Debutantes, widows and the occasional courtesan test society’s boundaries in Beverley Oakley’s wicked, passionate historical romances dripping with scandal, intrigue, and suspense.
Her Fair Cyprians of London series is about a group of determined and clever courtesans at a high-class Soho brothel who use their wit and beauty to avenge past betrayals – and who find lasting love along the way.
How can there be a happily ever after? is a question many a reviewer has asked before admitting to being delighted and satisfied by the unexpected plot twists and surprise endings – just like in Beverley’s own life. You can read more on her website.
Interview with Faith Montague, the heroine of Keeping Faith
Beverley: What’s your name?
Faith: Faith Montague
Beverley: Where did you grow up?
Faith: I was second eldest daughter of ten and I grew up in a damp, leaky farm tenant’s cottage in Wiltshire, England. My mother was too busy to spend time with me and my father was drunk much of the time. I couldn’t wait to go into service at the Big House when I was thirteen because, although I worked my fingers to the bone, I learned that if I could behave the way my betters behaved, it could be an avenue out of poverty for me.
Beverley: During what time period does your story take place?
Faith: 1878. (A great time in fashion when the bustle was at its sexiest.) Also, women were starting to have opportunities for work other than being just a servant, governess…or a prostitute like the girls I lived with after I was falsely accused of stealing and sent to live in a brothel.
Beverley: What’s your story/back story? Why would someone come up with a story about you?
Faith: I was born in poverty but an American heiress plucked me out of obscurity to train me how to behave like a lady. Her intention for me was to seduce and ruin a young man whom she believed had ruined her daughter’s life.
Beverley: What’s your goal in this story?
Faith: I just want my freedom. Initially, I thought I’d get my freedom by carrying out my benefactress’s evil plan but after I fell in love with the kind, sensitive, gorgeous young painter (who was about to become a diplomat) whom I was supposed to destroy, freedom meant finding a future with him.
Beverley: What conflicts are you facing?
Faith: Conflicts? Happiness should have been impossible. The social mores of the day would not have tolerated my being with my true love, Crispin, even if I did take London by storm as his artist’s muse. Yes, we both became celebrities overnight. One might have thought that such public adoration would have meant I would be accepted by society. But that’s when the real conflict began.
There was my past. No one would condone a young diplomat in line for a title taking up with a girl who’d been brought up in a brothel. It might have happened in the romantic novels that are so popular today but not in real life. Not in my life.
Beverley: Do you have a plan for resolving them?
Faith: I’m a survivor. And sometimes the unexpected happens. Sometimes, when everything is against you: family opposition, society’s attitudes, the vengeance of the people you thought you could trust…sometimes a rabbit just gets pulled out of a hat and the happy ever after shimmers tantalisingly in front of you. Maybe, just maybe, you’ll be allowed to taste real happiness.
Beverley: Is there anything else you’d like us to know about you?
Faith: Just that I’m not unlike so many of what that journalist Henry Mayhew called “London’s lowlife” when he wrote his famous book, London’s Underworld . A fallen woman was reviled and usually her dire circumstances were not of her making. My friends were all decent women who just wanted to be happy. They didn’t choose to live in a brothel but there are precious few opportunities when one is poor and without education.
So, spare a thought for them. I’m making sure their stories are recorded in the other books in the Fair Cyprians of London series .
Thank you for listening to mine.
Blurb for Keeping Faith
Four years ago, Faith’s mysterious benefactress falsely accused her of stealing and deposited her in Madame Chambon’s exclusive brothel.
There, Faith was to learn how to entrance London’s noble gentlemen with her learning in philosophy, politics and art.
Her body was to be saved for the greatest enticement of all: revenge.
Faith doesn’t care what she has to do. She lives only to fulfil a bargain that will set her free.
But when Faith is recruited as the muse of a talented, sensitive painter whose victory in a prestigious art competition turns them both into celebrities overnight, she discovers the reasons behind her mission are very different from what she’d been led to believe.
Now she is complicit in something dark and dangerous while riches, adulation and freedom are hers for the taking.
But what value are these if her heart has become a slave to the man she is required to destroy?
Excerpt: from Keeping Faith
“What did you learn last night?”
“A gentleman must always believe he knows best.”
Confident that her answer was pleasing, Faith reached across the table to help herself to a macaroon but a sharp slap across the back of the hand stopped her progress by the silver teapot.
Her smile of feigned contrition was rewarded with a raised eyebrow from Madame Chambon. Not an invitation to partake of a macaroon, unfortunately. The table laden with eclairs and petit fours in Madame’s private sitting room was merely for show.
“Greedy girl, Faith! You can eat at the Dorchester tomorrow and I daresay you won’t even spare a thought for the other girls who are justified in being somewhat jealous of your cossetted life.” Madame sniffed as she patted one of the grizzled, orange curls of her elaborate coiffure. Faith suspected a squirrel’s pelt had made its contribution. “I’m sure they wonder every day why you never have to stir yourself – or anyone else, for that matter – to get your fine clothes or a roof over your head.” Madame Chambon piled three macaroons onto her already laden plate before making a sweeping gesture that encompassed the furnishings of her surprisingly decorous private sitting room with its gold tasseled green velvet curtains and flock wallpaper. “What have you told them, Faith? About why you are here, I mean?”
Faith’s stomach rumbled as she gazed from the prints of the famous artists that lined the walls to the fine fare in front of her, ordered from Fortnum and Mason. These monthly sessions in table manners were supposed to give Faith the practice she needed to deport herself like a lady when eating in public. However, under Madame’s guardianship, Faith never actually got to try the specialties.
“Answer me, Faith. In all the three years that you’ve been here, you’ve had to do precisely nothing to justify your existence. Surely the girls have questioned you? I have my own version of the truth for them, as you know, but I’d be interested to hear what you have to say.”
Faith didn’t answer. She already knew how lucky she was, but Madame was not ready to drop the subject, despite having just crammed an entire chocolate éclair into her mouth. Faith just managed to make out the muffled words, “Every night you lie peacefully in your bed while the other girls have to earn their livings.”
Lying peacefully in her bed was not how Faith would describe the restfulness of her slumber. She was kept awake every night by the grunts and cries of ecstasy that penetrated the thin walls of her attic chamber.
Still, she’d finally learned when it was wise to respond meekly, so she bowed her head and stared at her neat kid gloves while dreaming of the delicacies Mrs. Gedge would order for them when Faith really was dining with her at the Dorchester Hotel the following afternoon. The Sacher Torte Mrs. Gedge had ummed and aahed over before finally choosing the baked Alaska from the sweets trolley last month still haunted her. However, since part of Faith’s tutoring included how to win over reluctant gentleman ‘and make them wild with wanting’ which is how Madame phrased it, then surely Faith could persuade her American benefactress to order the Austrian chocolate specialty?
She was so busy rehearsing her words for tomorrow that she almost missed Madame’s prophetic and appalling statement.
“Well, Faith, the time has come for you to start earning your way, now.”
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