Pleasure for Pleasure
Pleasure for Pleasure’s heroine, Josephine Essex, is quick of wit and lush with unfashionable curves. Nicknamed “The Scottish Sausage” within a week of her debut on the marriage market, her chances of matrimony look dim. So Josie does what no proper young lady should – she challenges fate. She allows the scandalous Earl of Mayne to take her under his tutelage, discards her corset and flirts outrageously…
Shakespeare’s play title, Measure for Measure, refers to a person receiving the punishment they deserve. In this novel, Josie gives precisely what she deserves: Pleasure for Pleasure.
“Engaging humor and steamy romance give this captivating regency a fine polish.”
~ Publishers Weekly
A look back at Eloisa's thoughts while she was working on the final Essex Sisters novel, Pleasure for Pleasure.
Eloisa made up these gorgeous collectible cards for readers to celebrate the Essex Sisters. With Tess and Annabel on one side and Imogen and Josie on the other, this 5x7 can be yours. And this isn't the only gorgeous card to be had!
Warning! In describing relations between characters, I may wreck a book for you by making it clear who someone marries, or the outcome of a book. Please do not read about The Inside Take if you're wary of knowing who is paired with whom!
Sylvie de la Broderie has a most interesting family background, and I thought some of you might like clarification of how she escaped the revolution in France. Basically, her grandfather was beloved by his people, and the villagers actually defended him from mob. So Sylvie's young father was drawn to Napoleon and Paris, and became Napoleon's finance minister. But he grew increasingly dismayed by the carnage and corruption of the new regime, and so he wisely began moving his holdings to England. During the Peace of Amiens (1802-1803), he fled safely to England. Sylvie thus moved from Paris to England at age ten.
Interested in knowing how many children the Essex sisters had? Eloisa has a beautiful Essex Family Tree for you to see.
For the release of Pleasure for Pleasure, Eloisa
asked readers to tell her what their favorite pleasures were. The answers are delightful.
A real Sylvie wrote all the way from France to note that the first word my Sylvie says in French should have been "Regardez" and not "Guardez." My apologies to all French speakers!
“Ms. James has mastered the art of creating romances with the perfect blend of love and humor, and each story is peopled with multi-faceted characters that readers care about.”
~ Romance Reviews Today
“Another topnotch comedy of misaligned lovers from a master of the craft.”
~ Library Journal
Enjoy an Excerpt
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From Chapter One
An extract from the widely proclaimed memoir:
The Earl of Hellgate, or Night Scenes Amongst the Ton
As I would loathe to shock and dismay you, I must beg all ladies of a delicate disposition to put down this volume on the moment.
I have lived a life of Immoderate Passion, and have been persuaded to share the particulars in the hopes of keeping any susceptible gentlepersons from following in my steps.
Oh Reader, Beware!
May 24, 1818
15 Grosvenor Square
London Resident of the Duke of Holbrook
There was no way to introduce the subject with delicacy, at least none that Josie could imagine. “None of the novels I've read elaborate on the wedding night," she told her sisters.
"I should hope not!" her eldest sister Tess said, not even looking at her.
"So if we're going to discuss Imogen's wedding night, I'm not leaving.”
“It wouldn’t be appropriate for you to join us,” Tess said, with the rather wearied air of someone who has said the same on two former occasions. After all, of the four Essex sisters, Tess, Annabel, Imogen and Josie, there was only one left unmarried: Josie.
“We’ll give you all the details you need on the eve of your marriage,” Imogen put in. “I don’t need the talk. I am a widow, after all.”
They were seated around a small table in the nursery, having a light supper. Josie's chaperone, Lady Griselda, was technically dining with them as well, but since she had spent most of the evening huddled in an armchair reading the Earl of Hellgate's memoirs, she hadn’t taken more than a bite, nor contributed to the conversation a whit.
They were eating by themselves because Imogen had heard it might cause misfortune to see her groom on the night before the wedding, and since Imogen was marrying their guardian, the Duke of Holbrook, they couldn’t eat in the dining room. Technically, Annabel's son Samuel was a member of the party, but since he was all of four months old and dreaming of a red shiny ball, an occasional longing snort were his only contributions.
“If my season continues as it’s begun,” Josie said, “I shan’t be married at all. One can hardly obtain one’s entire education in the ways of men and women from the pages of novels.”
“Tess, did you know that Josie has made a list of efficacious ways to catch a husband?” Annabel asked, taking a final bite of syllabub.
“Based on our examples?” Tess said, raising an eyebrow.
“That would be a remarkably short list,” Josie said. “Lady is compromised, gentleman is forced to marry her, marriage ensues.”
“I was not compromised by my husband,” Tess said, but she was laughing.
“You married Lucius only after the Earl of Mayne jilted you at the altar,” Josie said. “It wasn’t precisely a long courtship period. All of ten minutes, as I recall.”
The smile in Tess’s eyes suggested that those ten minutes had been sweet, and Josie didn’t want to think about that because it made her feel jealous. If she, Josie, were jilted at the altar, there’d be no secondary candidate waiting in the next room. In fact, given her disastrous performance on the marriage market, the altar was likely a prospect she should discard.
“It’s true that I was compromised,” Annabel said, “but Imogen is marrying Rafe for pure love and after a long courtship.”
“I suggested we elope,” Imogen said, grinning, “but Rafe said he’d be damned if he’d follow in Draven’s footsteps and allow me to direct all the wedding traffic to Scotland.”
“He was right,” Tess said. “You’re going to be a duchess. You couldn’t marry in such a hurly-burly fashion.”
“Yes, we could have.”
“But think of all the pleasure you would have denied the ton,” Josie said. “The prime enjoyment of the season so far has been watching Rafe stare at you longingly from the side of the ballroom. Now, are we going to discuss your wedding night, or not? Because there are marked gaps in my knowledge.”
“There are no gaps in my knowledge,” Imogen said, “so—“
“I knew it!” Josie said. “You and Rafe anticipated the night, didn’t you? Oh, the shame!” She threw a dramatic hand up to her brow. “My sister lies prostrate under her guardian.”
“Josephine Essex!” Tess said, suddenly turning into the eldest sister who’d raised them all. “If I hear you say such a coarse thing in the future, I shall – I shall swat you!”
Josie grinned. “I was merely demonstrating that the gaps in my knowledge do not have to do with mechanics.”
“Anything else will have to be learned on the fly, darling,” Annabel said. She had gone over to the crib and scooped up Samuel. Now she was comfortably snuggled into a deep chair, feet up and casually crossed at her slender ankles, cuddling the baby. He was used to such man-handling and slept on.
Josie knew that she should do a better job at curbing the wild flares of jealousy that gripped her. Yet all she had to do was look from one to another of her three sisters to feel the pinch as sharply as frozen toes while skating. All three of them were slim. Well, Annabel wasn’t precisely slim, but she carried her curves splendidly. All of them were (or soon would be) happily married. Two of them married titles, and if Tess’s husband didn’t have a title, he was the richest man in England and anyone with commonsense would agree that such wealth trumped a coronet.
“I'm serious,” Josie said, pulling her mind back to the subject at hand. " Annabel, you're only here for the wedding, and Imogen is setting off on a marriage trip. What if I have to marry quickly? You won't be here to give me advice."
In the back of her mind, Josie knew that she might have to do something drastic to find a husband. No one was wooing her in the normal way of things, so she may have to compromise someone in order to get the deed done. Which would require an immediate wedding. “When Annabel was about to marry Ewan, Imogen told her that she should kiss her husband in public.”
“Goodness, do you remember that?” Imogen said, looking faintly surprised.
“You said,” Josie reminded her, “that Draven didn’t fall in love with you because you refused to kiss him at the racecourse. Whereas Lucius did fall in love with Tess because she allowed intimacies in public.”
Tess was laughing again. “I’ll have to inform Lucius precisely why he’s so fond of me. It was all that kiss at the racetrack!”
“Hush,” Imogen told her. “That was just a stupid idea I had last year, Josie. You mustn’t take it so seriously.”
“Well, I do take it seriously,” Josie said. “That is, I would if anyone showed the slightest inclination to kiss me in the open air, or the closed air, for that matter.”
Annabel looked up from kissing Samuel’s head. “Why so bitter, dearest? Has no man presented himself whom you admire?”
There was a moment of silence in the room, as everyone realized that a letter or two had gone astray between London and the Scottish castle where Annabel lived with her earl.
Characteristically, Josie took the bull by the horns. “I’m not exactly the toast of the season,” she said grimly.
"Oh darling, the season has scarcely begun, hasn't it?" Annabel said, tucking the baby's blanket around his little shoulder. "There's plenty of time to lure any number of men."
She looked up at the tone in Josie's voice.
"I’m known as the Scottish Sausage.”
If Josie were writing one of the novels she loved to read, she would have said that there was a moment of stricken silence.
Annabel blinked at her. “The – the –“
“It’s partly your fault,” Imogen said, a sharp note in her voice. “You introduced Josie to your revolting neighbor, Crogan. When Josie rejected his advances he wrote a school friend named Darlington. And most unfortunately, Darlington appears to specialize in cruel set-downs.”
“Has the tongue of a snake,” Tess said flatly. “No one loathes him, although they should, because he’s so clever. But he hasn’t shown any cleverness here, just garden-variety malice.”
“You can’t mean it!” Annabel cried, sitting up straight. “The Crogans?”
“The younger one,” Josie said morosely. “The one who sang all those songs in the tree outside my window.”
“I know you didn’t want to marry him, but –“
“He didn’t wish to marry me either. He felt it was beneath him to wed a Scottish piglet, but his elder brother threatened to throw him out if he didn’t court me.”
“What?” Annabel said, confused. She was trying to think about her neighbors, the Crogans, and not about Samuel’s warm little body under her hand. “How could he possibly insult you, Josie? We had him to the house only once, and I refused to allow him to take you to the assembly!”
“I overheard his brother urging him to marry me,” Josie said.
Annabel’s eyes narrowed. “Why didn’t you tell me? Ewan would never have let that little toad write insults to his friends in London. As it is, I’m sure he’ll kill the man. He almost did it last year."
“It was too humiliating.”
But Annabel had known her little sister for eighteen years, and she could recognize the slight flush on her face. She said with a little gasp: “Josie, you didn’t have anything to do with young Crogan’s illness, did you?”
Josie tossed her hair. “He probably ate something that didn’t agree with him, the disgusting little turnip.”
“He lost two stone in a matter of a fortnight!"
“That wouldn’t hurt him. And he deserved it.”
“Papa’s colic medicine for horses,” Imogen told Annabel.
“It wasn’t Papa’s,” Josie said. “It was mine. I created it myself.”
“Josie and I have already discussed the inadvisable approach she took to the problem,” Tess said, looking up from peeling an apple.
“Inadvisable? She could have killed the man!”
“Absolutely not,” Josie said indignantly. “I made that medicine, remember? When Peterkin gave it to the stable boy, it only made him sick for a week.”
“I rather think the younger Crogan did deserve it,” Imogen said. “After all, he instigated all the unpleasantness Josie has suffered in London.”
“What did he call you?” Annabel asked. And then: “Ewan is going to kill him. Absolutely kill him.”
“He called me a Scottish piglet,” Josie said flatly. “Darlington made the term into the more alliterative Scottish Sausage, and the sobriquet has stuck.” Even she could hear the stark despair in her voice.
“Oh, Josie, I’m so sorry,” Annabel whispered. “I had no idea.”
“The season only opened a month or so ago,” Tess told her. “I did write you a few weeks ago, but perhaps our letters crossed as you were coming from Scotland.”
“It’s too late now,” Josie said. “No one will dance with me unless he's forced to by Tess and Imogen.”
“That is simply not true,” Imogen said. “What about Timothy Arbuthnot?”
“He’s old,” Josie said. “Old and widowed. I can certainly understand that he wants a wife for those children of his, but I don’t care to play the role.”
“Timothy is not old,” Tess said. “He can’t be more than a year or so into his thirties, which is, may I point out, the same age as all of our husbands.”
“Besides,” Imogen said, “thirty is a watershed year for men. If they’re going to develop intelligence, they do it around then, and if they don’t, it’s too late. So you mustn’t hanker after men in their twenties. That’s like buying a pig in a poke.”
“Don’t mention pigs,” Josie said, through clenched teeth. “I don’t like Mr. Arbuthnot. There’s something waxy about his face, as if he got up in the morning and had to push his nose into place.”
“What a revolting description,” Annabel said. “We need to turn this unfortunate situation around, although Arbuthnot obviously isn’t the one to do it.”
“There’s no way to turn it around,” Josie said. “Unless by a miracle I suddenly became slim, everyone thinks of sausage when they look at me.”
“Absurd,” Annabel said. “You look beautiful.” They all stared at Josie for a moment. She was wearing a dressing gown, as they all were. Josie scowled back at them.
“The problem with you,” Annabel said, “is that if one doesn’t know you, you look like one of those sweet Renaissance madonnas.”
“With round, maternal faces,” Josie said glumly. She hated her cheeks.
“No, with beautiful, glowing skin and a sweet look. But you’re not at all sweet by nature.”
“True enough,” Imogen said, eating a last seed cake. “You do have the most marvelous skin, Josie.”
“Unfortunate that there's so much of it,” Josie said.
“Nonsense. I’ve told you many times, as has Griselda, that men are very fond of figures like ours,” Annabel said. "Griselda! Wake up and tell Josie how delicious your figure is. And mine, for that matter."
“The three of us do not have the same figure,” Josie said. “Your figure curves in and out, Annabel. Mine just flounders about.”
Griselda looked up. "This book is incredible. I am almost certain I know who Hellgate is."
"Your brother?" Imogen asked idly. All of London was reading Hellgate's memoirs – and most of London had decided that Hellgate was really the Earl of Mayne.
"I don't think so," Griselda said, having clearly given the matter serious thought. "I'm only a third of the way through, but I don't recognize a single woman whom Mayne has courted."
"Courted is not exactly the word for his interactions with women, is it?" Josie remarked.
"One needn't be exact about such things," Griselda said, unruffled by this slur on her brother's character. "We all know that Mayne is not a saint. But although the writer is extremely clever, I don't recognize the women."
"Is it true that Mayne is in love?" Annabel asked. "I can hardly believe it. Remember when we first met him, the night we arrived at Rafe's estate?"
"You staked him out as your property," Tess said smiling.
"Well, then you engaged yourself to him at the first opportunity," Annabel retorted. "There was no respect for my prior claim."
"One might say that almost all the Essex sisters tried to claim him in one way or another," Imogen said, giggling.
"Least said about your efforts the better," Tess put in.
"Well, there was nothing illicit between Mayne and myself," Imogen said. "'Tis a tale quickly told. After sleeping with half the women in London, he refused to bed me, and that without a second thought."
"My brother is a man of honor," Griselda said. She raised her hand at the hoots of laughter around the table. "I know, I know…his reputation is not the best. But he has never deliberately injured anyone's feelings, nor taken advantage of a woman in a vulnerable position. And you, Imogen, were in a vulnerable state of mind."
"There's always the possibility that he simply burnt to the socket," Josie said. "That's what makes me think that Hellgate is Mayne. Yes, perhaps he has a vivid reputation, but it's all due to the past. Your brother hasn't had an affaire in years, Griselda."
"Two years," she said with dignity.
"You see? Apparently Hellgate talks of repentance, and I expect Mayne is indulging in the same sort of thinking. I wish you'd let me read the book, Griselda. I am certainly old enough."
"I beg to differ," Griselda stated, adding: "Mayne is in love, and we should allow his peccadillos to rest in the past." She opened her book and began reading it again.
Annabel was frowning to herself and rocking Samuel. "Griselda's right. While it's vexing that Mayne somehow managed to slip by all four of us and marry a stranger – and I do wish to hear all about his exquisite Frenchwoman – the important person is you, Josie."
Josie almost jested about refusing to marry if she couldn't have Mayne, but she choked it off. Spinsterhood was too real a possibility to be spoken out loud.
“It’s all a matter of dressing,” Annabel announced. “You must go to that wonderful woman of Griselda’s.”
“I already have an entire new wardrobe, thanks to Rafe."
“I took her to my modiste, Madame Badeau,” Imogen said a bit doubtfully, “but—“
“She gave me a marvelous corset,” Josie said. “At least when I’m wearing it I don’t feel as if I’m swelling in all directions like an unmoored balloon.”
“I don’t like that corset,” Tess said flatly.
"Unfortunately, neither do I," Imogen said.
“Well, I’m not giving it up,” Josie said. “I can almost wear Imogen’s gowns when I’m in it; can you imagine, Annabel? If the ton laughs at me now, imagine what they would say if I wasn’t wearing the corset.” That’s how she thought of it: The Corset.
“What's so miraculous about this particular corset?” Annabel asked. Samuel had woken up and was having a late night snack.
Josie looked away. It was bad enough that she, Josie, was saddled with breasts that she privately thought were far too large: like melons when oranges were the appropriate size. But Annabel had no compunction at all about feeding Samuel in front of them all, and her breasts were even larger.
“It’s a contraption made of whale-bones and lord knows what else,” Tess told Annabel. "It goes from Josie’s collarbone all the way past her bottom.”
“How on earth do you sit down?” Annabel asked.
“It’s miraculously designed,” Josie told her. “There are let-in seams around the hips.”
“Is it comfortable?”
“Well, not particularly,” Josie said. “But ton parties are not precisely comfortable at the best of times, are they? I find them invariably tedious. I can’t dance well at all, and that seems to be the only pleasure one might take in them.”
“You danced more gracefully before you began wearing that object,” Tess pointed out.
Josie ignored her. “Madame Badeau designed a number of gowns that fit perfectly over the corset.”
“That’s just it,” Tess said, “they fit the corset, not you.”
“I like it,” Josie snapped. “And since I wouldn’t be caught at a ball without it on, you might as well stop insulting me.”
"We're not insulting you," Imogen said. "We just think you might be more comfortable with another sort of undergarment."
"Never," Josie said.
Griselda shut the book again. "I simply cannot imagine how Hellgate had time for anything other than dalliance. Why, I’m only on the fifth chapter and his behavior is beyond scandalous."
"I think the true wonder is that Hellgate wasn't compromised and forced into marriage," Josie said. "Daisy Peckery's mother allowed her to read it, and Daisy said that Hellgate bedded any number of young, unmarried women."
"Another reason why a similarity between my brother and Hellgate should be dismissed at once," Griselda pointed out. "Mayne has only slept with married women."
"A wise decision on his part," Josie said. "From the reading I've done, together with my observations of the ton in the last month, I would say that any man engaging in indelicate behavior around a young, unmarried woman is extremely imprudent. All sorts of marriages result from the most innocent, if foolish, kinds of dalliance."
"I can attest to that," Annabel said with a sigh. She married her husband after a scandal broke in a gossip column.
"In fact," Josie added, "by my estimation a woman who does not have a solid offer would be extremely foolish not to engage in a measured amount of imprudent behavior."
Suddenly she realized they were all looking at her.
"No one has made the slightest approach to me," she pointed out. "My remarks were intended to be purely theoretical."
"I was remarkably fortunate to find myself paired with Ewan," Annabel pointed out, frowning at Josie. "Other young women have not been so contented with a choice made rashly and under difficult circumstances."
"I understand that," Josie said. But inside she felt all the frustration of a theorist who has worked out a brilliant theory—and been given no material on which to practice. She could hardly create a scandal when men wouldn't go anywhere near the Scottish Sausage.
And yet even sausages had to get married. More and more, she thought that she would have to obtain a husband in a less-than-honorable fashion. Of course, she didn't mean to share that salient fact with her sisters.
Annabel turned to Tess and Imogen. "So how long have you two been aware that Josie was planning to create a scandal?"
Imogen popped a grape in her mouth. "I should think she came up with the idea about a year ago, didn’t you, Josie?"
"Actually," Tess corrected her, "I would place Josie's resolution about the time she first began reading all those novels printed by the Minerva Press."
Josie gave a mental shrug. So her plans were known to the family – and now to Griselda, who was looking up from her book, rather startled.
"There is a trifling detail that you have overlooked," Josie said.
"And what may that be?" Annabel asked.
"It takes two to create a scandal, and since no man will even dance with me, I think the Essex family is likely to be free from the taint of a contrived marriage."
"I certainly hope so."
"I should amend that: yet another contrived marriage," Josie said. And then ducked when Imogen threw a grape at her.
End of Excerpt
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Pleasure for Pleasure is Book 4 in the Essex Sisters series.
The full series reading order is as follows: