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: Love and the Pursuit of Redemption

The Wild Rose Press

Heat Rating: SENSUAL
Word Count: 22,380
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Margarite Hagen, a young French courtesan during the Great War, enjoys a short-lived but passionate love affair with British aristocrat James Arthur. Ten years later, a chance encounter in a posh London hotel reunites Margarite—now married to an abusive Egyptian playboy—with James.

James Arthur, one of the wealthiest men in England, has never married. None of the women he meets compares with Margarite, but he believes his position as the Second Duke of Donovan requires him to marry a member of his own class.

Margarite is charged with murdering her playboy husband and enlists James’s support. As the two former lovers strive to prove her innocence, they find themselves re-examining their relationship and rekindling their passion. Can a former French courtesan and a British duke overcome class prejudice and prevail against the criminal justice system to find happiness?

Excerpt

“What delights may I provide you this afternoon?” Margarite Hagen inquired of her British lover James Arthur, the second Duke of Donovan.

The two were enjoying a light luncheon at Les Ambassadeurs in the Hotel de Crillon. The hotel, originally designed by Louis XV as a government building in 1758, had been transformed into a hotel in 1909.

James’s view was of the Place de la Concorde, where Louis XVI and his queen Marie Antoinette were guillotined during the French revolution. But James only had eyes for Margarite. Petite with a fair complexion, Margarite—a well-established courtesan—wore her blonde hair in ringlets, and her large hazel eyes missed nothing. She was dressed in a pale green creation by Messieurs Paquin, one of the leading couturiers in Paris, and her stylish gown was complemented by a collection of rubies and pearls.

James found Margarite compellingly attractive. He could never look at her without remembering the first time they met. Margarite wore a black top hat, black silk stockings, a black garter belt, extremely high heels, a garnet necklace, a chemise of burgundy silk crepe de Chine—and nothing else.

James was introduced to Margarite on St. George’s Day, Monday the 23rd of April 1917. Having received a week’s leave from his wartime duties, he drove his new Rolls-Royce coupe to Paris. He installed himself, with his valet, in the hotel Meuric—a comfortable establishment in the Rue de Rivoli. That evening he was escorted to a private suite at the Hotel de Crillon by his best friend and fellow British officer, the Honorable Frederick Henderson—for the purpose of meeting the infamous Margarite Hagen. He was shocked, but delighted, by her appearance in the burgundy chemise. James and Margarite immediately retired to the boudoir where they remained for most of the week.

For the last seven months, James had spent every moment he could steal from the war with her. Margarite was a beautiful woman, excellent company, and highly skilled in the arts of her profession. Her apartment, where he now stayed whenever he was in Paris, was conveniently close to the Bois de Boulogne. James and Margarite would invariably enjoy a morning ride. Lunch was at Les Ambassadeurs, or a similar establishment, and ended at about three o’clock. Afternoons were kept free for their liaisons. Dinner was often in the Bois in one of the lamp hung restaurants such as Au Pre Catalan or the Chateau de Madrid. In the evenings, they might attend the cinema or visit a Montmartre nightclub. Although wartime restrictions required licensed premises to close early, they were not disappointed—for the closures left ample time for a second round of lovemaking.

Now, however, it was November and the XIVth Army HQ—including James—was to be dispatched to Italy. He had not yet shared the news with Margarite, for he did not wish to spoil their time together. But it was time to break off the relationship, and his deployment to Italy provided the perfect opportunity. She was a Parisian courtesan, a demi-mondaine. He was a British landowner, son of Earl Victor Arthur, grandson of the first Duke of Donovan, and one of the wealthiest men in England.

He broke from his reverie to gaze fondly at Margarite. “I wish to experience all of your delights this afternoon, my darling. Every single one.”

“We had best be going then, my love.” Margarite laughed and caressed him discreetly as she rose to leave the table.