Jessica Cale’s Five Facts About Women in Restoration London
1. Women used to box. London’s lowest classes boxed for entertainment more than a hundred years before it became a popular sport. Men boxed in prize fights in places like Southwark’s Bear Garden, but women boxed for money, dresses, gin, and even men. They were often stripped to the waist to do it, which may have contributed to its popularity as a spectator sport.
2. Childbirth was the most common cause of death for women. Nearly half of the female population died during or as a direct result of childbirth. Fire was the second most common cause of death, as houses were lit with candles, heated by hearths, and most cooking was done over open flame, and skirts caught fire easily.
3. Cosmetics existed and were commonly worn. One of the most popular cosmetics was ceruse, a sort of foundation made from white lead. It was applied with a cloth over a base of egg whites and set with powder. Although it created the illusion of a perfect complexion, it took on a gray tinge the longer it was worn, and it could cause serious skin damage and even lead poisoning.
4. Virginity wasn’t everything. Both sexes tended to wait until they were financially independent before they married, often waiting until they were in their late twenties or older, but they commonly lived together before they married, sometimes for years. It may have been required to ensure succession for highest classes, but for common people, it just wasn’t that big of a deal.Women worked. Some women worked, but their opportunities were severely limited. Women could work in service, in bars, as brewers, as midwives, or wet nurses, but they were paid a great deal less than men. They were expected to have someone providing for them with their wages going on extra luxuries only, so it was difficult if not impossible for a women to survive on her own wages, let alone to support a family. Many women turned to prostitution and crime to support themselves. Women were treated as men were for breaking the law, imprisoned in the same gaols, and executed at Tyburn along with male convicts.
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.
Liquid Silver: http://www.lsbooks.com/virtues-lady-p1008.php
Barnes & Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/virtues-lady-jessica-cale/1121713113?ean=9781622102051
All Romance E-Books: https://www.allromanceebooks.com/product-virtue039slady-1782182-340.html
Other Books in This Series
Tyburn (The Southwark Saga, Book 1): 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.
Liquid Silver: http://www.lsbooks.com/tyburn-p975.php
Barnes & Noble
All Romance E-Books: https://www.allromanceebooks.com/product-tyburn-1695993-340.html
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 kidnaped (“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.
Social Media Links
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
Excerpts (please choose one! :) )
Excerpt 1: Mark’s dream (310) (Rating: R)
The girl was beautiful.
She had him pinned to the bed. He was helpless beneath her hands. Her long fingers spanned his chest, tracing the line where the muscle dipped and gave way to shoulder. A hint of a smile played on her lips, more than just a little bit wicked. Kiss-crushed and sherry red, they were the sweetest thing he’d ever tasted.
“Like this?” She shifted back onto his hip bones.
She hovered above him like a conquering angel, all of the fearsome beauty of heaven in her laughing eyes, as gray and deadly as any steel. He could see the evidence of her ferocity in the iron poker that still projected from the door behind her head, a temptation as much as a warning.
“Getting there.” He grinned.
His hands rested on the curve of her waist, his rough, tanned skin a stark contrast to her smooth flesh, luminous and pale as the moon.
“More,” she moaned, rocking against him.
The bed slammed noisily against the wall, an insistent rapping that increased in frequency, strangely unconnected to the movements of her hips.
Somewhere in the distance, the sound of a saw.
Mark became aware of the bedclothes tangled around his legs. The stench of the river replaced the scent of her skin. She flickered as she bent over him with a sly smile, her hair falling around him like a curtain of copper silk. He was moments away from a bone-shattering orgasm. Just a little bit longer. She increased her pace, her breath quickening as she neared her peak. Her lips hovered above his, close enough to kiss, but somehow out of reach.
Her hips flickered under his hands and he heard the warble of a flock of geese.
“Jane,” he gasped, reaching out to grasp her as she disappeared, and finding only bed linen beneath his hand.
Excerpt 2: Fight in the shop (long excerpt) (1100) (PG-13)
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.”
Excerpt 3: Prison (450) (PG/PG-13)
A key popped into the lock and the door opened with a creak. A turnkey stood guard in the narrow entrance, as if he was afraid Mark would escape.
Mark almost laughed. They’d put him in the heavy shackles they reserved for those who had escaped and been recaptured. It was Harry who was the escape artist, but Mark wouldn’t correct them. It was good that they thought he was a threat.
The turnkey carried a lantern bright enough for Mark to see his shining eyes and a shit-eating grin. “Someone likes you,” he said.
Mark rolled his eyes. “You tell Tilly that there’s not enough bread in Christendom—”
He trailed off as he saw a slender white hand emerge from the shadows of the hall to drop a coin into the turnkey’s palm. “For his shackles,” said a girl’s voice in a coarse accent he didn’t recognize.
“You want them on or off?”
“Off!” she snapped.
Mark raised an eyebrow. “You’ve got the wrong cell, mate. I’m not expecting anyone.”
The turnkey leered. “Can I keep her, then?”
“Can you hell!” the girl protested. “I was sent for Mister Mark Virtue only. Bought and paid for. Hands off!”
The girl stepped into the light. The thin cloak she wore over it was for warmth more than modesty; a man would have to be blind not to see the body beneath it. Her lush curves were cinched into a scandalously low-cut dress the color of burnished gold, her flawless skin glowing in the warm light of the lantern. A yard or so of shining auburn hair spilled out of the hood that shadowed her face. Even had she kept it covered, he would have known her from the way his blood sang in her presence.
She glanced up at him from beneath the hood and he saw it.
The glint of steel in her eyes.
“This is only a shilling,” said the turnkey. “That’ll get you the hands or the feet. Not both.”
She arched an eyebrow at Mark. “Which is it? Hands or feet?”
Mark didn’t take his eyes off of her as the turnkey bent to unlock the shackles around his ankles.
“The lantern’s extra,” he said as he stood.
“Don’t need it,” Mark dismissed, rubbing his ankles.
“That’s a shame. She’s a treat! I’ll come get her later then. Wish I had friends like yours, Mark.” He closed the door behind him, and Mark heard the bolt slide into the lock with a heavy click.
He was locked in a cell in near perfect darkness with Jane Ramsey.
“It’s not my birthday.” He smiled.