Cressida’s Dilemma by Beverley Oakley

Hi Cynthia,

cressidasdilemma_800Thanks so much for inviting me here. It’s been a long time since I’ve done any blogging lately due to the chaos which unexpectedly burst upon my nicely ordered life at the beginning of the year.

Lately, it’s been good to remember that those whose lives I researched for my series of “fallen women” – starting with my latest book Cressida’s Dilemma – were far less well-positioned than I to deal with husbands having major accidents coinciding with moving house to a new town and starting the kids in new schools J

Cressida’s Dilemma was inspired by nineteenth century journalist Henry Mayhew’s study on the detritus of London society – the prostitutes, thieves and swindlers and beggars – in his book, “London’s Underworld”.

Reading his research, I’ve been very conscious of how far we’ve come in the last 150 years. (Certainly, here in Australia.) In contract to my husband and I who have been cushioned by the excellent Traffic Accident Insurance which operates in our state and which we had no idea kicked in for anyone in a road registered vehicle, as well as advanced medical care, most of my nineteenth characters are highly vulnerable to any unexpected change in their circumstances.

Cressida, the heroine in the first book in the series, is well positioned, financially, and deeply in love with her husband of eight years, but she’s not been given the  vocabulary or self confidence to discuss what’s at the heart of her reluctance to resume the conjugal duties she once so enjoyed following the birth of her latest child. Her domineering mother-in-law has stressed the importance of a healthy son in the nursery so when Cressida’s lovely husband, Tristan, Lord Lovett, asks if Cressida’s reluctance to go to bed with him stems from fear of having another child, she vehemently denies it – despite it being the very reason. He therefore sadly concludes that Cressida is content to make their children the focus of her life, rather than him.

Cressida is a woman of her times – well behaved and acquiescent – but when she hears rumours that Tristan has returned to the arms of another woman, her attempts to discover the truth lead her on an extraordinary and sensual journey of discovery.

Cressida’s Dilemma is about love and children – too many and too few – and reconnecting. There are a few steamy scenes in the book between the married couple as well as the mystery of a lost child to resolve and much of the action takes place at Madame Plumb’s Salon of Sin.

Here Cressida and her husband are both drawn for different reasons, and initially neither knows the identity of the other. Mrs. Plumb’s Salon of Sin is a place where people from all levels of society – footmen and cuckolded duchesses – mingle, looking for love and it’s here that Cressida makes an unlikely friend who changes her life and makes her realize the distress of the underclass. As a result Cressida later persuades her husband to use his position to assist society’s more vulnerable, including the ruined vicar’s daughter Cressida meets, as well as a baronet’s wife in hiding, framed for her husband’s murder.

I share Cressida’s good fortune in being married to a truly gorgeous, heroic husband who’s been an amazingly stoic patient for the past four months of his rehabilitation since he was winched out of the Victorian Alps and helicoptered to the Royal Melbourne Hospital. On Friday he will have the titanium removed from his wrist and hopefully, by the end of the year will be flying the 777 again and taking me on his regular route between Melbourne and Los Angeles.

So I have more to celebrate than just the release of Cressida’s Dilemma which is available for pre-order and will be out in June in paperback as well as e-book.

Below is part of the first scene:

Chapter One

“The Earl of Lovett has taken a mistress?”

The breathy shock of pretty newlywed, Mrs. Rupert Browne, sliced through the buzz of conversation, lancing its unsuspecting target three feet away and causing a deaf colonel to ask the duchess solicitously if she required a glass of water.

Still choking on her champagne, Cressida, Lady Lovett, strained to hear the response of her cousin, Catherine, who had obviously disseminated this latest shocking on dit while she smilingly assured deaf Colonel Horvitt she was quite all right, as if her happiness were not suddenly hanging by a gossamer thread.

She could only hope she was making the right responses to the colonel’s monologue. All her concentration was focused on the nearby conversation as she waited desperately for a rejection of the outrageous claim.

“Surely not?” gasped the generally well-intentioned but oblivious Mrs. Browne to Cousin Catherine’s whispered reply. “But the earl made a love match. Mama told me he scandalized society by marrying a nobody.”

Cressida had to use two hands to keep her champagne coupe steady. The indignity of being described as a ‘nobody’ was nothing compared with the pain of hearing her husband’s amours—real or otherwise—discussed in the middle of a ballroom. She forced her trembling mouth into her best attempt at a smile as the colonel leaned forward and wagged his finger at her, his stentorian tone precluding further eavesdropping. “Your husband ruffled more than a few feathers with his speech in the House of Lords last night, Lady Lovett.”

Cressida had once giggled with her ferociously forceful cousin, Catherine, that the colonel used his deafness as an excuse to peer down the cleavage of every pretty lady he addressed. She was in no mood for giggling now. Clearly, Cousin Catherine was disclosing details about the state of Cressida’s marriage, of which Cressida, apparently, was the last to know. She straightened and pushed her shoulders back, suddenly self-conscious of appearing the sagging, lacking creature the several hundred guests crowded into Lady Belton’s newly renovated ballroom must imagine her, if they were already privy to what she was hearing for the first time. Before her last sip of champagne, she’d considered herself happily married. It was all she could do to remain standing and dry-eyed.

Adjusting the lace of her masquerade costume, she managed, faintly, “Ah, Colonel, you know Lord Lovett and his good causes.” She tried to make it sound like an endearment, but the axis of her world had become centered on ascertaining what other titbits about her marriage Catherine was divulging to Mrs. Browne.

The music swelled to a crashing crescendo, the end of which was punctuated by Mrs. Browne’s shocked squeak, “Who is the woman? Madame Zirelli? Was she not once Lord Grainger’s mistress? No! His wife? He divorced her? And now she and Lord Lovett—?”


Cressida’s Dilemma is available here:

Beverley Eikli author shot for ARRA Beverley Oakley’s Biography

Historical Romance Author Beverley Oakley (also writing as Beverley Eikli) took her love of worthy heroines to new heights when she worked in the back of low flying survey aircraft over Greenland and French Guyana in the 1990s.

While Beverley’s broad repertoire of fictional heroes was fine-tuned through years of working in the male-dominated safari and airborne survey industries, her mostly nineteenth century heroines, by contrast, live very sheltered lives. The dichotomy between 21st century freedom and nineteenth century servitude is one of her favourite themes. So are flawed heroines struggling for happiness and fulfilment during a time in history when they were completely dependent on their closest male relative.

Beverley now lives with her family in Melbourne, Australia, twenty years after hitching her star to the Cessna Caravan (now a Boeing 777) of the handsome Norwegian bush pilot she met around a campfire in Botswana’s beautiful Okavango Delta where she ran a safari lodge at the time. She teaches creative writing, makes historical costumes and works as a Disaster Events Researcher.

Beverley’s latest project is set in Colonial Lesotho where she was born and where her father prosecuted medicine murder and illegal diamond buying cases in the African kingdom’s rugged mountains during the 1960s.

She loves hearing from readers and you can contact her or find out more about her books here:

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