Monday, 21 April 2014

Lord Atherton's Ward

Available on Amazon £0.77 and $0.99
Today my latest Regency romance is live on Kindle. This is the fourth in my Lords and Ladies series. The book was previously published by DC Thomson and Linford Romance and has been available on Regencyreads as well.
I've already had a 3* review on – the reviewer enjoyed the book but said it was similar to another title. The  similarities are that the hero is arrogant, shares the same name as the hero in the other book, and the couple find themselves in a compromising situation. The actual plot is quite different. Unfortunately when you write as many regencies as I do, the same names will appear. Also,  I do like my heroes to be arrogant and my heroines strong-willed.
I only have two more novellas in my backlist to publish, but I intend to write a new title for my June release. I will put up a box set in May.
I really enjoyed having Cathy Mansell on my blog last week and am looking forward to hosting Sheila Norton on Thursday.
I hope you're all having an excellent Easter break.
Here is a small taster for you:

Suffolk, 1815

Sarah sent her chair crashing down, the noise loud in the hushed library. 'Surely there must be some mistake, Mr Carstairs? My father couldn't possibly have made arrangements such as those.' The elderly lawyer scratched his head, his watery blue eyes sympathetic. 'I know it's a shock, my dear Miss Ellison, but it's what Sir John wanted for you and your sister. Lord Atherton is an excellent choice as your guardian.'
Sarah heard Jane restoring the chair and she slumped back on to it, her vision clouded. This was too much; first Papa's death from a second seizure, and now this. A hand slipped into hers and she was grateful for the comfort. She straightened her shoulders, blinking away the tears. She was all Jane had now and it was up to her to protect them both from the stranger their father had arranged to take charge of their affairs.
'Thank you for your time, Mr Carstairs. We shall delay you no longer.'
She stood gracefully and left the man no option but to do the same. With her sister's hands still linked to hers, she nodded regally. 'I bid you good day, sir.'
She waited until a servant had escorted the lawyer from the room before turning in despair to her younger sister. 'I can hardly take it in. I'll be one and twenty next summer, why couldn't Papa leave things as they are? After all, I've been running the estate and the house for him since he was taken ill six months ago.'
'I expect he was thinking of you when he did it, Sarah. The last thing he said to me before his final seizure was that you work too hard, and it was time you learned how to be a young woman and enjoy yourself. Anyway, even I know you have only been able to run things here because Papa was still alive. Things will be different now he has gone, it would be better if there is someone else in charge.'
Sarah snatched her hand away. How could Father have talked in such a way to Jane, and not to her? 'You're right, but to have a complete stranger dictating our every move will be insupportable.'
'Remember, that when the year of mourning is up we cannot go abroad in society without male protection.'
Sarah had not really enjoyed the local assemblies and parties she had attended in Ipswich when she came out three years ago. When Mama had become ill and died so suddenly, she'd been happy to stay at home and run the house and supervise her younger sister. She frowned; she might not wish to parade like a prize mare and be ogled by eligible men looking for a suitable bride, but her sister might well wish to do so.
'Jane, you're almost eighteen which is more than old enough to come out; is it your wish to have a season next year?'
Her sister's expression answered the question. 'You mean we could go to London and open the town house, attend balls and soirees? I should love it above all things.' The girl's face fell. 'But only if it's what you want, Sarah, I'd not want you to be miserable whilst I am enjoying myself.'
 'In which case, my love, we shall remain where we are until this wretched Lord Atherton decides to come and find us. Then I shall insist he takes us to London next season so that you can be presented.'
Three months passed before Sarah had news from Viscount Atherton. The instructions from his lordship's lawyers were quite clear; she was to close the house, leave a skeleton staff in charge, and travel, with their elderly governess, to Highfield Hall, which was somewhere near Chelmsford. It would seem the Dowager Lady Atherton had a residence there and would be awaiting their arrival.
She read the missive and tossed it into the fire. Until their guardian appeared in person she intended to stay at Kesgrave Hall. Why should they be forced to live somewhere else when they had a perfectly good home of their own right here? The weather was better today; the sleet and biting wind that had been whipping off the North Sea had finally abated. It would be the first day of March on Friday and the daffodils would begin to bloom and the snowdrops fade away.
'I'm going to ride, do you wish to accompany me this morning?'
Her sister looked up from the sewing in her lap and shook her head. 'No, I certainly do not. I don't know how you can bear to gallop around the countryside when it is so inclement. Miss Read and I shall sit here in front of the fire and complete our embroidery in comfort.'
The governess, no longer needed but considered one of the family after having been with them so long, smiled. 'Do you intend to ride astride? I do wish you wouldn't, my dear, it's so unladylike.'
'Sir John said it was perfectly acceptable to ride this way as long as I stay on Ellison land. As we have almost five hundred acres doing that has never been a problem.' She raised her hand to stop her sister's protest. 'And yes, I shall take Bill with me this time. I know it's unwise to ever go out without a groom in attendance in case I take a tumble.'
She ran upstairs to discover that her abigail already had a dark blue military-style riding habit waiting for her. 'Mary, Miss Jane is staying inside, but I need to clear my head. This waiting for news from our guardian is like living under a dark cloud.'
'Heard nothing today, miss? I expect his lordship is far too busy in London to worry about you and Miss Jane. I reckon you could be here until Parliament rises and the season is over.'
It always surprised her how well informed Mary was about things they hadn't discussed.
'I hope so, the longer we can remain here in our own home the happier I will be. But three months is a long time without news from someone who is supposed to have our best interests at heart.'
She smoothed a fold of her habit and glanced in the mirror to check the jaunty cap was set straight on her curls. 'I am glad Sir John insisted that we mustn't wear black for him.'
Mary was fussing around her hem and glanced up, her homely face lit by a smile. 'You and Miss Jane had been wearing black for so long already. Sir John wasn't the same after Lady Ellison died, if you don't mind me saying so, Miss Ellison. I reckon he was glad to join her in heaven.'
 'I'm sure you're right, Mary. Especially after he was confined to bed. That was no life for an active man. I miss him sorely, but I'm glad his suffering is over.'
Word had been sent to the stable and Sultan, her large chestnut gelding, was waiting outside on the gravel in front of the elegant steps that led to the porticoed front door. She smiled at his antics. The unfortunate stableboy was being lifted from his feet every time the horse plunged.

'Enough of that, Sultan. I'm here now and you shall soon stretch your legs and get the fidgets out of you.'  Her habit had a divided skirt under which she wore breeches and boots. This meant she could ride astride, or sidesaddle without an indecorous display of ankles. She turned her back, taking the reins, and raised a leg for the boy to boost her into the saddle. She barely had time to ram her boots home in the stirrup irons before her horse shot forward.

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