I have another fantastic cover from Jane Dixon-Smith – I'm sure you like it as much as I do. This title is the first of a series of six books all with either a lord or a lady as the main protagonist. The second in the series, Lady Charlotte's Deception, will be released at the end of November.
Here is a short extract which I hope will be enough for you to want to download it.
Amelia almost stamped her foot with frustration. ‘It is so unfair that we should be in this sorry state, unable to pay our bills, or the few staff we still have, when there is so much money sitting in the bank. How typical of Papa not have the foresight to organise his affairs before killing himself.’
Her mother was shocked. ‘Please do not speak so, Amelia. Your father did not kill himself; he died in a riding accident, as you well know. How was he to anticipate he would meet his maker at only two and fifty?’
Amelia was immediately contrite. ‘I am sorry, Mama. It is just so frustrating, waiting for news.’ But the news they were waiting for, at that moment, was the identity of the mystery visitor. There was a discreet tap on the door and Foster, their antiquated butler, stepped in; his expression for once, almost animated. ‘There is a gentleman below, my lady, desirous of speaking with you. I have taken the liberty of placing him in the library.’
Amelia jumped to her feet. ‘I will come at once, Foster.’
‘You cannot attend on your own, Amelia, it would not be seemly. You must have Martha with you.’
‘Oh, very well, Mama.’ She turned to Foster. ‘Please ask Martha to come here immediately.’ A few minutes later Martha, her mother’s abigail, joined them in the drawing-room. ‘We have a visitor, Martha, and you are to accompany me to the library,’ Amelia told the middle-aged woman, waiting for instructions. ‘I will return here as soon as I have any information for you, Mama.’
Amelia, closely followed by Martha, hurried downstairs eager to discover the identity of the stranger. Foster was waiting to announce her. The library, the only other room where a fire was still lit every day, was at least warmer than the cavernous, marble tiled, entrance hall.
The butler opened the door and announced her. ‘Miss Rivenhall.’
The tall, dark haired man turned from his thoughtful contemplation of the fire. He bowed low. ‘Good morning, Miss Rivenhall. Thank you for receiving me. I have brought some information from your lawyers, Metcalf and Metcalf. Perhaps you could oblige me with somewhere to change whilst you read them, for as you can see, I am somewhat damp.’
Amelia realized that he was, in fact, standing in an ever-growing pool of water. ‘Good heavens, of course you are. I shall have you taken upstairs immediately. Martha, could you ring for Higgs?’ The housekeeper bustled in, all anxious enquiry. ‘Good,’ Amelia said, hiding a smile. The woman must have been outside the door in order to have arrived so quickly. She was not the only one enjoying the unexpected break from tedium. ‘Could you show this gentleman to the Blue room? And please find him something suitable to wear whilst his own garments are being restored.’
The gentleman in question exuded good taste, and full pockets, from the cut of his dark blue, superfine topcoat to the superb fit of his buff inexpressibles and once shiny black Hessians. He bowed again. ‘Thank you, Miss Rivenhall, but that will not be necessary. My man, Peters, will bring up my boxes as soon as he has seen to the horses.’
Although rather surprised by this presumption Amelia returned his bow politely, with a nod of her head. ‘Higgs, please direct Peters to the Blue room, when he appears.’
‘Very well, Miss Amelia. Come this way, sir, if you please.’
The man picked up the package of papers that he had placed on the mantel shelf, and offered them to Amelia. ‘I am sure that these, Miss Rivenhall, will explain my unexpected arrival here.’ Automatically she reached out and took the proffered documents. ‘I shall rejoin you soon. Then we must talk.’ At this, the man strode after the departing housekeeper.
Amelia, her hand shaking, already suspected what would be amongst the legal papers she had been given. Inside she found several certificates and a letter from the family lawyers, Metcalf and Metcalf.
The first document she looked at was a record of the marriage between, Edward Rivenhall and a Miss Mary Marshal. The second, a birth certificate for Richard Edward Rivenhall; from the date she realized it made him almost eight and twenty. The third, and final, document was the death certificate for Edward, dated scarcely three years after his marriage.
Amelia barely glanced at the letter of introduction from the lawyers. At last their worries were over. There would be money to pay the bills and life could return to normal. The privations of the past eighteen months, which had so damaged her mother’s delicate health, would soon be forgotten.
She gathered up the papers and rang the bell. Almost immediately the door opened, and Foster appeared, bristling with curiosity.
‘Foster, please take these documents up to Lady Rivenhall.’ She paused, enjoying for once, the opportunity to have more information than the butler. ‘Lord Rivenhall will be re-joining me here. I
would like luncheon served at in the small dining-room. Tell Cook that we would like soup, cold cuts, and the remainder of the game pie. Thank you, Foster, that will be all.’ She turned to Martha, beaming beside her. ‘This is wonderful news, is it not, Martha. You had better go to Lady Rivenhall for she will wish to come down to meet her nephew.’
The butler retreated clutching the papers and Amelia knew he would know their contents before her mother. His officious manner was a constant irritation to her, but his loyalty to the family could not be questioned. Martha, still smiling hurried after him.
The sound of footsteps approaching heralded the imminent arrival of her new relative. Quickly Amelia sat down, not wishing to appear too eager. The door swung open and her glance was drawn to the man who appeared to fill the entrance. For a second their eyes locked, and something, she did not understand passed between them.
He smiled and immediately looked less intimidating. His teeth gleamed white in his darkly tanned face. Remembering her manners, Amelia gestured to the large leather
Chesterfield opposite her position by the
‘Please be seated, my lord. We obviously have a lot to discuss.’
The fact that this time they were alone, unchaperoned, appeared to have escaped his attention. Rivenhall flicked aside the tail of his coat and sat down, relaxing instantly against the sofa, his long booted legs crossed casually at the ankles.
‘Miss Rivenhall, you have obviously read my papers and must know that I am your cousin, Richard.’ His voice was deep and attractive, his expression sincere.
‘I did not know I had a Cousin Richard until now.’
‘I realise all this must be a shock, but I hope it is a welcome one. Mr Metcalf explained how
intolerable things have been for you. And I can only apologize for my tardy arrival.’
‘We have managed, but I must admit that I am delighted you have come at last. My mother is not well and the worry has made her worse.’
‘It is to be hoped that her health will improve when the rooms are warmer and the pantry full.’
Amelia smiled. ‘Indeed, I hope so. But now I am curious to know why it has taken you so long to get here. Where have you been all this time?’
‘I was fighting in the Peninsula when your father died and had no reason to read obituaries. My mother had never told me that I could be heir to a title and a large estate.’
‘I see, but, my lord…’
He interrupted her. ‘Do you think we could dispense with formality and use our given names? After all we are cousins, are we not?’
This unexpected request caused Amelia to blush. Surely it was too soon for such intimacies? ‘I am not sure it would be correct, my lord. We have only just met.’
‘I intend to address you as Amelia; you must, of course, please yourself.’ This statement was accompanied by a charming smile.
‘Oh, very well then, I suppose I must call you Cousin Richard,’ she replied a trifle ungraciously. Then she smiled, feeling her reply had been rather churlish, and her face was transformed.
‘Now, let me continue. On my father’s death my mother had sufficient funds of her own to keep both of us. She reverted to her maiden name and I grew up using the name of Marshal, and did not
even know I was a Rivenhall.’ He paused, his expression sad. ‘My mother died when I was twelve and there was just enough money left to purchase me a set of colours, and so I joined the Army.’
‘So young? You were still a child.’
‘Not for long; the army is a place where you grow up fast, if you are to survive.’
Amelia could imagine how difficult it must have been for a young boy, recently orphaned, to make his way in the army. ‘Please go on, Cousin Richard. Did you make good progress in your career?’
He nodded. ‘Yes, moderate; when I resigned my commission last month I had reached the rank of major.’
Amelia was not surprised. She had sensed immediately that her cousin was a man used to command. ‘I am impressed. But how did you finally discover you were the heir to Rivenhall?’
‘Quite by chance; after Waterloo I returned to London and visited Blake and Sons, my mother’s lawyers. I had been sending them my prize money over the years, and they have been investing it for me. I needed to know how my affairs stood. I did not know, however, that they had been holding that pack of documents in safe keeping. My mother had left instructions for them to be given to me when I reached my majority. They had no idea of their contents. Because I had not been to see them since my mother’s death they had remained unopened.’
He leant forward; his dark eyes glittered in the firelight. ‘I was astounded when I learnt that I was now a lord, and not only heir to vast estates, but guardian to a cousin and responsible for an aunt. Naturally I came down here immediately. And I can only apologize again, for the unforgivable distress my absence has caused to yourself and Lady Rivenhall.’
Fenella J Miller