Blog Tour, Featuring Author, New Release

Featuring Author Julia Bennet

Friday February 3, 2023

Celebrating Author Julia Bennet’s new release The Worst Woman in London!

Title: The Worst Woman in London
Author: Julia Bennet
Genre: Adult, Historical, Historical Romance
Release Date: February 2, 2023

A defiant Victorian wife fights to escape a bad marriage but her love for a forbidden man jeopardizes her chance at freedom.

James Standish knows how to play society’s game. He’ll follow the rules, marry a virginal debutante, and inherit a massive fortune. At least, that’s the plan until he meets Francesca Thorne. She’s not the sort of woman a respectable gentleman like James could ever marry—not least because, strictly speaking, she’s married already.

Francesca is determined to flout convention and divorce her philandering husband. When James sweet talks his way into her life tasked with convincing her to abandon her dream of freedom, she’s unprepared for the passion that flares between them.

Torn apart by conflicting desires, James and Francesca must choose whether to keep chasing the lives they’ve always wanted or take a chance on a new and forbidden love.


“It’s a pleasure to meet you, Mr. Standish.” Miss Heller spoke the commonplace sentiment with just the right degree of eagerness. Any less and she might appear cold. Any more would be vulgar.
James smiled and bowed, but inwardly he groaned. He loathed chitchat and foresaw half an hour’s worth. Still, three more days and his part would end. He’d watch Thorne marry this thoroughly appropriate girl and wave them off on their wedding journey. No doubt their chances of rubbing along happily as man and wife equaled any other couple’s.
The ladies sank gracefully onto a blue damask upholstered settee. Thorne, the poor fool, crammed himself into the elegant Queen Anne near Miss Heller. His back would ache like the devil before he’d drained his first cup. James tried not to look smug as he selected a plush armchair and settled in.
Mrs. Lytton poured tea into a floral-patterned cup. “Milk or lemon, Mr. Standish?” she asked, and added lemon at his behest. He resisted an uncouth urge to graze her hand with his thumb as she passed him a side plate.
Once she’d furnished everyone with tea and scones, the inanities commenced.
First they talked about seating plans. Then they moved on to flower arrangements. By the time they got around to those inconsiderate souls who RSVP’d at the eleventh hour, James had started fantasizing about leaping through a nearby window.
Thorne frowned at him. “You’re looking a bit green, Standish.”
Mrs. Lytton sighed. “Oh, poor Mr. Standish. How tiresome you must find us. Let’s talk of something else.”
“Have you seen the latest Fortnightly Review?” Thorne asked. “Everyone’s talking about this serial they’re printing called The Eustace Diamonds. It’s about an adventuress. I read the first installment, but I don’t understand why it’s so popular. I refuse to believe women like this Lizzie Greystock character exist.”
Mrs. Lytton gave a sage nod. “It’s extraordinary what passes for amusement these days.”
“Why would anyone want to read about a heroine like that?” Thorne said, toying with Miss Heller’s fingers.
The need to play devil’s advocate got the better of James. “Why on earth wouldn’t they? She sounds like fun.”
Thorne glanced at him. “Well, she isn’t ladylike.”
“Oh, I see. You’re one of those. When you read Vanity Fair, I bet you preferred Amelia Sedley to Becky Sharp. Tell the truth.” James himself was by no means certain that he’d prefer an adventuress like Becky to dull but virtuous Amelia as a wife, but he knew which sort he’d rather take to bed. His friend, on the other hand, probably didn’t distinguish.
Thorne furrowed his brow. “Of course I preferred Amelia. She is the heroine. Actually, she rather reminds me of Francesca.”
On cue, Miss Heller’s cheeks turned rosy.
Mrs. Lytton set her cup down on a gilt-edged end table. “I don’t have a great deal of leisure for books myself. Of course, one must try to keep up or find oneself quite left out of the conversation. I daresay I wouldn’t bother otherwise. Not like Francesca.” She smiled at her niece. “Though I believe, in her heart of hearts, she prefers history.”
Thorne threw back his head and laughed. “Truly? I assumed she’d prefer novels and such. Don’t tell me I’m marrying a bluestocking.”
“I read novels too,” Miss Heller said. Her smile, when it came, wobbled slightly, as though she didn’t quite mean it.
No one else seemed to notice or, if they noticed, they didn’t attach any importance to that tell-tale tremble, but James had caught a glimpse of something else in her clear, leaf-green eyes. Was it sadness? He felt an unexpected pang of sympathy. Despite her frills and flounces, why shouldn’t she like history best?
“Really, Thorne,” he said. “It’s hardly a shattering revelation.”
A shrug in response. “No, of course not.”
James leaned forward, interested for the first time since he’d sat down. Nothing could be duller than an engaged couple billing and cooing like turtledoves, but he wondered if these birds might not be a tad misled as to their suitability for long-term nesting. From what he’d seen so far, they didn’t know the first thing about one another. After a brief acquaintance and a five-week engagement, here they were poised to pledge their lives to each other. Such indecent haste and the bride wasn’t even with child. And if he saw trouble brewing after observing them for all of two seconds, what else might be going on beneath the surface?
Thorne smiled at Miss Heller like a father indulging a little girl. “Perhaps once we’re married, we might read together sometimes.”
A scene sprang to mind. Thorne, in an easy chair, reading aloud from the improving works of Rousseau or Richardson while his wife perfected her embroidery. It was enough to make any right-thinking person nauseous.
Mrs. Lytton took the opposite view. “What a charming idea, Mr. Thorne. A husband should act as his wife’s guide if she wishes to educate herself. I think it unseemly, women attending university like men. All those stocky, plain-faced girls one sees at Benslow House.
Pioneers they call them. It makes one shudder.”
James hadn’t given any serious thought to the notion of female education but, as a general rule, he favored anything that shook things up. “Oh, I don’t know. Surely one’s wife should know how to converse intelligently on subjects other than hat trimming and the relative merits of plumes versus blooms.”
Miss Heller didn’t say a word. Perhaps she didn’t agree, or perhaps she agreed but was too polite to say so. James found himself eager to know which, but before he could ask,
Mrs. Lytton distracted him.
“More tea, Mr. Standish?” As she leaned forward to pour, her impressive breasts threatened to spill from her bodice. The square-cut neckline, though not precisely immodest, tested the limits of tasteful afternoon attire. He snapped his attention back to the left where
Miss Heller sat.
Their eyes met.
She didn’t blush and look away. Instead, she regarded him calmly, a faint crease showing in her brow. Was that disapproval? He wanted to laugh, but he kept his face carefully blank. Whatever he did, he must try to make a decent impression on these women for Thorne’s sake. He bit the inside of his cheek, but he couldn’t prevent a slight twitching of his lips.
Miss Heller lifted her eyebrows. Just when he thought she was about to rebuke him, her frown melted away. Her green eyes lit with unexpected humor, and her commonplace prettiness bloomed into beauty. The transformation lasted two seconds at most before she smothered the smile. Clasping her slender white hands in her lap, she stared at them as if they fascinated her.
He might almost believe he’d imagined the whole thing, but then her shoulders began to shake. Heaven help him, she’d caught him ogling Mrs. Lytton’s bosom and she found it funny. His own laughter threatened to burst out, but he pressed his lips together and averted his gaze. If only mirth were not so contagious.
Two things occurred to him at once.
First, Francesca Heller was nothing like Amelia Sedley from Vanity Fair, whatever Thorne said. She might never make a decent adventuress like Becky Sharpe, but she had a ribald sense of humor and the brains to hide it from a fiancé who wouldn’t approve. Thorne might seem like a fellow worth the sacrifice, but would she still feel the same in a year? In two? How long could she keep pretending to be other than she was?
Second, James realized he liked her. In fact, he liked her tremendously.
The other two remained oblivious, still deep in discussion about the evils of female education and the women’s movement. Miss Heller composed herself and rejoined the conversation, her expression serene, and that one moment was all it took for him to understand what no one else seemed to grasp; she wouldn’t do at all.
Miss Heller simply wasn’t the right girl for Thorne. James knew by the way she hid her laughter, by her sadness when Thorne patronized her, and by a dozen other insignificant details. If the ceremony went ahead in three days, it might prove the worst mistake of her life.
If it were any other man, the two might marry, realize their mistake, and make the best of things, but Thorne was a romantic and he’d rhapsodized at length on Miss Heller’s delicacy, her girlish ignorance, and sweet compliance. When he realized she wasn’t the girl of his dreams, his spirits wouldn’t just plummet, but crash. When people tumbled from their pedestals, as they generally did sooner or later, Thorne didn’t hesitate to cut them out of his life. Even his own father.
The girl didn’t understand, not consciously, and Thorne hadn’t a clue.
Perhaps James ought to say something.
He imagined all the wedding guests bearing down on the capital. Did he really mean to plant doubts in Thorne’s mind at this late date, and all because Miss Heller had laughed at an inappropriate moment? How ludicrous. How impossible. But if he stayed silent, what then?
The sinking in James’s gut revealed the hopelessness of his situation, but he couldn’t ignore his instincts. For Thorne’s sake, he must say what needed to be said, even if it meant destroying their friendship.
But not here and not now.
Following Miss Heller’s excellent example, he pasted his most social smile upon his face and rejoined the conversation.

Julia writes historical romance with passion, intrigue, dark humor and the occasional animal sidekick. A tea-sodden English woman, she’s the only girl in a house of boys and yearns for all things pink and fluffy. If she isn’t writing, she’s probably reading everything she can get her hands on, spending time with her boys or procrastinating on the internet.

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