Well what can I say? I’m growing old disgracefully and loving it.
DH and I live on the edge of a Scottish forest, and rattle around in a house much too big for us.
Our kids have grown up and flown the nest, but roll back up when they want to take a deep breath and smell the daisies so to speak.
I write in my study, which overlooks the garden and the lane. I’m often seen procrastinating, by checking out the wild life, looking—only looking—at the ironing basket and assuring tourists that indeed, I’m not the bed and breakfast. That would mean cooking fried eggs without breaking the yolks, and disturbing the dust bunnies as they procreate under the beds. Not to be thought of.
Being able to do what I love, and knowing people get pleasure from my writing is fantastic. Long may it last.
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Once a courtesan, not always a courtesan. It’s time to move on, and who better to do it with than a rake?
Theresa Kyle, ex-courtesan, will not kowtow to any man in marriage, let alone an odious ex-pupil. When the man rejects her refusal of his proposal, she reluctantly agrees to seek help.
Jamie, the Earl of Weston, is in a fix of his own. The marriage mart is not for him, let alone a compulsory wedding due to the machinations of his mother.
A mutual friend seems to have the perfect solution. The earl and the courtesan—what better way to foil those who want to see them married against their wills?
Alas, the best-laid plans go awry, for neither had expected to fall in love. Needless to say, as far as Jamie is concerned, being a member of the aristocracy comes in handy when you need to bend the rules to your will. Convincing Theresa, however, may well be harder than winning over the ton.
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“I think we should start a club,” Theresa ruminated. “One for people like us who do not want to be ruled by convention.”
Her friend Maria sat back in her chair and contemplated Theresa. “There are plenty of us. What’s our name?”
“How about the Daring Ladies Club?”
Maria sniggered. “Oh, I like it. And the members?”
“Well, you and me for a start. We can begin small.”
“Excellent. When do we have our first meeting?” Maria reached for a nearby bottle of wine and poured two glasses full.
“I rather think we’re having it now,” Theresa said with a laugh. She took her glass and held it high. “To the Daring Ladies Club. Be this the only meeting or not, we can at last acknowledge who and what we are.”
“Interesting, unconventional and ready to take on the world?”
“Something like that.”
Theresa sat back in the large comfortable chair and smiled at her friend over her glass of wine. Theresa’s long black hair was half in a knot on the top of her head and the rest had left its pins and spiraled over her shoulders in a waterfall the color of midnight. She pushed it back impatiently. At times it was the bane of her life.
“So, that apart, who is your next client?”
“Who’s next?” she said in reply to Maria, her friend, confidante and seamstress to the ton. “Nobody. I’ve decided to retire.” She sipped her wine and savored the silky-smooth apricot and gooseberry-scented liquid with enjoyment. “This is good.”
Maria put her own glass down with such a thump that the fine French contents slopped dangerously near the rim. Her mouth dropped open and she gaped at Theresa as if she were hallucinating.
Theresa grinned and held the glass in the air to look at the light amber-colored liquid. “Where did you find it?”
“Never mind the wine,” Maria retorted. “Say that again, slowly.”
Theresa opened her eyes as wide as possible and waved her glass from side to side as a toast. It wasn’t often possible to shock or surprise Maria, and therefore every time it happened was immensely satisfying. “Theresita is no more. From now on I’m plain Theresa Kyle, spinster of the parish.”
“Why?” Maria sounded bewildered, as well she might, Theresa thought. She hadn’t mentioned her intentions to Maria until she’d firmed up her decisions and set certain plans in motion. “You’ll never be plain anything,” Maria continued. “Black hair and blue eyes combined with a stunning figure will ensure that.” She tugged a strand of her own soft brown tresses. “Not forgettable like mine.”
“Exactly.” Theresa chose to misunderstand her. “You are not forgettable, and you know it. Your hair is glossy and your figure…”
“Is voluptuous. Top-heavy. Why do you think I became a seamstress?” Maria asked, then chuckled. “I know what suits me.”
“You know what suits others as well,” Theresa replied. “That is why you are successful.”
“Just as well, because now I can afford to dress in the style I enjoy,” Maria said. “Something that pleases me. However, stop changing the subject. Why are you retiring?”
“Why?” Theresa said. “Because I’ve had enough.” She shrugged and raised her eyebrows as she tried to put into words just how she felt. “Of men and my life as it has been. Oh, don’t get me wrong, I’ve enjoyed every minute of it, I’d be a liar if I said otherwise. But think about it, Maria. I’ve spent the last fifteen years earning my living on my back.” She snorted then took a mouthful of wine. “Well, not necessarily on my back, but you know what I mean.”
Theresa winked and Maria choked. “Water,” Maria spluttered. “No, wine will do.” She took a large swig and wiped her streaming eyes. “How can you say something so audacious with such a straight face?” she asked when she could speak in a coherent manner once more.
“Practice,” Theresa responded without any embellishment to her reply. “Back, front or sideways on, it all has the same end. To instruct certain gentlemen of the ton that there are two people in each coupling and both have desires and needs that must be addressed.”
“So? You’re successful, well liked and a definite asset to lots of relationships, even if that is not admitted to. You can’t tell me there are no more men who need help, because after listening to the women in my salon whinge I won’t believe it.” Maria rolled her eyes. “Some of the things I hear would make the most confident of men blanch. I hear about sizes of appendages, how long a man can last, the best position to ensure you do not get with child… You name it and I probably can give you five different opinions. I’m sure you are needed.”
“More than likely, but no more help from me.” Theresa sat forward and began to count on her fingers. “First, I’m one and thirty, and would have what, three, four more years before all the bits that are now firm and attractive to gentlemen begin to wobble more than is seemly. Second, I’m not as agile as I was.”
She hiccupped as Maria began to laugh uncontrollably. “Not… Oh my, the picture that conjures up,” Maria tilted her head to one side. “Just how agile do you need to be?”
“As a…and oh, do stop it…” Theresa shook her head and sniggered. “You’d be surprised. Well, no, on reflection, maybe you wouldn’t, but believe me it isn’t as easy to twist and turn as it was five years ago.” She stood and began to pace Maria’s snug sitting room. One long stride and her swirling skirts set a side table rocking. She stooped to steady it. If the dainty china figures on it smashed, Maria would not be best pleased. “It’s not just that. I think I need to remove from town for a while, and get out of a certain honorable’s orbit.” She turned in a flurry of elegant skirts and faced Maria. “One who doesn’t understand the words ‘it is over’.”