Wicked Wager Extract #3

Wicked Wager book back and front


Here is the third extract from Wicked Wager in which my heroine, Celeste, discovers the true identity of the man she kissed unexpectedly at Vauxhall Gardens.

Wicked Wager (A Georgian Romance)

 By Beverley Oakley

Lord Cowdril’s family seat dated back to Elizabethan times, with neat gravelled paths and formal gardens providing a charming venue for gentle exercise.

Lady Cowdril, who was easily exerted, never went beyond the second tier of rose bushes, she declared, due to her palpitating heart. However, the opening lines of her sentence, suggesting a return to the house, was truncated by a start of clear delight and rapid volte face.

‘Perry will give me his arm,’ she declared in robust tones, and they all turned to observe a figure issue from the front portico and down the steps, advancing towards them.

Perry? Celeste raised her eyebrows in a silent question regarding the identity of their new visitor, but as he was nearly upon them she followed the cue of the rest of her party: curtseying as she inclined her head in greeting of the arrival whose tall frame was coming into focus. Though to be sure, no one’s heart could be pounding as fiercely as hers, even Lady Cowdril’s in the midst of one of her palpitations.

She ventured a glance from beneath lowered lashes. He was impressive, even from a distance. Unusually, he wore his dark hair naturally, tied in a queue at the back, with informal country attire: knee breeches and knee boots with a dark wool coat. Yes, even from a distance she saw his eyes were very piercing.

Swallowing with difficulty, she was alarmed to observe, as he approached, that they were focused on her. Could it be that this gentleman, whose features were gaining greater distinction with every step, did indeed know her for her role in his sister’s distress?

She frowned as she noticed his full lips were curved in a smile; a smile that seemed only for her; and her heart did a skittering dance at the clear interest of this inimitable Viscount Peregrine as he rounded the rose bushes and finally came to stand in full view before them.

Dear Lord. Cognisance was like a stone dropping to the pit of her stomach. Those lips had covered hers not two nights before in a secluded arbour at Vauxhall Gardens. Those arms had held her against him in a lust-filled moment of abandonment. Sweet Mercy, but Perry—whoever he really was to Lady Cowdril—was Celeste’s handsome stranger.

She stood aside in rigid panic as the formalities were conducted. It only grew worse. This was Viscount Peregrine? Her heart rate ratcheted up several more notches. What would he say? How would he respond? Would he reveal her for the bold strumpet he no doubt thought her? Would she still be able to hold her head high by the end of the house party?

When, by some strange rearrangement of pairings, she found herself walking by his side, having no choice but to rest her hand on the forearm he offered her, she had completely lost the power of speech.

Lady Cowdril had managed one more turn around the rose bushes before seating herself with Celeste’s Aunt Branwell. However, the viscount, or Perry as everyone called him, had evinced a strong desire to admire the roses, calling upon Celeste’s recently lauded expertise.

The kindling look he sent her as they paused by the blooming bushes brought a surely far more vibrant bloom to her cheeks.

Lowering his head, as if to elicit some opinion on a deep red, velvet rose, he murmured, ‘Ah, the Apothecary’s Rose.’ He raised an eyebrow. ‘Now I have you all to myself.’

She wasn’t sure what to make of his words. Should she start with an abject apology for her behavior? A declaration she was not in the habit of consorting with strange men? Neither seemed appropriate when his eyes were twinkling with suppressed humour. Bending to smell the rose, she managed, ‘I prefer to call it by its less pedestrian name, the Red Rose of Lancaster.’ Self-consciously, she brushed an escaped strand of hair from her cheek. Then, summoning up all her courage, she whispered as she cast him an appealing look, ‘Should I be afraid?’

The look he levelled upon her was one of singular calculation. He chuckled. ‘Woe betide The House of Lancaster, for they did not prevail, did they? Hmm, Miss Rosington, your question depends on your assessment of our unexpected little encounter the other night. Was it pleasing, or were you never more relieved than when I melted into the dark? I must say, it really is the most extraordinary coincidence to find you here, when I’d thought never to lay eyes on you again.’ Plucking the rose, he handed it to her with a bow. ‘Perhaps the Rose of Lancaster will one day be an emblem of victory, but for my purposes right now, please accept it as a token of peace.’ He straightened, that wicked, difficult-to-interpret smile tugging at the corners of his mouth. ‘Nevertheless, to return to the subject of our little encounter … As I’d planned to rectify that little matter and ensure I was in a position to lay more than my eyes upon you again, Miss Rosington, perhaps you could say that fate has played into my hands most unexpectedly. You are even more ravishing in the harsh light of day than you were when last we met.’

Celeste shot him a startled look, mixed emotions roiling within her as she found him smiling down at her with both amusement and calculation.

‘You are too kind, my lord,’ she murmured, dropping her eyes as she took the rose, stepping forward to resume their walk. His words were both shocking but curiously exciting. She glanced at the ladies to ensure she was not likely to become the latest subject of their gossip, but they were well occupied with their own gossiping, and half obscured by the rose bushes.

‘A very pretty blush for a maiden who must be accustomed to having praise lavished upon her. So you are a friend of Lady Cowdril? Or your aunt is?’

‘I’ve known Lady Cowdril since I was a child. I did not know who you were, my lord. I don’t know what you must think of my—’

He stayed her rush to lay bare her shame with a finger upon her lips. His lips quirked and his dark eyes seemed to smoulder with everything that swirled between them. Again she felt the sharp rush of sensation spear her belly; the sensation that was familiar to her only in the presence of this gentleman.

‘Your behaviour came from the heart, Miss Rosington, for if you did not know who I was, then I can only be delighted that you found my attentions so pleasing based purely on your honest reaction to me as an ordinary man. You have no idea how delightful that is to a gentleman such as myself, who is constantly fielding off advances.’

His smile, warmer now, more sincere, made Celeste’s heart hammer even harder. So he didn’t condemn her? Nor, it seemed, had he drawn any association between her and his sister.

Thank the good Lord.



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Wicked Wager Extract #2

Wicked Wager

Here we have a second extract from Wicked Wager, my “Dangerous Liaisons-esque” novel of Georgian splendour and intrigue. Oh, but I just have to make that sacque-backed gown like the one Glenn Close wore to the opera. The manners, the clothes and the secret language of eye-rolls and enigmatic looks behind ivory fans is just my kind of thing.

I saw the movie a couple of weekends ago and Glenn Close and John Malkovich’s facial expressions are just classic. There’s such humour amidst the wicked intrigue!

But back to my story, Wicked Wager. Here is the scene where Lord Peregrine first meets Celeste having just plotted to ruin her life. (His response to her is not what he’d expected.)

Wicked Wager (A Georgian Romance)

 By Beverley Oakley

The last of the applause drifted away and for a few seconds the shrill cries of the orange sellers held sway. Rising from his ironic bow for the benefit of his companion, Lord Peregrine held back the red velvet curtain that had afforded them privacy so that Xenia could pass through and join the throng of theatregoers descending the sweeping staircase.

He saw that she had fallen into conversation with a club-footed general whose more than interested eye swept appraisingly over Xenia’s abundant assets, and once again Perry felt the familiar heating of his loins that only Xenia could inspire with a mere incendiary glance.

The contours of her sack-back gown, adorned with a row of bows the length of her stomacher, recalled the more lascivious of those thoughts he’d entertained for the past decade: what it would be like to undress her, layer by layer by layer. He could only imagine how many layers there might be, but the prize would be worth the exquisite torture of restraint. He’d not revealed quite how much her proposition tonight had taken him by surprise, and the fact he’d agreed fuelled him with an odd combination of conflicting sensations: raging lust tempered by the knowledge that he’d just sunk to depths of moral depravity that might make even his uncle squirm in his grave: seduce an innocent on the eve of her nuptials.

Except that Xenia maintained the young woman’s ingenuousness was a ploy. Still, Miss Rosington retained her standing in society as a paragon of virtue. What right had he to assume otherwise, just because it was convenient?

He was diverted by a squeal to his left. Xenia was moving ahead, caught up by the crowd, her head bent to absorb the admiration of her club-footed general. Peregrine meanwhile found himself unable to continue, due to the fact the young woman in front of him had snagged her skirts on what appeared to be a nail or splinter protruding from one of the supporting beams. No one could move until she’d freed herself, and as Peregrine was directly behind her it was incumbent upon him to act the gentlemen and so enable the rest of the pulsing crowd to forge ahead.

‘Please be careful, sir, it’ll tear and it’s the first time I’ve worn it,’ the young woman warned as he took a handful of stiff silk in one hand. ‘It’s my finest.’ She twisted her head round to address him.

As her lips parted, revealing a set of near perfect small white teeth, and her worried blue eyes bored into his, Peregrine felt a jolt of something unidentifiable plummet like a stone to the pit of his stomach. No, further than that, for without a doubt his groin was reacting with something akin to roiling hunger. And, surprisingly, with an intensity that exceeded the dull throb of ten years of wanting Xenia like a frustrated schoolboy.

Close to, Miss Rosington was exquisite, her pale white and rose-blushed skin far more lustrous than when seen from a distance through opera glasses. Her powdered coiffure, dressed to fashionable heights, accentuated high, rounded cheekbones; and with growing excitement he followed the sweep of her graceful neck to a bosom that was rising and falling with surely greater rapidity than fear of what peril her gown might face. He liked to think that was so, as her candid look met his and the connection between them seemed like the sharp tug of some inner cord, forcing him forward, his hand brushing hers, nestled beneath a froth of silken furbelows, as they both reached for the undamaged silk petticoat, now released.

‘No harm done,’ he murmured as she drew herself up, her companion, the black-eyed viscount to whom she was affianced, returning to claim her, drawing her away with the barest of thanks.

All over in a matter of seconds, and at what cost? For while silk skirts and dignity had escaped with minimal damage, Peregrine was the first to concede, as he watched her graceful back with pounding heart and aching groin, that a great deal of harm had indeed been done.


End of Extract #2



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Wicked Wager Excerpt

Writing a book is a work in progress long after one’s editor has sent back the final draft for approval.

There’s the blurb to write, refine and then tinker endlessly with, endlessly, which is what I’ve been doing.

It helped that I watched the 1988 historical drama with Glenn Close and John Malkovich, Uma Thurman and Michelle Pfeiffer on the weekend. As I result I came up with the following blurb which I’ve followed up with an extract starting at the beginning.

I hope you enjoy it.

Wicked Wager book back and frontWicked Wager

Can innocence survive the machinations of a malevolent society beauty and a charismatic rake?

Two weeks before her nuptials to her cold, harsh cousin, virtuous Celeste Rosington finds herself in the arms of notorious libertine, Lord Peregrine.

The unexpected encounter is, at first, shocking, but as Peregrine’s charm weaves its magic, becomes a welcome distraction from Celeste’s troubles. Isn’t she already the subject of whispers due to her involvement in the mysterious disappearance of a wealthy plantation magnate–a role orchestrated by her demanding husband-to-be in which Celeste had failed spectacularly.

Nevertheless, Celeste has no intention of sacrificing all of her scruples for a man she knows is only toying with her. One kiss from handsome, charismatic Viscount Peregrine will surely be enough to give her the strength to fulfil her marital obligations?

But what if one kiss is not enough?

With her reputation in the balance, Celeste must navigate the treacherous waters of envy, intrigue and deadly secrets, unaware she’s the unwitting pawn in a wicked wager between a ruthless society beauty and delicious, dissolute Lord Peregrine.

Could Peregrine really be a party to such perfidious plans? Will his reckless charm be the final undoing of a young woman once respected for her virtue and piety?

Or will Peregrine discover that true love is more powerful than greed and ambition in time to save Celeste from the terrible fate that otherwise awaits her?


 Early Reviews

“Cloaked in mystery and dark agendas Wicked Wager…is a wonderful expedition into intrigue and romance! Nothing is as it seems in this book and as the story evolved clues and romance built.” ~ Jenerated Reviews.

“The author knows how to weave a web full of mystery and suspense, and I had a great time relating to the heroine. Wicked Wager isn’t the typical historical romance, it’s very complex and intense.” ~ Amazon Reader

“A great novel about a lord who is bored and likes playing games, especially when there are women involved. The game playing is fun and the romantic aspect is great.” ~ Amazon Reader

If you enjoyed the intrigue, wit and high drama of the 1988 period romance Dangerous Liaisons, you’ll love Wicked Wager.

Hurry while it’s still only 99c! You can Buy Wicked Wager on all platforms here


Large Print paperback

And here’s the Extract

Wicked Wager (A Georgian Romace)

by Beverley Oakley

Chapter one

Lord Peregrine liked a wager. The cards, the horses, occasionally a pair of spiders, could whip up his blood and tip him out of the lethargy and ennui which characterised his usual state of being.

This wager, though, was different. He could feel it in the sudden stillness into which he’d been plunged; the colour, vibrancy and chatter that had washed about him from the moment he and Xenia had stepped into their box at the theatre, sucked into the void.

Xenia’s seductive purr as she put her head close to his was as sweet as a feather skimming his heated, naked flesh.

And as dangerous as a black widow’s bite.

‘Come, Perry, it’s not like you to have scruples.’

He blinked to clear his mind and as his gaze raked the breathtaking contours of London’s most beautiful widow—and probably its most immoral—he wasn’t sure if the thrumming of blood to his extremities was due to outrage or titillation.

Slowly he exhaled, acknowledging almost sadly that it was the latter, which would of course confirm society’s opinion of him as a bored and dissolute libertine who’d done nothing but wallow in his father’s wealth, living a life of scandal. A man totally without redemption. Indeed he would deserve every uncomplimentary epithet hurled at him if he accepted darling Xenia’s outrageous wager.

He surprised himself with his hesitation. A sudden flowering of moral fibre? Or fear? Clearly Xenia was surprised by his lack of enthusiasm, for she glanced at him askance, before her lips curved into that devastating smile that never failed to render him no better than her unruly, slavering hounds of whom she was so fond, who rutted with anything that crossed their paths.

And there was the rub. Yes, he was immoral, he was dissolute, but at thirty-three he couldn’t believe he was totally beyond redemption.

Lord Peregrine sighed, abandoning the daydream he was better than he was—for that’s all it was—and met Xenia’s ice blue gaze while he schooled his features to betray no emotion. A lifetime’s practice under the brutal tutelage of his uncle had made this easy. He could appear unmoved when it was true to say that he still was capable of some feeling. Whether that was a good thing or not was a matter he’d not yet decided.

And then he took another sip of his champagne. Around him the theatre once again pulsed with the energy he’d been conscious of before Xenia’s carefully calculated whisper.

Oh, she was good. She knew exactly how to stir his blood.

Xenia gave a soft, throaty laugh. ‘She’s over there, if you want to look.’

He followed the direction indicated by her elegant finger, towards the stalls where two society beauties, with painted faces and elaborate pomaded coiffures two-feet high, were making eyes at the gentlemen over the top of ivory pointed fans.

‘No, not there!’

Peregrine smiled. He enjoyed teasing her. Xenia was quick to irritation. Quick to anger, and quick to passion, too.

The high-pitched inducements of the girls selling oranges in the pits almost drowned out the wavering top notes, which concluded the opera singer’s aria; and as Peregrine searched for the object under discussion, his thoughts revolved around the usual litany of: ‘Diversion, diversion; anything for diversion’.

No, certainly these were not the thoughts of a gentleman; more like a wolf wearing the trappings of one.

‘She’s a beauty, isn’t she?’

He was aware that Xenia was watching him carefully, but again Peregrine schooled his features into a mask of indifference, even before he’d assimilated the scene before him.

And then the blurred images coalesced into one and as he regarded the handsome couple seated across the gallery, something in the graceful movements of the young woman stirred his senses, triggering an emotion not dissimilar to the energy that surged through him as he followed the hunt, charging with the rest of them after the wily fox.

By God, it was good to feel something that wasn’t boredom.

Xenia, or rather Lady Busselton, as she’d become, lowered her opera glasses, her arched eyebrows and pursed lips showing how much she was enjoying Peregrine’s reaction to her suggestion.

Her wicked wager.

He hooked one elegantly shod foot over his black satin pantaloons, regarding her over steepled fingers as he considered his response. The heat and smell from hundreds of bodies pressed close to enjoy tonight’s production was making his head pound.

Or was it excitement? Revenge wasn’t usually a game he played. Well, not with a woman as the spoils.

‘You, of all people, Perry, know that the incomparable Miss Celeste Rosington is as far removed as is possible from the celestial virgin she is painted.’

Xenia raised her shoulder slightly in the direction of the couple across from them who, heads bent together, hands almost touching, represented the epitome of lovebirds on the eve of their nuptials.

‘Your poor sister knows it, to her eternal cost.’ She gave a husky laugh; the same laugh that for ten years had never failed to make Peregrine harden with instant desire. ‘Come, my dearest Perry, it’s not like you to allow your scruples to get in the way. After all, she has none.’

She was prodding, and would continue, until she got her reaction. Xenia, the tearaway cosseted only daughter of a ruthless and successful sea captain who had gone to extraordinary lengths to ensure she got her heart’s desire—including two husbands with fortune and title—had changed little since Perry had become acquainted with her in her first season out. Back then she’d put financial and social considerations above their mutual attraction, accepting an earl that trumped a lowly viscount. He suspected—hoped—she’d rued the day.

‘Scruples? I hope I have some at least, Xenia. And no, it’s not scruples that give me pause. It’s whether I have the stomach to further an acquaintance with a jezebel like Miss Rosington, even if I have every reason to see her revealed for what she is.’ There. He’d just proved himself a gentleman before any unflattering epithet could be added. ‘For a start, what do you suppose my sister would say if she heard I was sniffing after the woman who … well, destroyed her life, to use Charlotte’s own words?’

Xenia pursed her mouth and raised one thin, charcoaled eyebrow. Though no longer in her first flush of youth, she continued to exude the most potent sexual allure of any woman Peregrine had met. With or without powder and rouge she was still a beauty, with the delicate bone structure of her long-dead mother, an impoverished aristocrat who’d married the coarse, bluff ship’s captain after he’d amassed a fortune with his growing fleet plying a lucrative trade with the Far East in spices, slaves and silks.

Not that her heritage was something Xenia discussed. Though she eschewed her links with trade, she was quick to utilise the benefits of a seemingly endless supply of funds, even when husbands were not so forthcoming; and to prod the captain’s more ruthless streak when it might be of any benefit.

She continued to fix Peregrine with her calculating blue stare. ‘Your sister is no fool. Why, Charlotte would understand perfectly well that the only reason you could possibly show an interest in Miss Rosington was because you were avenging her; doing what any loyal brother would for his unjustly treated dear sister.’

For some reason Xenia’s little wager seemed to have fired her blood. She patted Perry’s shoulder, her expression a mask of false sympathy. ‘Poor Charlotte has been made to look a fool. Surely you, Perry, wish to know why Miss Rosington was discovered, half undressed, by your sister in Mr Carstair’s saloon before the two of them rushed guiltily into the night? Surely, you, Perry, know that the only way you’re going to help Charlotte is to get close to that designing Miss Rosington—’ she jabbed a finger at the unaware couple, ‘who’s looking moon-eyes at her betrothed—and find out for yourself. Why did she do it? Boredom? A wager? The fact is, your sister is heartbroken, her reputation tarnished … while Miss Celeste remains society’s darling, soon to wed her cousin in the match of the season.’

She breathed deeply, a provocative motion since it brought into greater evidence her full, lush breasts, revealed to ample advantage in her low-cut confection of gold embroidered silk and lace.

Her eyes slid over Perry’s elegantly turned-out form and settled on his face, her lips pursed in a suggestive moué. ‘If you wish to sample what you’ve always wanted, Perry darling,’ the unexpected insinuation of her body as reward made him harden even more, ‘and discover for yourself what has enthralled my long list of lovers, then call it amusement, but also atonement, that I attach this condition.’ She sat back, fanning herself languidly while her bosom strained against her bodice.

Another glance at her face revealed her suppressed excitement: eyes bright, her neat, curvaceous body quivering. ‘Reveal to the world the truth of what Miss Celeste really is. Let the public understand it so that they might revile her for the woman who stole your sister’s happiness. And at the same time, you can find out where Harry Carstairs is. After that, I will make you very happy.’ The candlelight reflected off her pretty, pearl-like teeth, her look a mixture of lustful intent and daring. As she leaned back, eyes brimming with promise over the tips of her fan, her final words sealed the deal. ‘After so many years’ friendship, Perry darling, I think it’s time to raise the stakes—don’t you?’

End of Extract

And don’t forget, it’s only on sale for a short time on all platforms here.

Wicked Wager – special preorder price of 99c

Wicked Wager
Wicked Wager

Who doesn’t love a Wicked Wager?

My formative years were in the 1980s. Having been a dramatic teenager who thrived on gothic tragedy and who devoured the 19th century classics, I fell in love with the 1988 period romantic drama film, Dangerous Liaisons starring Glenn Close, John Malkovich, Michelle Pfeiffer, Keanu Reeves and Uma Thurmann.

The convoluted plotting between the ruthless society beauty, the Marquise de Merteuil (played by Glenn Close) and the dissolute – but ultimately redeemed –  Vicomte de Valmont (played by John Malkovich) to seduce the virtuous Madame de Tourvel (played by Michelle Pfeiffer) was wonderful fodder for my own literary endeavours.

In fact, every book I’ve written owes a nod to the intrigue and plot twists of this fabulous story by Pierre Choderlos de Laclos.

Now my own variation on the above – Wicked Wager – is up for preorder. It features the ruthless society beauty, Xenia, Lady Busselton, offering an unusual reward to the bored and dissolute Lord Peregrine if he succeeds in seducing the virtuous innocent Celeste Rosington on the eve of her nuptials.

Unlike Dangerous Liaisons, however, the motivations surrounding this wicked wager are very different, as are the plot twists. And, as it’s a romance, there’s a satisfying happy ending – unlike in Dangerous Liaisons.

I’m really excited about this book and for the next month it’s available for the special pre-order price of only 99c.

The beautiful new cover was designed by the talented Charmaine Ross and the book went up as a preorder last night. If I’m lucky, all my launch strategies will align like the perfect storm and Wicked Wager will go live on April 7 with 20 reviews to help propel it into visibility.

I hope it strikes a chord with those who enjoy period dramas heavy with intrigue and unexpected plot twists and that the ending achieves the “Aah, that was sooo satisfying”, emotional response so crucial to a good romance.

You can get Wicked Wager on all platforms as an ebook here.

Also, it’ll be available as print and Large Print within the next few days.

If it’s not showing on all platforms as of today’s date, you can get it on Amazon here.

Amazon US | Amazon UK | Amazon AU

Happy reading!

*Note: Wicked Wager was originally released by Harlequin Escape under my Beverley Eikli name but has since been revised.

Daughters of Sin Box Set Special

With just another couple of days left during which the first three books in my Daughters of Sin series is discounted to only 99c, I thought I’d post my favourite review of 2018 here. It’s on Goodreads and I felt it epitomised the series as a whole.

You see, while Daughters of Sin is categorised as a Regency romance, it really crosses a lot of genres. There’s espionage, suspense, sizzling passion, characters behaving badly (including the heroine, sometimes) and, as many reviewers point out, a page-turning race to an unexpected ending.

So, here it is – the review that made my day!

And, as I mentioned, the first three books in the single box set have been hugely discounted to 99c so grab it while it’s still a bargain! You can get it here!

Daughters of Sin, by Beverley Oakley

This is a five volume series which consists of Her Gilded Prison, Dangerous Gentlemen, The Mysterious Governess, Beyond Rubies, and Lady Unveiled: The Cuckold Conspiracy.

It is, without doubt, the most crooked, twisted, and complex Regency Series I have ever read. By the end of the story virtually no one has escaped from not merely downright scandal, but near-criminal actions.

In essence, it’s the story of two pairs of sisters by the same father–one set nobly born, the other illegitimate. Araminta and Hetty are the titled sisters. Lissa and Kitty are the illegitimate ones. Both pairs of sisters share the same father–Humphrey, Lord Partington. The two legitimate girls are recognized by him, the two illegitimate girls, not. And that’s where all the trouble starts.

The story begins with Humphrey seeking a legitimate heir, whom he finds in Stephen Cranborne, a distant cousin. Stephen is sort of expected to court the eldest daughter Araminta, but instead falls for her mother, Lady Sybil Partington, who has spent twenty years in a loveless marriage. Already you can see where this is going.

Araminta, however is a piece of work. She is shrewd, cunning, highly ambitious and planning to take over the estate if she can manage it–and she definitely thinks she can. Araminta is so clever she can always manage to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory, and forever manages to turn every good thing into something twisted and wrong, until the very end of the series where she comes up smelling like roses. You have to read it to believe it!

Her sister Hetty plays second fiddle throughout, and has to fight for every little bit of recognition. She does manage to snare Araminta’s beloved, however–but it only adds to the complexities.

But it’s the two illegitimate girls who drive the action. Both escape the village in which they were scorned as bastards, even as their mother is having another illegitimate child by Sir Humphrey. Kitty becomes Kitty La Bijou, the actress (horrors) and the toast of London. Lissa becomes a governess with a talent for sketching that leads to blackmail, and that’s where the villain enters the story. Lord Debenham is a cruel scoundrel who is not above blackmailing and even killing his rivals, and when he and Araminta become entangled you know the worst is going to happen.

Between blackmail plots, treasonous cabals, and illegitimate children born to one and all, the story becomes a seething mess of contradictory actions that never ceases for a minute. By the end of this tale of Regency madness perhaps the only person who emerges with an unsullied reputation is Ralph Tunley, Lord Debenham’s secretary, (a secret agent dedicated to finding evidence of Debenham’s wrong doing) who somehow manages to keep his head above the boiling water.

I must say I rushed from book to book in the series, fascinated over what was going to happen next. I was never disappointed. Beverley Oakley knows how to keep her readers reading, and the fact that I bought the series as a bundle at least kept me happy while I ran through it.

Each of these books deserves a review of its own, but I hope this outline will serve for all. If you buy the boxed set, which is quite reasonably priced, you will be set for hours of chair-edge reading. A great buy and a great read!”

So inspired have I been by this summary by a reader who liked my series that I’ve raced ahead into writing Book 6 which starts a couple of months after Book 5 ends. 

Buy now for only 99c.


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!”