For the launch of LoveLight Publishing,
we are happy to welcome Jesalin Cresswell
My childhood was one of constant travel and change. My family moved between London and Sydney, causing me to be the New Kid on more than one painful occasion. I was quiet, self conscious, and found forming friendship difficult. This was especially true as I began to discover that my young burgeoning crushes on classmates were not like the other girls’– I was very clearly not interested in any of the boys in the class. Needless to say, I spent a lot of time pretending to be invisible.
Luckily, there existed a place where I could go and hide my confusion and fears. Books. I discovered the magic of a cool library on a hot Australian afternoon, where the towering books offered me a second home. I still remember the way I sunk down into the first comfortable chair I found, a large romance story on my knee, feeling able to finally relax after weeks of angst. I loved that first moment of opening a new story, eager to see what world I was going to discover that day, and what new friend I was going to meet.
My favorite books of all were historical in nature. The pomp of ancient Rome, the grandeur of Regency England, the struggle of American pioneers. These wonderful histories were awash with exciting times and events, where people struggled to figure out who they were and what they wanted their world to become. For a young girl questioning everything about herself, it was hugely comforting to read that while times were not always easy, Happily Ever Afters were possible. If other women had found their way out of much trickier situations, I figured I could make it through High School.
I did eventually leave the library. As with most things, age made things better. I grew out of my awkwardness (mostly, although my partner may lovingly disagree) and went on to pursue my own adventures. I found the joy of being in a loving relationship with a woman, achieved my dream of becoming a teacher, and moved to my permanent home in the United States. After all my struggles, I am now able to help other students find their way in those vulnerable, confusing years.
But while time inevitably brought changes, I think that all those hours spent reading historical fiction was really what helped me blossom. The more I read about the passionate, strong women who made up our past, the more I felt confident in my own skin. This was especially true as I read stories on gay and lesbian history. I realized that there were people like me who had achieved happiness and contentment, even if they had a rough road to walk upon.
Today, I write Victorian romances because I remember how much historical fiction helped me grow as a kid. I hope other young women read these stories and realize that love is universal, and it is a beautiful thing to fight for, no matter where or when you happen to live.
Miranda Dashwood was born wealthy, but now she struggles to survive: her deceased father's gambling debts have crippled the household. With no skills and no experience, Miranda resigns herself to the world's oldest profession and loathes every moment of her new life... Until she meets Valerie.
Valerie Wilde is the Madam of The Crimson Manor, an exclusive and successful brothel. When one of her most popular girls leaves, Valerie has to find another, fast. Her clients are demanding and discerning, and Valerie's task is no easy one: most harlots are too unrefined, too vulgar...
Until she meets Miranda.
Confused by their desire for one another, the women are drawn together by their forbidden feelings. And all the while, Valerie is terrified that Miranda will leave her for the life of a kept mistress. But Miranda has her own ideas on what the future holds, and will do whatever it takes to make her vision reality.
“I suspect my father was murdered" she said, the sudden sound of her voice after not speaking a syllable startling Valerie. The madam’s dark eyes were round as she looked to this forthright young woman and wondered if she'd been reading her thoughts. "Or he murdered himself. Either way, whatever my former station, I've no special claim above you now. Stripped of her jewels and carriages, an heiress is just another woman."
She sounded so resigned, so resolute that her fate was no different than it should be, even as a single crystal tear formed in her luminous green eye. She blinked it away in moments, and returned Valerie’s hungry gaze with her own cool acceptance. The sight of a tongue peeking at the corner of a mouth, the ragged breaths of the amorous male, the appraisal of her fellow whores was evidently becoming commonplace to her.
“You take no pleasure in it?"
"I scarcely see how one can. My family, like any creatures of flesh, requires funds, and after the furniture was gone, the death taxes paid, and the debtors thrown what remained of the rest, we had no hope but the roof over our heads and the value of my sex. My mother needs me. My brothers and sisters need me. And as a woman, I have but one gift to give. A cruel man shattered it six months ago, and no other will accept a broken woman. So I have been forced to sweep myself up and hand over my innocence piece by piece. And so I shall continue until I am depleted, and there is nothing left for anyone to take.”
Valerie shook her head slowly and blinked away her own tears. "No, Miranda, you are no common woman. You are more than the common girls on the street corners with their tumbling straps and cackling. You're not the kind to be used up and tossed aside. You must realise the gift you have."
"Oh, I realise it. But I'd rather never have received it. Now that I have, I see no difference between walking a street and waiting in a parlour: whoever may offer me the highest wage will have me, wherever I am." She was so matter of fact, it broke Valerie’s heart.
"In the folly of your youth, you can't see there is in fact a great deal of difference between your current position and the one we offer you. On the street or in the homes of these men, you put yourself at enormous risk. Who will protect you should he prove monstrous? Who will ensure he respects your dignity? How will you prevent his indulging in privileges for which he has not paid sufficiently? What if he should beat you? Or rob you? Or take you by force?"
“It is always by force. Whether he raises his voice or his hand matters not: I am an object he enjoys under duress. I take pains to let them know as much."
"You take pains, when you could be taking pleasure. There is nothing wrong with enjoying the secrets your quim holds deep inside, and nothing to shame you under this roof,” Valerie said earnestly, though it wasn't entirely true. To be sure, she was herself still somewhat shaken and yes, admittedly ashamed, for her own moment of weakness mere minutes ago. Such blatant Sapphic desire bordered on predation.
Even now, Valerie yearned to reach across the room and brush an errant flaxen curl from Miranda’s face and take her lips with her own, press this weeping angel close and bury her burning face in the shallow mounds of her breast. ”
About the Author:
Jesalin Creswell grew up in London and Sydney, but currently calls Philadelphia her home, where she lives by the Art Museum with her partner and their multiple pets. She works as a high school teacher during the day, yet her true passion lies in reading and writing romantic novels about strong female characters. Jesalin loves historical fiction, and most of her stories take place during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.
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