Jude Knight Author Spotlight
August 18, 2015
On Duchess of Romance today, I’m spotlighting Jude Knight and her latest: A Baron for Becky. I’m so pleased to host you on my blog today, Jude, thank you for visiting! Also, joining us for a lovely teatime chat is Hugh, Baron Overton.
A Baron for Becky
Genre: Regency romance, historical romance
Heat rating: R for implied sexual content, 2 out of 5 flames
Giveaway: Free copy of A Baron for Becky to random commenter
Tagline: She was a fallen woman when she met them. How can they help her fall on her feet?
Becky is the envy of the courtesans of the demi-monde – the indulged mistress of the wealthy and charismatic Marquis of Aldridge. But she dreams of a normal life; one in which her daughter can have a future that does not depend on beauty, sex, and the whims of a man.
Finding herself with child, she hesitates to tell Aldridge. Will he cast her off, send her away, or keep her and condemn another child to this uncertain shadow world?
The devil-may-care face Hugh shows to the world hides a desperate sorrow; a sorrow he tries to drown with drink and riotous living. His years at war haunt him, but even more, he doesn’t want to think about the illness that robbed him of the ability to father a son. When he dies, his barony will die with him. His title will fall into abeyance, and his estate will be scooped up by the Crown.
When Aldridge surprises them both with a daring proposition, they do not expect love to be part of the bargain.
Romance, Regency romance, A Baron for Becky, Aldridge, Marquis of Aldridge, The Golden Redepennings, courtesan, mistress stories, arranged marriage, Jude Knight, @JudeKnightBooks
#Romance #Regency #RegencyRomance #HistRom #BellesInBlue
Jude Knight writes strong determined heroines, heroes who can appreciate a clever capable woman, villains you’ll love to loathe, and all with a leavening of humour.
Jude Knight is the pen name of Judy Knighton. After a career in commercial writing, editing, and publishing, Jude is returning to her first love, fiction. Her novella, Candle’s Christmas Chair, was released in December 2014, and is in the top ten on several Amazon bestseller lists in the US and UK. Her first novel Farewell to Kindness, was released on 1 April, and is first in a series: The Golden Redepennings.
Amazon UK http://amzn.to/1H3YmTk
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Jude’s Other Books (on Amazon)
Candle’s Christmas Chair (free novella): http://amzn.to/1LO6zN0
Farewell to Kindness (Book One, the Golden Redepennings): http://amzn.to/1Ce4lpP
Excerpt 1 (411 words) PG heat level
Aldridge never did find out how he came to be naked, alone, and sleeping in the small summerhouse in the garden of a country cottage. His last memory of the night before, had him twenty miles away, and—although not dressed—in a comfortable bed, and in company.
The first time he woke, he had no idea how far he’d come, but the moonlight was bright enough to show him half-trellised window openings, and an archway leading down a short flight of steps into a garden. A house loomed a few hundred feet distant, a dark shape against the star-bright sky. But getting up was too much trouble, particularly with a headache that hung inches above him, threatening to split his head if he moved. The cushioned bench on which he lay invited him to shut his eyes and go back to sleep. Time enough to find out where he was in the morning.
When he woke again, he was facing away from the archway entrance, and there was someone behind him. Silence now, but in his memory, the sound of light footsteps shifting the stones on the path outside, followed by twin intakes of breath as the walkers saw him.
One of them spoke; a woman’s voice, but low—almost husky. “Sarah, go back to the first rosebush and watch the house.”
“Yes, Mama.” A child’s voice.
Aldridge waited until he heard the child dance lightly down the steps and away along the path, then shifted his weight slightly letting his body roll over till he was lying on his back.
He waited for the exclamation of shock, but none came. Carefully—he wanted to observe her before he let her know he was awake, and anyway, any sudden movement might start up the hammers above his eye sockets—he cracked open his lids, masking his eyes with his lashes.
He could see more than he expected. The woman was using a shuttered lantern to examine him, starting at his feet. She paused for a long time when she reached his morning salute and it grew even prouder. Then she swept her light up his torso so quickly, he barely had time to slam his lids shut before the light reached and lingered over his face.
She was just a vague shadow behind the light. He held himself still while she completed her examination, which she did with a snort of disgust. Not the reaction to which he was accustomed.
Excerpt 2 (478 words) PG heat level
Becky lost her next thought as he whisked her into a curtained alcove and proceeded to kiss her. She thought she knew kisses. Rough and clumsy connections, rude invasions of her mouth as the man who had purchased the right violently mauled her breasts and buttocks. Those weren’t kisses. This; this was a kiss: a firm but gentle invitation to a duet, patiently coaxing a response and then turning to a dance, a partnership of giving and taking that spun music through every vein in her body. Becky forgot where she was, almost who she was, as she melted against him, lost in a world of sensation.
Sarah. Campaign plan. She pulled back, and Aldridge let her go.
“Something on account,” Aldridge suggested.
“Perhaps.” She peeked cautiously around the curtain and then hurried away down the silent hall.
Aldridge next approached her after dinner, sitting on the other side of the love seat she’d deliberately chosen in a shadowed corner of the great parlour, out of the direct view of the earl, who was playing the pianoforte, and the countess, who was turning the pages of music for him.
“I love that shade of blue on you, Mrs Darling.,” he said.
She blushed. Her lovers had seldom bothered to compliment her, though extravagant, excruciatingly bad, poetry had been written to The Rose of Frampton by those who didn’t have her in their keeping.
“It needs something else, though,” Aldridge commented. He pulled out a tissue-wrapped package. “Not the diamonds and sapphires I thought of buying, but it is just the colour of your eyes. I had to see it on you.”
‘This’ was a shawl in patterns of blue, so fine it was small enough when rolled to fit into his jacket pocket, but large enough to wrap warmly around her shoulders. She jumped up to examine it in the mirror, and he followed her, standing inches away, but leaning forward to breathe on her ear as he said, “Exquisite.”
She should refuse the gift. Proper ladies did not take gifts from gentlemen. But they both knew she was not a lady, and she was well used to gifts with a price tag attached.
“Something on account?” she asked.
“Not this time. A present, given freely, with no expectation of reward. Because I admire you, lovely Rose.”
She had to remind herself of every rumour she had heard about the man. And even then, if she’d not heard him working his charm on Smite’s men, she might have unravelled as he clearly expected. No wonder he had left such a string of broken hearts behind him.
It would be a mistake to give in too easily.
“And in return,” she told him, “I freely give you my thanks, my lord.”
She was rewarded with a moment’s stunned amazement before the amused look reappeared. “Well played, Mrs Darling,” he murmured.
Excerpt 3 (324 words) PG heat level
The maid must have added a fresh log to the fire just before they arrived. The top was still uncharred, but flames licked up from the bed of hot embers. A twig that jutted from one side suddenly flared, turned black, and shrivelled. The bottom of the log began to glow red.
The duchess spoke again, startling Becky out of her flame-induced trance.
“What do you want for your daughter, Mrs Darling?”
“A better life,” Becky said immediately, suddenly fierce. “A chance to be respectable. A life that does not depend on the whims of a man.”
“The first two may be achievable,” the duchess said, dryly. “The third is unlikely, in the extreme, for any woman of any station. You expect my son to help you to this goal, I take it.”
Becky was suddenly tired of polite circling. “I was saving so that I could leave this life, start again in another place under another name. But my last protector cheated me and stole from me.
“I do what I must, Your Grace. Should I have killed myself when I was disgraced? I had no skills anyone wanted to buy. I could play the piano, a little; sew, but others were faster and better; paint, but indifferently; parse a Latin sentence, but not well. Should I have starved in the gutter where they threw me?
“Well, I wasn’t given that choice. Those who took me from the gutter knew precisely what I had that others would pay for. As soon as I could, I began selling it for myself, and I Will. Not. Be. Ashamed.”
Her vehemence did not ruffle the duchess’s calm. “We all do what we must, my dear. I am not judging you. Men have the power in this world, and women of the gentry are raised to depend on them for our survival. But you must know that Aldridge cannot offer marriage to a woman with your history.”
Excerpt 4 (579 words) R-18 heat level
As the door closed behind Sarah and the groom, Becky looked suspiciously at Aldridge.
“Yes,” he said. “I arranged it.”
“You knew they had kittens?”
“Or puppies, or foals, or some other small, furry distraction. It did not matter what. We have little time, Becky. I just wanted to give you something to think about between now and when we reach London.”
She stepped towards him, expecting an embrace, but he held up his hand. “No. Stay there, or I will have you right on this table, and you do not want your daughter walking in on that. But I do want to tell you precisely what I have in mind for tonight. I have been planning it as I rode. Somewhat uncomfortable, but a man must make sacrifices.”
He reached out and skimmed her shape from neck to waist, without touching.
“First, we will settle Miss Sarah in nursery, and she may have a dozen maids to keep her company and do her bidding, but prepare her, Becky, for the fact that you will be otherwise occupied.”
“Then,” his lips curved in that same wicked smile, and he deliberately and slowly licked his upper lip.
“A bath first, I think. I have one large enough for two, my dear, and it shall be waiting, piping hot and perfumed. You shall stand by the fire, Becky, where it is warm, and I shall be your maid. Or perhaps not quite, for would a maid, as she loosened and removed your stays, brush your arms with feather-light touches? Would she gently and tenderly caress your lovely thighs as she rolled down your stockings, running her fingertips up, oh so softly, almost but not quite to your most secret treasures?. Would she, when she lifted your chemise, cup your beautiful breasts and run a thumb over your nipples? They tighten and pebble. Is it the cold, Becky, that makes them so hard? Let us have you up and into the bath, then.
“Now your turn. I have gazed upon your glories. Lie back and soak up the heat, and I shall disrobe for you. Will you be pleased with what you see, I wonder? Ah…” she was about to speak, but he put his finger on her lips. “Yes, you saw me before, by the light of one candle. But my room shall have many candles, Becky, that we might enjoy the sight, as well as the touch, of one another.
“Where were we? Ah yes, you are lying in the bath, all relaxed in the hot perfumed water, waiting for me to serve at your pleasure. Picture me at your feet, dear Becky, soaping my hands. We shall order you your own soap, the softest, finest soap money can buy, and you shall choose the perfumes to scent it with, but tonight, we shall use mine.
“What shall I wash first, I wonder. These?” He reached out again, this time shaping her breasts, his hands a bare inch from her skin.
Step by step, he described how he would bring her to completion in the bath, and then what they would do after “on the rug by the fire, dear Becky, this first time, if you will allow,” and then how they would sleep, and wake again for another encounter he had also planned, and described in detail.
By the time the servant returned with Sarah, Becky’s eyes were glazed and her thighs slick with arousal.
Character Interview: Hugh Baron Overton
Joining us today on the blog, we have Hugh Baron Overton. Welcome Hugh!
“Hello, Lady Janet. Thank you for inviting me to join you today.” (He takes a seat in the shadows, turning his head so we can see only the unscarred side of his face.)
The other man was as tall as Aldridge, but dark to his fair. He must once have been stunningly handsome, one side of his face still carved by a master. Subtle curves and strong planes combined in a harmonious whole, speaking of strength and, in the lines at the corners of his eyes, suffering.
On the other side, dozens of scars pitted and ridged the skin, as if it had been torn and chewed by an animal—an animal with jaws of flame, by the tell-tale burn puckers. Thankfully, whatever it was had missed his eye
So, Hugh, tell us a little more about yourself
“Certainly. What would you like to know?”
Where are you from?
“I was born and raised in Central Lancashire. My father and mother lived in the town nearest to Overton Hall, and I spent much of my time there, with my cousins. Of course, I never imagined that I would one day be baron in my uncle’s place.”
My family are not prolific, but my grandfather had two sons, and my father the younger. I am an only child, but my uncle had two sons and a daughter. Then, five deaths in the family in one year, and suddenly, I am Baron Overton.”
What do you do?
“I am baron, as I said, so I manage my estates, but I also have interests in trade. Indeed, I rebuilt my family’s fortune through trade.”
And it had worked: those long voyages to secure cotton for the mill in Liverpool, trips to London for buyers, constant scurrying to and from the West Indies and the length and breadth of England.
What do you want from life?
“I want to do my duty. That means building a future for my daughters, my tenants and the estate, the mill and its workers. I want to, and for as long as I live I will. But after? I cannot perform the most basic duty of a peer. Ultimately, I have one chance at what I want in life. My hopes all lie with my new wife.”
The wound was always raw. The Overtons had never been prolific breeders, but they’d held this land and served these people since Charles II had rewarded a faithful ancestor at the Restoration. And Hugh would be the last.
How do you fall in love? At first sight? Over a long period?
“Love? Love was not part of the bargain that Becky and I made. I respect her. I like being married to her. She looks after my daughters, and she makes my house a home again. But that isn’t love. Is it?”
Slowly, it dawned on him that he had fallen in love with his wife. Fallen in love with her, been severed from her, and missed her like a lost limb. It was too late now. If only he had told her! He couldn’t force the words on her now, when he had hurt her so badly, and she so clearly regretted marrying him.
The house was in mourning.
If you were granted three wishes, what would you ask for?
“I would ask for a son to inherit the title and the land. That’s what I want above all. If I had that, I could be sure of the rest—safety and happiness for the girls, security for the people who depend on me. No. I have another wish. A contented old age together with Becky.”
What really moves you, or touches you to the soul?
“I have been really moved to see Becky with my daughters. Their own mother did not have time for them, you know. But Becky… I knew how much she cared for her own daughter, but she has taken mine into her heart with the same generous love. Nothing gives me greater joy than to see them all together.”
Hugh looked. The mother, bending over her daughter, exclaiming over the doll’s articulated arms and legs, and its wardrobe. And the child, her mother in miniature. Identical heart-shaped faces; identical dark hair, tied back but with tiny curls left loose around their foreheads; identical porcelain skin and cornflower blue eyes fringed with dark lashes.
So intent, eyes full of love for her daughter, like statues of the Madonna he had seen in Catholic Italy, before he sold out.
God, he needed a drink.
What is one physical attribute you are proud of?
Hugh’s eyes twinkle and his voice drops. “I have quite a lot of… energy. That may not be the kind of physical attribute you are thinking of, but my wife appreciates it.”
Physical exercise—productive, necessary work—helped. He’d thrown himself into the harvest. This was the last farm, and they’d scythed and cocked more than half the tenant’s grain today.
Hugh stopped at the end of the row. How much progress had they made? The sun would be down soon; they had perhaps another hour of light.
“Reckon we’ll finish this field tonight, my lord,” said Beckham, whose barley crop they were getting in. Hugh nodded as he took a tankard of ale from the man’s wife. “I reckon we will, Beckham,” he agreed.
What one physical attribute would you change?
“I would remove my scars if I could. They cover all one side from my head to my knee.
She was prepared, or she would have gasped. As with his face, smooth skin on one side contrasted with seared and puckered scars on the other. Show no disgust. Nothing but polite interest. In truth, she was not disgusted, but compassion would not be welcomed, either. He would take it for pity.
What’s the most important thing in your life? What do you value most?
“My family. My wife, and the children we are raising together. They are more important to me than anything else in my life.”
He caught her then, stopped her in her stride with a hand on each shoulder. His dark eyes sought the raw wounds he and Aldridge were making of her scars. “I’ve set a plan with Aldridge to establish you safely, and I promise you this. Whatever comes, I will stand by you and your children. If you and I agree to wed, I will never abandon you.”
He was taller than Aldridge, and broader. She felt tiny next to him. But his hands were gentle and his eyes kind and sincere. Could she trust him? The quiet anonymous life of a middle-class widow would be safe, but the dream she had outlined to Aldridge was ahead of her, if she dared reach for it. Perhaps even love. He would be easy to love, this battered warrior who sheltered orphans and was prepared to change his mind when he was wrong.
Thank you so much for stopping by and chatting with us, Hugh. It was lovely meeting you!
“Thank you, Janet. I’ve enjoyed talking with you, and I wish you and your readers’ happy reading.
Thank you so much for joining us today, Jude. It was a pleasure hosting you on the blog!