Friday, September 5, 2008

Author Spotlight: Delilah Marvelle

Today's author in the spotlight is Delilah Marvelle and her new release, Mistress of Pleasure, book one in her School of Gallantry series.

Author Bio:

Delilah Marvelle spent her youth studying various languages, reading voraciously, and playing the pianoforte. She confesses that here ends the extent of her gentle breeding. She was a naughty child who was forever torturing her parents with countless adventures that they did not deem respectable. Confined to her room on many occasions due to these misadventures, she discovered the quill and its amazing power. Soon, to the dismay of her parents, she rather enjoyed being confined to her room. And so, her writing continues. An RWA member and a two time Golden Heart finalist, Delilah Marvelle is thrilled to share her passion for stories. You can visit her at her website at: http://www.delilahmarvelle.com/



Granddaughter of a renowned courtesan, Maybelle de Maitenon has no interest in her grandmother's school in London where gentlemen receive instruction --- in the art seduction. Her only desire in life is to remain indepedent, free from men and the shackles of marriage. But when Maybelle lays eyes on Edmund Worthington, the Duke of Rutherford and hears of his scandalous reputation, she decides he's the perfect person for her to have a tryst with no strings attached.

Unbridled passion has muddied Edmund Worthington's family name. Again. After his very public dalliance with the strikingly beautiful and sensual Maybelle, his mother insists he marry her. But much to the Duke's surprise, Maybelle scoffs at his proposal. Never has he encountered such a brazen - and maddeningly irresistible - woman. But when Maybelle's grandmother falls ill, forcing Maybelle to take over the operation of her school, Edmund devises a plan to make her his. He enrolls in the school, where no one other than Maybelle must give him expert lessons in carnal pleasure...

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Lesson One

What defines a woman?
Why, she does, of course.
-The School of Gallantry

London, England – May 1830

When Maybelle first discovered at the tender age of
twelve that her beautiful, silver-haired grandmother was in
fact a French courtesan, it had been most...awkward. Yet
equally fascinating to say the least.

Being left in the care of such a sexually liberated
woman certainly made for an unusual upbringing. For
instance, French was taught, not out of cultural or
educational necessity, but because her grandmother believed
that the rolling off of French from one’s tongue was
erotic. As such, French words always had to be sprinkled
here and there like powdered sugar over the not-so-orgasmic
English language. At fourteen, Maybelle refused to adhere
to the woman’s ridiculous French/English rule. Mostly
because she felt like a want-wit who couldn’t decide
between two languages.

At fifteen, Maybelle was further astonished to
discover that naughty little books were not only permitted.
They were required. So unlike other girls who took to
sneaking pornographic books and keeping them under their
bedroom pillows, Maybelle was forced to sneak volumes of
Voltaire. For there was only so much copulation a girl
could ingest day in and day out.

Needless to say, after spending nine years under the
perpetual rule of her grandmother, there really wasn’t much
in this world that could actually astound her.

Or at least that is what she’d thought.

Maybelle eyed the full glass of cognac, which had been
set onto the gleaming surface of the walnut table before
her, and heaved out an exasperated sigh as she eased into
one of the parlor chairs. She had expected the last
morning spent with her grandmother to be difficult. But
cognac? Honestly.

She met her grandmother’s attentive gaze from across
the French crimson parlor and drawled, “I take it there is
no tea in the cupboards?”

“Och. Tea. The English are overly obsessed with it..”

Her grandmother rose from the settee, rustling not only her
full verdant skirts but also all three sets of stringed
pearls dangling over her more than generous bosom. “We
have every right to toast to all of our upcoming
adventures. After all, you will finally get to visit your
beloved Egypt, while I, I will finally have my School of

Maybelle paused. Then blinked. “Your School of

“Ah.” Her grandmother bustled over toward the small
writing bureau set in the corner of the parlor and snatched
up a piece of parchment from atop a pile of
correspondences. Turning, she bustled back again and
halted before Maybelle. Smiling ever so charmingly, she
held out the sizable cream-colored parchment by the tips of
her manicured fingers.

Maybelle stared at the parchment dangling before her.

Madame Thérése’s School of Gallantry

All gentlemen welcome.
Learn from the most celebrated demimondaine of France
Everything there is to know about love and seduction.
Only a limited amount of
Applications are being accepted
at 11 Berwick Street.
Discretion is guaranteed and advised.

Well. That certainly explained why her grandmother
had kept to herself these past few months. She’d been busy
creating a school. For men.

Heaven help her. This was going to follow her
straight to the pyramids. At least the woman had used a
nom de plume. Although it was only a matter of time before
the gossip papers found out who was really behind it.

“Well?” her grandmother prodded, still holding out the
advertisement. “What do you think?”

Ever since her father’s death left her in the care of
his mother, she often felt as if she were the guardian.
And enough was damn well enough.

Maybelle rose from her parlor chair and snatched hold
of the parchment. “Our reputation is already limp. Why on
earth do you feel the need to flog it to death? You
promised Papa that you’d never return to being a
demimondaine. You promised.”

Her grandmother arched a silver brow. “This is not a
return. I am merely selling techniques.”

“Techniques?” Maybelle smacked the parchment with the
back of her hand. “It’s ludicrous. What man would ever
admit to needing lessons in seduction? You of all people
should know that it comes natural to men.”

“Does it? How odd. I suppose the thirty men who have
already enlisted are merely looking for entertainment.”
With that, her grandmother snatched the advertisement back
and smoothed the edges of it carefully between her
manicured fingers.

Maybelle’s heart jumped. Thirty men had already
enlisted?! Who on earth were all these naughty blighters?
And what did they think they were going to learn?
Calm. She needed to remain calm. There had to be a
perfectly good reason for all this. There were always
reasons. No matter how farfetched. “Are we having trouble
with our finances?” she prodded, stepping toward her. “Is
that it?”

Her grandmother frowned. “Non. Our finances are
exceptionally good. Although I did have some assistance
from the lovely widow, Lady Chartwell. The woman fondly
shares my vision of educating men.”

Maybelle’s eyes widened. England’s widows were
actually donating to this plight? Although Maybelle wanted
to outright demand why her grandmother would stoop to such
a crude level of disrespect toward herself, her lips were
simply too numb to form a single intelligible word.

“You are not pleased, I see.” Her grandmother sighed
heavily and wandered back toward the bureau, carefully
setting the advertisement onto it. She tilted her head to
one side, causing her thick, silver chignon to shift, and
centered the parchment before her as if she were
straightening a painting. “London has always been so
boring compared to Paris. I am used to more excitement.
More passion. As you know, I have long sworn off my
occupation and sadly, have no great grandchildren to occupy
my time. What is worse, you and I have completely
different interests. A pile of old rocks set upon endless
hot sand is nothing short of torture. I am too delicate
for such things.”

Oh dear God. There it was again. The pity-me
routine. “No one forced you to stay in London. You chose
to stay here. Furthermore, I won’t have you calling the
pyramids a pile of old rocks. They are amazing historic
monuments worthy of genuine fascination. I’ve already
postponed my trip four times because of you and every time
I was forced to pay my designated traveling companion ten
pounds despite the fact that I never traveled anywhere.”
Maybelle crossed her arms over her chest. “So what is
it that you want this time? Aside from great

Her grandmother turned and feigned shock as her
slender hand flew to her bosom. “Want? What would make
you think that I want anything?”

Maybelle narrowed her gaze knowing a seasoned actress
had stepped on stage. “You know exactly how I feel about
these things, which is why you are trying to leverage this
against me. Otherwise, you would have never told me. You
would have waited until I left England and then opened the

Those soft blue eyes, which were a mere shade darker
than her own, remained fixed on Maybelle. “I am not trying
to leverage anything. The advertisements have long been
sent and the townhouse rented. It is done, chére. Classes
begin next week. And in the end, I confess that the most
difficult aspect was having to choose only four out of the
thirty who had originally enlisted.”

Maybelle hesitated then drawled, “You are renting out
an entire townhouse to host only four men?”

“Oui, but it is only temporary. Until I regulate the
schedule and coordinate the lesson plans. As time goes on,
I will add more men. Which of course will mean more work.
It will require more teachers. More hosts. More toys.”
Her grandmother paused and eyed her. “You would not
consider staying and becoming a hostess for a few months,
would you? Though we should qualify you more by dispensing
of your virginity.”

Maybelle choked on a horrified gasp, then quickly
cleared her throat. Twice. “I believe you are the only
grandmother in the history of England to ever say such a
thing to her granddaughter. That aside, do you even
realize what you’ll be promoting by opening such a school?
Do you?”

A mischievous smile appeared on those full pink lips.
“I will proudly be promoting the pleasure of all my fellow
women who are fortunate enough to come across my étudiants.”

Maybelle lowered her chin slightly but did not break
their gaze. “No. You will proudly be promoting the idea
that women are poodles and should be petted at will.”

Her grandmother tsked, puckering her lips. “Chére.
If a man knows nothing about seduction, the courtship
becomes merely poom-poom. Animal copulation. And it is
the woman who suffers, for a man can always find pleasure.
But a woman? Not so. We cannot keep men from the
conquests they seek, but we can educate the lust-ridden
fools and in turn benefit, oui?”

So. It had come to this. Cheap bargaining. “All
right. Name your price.”

“Price?” Her grandmother blinked. “You mean for the
school? I agreed on one hundred pounds per week.”

A gasp escaped Maybelle, despite the fact that her
grandmother had completely misunderstood. “One hundred
pounds per week?” she squeaked. “For mere advice? Are
they mad?”

“It is a very respectable price. Understand that an
experienced demimondaine such as myself could actually
demand much more.”

“Grand-mére, please. I will gladly bargain with you,
if need be, but for heaven’s sake, you must close the
school before you become an even bigger celebrity of the
wrong sort.”

“I will not bargain for the school but--” Her
grandmother paused, then turned abruptly toward her. “I
will bargain for the money you wish to travel with. Since
I still hold all the purse strings.”

Maybelle blew out an exhausted breath. She knew that
trying to leave London was going to be an adventure in and
of itself.

Her grandmother’s sharp features softened and her blue
eyes took on a form of pleading. “Once, chére. It is all
I ask.”

Maybelle lifted both brows. “Once what?”

Her grandmother slowly made her way toward her, her
eyes never leaving hers. “I have taught you everything I
know, and yet here you are at one and twenty, and have only
kissed one man. Why?”

“I did not kiss that man,” Maybelle sternly corrected,
holding up a rigid finger and shaking it. “He kissed me.”
And the mere thought of that pock ridden bastard stating
his never-ending noble intentions, only to then grab her
and shove his sour tongue down her throat made her queasy.
Sadly, it summed up her relationship with every man thus
far. For they all seemed to think that just because she
was the granddaughter of a courtesan, any approach would

Her grandmother sighed. “I do not understand. You
have no intentions on ever marrying, and yet you hold onto
your virginity as if it were worth a dowry. A woman’s
innocence is only valued by men. The moment you dispense
of it, you take your first step toward freedom. Your first
step toward ensuring you do not belong to anyone but

“Yes. I am well aware of that.”

“Then what is the problem?” A concerned look crossed
her face. “Do you prefer women? Hm?”

Maybelle could actually feel her cheeks growing hot.
Unbearably hot. “I want it to be memorable, is all. I
want to look upon a man and say to myself, oh, yes, I’ll
bed that one please. Besides. You know the ton. They
keep all the titled, good-looking men to themselves and
give us their horrid remnants no one else wants.”

Her grandmother paused before her and shook her head.
Almost pitifully. “You think the ton is keeping the good
men away? Pffff. The ton has no power over us. We are
our own government which no man rules. We define
ourselves. And that is why I am asking you to define
yourself. Without the ton’s ridiculous restrictions. I
say, storm the Season. Claim the man of your choosing and
enjoy life. Perhaps then you would not be so horribly

Maybelle glared at her grandmother. “Horribly tense?
Need I remind you, we cannot even attend social gatherings
unless they’re being hosted at a brothel.”

“You, Maybelle, are my granddaughter.” Her
grandmother smiled and swept on open hand toward their
surroundings. “As such, you have the ability to place
every man at your feet. Make a name for yourself and the
sort of men you want will come by the dozen.”

“Grand-mére, I am not interested in becoming a
demimondaine. Life is difficult enough with you being one.”

“But you have the makings of greatness.”

“Greatness indeed. I learned from Papa long ago never
to overextend myself to anyone as it leads to very bad
things. Surely, you remember how obsessed he was with
Mama. And she’d been dead for twelve years.”

“Henri was born a romantic. What can I say.” Her
grandmother sighed, reached out and took hold of Maybelle’s
hands, squeezing them tightly. “Have I returned to being a
demimondaine after becoming your gardienne? Non. Yet why
is it men continue to roll at my feet, begging to be patted
at any cost? Because I cannot escape the name I have
created. Nor do I want to. I enjoy sex.”

Sex, sex, sex. It was all the woman ever talked
about. Maybelle released her grandmother’s hands, shook
her head and stepped back. “I will not watch you destroy
whatever integrity London has left by teaching all the men
how to take advantage of women. It is not right.”

Her grandmother grew unusually serious, the laugh
lines around her eyes clearly fading. She lowered her
voice. “I will tell you what is not right, Maybelle.
Because of who I wish to be, because of who I have always
been, I have not only sent my son to an early grave, but am
now forcing his child to flee from me in the same manner he
did. I know what will happen once you leave today. You
will not return. You will disappear from my life. As
Henri had.”

Maybelle swallowed and closed her eyes, inwardly
fighting with the reality of her situation. For although,
yes, life in London was unbearable, and had been for many
years because of her grandmother’s reputation, she had no
desire to flee. As her father had.

At sixteen, the man had altogether left France
assuming he could escape his infamous mother, and upon
arriving in England, set out to marry a respectable woman.
That woman being Maybelle’s own mother who died giving
birth to her.

In the end, her father’s stubborn pride kept them from
changing their name, thus making it difficult to escape all
the back turning that came along with being associated with
a renowned courtesan. When he eventually grew ill and lay
dying, he realized there was no one to hand his twelveyear-
old daughter to. No one but the mother he’d been
running from all his life.

Maybelle opened her eyes. Stepping forward, she took
hold of her grandmother’s slim shoulders and squeezed them
gently, assuredly. “I would never abandon you. Ever.
Seeing the pyramids is a dream of mine. You know that.
And the way that Ferlini man is going about destroying
them, there may very well be nothing left for me to see.
You’ve read the papers. He is damn well smashing tops off
pyramids and plundering tombs wherever he goes.”
Her grandmother pinched her lips together, her blue
eyes now glistening with tears. Tears Maybelle hadn’t seen
since the woman had arrived from France and threw herself
at Papa’s bedside while he lay dying.

Her grandmother must have realized her faux pas, for
she quickly blinked back those tears, pulled away and
sniffed. Waving a hand, she muttered, “Go. Follow your
heart, your love. I will pay for everything and manage the
school on my own. You will see.”

Maybelle slowly exhaled, feeling guilty and exhausted.
For in the end, her love, not to mention her very heart,
belonged to her grandmother. Would always belong to her
grandmother. And considering the outrageous endeavor the
woman was about to embark upon, she needed support. For
she knew there would be little of it from anyone else. “I
will stay for two months,” Maybelle finally announced.

“But only two months.”

Her grandmother turned back toward her, those blue
eyes lit with beautiful mischief once again. She clapped,
rattling her emerald bracelets. “Two months will be
magnifique! You will join me at the school on opening day,
oui? Aside from all the men you will meet, I have
countless rooms filled with all sorts of treasures and

Treasures? Adventures? It sounded like a pirate
ship. One she wanted no part of.

Maybelle pointed at her grandmother and kept herself
from altogether poking the woman in the shoulder. “Let us
not get carried away. I am not interested in school boys
learning how to please a woman. I know more than the
basics thanks to you. Understand, Grand-mére, that the
trouble with most men, even the experienced ones, is that
they are forever seeking out attachments and are for the
most part quite possessive. Albeit in different forms, but
it all ends the same. If it isn’t a wife they require, it
is a mistress, and if it isn’t a mistress, it is some other
form of convention that they ultimately define in their own
terms. Which is why I see absolutely no point in pursuing
a single one of them.”

Maybelle took in a deep, calming breath and let it
out. “Now. I propose that over the next two months we
point all of our efforts in the direction of your school
and then in the direction of my travels. Then we will both
be happy. And that is what we want, yes? To be happy?”

“Ah!” Her grandmother held up a finger into the air,
causing all of her bracelets to fall down the length of her
wrist. “I have an idea.”

Oh, no. Not an idea. Maybelle stepped back.

“Lord Hughes owes me a favor. A considerable one, I
admit.” She winked with great exaggeration. “I shall
therefore see to it that he invites us to several of his
soirées. He does not care what the ton thinks.” Her
grandmother smiled and smugly folded her hands before her.
“I promise to find you a man incapable of demanding any

Maybelle’s eyebrows rose. Why, that sounded horrid.
Not in the least bit promising.

“And when we find him,” her grandmother went on,
gesturing toward her ever so graciously, “it will then be
entirely up to you to make the best of it.”

Which is exactly what she was afraid of. For there
was a rather big difference between knowing everything
about men and actually dealing with them. Maybelle sighed
ever so softly. A pile of old rocks set upon endless hot
sand sounded rather perfect as of now.

If only she wasn’t so bloody soft hearted.