Today I am happy to welcome back to Ex Libris Elyse Mady who is here to celebrate the release of her latest novel The White Swan Affair, a historical romance not like any other! Elyse stops by to tell us more about Hester the heroine of The White Swan Affair and share with us what in her opinion makes a heroine independent and interesting. Please give her a warm welcome and don't forget to enter the giveaway, you could win one of Elyse's novels!
Robert’s hands were clenched. Even in the dim light, Hester could make out the whitened knuckles, stark and taut.
Without allowing herself to reconsider, she stripped off her gloves and took his tight fist between her palms. She stroked his skin, letting her fingers trace the back of his hand.
One fingertip traced a scar that meandered across his knuckles. It was fresh, still tender, and she wondered what misadventure had prompted the injury. She massaged his long fingers and ministered to the tender, pink skin beneath his iron manacles. These nimble fingers, that could transform cloth into works of art, that had always been so neat and kempt, now sported ragged fingernails, the dirty half-moons testifying to his life behind the thick stone walls of Newgate.
These were her brother’s hands. She had held these hands, touched them, seen them her entire life. Yet had she ever really looked at them?
These were the hands that had clutched her own childish one as they’d torn over the wild downlands. And when she’d cried, “Wait, Robbie, wait. You’re too fast!” these were the hands that had swept her onto her back and carried her, with boyish strength, across the fields, while she’d clutched at his neck and laughed with delight at her brother’s speed and daring.
These were the winter-chapped hands that bobbled countless hot conkers, snatched from glowing coals, peeling back the scorched skins before offering up the tender nutmeat. “Here, Hessie, a treat for you.” On how many nights had they sat thus, telling tales and laughing? Too many to count.
These were the gloved hands that had led her through her first bourées and country dances. He’d coaxed and encouraged her, made her laugh when she’d stumbled or made a wrong turning. He’d been an apprentice then, and she’d never questioned his appearance but now she knew how much effort it must have taken for him to secure those free evenings.
These were her brother’s hands, and she knew them as she knew her own.
And soon, in a fortnight or so, these were the hands that would be clenched round the prisoner’s rail, awaiting the judge’s verdict. These were the hands that could very well clutch and claw at a hangman’s noose, for the crime he had committed was one that could not be forgiven or overlooked.
At least not by the courts.
“I will be there, Robert. At the trial. Every minute of it, I will be there.”
“I don’t want you there.”
“I know, and I love you for that. But I will be there all the same.”
The dispute had attracted a crowd of onlookers. There were jeers and muttered deprecations when Hester followed Stroud into the street. In her anger, she’d forgotten the state of her clothes but now she was mortifyingly conscious of them. She darted to and fro, trying to recover her brother’s stock but was rebuffed again and again.
She tried one last time to persuade Stroud to reconsider. “Please, sir,” she begged, heedless of what it might cost her, thinking only of the need to preserve the means of her brother’s release. “You will condemn him to prison, with no means of support, if you take these things. You will condemn me to a life without a livelihood. Please, I am begging you, sir.”
Her pride decimated, she pleaded without shame. The catcalls escalated but she closed her ears to their insults. All of her energies were for the man before her, who held her small family’s future in his hands. “If you have any mercy in you, if you have the slightest spark of human goodness in you, please do not do this.”
Stroud shook off her hand with an irritated gesture. “We are done here,” he announced. “You and your brother deserve every punishment that will be meted out to you, in this world and the next. I take no leave of you. You do not deserve any such notice.” He stalked towards the heavy cart, giving curt directions to the driver. Around her, the crowd grew noisier and she heard their slurs.
There were no friendly faces. She took a slow step back and then another, her arms wide in supplication. A clod of dried dung hit her shoulder, shattering on impact. Another missile—a turnip?—narrowly missed her head.
She reached behind her, groping for the comfort and reassurance of Jeremy’s arm, but she felt nothing. She turned in a panic and saw that the young apprentice had fled. Why had he left her now? She wanted to cry out. Fear, real and black, churned her gut. She was all alone. There was no one to help her.
In the ordinary course of things, Hester would never have found herself contemplating engaging in a relationship of the most irregular nature.
But nothing in her life was ordinary anymore.
She could continue as she had, circumscribed, dissatisfied and proper. Doomed to never taste Thomas’s kisses again. Certainly, it was the safest course and one that would shield her from a goodly degree of censure.
Or she could forge a different path.
Today, waiting in Newgate for her brother to appear, she had realized something vital about herself.
She could live without many things but she could no longer live without passion. And it was passion that Thomas offered her. In her shame and her grief, she had cut herself off from so much of her own nature. Worst of all, she had almost convinced herself that it was enough.
It was not enough.
She wanted more.
But more importantly, she deserved more. She had asked her brother to trust her to make the right choices for him but she had not extended that same trust to herself. She and she alone was the person who could decide her fate. Happiness was entirely a matter of chance. She had to make a decision for herself in this matter. No one else’s could count.
Elyse Mady is the author of historical romances “The White Swan Affair” and “The Debutante’s Dilemma” and two contemporary romances (“Something So Right” and “Learning Curves”) with Carina Press. Upcoming books include the Regency novella “The Debutante’s Desire”. She blogs at http://www.elysemady.com/. You can also find her on Twitter at @elysemady, Facebook and Goodreads.
In addition to her writing commitments, Elyse also teaches film and literature at a local college. With her excellent writerly imagination, she one day dreams of topping the NY Times Bestseller’s List and reclaiming her pre-kid body without the bother of either sit-ups or the denunciation of ice-cream.
The White Swan Affair by Elyse Mady
After the tragic death of her beloved, Hester Aspinall vowed never to be ruled by her passions again. Still, she is drawn to her landlord, handsome adventurer Thomas Ramsay–but she doesn’t fool herself that a man of his station would look twice at a poor tailor’s sister.
With the sea for a mistress, Thomas has no intention of entering into matrimony. And yet, he can’t get the plain-spoken and desirable Hester out of his mind, even though she’s never tried to secure his attentions as other women do.
Everything changes the night Hester’s brother is arrested during a raid on a gay brothel, the infamous White Swan. With no one else to turn to, and terrified Robert will hang for his crime, Hester accepts Thomas’s offer to bear the cost of the defense. A true gentleman, Thomas expects nothing in return–but Hester is no longer able to deny her own desires…
She may offer her body eagerly, but can she protect her heart?
Elyse has generously offered an ebook copy of Something So Right, Learning Curves, The Debutante’s Dilemma or The White Swan Affair winner's choice to a lucky commenter!
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