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A first look at
A novel in the Company of Rogues' World.
A Shocking Delight
A Top Pick for April from Romantic Times.
The man she shouldn't love. The woman he shouldn't marry.
Publication date -- April 2014
Preorder your copy now.
A Shocking Delight picks up a story line from the novel The Dragon's Bride. In that book, Viscount Amleigh inherits the earldom of Wyvern in Devon, which he absolutely does not want. He doesn't even want to visit, for there he might re-encounter Susan Kerslake who broke his heart when they were only teens. As their story plays out we meet Susan's brother David, who is the earl's estate manager, but also "Captain Drake" leader of the local smuggling gang. Readers have been asking for David's story for a decade, and here it is at last. But in this first excerpt we meet his unwitting destiny -- Miss Lucinda Potter, a rich young woman of the City of London.
Lucy is the only child of a wealthy, self-made London merchant. Her father has always involved her in his businesses and she has seen herself as his heir, one day to manage everything herself. However, her mother died a year before and he has cut himself off from Lucy. Now, when she thinks the end of mourning might return everything to normality her father has shocked her with the news that he is to marry again, and hopes to have a son. A son who will replace her and destroy all her dreams. He even hints that it's time she marry, and that her very large dowry might attract a lord. Lucy has always known that marriage would cut her off from the business world of the City of London. In distress, she takes refuge with her life-long friend, Betty Hanway.
"Your father and Mrs. Johnson?" Betty said, once they were alone in Betty's bedroom. "A step-mother?"
Lucy seized on that excuse. "Unbearable, isn't it?"
"Completely!" Betty declared, hugging her.
Betty was slim and brown-haired, with fine brown eyes and plenty of common sense. "Mrs. Johnson is a pleasant woman," she said, "but she'll rule in your mother's place.
"I know. It's horrible. I can't remain there."
As soon as Lucy said it, she knew it was true.
"How can you not? Lucy, don't do anything rash."
"Such as grabbing any suitor who's to hand."
Lucy laughed. "That's the last thing I'd do! But I must find somewhere else to live. For a while at least. As I grow accustomed. As I think...."
Of a way to overcome this.
There has to be a way.
"You can't leave your home now," Betty protested. "It might look as if you object, as if you can't bear the future Mrs. Potter."
"I can't bear any future Mrs. Potter."
"Your father's a young man. He was bound to marry again."
Lucy let out a breath. "Why was I so blind to that? I thought their great love.... I'm losing faith in my rational abilities. Another reason I need time and space to think."
Betty drew her to sit on the sofa. "Let's try to find a way. What about relatives? Are there any you could reasonably visit for a week or two?"
"My father was a foundling, and my mother a scandal to her family," Lucy said, but then she paused. "My aunt, Lady Caldross, invited me to join her for the season. Cousin Clara is making her curtsy. I declined, but..."
"Move to Mayfair?"
"It's not darkest Africa! And it would seem reasonable to take up such an opportunity. What's more, I could escape to there within days. The fashionable frolic is already underway."
"But you'd know no one."
"I know my aunt and cousin. Once my aunt married, mother could visit, and she did so occasionally, taking me with her."
"What's your aunt like?"
"I haven't seen her for nearly two years. She and mother werenít close and I think Aunt Mary disapproved of her. As I remember, she disapproved a lot."
"Unpleasant. And your cousin?"
"Clara's three years younger than I, but as best I remember, she doesn't have two sensible thoughts to rub together."
"Lucy, you'd hate such company."
"Betty, I have no choice!"
"That's what Isabella said in The Curse of Montenegro before she ran off to an Italian nunnery."
"This is not a novel! I donít know how anyone as sensible as you can bear the things."
"Sometimes itís fun not to be sensible, but I was teasing, dearest. I do fear you'll be jumping out of the boiling pot into the fire. You know how the so-called beau monde refer to people like us -- as Cits."
"I'm only half a Cit."
"You're fully the product of a great scandal, which your appearance there will revive."
Lucy had overlooked that. "Why do you always see things so clearly?"
"You normally do."
"Normally, my life isn't turned upside down in a moment." Lucy rose to pace the room. "I have to get away for a while, I have to, and a few weeks with Aunt Mary is the only acceptable means I can imagine. Everyone will understand my seizing such an opportunity. I can even pretend to most that it's been planned for some time."
"But you'll be miserable. All your friends are here, and there's your involvement in your father's businesses."
Lucy had never told Betty that he'd cut himself off from her. She was surprised her friend hadn't guessed, but Betty had probably thought Lucy busy with her father when she'd been in the library reading books, magazines and newspapers to keep informed.
"He'll have to manage without me for a month. The more I think on this plan, the more it appeals. Perhaps I have been too sensible. Observing the great at ridiculous play should amuse.Ē
ďDonít laugh aloud.Ē
ďMy manners will be perfect. When I think about it, I might enjoy some parts of it. I've been to many assemblies and private dance parties, but never to a ball in a grand house. There'll be Venetian breakfasts and musical evenings featuring the finest performers, not to mention rubbing shoulders with dukes and dandies."
Betty didn't look convinced. "Might it not be better to marry? Arthur Stamford is probably still interested."
Lucy shuddered. Arthur Stamford had offered for her only two weeks ago. She'd rejected him, just as she'd rejected a string of other suitors. Men in the City of London didn't need a published list to tell them which was the largest golden apple on the tree.
"If you donít care for Arthur, there are others. Charlie Carson has never given up hope and Peter Frome...."
"Iím not going to marry!" Lucy snapped, then quickly added, "Not until I fall in love. You're in love, Betty. You'd deny me the same?"
Betty smiled in the way she always did at any reference to her beloved James Greenlow and their upcoming wedding, but she didn't lose track of her point.
"I long for you to fall in love, Lucy, but what if you fall in love with a lord? An arrogant, wastrel gambler who gets staggering drunk every night of the week?"
That made Lucy laugh. "Can you imagine my doing anything so idiotic?"
"No, but you'll be going to a world as different as Africa. Who can tell?"
Lucy sat to hug her friend. "When you become idiotic, I know you're upset. There's no need, I promise."
"But you'll be so far away."
Ah, now Lucy understood, and it was another blow she hadn't thought of. How dense she was being.
"It's only three miles."
"We've lived on the same street all our lives, and if you marry a lord, even a decent one..."
"What?" Lucy prompted, bewildered by the pause.
"Who knows where you'll end up? Your mother's family comes from Gloucestershire. You could end up anywhere. In Scotland, even! I couldn't bear that."
Lucy raised her right hand. "I hereby make a solemn vow that I will not marry a Scottish lord. And speaking of marriage, have you heard news of your father's return yet?"
That distracted. All was settled for Betty's wedding except the date, which must wait until her father returned from a business journey to Philadelphia. Never had a father's return been so fiercely longed for.
Lucy listened to new details of changes being made to some rooms in the Greenlow house where James and Betty would live at first, and perhaps forever. James was the oldest son and would take over the building business in time. Even now, at only twenty-three, he was running everything in his father's absence.
The situation Lucy had hoped to be in one day.
Then Betty's excited chatter over her wedding made Lucy think of how the preparations for her father's would go. It was a marriage of older people, but there'd be the same talk of clothes, wedding breakfast and, she suddenly realized, changes to her home.
She found a way to take her leave and hurried back across the road as if she could protect the house against attack, already searching for signs of change.
A Shocking Delight will be published on April 1st, 2014 in print and e-book, but you can preorder your copy now.
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