Oct 16 2012 12:00pm
It’s 1925, and the Victorian era with its confining morals is all but dead. Unfortunately, for New York socialite Charlotte Delacorte, the scandalous flapper revolution is little more than a headline in the tabloids. Living with her rigid and controlling husband William, her Fifth Avenue townhouse is a gilded cage. But when William’s rebellious younger sister, the beautiful and brash Mae, comes to live with them after the death of their mother, Charlotte finds entrée to a world beyond her wildest dreams – and a handsome and mysterious stranger whom she imagines is as confident in the bedroom as he is behind the bar of his forbidden speakeasy.
Get a sneak peek of Jamie Brenner's The Gin Lovers with an excerpt from Chapter 2 of Volume 1. (Volume 3 is out today, so go ahead and feel free to glom the first half of this addictive 6-part serial novel!)
Charlotte’s heart pounded at the sight of her husband so familiar with a strange woman. But then the brunette turned her heavily rouged face in Charlotte’s direction, and she realized it was, unbelievably, her young sister-in-law, Mae Delacorte.
The girl was nearly unrecognizable.
In the few short months since Charlotte had last seen her, Mae Delacorte had cut her long brown hair into a severe bob with bangs and dyed it nearly black. Her pretty face was dramatically transformed by kohl pencil around her eyes, rouge on her cheeks, and dark red lipstick. She wore a short dress, fringed, and sparkling with hundreds of shiny beads. It was like nothing Charlotte had ever seen outside the pages of a magazine. At nineteen years old, Mae Delacorte looked far more worldly and sophisticated than Charlotte.
“Mr. Smyth,” Charlotte called, summoning the director of the procession back outside. His perspiration was now seeping through the underarms of his jacket. “I believe you are right. Can you please move everyone indoors? My husband and I will be in shortly.”
Having dispatched Mr. Smyth to minimize the witnesses to what was sure to be an ugly confrontation between William and his sister, Charlotte made her way to the corner to join them.
A man climbed out of the car to join Mae on the sidewalk, and the car sped off with another jarring bleat of the horn, amid more laughter from the backseat.
Even from a few feet away, Charlotte was struck by the man’s good looks.
“Hello, Charlotte! Don’t you look fetching in black,” said Mae with a smile. She emanated the overpowering smell of cigarette smoke and Joy perfume. “You should wear it more often.” It was she who looked fetching. Charlotte could barely take her eyes off her. And William was clearly furious.
“Would you excuse us for a moment, please?” he said. Charlotte wasn’t sure if he was speaking to her, or to Charlotte’s companion.
“Certainly,” said the man, removing his hat. “And Mr. Delacorte? My condolences.” The man was very tall, with broad shoulders and shiny dark hair that was in need of a trim.
William ignored the comment; he was too busy dragging Mae halfway down the block, leaving Charlotte standing awkwardly with the stranger.
“Jake Larkin,” he said, holding out his hand. Charlotte hesitated a moment before giving him her own. When he touched her, she felt something close to a shock.
“Charlotte Delacorte,” she managed to say. He had strong brows, dark eyes, and a smile her mother-in-law would have called “charming,” but not as a compliment. But he was handsome—good lord, was he handsome.
“I’m sorry for your loss,” he said. His eyes were so dark they were nearly black and seemed to lock onto hers. She quickly glanced away, not so much out of modesty but more out of a sense of self-preservation. She reminded herself that she was supposed to say something.
“Well, thank you. Um, Mr. Larkin, if I may ask, how do you know my sister-in-law?” As soon as she asked it, she realized that she wasn’t asking to be polite, that she actually felt an urgency to understand his relationship with Mae—to know everything about him.
“Oh, we’re old friends.”
“Yes,” he said. “We go way back.”
“From school?” Charlotte offered.
He laughed. “No, ma’am.”
Even from the distance, she could hear William and Mae arguing. Charlotte wondered if she should intervene, and this reminded her where she was—and who she was.
“Mr. Larkin, is it your intention to accompany Miss Delacorte to the service for her mother? Because quite honestly, I don’t think that would be the best idea given the circumstances.”
“Isn’t that up to Mae? She did invite me, after all.”
“Mae does not always employ the best judgment,” Charlotte said. “Now, my husband has just lost his mother. His sister has arrived at the funeral looking rather … inappropriate. Tensions are high. This is not the best time for us to be making the acquaintance of one of her suitors.”
Unbelievably, the man laughed again.
“I’m not a suitor, Mrs. Delacorte. Like I said, we’re just old friends.”
His eyes held hers, then swept down as if to take her in completely. Charlotte felt her breathing quicken. It took her a moment to find words.
“I don’t want to be rude. But I’m going to have to ask you to leave.”
Jake Larkin reached for her hand, and this time, he kissed the back of it. His hand was large and rough, his lips surprisingly soft against her skin. Something deep inside of her twitched.
“Mrs. Delacorte, while I can’t imagine there’s any man on this planet who would want to upset you, I’m afraid I can’t leave. I came here this morning to escort my friend, and that’s what I’m going to do.”
He turned and walked right into the church.
Charlotte stared after him, her heart beating fast. Then, with one more glance at her husband, she also walked inside, prepared to do whatever was necessary to make sure the ceremony went off smoothly.
People would expect no less of her.
Copyright © 2012 by Jamie Brenner
*The Gin Lovers e-serial release schedule:
- Volumes 1-2: October 8, 2012 ($1.99)
- Volume 3: October 15, 2012 ($1.99)
- Volume 4: October 22, 2012 ($1.99)
- Volume 5: October 29, 2012 ($1.99)
- Volume 6: November 5, 2012 ($1.99)
- The Gin Lovers print edition: February 12, 2013 ($14.99)
Check out the covers for all 6 volumes!
Jamie Brenner has worked in publishing for over a decade as a scout, publicist, and agent. She is the author of the erotic romance trilogy Blue Angel, published under the pseudonym Logan Belle.