It's not often you'll find fashion advice offered amidst the scintillating literary discussion led by columnists at "Unabashedly Bookish."

Sure, Albert Rolls might riff on the wardrobes designed for those scandalous actresses playing the first "breeches" roles in Restoration comedies. And Paul Goat Allen probably could write a kickin' post on whether the armor and accoutrement of Tolkien's Middle Earth characters is most influenced by Roman, Egyptian, Medieval or some other societies' styles.

But while they might appreciate it, they probably won't share with you the universal truth of vital import which I'm about to impart, one even bookish girls should know, if they don't already: Every woman looks hot in a sexy little red dress.

Now, maybe some guys would beg to differ, and I've heard some do just that.  But, frankly, women are far more powerful than men in two irrefutable ways that put lie to the all-chicks-rock-in-red-rule opposition. First, we get to wear sexy red dresses. And second? We know what the men who love us want, even when they don't know it themselves.

The latter should come as no revelation to either sex, as that gem of wisdom's been passed down through the ages from woman to woman - and happily married guy to desperately-hoping-to-please-his-own-wife friend.  In the fictional world of deliciously sensual romance, it's part of advice given in the naughty self-help book at the heart of Emma Wildes' thoroughly entertaining and joyfully sensual, "Lessons from a Scarlet Lady ."

The scarlet lady in question is a former courtesan whose banned-by-Parliament tome full of how-to-keep-your-husband-pleased-and-pleasing-you advice is being followed to the deliciously sinful letter by young, newlywed Brianna Northfield, Duchess of Rolthven.  

Brianna's very much in love with her august and brilliant husband. But she's feeling the duke's been treating her with kid gloves, and she'd like to unleash some of the same passion he shows for his ducal responsibilities, yet channel it into sexual and emotional enthusiasm for her. Her Grace's goals: Use the Scarlet Lady's tips to keep His Grace from seeking a mistress like so many men of his station, and shake up his damned politesse so he sees her as a thinking, competent, sensual woman, not a biddable china doll.

Colton Northfield's bowled over by Brianna's new sensuality, and takes full advantage of the carriage, the boudoir and just about anywhere and for any reason.  But Brianna's his wife, not a courtesan, and Northfield can't help but wonder where she's gaining such outrageously erotic knowledge.  

As Northfield's suspicions increase along with his and Brianna's sensual explorations, the couple becomes closer in many ways. Yet Northfield, being a boneheaded romance hero, can't leave sexy enough alone.  His reactions and lessons learned - and Brianna's subsequent growth-turn this novel from lovely, sexy romp to damn fine love story worthy of an immediate re-read.

How do you feel about the "book within a book" device, or one that uses snippets of a fictional book at the opening of each chapter? What do you like about novels in which a hero and heroine are married prior to their sensual exploration?  

Michelle Buonfiglio writes regularly about romance fiction at's Heart to Heart blog and Click here for more of her UB romance fiction columns.

by PrincessBumblebee on ‎11-17-2009 02:08 PM

Hey, QB!

Oh, I usually love it when there's a book in a book! Especially when the author gives us a snippet in the beginning of the paragraph. Karen Hawkins is good at that! It's usually pretty funny.

I don't really read any books with the hero and heroine already married. I guess cause I'm a single gal and can't really relate to that. But, I know there are lots of women out there who are married. And, hey, if they get "pointers' from a courtesan like the heroine described, koodos to them! hehe

by Author MonicaBurns on ‎11-17-2009 04:33 PM

Michelle, I'm BIG fan of Emma's. I'm really looking forward to this story. And I like the married, let's have more fun now stories. Looking forward to this one!! As for book in a book, I don't think I've ever thought about it before. I read the snippets at the beginning of chapters, but I'm afraid I rarely know the literature being referenced *blush* so I sort of just blast right by it. *double blush*


But Emma's work is always delish, so I'm bound to love the book no matter what.

by on ‎11-17-2009 05:39 PM

I love when what the book character is reading is a real book. Anyone else gone out and picked up a copy of the referenced?

by Moderator dhaupt on ‎11-17-2009 05:50 PM

Hey Michelle, what color are you wearing right now? ;-) Red dress, red teddy, red nightie doesn't matter red is the POWER color.

I love the book within the book and I think more authors than not use it, after all they were readers before they were writers and most of them include it.

I love the novels where the couple is already married and a perfect example is Eloisa's Dutchesses, Jemma the Duchess of Beaumont and Poppy the Duchess of Fletcher who were a part of her Desperate Duchess series, because when the I do's are done the author/story teller really shows her stuff if she can keep the heat up in the marriage. It's much easier in my humble opinion anyway for the author to have a boy gets girl tale, but the boy marries girl and  keeps girl even when he's stupid is a much harder thing to do.


by Moderator becke_davis on ‎11-17-2009 06:09 PM

I like the book-within-a-book concept. Sometimes, in the heat of the moment, it can be a little distracting, but usually I am excited to see that type of beginning-of-the-chapter excerpt/quote. I have a real weakness for quotes, in fact -- love, love, love a good quote.


I could totally see Michelle in a little red dress, although when I think to the night of the RITA awards, it was Hank Phillippi Ryan in the amazing red dress. (I would have killed for Michelle's shoes, if I could have walked in them.)


I've already got one of Emma's books in my TBR pile. I'll get this one, and maybe I'll find time to read them both in the coming week. Thanks for recommending it!

by Joan_P on ‎11-17-2009 10:19 PM


Becke said, "I have a real weakness for quotes, in fact -- love, love, love a good quote."


This is the best I could come up w/ "off the cuff"!


"A dress makes no sense unless it inspires men to take it off of you."

Francoise Sagan (lots of good quotes at this link!)


Michelle- thanks; this will go on my TBR list :smileyhappy: 



by Lisa_Kroener on ‎11-18-2009 05:32 AM

It actually depends on the "second book". I've read books where I very, very much enjoyed the book within because it 1. added to the actualy story and 2. it itself was absolutely worth reading. But there also were those books where the second story just distracted and didn't have anything to do (at least not for simply me) with the actual story, and I found that most irritating...


Oh my, I feel like I have to make myself an outsider again since I don't have any red clothes whatsoever. The reason is - I've got red hair. And red hair and red clothes absolutely don't go togehter. Believe me, I've tried it. Not. Good.



by 1lovealways on ‎11-18-2009 05:45 PM

Hi Michelle!


This sounds like a good book!  I can just see the look on the hero's face as he tries to understand how his wife has come by all of her sensual knowledge (smiling)!  I love the book-within-a-book.  So much fun!  Not only for the heroine, but for us the reader as we try to figure out how she will apply what she's read to her situation.


I love the idea of the hero/heroine being married before their sensual exploration, because it adds another layer to the romantic story.  Neither knows anything about the other in this area of their relationship.  Although they are married, it isn't often for love, but for some conflict that has thrown them together.  The tension that develops along the way and leads to the final culmination in love and desire is often better in the married before scenario than any other format.  These two people have to learn to trust each other. It's like they both grow together and so does their relationship as the story moves along.  What makes it even better is an epilogue and they have kids.  Love that!  :smileyhappy:

by Blogger Albert_Rolls on ‎11-19-2009 12:33 AM

Hi Michelle,

I suddenly feel the need to worry about restoration wardrobes, but alas I'm going to settle for something a little earlier, Robert Herrick's "Delight in Disorder," which reminds us that a wardrobe can often be more alluring when it suggest scandal but is not obviously scandalous. 


A Sweet disorder in the dress  

Kindles in clothes a wantonness:  

A lawn about the shoulders thrown  

Into a fine distraction;  

An erring lace, which here and there

Enthrals the crimson stomacher:  

A cuff neglectful, and thereby  

Ribbons to flow confusedly;  

A winning wave, deserving note,  

In the tempestuous petticoat;

A careless shoe-string, in whose tie  

I see a wild civility:  

Do more bewitch me than when art  

Is too precise in every part.


by Blogger Michelle_Buonfiglio on ‎11-19-2009 01:37 PM

Principessa, how interesting! I never really thought of whether the "married" romance might appeal to a single reader.  I wonder if there are lots of other readers like you on that score...   I find any "snippets" at the beginning of chaps kind of fun, whether fictional or "factual." :smileyhappy:  The "epistolary" device -- when letters written by characters w/in the book are featured at the beginning of the chaps -- are fun.  Julia Quinn's "When He Ws Wicked" uses that device to really great effect.  The book's a bit darker than her books usually are, also quite sexy.  But the "letter" snippets really weave a lighter, yet often poignant counterpoint.  My fave JQ.   Hawkins has those great 'words of wisdom' from the Scottish seer, right?  And Sabrina Jeffries just finished a series in which the chap head letters lead to a final romance.

Hi, Mon!  Ah, a Wildes fan.  Inthis case, the 'book' is fictional.  of course, we see the 'courtesan's advice' book fairly often in romances.  But I've gotta say, this is a tremendously good use of the riff, and Wildes threads the theme through a secondary romance, as well as other characters' lives to very cool effect.  I just totally dug this read.

by Blogger Michelle_Buonfiglio on ‎11-19-2009 01:47 PM

What a great question, TiggerBear!  I've definitely found that novels featuring actual books have inspired me to pick up and reread, especially "Pride and Prejudice," and other Austen, since many romances riff on em.  I know romances w/ classic fables and mythology have made me go back to research what I knew as the 'originals.'  As a musician, I'm always tickled when opera and art songs, for example, are used in romances, but that's not quite the same thing, I guess.  Have you had the experience of reading a book after seeing it featured?  

Great examples, deb, the james' duchesses.  The marriage certainly does up the ante since we're not just jonesin' for the sensual denouement, as it were, because it's likely to have happened.  In some ways, maybe it's more interesting for a writer, because one hears so many of them talk about the tediousness of writing the pivotal sex scene.  In this book, there is perhaps the best of both worlds, because we're treated to a lovely secondary romance that is not a "married" romance.

That's right, you are a quote girl, becke.  Let us know how you like the Wildes when you read it.  "An Indecent Proposal?"

by Blogger Michelle_Buonfiglio on ‎11-19-2009 01:52 PM

Joan_P, fabulous quote!  Welcome, too.  Like the way you think.


Hi, LisaK! Oh, but the titian-haired heroines always find the perfect red gown that steals the breath from all the men in the room.  Perhaps a new modiste?  I once read an historical that had quotes at the beginning of ea chapter, and some were contemporary quotes.  It threw me for a loop, although the book was quite good.  So i think I know what you mean about a disconnect between the book w/in.  Sometimes when a character is a writer and that book is featured a lot, it can get distracting if too much of the book's used.

by Blogger Michelle_Buonfiglio on ‎11-19-2009 02:04 PM

You know, 1la, you've really articulated well the appeal of the "married" romance. Thanks for that!  And in this Wildes, not only does the main hero have some interesting reactions, there is a scene in which a few lines tell the tale of another man's reaction to the courtesan's advice, and it's a priceless little exchange.


Ah, Albert, the appeal of deshabille!  You certainly know your audience, for there's not a better selection to offer a bunch of women who adore historical romance. Thank you for the treat! You know, we can enjoy hours of discussion re why layers of petticoats promised untold sensuality to a gentleman -- and why a gentleman's calf in stockings would have been undeniably alluring to a woman.   Two author friends of H2H have a delightful blog called TwoNerdyHistoryGirls, where we do just that.  Oh, and please don't get us started on the merits of stockinette...

by on ‎11-19-2009 11:15 PM

What a great question, TiggerBear!  I've definitely found that novels featuring actual books have inspired me to pick up and reread, especially "Pride and Prejudice," and other Austen, since many romances riff on em.  I know romances w/ classic fables and mythology have made me go back to research what I knew as the 'originals.'  As a musician, I'm always tickled when opera and art songs, for example, are used in romances, but that's not quite the same thing, I guess.  Have you had the experience of reading a book after seeing it featured? 


Oh yes, I always chase afetr what a character in a book is reading. For me it's like clues into that charaters brain, or at least the authors.

by amyskf on ‎11-20-2009 12:19 AM

I like the "fictional book" w/in a, well, fictional book. Sometimes I wish the author would write that book as well. And I love it when an author has the snippets of whatever before a chapter, sort of a heres-what-to-expect kind of thing. 


I also love a romance where the couple is already married, whether seemingly happily or separated...Sherry Thomas's first book -- Private Arrangements, was brilliant. 

by on ‎11-20-2009 12:22 AM

Wow, wouldn't spell check on the blogs be nice.

by Moderator becke_davis on ‎11-22-2009 06:14 PM

Dorothy Parker is my favorite quotable author -- just a bit naughty!


• Ducking for apples -- change one letter and it's the story of my life.


• That woman speaks eighteen languages, and can't say No in any of them.


“I wish I could drink like a lady / I can take one or two at the most / Three and I'm under the table / Four and I'm under the host”


“His voice was as intimate as the rustle of sheets.”

by Joan_P on ‎11-25-2009 10:21 AM

Hi Michelle!


Lisa asked on her post from "Surviving the Holidays, Chick Lit Style", "What books will be your escape over the holidays"? I just started my first Emma Wilded book, "An Indecent Proposition" and love it! I am definitely going to pre order "Little Red Dress"!


For Thanksgiving I will escape with "An Indecent Proposition" and for the New Year it will be "Little Red Dress"! For Christmas I will have to go back and find more of her work. lol


Thanks- I think you are my new favorite blogger :smileyhappy: Escape is good!



by Joan_P on ‎11-26-2009 11:32 PM

OMG!!! I devoured Wildes "Indecent Proposal" in 2 days- I would've read it in one day if I didn't have to work!!! Thanks Michelle, for a hot tip on a hot author!!

by Blogger Michelle_Buonfiglio on ‎11-27-2009 12:01 AM

So glad you enjoyed, Joan!  I read it exactly the same way. :  )  And thank you so much for your very kind words. It's great to have you here!  Please come hang w/us at H2H, too, if you'd like.

by Joan_P on ‎11-27-2009 01:33 PM

Thanks, Michelle!


Can you recommend any other authors like Emma Wildes?


How do I get to H2H?



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