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Our great hero weds a widow and promises only companionship?

Dear Reader, 

I have it on best authority from servants in the house of a relative of the bride-to-be that our illustrious Hound of the Cavalry, decorated as he is and a newly minted earl, weds a widow today!  This is such a loss to our many younger ladies who had hoped for a chance to enchant him!

We understand however that he has made promises to his new wife that they shall be forever just friends. Friends?

Does he not deserve more?

The comfort of a loving wife? The joy of children? The certainty that his  line will be continued?

We are astonished that the lady would agree. But then, we’ve also heard that she requested this celibacy herself? What could possibly be her reason? Did she love her first husband so much? Did she promise him abstention? If so, where is her duty and her loyalty to her new husband?

Where is her love for him?

THE LYON’S SHARE by Cerise DeLand

She’d spend every last penny to marry again for security, comfort—or even friendship.

He’d win her wager, possess her, keep her for himself—even if he’d never win her love.

Excerpt, All rights reserved. Copyright Cerise DeLand 2022.

(Their wedding day in London.)

Sydney’s good friend and now his new brother-in-law, Henry, Lord Norbridge, handed him a whisky. “Welcome to the fold. Marlowe women are a unique brood.”

Sidney emptied his glass. Nerves were not a condition in which he usually indulged. “I’m pleased to be among you.”

“Do not say that too loudly.” Henry considered the three men younger than he who stood to one side of the bishop by the piano. “Our other brothers-in-law will have a thing or two to add to buck you up for the challenge.”

“Come now, Henry. You don’t want to frighten me off. I’ve had enough trouble getting this done.”

Henry clinked glasses with him. “Good job, too. However, I understand from my best source that we are still denying how good this union can be.”

Sidney frowned even as his heart swelled with the sight of his bride who stood across the room talking with her four sisters. “Adriana appears happy and …” Blast it. “Resigned to the match.”

“I hope you have plans to hasten her along. She’s been at this mourning business much too long and I dare say, it grows tedious. She needs to buck up.”

“I do agree.” I’d have her forget about Paul and focus her every thought on me.

Across the room, his new wife threw back her head to laugh at some remark of one of her sisters. Sidney vowed one day he’d make her do that whilst talking to him. She was a glory when happy. 

“Give yourself joy in this too, Sidney. You deserve it. Don’t let her cow you into a friendship with no…”

“Benefits? Yes.” He absorbed the delicate beauty of his bride. How tall she was, how elegant, her long fingers and lithe limbs. Her lovely firm breasts. Her troth was his. Her vows. Her honor. But he had yearned for decades for more. Without hope too had he pined. Like a schoolboy. Watching Paul take her hand, help her to mount her horse or a carriage, embracing her in jest or passion. 

His gaze swept down her form, her plump breasts spanning a gown of citron green velvet. She shifted to speak with one of her nieces and one long leg pulled the fabric taut to accentuate her limb. He wanted to run his hands up her leg, her arms, each inch of her. And how long could he wait to have her like that?

Forever, man. You vowed.

He put down his glass on a footman’s tray. “I have plans to draw her to me. But I have promised myself and Dove-Lyon, if she never wishes it, I will not pressure her.”

“A damn lonely way to live your life, my friend. You are Middlethorpe now. You have responsibilities.”

“That I know.”

“And needs.”

His gaze locked on Henry’s. “Never worry about that.”

“But I do. It is not natural what you promise. And I know how you truly regard my sister-in-law.”

He went to dust. “You will never say.”

“No, never. I would not break your trust. But damn it, Sidney, I like you as you are. I don’t want to see you turn bitter because you sold yourself into a bad bargain.”

“I fought one war, Henry. I can fight this one, too.”

“Can you?” His friend shook his head, weary. “It’s one thing to fight a foe with sabers and pistols. This opponent is yourself. Your very nature. Your every des—”

He clamped his hand on Henry’s shoulder. He’d had many women for a night, for the comfort and relief. One lovely French countess he’d kept in Paris last year for a month. “I will be well. I have girded myself with my own forbearance.”

“Which is strong, I do hope.”

Love. “The very stuff of life.” He smiled at his friend. “Forgive me now. I must take her away.” And begin my next campaign. The hardest one of all will be to become her best friend—and remain celibate.

The Lyon’s Share, the story

Adriana, Lady Benton, has many regrets—and one hope. To wed a good man to gain a life to which she is entitled. One free of sorrow, penury and ridicule. Appealing to Mrs. Dove-Lyon, Adriana hopes to attract one man who may appreciate her assets. But never need her love.

Colonel Sidney Wolf, once hailed as the ruthless ‘Hound of the Horse Guards’, vows to end Adriana’s hardships. He’s home from the wars and faces the daunting task of filling his father’s role as the Earl of Middlethorpe. Believing only Adriana will do as his helpmate, he strikes a deal with Dove-Lyon that brings him the one woman he admires. The one woman he tells himself he can live with—and never touch.

But the nearness of his funny, charming, beautiful bride drives him mad. Knowing she will never love other than her first husband, can he keep his hands—and his heart to himself?

And if he doesn’t, can she ever forgive him?

Cerise DeLand is the USA Today Bestselling author of romantic fiction starring sassy ladies and the charming men who adore them!

In KU on Amazon:  https://amzn.to/3bc6ri3

 

 

Tell no one! A lady calling upon a gentleman in her nightrail?

I write to you today to tell you of a most outlandish tale I heard. That of the Whiskey King’s daughter. (I dare not say her name.) And that she visited the Duke of M—’s son in her nightrail!

Now I know that seems impossible, but one of her neighbors swears it was she who scampered out of her house toward the duke’s.

Who else could it be? That man has no other girl so bold.

Or I do believe it to be so. What say you of his second child?

***

THE RAVEN’S LAST BET in THE WEDDING WAGER

BUY LINK: 

https://books2read.com/u/3JZQLJ

 

Desperate Sara Fleming decides the only way to escape her father’s plan is to make her newest betrothed a bet he can’t refuse.

Never good at gambling, Harry Seymour bets he can find a better way to win her heart! 

But he better hurry!

 Harry Seymour is home from years of fighting abroad to clean up the mess his roguish brother left upon his untimely death. Worse, his father, the Duke of Meredith, demands Harry honor a deal he made with his best friend to marry the man’s eldest daughter…for money.

Harry, who’s loved Sara Fleming since she was four, has no problem marrying her. He never did, even when she was denied him because she was the Whiskey King’s daughter. But not for money. 

Sara cannot accept the bargain her father made with the duke. She’s already left two men at the altar because she didn’t love either one. And if she can’t wed Harry for love, she’ll marry no one. But she wagers she’ll walk away happy if Harry will do her the favor of ruining her. It’s a bet Harry can’t refuse.

Can he?

Excerpt, All rights reserved. Copyright Cerise DeLand 2022.

        “Listen to me, Sara. I have a plan. It won’t be one either of our fathers likes but it might work.”

She pulled away. Peering into his magnificent eyes clouded her judgement. His green-brown orbs reflected a sadness in the faint lights that matched her own. “Tell me.”

“We announce that we intend to marry others.”

“I’ve already left two men alone before the vicar. Now there’s this gossip in the Gazette—?”

“Forget those other two men. And hang them at the Gazette.”

She put a hand to her hip. “We’ll send them new stories. Marvelous. I dislike your thinking, Harry. Totally. Marry another? Ba! Precisely who did you have in mind?” 

He gave her a look that said he had the right answer. “A man who makes you tingle.”

“Of whom there is no one.” Which is a lie.

“For each woman, there is a man. A perfect match.”

“I’ve not found him in four years. Why now?”

“You will lure him.”

 By some folly, to be sure. “How?”

A wicked gleam lit those iridescent eyes. “With kisses.”

“You expect me to kiss men?”

He shrugged a shoulder. “How else will you discover the right fellow?”

“How else will I go down as a scarlet woman? I’ve climbed enough fences barring me because I am of the dreaded merchant class. Papa’s money might continue to buy me entry, but if I degrade myself further, no one will touch me!”

He tipped up his chin. “You will be discreet. I will help.”

“You’ll bar doors?”

“And divert traffic.”

She scowled at him. “You’ve been away much too long, sir. You think me so brave. I am different from that child who tagged along behind you and tucked frogs in your pants.”

He scoffed. “Remind me. Who came to me night before last in her nightrail?”

”Dressing gown.”

He waved that away. “Exactly my point.”

Exasperated, she huffed. “The fault, dear Harry, is not in our stars, but in myself.”

“I agree.”

Oh, he infuriated her! “I do not know how to kiss.”

“And so you will learn.”

Only one way. She could barely say it. “By doing.”

“Indeed.” He winked. “With me.”

That way lay disaster and hopeless ruin. She’d should return to this party, because this was hopeless. She’d given up wanting him so long ago. Or thought she had. She threw up her hands. “Absurd.”

“Is it?” He took a step toward her, so near she inhaled his scent, imbibed his familiar allure that she could not allow to thrill her. “You said my kiss left you with no…what is the word?”

“You know perfectly well the word.”

“Tickle?”

If only. “Tingle.”

“Well then, my darling.” With one hand he caught her wrist while he swept his other hand around her waist. “Let’s see if this fits the bill.”

“No, stop!” Wonderful. Now she sounded like the village crier. 

“There, there. Don’t be shy. An experiment, eh?” He lifted her hand toward his mouth. “Or shall we call it…” he murmured, as he put her index finger, fully gloved, against the neat cleft in his chin, “…a demonstration? Visible to the naked eye.”

He smiled. Or was that the show of teeth of a predator? A creature who…gloated? 

He caught the point of her glove between his long white incisors. The act of a male bent on taking a bite of her, he tugged. The fabric slid along her finger, silk on silk, a glissade of shivering delight. Her glove glided from her elbow in a silent skim of her nerves. She shivered.

He halted. Glanced up at her, those long dark lashes of his rising to reveal the facets of a Harry she’d never known. A ravenous devil appeared there, one who pulled at another fingertip, starving for more of her until her hand was bare. Nipping her third finger and the next, he sent tremors up her spine. Her mouth fell open as he took her smallest finger, fabric and all, and bathed the whole of it in his hot moist mouth. His tongue served as succor—and as torture. 

She panted as if she’d run a mile. Her gaze glued to his voracious teeth, she dare not look away or lose a second. What he gave, she took. If it was instruction, it was also a revelation. Though she knew not how to interpret his lips to her fingers as lips to lips, she reveled in whatever he’d choose next. 

With a yank of his teeth, he pulled and her glove slid slowly down her arm and fell to the floor. She was bare to the night air, chilled and burning, as he caught her fingers and pressed them to his open mouth. He cupped her elbow, and her wrist was once more his. Bare skin gave him no pause, but encouragement to lift her hand once more. 

He groaned and crushed her torso fully against him. His possession, from her breasts to her hips, left her pulsing. 

He put her palm to his lips and licked the hollow of her hand. She moaned at his luscious homage and her knees gave way. As he caught her up, he bit the heal of her hand. She yelped. He gave a grunt, nigh unto laughter or triumph, she knew not which, then wrapped her arm around his waist. As he sweetly backed her to the wall, his hair fell loose over his brow and he focused on her lips. 

Then he took them.

Cerise DeLand is the USA TODAY Bestselling author of more than 60 historical romances…and a few other bits, too! 

Find her in all these places:

DRAGONBLADE: https://www.dragonbladepublishing.com/cerise-deland/

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Cousin’s private wager creates a public spectacle–who will win the crown?

Who is the greatest matchmaker of the ton? Lady O. has laid claim to the title, and her cousin Lady S. has challenged her to prove it. Which of them first spoke of this private wager–and the prized family possession that will belong to the winner? We cannot know, but we do know that, since the beginning of the year, all of Society has been abuzz with news from houseparties where Lady O. has been bringing together the the notoriously unmarriageable.

So far, the results have been astounding. People who have sworn off marriage have tied the knot, those who don’t believe in love have fallen to Cupid’s arrow, rogues have reformed, parlour games and contests of skill have turned into games of love.

With seven months to go, the betting is running hot in clubs, salons, drawing rooms, and coffee shops; in high and low places. Can Lady O.’s run of luck continue? Or will even her matchmaking eye fail her, giving the game–and the prize–to her cousin?

Find your Buy Links here to take advantage of the pre-order discount-

https://books2read.com/weddingwager

Click here to download the prologue

A LADY WHO SEEKS A HUSBAND IN NAME ONLY? How can he forgive her?

Edward Lamson Henry (1841-1919)

Dear Sir,

I come to you to day to object to the most absurd marriage agreement I’ve ever heard! To wit, a lady—a widow of a noted cavlary officer—seeks a husband who will permit her to live with him as his friend only.

Who dare ask for such a thing?

I have it on good authority that this lady, who has done her duty by her deceased husband, is now in the marriage mart looking for a man of some station and wealth to support her.

Who could even consider it?

I have heard one man does. One man who knows the lady well and who, though he has inherited a grand estate and title, seeks nothing from her but…companionship.

Absurd!

And yet, he will do it! Marry her!

I tell you if all our young ladies—and widows, too—begin to seek such silly promises from our good men in this country, why we shall all perish! Perish as a society!

Good friends, encourage your daughters to do their duty. PLEASE!

      Yours truly, A friend of all fine British gentlemen

The Lyon’s Share

She’d spend every last penny to marry again for security, comfort—or even friendship.

He’d win her wager, possess her, keep her for himself—even if he’d never win her love.

Adriana, Lady Benton, has many regrets—and one hope. To wed a good man to gain a life to which she is entitled. One free of sorrow, penury and ridicule. Appealing to Mrs. Dove-Lyon, Adriana hopes to attract one man who may appreciate her assets. But never need her love.

Colonel Sidney Wolf, once hailed as the ruthless ‘Hound of the Horse Guards’, vows to end Adriana’s hardships. He’s home from the wars and faces the daunting task of filling his father’s role as the Earl of Middlethorpe. Believing only Adriana will do as his helpmate, he strikes a deal with Dove-Lyon that brings him the one woman he admires. The one woman he tells himself he can live with—and never touch.

But the nearness of his funny, charming, beautiful bride drives him mad. Knowing she will never love other than her first husband, can he keep his hands—and his heart to himself?

And if he doesn’t, can she ever forgive him?

Buy Link:   https://amzn.to/3bc6ri3

(Their wedding night in London.)

Excerpt, All rights reserved. Copyright Cerise DeLand 2022.

That night in the upstairs hall, she squeezed his hand and thanked him once more for the peace and comfort of their wedding day. With a tender smile borne of hours in companionship walking the appointments of the house, meeting the remaining staff and sharing the light supper, Sidney told her to sleep well. “I have two surprises for you tomorrow. You’ll need your rest.”

Tumbling though her ran a wild impulse to kiss his cheek. “Marvelous! I do love surprises. What are they?”

He shook his head. “They are not for the telling!”

She chuckled. “Shall I arise early? Dawn? Noon? Are we here at home? And what do I wear?”

“Take your leisure at it all. I will adjust to you, my dear.”

She liked how he slipped into the small endearments that made them seem like a normal couple who were meant for more than the mere illusion of intimacy.

“Wonderful. I will be up at dawn!”

He stood before her, his brown-black eyes flashing in the light of candles in the sconces—but he stepped back. “Good night then.”

She smiled and quickly turned away to thrust open her door. She closed it swiftly and fell back against it. Before her was her sitting room and bedroom. Beyond was her dressing room and boudoir. All hers, more than she’d ever expected to acquire or enjoy. All were so well appointed, but even at that, as Sidney had told her, they were furnished in fashions decades old.

“Change them all,” he’d encouraged her hours earlier on his tour. “Whatever you like. The rooms were last done when my mother was alive and much is frayed and dusty. Cost is not a matter of concern. You need not rush as we shall not entertain here for months.”

“I will begin by choosing fabrics. Planning other elements. When do you think we will return?”

“I have so much to do at the estate that I doubt we will come back until spring. Does that suit you?”

A question of whether her little house would be sold soon flashed through her. She would have to come to town to pay Dove-Lyon. “It does.”

“Good. I want you to be comfortable and happy.” He had caught her sudden reticence. “Something concerns you. What is it?”

“The house in West Drayton. I hope it will be sold by spring.” The sooner I pay Mrs. Dove-Lyon the remainder of her fee, the better.

“It’s charming. I’m sure it will sell soon.”

His assurance soothed her worry and so, for a countless time, she thanked him for his largesse. Scrimping was what she did well. Practice had made perfect. With little, she had kept her tiny house clean and bright. With copper pots she scrubbed and numerous shawls and coverlets she knit, she’d dressed up the kitchen and the small parlor. She’d changed Paul’s lap blanket every day. A new color to keep him appraised of the day of the week. A little reminder that today was a new day, another day that he lived. Little had he cared, but she had. She had. Because to give in to his brown study was to follow him into the hole he preferred and she dare not give up on herself, lest they both die of despair.

She inhaled. That was yesterday. Gone, now. And in the place of that, my girl, you have this. This time. This redemption. This man.

This house.

And his generosity.

In studied deliberation, she gazed upon the heavy sky blue damask draperies, the Alençon lace curtains beneath, the fine mahogany deal tables, the plush settees and Axminster carpet. They were all accommodations that he had so sweetly given her, and even agreed to all her stipulations, too. She clutched her arms as, like an avalanche, she felt the freefall of all the deprivations she had not given him. She was happy, very much so—and he, virile man that he was, had so many reasons not to be.

She was selfish, unable to be a proper wife.

He went to his bedchamber alone. A bridegroom. Gallant, determined, daring. A leader of men. A legend in his own time. A man robust, hearty and…alive.

In that moment of self-criticism when she knew what she owed him, what he should have and what she had forbidden him to have of her, she ached to be his good and willing wife.

She went to bed alone. It was what she had planned.

Author of THE LYON’S SHARE, Cerise DeLand

Cerise has spent nearly 40 years writing romances. She loves a conflicted hero and a sassy heroine. Do read her Regency, Victorian and Edwardian historical romances!

Website: http://cerisedeland.com

 

Frederick & Fiona: Fiona

by Susana Ellis

Fiona Hendrickson woke up begrudgingly as the chamber flooded with bright sunlight from the windows. Shielding her eyes with her hand, she could make out the pudgy figure of her grandfather’s housekeeper in the blinding light.

“What?” Then, “Oh,” after her wits returned to her. Grandfather’s house. The long trip from Yorkshire by stage coach. The prospect of a long, lonely future in the country with only her cantankerous old grandfather for company. Now why had she agreed to this? Oh yes, the farm.

“If ye’d like to break yer fast afore church, ye’d best go down right quick. T’ master’s ‘ad ‘is and it’s no doubt cold by now.” She cocked her head and studied Fiona doubtfully. “Ye kin dress yerself, eh? No maids in this ‘ouse.”

Fiona rolled her eyes, something her stepmother would never have approved of. The thought of her stepmother made her chest ache. Would they ever see one another again?

“I’ve no need of a maid.” Not only had she never needed a maid, but she and her stepmother had never had a servant of any kind. A housekeeper was a luxury beyond reckoning.

“I’m not hungry.” Not true. She was starving after a day on a rattling stagecoach. But the prospect of getting out of bed and facing the reality of her new circumstances gave her a feeling of panic.

The housekeeper (what was her name?) shrugged. “Matters naught to me, miss. But t’ master expects ye t’ be fixed t’ leave by eight. It’s a good two miles, ye know. Likes t’ be on time, ‘e does.”

Fiona took a deep breath and threw aside the bed coverings. It was no good whining. She hadn’t been a child for several years. Grown women left home every day, usually to marry or to start a life on their own, for better or worse, but at some point they had to move on.

“I suppose I’ll have a bite to eat after all. I’ll be down shortly, er Mrs.—“

“Perry, miss.”

Perry. Ah yes, that was it. “Thank you, Mrs. Perry.”

Was that a shadow of a smile on the older woman’s lips as she turned and left the room? Fiona chose to think so, and set her mind to more positive thoughts. It was a beautiful day. She had a grandfather to get to know; perhaps in time they could learn to get on with each other. As far as learning how to manage a farm, well, that seemed unlikely. The city girl in her knew where her food came from, but she wasn’t keen on making its acquaintance when it had eyes to look upon her.

****

“You’ll want to wed a fine, sturdy gent, lass. As soon as may be. A woman can keep hens and a kitchen garden, but it takes a man to plough and make hay and such.”

Her grandfather didn’t waste time issuing commands, did he? They’d barely made it out of the gate when he’d begun setting down his plans for her life.

“I-I suppose there are farm workers I can hire, can I not, Grandfather?”

“What? Have something against marriage, lass? Most women would have married at your age.” He looked at her sharply. “Not looking for a love match, are you? I had enough of that nonsense with your mother.”

Fiona tamped down the resentment that lurked beneath the surface. There was no point in revisiting an event from twenty years past. Of course she wanted a love match; every woman did. Most women had to settle for less, however. She doubted she had the courage to elope to Gretna Green as her mother had. 

“You must at the least allow me time to become acquainted with the neighborhood, Grandfather. I shan’t marry only for someone to run the farm.” Seeing her grandfather’s face start to turn purple, she quickly added, “He must be a man of good character, you know. I refuse to wed a drunkard or a brute.”

He opened his mouth and then closed it. “Girl, I’m not asking you to marry the first man you meet.” He paused and took her shoulders in his hands. “Just don’t be too fine in your requirements. I’m not at death’s door just yet, but it’s best you have a husband before I get there.”

As that was probably true, Fiona nodded and fell silent until they arrived at the parish church and seated themselves on a bench. 

Almost immediately she sensed someone staring at her. Turning her head to the back, she saw an attractive young man with a look of awe on his face. 

The first man she’d met. Well, seen, anyway. Was he perhaps a farmer? Suddenly her heart lightened and she felt a sense of hope for the first time since she’d arrived. 

****

Frederick Hofbauer is the oldest (by two minutes) of triplets, his brothers being Fritz and Franz, who serve tea every Wednesday at 5:00 p.m. EST in the Tea Room, hosted by Cerise DeLand and Susana Ellis and their weekly guest authors, who come to discuss themselves and their books. If you are interested in discovering new authors and books, recipes, historical fashion, and lively conversation, please join them.

Fiona hasn’t been to tea as yet, but it’s possible you will see her there in the near future.

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