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The Oldest Profession

by Marian Perera

I’ve read a couple of intriguing romance novels that began with the hero and heroine meeting in a brothel. In LaVyrle Spencer’s Forgiving, the heroine is trying to rescue her younger sister from prostitution, but the hero—a customer—mistakes her for an employee. In Mary Balogh’s A Precious Jewel, the heroine actually is an employee, and quite popular with the clientele.

Total digression: that’s one of my favorite romances, because I picked it up when I was tired of virgin heroines who have amazing sex the first time around with the hero. Balogh didn’t just blow that trope out of the water, she sent it into orbit.

But back to brothels. They provide a place where the hero and heroine can get together, and this place gives them plenty of privacy, if they need it. Or if they’re not ready yet, well, nothing like a charged atmosphere to tantalize them.

A brothel is never a neutral location like a coffee shop. Some people will hate it, even if it’s the whorehouse in the Firefly episode “Heart of Gold” and all the prostitutes are like a family. Even if the hero and heroine only meet there, being smeared by association could leave them courting society’s disapproval or worse.

And if the women are on the powerless level of streetwalkers, owned by the madam, maybe paying off debts… well, that’s a whole story right there. I’d like to see our couple either get out of such a trap or help someone else caught in it.

Captain Lera Vanze, the heroine of my latest release The Highest Tide, goes to a high-class brothel to hire a man’s services, because her money makes up for the third-degree burns on her face. But the first man who meets her isn’t a prostitute or a client. Jason Remerley is a public health inspector who’s just conducted a routine check, and the moment he sees her, he wants her.

So when she asks if he works there, he plays along and takes her to a private room. If the madam of the brothel discovers them, it won’t go well for him. But he’s never met a woman who fascinates him so much. If their initial encounter has to be on her terms, in the brothel, he’ll take it—and do his damnedest not to give himself away.

I’d love to hear more from readers about this topic! If you’ve read romances that involve a brothel, which ones did you like?

HighestTide

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One touch, and the tide isn’t all that’s rising.

When brothel health inspector Jason Remerley finds a uniformed woman waiting impatiently in the Velvet Court parlor, wanting to hire a man’s services, he’s struck by lightning. His intense, immediate attraction compels him to pretend his way into her arms.

Enough silver, and most men forget about Captain Lera Vanze’s half-burned face. She senses something off about the handsome, ill-dressed prostitute who sells himself so cheaply. But with his first touch, goose bumps turn to shivers of desire—right before the truth drives them in opposite directions.

Her fury is still simmering when they face each other in a more “official” capacity. She’s joined a warship to stop a terrorist only Jason can identify. Though trust is scarce, they’re swept away in a tidal wave of murderous plots and an explosive attraction that could leave them marooned in an emotional—and very real—minefield.

Warning: She knows how to wield her sword, he knows just how, when, and where to apply his…mind. Contains deception in a brothel, sex in a cave, a shark with a bad habit, and one very large wave.

EXCERPT:

Her clothes were almost as intriguing as her appearance. In stark contrast to the rich colors and glamour of the room, she had on a well-worn white coat and brown breeches, so she looked crisply efficient as well as exotic. He’d never seen a woman in men’s garb before. A foreigner, obviously, but what was she doing there? One arm was bent, knuckles resting on her hip and holding her coat back enough for him to see the saber that hung from her belt.

Lightning, he realized, had just struck.

He had stopped when he saw her, and he didn’t think he was breathing, much less making a sound, but the woman turned from the window as if she sensed someone was there. And he saw the other half of her face.

A burn scar, he knew at once. Dark and thick as armor, except without the smoothness of steel or skin. The injury had missed her eye, thankfully, but it scorched all the way down to her jawline, and while there was nothing at all pretty about the scar, it made her look unusual and real, fiercely alive in the cold, poised surroundings of the Velvet Court. An old quote came to mind: the imperfection that enables perfection.

Her eyes narrowed a little in a way that suggested she was braced for shocked reactions when people saw the right side of her face. “Do you work here?”

Surely she couldn’t be there for that. But he didn’t see any other reason a foreigner might come to a brothel. “Yes,” he heard himself say.

The woman’s gaze swept down his body, swift and evaluating. Jason had a moment to feel grateful he didn’t have to wear any particular uniform or badge of office as a health inspector, before his startled better sense caught up with him. What in hell did he think he was doing?

“And does this establishment provide services to women?”

That was the kind of question only a foreigner would need to ask. Jason swallowed, pushing doubts and common sense alike away. When lightning struck, one had to react just as swiftly, seize the moment.

“Of course,” he said. “We wouldn’t turn away half our potential customers.”

“Good. How much do you charge?”

Damn. He had no idea, and even if he did, he would have said a lower figure. The woman saw his hesitation, but misinterpreted it.

“I have silver,” she said. “It’s Denalait money, but still silver.”

So she was from Denalay. That explained the slight accent yet the features which—apart from the scar—were indistinguishable from those of a Dagran woman’s. Except for being more beautiful.

“That will do.” He fell back on years of experience in keeping his voice calm and emotionless, his face as bland as if he were playing cards for high stakes—and no stakes could be higher than this. “Please come with me.”

He started up the steps, ears attuned to the soft thuds of her boots behind him, more attuned to any creaks from upstairs that would indicate a door being opened. Benevolent Ones, don’t let anyone come out of their rooms, he thought before he wondered if he had truly gone crazy. The Benevolent Ones were probably looking down at the unfolding spectacle with horrified eyes. He’d be fortunate if they didn’t strike him dead for his iniquity.

Walking as though he was in no hurry at all was an effort, but to his relief no one was in sight when he reached the landing. He went to the nearest open door and glanced in to make sure the room was empty before he stepped aside to let the woman enter.

He breathed in deeply as she walked past him—keeping a careful space between their bodies, he noticed. A crisp, salty scent clung to her clothes, the smell of sun-warmed wood and sea wind.

Of course, her people were seafarers and Sandcliff was a port city. He’d even figured out what she was doing in a foreign land, because he had heard of a recent race between Denalait ships and a Dagran vessel, a race which had ended at an island off the coast and had, naturally, been won by the Dagran ship. A thread of disappointment wove itself through an attraction stronger than anything he had felt before, because she wouldn’t be here for long, would she? Soon she would sail back to her homeland.

Brisk footsteps hurried up the stairs. Jason was inside the room in the next instant, closing the door behind him with a soft click, and to his relief there was a key in the lock. He turned it. If the worst came to the worst and Mary or the house guards started hammering on the door, he might try climbing out of the window. In all his life he had never done anything so unhinged, had never dreamed of putting his career at such risk.

But in all his life he had never met a woman like her, a woman he wanted so much.

It was almost a surprise to realize he still didn’t know her name.

About the Author

Marian Perera was born in Sri Lanka, grew up in the United Arab Emirates, studied in the United States, and lives in Canada. For now. Her sharkpunk romances The Deepest Ocean, The Farthest Shore and The Highest Tide were released by Samhain Publishing, and another fantasy romance set in Africa has been published by Loose Id. You can learn more about her and her books at her website, her blog and on Twitter (@MDPerera). She collects books and swords, grows tomatoes, loves writing and reads everything.

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