An unexpected promise . . . an everlasting passion.
An accomplished musician, Dorothea Flammel has refused more proposals than any London debutante; her only true love is her music. Dory’s shimmering talent and beauty have long been adored from afar by Thomas Wheel, an untitled gentleman who can only dream of asking for the hand of a nobleman’s daughter. But when her father, the insolvent Lord Flammel, arranges for Dory to marry a lecherous Earl in order to pay off a debt, she runs to Thomas—and proposes marriage to him.
Eloping to Scotland saves Dory from a disastrous fate, but what is for her a mere marriage of convenience proves more passionate—and more complex—than either imagined as rumors, scandal, and buried emotions come to light. And when a vengeful challenge from a drunken and embittered Lord Flammel puts Thomas’s life on the line, will the fragile trust between husband and wife be enough to save them both?
Crowly cleared his throat. The butler was tall and wide and occupied the entire doorway. “Yes, what is it, Crowly?”
“Sir, I know you said you didn’t wish to be disturbed, but you have a visitor.” Many visitors found the unseemly size of the man intimidating. Crowly was quiet and efficient and that was good enough for a bachelor of Thomas’s standing.
Thomas pulled the watch from his pocket. Nearly midnight, no decent person called so late. “At this late hour? Send whoever it is away. It is too late for callers.”
The butler shuffled his feet but did not leave. “Is there a problem, Crowly?”
“Well, sir, you see, the visitor is a young woman of apparent good breeding. She arrived in a hack and I am reluctant to put her back out on the street.”
Thomas stood. “She is alone?” “It would seem so, sir.”
“Who is it?”
“The lady refused to provide a card and wishes to speak to you rather urgently.”
After pulling his jacket from the back of his chair, he dressed himself. “I suppose you had better let the mystery lady in.”
“Yes. Thank you, sir.” Crowly’s shoulders relaxed.
Within seconds, a woman draped in a black cape with a hood hiding her face entered the study.
Thomas stood behind his desk and waited for her to speak, but she fussed with the edge of her cape and shifted her feet. He suspected that she was contemplating running away. “How may I help you?”
Her head snapped up and her hood fell away. There, standing in his study, was Lady Dorothea Flammel. The amber in her blond hair came to life in the firelight and Thomas had to grip the back of his chair for balance. He did not know what he had been expecting, but in his wildest dreams he never thought to see Dory in his home. Well, maybe in his dreams, but never in reality.
Compared to the burly Crowly she looked lost in the doorway. She was petite and her green eyes ringed red as if she’d been crying.
His initial excitement overshadowed by her distress, his concern mounted. He crossed the room, stopping only when he realized that she backed away from him. “Lady Flammel, what is wrong? Is it Markus?”
Markus Flammel, Dory’s older brother and one of Thomas’s closest friends, lost his wife during childbirth a year before. The child had lived, but losing Emma had sent Markus into a desperate depression.
“No. It’s not Markus. He is in the country as far as I know.” She stared at her feet.
Thomas waited for her to say more, but she pressed her lips together while avoiding his gaze.
“Perhaps you would like to sit,” he suggested.
When she looked up, he thought she might run, but then her expression softened and she nodded.
When he offered her the chair in front of his desk, she skirted away from him to reach the seat. Never had he seen her so out of sorts. He rounded the desk and sat in his office chair.
The silence in the room was palpable. Thomas cleared his throat and the sudden noise made her jump in her seat. Dory had always appeared so calm and in control, his interest piqued. “Lady Flammel?”
“Yes?” Snapping her head up, she revealed her wide eyes and pale skin. He smiled. Most women found his smile engaging, but she looked at him with wide eyes and trembling lips, like he’d bared his teeth for the kill. He leaned forward, resting his arms on the desk. “I can only assume that you have come to me for some reason. You risk quite a lot coming to a bachelor’s home, in the middle of the night, in a hack and all alone. You must permit me my curiosity at such an unorthodox act. I have known you most of your life and this is the first time you have arrived on my doorstep. What can I do for you?”
She sighed. “Perhaps it was a mistake.”
“Was it?” he asked.
She stared at him. He had watched her play the pianoforte dozens of times over the past few years. She was an artist of the highest order. Her emotion when she played was enthralling, but away from her instrument she always appeared so calm and controlled. Here in his study that seemed to have escaped her. She was near tears. He wanted to stand up and go to her but he did not wish to scare her. The last thing he wanted was to allow his height to intimidate her.
“I am in trouble,” she said.
Anger seared through Thomas. “Who was it? I will cut out his innards.” He pounded his fist on the desk.
She flinched then waved her hand in a dismissive motion. “Not that kind of trouble, Mr. Wheel.”
His fury seeped away. Watching her from the shadows for years, her music had drawn him in but those full eyelashes and deep green eyes kept him mesmerized. For a long time, he had yearned to touch the soft skin of her cheek and kiss those delicate ears. It was impossible. She was the daughter of an earl. She would marry a man of her own station, not Mr. Wheel of Middlesex.
“Perhaps you should just tell me why you are here since you have made the trip. I will help you in any way I am able. I assure you that your presence here will remain our secret. My staff is very discreet.”
She frowned. “I suppose as you are a bachelor, they would have to be.” There was a bitter twist in her voice.
He did not comment, though her distaste rang through her statement and the twist of her lips.
She took a deep breath, making her full bosom rise.
Distracted for a moment, he then steeled himself and watched her eyes, which he found almost as intriguing.
She cleared her throat. “I am in need of a husband and I have decided that, if you would not mind, you and I would suit nicely.”
Genre: Historical Romance
Pub Date: 9/26/2017
An inconvenient engagement turns a marriage of convenience into so much more in this sparkling new series from award-winning author Sara Portman . . .
Lady Emmaline Shaw’s reputation was irreparably damaged when her fiancé, John Brantwood, disappeared immediately after their engagement four years ago. Since then, she’s grown from a shy, uncertain girl to a woman who knows her own mind. And what she knows is that London society holds nothing for her.
Rumor has it that John ran off to war and died in battle. Now, as the new Duke of Worley, his shocking resurrection throws the ton into a tizzy and makes him one of England’s most sought after bachelors—except that he’s already engaged.
John needs a wife capable of smoothing his beloved sister’s introduction into society. But though Emma happily grants him his freedom, her fiery beauty and resilient spirit hold him captive. In fact, John has no intention of letting her go. Her fate is now in his hands, but will her heart be safe there as well?
Resurrections can be dreadfully disconcerting.
London society had weathered all manner of scandals and while each new transgression never failed to result in heads bent in hushed whispers and even the occasional matronly gasp, few incidents inspired waves of true shock among the ton. It appeared, however, that a duke’s return from the dead was among these few scenarios able to truly discompose the titled elite.
With frustratingly little information becoming available in the four weeks since the miraculous return of the Duke of Worley, rumors abounded regarding his whereabouts for the four years of his absence. Theories existed of such variety and outlandish improbability, it was impossible to determine which, if any, might hold a thread of truth.
Discussion of the duke’s mysterious return dominated all society events, second only, of course, to conjecture on his marital state and physical appearance.
“I have heard he is only half a man,” whispered Lady Grantham at one such event, “and had to be carried into his ancestral home because his legs were severed.”
“That cannot be,” insisted Lady Wolfe. “I have heard he is quite well, but has shamed his family by marrying an American actress and living abroad with her these past four years.”
“You are both incorrect, I’m afraid,” interjected their hostess, the Duchess of Fairhaven. “My son informed me just this morning that Worley has been gravely ill and is still now recovering. He hopes to be well enough before the end of the season to assume his responsibilities. My son attended Eton with him, you’ll remember.”
The other ladies nodded, neither one inclined to contradict the duchess, who outranked them by a significant margin. All three women understood without clarification that Worley’s assumption of his responsibilities referred to the necessity to choose a bride. With four years wasted and his father now deceased, it was imperative he begin a family and provide for the continuation of the line.
This was likely of particular interest to Lady Wolfe, whose daughter, Georgiana, was currently enjoying her second season in London, much to her mother’s dismay and her father’s expense.
It was not of particular interest, however, to Lady Emmaline Shaw. She had the unfortunate luck to step out onto the terrace for a spot of privacy and fresh air mere moments before the gaggle of clucking matrons proceeded to congregate just inside the only set of French doors that would allow her to return to the ballroom. She didn’t want to hear another word of the elusive Duke of Worley, amazingly returned from the dead after four years missing. She cursed the unfortunate timing that placed her in London at the time of his reappearance. She was only in the city for one month out of the year, and only then to appease her aunt. Couldn’t the man have selected any of the other eleven months for his triumphant return, when she would be safely ensconced at her cottage? She rubbed her bare arms against the evening breeze and prayed for the gossiping ladies to move their conversation elsewhere. She considered simply excusing herself and walking through.
“You realize, of course,” Lady Wolfe whispered conspiratorially, “what a tangle this creates for the unfortunate Lady Emmaline Shaw.”
Emma stepped deeper into the shadow and tossed out the idea of charging through their conversation.
“I would hardly call the girl unfortunate,” the duchess said sharply. “Her conduct over the past four years is the reason for her present lack of prospects. She’s been naught but a burden to her aunt and uncle.”
From the terrace, Emma’s brow lifted.
“Not that I’ll harbor any pity for that woman either,” the duchess added. “To my mind, Lady Ridgley has failed in her responsibility by allowing her niece to behave as she has.”
Emma pressed herself against the cold stone wall and fumed at the voices filtering out to her. She would accept their judgment as a predictable consequence of her choices, but she was incensed at their attack on her aunt, who had been a pillar of love and support after the death of her parents. These women had no intimate knowledge of Emma or her beloved aunt. They were certainly not in any position to pass judgment.
“One cannot question her decision to withdraw from society, really, for that first season,” Lady Grantham ventured. “Grief can be so damaging, after all.”
Well, thank you. Emma resolved to extend her kindness to Lady Grantham when next they met.
“It is only during the following three seasons, by my estimation,” Lady Grantham continued, “that her behavior became truly insupportable.”
Emma’s fists clenched. Humph. Insupportable, indeed. It was not as though she’d spent the past three years gadding about society, engaging in flirtations and clandestine rendezvous. She’d simply chosen not to parade herself through an endless stream of social events to shop for a husband.
She’d done that once. And, frankly, the experience left her with little desire to repeat it.
Genre: Historical Romance
Pub Date: 9/5/2017
When exiled royalty and espionage combine, expect a romance as bold as the 1920s . . .
Olga Novikov is a princess without a throne. Her fiancé and her family slain in the revolution, she flees Russia and finds herself working as the head of housekeeping at London’s luxurious Grand Russe Hotel. It’s a far cry from the glamour of her former life, but she’s grateful for the job—until a guest forces her to question where her loyalty lies. The charming nobleman challenges her at every turn—and arouses dreams of romance she thought she’d abandoned forever . . .
Douglas “Glass” Childers is living a double life. On the surface, he’s the indolent Viscount Walling, but in truth he’s an intelligence agent searching for a Bolshevik weapons master. The coolly beautiful and headstrong housekeeper is a distraction he doesn’t need—unless she’s the key piece in the puzzle he must solve. Trusting her could be dangerous—but loving her is an undeniable temptation . . .