After more than a year of talking about it, checking out narrators, and then doing courses on narration and recording, I finally started recording my first audio book.
As I’d had a successful promotion for my Daughters of Sin series, I started with Book 1, Her Gilded Prison. However, this is one of my steamier books, and on playing back for the first eight chapters, there were too many scenes in which I sounded positively embarrassed, that I decided to put this one down to experience.
So, with another big promotion coming up on The Bluestocking and the Rake, I decided that this one – book 2 in my Hearts in Hiding series – would be the ideal start.
Above is a picture of my recording studio. As you can see, old faithful, my Rhodestian Ridgeback Mombo, had to be in on the action. He’s just loved the fact that we, in Melbourne, have had around six months of partial, followed by full, stringent lockdown, so he is always with his pack!
Generally the recording goes OK, though sometimes I have to pause when he starts to chase rabbits in his sleep, or to snore.
Here’s a Taster of The Bluestocking and the Rake!
This takes place after Jemima’s ‘husband’ has taken her out for an evening.
“How dare you insult me, so? You took me to a prostitute’s den,” she hissed when they were indoors, and the sleepy housemaid had put a final log on the fire and retired to bed.
Roderick had the grace to look ashamed as he flicked up his tailcoat to seat himself on a stool close to the warmth. “Perhaps it was not quite the place to take a—”
“A respectable wife! No!” she ground out, stepping back when he rose and held out his arms with an appeasing look.
The room was dim and smelled of wood smoke. Jemima hated every square inch of the floral wallpaper and stained rug, but it was the only home she had. She glared at him as he sat down, clearly deflated, while she counseled herself silently that she mustn’t complain when she was equally responsible for the decisions that had led to this disastrous marriage.
Unconsciously, she put her hand to her belly as she prayed, not for the first time, that there was no child within to bring into the world and share her misery. Yet perhaps that was all she had to look forward to now—children.
If she’d been in doubt before, this evening had helped her decide that she couldn’t—wouldn’t—reveal the truth about the clay tablet to a man she despised. Roderick, as her husband, would have the legal right to own every last gold coin of her discovery, should matters proceed to eventual success.
Roderick returned her look with a long, enigmatic look of his own, and Jemima sighed. It wasn’t that he was a bad man, just that he was weak, and he’d taken advantage of circumstances to benefit himself at her expense.
She rose, intending to go to bed, but at the doorway, she turned. She’d have expected him to resort to his usual self-justifying bluster but his mouth was set in a grim line.
“No, it’s not where I would take a respectable wife.”
Something in his tone sent a spear of foreboding through her. Was he telling her he didn’t consider her respectable? That there was some stain on her virtue for which he intended to punish her? Anger bubbled through her veins. How dare he, when marriage to him had been the only way to salvage her reputation and every woman knew that without that she was doomed to poverty and ignominy?
She took a step back into the room and put her hands on her hips. Her gown was secondhand and had belonged to Roderick’s aunt, she’d discovered after he’d gifted it to her not long ago. She hated its matronly cut and was conscious of the old-fashioned line of the skirt—when fashion wasn’t something she’d ever considered in the past. It helped stoke her anger. “Do not blame me for forcing your hand when you made me your wife,” she said softly. “I told you of my need to be in London, at St Paul’s churchyard on Epiphany when I very first met you, and you took advantage of that in a way no gentleman would have.”
“And who did you intend meeting?” He was sneering now, yet he had believed her when she’d explained at that time that it was a family matter of the utmost urgency. He pushed back his tight, ginger curls as he rose. “A lover? One who didn’t turn up, I might add. You used me to meet your lover; only he left you all alone and unprotected. What was I to do except take you to find lodging? I behaved like a gentleman.”
“And no damage might have been done to either my reputation or yours if your mother hadn’t tracked you down and thrown a fit of the vapors, believing we’d eloped. She decided then and there that I had set my cap at you when nothing could have been further from the truth.”
“You were looking for a protector! Admit it! I offered you the job of governess out of the goodness of my heart. My mother would never have offered the position to anyone who didn’t have a good character, but you had nothing. Nothing! No doubt you were cast out of your own home because you were discovered with this…this knave you intended to meet and run away with the moment you’d thrown yourself into his arms at St. Paul’s. That’s why you had no character when you came to me. Your reputation was already ruined, but I saved you from sleeping under any more haystacks. Admit there’s more than a grain of truth to what I say.”
Jemima advanced toward him with fire in her belly. It was rare she was pushed to anger, but the injustice of his speculations and the self-righteousness he paraded made the matter in her head close to bursting.
“Nothing could be farther from the truth! Is that what you truly believe? That I was running away from some sordid past? That I was already ruined? How dare you! I only married you because it was the only way I could retain my character, my reputation. Your mother was screeching the most vile things about me, threatening to see my name blackened throughout the entire country and yes, you nobly played the gentleman, but at the time you professed undying love. You said we could make marriage between us work. You begged me to marry you. As for me, I entered into a marriage contract because I thought that you believed in me, that you loved me and because if I didn’t, I would be ruined. Oh, but it’s my fault I was so easily cowed by your vengeful mother and your avowals of love and protection when I had nowhere else to go.”
She clenched her hands at her sides and drew in a deep breath, realizing the need for calm. Slowly common sense returned. She was bound to this man for life. She did not love him, but he’d behaved decently when called upon, and if there was any joy to be had she needed to try and mend the rift between them.
She turned and went up to him, placing her palms against his chest. She could do this. She would be the pliant, submissive, grateful wife. It was the only way she could manipulate a dreadful situation so they might negotiate a difficult peace.
“I’m sorry I spoke harshly. You were good to me, Roderick. I do thank you for giving me a position when perhaps no one else would have. And I’m sorry if you felt you had no choice but to wed a penniless runaway. But please remember that at the time it was what you wanted. And that I wasn’t already ruined. Our wedding night proved that. Please don’t cast aspersions on my good character.”
The flickering candle on the mantelpiece played across his features as, with head bent, he toyed with his wedding ring. She’d hoped to see his expression relax, but instead, she saw evasiveness when he glanced up at her.
“I was in no position to afford a wife,” he muttered. “I knew that.”
Jemima forced her smile to be bolstering. She put her hand on his shoulder. “But you were a gentleman who would not see me ruined. I’m sorry I’ve been a drain on your purse strings.” Should she hint that perhaps she had the means to provide them with a fortune beyond his wildest dreams? Could that save the situation? Make them happy?
She opened her mouth to say the words. Marriage was a lifelong contract, and she could make them rich. That would give them both freedom. And honesty was essential if they were to have any chance of navigating the morass of misery that threatened to engulf them both.
“Roderick, I must tell you something…”
Impatiently he turned away from her, raking his hands through his hair, his mouth set in a grim line. He squeezed his eyes shut briefly. “Jemima, the truth is, I can’t afford either you or this house.”
“This house?” She put her head on one side, trying to understand him. “So we’ll have to move somewhere…more affordable?” Already their abode was cramped, and in the most insalubrious of areas when she knew Roderick aspired to so much more.
He cleared his voice. “The bailiffs are coming tomorrow.” He removed her grasping hand from his shoulder and began to pace, hurrying his words as he went on, “Lord knows, I hate to say this, Jemima, but I’m going to have to give you up, too. I mean, I wanted to make it right in the end, truly I did. I loathe myself for actions that are against the code of a gentleman, and if things had gone as I’d hoped a week ago, we could right now be contemplating a grand move up in the world.”
“Give me up?” She shook her head, uncomprehending. It was one thing to have to give up a house one could no longer afford. One couldn’t dispense so easily with a wife, even if she’d love nothing more than to be free of him. “But we are legally bound,” she reminded him.
This time, it was he who shook his head, groaning as he dropped his face onto the crook of his arm, which rested along the edge of the mantelpiece. “Oh Jemina, did you really believe that piece of fiction?”
OR LISTEN TO IT HERE: