A devil's bargain.
"The photograph must be damning, indisputably so. I mean to see Caledonia Rivers not only ruined but vanquished. Vanquished, St. Claire, I'll settle for nothing less."
Known as The Maid of Mayfair for her unassailable virtue, unwavering resolve, and quiet dignity, suffragette leader, Caledonia — Callie — Rivers is the perfect counter for detractors' portrayal of the women a rabble rousers, lunatics, even whores. But a high-ranking enemy within the government will stop at nothing to ensure that the Parliamentary bill to grant the vote to females dies in the Commons — including ruining the reputation of the Movement's chief spokeswoman.
After a streak of disastrous luck at the gaming tables threatens to land him at the bottom of the Thames, photographer Hadrian St. Claire reluctantly agrees to seduce the beautiful suffragist leader and then use his camera to capture her fall from grace. Posing as the photographer commissioned to make her portrait for the upcoming march on Parliament, Hadrian infiltrates Callie's inner circle. But lovely, soft-spoken Callie hardly fits his mental image of a dowdy, man-hating spinster. And as the passion between them flares from spark to full-on flame, Hadrian is the one in danger of being vanquished.
"Your denial of my citizen's right to vote, is the denial of my right of consent as one of the governed, the denial of my right of representation as one of the taxed, the denial of my right to a trial by a jury of my peers as an offender against the law; therefore the denial of my sacred right to life, liberty, property..."
"Votes for Women now. Votes for women NOW!"
The protestors' voices pitched higher still, shriller still, or so it seemed to Hadrian as he hurried across Westminster Bridge, the wind tearing at his greatcoat and scarf and threatening to rip the bowler from his head. Stepping out onto the crowded street, he tightened his grip on his camera, a German-made Anschütz with a shutter mechanism capable of arresting motion to one-thousandth of a second. He'd put the equipment to good test that afternoon at St. Thomas Hospital photographing a newly discovered medical anomaly. The poor bastard had been born with an enormous scrotum, tumor-mottled skin, and a chronic palsy that would have rendered traditional photographs little better than a blur. Even so, using his talent to turn a fellow human being into little better than a circus freak hadn't set well with Hadrian, and the subject's sad-eyed patience in holding any number of humiliating poses had made him feel like the lowest of beasts. Now frozen, footsore and famished, he couldn't reach his studio soon enough.
But to do so he first had to run the gauntlet of suffragists who'd overtaken Parliament Square. They'd camped out for coming on two days now, creating a bloody nuisance for pedestrians and conveyances alike. Dressed in somber grays and serious blacks, the fifty-odd females picketing beneath the gray wash of winter sky might just as easily pass for a funeral procession as a political rally were it not for the placards the women held aloft and the noise they emitted — especially the noise.
"Miss Caledonia Rivers to speak on the subject of female emancipation... Hallman's Assembly Rooms... tomorrow evening... seven o' clock."
Dodging traffic to cross to the sidewalk, Hadrian could only shake his head. That any woman fortunate enough to possess a roof and four walls would march about in the bitter air struck him as a sort of perverse self-indulgence, a foolishness on par with going slumming in the stews or touring prison yards to observe the convicts picking oakum. He had no patience for it, none at all and when one bug-eyed female had the audacity to try and stuff a pamphlet in his already full hands, he swallowed an oath worthy of his Covent Garden days and darted inside the park's gated entrance.
He realized his mistake at once. Apparently not content with clogging the sidewalks, the damnable females had made camp within the park proper. A platform had been erected in the center of the green and several more dark-clad women busied themselves lighting the torches set about its perimeter. Giving them broad berth, he kept his head down and his sights trained on the opposite end of the wrought-iron gate.
The blare of a bobbie's whistle from outside the park walls instinctively sent him swinging around — and barreling into a female's soft body. "Ouf!"
Hadrian stared down in horror. The woman he'd knocked off her feet now sprawled at his, feathered hat askew and skirts bunched. On the frost-parched-grass beside her, a leather briefcase crammed with papers stretched wide open.
He went down on his knees beside her. "Madam, are you all right?" Unleashing his grip on the camera, he slid an arm beneath her shoulders.
She jerked at his touch. Behind the netting of veiled hat, her green eyes flashed fire. "It's miss, actually." She elbowed her way upright and yanked down her skirts — but not before Hadrian caught sight of a pair of appealingly trim ankles. "And I would be in fine fettle indeed had you but seen fit to mind where you were going." Broken peacock feather dangling over her one eye, she got to her knees and began collecting her papers.
Courtesy toward women was deeply ingrained, one of the few values Hadrian possessed, and the only claim he could make to being a gentleman by deed if not by birth. And so rather than point out that she had bumped into him as well, he held out his hand to help her up. "Allow me."
Beneath the weight of that atrocious hat, her head snapped up. "I believe I have had quite enough of your help for one day."
As if bent on proving her wrong, the demon wind kicked up, scattering vellum sheets to the four winds.
She leapt to her feet. "My papers!" Hiking up her skirts, she gave chase across the park. Over her shoulder, she shouted, "Well, don't just stand there. Do something!"
Bloody hell. With a muttered prayer that his camera would still be there on his return, Hadrian abandoned it to run after her. Hell bent on cheating the wrangling wind, he plucked one sheet from its skewer of wrought-iron fencepost and another from the foot of the statue of the late Benjamin Disraeli. At the lady's insistence, he retrieved two more from the upper branches of one very tall, very scratchy oak tree. Breathless, bruised, and sporting a tear in his coat, he shoved the last of the papers in his pocket and climbed down. Dropping to the hard-packed ground, he scanned the square for signs of his erstwhile victim, but she appeared to have vanished.
He was on the verge of giving up and going on his way when he spotted her, down on all fours and buried shoulder-deep in the boxwood hedge. Coming up behind her, he tapped her smartly on the back. "What the devil do you think you're about?"
From beneath the branches, her muffled voice answered, "Collecting my papers naturally." She crawled out, feathers hanging at half-mast and a clutch of vellum in one grubby glove.
This time she accepted his hand up without argument. Standing face-to-face, he saw she was tall, nearly a match for his six feet. The novelty of looking a woman directly in the eye had him peering beyond the blur of veil for a closer study. No great beauty, he decided, nor was she any green girl. If he had to make a stab at guessing, he'd peg her at thirty-odd, perhaps a year or two older than himself, and a spinster judging by the "miss" as well as the dreary clothing. And yet the sage-colored eyes beneath the slash of dark brows were both expressive and arresting, and the full mouth and softly squared jaw completed a pleasing enough picture.
Caught up, it took her discreet cough to remind him of the papers bulging from his pocket. Handing them over, he said, "I think this is the lot."
"Thank you." She took them from him, her gloved fingertips brushing his, and improbably he felt the warm tingle of her touch shoot straight to his groin. Stuffing the papers inside her case, she spotted the mud and dried leaves festooning the front of her coat. "Oh dear, I'm a mess" she said, swiping at the muck with her soiled glove. "I never can seem to manage the trick of remembering a handkerchief."
He fumbled in his pocket. "Here, have mine." He pressed the square into her palm, again experiencing that peculiar surge of heat.
She accepted with a grateful smile and bent to brush away the dirt. "Thank you — again." Straightening to her full, glorious height, she handed back his handkerchief.
Feeling in better spirits, he shook his head. "Keep it. Really, it's the least I can do after mowing you down like so much lawn grass."
She laughed then, a soft airy tinkling that made him think of the wind chimes his landlady insisted on hanging by his backdoor. "All right then... if you're sure." She stuffed the wadded ball of linen into her coat pocket and turned to go. Stopping in her tracks, she looked back. "Mind you don't lose your papers."
"My papers? Oh... quite." Good God, he'd left his best camera out in the open and, worse yet, had been on the verge of forgetting it entirely. What the devil was the matter with him? Jogging over to retrieve it, he thought of his flat, empty save for his cat, and realized he was no longer so very eager to reach it — at least not alone. "I'm not always such an oaf, you know," he called back, wracking his brain for something else to say, some pretense to hold her.
From a few feet away, she cupped a hand to her ear. "Sorry?"
"I said I'm not always such an oaf."
"Oh." She paused in mid-step, appearing to consider that. "Well, I'm not usually such a harridan, either except when I'm nervous — or in this case, late."
"I don't think you're a harridan." Camera in hand, he closed the space separating them in three ridiculously long strides. "It's these protestors, taking up the whole bloody square as if they own every brick and statue, spewing their rubbish at all hours that have everyone on edge. I only came through the park to avoid them."
Mouth lifting into a pretty smile of full pink lips and straight white teeth, she nodded to the park beyond them. "It would seem you've rather failed in that regard."
"Yes, I suppose I have." Looking back over his shoulder, he saw they were the object of a good many whispers and gawking stares. Their mad dash must have made an amusing spectacle indeed. Ordinarily that realization would have set him fuming but rather than care, he found himself saying, "There's a tea shop just around the corner. Allow me to make amends by buying you a cup?"
She shook her head, looking adorably shy and far younger than she had at first when she'd still been tight-lipped and cross. "That isn't necessary. And I've an... engagement to keep."
Ah yes, presumably the engagement for which he had made her late already. A decent fellow would accept defeat and send her on her way. And yet the mental image of how splendid she would look freed from all those ghastly clothes and wearing only his bed sheets prompted him to press, "As you're late already, why not postpone it altogether, at least until you've thawed?"
She shook her head, causing the broken hat feathers to careen like a torn sail. "I can't. I really must be going." The tightening of her mouth told him he'd been too forward, that this time she really did mean to go.
"Ah well, perhaps we'll bump into one another again sometime." He fished inside his coat pocket for one of his business cards as a pretense to asking her name.
"Yes, perhaps we shall," she allowed but there was no hope of it in her eyes. She turned to go and Hadrian knew this time there would be no more keeping her.
Before she could take a step, a squat woman with salt-and-pepper hair and a man's plaid muffler wrapped about her short neck rushed up to intercept her. "Good Lord, Callie, are you all right? I was outside the gate and only just heard what happened."
Beneath her veil, the woman — Callie — flushed bright crimson. "Calm yourself, Harriet. I am perfectly fine. I took a bit of a tumble, and my briefcase spilled." Her shy-eyed gaze shifted to Hadrian. "This gentleman was kind enough to help me."
From behind horn-rimmed spectacles, Harriet's beady-eyed gaze dropped to the camera case in Hadrian's hand. "I don't know what rag of a newspaper you're with, sir, but if your scheme is to scare up scandal and rubbish by waylaying Miss Rivers and photographing her in disarray, then you'd best think again."
Taken off guard, Hadrian started to demur when from the vicinity of the stage, someone with a bullhorn belted out, "Miss Caledonia Rivers to make her address. Five minutes, ladies. Five minutes..."
Callie Rivers. Caledonia Rivers. It was then that the fog inside Hadrian's head lifted. His mystery woman was one of them, a suffragette! And not just any suffragette but their leader! Seeing her through new eyes, he took in the spinsterish coat, the awful hat, and the leather case containing the oh-so important papers, and asked himself how a piquant smile and a pair of pretty ankles had turned him into such an absolute idiot.
He stared at her, feeling like a biblical figure from whose eyes the scales had just fallen. "Your pressing engagement, I take it?"
She answered with a brusque nod, at once prim and proper and utterly businesslike. "Quite."
Now that his initial shock was fading, he could at least appreciate the irony of the situation. The first woman to pique his interest in years was the celebrated champion of a cause he'd come to loathe.
"Lest we part as strangers, my name is St. Claire. Hadrian St. Claire." By this time, he had the sought-after business card in hand and his shock firmly in check. Handing her the card, he said, "I'm not a reporter. I'm a photographer. I have a studio a few blocks from here on Great George. Portraiture is my specialty."
She tucked his card into her pocket with nary a glance. "I'm afraid I'm not terribly fond of having my photograph taken."
"Pity. You'd make for a most intriguing subject." And because he had absolutely nothing to lose — now that he knew who and what she was, what possible interest in her could he have — he looked directly into Caledonia Rivers' beautiful, mortified eyes and added, "I should have recognized you from the newspaper etchings had they but done you justice. You're far prettier, and far younger, than I would have supposed."
Beneath the veil, the stain on her cheeks darkened from pale pink to dusky rose but, to her credit, she didn't look away. "I think you mock me, sir."
"On the contrary, miss, if either of us is the subject of mockery, I rather think it is me." He nodded toward a clutch of young women watching them and giggling behind their gloves.
Harriet skewered him with a sharp look before turning back to the Rivers woman. "Callie, dear, we really must be on our way." She hooked her plump arm through her friend's and began leading her away.
"Ladies." He tipped his bowler to them both, but it was Caledonia Rivers whom he followed with his eyes as she hurried toward the platform, creased and muddied skirts trailing the pavement, broken hat feathers caught up in the fingers of the wind.
So that was Caledonia Rivers, the celebrated suffragette spokeswoman making headlines in all the newspapers. What was it the press was calling her these days? Ah yes, The Maid of Mayfair. Unlike so many of her suffragette sisters whose reputations skirted the fringe of respectability, Caledonia Rivers was said to be so very good and virtuous — and yet not too good or too virtuous to indulge in a bit of a flirt in a public park, the little hypocrite.
He'd only paid her the compliment to torture her, and yet in his roundabout way he'd spoken nothing but the truth. The flesh-and-blood woman with whom he'd passed the last delightful few minutes scarcely resembled the stern-faced Amazon the newspapers made her out to be.
As for the "maid" part, he was deucedly sorry he wouldn't have the opportunity to test that out for himself.
Or would he?
The first in my "Men of Roxbury House" historical romance trilogy... A beautiful suffragette and a down-on-his-luck photographer navigate politics, propriety — and passion — in 1890's London.
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Name: Molly Jane
At the onset of Vanquished, Hadrian is not so much a lost soul as a buried one. He has literally hidden away nearly every part of who and what he is except for two aspects of his identity: his passion for photography and his fondness for cats. His rescue cat, Dinah, is literally the one being to whom he relates in a totally honest and loving way. At both times in the book when he is physically threatened, once by gaming house debt collectors and later by the villain's henchmen, his main fear is that they will harm his cat as a means to get back at him.
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“...a Victorian delight in romance...Ms. Tarr has a way with stories that will keep you hooked and entertained, focusing on the characters and using the history as a background for them. I definitely recommend this book.”
“If you’re looking for a different sort of story, setting and characters, this book is for you... The style and characters are well done as well as the setting.”
“Vanquished is an emotionally charged story where the drama leaps off the pages... a beautifully written story full of passion and peril.”
"Vanquished is a must read..."
"A galloping pace, heady sexual tension and an elegant touch with period detail make his a delicious read. Lusciously dark and original..."
"Fans of intelligent, sexy historicals in the style of Jo Beverly will take to Vanquished.
"... a great book full of charming and desperate characters."
"... fresh and well crafted."
"Bravo, Hope Tarr!"
"Don't miss it."
"... a worthy heroine and plenty of steam to keep historical readers enthralled."
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A True Gem, October 2006
I would highly recommend this book and I can't wait to read the next book by this very talented and amazing author!”
History comes to life!, October 18, 2006
“So glad to see another book by Hope Tarr. Through her eyes, her words, history comes to life. Learning about the period becomes fun - great reading, and glad to see her new book at last!”
A compelling way to learn history!, October 2006
“Hope Tarr should be commissioned to rewrite all the history texts for university courses; then they'd be worth reading! Vanquished is fast-paced, intriguing, and steamy -- what a perfect prototype for academia to follow. More seriously, Ms Tarr weaves a great yarn with deeper characters than most titles of this genre. She paints a picture of the early Suffragette movement in a way that places you there. She puts you not only in the historical place but the very human place as well. The plot is a page-turner. The setting is fresh. The characters are appealing. The steamy innuendos leading to the hot times in that old town are tastefully but not shyly done. Before you open this book, prepare to learn and live a little. Pour a nice port and by all means open a window to cool things off a bit. You're in for a ride through history that's fun and frolicking. Tarr takes a serious issue and delivers with it serious romance page after page. Loosen your tie, gents. Pull the shades, ladies. Vanquished is inspiring at many levels. It makes you eager to learn, to take action, and to love a little. Our favorite summer read of 2006. Vanquished made its way through the hands of our entire family of four readers.’
Vanquished is romance, reality and great history..., October 2006
“This book is a great view into the protocol and process of England in the late 1800's, the women's suffrage movement and its leader's struggle to trust and love a man from a world she knows little of..
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Welcome back, Ms Tarr, October 2006
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A Great Read, October 2006
“A beautifully written story written with great historical detail, and plenty of passion to boot. Ms. Tarr is a true talent.”
4 1/2 stars. Welcome back Ms Tarr!, August 2006
“It has been three or four years since Ms Tarr's last book, the mid-Victorian Tempting and I for one have missed her. Like another author whose work I admire, Lydia Joyce, I like that Ms Tarr writes adult stories that detail both the romance and grit of the era and that are not afraid to be a bit dark around the edges.
This is a quite sensual read and the author goes where most "mainstream" romances rarely go, but that erotics regularly do (one encounter). There are also some fun secondary characters, most particularly Callie's delightful Aunt Lottie. Hadrian's two friends, Gavin and Rourke will also have books of their own as this is the first in a new trilogy (of course). Can't wait to see if Rourke can win over the haughty Lady Katherine Lindsey! And for those who read Tempting, you'll get the chance to catch-up with Simon and Christine, Lord and Lady Stonevale some 20+ years later!
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