The Lure of the Masked Man
People have been enthralled by masks for centuries–all the way back to the ancient civilizations of Greece and Rome. There is something alluring about the unknown, and trying to find what’s beneath the mask can lead to all kinds of mayhem.
The first masked men I think I came into contact with were heroes and superheroes: The Lone Ranger, Batman and Robin, Zorro, Spiderman. And of course super villains like Darth Vader. These iconic figures were protected by their masks, so they could do good deeds (like save the world) without revealing their true identity. They were the good guys (except for Vader). So people are attracted to the masked man, in some respects, because he represents the fight for good over evil.
The masked man also has the allure of the disguise. We’ve all dressed up for Halloween–put on a costume and mask, changed our identity and had fun. Because, again, no one knew who we were. We could act differently, because we didn’t have to be ourselves. It’s a very freeing experience.
In the 18th century, when Only Scandal Will Do is set, one very popular pastime was to attend masquerade balls. Everyone was masked and the game was to keep people from knowing who you were until the unmasking at midnight. It was said that sometimes husbands would arrange a tryst with a woman in disguise and not know until they unmasked that it was his own wife! We are attracted to the masked man because they relieve us of our inhibitions. They represent a fantasy world where they and you can be anyone. Such situations can create quite the advantage for seductions, tête-à-têtes, and assignations of quite a scandalous nature.
But the primary lure of the masked man is our fascination with the unknown. We are drawn to anything that piques our curiosity. To anything strange and mysterious. The man in the mask is a romantic figure who can seduce us because he has the advantage. Since we cannot see his entire face, we cannot read all his subtle non-verbal clues that help explain how he thinks or feels. In Only Scandal Will Do, Katarina wishes she could see her purchaser’s face, because it’s so hard to read with the mask covering it. And even though she’s on guard against him, he still seduces her because she misreads his intentions.
The masked man also sets a challenge –to make him reveal himself. What woman can resist trying to make a man take off his mask (literally or figuratively)? She seeks to make him more open, truthful, vulnerable by cajoling him into removing his mask. The masked man is most alluring, then, because he represents the ultimate test of wills. Are our heroines up to the challenge?
Only Scandal Will Do pits a feisty heroine against a masked man who has bought her in a brothel auction. Here’s an excerpt where Lady Katarina fights him with wit and courage:
“Who are you, sir?”
“Your master, slave.”
Harsh words cloaked in a voice of deep velvet. A shiver of dread raced down Katarina’s body, as much from the words as from his tone. She gathered her courage and replied, “I am nobody’s slave. There has been a dreadful mistake.”
“I think not, my lovely. I paid a small fortune for your ownership this evening. Make no mistake about that.” He continued to stroke her hair and she twisted her head to the side. His mouth below the half mask twitched into an insolent smile. “I am pleased, however, that you possess courage as well as beauty.” His fingers touched her cheek. “The mask hid the slave’s wealth well.”
She jerked away. “You may have paid for a slave, sir, but what you find in this room is a lady in distress. Will you prove a gentleman or a rogue?”
“A lady in distress?” He laughed and straightened. “How did a lady come to find herself on display at an auction, scandalously clad in a transparent Greek costume, in Madame Vestry’s House of Pleasure?”
“House of Pleasure?” she squeaked.
“Where else would such a thing occur?” The man’s amusement seemed to deepen at her indignation. “And there will certainly be pleasure here tonight, slave.”
He ran a hand slowly down her arm, fingers trailing silkily against her bare flesh. Mouth agape at such a liberty, she slapped the hand away and ran for the door. With a long arm, he snared the diaphanous folds of her gown. The material strained against her body. Kat froze lest it rip, exposing her completely. Cursing her own folly for choosing such a costume, she swung around to face her captor.
“Please release me, sir,” she demanded, trying to keep her temper in check. She needed to woo this man to her cause. And though it galled her, she could only do so with soft words, not blows. Perhaps the blows could come later. “I beg you to aid me in my hour of need.” She put every ounce of charm into her smile; she could cajole him, as long as he couldn’t read her mind.
“Ah, but I have needs too, slave.” His hands were in her hair again, as though he could not help himself.
Well aware from his husky tone what needs the man likely had, Kat winced. If only she could see all of his face. It was so difficult to judge the man under that golden mask. She forced herself to relax, though the thought of his hands on her raised gooseflesh everywhere. It was only her hair, after all. No great sin. Perhaps if she softened her demeanor, she could convince him of her plight. She could offer honeyed tones for a little while.
“Will you hear my story of how a lady ended up in this House of Pleasure, sir?” Even to her own ears, her innocent tone sounded false. How would it sound to–
Releasing her hair, the stranger grabbed her hand. “We both know how you will end up, my slave. Come.” He pulled her toward the four-poster and she dug her toes into the rough, worn carpeting. Honey be damned, she had no intention of going anywhere near that bed.
Kidnapped and sold at auction in a London brothel, Lady Katarina Fitzwilliam squelches an undeniable attraction to the masked stranger who purchased her, pits her wits against him, and escapes him and the scandal that would ruin her life.
Unable to resist temptation in a London brothel, Duncan Ferrers, Marquess of Dalbury, purchases a fiery beauty. She claims she’s a lady, but how can she be? No lady of his acquaintance in polite society is anything like her.
Then he discovers she is who she says, and that this latest romp has compromised her reputation. He knows how that is. One more scandal and he’ll be cast out of London society, but he needs a wife who’ll provide an heir to carry on his illustrious family’s name. He seeks out Katarina, intending only to scotch the scandal, but instead finds his heart ensnared.
He’s betting their future he’ll capture her heart, but does he have what it takes to win the wager?
WARNING: A blade-wielding heroine who crosses swords with a master of sensuality.
Jenna Jaxon is a multi-published author of historical and contemporary romance who has been reading and writing historical romance since she was a teenager. A romantic herself, Jenna has always loved a dark side to the genre, a twist, suspense, a surprise. She tries to incorporate all of these elements into her own writing.
Jenna lives in Virginia with her family and a small menagerie of pets. When not reading or writing, she indulges her passion for the theatre, working with local theatres as a director. She often feels she is directing her characters on their own private stage.
She has equated her writing to an addiction to chocolate because once she starts she just can’t stop.