I would like to give a warm welcome to Gina Danna a guest with Critters on Tour. She’s here today to showcase Rags and Hope.
Widower Colonel Pierce Duval only wants to
Cerisa Fontaine ran for a new life but her controversial marriage and southern drawl make her a pariah in the North. Widowed, Cerisa is forced to seek employment at the only establishment that will accept her: a brothel.
Pierce and Cerisa embark on a journey to Tennessee posing as a married couple. But secrets and passion wages its war within them – remain loyal to their cause, or give in to their heart’s desire?
New York City 1863
This was definitely the wrong night to be sober.
Pierce Abraham Duval sat on the green velvet covered settee, dressed in black trousers, white shirt, sapphire blue waistcoat with a black frock coat of fine wool. He pulled his pocket watch out of his waistcoat pocket for the fifth time in, as he snapped the lid open, last twenty minutes. With a sigh of disgust, he closed the watch and slid it back into the pocket. He scanned the parlor, decorated with wall hangings and arranged carpets with vases filled with flowers and whatnot, and nothing changed. His friends had dragged him out of his flat for a night.
You need to live again, Pierce. Margaret would have wanted you too, not spend each eternal night with a bottle of whiskey!
Edward Brooks meant well by his words but Pierce sincerely doubted Margaret’s idea of living meant visiting a brothel.
For all that was holy, what he wouldn’t give to be back on the battlefield and at least find peace in front of a barrage of gunfire…
“Monsieur,” the slightly heavy, overly perfumed and gaudily dressed Madame Nikki said, appearing at his side without him seeing her. He nearly jumped, which only seemed to make her happier as her chubby grin widened. “Perhaps a glass of bourbon would help you relax.”
The black boy, a young man just old enough to need introduction to a straight razor, suddenly was in view, handing him a glass filled with the amber liquor. Pierce eyed the boy but he wasn’t looking at Pierce but the wall or window behind him, offering the glass.
He took the drink and before he tried it, he nodded to the Madame and took a sip. The honey-tasting alcohol slid a path down his throat, leaving a burning trail in its wake – a taste Pierce equated to bliss. At least it was a good quality stock. Inside, he shook his head. Why couldn’t Edward just leave him home, with a body in hand as he drank Margaret’s ghost to oblivion? Why?
“Mr. Brooks has found his match,” Madame Nikki continued. “He told me to send in our finest for you to choose from.” She clapped her hands and, from out of the woodwork or so it seemed, four women walked to the center of the room before him. All three were dressed in nothing other than their chemise, corset, split pantalets, stockings and heeled shoes. Their hair was mostly loose, combed but not dressed and it shouldn’t be. They were to entertain in bed after all. Two of them had heavy facial paint on with rouged lips, which they pouted as they posed for his inspection.
The third one, the more modest of the three, still wearing a silk dressing robe that Madame pulled apart to show off her undergarments, appeared to have little to none of the face paints. If anything, her cheeks blushed red but there was a defiant gleam to her blue eyes that attracted him. Oh, the rest of her was desirable. She looked slimmer than the other two, her corset of white cotton, trimmed in white lace, was cleaner appearing and the swell of her breasts heaved, showing she was under a duress for this whole show. He’d guess she was new and while her hands rested on her hips, her lips were pale and not pursed like the other two.
Madame Nikki caught his attention and smiled as she waved the other two away. “Ahhh, wise choice for the even, monsieur. Cera is our more sultry dessert, one a man like you should enjoy delving into.”
The girl glared at him. Openly glared. Only a glimpse of a smile hinted at her lips. He was enthralled. She stood about average height, probably up to his shoulders, he guessed. Blond hair fell in waves over her shoulders and down her back. Sparkling blue eyes, the color of sapphires, danced under the oiled lamps and candles that lit the room. Her skin was the prized porcelain white except she had a smattering of freckles on her nose – faint but noticeable. She was the very opposite of fiery Margaret, whose Irish upbringing had set his whole family into panic when he proposed to her. But this girl wasn’t without spunk. She hadn’t uttered a word but her gaze let him know she was new, probably untried, scared yet bold.
It was that instant he recognized her. What the hell was this misplaced Southern Belle doing in a New York City brothel?
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Author Bio ~
A USA Today Bestselling author, Gina Danna was born in St. Louis, Missouri, and has spent the better part of her life reading. History has always been her love and she spent numerous hours devouring historical romance stories, always dreaming of writing one of her own. After years of writing historical academic papers to achieve her undergraduate and graduate degrees in History, and then for museum programs and exhibits, she found the time to write her own historical romantic fiction novels.
Now, under the supervision of her dogs, 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.