Monday, January 30, 2023

Book Blitz and Giveaway: The Worst Woman in London by Julia Bennet

Title: The Worst Woman in London
Author: Julia Bennet
Publication Date: February 2nd 2023
Print Length: 299 pages
Genre: Historical Romance

A defiant Victorian wife fights to escape a bad marriage but her love for a forbidden man jeopardizes her chance at freedom.

James Standish knows how to play society’s game. He’ll follow the rules, marry a virginal debutante, and inherit a massive fortune. At least, that’s the plan until he meets Francesca Thorne. She’s not the sort of woman a respectable gentleman like James could ever marry—not least because, strictly speaking, she’s married already.

Francesca is determined to flout convention and divorce her philandering husband. When James sweet talks his way into her life tasked with convincing her to abandon her dream of freedom, she’s unprepared for the passion that flares between them.

Torn apart by conflicting desires, James and Francesca must choose whether to keep chasing the lives they’ve always wanted or take a chance on a new and forbidden love.

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"That red is quite flamboyant," Miriam said, brows knit. "A woman contemplating divorce shouldn't make herself conspicuous."

"What color would be more to your taste?" he asked. If he hadn't, he might have been tempted to offer his opinion with regard to his aunt's attire. She’d dressed in a particularly vibrant shade of yellow that made him think of bile.

"Lilac, perhaps. No one would notice her in lilac. She’d simply fade from view."

No one would ever compare Fran to an Amazon. When he’d held her in his arms, she’d fit neatly under his chin, and her uncorseted flesh had felt soft and warm. He’d tried not to think about the unexpected intimacy of embracing a woman with whom he’d been acquainted for so long. Now, for the first time, he understood why so many sticklers condemned rational dress. Without the fortification a corset provided, she could have worn a nightgown and her body wouldn’t have felt any different.

Tonight, she’d cast aestheticism aside for less practical attire, taming and restraining her unruly curves. The ruby-red silk, though vivid and unashamed like its wearer, revealed no more than was proper. He saw a hint of upper arm bracketed by short sleeves and long white gloves, and the gentle swell of her d├ęcolletage concealed behind the black feathers of her fan. She didn’t go out of her way to display herself, but she disdained to hide.

"Perhaps she doesn't wish to fade from view," he said.

"That's precisely my point. I remember her when she was plain Miss Heller. Sweet little thing. Wouldn't say boo to a goose. But, when I think of the shame she’s causing the Lyttons…" She gave a theatrical shudder. "No family feeling at all."

To Miriam, family, or at least lineage, was sacrosanct. She had a long gallery filled with works of art depicting august cousins and illustrious ancestors. Fran's faded red and gold walls boasted not a single picture. He’d wager the Lytton house abounded with family portraits, but she might never look upon them again, much less own one. "I'm sure they'd prefer she appeared in sackcloth and ashes," he said. "Or, better yet, that she'd stayed buried alive in the country."

"As indeed she should," said Miriam, undaunted. "What would become of society if every wife with a philandering husband made such a spectacle of herself? Her family is quite right to take a stand. And if the rumors about her and Trafford are true..." She let the sentence taper off suggestively. "With those tales flying about, she could wear the sackcloth until it rubbed her raw and not a soul would pity her."

"Why, I wonder?" He spoke quietly to mask a sudden and quite unreasonable surge of anger. "If Thorne doesn't want her, why shouldn't she take a lover?"

He didn't quite believe what he'd just said. Did he really think a woman justified in taking a lover if her husband abandoned her? How very bohemian of him.

Miriam didn't appear shocked in the least. "Whether or not she has a lover is irrelevant," she said with the air of a seasoned pragmatist. "It's the indiscretion that's objectionable. A married woman can do as she pleases as long as she observes the strictest secrecy. If I were to take a lover, you can be sure no one else would ever hear of it."

If Miriam said anything more of her lover, theoretical though he might be, James would never recover. To his relief, she narrowed her shrewd little eyes and said instead, "Don't tell me you feel sorry for her. If you do, you're a fool. She didn't lose her reputation. She threw it away like rubbish."

He remained silent for several moments longer. Though he didn't disagree with anything she'd said, he didn't share her sense of outrage. "You’re right," he said. "Say what one likes about Mrs. Thorne, she chose her fate with both eyes open. Instead of enduring more years of marriage to an absent and unfaithful husband, she chose to sacrifice her position and her friends. Presumably, she thought it the lesser of two evils."

"She must be mad. It's a case of moral insanity. It has to be."

Moral insanity? The thought hadn't occurred to him. True, turning down five thousand pounds per annum for the sake of an ideal smacked of lunacy. Yet, to his way of thinking, it seemed less wicked than his aunt's laissez-faire attitude to marital fidelity.

"Oh, I don't think so,” he said. “Her behavior may be hopelessly vulgar by society’s standards, but at least she isn't a coward or a hypocrite like the rest of us." Yet another thing he hadn't meant to say.

Miriam pursed her lips but otherwise gave no sign she perceived an insult. "When you marry, I advise you to choose more wisely than your friend Thorne. Don't choose a furtive little thing who can't look you in the eye, and don't choose a bold piece who's no better than she should be. The chit you met in Hyde Park might suit you."

He smoothed nonexistent creases from his white gloves. "Which chit?"

"Miss Randle of course. Very elegant figure. I saw her riding in the park with her father today. She has an excellent seat."

He had no idea who she meant. For several seconds his mind stayed blank, until at last he remembered.

"Ah yes, Miss Randle. She of the renegade handkerchief."

"She's a beauty and so stylish." Spoken in the tones of a hostess persuading him to take one more slice of cake.

With any luck, he didn't look as ill as he felt. "I'm sure she'll make an excellent wife for some lucky fellow."

"But you're too busy enjoying yourself? Gracious, James. You're thirty-six and I'm not going to live forever. I should like to see you settled and settled well. Girls of that caliber are few and far between. You should consider her at the very least." She must've noticed his pained expression because she gave a huff of laughter. "Gentlemen are always so reluctant to relinquish their freedom. I can't imagine why. Your friend Thorne has an excellent time."

He looked and saw Thorne trailing Mrs. Kirkpatrick's closed fan along the curve of her bosom. Yes, an excellent time. "But not with his wife, ma'am."
Julia Bennet writes historical romance with passion, intrigue, dark humor and the occasional animal sidekick. A tea-sodden English woman, she’s the only girl in a house of boys and yearns for all things pink and fluffy. If she isn’t writing, she’s probably reading everything she can get her hands on, spending time with her boys or procrastinating on the internet.

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(All the Ups and Downs is not responsible for this giveaway, its entries, or the prize. Xpresso Book Tours and the author assume all responsibility over this giveaway.)

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  1. It sounds like an interesting book. Thank you for sharing.

  2. love the excerpt sounds like a very interesting book

  3. Do you have any advice for new writers?

  4. The book sounds very intriguing. Love the cover!

  5. It looks like a fun read.

  6. How did you become a writer?

  7. I enjoyed the excerpt. Thank you for the giveaway!

  8. Sounds interesting! Thank You for sharing!

  9. The excerpt is interesting. Thank you for sharing it.

  10. What a cool book to read Especially this time of year

  11. you are a new author for me- after reading the excerpt I would like to read this book-thanks

  12. This sounds like an interesting book and I also like the cover.

    abfantom at yahoo dot com

  13. happy thursday The book sounds really great. thank you

  14. Love historical romance! Thank you for sharing

  15. I can't wait to read this

  16. The historical romance sounds fun to read with lots of twists and turns.

  17. I love the time period. The descriptions take me right there. Sounds like a great read.

  18. I'm always fascinated by learning about the more's and restrictions people had to live by in past eras. Women have certainly come a long way, and I'm glad I live in an era when the future is ours to improve for everyone!