Help A Bitch Out

HaBO: Trying to Save the Family by Becoming a Courtesan

Help a Bitch OutTime for some Help a Bitch Out fun, where we have plot details and all manner of WTFery, but no title or author. Maybe you can help? 

Amy is looking for a book she read on vacation several years ago: 

Huge fan of the site; I come here for the reviews and interviews, stay for the (very plentiful) laughs and thoughtful discussion, and somehow always leave a few bucks poorer from the book recommendations (really Amazon, your one-click buy mechanism is deviously effective indeed!)

I've been trying to find a book that I read part of on vacation about 7 years ago (it was a house-rental deal-io where there was a library that I perused to escape post-dinner clean-up). I only read the first chapter or so before we left and was never able to finish, which of course guaranteed a very persistent feeling that I MUST read this book. Predictably, I don't remember the author, cover, title, or any other useful info, and googling key themes/tropes has been zero help.

So I thought I'd shake the BitcheryPhoneTree and see if anybody remembers a book with these details:

It's a Regency romance set in London (that really narrows the field, I know) and I'm pretty sure it opens on a scene between the female protagonist and her family. She's saying goodbye to them because she's embarking on a career of prostitution to save her family from financial and social ruin. I think her family is minor gentry or something and their dire straits have been kept hush-hush as they just won't survive if it comes out; as the oldest daughter, she's gonna fall on her sword (or someone else's “sword”…too crass? Just a little) so her beloved younger sister will be able to marry well and have the Regency equivalent of the picket fence.

As she's leaving (forever, because they're “disowning” her publicly and/or faking her death, can't remember), her dad makes a memorably unhelpful comment about how “gee, it won't be too bad. If you play your cards right, you could actually maybe lead an comfortable, independent life…maybe you might be able to retire early?” and she's all like “hmm, pretty sure we both know you're lying to yourself about that but let's smile for the fam” in her head.

Cut to the male protagonist who's an honorable, upstanding gentleman of the Ton, who's on the trail of…someone or something (or maybe he's a spy?). I have a vague impression of a stalwart hound on the trail, which puts him in an exclusive brothel right at the moment that they're auctioning off the female protagonist's virginity (of course it does: Romance novels have taught me that investigative/spy work is just one big meet cute oppo after another).

He doesn't want to get into it because he's Busy Hunting and Doesn't Have Time but something about her speaks to him and he ends up bidding. And presumably winning, but I dunno because that's about the point I can't remember/had to stop. If this sounds familiar to anybody, PLEASE let me know! I know it's not a whole lot to go on, but would love to be put out of my misery and finish the dang book. Thanks a bunch and happy new year! 

 

I can think of several different books that have pieces of this plot, including Seven Nights to Forever by Evangeline Collins, but that's not it. Do you recognize this story? 

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  1. 1
    Lostshadows says:

    Any chance she was wearing a bright red dress during the auction?

    It sounds almost like Say You Love Me by Johanna Lindsey, but most of her family didn’t know what she was up to, and her uncle was the one who put her up to it. (Her parents were dead.)

  2. 2
    KatieF says:

    Sounds like Say You Love Me to me too.

  3. 3

    I also think it sounds like Say You Love Me by Johanna Lindsey. It’s a great book!

  4. 4

    It’s a wonder Napoleon was defeated, what with all the snogging going on in the British spy services.

    Just saying…

  5. 5
    Karin says:

    I’m guilty of enjoying that virgin auction trope. I feel so cheap.

  6. 6
    LML says:

    Landmark: my first ever HaBO ‘I wanna read that one’.

  7. 7
    Christiana says:

    Can one read Say You Love Me as a standalone? I would like to try a Johanna Lindsey sometime soon. Thanks.

  8. 8
    Dread Pirate Rachel says:

    Wait, how could becoming a prostitute save a family from social ruin? Seriously, at that time, it would have been pretty much the death knell for social ambition. FFS, look at Pride and Prejudice. Lydia’s elopement seriously damaged her sisters’ chances for making a lucrative/respectable marriage (thank gods for Twue Wuv). A daughter engaging in prostitution would, at that time, have been considered an even more serious transgression than elopement, so I fail to see how the heroine’s virginity auction could possibly help protect her family’s social standing.

    Note: I don’t subscribe to the slut-shamery of that worldview; I’m just pointing out the fact that It Was A Thing back in the day.

  9. 9
    SB Sarah says:

    @DPR: I struggle with the courtesan HEA, too. Unless the main characters sail off for a part of the world where they’ll be anonymous, maybe.

  10. 10
    Shannon says:

    Sounds like Lindsey’s Say you love me. If I recall correctly she was naked and blindfolded while being auctioned and hero sees total whore-killing pervert of a lord bidding for her so buys here. Sound right?

  11. 11
    Janhavi says:

    Now I am kind of curious to read this..

  12. 12
    Lostshadows says:

    @Shannon
    No, she’s dressed in a sleazy red dress and not blindfolded. In many other books, the guy bidding on her probably would have gone full on serial killer, but I don’t think JL is the type to go there.

    @Dread Pirate Rachael
    In Say You Love Me the main reason she allows herself to be auctioned off, is because her uncle has run up debts and is about to lose the house. Her concern is more her little sister not ending up on the street than protection from social ruin, but I think her uncle convinces her no one will know she did this. (I have got to find my copy. I can’t remember all the WTFery in this book in enough detail.)

  13. 13
    Emily says:

    Christiana, you can definitely read Say You Love Me as a stand-alone.  It’s a good one, as are most of JL’s “Mallory” titles.

  14. 14
    laj says:

    I seem to remember this trope in a Julie Ann Long book. I also think there is a book were the brother sends his beautiful sister to an auction to be sold at the highest bidder….oh and wasn’t this done in a Malloren romance? Portia and Bryght I think.

  15. 15
    Bobbi says:

    dang it, just when i swore i wouldn’t read any more johanna lindsey

  16. 16
    jimthered says:

    Lostshadows said “No, she’s dressed in a sleazy red dress and not blindfolded. In many other books, the guy bidding on her probably would have gone full on serial killer, but I don’t think JL is the type to go there.”

    This is why I prefer the villains in erotica, especially the near-defunct Black Lace line (“erotic fiction written for women by women”).  While villains in romance novels seem to have no redeeming qualities (the “boo! hiss!” one-dimensional character) and exist to be killed or defeated by the hero, in many BL books (WHITE ROSE ENSNARED, DARKER THAN LOVE, FORBIDDEN CRUSADE, SAVAGE SURRENDER, LORD WRAXALL’S FANCY) the villain is a scumbag—but also a sexual and kinky dynamo who gives the heroine multiple orgasms (and often teaches her things that she shared with the hero at the book’s end).

    Yes, erotica: where the hero isn’t the only one with a magic wang…

  17. 17
    azteclady says:

    laj, I just read the book where the evil brother auctions the virginal half (and illegitimate) sister. Now I just need to remember which book this is…

  18. 18
    ppyajunebug says:

    @azteclady I know what book you’re talking about!  It’s Lorraine Heath’s “Lord of Wicked Intentions” which was the third of the Lost Lords of Pembrook.  It was a Kindle Daily Deal a month or two ago, which is when I got it (and the others in the series…)

  19. 19
    azteclady says:

    Yes, thank you! Oh it was driving me batshit crazy, not remembering which book it was :grin:

  20. 20
    Kay Webb Harrison says:

    The Malloren book mentioned with Portia and Bryght does have a similar auction, arranged by Portia’s brother. Tempting Fortune [Zebra, 1995]

    Kay

  21. 21
    smwurfy says:

    For some wierd reason, I think it might be a Gaelen Foley book. I just can’t remember the title- sorry! but there was one where the female lead voluntarily joined the courtesans and she goes through training and so forth. She meets the hero and they gamble or something??

    I think I have my own HaBO here!!! =)

  22. 22
    Amy Mac says:

    Oh, this is awesome: I went on vacation for a week and came back to see my blurb on HaBO! I looked up “Say you love me” and the beginning seems very familiar, so I’ll give it a try (looks like I remembered a few details wrong, whoops). Thanks for helping me out y’all!

  23. 23
    azteclady says:

    smwurfy, I think you mean The Duke by Gaelen Foley?

  24. 24
    smwurfy says:

    @azteclady – I think you might be right. Thanks for that, I DNF it last time, might try again! =D

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