To be released this Friday-The Dressmaker’s Duke, by Jess Russell!
Please welcome Jess to the blog! this is her debut historical romance from The Wild Rose Press and she is also a fellow chapter mate of mine from our local NYC RWA group. Let’s find out a bit about her debut release.
“I am a dressmaker, Your Grace, I make and sell dresses.
That is the full extent of my commerce.”
But when this monkish duke invades her dress shop, her dreams, and finally her heart, will Olivia be able to deny Rhys Merrick might just be the perfect fit?
Ms. Russell’s book, The Dressmaker’s Duke, (releasing September 26th) is set in 1810 in London. Not unlike these Mayan women, her heroine, Olivia Weston, has few options to earn a living wage. Olivia chooses dressmaking rather than compromise herself. Of course, being fiction and a romance, there is a “knight.” But the Duke will find this dressmaker isn’t so easily swept off her feet by his white horse and glittering armor. He must work for this fiercely independent woman. Yes, the HEA is a foregone conclusion, but how they get there is the fun!
In the world of Romance writing there is always a happily ever after—the HEA. It is a prerequisite for the genre. Unfortunately that is not always the case in the real world where so many women struggle to gain their freedom, both personally and economically. Most likely there is no knight in shining armor to ride in and save the day. And why would women want that anyway? They are strong and resilient when given the tools to be so.
Jess Russell, multi-award winning romance author of The Dressmaker’s Duke, wants to help deserving women find their HEA. She has become involved in The Sewing Project, a part of the charitable group, Mayan Families (http://www.mayanfamilies.org.) This income generating program promotes the economic advancement of women by providing them with skills to use sewing machines as well as basic business skills.
Over 150 students have come through the six month sewing course, with a long waiting list of women wanting to take part. Many of these women have been able to use their new-found skills to establish small businesses, sell their products within the community and support their families independently.
Rosario graduated from the program and was able to take out a microloan and start her own business selling products made from traditional cloth. She finally is able to earn an income to support herself and her four children.
The cost for one student to attend the program is $75. Not so much money to provide a dream. It is one thing to give a fish, it is quite another to teach how to fish.
A bit about me.
I have had lots of jobs. Wife, mom, (15 year old who is a sophomore at Bronx Science) actress, print/shoe model, acting teacher, professional stager (for selling real estate), award winning batik artist, and designer. (Right now I am in the middle of hand-sewing a Regency gown. I figure, if my heroine can do it, I can do it!)
Obviously I like to make things. I love the notion of creating something out of nothing, or at least things that other folks might think of as worthless. I am always dragging things off the street of New York City where I live now, and “re-purposing” them.
I love power tools. I have remodeled several kitchens, and three bathrooms as well as numerous tiling jobs and even painted faux finishes on furniture and walls. I knew my husband really knew me when he got me a chain saw for my birthday!
I never ever thought I’d be a writer. I am dyslexic. I overcame that fairly early on (thanks, mom) but the idea stuck in my head that I couldn’t write. I have always loved Romance and particularly Historical Romance.
When I turned 50 I wanted a new challenge. One particular scene had been brewing in my head for a long time so I thought I’d write it down. I did. Little by little I got braver. I sent a chapter to my mom to check it for “grammar.” Then I joined the Romance Writers of America and entered some of their writing contests. At first I did not final but got very encouraging feedback. Then I began to final and win. In the end I received three publishing offers for the book.
I still do many other creative things-still make things-now I can add that I’ve made a book! I am working on several other stories. Each one keeps tugging at me, “Write me!” So I feel a bit schizophrenic.
Why do I write what I do?
When one writes Historicals there are all these parameters that the author must try to write within. The world of a Regency woman is narrow, but she still has all the feelings that a modern day woman has, she just must express them in a more subtle way. This is the challenge for the writer who chooses the historical path; a kind of tightrope. I think the best historical writers embrace these strictures and learn to move gracefully and creatively between the confines of their chosen world.
It is easy to fantasize about the Regency period as being a more courtly and chivalrous time. I love exploring those opportunities for romance. But then realities intrude: no woman’s rights, hygiene, sickness. My current WIP deals with the Hero being shut up in a madhouse—not a pleasant thing. But that’s what I also love about the time in which I write, I love to show the reality and humanity of these people. They are not just witty cardboard cutouts, they are thinking, feeling folk with problems just like you and me.
Lucky Me because I had parents who cared about a child who struggled to read, lucky because I was able to explore my creativity in so many ways, lucky because, with age and experience, I stopped telling myself “no.”
I am a writer now. I am owning that title more and more stepping farther and farther out of my comfort zone to push against the arbitrary walls I put up. Writing has been an incredible journey for me. It has stretched my boundaries from my first tentative scene to, submitting to contests, to finaling in them, and winning them. Being a writer has opened my life up to new friendships and opportunities. But best of all, it has told me new things about myself and what I can achieve.
Jess Russell is a member of RWA, as well as the Beau Monde and the NY chapters of RWA.