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When the new earl inherits, poor relation Miss Rebecca Bond must wed immediately or be out on her ear. The only man she’s ever loved is summoned to hear the will—but he already rejected her so soundly that they haven’t spoken in years. Yet who better than a rakish Viscount to teach her how to snare a gentleman who appreciates her charms?
Daniel Goodenham, Lord North Barrows, regrets nothing more than the lost friendship with the one woman who treated him like a man, not a title. Fate has given him the perfect pretext to win her forgiveness—even if it means having to matchmake her to someone else. But now that she’s back in his life, he’ll do anything to convince her to choose him instead…
Enjoy an excerpt from Romancing the Rogue!
Just as the last hint of sunlight slithered past the horizon, the rocky, wind-lashed terrain of Cornwall came into view. Daniel straightened his spine. The chill was already seeping through the cracks in the buffeted carriage.
The driver gulped, his gaze uncertain. “Nightfall has arrived, milord. Shall I find a posting-house?”
Daniel shook his head, his skin tingling from the close proximity to Castle Keyvnor. “No. Let’s keep going. We’re almost there.”
Even as he said the words, the monstrous castle rose from the darkness, its looming towers an even deeper black than the interminable night enshrouding them.
A familiar prickle danced across his clammy skin as the carriage rattled over the ancient bridge across the long-dry moat, and on through a massive iron gate. The castle looked darker than he remembered. Larger. More menacing.
Rebecca was somewhere inside those walls. He just had to find her.
He dashed from the carriage and up the slick stone steps of Castle Keyvnor as torrents of rain spilled from the black, thunderous sky.
The horrendous downpour was not only a fitting welcome back to the castle grounds, but the only weather he ever recalled Castle Keyvnor having. If the sun happened to shine over the sparse seaside village of Bocka Morrow, the castle was still be buffeted by icy winds and cloaked in shadow.
Ignoring the sheet of rain cascading from the brim of his beaver hat, he reached for the brass doorknocker dangling from the maw of a stone lion.
The door swung open before his fingers even touched the knocker. Yet no one presented himself.
Daniel straightened his spine. No sense dallying. Time to head straight into the mouth of the beast.
Morris, the castle’s longtime butler, strode into the entryway just as Daniel slid his soaked top hat from his head.
No point in asking who had opened the door, given that the butler was only now arriving. Castle Keyvnor never had answers. Only a surfeit of questions.
“Lord North-Barrows.” The butler smiled. “Right on time. Your chamber has been readied.”
Daniel didn’t smile back. Nor did he know how he could be right on time, when he hadn’t sent word of his impending arrival because even he hadn’t known for certain when he would arrive.
As the butler divested Daniel of his wet outer garments, a quartet of footmen emerged from a darkened corridor without being summoned and marched outside to the waiting carriage.
Daniel eyed the castle’s dark interior with apprehension. If the servants knew he was coming, why the devil couldn’t they light a sconce or two?
“The footmen will bring your trunks to your chamber shortly.” The butler gestured toward the main stone staircase. “A fire awaits you in the hearth.”
Of course it did.
Daniel inclined his head, eager to dry himself before a fire regardless of how or why its warmth awaited him. But a shimmer of white caught his eye.
Her bone-white gown fluttered from one of the castle’s many drafts, giving her haunting silhouette the blurred edges of a ghost. From this distance, the features of her pale face were smudged by shadow. The glossy dark curls he recalled so fondly were invisible against the yawning blackness of the unlit upstairs corridor. His entire body was on edge.
Nervous, he smiled up at her.
There was no way to know if she returned his smile.
He doubted it. The last time he’d seen her at Castle Keyvnor, he’d cruelly rejected her in front of witnesses. And the last time she’d been in London…he hadn’t spoken to her at all.
His chest tightened. He was lucky she hadn’t come to the landing solely to toss water upon his head.
Perhaps she was saving that for later.
“Rebecca?” Because the soaring stairwell had no balustrade, Daniel placed his damp palm against the cold stone wall for balance. The last thing he needed was for wet soles to send him sliding to his death before he could even make his grand apology.
“It’s Miss Bond,” floated the soft, familiar voice from overhead.
“I know,” Daniel called back as he hurried up the rest of the stairs. “Rebecca, it’s me. Daniel.”
“I know,” she echoed as he rounded the final step. Her eyes were dark and luminous in the pale porcelain of her face. “Good evening, Lord North-Barrows. I trust Morris has seen to your luggage.”
Ah. So he had lost first-naming privileges. And was to be treated with the same distant politesse one might use to welcome a stranger.
He deserved that and more.
“Please,” he said. “You must still call me Daniel. I know I was awful to you, and you have every right to be vexed with me. I admit it. I behaved abominably and am here to apologize. I was foolish and wrong.”
“Were you?” Her expressionless dark eyes gazed right through him. “I’m sure I don’t recall.”
His muscles tightened. Of course she recalled. She had the cleverest mind of anyone he’d ever met. But by pretending she couldn’t remember his crimes, she didn’t have to forgive him. Or acknowledge his heartfelt apology. He forced his fingers to unclench.
Despite the murky shadows of the ill-lit corridor, she was even more beautiful than last he’d seen her. He drank her in. She had been the prettiest of that year’s crop of debutantes during her come-out five years ago, but now she was ravishing.
Girlish cheeks had turned into high cheekbones. A willowy frame had become womanly curves. Her innocence had been replaced by mysteriousness. He didn’t know this Rebecca Bond any longer. But oh, how he wanted to. If only they could erase the past.
He yearned to reach for her. Once, she would have welcomed his touch, his embrace.
Tonight, she was just as likely to push him off of the landing.
Enjoy an excerpt from Romancing the Rogue!
“You cannot mean to toss me out on my ear,” Rebecca begged.
“I intend to marry you off, girl. I daresay that’s hardly ‘out on your ear.’” The new earl stared at her as if she’d gone mad.
No—it was perhaps worse than madness. It was sanity. The bleak loss of freedom. Up until now, she had been mistress of herself. As a wife, however, she would lose all autonomy. Her independence would be gone forever.
A flash of lightning lit the corridor, followed by a crack of thunder that shook the very walls. As it always did on nights such as these, the icy ocean wind shrieked through the castle turrets like the high-pitched wail of a madwoman.
Lord Banfield’s cheeks blanched at the eerie sound. “Honestly, child. You cannot wish to stay here. No reasonable person would.”
Rebecca swallowed. Castle Keyvnor had been the last place she’d wished to visit when her parents had first proposed the idea five years ago. Back then, her life had been full of laughter and joy. Seventeen years old and the light of her parents’ eyes, her first London Season had been everything Rebecca had dreamed.
Until her childhood friend and the love of her life—the delectable and devilish Daniel Goodenham, Viscount North-Barrows—had given her the cut direct at the height of the Season. After leading her to believe that between them was something more.
She’d been too distraught from his cruel rejection to even consider putting herself forward with other men. When her parents despaired, she’d reminded them there was always next Season…
Except next Season never came.
Lord North-Barrows might have been the first to forget about Rebecca, but it had taken no time at all for everyone else to do the same. Day by day, she’d faded from everyone’s memories.
Now that the new earl had been reminded of her existence, she was nothing more than a problem to be fixed. An error to scrub away as quickly as possible.
“I’ve nothing with which to attract a husband,” she said dully. If her own family could forget her, attracting a suitor was impossible. “I haven’t so much as a ha’penny. And every frock I own is five years out of style.”
“Piffle,” Lord Banfield scoffed. “I’ll give you a dowry, of course. Five hundred pounds should do. Plenty of men would wed a sack of grain for less.”
How complimentary. Rebecca pressed her lips together. Her attractiveness as a wife was comparable to marrying a sack of grain. Was it any wonder she preferred to be left alone?
And yet…that much money could completely change her life.
“If I were to live very simply,” she mused aloud, working the financial details out in her mind, “five hundred pounds might be enough for me to live on my own as a woman of independence.”
“You don’t get the five hundred pounds,” the earl reminded her impatiently. “It goes to your husband.”
“You could give it to me instead,” she said hopefully. Such a neat solution would grant her the independence she craved without causing her to be a burden on anyone else.
“And have you spend the entire sum on tiaras and fur muffs?” He laughed. “Come now, child, I’m far too practical to blunder that badly. You would be penniless in a fortnight. Have you forgotten I live with six ladies of impeccable taste? What you need is a strong hand, I’m afraid.”
“There has to be another way,” she whispered.
Lord Banfield brightened. “If you don’t want a Season, we can have the thing solved in no time. Surely a village like Bocka Morrow must have at least one bachelor in want of a wife?”
Rebecca’s stomach churned. She would have no more chance for happiness with one of the local fishermen or wayfaring smugglers than she would with the London crowd. She didn’t fit in anywhere.
What she wanted was her independence. Not a husband. Just the freedom to be herself.
“Please, Uncle.” She clutched her hands to her chest, fully prepared to beg. “Could you please give me the money outright? I promise never to return, asking for more.”
He laughed jovially and gave her a kind pat upon the shoulder. “Of course I cannot. The very question proves how silly women are. How would you pay your bills? Everyone knows females aren’t good with figures. I take care of my business myself. Starting with you. If you wish to make your own decisions, then turn your pretty head to selecting a husband.”
“And…if I can’t find one?” she stammered with dread.
“If you aren’t wed before the start of the Season and cannot bring anyone up to scratch before your portion runs dry, then you leave me no choice but to do the selecting myself. If you haven’t chosen a husband by the end of January—I’ll choose for you.”
She tried to hide her shiver as a chill went down her spine.
He nodded at the solicitor. “Now if you’ll excuse us, we’ve invitations to address, and then I must collect my wife and daughters. Dozens of guests will be arriving for the reading of the will. Lady Banfield will wish her family to be settled first.”
Rebecca stepped back as the two men swept past her. When they disappeared down the corridor, she sagged back against the wall and tried to calm her heart.
Three months. She had only until the end of January to find a sweet, not-too-demanding suitor delighted to have her dowry—and happy to leave her alone. She swallowed.
Perhaps Bocka Morrow would be a fine pond to fish in. She could stay in the country, far from London. And her husband would be gone all day, doing whatever it was country husbands did.
Such a marriage could be bearable after all. Provided she could arrange one within three short months.
Her fists clenched. She could not allow her uncle to choose for her. He’d pick some dreadful London fop, or an ancient roué, or a self-important, fickle rakehell like that arrogant Lord North-Barrows…who undoubtedly topped the guest list for the reading of the will. Not just because he was related to the prior earl’s sister. But because everyone who knew Lord North-Barrows, loved him.
Once, Rebecca had too.
She leaned the back of her head against the wall in despair. What hope had she of even attracting a country gentleman? Even her alleged friends had turned from her ever since the moment of Lord North-Barrows’ public cut.
In fact, Rebecca had been hurt so badly that she was relieved at first when her parents didn’t have the funds to give her a second Season. But they loved her too much to give up.
They’d trekked all the way to South Cornwall in the hopes that her mother’s distant uncle, the Earl of Banfield, might be impressed enough with the gentle manners and pleasing face of a young Rebecca that he might be coaxed into sponsoring her second Season.
It worked. Banfield had agreed to fund her second Season. Rebecca’s parents had been ecstatic.
They’d begged her to join them on a pleasure boat to celebrate their financial success in Cornwall before returning to London.
Rebecca had declined to join them. She’d discovered the castle’s soaring library, and meant to inhale as many books as possible before returning to their barren rented cottage on the outskirts of London. ‘Twas both the best and worst decision of her life.
She had never seen her parents again. Only bits of wreckage ever drifted ashore.
When her year of mourning had concluded, Lord Banfield no longer recalled his promise to sponsor another Season. He had forgotten she was under his roof altogether.
And the new earl would be rid of her three months hence, come hell or high water.
Rebecca rubbed her temples in frustration. What was she to do? She had no fashionable clothing. No knowledge of whatever was popular at the moment. No skill at flirtation—or even conversation. She had spent the past lonely years haunting the library, the billiards room, and the hedge maze behind the castle, should the sun chance to peek through the omnipresent clouds.
How would she possibly attract a promising bachelor’s attention, much less his hand in marriage?
Especially with Lord North-Barrows under the same roof, right there to see her fail.
She cringed at the imminent humiliation. Saints save her. He was the only person likely to remember her name—and thus the only one who might be able to help a reclusive spinster without the slightest talent at coquetry obtain a marriage proposal before time ran out.
That settled it. She lifted her chin in determination. Swallowing her pride would be well worth the chance to attract a better man.
Who better than a rakish viscount to teach her how to snare a true gentleman capable of appreciating her charms?
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The Earl of Carlisle is hunting an heiress–but finds himself enchanted with a penniless wallflower!
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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
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Brigadier Edmund Blackpool 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!
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Captain Blackheart 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!
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Miss Katherine Ross is a wealthy, eccentric socialite who knows precisely what she wants: No candlelit tête-à-tête with the insufferable Duke of Ravenwood.
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He taught her to trust. He taught her to love. And then he left her behind without a word. Tonight he’s back. Whether for a moment or forever depends on the turn of a card…
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The Duke’s Accidental Wife by Erica Ridley: Miss Katherine Ross keeps clashing 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 Forbidden Duke by Darcy Burke: A decade ago, Titus St. John’s idle roguery brought about the ruin of Eleanor Lockhart—and his self-imposed isolation. Now she’s back, and she needs his help. But by “saving” her, the Forbidden Duke may ruin her life all over again.
The Dangerous Duke of Dinnisfree by Julie Johnstone: Justin Holleman, the Duke of Dinnisfree, protects his country, king, and heart with classic, cold calculation until the day he’s forced to seek help with a dangerous mission from the fiery Miss Arabella Cartwright who upends his ordered world and entices him at every turn. Arabella learned long ago to count only on herself, but when she becomes a pawn in a political intrigue, she must rely on Justin, but is he her enemy or her ally
Love with an Improper Stranger by Barbara Devlin: When notoriously hotheaded Nautionnier Knight Blake Elliott, fifth Duke of Rylan, volunteers for a mission, his magnanimous gesture does not include acting as nanny to a couple of blushing sisters. After Lenore suffers a wicked bout of seasickness, Blake nurses her back to health but loses his heart in the process. What happens when Blake alters his course and sets sail for an altogether delectable, more permanent destination?
Taming a Duke’s Reckless Heart by Tammy Andresen: Piper Baker must marry but the only man she wants, an English duke who has traveled to America to replenish his fortune, is the one she can’t have.
Rapunzelle by Caroline Lee: When a handsome stranger arrives in town trying to solve a fifteen-year-old mystery, even the most over-protected heroine knows how to let down her hair… An old-west fairy tale from the bestselling Everland Ever After series.
Scandalous Endeavors by Amanda Mariel: Lady Amelia’s willing to create a scandal to stay in her beloved England. A Scottish duke ignites her passion, but will she abandon her endeavor for love?
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Never Dare a Duke by Meara Platt: Frances Cameron ought to be spending the month planning her wedding, but when a casual toast on the night of her betrothal escalates into a battle of the sexes, she finds herself obligated on a dare to spend the next thirty days working closely with the handsome and powerful Duke of Kintyre. In winning the dare, will she also lose her heart to the duke?
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HIS TOUCH HOLDS HER CAPTIVE…
From the ravens circling its spires to the gargoyles adorning its roof, Blackberry Manor looms ominously over its rambling grounds. And behind its doors, amid the flickering shadows and secret passageways, danger lies in wait.
TO HIS EVERY DARK DESIRE…
Evangeline Pemberton has been invited to a party at the sprawling estate of reclusive Gavin Lioncroft, who is rumored to have murdered his parents. Initially, Gavin’s towering presence and brusque manner instill fear in Evangeline…until his rakish features and seductive attentions profoundly arouse her. But when a guest is murdered, Evangeline is torn. Could the man to whom she is so powerfully drawn, also be a ruthless killer?
Regency-set Gothic Historical Romance Novel
Scoundrels & Secrets series #1