Tell us about your book, Gina
This book is about a male courtesan during the Regency period who finally finds true love.
What inspired you to write this book?
I’d been reading several novels about courtesans – ladies who fell on hard times & turned to being a courtesan or were mistaken for one. Any case, these women always met the man of their dreams who saved them from this wicked life. It made me wonder what if it was a man instead of a woman as courtesan – a gigolo though that word wasn’t used then – and she saved him? My muse took off telling me the tale of Ethan and Arabella.
What kind of research was involved?
First in research was were there male courtesans, men who were paid by proper ladies for bedplay? I mean, we always hear how many lords, etc had mistresses, what of their wives? There are hints, some stories actually true, of this happening.
Next was my hero’s story – how he turned to selling himself. He’d been taken by the Barbary pirates and sold into slavery in the middle East – an area not many have delved into. So I did extensive research there and found gobs of information. Many ‘pretty boys’ were taken as sex slaves by the men but what of a woman of that area taking a one? Caught, they’d both be killed but there are reports of such things happening – few, very few, but enough to work for my story.
As to Arabella’s medical training – it was very true. The best a woman could do in medicine was be a midwife, despite training, experience, etc. It would take over 50 years before women could be physicians and only then to women and children. 1816 – no.
Born in St. Louis, Missouri, Gina Danna has spent the better part of her life reading. History has been her love and she spent numerous hours devouring historical romance stories, dreaming of writing one of her own. Years later, after receiving undergraduate and graduate degrees in History, writing academic research papers and writing for museum programs and events, she finally found the time to write her own stories of historical romantic fiction.
Now, under the supervision of her three dogs and two cats, she writes amid a library of research books, with her only true break away is to spend time with her other life long dream – her Arabian horse – with him, her muse can play.
The Wicked Bargain
Ethan pulled the emerald out of his top dresser drawer and held it carefully. The tear-drop stone glittered in the firelight but it was cold to touch. His other hand grabbed the metal cuff it had been attached to those years ago. The dark heavy ankle band weighed slightly above one pound, a lighter version of the one that he wore initially, weighing over twice the poundage. Strange to recall the exact weights at this point but it’d meant a great deal at the time. He stared at the casing. The dark metal was smooth, its edges rounded to cause no marring with a loop at one end, where the emerald stone hung.
When troubled thoughts plagued him, he often found himself here, holding the very objects that had marked his soul deeply. There was an odd feeling of comfort doing this, one he couldn’t explain. The day had started so easy but rapidly changed.
Staring at the objects, his mind tumbled over the turn of events. He should have followed through and made the girl leave. This place was not for the good and pure. Sin poured out of the woodwork and corrupted the soul. Whatever persuaded him to relent? The answer angered him. She did. Those tears and her obvious terror tugged at some hidden part of him, compassion maybe? He’d laugh if that wasn’t so ironic. His compassion died tragically years ago in the sands. No, she ran from something. Or someone. He saw the fear in her eyes. But for her to remain was wrong.
Toying with the emerald, his thoughts of her turned to business at a more base level. What possible income could she add to his? She was rather plain looking. Oh, her blond hair was attractive, her sapphire blue eyes vivid. But she was too thin, her face angular and gaunt, sickly pale and, well, common. Her legs, hidden underneath the gown, must be long, he gathered, from her height, hopefully long enough to wrap around a man’s waist. No doubt her body lacked the padded curves to entice a man. Her breasts, if there were any hidden behind the bodice, probably absent any flesh to really hold. He grunted in disgust. It would take a lot of work to make her fit the style of one of his ladies.
What was he thinking? She was way too innocent and terrified in demeanor—obviously a sign she was not meant to fill the vacancies in his income. Besides, Edith sent her to him for her protection. He scoffed. As if that wasn’t a jest….Why did Edith send her to a male courtesan with the idea that he could present her to Society? And with no dowry to support her on the marriage mart, exactly what was he to do? Make her one of them and find her a wealthy protector?
That last thought, of a protector, brought his attention back to the anklet and jewel in his hands. His mind wandered beyond the problem of Arabella. Back to a time and place that was hard and demanding, a time of survival at all costs, even at the condemnation of one’s soul. Of a beautiful woman who owned his existence at the flip of her hand and of a life he destroyed. Oh, Zahrah….
“What are you doing?” Elizabeth stood in the doorway, watching him.
Her tone instantly snapped him back to today. He rolled his eyes. How did she always seem to know when melancholy of days past arrived? “Yes, Elizabeth, how may I help you?”
“You met her?”
He dropped the anklet and emerald back into the drawer and closed it.
“Yes.” He walked to his washstand and pulled his cravat off the towel rack. Looking into the mirror to tie it, his hands fumbled. He so hated the damn thing.
With a frustrated groan, she walked to him, turned him to face her and snatched the tie’s ends. “And what do you think, sweeting?” she asked, quickly manipulating the fabric into a knot and fluffing the ends appropriately.
“She has potential,” he commented drily. “If she were amenable, she could maybe earn a nice sum.”
“Yes, probably enough to finish your debts and rebuild your estate,” she concluded with a smile.
He stepped away from her, anger building within him. Gazing out his window at the mews behind the house, he saw his horse waiting for him. He so wanted to jump on his back and escape everything. He refocused. “You put her in that room last night.”
“She needed a place to sleep, Ethan.” She came up behind him. “I couldn’t turn her out.”
“But you didn’t tell her what type of house this is, did you?” The question was cold, flat and blatant. He knew what her answer would be and it only made the girl more damaged.
He shut his eyes. It was as if the walls closed in on him. “I followed your advice. I went out, arranged new interest for the girls, even a new contract for myself.”
“So I had thought,” he turned to her, his voice tense. “I had company, Elizabeth. I didn’t know I had to worry about the next room.”
“Ah, so she came to see,” she surmised, but the grin on her face showed she wasn’t the least bit perturbed at his anger. She laughed. “I fail to see why you are so upset. Being watched isn’t new to you.”
“That’s not the point,” he argued. She never saw this from the perspective of a female client. Jane might have turned furious and demanded a refund. He could not afford that. “It might have caused problems with the lady I was with, who thankfully didn’t appear to notice.”
“See, you haven’t lost your touch.” She smiled.
He threw his head back. “Elizabeth, ladies do not come here looking for ordinary work and find I only employ high priced courtesans. But you let her stay and if she stays much longer, she may have no choice in the matter but to become one herself. Her reputation may already be beyond any repair.”
“I’m sure you can help her,” she said soothingly, her hands back on his shoulders as she reached up behind him and kissed the side of his neck, her hands stroking down his back and over his hips. She tried to deflect his anger. “Come, sweeting, let us have one last time before I am committed to Clemson.”
He turned towards her and took her hands off him.
“I think not,” he said quietly, kissing her hands lightly.
She sighed. “You never seem to desire me any longer, sweeting.”
He looked into her eyes. “It is not that, my dear,” he commented quietly. “I just won’t because you’ve already signed the papers.”
“It has been years and I can’t help but worry.”
“Do not be upset,” he said. “I can’t.”
“You know, Zahrah’s no longer around. You won’t be caught. You’ve been freed now for two years.”
His smile disappeared, his past lashed out, memories back in full force he smothered as quickly as he could. “I know. Come. We have dinner with our new doctor.”