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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! 

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Triumph—or humiliation—for Lady Pandora?

It has come to this author’s attention that the mysterious Miss E—, about whom the most scandalous rumours have been circulating since the beginning of the Season, will be among the guests at Godstone Abbey. What can Lady Westfield—who is usually most discerning when selecting guests for her Christmas houseparty—be about?

Far be it for this author to cast aspersions on a young lady’s eligibility, but Miss E—, despite displaying  a soupçon of breeding on occasion, is not averse to using a turn of phrase which would make even a Cyprian blush, with her extensive catalogue of anatomical terms. Miss E—’s guardian, Sir A—E—, himself notorious for being what can only be described as a committed bachelor, has been decidedly unforthcoming over the circumstances by which the previously-unheard-of young woman became his ward six months ago. Young ladies don’t just spring fully formed from the ground, neither do they fall from the heavens. And, as every accomplished tattler knows, Dear Reader—the less one is willing to disclose about one’s origins, the more there is to be divulged.

What has piqued this author’s interest in particular, is the anticipation of Lady Pandora Osborne’s presence at Godstone. As the year draws to a close, Lady Pandora’s quest to prove herself the premier matchmaker the Ton has ever seen, enters its final act. She has one more match to make, to secure her crown, Godstone Abbey is to provide the backdrop for her finale.

And what a finale it promises to be! For, the intended bridegroom must be none other than the Duke of S—. And, while this author concedes that His Grace is the most eligible bachelor in England, he’s renowned for a degree of discernment that has hitherto rendered him notoriously difficult to catch. Many desperate mamas have tried—and failed—to secure him for their daughters.

Surely Lady Pandora cannot have elevated her ambitions so high as to consider a pairing between Miss E— and His Grace? While this author applauds her ladyship’s ambition, this final hurdle may prove unsurmountable, even for a thoroughbred of Lady Pandora’s tenacity.

If Miss E— is the intended bride, then Lady Pandora’s fate now lies on a knife’s edge. Either glittering triumph, or calamitous downfall awaits her.

A Christmas Wager

After surviving destitution, the orphaned Eleanor Hawkins re-enters society with a new identity, courtesy of her guardian, Sir Arthur Evans. With a penchant for pickpocketing, learned on London’s streets, Eleanor’s out for revenge on a society that abandoned her—especially Montague Lockhart, the man who broke her heart and brought about her downfall.

Lady Pandora Osborne is determined show her matchmaking prowess by securing a match between committed bachelor Montague Lockhart, Duke of Sedgewick, and Sir Arthur Evans’s new ward—an utterly unladylike young woman, whose origins are shrouded in mystery. Where better to achieve her aim than a Christmas houseparty, where mulled wine, mistletoe, and the season of goodwill is enough to tempt even the most miserly lord into love?

A Christmas Wager is part of The Wedding Wager anthology:

The Wedding Wager

Rival matchmakers…unlikely suitors…a Herculean wager!

Lady Pandora Osborne claims she’s the finest matchmaker the Ton has ever seen. When her cousin challenges her to make good on her claim, or lose a precious family heirloom, the terms of the wager are set! Lady Pandora must produce one match each month between the notoriously unmarriageable—spinsters, bluestockings, rakes and fortune-hunters.

This unique collection of tales of unlikely matches and steamy shenanigans in Regency England is released on September 27th, but can be pre-ordered at a discount here:

https://books2read.com/u/mdDpyX

Extract from A Christmas Wager

Still gazing at the chandelier, she walked forward, then collided with a solid wall of muscle.

“Pardon me,” a deep voice said, in a tone which made the apology sound like an insult.

Eleanor froze.

The arrogance in his tone was matched by the contempt in his eyes—clear blue eyes in a savagely handsome face, surrounded by a mane of thick black hair.

No…

He must be a figment of her imagination, made manifest by years of despair.

She closed her eyes, but though it brought about blessed darkness, the familiar scent invaded her nostrils—the scent which she’d once found so comforting, but now associated with betrayal.

When she opened her eyes, he was still there—tall, broad-shouldered, domineering.

And, most certainly—him.

“Oh!” Lady Westfield cried, breaking the spell. “Miss Evans, may I introduce Montague Lockhart—Duke of Sedgewick.” She turned to him. “Your Grace—this is Miss Evans.”

His attention, which had been focused on Lady Westfield, now turned to Eleanor, and she caught her breath, as her heart stuttered in her chest.

But he showed no sign of recognition. Instead, he clicked his heels together and gave the slightest of inclinations with his head.

“A pleasure, I’m sure.”

Then he turned his back, and walked away.

Bio & Socials

USA TODAY Bestselling Author Emily Royal is a mathematics geek who grew up in Sussex, England and has always had a passion for romance and bad boy heroes in need of redemption. She now lives in rural Scotland with her husband, two daughters and a menagerie of pets including Twinkle, an attention-seeking boa constrictor.

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She should be banned from Bath Society!

A Mad Dog in a Coffee House

The editor will be appalled, and rightly so, by the stories currently in circulation concerning a certain Miss I—-s. 

Far be it from me to promote tittle-tattle, but I have it on the Very Best Authority that the young lady in question has been spotted attired in Men’s Garb. If this new denizen of Bath is as unstable as the infamous Caroline Lamb, might I suggest that her Mama not only obliges her to drink our Famous Spa waters but immerses her in them as well.

The young lady in question also appears to have a remarkable ability to recover from the most serious of illnesses—even without recourse to said Healing Waters. A visit by an undertaker after news of Miss I—–’s demise was followed rapidly thereafter by her being seen at a coffee house, squired by none other than the gallant Captain H.

Whilst I have great respect for the Military, I cannot approve of so worthy a Gentleman allowing himself to be seen in public with such a rackety, harum-scarum young female. Furthermore, if his week-long vigil outside her door was a polite form of House Arrest, I am most put out that he did not inform those of us who dwell nearby what menace the I—-s family represents to its neighbors. It was most thoroughly remiss of him. 

Any further explanation of these events would be most welcome so that we Bathonians may be reassured that we do not harbor a disturber-of-the-peace among us and may continue to rest easy in our beds.

A Game of HazardA Game of Hazard

Her fate depends on a roll of the dice.

There’s a price on her head…

Miss Alexandra Isaacs learned many things at finishing school but how to run a vast smuggling empire wasn’t one of them. She’s desperate to protect this perilous inheritance because so many lives depend on it. However, there’s a traitor in their midst, and Alex must risk exposure to unmask him. There’s external danger, too, in the shape of a clever—not to mention compelling—excise officer. It would be utter folly to allow the captain any closer, but that’s precisely what a blackmailing matchmaker forces Alex to do.

…and he means to claim it.

The reward for capturing the smugglers’ ringleader is hugely tempting to Captain Giles Harewood. His sisters are in dire need of dowries and the Bath Season is in full swing—the perfect opportunity to find husbands for them. But the implacable Lady Pandora Osbourne has other plans for this confirmed bachelor—plans that could destroy all his hopes.

Who will win and who will lose in this deadly game of Hazard?

The above story is part of THE WEDDING WAGER anthology.

The Wedding Wager

The Boast—pride goeth before the fall…

After facilitating the match of the season, Lady Pandora “Pansy” Osbourne, has boasted that she is the best matchmaker The Ton has ever seen. Always willing to bring her cousin down a peg or two, her cousin, Lady Octavia Sewell insists that was no feat of matchmaking at all, as the couple involved were clearly destined for one another despite Pansy’s meddling. A bitter argument ensues and a dreadful challenge is issued. Pansy must do more than say it… she must prove it.

The terms of the wager are set!

Pansy must produce no less than one match per month between people who have been notoriously unmarriageable—spinsters, bluestockings, rakes and fortune hunters, oh my! But there’s more riding on this than simply her pride! If Pansy loses, she will have to give up her most prized possession—a tiara that belonged to their grandmother will be forfeited into Octavia’s grasping hands.

The Ends Justify the Means… or do they?

Desperate to make these matches, prove her claims of matchmaking prowess to be true and make Octavia eat crow in a very public fashion, Pansy resorts to the greatest weapon in any matchmaker’s arsenal—the house party. Not just one, but a series of them. For two weeks out of every month, she will open her home to an assortment of victims…er, guests. At the end of each party, one couple will emerge either betrothed or wed, by fair means or foul.

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

https://books2read.com/weddingwager

The anthology will be published on September 27th.

A Lady who Pursues a Diplomat Could Ruin Affairs!

“There is something strange afoot, Mrs. Ardmore.” Helen, Dowager Countess Ettesmere, frowned as the housekeeper came into the morning room.

“How do you mean, my lady?”

“Just this.” She folded her hands atop her secretary, much to quell their shaking as much as to project a calm appearance. “Lady Sophia has got it into her mind to romantically pursue Ambassador Mattingly.”

There. She said it aloud. Perhaps now it would make her feel better.

The housekeeper’s graying brown eyebrows rose, but that was the only evidence of her surprise. “Your daughter is in love with the ambassador?”

Oh, if only! Helen giggled and feared it sounded more hysterical than anything else. “I would have no idea, but she has the look.”

“I beg your pardon, my lady, but what look?”

A huff of frustration escaped her. “That look which says a woman is more than interested in a man, and since Ambassador Mattingly only just came to our door the day before, I am a bit concerned of my daughter’s mental state.”

“Due to the ongoing troubles with her heart?”

“Yes, some.” Knots of worry went through Helen’s stomach. Her only daughter, though long a woman grown, and over the age of forty, had received the worst diagnosis a person could—she would die soon of a weak heart. “I suppose if it were me who was facing imminent death, I might wish for one last tryst before crossing over.” Though, that still didn’t excuse the incoming scandal she suspected her daughter was planning.

The housekeeper shifted her weight from foot to foot. “Does the ambassador return her interest?”

“I would have no idea, but he regards her with an attitude that smacks of infatuation.” Helen put her hands in her lap. Oh, this was a terrible mess, and it hadn’t even happened yet. “I’ve seen the way Lady Sophia looks at the man. Why, she practically goggled him up at tea yesterday with her eyes. It would have been the height of scandal had anyone else beyond the family been in attendance.”

“I see.” One corner of Mrs. Ardmore’s lips twitched, but full-blown amusement never materialized. She was too well-trained for that. “Well, if he does return her interest, perhaps it isn’t a bad thing. Given the circumstances.”

Helen groaned. She rubbed her fingers over her eyes. “All my life, I have trained my children to be proper members of society. I orchestrated their first marriages and assumed those matches would have lasted.”

“Nothing is permanent in this life, my lady.”

“No, I suppose it’s not. Even my own husband succumbed to death.” She met the housekeeper’s eyes. “I wanted something lovely for each of my children, but Sophia doesn’t seem interested in anything proper now. Not with death looming. It’s simply too scandalous to let her conduct an affair under the nose of her impressionable daughter. My granddaughter!”

“I rather doubt Lady Sophia will have an affair. That isn’t who she is,” the housekeeper was quick to soothe. “Perhaps you should give it some time and see what comes—if anything—between your daughter and the ambassador. Perhaps it will be a love match.”

Helen couldn’t help but utter an unladylike snort. “Love? In an instant over tea yesterday? Pish posh, Mrs. Ardmore. You and I both know life doesn’t work that way.”

“But there is always room for an anomaly, and if what is between them results in love, who is to say it’s wrong?” One of the housekeeper’s eyebrows went up in inquiry. “Perhaps you should see how the relationship develops over the next few days before crying an alarm.”

“Perhaps.” Helen nodded with a sigh. “My heart goes out to my daughter. She is facing a set of horrible circumstances and is thinking about her daughter’s future, but still. I don’t want her to make a mistake in the time she has remaining.”

“Lady Sophia is clever and intelligent, my lady. Things will come out right in the end.”

“I sincerely hope so, Mrs. Ardmore.” But oh, this situation was fraught with worries.

I hope Sophia won’t be hurt merely to stave off loneliness.

Blurb for Pursuing Mr. Mattingly (Willful Winterbournes #1)

Fragile and fleeting, love is an addiction… Lady Sophia Winterbourne-Stratford-Forrester is a widow twice over. She suffers from a weak heart and has been advised to live a life without excitement or surprise. Wishing for one more romance before she leaves this mortal coil, and not wanting to leave her daughter an orphan, she begins looking, and her pulse leaps when she meets the American ambassador to England. Who gives a fig if she’s older than him?

When life is short and precious, one shouldn’t wait… Mr. Oliver Mattingly is visiting England on holiday. Vastly different from America, he’s anxious to see and experience everything, for adventure is in his blood. But when he immediately falls tip over tail for an enchanting, outspoken widow, the inexperienced bachelor knows where his next journey lies. After discovering her personal history, he asks for her hand. At least he can love her to the best of his ability before the inevitable happens.

Fate, though fickle, usually presents the perfect, if complicated, path… As the pair wed in haste and repent at leisure, they grow closer as desire only intensifies. A picnic by a rain-swollen creek turns into danger, and when Sophia doesn’t suffer ill-effects from the heart-pounding stimulation, they’re both shocked for different reasons. Could the doctor have been wrong? Love doesn’t care about misunderstandings or the foibles of life, it just is. Only they can decide if they truly want it… forever.

You can find the book here: https://amzn.to/3J2PV0j

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

 

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