Tea with Jake

Jake Cohen followed the footman through the manor house as fast as his leg would carry him, so lost in thought he barely noticed the fine art and sumptuous furnishings. When the invitation had arrived from the Duchess of Haverford, his wife had read it three times to be sure it had come to the right person. What on earth would a duchess want with an innkeeper?

Meg had shrugged. “She’s probably seen you fight.”

“Didn’t see a lot of duchesses in Bear Gardens.” He shrugged it off. In the past months he had already done so many things he thought he never would, and tea with a duchess would not be strangest. He had come from wealth, but of course the duchess had no way of knowing that. Or did she? “Do you want to come with?”

“Lord, no. They wouldn’t let me in the door, assuming I’d fit.” She rested her hands on her swollen belly as though feeling the burden of her sensitive state, though her expression was nothing if not serene. “You go, darling. See what she wants. If she’s looking for a different Jake, pinch some cakes and come home. Don’t let her run off with you, now.”

He smirked, flattered in spite of himself. Meg regularly told him he was the handsomest man ever to walk the earth, and he knew she believed it. The fact no one else seemed to share her opinion didn’t keep him from enjoying it. He was a very fortunate man. He’d kissed her on his way out. “As if she could.”

Now, walking through a house finer than any he’d visited, the question bothered him again. In his thirty-nine years, he’s been a goldsmith, a boxer, and an innkeeper. What would a duchess want with any of them?

She waited in a room that seemed to exist for just such a purpose, sunlight pouring through a huge window with panes of glass so fine and clean he could hardly see them. They had finally replaced their broken windows at the inn, but the filth of the street had immediately dimmed their shine.

The duchess’s smile was pleasantly bemused, as if she hadn’t been certain he would come. “Mister Cohen.”

He bowed. Wasn’t one meant to bow at times like these? “Your Grace.”

She opened her mouth to say something, then emitted a sound not unlike nervous laughter. “Forgive me, Mr. Cohen, I confess I am faintly stunned to meet you in person. The engravings did not do you justice.”

His stomach sank with dread. “Engravings?”

“Quite so. They were completed when you were a little older, I believe. Won’t you join me? You’ve come a long way, you must be exhausted.”

Jake frowned. What had she meant by “when you were a little older”? He’d thought his English was fluent, but he’d never heard that particular turn of phrase. As far as he was aware, there were no engravings of him anywhere. “I beg your pardon, Your Grace. Are you quite certain you have the right man?”

“Oh, yes. Quite certain. Please, come.”

He took the chair she offered and watching silently as she poured two cups of tea from a beautiful white pot covered all over in painted blue flowers. He had never seen a matching set of china before, let alone tea cups with little handles. They must have been designed for ladies; he could barely hook a fingertip through the delicate loop. He smiled at the lovely absurdity of the design.

“You like the tea cups?”

“I do,” he replied. “The pattern is very distinctive, it looks like some I saw back in Amsterdam. Is it Dutch?”

“Danish,” she supplied. “Royal Copenhagen. It’s all the rage.”

“I have not seen these before.”

“I should think not.” Her cheek quirked as she suppressed a laugh. “They are not yet sold in England, and have only been produced in Denmark since perhaps 1775.”

He choked on his tea.

She gave no indication she noticed, but offered a plate of small iced pastries “Cake?”

He coughed to clear his throat. “Thank you.” The cake was light as a dream and tasted faintly of vanilla and cardamom. The orange-scented black tea complimented it perfectly. If this was a dream, the tea tasted very real. “Did you say these cups were produced in 1775?”

“Not this precise set, no, but I believe that was when the factory was founded. Forgive me, I’ve shocked you. What year is it, where you live?”

He almost laughed. “It is 1679, Your Grace.”

“That would make you…?”

He flushed slightly. “Thirty-nine.”

A secret, knowing smile crept across her face. “Still a young man, for all that. Half your life is still ahead of you.”

Who was this duchess, who drank from cups not yet manufactured and seemed to know the future? “Where am I?”

“You are at Haverford House, and it is 1797.”

He felt light-headed as the blood drained from his face. “Impossible.”

“Quite possible, Mister Cohen. I am resolved to hire only the best tutors for my sons, even if that means procuring them from the previous century.”

He was just about to open his mouth to make his excuses and leave the company of this mad duchess when she produced a set of engravings from the sideboard. She passed them to him with no little reverence.

In the first, he was depicted stripped to the waist, demonstrating his fighting stance before a crowd of gentlemen. He did look older, but he knew he was looking at himself—fortunately for them, no one had a face quite like his. The artist had made him enormously muscular and rakishly handsome, with longer, curling hair and a serious expression. He smiled in spite of himself. It was rather flattering.

His smile faded when he looked at the second engraving. He stood proudly next to a handsome young man, as if showing him off. Their hands were wrapped to fight and they were surrounded by an audience.

“I suspected you might not believe me, so I wanted to show you these…”

“When were these done?” he asked, too quickly.

“The date is on the back. I believe they were part of a series published in 1690.”

“1690,” he repeated to himself, eyes on that second engraving. The young man in the picture looked a bit like Tom Callaghan, but less mad. He was younger, softer, and he had his mother’s smile. Tears sprung to his eyes as he realized who he was looking at. “This is Tommy.”

The duchess grinned. “Tom Henshawe, your son. He made quite an impression in his day. Sired by one legend and raised by another. What could he be but a pugilist? Tom Henshawe was undoubtedly the finest of his generation, but you’re the man who trained him. I want you to teach my son the art of pugilism.”

He blinked. “Assuming this is not some fever dream—“

“It is not.”

“—you would like me to come here, to 1797, to teach your son to fight?”

“Quite so, Mister Cohen. You will be handsomely compensated. I daresay your wages will go a bit further in 1679. The inn still needs some work, does it not?”

He nodded. “It does.”

“There you have it. My driver will collect you for one afternoon once per week and bring you here. Would Monday next suit? Aldridge is already seventeen and he is most anxious to begin.”

Jake ran a hand over his face. A duchess was offering to pay him handsomely to go to the future to teach a future duke to box. “I would be happy to oblige, Your Grace, but are you certain this is what you want? Boxing is not a gentlemanly sport. Would he not be more suited to fencing?”

“Things have changed, Mister Cohen. Pugilism is very popular among young gentlemen, and I am resolved my son shall excel at it.” As he excels at everything else, he heard, even though she didn’t say it aloud. “At any rate, he’s been fencing for years. Say you’ll consider it?” 

“I would be happy to oblige, but I am struggling to believe this is 1797. How is it possible I am here?”

“Never underestimate a mother’s love, Mister Cohen.”

He raised his eyebrows. “I do not. Forgive me for asking, but is there any other way you might prove this is real?”

The duchess nodded to a footman who produced a printed broadsheet unlike any he’d ever seen. He was still learning to read English, but he could make the date out clearly enough. 21 May, 1797. He looked up sharply. “What do you know of my life?”

She sipped her tea. “Perhaps men are not meant to know these things. Suffice to say, you live a long, prosperous life and enjoy a good deal of fame in your later years. As you have seen, Tom becomes a boxer, and your daughter—“

“Daughter?” His heart sped up as he thought of Meg at home, mere weeks away from giving birth.

The duchess smiled. “Your daughter will do many great deeds, and will live an exceptional life. I will say no more.”

It was madness, but he knew in his bones she told the truth. He didn’t know how it was possible, but he wanted to believe it. “Very well. If you are correct and my wife gives birth to a girl, I will return and teach your son to fight.”

“Excellent.” She grinned. “I have taken the liberty of packing some cakes for you to take home to your wife. She’ll want them after the day she’s had.”

He accepted the parcel as he rose to leave, wondering what else this mad duchess knew that he didn’t. “What of Meg? Is she well?”

The duchess smiled her secret smile. “Oh yes, but perhaps you ought to hurry back.”

Jake’s heart hammered all the way back to Southwark—back to his time, if the duchess was to be believed—terrified she knew something about Meg he didn’t. Had something happened while he was away?

The inn was in a flurry of activity when he returned. Clouds of steam billowed from the kitchen and Achille, Judith’s odd Frenchman, hurried past with his arms full of clean linen. He broke into a wide smile as he saw them. “My felicitations. You have a daughter.”

Jake almost dropped the cakes in his shock. He gripped the doorjamb with his free hand to keep from fainting. As he looked at his boots, the room spinning around him, a pristine note was pushed beneath the door. He grabbed it and broke the Dunchess of Haverford’s seal. Inside was only one word: 

Monday?

 

Broken Things

By Jessica Cale

Rival. Sister. Barmaid. Whore.

Meg Henshawe has been a lot of things in her life, and few of them good. As proprietress of The Rose and Crown in Restoration Southwark, she has squandered her life catering to the comfort of workmen and thieves. Famous for her beauty as much as her reputation for rage, Meg has been coveted, abused, and discarded more than once. She is resigned to fighting alone until a passing boxer offers a helping hand.

Jake Cohen needs a job. When an injury forces him out of the ring for good, all he’s left with is a pair of smashed hands and a bad leg. Keeping the peace at The Rose is easy, especially with a boss as beautiful—and wickedly funny—as Meg Henshawe. In her way, she’s as much of an outcast as Jake, and she offers him three things he thought he’d never see again: a home, family, and love.

After Meg’s estranged cousin turns up and seizes the inn, Meg and Jake must work together to protect their jobs and keep The Rose running. The future is uncertain at best, and their pasts won’t stay buried. Faced with one setback after another, they must decide if what they have is worth the fight to keep it. Can broken things ever really be fixed?

Buy links

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Meet Jessica Cale

Jessica Cale is a historical romance author and journalist based in North Carolina. Originally from Minnesota, she lived in Wales for several years where she earned a BA in History and an MFA in Creative Writing while climbing castles and photographing mines for history magazines. She kidnapped (“married”) her very own British prince (close enough) and is enjoying her happily ever after with him in a place where no one understands his accent. She is the editor of Dirty, Sexy History and you can visit her at dirtysexyhistory.com.

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Sunday Spotlight on Broken Things

Broken Things is Meg Henshawe’s book. Hers and Jake Cohen’s. If you’ve read the early books in Jessica Cale’s Southwark Saga (especially Virtue’s Lady), you’ll remember Meg. Loud, coarse, ready to trample over everyone to get what she wants, known far and wide for her beauty and her lovers. And if you haven’t read the earlier books, get them first, because this book will change everything you thought you knew about Southwark’s favourite whore.

Cale takes us into London’s worst slum in the years after the Great Fire. Her characters are irreverent, coarse, often violent, always real and compelling. Her training as an historian shows in the depth and texture of the life she portrays. Her skill as a novelist means we simply enter that life, never aware of Cale the scholar as we live the story with Meg and Jake.

What’s broken in this book? Meg and her hopes for the future. The Rose and Crown, the inn that she runs with those of her sisters still under her fierce protection. Her relationship with her son’s father. Jake’s hands, his job (for a second time—in the Great Fire, he had lost his family, his betrothal, and his future as a goldsmith), his sense of himself.

This book is about two people who have little to lose, and that about to be ripped from them. Alone, Jake is ready to give up and Meg can see no way out. Together, they find a reason to hope; a reason to keep fighting and to win.

If you read only one book this month, make it this one.

About Broken Things

Rival. Sister. Barmaid. Whore.

Meg Henshawe has been a lot of things in her life, and few of them good. As proprietress of The Rose and Crown in Restoration Southwark, she has squandered her life catering to the comfort of workmen and thieves. Famous for her beauty as much as her reputation for rage, Meg has been coveted, abused, and discarded more than once. She is resigned to fighting alone until a passing boxer offers a helping hand.

Jake Cohen needs a job. When an injury forces him out of the ring for good, all he’s left with is a pair of smashed hands and a bad leg. Keeping the peace at The Rose is easy, especially with a boss as beautiful—and wickedly funny—as Meg Henshawe. In her way, she’s as much of an outcast as Jake, and she offers him three things he thought he’d never see again: a home, family, and love.

After Meg’s estranged cousin turns up and seizes the inn, Meg and Jake must work together to protect their jobs and keep The Rose running. The future is uncertain at best, and their pasts won’t stay buried. Faced with one setback after another, they must decide if what they have is worth the fight to keep it. Can broken things ever really be fixed?

Content notes: Diverse characters, profanity, violence, graphic sex

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And meanwhile, elsewhere in the blogosphere…

I am at a two day work conference. Great stuff! I was going to write my Footnotes on Friday blog on the revolution in kitchens in the late Georgian. I didn’t get it done before I left home, so I put all my notes in my bag. But I’ve just arrived at the place I’m staying after a long tiring day, and the post isn’t about to happen.

Sorry, folks. Instead, though, here are two other research posts you might enjoy, if you haven’t already caught up with them.

The first, about rakehells, I wrote for Jessica Cale’s Dirty Sexy History blog.

The second, about the clash of cooking cultures that spelled the destruction of English cuisine (until it was resurrected in the late 20th century), I wrote for Caroline Warfield’s Highlighting Historical.

Enjoy! I’m off to have an early night before another day of conferencing tomorrow.

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Tea with Charlotte

monday-for-teaAs the Duchess of Haverford topped up their tea from a fresh pot, Charlotte helped herself to her fifth petit four. Though she had been nervous to meet Her Grace on her own, there were advantages to having tea with a Duchess. Monsieur Fournier’s little cakes were at the top of that list, with the delicious orange pekoe coming in at a close second.

Her Grace smiled indulgently. “Marvelous, aren’t they?”

Reproduced under a CCC. Artist, Victor Nizovtsev

Reproduced under a CCC. Artist, Victor Nizovtsev

Charlotte’s eyes rolled in ecstasy as she bit into the smooth pink icing. “I can’t get enough of them. I have dreams about them. The baby already has expensive tastes, God help me.” She idly stroked her enormous belly. “I eat them as fast as Cedrica brings them.”

“Do you see her often?” She lit up at the mention of her relation.

“As often as she can get away. She has been occupied with Fournier’s, of course, but stops by for tea perhaps once a week.” She finished the cake with a sip of her tea. “Mrs. Phillips says I ought to cultivate more ‘advantageous’ friendships to ease my way into the ton, but who could be better than the wife of a French chef?” She laughed. “Cedrica is my dearest friend and I so look forward to our talks.”

Her Grace looked up from her tea with gentle concern. “How has the ton been treating you? Have you had many invitations?”

Charlotte sighed. She had been a countess for all of six months, a change she had embraced with rather more enthusiasm than society had accepted her. Actresses did not marry earls, after all. London’s shopkeepers, on the other hand, had embraced her with open arms. “I have had some,” she said carefully. “Apollo’s friends, mainly. Aldridge has been lovely.”

“I would certainly hope so.” There was pride in her voice as she spoke of her son. “He and Apollo have been friends for years. They used to spar in the parlour.”

“Now they spar in ours!” Charlotte laughed.

“More tea?”

“Please.”

“Apollo is a dear boy. I wanted to thank you both for your generous donation to the girls’ school.” Her Grace stirred a drop of cream into her tea.

“Of course! I was hoping to speak to you about the school, actually.”

Her Grace smiled. “I would be delighted to talk about the school. It’s one of my favorite subjects.”

“As you know we have the orphanage in Southwark. We have more children than we have space to keep them, and so many of them are little girls. We were wondering if perhaps we might be able to sponsor a number of them to have places at the school. They’re bright enough, and I know if they have the right education, they might be able improve their situation–”

“Say no more.”

Charlotte stiffened, unsure of how the Duchess would react. Would she object to admitting working class orphans into her beloved school?

“I think it’s a wonderful idea.”

Charlotte sighed in relief. The orphans were fast becoming a crusade of hers; just the thought of helping them brought tears to her eyes. She could not be happier that she was now in a position to help them. “I’m so pleased.”

“What shall we call it?”

“Call it?”

“Scholarships often have names, sometimes in memory of the person leaving it. As you and Somerton are thankfully in good health, is there someone else you might name it for?”

Charlotte grinned as it came to her, her heart so full of joy she thought it could burst. “Might we call it the Artemis Rothschild Fund? In memory of Apollo’s late sister.”

Her Grace smiled indulgently, and Charlotte wondered how much she knew of Apollo’s family history. “Of course.”

artemis-fb

HOLLY AND HOPEFUL HEART 

Read the story of Charlotte Halfpenny and the Earl of Somerton in the Bluestocking Belles’ box set, Holly and Hopeful Hearts.                                                                                

When the Duchess of Haverford sends out invitations to a Yuletide house party and a New Year’s Eve ball at her country estate, Hollystone Hall, those who respond know that Her Grace intends to raise money for her favorite cause and promote whatever marriages she can. Eight assorted heroes and heroines set out with their pocketbooks firmly clutched and hearts in protective custody. Or are they?

BUY LINKS for HOLLY AND HOPEFUL HEARTS

Amazon UShttp://ow.ly/INwa3049Ey3

Amazon UK: http://ow.ly/ZMuH3049ELM

Amazon Australiahttp://ow.ly/TczG3049EQ2
Amazon Canadahttp://ow.ly/IERm3049EYM

Smashwords: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/664559

Kobo: http://ow.ly/Vx1n304jGzj

Barnes & Noble: http://ow.ly/LqCI304jGuS

iBooks: http://ow.ly/JcSI304jGWE

About Jessica Cale

Jessica Cale is the award-winning author of the historical romance series, The Southwark Saga. Originally from Minnesota, she lived in Wales for several years where she earned a BA in History and an MFA in Creative Writing while climbing castles and photographing mines for history magazines. She kidnapped (“married”) her very own British prince (close enough) and is enjoying her happily ever after with him in North Carolina. Visit her history blog at www.dirtysexyhistory.com.

Website: http://www.authorjessicacale.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/authorjessicacale

Twitter: https://twitter.com/JessicaCale

Pinterest: https://au.pinterest.com/rainbowcarnage/

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Jessica Cale talks about sex in historical fiction

Jessica CaleToday, I welcome Jessica Cale to the blog. Jessica is the author of Tyburn and her new release, Virtue’s Lady (see below the article). She describes herself as a recovering journalist with rather a lot of Nick Cave records writing historical romances out of a grey bedroom in North Carolina.

Sex in historical fiction

Sex can be a tricky topic in historical fiction because I think there are a lot of assumptions made about it that aren’t necessarily based on reality. There’s a tendency to believe that people were either better at abstaining or had enormous families, but the belief that the past was inherently more virtuous than the present is problematic. The truth is that people weren’t more sexually repressed or guided by some divine will power, but that the specifics of sex in history are too often neglected in history books because it’s seen as irrelevant, sensational, or controversial.

Myths about contraception and childbearing

One of the things that surprises people the most about sex in history is that contraception existed before the twentieth century. Condoms had existed since prehistory as evidenced by a 12,000 year old cave painting of the first condom in the Grotte de Combarelle in France, and the Egyptians had spermicidal pessaries and reliable urine-based pregnancy tests thousands of years ago. Sylphium, a sort of giant fennel, was such an effective contraceptive that the ancient world farmed it to extinction within 6,000 years. Condoms came into their own during the Renaissance when they began to take on a form we would recognize today, and Casanova himself recommended them to put ladies’ minds at ease regarding unexpected pregnancy. Condoms were regularly used from that point onward to prevent sexually transmitted disease, especially the epidemic of syphilis that returned to Europe with Columbus from the Americas. The withdrawal method was used, as well, and if that failed, there were a number of herbal mixtures that served as potent abortifacients, the recipes having been passed down through the generations with the earliest known ones coming from Ancient Egypt.

Another misconception is that people wanted to have lots of children. During the Restoration, as many as three in four children didn’t live to see their sixth birthday. Miscarriage, abandonment, and even infanticide were tragically common, as sanitation standards were abysmal and the poor couldn’t afford to have larger families. Furthermore, childbirth was the most common cause of death for women, with almost fifty percent of the female population losing their lives as a direct result of it. For common people, children were as much a burden as a blessing. The average age of marriage for men was between twenty-seven and twenty-eight, and for women it was between twenty-five and twenty-seven, so family sized tended to be naturally smaller, as well.

Myths about virginity, lesbianism, and marriage

It might also surprise you to learn that seventeenth century couples commonly cohabited before they married, sometimes for years, and virginity was not so carefully guarded a prize as it was for the upper classes that required it to ensure succession and inheritance. Women (and sometimes even men) commonly worked as prostitutes, and sometimes only for a short period of time to get ahead before they ultimately settled down or opened a business for themselves. Marriage for the poor could still take place with nothing more than a declaration and a witness.

Interestingly enough, lesbians existed and were tolerated or accepted in Britain over the last few centuries. There wasn’t always a term for it, but girls being unusually close was fairly common and even seen as innocent. What harm could come from a union that couldn’t result in pregnancy? There were even a few cases in the nineteenth century where women were allowed to marry, provided one of them presented herself as a man and attempted to serve the same role in society, which was seen by some as being more valuable and honorable than continuing to live as a woman.

The idea of the past being a time of virginity, strict heterosexuality, and repression is based on nostalgic nonsense. Sure, if your heroine’s life is riding on making a good marriage, she might be sheltered and totally inexperienced, but for the majority of the population, that just wouldn’t have been the case.

And a thought to consider

To wrap up, I’d like to leave you with a fun fact I’ve learned just this week. From at least the middle ages up until the nineteenth century, the female orgasm was believed to be necessary for conception, so the men of the past not only knew what it was, but they were good at making it happen. So much for sex in history being stuffy!

virtuesladyVirtue’s Lady

Lady Jane Ramsey is young, beautiful, and ruined.

After being rescued from her kidnapping by a handsome highwayman, she returns home only to find her marriage prospects drastically reduced. Her father expects her to marry the repulsive Lord Lewes, but Jane has other plans. All she can think about is her highwayman, and she is determined to find him again.

Mark Virtue is furious when Jane arrives in Southwark. In spite of his growing feelings for her, he knows that the crime-ridden slum is no place for a lady. Jane must set aside her lessons to learn a new set of rules if she is survive and to prove to Mark—and to herself—that there’s more to her than meets the eye.

 

Buy Links

Liquid Silver * Amazon * Barnes & Noble * Kobo * All Romance E-BooksiBooks * Goodreads

And meet Jessica on:

Website * Facebook * Twitter:  @JessicaCale * Google+ * Tumblr * Pinterest *  Tsu * Amazon Author Page * Goodreads Author Page

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