I am always surprised by the things that inspire my stories. Most of the time, my ideas originate from something I’ve read, but every once in a while it’s something I have seen. In the case of my debut novella, A BREACH OF PROMISE, Fragonard’s painting The Swing partly inspired my opening chapter.
The Swing was originally commissioned by a notorious French libertine, Baron de St. Julien who desired a portrait of his mistress seated on a swing. Jean-Honoré Fragonard, famous for the fluid grace and sensuous charm of his paintings and for the virtuosity of his technique eagerly accepted the unusual commission. The Swing,completed in 1767, is probably his most famous work. In the foreground the playboy Baron himself is depicted, reclining in the lush shrubbery, one arm outstretched towards the maiden’s skirts, his other arm holding his balance. He gave very specific instructions to Fragonard, stating “Place me in a position where I can observe the legs of that charming girl. “
His mistress flies through the air on a sylvan swing, the lovely young lady giving herself away to frivolous abandon, her shoe flying off in the heat of the moment.In the background of the composition one can see what was originally going to be the Bishop requested by the perverse Baron, but which was changed to the mistress’s husband by Fragonard. The husband plays a lesser role, being immersed in shadow while the Baron is illuminated under the maiden’s dress. The inanimate objects add to the story as well. Two cherubs below the swing appear concerned by the sordid actions of the humans above them, one looking up at the women in trepidation and the other looking away from the action with a scowl. On the left side of the image is a stone statue of Cupid who raises a finger to his lips to point out the secretive nature of the impending affair.
Overall Fragonard’s The Swing, rich with symbolism, not only manages to capture a moment of complete spontaneity and joie de vivre, but also alludes to the illicit affair that may have already been going on, or is about to begin. In Fragonard’s world, adultery is but a devilishly gay way to pass the time.
This naughty little painting was very much the inspiration for the scene in which my heroine, Lydia Trent is semi-seduced (they don’t actually consummate) by her inebriated and rakish fiance. Please be aware that I’ve toned down the “naughty factor” of the except!
“Reckless hearts, battling wits, and plenty of steam in a wonderfully well drawn Georgian setting.”- NYT Bestselling author Grace Burrowes
TRS CAPA Nominee 2012
TBR PILE Book of the month September 2012!
LASR Erotic Reviews 5 STAR/BOM Nominee
The Romance Studio 5 Sweetheart Nominee
EXCERPT: A BREACH OF PROMISE by VICTORIA VANE
Darting sporadic glances at the door, Lydia stumbled over the keys of the spinet, fumbling the elegant notes of Scarlatti’s Sonata Number Twelve in B Minor, and then falling off completely once he deigned to appear.
Marcus entered the drawing room with the deliberate gait of one who had over-imbibed and surveyed the occupants with an unfocused stare. “Sh-shampagne,” he cried when he finally lit upon Lydia, as if suddenly recalling the evening’s true purpose. “We must have champagne to toast the blushing rose that has now become my betrothed.”
His lingering gaze sent a hot flush creeping from the base of Lydia’s neck to the tip of her nose, and when Marcus smiled, her breath seized as abruptly in her throat as her fingers on the spinet keyboard. To be the object of his full attention, even for this brief moment, was akin to the sun appearing from behind a dark and dismal cloud to blaze its full radiance upon her. And in that moment under the giddy glow of his smile, Lydia thought she could forgive him anything.
Following the congratulatory toasts, Marcus’ much-relieved and overly indulgent parents suggested the newly affianced couple stroll the gardens. When Marcus offered his arm, a wave of panic flooded Lydia. All the pretty speeches and coquettish looks she had rehearsed before her mirror evaporated. Marcus’ abstraction only added to her discomfiture.
“So the deed is done at last.” He broke the tense silence. “Our families are surely congratulating themselves on the success of their mutual machinations.”
Lydia’s throat went dry at his edge of resentment. “Y-you did not wish this engagement?”
“Did you?” he asked, but then failed to await her response. Marcus’ unsteady steps slowed. “It’s not like they ever gave us a choice, is it, my pet?” He chucked her under the chin. “Here you are, barely out of the schoolroom, with no experience of life. As for me, they wish to clip my bloody wings before I ever take flight. What a damnable life to have it all mapped out at another’s whim,” he added as if to himself.
No. She hadn’t imagined the bitterness. The knot in her stomach tightened. “You don’t have to, you know—marry me.” She closed her eyes and choked out the words.
Marcus’ laugh was a low, mirthless sound. “But there you are wrong, my sweet. As a younger son without a pot to piss in, I must do precisely as my family demands of me.” They had reached the huge oak where an old wooden swing was suspended. Without asking her leave, Marcus seized her by the waist and hoisted her onto the seat. He stepped back with another laugh. “There. You are dressed in virginal white and look upon me with wide, plaintive eyes. Proof positive that our scheming parents would plan weddings when you are naught but a mere child.”
He threw himself to the ground by her dangling feet and turned his attention to the pilfered champagne. He popped the cork and covered the bottle with his eager mouth to catch the effervescent explosion.
Her eyes burned at his scorn. “I’m not, you know,” Lydia said.
“Not what?” He took several long gulps from the bottle.
“No?” He offered her the bottle. “I noticed you had none earlier.”
“Papa says I am too young to drink.”
Marcus smirked. “As I said, a child.”
Lydia’s ire rose to inflame her cheeks. Her gaze darted from Marcus to the bottle.
“What Papa doesn’t know won’t hurt him.” When he taunted her once more with the bottle, Lydia hesitated only a moment before snatching it from his grasp.
Her first sip was tentative. The peculiar combination of sweet and acidic effervescence tickled her nose and throat. Marcus regarded her with surprise when she broke into a throaty giggle. “The bubbles, they tickle my nose!”
“It’ll tickle elsewhere too if you give it half a chance,” he encouraged with a grin.
She took several more draughts. A longer moment of silence stretched between them. She took another fortifying drink. “Do you wish to break it off?” she asked and reached a toe to the ground, idly pushing off to set the swing gliding and slanted a look at him, internally bracing herself for his answer.
Propped back on his elbow, Marcus looked up at her and drawled, “A gentleman wouldn’t do such a thing.”
It was not what she’d expected him to answer. His gaze followed the gentle ebb and flow of the swing. Sprawled as he was on the ground at her feet, she was aware that his position afforded a clear view of her ankles, and with the forward motion, an occasional glimpse of her calves. The attentiveness of his stare told her he had realized the same thing.
The swing by now had ceased its motion. Lydia took another long drink. She no longer felt the chill in the air and her limbs tingled. Suddenly and uncharacteristically emboldened, she raised her skirts a few inches, as if to get them off the ground. Locking eyes with Marcus, she extended her pink-slippered foot to push off again, but he stole the breath from her body when he seized her ankle.
“What are you doing?” Her breathless giggle was inspired more by nerves than champagne.
Marcus held her, his eyes darkening with an unfamiliar stare that made her breath come back in a rush. If he anticipated her protest, it never came.
“Perhaps you are not quite the infant I thought.” His voice was strangely husky. He inched his hand farther up her leg, creeping over her silk-encased calf. “No, indeed,” he drawled. “Definitely not the leg of a child.”
His hand slid higher. His fingers skimmed her garter where he toyed with the ribbon and traced her bare flesh above it. She closed her eyes and shivered, knowing a proper young lady would never allow such liberties, but his attention and his warm hand on her cool skin excited her beyond description.
With a smile, Marcus retrieved the now-empty bottle she clutched to her chest and tossed it to the ground. He guided her hands to the ropes suspending the swing and flipped her skirts above her knees to position his body snugly between her thighs. Lydia gasped at the boldness of the move. She tried to pull her legs back together but his body prevented her. Though she trembled, his heat warmed her to the core, pooling low in her belly and sending a flood of moisture to her secret place.
“Shall I stop, Lydia?” he asked as if reading her mind.
She responded with an unsteady shake of her head and a soft hiccup.
With a low guttural sound, he slid his hands completely under her skirt, gliding over her skin to blaze a hot trail toward the apex of her thighs.
Her breath seized but she failed to push him away. “Do you ever touch yourself here, Lydia?” he asked in a low, hoarse whisper.
The question made her insides convulse. “N-no,” she lied.
His voice coaxed, soothed. “Would you like me to touch you there now?”
She answered with a helpless whimper, clutching the ropes. She knew she should make him stop but the pleasure of his touch was dizzying. Her world spun further out of control until her body racked with little tremors and a muffled cry.
“You do like that,” he said. She bucked against him and set the swing back in motion. “Not so quickly, little one.” Marcus laughed and withdrew his hand. He grasped her waist to pull her down beside him and rolled on top of her with his arms anchored on either side of her head.
Lydia lay stunned beneath him, her body still coiled with desire. At the press of his erection against her belly, she came instinctively to life and undulated against him.
“God help me!” Marcus groaned. “I hadn’t planned this, but damn me if you haven’t given me a mind to finish what we started.”
“Wh-what do you mean?” she gasped. “We are not wed yet. I cannot lie with you!”
“I’m not asking you to, Lydia. There are other, less hazardous ways to give a man relief,” he spoke with long-suffering effort. “I have already shown how I can pleasure you with my hands, now I want you to do the same for me.”
“You wish me to stroke your…your privates?” she asked, wide-eyed in affright.
“Yes, Lydia” he answered in a tight voice. “I want you to fondle my aching…” He grasped her hand to demonstrate, bringing it to his crotch, but Lydia recoiled. She squirmed beneath him in an effort to retreat, which only seemed to annoy him. “Bloody hell!” he groaned. “It’s not got teeth! If you won’t touch me, at least allow me to rub against your body. I must have release!”
“Release?” She froze under him.
Marcus took a deep, calming breath. “You enjoyed the friction when you moved against me. I enjoy that too. I can use it to come to completion.”
“Completion? With our clothes on?” she asked, incredulous.
“Yes! With our bloody clothes on if that’s the only way to cease this infernal throbbing.”
“It’s painful?” she asked.
“Bugger the questions, Lydia! It’s just damnably uncomfortable.”
“Enough!” Marcus groaned and stemmed her flow of questions with his mouth. Unlike his gentle hands, his kiss was hard and demanding, matching the urgent thrust and grind that made her entire body thrum. Marcus followed with a great, shuddering groan and collapsed atop her. They lay there in a stunned silence, punctuated only by their ragged breaths, until Marcus helped her back to her feet and escorted her wordlessly back to the house.
* * * * *
Lydia went to bed in a daze. It had been a night of many firsts—the upswept hair, the silk gown, the taste of champagne, but the most remarkable of all was her initiation to passion. Her hand swept her body and her lips curved at the remembrance of how Marcus had looked at her with desire in his eyes. The rapture she’d experienced under the swing had banished her virginal qualms, replacing them with eagerness for her wedding night with Marcus. She closed her eyes with a sigh of contentment. The evening that had earlier portended such disaster had transformed into a rite of passage from girlish innocence to awakening womanhood.
When charm and persuasion fail…Only seduction remains…On the night of her betrothal, Lydia Trent receives just a taste of what ecstasy will be at the hands of her fiancé…and then he leaves her wanting. After waiting six years, and tired of being neglected by her exceedingly reluctant husband-to-be, Lydia decides to break it off.
When Marcus, Lord Russell, receives Lydia’s letter requesting a release from their contract, he is stunned by her audacity. Confident he’ll have her eating out of his hand with his usual wit and charm, he’s determined to repair the damage. However, the headstrong woman she’s blossomed into is equally determined to thwart his every effort to win her back.
Marcus discovers, in spite of her conviction to end the union, Lydia is more responsive to his touch than he ever imagined. He just needs to get her alone to unleash the promised passion he sees within his wanton virgin. Marcus will use any tool in his arsenal to exploit her weakness–his kisses, his hands, his mouth…her own body. In short, he’ll just have to ruin her!