Harlequin / March 26, 2013 / $10.17 print, $8.49 digital
On the run from her powerful benefactor whose unscrupulous interest in her magic has forced her to flee, Margaret Taskill has never needed a hero more. In order to gain passage from England to her homeland in Scotland, she plans to win over a rugged Scottish sea captain with the only currency she has: her virginity.
Maisie submits to Captain Roderick Cameron's raw sexuality in search of protection, but as their initial attraction grows into obsessive desire, devastating powers are unleashed within her. But the journey threatens to take a dangerous turn, forcing Maisie to keep close the secret truth about what she is, and keep the superstitious crew—unhappy at having a woman on board—at bay.
With Maisie's wealthy sponsor giving chase, Roderick must stay one step ahead of the British Navy before her seductive magic causes a full-scale mutiny. He may believe he has full command of his ship, but he's about to get much more than he bargained for.
The Jezebel by veteran erotica author Saskia Walker is the third in her Taskill Witches series, erotic romances set in 18th-century Scotland. Its heroine, Maisie Taskill, is the twin sister of Jessie, heroine of The Harlot; the middle book, The Libertine, featured their brother. All three siblings possess supernatural powers that they must conceal from society at large, on pain of death.
As a child, Maisie saw her mother horribly killed by a mob, then was swept away to England by an aristocratic guardian who wished to exploit her magical powers. Now an adult, Maisie has realized what that exploitation will involve, and realizes she needs to flee home to Scotland and, hopefully, her siblings. Her guardian, however, deprives her of unsupervised contacts and of money, so she bargains her virginity to Captain Roderick Cameron in exchange for the journey.
Aside from the interesting historical details throughout, what I liked most about this tale was the way Maisie’s magic was integral to the plot and worldbuilding. The decisions she makes are different than they might have been had she been an ordinary person, and of course if she had been ordinary, she would not have been in the situation in the first place. For example, bargaining one’s virginity for protection or other favors is a fairly common trope in romance novels with destitute heroines, but normally, there’s little obvious advantage to be gained by the woman after her bargain is complete. Maisie, however, knows that having sex for the first time will make her stronger, not just in the short term but for the rest of her life.
…her virginity was something she had to be rid of, and the sooner the better. If she were returned to her master, he would claim it, and then she would never be free of him. It had to be a man of her choosing—a man who knew nothing of her secret nature and could not gain from it, unless she deemed it possible. Nevertheless, the impending event made her nervous. She tried to control her emotions. It was important that the coupling was done the right way, that she be the one who gained from the undertaking and became empowered by it, for it would take her abilities into a higher realm. If she was to escape and to survive, she would need every ounce of her potential power to do so.
…Anticipation pulled deep within her, for she’d been thoroughly prepared for the moment her deepest, most powerful magic would be unleashed through carnal congress. This man would be her lover. He would make her both woman fulfilled and witch empowered.
…Hastening to the bedside, she set her velvet bundle on the floor, close by. It contained her most prized possessions, and items she needed to ready herself for the moment. Alongside her training in the knowledge of witchcraft, she had been preparing for her initiation into full carnal congress for several years. It had to be done right, and it was crucial that the man who had nurtured and hidden her as a young witch did not claim her for himself now. Maisie still wasn’t sure that choosing a lover by chance would free her of her obligation to her master, but she had to do everything she could to break away from him.
Maisie is also forced to make decisions about using her magic in other situations, such as when she is first trying to convince Captain Cameron to take her aboard, or when her escape runs into trouble that might be alleviated through use of her powers. She has to balance the very real risk of exposure against her desire for freedom and her growing love for Roderick Cameron, so there’s ongoing tension to keep things interesting.
Readers new to the series will have no difficulty picking up what’s going on, particularly since Maisie has been separated from her family for so long. If you like historical settings along with your erotica, definitely take a look at The Jezebel.
Learn more about or pre-order a copy of Saskia Walker's's The Jezebel (out March 26):
Victoria Janssen is the author of three novels and numerous short stories. Her World War One-set Spice Brief is titled “Under Her Uniform” and is a tie-in to her novel The Moonlight Mistress. Follow her on Twitter: @victoriajanssen or find out more at victoriajanssen.com.