Friday, July 31, 2009

Janet Mullany In The Spotlight

Janet Mullany grew up in England and has worked as an archaeologist, performing arts administrator, classical music radio announcer, bookseller, and editor, and unexpectedly became a writer eight years ago. Her first book, DEDICATION (2005), was the only traditional Signet Regency with two bondage scenes and she continued to break conventions with her Regency chicklit book THE RULES OF GENTILITY (2007, HarperCollins and 2008, Little Black Dress, UK). She’s currently writing another book for Little Black Dress, an alternate historical-paranormal about Jane Austen joining vampires to battle a French invasion (HarperCollins, summer 2010), and pursuing another existence as a writer of erotic contemporaries for Harlequin Spice. She lives outside Washington, DC and is a voracious reader. Find out more at http://http://www.janetmullany.com/ and enter Janet’s contest.
1822, England. Young, beautiful Lady Caroline Elmhurst is down on her luck. Twice-widowed (once is unfortunate, twice just looks like carelessness...), pursued by creditors, she needs to get back on track before the world realizes just how desperate she's become.
But she's optimistic about finding a new husband and when she meets handsome, mysterious Nicholas Congrevance at a houseparty in the country, she sets out to entice him. For his part, Nicholas simply sees Lady Caroline as just the sort of woman he's used to exploiting--rich, available, and gullible. Neither realizes the other is penniless--and neither has any intention of falling in love...
After fainting with hunger at an inn, Lady Caroline Elmhurst, traveling with her maid Mary, meets a handsome stranger and discovers they are both on their way to the same house…
I am not so much of a fool, or a hypocrite, to deny the carnal interest that hums between me and Congrevance. He has done nothing but sum up my various parts since our first meeting, and I must admit I have given him every opportunity to do so. My lawn scarf is too creased to wear at my neckline and I cannot help if my skirt pulls up a little as I enter the trap. I study him with equal interest. I was not entirely unconscious when he carried me inside the inn; I heard the pleasing thud of a man’s heartbeat close to mine, and had the opportunity to examine the cloth of his coat (a very fine wool). An excellent sign, as is his absence from London, for chances are he has had little opportunity to squander his money there, or to know the most sordid details of my fall from grace.
Being pressed against his warm, hard person (his chest, that is) almost made up for the distressing weakness and sickness that assailed me, but happily that was dispelled shortly after by toast and tea (paid for by Congrevance) and now I feel quite restored to health.
He travels simply, but the quality of his clothes, his air, speak of breeding and undoubted fortune. He is accompanied by a manservant whose ugly face and squat build I find repulsive, but with whom Mary, the shameless slut, flirts and giggles as the trap bowls along the country lanes.
“I have missed this,” Congrevance says, gesturing in a foreign sort of way.
“Cows, sir?”
“No.” He shakes his head, smiling. “The countryside. It is so very green and soft.”
“You are a great traveler, then?”
“I was most recently in Italy.”
He doesn’t seem inclined to chat, which is as well--for gentlemen, I find, gnaw upon topics that are of no interest whatsoever like a dog upon a bone: Bludge (politics), Elmhurst (horseflesh), Linsley (cricket, surely the worst of the lot), and Rotherhithe (military maneuvers, a close second). So I am quite content to watch Congrevance, and a beautiful creature he is, with his long elegance of bone and dark gray eyes--a surprise, for I should have thought he would have blue eyes. However, I do not wish to appear a mindless ninny who cannot carry on a conversation, and I like to watch his mouth when he speaks.
“Do you know which part is yours in Otterwell’s play, Mr. Congrevance?”
“His play?”
“Yes. Has he not invited you to be an actor in his, or rather Shakespeare’s, A Midsummer Night’s Dream?”
“Ah. Otterwell did not mention anything of the sort to me when we met in Italy earlier this year, although one cannot help but notice how much he admires Shakespeare. And you, Lady Elmhurst? What part is yours?”
“I am to play Hermia.” Hermia, in my opinion, is something of a tediously virtuous ninny, but she fits quite well into the impression I intend to make on Congrevance--that of a respectable and modest widow. How very fortunate that he has been abroad, and how relieved I am to find that my reputation has not crossed the Channel. If he had been in London, it would be an entirely different story. Indeed, it is a miraculous stroke of luck that he is a blank slate upon which I can rewrite myself, provided he does not listen to vulgar gossip from his fellow guests.
“You enjoy the theater, Lady Elmhurst?”
“Oh, I adore it.” I clasp my hands to my bosom (he watches) and sigh deeply (he blinks). “It is tremendously diverting. It is one of the great pleasures of town.” I do not mention that cards and flirting and activities well beyond flirting behind closed doors are what I really prefer. “And of course I enjoy music; I play a little upon the pianoforte--my friends say I am not totally devoid of taste--and I have a very small skill with watercolors.”
“Otterwell has some very pleasing prospects on his estate. I expect you will wish to sketch them. Perhaps I might be permitted to accompany you, Lady Elmhurst.”
“That would be delightful, Mr. Congrevance.”
The question, of course, is whether I should take him as protector or husband. As enamored as he seems to be of the countryside, there is a good chance he will want to settle on some tedious estate and commune with his cows. He might expect a wife to slop around there with straw in her hair and breed! But I am sure that if Congrevance wished to amuse himself in town he could keep me in the manner to which I am accustomed (or, to be honest, unaccustomed of late). Mary, whose knee is now pressed firmly against that of that ruffian of a manservant, can find out the extent of Congrevance’s fortune well enough.
However, there is no great rush to entrap him. I should wait and see who else Otterwell has invited; for although I cannot deny the attraction I feel to Congrevance, it would not do to sell myself short. How would I feel if I, for instance, missed a duke?


Deb said...

Ava, Hi sweetie wonderful spotlight.

Janet, Loved the excerpt.

"Jane Austen joining vampires to battle a French invasion "

Now that is something I can not wait to read.

Thank you both.

Dark Diva said...

Great excerpt! Thanks Ava for bringing us a great spotlight.

Janet Mullany said...

Thanks Deb and thanks Ava for having me in the spotlight!