First Page: Historical Romance
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Background: Late Victorian England: an avaricious, impoverished widow makes her way through high society, and low society, encountering militant suffragettes, grumpy pornographers, and villainous foreigners attempting to overthrow the government, in search of a sugar daddy (all the while trying to ignore the charms of a stuffy and staid secretary).
The first blow was the death of her husband.
This in itself was no tragedy. For Lady Rosamund Archer was not overly fond of the departed Earl whose death at the age of seventy-two had been, she felt, unfashionably overdue.
The blow came upon the reading of his will.
Her husband – forty years her senior and fourteen years her companion in matrimony – left his entire fortune in the hands of his oldest son, her detested step-son Claude. Claude had no redeeming features; he was brutishly ugly, with a personality as uncharming as his soul was corrupt. Rosamund was not the least bit surprised when he made a measly annual stipend dependent upon the frequent use of her body.
She declined, revolted, sparing no tact in her analysis of his failings as a son, a man, and a potential lover, and was thrown out of the ancestral home before she could reconsider her hasty words.
Still, all was not lost. A small fortune in secreted jewellery and an abundance of beauty and charm (usefully combined with a soul at least as corrupt as Claude’s) allowed her to live independently, taking advantage of rich lovers when the need arose.
And so a year passed in lavish, hubristic splendor.
The second and third blow came with no warning and in quick succession.
On the day her lover (a handsome Russian Prince) unceremoniously and publicly terminated their affair for the charms of a younger beauty, she gambled away her entire fortune in a fit of pique.
“Surely Prince Vasily owes you a diamond necklace for what he did, passing you over for that buck-toothed Irish miss,” tutted her maid, Martha (more of an accomplice, truth be told).
Moodily, Rosamund surveyed her surroundings. She was reduced to renting a small townhouse in Notting Hill – from Berkley Square to Notting Hill! – and the sight of the cramped drawing room, with its parochial furnishings filled her with gloom and panic.
“I threw a crystal decanter at his head. He might be inclined to think us even. Besides, Vasily is like most royals – he doesn’t actually have any money." Her head sank into her hands. "What was I thinking?”
“Mr Collins,” her maid persevered. “He may be pressed upon to lend a hand. With all you know of his predilections, and him being a Member of Parliament, I reckon you could get a few bob out of him.”
“Blackmail?” she enquired, raising a brow. Not yet, she thought. She would not add blackmail to her ever growing list of crimes. Not yet.
“Lord Ashbee, then. You said he is fond of you.”
“Oh." She shuddered at the thought of the rotund Marquess. “I was drunk as a doxy that night, and the villain took shameless advantage. I simply haven’t the heart, Martha. That old rogue will want to pinch my bum and paw and slaver and…” she sighed. When had it become a chore, she wondered. The answer was obvious: when her livelihood had come to depend upon it.
“That American, then – Logan Spencer. He’s as rich as the queen.”
The galling truth was, Logan Spencer ranked amongst that growing group of men now impervious to her charms. “He is in love with his wife. No. What I need is fresh prey. Think, Martha”
Martha screwed her little face into a contemplative scowl.
The silence stretched.
“Lord,” Rosamund flung herself onto a settee in a sumptuous rustle of silk and taffeta. “Is there a man left in this city I haven’t fucked?”
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