prepared to overlook it once it becomes public knowledge. Now, if you please, my dear, raise your little ankle over the arm of my chair so I may stroke it for you while we discuss the terms of this marriage you’re in no position to refuse.”
Sucking in a shuddering breath, Fanny raised her leg, hooking her ankle over the arm of Lord Slyther’s chair, bracing herself against the horror of the liberties he was about to take.
When his fat, bejewelled hands clasped her calf and began to stroke the contours up to her garters, just below the knee, she tried to transport herself back to the evening before, when in the arms of the thrilling stranger she had discovered her body’s responses to pleasures unknown. It was no use. Lord Slyther’s loathsome touch put him in the league of some wart-ridden toad, crawling, fat and oily to the touch.
At least she had the protection of a sheath of white silk, but when he tugged at the ribbon of her garter and slowly eased one stocking down to her ankle, she felt her defences all but crumble.
Fanny’s horror at having to spend a lifetime with odious Lord Slyther are all the motivation Fanny needs to take another wild chance that will hopefully snare the handsome Viscount Fenton. The irresistible rake, dressed in masquerade, had whisked her away from her unsatisfactory escort the night before at Vauxhall Gardens and Fanny’s future happiness now relies on binding Fenton to her, body and soul… and quickly!
Beverley Eikli wrote her first romance novel when she was seventeen. Drowning the heroine on the last page (p550!) was, she soon discovered, not in the spirit of the genre so her romance-writing career ground to a halt.
A new world of romance and adventure opened up to her in a thatched cottage in the Okavango Delta with a handsome Norwegian bush pilot, then, later, in the back of Cessna 404s during low-level survey sorties over the French Guyanese jungle and Greenland’s ice cap. Cocooned for eight hours at a time with a lonely pilot was, she discovered, a great apprenticeship for a romance author. Her first erotic Regency Historical has just been released by Total-e-Bound.
You can buy this fabulous book from HERE