I’m so excited about Jewel of the East. This story combines all the elements I look for in a historical romance–great history, wonderful dialogue, and memorable characters. Let’s learn a bit more about Victoria Vane and this fabulous read…
Victoria Vane is an award-winning author of smart and sexy romance. Her collective works of fiction range from historical to contemporary settings and include everything from wild comedic romps to emotionally compelling erotic romance. Her biggest writing influences are Georgette Heyer, Robin Schone, and Sylvia Day. Victoria is the founder of Goodreads Romantic Historical Fiction Lovers and the Romantic Historical Lovers book review blog. Look for her sexy new contemporary cowboy series coming from Sourcebooks in 2014.
The hot cover for Jewel of the East…
Having once lived his life only for larks, laughter, and ladies of easy virtue, Captain Simon Singleton has returned from the war with the colonies a shambles of a man. Now free from six years of captivity, he’s still fettered by irrational fears that confine him to a life of seclusion.
Once the crowning jewel of the most lavish brothel in London, the exotic Salime finds her reputation and livelihood destroyed by a bitter rival. With a closely guarded secret stripped away, Salime fears no man will ever desire her again. Seeking aid from the man who once saved her life, Salime accepts a proposition to repay her debt to him by becoming a companion to his war-scarred friend.
Circumstance brings these two damaged souls together; but fate ignites a love story worthy of the Arabian Nights.
Medford Abbey, Kent – 1785
A sharp rap soon sounded on the door. Ludovic, Viscount DeVere glanced up from his periodical to the entrance of a liveried footman. “A message for you, my lord.”
The servant offered the wax-sealed missive on a silver salver. “It was delivered by a most…unusual…courier.” The footman gave a sniff of disdain.
“Indeed? What do you mean?” Ludovic asked in a bored drawl.
“‘Tis a behemoth blackamoor, my lord.”
“Mustafa?” Ludovic threw down his periodical and snatched up the missive. “What the devil?”
“He awaits in the kitchen. Insufferable rude creature he be. Just stands all akimbo. Refuses to speak or to depart without an answer from your lordship.”
“The man cannot speak. He has no tongue. They took it when they castrated the poor devil.”
The footman’s eyes bulged. He involuntarily crossed his legs. Ludovic broke the seal and scanned the contents with a deepening frown.
Most honored Efendi,
It is with the greatest humility that I appeal to he who once safeguarded my life. It is with exceeding distress that I must entreat you once more, being much in need of a friend and protector.
Your most devoted and obedient servant,
Ludovic read the cryptic note once more. Salime in want of a protector? What a sticky situation that created. At first he wondered why she’d appealed to him, but then again, there were few people she trusted. Given their shared history, he would never deny her aid. Moreover, Salime had been instrumental in helping him to achieve his present state of connubial bliss. For that alone he owed her his undying gratitude.
“Tell him I shall be in touch with his mistress shortly…and that she should notify me at once should her circumstances become any more…distressed.”
“Aye, my lord.” The much-chagrinned footman departed.
Ludovic glowered after the departing servant. Salime had never been in want since coming to London. He wondered what could be behind her request, but then abandoned both letter and the dilemma the moment another surprise came bursting into his library. “Ned?” Ludovic leaped up to greet his best friend. “What the devil has brought you all the way from Yorkshire to Kent?”
“I have most portentous news, DeVere,” Ned sputtered with excitement. “News I could hardly relay by messenger. So I came down myself.”
“What kind of news? Out with it, Chambers,” Ludovic commanded.
“Mayhap you should pour us a drink first.”
Ludovic lifted a sardonic brow. “A drink? Not so urgent after all?”
“‘Tis fortification you’ll need for the shock you’re about to receive.”
“Shock? Me? You know I am not easily shocked, Ned.” Ludovic paused with his hand on the brandy decanter and a slight frown marring his face. “Come to think of it, I’m damned if I can recall a single occasion that has wrought from me such a profound reaction as shock.”
Ned flung himself into Ludovic’s favorite chair. “There’s a first for everything, DeVere. Now that drink?”
Ludovic sloshed amber liquid into two glasses, handing one to the would-be herald, who downed it in one draught. Ludovic quirked a brow.
“It was a devilish long ride,” Ned explained.
“All to deliver this shocking report of yours?” Ludovic perched a hip on the corner of his mahogany desk.
“Yes! It’s Lazarus all over again!”
“Lazarus? Am I to surmise that someone has been miraculously raised from the dead?”
“Actually, he might as well have been,” Ned declared. “I can hardly countenance it after all this time.”
“You are trying my patience, Ned.”
“It’s Simon. He’s returned.”
“Good God!” The glass slipped from his hand to shatter at Ludovic’s feet. “You can’t mean Sin is alive after all this time? He was pronounced killed in action six years ago.”
“I mean exactly that!” Ned exclaimed. “He is indeed alive and may even be in London as we speak. I have the news straight from Baron Singleton. His ship was expected to arrive several days ago.”
“Why am I only hearing of this now? I see the bloody Singleton regularly at Parliament.”
“Probably because the good baron doesn’t like you, DeVere. He believes you were an abominable influence on his son.”
“Then he would be right.” Ludovic smirked and then stared at the shattered glass at his feet.
“Looking a bit white there, my friend. This is known as shock.”
“Admittedly, I am incredulous. How can this be? Where the devil has he been?”
“Interned as a prisoner of war for the greater part of six years.”
“Six years? In all that time there were no exchanges?”
“Very few. The colonials refused to give up ours when they claimed their men were only released on the point of starvation and death. I daresay ’tis no exaggeration. I’ve seen a number of reports on the deplorably inhumane conditions of our prison hulks. Indeed it’s said that the colonial prisoners set fire to the Whitby, choosing to go down in flames, rather than die of starvation and disease.” Ned shook his head. “What a hellish business war is.”
“But if Sin was a prisoner, he should have been released nigh on a year ago when the treaty was signed.”
“Apparently he was too ill to travel all the way to England. He only made it as far as Bermuda before he was struck with the bloody flux or some such ailment that required months of convalescence…the poor sod.”
Their gazes met. Silence engulfed them in its dark and sober cloud.
“He’ll not be the same man,” Ned voiced what they were both thinking.
“No. Likely never again,” Ludovic agreed. “We must go to him, Ned. At once.”
More about Ms. Vane…
Where to find the book…
Historical tidbits from Victoria…
Harris’ Book of Covent Garden Ladies was a colorful directory of London prostitutes first devised by Jack Harris, an infamous pimp and the head waiter of The Shakespear’s Head tavern. Although the publication bore Harris’ name, the true mastermind behind the work was an Irish Poet named Samuel Derrick. Each edition allegorically depicts both physical attributes and sexual specialties of approximately one hundred Covent Garden prostitutes. A contemporary report of 1791 estimates that this naughty little book sold 8,000 copies annually. A copy is available at Project Gutenburg: http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/42075
Because King George III declared the American Colonists traitors to the crown, captured American soldiers were denied ethical treatment as prisoners of war. British Generals, however, declined to try and hang them for fear of turning British public sympathy toward the Americans. The Continental Army’s victory at the Battle of Saratoga, resulting in thousands of British POWs in the hands of Americans, further dissuaded British officials from hanging, due to fear of retaliation. This did not, however, prevent the British from outright mistreatment of American soldiers, most of whom were detained on prison hulks where conditions were so bad that most died of disease and starvation. In 1777, Washington wrote an appeal to Lord Admiral Richard Howe in which he implored Howe to launch an investigation into the conditions on the hulks. Washington warned retaliation against British prisoners was an option if conditions did not improve. No compromise on the fair treatment of prisoners was ever reached.
Barbary Corsairs were the scourge of the Mediterranean from as early as the 9th century and still continue today. Operating out of the major North African ports of Algiers, Tunis and Tripoli, they preyed on merchant ships and engaged in Razzias (raids on coastal towns and villages) throughout the Mediterranean. Their main objective in the raids was to capture Christian slaves. They became such a danger that long stretches of coast in Spain and Italy were almost completely abandoned. From the 16th to 19th century, corsairs captured an estimated 800,000 to 1.25 million people, holding them for ransom or selling them as slaves.
The Ottoman harem also known as the Seraglio harem, was the residence of the Valide Sultan (Queen Mother), the Sultan’s favorites (hasekis), and the rest of his concubines. While concubines were often given as gifts to the Sultan by his governors or others desiring to curry favor, odalisques were more often bought from slave markets after being kidnapped. Many were kept purely to serve the needs of more prominent women of the harem. Although odalisques were not generally presented to the Sultan, those of extraordinary beauty and talent were often considered as potential concubines, and trained accordingly. They learned to dance, recite poetry, play musical instruments, and master the erotic arts. (For further reading on life in the Ottoman harem: http://www.theottomans.org/english/family/harem2.asp )
The stories recounted to Simon by Salime are a mixture of fact and fantasy. The tragic tale of the Persian Poetess Rabi’a as well as her poetry is recounted according to legend. The stories of Ashiqu and Asma as well as the Princess Sarita are purely from my imagination.
The Poetry used is primarily from two sources, the beloved 13th century Persian poet Jalal al-Din Muhammad Rumi and a more obscure English poet and adventurer, Wilfrid Scawen Blunt. Blunt travelled extensively in the Middle East during his lifetime and I felt his poetic voice reflected that. I also easily envisioned his words springing from Simon. I have endeavored to credit all sources accordingly.
Thanks for another great book, Victoria…