The Dressmaker’s Duke
Published as… Historical Romance
Jess Russell’s Guest Post
What is the appeal of writing and reading regency romances?
We all want to be transported. Think of the appeal and popularity of Downton Abby. We love the clothes, the manners, the intrigue. We love the separation of class and how that separation gets muddy and the classes (dare we say) mingle. We love to have rules and see how they get broken and the consequences of breaking those tried and true rules.
In the world of Romance writing there is always a happily ever after—the HEA. It is a prerequisite for the genre. Unfortunately that is not always the case in the real world where so many women struggle to gain their freedom, both personally and economically. Most likely there is no knight in shining armor to ride in and save the day, but we are strong and resilient when given the tools to be so.
However, in 1810, the time of, The Dressmaker’s Duke, woman had very few avenues open to them. A good marriage was the penultimate. Other options were few and far between and the consequences were dire when women pushed up against society’s rigid rules.
I chose to write a slightly older Regency heroine. At twenty-nine Olivia Weston was considered old; definitely “on the shelf” in terms of contracting a good marriage. As a widow she has experienced some of life and knows how precious real love is. She will not compromise. But what opportunities are open to an “on the shelf” widow who is also a lady? Not many.
I sew and so I thought Olivia being a dressmaker would be a good fit for my story. By posing as plain “Mrs. Weston” she is freer to pursue her business, but by being in “trade” she opens herself to behavior no lady would ever be expected to tolerate. This is where Rhys Merrick, my monkish duke comes in and he poses quite a threat to Olivia’s good intentions.
The world of a Regency woman is narrow, but she still has all the feelings of a modern day woman, she just must express them in more subtle ways. I see this as a challenge; a kind of mental and social tightrope. I think the best historical writers embrace these strictures and learn to move gracefully and creatively between the confines of their chosen world. These characters are not just witty cardboard cutouts from 200 years ago, they are thinking, feeling folk with problems just like you and me.
I love the challenge of weaving a tale within these tight Regency confines while still making it authentic to the period. Pitting my strong, independent lady-turned-dressmaker against my tightly wound duke was great fun!
“Have you nothing else to compensate me with?”
the duke asked, as if mentioning the weather.
Olivia’s whirring mind stopped dead. Ah…now we
have it. Her vision narrowed. The bloody cheek of the
“Surely you have something you can barter with,
Mrs. Weston?” he continued, paying not the slightest
attention to her most lethal stare.
Two could play this game. “I am a dressmaker,
Your Grace. I make and sell dresses. That is the full
extent of my commerce.”
~ from The Dressmaker’s Duke
About the Book
Rhys Merrick, Duke of Roydan, is determined to be the antitheses of his depraved father, repressing his desires so severely he is dubbed “the Monk” by Society. But when Olivia Weston turns up demanding payment for gowns ordered by his former mistress, Rhys is totally flummoxed and inexplicably smitten. He pays her to remove her from his house, and mind. But logic be damned, he must have this fiercely independent woman.
Olivia’s greatest fear is becoming a kept woman. She has escaped the role of mistress once and vows never to be owned by any man. Rather than make money in the boudoir, she chooses to clothe the women who do. But when a fire nearly kills her friend and business partner, Olivia’s world goes up in smoke and she is forced to barter with the lofty duke.
As their lives weave together, Olivia unravels the man underneath the Monk, while Rhys desires to expose the lady hiding behind the dressmaker. Will his raw passion fan a long-buried ember of hope within her? Can this mismatched pair be the perfect fit?
About the Author
As a girl Jess escaped the world of rigorous ballet class and hideous math homework into the haven of toe wriggling romance novels. She never imagined in her dyslexic brain she would ever come to write one, but one small scene grew into 359 pages, and contest wins, and multiple contract offers. Dreams sometimes do come true, just like the happy ending in the stories she loves.
Jess lives in New York City with her husband and son and disappears to the Catskill Mountains whenever she can. She is a sometime actress, award winning batik artist, and accomplished seamstress. Along with her sewing machine, she loves power tools and, what’s more, she knows how to use them.
Jess is currently working on revamping her Manhattan kitchen as well as writing two other stories, (working titles), Heart of Glass, and Mad for the Marquess. Please check them out in BOOKS.
Jess Russell is a member of RWA, as well as the Beau Monde and the NY chapters of RWA. THE DRESSMAKER’S DUKE came in first in the Fool for Love Contest, Golden Apple Awards’ Secret Craving Contest, the Indiana Golden Opportunity Contest and the Golden Rose Contest (also winning the best of the best). And finaled in the Great Beginnings, Emerald City Opener, and the Lone Star Contests.