The Southwark Saga


With so many British historical romances set in the nineteenth century, you would be forgiven for thinking nothing happened in England before the Regency. Although the nineteenth century was a time of progress, change, and those famous balls at Almack’s, I decided to set my new historical series two hundred years earlier in the seventeenth century. 

The Southwark Saga begins in 1671, eleven years after the restoration of Charles II. The Restoration is an exciting period to read, write and research. It was a time of change and was characterized by cataclysmic events, such as the English Civil War that saw the execution of Charles I and the exile of his son with a significant part of the Court. The Plague killed an estimated 200,000 people between 1665 and 1666 and was chronicled in Defoe’s nightmarish Journal of a Plague Year. The last of that was wiped out by the Great Fire of London, which incinerated most of the medieval City of London over a four day period, destroying 13,200 houses and 87 churches including St. Paul’s cathedral, and killing or displacing thousands of people. After the fire, London was rebuilt with a new street plan designed by Christopher Wren, and began to take on the shape it is today, with the new St. Paul’s Cathedral as its crowning glory. 

There were also many larger than life figures who we still remember to this day. Charles II, “The Merry Monarch” had more mistresses than there are days in the week and several illegitimate children, and when the Great Fire threatened to consume the entirety of London, he and his brother, the Duke of York, fought the fire themselves. Diarist Samuel Pepys meticulously recorded his daily life in the 1660s, providing an invaluable resource for historians, while John Wilmot, the Earl of Rochester, kept people laughing with his bawdy verse. Lower down the chain you’ll find Solomon Eccles, a composer who had a religious awakening and spent his days nude with a dish of burning coals on his head, urging passers-by the repent as they did their shopping. 

The Restoration is a wonderful time to set fiction, and particularly romance. With the Civil War behind them, London was in the mood to celebrate. The theaters reopened and women were allowed onstage, providing cheap entertainment to people of any class most nights of the week. The rigid social structure and excessive manners of the nineteenth century had not set in yet, and the social mobility of the time was second to none. Courtesans regularly rose above their stations, such as Nell Gwynn, who rose from an orange seller of humble birth to become Charles II’s favorite mistress. 

The poor could still marry with little more than a declaration and a witness. Highwaymen haunted the forests and roads around the city, and execution at Tyburn was a real threat to them and anyone caught stealing anything worth more than a shilling. For excitement, color, and danger, you’ll be hard pressed to find a time better for fiction than the seventeenth century. 

Tyburn, the first book of The Southwark Saga, follows Sally Green, a French immigrant and Covent Garden prostitute as she tries to escape her unfortunate circumstances. Hero Nick Virtue is a private domestic tutor turned highwayman must decide if saving her is worth risking his life.

In Virtue’s Lady, Lady Jane Ramsey attempts to marry out of wealth when she falls for Nick’s brother, Mark, an ex-convict and carpenter who lives in the slum in Southwark. Five years after the fire, Mark is still struggling to adapt his business for a city that no longer wants wooden houses, and the last thing he needs is an earl taking shots at him for ruining his daughter. 

I wrote both books with the aim to show you what the Restoration was like from the ground up. You’ll feel the dirt, smell the river, and taste the terrible, terrible coffee right along with the characters as you are introduced to a new world in historical romance. I invite you to join me in the seventeenth century, and I very much hope you’ll enjoy The Southwark Saga. 

Tyburn 


When survival is impossible, love is everything.

Sally Green is about to die.

She sees Death in the streets. She can taste it in her gin. She can feel it in the very walls of the ramshackle brothel where she is kept to satisfy the perversions of the wealthy. She had come to London as a runaway in search of her Cavalier father. Instead, she found Wrath, a sadistic nobleman determined to use her to fulfill a sinister ambition. As the last of her friends are murdered one by one, survival hinges on escape. 

Nick Virtue is a tutor with a secret. By night he operates as a highwayman, relieving nobles of their riches to further his brother’s criminal enterprise. It’s a difficult balance at the best of times, and any day that doesn’t end in a noose is a good one. Saving Sally means risking his reputation, and may end up costing him his life. 

As a brutal attack throws them together, Sally finds she has been given a second chance. She is torn between the tutor and the highwayman, but she knows she can have neither. Love is an unwanted complication while Wrath haunts the streets. Nick holds the key to Wrath’s identity, and Sally will risk everything to bring him to justice.
       
Unless the gallows take her first. 


Reviews 

"Jessica Cale has written a romance that will remain one of my all-time favorites. With characters who could belong in a Dickensian classic, a sweet romance to make the spirit soar, and heroes who have to surmount incredible odds, Tyburn has it all." - Rosanna Leo

"After meeting Nick I began to hope that Sally could escape her station in life. But Jessica Cale had much more in store than just an escape. The twists and suspense as Tyburn unfolded were just right and kept me cheering for good to triumph -although I must give emphasis to the darkness written so poetically and truthfully in Tyburn, giving a great contrast. The friendship Sally found with Nick and his brother Mark Virtue and his men had so many warm moments of substance. (I can't wait to read Mark's story next) In Tyburn, I loved all of the little revelations that kept coming forth adding to the heart of the story and having me loving every scene as great secrets unraveled. I especially loved the tearfully joyful epilogue!" - Joni, Luv My Books 

"Unapologetic highwaymen, harlots, dual personalities, honor among thieves, murder, desire and lesbian prostitutes combine to create a novel of substance and the only fluff seen for miles is perhaps the puff in the ladies gowns.  The seedy streets of London come absolutely alive and feels like a character in and of itself." - Sheena, Smexy Books

"Who doesn’t love a dashing highwayman? Especially when he’s also a tutor. A rogue and a scholar? Sign me up! Nick Virtue joins the list of my favorite heroes. One of the things I loved about this novel was the fabulous character development. Each one, even the side characters, were interesting and unique. Sally, our heroine, draws you in and the mystery Ms. Cale weaves keeps you turning the page. I routed for Sally from the start and loved every minute of her journey." - Kailynn Jones

“London is brought to life through Cale's words, her descriptions fantastic without being overbearing even without the landmarks we know and love, as the book is set shortly after London starts to rebuild from the Great Fire. She uses the timing perfectly throughout the book, weaving in the economical hardship that must have been present at the time for the lower classes effortlessly. Overall this is a fantastic story to get lost in for a while. If we were to lay out all the historical romances end to end, best to worst, this would be towards the top end of the pile without a doubt.” - Christine Mcilwaine

“Tyburn is a tale of lies, love and debauchery set in the Restoration, a little used but fascinating era of history. Set in the familiar locale of London, it pulls back the modern perceptions that we are so used to and displays the seedy underside of a city we think we know. Jessica Cale manages to weave a believable narrative around actual personages whilst evoking the zeitgeist of Stuart London. You can almost smell the streets when the characters walk them and taste the food they eat...You close the book with a feeling of elation rather than one of depression, which is how a lot of historically based fiction with female protagonists seems to leave me feeling. Like much of the writing of the period, Sally’s story echoes the themes of trial and tribulation, the resolution one that the reader feels is a fair ending without feeling overly saccharine or forced.” - Samantha Ryan

"Tyburn is one of the best historical romances I have EVER read. I was not familiar with the works of Jessica Cale before this, but I am so happy to have discovered her. ... Jessica Cale’s main characters are multi-faceted. None of them is only black or white. They are complex, morally ambiguous and fully human. I think you will FEEL the characters and that's what makes her books special. ... They all are woven in an intricate fresco of Restoration England. The author has a gift with words, creating vivid images of a London infested by “rodents” of various kinds –two and four legged. She displays a keen observation of detail and unfiltered representation of London society after the Great Fire. Just read Tyburn and you won't be disappointed. I can count on one hand, the number of times I was this heavily invested in the characters of a book. All I can say is WOW!" - Carmen Stefanescu

Awards


Winner of the Southern Magic Gayle Wilson Award of Excellence, 2015 (Historical)






Virtue's Lady 

From toiling for pennies to bare-knuckle boxing, a lady is prepared for every eventuality.

Lady Jane Ramsey is young, beautiful, and ruined.

After being rescued from her kidnapping by a handsome highwayman, she returns home only to find her marriage prospects drastically reduced. Her father expects her to marry the repulsive Lord Lewes, but Jane has other plans. All she can think about is her highwayman, and she is determined to find him again.

Mark Virtue is trying to go straight. After years of robbing coaches and surviving on his wits, he knows it’s time to hang up his pistol and become the carpenter he was trained to be. He busies himself with finding work for his neighbors and improving his corner of Southwark as he tries to forget the girl who haunts his dreams. As a carpenter struggling to stay in work in the aftermath of The Fire, he knows Jane is unfathomably far beyond his reach, and there’s no use wishing for the impossible. 

When Jane turns up in Southwark, Mark is furious. She has no way of understanding just how much danger she has put them in by running away. In spite of his growing feelings for her, he knows that Southwark is no place for a lady. Jane must set aside her lessons to learn a new set of rules if she is to make a life for herself in the crime-ridden slum. She will fight for her freedom and her life if that’s what it takes to prove to Mark—and to herself—that there’s more to her than meets the eye. 

Amazon UK | Amazon US 

Reviews

"Captivating. Unique and badass historical novel. Jessica Cale has come to play ladies and gents! There comes a time where you read a novel and the writing is so engaging, the story so vivid, the imagery so convincing and the characters so seductive that reading it becomes more than a pastime and evolves into a totally amazing experience. I stand before you today, barely able to communicate coherently through my blissed-out, post reading euphoric haze. I keep trying to hold on to rationale, of course you can not transport yourself back to restoration London and be apart of this world.- No Sheena, it does not work that way, it’s a novel, honey…gah. Virtue’s Lady has catapulted me to defcon 1 levels of OHMIGODTHISBOOKISGOOD! Book one, Tyburn, snared my attention and I was so engrossed in Virtue’s Lady that around 67% through, I became feverishly obsessed with the fear that it would all end far too soon! (Spoiler alert- it did!)" - Sheena, Smexy Books

"Minutes after closing Jessica Cale's Virtue's Lady, I am still alternately sighing and wishing I could live in her world a little longer. Thanks to this book, book 2 in her wonderful Southwark Saga, and Tyburn (book 1), Ms. Cale has become my favorite new author. Her attention to detail is meticulous and yet she never gets bogged down in useless information. The story never suffers from too much information. And, oh, what a story! Lady Jane Ramsey is an earl's daughter in post-Fire London. She has fallen, quite inconveniently, in love with Mark Virtue, the sexiest hero I've met in a long time. However, Mark is a carpenter who lives south of river amongst whores and laborers. He's even spent time in Newgate Prison. That doesn't stop this plucky pair from becoming absolutely besotted with one another. While Mark attempts to nobly put Jane aside, so she may live her life of privilege, Jane will have nothing to do with it. This woman fights for her man. Literally. Several times. She is a wonderful heroine. Filled with snippets set in the prison, the terrifying Bedlam, and cast with so many delightful characters, Virtue's Lady will remain a beloved read of mine. I know any romance fan will adore it, too." - Rosanna Leo



The Long Way Home

A paranoid king, a poison plot, and hideous shoes…it’s not easy being Cinderella.  

After saving the life of the glamorous Marquise de Harfleur, painfully shy barmaid Alice Henshawe is employed as the lady’s companion and whisked away to Versailles. There, she catches King Louis’ eye and quickly becomes a court favorite as the muse for Charles Perrault’s Cinderella. The palace appears to be heaven itself, but there is danger hidden beneath the fa├žade and Alice soon finds herself thrust into a world of intrigue, murder, and Satanism at the heart of the French court.

Having left his apprenticeship to serve King Charles as a spy, Jack Sharpe is given a mission that may just kill him. In the midst of the Franco-Dutch war, he is to investigate rumors of a poison plot by posing as a courtier, but he has a mission of his own. His childhood friend Alice Henshawe is missing and he will stop at nothing to see her safe. When he finds her in the company of the very people he is meant to be investigating, Jack begins to wonder if the sweet girl he grew up with has a dark side.

When a careless lie finds them accidentally married, Alice and Jack must rely on one another to survive the intrigues of the court. As old affection gives way to new passion, suspicion lingers. Can they trust each other, or is the real danger closer than they suspect?

                          Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Google Books | iBooks | Kobo

Reviews

“Really brilliant writing that's so engaging with such endearing characters! I especially love the way Jack and Alice are both so devoted to each other! I was totally absorbed in this exciting and fascinating world Jessica Cale created from the very first paragraph to the last! I read this all in one sitting, staying awake late to finish, just had to!” – Romazing Reader

"Equal parts historical fiction and historical romance, The Long Way Home offered me a fascinating glimpse into the life, intrigue, and scandal that could be found in the court of King Louis XIV in 1677 France. Jessica Cale expertly wove historical facts and customs into the narrative without detracting from the plot... and all of it was fascinating. No skimming paragraphs in this novel! As for the romance... this was one of those slow burning, gentle rain romances that make one sigh in the end. Ms. Cale expertly uses her superior skills as an author to build the tension to the point that you are squirming and dying with anticipation for that moment to happen. As a reader, I devoured every page, my anxiety almost palpable as I waited for that perfect moment... the moment they lay eyes on each other for the first time in five years. And it was, indeed, quite perfect." - Amy Quinton

"I loved Jack, he's a charming male lead who is adorably still a virgin like Alice. Not enough romance novels take this tact and I was so into how eager and inexperienced they both were. I couldn't recommend this book more. It brightened a rainy Melbourne afternoon, transporting me to Yea olde France and putting a huge dorky smile on my face. Do yourself a favor and read this gosh darn book, it works even if your haven't read the other excellent novels in The Southwark Saga but I highly recommend you do." - Eve Dangerfield

"Raw, entertaining and deliciously mischievous, the residents of Southwark ensnare you, daring you to look away as they flounder and flourish, each citizen living their lives even more unapologetically than the next.  A throwaway town chock full of highwaymen, whores, actresses, barmaids, the downtrodden and a variety of ne’er-do-wells, Southwark is teaming with life and is a character all its own." - Sheena, Smexy Books 

Broken Things 

Rival. Sister. Barmaid. Whore.

Meg Henshawe has been a lot of things in her life, and few of them good. As proprietress of The Rose and Crown in Restoration Southwark, she has squandered her life catering to the comfort of workmen and thieves. Famous for her beauty as much as her reputation for rage, Meg has been coveted, abused, and discarded more than once. She is resigned to fighting alone until a passing boxer offers a helping hand.

Jake Cohen needs a job. When an injury forces him out of the ring for good, all he’s left with is a pair of smashed hands and a bad leg. Keeping the peace at The Rose is easy, especially with a boss as beautiful—and wickedly funny—as Meg Henshawe. In her way, she’s as much of an outcast as Jake, and she offers him three things he thought he’d never see again: a home, family, and love.

After Meg’s estranged cousin turns up and seizes the inn, Meg and Jake must work together to protect their jobs and keep The Rose running. The future is uncertain at best, and their pasts won’t stay buried. Faced with one setback after another, they must decide if what they have is worth the fight to keep it. Can broken things ever really be fixed?

Amazon US Amazon UK

Reviews

"Jessica Cale writes fantastic Historical romances. I hesitate to say that because I know people with automatically associate it with heaving bosoms and dainty maids and Dukes, and that's fine but that is not what Broken Things or the Southwark Saga is about. This historical romance as it's rarely done; following the gritty, grinding lives of the poorest, most downtroddenest people in Yea Olde London Town. The depth of Cale's knowledge about this particularly grim era is staggering. Jessica Cale is the master of the slow burn romance. I would encourage any romance reader, especially if they're not usually into historical stories to give this one a try." - Eve Dangerfield

“If you like romance in which the history is as rich and deep as it is accurate, and if you like well rounded deeply imagined, realistic characters with genuine issues that come to a believable and satisfying conclusion, you will love her entire Southwark Saga. This book is no exception. I can't praise it highly enough. Nobody but nobody writes about redemption as well as Jessica Cale.” - Caroline Warfield

“Jessica Cale always, always delivers some of the most incredibly intimate historical romances that I've ever read! Broken Things is written so vividly and beautifully detailed that I feel like I was transported to the year 1678. Meg and Jake may be broken things, having seen more than their fair share of the hard side of life, but they still keep up the good fight, together, clinging to the small hope for a happily ever after. A Brilliant Must Read Historical Romance!” - Romazing Reader

“I just left my heart in Southwark and can not wait for more! The historical romance setting and the separation of classes always makes this series appeal to me. Jessica Cale is an honest writer and so skilled at bringing the era to life! This book really delighted me in every way and gets my five stars! Go start this series if you haven't!” - Luv My Books


“Equal parts historical fiction and historical romance, Broken Things follows the love story of a tough as nails Englishwoman and a solitary Jewish prizefighter as they survive discrimination, poverty, thievery, and greed in 1678 London. Jessica Cale paints a vivid picture of life in 17th century Southwark. Her dialogue is colorful, witty, and well-crafted with careful consideration for the way people spoke in that time period while still giving the reader an easy, comforting read. You will cheer when our lovers find their HEA amidst all the broken things that make up their colorful lives.” - Amy Quinton

Comments

  1. Yay, another writer who loves the Restoration as much as I do. I am going to find your books and read them asap. I need a good read!!! Thank you for highlighting the wonderful 17rh century. Although it is so overlooked, it was a wonderful time in Englands rich history.

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