E.E. Burke's New Release: Jolie, A Valentine's Day Bride

Meet Jolie, the most unexpected bride in Noelle...

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Jolie LaFemme has been a working girl at La Maison for four long years...ever since being betrayed and left penniless, grieving and adrift. She’s jaded, distrustful and blind to the possibility of love. As far as she's concerned, being the madam of a popular sporting house is the best she can hope for, and nothing will convince her to give up the coveted and lucrative position. 
Hank Donavan arrives in Noelle with a plan to ensure his sister's financial security, and regain his pride. He’s a man in his prime, handsome by any measure, but an accident ruined his vision...and his future. Now, he travels with his dog, Bear, and sells beautiful handmade Valentine’s cards. His big opportunity comes when he gets a chance to invest in the town’s richest silver mine. There’s only one catch: he has to be married first. 

Who would marry a blind man with little to recommend him when there are plenty of hale and hearty men to go around?

Here's an excerpt:

A knock sounded at the front door.
“I’ll get that,” Jolie called out. She paused to check her hair in the mirror and smoothed down wayward strands. She hated the garish yellow it turned after she’d tried to make it golden, and her face was as pale as a corpse. She bit her lips and pinched her cheeks, which didn’t really help, then grimaced at her reflection before she turned away. Hopefully, it was no one important. The regulars knew better than to call before noon.
If it did happen to be a customer, she’d call down one of the other girls to entertain him. That was one advantage of being the madam, not having to work upstairs in order to make a living. The worst part of being in the business was putting up with men that were, in a word, repulsive.
Jolie opened the door and sucked in a gasp.
The least repulsive man she’d ever seen stood on the front porch. Arresting blue eyes framed with dark lashes; rich brown hair, clean and shiny and just long enough to tempt a woman’s fingers to comb through it; smooth-shaven face with strong lines, yet too classic to be called rugged. He wore a clean, pressed suit—which put him in the minority in the rough mining town of Noelle—and he held a large case, closed with leather straps. Next to him sat a huge brindle-colored dog.
A smile tugged at Jolie’s lips. She hadn’t seen a dog that large since she’d bid goodbye to her beloved childhood pet, Soldier. For a heartbeat, she couldn’t decide whether it was the man, or the dog, who was a more welcome sight.
“Good afternoon.” The man’s rich baritone sent shivers down Jolie’s spine. His gaze appeared to be trained on a spot a bit to the right, as if he were looking over her shoulder. She glanced back to see if Angelique stood behind her. No, no one else there.
“It’s not quite after noon,” she pointed out.
“Is this La Maison?” He appeared uncertain.
Could he not read the sign? She’d paid dearly to have a new one painted, and had even asked the French-speaking artist to create an image of a chateau. The idiot had painted a hat. Chapeau, he’d proclaimed proudly. It would’ve cost too much to repaint it, so maybe that’s what had confused the man standing at her door.
“Yes, this is La Maison. May I ask your business?”
“Yes, ma’am…or is it Miss?”
“Neither. It’s Jolie.”
His remarkable blue eyes shifted to her face and narrowed in a way that suggested he was evaluating her features. “As in très jolie?”
Ah, a smooth-talker, or he was having a joke at her expense. Either way, she didn’t appreciate it. “No, just Jolie.”
“Pleased to meet you. I’m Hank Donovan, but just Hank will do. May I come in, Jolie?”
“Yes, of course, just Hank.”
His lips twisted in amusement. How nice to know he could take a joke, as well as deliver one. Too many men were sadly lacking in humor, and she’d borne the bruises to prove it.

She moved out of the way so Hank could enter. Business was business, after all. She didn’t turn down a chance to make money, and neither did the other girls, especially when a customer looked as nice as this one.

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My inspiration board for Jolie
Where is Noelle? 

Our fictional town was actually inspired by a real place: Leadville, Co. We've taken a few liberties, but for the most part we've stayed true to the history of that area where the richest silver strike in the state was accidentally discovered! 

Does Hank have a seeing eye dog?

Not exactly, but... After World War I, a doctor in Germany noticed the protective behavior of his dog around patients and set up some experiments, then the first recorded training occured in England. That's not to say there weren't blind people who discovered how smart dogs were long before that. Hank, being a very smart man, connects with Bear, a very smart dog, and the two learn from each other. Yes, I'm taking liberties by having Hank "train" Bear, but I don't think it's so far off to be unbelievable. Initially, the formal schools didn't accept the idea that dogs could be trained, but eventually the dogs showed them it could be done!

What were the attitudes toward prostitution in the Old West?

"Can't live with 'em, can't live without 'em." That pretty well sums it up. In the mid-1800s, men, primarily single, younger men, fanned out across the frontier and prostitution (the oldest profession, as they say) followed. Men wanted access to women for all kinds of reasons (not only sex, also a sense of female companionship they sorely missed). Women entered prostitution for all kinds of reasons (abandonment, abuse, to avoid starvation, for the lure of easy money, etc.). But these were Victorian times, and a woman who expected to marry was also expected to remain "pure." Men put "pure" women on pedestals. They used the services of whores, enjoyed being with them, but most would not marry one. That isn't to say it didn't happen. Some men did want to marry their painted ladies. In quite a few cases, well-off working girls or madams didn't wish to be married because it meant giving up their relative "freedom" and handing their husbands power over them. In Jolie's case, it takes a very special and unique man to convince her to leave behind her hard-won position, the only security she knows, and take a risk on love.

Why did you pick a "fallen woman" as a heroine?

Simply put, she was the one character in the last series I thought most needed her own love story! She's resentful of the brides when they arrive and really gives them a hard time. Saying she's jealous doesn't really get at all the emotions behind her reaction to being evicted from her home to make room for a passel of new brides.

When I first conceived this story, I was a little concerned about featuring a prostitute as the heroine because I wasn't sure readers would be able to "relate" to her. Although this is a "Sweet Romance," I didn't sanitize Jolie. I did try very hard to humanize her and explore emotions that we can all, as women understand and appreciate. I thought her story would be fascinating to write. Finding her perfect hero, now that was a challenge!

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Brides of Noelle will feature brides for every season, starting with Valentine's Day. My book and Kit Morgan's latest, Ophelia, A Valentine's Day Bride, kick off the new series. 

This series came about as a result of the wonderful response to our Twelve Days of Christmas Mail-Order Brides and will feature stories set in the same fictional town of Noelle, Colorado. 

We'll be following many of the characters you met in the Christmas stories along with some new arrivals.
In March, Amanda McIntyre will release Norah, A St. Patrick's Day Bride.

Find out more about our series by joining our special Facebook group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/1625057007540555/

Check out my other books! www.eeburke.com/books

If you're familiar with Noelle, whose story would you like to read next? If not, what kinds of characters would you like to meet in Noelle?

Enter the drawing for your chance to win a $25 Amazon Gift Card. 

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  1. Characters that are scarred should be represented more.

    1. I do like atypical heroes and heroines. Actually, they were pretty typical characters in the Old West! Thanks for commenting!

  2. E.E. Happy Valentine's week to you and i love these books! peggy clayton

  3. I cannot wait to read this story. I love how original it is and look forward to finding out how everything works out for a blind man.

    1. I'm eager for you to read it and let me know what you think. I loved writing this story. Thanks for commenting!

  4. Any thing these ladies write is wonderful. I love EE's mail order brides steam train series.

  5. I am looking forward to reading her story. I was wondering about her backstory.

    1. It was really heartbreaking to research prostitution in that day. So many women ended up there when they had no other way to survive. I wanted to find a happy ending for Jolie, and then Hank knocked on her door!

  6. I'm currently reading it and enjoying.

    1. Yay! I'm so happy to hear that. :) Thanks for commenting.

  7. I will be reading this over the long weekend. Can't wait!