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“One has all the goodness, and the other all the appearance of it.” —Jane Austen

Jane Austen’s masterpieces are littered with unsuitable gentlemen—Willoughby, Wickham, Churchill, Crawford, Tilney, Elliot, et al.—adding color and depth to her plots but often barely sketched. Have you never wondered about the pasts of her rakes, rattles, and gentlemen rogues? Surely, there’s more than one side to their stories.
It is a universal truth, we are captivated by smoldering looks, daring charms … a happy-go-lucky, cool confidence. All the while, our loyal confidants are shouting on deaf ears, “He is a cad—a brute—all wrong!” But is that not how tender hearts are broken…by loving the undeserving? How did they become the men Jane Austen created?
In this romance anthology, eleven Austenesque authors expose the histories of Austen’s anti-heroes. “Dangerous to Know: Jane Austen’s Rakes & Gentlemen Rogues” is a titillating collection of Georgian era short stories—a backstory or parallel tale off-stage of canon—whilst remaining steadfast to the characters we recognize in Austen’s great works.

Here are a few quick lines from a sampling of the authors to whet your appetite:

We arranged to fight our duel at that place where all the most elegant duels were fought: the secluded gardens near the Circus, accessed by the Gravel Walk; naturally, the occasion was to be held at dawn. I had been in my chair, subject to the shavings and combings and clippings of old Morley until at last, I cried out, “’Tis enough man! I am not gone to my wedding day!”
Morley frowned at me, his dark eyes sharp with disapproval. “Your wedding day? That is not a day I shall likely live to see so I must keep at my art on these, more common, events.”—Captain Frederick Tilney, For Mischief’s Sake, Amy D’Orazio

I smiled drowsily as she caressed my chest. “I love you, Clémence.”
Her fingers stilled as I closed my eyes in pleasurable exhaustion and drifted towards sleep.
She did not reply. —Mr. George Wickham, A Wicked Game, Katie Oliver

Yes, fellows, since you press me so hard, yes, I confess it, Cupid’s darts have winged me. If you must have the story, pass me that bottle first. I can lift it with my left hand without paining my collarbone excessively. Now, you may not like what you are about to hear. You think lightning will never strike you. But let me tell you, last year on Basingstoke Down, I was neither looking to fall in love, nor looking for someone to fall in love with me, when all unawares—but stay, I must go further back… —Mr. Tom Bertram, The Address of Frenchwoman, Lona Manning

What say you? Are you in? Everyone may be attracted to a bad boy…even temporarily…but heaven help us if we marry one. “Dangerous to Know: Jane Austen’s Rakes and Gentlemen Rogues” will be released in print and ebook November 2017

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“Dangerous to Know: Jane Austen’s Rakes & Gentlemen Rogues”

Excerpt from “A Wicked Game” by Katie Oliver (George Wickham’s story, 1040 words)

I gripped my candlestick tighter and rapped twice upon the rough, wooden door.

It opened after a moment, and she ushered me inside, shutting the door quickly behind me. “You came,” she whispered. “I was not sure you would.”

“Of course, I did. How could I not?” She had loosened her hair, and beneath her thin, muslin nightgown, I glimpsed a tantalizing hint of her nakedness. “I have lied to be with you, my lady,” I said as I pulled her into my arms with a rakish grin, “and risked my godfather’s wrath to be with you. Convince me now that I have not made an error in judgment.”

“I need no words to persuade you.” She smiled as she reached for my jacket and pushed it from my shoulders. “I can show you far more easily.”

In a matter of moments, she helped me out of my clothes and I divested her of the nightgown, and we fell naked onto the bed, its ropes creaking beneath us as I reached for her.

“There is no hurry,” she chided and stayed my eager, roving hands. “We have all night.”

The determination not to make a fool of myself proved stronger than my desire and embarrassment heated my face as I drew away. “Forgive me.”

Her laugh was low and indulgent. “This is your first time, non?”

When I nodded, she leaned over and kissed me. “There is nothing to forgive. I can teach you all you need to know,” she said. “But first, you must learn patience.” Firelight shadowed her face.

I wasted no further time on talk but leaned over to kiss her and cupped her breasts reverently in my hands. They were small but perfect. I lowered my mouth to one pink, puckered tip and drew on it as she melted back against the pillows with a sigh, her fingers threaded through my hair.

“Do I please you?” I whispered, as I kissed her neck and the slope of her shoulder.

In answer, she sat up and pushed me back, running her fingers lightly over my chest and stomach. “Oui. Now, lie back,” she whispered as she met my eyes. “You will like what I do, I promise.”

I watched, spellbound, as she kissed her way slowly, delicately, down my body, and I groaned in shock and delight as her mouth, soft and sweet, wrapped around me. Her lips were warm and pliant.

“You… are a witch,” I gasped, even as I tangled my fingers in her hair and spent into her mouth. I shuddered with spasms of pleasure for what felt like eternity but was surely only a few moments.

She said nothing, only smiled and crawled back up my body. We kissed again, and I tasted myself on her lips and felt her breasts pressing into my chest. She opened her mouth to me and I plunged my tongue inside.

“And now I wish to return the favor,” I said when at last I dragged my mouth from hers.

I had no notion of what to do, but she offered no objection as I kissed my way down her body. I was determined, not only to learn, but to master the lesson. Instinct and desire took over as my mouth found the place between her legs and settled upon her. She let out a low, throaty moan. As my tongue explored, tentatively at first and then with greater boldness, she gasped and opened herself to me and shuddered a moment later in release.

When her cries of abandon subsided, she wrapped her legs around me and urged me inside her. I needed no encouragement. I thrust into her with a ragged exhalation and closed my eyes. Such was my ecstasy that everything else fell away—the dying flames in the fire, the creak of the bed, Lady Harlow’s cries, our shadows writhing together on the wall—and I felt only sensation, and heat, and the greatest pleasure a man can know.

“The student has surpassed the teacher,” she said as I rolled away, and with a catlike smile, she nestled herself against me.

“You are satisfied, I hope?” I asked and stroked her hair, damp now from our exertions, away from her face.

“Never more so.” Her lips brushed mine, and she sat up. “A glass of wine to celebrate?” She reached for a bottle and two tumblers on the bedside table.

I nodded and closed my eyes as I relished the moment. I was a boy no longer. The thought filled me with pride but also a brief and unaccountable twinge of regret. There was no possibility of turning back; I had well and truly left my boyish self behind.

She pressed a glass into my hand. “Drink. You acquitted yourself well.”

“Well enough to go with you to Paris?” I asked as I took a sip of wine.

She paused. “Paris?”

“Yes. I want to go with you.” I sat up, enthusiasm lending fervor to my words as I added, “I won’t be dissuaded. I want to spend every day, every minute, with you.”

“And every night, too?” She smiled indulgently and set her glass aside. “La! You will soon wear me out with your passion.”

“But you shall sleep like an angel every night. I will see to it.”

“You talk nonsense. Finish your wine, and we will talk more of this notion of yours later.”

I did as she asked and tipped another swallow of wine down my throat. I made a face. “What swill is this? It tastes odd. Bitter.”

“You can hardly expect to find a fine vintage in a place like this.” Her words were sharp. She took the glass from my hand and said more gently, “It is late. Go to sleep.”

“Only if you promise to lay beside me.” I patted the mattress next to me. I felt suddenly tired, my eyes so heavy I could scarce keep them open as she slid in beside me and rested her head on my chest.

“Sleep,” she whispered.

I smiled drowsily as she caressed my chest. “I love you, Clémence.”

Her fingers stilled as I closed my eyes in pleasurable exhaustion and drifted towards sleep.

She did not reply.

Excerpt from “The Last Letter from Mansfield” by Brooke West (Henry Crawford’s story, 1169 words)

In the dim game room, Henry could not tell the color of her eyes and he silently begged her to look his way. Though her eyes did not leave her madame, she stood directly before Henry. He was having a difficult time breathing and wondered if she could hear his heart beating as loudly as it seemed to him.

“Mr. Crawford, this is our Arabella.” The young woman lowered into a graceful curtsy, offering Henry the opportunity to admire the graceful lines of her neck and shoulder that led to a clear view of her lovely breasts, with the hint of the dusky rose of her nipples disappearing beneath the thin silk of her gown. As she rose, she finally, finally looked into his eyes and smiled. His breath caught. Grey, was all he could think as she slowly lowered her dark lashes over her storm-colored eyes.

“My pleasure.” Her mien was demure, but her emphasis on pleasure stopped his heart.

Somehow, his good breeding held fast and he made her an elegant bow. “The pleasure is mine.”

“Arabella, would you take Mr. Crawford to the suite and make him comfortable? I’ll be entertaining Admiral Crawford in my study.” With a wink, she left Henry with the beautiful Arabella.

With a coquettish smile, Arabella took young Henry by his hand and led him through shadowed corridors. He trailed behind her in a daze, his senses overwrought in his aroused anxiety. The carpets beneath his feet felt thick as winter clouds and no more capable of supporting his weight. As they ascended a highly polished staircase, the candlelight from the wall sconces made the fabric of Arabella’s skirts shimmer and undulate like a mermaid’s tail, the motion making his head swim. He tried to imagine what would occur when they reached the top of the stairs but he could not think past the ringing in his ears. The throbbing in his breeches matched the pounding heartbeat in the palm of his hand, wrapped so lightly in her soft, cool fingers.

The hall at the top of the stairs ended at a heavy mahogany door. The room beyond smelled of a fresh wood fire and a blend of garden herbs and flowers. The fireplace threw a soft, orange light over the undraped bed in the center of the room. Arabella did not let go of his hand as she shut the door.

She raised their hands and placed his hand against her chest, over her heart. Her skin was warm as a stone left sitting in the summer sun but as yielding as a ripe peach. Henry froze, struggling to maintain restraint as his mind was suddenly flooded with images of Arabella underneath him, astride him, beside him.

She stretched out her hand, mirroring the placement of his, and pushed gently until he backed into the large bed.

“Do not be afraid.” Her voice was both playful and soothing. She did not take her eyes from his.

Without a word, her hands moved over his chest and shoulders, his coat falling away effortlessly. Not knowing what to do with his own hands while hers slid his shirt out of his breeches and off his body, he tried to ignore the demands of his body and quickly inventoried the room. Oil paintings of the countryside. Rich tapestries on the walls. Thick curtains covering the windows. A short row of plush chairs lined a wall opposite the bed, all facing towards the behemoth. Henry wondered what had occurred on the bed that would require–or allow–an audience. His breathing quickened at the thought and the sudden rush of air, below his waist, as Arabella unfastened and lowered his breeches.

Gently, she pushed him down into the bedding, his lower legs dangling over the edge so she could remove his boots and relieve him of his breeches. He closed his eyes tightly, trying not to think how he had never felt so exposed, and aroused, and terrified in his whole life.

A light pressure on the bed near his knees drew his eyes open. Arabella, her gown gone, kneeled on the edge of the bed, one arm wrapped around the thick post. Her skin glowed golden in the firelight, her hair a cascade of molten bronze.

“May I join you?”

His mouth was dry, his tongue thick. Miraculously, he was able to reply with an unwavering voice. “I think I’d like that.”

Arabella crawled slowly towards him, smiling like a cat tracking her unsuspecting prey.

He reached for her as she settled herself between his legs. Still smiling from above, she pushed him back with one hand. “No. You stay there. And keep your hands to yourself.”

His eyes remained spellbound as she took him in hand. He pressed his head back into the bed, balling his fists into the sheets. It was an exquisite torture to have her touching him—he wanted to feel the rest of her against him, from her small breasts to her shapely calves, but the pleasure kept him compliant.

Henry panicked as he felt familiar sensations coiling, eager for release and reluctant for the evening to be over so soon.

“Sssshh,” she whispered in his ear, stroking his hair. “Sssshh now, and let the urge pass.”

He squeezed his eyes shut again and willed the tension in his loins to ease, begging the pressure that had nearly erupted to quiet. After a few moments, he was able to breathe evenly again.

“There you are, sweet,” she crooned softly, smiling against his neck. Her kisses trailed down his chest and he beheld her bronze curls sweep across his thighs; the erotic vision increasing his pleasure beyond anything he had imagined.

“Arabella, please,” he gasped. He was unsure if he was asking her to stop or continue.

“You can do this all night, my Henry. This building and pausing.”

“No, I don’t think—”

“To be a generous lover, you must learn how to please your lady before you find your own pleasure.”

He forced his breathing to slow. “I cannot bear much more.” Get ahold of yourself, man.

“I think you are capable of far more than you know, love.”

Master of himself again, he said, “Then show me.”

“What shall I show you?”

“I already know what pleases me. Show me how to please you.”

“As you wish”—and she took his face in her hands and kissed him deeply, breathing him in.

Henry allowed Arabella to place his hand upon her, to show him where and how to touch her. As rapture overtook her, she stilled above him and Henry drank in the satisfying sight of her ecstasy.

This is it. What it feels like to be a man. To have a woman come undone at your hands. Who could ever want for more?

No sooner than he completed his thought, Arabella began to move on top of him again and all notions were erased. She did not slow her pace as he pushed urgently into her. Suddenly, her body stiffened, her back arching as she cried out.

And then, “Arabella, I’m going to—”

“Yes, Henry, yes, now!” As if on command— At last! He pulled her down to his chest, laughing with the blissful rush. He rolled over on top of her and kissed her face over and over until she was laughing too.

“Show me more,” he said.

Wickham(1)

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Grand Prize #1.

Enter Rafflecopter to win fifteen books from the anthology authors! One winner. Fifteen books! Contest ends midnight, December 30, 2017. One “Grand Prize #1 winner” will be announced January 2, 2018.

 

Grand Prize #2

Follow our “Dangerous to Know: Jane Austen’s #RakesAndGentlemenRogues” Blog Tour and comment on each stop to be eligible for #RakesAndGentlemenRogues Pleasures prize pack: ‘Pride & Prejudice’ Print, autographed by Colin Firth & Jennifer Ehle; Bingley’s Teas (Willoughby & The Colonel); Jane Austen playing cards; set of 6 Austen postcards; and ‘The Compleat Housewife’ notecards set. (All guest comments will be entered in drawing to win. Comment at each site to increase your odds.) Contest ends midnight, December 30, 2017. One “Grand Prize #2 winner” will be announced January 2, 2018.

 

 

 

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