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Peers of the Realm

All I Want

Dukes of War Series #8

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. Twenty-one to win–or to lose it all. Their future hinges on her dealing him the right number…

FREE Regency-set Historical Romance Short Story!

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Lord of Pleasure

In the Rogues to Riches historical romance series, Cinderella stories aren’t just for princesses… Sigh-worthy Regency rogues sweep strong-willed young ladies into whirlwind romance with rollicking adventure.

Nondescript “good girl” Miss Camellia Grenville only ever opens her mouth when forced to sing at her family’s musicales. That is, until the night she infiltrates the ton’s most scandalous masquerade ball on behalf of her sister, and finds herself in the arms—and the bed—of the one man she’d sworn to hate.

Irresistibly arrogant and unapologetically sensuous, infamous rake Lord Wainwright always gets his way. When he accepts a wager to turn his rakish image respectable in just forty days, he never anticipates falling for an anonymous masked lover…or that discovering her identity would destroy them both.

Romancing the Rogue

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…

Romancing the Rogue was first featured as part of the Vexed anthology.

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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Meet the Heroine: Miss Grace Halton

Dukes of War #1: The Earl’s Defiant Wallflower

Miss Grace Halton crossed her goose-pimpled arms over her ruched bodice, mindless of the thick moulding digging into the small of her back or the clumps of wax sticking to her silk slippers. Her gaze darted about the ballroom. Elegant couples began a lively country-dance. Grace hugged herself tighter. She had never felt less like dancing.

Not that she’d been asked.

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Her jaw clenched. She hadn’t any idea how to accomplish any of her goals. Without her grandparents’ money, she couldn’t return to her homeland. Without a husband, she couldn’t get her grandparents’ money. Without a noble birth and a British accent, she couldn’t attract a man interested in something other than her dowry or her virginity.

Back home in Pennsylvania, she’d had friends of both sexes, who loved her for herself and not for something they might take from her. Back home in Pennsylvania, they would’ve had a right belly laugh to see Gracie Halton trussed up in finery and mincing about a suffocating ballroom. Back home in Pennsylvania, her mother— her mother—

Grace’s breath caught and her eyes blurred. Oh, who knew what was going on back home in Pennsylvania? She’d written her mother and her neighbors every day since she’d stepped off the boat, and had yet to receive a single word of response. Fear gripped her. Was her mother still in the threadbare bed Grace had last seen her in? Was she even still alive? Was there still time? Or had Grace flung herself headlong into a fool’s mission that only ensured she would not be present in her mother’s last hours, when she needed her daughter most?

Blindly, Grace pushed away from the velvet-lined wall . . .

Right into the path of a giant as tall and as hard as an oak.

A firm hand caught her about the waist as strong fingers captured her wrists. She blinked the sting of unshed tears from her eyes to find herself entangled not with an oak, but with a man possessed of dark brown hair and dangerous golden brown eyes. A wry smile curved his lips as the orchestra began the opening strains of a waltz.

The hot muscles beneath her palms were hard and firm—no need for a tailor’s touch to improve this sculpted body. He was impossibly tall and uncomfortably close. But unlike the other trussed turkeys sweltering inside the breezeless room, his clothes didn’t reek of day-old perfume. His eyes weren’t bloodshot or blasé, but rather clear and warm and drinking her in as if he were two seconds away from yanking her close enough to claim her mouth. Her heart thundered.

Everything about him was raw heat and restrained power. The exact opposite of what she was looking for. If a man like this took a wife, he would never let her slip away.

She forced her starving lungs to breathe. She was making a cake of herself. She’d almost mown down this exquisite hulk of a man, like the unsophisticated American they all believed her to be. He was simply protecting the herd by putting himself in the path of the rampaging bull.

Heat flooded her cheeks as she broke eye contact. She’d never felt so foolish and uncultured in her life.

Her breath hitched, but she forced herself to meet his eyes. A warm, honey brown. Someone this gorgeous definitely had somewhere better to be. She tugged at her wrists, signaling he was free to go. Only a fool would try to keep him.

He dropped one of his hands, but did not immediately hurry away, as she had anticipated. He seemed even larger than before.

His free hand tightened at her waist. “Shall we dance?”

Just like that, her legs could barely hold her steady. She tilted into his touch, conscious that he must be able to feel her body tremble beneath his fingers. Why would he wish to dance with her? He was too young to be a roué, too gentlemanly to be a rake, too well-heeled to be desperate for money, too smolderingly attractive to be in want of female companionship.

But it couldn’t hurt to make certain.

She narrowed her eyes and forced her mind back on her mission. She needed a husband with money. “Are your pockets to let?”

He blinked at her in confusion. “What? No!”

“Are you in the market for a wife?”

Hell no!” His sculpted cheekbones flushed a subtle pink as he belatedly recalled he was speaking to a lady. “That is to say, at some point, it is my duty to take a wife.”

“Close enough.” Grace slid her wrist from his fingers and placed her hand in his. “This dance is yours.”

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Meet the Hero: Lord Oliver York

Dukes of War #1: The Earl’s Defiant Wallflower

Oliver York, Earl of Carlisle, marched into the ballroom. He clearly wouldn’t be curing his best friend tonight. Perhaps the one most in need of wine, women, and dancing was Oliver himself.

Except the ratafia was warm, the wine bitter, the music off-pace. The debutantes were only attracted to his ignominiously gained title. The men only approached him to hear gore-splattered war stories Oliver had no inclination to retell, much less relive.

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Ballroom Waterloo. The deafening orchestra, the cloying perfume, the swirls of satin and lace—it was as much a hell as the battlefield he’d escaped.

Anybody who fantasized about war was an imbecile. Anyone who fantasized about inheriting a title was an even bigger imbecile. This whole ballroom was chock full of imbeciles, and Oliver was the biggest of them all for thinking Xavier was a soldier he could save, this soirée a skirmish he could win. He didn’t know these people anymore. He wasn’t certain he even wished to. He curled his hands into fists.

Look at them planning their attacks. Sharpening their rapier wits. All of them, pawns in the same war, playing the parts they were born to play. He could no more have escaped inheriting his earldom than a wallflower could avoid being labeled a—

Oliver frowned. Brow furrowed, he squinted through the swirl of dancing couples and frowned again.

There was a girl. Across the room. Pressed into the wallpaper. A pretty girl who didn’t know her part.

Not a wallflower, this young woman, despite her back-to-the-wall stance. True wallflowers dressed in drab colors and did their best to blend with the shadows. This one wore a gown with enough silk and lace to befit an empress. The colors could blind a peacock. Her cleavage would tempt the Prince of Wales himself.

And yet, something about her gave the impression that her come-hither bodice and opulent trappings was nothing more than costuming. The true her—whoever that might be—was hidden from the naked eye. Oliver narrowed his own. Something in the set of her jaw, the stiffness in her spine, the softness of those ripe, full lips . . .

Even as he watched, she trapped her plump lower lip beneath a row of straight white teeth. Dark hair. Pale skin. Voluptuous curves. He shifted his weight.

This Snow White belonged to a different type of bedtime story. What man wouldn’t want those soft red lips on every part of his body? She must’ve infatuated half of London by now. The virginal lace at her bosom, the way those thick black lashes blinked a few more times than strictly necessary . . .

Oliver’s intrigued half-smile died on his face as he realized the truth. This wasn’t coquetry. His enticing wallflower was uncomfortable. Nervous. His fingers curled into fists. Where the devil was her chaperone? Her friends? Hell, her suitors? She was utterly alone. Someone this beautiful, with skin that fair and hair that dark couldn’t have any difficulty attracting a man.

“Got your eye on the new one, Carlisle?” came a sly whisper from behind Oliver’s shoulder. “Better dip your wick now, before all the others have their way. Miss Macaroni won’t be looking half as nubile once she’s had a mouthful of—”

“Macaroni?” Oliver interrupted, barely managing to tamp down his impulse to plug his fist into the speaker’s face, sight unseen. He wouldn’t be able to resist the temptation for long. War did that to a man.

The voice chuckled. “Eh, she’s a Yank. Best thing for anyone to do is keep a hand over her mouth, because you can’t understand a single word coming out of it.”

Oh, mother-loving shite. That was Phineas Mapleton talking. The ton’s worst gossip.

“Not that anyone’d want her for conversation anyway,” Mapleton continued. “Every female worth her salt has already given her the cut direct. The only creatures putting themselves in her path now are the profligates planning to give her a tumble or two. Dirty money, dirty gel. Not much else a chit like that can hope for. Old man Jarvis already put his name down in White’s as being the first to tup her. Got fifty quid on it, myself. Want to add your name to the pot?”

His lip curled in disgust. Ballrooms were treacherous indeed. This jackanapes had an innocent American in his sights. One who didn’t even seem to have a duenna, much less friends to keep away wolves like Mapleton.

Oliver’s temple began to throb as he forced his fists to unclench. This was a different type of combat, he reminded himself. The worst thing to do would be to make a scene with Mapleton. The scandal would be horrific.

Yet he couldn’t walk away. Not when the wallflower needed rescuing. His goddamn Achilles heel, no matter how disastrous the outcome tended to be. He wished his heroics would work out for once.

He kept his eyes trained on the pretty black-haired American, every muscle tensed for action. An eternity ticked by. No one approached her. She had no one to dance with, to talk to. She looked . . . lost. Hauntingly lonely. Frightened and defiant all at the same time.

’Twould be better for them both if he turned around right now. Never met her eye. Never exchanged a single word. Left her to her fate and him to his.

It was already too late.

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Meet the Heroine: Lady Amelia Pembroke

Accounts. Right. Focusing, Lord Benedict Sheffield dipped his pen into the standish and began totaling the first row of sums. He made it through the first few pages before his butler appeared in the doorway.

Benedict frowned. No one called upon him during working hours without prior arrangement. “Yes, Coombs?”

“I’m afraid there’s a Lady Amelia Pembroke here to see you, my lord. She was most insistent.”

“I trust you informed her that I was not receiving, and refused to let her in?”

“Of course.” Coombs hesitated before continuing, “She said she would simply wait until you are receiving.”

Benedict put down his pen. “Wait where, pray?”

“Upon the front step, my lord. I’m afraid the lady brought . . . the lady brought . . . a book. She cannot be budged.”

Benedict tilted his head, impressed. Rather than attempt to barge her way in, she’d come prepared to wait him out—on the front stair, where every eye in every townhouse in the whole crescent was likely watching her. Intrigued despite himself, he tugged at his fob and checked the time on his watch.

A quarter ’til eight. Damn.

“Did the lady mention whether she was calling for business or for pleasure?”

“Both, my lord.”

He coughed. “Both?”

“She would not elaborate. She said . . . she said explaining the intricacies of her design to a butler would be a waste of both our valuable time, and that each of us would operate far more efficiently minding the tasks in which we’re experienced. Then she pulled out a book and a pair of spectacles and sat down on the front step to read.”

Benedict mentally canceled his plans for the theater. He loved actresses, found them endlessly diverting in fact, but was forced to admit he’d never once been intrigued by one. They were beautiful, simple creatures, which was precisely what he liked about them. After a long day of arguing in the House of Lords or negotiating business contracts or managing tenant properties, he liked to disconnect his brain and let the rest of his body reign for a few hours.

At least, he’d always thought he liked that. He was beginning to suspect he liked being intrigued even more. He consulted the hour again.

Still a quarter to eight.

A sudden thought occurred to him. “Do you mean to say we’ve got a lady with her derrière freezing to ice atop our slush-covered concrete?”

Coombs shook his head. “Not at all, my lord. She brought several rugs and a warming brick, and had her coachman clear off the steps before she settled in. He’s got eyes on her, even if he can’t talk her back into the carriage.”

Benedict drummed his fingers atop his leg. She hadn’t just been prepared in case she had to wait—she’d known it would happen! She’d planned for the lost time, for the denied entry, for the slush upon the stoop, for the inclement weather . . .

He shoved his watch back into his pocket.

Business and pleasure, the chit had said. He certainly hoped so. “By all means, Coombs. Show the intrepid lady in.”

He returned to his sums until footsteps sounded out in the corridor. Eight o’clock. Perfect timing. He sheathed his pen.

Let the games begin.

He pushed to his feet the moment the lady appeared in his doorway.

Her hair was a rich brown and her eyes a clear green, but despite the fine cut of her gown or the becoming flush upon her cheekbones, those were not the aspects of her appearance he found the most incredible.

She was dry.

There wasn’t a spot of snow on her pristine slippers. No hint of dampness to her velvet-and-ermine pelisse. No sign of the book or the warming brick or the infamous rugs. She had not only planned to be kept out, she had also planned to be let in!

“Who are you?” he found himself asking, his tone at complete odds with his usual charm and decorum.

She dipped a pretty curtsey. “Oh dear, I have you at sixes and sevens. I am Lady Amelia Pembroke, sister of Lawrence Pembroke, whom you perhaps better know as the Duke of Ravenwood.”

He peered behind her. “Where is your chaperone?”

Elder sister,” she enunciated crisply. “At nine-and-twenty, I find myself being a chaperone rather than requiring one. If you suspect I have come to trap you to the altar, have no fear. Once our brief partnership has concluded, you will have no need to lay eyes on me anew. In fact, interacting in person need not happen beyond just this once. It would be far more efficient for us both if I were allowed to handle our business from here on out.”

He leaned back. “What, may I ask, is the nature of our business?”

The adventures of Lord Sheffield and Lady Amelia continue in:
The Viscount’s Christmas Temptation
The Dukes of War #0.5

Meet the Hero: Lord Benedict Sheffield

Amelia tilted her head toward the door. “Are we ready?”

Lord Sheffield stared at her, incredulous. “Ready? I haven’t a clue where we’re going!”

“Haven’t you?” she teased. “But it’s Wednesday!”

Almack’s?” His mouth opened and shut without making a sound. “But its rooms are only open during the Season, which hasn’t even begun yet—”

“—making it quite suitable for our ends. All we have to do is bend the patronesses to our point of view. Lady Jersey has agreed to hear our request.”

“Bend—Queen Sarah—” He burst into laughter and offered her his arm. “Come, my lady. I shall permit you to do all the talking.”

She slipped her gloved fingers into the crook of his elbow and allowed him to escort her to his waiting carriage. Despite the many times her societal roles had caused her to be on the arm of this duke or that earl, she had never before been struck by the sudden, foolish wish that her fingers were not so properly gloved, and his arm not so encased in winter layers, so that she might feel the warmth and strength of the muscle beneath.

Heat pricked the back of her neck. Her, blush? It simply would not do.

Oh, certainly, Lord Sheffield was a Tulip of Fashion and a delight for the eyes. Even were he to suddenly attire himself in waistcoats of tangerine and puce, his golden curls and sparkling hazel eyes would flutter the heart of any maiden—and did. Amelia was not so green as to be unaware of his rakish reputation. Being alone with him in a carriage might be considered fast, even if one was a spinster in her dotage.

And yet . . . His behavior toward her had spoken very well of him from the very first. When he had enquired about her chaperonage, she had been the one to point out her age obviated the necessity. He had not only been perfectly willing to drive separately to their various assignations, he had accepted the assumption without question. It was she who had foregone her carriage in favor of accompanying the viscount.

Just what were her intentions toward the man? She bit her lip and forced herself to turn from his handsome mien and focus instead on the view out the carriage window.
His profile reflected back at her.

She closed her eyes. It wouldn’t do, she reminded herself. Besides the frivolous reasons that they could not suit—his estate being perfectly run, future children failing to be lords and ladies—his nightly carousing was legendary, and unlikely to alter for someone as negligible as a wife.

Unless the rumors were greatly exaggerated? She indulged herself in another long look at the golden-haired Corinthian seated across from her. He didn’t seem blue-deviled and bleary-eyed. But if that was because he’d spent the entirety of his daylight hours sleeping off a night of unrepentant bacchanalia, then she couldn’t even fathom a friendship forming between them.

No. She’d had it from no less than three sources: after she’d gone home from the theatre at two in the morning, he’d traipsed directly to the Daffy Club, where he’d caroused until dawn.

His eyes met hers and his brows lifted in question.

She gazed back blandly, thankful the shadowed interior would mask any flush to her cheeks.

“Guinea for your thoughts,” he said in his low, smooth voice.

“Prinny has caused that much inflation?”

The corners of his mouth quirked. “Most people’s ruminations aren’t worth a ha’ penny. Yours, I am persuaded, are worth considerably more.”

“You shan’t think so once I’ve made them known.” She flattened her lips into a straight line. “I was thinking about those who behave impractically. All of today’s scandal sheets were full of a certain Viscount S—’s adventures with Blue Ruin.” She arched a brow pointedly. “Late night, was it?”

“Mmm. And an early morning.” He stretched his long legs out before him. “As a lady of clocklike precision yourself, you may appreciate my schedule. I have kept strictly to it every day for the past decade. From eight in the morning to eight in the evening, I devote myself to my duties. Then from eight in the evening to eight in the morning, I . . . do . . . not.” He smiled, as if in remembrance of some unspeakable exploit.

Amelia was horrified. His devil-may-care response had been crafted in just such a way to provoke her displeasure, and so it had. But not, perchance, for the reasons he might expect.

As much as she tired of the house parties and winter retreats she was obliged to attend, or the two weeks in Bath every year with her cousins the Kingsleys, she could not deny the rejuvenating effect of several days in a row without a single responsibility or effort on her part. While she’d been picnicking at follies or riding in the parks, he hadn’t enjoyed a single ray of sunshine at all.
She bit her lip. His estate might run smoothly, but it was in shocking want of efficiency. What had he said about the Christmastide party? He hadn’t wanted her to do it?

“Requiring help does not indicate one is incapable of performing a task,” she said softly. “It simply means it is more expedient not to do so.”

The darkling look he glowered upon her could have melted iron.

The adventures of Lord Sheffield and Lady Amelia continue in:
The Viscount’s Christmas Temptation
The Dukes of War #0.5

The Earl’s Defiant Wallflower

Dukes of War Series #2

Oliver York returns from war to find his father dead, his finances in arrears, and himself the new Earl of Carlisle. If he doesn’t marry an heiress—and fast!—he and his tenants are going to be pitching tents down by the Thames. He definitely shouldn’t be trading kisses with a penniless debutante… no matter how captivating she is!

Miss Grace Halton is in England just long enough to satisfy the terms of her dowry. But a marriage of convenience isn’t as easy as she’d hoped. Back in America, her ailing mother needs medicine only Grace’s dowry can afford. Which means the dashing earl she can’t get out of her mind is the one man she can’t let into her heart.

Regency-set Historical Romance Novel

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The Viscount’s Christmas Temptation

Dukes of War series #1: FREE at all retailers! (ebook)

Certain individuals might consider Lady Amelia Pembroke a managing sort of female, but truly, most people would be lost without her help. Why, the latest on-dit is that rakish Viscount Sheffield is canceling the fête of the year because he hasn’t time for silly soirees. He doesn’t need time—he needs her!

When a flash of lightning destroys the venue for his family’s annual Christmas ball, Lord Benedict Sheffield intends to enjoy a relaxing holiday for once. But after twelve days of beguiling Lady Amelia’s guerrilla tactics, he’s up to his cravat with tinsel…and tumbling head over heels in love.

Regency-set Historical Romance

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