It’s Mad May, folks, and that means it’s all about antagonists, all month long. Today, we’re going back in time, to Restoration London, where highwaymen and harlots reigned supreme.
Okay, maybe they didn’t *technically* reign supreme, but for purposes of this blog, let’s assume. Because today, the author of this supreme series, Jessica Cale, has finagled a special interview with Meg Henshawe, a barmaid with a rather large chip on her shoulder, in the form of the heroine of book two in the Southwark Saga series, Virtue’s Lady.
In this series, the characters spend a great deal of time at The Rose & Crown, an inn run by the Henshawe family. Meg Henshawe is the eldest of the five sisters who work as barmaids there. Widely regarded as the most beautiful woman south of the river, Meg is as popular as she is volatile. As Mark Virtue’s on-again-off-again girlfriend, she is less than thrilled when Lady Jane arrives in Southwark…
I am sitting across a table from Meg Henshawe, feeling a little bit like I’m about to be eaten.
We’re at The Rose and Crown in Southwark, the inn she manages for her parents. The bar is closed for the night and her shift is over, so we have the whole space to ourselves. Meg is twenty-eight, an unmarried mother of three, and up until last week, Mark Virtue’s on-again-off-again girlfriend.
I can see why. Meg is easily the most beautiful and terrifying women I’ve ever seen up close. She’s tall and blonde with a lovely face and the kind of curves that should come with a warning. If she lived in the twenty-first century, she’d easily be on the cover of Sports Illustrated. She brings to mind Kate Upton if she was part barracuda. Her presence totally dominates the small space, and she’s glaring at me.
Jess: Sorry, it’s just that you’re kind of alarming to look at. You’re beautiful.
Meg: (snorts) Piss off.
Jess: Do you mind if I ask you a few questions?
Meg: Haven’t got any say in it, have I? You brought me here. Ask and be damned.
Jess: Why don’t you like Jane?
Meg: Are you taking the piss? Jane? Jane?! Mincing about like she knows what it is to live in Southwark. This is my town, my inn, and Mark was mine. I’ve earned every last thing you see in here. I built my reputation, and you might not think much of it, but it’s mine. I looked after Mark for ten years and then Lady Jane Whatsit thinks she can roll out of her carriage one day and just take him from me? She has everything, and she could have any titled bloke she wants, and she’s got to go after mine? Why would I like her?
Jess: Ten years is a long time. Do you love Mark?
Meg: (deadpan) I love parts of him. What? I’ve got to shackle myself to one? Men are all alike. Mark’s better than most, and I do love him. He’s my best mate. Or was, until Jane. Now he’s lost his wits over her and I’m left to rot in this tip. Oh, I’ve got others, make no mistake, but one’s as good as the next. Only good for one thing, they are, and most of them aren’t even good for that.
Jess: What kind of man do you like?
Meg: Oh, no. I know who you are and what you’re doing. You think I’ll warm up to you and tell you all my secrets like my stupid little sister? You ought to write some sense into that one. You think I don’t know what you’re up to, but I bloody do. I’m good for more than waving my tits in blokes’ faces, whatever it is you might think. I’m a clever sort, cleverer than any one of them gives me credit for. You made me the villain of this piece, and what for? You break my nose and you think the prospect of some imaginary man is going to keep me from throwing you out of my bar? (crosses her arms) Bloody fine, I’ll play along. I like boxers. I like ‘em big and I like ‘em dark, if you must know. I am no wilting violet, me, and I want a man who can throw me around a bit, if you catch my meaning. Someone who fancies me for my brains, not just my tits, and somebody who sees that I’m only looking out for my family, and I’m not a bloody villain. Got one of those lying around, have you?
Jess: I might.
Meg: Might you? Why would you do that? You run my name through the mud in this rubbish, and then turn around and write me the perfect man? What are you going to do, give him to my sister?
Jess: Have you read Virtue’s Lady?
Meg: Can’t read much, can I?
Jess: Sorry. You might think you came across badly in this one, but I don’t think you did. You came out alright in the end. I really rather like you, Meg, and I’m not done with you yet. I’d like to properly get inside your head, and see what I can do about that perfect man.
Meg: (stares) You’re mad as a hatter.
Meg: (smiles) I think I like you, too.
You can meet Meg Henshawe and all four of her sisters in Tyburn and Virtue’s Lady, out now!
Author: Jessica Cale
Genre: Historical Romance (Restoration/Enlightenment)
Publisher: Liquid Silver
Release Date: April 13th
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
All Romance E-Books: https://www.allromanceebooks.com/product-virtue039slady-1782182-340.html
If you haven’t yet, you should read the first book in this series too (and it’s best to read them in order)!
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.
Shortly after Tyburn released, we were able to grab Mark Virtue (hero from the recently released Virtue’s Lady) for an interview. You can read it here: CLICK HERE
And then you can pick up Tyburn here:
Liquid Silver: http://www.lsbooks.com/tyburn-p975.php
Barnes & Noble
All Romance E-Books: https://www.allromanceebooks.com/product-tyburn-1695993-340.html
Want to get to know the author?
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 kidnapped (“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.
And if you want to stalk Jessica, here you go:
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
Oh wait – there’s more! How about a (juicy) excerpt? I don’t suppose I mentioned Mark Virtue isn’t exactly… virtuous, did I? Curious? Read this tidbit, and then scroll back up to click the buy link. You know you want to.
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 grey 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.