Jane Street Hijinx
Thanks to Limecello for having me here today to talk about the last ‘Mistress’ book in my Courtesan Court series, Mistress by Marriage. There is, however, a ‘Master’ book coming out next April, Master of Sin, which features Andrew Rossiter, who is introduced in Marriage.
There are already too many characters competing in my head, so I’ll try to stick with Baron Edward Christie and his wayward wife Caroline today.
Quite by writing accident I invented Jane Street (named in honor of Jane Austen who is surely rolling in her grave). It’s the fictional home of some of Regency London’s most exclusive, exotic, erotic mistresses. But they’re not my heroines—the five women I’ve placed on Jane Street in two novellas and three novels definitely don’t belong there. They are, to play off the title of the first book in the bunch, mostly mistresses by mistake.
In Mistress by Marriage (September 2011), Lady Caroline Christie has been set up on the street by her uptight, upright husband Edward as a sort of punishment, but the torture’s on him, because he just can’t leave her alone there. Caroline is everything he thinks doesn’t want— she’s too beautiful, too impulsive, too scandalous. Too unsettling. For a man like Baron Edward Christie who is wrapped tighter than a dowager’s turban, it takes him a good long while to unwind. I’ve said somewhere that Edward is like a Regency Boy Scout who needs Caro to light his fire. It was such fun defrosting him, turning him from imperious idiot to love-struck fool.
In fact, he takes the plot from one of Caro’s own books—she writes lurid gothic romances, the Courtesan Court series…how meta ;)—turns himself into one of her villains, and kidnaps her to try to reconcile.
Once Edward cracks, he throws all his ingrained inhibitions away. Here’s a never-seen- before excerpt. Edward is washing off his disguise in the bathtub in front of a tormented and bound Caroline.
“You know,” he said conversationally, as if she were not tied up like a rabid dog, “I’ve become a terrible creature of habit. Some find the scent of bay rum pleasant, but give me my own lime cologne. My play-acting the villain was as much torture for me as it was for you. I itch all over. I’m going to have Hazlett burn that suit.” Water sluiced down his brown chest, beading on his nipples. He must have spent the weekends helping his tenants with the harvest at Christie Park when he wasn’t plotting his evil, insane stratagem.
He lathered his bristled face and unkempt hair. This new, unimproved Edward confused her. He had never shared so intimate an act as bathing in front of her, except for the one time she’d barged into his dressing room and slipped into his tub uninvited. She’d made him like it in the end, but he was a man who thrived on a strict routine, and she was usually an unwelcome interruption. She had spent their year of married life weighted down by his continuous disapproval.
“Bastard.” Her old sense of humiliation fluttered to the surface. Perhaps he’d get soap in his eyes and go blind, she thought sourly. He leaned back and poured water on his head, slicking back his long dark hair until every beautifully chiseled plane of his face was revealed. Then he pulled the wet cotton from his ears, tossing it among the flattened roses on the floor.
“Did you say something?”
Caroline bit her tongue.
“This bath is so refreshing. I find travel arduous in the best of circumstances, don’t you? You know, the water is still hot.”
Caroline tasted blood.
“The tub is large enough for two. If you like, we can share it. Get the road dust off.”
Caroline would like. She found herself furiously jealous of Edward’s liquid display. “Will you untie me?”
“Unnecessary. I believe I’m perfectly capable of washing you. Everywhere.” His smile was purely satanical.
“Absolutely not then.”
“Don’t be stubborn, Caro. I know how you like your baths. Do you remember the morning you surprised me in my bath at Christie Park?”
God, he remembered. Or could he read minds? “You were appalled at the disruption of your daily regimen. And your old valet—what was his name? The one before Cameron— couldn’t look me in the eye for months.”
“Well, as I said, it was a surprise. Poor Melrose didn’t expect to find us in such a tangle when he came to barber me.”
“I wish he’d cut off your—” She snapped her lips shut.
“Pardon? I must have water in my ears.” He shook his head like a glossy spaniel.
“Nothing. Edward, while I appreciate your effort to get me in your clutches, I don’t want to be clutched. I made that perfectly clear several weeks ago.”
“I know what you said. I don’t agree anymore. We may not be ideally suited to each other, but I’m sure we can find some common ground with a little work.”
“The only time we’ll find common ground is when we’re both buried under it in the family plot. I assume there’s still room for me at the churchyard?”
Edward looked a bit sheepish. They once had a discussion about her eventual placement.
As an ever-organized Christie, he had dispassionately informed her of her future. Edward was to be the jam husband to his two wives’ bread. The headstone was already in place, just waiting for the requisite dates. In Edward’s case, Caroline hoped it would be soon.
If it wasn’t clear, the fantastic Maggie Robinson is guesting with us today, and I believe that’s another exclusive excerpt she’s sharing. Exciting, yes? I didn’t think my silly little intros would fit before her post. Also, I’m still on brain melt. So, answer Maggie’s question and be entered in her giveaway!