Cover reveal for Dangerous Weakness, by Caroline Warfield

CarolineToday, I welcome Caroline Warfield to the blog. Caroline is a fellow Bluestocking Belle, and author of Dangerous Works and Dangerous Secrets, both of which I love. And today, she is sharing with us the cover of her next book in the series. Caroline, the stage is yours.

I am delighted to reveal the cover of Dangerous Weakness from Soul Mate Publishing, which will be available for preorder in September. I hoped also to tell you more about the hero, Richard Hayden, the Marquess of Glenaire and heir to the Duke of Sudbury, but characters can be elusive. They often have depths they show only reluctantly, even to their authors. Richard is particularly private about his life. I had to enlist the help of the interview fairies.

We managed to corner him in a reflective mood one afternoon in Saint James Park. When we took a place next to him on the bench and assured him nothing he said would be published until the distant future, he opened up, at least a bit.

  1. What are you most proud of about your life?

Glenaire2“Pride?” he sputters. “I come from a family that has raised it to an art form. My father wraps himself in it like a coronation robe and my mother? My mother floats into any room she enters on a river of pride. No one in the kingdom, she believes, has more consequence than a Hayden, except perhaps the royal dukes, and she isn’t sure about them. Is that what you wanted to know?”

His tone is bitter, as if that kind of pride blights his life. When we suggest that is not precisely what we asked, he looks weary and appears to give the question more thought.

“A job well done gives me satisfaction,” he muses. “You might call that pride. I always put England first. I oversaw intelligence gathering during the Peninsular Campaign. I’ve managed the czar and his entourage, kept the Ottomans from provoking revolution, and helped negotiate the Treaty of Paris. I know my duty and I do it, even at personal cost.” A faraway look comes over him. “Even at cost,” he repeats.

He brightens somewhat. “I always do my best for my friends. I’m proud of that. I gathered information that brought Will, the Earl of Chadbourn, and the lady now his wife together. I managed to smooth my sister’s path to marriage with Andrew, though I may have erred earlier in their relationship. I am supporting Jamie, Baron Ross, who has inherited a tainted title and bankrupt estate, although Jamie has made himself scarce lately. The foolish man needs someone to keep him out of trouble. Is that what you had in mind?”
We nod and move on.

  1. What are you most ashamed of in your life?

“Sometimes duty to friends suffers when duty to country demands it. I sent my best friend, Andrew, the brother of my heart, on a dreadful mission knowing he might fall into French hands. He found the vital intelligence but was captured and tortured. By the time we got him out he bore horrific scars, some visible on his person, some deeper.”

We suggest that incident sounded like the cost of duty. Is there nothing else? He looks ashamed for a moment.

“I’ve always treated women with care—with discretion at least. I have never been tempted beyond control until lately. I ruined an innocent. I’m ashamed of that. When I attempted to make it right, the woman threw my proposal in my face. It leaves a scar on my honor.”

Assured this interview will not see the light of day until long into the future he added, “It leaves a scar on my heart as well. I don’t understand it.”

In response to a raised eyebrow he went on reluctantly, “I may have been a touch managing about the matter. I offered to make her a marchioness. Does she need romance too?”

  1. What impression do you make on people when they first meet you?

“They call me “the Marble Marquess,” in drawing rooms and gentlemen’s clubs. I must strike people as a cold fish. I can’t think why.”

  1. Do you think you have turned out the way your parents expected?

“I’ve given my parents no reason to criticize. I do my duty by the estate, meeting monthly with His Grace and his man of business to stay abreast of affairs. I create no scandal. I never challenge either of them overtly. When I disagree, I do it discretely and they pretend not to know.”

We suggest that is an odd answer and ask for an example.

My sister, Georgiana, defied them openly and created what they consider a scandal when she published Poetry by the Female Authors of Ancient Greece, and allowed her authorship to be made public. She compounded that by marrying beneath her in their opinion. She ceased to exist as far as Her Grace is concerned. They don’t acknowledge her.”

“I offered to support her, but she refused my help. She married my friend Andrew Mallet and the two of them do very well. I see them often. My parents pretend not to know.”

  1. What is the worst thing that has happened in your life? What did you learn from it?

“I might have said there was no such thing a year ago. Perhaps I would have believed it. Every privilege and deference has been given to me since birth. My family name smoothed the way for me in school, society, and even government. (Although I pride myself in having risen on my own merits.) In an odd way the lack of catastrophe is itself the worst thing. Rank can be a gilded cage. While my friends fought for king and country, I had to play my part behind a desk.”

“Worse, they all married for love, something I was raised to call maudlin. Seeing them now I’m not so certain. Women see me as a title to be coveted, wealth to be acquired, an ornament to be displayed. I can’t help what I am, but I can wish to be desired for myself rather than my prospects. Only one woman I ever met saw beyond those things, and she won’t have me. Lily Thorton’s rejection may be the worst thing. I’m still trying to learn what to do about it. Why can’t women be as easily managed as the affairs of state?”

  1. How do you feel about your life right now? What, if anything, would you like to change?

In recent months I almost allowed myself to be drawn into my parents’ machinations regarding marriage. My mother wants a protégée and my father wants more land, more money, and more prestige—as if he didn’t already have more than he needs. They pressured me about it over dinner last night, each in their own way.”

“It came to me then: I don’t want a future duchess. I want a wife. I want family. I want what my friends have found. I have to try with Lily one more time. If she won’t have me, I have to find another woman who will see me for what I am. I refuse to live my parents’ life.”


 

Alas poor Richard was unaware at the time of this interview that his efforts to protect her had failed and Lily had already disappeared.  If he wants to try again, he will have to pursue her.

To find out what happens, you will have to wait for Dangerous Weakness.

For Georgiana and Andrew’s story, read Dangerous Works.

For Baron Ross’s story, read Dangerous Secrets.

The Earl of Chadbourn’s story will be in “A Dangerous Nativity,” in Mistletoe, Marriage, and Mayhem available for preorder in October.

And here it is, folks: the cover!

Dangerous Weakness

If women were as easily managed as the affairs of state—or the recalcitrant Ottoman Empire—Richard Hayden, Marquess of Glenaire, would be a happier man. As it was the creatures—one woman in particular—made hash of his well-laid plans and bedeviled him on all sides.

Lily Thornton came home from Saint Petersburg in pursuit of marriage. She wants a husband and a partner, not an overbearing, managing man. She may be “the least likely candidate to be Marchioness of Glenaire,” but her problems are her own to fix, even if those problems include both a Russian villain and an interfering Ottoman official.

Given enough facts, Richard can fix anything. But protecting that impossible woman is proving almost as hard as protecting his heart, especially when Lily’s problems bring her dangerously close to an Ottoman revolution. As Lily’s personal problems entangle with Richard’s professional ones, and she pits her will against his, he chases her across the pirate-infested Mediterranean. Will she discover surrender isn’t defeat? It might even have its own sweet reward.

Meet Caroline Warfield

Caroline Warfield has at various times been an army brat, a librarian, a poet, a raiser of children, a nun, a bird watcher, an Internet and Web services manager, a conference speaker, an indexer, a tech writer, a genealogist, and, of course, a romantic. She has sailed through the English channel while it was still mined from WWII, stood on the walls of Troy, searched Scotland for the location of an entirely fictional castle (and found it), climbed the steps to the Parthenon, floated down the Thames from the Tower to Greenwich, shopped in the Ginza, lost herself in the Louvre, gone on a night safari at the Singapore zoo, walked in the Black Forest, and explored the underground cistern of Istanbul. By far the biggest adventure has been life-long marriage to a prince among men.

She sits in front of a keyboard at a desk surrounded by windows, looks out at the trees and imagines. Her greatest joy is when one of those imaginings comes to life on the page and in the imagination of her readers.

Caroline’s social media—use as it suits your purpose

Visit Caroline’s Website and Blog                http://www.carolinewarfield.com/

Meet Caroline on Facebook                          https://www.facebook.com/carolinewarfield7

Follow Caroline on Twitter                            @CaroWarfield

Email Caroline directly                                    warfieldcaro@gmail.com

Subscribe to Caroline’s newsletter               http://www.carolinewarfield.com/newsletter/

Dangerous Weakness Pinterest Board   http://bit.ly/1M1Fgls

Play in the  Bluestocking Bookshop        http://on.fb.me/1I7MRe4

 

She can also be found on

LibraryThing                    http://www.librarything.com/profile/CaroWarfield

Amazon Author               http://www.amazon.com/Caroline-Warfield/e/B00N9PZZZS/

Good Reads                      http://bit.ly/1C5blTm

Bluestocking Belles      http://bluestockingbelles.com/

 

Caroline’s Other Books (on Amazon)

Dangerous Works    http://amzn.to/1DJj0Hi

Dangerous Secrets   http://tinyurl.com/ph56vnb

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Kali counsels Becky – part 2 of 2

Continued from Kali counsels Becky – part 1 of 2

It had been some years since Kali Matai, The Black Goddess, met Mrs. Rose Darling, known as The Rose of Frampton, and it was a meeting neither wished to remember, both having been at the mercy of protectors with no morals and less conscience. During that earlier meeting, Kali had taken it upon herself to protect the sweet, young girl from the worst of the abuses at the gentlemen’s party. Kali, after all, knew better than any woman in London how to feel nothing.

When they came upon each other at Mrs. Marlowe’s Book Emporium, however, not only their prior encounter bound them, but also a mutual understanding of the way the world treats women of easy virtue—as though they have no virtues at all. Now, in an effort to help the girl again, Kali has invited her to tea to discuss a topic of great import. Or so Mrs Darling’s note had said.

 (To read the first half of their conversation, go to part 1 of 2.)

***

Kali

Lady with Swarbat by Raja Ravi Varma

“Lord Aldridge returns to me several times each week. And…” Becky colors, “he seems to need very little sleep.” Choking on the words, she finally spits out, “Truth be told, Miss Shaheen, I fear the pox.”

Kali sits back. At least the girl was not such a fool as she appeared at first glance. Falling in love with the man was forgivable—somewhat. It had even happened to Kali once. But allowing herself to be polluted by his excesses? That was a much more serious kind of folly.

“Forgive me if I offend,” Becky stammers, “but I have heard that ladies of the Orient know remedies, preventatives…”

“You are right to be concerned,” Kali says in measured tones. “On this subject, however, I have no more knowledge than any other woman well-versed in our trade. Tell me, does he wash the part of himself that is of concern? Wash it well, I mean, with strong soap?”

Becky nodded, hiding her eyes behind her lashes and allowing the hair falling across her forehead to drop like a curtain to hide her face. “Yes. He is very thorough. He… Never mind… He… Yes.”

“Good. You can, of course, ensure such cleanliness by offering to attend him in his baths. He will never decline, and it will provide you some measure of control.”

“That… I already… He rather likes me to…” Becky was scarlet to her ears

Becky

Young lady in white hat by Jean Baptiste Greuze

Kali smiled and patted her hand. “Of course he does. As I have said, men are simple creatures. Does he use sheaths when you have relations? As a matter of course? With all of the women with whom he—?” She stops short, not wanting to hurt the poor, wounded bird any more than her protector already had.

Becky gathers her dignity. “He gives me to believe that he always wears a cundum. He is not unaware of the dangers, and he wishes no mo—er, no children out of wedlock.”

“If he is consistent with you, his regular mistress, you can guess that he does with the others.” She frowns. “But do not forget that a man will say anything to lie with a woman he desires.” Sighing, she follows with, “Of course, you cannot insist. As you say, he owns the lease on your body. There are risks… to this way of life. This is one… your beautiful daughter is another.”

Kali had met Sarah briefly on one occasion, which reminded her of her own loss. Nevertheless, the girl was sweet and charming and a bright spot in her mother’s otherwise sad life.

Becky shuddered. “Sarah is only eight, Miss Shaheen. I worry about her living in the house where I… where I sell myself. And I am determined to escape this life with enough money to give her more options.”

“Many would send her away,” Kali suggests, in a tentative manner. “To school, perhaps? To a friend or family in the country?”

“I have no family—I have no friends. I fear to send her to strangers. Of course, I am also afraid to keep her with me. You will think me silly to be so uncertain, but she is the one treasure of my life, and I would do anything for her. But the best thing? I do not know.”

“I do not think you foolish, and you have a friend in me. As such, I must tell you: you have fewer choices than one might hope. You must make your own luck and control your own future, my dear. You must subtly suggest Lord Aldridge give you jewels and gold and silver ornaments, for emeralds and rubies may be sold to keep you, no matter his inclination. Should he be generous enough, you may give Sarah and yourself any life you choose.” Eyes narrowed, lips thinned, she continues, “You do not protect yourself, Miss Winstanley. This is a mistake of the most immense proportions. Much more concern than the pox.

“You allow yourself to be defined by the gentleman in your life, most of whom do not have your interests in mind. Lord Aldridge is better than some, but he is inconstant, and will leave you in the street when he tires of you. You are a strong woman—” She holds up one finger. “No, do not think to argue that point when you have survived so much. You have a mind and heart worth cultivating, and your protectors will not do so. So then, you must do it yourself. That, my dear, is the legacy for your daughter. That is what you will give her and why you will keep her safe with you.”

Becky opened her mouth, thought again about what she wanted to say, and then closed it again. After a moment, she looked up from the glass she had been examining intently.

“You are right. You are right, Miss Shaheen. He has purchased the use of my body, but his needs do not define me. Indeed,” Kali could see her intent thoughts crossing her face, “it is not my body that keeps him visiting. He has never before signed a two-year contract. Did you know that? His… a relative of his told me.

“And he comes back to me from his other women. I have something that he needs. If I can work out what that is, Miss Shaheen, then I can… I can negotiate… Jewelry, yes. A separate house and a governess for my daughter, so she be can safe and… uncorrupted. And another two-year term. I have but a year left of this one. Three more years of using his purse as he uses my body will do quite nicely. Yes. Those requisites will serve. They will serve very well.”

“All of those, my friend,” Kali laughs, “are as simple as the man himself. I will call for tea, and we shall begin today.”

###

La Deesse Noire coverMeet Kali and read her story in La Déesse Noire: The Black Goddess, to be released June 10, available for pre-order now.

Sired by a British peer, born of a paramour to Indian royalty, Kali Matai has been destined from birth to enthrall England’s most powerful noblemen—though she hadn’t counted on becoming their pawn. Finding herself under the control of ruthless men, who will not be moved by her legendary allure, she has no choice but to use her beauty toward their malicious and clandestine ends.

When those she holds most dear are placed in peril by backroom political dealings, she enlists some of the most formidable lords in England to thwart her enemies. But even with the help of the prominent gentlemen she has captivated, securing Kali’s freedom, her family, and the man she loves, will require her protectors stop at nothing to fulfill her desires.

Pre-order now for June 10 delivery:
Amazon
Amazon UK
iTunes
Barnes and Noble
Kobo

To connect with Mariana Gabrielle:
www.MarianaGabrielle.com
Facebook
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Pinterest
Blog
Goodreads
Amazon Author page

Meet Becky and Lord Aldridge in A Baron for Becky, to be released August 5, available for pre-order now.

BfB cover finalBecky is the envy of the courtesans of the demi-monde – the indulged mistress of the wealthy and charismatic Marquis of Aldridge. But she dreams of a normal life; one in which her daughter can have a future that does not depend on beauty, sex, and the whims of a man.

Finding herself with child, she hesitates to tell Aldridge. Will he cast her off, send her away, or keep her and condemn another child to this uncertain shadow world?

The devil-may-care face Hugh shows to the world hides a desperate sorrow; a sorrow he tries to drown with drink and riotous living. His years at war haunt him, but even more, he doesn’t want to think about the illness that robbed him of the ability to father a son. When he dies, his barony will die with him. His title will fall into abeyance, and his estate will be scooped up by the Crown.

When Aldridge surprises them both with a daring proposition, they do not expect love to be part of the bargain.

Pre-order now for August 5 delivery:
Amazon

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Kali counsels Becky – part 1 of 2

Kali

Lady with Swarbat by Raja Ravi Varma

It had been some years since Kali Matai, The Black Goddess, met Mrs Rose Darling, known as The Rose of Frampton, and it was a meeting neither wished to remember, both having been at the mercy of protectors with no morals and less conscience. During that earlier meeting, Kali had taken it upon herself to protect the sweet, young girl from the worst of the abuses at the gentlemen’s party. Kali, after all, knew better than any woman in London how to feel nothing.

When they came upon each other at Mrs Marlowe’s Book Emporium, however, not only their prior encounter bound them, but also a mutual understanding of the way the world treats women of easy virtue—as though they have no virtues at all. Now, in an effort to help the girl again, Kali has invited her to tea to discuss a topic of great import. Or so Mrs Darling’s note had said.

***

“I can offer you tea, Mrs Darling,” Kali said, “Or something more… fortifying. Palm wine or feni or sherry. I only keep brandy in my protectors’ homes.”

“May I try feni?” Becky says. She likes trying new things, and fortifying is exactly what she needs. “And if you would not mind, Miss Matai, My true name is not Mrs. Darling. I am not Rose. And I am not a… That was a name given me by a… by someone who wished to increase my… price. My real name is Winstanley, Miss Becky Winstanley.”

Kali pours out the coconut liqueur into crystal glasses and passes one across the table. “Ah, very much like Miss Matai and La Déesse Noire, then. I would be grateful if we might use our real names. I am Kali Shaheen, though I beg you not make it known outside these rooms.”

“Kali Shaheen. Miss Shaheen. It is a lovely name.”

Becky

Young woman in a white hat by Jean Baptiste Greuze

“One I have not heard in a good many years, Miss Winstanley.” Kali began, “Your note spoke of some trouble you wish to share?” Some way in which I can help?”

Becky takes a cautious sip, and then another, more appreciative, one. “It is not so much that I need help. More that I would appreciate someone to listen; someone who, perhaps, might… understand how complicated it is.”

Kali chuckles. “If it is about a man, my dear, there is nothing simpler.”

Becky smiles in return, and then turns wistful. “The man is simple enough, Kali, that is true. If his appetites are satisfied and his ego is stroked, he is happy. I am the complicated one.”

“Ah,” Kali sighs, taking another delicate sip of her feni. “Yes, women are certainly complicated, are we not? Have you some concern about Lord Aldridge?”

Her primary concern, Kali thinks, should be seeing the man does not leave her with the French pox. Rare, indeed, are gentlemen with such copious appetites, and no lightskirt in London holds any illusions about the Merry Marquis—with the possible exception of the one before her.

Kali has never dallied with him, though not from lack of trying on his part or amused interest on hers. She merely chooses to remain true to her protectors, for reasons she cannot disclose. If ever she might wish an affair merely for the enjoyment of it, however, Lord Aldridge would be near the top of the list.

“When you and I first met,” Becky begins softly, “you rightly deduced the protector I had then was not kind. You will understand, I think, what it means when I say that he was among the best of all the men by whom I have been kept.”

Kali nods. Every mistress understands all too well.

“Lord Aldridge saved me—in every sense—and more important, saved my little daughter.” Kali’s smile becomes just a bit brittle at the mention of the little girl. “Not just from more of the same, but from worse. I will always be grateful to him.”

Even a heartless rogue like Aldridge, Kali reflects, might find himself an accidental hero on occasion.

“He is always polite. He always ensures my pleasure. He is kind to my little girl. He is generous with his gifts and with his praise. He is kind, Miss Shaheen. It has been a heady experience for a girl like me.”

Smiling with a certain softness about her eyes and mouth, glad this sweet girl has had some small measure of kindness, even if at the hands of a man like Aldridge, Kali urges, “Go on.”

“It has been nine months since we signed a contract. For six months, he barely let me leave his side. You will think me foolish, but I imagined… I knew he would not marry me. Indeed, so I told his… certain members of his family. But I thought we were in love. Foolish.”

Kali raises a brow and the softness in her eyes vanishes. “Quite.” Her hand trembles just slightly as she finishes her drink and pours another, also offering it to her guest. When Becky holds out her glass, Kali pours a short ration, unsure whether the girl is accustomed to strong spirits.

Setting down the bottle, she straightens in her chair, as rigid as if she were part of her corset, not just wearing it. But for sipping the feni, her jaw is clenched tight, and her fingernails dig deeply into the palm of her hand. Still, outwardly, she is calm as an iced-over pond.

Becky’s tone is bleak. “I forgot what you told me when we met before. I forgot he is my buyer, not my lover. Not my friend. I knew it, but I forgot.” At Kali’s frown, she hastens to explain, “He did not encourage me, Miss Shaheen. It was my own doing. He did not speak of love. He did not talk of permanence. But he was kind. And I have known so little kindness.”

Kali uncurls her rigid fingers from the arm of her chair and grasps Becky’s hand. “It is an easy thing to forget when they so believe they wish to be our friends.” She sets her glass aside, taking Becky’s chilly fingers between the palms of her hands. “Do you expect he will set you aside?”

At Becky’s stricken look, Kali asks gently, “Have you savings to keep you? He has given you the deed to the house, has he not?”

Watching the crash of a fallen woman was never an easy thing, especially for those who might just as easily follow her rapid descent.

“The house and my income are mine to keep if I finish the two years, or if he chooses to end the contract early. I lose them only if I leave.” She examines her empty glass, as if looking for words within it. “Lord Aldridge’s cousin, Lord Chirbury, suggested the clause.”

“He is a wise man, then, and you are fortunate to have received his counsel.” Lord Chirbury clearly knew his cousin almost as well as the entirety of the demimonde did. “Do you not have a solicitor? A woman alone must have her own solicitor, Miss Winstanley.”

“A solicitor? A solicitor could not help me with my problem, Miss Shaheen.”

“You are not considering… Surely not.” Kali’s brows drew together. “Think, Miss Winstanley. Do not feel.”

“Considering what?” Becky’s brows drew together.

If the girl truly hadn’t thought of leaving the man with whom she had so unwisely fallen in love, Kali could not forgive herself if she were the one to suggest it. “Never you mind, sweetling.” She patted Becky’s hand. “Tell me what it is I can do to help.”

“Aldridge owns my body,” Becky says, baldly. “Or perhaps it would be truer to say he holds the lease. I need it returned to me in good condition at the end of the contract. Not for my sake. For my daughter.”

“I cannot believe,” Kali says slowly, “with what I know of Lord Aldridge, that you are concerned about maltreatment.”

Becky shakes her head.

“So, rather, you worry about… disease?” She sat back. “Or is it only your heart for which you fear?”

“Aldridge returned my heart to me when he began swiving other women and discussing it with me. It is bruised, I cannot deny, but he is a man of prodigious appetite who enjoys variety. Yet he returns to me several times each week. And…” Becky colors, “he seems to need very little sleep.” Choking on the words, she finally spits out, “Truth be told, Miss Shaheen, I fear the pox.”

(To read the rest of their conversation, come back tomorrow.)

###

La Deesse Noire coverMeet Kali and read her story in La Déesse Noire: The Black Goddess, to be released June 10, available for pre-order now.

Sired by a British peer, born of a paramour to Indian royalty, Kali Matai has been destined from birth to enthrall England’s most powerful noblemen—though she hadn’t counted on becoming their pawn. Finding herself under the control of ruthless men, who will not be moved by her legendary allure, she has no choice but to use her beauty toward their malicious and clandestine ends.

When those she holds most dear are placed in peril by backroom political dealings, she enlists some of the most formidable lords in England to thwart her enemies. But even with the help of the prominent gentlemen she has captivated, securing Kali’s freedom, her family, and the man she loves, will require her protectors stop at nothing to fulfill her desires.

Pre-order now for June 10 delivery:
Amazon
Amazon UK
iTunes
Barnes and Noble
Kobo

MariTo connect with Mariana Gabrielle:
www.MarianaGabrielle.com
Facebook
Twitter
Pinterest
Blog
Goodreads
Amazon Author page

Meet Becky and Lord Aldridge in A Baron for Becky, to be released August 5, available for pre-order now.

BfB cover finalBecky is the envy of the courtesans of the demi-monde – the indulged mistress of the wealthy and charismatic Marquis of Aldridge. But she dreams of a normal life; one in which her daughter can have a future that does not depend on beauty, sex, and the whims of a man.

Finding herself with child, she hesitates to tell Aldridge. Will he cast her off, send her away, or keep her and condemn another child to this uncertain shadow world?

The devil-may-care face Hugh shows to the world hides a desperate sorrow; a sorrow he tries to drown with drink and riotous living. His years at war haunt him, but even more, he doesn’t want to think about the illness that robbed him of the ability to father a son. When he dies, his barony will die with him. His title will fall into abeyance, and his estate will be scooped up by the Crown.

When Aldridge surprises them both with a daring proposition, they do not expect love to be part of the bargain.

Pre-order now for August 5 delivery:
Amazon

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An Interview with Adolph Fouret, Monsieur le Duc de Malbourne, and Madame Michelle Lemaître

Mariana Gabrielle, author of Royal Regard, provides us with an insight into her duc de Malbourne, in this account of an interview by a researcher of her imagination.

While researching the remaining French noble families scattered across Europe, I have interviewed hundreds of émigrés from Scandinavia to Portugal and Ireland to the Austrian Empire. While other scholars are focused on dynastic details, I am fascinated by the human condition.

After thirteen requests to meet with Adolph Fouret, Monsieur le duc de Malbourne, the last surviving member of la famille Fouret, I was invited to his small manor house near Dover, inherited from his late duchess. While the house is no more than thirty rooms and two stories, the surrounding property encompasses tenant farms, a fishing village, a quarry, and a sizable parcel of woodland.

According to diocesan records, Monsieur le duc is past fifty, but apart from hair greying at the temples, might be at least ten, even twenty, years younger. His face remains relatively unlined, his figure tall, back straight, and limbs well-muscled, perhaps a sign of continued interest in swordplay, such skill still legend in Paris.

malbourneWe have been joined by Madame Michelle Lemaître, presumably his paramour, if not wife in common law. As we settle into worn wing chairs in a rarely used parlor, Madame Lemaître pours a fine hock, welcome refreshment on an overly warm day.

Monsieur le duc seems disinclined to idle chatter, waiting patiently for me to begin, never asking me directly to state my business. Madame Lemaître, however, makes it clear by manner and gesture that she would prefer not to entertain company, particularly not mine.

Research indicates you lost most of your immediate family during the Revolution.

“All,” he clarifies. “I lost all of my close relations. Four sisters, their husbands, and all of my nieces and nephews went to the guillotine, twenty-six in total, two still babes. Also, four aunts, two uncles, and nineteen first cousins murdered. My wife and child as well, if one believes fear can cause death in childbed.”

After long minutes of silence, Monsieur le duc hands his glass to Madame Lemaître to refill. As she does, her dagger-like glances attempt to cut out my tongue. His dark eyes, by contrast, are dull and motionless, staring past me, face chiseled from ice above his entirely black ensemble.

“It is not enough Monseigneur must live through this?” She finally snaps. “You come to stir up old troubles, long buried? Finish your questions and leave him in peace.”

Sipping the wine slowly, carefully, he awaits the next question as though I, myself, am a guillotine.

What is your greatest fear?

Monseigneur is not a coward,” Madame Lemaître growls, staring down her nose at me until Malbourne clicks his tongue.

Ma chére, the gentleman is not so unwise as to call me a coward.” The look on his face first demands, then accepts, an apology to the lady, whose indignation remains palpable.

Once satisfied his honor is intact in her eyes, he taps the back of her hand and says simply, “I am a Fouret; I fear nothing.”

RR memeWho is the greatest love of your life?

“I have never thought love so important I should count its worth.” Madame Lemaître’s face turns away, eyes downcast, shoulders tensed. “Romance is for peasants who have no money to keep them warm, nor family name to bring them notice.”

His idle index finger tucks a strand of loose hair from her coiffure behind her ear, drawing her attention back to him.

What is your most treasured possession?

His fingers tighten on Michelle’s knee as he shrugs, “I was able to save a folio of sketches by Jean Clouet when I escaped the Revolution. It has been in my family almost 250 years.” His hand slips under hers next to her leg, intertwining their fingers. Her lips turn up infinitesimally.

Where would you like to live?

His nostrils flare and the heel of his latchet shoe begins tapping against the floor, stopping only when she grips his hand so tightly two sets of knuckles turn white.

Forcing his gritted teeth apart, he finally answers, “Had verminous peasants not overrun my family’s land during the farmers’ uprising, I would be living now at le Chateau de Fouret in the Vosges Mountains. This estate…” He waves his hand about the small, dusty room. “This manor house is a hovel.”

What is your greatest regret?

His face twitches as though trying to stop the sneer manifest in his voice. “That I did not execute every peasant in Alsace in 1785.”

What do you consider your greatest achievement?

Monseigneur is sixteenth in line for the French throne,” Madame Lemaître exclaims, as proud as if he had discovered a cure for the Black Death. Her hand flies to her mouth, apparently unsure if she should boast on his behalf. The incline of his head both reassures and confirms her claim, and his thumb caresses hers.

What is the quality you most like in a man?

“I find men, on the whole, an inferior breed.” His hand smooths a wrinkle in Madame Lemaitre’s sleeve, trailing a fingertip down her forearm. “Women are much more satisfactory companions.”

What is the quality you most like in a woman?

RR meme2“That must depend, monsieur,” he laughs, “whether the woman will grace my bedchamber or my dining hall. For a lover,” he says, tugging at a lock of Michelle’s greying red hair, “I prefer a flame-haired wench of loose morals who will meet my appetites.” When she blushes, he taps the tip of her nose and almost smiles.

At the smallest movement of her head toward his shoulder, he shifts away and the hair pull becomes a warning to keep her place. “Were I to take a second wife, which is not my inclination, I would seek a woman whose conduct will bring credit to me, a noblewoman of sophistication and refinement.”

Madame Lemaître sniffs and turns her shoulder to Malbourne, but at a sharp pinch to her arm, she turns back, watching his face closely, stopping her motion when he raises a brow. As she settles against the back of the sofa, he rests their joined hands on her thigh.

“In either case,” he says, attention on Madame Lemaître, eyebrow still raised, “I value obedience most highly. It is best for females to be subject to the will of their fathers or husbands, lest their capricious natures bring them to harm.”

What is the trait you most deplore in others?

“I detest commoners. They are lazy and stupid and smell of pigs.”

Clearly, given her heavy rural Lorrain accent, Madam Lemaître is not of noble birth, but a stark nod denotes complete agreement.

“The bourgeoisie, though, are grasping, ill-mannered vipers.” Ignoring the flush on her cheeks, the only indication thus far of her pedigree, he continues, “It is hard to know which is worse.”

What do you consider the most overrated virtue?

Madam Lemaître laughs aloud before he answers, an ironic twist to his lips, “Chastity is a ridiculous notion, but for faithful servants of God and unwed noble daughters.”

On what occasions do you lie?

“You say now Monseigneur is a liar and a coward?” Madam Lemaître tugs at his wrist, as though to pull him out of the room. “He is cousin to the Kings of France, monsieur, and you are no one.” She waves her hand as though to sweep me from the room. “Not a horse dropping on Monseigneur’s shoe.”

With a firm jerk, he reseats her at his side and silences her outburst. “Noblemen do not lie,” he says, with the barest twitch of his shoulder.

At her harrumph, he adds, “Clearly, I must remove Michelle before she does you some injury. I should not like to be you, monsieur, should she find reason to use teeth and talons in my defense. Ma doux pute has a sharp tongue but her fangs, they are like rapiers.

“If you do not believe me…” he says, a teasing note in his voice, tugging at the knot in his black cravat, “I can show you…” The corners of his lips turn up, closer to a smile than at any time since my arrival, seeking her reaction from the corner of his eye. For a moment, he appears inexplicably young, like a small boy playing a prank.

She slaps at his knee and giggles, so he abandons his mischief and they rise, Malbourne holding her snug against his side. One of her arms reaches around his waist; the other rests lightly on his hip, and with her head tucked under his chin, he absently caresses her cheek. Placing a kiss on the crown of her head, he says, “I expect, monsieur, you can find your way out.”

To learn more about le duc, read Royal Regard.

10344772_332286826980418_8952381697101373143_nAfter fifteen years roaming the globe, the Countess of Huntleigh returns to England with her dying husband. She soon finds herself plagued by terrible troubles: a new title, estate, and sizable fortune; marked attentions from the marriage mart; the long-awaited reunion with her loving family; and a growing friendship with King George IV.

Settling into her new life, this shy-but-not-timid, not-so-young lady faces society’s censure, the Earl’s decline, false friends with wicked agendas, and the singular sufferings of a world-wise wallflower. Guided by her well-meaning husband, subject to interference by a meddlesome monarch, she must now choose the dastardly rogue who says he loves her, the charming French devil with a silver tongue, or the quiet country life she has travelled the world to find.

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Author Bio

Mariana Gabrielle is a pseudonym for Mari Christie, a mainstream historical and Regency romance writer. She is also a professional writer, editor, and graphic designer with twenty years’ experience and a Bachelor’s in Writing from the University of Colorado Denver, summa cum laude. She lives in Denver, Colorado with two kittens who have no respect at all for writing time.

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