Keeping Faith ~ Release Day

Keeping Faith

Today is release day for Keeping Faith, the latest in my Fair Cyprians of London series.

Yes, it’s exciting, but it’s also lots of hard work.

Writing the book is only the start. The first draft, that is. Then those ideas swirling around and thrown down on paper have to be whipped into shape, polished professionally edited, and published.

Once it’s out in the world it then has to be discovered.

Until recently, Amazon used to have an “Also Boughts” row of books on each book page which showed which readers had bought a particular book. It was great for readers and great for writers in that they had an organic source of traffic. It stands to reason that if lots of readers are buying Author A and B’s books, then these two authors have elements in common so that other readers of Author A know that there’s a fair chance they’ll like Author B. Well, at least enough to give this unknown-to-them author a try.

With the “Also Boughts” gone, authors must now advertise on Amazon where they didn’t have to before. Advertising is an entirely different skill and takes time to perfect – as you can see by my early attempt, above.

I like to write, not design covers or create ads.

Anyway, this is not a forum for complaining about what I can’t do but an opportunity to tell you what I can do. And that’s write a romance. This is in fact my 22nd historical romance and I hope you find it enjoyable. Here’s a bit about why this book was even written.

Henry Mayhew’s London’s Underworld

The series really came about from some research I was doing for another book set in Victorian London. When I stumbled upon nineteenth century journalist Henry Mayhew’s London’s Underworld I realised I had a treasure trove of story ideas for a series I could write about a group of high class prostitutes seeking to better themselves – or, in some cases, seeking vengeance.

Mayhew had interviewed for his book dozens of petty thieves, full-time and part-time prostitutes and others who’d have been considered the flotsam and jetsam of life. So many of their stories were quite poignant. There were farm girls and innocent would-be governesses who’d been tricked into prostitution by trusted acquaintances, or who’d been seduced or worse by those in positions of greater power than themselves.

And, in those days, of course, once a girl had fallen into ruin, there was no coming back from it.

Keeping Faith is the third book in the series (with more to come) and I’ve taken the approach of telling Faith’s story from her perspective of being prepared to do whatever it takes to win her freedom – even if it means breaking someone else’s heart.

With no family or financial backing, Faith’s only alternative to doing what she’s agreed to do is, basically, the gutter.

Over the past three years, however, Faith has been transformed into a lady as her benefactress prepares her for a mission of revenge. Obviously, too, in the process of learning to behave like a lady, the former servant girl acquires education and a new perspective of the world.

This new perspective allows her to understand the feelings of others when, previously, all her resources were centred around self-preservation.

Now, breaking someone else’s heart means breaking her own.

But how does Faith gain freedom for herself? Or freedom to love and to make someone else happy when she’s bound to a contract that will see her exposed and ruined if she reneges?

That is, essentially, the story of Keeping Faith. It’s book 3 in the series which follows: Saving Grace (Book 1 – originally published by Pan Pacmillan); and Forsaking Hope (Book 2 which is currently free to read in Kindle Unlimited though it’ll go to all bookstores after November 27.)

I hope readers enjoy Keeping Faith. Unlike the other faster-paced stories in the series, this one is a bit of a slow-burn romance with a very exciting, adventurous ending. It’s also a story of transformation and redemption.

You can get it on all platforms here.

Excerpt from Keeping Faith

With only 17 days until the release of Keeping Faith, I thought I’d better post an extract.

A blog tour is going to start in a few days and there’ll be prizes and more extracts so do come back if you want to follow along.

First, though, a little bit about the concept. For those who don’t know, Keeping Faith is book 3 in my Fair Cyprians of London series which is set in 1878 in a high class brothel in Soho.

The inspiration came from the first-hand accounts of the prostitutes and ‘underworld’ characters which are published in 19th-century journalist Henry Mayhew’s London’s Underworld.

I was further inspired by pictures of the men and woman of those times. Surely clothing influences the way a person behaves? Think of the gaudy, slatternly costume of the Victorian prostitutes compared with the buttoned-up elegance of the well-off. Wouldn’t each have carried themselves differently, depending on the varying levels of physical freedom allowed when wearing corsets and combinations or clothing that was easy to work in?

Chapter One

“What did you learn last night?”

“A gentleman must always believe he knows best.”

Confident that her answer was pleasing, Faith reached across the table to help herself to a macaroon but a sharp slap across the back of the hand stopped her progress by the silver teapot.

Her smile of feigned contrition was rewarded with a raised eyebrow from Madame Chambon. Not an invitation to partake of a macaroon, unfortunately. The table laden with eclairs and petit fours in Madame’s private sitting room was merely for show.

“Greedy girl, Faith! You can eat at the Dorchester tomorrow and I daresay you won’t even spare a thought for the other girls who are justified in being somewhat jealous of your cossetted life.” Madame sniffed as she patted one of the grizzled, orange curls of her elaborate coiffure. Faith suspected a squirrel’s pelt had made its contribution. “I’m sure they wonder every day why you never have to stir yourself – or anyone else, for that matter – to get your fine clothes or a roof over your head.” Madame Chambon piled three macaroons onto her already laden plate before making a sweeping gesture that encompassed the furnishings of her surprisingly decorous private sitting room with its gold tasselled green velvet curtains and flock wallpaper. “What have you told them, Faith? About why you are here, I mean?”

Faith’s stomach rumbled as she gazed from the prints of the famous artists that lined the walls to the fine fare in front of her, ordered from Fortnum and Mason. These monthly sessions in table manners were supposed to give Faith the practise she needed to deport herself like a lady when eating in public. However, under Madame’s guardianship, Faith never actually got to try the specialties.

“Answer me, Faith. In all the three years that you’ve been here, you’ve had to do precisely nothing to justify your existence. Surely the girls have questioned you? I have my own version of the truth for them, as you know, but I’d be interested to hear what you have to say.”

Faith didn’t answer. She already knew how lucky she was, but Madame was not ready to drop the subject, despite having just crammed an entire chocolate éclair into her mouth. Faith just managed to make out the muffled words, “Every night you lie peacefully in your bed while the other girls have to earn their livings.”

Lying peacefully in her bed was not how Faith would describe the restfulness of her slumber. She was kept awake every night by the grunts and cries of ecstasy that penetrated the thin walls of her attic chamber.

Still, she’d finally learned when it was wise to respond meekly, so she bowed her head and stared at her neat kid gloves while dreaming of the delicacies Mrs Gedge would order for them when Faith really was dining with her at the Dorchester Hotel the following afternoon. The Sacher Torte Mrs Gedge had ummed and aahed over before finally choosing the baked alaska from the sweets trolley last month still haunted her. However, since part of Faith’s tutoring included how to win over reluctant gentleman ‘and make them wild with wanting’ which is how Madame phrased it, then surely Faith could persuade her American benefactress to order the Austrian chocolate specialty?

She was so busy rehearsing her words for tomorrow that she almost missed Madame’s prophetic and appalling statement.

“Well, Faith, the time has come for you to start earning your way, now.”

Faith brought her head up in shock. Was Madame teasing? When it appeared not, she gripped the table edge as she struggled for composure. For so long she’d known the reckoning would come. Yes, and with three years preparing for it, she’d believed she could meet it head-on with the necessary fortitude.

But there’d been no warning.

She began to shake, biting into her bottom lip and clasping her hands in her lap to try and keep secret the manifestations of her terror from Madame who’d only be spurred onto gloating and make her suffer even more.

“Mrs Gedge reported last month that she wasn’t entirely happy you were ready for what she has in store for you when she took you to tea, Faith.” Madame chewed noisily, unperturbed, it seemed, by the crumbs that landed on her gaudy vermillion skirts.

Faith didn’t suggest that Mrs Gedge’s dissatisfaction was perhaps the fault of Faith’s tutor – the one sitting in front of her – who knew nothing about deporting herself as a lady.

With a dainty gesture using only her forefingers, Madame Chambon raised her plate and licked at the crumbs that had not been dislodged before saying, “Fortunately, Lady Vernon is recovered at last from her long indisposition and has agreed to forget your rudeness to her from six months ago. In fact, she’ll be here shortly. Yes, she’ll soon have you passing the scrutiny of the most discerning duchess.” Madame gobbled down another macaroon with as much finesse as the dogs Faith’s father used to goad into fighting each other after they’d fought over the scraps from the scrubbed wooden table at the farm. Not that there’d been many scraps with ten children to feed.

“Should we not have waited for Lady Vernon?” Faith suggested, daringly. But she had to say something to stop herself from launching into a volley of querulous questions about exactly what form this ‘having to earn her own way’ might take.

Madame Chambon pushed aside an untouched plate of bread and butter to reach for another chocolate éclair, and sighed. “There was just so much food on the table it seemed unnecessary to wait if her ladyship was going to be late. Ah! And here she is.” Madame’s orange painted mouth turned up at a knock on the door. “Shoulders back, Faith! And make sure you don’t talk with your mouth full.”

Since this was not a danger, Faith supposed there might be some compensation in having to face her former nemesis who surely must subscribe to the belief that learning table manners required one having to eat.

Madame threw her arms wide in a welcome as the door opened to admit the new arrival. “Good evening, Lady Vernon. We’re so glad you’ve recovered from your chest ailment,” she gushed. “A good rest has done you the world of good. Why, you look ten years younger. Just as you do every time I see you, in fact. And we’re indeed humbled that you’ve consented to return.” Madame simpered at the elderly woman, dressed all in black who looked, Faith thought, even more wraith-like than usual as she pinned up the veil of her bonnet and took the seat at the table proffered by Madame who went on, “I’m sure you’ll feel even better once you’ve heard Faith’s heartfelt apology.”

Faith blushed under the scrutiny of the two pairs of expectant, unforgiving eyes, and glanced longingly at the remaining macaroon.

Yes, there were times when it was worth being abject. She mightn’t mean what she said, but if the last three years under Madame Chambon’s roof had taught her one thing, it was how to sound heartfelt and sincere when she felt anything but.

“I’m sorry for my rude comments about…” Faith hesitated. Perhaps it was best not to stir up old memories. While it must be perfectly obvious to anyone who met Lady Vernon as to why an earl’s daughter could remain a spinster into her sixtieth year, it hadn’t been in anyone’s interest – Faith’s least of all, it turned out – for Faith to have gone into quite such specific and extensive detail regarding her thoughts on the likely reasons. “I behaved like a child, though it’s such a long time ago, now, I can barely remember what was going through my head at the time. I was only seventeen and, in those days, prone to losing my temper but now I’m eighteen and, thanks to all your efforts in teaching me how to act like a lady, Lady Vernon, I’m so far from the rude and impulsive young thing I was before, you’d not recognise me today. Thanks to your thorough tutelage, I am determined that I will never speak out of turn, to you, or anyone. Indeed, I have changed! I truly believe that, confronted by a table of delicacies like this, for example, I would certainly not embarrass you or Mrs Gedge or any lovely young man or his mother who might take me out to tea by any show of greediness or lack of restraint.”

Lady Vernon’s eyes remained fixed firmly on Faith for the duration of this speech with no indication of how forgiving or otherwise she might prove to be.

After a long silence, she spoke. “Restraint?” She sniffed. “Restraint is the most important requirement of any young lady, Faith. I’ve told you this many times, so I’m glad it’s a lesson you claim to have finally learned.”

With her eyes fixed on Faith, she reached towards the remaining macaroon that sat lonely on its plate just in front of them both, her long-fingered hand hovering just above. “Please pass that to me, Faith. I can’t seem to reach it.”

Wordlessly, Faith complied, schooling her features into impassivity while she railed inside, I hate you! I hate you! as she watched Lady Vernon transport the coconut confection to her thin, bloodless lips.

“Delicious,” Lady Vernon murmured. “In fact, I believe it is the best macaroon I have ever tasted? You must surely agree, Faith, since the plate is now empty.”

She looked pointedly at the two remaining crumbs that clung to the edge of the fine china, as if to imply that Faith had eaten the rest. Then she indicated the plate of bread and butter near Madame Chambon. “Please eat, Faith. Madame Chambon and I have a leisurely afternoon at our disposal. She and I will partake of the remaining chocolate eclairs –” Her pointed chin wobbled slightly, whether from the suppression of mirth or the swallowing of bile, Faith could only guess, “while you make good work of the bread and butter with all the ladylike restraint you’re so anxious to prove.”

End of Extract

Just a note: I’ve done my usual trick of painting myself into a corner. Keeping Faith was supposed to be only 55,000 words long but it’s nearly doubled and is now 99,000. It’s one of my longest books, in fact!

Which means it’s a bargain at 2.99 for the first month after pre-order, after which the price will go to $3.99 where it was stay.

It’s available at all online etailers here.

Win The Glittering Prize in paperback

Do you love a good dose of suspense mixed in with your romance?

Then enter my competition for a chance to win a specially dedicated copy of The Glittering Prize. Just let me know what you’d like on the “Dedication Page” and I’ll have it professionally printed, for your library and your reading pleasure.

Here’s a bit about it.

With a murderer hot on her heels, becoming the greatest treasure in a bored aristocrat’s collection may be Jemima’s only hope of survival.

Blue-stocking Jemima Percy’s talent for ancient languages gives her father the advantage as an archaeologist and treasure hunter. When the pair are on the verge of revealing their greatest discovery, Jemima’s father is brutally murdered.

Forced to surrender honour and reputation in order to survive, Jemima is finally offered a way out by handsome and charming Lord Ruthcot, who has inherited a world-renowned collection of treasures.

But accepting his help means she must relinquish all hope of reclaiming the glittering prize that was the culmination of her father’s life’s work.

Or does Lord Ruthcot have his own solution to Jemima’s problems? One that was staring her in the face all this time?

The Glittering Prize is Book 2 in the Hearts in Hiding series but can be read as a standalone. It follows The Duchess and the Highwayman.


a Rafflecopter giveaway

Finding the Right Cover

I confess, I often judge a book by its cover. Although I write (mostly) historical romance or historical romantic suspense or intrigue, I read across the genres. Obviously, a book’s cover indicates genre as well as key elements that will appeal to readers.

My newly designed ‘Fairy Cyprians of London’ series

So, when I got back my rights from Pan Macmillan to Saving Grace, I had to find a new cover. I then wrote the next two books in the series and, right now, am promoting Forsaking Hope for free for a couple of days, while Keeping Faith is up for pre-order.

But here are the three past covers for Forsaking Hope.

Three past covers

They’re very different, aren’t they? Yet, each shows the vulnerability of a lone young woman in a harsh society where a woman without a protector is destined to die in the gutter.

Yes, they’re romances, but it’s the reality of their situation that gives each heroine her motivation to act in ways that perhaps we’d not see as moral in today’s society where we have a welfare safety net. (Well, we do in Australia, anyway.)

An earlier, rejected version of Forsaking Hope

 

When I asked my fantastic cover designer, Dar Albert of Wicked Smart Designs for a cover for Forsaking Hope, she initially came up with this. However, while I love it, I was really looking for authenticity, so I sent her these pictures from an 1878 book of English fashion plates.

And that’s when she came up with this:

Hope’s life of betrayal has involved the cruel destruction of any potential happiness with the handsome squire’s son.

When they finally meet again, she’s faced with the most difficult choice of her life as she is blackmailed by someone she’d once trusted. Now, following through with what’s in her heart may mean her lover’s destruction.

You can read it in KU or for free for the next day or so – here.

Meanwhile, Keeping Faith, is up for pre-order. It’s currently $2.99 but will increase a month after release because it is a very long romance filled with passion, danger and adventure plus a liberal dose of blackmail and intrigue.

You can get it on all platforms here.

What’s New for October?

My new website, for starters!

In fact, this is the first time I’ve gone into the ‘back end’ to add content – after my fabulous designer, Dave, turned my website into something I’m really proud to show other people.

He’s been working on transferring from the old site to this site the content for my 22 books for a couple of months but as I’d been accepted for a BookBub Featured Deal (yes, said in hallowed tones because it’s so hard to get and so effective for creating visibility) I asked Dave if we could go live in time for September 30.

Here’s the beautiful new cover. Unfortunately, Amazon rejected my ad because the cover shows too much skin (and perhaps because the heroine looks like she’s having too much fun).

We did, and so I was all geared up to maximise my marketing efforts for my Daughters of Sin series, which I’ve decided will always be available at all retailers (rather than have it exclusive to Amazon in KU).

This all happened the weekend following the launch of my dad’s first 4 volumes of memoirs – namely, Growing up in Botswana in the 1930s and 40s, his career in Lesotho in the 1960s, his dad’s pictorial diaries of working in the Colonial Service in Botswana from 1916-1922 and his Uncle Geoff’s experiences in armed combat in four wars.

I’d been collaborating with dad, our InDesign formatter/editor, Pip, a cover designer in Germany, and the publisher, Ingram Spark, outstourcing the various aspects of everything in order to make the book available as a Print on Demand and accessible throughout the world, since Ingram Spark has printing operations worldwide. (Actually, Her Gilded Prison was one of the first books to which I regained the rights from a publisher so I’ve been following the developments of self-publishing for the past 8 years and now teach classes which are popular with a huge range of people, from grandparents who want to print a handful of copies of their children’s stories for their grandchildren for Christmas, to authors who’ve regained the rights to their books. There’s more info in the Events and Classes Tab.)

Dad and me at Wuthering Heights during his book launch.
Some of dad’s books. I chose a trim size of 8.5in x 11.5 in as our first experiment and I think it showcases the photographs really well. Especially since there are so many of them.

Meanwhile, the actual BookBub feature took place the weekend I took my 13-year-old daughter to Cairns in Queensland to compete in the Irish Dancing Nationals at the Convention Centre. She’d won a big comp earlier in the year before getting glandular fever so had pulled out of Solo and was just competing in the Teams – so in the 4-hand and the 8-hand. And they were so beautiful to watch!

Some of the gorgeous Irish Dancing solo dresses on sale.

Anyway, back to the Bookbub and the books side of things. (I really am breaking all the rules by writing this as a letter rather than leaving it and editing it, later. But, the truth is, I’m a bit scared as to whether this is going to look any good on my beautiful new site…or even end up where it’s supposed to go. So, I’m just writing it on the hoof so to speak.)

As I was saying, about the Bookbub, I never thought I’d get accepted and had applied with Her Gilded Prison, Book 1 of my 5-book Daughters of Sin series. Then, when I was notified that I had indeed been successful, I decided to go for a new cover. Dar Albert of Wicked Smart Designs designed all the covers in that series and she did a beautiful job. I then decided the book needed an epilogue because, when I’d written it, I’d intended to show the happy-ever-after in subsequent books but I realised that a could establish a far better HEA rather than a Happy For Now by adding another chapter.

Our girls doing their practise. I’ll include the one with them in their gorgeous Teams Dresses next time.

I also modified some content because it had originally been published by an erotic publisher (though it was rather tame for them) and I didn’t want the bedroom scenes to take away from the unusual plot. So, while the story did have some steamy scenes, certainly, it was mostly about the emotional connection between a lonely, discarded older woman and the younger man who has come to the estate to take up his role as the new heir and to court Sybil’s daughter (a wild child fashioned upon Becky Sharp from Vanity Fair).

I’m really glad I did that. Readers have said in their reviews that they liked the fact Sybil and Stephen are such a strong pairing, despite the fact she’s older, and I’ve particularly liked the reviews that refer to the unique or unusual storyline and the fact they couldn’t believe there could be a happy ever after.

Something else I did was to ask for reviews straight after ‘The End’ as I knew that if I did get some reviews, it would keep the book higher in the rankings for longer. Amazon rewards things like that and authors have to try hard not to beg, however a polite request attached to a link at the back can make a difference – and it has – as has a link to the following book in the series, Dangerous Gentlemen.

It’s been 11 days since my BookBub and the 23,000 free downloads of Her Gilded Prison have had the following results:

#1 on Amazon Regency Romance and Victorian Romance for 5 days
#4 on Amazon overall for a couple of days
#1 on the Apple bookstore in Free Historical Romance for 4 or 5 days
Fantastic onsell of my other books in the series
Made me very happy and inspired me to keep writing!

The only less than gilded aspect of the success of Her Gilded Prison came as a result of my bragging about the book’s success to my 87-year-old father.

He’s asked me to send him a print copy. I had to think about it for a while before I offered him my agonised confession, saying, “Dad, the book has…sex scenes in it!”

He thought about this for a while and then said, “Well, send it anyway!”

New Web Site and Monthly Giveaway

Well, well, well – what do I have in store for you this month?

For a start, this wonderful new website! It’s designed by a great guy called Dave West and I bet he never expected he’d be designing a website for a romance writer.

Just as I never expected I’d hire a designer who offered his services because he’d ridden his bicycle along the dirt road past our Bed and Breakfast in South Australia’s wine-producing Clare Valley in South Australia and decided that our then-current website didn’t nearly do it justice!

So, after wutheringheights.com.au was born, I thought Dave would have just the distance needed to create something new and special for www.beverleyoakley.com

The personal approach is often the best!

Other news? Well, in my latest newsletter (which I send out at roughly the end of the first and third week of each month), I had details of specially discounted or free books (mine and other authors) PLUS my Rafflecopter giveaway.

This is now a regular feature and my plan is to give away each month either a specially dedicated paperback or a bag of Caramello Koala chocolates to someone.

So, keep an eye out for details which will come to you via my newsletter, or here, or my facebook page.

I look forward to dedicating one of my 22 paperback romances to you!

Latest Release

Duchess of Seduction

Cressida must learn the skills of a courtesan and the cunning of a spy-master to regain her once-devoted husband’s affections.

Cressida, Lady Lovett, believes her reluctance in the bedchamber—caused by a brush with death during her last childbirt—has driven her husband into another woman’s arms.

Desperate to learn the truth behind Lord Lovett’s increasing absences, she follows him to Mrs. Plumb’s notorious Salon of Sin, expecting the worst.

Instead, Cressida discovers an unlikely ally who equips the innocent young wife with some tricks of the demimondaine’s trade and sparks in Cressida a desire to set to rights an old injustice.

And my lucky winners are ….

Drum roll…My two lucky winners of the signed paperback giveaway and Caramello bears (featured through the Rafflecopter on my blog) are:
Susan Beamon & Jennifer Bernard!

Congratulations, ladies! Both of you happen to live in America so I’ll get your goodies jetted over to you as soon as I can.