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Dukes of War


New Release: The Pirate’s Tempting Stowaway

I am so excited to share the new book in the Dukes of War regency romance series, The Pirate’s Tempting Stowaway!

In case you missed it: the series starter is FREE for a limited time!

Dukes of War #6: The Pirate’s Tempting Stowaway

Captain Blackheart leads a simple life of roving the seas, wenching and treasure-hunting. He steers clear of romantic entanglements that could tie him to land. He shouldn’t have any trouble keeping his hands off the gently-bred lady he’s commissioned to abduct—except his cargo turns out to be feisty and passionate! She’d be a prize worth treasuring, if having her aboard didn’t jeopardize everything…

Clara Halton thought the worst loss she could suffer was to be stripped of her family, stricken with consumption, and left to die alone. Then she meets Blackheart. Their attraction is ruinous…and irresistible. When he delivers her like so much plunder, his mission is over — but hers has just begun. She’ll force him to acknowledge their connection, even if she must storm his ship to do it!

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Book #2: Leave a Review on GoodreadsBuy on AmazonDownload on iBooks/iTunesGet an AuthorGraphDownload on Google PlayBuy on KoboBuy at Barnes and Noble

Book #3 Leave a Review on GoodreadsBuy on AmazonDownload on iBooks/iTunesGet an AuthorGraphDownload on Google PlayBuy on KoboBuy at Barnes and Noble

Book #4 Leave a Review on GoodreadsBuy on AmazonDownload on iBooks/iTunesGet an AuthorGraphDownload on Google PlayBuy on KoboBuy at Barnes and Noble

Book #5 Leave a Review on GoodreadsBuy on AmazonDownload on iBooks/iTunesGet an AuthorGraphDownload on Google PlayBuy on KoboBuy at Barnes and Noble

Book #6 Leave a Review on GoodreadsBuy on AmazonDownload on iBooks/iTunesGet an AuthorGraphDownload on Google PlayBuy on KoboBuy at Barnes and Noble

Book #7 Leave a Review on GoodreadsBuy on AmazonDownload on iBooks/iTunesGet an AuthorGraphDownload on Google PlayBuy on KoboBuy at Barnes and Noble

Meet the Heroine: Clara Halton

Enjoy an excerpt from the next Dukes of War book, The Pirate’s Tempting Stowaway!

Captain Blackheart’s fingers clenched. Depending on Mrs. Halton’s condition, he might not be able to complete this mission. But the least he could do was deliver the lady’s mail.

He tied his horse to the rusting iron post at the edge of Mrs. Halton’s overgrown front walk and rolled back his shoulders. For the next few minutes at least, he would not be Captain Blackheart, second-most feared pirate upon the high seas. Instead, he would be Mr. Gregory Steele. Again.

It had been so long since he’d last removed his mask, he’d nearly forgotten what being plain Mr. Steele felt like. It was so easy to forget that “Blackheart” was a persona and Gregory Steele was the real man. Especially when he liked being a pirate so much better.

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He rapped his fingers against the door.

No one answered.

He glanced around for a knocker. There was none. He rapped harder. Thunder rumbled overhead.

No one answered.

His stomach twisted. He couldn’t help but note the very Steele dismay at the idea of arriving too late to save a total stranger. A pirate like Blackheart would only care that he and his men had been effectively swindled by the earl who’d set them upon this impossible mission.

Gregory Steele, however, would deal with Carlisle and the crew later. First, he needed to determine whether his quarry was still alive—and figure out what to do next.

“Mrs. Halton?” he called, tramping across overgrown grass to squint through a grimy window. “Are you in there?”

“Go away!” returned a muffled female voice from the other side of the wall.

Steele’s shoulders loosened. Relief rushed through him even though he well knew Mrs. Halton’s non-dead state didn’t mean any of their lives were about to get easier. One step at a time.

“Mrs. Halton, my name is Mr. Gregory Steele, and I have come all the way from London, England to—”

“Go away,” the stubborn voice repeated. “I’m armed.”

A grin played at the edges of Steele’s lips. Pirate or not, he did love a good gunfight. Any old woman cantankerous enough to suggest one was well on her way to being a kindred spirit.

“I’m not here to rob you, ma’am. I—”

“Well, I’m not here to kill you. I’ve consumption, which is almost always fatal. I shan’t be giving it to you.”

Almost always. Steele’s smile faded and he considered the closed door with renewed respect. If the occupant was aware of the minuscule chance that she might not die, she was also probably aware that temporary exposure to an invalid did not necessarily—or even usually—result in the infection of the caretaker. And yet Mrs. Halton still valued a stranger’s life over any concern for her own.

“You’re not going to shoot me,” he said calmly.

“Try me.”

Her voice didn’t sound grandmotherly. But then, they were on opposite sides of a wall. He needed to put paid to this farce. She would realize soon enough that even real weapons were no deterrent. Her empty threats were laughable.

“If you wished for me to die, you’d have no objection to me entering a sick chamber.”

“Perhaps I simply wish for you to die quickly,” came the cheeky response.

He blinked and then bit back a silent laugh. How long had it been since last he’d been threatened to his face? Years. Not since becoming Blackheart. No one had dared to challenge him. Until today.

“Please open the door. I’m coming inside.”

“I’m busy adding extra powder to my pistol to make certain the first ball takes you down if you come near my door.”

“Most pistols only have one ball, Mrs. Halton. If you miss, you won’t even have time to reload it. Besides, we both know you haven’t—”  Steele paused at the familiar sound of a ramrod forcing a patched ball down a metallic chamber. “You have a pistol?

“You really should consider leaving before I’ve finished loading it. Oh, bother…I’ve finished. A smart man would take his leave.”

Steele stepped away from the window in case the dear old bat was mad enough to shoot him.

He ran his hands down his coat. He, too, had a pistol. And, no, he would not be drawing it. He had something even more powerful.

Letters.

“Stopped by the postmaster on my way to your cottage,” he said conversationally. “Seems to have forgotten to drop off a couple of items. First letter is from a…” He squinted at the spidery script. “Can’t rightly say. ‘Mayer,’ perhaps?”

“My father?” The voice on the other side of the wall sounded tiny and shocked. “What does it say?”

“The second one was franked by the Earl of Carlisle but seems to be from a Miss Grace Halton. Relation of yours, is it?”

“My daughter,” Mrs. Halton breathed, her voice so quiet and so close that Steele could imagine her pressing up against the wall to be closer to the letter. “Read it to me.”

He shoved them back into his coat pocket as noisily as possible. “Let me in, and I will.”

“Blackguard,” she hissed.

He smiled. “You have no idea.”

Silence reigned for a scant moment before the soft sound of a tumbler indicated the front lock had been disengaged.

The door did not swing open.

Steele strode up and let himself in, just as the first drops of rain began to fall from the sky.

The tiny cottage consisted of very few rooms—all of which were visible from the vantage point of the front door. No candles were lit and no fire burned in the grate, but enough natural light filtered in through the windows to illuminate the musty, but surprisingly clean interior.

The furnishings were shabby and worn, but otherwise spotless. The dishes were clean. The beds were made. The woman aiming a triple-barrel flintlock turnover pistol toward Steele’s midsection was bathed and neat.

And not a day older than Steele himself.

Where his own beard was starting to appear more salt and pepper these days, Mrs. Halton’s long black hair cascaded down her back with nary a hint of gray. Dark eyelashes framed wide green eyes. He swallowed and tried not to stare. She was beautiful. Porcelain skin. Rosy lips.

The lady didn’t look sick. She didn’t even look like the right person.

He narrowed his eyes. “How can you possibly be the mother of a grown woman? Or…acquainted with the Earl of Carlisle?”

“Read me the letter, and perhaps we’ll both find out.” She gestured at him with the pistol. “Better yet, leave my correspondence on the table, and see your way out.”

“Why don’t you put that thing down before you lose a hand? Multi-cylinder pistols have been known to explode rather than eject their ammunition. Yours looks like it’s twenty years old.”

“It is. I bought it after my husband was killed and taught myself to shoot it. Don’t worry, it won’t misfire. I clean it every night.”

The increase in Steele’s heart rate had nothing to do with fear and everything to do with the confident woman in front of him. Owning a gun had made her interesting to him. Being willing to use it had made her even more so. Now that he saw it for himself and realized not only was it three-barreled firepower instead of a lady’s simple muff pistol, but that she also knew how to take care of it…and herself…

He was very, very interested.

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Meet the Hero: Captain Blackheart

Enjoy an excerpt from the next Dukes of War book, The Pirate’s Tempting Stowaway!

February 1816
The Dark Crystal
Atlantic Ocean

The dread pirate Blackheart stood at the bow of his ship, smiling into the rush of salty air, as the first hint of America rose upon the horizon.

Despite the chill of winter, the skies were clear and blue, with both the wind and the sun to his back. ’Twas more than a good omen. ’Twas a perfect day for any number of Captain Blackheart’s favorite activities. Sailing. Wenching. Drinking. Horse-racing. Sword-fighting. Boarding enemy vessels. Commandeering an ill-fortuned frigate upon the high seas.

Nothing was better than the freedom of the seas.

“Land ho!” came the familiar cry from the crow’s nest.

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Blackheart’s good humor faded. He relinquished navigational oversight to the Quartermaster without a word.

There was no need to bark orders. Most of the crew had been part of his family long enough to recognize the storm clouds brewing in Blackheart’s eyes, and every hand on board already had their standing orders.

No unnecessary fighting. No drinking to excess. Wenching was always permissible, but only if the crew made haste. The Dark Crystal would only be docked at the Port of Philadelphia long enough for Blackheart to accomplish his mission, and then they’d sail down the Delaware River and back out to sea just as swiftly as they’d sailed in.

Payment would only be delivered upon receipt of the booty. In this case…a sickly old woman named Mrs. Halton.

Despite being a pirate for hire, Blackheart was not in the habit of kidnapping innocents. Prior to the end of the war eight short months ago, he had been a privateer for the Royal Navy. A government pirate. A legal pirate. Now that he was an independent contractor, he tried to uphold the spirit (if not the precise letter) of the law.

’Twas the surest way to steer clear of the gallows.

The soles of Blackheart’s boots tread silently against polished wood as he strode aft toward the gunroom skylight. He descended the ladder to the Captain’s cabin and slipped inside to gather his supplies.

Item the first: a freshly starched cravat. This mission would require charm, not firepower. Item the second: a freshly cleaned pistol and extra ammunition. A pirate might not expect trouble, but he certainly intended to finish it. Item the third: a heavy coin purse. Gold was often more powerful than bullets.

By the time the schooner docked at the port, Blackheart was clean-shaven, dandified, and fresh as a daisy. Oh, certainly, his sun-bronzed skin was an unaristocratic brown—and was generously adorned with a truly ungentlemanly quantity of scars—but most of that was hidden away beneath his gleaming Hessians, soft buckskin breeches, muted chestnut waistcoat, blinding white cravat, and dark blue tailcoat with twin rows of gold buttons.

The hidden pistol in its fitted sling made barely a bulge beneath so many layers of foppery.

He forewent both sword and walking stick because he intended to make the rest of the journey on horseback, and debated leaving his hat behind as well. It was unlikely to stay on his head at a gallop, and would be crushed in the saddlebag…

With a sigh, Blackheart scooped up the beaver hat and shoved it on his head. He had no idea how easily manipulated Mrs. Halton might be, or whether she’d turn out to be one of those histrionic old matrons who refused to be seen in public alongside a gentleman with a bare head.

Plan B was to toss her over his shoulder and have done with the matter, but Blackheart had promised the Earl of Carlisle he’d at least try to coax the package into accompanying him voluntarily.

And although Blackheart would never admit it aloud, he had a rather high opinion of both his own charm and grandmotherly women. He would do everything within his power to make the journey to England a pleasant one for Mrs. Halton, and had already instructed his crew to treat her as if she were their own mother.

Carrying nothing more than a pair of gloves and a small satchel, he made his way down the gangplank in search of the fastest horse to rent—and nearly tripped over an underfed newspaper boy hawking today’s headlines for a penny.

Under normal circumstances, Blackheart would have flipped the boy a coin and let him keep the paper…but the black font stamped across the top stopped the captain in his tracks.

MOST DANGEROUS PIRATE:

THE CRIMSON CORSAIR

Blackheart snatched up the paper and tried to read over the grinding of his teeth. He wasn’t certain what he hated most about the Crimson Corsair: that the man was a dishonorable, coldblooded madman, or that he’d started to receive better press than Blackheart himself.

“You gonna pay for that, mister?” came a belligerent, high-pitched voice below his elbow.

He slapped the newspaper back onto the pile along with a shiny new coin, and stalked off the dock. Now was not the time to think about the Crimson Corsair. Once Mrs. Halton was safely delivered, Blackheart and his crew would be free to pursue any mission they wished—perhaps a quick seek-and-destroy of the corsair’s vessel—but for the moment, he needed to stay focused. Not only had he given Carlisle his word, this mission would be a doddle. Grab the woman, get the money. The easiest three hundred pounds of his life.

The Pennsylvania countryside flew past, the sky darkening as he rode. Blackheart kept to the mail roads in order to trade for fresh horses at posting-houses…and also to keep from losing his way. He was used to England and to the open sea, not these sparsely populated American trails winding endlessly between bigger cities. He never felt comfortable when he was out of sight from the water, and he was heading further from the ocean with every mile.

He had to spend the night at an inn only once before finally reaching the town where his target resided.

The shabby little cottage was right where his instructions said it would be, but the state of disrepair gave Blackheart pause. The garden was so overgrown as to be nearly wild. The exterior was dirty and covered in spiderwebs. No smoke rose from the chimney. No candlelight shone in the windows.

Had someone already abducted his quarry? Had she simply moved? Or, God forbid, died of old age during his journey from England?

Rather than blindly march into unknown territory, he turned his horse in search of the local postmaster, in order to determine whether his target was still in his sights—or whether the rules of the game had changed.

“Mrs. Halton?” repeated the pale-faced postmaster when Blackheart interrupted his nuncheon. “Mrs. Clara Halton?”

“Yes,” Blackheart replied calmly, as he towered over the dining table. “I’ve come to pay her a visit.”

“But you mustn’t, sir.” The postmaster forged on despite the captain’s raised brow. “You cannot. She’s ill—”

“I’m aware that Mrs. Halton has been sickly.”

“—with consumption,” the postmaster finished, his eyes wide with foreboding.

Although Blackheart’s smile didn’t falter, his blood ran cold. Consumption. The game had indeed changed.

“How long has she been afflicted?” he asked quietly.

“I don’t rightly know—”

“How long does the doctor think she has?”

“I don’t…He hasn’t seen her since the diagnosis.”

“Hasn’t seen her?” Blackheart frowned. “She won’t allow him in?”

“He hasn’t gone.” The postmaster’s cheeks flushed. “It’s the contagion, sir, can’t you understand? He’s the sole medical practitioner for miles, and if he catches the illness…”

The spiderwebs and overgrown garden now made perfect sense. Blackheart’s jaw tightened. “If the sole medical practitioner does not visit his patient, I presume neither do the dairy maids or local farmers.”

“No, sir. I can’t even deliver her letters anymore. Too dangerous. We could die if we caught—”

“Without food or medicine, how is Mrs. Halton expected to live?”

“She ain’t expected to live, sir. That’s the point you keep missing. Most folks with consumption don’t last longer than—”

“You said you possess post you’ve failed to deliver? Hand it over.”

“You can’t possibly intend to—”

“Now.”

The postmaster scrambled up from the table and hurried over to a cubicle, from which he drew two folded missives. “I wouldn’t normally hand post to a stranger—”

“—but since you’ve no intention to deliver it anyway…” Blackheart finished dryly as he shoved the letters into his coat pocket. He turned toward the door, but then paused to pin the postmaster in his stare one final time. “Keep in mind, not everyone dies of consumption—but we all die of starvation.”

He stalked back outside without waiting for a reply. There was nothing the postmaster could say that would be worth the time it took to listen.

###

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New Release: The Brigadier’s Runaway Bride

I am so excited to share the new book in the Dukes of War regency romance series, The Brigadier’s Runaway Bride!

In case you missed it: the series starter is FREE for a limited time!

Dukes of War #5: The Brigadier’s Runaway Bride

Miss Sarah Fairfax is having a wretched year. Her intended perished at war. His child is in her belly. To secure her future, she resigns herself to a loveless marriage. Just as she’s about to say “I do,” her fiancé returns from the grave to crash the wedding… but he’s no longer the charming, carefree man she remembers.

After being left for dead on the battlefield, Brigadier Edmund Blackpool is scarred inside and out. He fights his way home only to discover his intended before the altar with his best friend. He’ll be the one to marry her, no matter what she wants! But when his new bride disappears with his child, he must reopen his wounds to win the most important battle of his life.

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Book #2: Leave a Review on GoodreadsBuy on AmazonDownload on iBooks/iTunesGet an AuthorGraphDownload on Google PlayBuy on KoboBuy at Barnes and Noble

Book #3 Leave a Review on GoodreadsBuy on AmazonDownload on iBooks/iTunesGet an AuthorGraphDownload on Google PlayBuy on KoboBuy at Barnes and Noble

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The Duke’s Accidental Wife

Dukes of War Series #7

Miss Katherine Ross is a wealthy, eccentric socialite who knows precisely what she wants: No husband. No children. No candlelit tête-à-tête with the insufferably emotionless Duke of Ravenwood. She’s convinced his heart is ice — until she touches that chiseled chest for herself. One lapse in judgment is all it takes to turn both their lives topsy-turvy…

The Duke of Ravenwood isn’t cold and haughty, but a secret romantic who has always dreamt of marrying for love. Instead, he gets Miss Katherine Ross — a headstrong hoyden intent on unraveling his carefully ordered world. He doesn’t know whether to kiss her or throttle her. Can they survive each other’s company long enough to turn a compromise into love?

Regency-set Historical Romance Novel

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The Pirate’s Tempting Stowaway

Dukes of War Series #6

Captain Blackheart leads a simple life of roving the seas, wenching and treasure-hunting. He steers clear of romantic entanglements that could tie him to land. He shouldn’t have any trouble keeping his hands off the gently-bred lady he’s commissioned to abduct—except his cargo turns out to be feisty and passionate! She’d be a prize worth treasuring, if having her aboard didn’t jeopardize everything…

Clara Halton thought the worst loss she could suffer was to be stripped of her family, stricken with consumption, and left to die alone. Then she meets Blackheart. Their attraction is ruinous…and irresistible. When he delivers her like so much plunder, his mission is over — but hers has just begun. She’ll force him to acknowledge their connection, even if she must storm his ship to do it!

Regency-set Historical Romance Novel

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Meet the Hero: Brigadier Edmund Blackpool

Enjoy an excerpt from the next Dukes of War book…

Sarah Fairfax was the sole thought in Edmund Blackpool’s mind as he hurried off the rancid passenger ship onto the overcrowded London docks.

She had been the sole thought in his mind from the moment she’d met him in Bruges, during his brief days of leave before heading to Waterloo.

She had been the sole thought in his mind when the bullet had ripped into his chest and he’d collapsed to the trodden ground in a pool of his own blood.

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When he awoke a week later amongst an endless row of narrow cots in an austere Flemish convent, his first thought was still Sarah Fairfax.

His second thought was pain.

Oh, God, the pain. His wounds had taken months to heal. The bullet had come from a great enough distance that it cracked two of his ribs when it lodged between them. Fortunately, it hadn’t penetrated his lung. In fact, the bullet was the least of his concerns. He and many others had apparently been trampled in the ensuing melee. Every limb was splinted, every inch of skin mottled with contusions. Just lying there breathing caused more agony than he’d have imagined possible.

And so he’d thought of Sarah.

Dark brown hair the deep hue of fine chocolate. Wide brown eyes, gazing up at him from beneath long dark lashes. Rosy lips, rosy cheeks, a waist he could nearly span with his fingers. She was a perfect pixie, bewitching him with her porcelain skin and teasing smiles from hundreds of miles away.

In London at last, Edmund pushed through the crowded dock and made his way to the street. He had no baggage to slow him down. No coin with which to hail a hack. He would make his way to Mayfair the same way he’d traveled across Flanders to the coast: on foot.

His fraying boots would fall apart before he did. His slowly mended bones might be weaker, but Edmund was stronger than he’d ever been. His feet, and his determination, could take him anywhere.

The question was where.

His first impulse was to go straight to Sarah. He hadn’t seen her in eight months, two weeks, and five days. Not since promising to wed her the moment he returned from the war.

Well, he was back. He was also wearing the same clothes he’d left Belgium in. He’d washed up as often as he could aboard the freezing ship, but a comb would be welcome. His chin hadn’t seen a razor for a month. He couldn’t recall a single time that Sarah had ever turned away from him in disgust, and he certainly didn’t wish for her to see him like this.

Which left what? His rented townhouse was no doubt long gone, and there was no time to waste on fabric and a tailor. He was, however, possessed of one asset most gentlemen could not boast.

An identical twin.

He hunched forward into the bitter wind and told himself the sudden chill had nothing to do with his fears for his brother.

Eight and a half months since he’d seen his twin. If Bartholomew was still alive—of course Bartholomew would still be alive!—his clothes would be a perfect fit. His valet would have Edmund dandified within an inch of his life in a matter of minutes. He could be off to woo Sarah in less time than it took to boil a kettle.

Of course, if Bartholomew was still alive, that would also mean he’d done the one thing he’d sworn never to do. It would mean Bartholomew had abandoned his twin right when Edmund needed him most.

And then left him for dead.

An insidious thought. An impossible thought. Edmund flung the idea away like so much rubbish. His twin would never consign him to such a fate.

On the other hand, if Bartholomew hadn’t made it off the battlefield alive… If he’d been captured by the French, or trampled into jelly by the fleeing horses…

Edmund walked faster. In eight long months, he still hadn’t managed to reconcile his hurt and fury at being left to die with his abject terror that perhaps it hadn’t been by choice. Both possibilities were awful. Soon, he would arrive at his brother’s townhouse and find out the truth, one way or another. Soon, he would be back in Sarah’s arms.

Sarah would never leave him. Of this, Edmund was certain. She had been his constant shadow since they were old enough roll down hills together, between their parents’ adjoining country estates in Kent. Her affections had never wavered.

His hands went clammy despite the winter chill. What if she was not in London, but in Kent? What if he were still weeks away from seeing Sarah again?

He couldn’t bear to be apart another moment. He already regretted the lost years of his youth, when he’d thought catching bugs and kicking balls—and, later, boxing and carousing—were more important endeavors than spending time with a girl he could see anytime he wished.

Until he couldn’t.

If he had but known that night in Bruges would be the last time he’d see her, he would have… Oh, who was he fooling? He would have done nothing different. He’d wanted to marry her then, and he wanted to marry her now. He’d desired her then, and he desired her now. If he could change anything at all, it would be to have held her in his arms a few moments longer.

This time, he would never let her go.

Edmund ignored his blistered feet and increased his pace. By the time he reached his brother’s crescent row of terraced houses, snow swirled down from the sooty gray sky, blurring the air. He blew on his chapped fingers to warm them enough to uncurl, then gave the knocker a hefty bang.

His heart stuttered when the door swung open to reveal his twin’s stoic butler. Relief flooded him. If Crabtree still ruled the roost, Bartholomew must have survived! It took all Edmund’s restraint not to elbow past the butler and dash into the townhouse to find his brother.

Crabtree’s jaw dropped. “Master Blackpool?

Edmund’s body shook, he was so giddy to be among familiar faces at last. It had been so long since anyone had so much as recognized him. He’d almost forgotten the simple pleasure of seeing, and being seen. Of being anyone at all, other than a nameless, voiceless nothing lost in a foreign land.

He was finally home at last. Life would not only return to normal; life would return. His family, his friends, his secret fiancee… Even his brother’s imperturbable butler was a sight for sore eyes. Edmund had never seen Crabtree so much as blink in surprise, and here the man was, gaping in astonishment. Edmund pressed his lips together. He could hardly wait to see his twin’s reaction!

“Is my brother at home?” he asked, trying to hide his grin.

Before Crabtree could respond, a tall thin man with tightly curled locks skidded into the entryway squealing, “Master Blackpool!” at a pitch high enough to break glass.

Edmund’s lips quirked at his brother’s valet. “Wonderful to see you, Fitz, old man. I trust you haven’t allowed my twin to gad about in Society looking anything less than his best? Reflects badly on me, you know, what with them mixing us up all the time.”

The valet spluttered speechlessly, his eyes bulging so wide as to be comical. “I—He—You…”

Edmund’s elation began to dim. “I say, as lovely as it is to chat, would one of you mind terribly running to fetch my brother? I haven’t seen him in eight months, and I’d really like…” His voice trailed off as a familiar looking young woman with red-gold hair and a shocked expression rushed into the entryway. He blinked in surprise. “Daphne?”

Her eyes widened in disbelief. “Edmund?

He tried to reconcile the girl he hadn’t seen since his youth with the elegant young lady now standing before him. In the entryway to his brother’s townhouse. Along with the butler and the valet. “Daphne, what are you doing here?”

“What are you doing here?” She ran to him and threw her arms around him and hugged him as if they were family. “I can’t believe you’re alive!”

He patted her on the shoulder awkwardly. He hadn’t been hugged in eight long months, and he’d rather hoped his twin would be the first to earn the distinction. “Where’s my brother?”

Still hugging him, Daphne’s voice was muffled by the ragged shirt covering Edmund’s chest. “At the Duke of Ravenwood’s wedding.”

Edmund grinned despite himself. Finicky Ravenwood, married? Edmund had doubted that day would ever come, and was truly pleased to find it had. “Ravenwood finally found his love match? I cannot wait to meet the debutante charming enough to ensnare His Grace’s romantic heart.”

Daphne’s fingers dug into Edmund’s arms as she jerked her pale countenance away from his chest.

“No,” she gasped. “It’s much worse than that. Edmund, the duke is going to marry Sarah.”

Edmund’s stomach dropped. He shook off Daphne’s fingers. “My Sarah?”

Daphne nodded. “She’s—”

“Where?” he barked.

“At Ravenwood House. Right now.”

“Over my dead body.” Edmund snapped around and marched down the front steps. There was no time to spare for starched cravats and polished boots. He had to stop a wedding.

“Where is your carriage?” Daphne called after him. “Do you mean to summon a hack?”

Damn it. Edmund’s fists tightened at his powerlessness. In the long months it had taken to finally return home, he had never felt his lack of coin as keenly as he did right now.

“I arrived on foot,” he admitted through clenched teeth. He would not let that prevent him from stopping the wedding. “If I hurry—”

“You’ll never get there in time.” Daphne’s face brightened. “Bartholomew left in his curricle. You can take the landau.”

“Too slow.” Edmund shot a glance over his shoulder at the waning sunlight. “I’ll get there faster if you just loan me a horse.”

“Done.” She turned toward the butler. “Crabtree?”

The butler had resumed his hallmark bored expression. “Already sent a footman to the stables, ma’am.”

Horse hooves clopped against the cobblestone road as a stableboy raced a black stallion straight toward them.

Edmund’s blood raced. The moment the stableboy slid onto the ground, Edmund launched himself up and into the saddle.

“Wait!” Daphne called out, her voice urgent. “You should know why Sarah is marrying the duke. She—”

“She’s not marrying him,” Edmund shouted back as he pointed the stallion toward Ravenwood House. “She’s marrying me.”

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Meet the Heroine: Miss Sarah Fairfax

Enjoy an excerpt from the next Dukes of War book…

Most women would be delighted to find themselves mere moments away from becoming a duchess.

Miss Sarah Fairfax, as it happened, was not most women.

For one, she stood before a temporary altar in a private alcove of the Duke of Ravenwood’s London estate with her shoulders back, her chin up, and her belly swollen with child.

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For two, Ravenwood—the handsome, eligible duke with whom she was about to wed—was not her unborn child’s father.

That had been Edmund Blackpool. The boy whose tousled golden brown locks and dreamy blue eyes had stolen her breath and her heart even when they were children had gone off to war three years ago, intending to make the world a better place. After two years of agonizing separation, last June, she had met him in Bruges, mere days before his company had been sent to Waterloo.

A sharp kick jabbed the wall of Sarah’s belly and she smiled to hide a wince of pain. Masking her emotions was all she’d done for the past eight months. Smiling was automatic now. No matter what happened.

Everything traced back to that fateful, impulsive night.

Edmund was no longer plain Mr. Blackpool, but a dashing brigadier with shiny epaulets and matching stars upon his uniform. He was beautiful and passionate and irresistible, and when he’d confessed his wish to marry her if only she’d wait for his return… She was in his arms before he had finished speaking.

He hadn’t made it off the battlefield alive.

Next had come the nausea, the dizziness, the desire to do nothing but sleep… and the realization that depression was not the sole cause. She was beyond ruined. She was pregnant. Her child would be born a bastard, and live the rest of his life in ostracized infamy, just like his mother.

Sarah faced the vicar and struggled to keep her breaths even, to not betray the weight of the endless pressure of everyone else’s expectations. Society. Her peers. Her parents. Herself. She was in this position because she’d expected to wed Edmund as soon as he returned from war.

Well, now she knew better than to count on expectations. She was in charge of her own fate now. No, make that two fates. Her knuckle traced the curve of her belly. Their future was up to her.

“Lawrence Pembroke, Duke of Ravenwood,” the vicar intoned. “Wilt thou have this woman to be thy wedded wife, to live together after God’s ordinance in the holy estate of matrimony? Wilt thou love her, comfort her, honor and keep her in sickness and in health, and forsaking all others, keep thee only unto her, so long as ye both shall live?”

Sarah’s throat convulsed. This was a nightmare. She touched her palm to her swollen belly. Was she really going to go through with this? Would Ravenwood?

“I will,” the duke replied before Sarah could interrupt.

If she would have done so.

Her fingers stroked her belly, trying to calm the infant inside. Truth be told, they were moments away from a miracle. The child would be legitimate, not a bastard. Even once Society inevitably did the maths and realized the baby had been conceived long before the ducal wedding, the power of the Ravenwood name would protect them from all but a few whispers.

No one would dare cut them. The baby would be fine.

If the child was a boy, he would inherit a dukedom some day. If the child was a girl, she would be welcomed into Society with open arms. Perhaps marry a duke herself someday. What did it matter if her parents were not in love? If part of Sarah had died on that blood-soaked battlefield alongside her lost lover, did it matter, so long as her child was safe?

The vicar fixed his dark eyes on her. “Miss Sarah Fairfax.”

She swallowed. ’Twas a miracle and a nightmare, this union.

Sarah slid the duke a furtive glance. She’d never wished to be a duchess. She’d just wanted Edmund. And now the only way to save her baby’s future was to raise his baby as someone else’s child. Someone who wasn’t doing this for her—or for the baby.

Ravenwood was sacrificing himself at the altar for Edmund. Because for all their lives, they had been the best of friends.

Because Ravenwood hadn’t been there that day to save him.

The vicar stared at Sarah. “Wilt thou have this man to be thy wedded husband, to live together after God’s ordinance in the holy estate of matrimony? Wilt thou obey him, and serve him, love honor and keep him in sickness and in health, and forsaking all others, keep thee solely unto him, so long as ye both shall live?”

She froze, her lungs suddenly incapable of breath. Her gaze flicked over her shoulder, toward the few souls in attendance.

She hadn’t been the only one who had lost Edmund. His twin brother Bartholomew stood at the back of the alcove, his face unreadable. Her stomach twisted. Did he hate her for marrying Ravenwood? For depriving him of a niece or nephew he could claim as his own blood? For being a distraction to Edmund? She turned back to the vicar before her eyes could sting with tears. Crying wouldn’t change the past.

The future was her sole concern.

It didn’t matter what anyone thought. Not Bartholomew, not her parents, not even the vicar. All that mattered was the baby. She would be the best mother in the history of mothers. There was nothing she wouldn’t do to provide for her child.

She set her jaw. As bad as things were, she and the baby were devilish fortunate. Despite so many tragedies—or, perhaps, because of them—her child would have a better future than Sarah would ever have dreamed. She would ensure her child never felt unloved or unwanted for a single moment.

Sarah lifted her gaze toward the vicar. “I will.”

The vicar nodded. “I require and charge you both, as ye will answer at the dreadful day of judgment when the secrets of all hearts shall be disclosed, that if either of you know any impediment why ye may not be lawfully joined together in matrimony, ye do now confess it.”

The alcove was still.

In the ensuing silence, Sarah was suddenly aware of a dozen tiny sounds. The vicar’s finger, smoothing a crinkled page. The slight change in Ravenwood’s breath, as if he, too, felt the weight of the future upon them. A shuffle in the rear of the alcove as Bartholomew shifted his weight. Or perhaps that was the Earl of Carlisle, who had been stone still throughout the entire ceremony.

The earl hadn’t just lost a friend. He’d been with them on the battlefield when the twins had been injured. There had scarcely been time to save one of them.

He’d chosen Bartholomew.

Not Edmund. Not the father of her child, the love of her life. The earl had let her betrothed die.

Sarah fixed her gaze on the altar. She could not be angry at Oliver. Or at least, she would not let her bitterness show. He had been faced with a terrible decision, and he’d made the only choice that he could. Edmund had been mortally wounded. His twin was not. Oliver deserved her respect and her sympathy.

He had saved a life. The war was not his fault. The earl had done his best to save everyone he could.

Just like Ravenwood was doing his best to rescue Sarah and her child.

This was her last hope. There was no going back.

The vicar’s clear voice echoed through the alcove. “Forasmuch as Lawrence Pembroke, Duke of Ravenwood, and Miss Sarah Fairfax have consented together in holy wedlock, and have witnessed the same before God and this company, and have declared the same by giving and receiving a Ring, and by joining Hands; I pronounce that they are—”

A crash filled the alcove as the well-oiled mahogany doors swung inward and slammed into the walls hard enough to knock the paintings askew.

Stop!” bellowed a deep, familiar voice.

Sarah jerked around in shock and disbelief. The imbalance of her extra weight coupled with her sudden movement sent her careening into Ravenwood, who caught her in his arms as a sun-worn gentleman with a scruffy beard and tattered clothing stalked up the aisle.

’Twas her ex-lover, Edmund Blackpool.

Back from the dead.

###

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New Release: The Major’s Faux Fiancee

I am so excited to share the new book in the Dukes of War regency romance series, The Major’s Faux Fiancee!

In case you missed it: the series starter is FREE for a limited time!

Dukes of War #4: The Major’s Faux Fiancee

When Major Bartholomew Blackpool learns the girl-next-door from his childhood will be forced into an unwanted marriage, he returns home to play her pretend beau. He figures now that he’s missing a leg, a faux fiancée is the best an ex-soldier can get. He admires her pluck, but the lady deserves a whole man—and he’ll ensure she gets one.

Miss Daphne Vaughan hates that crying off will destroy Major Blackpool’s chances of finding a real bride. She plots to make him jilt her first. Who cares if it ruins her? She never wanted a husband anyway. But the major is equally determined that she break the engagement. With both of them on their worst behavior, neither expects their fake betrothal to lead to love…

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Book #1 (free!): Leave a Review on GoodreadsBuy on AmazonDownload on iBooks/iTunesGet an AuthorGraphDownload on Google PlayBuy on KoboBuy at Barnes and NobleDownload from Smashwords

Book #2: Leave a Review on GoodreadsBuy on AmazonDownload on iBooks/iTunesGet an AuthorGraphDownload on Google PlayBuy on KoboBuy at Barnes and Noble

Book #3 Leave a Review on GoodreadsBuy on AmazonDownload on iBooks/iTunesGet an AuthorGraphDownload on Google PlayBuy on KoboBuy at Barnes and Noble

Book #4 Leave a Review on GoodreadsBuy on AmazonDownload on iBooks/iTunesGet an AuthorGraphDownload on Google PlayBuy on KoboBuy at Barnes and Noble

Book #5 Leave a Review on GoodreadsBuy on AmazonDownload on iBooks/iTunesGet an AuthorGraphDownload on Google PlayBuy on KoboBuy at Barnes and Noble

The Brigadier’s Runaway Bride

Dukes of War Series #5

Miss Sarah Fairfax is having a wretched year. Her intended perished at war. His child is in her belly. To secure her future, she resigns herself to a loveless marriage. Just as she’s about to say I do, her fiancé returns from the grave to crash the wedding… but he’s no longer the charming, carefree man she remembers.

After being left for dead on the battlefield, Brigadier Edmund Blackpool is scarred inside and out. He fights his way home only to discover his intended before the altar with his best friend. He’ll be the one to marry her, no matter what she wants! But when his new bride disappears with his child, he must reopen his wounds to win the most important battle of his life.

Regency-set Historical Romance Novel

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