April 11, 2017 by Valerie Ullmer
Feature and Author Q & A – Jenna Jaxon’s Only A Mistress Will Do
The man of her dreams . . . belongs to another woman.
Destitute and without friends, Violet Carlton is forced to seek employment at the House of Pleasure in London. She steels herself for her first customer and is shocked when the man rescues her instead of ravishing her. A grateful Violet cannot help but admire the handsome Viscount Trevor. But she must curb her desire for the dashing nobleman she can never have because he is already betrothed to another . . .
Tristan had gone to the House of Pleasure for a last bit of fun before he became a faithful married man. But when he recognizes the woman in his bed, he becomes determined to save her instead. Now, his heart wars with his head as he falls for the vulnerable courtesan. Unable to break his betrothal without a scandal, Tris resolves to find Violet proper employment or a husband of her own. Still, his arms ache for Violet, urging him to abandon propriety and sacrifice everything to be with the woman he loves. . . .
“And you have now come to that desperate point where you seek employment with me?” The business-like tone, neither condoning nor condemning, stiffened Violet’s resolve.
“Yes, ma’am. As of today, I have nowhere else to go, no one to turn to.” A sickening churn of her stomach that had nothing to do with hunger sent tension through her. “Nothing else of value.”
“You are how old, Miss Carlton?”
“Nineteen, ma’am. Almost twenty.”
“Let me see you walk, please.” With a crisp snap, Vestry pulled the curtains open and nodded to the path between the sofa and fireplace.
Violet straightened her skirts as best she could. Suddenly stiff and self-conscious, she concentrated on putting one foot before the other until she came face to face with another obscene painting. She clenched her hands and averted her eyes.
Feeling more and more like a horse or a cow at Smithfield market, she did as she was told, hopefully with a bit more grace.
In reward, Vestry gave her a slight nod. “You speak and move as befit your station, Miss Carlton. With a little training, I suspect you will be quite popular with our patrons. I should be able to command a high price for your virginity.”
Violet’s feet tangled in the plush carpet.
The scant approval vanished as Vestry glared at her. “I assume you are intact?”
Oh, the shame. How could this woman suggest she had already lain with a man? Bitterness flooded her mouth and her chest ached with mortification. Finally, she managed a curt nod.
“Lie down on the sofa please.”
“I am not fool enough to take your word, Miss Carlton.” Vestry smiled mirthlessly. “A brief inspection will allow me to assure your buyer he is indeed purchasing a virgin.”
Her cheeks heated at the humiliation this woman suggested. The cold inevitability of her situation rolled over her, engulfing her as though she was drowning beneath a relentless sea. Madame Vestry demanded almost nothing compared to the real horror awaiting her at the hands of her buyer. Still, she had chosen to live. She could no longer afford the luxury of respectability.
“What pleasure may I give you this evening, my lord?” Violet forced the words out over and over. Wild laughter in the hallway, faint strains of a pianoforte, and the lewd grunts from the room next door twisted her stomach, yet she kept repeating the phrase. The raucous sounds of the brothel had become more familiar during the week, but still set her on edge.
Footsteps approached once more, slowed, stopped.
Violet’s heart pounded, her rapid breathing keeping pace. The huge bed to her right drew her attention for perhaps the hundredth time. Was this the moment? She seized the arms of the velvet chair, fighting to hold herself in place. Her nails sank into the soft fabric as she struggled to slow her breaths.
The handle lowered.
Her head came up, back straight, forced smile plastered on her face as the door opened wide and she caught a glimpse of the man who had bought her for the night. Madame Vestry had informed her this morning that one of her regular customers had responded favorably to her invitation—she’d actually called it an invitation—and for Violet to make herself available in the green room at eight o’clock tonight.
She’d not been told who he was and somehow it mattered little to her she did not know the name of the man about to ruin her. One of the house rules forbade her to ask. If the gentleman offered his name, that was his business. The other girls had told her if she needed to put a name to the face, to think of customers as “Lord John.”
This Lord John entered the small room in a swirl of black fur and sandalwood, the spicy scent tickling Violet’s nose, making it twitch.
She tipped her head back and looked up into the swarthy face. Dark hair and piercing blue eyes, a strong jaw, and a long, straight nose. Too tall, though. He was too tall for her. The ridiculousness of the irrational thought broke through her lethargy. She forced herself up out of the chair as he strode toward her.
The smile curling his full lips would have been charming had not the gleam in his eyes betrayed his lustful intent.
“Good evening, Cassandra.” His deep baritone voice sent a frisson of dread through her. “Such a lovely name for a lovely temptress.”
“What pleasure may I give you this evening, my lord?” The words came out flat, but by God, she’d gotten them out. Now to remain standing and not faint. One small goal at a time. She stared at the wide expanse of blue velvet jacket barely two inches from her face.
He ran the back of his hand along her cheek and goose flesh pimpled her whole body. “I do hope the pleasure will be mutual, my dear.”
Violet jerked back from his caress. Her gaze, firmly fixed on the gold buttons of his jacket, now shot to his face, expecting a leer. How could he suggest she might enjoy being debauched?
His dark brows had puckered into a surprised frown, almost reproachful. He lowered his hand.
Dear God. She couldn’t refuse him anything. Lord John owned her for the night. Whatever he wanted to do to her, be it lewd touch or soft caress, she had to submit. No matter she wanted to scream, or cry, or pummel his chest. Curse him for being a depraved wretch who reveled in her misfortunes.
That wasn’t fair. She returned her gaze to his chest. Despite her misery, she couldn’t blame him for her misfortunes or her decision to come here. He was a man bent on the usual pleasures of men, and she needed the patronage of such men to survive. If he wanted her to be pleased, then she would convince him of her pleasure. A leaden weight settled over her, grounding her. She tipped back her head and smiled at him, the practiced false smile that showed her teeth. “Then I am certain we shall both be pleased, my lord.”
“You heard me playing?” She didn’t know whether to be excited or terrified.
“I came in about halfway through. Just before you broke free.” Straightening, he handed her the sheets of parchment. “It was like watching a bird leave the ground and soar.” His fingers brushed her palm as he passed the music to her.
The spark that leaped from him to her sent her reeling. She stumbled back and he caught her wrist, scalding her, making her tremble inside.
“I do beg pardon. I shouldn’t have startled you so. Come, sit down here.” He escorted her to a chair before the fire. “Let me get Mrs. Parker. She had brought the tea tray while you were playing, but I selfishly sent it back.” His eyes were warm and dark. “I didn’t want you to stop.” He disappeared into the passageway, calling for the cook.
Torn between the elation of playing music again and the shock of Tristan’s touch, Violet sat in the chair, allowing the warmth of the fire to soothe her for a moment or two, until he reappeared. At least he had liked her playing, although she was mortified he’d heard her stumble so badly at the end. She would practice hard so when he heard her again he would be even more pleased. And she did want to please him. A small repayment for his numerous kindnesses, but something within her power to do.
Tristan entered bearing the tea tray himself and she rose, holding out her hands to take it from him.
“No, my dear. Please sit.” He nodded to her chair and she sank down again. “You’ve given me a treat after a long and taxing day, so indulge me by allowing me to serve you.” Once he had settled the tray on the music chest, he pulled a small flute-edged table in front of her. “Mrs. Parker assures me the shortbread came out of the oven not ten minutes ago.”
Violet inhaled aromas of fragrant tea and sweet pastry and her stomach gave a growl. She clamped her hands over the offending organ as heat rushed to her face. Curse it. Just when she might have become comfortable with him.
“You are ready for tea, I see.” He grinned, taking some of the embarrassment out of the moment. “Well, I could tell you have worked hard for it. That is why you are so accomplished.”
“Not very accomplished now,” she said, accepting a napkin from him.
“Nonsense. I’ve no musical ability myself, but I recognize true talent when I hear it. Sugar? Milk?” He poured a cup, then hovered over the bowl of sugar with a pair of tongs.
“One lump and a splash of milk, please. I have not played for a very long time. And even longer since I had the opportunity to practice regularly.” She sipped the tea, deliciously hot and sweet, and took a bite of the still warm petticoat tail. “Ummm.” Violet couldn’t hold back the sigh of contentment. The confection all but melted on her tongue.
“Mrs. Parker’s shortbread would rival Mrs. McLintock’s I’m sure.” He leaned back in his chair opposite her and crunched into a wedge. It disappeared in two bites and he reached for another one.
“Who is Mrs. McLintock?”
“The Scottish woman who apparently invented shortbread about thirty years ago.” When he laughed, his face turned boyish. “At least she gets the credit for writing it down in a recipe book before anyone else. Mrs. Parker told me the first time she baked them for me.” His laughter died as he looked at her, his gaze traveling from her head to her feet. “I see you met with Madame Angelique.”
“Yes, I did. It was quite a surprise.” Completely aware of his scrutiny, Violet sat straighter and smoothed out her skirt. “I cannot thank you enough, my lord.”
He glared at her over the shortbread. “My lord?”
“Tristan. Tris.” She blushed and could do absolutely nothing about it. “You have been more than generous to me. I cannot think how I shall ever repay you.” There. She had given him the opportunity to issue the suggestion she still half expected. Better to get it out in the open and be done with it.
He raised his eyebrows as he lifted his teacup to his lips.
Those very full, very sensual lips she could still feel kissing her body.
“Can you not, my dear? Perhaps I can think of a way you could repay me that will be to our mutual satisfaction.” Tris set his cup down and took her hands.
Her pulse raced and her mouth dried to dust.
“Will you become my mistress?”
Author Q & A
When did you first realize that you wanted to be a writer?
I think I’ve toyed with the idea all my life. I always enjoyed creative writing assignments from elementary school. I remember writing a time travel short story in 8th grade English class and got a 100 on it! But I didn’t sit down to write until 2009.
How many books have you written?
I’ve written one super-long book that I cut into pieces and published originally as 3 novellas, plus 3 other full length books, and five novellas. These were historical romances. I’ve also published 3 contemporary novellas. I’ve written, but not yet published 3 additional books and am working on another one now. There’s also one novella that was published in a set and now has been taken down. So written, a total of 7 novels and 9 novellas.
How long does it usually take you to write a book?
Anywhere from 6 months to 10 days. Usually it’s about four months to completely finish to go to editor/agent.
Where is your favorite place to write?
A friend’s cabin in upstate New York. Totally off the grid—no electricity or indoor plumbing. Absolute quiet to write and I get all my meals cooked for me. My friend and I talk and eat, then I go off to the guest cabin to write. Perfect.
When you develop characters do you already know who they are before you begin writing or do you let them develop as you go?
I have a general idea of who they are, but they talk to me as I write and so they share their history and kind of create themselves as I write.
Do you aim for a set amount of words/pages per day?
I try to write a chapter a day on a normal work day (work as in my day job). Which is usually 3,000 words. My current WIP, for some reason, only has 25 chapters, so its chapters have 4,000 words. On weekends I try to finish 2 chapters each day.
What is the hardest thing about writing?
Writing description. I hate to read it and I hate to write it.
What is the easiest thing about writing?
Plotting. I LOVE to plot! I love figuring out the twists and turns.
Do you use your experiences in your books?
I have done that in a couple of my books. My heroine in Only Scandal Will Do is an excellent swordswoman. I took fencing in high school and while I never became very good at it, I did know enough to make Katarina kick-ass with a blade. She became my alter-ego. I also used a fight that had been choreographed for a show of mine in my Time Enough to Love book.
Do you like music or silence when your write?
Silence. I cannot write novels if there are distractions, such as music or the TV. Which is odd because when I did academic writing, I had to have background noise—usually videos or music videos—on to fill the void.
Do you outline or do you just write?
I am a plotter through and through. I cannot even begin to write until I have a thorough outline (about 10 pages) to use as a guideline. I allow the outline to change if I get an idea or a character tells me something different, but I have to have the outline before I can write.
Do you prefer pen and paper or computer?
About two years ago I started writing my rough draft by hand, with pen and paper, and revise it with the computer. Writing by hand gives me permission to make mistakes, somehow, to write crap that I can fix when it gets typed into the official document.
What is your next project?
I am currently writing two WIPs: the first one is the next book in the House of Pleasure series, Only Seduction Will Do, which will release in June 2018. The other is book two of my Widows’ Club series, the first book of which, To Woo A Wicked Widow, will release next April. The book I’m currently working on will release in August of 2018.
Jenna Jaxon is a multi-published author of historical in all time periods because passion is timeless. She has been reading and writing historical romance since she was a teenager. A romantic herself, she has always loved a dark side to the genre, a twist, suspense, a surprise. She tries to incorporate all of these elements into her own stories. She’s a theatre director when she’s not writing and lives in Virginia with her family, including two very vocal cats.
Jenna is a PAN member of Romance Writers of America as well as Vice-President of Chesapeake Romance Writers, her local chapter of RWA. She has three series currently available: The House of Pleasure, set in Georgian England, Handful of Hearts, set in Regency England, and Time Enough to Love, set in medieval England and France.
She currently writes to support her chocolate habit.
Find Jenna Jaxon online: