If Jane Austen didn’t precisely write such words, she ought to have.
Where else but in a world of wealth and privilege would gentlemen be so bored as to place a bet of £3,000 on which raindrop would reach the bottom of the bow window at White’s gentlemen’s club first? (A genuine fortune at the time, it was an amount roughly equivalent to $600,000 today!) White’s famous betting book provides solid proof of such hijinks in the historical record. One has to imagine, however, that such wagers were merely the penultimate example of crass betting behavior, and that untold numbers of bets passed between gentlemen daily without ever being recorded in the books.
My new release SUMMER IS FOR LOVERS features the Victorian seaside resort of Brighton as backdrop, and an indelicate wager between bored gentlemen plays a central role in the story.
When she is still a child, my heroine, Caroline Tolbertson, saves a struggling young man from drowning off Brighton’s rough coast, and in the process reveals her painful secret: she swims, and better than most grown men.
(No, no, he isn’t drowning in THIS scene. This is…er…later. Much later.)
Now eleven years later, Caroline is a young woman who must marry to rescue her family from insolvency, but finding a suitor to save them is proving difficult because Caroline just doesn’t quite fit in. Tall, athletic, and socially awkward, she finds herself struggling against the prejudices of Brighton’s summer set down from London, particularly a London dandy named Mr. Dermott who has kissed her on a bold wager and then spread tales far and wide.
Caroline Tolbertson knew she would never forget her first kiss … even though she desperately wanted to.
It wasn’t the mechanical part of the act that bothered her. One almost expected some discomfort in a first kiss: a bump of noses, a clash of teeth. Technique could be learned and practiced, and she had mastered far more difficult tasks in her twenty-three years. No, the execution of the kiss was not the problem. It was the aftermath she couldn’t tolerate.
And that aftermath was heading straight for her.
Caroline froze, distracted not by the sound of seagulls or the chatter of nearby strollers along the Marine Parade, but by the perforating sound of Brandon Dermott’s laughter. And just like that, the kiss she had tried so hard to forget came flooding back in all its inglorious detail.
The awkward parting of lips. The amused frown on Mr. Dermott’s face. And the next day, the cupped hands and whispers among the vacationers down from London.
“It was like kissing a boy,” Dermott had told them all. Not the kind of notoriety a girl wished for.
Especially a girl like Caroline.
Our hero, David Cameron, has brought his ailing mother to Brighton to take a sea water cure, where he is reunited with the girl he first met by happenstance over a decade ago. Only, she isn’t a girl any longer—and she has apparently never forgotten him. Struggling with a painful past that he believes makes him an unsuitable choice for an innocent young woman, he is bound and determined to keep Caroline at arm’s length, for her own good. But he cannot help but feel protective when he sees first-hand how she is being treated by the summer crowd in Brighton.
Finally, someone cleared his throat. “How did it go then, Cameron?”
David fixed the inquirer with a stern glare. “A gentleman does not kiss and tell.”
Mr. Dermott snorted with laughter, a harsh, mean-spirited sound. “Oh come on, it’s just a bit of good sport. We all want to know. Was it like kissing a boy for you too? Took a bloody impressive wager to get me to kiss her, I can tell you.”
The snickers he had detected earlier from the crowd returned, growing in volume and meaning. Clarity descended, swift and unfortunate. Young men were infamous for such wagers. During his years at Cambridge, he had been little different, having once wagered—and lost—an entire month’s allowance on the outcome of a race between two very uncooperative snails. He had no idea why young men did such things. Perhaps it was because their brains were not yet fully formed.
Or because their cocks unfortunately were.
No matter the reason, men of a certain age were undeniable idiots. They hurt people for no reason other than their own sport or their own selfish, shortsighted needs.
He ought to know.
David sets out to convince the eligible young men of Brighton that Caroline is a woman any man would be proud to call wife—as long as it isn’t him. But David can’t stop thinking about the unconventional Caroline, and soon finds himself wondering if he has just made the biggest mistake of his life. As the contenders for her hand begin to line up, her future seems assured…provided David can do the honorable thing and let them have her.
The Book Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OpznycdbreE
To celebrate the release of SUMMER IS FOR LOVERS, I will be giving away a fabulous prize pack that will make you think it is still summer, including a free signed copy of SUMMER IS FOR LOVERS and a box of vintage salt water taffy. To enter, share with us the most outrageous bet or dare you’ve ever taken. Winner will be chosen randomly and announced on Friday, September 27th.
Jennifer McQuiston writes Different. Historical. Romance. She lives in Atlanta with her family and the pony she promised her girls if “mommy ever got a book deal”. She would rather be at the beach than anywhere else in the world…and apparently so would the characters in her head. Her first book, What Happens in Scotland, is also available now, and her third book, Moonlight on My Mind, will be released March 24, 2014.