I am excited to introduce you all to author Jessica Cale. Her new historical romance is out this week, and you’re definitely going to want to check it out!
Female Fighters in Restoration London
While boxing became a popular sport in Britain in the eighteenth century, the lower classes had been using it for entertainment for much longer. Bear Garden in Southwark was a well-known place to see bare-knuckle prize fights in Restoration London, and sometimes, the boxers were women.
Female boxing became very popular in the eighteenth century, thanks, in no small part, to the fact that the women were often stripped to the waist for the fight. One of the most famous women fighters was Elizabeth Wilkinson-Stokes. In 1722, she issued a written challenge to Hannah Hyfield in the London Journal. The women fought for a prize of three guineas with a half crown clenched in each hand to ensure good form and to prevent scratching. The first to drop a coin would lose. Elizabeth won.
Rough matches were fought throughout the city, many between prostitutes for gin, clothes, and men. Some were for money while others were not, and not all of them kept the coin rule.
In Virtue’s Lady, one of the first things Jane does after arriving in Southwark is go to a prize fight at Bear Garden. As the daughter of an earl, she comes from a very sheltered background, and the fights are quite a surprise to her. Half the town is there, drinking, betting, and cheering on the fighters, and it’s like nothing she’s ever seen before. Before she knows it, Meg, the gorgeous but terrifying barmaid from The Rose & Crown, is challenging her to a fight of her own.
A lady wouldn’t dare…would she?
Virtue’s Lady Author: Jessica Cale Publisher: Liquid Silver Release Date: April 13th
From toiling for pennies to bare-knuckle boxing, a lady is prepared for every eventuality.
Lady Jane Ramsey is young, beautiful, and ruined.
After being rescued from her kidnapping by a handsome highwayman, she returns home only to find her marriage prospects drastically reduced. Her father expects her to marry the repulsive Lord Lewes, but Jane has other plans. All she can think about is her highwayman, and she is determined to find him again.
Mark Virtue is trying to go straight. After years of robbing coaches and surviving on his wits, he knows it’s time to hang up his pistol and become the carpenter he was trained to be. He busies himself with finding work for his neighbors and improving his corner of Southwark as he tries to forget the girl who haunts his dreams. As a carpenter struggling to stay in work in the aftermath of The Fire, he knows Jane is unfathomably far beyond his reach, and there’s no use wishing for the impossible.
When Jane turns up in Southwark, Mark is furious. She has no way of understanding just how much danger she has put them in by running away. In spite of his growing feelings for her, he knows that Southwark is no place for a lady. Jane must set aside her lessons to learn a new set of rules if she is to make a life for herself in the crime-ridden slum. She will fight for her freedom and her life if that’s what it takes to prove to Mark—and to herself—that there’s more to her than meets the eye.
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A key popped into the lock and the door opened with a creak. A turnkey stood guard in the narrow entrance, as if he was afraid Mark would escape.
Mark almost laughed. They’d put him in the heavy shackles they reserved for those who had escaped and been recaptured. It was Harry who was the escape artist, but Mark wouldn’t correct them. It was good that they thought he was a threat.
The turnkey carried a lantern bright enough for Mark to see his shining eyes and a shit-eating grin. “Someone likes you,” he said.
Mark rolled his eyes. “You tell Tilly that there’s not enough bread in Christendom—”
He trailed off as he saw a slender white hand emerge from the shadows of the hall to drop a coin into the turnkey’s palm. “For his shackles,” said a girl’s voice in a coarse accent he didn’t recognize.
“You want them on or off?”
“Off!” she snapped.
Mark raised an eyebrow. “You’ve got the wrong cell, mate. I’m not expecting anyone.”
The turnkey leered. “Can I keep her, then?”
“Can you hell!” the girl protested. “I was sent for Mister Mark Virtue only. Bought and paid for. Hands off!”
The girl stepped into the light. The thin cloak she wore over it was for warmth more than modesty; a man would have to be blind not to see the body beneath it. Her lush curves were cinched into a scandalously low-cut dress the color of burnished gold, her flawless skin glowing in the warm light of the lantern. A yard or so of shining auburn hair spilled out of the hood that shadowed her face. Even had she kept it covered, he would have known her from the way his blood sang in her presence.
She glanced up at him from beneath the hood and he saw it.
The glint of steel in her eyes.
“This is only a shilling,” said the turnkey. “That’ll get you the hands or the feet. Not both.”
She arched an eyebrow at Mark. “Which is it? Hands or feet?”
Mark didn’t take his eyes off of her as the turnkey bent to unlock the shackles around his ankles.
“The lantern’s extra,” he said as he stood.
“Don’t need it,” Mark dismissed, rubbing his ankles.
“That’s a shame. She’s a treat! I’ll come get her later then. Wish I had friends like yours, Mark.” He closed the door behind him, and Mark heard the bolt slide into the lock with a heavy click.
He was locked in a cell in near perfect darkness with Jane Ramsey.
“It’s not my birthday.” He smiled.
Other Books in This Series
Tyburn (The Southwark Saga, Book 1): Notorious harlot Sally Green fights for survival in Restoration London. When a brutal attack throws them together, Sally is torn between the tutor who saves her and the highwayman who keeps her up at night; between new love and an old need for revenge. Winner of the Southern Magic Gayle Wilson Award of Excellence 2015.
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Jessica Cale is a historical romance author and journalist based in North Carolina. Originally from Minnesota, she lived in Wales for several years where she earned a BA in History and an MFA in Creative Writing while climbing castles and photographing mines for history magazines. She kidnapped (“married”) her very own British prince (close enough) and is enjoying her happily ever after with him in a place where no one understands his accent. You can visit her at www.authorjessicacale.com.
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