Hi, RomCon® readers! I’m excited to be here to share an excerpt from Sins of a Virgin! This novel is the first in my new series that follows a trio of spies who’ve just been dismissed now that the war with Napoleon is over. To add to the insult, the Foreign Office only pays them a paltry stipend for their years of service, so the three of them must find a new way to survive in London.
Madeline, the first of the spies, decides on a rather scandalous solution…
Excerpt: Chapter 1
When lightning didn’t strike Madeline Valdan as she strolled through the hallowed doors of White’s, a wicked smile curved her lips. She’d seize her positive omens where she could.
While the footman by the door kept his gaze studiously adverted, she slipped the heavy bag of gold sovereigns into his pocket and then rose up on tiptoe so her lips brushed the air inches from his ear. “Thank you, John.” He still didn’t deign to speak to her, but an adorable blush spread above the starched points of his shirt collar.
As she sauntered down the corridor, Madeline couldn’t resist a quick gawk at this bastion of manliness. Marble pillars jutted out from deep, plush carpet to join with the ornate plaster of the ceiling and reflect the rippling patterns cast by the crystal chandeliers. The club reeked of power and entitlement.
And most importantly, money.
Madeline smoothed the flowing lines of her black domino. The silk used to make the cloak had been an extravagant expense, but as she’d learned, presentation was everything.
She strode past the coffee room and straight into the card room. After all, she was offering a gamble—hopefully, a very expensive gamble.
The murmur of masculine voices rumbled through the expansive space, punctuated by an occasional bark of laughter. Faro cards slapped onto tables and dice clacked across tables.
She scanned the room as she’d been trained, noting the number of men and classifying them: those actively gambling, those pretending to gamble, and those watching; those holding a winning hand versus a losing hand. From her brief glance, she also knew which men were dangerous and which posed a threat only to their after-supper pudding.
As Madeline walked to the center of the room, the tables she passed quieted, then burst into jumbled exclamations. She selected a table directly in the center of the room under an immense glittering chandelier.
She couldn’t have asked for a better stage.
She smiled at the nervous young man who had turned to gape at her as she approached. She held out her hand. “Be a dear, Algie?”
Algie’s training as a gentleman didn’t fail her, and he offered his hand without thinking. She grasped it, stepped on his thigh, and then onto the middle of the table.
Madeline now held the attention of the entire group of assembled men.
Two determined footmen arrived at the edge of the table. “Miss, this isn’t that type of establishment. You must leave or we will remove you.” Madeline threw back the hood of her cloak.
“Who’s mistress …”
“ … seen with the Regent himself last …”
The voices testified that the last six months had served their purpose. They all knew who she was.
She’d spent every last dime of the paltry government stipend on being seen and heard around London. Dressed to scandalous perfection. Always on the arm of a different man and always on the cusp of something utterly outrageous. Soon the gossip sheets hadn’t been able to write enough about her. Gentlemen lusted after her and ladies despised her.
She opened the front of her domino, revealing her emerald gown. The bodice skimmed her breasts and barely covered her nipples. In fact, when she’d tried it on, a misplaced sneeze had produced quite shocking results. The sleeves were practically nonexistent, and the lack of petticoats molded the skirt to every curve of her hip and leg.
She raised her voice to carry above the noise. “What do you think, gentlemen, shall I leave, or do you want to hear what inspired this dastardly stunt?”
The shouts clamoring for her answer overwhelmed the cries for her ousting, so the flustered servants stepped back a pace.
Madeline trailed a hand slowly down her hip. “I bring you something for sale.” She nodded at offers shouted by several of the bolder gentlemen to share their beds for the night. “Not quite. I’m here to inform you of an auction.”
“What’s being sold?” asked the overdressed and overfed Colonel Willington. She scanned the room, gauging the reactions. Excellent. Every single one of them strained for her answer.
She waited three more heartbeats before answering. “My virginity.”
One lucky reader who comments on my blog will be randomly selected to win a copy of Sins of a Virgin. Good luck!
Blurb for Sins of a Virgin:
There is improper, there is scandalous… and then there is Madeline Valdan.
To the world, Madeline Valdan is a scandalous courtesan, with society's most eligible gentlemen at her feet. But no one knows her shocking secret: she has never experienced the most intimate touch of any man. So she astonishes the ton by telling them the truth . . . and by announcing the auction of her virginity to the highest bidder.
Handsome and disciplined, Gabriel Huntford knows his time is best spent hunting down criminals from the darkest corners of London. As a Bow Street Runner investigating his sister's death, he has no desire to join London's strutting peacocks in this competition when there are more important tasks at hand.
Now, his quest leads him to one of Madeline's "suitors," so he agrees to help this sinful woman. But what begins as a business arrangement quickly turns into something more . . . and love blooms with a passion neither one expected.
Anna Randol writes sultry, adventurous Regency romances for Avon. RT Book Reviews gave her new novel, Sins of a Virgin, four and a half stars and called it, “Smart, sassy, sexy, original and tinged with mystery…”