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There is Always More to the Story

Dear Readers

They say women are the biggest gossips but the latest scandal doing the rounds, started in the London Clubs, Whites in particular.

Lord Glennvale was overheard telling all who would listen that my good friend, Lord C, one of London’s latest rash of handsome rakes, was known to prefer to watch—watch other couples in the throes of passion that is.

gossipIt was said Lord C had interrupted the Duke of Sandringham with his latest mistress and had stayed to watch. Lord C’s perversions seem to be tolerated by many of his peers, but most of society is aghast at his behavior.

I can assure you, upon my honor, that there is a good reason why Lord C acts in such a scandalous manner, however the secret is not mine to tell.

However, Lord C has recently been seen in the company of the Duke of Sandringham’s widowed sister, and the likes of Lord Glennvale and his cronies are at a loss as to why Sandringham has not forbidden such a match. Does Lady P know more than she is telling? Or is there some reason why she has sought the handsome rake out?

The mystery deepens, and I can reveal that the lady bid against Lord C at the latest Sotheby auction. It was quite the battle…why did they both want this particular painting? Even I’m at a loss…

Yours truly, Lord Helmstone.

GossipDrawn To The Marquess (Imperfect Lords #2)– August 2018 Pre-order

Destined to go blind, a rake sets his sights on the toast of society, lighting a fire of passion that scorches the night, in this captivating novel from USA Today bestselling author Bronwen Evans.

Stephen Hornsby, the Marquess of Clevedon, has one goal: to see every exquisite thing he can before he goes blind. His greatest joy, watching a woman shuddering in the throes of passion, will be gone. But before the darkness descends, he is determined to seduce a magnificent widow, Lady Penelope Fisherton. Unfortunately, his rakish reputation has preceded him; Lady Penelope spurns his advances. Being a man who relishes a challenge, however, her reluctance adds only luster to his desire for the last beautiful sight he’ll ever see.

Considered the belle of London society, Lady Penelope was married to a scoundrel who cared for no one but himself. Now that she’s free, she wants nothing to do with love, passion, or desire—emotions that abandoned her with a cruel husband. So why does her body react when Stephen smiles? As much as she’d like to avoid the rogue, her brother-in-law wants her fortune, and he’ll kill to get it. Stephen is willing to help, but he’ll take only one thing in return: Her. In his bed.

 Excerpt:

 A bilious sensation churned in Penelope’s stomach. She’d learned his lordship wanted a painting coming up for sale in this auction. She had to buy the painting he wanted or else she would have nothing to barter with.

Unfortunately, Lord Clevedon was extremely wealthy. He was a man who would not need money, so why else would he help her? The painting was the key. 

She would win it.

She’d brought six-hundred pounds with her. More than enough for a painting valued at only one-hundred pounds. She hugged her reticule tightly. Being the Duke of Sandringham’s sister would help if she needed credit, but paying too much for a landscape from a relatively unknown painter, would arouse curiosity. As would buying a painting Lord Clevedon wanted. The last thing she needed right now was the gossips announcing to everyone that she was in town and engaging in a bidding war with the Marquess of Clevedon.

Just then Lady Charlotte retook her seat. Her friend was there for morale support. It was Charlotte who, because she always came to town for the season when Penelope didn’t, had ascertained the identity of Clevedon’s current mistress and allowed them to learn as much as possible about the rake. Luckily for them Lord Clevedon had recently ended his liaison with Lady Diana and she was so heartbroken that she simply wanted to talk about the man all day. That is how Penelope learned about his obsession with the Wilson landscape.

“I see Clevedon’s here. I perfectly understand how Lady Diana ended up in the man’s bed. I must admit I’m very tempted myself.” At Penelope’s alarmed look at her widowed friend, Charlotte added, “Of course not until he has helped you.”

“You may play with him all you like as soon as I’m finished with him.”

Penelope saw Charlotte take a second look. “I shall certainly look forward to that.” She giggled. “And not simply because with his help you’ll be safe. By the way, no woman is safe with that man. He’d tempt a nun.”

“Stop looking at him. I don’t want to be noticed.”

“When will you learn darling, that a little flirtation gets widowed women like us almost anything we want. You could have him twisted round your little finger with a smile.”
Penelope pinched the bridge of her nose and wished she were at home as a headache began to pound behind her eyes. 

“If this plan doesn’t work,” her friend continued, “then you could always offer yourself.”

Her head jerked up and her jaw tightened. “No. I will have to find another way. I will never allow a man power over me again.”

“Oh, darling,” Charlotte turned to stare at Lord Clevedon once more. “I suspect you’ll actually enjoy his bed. But if you’re that certain then there is always your brother.

He would help surely?”

She shook her head until her bonnet almost dislodged. She had her reasons for wanting Lord Clevedon. To pacify her friend she uttered, “If my brother gets involved…Sandringham would think he could control me too. I want to live my life, my way. No men commanding me.”

Charlotte sighed. “Then you best hope this man can save you, painting or no painting. With his reluctance for anything more permanent than a couple of nights of pleasure from his lovers, even if he does request you in his bed, it won’t likely be for long.”

That did not make the idea of intimacies with the Marquess of Clevedon any more appealing.

 Pre-order links: Drawn to the Marquess

Amazon        https://amzn.to/2HJbDGg
iBooks           https://apple.co/2raPFF7
Nook              http://bit.ly/2HFlBN2
Kobo              http://bit.ly/2I3QDNG
Google Play   http://bit.ly/2JGtb6r

About the Author

USA Today bestselling author, Bronwen Evans grew up loving books. She writes both historical and contemporary sexy romances for the modern woman who likes intelligent, spirited heroines, and compassionate alpha heroes.Evans is a three-time winner of the RomCon Readers’ Crown and has been nominated for an RT Reviewers’ Choice Award. She lives in Hawkes Bay, New Zealand with her dogs Brandy and Duke.

You can keep up with Bronwen’s news by visiting her website

www.bronwenevans.com

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WAS THE LADY RESCUED OR RETRIEVED?

17 July, 1821

Dear Readers,

Ever committed to bringing you the most interesting tidbits of news, our correspondents have uncovered a tantalizing story of mesalliance in one of the most formidable families of the kingdom.

In a past edition we wrote about a certain Lord S, his mistakenly reported death, and the discovery of an illegitimate son.  The last twelvemonth has brought unexpected marriages for Lord S’s heir and youngest son, but the most shocking of all is the latest news!

Several days ago Lord S was reportedly absent from important meetings and preparations for His Majesty’s coronation. Our diligent correspondents at first speculated that illness had overtaken the usually hearty earl, London being hot and overcrowded at this festive season.

But lo, we were wrong! It seems that Lord S departed London quite suddenly for parts unknown, and his return reveals a quite shocking possibility.

Lord S returned in the company of his only daughter, Lady P (a most substantial heiress who has reportedly eschewed the offers of some of the ton’s most eligible gentlemen), and a Mr. F, in past years a portrait artist favored by some of the best families, but absent from town for the last several years.  Upon arrival, the young lady was bundled into the noble townhouse with her limping father, and a surgeon visited shortly thereafter. For what purpose, we were unable to determine.

Further inquiries revealed that Lord S was seen visiting Doctors’ Commons in the company of none other than Mr. F!  Lord S has reserved an hour a week hence at St. George’s Church, Hanover Square.

Dear Reader, is there a hasty wedding in Lady P’s future?

Far be it from this reporter to impugn the name of such a patrician family. Still, one must wonder…was the noble lady rescued or retrieved? And was Mr. F engaged for the wedding portrait—or is he the gentleman she is wedding?

Never fear, dear reader, we will report further on this.

The Counterfeit Lady

Freedom!

Vowing she’ll never submit to an arranged marriage, an earl’s daughter bolts for the remote seaside cottage that should be hers upon marriage.

But instead of a quiet respite from her controlling family, she finds her refuge occupied by the last man she ever wants to see again—an American artist, who’s also a thief.

And quite possibly one of her father’s spies.

This story includes a rebellious heroine, a determined spy, a meddling father, a vicious villain, a cast of free-thinking free-traders and possibly a ghost or two!

Excerpt

“Lady Perpetua.”

Her lungs froze. Fox had opened that door soundlessly.

Chestnut shuddered and shifted around, nostrils sucking in the air that Perry couldn’t seem to find.

She sensed him moving through the dark and mustered a breath. “Go away. I’ll not ride away in my nightclothes.”

His dark form appeared next to her, silent and hulking.

Chestnut looked him over, remembering. She flicked her tail and nosed his hand.

“Traitor,” Perry muttered.

Fox didn’t laugh. His hand, that large hand with its long fingers, slid over the horse, stroking and soothing, the action pulling the warmth through her own flesh, soothing the hair on her neck and the tension behind her eyes.

She straightened her shoulders. “You’ve no doubt come to tell me again how dangerous it is here. How I shouldn’t be out in the stables at night.”

“It is dangerous, my lady.”

His lady. The words stirred her tension into a hot knot of unshed tears. She swallowed them back and made herself snort. “Ah, yes. Dangerous country. Smugglers and such.”

“You shouldn’t make light of it.”

“I don’t. I’m not unprotected. I have my knives and my pistols.”

“Would you use them?”

“I’ve been tempted to use them on you several times this night.”

His hand stopped. “Lady Perpetua, your government is cracking down on smugglers. Desperate men do desperate things. There is but one of you and many of them.”

“There’s a riding officer in these parts. There’s a baronet justice of the peace down the road. I will look them up if there is trouble.”

“And if they’re part of the smuggling organization?”

Her mind froze around the idea.

But of course. She was not so naive that she shouldn’t have realized—smuggling corrupted all of the locals. Though in all fairness, the smuggling in these parts had not been on her mind at all when she came here.

Fox pulled both of her hands into his. She dropped her gaze to them. “They won’t bother me. I am the daughter of the powerful Earl of Shaldon.”

He tensed at that and when he spoke his words were a scold. “They could make you disappear and no one would know. You ran away, didn’t you? You left London without telling anyone where you were going.”

“I wasn’t in London. Charley married. I was at his home in Yorkshire.”

“He will be frantic.”

She almost laughed. “You don’t know Charley, do you? And even if he were the type to worry, he thinks I’m visiting a friend.”

“So, you see. No one would know.”

Anger rippled through her and tightened her chest. “You would know, Fox. You would know. Unless you’re also part of it.”

“What if they’d killed me?”

She pulled her hands away. “No. You’re not going to muddle me again. I’m not leaving.”

He moved closer, towering over her. “No matter whose daughter you are, it’s not safe here for a beautiful young woman—”

“Stop.” She slapped his hands away. Chestnut sidestepped, and Perry took a breath. “I am simply one woman. One spinster well on the shelf. Not young, and not beautiful.”

“You are beautiful.” He clipped out the words, harshly, but those strong, long fingers curled over her shoulders, working their artist’s magic, sending tendrils of bright-colored feeling streaming into her, as if he could flick his brush and make her handsomer than God had made her.

She tried to swallow against a sudden dryness. She knew the truth. “Long Meg.” She breathed deeply. “Horse Face. Bluestocking. Ape Lead—”

His lips pressed to hers and for a moment she couldn’t find air. He used that moment, pulled her closer, flattened all of her against hard muscles, wrapped her in his long arms. His hands cradled her, his fingers dancing and doing things to her neck and her back that sent her nerves spinning. She sobbed, caught a breath, opened her mouth against his, and surrendered.

Buy Links

Amazon:   https://www.amazon.com/Counterfeit-Lady-Regency-Romance-Sons-ebook/dp/B07BJ39CVV

Kobo:  https://www.kobo.com/us/en/ebook/the-counterfeit-lady-1

Nook:  https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-counterfeit-lady-alina-k-field/1128249478

iBook:  https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/the-counterfeit-lady/id1361801023

Google: https://play.google.com/store/books/details/Alina_K_Field_The_Counterfeit_Lady?id=yetTDwAAQBAJ

Author Bio and links:

Award winning author Alina K. Field earned a Bachelor of Arts Degree in English and German literature, but her true passion is the much happier world of romance fiction. Though her roots are in the Midwestern U.S., after six very, very, very cold years in Chicago, she moved to Southern California and hasn’t looked back. She shares a midcentury home with her husband, her spunky, blonde, rescued terrier, and the blue-eyed cat who conned his way in for dinner one day and decided the food was too good to leave.

She is the author of several Regency romances, including the 2014 Book Buyer’s Best winner, Rosalyn’s Ring. She is hard at work on her next series of Regency romances, but loves to hear from readers!

Visit her at:

https://alinakfield.com/

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My virtue was saved by the language of the fan

The Castle Tavern, where regular events were held, especially card parties
and dancing assemblies. [ digital image owned by the Society of Brighton Print Collectors.]

Parkland House,
Marine Parade,
Brighton, 31st August 1814

Dearest Emily,

Today I shall not be present at Donaldson’s for the teatime meeting. It is a great pity when the weather is so mild and the sea is calm. However, Lady Fording is fatigued and so we must remain quietly at home. She won quite a large sum at cards last night, and continued playing longer than usual, encouraged by her success. I do love her for being such a sprightly old lady. And she is very kind to me, but even so, I cannot tell her anything about the Events of last night, even though it is thanks to her that I had the means to escape a Horrid Fate.

Emily, you swore to me you would keep anything I told you a Secret and so I will set down what happened. It will unburden my mind to share it with you. Let me begin from the moment when that odious Mrs Chetwynd interrupted our little gathering at the Castle Tavern last night. By the by, did you see how low cut her gown was? If she had so much as sneezed…! She took me into the other salon, into an alcove and [I shudder as I write his name] that horrible roué, Sir Bilton Kelly, was there, with his dissipated face and oily manner. Between the pair of them, they thought they had me trapped, so that I would submit to being taken to the Prince Regent’s private party.

My dear Lord Longwood had warned me repeatedly against accepting any such invitation, and indeed, I was very Angry, but could not push my way out of that narrow alcove with Mrs Chetwynd blocking the way. It was most humiliating to see that many people in the room were watching, some more discreetly than others. And, oh, thankfully, at the far end of the room was Lord Longwood. He noted the general silence and turned in my direction. Lady Fording has been instructing me in the language of the fan, and so, even though my hands were shaking [with anger, not fright, you understand], I hastily took mine in my hand, waved it, then snapped it shut, laying a finger on the top of the sticks. That signals ‘I wish to speak with you’, and Lord Longwood understood.

At once, he made his way over toward me. Mrs Chetwynd was angry and tried to distract him, but he ignored her. When Sir Bilton Kelly blustered, he stared at him through his eyeglass in a truly Terrifying manner. Then he offered me his arm and so I made my escape. Once we reached the hallway, my knees began to shake. You know how Lord Longwood’s face goes dark when he scowls, and his black hair falls over his forehead. He assured me he was not angry with me and suggested we should take a turn along the path up towards the Pavilion and back, so I might compose myself.

In his company I soon felt calmer. But then he announced that he would be leaving Brighton today to return to London. That made my heart sink into my boots, for he is always so kind and helpful towards me and, as you have suspected, I do love him with all my heart. On an impulse I begged him to kiss me goodbye. But I asked for a proper kiss. He was shocked and then, his face changed, those wonderful green eyes glowed and he did, indeed kiss me. In those moments, I went to heaven. But now I am Wretched, for I want more of those sensations. Oh, Emily, I depend on you to support me through the next days as I struggle to appear calm. At least, until we can meet for a conversation, I have my copy of Lord Byron’s Corsair, to divert my mind from its sorrows. Truly, Emily, I cannot decide if being in love is a blessing or a curse.

Your friend,

Anna

ABOUT THE BOOK

Giles Maltravers, Earl of Longwood, has his rakish lifestyle turned upside down the day he saves Anna Lawrence from a pair of drunken young bloods.

The irony is that Giles is now honour bound to protect this headstrong girl.

Inspired by a fervent devotion to the works of Lord Byron, Anna is determined to live a life of adventure, but she plunges from one disaster into another. Giles has no time left to enjoy his former pleasures, especially when his jealous mistress sets out to ruin Anna, and the Prince Regent decides that she is just in his style…

Set in Brighton in the summer of 1814, this is a story of a summer holiday that so nearly went disastrously wrong.

The Steyne, with walkers and the Prince Regent on horseback.
Donaldsons Library is on the right

Excerpt

A GIFT FOR ANNA

Anna allowed Giles to hurry her back out to his carriage for the short ride home. Giles took the reins and set off at a trot.

‘I see you’re wondering why Morgan is not accompanying us.’ he began, glancing at her with a half smile.

Anna clasped her hands together tightly. ‘I’m glad of it because I wished for a moment alone with you,’ she shook her head vigorously as he leaned forward to give her a roguish look. She gulped, ‘because I …to apologise for sometimes being troublesome.’

Giles raised his brows. ‘Miss Lawrence, now I am alarmed. You’re not yourself. I thought you spent every waking moment in devising adventures to lead yourself into danger and to give me the maximum amount of anxiety.’

But Anna was too wrought up to respond to his teasing. She was attempting to say a private goodbye to him before Mrs Wychwood claimed him as her husband. She gave an involuntary shudder at the idea. Then she saw that Giles was holding out a neatly wrapped package.

‘Pray accept this,’ he said, ‘with my apologies for taking so long to find it.’ He slowed the horses and pulled up, his eyes gleaming. ‘Do open it,’ he urged, ‘I must see your face when you do.’

‘For me?’ Anna hesitated. He nodded and pressed the package into her hands. She unwrapped the brown paper covering and stared wide-eyed at the slim, leather bound copy of The Corsair. ‘Oh…!’ She clutched it to her bosom as she raised her face to his. ‘Oh, sir…’

He smiled again. ‘My infant, it’s not often you’re so lost for words.’ His face softened, ‘but your expression speaks for you.’

Anna looked from the treasure in her hands to her dearest friend, so soon to be only her former friend. ‘Th-thank you,’ she said and burst into tears.

At once he pulled out a snowy handkerchief. ‘I was prepared for that,’ he remarked to no one in particular and mopped her eyes. Anna could smell his spicy cologne and she sniffed deeply at the well loved scent, even as she wept bitterly.

‘Come now, that’s enough,’ he told her, ‘I don’t wish you to appear with red eyes at the tea party.’

She sniffed. ‘It was so unexpected – and you don’t like Lord Byron.’

‘But you do.’ He looked closely at her. ‘Are you alright now?’

‘I’m sorry. Perhaps I’m not quite myself yet.’ She glanced at the precious book. Was it proper for her to accept it? But how could she refuse. He was her dearest friend and this was a fitting token to remember him by.

‘Well,’ he said, as he set the blacks trotting again, ‘I hope I did the right thing in giving it to you today. Now I worry that you’ll begin reading it at once and then we shall wait in vain for you this afternoon.’

‘Of course not,’ she protested, ‘but tonight I’ll read for as long as my candle lasts.’

If you enjoyed this snippet, you can buy the full story here  https://tinyurl.com/y9ngy558

The Royal Pavilion

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

The product of an Anglo-Welsh marriage, Beth enjoyed shuttling between the two countries and languages as a child. As she couldn’t sing like her Welsh relatives, she took to writing. The hills of wild Wales, the Lancashire plain, the grey north Atlantic coast, these were the first scenes in the stories she made up but soon her journeys became more adventurous. Perhaps that’s why her characters travel a lot. From the day she first met the Bennet sisters in Pride and Prejudice, Beth has been a devotee of Jane Austen. It’s always a pleasure for her to create stories set in that period. For more information about Beth and her books, see

https://elliottbeth.wixsite.com/regency-tales

She is on Facebook as Beth Elliott and on Twitter as @BethElliott

 

GRANDMOTHER FEARS GOVERNESS

Eaton Square

January 1821

Dear Teatime Tattler,

I do believe my darling grandson has lost his mind. I come to you, understanding that by addressing my desperation publically, I may make the gossip about him worse. But I need insights from your readers.

At six and thirty, he’s older than most bachelors should be. More attractive, too, dare I say, with a shock of bright blond hair and charming blue eyes. He’s wealthy with eleven thousand a year from estates, but independently situated because he is a hero of the recent campaigns abroad. Against Bony, my dear boy was a leader of men in our Army. For his service, he gained numerous awards and bonuses that allowed him to purchase a townhouse in Dudley Crescent. He’s lived an honorable life and at the recent demise of his older brother (who by the way never saw fit to open his purse to help him buy his kit!), he has inherited the earldom. He devotes himself to learning his new responsibilities and his tenants do praise him for his devotion. Their lot—shall I praise my boy inordinately?—has risen since his ascension to the title. He is so dear, so dedicated to those who rely upon him, that I fear for him in this new challenge he faces. Bless his soul, he deserves better than more turmoil in his life.

But I must get to the crux of his problem, mustn’t I?

A friend, a former comrade in arms, has recently passed this mortal coil. The man was a widower with a young daughter, age eight, in his sole care. At his demise, this gentleman wrote in his last will that he gave his daughter to the care of my grandson! The child is lovely, at first demure and well-mannered. But she arrived on my grandson’s doorstep with a dog and a parrot. Now mind you, canines are a special species. I keep quite a few hunters at my home in the country. But they sleep in the stables. Never in my home! And a parrot? Really. The creature talks like an inmate of Bedlam! But this, dear Tattler, is not the worst problem. Oh, no.

The child has moved in. She’s intelligent, but forward and will grow into a bluestocking, I wager. The dog seems well-mannered (and without too many fleas, I must add.) The bird, odd creature, irritates me because he (she?) imitates my greetings.

But the bigger problem is now the new governess. She is astonishingly beautiful with a heart-shaped face, green eyes the color of spring grass and a laugh so bright it would charm church bells. From what my grandson tells me, she has no previous employment as governess, but speaks French well and plays the piano like Brahms. He hired her within ten minutes of laying eyes upon her. But she disrupts his life with dancing in the upstairs hall and without invitation, moving pieces on his chessboard. Now he has her dining with him in the kitchen!

I fear, dear Tattler, she is there to lure my boy to the altar.  What should I say? What can I do to alert him to the possibility she will seduce him, marry him and ruin his reputation and his life?

Respectfully,

A doting Grandmother

Find out more

(This lady appears in the forthcoming tale, HIS TEMPTING GOVERNESS, Delightful Doings in Dudley Crescent, Book 2, by Cerise DeLand. The first book in the series is currently available everywhere, HER BEGUILING BUTLER!

OVERHEARD AT THE COURTESANS’ BALL

Michael, Viscount Laidley, Brent’s best friend and distant cousin, fretted that Brent would never agree to reenter society. Hence his determination to push his cousin into attending this ball, where Brent was now hiding behind a life-size statue of a well-endowed male. Michael pointed at the marble man’s appendage and laughed. ‘Hoping the ladies will compare your equipment favorably to his if you stand beside him?’ Brent snorted.

Michael could always tease Brent into seeing the humorous side of situations, but tonight he was also going to push Brent back into society, even if it involved a couple of white lies and some scandalous women.  He pointed down the dance floor. ‘That’s Lady Templeton in the orange mask and feathers and…I say, a very transparent gown. You know what that means? Melissa will have already wheedled out the names of any men or ladies with titles who are on the guest list from her weak-willed lover.’

‘Weren’t you her lover once?’

‘Briefly. Never again. She eats green men for lunch.’ He pointed at Melissa again. ‘Watch. She’ll try to match people to names. And I know from personal experience that she’s not above blackmail when she’s short of funds.’

‘She tried to extort money from you? Why didn’t you tell me?’

Michael shrugged. ‘I was young and green and humiliated by my own ignorance. And she’ll target any man who has refused her, which means you Brent. and your friends.”

Brent groaned. ‘Hell. I need to find Lillian.’

When his cousin rushed onto the crowded dance floor, Michael smirked and silently toasted himself on a job well done.

PLEASURE HOUSE BALL  

By Suzi Love

Love revealed at a courtesan’s ball.

Brenton, Lord Mallory, attends his first courtesan’s ball in ten years to appease his concerned friends, though he’d rather stay home and read to his motherless daughters.

Though mortified that Brenton unmasks her at a scandalous ball, Lady Lillian Armstrong doesn’t regret their night together.

But will the object of her girlish adoration still treat her as his best friend’s little sister, or will he now see her as a mature and willing woman?

Universal buy link

EXCERPT:-

Lillian was his best friend, plus a beautiful woman with a seductive feminine form and, right at this moment and in his direct line of sight, a pair of familiar bountiful breasts spilled over the top of a too-small red bodice. He blinked, and looked again. Heaven help him, it was Lillian. His friend who’d been targeted by unscrupulous women who, wanting to pull her down a peg or two, had blamed her for her husband’s impetuous nature. A titled lady who, according to convention, should be secluded from society while she mourned her husband. Lillian, his Lillian, stood before him drawing the eye of every discerning gentleman at a courtesan’s ball. Shock robbed him of breath and froze him in place. His head spun as he tried to imagine why she’d come here, and with whom.

As a duke’s daughter, she’d been taught the rules for mourning and for the behavior of widows all her life. A minimum of six months wearing black and withdrawing from society, followed by another six months wearing mauve and lavender and socializing only with family and close friends. Brent could think of no reason why she’d be here, flaunting herself in that red slip of a gown. What had possessed her to attend a ball, any ball, so soon after her husband’s demise?

More importantly, Brent’s mind was so numb that he couldn’t formulate a plan to smuggle her away from the dance floor before masks were removed and she was recognized. Or before one of the lecherous men present realized that those were Lillian’s breasts squeezing past them.

First step was to uncover the identity of her companion, a woman insensitive enough to introduce an innocent to this sort of event. Couples were finding quiet corners and getting to know each other better, much better. Some of the ladies, and he used that term loosely, had already shed layers of clothing and their remaining garments were so thin that they revealed rather than concealed their shapes. Personally, he preferred to unwrap his presents, piece by piece, and he liked to do it in private rather than in an overcrowded room full of peers he didn’t particularly like and took great pains to avoid.

Looking towards Lillian’s position, Brent cursed his inattentiveness. The lady in red and her companion had disappeared. He pushed between companionable couples, past clutches of leering youths, and dodged ladies of the night who were advertising their wares so blatantly that the slightest movement would topple their breasts out of their bodices and into full view. Hell, if that green buck on his right peered any further down the neckline of that redhead’s gown, they’d need to haul him out by his boots.

There, a laugh that sounded almost right for Lillian apart from a strange high-pitched trill at the end of every sentence, as if the speaker was deliberately leaving a question mark at the end of each speech. Nervousness? If it was Lillian, she had good reason to be nervous. And when Brent caught up with the two women, they’d have good reason to be nervous because he was furious with Lillian’s unknown companion, and her.

Yes, he’d wanted his best friend to find happiness, but he’d envisaged her slowly renewing friendships next year in London, chaperoning her sister, and perhaps sometime in the future accepting a marriage proposal. The idea of any man making advances to her when her emotions were still raw after her husband’s demise and the pain of the appalling rumors that said she’d urged her husband to his death, made his blood boil. Though he couldn’t put his finger on why he was so incensed.

Lillian was his friend, nothing more, and she knew his feelings about marrying again any time soon. She was also one of the few people who knew of his first wife’s numerous affairs and what he’d done afterwards. As he wove a path through the crowd, he listened for Lillian’s voice and tried to smell her particular scent, though the air in the ballroom was thick with heavy scents from both females and males. The smell of desire, and arousal, swamped him as he squeezed around several couples in the final stages of negotiating the terms of their associations, with the women listing what they’d like their protectors to provide. The air reeked of sexual awareness, not something he’d been surrounded by for quite a long time and a smell he’d have gladly avoided for many more years.

The push and shove, and the manipulation and capitulation made him inwardly shudder. Though he’d visited his share of brothels and indulged himself at wild house parties in his younger years, he’d never employed a mistress.  More recently, he’d simply felt jaded after one unhappy marriage and he couldn’t dredge up excitement over two hundred primped and primed gentlemen and the equivalent number of ladies of the night playing games of intrigue and seduction.

There were many parts of married life he missed, desperately. Lust, desire, and passion he understood and, to be perfectly honest, yearned to experience again. The shared intimacy of conversations in bed after a bout of rigorous sex. Waking to a woman’s soft body wrapped around him and taking his time rousing her from sleep and then making sweet slow love to her. That he missed. Fake relationships, the sort formed here, left him cold, yet he yearned for the connection and sense of belonging that came with having a lover, or being in love.

There! That voice. That was the voice he knew as well as his own, and the scent that had often tempted him to rethink his views on marriage. Maneuvering around the dozen men and six women surrounding her, Brent eased into the lady’s intimate circle and stood at her shoulder. He sniffed. Oh, yes!

His senses hadn’t led him astray, nor had his sanity deteriorated and tumbled into madness, where his imaginings spiraled out of control and his fantasies sprang to life. Lady Armstrong, Lillian, was truly here in the midst of this decadence and debauchery. He shifted so they stood shoulder to shoulder, their arms touching.

Leaning in, Brent whispered in Lillian’s ear. ‘Well, well, well. I certainly didn’t expect to find you in attendance.’

Meet Suzi Love:-

I am Suzi Love, an Australian author of historical romances set mainly in the late Regency and early Victorian eras, and ranging from sexy to erotic. With a bit of Australia thrown in.

I now live in a sunny part of Australia after spending many years in developing countries in the South Pacific. My greatest loves are traveling, anywhere and everywhere, meeting crazy characters, and visiting the Australian outback. I adore history, especially the many-layered society of the late Regency to early Victorian eras.

My titled heroes and heroines live a privileged life in and around London, but my stories also dig deeper into the grittier and seamier levels of British life. I love heroes and heroines who challenge traditional manners, morals, and occupations, either through necessity or desire.

I hope my romances bring history alive for you and that you have fun alongside my roguish heroes and feisty heroines.

WEB PLACES

Web  –  http://www.suzilove.com

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Suzi Love Face Book – https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1795828726

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