Today it isn’t unusual in the United States for a woman to be married to another woman, or for a woman to be with another woman as a life partner. Gay rights have come a long way, and yes there is still a long way to go.
My debut novel The Virgin Madam takes place in Bitterroot Flats, California in 1879. During this time it was definitely considered sinful to have intimate relations with the same sex and there were many laws on the books making it a crime.
Laura Rutherford inherits her papa’s brothel after he is murdered. Becoming the madam makes controlling her urges for the working women even more difficult. She fights these thoughts and thinks she is a freak until she meets Josephine “Joe” Bascum who shares who desire to share her life with another woman.
Josephine, dressed as a cowboy, walks into the brothel looking for a room to stay the night. She’s lived her life for many years as a man. I’ve read many historicals where one of the ladies has a boyish frame and parades around town as a woman. I know based on research that some women actually did do this. It is the only safe way Joe can be with a woman and it fit her tomboy personality well. From their first meeting she realizes the woman she wants is Laura.
“You’ll run into the furniture if you don’t watch where you’re going.”
I opened my eyes, my head naturally snapping toward the voice. Sitting emerged in the tub was Mr. Bascum—or rather Miss Bascum. I blinked at her small exposed bosom. “You’re, you’re a she.”
She laughed, the pleasant noise reverberating through the room. “Name’s Josephine, but don’t go spreading it around.”
“Why are you dressed as a man?”
Josephine let out a deep sigh. “That is a long story. The short answer is I’m safer as a man, and society frowns on a woman riding horses astride and handling a gun.”
“I see.” And now I knew why I was attracted to this stranger—she was a beautiful woman with blue eyes I could easily lose myself in.
I looked at the sudsy water in the tub, hiding the lower half of her body. It had been a long time since I had taken a bath. Papa let the working ladies bathe before me. They brought in money; I didn’t.
“You may share the bath with me,” Josephine said, “water being scarce and all.” She spoke casually as if it was a commonplace occurrence.
I averted my gaze immediately. I’m not sure why. Fire spread across my skin from my cheeks to my ears to my neck. Suddenly seeing Josephine naked as the day she was born seemed wrong. I had seen plenty of naked girls growing up in the brothel. I had seen even more since I took over running the place. But Josephine wasn’t just another naked girl; I wanted her, which made her proposition dangerous. I was afraid my sinful lust would show. Sharing a bath with this beautiful woman might be too much temptation.
Josephine smiled playfully and beckoned me over with a finger. “Nothing improper,” she said, “unless you want.”
I gulped air. How far would improper go? A teasing touch or something more?
After a vicious outlaw murders her father, Laura Rutherford sees no future beyond running the family brothel and kowtowing to the local gang. Not even marriage offers escape. No man can compete with the beautiful women who dance the can-can for her each night…at least not until a gentle stranger sweeps in and opens her eyes to desires too long denied.
Joe Bascum stumbles into Bitterroot Flats looking for a place to hide from a gunman out for blood. When the innocent Madame from the local brothel offers a bed and bath, Joe accepts hoping to show the buttoned-up beauty just how right forbidden desire can feel.
When danger escalates, can Laura help Joe defeat the famous Fletcher gang, or is she destined to live a lonely life as the virgin madam?
Shiloh Saddler likes to do research for her steamy romances first hand. She has invented a time machine and travels back to the 19th century on a regular basis. There are experimental settings on her time machine which could propel her into the future and even other worlds. She believes love and a good book makes anything possible.
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