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Fortune's Wheel -- Masquerade

A couple of people have asked me for a little preview of Fortune's Wheel. This is before the publisher's edits, and so subject to change, but yes! This is the beginning of the first chapter. The year is 1795. And yes, it's a little racy, but no more than a PG-13.

And yes, if you like my Wraith stuff, you might like this! A blade indeed!



Charles Van Aylde was not a nice young gentleman. I watched him carefully in the drawing rooms and card salons of the baths, in the assembly rooms where young ladies and gentlemen danced the minuet under the careful eyes of their mothers, saw him in the large gilt mirrors that dressed the conservatories. He was too pretty and too dangerous.

His fair hair was powdered, swept back from a high, flawless brow. His eyes were blue. Blue eyes were common enough, but his were midnight, the color of sapphires, the color of secrets. His coat was midnight too, his collar reaching to his chin and shoulders padded wide, the very height of fashion. His cravat was ruched with Valenciennes lace, his hands were long and white. He affected a small quizzing glass, and he wore a diamond on the last finger of his left hand.

I watched him very closely indeed.

In the card parlors he played conservatively and somehow usually left the table with more than he had brought, though there were no large wins that might call attention to him. He did not speak much, and his face was expressionless.

In the assembly rooms his manners were polished but not excessive. He was, after all, the scion of an old Dutch family of means, a wealthy man but not a titled one, and only eighteen or so. I watched in the long mirrors as he stalked, first one young lady and then another, with the faint pressure of the fingers as he bent over her hand in the dance, the brush of his hand against her blushing cheek, the sudden heated look that spoke more of mating than of love. And yet. When he left the rooms it was alone.

I watched him even more carefully in the inns and taverns that surrounded the baths proper. There were no careful mothers here. Instead the taverns were full of soldiers, travelers, tradesmen and whores. The stakes were higher and the games less genteel. He did not venture here without a sword at his side. It was a dress sword, a pretty thing, but no less sharp.

There were words over cards with a drunk hussar, a recruit hardly more than his own age. Steel rang as it was drawn, the boy drawing sinister, a left handed fencer in a dirty, crowded room. The hussar’s friends stepped between.

“Let’s not take this so seriously. There’s too much drink all around.” An officer barely twenty broke it up. The recruit compounded his difficulties by promptly vomiting on the officer, who swore in Flemish and French both.

The boy took his winnings and sheathed his blade. The coins they were quarreling over would hardly pay his laundress. With a negligent shrug, he left the disputed coins on the table in the puddle of spilt beer. “Use it to clean up then,” he said. He glanced once more at the young officer, holding the recruit’s arms, raised one eyebrow, and left the tavern.

He did watch his back on the way back to the spa. I was very sure of that.

The only person he met was a whore. “Get you something nice, sir?” she asked, dropping a battered fan from ample cleavage.

He stopped and looked at her appraisingly. “I don’t think so just now,” he said. He put one finger beneath her chin, tilted her head into the light. “But you are lovely.”

“Why not then?” she asked.

“Not just now,” he said, with a sideways smile.

He walked back to the spa, to the fine rooms for wealthy people, the suites of travelers with plenty of money to spend taking the waters. Charles Van Aylde was quiet coming in. After all, he was traveling with his mother and sister, who must surely already be abed.

I watched him cross in front of the gilt glass over the sitting room fireplace. He lit a candle, and the flare illuminated his even, handsome features, a mouth too thin and tight for beauty, the only flaw in a face that even a poet could call beautiful. He closed the heavy velvet drapes and went into the bedchamber on the left.

There, in front of the dresser and washstand, he took off his coat and carefully hung it away. The rooms were silent, though voices still came from the streets. Outside a spring drizzle was beginning. He dipped a cloth and washed the powder from his face with tepid water, looking in the mirror. I watched him. He washed the powder from his lips, from the sharp lines of his chin. I watched him open his shirt and saw with some satisfaction the contrasting lines of stays, the swell of breasts carefully hidden.

I looked in the mirror, watching one finger trace down from the opened cravat to the top of the stays. “Upon my word,” I said, “what are you hiding, Charles?” I smiled at myself in the mirror, and it was not such a nice smile. I opened the top of the stays and rubbed at one pale pink nipple. Charles smiled back in the mirror.

“Lovely, I protest,” I whispered. White flesh and white corset, white cravat and shirt opened, man’s clothes over woman’s body. I ran my hands over my breasts, pulling the nipples free of the top of the corset, drawing and plucking at them, watching them roseate. “You are beautiful,” I whispered, but there was no one to answer but myself.


I'd really love to hear what you guys think!

Comments

( 12 comments — Leave a comment )
(Deleted comment)
jo_graham
Aug. 2nd, 2011 01:01 pm (UTC)
Thank you for catching my typo! I told you this wasn't the final edit! :)

I'm glad you think it's interesting!
cadenzamuse
Aug. 2nd, 2011 01:56 pm (UTC)
Okay, a: HOT and b: can you make this book come out any faster? Please? Pretty, pretty, pretty, pretty please?

Every time you post from it, I fall more thoroughly in love. Especially when you show us sexy PG-13 genderbending. Unf.
jo_graham
Aug. 2nd, 2011 04:06 pm (UTC)
Yay! I'm so glad you like it!

Hot, yes. This is about the same level of sensuality as Hand of Isis, more than Black Ships, Stealing Fire and of course the Stargate novels that can't break a PG. But this is a story you can't tell without sex. And definitely not without genderbending!
linneasr
Aug. 2nd, 2011 02:42 pm (UTC)
Heh. Glad we didn't lose Charmian at all, in Elza. If this is Elza, and the first person implies that it is.

What an interesting beginning! Without knowing why Charles has been constructed, it's difficult to have much besides questions, but if there was any doubt, yes, I will purchase this book!
jo_graham
Aug. 2nd, 2011 04:47 pm (UTC)
Yes, that's Elza, and she's very much Charmian. She's very much the same archetype, Aphrodite again. And there's a lot of Georg there as well, from Ravens of Falkenau. "Charles" is very much like Georg. I'm glad you find it intriguing!
heatherlayne_n
Aug. 3rd, 2011 12:14 am (UTC)
I'm suuuuuuuuuuuper excited for this book to come out! Love it so far! I haven't read much from this time period, and I find Elza very interesting from the little I've read of her on your journal. As another commenter said, make it come out faster!
jo_graham
Aug. 4th, 2011 08:46 pm (UTC)
I'm really excited about it too! It's interesting that you're hooked when this isn't your time period. That's a good thing, I think. Elza is very clever, an adventuress, very much used to living by her wits. It's a very different set up from Gull or Charmian or Lydias. What hooks you, out of curiosity? I'm very interested to know.
heatherlayne_n
Aug. 5th, 2011 03:47 am (UTC)
Well, it seems like I'd read this before; I guess you'd posted it before on your journal, maybe years ago. When she first got back to the hotel, I remembered he was a she. That alone is very interesting. I know she's a spy, or something, sort of, but I want to know why she's cross-dressing and if her mother and sister are okay with it. She seems very comfortable with her sexuality, which at first thought seems unusual for a young woman in this time period, but maybe not! I've read some Jane Austen, which is thirty or forty years after Elza (right?) but that's the English countryside, not French cities, so maybe it isn't unusual. (Almost all the history I know, I learned from historical fiction, one of my favorite genres.) If I wasn't an English teacher, I'd be a history teacher or a historian or an anthropologist or something, so I'm looking forward to learning more about the Napoleonic wars since, as I said, I haven't really read anything from this time and place before and I know you do your research really well, so I can trust whatever you "teach" by way of the story.

I also like that you call her an adventuress! I know she's in a battle, and I'm eager to see that. From some other snippets I've read, I think she's in love, which is always fun. :) Hopefully there will be more descriptions of pretty clothes! Can't wait for another adventure!

(Sorry this is rambly. I just got home from three days with my crazy family and I'm tired and brain-dead.)
jo_graham
Aug. 5th, 2011 12:00 pm (UTC)
Oh that's right! You must have read some of one of the 2006 drafts! In my Sekrit Identity! :)

Jane Austen is about twenty years later, but about a very different world. Fortune's Wheel is very much about the underworld, about the outlaw world beneath respectable society. A lot of readers are familiar with Jane Austen or with modern Regencies, but while it's the same period it's as different a mindset as, say, an expensive girls boarding school in New England in the 1970s and the gay subculture of Greenwich Village!

So yes, you're right that it's unusual. Also improper, illegal, and possibly just plain mad! This is pirate culture. ;)
selki
Aug. 3rd, 2011 02:40 am (UTC)
Um.

*thud*

...

OK, back now.

I suspected a genderbend by “Not just now,” he said, with a sideways smile.

I suspected Charles' creator / alter ego was the narrator at I watched him cross in front of the gilt glass over the sitting room fireplace. (how else to watch him in the sitting room, unless a VERY determined spy?)

Lovely.
jo_graham
Aug. 4th, 2011 08:47 pm (UTC)
Oh good! Thud is an excellent sign! :)

Definitely a genderbend! Elza is definitely walking a line, and it's a fascinating process.
( 12 comments — Leave a comment )