House of Cads
Published April 2018
Buy the Audiobook:
Vivez la vie pleinement…Live life to the fullest.
That’s always been Marie-Anne de Vauteuil’s motto. As a Frenchwoman of highly questionable upbringing, she was shunned by genteel society when her fiancé died years ago, leaving her a penniless, fallen woman. Almost married, almost a widow…She retreated to an isolated village where no one knows or cares about her sordid past. And with no one to answer to, she will do as she pleases, including eating cake until her corset strings pop if she so chooses. But then, an invitation to London on a mission of mercy from the very family that cast her aside lands Marie-Anne back in society—and into the arms of a man who can be nothing but trouble.
When life gives you lemons…Make petit fours.
Wealthy American businessman Mason is a) accidentally engaged, b) desperate to get out of it, and c) neither wealthy nor a businessman. Marriage is the last thing on his mind. Money, however, is always of utmost importance. He’s only in London to gather material for the gossip pamphlets he illustrates, his scheme to make as much money as he can before he’s found out and skips town. But when he meets the irresistible Marie-Anne, she makes him rethink his life as a fraud, and for once consider his true talent as an artist. Her carefree attitude about life in general—and sex in particular—has Mason hoping for something he never believed possible: A proper life with a not-so-proper wife.
But can two misfits of society find a way to live happily ever after? Or are they doomed to their separate, lonely lives?
My Unofficial Summary of the Book
In addition to the real, full, professionalish book description (above), I traditionally provide a more casual description in the spirit of Real Talk, like how I pitch it to my friends:
Alternate Title: Of Cakes and Cunning Linguistics
Hey look, a fluffy fun Regency romp! Do you really need to know any more than that? Okay, fine, here you go:
It's set in 1823 and instead of being all about some dark, handsome, enigmatic duke and a spirited virginal miss who brings him to his knees whilst learning the sensual arts of blah blah WHO CARES, this one is about a Frenchwoman of ill-repute who is not even remotely interested in your slut-shaming and a red-headed American con artist from Kentucky who thinks she is just the BEE'S KNEES. Somehow they both get hopelessly tangled up with some highfalutin (technical term) British aristocrats - and wannabe aristos - and various hijinks ensue.
There IS a duke or two in the mix, along with some overly romantic girls and social-climbing vipers and truly awful poets and - as the title promises - more than one cad. Among them all, our hero is running a con while secretly being a brilliant artist, and our heroine is really enjoying all the pretty dresses and quality carbohydrates and just generally being entertained by the stupidity of high society. Oh, and they are both really, really enjoying each other.
So if you just want to relax and have a low-angst, happily-ever-after kind of time with a couple of really enjoyable people, with some scandal sheets and Byron references thrown in for good measure, this is the book for you.
Oh and also: It says it's Book #2 in a series, but it - like all my books - is a standalone and you can go in cold, no worries, you're not missing anything.
Writing House of Cads
Okay look, the year 2016 was not easy for any of us and 2017 was shaping up to be even worse, when I sat down to write a new book. I decided I just wanted to take a year off of angst and high stakes and DRAMA and just have some fun. And really, if you're looking for some emotional R&R, who wouldn't want to spend several months hanging out with Marie-Anne de Vauteuil? I can't say I'd always planned to write her story - because when I first wrote her in A Fallen Lady, I had no future writing plans at all, really - but it had been on my mind for a while and this really seemed like the right time to take my shot at a comedy of manners.
I had two goals in mind for this book, besides the usual love and happy ending:
1. Keep it lighthearted
2. Give Marie-Anne great sex
I like to think I achieved those goals. The various assorted baked goods are just a bonus.
But also I wanted to try to make a lighthearted Regency romance that had a slightly different underlying message than what we're used to from the genre. Frankly, I think we as readers have over-romanticized this little world of ballrooms and dukes and glittering high society. And while I don't think I know what it was really like back then (at least not any more than anyone else knows it) I do think we in historical romance should cast a bit of jaundiced eye on this fantasy world we've spent decades building. That accounts for the ongoing theme in this book of These People Are Actually Pretty Awful Human Beings, Let's Not Admire/Emulate This World Too Much.
So I won't say this was easy to write, but I will say it was mostly a very pleasant experience - you know, when I wasn't tearing my hair out and wailing Woe Is Me (which if you didn't know, we all spend a fair amount of our writing time doing that.) It was certainly a little more "fly by the seat of my pants" than I usually go. I don't generally work with an outline or anything, but I usually have more of the story in my head than I had when I started this one. There was a whole blurry section in my mind that I marked AND THEN HIJINKS WILL ENSUE. I have to say, there are far fewer hijinks than I expected in the final product. Which is probably reflective of my actual life, now that I think of it. Hm. Clearly I need to reevaluate my priorities. Note to self: engage in more hijinks.
The hardest part of writing this was keeping things light, because all my characters have very complex lives full of all kinds of thoughts and feelings and past experiences which are often deeply sad and unpleasant - and only sometimes relevant to the story at hand. So it was a challenge to know what to put on the page and as a result, a tiny element of this book called for more revisions than I've ever done - which fortunately was just one element in like two scenes and did not require any overhauling of the book, because if it had been that major, I would have thrown this in the fire. (I mean that. Seriously. I am a petulant, lazy, whiny-baby slob of a writer. It's amazing I ever get anything done.) But having to work so hard to fix a thing? Well, while it's exhausting and exasperating and not anything I ever want to have to do again, it definitely made me a better writer.
Most helpfully, I had Marie-Anne, whose entire mission in life is to make everything fun and lighthearted, so that kept things cheerful. It also helped that Mason is so suited to Marie-Anne because he's also always up for a good time and has no interest whatsoever in getting all angsty and contemplative. So it very much helped to have two people in my head constantly saying, "We just want to eat cake and have awesome sex and laugh, Beth, that's all we want in life, don't make us do anything else!" And I pretty much didn't, and here is the result. I hope they provide you with as entertaining a time as they gave me.
Book Page (featuring a terrific description of Marie-Anne!)