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 5, the upcoming Only Pleasure Will Do.
Since this book is still a work in progress, I do not have a cover for it yet, however, I can give you a small preview of the heroine’s face (as I’ve already selected my cover model). Meet the face of Amorina Vestry, the unlikely heroine of the final book of the series.
This story had its seeds in the first book of the series, Only Scandal Will Do, in a chapter that was actually cut from the final version. In this chapter, Bow Street Runner Reginald Matthews goes to the House of Pleasure to interrogate Madam Vestry about Lady Katarina Fitzwilliam’s kidnapping. While there, Amorina gives up little information, but attempts to seduce the inspector instead. My editor at the time thought the interaction not necessary to the plot of Only Scandal Will Do, and so I cut it and re-wrote a bit of it to indicate that Matthews had gone to the House of Pleasure, but didn’t show the scene. However, I loved the chemistry between him and Amorina so much that I decided right then I needed to write their story as well. That was in 2011, so eight years later, they are finally getting their romance.
Amorina Vestry, the heroine of Only Pleasure Will Do, has been the madam of a brothel since the age of seventeen, through horrible circumstances stemming from her father’s death. She’s shrewd, brave, and more than a little resourceful. Her downfall is her capacity to love the few people who she deems most precious in her life.
My hero, Sir Reginald Matthews, is a newly minted magistrate at Bow Street who is quite a stickler for the rules, but is willing to bend them in a good cause. He’s a brave, intelligent man, who possesses a will of iron but a compassionate heart.
Here’s the (un-edited) blurb and excerpt from the first meeting of the hero and heroine, from Only Pleasure Will Do.
For Amiee Forrester life has been anything but kind. At age sixteen, her father’s death put her under the guardianship of an unscrupulous man who took her innocence and set her up to run London’s most notorious brothel, The House of Pleasure, as Madam Amorina Vestry. Despite the harshness of her circumstances, Amiee has cherished the hope of leaving the House of Pleasure and pursuing a future that might include marriage to a decent man…a man such as Reginald Matthews of Bow Street for whom she has passionate feelings. However, just as she thinks she may be free of the brothel, an old nemesis appears, threatening the one person for whom Amorina would do anything–even commit murder.
Sir Reginald Matthews, newly made Magistrate at Bow Street, has taken on the request of the girls at the House of Pleasure to locate Amorina Vestry, who has been missing for more than a week. He traces her to a country property, although when he attempts to rescue her, he himself is captured. Locked in the dark together, Reginald and Amorina discover a passion neither expected. But with time running out before the machinations of their assailant can wreak havoc on innocent lives, can they save those they hold dear without paying the ultimate sacrifice?
She opened the door wider, revealing her petite form clad in a bright scarlet silk dressing gown that slipped down to reveal one delicate white shoulder. “I am Amorina Vestry, Mr. Matthews.” She frowned, squinting against the light. “Whatever are you doing here at this hour of the day?” The madam’s insinuation was clear, but he ignored it.
“You know who I am?”
“But of course I do. I make it my business to know all of my patrons—to some degree.”
Reginald gritted his teeth. “I have never patronized your establishment, madam.”
She stared at him, a flash of hunger in her eyes as she took him in from top to bottom. “Perhaps it was just wishful thinking, then.” The hunger disappeared as quickly as it had come. “Suffice it to say, I do know who you are, Mr. Matthews. How may I help you?”
“I have a garment, a black cloak that was found near here several weeks ago,” he gestured to the folded material clasped beneath his arm, “but has only now surfaced from the night watch. I am trying to ascertain its owner, Madame Vestry. May I come in?” A bare flicker of interest—or alarm—crossed her face at the mention of a black cloak, and his lips curled into a smile. His instinct to try the House of Pleasure first this morning had been exactly right.
“Of course, Mr. Matthews. I am always eager to assist the Runners with any of their investigations.” The woman’s tone was smooth, but insincere. She opened the door and led him down a dim, carpeted hallway. Reginald glanced at the artwork on the walls—Rubenesque nudes in lewd poses. Sudden heat bloomed in the pit of his stomach and he turned his gaze back to the small figure before him. She led him into a small receiving room, the décor of which was titillating to say the least. Madame Vestry gestured for him to sit on a pomegranate red satin covered sofa.
“May I see the garment?”
“Certainly.” He handed it over for her perusal, his gaze trained on her face.
Only a slight widening of the slate gray eyes gave her away, but oh yes, she recognized the cloak.
Satisfied he’d come to the right place, Reginald relaxed into the sofa.
Vestry felt the expensive cloth, then ran her hand down the front opening, almost caressing it. A good customer then, no doubt.
“Do you recognize it, Madam?” He waited patiently for her denial.
“Yes, Mr. Matthews, I believe I do.”
He tensed, suddenly very attentive to her once more. Never trust a woman to be predictable.
“I believe that cloak may belong to one of my patrons. I seem to recall him wearing it to an auction here some time ago,” she replied smoothly.
“His name, Madame Vestry?”
“Is none of your concern, Mr. Matthews.” Sharply raised eyebrows signaled offence at his question. Standing directly in front of him, Madam Vestry suddenly reminded Reginald of his nursemaid, who used to tower over him with hands on hips whenever he had done something bad. Her voice brooked no nonsense either. “I can assure you that I will deliver the garment to my patron today.”
“Alas, Madame Vestry, the garment is part of an ongoing investigation and may not leave my custody.” Reginald attempted to inject regret into his voice. “But if you would direct me to your patron’s address I would be glad to assure him that it has been found.”
“Alas, indeed, Mr. Matthews,” the woman’s tone sounded more genuinely apologetic than his own, “for my establishment is well known for its discretion. How would my reputation fare if it becomes known that I named names to a Bow Street Runner?” The now highly indignant voice matched the cold-as-ice gaze that pierced him.
“Then pray that it does not become known.” Coercion was an integral part of Reginald Matthews’ repertoire. “Because you will give me that name before I leave or I will have a magistrate sign a warrant for your arrest and shut your house down before the first customer sets foot in here tonight.”
Amorina Vestry was not a fool. Frowning at Reginald, she sniffed and said, “If I remember correctly, the cloak was worn by the Marquess of Dalbury the night of my tableau auction. I saw him with it on after the he won the bid, but I cannot tell you if he wore it out of my establishment. There were many men here that night and much excitement from the bidding.” Cool gray eyes raked Reginald’s frame approvingly, then crinkled with humor. “You must attend the next one, Mr. Matthews. I’m sure you’ll find something to your liking.” She captured his gaze as her tongue flicked out to lick her full, red lips.
The heat in Reginald’s belly exploded downward to lodge in his groin. Although a man of modest appetites, he was certainly no virgin. He’d had his share of lady-birds, discretely of course, but this woman made him feel like an untried lad of thirteen, dammit. Her skills in the bedroom were widely touted throughout London. Certain rumors about her prowess came to mind, and the ache below worsened. Shifting his weight forward, hoping for some relief, he gripped the arm of the sofa like a vise and dragged his eyes away from her unwavering stare.
Only Pleasure Will Do will release in late October/early November on all e-book retail outlets.
When I began planning this story, the song that kept running though my head was Bruno Mars’ “Just the Way You Are.” A fitting tribute to Reginald Matthews’ acceptance of Amorina, despite her “wicked” past. Enjoy!