Saturday, 22 March 2014

A Gallant Defender - new Regency.

Out now £1.99 on Amazon

I'm delighted to tell you that the last to of my back list from Robert Hale is now published as an e-book. This was titled 'A Debt of Honour' in its previous life.
My thanks to Rachel for her excellent proof reading and Jane for another brilliant cover.

Eliza Fox, devastated by the death of her father and future husband, recovers by assuming control of the family estate, firmly believing that matrimony has no place in her life. Then Lord Wydale, a notorious rake hell, wins Grove House from her brother. Edmund Fox returns to his older sister hoping she can save their home. 
Mr Fletcher Reed meets Eliza who steals his heart and she appears to return his feelings. He is her gallant defender – but can he save his beloved and her younger sister from the machinations of the villainous Lord Wydale?

Chapter One

'Eliza, you cannot possibly go outside the house looking like a farm labourer; we are expecting the rector, Mr Clarkson, to visit us today.'
'Mama, I have no choice. I am needed in the barn, the mare is foaling and there is no one competent to oversee this.'
'But men's breeches and your brother's old shirt and waistcoat are hardly suitable, even if you must go and help. I have spoken of this repeatedly, it's not right for you to dress in such a way.' Mrs Fox shuddered dramatically. 'Mama, do you not agree with me? Your granddaughter is making an exhibition of herself. Should she not behave as befits the daughter of a well-respected family?'
Mrs Victoria Dean looked up from the novel she was reading avidly. Her bright eyes summed up the situation at a glance.
'Hannah, as usual you are overreacting. Eliza has a job to do and unlike anyone else in this godforsaken place she is prepared to do it no matter what the cost to herself. If your daughter had not taken the estate in hand when your husband drowned five years ago, then where should we be today? In the poorhouse, that's where.'
Eliza grinned; she loved her grandmother and believed she had inherited her feisty spirit and total disregard for convention from her. 'Grandmamma, thank you for your support. I am doing no more than I want. After Dickon died I would have fallen into a decline without the occupation I found here. I am merely the caretaker of Grove House and its farms until Edmund comes of age.'
She pulled on the flat cap which fitted snugly over her cropped blonde hair, smiling ruefully as she caught a glimpse of herself in the mantel mirror. Mama was correct; dressed as she was it would be hard to distinguish her from one of their workers. Unfortunately she had not been given the regular features and slender build of her younger brother Edmund, nor had she been given the ravishing beauty of her younger sister Sarah.
All she had to recommend her was a pair of startlingly blue eyes fringed with dark lashes, a striking contrast to her streaked fair hair. She knew when Dickon had offered for her on her debut, five years before, she had been lucky beyond belief. She had spent every ball, every rout and every party as an overlarge, plain wallflower, sitting with the matrons watching the other debutantes dance and flirt with their potential suitors.
Eliza smiled faintly as she recalled the humiliation of being dressed in pastel muslins more suited to young women of delicate features and dainty stature. She stood head and shoulders above most of them and her statuesque figure did not show to advantage in such garments. She never understood why Captain Dickon Caruthers had given her a second look – nobody else had – but one wonderful night, at Almack's, he approached and asked her to dance a quadrille.
As soon as his strong, battle hardened hand had gripped her clumsiness fell away and she became one of the chosen. She had floated around the ballroom radiant with happiness and for some extraordinary reason Dickon had felt the same way.
Her eyes filled and she blinked hard to clear them; they had had so little time together before he was recalled to his regiment. She had received three wonderful loving letters before the final one came from his commanding officer reporting that her beloved had died a hero's death in a battle, somewhere unpronounceable, in Spain.
She had already been in mourning for her father when she received this dreadful news. For several weeks Grove House had fallen into disarray with no one making any decisions. Her mother, prostrate with grief, her grandmother also, at the loss of the man she'd considered her son. Her brother, at fifteen, away at school was untouched by the chaos at home.
With no one making decisions, rents remained unpaid, the tenants' grumbles went unheeded and revenues from the farms fell drastically. It took the death of one of their labourers to rouse her from her misery; a young man struck on the head by falling masonry in the unrepaired tithe barn.
Enough was enough, Eliza decided. Dickon would not want her to grieve for him the rest of her life. He had died a hero, she must live as a heroine.
From that moment she had taken control and within twelve months Grove House was back to normal, the cottages in good repair and the land also. Crops were sown and cottages cared for and everyone prospered once more. At about this time Eliza had decided to cut her hair and adopt men's clothing while she oversaw the farms and estate.
In spite of her mother's anguished protests she did as she pleased. After Dickon had died so had her wish to appear desirable. She would never love another and had no intention of ever appearing at a formal occasion again dressed in a hideous pale muslin gown. When her brother came of age next year he could resume control and then she might reconsider her sartorial decision.
Eliza turned from the fireplace to gaze across the park and saw a pony and trap approaching the house through the trees that ran either side of the long straight drive.
'Botheration, the vicar is here. I was waiting for Jane to bring Sarah down as I promised she could watch the foal being born. I shall have to go, I cannot risk meeting him dressed as I am.'
'Give me your arm, Eliza dear, I'm not staying in here to listen to that old bore prosing on for hours; I hear quite enough of him on Sunday morning.'
Mama was shocked by her mother's comment. 'How can you say such a thing? Mr Clarkson is a charming old gentleman and does nothing but good in the village. I have promised to help him raise money for the families whose breadwinners no longer have employment on the fields.'
Eliza leant down to offer her arm to her grandmother and assisted her from the chair. The old lady moved with surprising speed for someone of her advanced years and vanished through the wide doors, across the long narrow entrance hall and into the library. She heard the door close with a decided snap.
'Mama, could you send Jane to the stables with Sarah when they do come down?'

Her mother sniffed. 'It is the outside of enough, Eliza, that you spend most of your time up to your knees in unmentionable substances, but now you are encouraging your younger sister to do the same.' (.Uk)

Hope you enjoy reading it.

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