I’ve chosen an unusual theme for my sweet erotic romance between an adoring and long-married Regency couple – childbirth.
Yes, there’s lots of sex in Lady Lovett’s Little Dilemma, but there’s also fear and longing, betrayal and disappointment. I think these elements which we are all familiar with, really add to the payoff in those final, heartfelt paragraphs.
Cressida, my lovely, 26-year-old heroine has had five children in eight years and is more in love than ever with her husband. However, she’s terrified a sixth child will kill her. Her own mother died in childbirth with her sixth child and Cressida’s last child, born just over a year previously, came after a difficult labour which almost killed her.
Since then she’s been too terrified to welcome her gorgeous husband, Tristan, into the marital bed. He doesn’t know what to think, because until the final stages of her last pregnancy she'd always been so enthusiastic; and poor Cressida can’t bring herself to speak the truth for she’s torn between the desire for the passion she’d once experienced, and knowing that she must do her duty – even if it kills her. As a Regency woman of her times she has no idea there are methods of minimizing pregnancy and has been indoctrinated into being passive when it comes to obeying her husband.
But when she learns in public and dramatic circumstances that her husband has apparently returned to the arms of his previous lover, Cressida’s passivity turns to primal desperation to do what she must to win him back.
With the aid of a woman (who is not all that she appears), Cressida learns about contraception and bedroom matters, before embarking upon a bold charade to win back Tristan’s love which takes both husband and wife on an adventure of a lifetime.
Misconceptions are stripped away and by the end of the book there’s not just one Happy Ever After, but in fact three.
That’s why Lady Lovett’s Little Dilemma is one of my favourite sweet erotic romances.
Here’s an extract in which Cressida, dressed in widow’s weeds, ventures to the house of ill repute she’s heard so much about to see if the rumours are true. At Mrs Plumb’s Salon she finds Tristan at a desk in a quiet room at the back of the house.
But what of his real reasons for telling her he’d be at his club?
Justin was busy working at something. She knew that his look of polite interest masked the fact that his mind was completely on his task.
He was here…alone. There was a document in his hands. Not a woman.
And he had no idea who his new visitor was. Cressida could say anything, do anything…
The sense of being an actress in a play took hold. Boldly she went over to him, standing in his light just a couple of feet away.
Now his smile was distant and there was a slight wariness in his tone as he murmured, “I think you have lost your way, madam, for the front door is down the corridor to your right. Shall I show you the way?”
She did not move, did not falter as she gazed up at him through her heavy veil. Justin was here at Mrs Plumb’s, exactly where she’d dreaded she’d find him, but his concentration on a particular document suggested his interest in the place was not the women.
Of course it was not, and how like Justin. Justin was just as likely to be concerned over the use of child labour as the rescue of fallen women, but had not wanted to hint to his protected wife that his work involved him with such depraved creatures.
All Cressida’s doubts about Justin’s constancy dissipated to be replaced by the unadulterated joy at the prospect of being taken in his arms once again.
Yet as she stepped forward she felt again the slightest stirring of doubt. Catherine always told her she was much too credulous for her own good.
“Mrs Plumb told me I’d find the gentleman I was looking for in this room.” She made her voice softer, breathier. Holding the back of the sofa she turned, swaying slightly towards him, striving for a tone and gesture both appealing and vulnerable. Justin’s chivalrous impulses were easily stirred. She wanted to see the effect she had on him when she was not his wife but a stranger. An appealing, interested stranger.
She raised a trembling hand to her mouth. “I am a widow, sir. I lost my beloved husband a year ago. Mrs Plumb directed me here. She said you were a kind man who’d listen…if I wanted to talk.”
Despite the dimness of the room she saw indecisiveness cross his face. Justin was a kind man but how far would he allow himself to be swayed by a lonely widow? How much did she want him to be?
She caught herself up. This was madness. She had no desire to be confronted by her husband’s weaknesses—if he had any—yet here they were, in a cosy, intimate setting, where each could pretend to be someone else.
It was too much to resist.
Lowering herself onto the sofa, she tilted her head in invitation. “Just five minutes of your time, sir. Perhaps you knew my husband?”
I hope you enjoyed that teaser of an exchange. Doubt is such a poisonous emotion and to put it into words hints at the distrust one is at such pains to hide. The only way to discover the truth, Cressida learns, is to stray from her safe, predictable path… and take risks.
I am the author of eight historical romances published by Pan Macmillan Momentum, Robert Hale, Ellora's Cave and Total-e-Bound. Recently I won UK Women's Fiction publisher Choc-Lit's Search for An Australia Star competition with my suspenseful, Regency espionage Romance The Reluctant Bride, written under my Beverley Eikli name.
I’ve been shortlisted twice for a Romance Readers of Australia Award in the Favourite Historical category — in 2011 for A Little Deception, and in 2012 for my racy Regency Romp, Rake’s Honour, published by Total-e-Bound. (It recently earned an 8.0 rating from RomCon, with responses averaged over 120 readers.)
I wrote my first romance when I was seventeen. However, drowning the heroine on the last page was, I discovered, not in the spirit of the genre so my romance-writing career ground to a halt and I became a journalist.
After throwing in my job on South Australia's metropolitan daily The Advertiser to manage a luxury safari lodge in the Okavango Delta, in Botswana, I discovered a new world of romance and adventure in a thatched cottage in the middle of a mopane forest with the handsome Norwegian bush pilot I met around a camp fire.
Twenty years later, after exploring the world in the back of Cessna 404s and CASA 212s as an airborne geophysical survey operator during low-level sorties over the French Guyanese jungle and Greenland's ice cap, I’m back in Australia teaching in the Department of Professional Writing & Editing at Victoria University, as well as teaching Short Courses for the Centre of Adult Education and Macedon Ranges Further Education.
Buy the book here