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
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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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Our choices create us

La Déesse Noire is one of those novels you keep thinking about long after you put it down. To me, the crux of the story is how the four main characters are defined and directed by the choices they make.

Kali Matai was born and raised a tawaif; one of the women entertainers who served those of the highest rank in the Murghal Empire of India. Her life was shaped by the choices made by her tawaif mother and the English peer to whom her mother was given. In England, she is the pawn of powerful men, but when all she loves is at risk, her choices give her a future she believed could never be.

Lord Birchbright once loved a tawaif and gave her two daughters. Given a choice between his forbidden family and the wealth and power waiting for him if he returns to England without them, he abandons them. His choice is to pursue power at all costs.

The book unusually has two male protagonists: Fitz and Rook. They, too, must choose between love and position. One chooses a lonely and ultimately self-centred life. The other is prepared to abandon everything he knows for the woman he loves. I loved them both, but I know which one was the hero.

Kali is one of the most engaging heroines I’ve read. I loved her dignity, her self-respect, her quiet humour, and her sharp intelligence. And I loved how hard it was for her to let her armour down; to become vulnerable; so that she could reach for her dreams. Her happy ending gave me goosebumps. I also very much enjoyed the interesting and believable secondary characters, both the villains and the friends and allies of the heroine.

Mariana Gabrielle has written a book about people on the edges; people discriminated against and even persecuted because they are different. She has done so with skill, sensitivity, and wit. She left me wanting more. I thoroughly enjoyed her Royal Regard and gave it five stars. La Déesse Noire is better. I wish I could give it seven on Amazon and Goodreads, but this is my blog, and my star system can be anything I like. So seven it is.

Disclaimer: I am a member of the same writers’ group as Mari Christie, who writes Regency novels as Mariana Gabrielle, and I was proof-reader for La Déesse Noire. This did not influence my enjoyment of my book. But don’t believe me. Read it for yourself.LDN meme

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