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The Vile Impersonator

Dearest Reader:

The arrival of another country heiress in the Metropolis is hardly cause for excitement, at least in our considered opinion, for they are two a penny, if you will pardon the pun. That these all-too-often underbred innocents are beset by suitors will amaze no one, for there are at least as many gentlemen with fortunes needing to be mended, and they are none of them nice in their requirements. Let her be well endowed in the stocks, and her other charms—or lack thereof—need not signify.

The particular country heiress who has excited the latest rage, a Miss Lenora Breckinridge, while possessing somewhat more by way of refinement than her contemporaries, appears quite as susceptible to flattering attentions, and may require a hint. She has made no secret of her admiration for a certain gentleman, and is forever being seen with him, at Society parties and driving about town, and has raised both eyebrows and concerns. One can only wonder at her parents for neglecting to advise her in this matter, for they surely must be privy to the rumors which blaze through the town regarding her beau, and if she cares not to safeguard her fortune, her father at least should.

For the man whom our young lady has singled out is none other than the mysterious Lord Helden, whom we do not scruple to style a fortune hunter—though this may be the least of his sins. It is commonly known that his estate is ruined, its bounties wasted by his predecessor for reasons too sordid even for our pen, and he can offer not even a sound roof over the head of his future bride.

But even more shocking, if rumors are to be believed, his lordship may prove to be nothing more than an imposter. The thought makes one stare! However, upon reflection, one will acknowledge that for the lost heir to a viscountcy to suddenly reappear just as an heiress has made no secret of her admiration for his estate, is a fact that must bear more scrutiny than Miss Breckinridge, or her parents, appear to deem necessary.

The near impossibility that anyone but his lordship could prove himself to be Lord Helden, we cannot but allow; however, creditable sources have confirmed that the man claiming to be Lord Helden has been, for the past six months, performing the duties of caretaker to the Helden estate; moreover, he did not show himself to Society in his present guise until after Miss Breckinridge came upon the scene. If this does not arouse suspicion, we know not what could, and we call upon those in positions of responsibility to more seriously consider the matter.

One shudders to reflect upon the depravity of a man who will stop at nothing, be it the entrapment of an innocent maiden or the heinous sin of impersonating a nobleman, to gain a fortune. While such cannot be proven against the man in question at this time, this observer holds it as the duty of all loyal citizens to be vigilant against the mere possibility of evil. At the very least, if neither Miss Breckinridge nor her parents choose to alter her course, and she bestows her hand and fortune upon this Lord Helden, they only will be to blame when his true character is unfolded, as it must certainly be, in their married life. We have done our poor best to undeceive her, and can only hope that our friendly hint will be heeded before it is too late.

–a Disinterested Observer

About the Book

Romance of the Ruin, Book 2 of the Branwell Chronicles

The ruined manor promised her romance, but its master was maddeningly elusive.

Prey to Gothic sensibilities, Miss Lenora Breckinridge is smitten with the air of tragedy and romance surrounding an abandoned mansion. Convinced that she is fated to become its mistress, she sets out to find the master, secure in the belief that he will fall madly in love with her and they will use her fortune to restore the manor together.

Mr. James Ingles is disillusioned by the short hand fate has continually dealt him, but goes to be caretaker to the ruined mansion in a last effort to seek his fortune. When he discovers Miss Breckinridge’s fascination with the ruin, however, he recognizes an opportunity to get the better of fate, if only he can play his cards right.

Excerpt:

Would Mr. Ingles have done something so rash and dangerous as attempt to impersonate a nobleman? Lenora could imagine that the situation was indeed a tempting one, and the family bible might have given him all that was necessary to prove his claim. It may have contained histories, besides the names, with birthdates and places that would come in useful.

But she could not credit it. Mr. Ingles was not that kind of man—she knew that without a doubt. And the Lord Helden she had danced with was a perfect gentleman. How could a rough, coarse, uncouth man suddenly become well-versed in etiquette and possessed of refinement, unless he had been raised and educated so? His years in the army could very well have driven him to hide his finer virtues, and had he not—though briefly and under the influence of spirits—claimed himself a gentleman, at their first meeting?

That Dowbridge had so quickly believed the worst was worrisome, however, and the more she reflected, the more anxious she became. How many others would do as he had done, and would their suspicion be without foundation? Was it possible that Mr. Ingles was a consummate criminal, so conniving that he could touch her heart, even as he played the drunken fool?

Distressed, she took refuge in her room, sinking down into the chair by her fire and gazing unseeing into the flames, her hands wringing in her lap. She was discovered in this attitude some time later by Tess, who instantly strove to discover what ailed her mistress.

Lenora brushed her away impatiently. “Tess! I was merely thinking, for I have a thorny problem, and I am at my wits’ end to know what to do about it. Mr. Ingles is in London professing to be Lord Helden, and I do not know if it is true, or if he will be taken up by the magistrate and transported.”

“Good Lord, miss, I never!” responded Tess, correctly interpreting this cryptic utterance. “To think that such a hairy man could be Lord Helden!”

Lenora shook her head. “And yet he is Lord Helden. At least, I must believe so, for though he has been so rough and rude, and was a drunkard, and a common soldier, and—and so very hairy—I do not believe that he would do so dangerous a thing as to impersonate a nobleman! It defies reason.”

“That it do, miss, and I wonder that he’d have the pluck to try it! He’d have to be bold as brass! But if he fancies himself a gentleman, there’ll be no stopping him, for he’ll be living too high to wish to leave off.”

“You are right, Tess! He will soon be ruined!” responded Lenora, startled. “Who knows how he came by the money to rig himself out in fine clothes and set himself up as a gentleman in town, for even if he is Lord Helden, it cannot last for long, and when he comes to the end of it, he may be driven to desperation to keep up his appearance! He may turn to gaming, or to thievery—or worse!”

As neither young lady liked to think what could be worse than thievery, they did not attempt to envision such vice, but bent their minds to discover a way to save the unfortunate gentleman.

Buy links:

Amazon US: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B09BTPZ6SW/ref=cm_sw_em_r_mt_dp_41AJA15ZFP5QB0QXQGW3

Amazon UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B09BTPZ6SW/ref=cm_sw_em_r_mt_dp_HSDZ1PS7XR01HA3CM64T

Amazon AU: https://www.amazon.com.au/dp/B09BTPZ6SW/ref=cm_sw_em_r_mt_dp_PCSETNJBGHQSKK9NX2G9

B&N: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/romance-of-the-ruin-judith-hale-h-everett/1139972663?ean=9781736067536

Kobo: https://www.kobo.com/us/en/ebook/romance-of-the-ruin

Apple Books: https://books.apple.com/us/book/romance-of-the-ruin/id1579888890

About the Author

Judith Hale Everett is a writer of low-heat traditional Regency romance. She is one of seven sisters, and grew up surrounded by romance novels. Georgette Heyer and Jane Austen were staples, and formed the groundwork for her lifelong love affair with the Regency. Add to that her obsession with the English language and you’ve got one hopelessly literate romantic. You can find her at:

WEBSITE: https://judithhaleeverett.com

FACEBOOK: https://facebook.com/JudithHaleEverett

INSTAGRAM: https://instagram.com/judithhaleeverett

TWITTER: https://twitter.com/JudithHEverett

Trouble always follows her

Lord Adrian de Courtenay and his wife Celia sat in the morning room eating their breakfast. A servant quietly entered placing a newsprint within his lady’s reach. Adrian glanced over at the paper and grimaced.

“Why do you bother reading that trash, my love,” he reluctantly asked his wife.

“How else am I to keep up with the goings on in Society whilst we are retired here in Bath, Adrian?” she asked before picking up the paper to peruse the contents.

He gave the matter no further thought as he continued to enjoy his morning coffee before Celia gasped. She cast nervous eyes in his direction, worry etched upon her brow. God forbid! What now? he thought.

“Hand it over,” he said far more gently than he expected. Considering how Celia’s hands shook when she handed over the newsprint, the contents couldn’t be good news.

“Adrian… just remain calm,” she said placing her hand upon his arm.

“I am always calm, my dear,” he replied and watched a delicate brow arch upwards. “Well… most of the time.” He scanned the print until the words swirled before his angry eyes.

Gently Readers:

It has come to the attention of this reporter that a certain Miss d.C. was seen entering a seaside inn at an indecent hour of the night. Did this young lady just return from an evening of debauchery with some unknown gentleman? Time will only tell if her reputation will survive this latest bit of tittle tattle. Stay tuned for more, dear reader!

An Anonymous Reporter for
The TeaTime Tattler

“What the bloody—”

“Adrian,” Celia called out.

“I thought Grace and Nicholas had a firm had on Miranda and what is she doing at some inn along the coast?” he howled in frustration.

“There’s no sense in getting worked up about something you had no control over. You know how trouble seems to follow Miranda wherever she goes. I’m certain there’s an explanation for everything.”

“I highly doubt that, my dear. I will, however, send a message to Grace to find out what she knows. If you will excuse me, I’ll go to see the matter,” he replied before placing a kiss on the top of her head and heading for his study.

Miranda in trouble again. He swore his sister was going to be the death of him.


This is an original piece by Belle Sherry Ewing. Miss Miranda de Courtenay was previously seen in A Kiss For Charity and The Earl Takes A Wife. She now gets her happily ever after in Before I Found You that is in the Bluestocking Belles’ next box set Storm & Shelter.

Excerpt from Before I Found You: A de Courtenay Novella (Book Three):

“You look as though you belong here, Miranda.” That voice broke into her musings, causing a shiver of pleasure to race throughout her body. His tone was gentle. Might Jasper still care for her? God help me.

She turned to face him and realized he was closer than she thought. Her breath caught in her throat before she finally answered him. “Do I?” she asked hesitantly, before she shrugged. “I never seem to really fit in anywhere.”

“Maybe you’re just looking in all the wrong places.” His solemn expression seemed genuinely concerned. Miranda’s determination to have a titled man as her husband waned in Jasper’s presence. It troubled her, and at the same time she felt guilty. Wasn’t she being untrue to herself?

“Perhaps,” she replied, quietly. She would concede that something inside her was changing. She wasn’t sure if she cared for the changes or not, but she couldn’t stand to see the hurt she might cause this man once again reflected in his eyes.

A few locks of her hair whisked across her face and Jasper reached out to tuck the length behind her ear. “Miranda—”

“I must apologize if my presence has made you uncomfortable, Jasper. I tried to persuade Grace to pick me up after they were done here,” she interrupted. She gestured at the planks beneath her feet. “As you can see, I failed.”

“You are more than welcome onboard. But you’re not remaining in London?” The ship chose that moment to sway and, before Miranda’s stance could falter, Jasper took hold of her elbow to steady her. Her heart betrayed her yet again when he placed her hand into the crook of his arm to offer his support.

“No, I’m afraid not. Nicholas has purchased a cottage on the coast at Cromer in Norfolk. I’m to accompany them and their children while they look the place over and furnish it. It’s part of my punishment for past offenses, I suppose. I’d rather not go into the details.”

“Spending time with your family hardly seems like punishment, Miranda.”

“I’m glad you haven’t heard the gossip surrounding me the past few years. Elsewise, you’d be like the rest of the tonand stay away from me at all costs. I’m only really accepted among them because of Grace and Adrian.”

He pulled her to face him and lifted her chin. “We may not have known one another for long, but you must know I’m not cut from the same mold as most of society. I’ve lived by my own rules, and, while I try to remain the gentleman my parents raised me to be, I don’t mind taking a risk now and then.”

“Like at the ball?” she asked, trying to keep her nerves calm.

“Yes. I thought you also didn’t mind occasionally dismissing the convention of men and women of their ilk since you decided to dance with me.”

She thought of how a foolish bet with Grace had almost been the ruin of her reputation at Hollystone Hall. A laugh escaped her. “If you only knew…”

“Perhaps one day you shall confide in me. I promise to keep your secrets.” His grin was completely wicked, and another piece of her heart melted.

“I just may hold you to your vow, Jasper,” she teased, her eyes twinkling in merriment while they jested with one another.

Storm & Shelter:
A Bluestocking Belles Collection with Friends

When a storm blows off the North Sea and slams into the village of Fenwick on Sea, the villagers prepare for the inevitable: shipwreck, flood, land slips, and stranded travelers. The Queen’s Barque Inn quickly fills with the injured, the devious, and the lonely—lords, ladies, and simple folk; spies, pirates, and smugglers all trapped together. Intrigue crackles through the village, and passion lights up the hotel.

One storm, eight authors, eight heartwarming novellas.

Before I Found You Blurb:

Miss Miranda de Courtenay has only one goal in life: to find a rich husband who can change her status from Miss to My Lady. But when a handsome stranger crosses her path at a Valentine’s Day ball, her obsession with titles dims. Might love be enough?

Captain Jasper Rousseau has no plans to become infatuated during a chance encounter at a ball. He has a new ship to run, passengers to book, and cargo to deliver. But one look into a young lady’s beautiful hazel eyes, and he becomes lost. Does love at first sight really exist?

Their paths continue to cross until they are both stranded in Fenwick on Sea. Their growing connection is hard to dismiss, despite Miranda’s childish quest for a title at all cost. But what if the cost includes love?

Buy Links:

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Amazon AU |BR |CA |DE |ES |FR |IN |IT |JP |MX |NL |UK

Angus & Robertson

About Sherry Ewing:

Sherry Ewing picked up her first historical romance when she was a teenager and has been hooked ever since. A 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!

Website & Books: www.SherryEwing.com

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Ten Lords Rejected

London, 1817

In a previous article I mentioned my curiosity with regards to the house party that took place in the home of the Duke of Arscott to see that his daughter, Lady Lucinda Claxton married. Ten lords had been invited and I was anxious to learn which lord she settled upon. Therefore, it came as great surprise when she chose an American. Which then begged the question, why were the ten lords rejected?

One of those ten curiosities has been answered for I am told that the first to leave was Lord Emory Talbot, Viscount Ferrard. I was rather surprised that he’d been invited to begin with as last I’d heard he was not seeking a wife. In all my observations, he’d always preferred young widows to misses.

At first, I thought that perhaps he assumed it was a normal house party, with several guests, and hoped young widows would be present, when in fact, the guest list included few. However, it then came to my attention that he’d not attended for young widows or Lady Lucinda but announced that he’d hoped to gain an introduction to a younger sister, Lady Violet Claxton.

I can think of no two individuals less suited for the other. You see, while Ferrard can often be found in the ballroom, enjoying his status of a wealthy, bachelor viscount, Lady Violet avoided Societal events and when forced to attend she escaped to the gardens at the first opportunity. She spent far more time admiring flowers, plants, and bushes than she ever spent dancing, or even conversing with those in attendance. Further, if Ferrard had wished an introduction, all knew where she could be found as it was no secret that Lady Violet preferred roses to bachelors. Therefore, I’m quite perplexed as to why Lord Ferrard developed a sudden interest in Lady Violet.

Links for COURTSHIP OF CONVENIENCE: https://books2read.com/u/3JRlxX

Release Date: May 18, 2021

Excerpt~

Lady Violet folded her hands on her lap, tilted her chin and looked toward the horizon. Her green eyes narrowed as her lips pursed, as if she were mulling over a problem.

She then glanced at Emory, hummed, then turned away again.

“May I ask what is on your mind.”

“I believe I have a solution that might solve both of our problems, if you are willing of course.”

The only solution was a courtship and then marriage, but as he’d just met Lady Violet, that solution wasn’t an option.

“What I propose is a courtship of convenience.”

“Courtship of convenience?” he repeated, uncertain as to her meaning.

“Yes,” she answered with a nod of her chin. “You shall court me until January sixth and then we will declare that we do not suit. Your father will be satisfied that you spent more than an afternoon of effort, and mine will be satisfied that I allowed a courtship.”

All he could do was stare at her. Such an agreement would placate his father. What he did not know was if Lady Violet might have an ulterior motive, other than pleasing her father.

“But it must be a true courtship, in that we come to know one another, as I don’t wish to lie to my father and say you courted me when we just pretended to do so.”

A fine line to avoid deception, but he understood. Yet, he didn’t trust that this wasn’t a trap to get him to enter into an agreement in hopes that more came of their association. However, while he did not know Lady Violet, he had the oddest feeling that he could trust her and that this scheme was no more or less than what she described.

“As you detest untruth as much as me, I trust that you are in agreement that it must be a true courtship with a scheduled time for it to end and the two of us to part. Based upon your behavior in London, I assume you have no real desire for a courtship any more than I, as I fully intend to remain unmarried for as long as I am allowed. Therefore, we can satisfy the demands of our families while knowing that we will both be free of any commitment come January sixth.”

A true courtship without the expectation of a betrothal? The very idea was intriguing. If she were as truthful as she claimed, and Emory believed that she was, this would be a perfect solution. “I think that is an excellent idea, Lady Violet.”

Emory smiled to himself. This was the first commitment in memory that he was more than willing to make.

She nodded and faced forward. “I am glad we are in agreement Lord Ferrard.”

“How does one court in Laswell?” If he were in London, it would be drives through Hyde Park, ices at Gunter’s, taking in the theatre, calling on her home, and dancing at balls. None of which were available to him here.

“I’m not certain, Lord Ferrard. Perhaps we could simply stroll through Laswell and in the park, each day at a certain time for a specific length in duration when we will most likely be seen. Such meetings will eventually be reported back to my father, and as your brother lives here, he can assure your father that we did indeed court.”

At her statement, he assumed there were no other entertainments to be offered. Perhaps his brother would have suggestions. Though, if strolls were all they did, Emory doubted any conversation with Lady Violet would be dull. At least, not for the first few days.

About the Author

USA Today bestselling author Jane Charles is a prolific writer of over fifty historical and contemporary romance novels. Her love of research lends authenticity to her Regency romances, and her experience directing theatre productions helps her craft beautiful, touching stories that tug at the heartstrings. Jane is an upbeat and positive author dedicated to giving her characters happy-ever-afters and leaving the readers satisfied at the end of an emotional journey. Lifelong Cubs fan, world traveler and mother of three amazing children, Jane lives in Central Illinois with her husband, two dogs and a cat. She is currently writing her next book and planning her dream trip to England. Be sure to join Jane on Facebook @JaneCharlesAuthor for Wine Pairings Wednesdays.

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Church Ladies’ Gossip

“The innkeeper’s son is back.” Mrs. Simpson, the grocer’s wife, whispered to Eunice Norton, the carpenter’s sister, just before services started one Sunday.

“Eli Benson? He was home from Nottingham just last week? I saw him,” Eunice answered.

“Not him, the other one. Wild he was,” the grocer’s goodwife said.

Eunice’s brows reached for the rafters as the congregation rose to sing the opening hymn. Wee Robby is back? She remembered him as a lad. Handsome as sin and she fancied him, for all he was several years too young and Eunice already nodding at spinsterhood.

Reverend Styles droned on longer than usual. Worst luck, that, with  Eunice anxious to  find out more. When he finally  brought it to a close, she scurried out. She had spied Emma Corbin, who used to be Emma Benson, in the benches.

Luckily Emma’s husband liked to visit after church and Eunice caught her watching her flock of children and calling them to stay nearby.

“I heard your brother has come home.” Eunice watched her closely.

“He has indeed. We are so proud of him,” Emma Corbin beamed.

“Is he really—” Eunice barely got the words out.

“A hero of Waterloo? Yes. It was in the dispatches. Don’t  you read the papers Eunice Norton?” She smiled as sweet as can be and marched off with that husband of hers. As if just having one made her better than Eunice.

Waterloo? The was two years ago. The whole valley  knows about it. Eunice meant to ask something different.

Just then she caught sight of Molly  Sims who worked up at The Hall flirting with Aaron Miller, a farmer from over by Willowbrook. She  sauntered over all friendly and smiled her most practiced smile. “Emma Corbin tells me her brother Robby is back.”

“I’m wondering, Molly, what they say  at the Hall. Is he really the old earl’s son?”

“Don’t say that to Mr. Benson the innkeeper. He won’t hear the man called aught but his own son,” Aaron said.

Eunice snorted. “But the will. Is it true?”

“That the earl named his by-blows in it and gave all his goods to them?” Molly said, her words as tart as lemons. “I can tell you for certain he left Lord David—the new earl—short of cash. We get our wages, but there’s too few  of us for the work, and things are tight. The Dowager Countess won’t even come back from London.”

“Well, that’s one blessing, isn’t it Moll?” Aaron laughed. He sobered. “We heard months ago that the old man left Willowbrook to one of his bastards. Agnes Styles says its him, and he’s back.”

Eunice’s meager chest lifted in delight. “See you Sunday,” she called to  them. She couldn’t linger. She had to find Mrs. Simpson and tell her what  she heard. She just wished the man had the decency to come to church. She’d like to get a good look at him.

About the Book

When the Earl of Clarion leaves a will with bequests for all his children, legitimate and not, listing each and their mothers by name, he complicates the lives of many in the village of Ashmead.

One sleepy village

One scandalous will

Four tormented heirs, one of them believing he was the innkeeper’s son. He is the first of The Ashmead Heirs.

Sir Robert Benson’s life is in London. He fled Ashmead the day he discovered the man he thought was his father had lied to him, and the girl he loved was beyond his reach. Only a nameless plea from his sister—his half-sister—brings him back. He will not allow a ludicrous bequest from the earl who sired him turn him into a mockery of landed gentry. When a feisty little termagant with flashing eyes—and a musket—tries to turn Rob off the land—his land—he’s too amused and intrigued to turn away. But the longer he stays, the tighter the bonds that tie him to Ashmead become, strengthened by the powerful draw of the woman rooted on land he’s determined to sell.

Lucy Whitaker’s life is Willowbrook, its land, its tenants, its prosperity, but she always knew it wasn’t hers, knew the missing heir would come eventually. When a powerful man with military bearing rides up looking as if he wants to come in and count the silver, she turns him away, but her heart sinks. She can’t deny Rob Benson his property; she can only try to make him love the place as she does, for her peoples’ sake. A traitorous corner of her heart wishes Rob would love it for her sake.

His life is London; hers is Ashmead. How can they forge something lasting when they are torn in two directions?

For pre-order now: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B09484DC1D/

About the Author

Caroline Warfield, award winning author and proud Bluestocking Belle, has been many things: traveler, librarian, poet, raiser of children, bird watcher, Internet and Web services manager, conference speaker, indexer, tech writer, genealogist—even a nun. She reckons she is on at least her third act, happily working in an office surrounded by windows where she lets her characters lead her to adventures in England and the far-flung corners of the British Empire. She nudges them to explore the riskiest territory of all, the human heart.

A Fall from Grace

Gentle reader,

I have it on good authority, from Lady Merwick, who heard it from her sister, Lady Karstark, that the wedding between the Duke of Wildeforde and Lady Amelia Crofton is off!

Rumor has it that Lady Amelia—the former diamond of the ton, the incomparable—was caught in a compromising position with the son of a footman.

There are conflicting reports as to whether or not the circumstances were more innocent than they appeared, but we all know how strongly opposed to the duke is to scandal. Apparently, he took one look at the half-dressed couple and ended his 15-year long engagement on the spot. Perhaps Lady Amelia should have tried harder to get him down the aisle before now.

Things appear to get be getting even worse for Lady Amelia, as little birdies tell me that her only remaining choice is to marry this Mister Benedict Asterly. Little is known about the other man in the story, except for the fact that he works in a factory. Talk about a fall from grace—from a future duchess to the wife of a man who has to *shudder*undertake manual labor for a living.

It is unlikely we’ll hear more from the former society diamond, for she doesn’t even have a house full of servants for secrets to trickle out from and surely no one of good breeding will visit her now.

About the book

In this whirlwind regency romance, perfect for fans of Netflix’s Bridgerton, a near-death experience leads to a marriage of convenience for two unsuspecting strangers, but will their unusual meeting lead them to true love?

Lady Amelia was raised to be the perfect duchess, accomplished in embroidery, floral arrangement, and managing a massive household. But when an innocent mistake forces her and the uncouth, untitled Benedict Asterly into a marriage of convenience, all her training appears to be for naught. Even worse, she finds herself inexplicably drawn to this man no finishing school could have prepared her for.

Benedict Asterly never dreamed saving Amelia’s life would lead to him exchanging vows with the hoity society miss. Benedict was taught to distrust the aristocracy at a young age, so when news of his marriage endangers a business deal, Benedict is wary of Amelia’s offer to help. But his quick-witted, elegant bride defies all his expectations . . . and if he’s not careful, she’ll break down the walls around his guarded heart.

Buy links: https://linktr.ee/samaraparish

About the Author

As an Australian army brat in the ‘80s, Samara grew up moving from city to city—always with plenty of book boxes (to the movers’ annoyance). Romance novels have been a big part of her life for years. She used them as her ‘escape’ during the trials and tribulations that are working, dating, and living in your 20s before going on to write them in her 30s.

She is now living in Canberra with her husband (a true romance hero) and her menagerie of pets. When she’s not writing, she’s tending to her absurdly large garden, which is a challenge given she historically could not keep a cactus alive.

You can follow her adventures through her newsletter (sign up and you get a free novelette) and on social media.

Website: www.samaraparish.com

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An Excerpt from Chapter 1

Benedict Asterly kicked in the door to the Longmans’ empty farmhouse. Despite the crash of splintered wood, the chit slung over his shoulder was as silent as a sack of last season’s grain.

Lady Amelia Bloody Crofton. Half dead, soon to be all dead if he couldn’t warm her up.

He lowered her onto the cold, uneven stone floor before the fireplace.

Damnation. There was no fog of breath, no flicker of pulse, no sign of life at all.

He’d almost ridden past the snow-covered carriage in his effort to get out of the storm. He’d been an idiot for traveling in this kind of weather but apparently not the only idiot on the road.

Why the devil was an earl’s daughter alone in a carriage all the way out here?

He pressed two fingers against her neck. Nothing. He pressed harder.

Th-thump…th-thump. It was faint. It was slow and erratic. But it was there.

Thank God.

He sagged with relief. The ropes around his chest, that had drawn tight the moment he’d seen her pale and unconscious, loosened.

He turned to the hearth and struck flint into the brush with shaking fingers. The scrape, scrape, scrape of steel on stone faint against the howl of the wind.

It caught, and he began the methodical task of building a fire. With each carefully placed stack, his racing heartbeat slowed..

Behind him, Lady Amelia muttered.

“I’m here. I’m with you.” He turned back to the woman who’d previously declined to acknowledge his existence. After all, a man like him was beneath her notice.

He tossed aside the coarse traveling coat he’d thrown over her and removed her gloves and pelisse, struggling with the weight of her ragdoll body.

Bloody hell she was cold.

How long had she been trapped in that broken-down carriage? At least she’d had the good sense not to leave it.

He took her soft hands in his calloused ones, bringing them to his lips, but his breath did little to warm them.

Unbuttoning the cuffs of her sleeves and rolling the fabric up her arms, he exposed as much of her bare skin to the seeping warmth as he could. Her skin was more than pale. It had a blue pallor that caused his heart to skitter.

“Just stay with me. Please.”

In a cupboard by the bed, he found some blankets. He pulled a knife from his boot to cut a piece and wrap the ends of her sodden blond hair. The rest he tucked behind her head and shoulders.

He untied the laces on her ankle boots and pulled the boots off, pausing at the sight of her stockings.

They were cold and damp. They needed to come off too. But a footman’s son had no place touching a lady. And this particular lady? The ice princess would skewer him with the poker if she knew what he was contemplating.

He turned his head aside, giving her all the modesty he could as he reached his hands under her skirts, fumbling with the ribbon of her garter.

“I’m sorry.” She couldn’t hear him, but just saying the words made him feel less of a cad.

He tugged the dark wool off her toes. The skin was red and like wax to touch—but it was only frostnip, not yet frostbite.

“You mustn’t…giant calling.” Her words were so slurred he struggled to understand them.

“I’ll bear that in mind, princess.”

Feeling was slowly returning to his body, if not warmth. He covered Lady Amelia in his coat and then staggered to the bench that ran along the edge of the room. There was a kettle filled with water, sloshy and semi-frozen.

He dumped a small amount of tea inside, grabbed two mugs with his other hand and staggered back to the fire.

The intensifying flame was the best damn thing he’d ever seen.

He hung the kettle from an iron hook and turned back to his biggest problem.

She couldn’t stay on the floor.

There was a large, worn armchair in the corner. He moved it in front of the hearth, as close as he dared. What she needed was heat—and fast—but the fire hadn’t taken a chink out of the bitter shroud of the room.

There was one thing he could do, but damn she was going to flay him alive when she woke. He took off his jacket, pulled his shirt over his head, and picked her up off the floor.

He settled into the armchair, holding her against his naked chest, his bare arms resting along the length of hers. His body heat had to work.

The cold air was whiplike against his skin, and goose bumps covered his arms.

Think warm thoughts. A steam engine furnace. A hot bath. A warm brick under his bed sheets. A warm woman under his bed sheets…

He looked down at the chit on his lap. Lady Amelia Crofton. Diamond of the ton. Leader of the fashionable set. Cold as the ice shards on the window. And Wildeforde’s bloody fiancée. Damn, this was a mess.

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