My book Wicked Little Secrets was released last week, and I've spent several days writing blogs about my hero and heroine, Lord Dashiell and Vivienne. I assure you that they hog most of the plot with their wild and romantic entanglements. Vivienne is between a rock and a hard place as she is desperate to marry the wealthy, painfully proper John Vandergrift to keep her father from debtor’s prison. When a vicious blackmailer, who is intent on bleeding her morally upright, fervent Methodist Aunt Gertrude, threatens to expose a terrible family secret, the only person who can help is her aunt’s neighbor Lord Dashiell, a world adventurer and womanizer. He is immune to scandal, having taken daily doses for many years. However, Lord Dashiell isn’t the typical cold, arrogant rake who harbors a horrible secret that turned him into a scoundrel. No, rakedom is a genetic trait in his family. As Dashiell admits to Vivienne, “I come from a deep, colorful line of scoundrels, rakes, and blackguards. My family tree is a wonder of the forest. It grows in directions no other flora does.”
In Dashiell’s household, his dear Grandpapa, the Earl of Baswiche, reigns as the rake patriarch. But Grandpapa has a secret: he’s been in love with Gertrude for years. Here’s a little excerpt of the visit he paid to her Methodist Ladies’ Bible meeting.
Mrs. Lacey held the Bible to the tip of her nose and squinted behind her spectacles. “‘Who can find a virtuous woman? for her price is far above boobies.’”
“It does not say ‘boobies’!” her aunt barked. “‘Her price is far above rubies.’ Rubies!”
“I just love rubies,” Mrs. Lacey exclaimed. “I am always telling Mr. Lacey that—”
Aunt Gertrude banged her cane. “Please refrain from any personal digression.”
Thirty minutes later, Mrs. Lacey had progressed exactly six verses. Garth, now asleep again, made little snorts at his owner’s feet. Vivienne tried not to fidget. She forced herself to sit up straight even though her back ached from the hard chair. Could the future wife of John Vandergrift excuse herself to the privy and escape? Would that be the action of a Biblically virtuous wife? As Vivienne contemplated the moral dilemma, she noticed, through the window, the wild, untamed gray hair and spry body of her aunt’s neighbor, the Earl of Baswiche. He stood in her aunt’s tiny box garden, wearing only a beige banyan that reached to the calves of his bare legs. His eyes sparkled with a devious light.
“Pardon me,” Vivienne interrupted, “but Lord Baswiche is in the garden.”
“What?” Her aunt whipped her head around to the window.
The earl’s mouth cracked into a grin. “Hello, ladies!”
He spread his arms wide and his banyan opened. Between his slightly bowed legs, his male parts dangled like meat strung in a butcher’s window.Grandpapa is quite concerned about his grandson’s commitment problems, as he explains to his friends, a wild pack of aging rakes called “the boys.”
Several piercing whoops rose above the chatter of the club. People began to crowd about the edges of the room, parting the seas for the Earl of Baswiche and “the boys.”
Oh God, Dashiell groaned.
“Teakesbury,” his grandfather said as he nodded to the solicitor, then fixed his wild gaze on the painting. “What are you doing with that portrait of Vivienne?”
“What?” Dashiell bolted from his seat and regathered the fallen wrapping around his painted seductress. “Good God, this is not Vivienne! It doesn’t look a thing like her. Vivienne has pale skin and dimples in her cheeks, and she doesn’t have brown eyes.”
His grandfather squinted at the painting. “Can’t really say I’ve noticed her eyes before.”
How could he not notice her eyes! “They’re pale green, like ivy covered in icy snow.”
His grandfather’s friends exchanged infuriatingly knowing glances.
“My boy’s in love.” The old man beamed, like some proud society mama announcing her daughter’s engagement.
“Bloody hell, I am not!”
“He’s got it bad, I can tell,” said the earl’s friend, Sir Milton. “Never seen a man so much in love as to have to carry around her portrait and all. Who’s the lady?”
It seemed like every head in the room turned toward Dashiell. The chatter of conversation and the clatter of utensils and glasses ceased.
“Vivienne Taylor,” his grandfather said, oblivious to his audience or the twitching of his grandson’s hands, itching to go around his scrawny neck and squeeze his vocal chords permanently shut. “She’s Gertrude Bertis’s niece, you know, ole Judge Bertis’s wife. A saucy beauty, Vivienne is.”
It probably wasn’t prudent to take a table knife and murder his grandfather à la Thomas Becket in front of a solicitor and a room full of witnesses, no matter how much satisfaction Dashiell would derive from the act.
“Vivienne is not in any way attached to me,” Dashiell explained with a controlled coolness.
“She is an honorable and proper young lady, who happens to be engaged to another man, and she is certainly not the model in this painting.”
“What’s the matter with your boy?” Sir Milton ribbed the earl. “He can seduce every lady in London, except the one he’s in love with?”
“Remember we discussed his problems with commitments,” his grandfather reminded his friends. “How he gets scared.”
“Oh,” the sympathetic old men said in unison, as if Dashiell suffered from some heinous medical condition such that, upon hearing the word “commitment,” his penis would shrink to the size of an acorn.
He slid his hands down his face. “Good God.”
“Please excuse me.” Teakesbury rose, stubbed out his cigar.“While I would love to sit here and be amused by your little amorous exploits, Dashiell, I’ve serious work to do.”
“I’m going too.” Dashiell shot his grandfather a lethal glare, but it didn’t make the slightest dent in the old man’s happy, addled expression.
“Hell, Dash, it’s just seven!” he cried. “There’s a special party at 67 Knightsbridge. Invitation only, and clothes are unnecessary.”Will Grandpapa have his own Happily Ever After (not that he was too miserable beforehand)? Shhh…it’s a wicked secret.
The old men giggled, as if giddy to expose their flabby, aging bodies to some poor ladies. Dashiell had to believe a thousand torturous deaths at the hands of the Spanish Inquisition would be a more pleasant way to pass the evening than hanging about with his naked grandfather and his exhibitionist friends.
However, you could enter to win a copy of Wicked Little Secrets and find out. To enter, just leave a comment below, telling me your favorite brand of rake. Do you like the silent and smoldering type, the angsty hiding-a-painful-emotional-wound type, the father figure, the charmingly rascally rogue with a boyish smile, or the addled-minded, older, nudist type? (I will randomly choose a winner on December 13th. Thank you!)
Wicked Little Secrets is available at Barnes and Noble , Amazon and other great booksellers.