Today we have the lovely Jessica Cale stopping by to give us a peek into her latest book, Virtue’s Lady. This is the second book in the Southwark Saga, the first being – Tyburn. As you may have gathered from the titles, Jessica writes delicious historical romance.
Hi Jessica and welcome! J
Thank you so much for hosting me, Nicole! I am so glad to be here today to share a little bit about my new release, Virtue’s Lady.
Virtue’s Lady is the second book of The Southwark Saga, and follows Lady Jane Ramsey as she attempts to give up her life of wealth and privilege when she falls in love with Mark Virtue, a carpenter and ex-highwayman. It is a bit of a departure from many historical romances in that much of it takes place in Southwark, one of the poorest areas around London and a haven for criminals. Instead of marrying into wealth, Jane is actively trying to marry out of it.
It’s easy to imagine that life as an heiress would have been comfortable and easy, but for Jane, it’s not. She has had almost every aspect of her life from her clothing to her education carefully chosen for her, and her father has even picked her future husband: a syphilitic earl more than three times her age. Jane wants out, and she’ll give up anything to have her freedom. Her life in Southwark isn’t easy, but she has to go through it to find out what she’s made of.
It was important to me to set Virtue’s Lady in Southwark because I wanted to see what Jane was made of, too. She surprised even me! There are plenty of stories out there where people learn to live among the wealthy, but I wanted to write something that I felt hadn’t been done before. What if my heiress not only survived the slum, but liked it there? What would make her leave home, and why would she want to stay?
More than anything, this is Jane’s story the way she wanted to live it. She and Mark both had such strong personalities in Tyburn, that for Virtue’s Lady, I let them take the lead and live the lives they were going to live anyway. Their story is as individual as they are, and I hope you enjoy it.
From toiling for pennies to bare-knuckle boxing, a lady is prepared for every eventuality.
Lady Jane Ramsey is young, beautiful, and ruined.
After being rescued from her kidnapping by a handsome highwayman, she returns home only to find her marriage prospects drastically reduced. Her father expects her to marry the repulsive Lord Lewes, but Jane has other plans. All she can think about is her highwayman, and she is determined to find him again.
Mark Virtue is trying to go straight. After years of robbing coaches and surviving on his wits, he knows it’s time to hang up his pistol and become the carpenter he was trained to be. He busies himself with finding work for his neighbors and improving his corner of Southwark as he tries to forget the girl who haunts his dreams. As a carpenter struggling to stay in work in the aftermath of The Fire, he knows Jane is unfathomably far beyond his reach, and there’s no use wishing for the impossible.
When Jane turns up in Southwark, Mark is furious. She has no way of understanding just how much danger she has put them in by running away. In spite of his growing feelings for her, he knows that Southwark is no place for a lady. Jane must set aside her lessons to learn a new set of rules if she is to make a life for herself in the crime-ridden slum. She will fight for her freedom and her life if that’s what it takes to prove to Mark—and to herself—that there’s more to her than meets the eye.
Here’s a snippet –
She hung up the dress, admiring her handiwork. It was not something she would willingly wear, but she hoped the lady would be pleased with the final result. She heard the front door behind her as she bent to pluck a stray thread from the skirt. “We’ve shut for the day,” she called over her shoulder.
When she heard no response, she turned.
Mark Virtue stood behind the counter, his hand still on the doorknob. His long brown coat hung open over his dusty work clothes, the undyed linen of his shirt straining across his broad chest. That chest, a warm expanse of smooth skin over hard, sculpted muscle, was a work of art. Though she had willed herself to forget him, her hands remembered.
Her lips remembered, too.
She licked them with the tip of her tongue, her mouth gone quite dry.
“I didn’t believe it,” he said, his gaze moving from her shapeless leather shoes to her dirty, gloveless hands. Jane looked down, suddenly aware of her shabby work dress. Compared to the other gowns he had seen her in, it was little more than a rag, really. She had braided her hair over her shoulder to keep it out of her stitching and now she wondered what she must look like to him. She touched the end of her braid self-consciously, a touch of embarrassment coloring her cheeks.
She cursed herself for her embarrassment. She had as much right to be here as anyone, and she was done apologizing to Mark Virtue. She straightened her spine and looked him square in his devastatingly blue eyes.
Her knees may have trembled a bit. She did a good job of hiding it. “Well?”
Mark stepped toward the counter. “I sent you back to your father not a fortnight past.”
She shrugged, borrowing the gesture from Carys. “I didn’t go.”
“I see that.”
He paced around the side of the counter while maintaining what little distance he could in the close quarters of the shop.
Jane stepped back, hiding the toes of her soft leather shoes under the hem of her dress. Her slippers may have been stolen, but she still had her silk stockings. She wore them even now, not that he needed to know that.
He had rather liked them, if she remembered correctly.
She swallowed. “What do you want?”
He raised his eyebrows in surprise. “I’ve come to see the new shop girl everyone’s talking about. You look the part, I’ll give you that. Perhaps a touch more dirt, just here...” He brushed her skirt.
Jane crossed her arms over her chest. “Is that what you think this is? You think I’m pretending?”
“Rather unconvincingly, I’m afraid. All the shapeless dresses in the world couldn’t disguise the fact that you’re a lady. Lowering yourself to wield a needle doesn’t make you one of us.”
Jane clenched her jaw. “I’ve as much right to be here as you do.”
“You have no right,” he insisted. “You can’t play at being poor. This is life to these people. This is my life. You think I ought to stand by while you make a mockery of it by working in a place like this when you can leave anytime you please?”
“I’m not going anywhere,” she nearly shouted. “I told you, Mark, I gave it up. Believe it folly if you will, but it changes nothing. I am never going back.”
Mark looked away. “Give it a fortnight.”
“I beg your pardon?”
“Give it a fortnight,” he repeated. “Work, and struggle, and starve with the rest of us if that is what you think you want. You weren’t made for this world any more than I was made for yours. Sooner or later, you’ll be desperate to go home.”
“I am home,” Jane said through her teeth. “I’m staying here.”
“How long do you suppose you can last alone in a bastard sanctuary with no money and no protection? How do you expect to live?”
“I have a job, in case you were not aware.” She threw out her arms to indicate the shop. “I work day and night, and I have a little apartment with a door that locks. I’ll make do.”
He tilted his head, looking at her curiously. “In two weeks on your own? Maybe you’ve got a protector after all.”
Jane might have been naïve, but she knew exactly what he was implying, and she didn’t like it. She felt the anger rush to her face, unbidden and terrifying in its intensity. She took a deep breath. “Get out.”
“Jane, be reasonable.”
Her face burned. “You’d like me to stand here while you question my virtue? You of all people? You had no trouble dispensing with it when you thought me an actress!”
Mark gave a long sigh. “For that I apologize. I was a fool. I never should have thought that someone like you...” He motioned toward her helplessly.
“Someone like me? Who might that be? Am I a lady? Am I a seamstress? Am I a whore? You don’t seem to like me as any of these things, so why don’t you tell me, Mark, who I ought to be. What kind of a woman am I?”
He took her wrists in his hands and held them to his chest, the irritation in his face replaced by something that looked a bit like shame. “That’s not what I meant.” He lowered his voice, his face close enough that she could smell the tobacco in his clothes. “Do as you please. It makes no difference to me.”
Jane’s fingers spanned his chest of their own accord, responding to his warmth. “It doesn’t?”
He shook his head, his eyes settling on her lips. “I don’t want you to get hurt,” he confessed.
She resisted the urge to lean into him with some difficulty. “I’ve done fine this far.”
“Have you?” He took her hand, turning her palm upwards to examine the damage: pinpricks, swollen fingertips, the ghosts of calluses forming where she grasped the shears.
She tugged her hand away from him but he didn’t let go. He held her gaze, his eyes searching hers, and she was struck again by their extraordinary color. Deep blue, green, and grey, shifted across his irises in restless, churning waves, the color of a storm on the river. They darkened as he raised her hand to his mouth and kissed the palm, the touch of his lips like a balm on her sore skin.
Jane held her breath, waiting to drown.
He smiled his crooked smile, a touch of condescension in the corners. “If all you wanted was another night, you didn’t have to go to such trouble.
Here’s the blurb from Tyburn, the first book in Jessica’s Southwark Saga.
Notorious harlot Sally Green fights for survival in Restoration London. When a brutal attack throws them together, Sally is torn between the tutor who saves her and the highwayman who keeps her up at night; between new love and an old need for revenge. Winner of the Southern Magic Gayle Wilson Award of Excellence 2015.
Jessica Cale is a historical romance author and journalist based in North Carolina. Originally from Minnesota, she lived in Wales for several years where she earned a BA in History and an MFA in Creative Writing while climbing castles and photographing mines for history magazines. She kidnapped (“married”) her very own British prince (close enough) and is enjoying her happily ever after with him in a place where no one understands his accent. You can visit her at www.authorjessicacale.com
You can also find Jessica here –
Twitter: https://twitter.com/JessicaCale @JessicaCale
Amazon Author Page: http://www.amazon.com/Jessica-Cale/e/B00PVDV9EW/ref=ntt_dp_epwbk_0
Goodreads Author Page: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/9819997.Jessica_Cale
Thanks so much for dropping by.