Jess Russell, the author of The Dressmaker’s Duke, is my special guest today. Take it away Jess!I have always been a creative person. I love make things. Give me a power tool and I am a happy gal. I am also an award winning batik artist.
I am an actress, I stage apartments, I build and tile bathrooms, I made my own wedding dress
You get the idea. :o)
Living in 1810, the year of The Dressmaker’s Duke, there were few opportunities for women other than marriage. And even then a woman was basically the property of her husband with very few rights.
I was drawn to writing about a heroine who is a dressmaker for the obvious creative reasons but also she could be more or less independent. Still, not an easy life; Clients often didn’t pay their bills, materials were expensive, ladies could be difficult to please. The list goes on.
I also wanted my heroine, Olivia Weston, to have lived some. She is 29 and a widow. She has seen some of the world and experienced heartache and loss. She knows what independence means and she will fight for hers. I admire that.
Olivia is also fiercely loyal to her best friend and business partner, Eglantine Wiggins. “Egg” as she is affectionately called, is Olivia’s only family. The women cling together through all their trials. I wanted to write about women who support themselves in spite of it being a “man’s” world.
Olivia chooses dressmaking rather than compromise herself. Of course, being fiction and a romance, there is a “knight in shining armor”, though my Duke is rather more of a gorgeous geek who has his darkness and flaws. Rhys finds Olivia isn’t so easily swept off her feet by his ducal mansion and endless wealth. He must work for this fiercely independent woman. In the Romance genre the Happily Ever After is a foregone conclusion, but how they get there is the fun!
Rhys Merrick, Duke of Roydan, is determined to be the antithesis of his depraved father, repressing his desires so severely he is dubbed “the Monk” by Society. But when Olivia Weston turns up demanding payment for gowns ordered by his former mistress, Rhys is totally flummoxed and inexplicably smitten. He pays her just to remove her from his house, and mind. But logic be damned; he must have this fiercely independent woman.
Olivia’s greatest fear is becoming a kept woman. She has escaped the role of mistress once and vows never to be owned by any man. Rather than make money in the boudoir, she chooses to clothe the women who do. But when a fire nearly kills her friend and business partner, Olivia’s world goes up in smoke and she is forced to barter with the lofty duke.
As their lives weave together, Olivia unravels the man underneath the Monk, while Rhys desires to expose the lady hiding behind the dressmaker. Will his raw passion fan a long-buried ember of hope within her? Can this mismatched pair be the perfect fit?
“Could you move, please?”
Was it her imagination, or was his voice higher than usual? Then what he actually said registered.
“Yes. Could you move across the room? I find to judge a garment, or anything properly, one must see it in motion.” Her face must have been reflecting the horror she felt, for he hastened on, “You would not expect me to buy a horse simply by looking at its lines would you, Mrs. Weston? I would wish to see it run as well. I’m sure you understand.”
Blast him and his bloody horses. She strode forward, happy to vent some of her anger in movement; however, she realized a split second too late there was nowhere to move. The receiving room was not large and was mostly taken up with the cutting table. The only area with any appreciable room was at the far end of the shop where the huge paneled mirrors stood. He was standing directly in the path that would be her best direction. Consequently, she found herself almost flush up against him.
She knew he was tall. Any fool could see the man was at least two or more inches over six feet, but from this vantage point—directly beneath him—he was so very tall. She could smell the starch of his shirt mixed with a faint whiff of smoke and possibly brandy? She slid her gaze over the shirt and waistcoat to his cravat—a conservatively tied Oriental—to the firm, slightly cleft chin, moving on to the lips, very swiftly past those, and finally resting on his eyes. Pure molten gold. Yes, exactly like those of the Burmese tiger she had seen at a menagerie in Paris. His bearing was just as predatory.
“It would appear, sir, in order for me to move, as you require, you will have to bestir yourself as well.”
She thought she saw one side of his mouth shift ever so slightly upward into what might have been the merest twitch of a smile. She could not be one hundred percent sure because, to do so, she would have to look at his lips. The duke shifted his weight and made a small bow. Her shoulder brushed the superfine of his midnight blue jacket as she hurriedly squeezed past him.
She strode almost to the mirrors before wheeling around and giving him what she hoped was an accusatory look.
“Well, Your Grace. I hope you are satisfied”
“Satisfied, Mrs. Weston?” He raised that infernal eyebrow. “Oh no, madam, I am very far from satisfied. However, I am hopeful I will be, in the not so distant future.” Again his gaze raked over her. “Yes, I do live in hope.”
Jess Russell, Multi-Award Winning and Best-selling author!
As a girl Jess escaped the world of rigorous ballet class and hideous math homework into the haven of toe wriggling romance novels. She never imagined in her dyslexic brain she would ever come to write one, but one small scene grew into 359 pages, and contest wins, and multiple contract offers. Dreams sometimes do come true, just like the happy ending in the stories she loves.
Jess lives in New York City with her husband and son and disappears to the Catskill Mountains whenever she can. She is a sometime actress, award winning batik artist, and accomplished seamstress. Along with her sewing machine, she loves power tools and, what’s more, she knows how to use them.
Jess is currently working on revamping her Manhattan kitchen as well as writing two other stories, (working titles), Heart of Glass, and Mad for the Marquess. Please check them out in BOOKS.
Jess Russell is a member of RWA, as well as the Beau Monde and the NY chapters of RWA. THE DRESSMAKER’S DUKE came in first in the Fool for Love Contest, Golden Apple Awards’ Secret Craving Contest, the Indiana Golden Opportunity Contest and the Golden Rose Contest (also winning the best of the best). And finaled in the Great Beginnings, Emerald City Opener, and the Lone Star Contests.
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