I’m participating in a blog hop today featuring authors from around the globe who write historical books. The hop begins at 9am Pacific Time and ends Monday at 2am. Please be sure to comment at the end of the post so you can be entered in a drawing for a $75 Amazon gift card. Each post sends you to the next author. Alina K. Field sent you to me. Thank you Alina. I will be sending you to Bambi Lynn at https://bambilynnblog.wordpress.com/ You can start with any of the participating authors.
Today I’m featuring my latest book set in England’s Regency period, Scandal’s Promise. I’m not posting the cover or the blurb. Here’s the link to check them out. https://www.amazon.com/dp/B08F2LVR5B/
This is the third book in my Scandal series, but a fourth book is in edits and will be released this summer. It features Lord Ralston, a prominent character in Scandal’s Promise. Here is a sneak peek at a very special dilemma that Ralston’s sister springs on him:
Lord Ralston paced in his sister’s upstairs sitting room, his hands behind his back. “Tell me again why I am here.”
“Will you sit?” His sister Elizabeth handed six-month old Rose to her nurse and reached down to lift two-year-old Henry onto her lap. Three of her older children played a game in the corner and the other two napped in the nursery.
Screeching and laughing from the corner filled the room, making Ralston wish he had something to stuff in his ears. He loved his nieces and nephews—every last one of them—but they were loud enough to be actors at the Drury. And if he plugged his ears he wouldn’t be able to hear what Elizabeth said.
Which, in the long run, might be a blessing.
“You started to say something about a friend until the din in this room rose to the level of a bare-knuckle boxing match.”
“I’m talking about Katherine. My dearest friend. You know her, Gil. Do not pretend you don’t. Blond hair? She lives in Mayfair not far from your friend Cardmore.”
You have a lot of dear friends, Elizabeth.” He drew his brows together as he tried to visualize all the Katherines he knew. Her sister’s friend might not be part of his set.
Elizabeth was ten years older. His sister, Beatrice, nine. His late brother, Miles, had been a year younger. Sometimes he wondered if his own birth and his brother’s had been an accident. His parents had lived together a few months of each year, but apart more often. The late Lord Ralston had been an explorer and Gilbert had barely known him.
Now which Katherine is it?
He avoided society as much as possible, not wishing to be trapped into marriage by being tricked into committing some scandalous sin. Not that he would. He was careful, unlike his friend Lord Cardmore, who was once caught in a parson’s mousetrap. Thankfully, the man was happily married now.
“Does Katherine have a last name?”
“How droll you are, Gil. It’s Stafford. Katherine Stafford, Lady Siltsbury. Surely you remember her. She has a marriageable daughter.”
“Ah yes. I can place her now.” He scratched his chin. “Wait. Did I recently receive an invitation to her daughter’s birthday ball?”
“Yes!” Elizabeth clapped her hands, drawing the attention of the child on her lap who clapped his hands too.
Ralston nodded and spied a chair. Lifting a black and white cat out of it, he sat, wondering how much fur he’d collect on his trousers. What scheme was his sister concocting? Did she want him to court the daughter? She knew he planned to remain a bachelor. His title could go to his eldest nephew, with his blessings.
The noise level in the room escalated to a shouting match.
“Children! Can you please take your game to the nursery? I need to speak to your uncle in private.”
The three jumped up, the oldest participant lifting her hand over her head with the last biscuit from a plate still on the floor.
Jonah screeched. “Mama, why does she get the last cookie.”
“Because I’m oldest, you lout.”
“Caroline! Ladies do not utter such words. Where is your governess.”
Caroline popped the biscuit in her mouth and chewed noisily, a grin on her face, while her two brothers scowled.
“John, take Henry with you. He’s squirming. I believe he needs the chamber pot.”
The younger boy took his brother’s hand and led him away, the others following. With sudden quiet, Ralston wasn’t sure what to do. He could actually hear himself think. What a change.
“Now then,” said Elizabeth. “Where was I?”
“We established you are speaking of your friend, Lady Siltsbury. I remember her now. Cold woman.”
She smoothed the wrinkles in her gown and folded her hands primly in her lap. “She needs a man she can trust to help her with a problem, and I have suggested you.” She stretched her lips into a smug smile, and sat back in her chair.
He cocked his head. “What kind of problem?”
“It has to do with her daughter.”
Ralston straightened in his chair, his suspicion growing. “Yes?”
“She needs someone to school her in the ways of the ton. You know, teach her how to comport herself in society, discuss the rules, teach her to dance.”
“Are we talking about the daughter who is nearly twenty years old? Doesn’t she know these things?”
He rose and began his pacing again. “I’m astonished. Young ladies who are raised by ton mothers have rules bred into them from the cradle. They have dancing masters. Their governesses see to whatever is lacking.”
Elizabeth frowned. “Wait. I am not speaking of Jocelyn. Of course she knows everything necessary to a well-bred young lady. She’s was presented to the queen last year and received vouchers for Almacks around the same time.”
“Who else? If I remember correctly, your friend Lady Siltsbury is a widow and her daughter is an only child.”
Elizabeth looked away and kneaded the skirt of her gown. “It appears Jocelyn has a sister.”
Ralston stopped pacing and wondered if he was gawking. “She had a daughter out of wedlock? Prim, proper Lady Siltsbury? I don’t believe it.”
“Apparently she had two daughters at the same time. Jocelyn is a twin.”
Gilbert would have choked if he’d been drinking. He stared at his sister, his mouth agape, his hands dangling at his sides. A twin? He searched his brain for any rumors he might have heard about the family. Nothing came to mind. Nor could he remember anything about the death of Lord Siltsbury. Perhaps the man never existed and this was some elaborate ruse. If that were the case, his sister would not be engaging him to do something equally scandalous.
Male friends did not instruct young ladies in how to get on in society. Governesses did.
He eyed the chair which was again occupied by the cat. Shaking his head he chose another, seating himself to think in the blessed quiet.
“You’re over-thinking this Gil. The girl should arrive in a week and Katherine wants her stashed away until she’s brought up to snuff. No one will know you are her teacher.”
“Why me? Why not hire some impoverished gentlewoman to do it?”
“Because it must be done in absolute secrecy.” She took a lace-edged handkerchief out of her pocket and dabbed at a spot on her bodice. “Katherine can’t leave Jocelyn at this important time and the only other person who knows about this is me.”
He ran his fingers through his hair as he stared into space. “You realize, as an unmarried gentleman, if anyone found out about this hare-brained idea, the girl’s reputation would be in tatters. Or worse, I would be forced to marry her.”
“It will be perfectly proper, I assure you.”
“How do you know? Servants gossip. Tradespeople have eyes and ears and know when something is havy cavy.”
“Will you stop fooling with your hair? You are making me twitchy.”
He sighed, sat back, and folded his arms. When his sister summoned him—as she was wont to do on more occasions than he could count—he should have known she was plotting. He liked pleasing people, found it hard to say no to them. While Elizabeth was probably counting on this character flaw, he feared he was going to make his sister very unhappy in about ten minutes.
“Go on. Tell me how this could possibly be considered proper.”
“The girl’s father has made you her guardian.”
He roared then, like a wounded lion. A maid scurried into the room and stopped at the door. Elizabeth shook her head and the maid departed, closing the door firmly behind her. Ralston glared at his sister, sure that horns were somehow hidden in her coiffure. This had to be her doing. Even when they were children, Elizabeth had always been the one to design the most complicated traps. This time she’d overstepped and he would not forgive her.
Taking deep breaths to calm himself, his brain finally cleared and he stared at her with amazement. “How could I be made the guardian of someone I don’t know?”
“Twas Lady Siltsbury’s doing.”
I very much doubt that.
“If this girl is the second daughter, am I also the guardian of the first?”
“Twould seem so.”
“Bollocks!” He jumped up and stomped around the room, his hand on his forehead. “I shall never forgive you for this.”
“Calm yourself. Jocelyn will be married before the year is out. There’s already someone in her sights. All you will have to do is see to the settlements. As for the second girl, Aunt Amelia in Painswick has agreed to house her while you groom her for the ton.”
He shook his head in disbelief. This could not be happening. “Wait. Why would a man whom I have never met name me as guardian to his daughters?”
Elizabeth twisted a handkerchief in her lap. When her eyes met his, the shame of guilt heated her face.
“I do believe…” She cleared her throat. “I do believe he knew our father.”
“I do not believe he was aware that Father had died and when Katherine wrote and suggested Lord Ralston, a man of great integrity and sterling reputation…well….”
“Hell and damnation!”
“Do not swear, Gilbert. ‘Tis unseemly.”
“I need to hear this story. All of it. Leave out nothing and start at the beginning.” He scanned the room for a decanter of brandy, port—anything stronger than his sister’s weak tea. “And have your maid bring me something to keep me from walking straight down those stairs and out the front door.”
I hope you will like Scandal’s Deception. Please comment on your favorite type of romance novel and your name will be entered into the contest. I like historical romances for the manners, the gowns, and the history lessons within. After seeing Julia Quinn’s Bridgerton characters on television, I think I like the books with rebellious heroine’s best. Now go back and click on the next blog.