Thursday, October 6, 2011

The Accidental Courtesan in the Lair!


Hosted by Donna MacMeans

Today we're welcoming the return of Cheryl Ann Smith to tell us about her new release, The Accidental Courtesan (Don't you love that cover?) Romantic Times gives a thumbs up to the book's "dash of humor, plenty of sensuality and a fast pace." Without further ado, here's Cheryl Ann -

Thanks so much to Romance Bandits and Donna for having me here! I had so much fun on my last visit that I’m thrilled to come back to talk about courtesans and to give away prizes!

Several years ago, I decided to write a book about a courtesan school. My heroine would rescue courtesans from that life and match them with suitors. In order to make the storyline realistic, I needed to find out if courtesans actually did marry. Thankfully, it was quite common, giving my story credibility.

Many of the women who became courtesans did so to escape poverty. Some turned to the profession to gain power, and some just enjoyed the notoriety it afforded them. Oddly, it appears that men did not find a woman’s scandalous past (or in some cases, present and future) as a mistress or courtesan a deterrent to marriage. Some husbands used their wives' extra-marital relationships with nobility to gain favor in court.

Jeanne Becu was the illegitimate daughter of a seamstress. She became a prostitute in her teens, though she had several professions, including milliner’s assistant. At the time, only titled women could be a royal mistress and she seemed to like the idea of becoming one. So, she married Comte Guillaume du Barry and was soon a mistress to Louis XV. Sadly, some years after Louis XV died, she was accused of treason the beheaded. France sure liked their guillotine!

Virginia Oldoini wasn’t born poor. She married at 17 and became the Countess of Castiglione. A cousin involved her in politics, where she met, and became the mistress of, Napoleon III. This (surprisingly) upset her husband and they separated. But she did not slip into obscurity. Instead, her beauty captured the attention of photographers, Mayer and Pierson. They documented her life in photographs, earning her a legacy that carried on long after her death.


Marie-Louis O’Murphy posed for a nude painting as a young teen. It came to the attention of Louis XV. She became one of his mistresses

and bore him a child. When she attempted to replace Madame de Pompadour as his favored mistress, she was booted from favor and married off. She went on to live an interesting life, including marrying and divorcing a second husband (the first died) who was twenty-eight years her junior.

Needless to say, the research into this topic was very interesting! Though my books have yet to feature an actual courtesan heroine, I wondered if readers would accept a fallen woman as a heroine, or would her past be too hard to overcome?

The Accidental Courtesan has been released this week (Oct 4th), the same week as my birthday (Oct 7th), so I’m having a party! Berkley is giving away a two book set of my books to a Romance Bandits commenter today. Just give me your opinion of a fallen woman as a heroine.

Donna here - Speaking of prizes, I just wanted to remind everyone of the mad party of tricks and treats and prizes beginning on October 14th in the lair. Later this month a BIG Bandita Surprise will be announced with even more prizes, but you MUST be here on the 14th for details!

Cheryl's Birthday Bash continues on at her blog and she's giving the gifts! For details about a chance at a birthday kindle, visit www.cherylannsmith.com

63 comments:

Landra said...

I'm sooo excited about this book.
I'm fine with fallen women as heroine's. Every women deserves their HEA regardless of circumstances. I even hold tight for the convicted killer women. "They're innocent!" I yell!

Anyways, I'm really excited about this book and can't wait to read it.

Nancy said...

Cheryl, welcome to the Lair! What a great post. I love historical tidbits, and I have no problem with a fallen woman as a heroine. Your book sounds great!

Nancy said...

Landra, congrats on snagging the Golden Rooster!

Kaelee said...

Interesting facts about the courtesans. I guess one way to get the ear of someone important was to send your wife to his bed. Not my cup of tea but it happened. I used to read a lot of historical novels and I have read about fallen heroines in more than one. It can be a very rewarding theme.

Jane said...

Congrats on the new release, Cheryl and Happy Birthday. It's refreshing to read about a heroine who is a fallen woman. Our initial(probably unflattering) opinions about her will change as we get to know how and why she became a fallen woman.

Donna MacMeans said...

Hey Landra - You got the GR! I know he's fine with a fallen hen (or a standing hen, or a sitting hen...) LOL

Donna MacMeans said...

Kaelee - I think a fallen woman as heroine can be done (witness Anna's Claiming the Courtesan) but I think it takes a lot of skill to present that heroine in a way that the reader will root for. Kudos to Cheryl Ann for attempting and succeeding at that.

Donna MacMeans said...

Hi Jane - I think it's really cool to have a release so close to a birthday. It's a gift from the publisher and a way to celebrate with tons of people AND you get cake!
(I hope Cheryl Ann gets a cake with that gorgeous cover on it).

June M. said...

Congrats on the release. I have never had a problem with fallen women as heroines. Generally, they are there because of things they could not control (rape, poverty, taken advantage of, etc). I guess as long as there is a reason for it, and that the woman is a good person (not manipulative, vindictive, etc) I will be fine with them.

BTW, Happy Birthday on the 7th. Hope you have a great one!

Anna Campbell said...

Hey, Landra, you got da chook!

Welcome back, Cheryl. And congratulations on the release of the new book. Hope you're having a wonderful birthday week!

Mozette said...

Wow... we all seem to have books coming out of our ears right now. I've received seven books so far for my birthday (which was 5th, October; which for me has been and gone already) and Mum and Dad got me a sewing machine... what for, well, I'm from a long line of seamtresses and dressmakers... so Mum's hoping I pick up sewing.

Na said...

A fallen woman as a heroine may endear her even more to me. In fact I know I'll be rooting her on. I believe in second chances and that no one is perfect. A "fallen" woman may not even have done anything wrong but put her trust in another or is simply judged guilty when she is innocent. These circumstances set the stage for the heroine to discover who she really his, who the people around her really are, and to develop strengths to overcome obstacles. I know at the end of the journey she will have earned her happy ending.

Cheryl, I visited your blog earlier it's beautiful! You have a lot to celebrate with your book release and upcoming birthday. Yay! Have a great week.

Lolarific said...

You know, that just makes me think of Miss Kitty. Cheesy I know but don't we all want the best for everyone? Including heroines that have had to do whatever they must to survive long enough to find their Prince Charming? For me that might just make a stronger story because a true love and prince charming accepts a heroine no matter what her faults may be.

Beebs said...

I don't have a problem with fallen women as heroines.

It's interesting to read about how they got into that situation and then see them get their HEA.

marybelle said...

A fallen woman sounds like delicious reading to me.

Loved the pictures.

Sonali said...

Cheryl, Happy Birthday and congratulations on the release of your latest book.

I don't have a problem with fallen women as heroines. Women are women no matter what their profession. They deserve to fall in love and have a happily ever after.

Helen said...

Well done Landra have fun with him

Whoo Hoo Hi Cheryl and Donna
I soo loved your first book in this series fantastic story I am really looking forward to this next one.

Happy birthday for tomorrow it is my daughter's birthday as well my baby will be 25 tomorrow LOL.

I really like the idea of a fallen woman as a heroine as you have said before lots of woman were fallen in this period just to put food on the table and clothing on their backs let alone looking after family members it is nice to see them gain respect and be able to live comfortably.

Have Fun
Helen

Cheryl Ann Smith said...

Good morning everyone! I'm excited to be back! And thanks for the book and birthday well-wishes!

I have a cold this week, so I'm a bit loopy. Why couldn't it wait until next week!

(For those of you who like fallen heroine's I have another book coming out next year...a little hint!)

Cheryl Ann Smith said...

I hope you all like The Accidental Courtesan! I love to throw my poor heroines into messes, and Noelle is in for a wild ride!

Regency courtesans seemed to get into their profession young. There were so few job available to young women.

Helen, I'm thrilled you loved The School for Brides!

Cheryl Ann Smith said...

I proposed a combo release and b-day giveaway week to my editor and she came right on board. I've given away several sets of books already! Everyone here will be in for a book drawing today and your names will go in the hat for the Kindle tomorrow!

Stay tuned! :-)

hrdwrkdmom aka Dianna said...

I don't have a problem with a fallen woman at all. They deserve a HEA even more than others.

Maureen said...

Happy Birthday Cheryl! I am an October baby too. I think a fallen woman is a very realistic heroine since times could be hard for women years ago. They definitely didn't have today's choices and opportunities.

PJ said...

Hi Cheryl! Welcome! What fascinating information!

When I was younger I preferred my heroines to be untouched before meeting their hero. Now, with much life experience behind me, I'm fine with experienced heroines in my reading material as well. As Landra said, "every woman deserves their HEA."

PJ said...

Oops! Hit "enter" too soon.

Happy Birthday! Hope you have a wonderful day tomorrow and a bright, happy year ahead.

Neecy said...

Ohh, this looks to be like another terrific book! Can't wait to read it. I posted it on FB and got a few hits...
Hope you feel better soon, being sick is no fun!
Neecy

Gannon Carr said...

Hi, Cheryl! Love the title and the cover of you book---gorgeous!

I think a fallen woman as a heroine makes the story much more interesting and her HEA that much sweeter. :-)

Cheryl Ann Smith said...

Isn't it funny how pretty much all historical romance heroines had to be virgins? My first two are, but clearly non-virgins are all over the genre.

I'm sitting here watching my cat kill a roll of TP. He is such a goofball!

TxDee said...

Fallen women make fascinating heroines, I think, especially if they have had to make difficult decisions as a result of their lifestyle. That said, I want them to accept their past life without shame--no "poor little me, I'm no good", please! Obviously, they also have to be strong women.

Louisa Cornell said...

Landra nabbed the Fallen Rooster! Lord knows his feathers are beyond tarnished for a million reasons!

Hello Cheryl and Happy Birthday! What a treat to have your book come out for your birthday!

Your research is fascinating. Do you often find yourself sucked into the research black hole once you start looking into a topic? I know I do!

Fallen women as heroines are some of my favorites. Books such as Diane Gaston's The Mysterious Miss M and La Campbell's Claiming the Courtesan are two of my favorite books of all time.

I think there are directions you can take with a fallen woman as heroine that you can't take with a regular heroine.

Looking forward to reading your new book!

Genny said...

Happy Early Birthday Cheryl! I don't have a problem with a fallen women being a heroine. Everyone deserves a chance to be happy! Looking forward to you book.

Nancy said...

TxDee, as Louisa points our, our own Anna Campbell has written wonderful, wrenching books with fallen women as heroines--Claiming the Courtesan, her debut, Tempt the Devil, and her most recent release, Midnight's Wild Passion. I think it's because of her that I'm aware of the story possibilities and conflicts such heroines bring.

girlygirlhoosier52 said...

I like the whole concept of fallen women rising above the circumstances and getting a HEA! When considering the historical background of the time, it's truly amazing what some women overcame and went on to accomplish ! A big YOU GO GIRL from me, every time!

Sara W. said...

I absolutely agree with the "fallen" woman as the heroine! Keeps the story interesting, and NOBODY is perfect! Why should the heroine always be perfect? Makes it too predictable! :)

Anna Sugden said...

Welcome Cheryl. I have no problem with a fallen woman as a heroine - but then I'm a bit of a rebel *g*. For me, such women are usually more interesting characters than a lot of 'unfallen' women. Possibly because authors have to work harder to make them empathetic.

derekd said...

Love the title and premise of the book. Like others, I have no problem with a heroine having been a courtesan. Julia Justiss did it, though with a completely different angle than you.

Such a woman certainly inspires sympathy. I look forward to reading your story. Good luck with it.

Antonia said...

Congratulations on your newest release! I love reading about fallen heroines, because it's always interesting and fun to see an author take risks with this kind of character.

Dianne said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Dianne said...

Great!! I like the idea! Especially if she is a smart fallen women. And getting to know all about her circumstance is what keeps you spell bound to see just how she is going to overcome her fate in life along with a sense of humor and cunning social abilities....boy am I asking to much? Love those can't put it down til I'm done read!!

Happy Birthday Cheryl....I'm an October Birthday as well! Did someone say cake? LOL

Dianne said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Rebe said...

I think fallen women can make more interesting heroines, because sometimes goodness comes across as really, really boring! Her story can be fascinating.

catslady said...

I love variety and a fallen woman theme sounds like a very interesting one indeed! Happy Birthday!

Donna MacMeans said...

Cheryl - Just checked my book of birthdays for October 7th. It's noted as the Day of Defiance. Those born on October 7th have a strong rebellious streak.

See - you were bound to write stories with fallen women as heroines - it's that defiant streak. LOL

Anna Campbell said...

Hey, thanks, Nancy and Louisa! Yeah, I find fallen women interesting - especially in an environment where a woman's chastity is treated as her most valuable possession.

MsHellion said...

As a fellow fallen woman, I'm completely game for fallen women heroines. :)

LOVE the research!! And you can't blame a girl for trying to be the Lead Mistress...even if she ultimately failed, poor thing. *LOL*

Cathy P said...

I wouldn't mind reading about a fallen woman as a heroine. Everyone makes mistakes and deserves to make a new life for themselves.

Trish Milburn (Tricia Mills) said...

What interesting bits of history, Cheryl. I love it when real aspects of history inform fiction. It gives it a rich authenticity. And that is a gorgeous cover.

Also, Happy Birthday!

Cheryl Ann Smith said...

Louisa: I do get sucked in! One site leads to another and pretty soon I've wasted an hour, or two!

Happy Oct B-day's Maureen and Dianne!

Rebellious? Who me? Not stubborn or hard-headed either!:)

Thanks for the birthday wishes!

I do love stories of women who push societal boundaries! It makes them fun!

Cheryl Ann Smith said...

Berkley does great covers. I'm blessed there! I'd love to get a cake with the cover on it for my birthday, but then I wouldn't want to eat it!

Fallen women do need HEA's. I have a book about courtesans and some really had tough lives. I'd like to think they all didn't marry for money, but maybe some did for love? I can't remember her name but one mistress had something like ten kids with her lover. She must have been devoted, though he never did marry her. Jerk!

Beth Andrews said...

Welcome back to the lair, Cheryl! Congrats on your release and happy birthday :-)

I have no problem with a heroine who has a less-than-perfect past!

Cheryl Ann Smith said...

A little scandal makes a romance fun!

Barbara E. said...

I think a fallen woman as a heroine would work as long as she had a great story of how she came to be one - not just because she liked sex or something. As long as she was sympathetic and it was an interesting story, I'd enjoy it.

Cheryl Ann Smith said...

Here are some famous mistress/prostitutes whose names you may recognize:

Mata Hari

Nell Gwyn-lover of King Charles II

Mary Jane Kelly-Said to be the last victim of Jack the Ripper!

And who says history isn't interesting! :)

Christine Wells said...

Hi Cheryl, welcome to the lair! Donna thank you for bringing Cheryl to us today.

Your series sounds interesting, Cheryl. I like heroines to have had some experience and if they're fallen, it adds another dimension to the story, I think.

Landra, congrats on the rooster!

Pat Cochran said...

Men are often seen as repentant and
"renewed" personages, accepted by
"Society" in their new guise. Why
can't women make themselves over &
be accepted in the same way? I can &
have accepted women in their new roles.

Pat C.

Cheryl Ann Smith said...

Thanks Christine! Writing romances around a courtesan school is fun!

Shoot, a young woman really couldn't be caught in the dark with a man without being ruined, yet, as long as a wife produced an heir(and maybe a spare)with her hubby, she could take lovers. Interesting how the rules of society work!

Cheryl Ann Smith said...

Hey everyone. I'll be drawing for books in a few minutes and will let Donna know the name of the winner. Everyone who commented today will be in for the Kindle drawing tomorrow. Good luck!

Cheryl Ann Smith said...

Thanks for having me, Donna, and for the birthday wishes and book release congratulations from everyone! I do have fun here at Romance Bandits!

I'm off to bed to nurse my cold and read a bit. See ya!

Rosie Hong said...

I like women who are more seasoned as heroines. There are too many innocent women in romance, and sometimes a heroine with a past is refreshing.

Donna MacMeans said...

Hi all - Cheryl informs me the winner of The Accidental Courtesan is Mozette. A book will be winging it's way to you. Happy Birthday!

Jo's Daughter said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Penfield said...

Congratulations on the new release. The plit sounds intriguing.
penfield716(AT)yahoo(DOT)com

Cheryl Ann Smith said...

I do think an experienced heroine can give the hero a fun run, but I don't know if I'd want her too experienced! I'd like for the hero to teach her a little something, too!

Cheryl Ann Smith said...

Congrats Mozette!