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Scandal in the Ballroom?

Dear Mr Clemens, if you were not present yourself at the splendid ball held in the Hanover Square rooms last night, you may have missed one of the juiciest tidbits of gossip that any worthy correspondent could possibly pass along to you this week. Imagine the sight of two earls’ daughters facing off in the middle of Lady Newsham’s grand event! Yes, society’s darling, the beautiful Lady G. M., approached a relative newcomer to the London social scene, Lady H. deR., and unexpectedly and rather scandalously was treated to an earful by that rather intrepid young lady (who some say is merely hoydenish and quite improper). 

Some expected their exchange to end with fists flying, but I must report it did not come to that, to the disappointment of many, I am sure. What a shocking spectacle that would have been! And the cause of this incident? A man, of course. But you may be astonished to hear that the fellow in question is a commoner, a baronet’s son, Mr. C.H., the very one Lady G. M. threw over last season on account of his being exposed as a fortune hunter! Apparently there is no limit to what trouble a handsome face may cause.  Yours truly, Lady M. in Portman Square

My Dear Lady M: Lacking said anticipated scandalous spectacle of fisticuffs, I must assure you that a heated conversation between two noble ladies in the middle of a ball does NOT constitute one of the “juiciest tidbits of gossip” I have come across, but as the ton has been unusually devoid of greater scandals this week, I thank you for the report! It is entirely too bad that you were not near enough to actually overhear the exchange between the ladies. Now, THAT might have been juicy. But I have now learned on good authority from someone who was close by that Lady G.M. started it with the best intentions of cautioning Lady H. deR. about said gentleman, and that young lady responded with a vigorous defense on his behalf, audaciously calling Lady G. M.’s own actions and beliefs into question. 

Ah, such innocence! It seems both Lady H. deR and the gentleman in question were recently in the wilds of Derbyshire, where they were among the guests attending the nuptials of Lord F. and his bride, Miss T., in the village of Little Macclow. One imagines Lady H. deR. had plenty of opportunity to fall under the spell of said handsome if questionable fellow. We can only wish her well and hope she will not come to regret her actions. —Yours sincerely, Samuel Clemmens, editor, The Teatime Tattler

Her Perfect Gentleman 

(Book Three, Tales of Little Macclow Regency Romance Series)

She is the worst thing that could happen to him. He might be the best thing that could happen to her. How will two hearts on such opposite tracks find their way to true love?

The last thing Christopher Haslitt needs or wants is another involvement with a wealthy, high-ranking, unmarried young lady. He is still trying to repair both his heart and his reputation after last season’s disaster left him branded as a fortune hunter. Five days in Little Macclow for his best friend’s wedding should be only a brief delay on his path to redemption. But he hasn’t counted on spending it with five unmarried daughters of earls, one of whom has her sights set firmly on him!

Lady Honoria deRaymond finds Mr. Haslitt more attractive and charming than any other gentleman of her acquaintance. What’s more, his perfect manners include overlooking her tendency to be impulsive and not always quite proper. She knows the rules; she just has trouble sticking to them. Marriage to a high-ranking peer, as her family expects for her, will mean a highly visible life of constant pressure to conform and behave properly. Could Mr. Haslitt, a baronet’s son, be her means to escape such a fate? Can she possibly win his heart in just five days? When she returns to London, her one chance to forge a different future may be gone.

Sweet with a little sizzle, the Tales of Little Macclow are linked by their shared setting in scenic Derbyshire and recurring characters. They follow a shared chronology and, while best read in order, they are complete stand alone romances with happy endings that will warm your heart.

Little Macclow—a village tucked away and maybe touched by magic…at least the magic of love.

Universal link:  https://books2read.com/u/bwrPAa 

Amazon direct link: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0BMLQCLSW 

https://www.bookbub.com/books/her-perfect-gentleman-regency-romance-tales-of-little-macclow-small-village-sweet-regency-romances-book-3-by-gail-eastwood 

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/63623044-her-perfect-gentleman

Excerpt: 

She straightened and stepped towards him. “I should check your arms. It will only take a few moments. We can do it here, right now.”

He scowled. “No, absolutely not. It would be highly improper.”

“Because I am a lady?”

“Yes, of course because you are a lady! And an unmarried one, even worse. I would have to partially disrobe. You should not see a man in his shirt sleeves unless he is your husband!”

“I have already seen you in your shirt sleeves—bloodied ones at that! And I have seen arms before. Must I remind you that I do have a brother?”

“Yes, one who would flay me alive if he were to learn I allowed this to happen.”

“If I see how your scratches are healing I will know if you need to continue to use the salve. I am trying to help you. It is for a medical purpose.”

“This is not an emergency. With Jennie on Wednesday, I felt the situation was.”

“This could become one if you do not heal properly.” She crossed her arms, tapping her foot. “Little Macclow is too small to have a doctor, or even an apothecary. We are in the stillroom, a place where medicines are prepared. We are alone here, and no one will see. We can do it very quickly. You needn’t even remove your waistcoat. You are teetering into the brotherhood of the narrow-minded again!”

“No. I am trying to protect your reputation—and mine. If someone should come along and see—especially given what some are already thinking….” 

The panic in his eyes hurt her heart. Did he think she was trying to entrap him? “No one will. But if they should, we can simply explain. Everyone here knows you were injured rescuing Jennie. Most know I have been making salve to help you heal.”

If only she had a salve that could heal his heart. “Do not try to pretend that no woman besides your mother has ever seen you in your linen. We both know that isn’t true. Please, take off your coat.”

*  *  *

Of course women besides his mother had seen him in his linen. Beautiful women, willing women, women whose whole intent had been to see him out of his linen. Not respectable, innocent women like Lady Honoria. Not a woman who tempted him against all good sense. 

Truly, she had no idea what she was asking of him. Keeping tight control over his reactions to her was difficult enough under the most ordinary of circumstances. How was he supposed to manage it half-dressed and with her undoubtedly touching and inspecting him?

The noises from the kitchen continued unabated, reminding him of just how nearby other people were. Could her wish possibly be accomplished quickly enough to avoid anyone catching them at it? 

She still stood there waiting, chin up, arms crossed and toe tapping impatiently. She looked adorable, magnificent, irresistible. “You are making propriety more important than your health, Mr. Haslitt. You will not convince me that such a priority isn’t absurd. What do you think will happen if we break the rules?”

Loss of control. Emergence of baser instincts. Her discovery that he did not always want to be the perfect gentleman. “Oh, the total disintegration of society, of course.” At this moment everything in him argued in favor of such a result. He wanted nothing more than to pull her into his arms and kiss her senseless. She was far too trusting.

Of course, she laughed. “There you have it. I’m glad you see you are being ridiculous.” 

With a sigh, he surrendered. Best just be quick, for every reason. 

About the author:

Award-winning author Gail Eastwood started writing stories as soon as she learned to string words together on paper, and blames Beatrix Potter and A.A. Milne for making her a devoted Anglophile at a very early age. After detours into journalism and rare books, she finally found her path writing Signet Regencies acclaimed for their emotional depth and innovative plots. Twice nominated for RomanticTimes Magazine’s Career Achievement award, a Golden Leaf winner and twice a Holt Medallion finalist, Gail had to put writing on hold to deal with family health issues for almost 16 years. But now she’s back doing what she loves best and offering readers a new, heart-warming Regency series set in a small village possibly touched by magic (or it is just the power of Love?), Tales of Little Macclow. 

“One of the genre’s most imaginative storytellers, a master at painting pictures of Regency life,” 

—Romantic Times Magazine

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On a mission…

Abigail Danvers watched the dancing with a frown. On a mission to find any sort of possible gossip for the Teatime Tattler, she had become frustrated that time to find anything newsworthy was passing her by. But that was only the start of the problem. Abigail had begun to wonder if her life wasn’t also becoming meaningless. An anonymous reporter for Mr. Clemens wasn’t going to provide her with a husband and children to fill her home.

“Stop scowling, sister, or you’ll scare away any gentleman who even remotely has the thought of asking you to dance,” Prudence whispered in her ear. “Who are you watching, anyway?”

Her attention on a couple only caused her displeasure to deepen. “Sophie Templeton with the Earl of Wilmott,” she said with clenched teeth. “She’s younger than I am and it looks as though those two will be engaged by Christmas if I read all the signs right.”

“Isn’t that a good thing?” Prudence asked.

“Just another titled gentleman who will be off the market. I thought by coming here to the country we might find husbands of our own or at the very least something noteworthy to send to Clemens.” Abigail shook her head to clear her melancholy mood.

“Maybe it’s time to start looking out for ourselves instead and not be so determined to provide Mr. Clemens with the latest gossip,” Prudence replied with a small smile. “I say we wish Miss Templeton and her earl the very best and start looking out for our own interests instead.”

“Perhaps you’re right, sister,” Abigail proclaimed.

She looked once again at the couple and nodded. They looked so happy gliding across the dance floor to a waltz and Abigail could only wish to find her own happiness someday, too. As two gentlemen began to head toward her and her sister, Abigail smiled. Clemens could find his own gossip to report in his morning rag. She had a new quest in mind and this could be the start of her own happily-ever-after!


This is a short original piece by Bluestocking Belle Sherry Ewing. It refers to Sherry’s latest characters in her novelette, A Mistletoe Kiss in the Belles’ Christmas boxset Belles & Beaux. Read on for an excerpt from Sherry’s story and happy holidays, dearest readers!

Excerpt:

She began playing again. One tune after another until she grew bored with the keyboard. What difference did it make how well she played if Spencer wasn’t in the room to hear her? As if she conjured the man up with her thoughts, the men returned to the parlor causing Sophie to lose her breath when Spencer came to stand by her chair.

“I am sorry to cut our evening short, but I must return home. In my eagerness to visit with your family, I completely forgot that I had agreed to dinner with my parents,” Spencer stated looking a bit embarrassed. “I’ll have some explaining to do.”

“Let me get your coat and hat. I’ll inform a lad to bring your horses out to the front.”

She left the room, delivered her message to one of the staff, and then went to a closet to retrieve Spencer, and Lord Charville’s things. Taking hold of Spencer’s jacket, she held the fabric up to her nose and inhaled while the heavenly smell of spice filled her senses. She heard footsteps coming closer to the foyer and didn’t want to be found out, so she quickly retrieved the other coat and their hats.

Spencer came into view, took Evan’s things and handed them to the man who returned to the parlor to say his farewells.

His hand brushed hers when he reached for his coat. “Will you walk me out, Sophie?”

Her heart would never be able to stand being this close to him, but she would take the chance she might survive their brief moment of privacy. She took her own redingote from the closet but before she could slip her hands in the sleeves, Spencer took the garment from her.

“Allow me…”

He went behind her to assist her with putting on the garment, his hands briefly resting on her shoulders caused her to tremble. He then went to open the door giving her the opportunity to bow out if she felt so inclined. Nothing could be farther from her thoughts.

The night was cold, and Sophie could see her breath in the air as she exhaled. The clip clop of horses was getting closer causing her to realize that he would be leaving her soon. Plus, Lord Charville would be exiting the house at any moment. She didn’t have much time!

“Spencer… I—”

He took her hand this time bringing it to his lips. “Ah… there it is…”

“What?” she asked in confusion.

“The sound of my given name passing your lips as though you are happy to be alone with me,” he answered tucking her hand in the crook of his elbow. He began walking toward the road. “I have waited years to hear such a sound, if I am being perfectly honest.”

“You have?” she gasped out.

“Yes, I have. It’s been torture waiting for you to grow up,” he said caressing her hand.

She halted their progress to the road not believing he was speaking the truth. “You’ve been waiting for me?”

“Yes.” A simple answer with so many possibilities.

“Why me?” Her eyes widened when she realized she had spoken the words aloud.

He took his hands to caress her cheeks. Leaning down, he stared into her eyes. “Because you were worth waiting for, my dear.”

She closed her eyes hoping for her first kiss. But she was to be disappointed when the front door opened, and they broke apart.


Belles & Beaux: A Bluestocking Belles Collection
Available Now!

Just in time for Christmas 2022 comes this boxed set of eight charming stories of love, family, and miracles. Each Belle has contributed a tale set in the festive season–one just long enough to fit in between tasks at this busy time of the year. The tales are unrelated, except by the festive season.

Some have been written for this collection, some are made-to-order stories never before published, some have been used as fan giveaways. All are delightful.

Belle Sherry Ewing’s A Mistletoe Kiss Blurb:

All she wants for Christmas is a mistletoe kiss…

Miss Sophie Templeton has been waiting a lifetime for the one man who owns her heart, but he seems to court a different woman every Season. As Christmas approaches, Sophie’s one wish is a kiss from him beneath the mistletoe.

Spencer, Earl of Wilmott has quietly watched Sophie through the years, holding her in his heart, and biding his time until he can offer for her. He appeases his parents by being seen with a variety of eligible women. But Sophie is grown up now, and he must put aside his worries that she’ll find him too old and make his offer.

One chance encounter, one dance in which he all but claims her; can Spencer convince Sophie to make this a Christmas romance that will last a lifetime?

So order your copy now for the opportunity to pour the drink of your choice, find a favourite chair, and step into one of our worlds: https://books2read.com/BellesBeaux

About the author:

Sherry Ewing picked up her first historical romance when she was a teenager and has been hooked ever since. An award-winning and bestselling author, she writes historical and time travel romances to awaken the soul one heart at a time. When not writing, she can be found in the San Francisco area at her day job as an Information Technology Specialist. You can learn more about Sherry and her books on her website where a new adventure awaits you on every page at www.SherryEwing.com.

 

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A Scandalous Incident in Drury Lane!

A certain lonely lord was seen leaving Drury Lane early – entirely missing the final act of Miss Ryan’s divine Duchess of Malfi. He’s seen her play before, no doubt. It’s said he’s present in his brother’s box for every show so what dreadful occurrence might interrupt such dedication? The gentleman in question is a known connoisseur of theatre – and actresses. He left early, stepped into a hack with a footman-type, and wasn’t seen again that evening. One can only pity the actress concerned – because rumour has it that something scandalous occurred last night at Carlton House…

Whatever has happened, the incident appears serious. The Prime Minister could not be reached this morning. It’s said he’s unwell, though lights burned late in Westminster last night. The matter is top secret, but it’s certain at least one known rake was seen leaving the Regent’s private rooms at an unearthly hour – and the Prime Minister’s private secretary was spotted using the tradesman’s entrance twice. One doesn’t like to spread gossip regarding the higher echelons of government, but one can hardly help it in this case. Only one other thing seems certain – this secret incident doesn’t seem to involve any ladies, which is both a comfort to society, and a disappointment to this writer. If all that’s at risk is the reputation of a certain London actress, our debutantes may sleep soundly in Mayfair.

About the Book: The Case of the Black Diamond (Part I)

AVAILABLE ON LIMITED RELEASE:  https://amzn.to/3AU941L

The Case of the Black Diamond Part I
Nicknamed ‘the lonely lord’, Alexander Lindsey has spent a decade spying for the King and believes himself immune to surprises – until he meets Miss Ryan. Claire Ryan doesn’t swoon, and doesn’t blush – but when the Regent’s jewel is stolen, Lord Lindsey turns up at The Soho Club, asking questions. Soon, Claire and Alexander are investigating each other.

This is the first of a five part series. Part II is already available.

Release Date: 22 November 2022

Excerpt from The Case of the Black Diamond, by Clyve Rose:

Outside The Soho Club, dark clouds gathered in the afternoon sky. The air thickened, closely heavy in the prelude to a drenching. Claire shivered at the change in temperature, the tensing of mood. She sipped her coffee, watching Xander Lindsey, watching her. His gaze seemed focused rather closely on the rim of her cup, specifically where the fine china met her lips. 

She sipped her brew again. “If you’re intent on seduction, you should know I am not my sister.”

His gaze lifted to her face, steady, focused, powerfully intent. “I have never seduced your sister. I am no rake, Claire.” His voice remained sure, strong, and deeply tempting.

“So it’s a ruse?” She guessed.

He inclined his head, his “mmmm,” resonating low in his throat, like a throb. “We can’t all mask our clandestine activities with scent.” His tone turned husky, intensity sharpening like a honed blade.

“I am not in the habit of short term liaisons,” Claire spoke carefully. “I am not in the habit of being seduced, either.”

“There’s a remedy for that,” he said quietly, suggestively. Did his voice deepen further? How deep does he—stop it.

As though he’d heard her, Xander set down his cup. He walked slowly towards her, the way one might approach a rare and dangerous object.

“Tell me, Claire Ryan, are you armed?”

“Why do you ask?”

“Because I should like to kiss you. If I halt here, you may blade my heart open instead,” he stopped halfway across the chequered floor, arms by his sides like a supplicant. A supplicant with warm brown eyes, and a devastating dimple.

Claire affected a study of the distance between them, lifted her head, locking her gaze to his.

“Three steps back gives you a sporting chance, Xander Lindsey.”

“Indeed?” The resonance from his baritone rippled through her. Nevertheless, he held his ground and Claire lifted a brow, gaze travelling brazenly over his planed face. He stared right back, smiling, offering that dimple where she lingered before studying the cleft in his chin, his corded neck muscles, those powerful shoulders of defined shape. Her gaze dropped lower, taking in his broad torso, narrow waist, and the shapely front of his trousers. She smiled then, wide and joyous, walking slowly towards him, slower than ever, as though she may never reach him, never touch him. Time stretched out, thinning, heating, bringing her closer to the heft of breath beneath flesh, her pulse beating faster with each step until her skin throbbed with the thought of his lips beneath hers, his surrender within her body. 

“Something to savour,” she murmured, watching his answering smile. His tongue darted out, licking his lips and she let out a small laugh, not blinking at all. Not missing a moment of Xander Lindsey standing before her, arms at his sides, gaze locked on hers with an impulse she felt in every nerve and muscle. Claire touched his cheek, stroking him gently before leaning forward, lips positioned inches from his. Reaching up, she slipped her other hand beneath his jacket, sliding her palm over his shirt, feeling his breath shorten, his weight shift…until she located his hidden jacket seam. Keeping her gaze on his, she extracted his pistol as smoothly as possible, stroking the barrel along firm muscle as she withdrew. She kept his barrel there, smoothing it lightly back and forth against his shirt, teasing him with danger, with steel, with her unbroken gaze.

“Is it cocked, my lord?”

Author Bio:  Clyve Rose is an award-winning author of historical fiction in Australia and the US. She has been writing historical romance for the best part of two decades, and has three bestsellers to her credit. She believes that love is the highest and strongest force known in the world, and that it only manifests when we are our best and truest selves. She’ll continue writing about love in all its various, glorious forms, and that one day her epitaph will read Just one more read-through.

A Most Disturbing Report of a Royal’s Dire Jeopardy!

A most noble lady

Gentle Reader,

Is there anyone who doesn’t love a royal? Well, clearly, there is because we are extremely disturbed to inform you that the newest amongst our ranks has suffered not one but two attempts on her life! And yet, despite this horrors of such a thing occurring to one who could possibly be the sweetest, most demure royal we have ever encountered, she was seen at a ball less than twenty-four hours after her latest attack! Not only that, but telling anyone and everyone who would listen how imperative it is that she stand up not only herself, but her country, and the memory of her dearest, departed brother. We were nearly swooning at the girl’s bravery! I tell you, dear reader, if anyone can capture the villain responsible for attempting to harm our beloved princess, he will be declared a hero in truth.

In Lieu of a Princess by Meredith Bond

“This isn’t her Royal Highness,” the headmistress told the man and the woman who were staring at Lucinda with their mouths hanging open.

“But it could be.”

These words turn the life of Lucinda North upside down. Within hours, she agrees—against her better judgement—to impersonate the missing Princess Louisa of Aachen-Düren. Within a week, she meets the queen and the handsome and charming Lord Melfield. Within the month, she is living at Buckingham Palace, lying about her true identity not only to Queen Charlotte, but to all of Regency society, while someone is trying to kill her. Within her lifetime, she will never regret a moment of it.

 Anthony Melfield would rather not waste his time helping a spoiled princess learn how to conduct herself. He would certainly rather not have to return to society after a heartbreak. And he most definitely would rather not have feelings for the princess, no matter how sweet, funny, and beautiful she is. To top it all, he would much rather not have to use his skills to save her life and figure out who wants her dead.

Hidden identities, a princess on the run, and three lives at stake… despite this, these royals and rebels must learn to trust and open themselves to a lifetime of love.

Purchase Link at Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Lieu-Princess-Royals-Rebels-Book-ebook/dp/B0BL1886VZ  This book is enrolled in Kindle Unlimited

Excerpt: 

“You said you had an opening for a language teacher? I, er, I brought references as you asked. I’m afraid two of them aren’t in English, but I do hope that won’t be too much of a problem,” Lou said, fumbling as she opened her portfolio while still standing in front of the headmistress. “I also have an essay which I—”

“But you look…” the woman started, completely ignoring the letters Lou was trying to hand her. “You are the spitting—”

“She cannot be found anywhere. I have ridden…” A man’s deep, accented voice made Lou spin around. “Oh! Eure Hoheit! Meine Prinzessin! Wo bist du gewesen?” He started to scold her gently in German before Lou held up a hand. He was a large man, probably a full foot taller than Lou, and looked strong enough to pull a horse rather than the other way around. His pale blond hair was windblown, and he was wearing riding clothes. He smelled as if he’d been in the saddle for some time.

“I’m terribly sorry,” she told him in German, “but you seem to have mistaken me for someone else. I am Lucinda North. I’m here to apply for a teaching position.”

He stopped and stared at her as if she had just grown a second head. “Was? Ist das eine Art Spiel?” He gave her a tentative smile.

Lou shook her head. “No. This is no game. Truly, I—”

“Oh, thank goodness!” Another woman joined them, also speaking German. “Where were you, Your Highness? You should know better than to scare us like that!”

“It’s not her,” the man said, turning to the middle-aged woman. She had dark blonde hair pulled into a tight chignon and a fashionable yet sensible gown of deep blue that made her cheeks look flushed.

“What do you mean? What nonsense are you—” The woman came forward and stopped just in front of Lou. Her eyes widened. “Your eyes. They are brown. Why are your eyes brown?”

“This isn’t Her Royal Highness,” Mrs. Carter told the man and the woman who were now staring at Lou with their mouths hanging open.

“It could be,” the woman said in strongly accented English. She stared at Lou as if she were a painting, examining every detail. “She’s got the same heart-shaped face, the same features, her height, build… She even has the same shade of blonde hair… But for the eyes.”

“What are you saying, woman?” the man snapped, turning to look at the lady.

“Who is she?” the woman asked the headmistress, ignoring him.

“She’s here for a teaching position,” Mrs. Carter told them.

The Author, Meredith Bond

Meredith Bond’s books straddle that beautiful line between historical romance and fantasy. An award-winning author, she writes fun traditional Regency romances, medieval Arthurian romances, and Regency romances with a touch of magic. Known for her characters “who slip readily into one’s heart,” Meredith loves to take her readers on a journey they won’t soon forget.  

Merry loves connecting with readers. Be sure to find her:

Website: https://meredithbond.com

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A Meeting in a Folly…is a folly?

Dearest Reader, 

It is not unusual to hear whisperings from the countryside, but there often is no way to verify the veracity of such rumors. Woodfield Park has long been the source of much speculation with the Earl of Woodfield’s years of isolation and his failing heart, but with the unexpected death of his eldest son, the gossip mongers have been ripe with conjecture. It does leave one wondering why Lord Walford was out in the woods hunting off season and how such a careless accident could possibly have occurred. But, as I’ve pointed out, there has been no way to confirm goings-on so far from town. Until now.

As luck would have it, a well-known fully-respectable artist acquaintance of mine has found himself in the surprising position of witness to something that perhaps might at least explain more recent events. While I cannot disclose his name—as he was somewhere he oughtn’t have been, and despite the fact that his reasons are entirely harmless, he did not seek permission first, so his transgression might be considered trespassing—I can personally vouch for his integrity. 

The artist was casually sketching the folly at Woodfield Park when the sound of hooves drew his attention. At the time he did not recognize the lovely woman in green, but with subsequent happenings, one must surmise that it was the Woodfield neighbor, Miss Baring, only daughter of Baron Stratton. He, of course, thought nothing of it and continued with his sketching until his attention was once again drawn to the folly as another horse and rider approached. He had heard rumors that the remaining son, Mr. Nicholas Sinclair, now the new Viscount Walford and only heir to the Woodfield estate, had returned from the battlefield, and felt certain he was the man standing at the entrance of the folly. 

Now, the artist was unwilling to posit what he thought their meeting was about, but he did note they were alone together for quite a length of time and, as they left, they appeared inordinately affectionate even from his distance from the other side of the lake. Considering the hasty marriage ceremony the next day, it is difficult not to jump to conclusions. However juicy a tidbit that might be, it is not what leaves this writer wondering what is afoot at Woodfield Park. For although the Woodfield servants are an unusually tight-lipped ensemble, there is one who is more than happy to tell others what she knows. Apparently, the tension is so thick in the manor you could cut it with a butter knife. And Lord Walford, a man so anxious to claim his wife he appears to have anticipated the marriage bed, is keeping his days busy on the estate and spends each night in the study. Alone. If indeed this was a marriage born of passion, what could possibly be keeping the newlyweds apart? 

Was the dalliance at the folly, indeed true folly?

*****

 Years separated them. The past keeps them apart. Can a lifetime of loving bring them together again?

Catherine Baring has chased her brother Laurence, and the neighboring Sinclair boys, through childhood into adulthood. She adores all three, but it is the younger Sinclair, Nicholas, who owns her heart. When Nicholas leaves to join the fight against Napoleon, she vows she will wait for him. However, four years is a long time and circumstances change. Faced with the threat of a scandal that will lead to penury and, worse, possible criminal charges, Catherine agrees to do the only thing that might deflect attention from their families—marry the elder Sinclair, Daniel.

Daniel is killed before the two are wed, and Nicholas is summoned from the battlefield to assume the role as heir to Woodfield Park. Disillusioned by the atrocities committed on the continent, his brother’s death is another blow. He clings to thoughts of Catherine, certain that in her arms he will find the solace he craves.

Instead, Nicholas finds betrayal and deceit. Catherine claims to love Nicholas, but she refuses to repent for the betrothal to his brother. Nicholas buries his conflicting feelings, and himself, in the neglected affairs of the estate. But a lifetime of loving is hard to set aside, and when he discovers a series of letters that reveal the truth behind the traitorous engagement, he’s not sure he can.

As they struggle with loss and longing, one thing becomes clear to both Nicholas and Catherine. Only in confronting the past can they hope to build new dreams for the future.

Available on Amazon for $0.99, or read for free in KU: https://amzn.to/3o1qZNd

And, for the curious, at the folly…

Excerpt:

She dismounted, leaving Star to graze. There was no need to tie the horse, as it would not leave. This was familiar territory to the mare, and she always waited patiently.

There was no sign of Nicholas. Well, that in and of itself was telling, was it not? If he did not come today, then he had truly severed her from his life. She could not blame him one whit. No, she could not fault him at all. Yet she would be forever tormented by his rejection, rightful or not.

She drifted up the steps of the folly, caressing the flower petals as she went. They were vibrant velvet, four years of growth obscuring the pillars with their beauty. She opened the oversized wooden door and entered the vast chamber. Nicholas had not wanted to break up the majestic interior. 

Its lushness still made her happy. Nicholas had adhered to the barren beauty of classical structures but had furnished it like a Turkish palace—plush carpets, comfortable settees, and extra wide chaise lounges abounded. Sheets of sheer curtains billowed in the breeze that flowed freely through the upper arches. The tall main windows remained fast against the weather but he’d cleverly included upper arcs of open space, unimpeded by glass. He wanted the building to remain fresh at all times. Fresh as their new found love. She smiled at the memory of his declaration.

“Catherine.”

Not a declaration but a prayer. His voice was reverent. Did she imagine it? She turned. He had come, his silhouette tall against the morning sun, his face hidden in the shadow. 

She bit her lip to stop the trembling.

He entered, his dark shape transforming into defined features much as her furniture had done in the early light. His eyes were indigo with emotion. Was he angry? Forgiving? Full of love? No, he was tense. So, not here to grant her absolution.

“Nicholas,” she started, not quite sure what she could say to make him understand. No words came.

In a few quick strides, he was with her, taking her into his arms, and seizing her mouth with his. She surrendered easily, relishing his attack. Oh, how she had dreamed of this. The reunion of her fantasies. He was not gentle and she was glad of it. He was angry. He was needy. So was she. She met his every volley, craving this as much as he did.

He shuffled with her backward until her legs hit furniture, and they buckled upon a chaise. His weight was a comfort, the hardness pressing against her stomach a joyous relief. She wanted to shout in triumph. He wanted her. He loved her. He must, must have forgiven her! Her kisses became feverish as she pushed at his open shirt, her hands caressing his warm chest. She whimpered. For so long, she’d imagined touching him again.

“Catherine,” he murmured, grabbing her hand and pressing it to his heart. “My Catherine, my love.” He raised her hand and kissed it with such aching veneration, tears blurred her vision.

“How I have yearned to be with you again. How memories of you have sustained me through endless nights.” His eyes darkened further. “Picturing you here at the folly kept me going. Knowing that you had yet to know the pleasure of our joining ensured I did not capitulate in battle. I knew I must come home to you. That you waited for me. To fulfill my promise of loving you.” He rested against her neck, gently nuzzling.

Oh yes, she’d waited. She’d longed. She had spent each night lighting a candle and praying for him. That he come home safely. That he come home to her. That, after his worldly experience, she would still be enough.

How many nights had she dreamt of this? She ran her hand through his hair, relishing the familiar feel of the thick strands, of his breath on her neck, of the spicy scent of him. The last thing she wanted was to shatter the moment, but she needed to know for sure, needed to hear the words. “You forgive me?” she asked quietly, going still, hope and fear mingling together.

He raised his head and stared at her. His brow furrowed and her heart skipped a beat. “Forgive you, my love? There is nothing to forgive. I don’t fully understand what happened, but I know if there is blame it rests entirely upon his shoulders.” He kissed her forehead and then pulled back again, locking gazes. “His actions are not yours. I do not forgive you because there is nothing to forgive.”

“I didn’t think you would understand. I love you so. I never stopped even when…” Her voice caught in her throat. No words could express her relief, her joy. So, instead, she pulled his head down and lost herself in a kiss that left her panting with need.

She touched his face, tracing his sharp cheekbone down to the slight cleft in his chin, not knowing what to ask. 

“Nicholas? I want…” She wanted more of him. She wanted all of him. 

“Shhh, my love, I know. I need more too. We’ve waited so long.” 

***

LOVE DENIED is the first book in the HONORABLE INTENTIONS series by Rose Phillips. You can find her at various places in the cyber universe including:

https://rosephillipsrambles.blogspot.com

https://www.facebook.com/RosePhillipsAuthor

https://www.amazon.com/Rose-Phillips

Rose Phillips

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