on June 13th 2017
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Hessian Kettering, Earl of Grampion, tried marrying in haste as a very young man and got years of marital drama to go with his endless regrets. He's older and wiser now, and has responsibility for an orphaned ward who needs a mother figure. Hessian is determined that his next countess will be a settled, sensible lady with a spotless reputation. Lily Ferguson seems to fit his requirements beautifully, and if she also kisses like his most cherished private dreams, that's no reason to doubt his choice.
As an heiress from a good family, Lily Ferguson has been subjected to the attentions of fortune hunters and fawning nincompoops for years. Because the bachelors won't take, "Stop ogling my settlements," for an answer, she's developed a reputation for being difficult. Lily finds spending time with Hessian Kettering so very easy though. He likes a woman who speaks her mind, and Lily adores a man who actually listens to the ladies in his life. But what will Hessian have to say, when he finds out Lily is not the heiress polite society thinks she is?
Lily Ferguson has fallen in love with Hessian Kettering, Earl of Grampion, and this is most unwise. He thinks she’s an heiress from a fine family, but in truth, she’s the last woman he should marry, and she knows that…
Lily’s emotions were like the conservatory—a crowded tangle of obscured paths and dim shadows shot through with sunbeams of hope and the sweet scent of temptation. She longed to be courted by Hessian Kettering, but deceiving a man she respected took vast reserves of selfishness.
Self-preservation instincts, Lily had, but selfishness? Enough selfishness and calculation to marry him and carry forward a deception already ten years in the making?
And then there was Mrs. Braithwaite adding her complications where little Daisy was concerned, and all Lily knew was that now—right now—she wanted whatever she could have with Hessian, because even tomorrow was not hers to promise.
The earl held out his right hand, palm up. “I’d like to show you something.”
She took Grampion’s hand. His grasp was comfortable and confident, much like his kisses. “Where are we going?”
“Daisy is not the only person in this family to have a hiding place,” he said, leading Lily down a path between the ferns. “I come here when I want solitude, or the maids are busy above stairs and I’m in need of a nap.”
He opened another door, to a small rectangular room that might once have been an antechamber, though like the conservatory, the outer wall was glass. That glass was obscured by a smoky tint such as the imagination fashioned in dream worlds. Hazy greenery lay beyond the glass wall, and a pair of clerestory windows were open, scenting the little room with scythed grass and hyacinths.
“You read here,” she said, picking up a copy of Guy Mannering.
Hessian took the book from her, closed it, and set it on a small table. “I dream here.”
The room was barely furnished—a chair in the corner, wall sconces on either side. A table that apparently doubled as a writing desk in the opposite corner and, along the glass wall, a bed made up with worn quilts. No knickknacks or art cluttered any surface, all was orderly and spartan.
“Does something trouble you, Lily?”
Everything troubled her. Uncle Walter, Mrs. Braithwaite, Oscar… but they were not here, and this privacy with Hessian might never come again.
Lily twisted the lock above the door latch. “I’ve missed you. That has troubled me.” She stepped close and put her arms around Hessian. His reciprocal embrace was balm to her tattered nerves. “I can see why you doubt Mrs. Braithwaite’s fitness to raise a child. Her manner is presuming.”
Hessian’s hold on Lily was careful, his thumb whispering across her nape. “Am I presuming?”
She rested her cheek against the soft wool of his jacket, wishing she could give him all of her burdens and all of her trust. Hessian was overstepping polite decorum terribly—by embracing her, by being alone with her—and yet Lily wanted even more from him.
“You do not presume, my lord. I wish you would.”
You can follow the True Gentleman series on Goodreads.
Ms. Burrowes is giving away a $25 Amazon gift card.
She is curious…