I adore corsets. So much so that when I got my cover, above, I searched everywhere to find one similar (which I proudly sported at the Romantic Times Booklovers Convention in Kansas City earlier this year). That corset fetish extended to other Victorian underwear and, utilising the skills I learned as a costumer at the London School of Fashion before I became a writer, I’m now about to present a session at the City of Melbourne Library on ‘Crinolines, Corsets & Cosmetics – How restrictive (and dangerous) were the devices and ingredients required by the Victorian woman to achieve the silhouette and complexion of the day?
I’ve always been fascinated by the Victorian period and researched it thoroughly before turning to writing Regencies.
Here is a short erotic (but quite sweet and perhaps poignant) tale of a Victorian prostitute forced into her hated way of life by the man she once loved.
Published by Pan Macmillan Momentum, Saving Grace begins when beautiful Grace Fortune is confronted with her nemesis and is suddenly confused by fact and fiction as she sets out to perform the ultimate revenge.
I’ve included a short extract, below, together with a couple of reviews.
Reclining on the red plush sofa, Grace sipped the sickly sweet orgeat Madame Chambon insisted her girls drink and tried not to think about the night ahead. The others were gathered in companionable groups on the fashionable Egyptian sofas, their heavy scent perfuming the air.
As usual, no one gravitated towards her, though of course later, when their clients came calling, that would no longer be the case. Grace would have preferred the company of a like-minded female rather than the alternative.
An expectant hush fell as the heavy draped and tasselled curtain was drawn aside and Madame Chambon arranged herself theatrically in the opening, ready to address her petites choux.
“Ravissement!” she complimented them in thickly accented English, clap- ping her hands. Grace suspected the elegantly ravaged Madame came from Lambeth rather than the Left Bank. Not that it mattered. No one in this business was who they said they were.
Least of all, Grace.
The girls, awed and anxious, straightened their rich, colourful gowns nervously. Despite her appearance of bonhomie Madame Chambon could turn on a coin. And it was she who ensured the girls did not return to where most of them had been plucked from—the gutter.
“A great opportunity awaits one of you tomorrow,” she addressed them, “for I have just been honoured by the visit of a woman of great discernment …”
A couple of the girls tittered. “A woman?”
They closed their mouths at Madame Chambon’s beady stare, attending as she went on, “Who has requested I supply her with one of my loveliest …”
She drew out the pause as several of the brothel’s most popular young ladies preened.
“… most hard-hearted girls.”
All heads turned towards Grace. She blinked. Is that how they regarded her? Hard-hearted?
She simply had nothing left to offer anyone once she’d earned enough to pay her keep and just survive.
Madame Chambon levelled her expectant look upon Grace, whose mouth dropped open in protest. “A woman? But—”
“The woman wants to give her son a present to remember for his twenty-first birthday. She is obviously a very fond mother—” Madame Chambon allowed herself to share the girls’ amusement, adding, “with very good sense in choosing our select establishment to provide him with the very best initiation—” Her smile grew cloying as she continued to look at Grace—“without fear of him being lured into a transfer of affections amidst all the other … ahem … transfers that take place.” Though she made a gesture with her hands to indicate the transfer of money, the girls tittered at the double entendre.
The redhead closest to Grace dug her friend in the ribs. “Grace doesn’t have a heart to lose.” Her whisper resonated.
Nor did Grace have the heart to participate in the banter that followed. So what if she’d been selected? It was just another job and a good thing she need not worry about eliciting the emotions of a twenty-one-year-old virgin.
Pleasing, also, was the knowledge that it would inevitably be over in less than five minutes.
END OF EXTRACT
5.0 out of 5 stars A surprising little story 4 1/2 stars January 3, 2013
This is quite a sweet story, despite the fairly high level of explicitness required for an encounter between a courtesan and the young man she is to instruct. The stories of the two young lovers in the years they are apart are heartbreaking. The ending is satisfying in spite of the limited nature of the story length.
Buy (only 0.98c)