Today is release day for Loving Lily!
Do you love stories of kidnapped heroines? Are you intrigued by the late Victorian craze for seances and Spiritualists? Does a hero tortured by his repressive upbringing who falls in love with a “most unsuitable woman” sound like the kind of hero you’d like to read about?
If you’ve read the previous stories in my Fair Cyprians of London series, you’ll know each young woman featured is connected with Madame Chambon’s House of Assignation (or, Ill Repute, as some call it).
Loving Lily is Book 6 in the series, and my heroine, Lily, has just been kidnapped from an insane asylum in Brussels, where her husband confined her two years before.
Escaping her kidnapper, Lily flees through London streets and finds refuge at Madame Chambon’s where she is nourished and restored.
But she does not work at Madame Chambon’s. Her kidnapper has found her again…and he has a different agenda.
This is a fairly long romance with a complex plot and, I hope, satisfying twists and turns along the way. Like my other stories, I try to keep the reader guessing until the second-to-last chapter.
The last chapter, of course, is so the reader can enjoy seeing the lovers in their new world, while loose threads are explained and tied up.
So, as I sit up in bed at 10.30am on a Monday in Melbourne writing this – because where else do you write on a cold Autumn morning when no one is allowed to leave the house – I’ve chosen a rather random snippet to showcase. It’ll give you a sense of the early relationship between Lily and Hamish as they meet at the unlikely location of Madame Chambon’s.
I hope you enjoy it!
She followed him to the door where he arranged his hat and cane, ready for departure. Already his demeanour was distant. “With no disrespect, I would prefer to speak to Celeste.”
Lily felt her desperation rise, but she could do nothing but hide her feelings as she waited while he reached into his pocket, perhaps to withdraw a handkerchief though his card case fell to the floor and spilled open in the process.
Lily was quick to reach down first. He’d not wanted to introduce himself beyond his name, but an understanding of how he might help her would be to her benefit if his card named his business.
“McTavish and Sons publishers?” Lily jerked her head up from reading his calling card. “You are the publisher of Manners & Morals?”
“The editor, madam.”
She pressed her lips together. “Your magazine is widely read, sir.”
“Indispensable literature for the servants’ halls, the parlours of the middle classes, and the salons of the aristocracy, I have been reliably informed.” His tone was dry.
“Are you Mr McTavish? Or the son?”
“My father began it as a newspaper that printed religious texts. Fifteen years ago, he expanded it into the magazine it is today.”
“To feed the appetite for self-improvement and chaste entertainment for all levels of society. A weighty moral burden.” She smiled at his clear surprise at her pronouncement, her thoughts running over why he should be interested in Celeste and Lord Carruthers. “You have a nose for scandal, then,” she said. “And a mandate for stamping it out, given the position you hold?”
He sent her a level look. “Vice and immorality are the hallmarks of weakness, and it is up to every individual to harness such dangerous impulses. I publish a mix of improving instruction, and entertainment.” He checked himself. “I am not a prude, madam. But what I provide is wholesome and morally uplifting.”
“And Celeste’s activities could be dangerous to public morality?” she asked.
“That, and more,” he said. He drew in a breath and appeared to consider his words. “I need not reiterate that my seeking information is in the public interest. If it should be revealed that I’ve even come to this house, I promise you that I can cause a great deal more trouble than such a revelation is worth.”
Lily raised an eyebrow. “I hope that was not a threat, Mr McTavish. Besides, what you have said suggests that you’d not mind, one way or another, what would put Madame Chambon and her girls out of business. But pray tell, what do you propose the women who work here should do in order to strive for self-improvement? Other than read your magazine, of course. What other possibilities are there that might entice them to leave their lives of vice and sin?”
“They should find respectable employment, of course.” His tone was full of scorn. “But of course, respectable employment does not pay as well as this.”
“It does not pay sufficiently to keep a roof over a woman’s head or food on the table,” Lily said. “I have learned this only now, for, like you, I grew up in comfortable ignorance of the fact that a milliner working from dawn til dusk earns a pittance insufficient to pay for the barest necessities of life. As for respectable employment, without a glowing reference from some upstanding citizen, these girls can’t even choose to step back into the kind of life you propose—moral rectitude.” She raked her gaze over the fine cut of his coat and his well-made shoes. “It is all very well to proselytise when you have a comfortable buffer against starvation. But I suggest this is not a place where you will find friends spouting your moralising beliefs.”
“There is no excuse for sin other than a deficiency of one’s own moral character,” he said grimly.
“And you have never sinned?”
His nostrils flared. “I was born a sinner, like everyone. But I have never exhibited a weakness of the flesh that brings men here.”
“Men like Lord Carruthers, an upstanding man with a wife and family.” She hesitated. “And women like Celeste who do his bidding.” The knowledge she was trying to dredge up, when for two years she’d been absent from any discussion of world matters, was slowly coming back. “Lord Carruthers holds an important position, and you are looking to shame him in your newspapers and magazines? Reveal, perhaps, the fact that Lord Carruthers has a mistress?” She shook her head, discounting this. “No, printing such sensationalist material would not be well received by your readers. The secrets of what a man does in the privacy of his bedroom are sacrosanct. You can’t print that. But…” She looked up. “The fact that a man holding such an important position has a mistress who is simultaneously sleeping with…with the enemy, could.”
Buy Loving Lily here – and enjoy a pre-order reduction. And while the series is still in Kindle Unlimited (until August 1).BUY HERE