This past fortnight most of good society was in Brighton while the king was in residence. This week’s highlight was a performance by Mr. Maddox’s traveling circus troupe. Dear reader, I have been to the circus performances at Astley’s Amphitheatre in London but have never seen a show quite like this. You may be wondering what could possibly be so scintillating to catch all the ton’s attention.
Let me paint you a picture. The evening was warm, and the skies clear. On the great lawns behind the Royal Pavilion, a stage with rich red velvet curtains hung from a large ironwork frame created a dramatic backdrop to a great wooden ring that sat in the grass. And above it, at least twenty feet in the air, a tightrope stretched across the ring. The entire stage area was lit with torches that flickered brightly in the twilight. Mr. Maddox, tall and handsome, strode out onto the stage to welcome the crowd of onlookers and bow deeply to the king, who sat with the best view atop a sumptuously appointed dais.
Then with a blare of a trumpet, the show began. Acrobats dressed as fairies, male and female, cartwheeled onto the stage in frothy costumes made of sparkling gauzy fabrics. And from their midst, two horses in tandem rode out into the ring, with a beautiful woman atop, one foot on each horse, her long hair flowing behind her, the copper strands on fire in the torchlight. The lady wore a dress with a voluminous skirt of pink gauze that ended mid-calf over white stockings. The bodice sparkled with bejeweled silk flowers. A collective gasp echoed in the evening air as the guests recognized the performer as none other than the scandalous daughter of Lord and Lady Dearborn.
Yes, you read that correctly. Lady Susanna Ashby rode out into the center ring, scantily clad I might add as many said they could see her stocking-covered calves, to perform with the circus. I will admit the tricks she executed on horseback were quite entertaining, but shocking in the absolute scandal of it all! And in front of the king, no less. This writer heard from a reliable source that Lord Dearborn was seen dragging his prodigy off into the shadows. And hot on their heels was a certain marquess of the very respectable variety. So, it begs the question, what business does an upright peer have with an outrageous lady who willfully ruins her reputation in front of the king?
About: Making the Marquess Mine–Miles Weston, the Marquess of Hawksridge, longs for a holiday from his life. He is tired of all the politics, in and out of the ballrooms. Ever since his aborted wedding, his aunt has tried to match him with blank-faced debutants at every turn. The only entertaining thing in his overscheduled life is observing the antics of Lady Susanna Ashby, whose beauty and vibrancy brighten the greyest day.
Susanna’s spirit for adventure is matched only by her loyalty to her friends. Determined to help the distractingly handsome but overwhelmingly serious marquess, Susanna concocts a plan to distract his matchmaking Aunt Diana. She’ll reunite Diana with her long-lost lover, who wrote her passionate letters of love and longing. If only Susanna could discover the whereabouts of the mysterious James Marlow.
As Susanna launches her ill-fated plan, heedless of the danger, her worried friends send Miles to fetch her home. But Susanna has no intention of letting anything derail her quest to find the man from the letters. Not bad weather, broken carriage wheels, or highwaymen. Not even a sexy, managing marquess.
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Excerpt: Dear Lord, she was still in the bath. He froze, his thoughts stuttered to a full stop at the idea that Susanna was naked in the bath only ten feet away. He cleared his throat. “It’s me.”
“Miles! What are you doing in here? Do you make it a habit of entering lady’s rooms without knocking?”
He stiffened at her barb. Of course, he didn’t. He was a bloody gentleman. “Do you make it a habit of not locking your door? And I did knock, twice.”
A splash accompanied her huff of indignation. “So, you just barge in? I know that we are sharing this room but I’m quite exposed. Please leave.”
He should leave, but his feet were rooted to the ground. Water splashed as the shadow behind the screen stood up. With one slim arm it reached for a towel and then the shadow turned to wrap the towel around itself and Miles got an eyeful of her curves in silhouette. Susanna stepped out of the tub and the tantalizing profile disappeared. He could feel her glare through the linen screen.
“Miles, get out. Better yet, go home. Thank you for saving me today but now I am safely in the care of the Hadleys. You can go back to Brooksdale and your precious holiday.”
“No. I’m not going anywhere. We are going to get some rest and then we are going to travel back to Marbury tomorrow.”
Susanna’s shadow raised one arm in the air, a pointed finger jutted into the air. “We are doing no such thing. I am going to travel with the Hadleys to Weymouth Bay. I am going to find James Marlow and convince him to come back and reunite with the love of his life.”
Miles ran a hand through his already unruly hair. He blew out a long breath. “Why are you so stubborn? Marlow is likely nowhere near Weymouth Bay. And even if he is there, why would he listen to you?”
Susanna’s head popped around the corner of the screen. Her hair dripped on the floor and the curve of one bare shoulder came into view. He sucked in a sharp breath as his gaze swept over the sprinkling of freckles there.
“I am very persuasive. And he will be there, I just know it.” Her grin turned practically feral. She disappeared behind the screen and he heard the towel drop to the floor with a wet plop. Her lithe shadow moved to the other end of the screened area and she pulled a piece of clothing over her head affording him another tantalizing view of her silhouette.
Miles crossed his arms and snorted. “You just know.”
She appeared a moment later covered in a long-sleeved nightgown, its frilly hem skirted the tops of her bare feet. He couldn’t tear his eyes from her toes. Small and square, the nails trimmed neatly, they were the most adorable toes he had ever seen.
About the Author: From the time she read fairytales as a child, Karla Kratovil was hooked on stories that ended in Happily Ever After. Now as an author of sexy historical romance she gets to craft her own happy endings. Karla lives right on the edge of Northern Virginia’s wine country with her college sweetheart, two terrific teenagers, and two blond terriers. She is a Taurus. Like any good earth sign she loves good food, good wine, and getting her hands dirty growing things in her garden.
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