There's nothing more fun than breaking the rules, playing a game of what if with an idea or twisting what you know... I have Gina here today to share her take on all this and give you a sneak peek at her release--The Wicked Bargain! Take it away, Gina...
Twisting the rules…
As a published author, one of the questions I get asked is how do I come up with story ideas? Every author has different methods and honestly, every story came from a different set of circumstances. Mostly they aren’t planned out but hit us like a freight train in the middle of another story or in a conversation or driving or just about anywhere.
For The Wicked Bargain, I’d been reading several Regency novels with the heroine as a courtesan. The stories of course are of redemption of these women – most in a circumstance that placed them as courtesans. They meet the hero, stay true to him (the old HQ rules in place) and he saves her from a life as a soiled dove. Good stories. But…
What if the high-price courtesan was male?
I always have wondered about the strange set of rules in the ton – men could take courtesans or mistresses and the wife served as the mother to his legitimate heir, maybe two, and gladly (sometimes) welcomed another woman servicing the man she’d married. But about these wives? Women who served their purpose, taken care of for the rest of their lives by name and title of the husband but what about the loneliness, the desires that remained unfulfilled? Research indicates a small amount (known at least) of ladies who took matters into their own hands and took lovers. And if they did, why not paid for a male courtesan?
Our heroine, Arabella Covington, spent her youth following her father, a country physician, to his visits and helped him treat his patients. She learned medicine through this, like an apprentice. With this knowledge, she wants to be able to help the sick and wounded but she can’t. At this time period, early 1800s, women were only allowed to be midwives and nothing more.
Arabella, coming to London, quickly found her training meant nothing. Or did it?
Medicine at this time was an evolving science. In the mid 17th century, medicine was lumped with alchemy. Science had yet to emerge as fact over magic strangely enough. To be taught cures and how to treat patients, many also learned incantations and the latest way to turn wood into gold. As time turned, medicine pulled out of the dark ages and into a science, however limited the knowledge base was in the field. Many methods were lost during the Dark Ages when western civilization backtracked from what had been learned during the Ancient times, through the Romans and Egyptians. But during the late 18th century, science extracted itself from the idea of prayer for a cure to something more viable. Men pursued this career, not women. Women remained steadfast as midwives, knowing the workings of a woman’s reproductive cycle.
Yet does that mean women couldn’t handle medical knowledge to treat men and women? No, wives were often the healer of the family. The trend that continued to the Victorian era was that the injured or sick did better if they stayed at home and were tended in a loving atmosphere. In other words, nursed by their mother or wife. Wives handled everything from fevers to illness to wounds from farming, hunting, war and even everyday living.
Yet, it was truly believed that women could not handle severe wounds or illnesses. Really? I think not…
This is the world Arabella must deal with. Her training goes further than a midwife, able to treat men as well as women and children. No doubt her frustration is palatable. To find Ethan’s place and the ability to help Mary must have made her thrilled to be able to help.
Little did she know, the man who broke societal rules to hire her medical services for his ladies and would himself desperately need her aid, would show her a world she didn’t know. Nor did she realize her greatest talent would be in his redemption.
Thus was the birth of The Wicked Bargain:
Haunted by a past as a sex slave, nobleman Ethan Warth returns to England as a male courtesan for rich matrons and runs a brothel for wealthy lords. Arabella Covington appears on his door, trained in the medical arts but unable to practice because of her gender. He hires her to care for his ladies but her inquisitive nature and beauty make him desire to teach her the world of seduction.
Ethan, however, never counted on falling in love…
Arabella stood in her chambers, her thoughts a tumble of emotions, none of them comfortable. Her biggest one was fear. Had Jeremy made it to London? What if he lurked outside, waiting for her?
Another intruding thought was this house. Just what went on beyond those chamber doors?
One thing was certain. Her cousin, the Marquis, was not like any other man she knew. There appeared to be several women living here but she couldn’t tell if it was a boarding house. Plus last night, she heard from Ethan’s own mouth that he was in bed with another man’s wife and that was more than she could take. She wanted to run from the house but go where? Her lack of funds would not take her far and she could never return home. The combination of confusion, fear and panic had her pacing around the room, her mind on the scene from last night and of the marquis being in here but few minutes ago, all congenial and handsome. His refusal to let her stay followed by a reluctant change of heart made her more irritated, restlessness and anxious. If she didn’t do something, she might go insane. She swung the door open and marched quickly down the hall to Mary’s room.
Knocking at the door, Arabella heard Mary’s response and opened the door.
Mary spun in her bronze evening gown. “What do you think?” the girl asked, a whimsical smile on her face.
The dress was stunning. Its underskirt of a copper colored watered silk was the perfect match to a diaphanous gold overskirt trimmed with decorated braiding at the neckline and capped sleeves.
“It’s beautiful.” Arabella stood in awe. The girl looked so young and full of life. The bulge of her condition only slightly visible when she ran her hand over her belly. Nothing of last night’s trauma showed. She stopped and gave a slight curtsy.
“Thank you,” she said. “Robert will love it!”
“Yes.” She looked at Arabella quizzically. “Oh, yes, well, Robert is my....” She ran her hand over the skirted bulge.
“Ah, your husband, or soon to be.”
A peel of laughter came as she shook her head.
Arabella frowned. She may be from the country, but children born out of wedlock anywhere were bastards, a permanent stain. Surely, the Marquis would demand this Robert make her his wife. “But he will be, right?”
Mary’s eyes slanted, crinkling with amusement. “You’re new. Please forgive me.”
“What does that have to do with your condition?”
Mary fidgeted with her overskirt, avoiding her gaze.
“Mary,” she asked quietly. “Why won’t you answer me?” Fear crept into her voice before she could prevent it.
“They didn’t tell you?” Mary broke into a giggle.
“I fail to see the humor in this,” Arabella stated flatly. She wanted answers. The vision of the naked Marquis on the bed once more came to mind. Drat, why did it always pop up like that?
Mary controlled her giggles as she walked to her dresser and pulled out her jewelry box. Glancing at Arabella, she opened the box and grabbed a pair of earbobs.
“I laughed too at first.” She pushed the wire through her earlobe. “To be trained by Ethan and make the sort of blunt seemed too good to be true, especially for a girl like me. But Ethan claimed he saw in me a spark that’d light his nabob friends on fire.” She sighed, connecting the second earbob closure till both glass orbs hung from her ears.
Arabella furrowed her brows. Blunt and nabobs she understood but she had yet to see what work was involved. Only thing she did know was the young woman in front of her, probably barely old enough to know better, at eighteen or nineteen, was increasing, unmarried and pleased to dress for an evening out with the guilty party. This was what London did to a woman? Made her forget her upbringing? Even the country folk knew that a woman’s virtue was to remain until marriage.
There were few ways for women to earn money but none brought any riches. Except one and it was called prostitution, a courtesan to be exact. One who serviced the nobility. Arabella’s mind stumbled over the thought. Was she in a brothel? What would the Marquis be doing, living in a place of ill-repute? Why would her aunt send her here? Granted, Aunt Edith told her to come here as a last resort, but she couldn’t believe her aunt wanted her to sell her body. Heavens, that was what her cousin wanted her to do and why she fled him. Arabella shuddered, fear coiling inside her.
The snap of a necklace closure grabbed Arabella’s attention back to the girl. Mary was still talking.
“He will train you to be the best but you’ll never have him. He remains…,” Mary paused. “Alone. So don’t be disappointed. All of us have been there.”
Arabella frowned. The girl lost her. She opened her mouth to ask what training when the girl grabbed her hand. “Come on! We’ll be late and Ethan hates when you’re late!”
Author bio -
Born in St. Louis, Missouri, Gina Danna has spent the better part of her life reading. History has been her love and she spent numerous hours devouring historical romance stories, dreaming of writing one of her own. Years later, after receiving undergraduate and graduate degrees in History, writing academic research papers and writing for museum programs and events, she finally found the time to write her own stories of historical romantic fiction.
Now, under the supervision of her three dogs and two cats, she writes amid a library of research books, with her only true break away is to spend time with her other life long dream – her Arabian horse – with him, her muse can play.
Musings from Michigan