I thought I’d take this week to highlight my House of Pleasure series, which is actually coming to an end this fall. The final book will be released in late October/early November. So I thought I’d show off the first four books, one each day of this week, and then give a little preview of the final one on Friday.
Today is Book 3: Only A Mistress Will Do.
This story was inspired again, by a Mary Balogh book, A Precious Jewel, in which a gently bred lady, through unfortunate circumstances, had to resort to working in a brothel. The story mentioned only in passing how horrible her first time in bed with a man had been, which got me to thinking: what would such a first time be like for a lady who had no other choice but to sell her body? And since I had the perfect place for such a thing to happen–The House of Pleasure–I immediately set out to weave a story around this idea.
My heroine, Violet Carlton, is a spunky, resilient, pragmatic woman whose luck and funds have run completely out. So she turns to the only path left to her at the House of Pleasure. The dashing hero, Tristan, Lord Trevor, was introduced in Only Scandal Will Do as one of the Marquess of Dalbury’s close friends. He was a second at Duncan’s duel with Katarina, an office he had performed before. Tris, a good patron of The House of Pleasure, is sent by the madam to be Violet Carlton’s first customer, with rather surprising results.
Here’s the blurb and an excerpt from the first meeting of the hero and heroine, from Only A Mistress Will Do.
The man of her dreams . . . belongs to another woman.
Destitute and without friends, Violet Carlton is forced to seek employment at the House of Pleasure in London. She steels herself for her first customer and is shocked when the man rescues her instead of ravishing her. A grateful Violet cannot help but admire the handsome Viscount Trevor. But she must curb her desire for the dashing nobleman she can never have because he is already betrothed to another . . .
Tristan had gone to the House of Pleasure for a last bit of fun before he became a faithful married man. But when he recognizes the woman in his bed, he becomes determined to save her instead. Now, his heart wars with his head as he falls for the vulnerable courtesan. Unable to break his betrothal without a scandal, Tris resolves to find Violet proper employment or a husband of her own. Still, his arms ache for Violet, urging him to abandon propriety and sacrifice everything to be with the woman he loves. . .
Her head came up, back straight, forced smile plastered on her face as
the door opened wide and she caught a glimpse of the man who had bought
her for the night. Madame Vestry had informed her this morning that one
of her regular customers had responded favorably to her invitation—she’d
actually called it an invitation—and for Violet to make herself available
in the green room at eight o’clock tonight.
She’d not been told who he was and somehow it mattered little to her
that she did not know the name of the man about to ruin her. One of the
house rules forbade her to ask. If the gentleman offered his name, that
was his business. The other girls had told her if she needed to put a name
to the face, to think of customers as “Lord John.”
This Lord John entered the small room in a swirl of black fur and
sandalwood, the spicy scent tickling Violet’s nose, making it twitch.
She tipped her head back and looked up into the swarthy face. Dark
hair and piercing blue eyes, a strong jaw, and a long, straight nose. Too
tall, though. He was too tall for her. The ridiculousness of the irrational
thought broke through her lethargy. She forced herself up out of the chair
as he strode toward her.
The smile curling his full lips would have been charming had not the
gleam in his eyes betrayed his lustful intent.
“Good evening, Cassandra.” His deep baritone voice sent a frisson of
dread through her. “Such a lovely name for a lovely temptress.”
“What pleasure may I give you this evening, my lord?” The words came
out flat, but by God, she’d gotten them out. Now to remain standing and
not faint. One small goal at a time. She stared at the wide expanse of blue
velvet jacket barely two inches from her face.
He ran the back of his hand along her cheek and goose flesh pimpled
her whole body. “I do hope the pleasure will be mutual, my dear.”
Violet jerked back from his caress. Her gaze, firmly fixed on the gold
buttons of his jacket, now shot to his face, expecting a leer. How could he
suggest she might enjoy being debauched?
His dark brows had puckered into a surprised frown, almost reproachful.
He lowered his hand.
Dear God. She couldn’t refuse him anything. Lord John owned her
for the night. Whatever he wanted to do to her, be it lewd touch or soft
caress, she had to submit. No matter she wanted to scream, or cry, or
pummel his chest. Curse him for being a depraved wretch who reveled
in her misfortunes.
That wasn’t fair. She returned her gaze to his chest. Despite her misery,
she couldn’t blame him for her misfortunes or her decision to come here.
He was a man bent on the usual pleasures of men, and she needed the
patronage of such men to survive. If he wanted her to be pleased, then
she would convince him of her pleasure. A leaden weight settled over her,
grounding her. She tipped back her head and smiled at him, the practiced
false smile that showed her teeth. “Then I am certain we shall both be
pleased, my lord.”
A broad grin spread across his swarthy face. “Amorina has taught you
well, little one. You will go far here, I believe.” He untied his cloak and
tossed it carelessly onto a chair.
Violet gawked at his body—perfectly proportioned shoulders, waist,
and hips, well-muscled legs—and her bravado slipped a notch. He was
gorgeous, with a face like a cherub bent on mischief and a body made
for sin. Somehow a devilishly handsome, virile man made the situation
worse. She had assumed whoever ruined her would be old, ugly, evil. Like
the deed he performed.
He touched her cheek.
She started then forced herself to remain still this time. Despite the heat
of the blazing logs, uncontrollable shivers wracked her body. Twisting the
fabric of her skirt helped.
Slowly, Lord John leaned down, bringing the scent of sandalwood to
swirl around her head. He scattered kisses along the side of her neck.
“Don’t worry, ma petite. I don’t bite, unless instructed.”
His caresses sent chills down her arms. When she turned her head
and rubbed her arms, he laughed and pulled her against him. Don’t fight.
Just submit. She made herself relax, lean on his taut body. As if given
permission, his mouth descended, tickling the sensitive flesh of neck,
making her whole body glow as though a fire had been lit within. Her
heartbeat pounded a staccato rhythm. Did he hear that? Did he feel her
getting warmer? Pressed together as they were, he must.
He slid his mouth down her throat, and cupped her derriere through
her thin lavender striped petticoat.
Her bottom tensed. More heat rushed to her face and she burrowed her
head into his chest, grateful he couldn’t see her.
A low humming vibrated the skin of her neck, and his full-throated growl
ensued. He gripped her buttocks, surprising a gasp out of her. With strong
fingers, he kneaded them before he traveled up her backside, across her
back to her waist. Lord John raised his head, his eyes bright with desire.
He moved her away from him and continued up to stroke her breasts.
Smiling all the while, Violet closed her eyes and gritted her teeth. So
that was why Madame Vestry had given strict instructions to remove her
He circled her nipples with his thumbs, making them tingle and ache.
She bit her lip to stifle a moan. He couldn’t be right, could he? She shouldn’t
enjoy being ruined.
Only A Mistress Will Do is available at
During the time I was writing Only A Mistress Will Do, two songs seemed to speak to the story I was writing. One was Tove Lo’s “Talking Body,” which captured for me the sensuality of Violet and Tris’s relationship, and Taylor Swift’s song “Wildest Dreams,” which seemed to me to embody Violet Carlton’s longing and sentiments about Tristan. I’ve included that video below. Enjoy!