Published by WebMotion on March 21st 2017
Purchase: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo
When the new earl inherits, poor relation Miss Rebecca Bond must wed immediately or be out on her ear. The only man she’s ever loved is summoned to hear the will—but he already rejected her so soundly that they haven’t spoken in years. Yet who better than a rakish Viscount to teach her how to snare a gentleman who appreciates her charms?
Daniel Goodenham, Lord North Barrows, regrets nothing more than the lost friendship with the one woman who treated him like a man, not a title. Fate has given him the perfect pretext to win her forgiveness—even if it means having to matchmake her to someone else. But now that she's back in his life, he’ll do anything to convince her to choose him instead...
This story was first featured in the Vexed anthology.
Just as the last hint of sunlight slithered past the horizon, the rocky, wind-lashed terrain of Cornwall came into view. Daniel straightened his spine. The chill was already seeping through the cracks in the buffeted carriage.
The driver gulped, his gaze uncertain. “Nightfall has arrived, milord. Shall I find a posting-house?”
Daniel shook his head, his skin tingling from the close proximity to Castle Keyvnor. “No. Let’s keep going. We’re almost there.”
Even as he said the words, the monstrous castle rose from the darkness, its looming towers an even deeper black than the interminable night enshrouding them.
A familiar prickle danced across his clammy skin as the carriage rattled over the ancient bridge across the long-dry moat, and on through a massive iron gate. The castle looked darker than he remembered. Larger. More menacing.
Rebecca was somewhere inside those walls. He just had to find her.
He dashed from the carriage and up the slick stone steps of Castle Keyvnor as torrents of rain spilled from the black, thunderous sky.
The horrendous downpour was not only a fitting welcome back to the castle grounds, but the only weather he ever recalled Castle Keyvnor having. If the sun happened to shine over the sparse seaside village of Bocka Morrow, the castle was still be buffeted by icy winds and cloaked in shadow.
Ignoring the sheet of rain cascading from the brim of his beaver hat, he reached for the brass doorknocker dangling from the maw of a stone lion.
The door swung open before his fingers even touched the knocker. Yet no one presented himself.
Daniel straightened his spine. No sense dallying. Time to head straight into the mouth of the beast.
Morris, the castle’s longtime butler, strode into the entryway just as Daniel slid his soaked top hat from his head.
No point in asking who had opened the door, given that the butler was only now arriving. Castle Keyvnor never had answers. Only a surfeit of questions.
“Lord North-Barrows.” The butler smiled. “Right on time. Your chamber has been readied.”
Daniel didn’t smile back. Nor did he know how he could be right on time, when he hadn’t sent word of his impending arrival because even he hadn’t known for certain when he would arrive.
As the butler divested Daniel of his wet outer garments, a quartet of footmen emerged from a darkened corridor without being summoned and marched outside to the waiting carriage.
Daniel eyed the castle’s dark interior with apprehension. If the servants knew he was coming, why the devil couldn’t they light a sconce or two?
“The footmen will bring your trunks to your chamber shortly.” The butler gestured toward the main stone staircase. “A fire awaits you in the hearth.”
Of course it did.
Daniel inclined his head, eager to dry himself before a fire regardless of how or why its warmth awaited him. But a shimmer of white caught his eye.
An apparition had appeared at the top of the stairs. No—not an apparition.
Her bone-white gown fluttered from one of the castle’s many drafts, giving her haunting silhouette the blurred edges of a ghost. From this distance, the features of her pale face were smudged by shadow. The glossy dark curls he recalled so fondly were invisible against the yawning blackness of the unlit upstairs corridor. His entire body was on edge.
Nervous, he smiled up at her.
There was no way to know if she returned his smile.
He doubted it. The last time he’d seen her at Castle Keyvnor, he’d cruelly rejected her in front of witnesses. And the last time she’d been in London…he hadn’t spoken to her at all.
His chest tightened. He was lucky she hadn’t come to the landing solely to toss water upon his head.
Perhaps she was saving that for later.
“Rebecca?” Because the soaring stairwell had no balustrade, Daniel placed his damp palm against the cold stone wall for balance. The last thing he needed was for wet soles to send him sliding to his death before he could even make his grand apology.
“It’s Miss Bond,” floated the soft, familiar voice from overhead.
“I know,” Daniel called back as he hurried up the rest of the stairs. “Rebecca, it’s me. Daniel.”
“I know,” she echoed as he rounded the final step. Her eyes were dark and luminous in the pale porcelain of her face. “Good evening, Lord North-Barrows. I trust Morris has seen to your luggage.”
Ah. So he had lost first-naming privileges. And was to be treated with the same distant politesse one might use to welcome a stranger.
He deserved that and more.
“Please,” he said. “You must still call me Daniel. I know I was awful to you, and you have every right to be vexed with me. I admit it. I behaved abominably and am here to apologize. I was foolish and wrong.”
“Were you?” Her expressionless dark eyes gazed right through him. “I’m sure I don’t recall.”
His muscles tightened. Of course she recalled. She had the cleverest mind of anyone he’d ever met. But by pretending she couldn’t remember his crimes, she didn’t have to forgive him. Or acknowledge his heartfelt apology. He forced his fingers to unclench.
Despite the murky shadows of the ill-lit corridor, she was even more beautiful than last he’d seen her. He drank her in. She had been the prettiest of that year’s crop of debutantes during her come-out five years ago, but now she was ravishing.
Girlish cheeks had turned into high cheekbones. A willowy frame had become womanly curves. Her innocence had been replaced by mysteriousness. He didn’t know this Rebecca Bond any longer. But oh, how he wanted to. If only they could erase the past.
He yearned to reach for her. Once, she would have welcomed his touch, his embrace.
Tonight, she was just as likely to push him off of the landing.
Ms. Ridley is giving away an ebook copy of The Duke’s Accidental Wife to 1 (one) lucky commenter.
She is curious…
What romance heroes were some of your favorite rogues, and why?
~~Reviewed by AnnMarie~~
Romancing the Rogue is the second book in the Gothic Historical Romance series by Erica Ridley. It can easily be read as a stand alone book, and I can say that because I haven’t had the pleasure of reading the first book in the series. I certainly intend to remedy that though!
When Rebecca Bond was orphaned she moved in with her very old uncle, an Earl. She kept herself to herself and over time he forgot she was there, everybody forgot she was there. That’s the way she liked it. She had a roof over her head, she had food to eat, and in order to pay for both she did little chores around the house that left people astounded. They thought the jobs were being done by the Castle ghosts. The trouble started for Rebecca when the old Earl died and his successor moved into the house. She couldn’t hide from him and when he bade her explain who she was and why she was there, he was horrified. He has a wife and 5 daughters that he had to worry about and couldn’t possibly take on another young woman. He realises he can’t put her on the street though and tells her that she has 3 weeks to find a husband for herself, or he will arrange a marriage himself. A husband to look after her was the last thing she wanted, but it was the only offer open to her.
Daniel Goodenham, Lord North Barrows, a Viscount, knew Rebecca’s family, and uncle. In fact he was quite infatuated with Rebecca as they were growing up. His grandmother made it plain that she wasn’t good enough for him, and in order to keep the woman happy an occasion arose where he ended up giving Rebecca the cut direct in front of all society. Not only did he break her heart because she loved him, but he also ruined any chance of her finding any other match in London. They haven’t seen each other since then.
Daniel is informed of the passing of the old Earl, and rather than wait for the reading of the will that he has been told he needs to attend, he rushes off to the country as soon as possible so that he can have the chance to see Rebecca again and to apologise deeply for the terrible distress he caused her. What he doesn’t expect when he arrives there is for his heart to still be aflutter upon seeing her, and for the shock he has when he finds out that she wants him to teach her how to flirt so that she can try to find herself a husband in the country. She hates London, and has no interest in being made to wed anybody from there. Of course her old feelings are there, she’s never stopped loving Daniel, and it seems perhaps Daniel has never stopped loving her.
BUT what can they do? First Daniel needs to get her to forgive him. Then he is supposed to help her find a husband, something he could want to be in time, but not within three weeks. There is also the hurdle of his grandmother who is still alive, not to mention the fact that he can’t live in the country because of his duties in parliament, and his love for the fast pace of London. Rebecca can’t live there and wants a quiet life in the country, it’s her dream. How can any feelings they have for each other come to anything when they want such different things from life. They have 3 weeks to figure it out…….
I really enjoyed this book, it was a nice quick read. Of course the only problem with a novella is that sometimes you are left wanting a little more detail especially towards the end, perhaps in the epilogue. There were a couple of things I would have liked to have read more about, but certainly not having more information didn’t detract from my pleasure from the story. I particularly loved the funny parts in the book where the ‘ghost’ had everybody freaked out. It’s lovely to have some light hearted fun amongst the seriousness of the Earl’s death, and Rebecca’s possible homeless situation.
I absolutely recommend this book and I am looking forward to reading both the first, and the next books in the series.
I voluntarily reviewed an Advanced Readers’ Copy of this book.