on May 31st 2017
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Having never left Upper Barrington in her twenty years, orphan Miss Emma Hastings is overjoyed when the uncle she's never met invites her to come live with him in London. Everything about living in the Capital lures her. She doesn't even mind sharing her seat in the mail coach with a gargantuan man whose belly rests on his lap. Even when her uncle fails to meet her at the posting inn in London, she's too exhilarated over the city's sights and sounds to be worried. After many hours pass and her uncle does not collect her, she determines to lug her trunk behind her as she struggles through London's streets at night to find her uncle's home.
Spurned by his mistress and vowing to never love again, Adam Birmingham, whose family is the richest in Britain, decides to get very drunk. As he's staggering home, he takes pity on a very small young lady who's lugging a very large trunk behind her. In the rain. Her destination is the home of his next-door neighbor, but no one answers the bell. Adam is compelled to ask the young woman to spend the night at his home. Promptly after showing her the chamber in which she'll sleep, Adam passes out on her chaise. It's not until the following morning he remembers that the lady's uncle has died.
When Adam learns that Emma cannot return to Upper Barrington and that she has nowhere to go, he offers marriage to the hysterical lady. His heart is so shattered, he will never love again. Why not make this helpless orphan happy? Soon after they wed, they become convinced that someone has forged her uncle's will--and likely murdered her uncle. Their resolve to bring the murderer to justice jeopardizes Emma's life. Knowing she's in danger brings out Adam's protective instincts--and something far deeper, something he'd thought to never feel again. . .
Many hours later he collected his cape, top hat, and walking stick, left the establishment on St. James Street, and began to walk home.
Then he felt the patter of rain. What a fool he’d been to send home his driver. It was beastly cold–and thoroughly miserable. But even in the state of inebriation he knew himself to be in, he could easily find his way home in a little over five minutes. Better to rush along than to wait in this weather for a hackney.
Not even the thick, silvery fog could disorient him. He’d made the trek too many times. Of course those other times he’d observed the route from the comfort of his luxurious coach whilst his coachman guided them home.
His greatest threat could be footpads. He was, after all, a Birmingham. They were known far and wide as the richest men in the kingdom. Fortunately, there weren’t many people out on a wretched night like this.
After he crossed Piccadilly and heard a dragging sound a short distance behind him, the hairs on the back of his neck prickled. He turned around sharply but could see nothing in the soupy fog. Clutching his walking stick which he could use as a weapon, he stood there on the pavement, every sense alert.
There emerged from the fog a girl. Or was it a young woman? She looked awfully young–possibly old enough to have just left the schoolroom. He would have been powerless to determine the color of her hair for she resembled nothing so much as a wet pup in need of a good meal.
When their eyes met, she smiled. “You look like a gentleman. I have refrained from speaking to any man who was not a gentleman.”
So she wasn’t a loose woman. Her voice was cultured. He bowed. “Your servant.” It was then that he noticed she was lugging a portmanteau behind her. What the bloody hell?
“Could you direct me to Curzon Street?” she asked.
Bosky he might be, but this was a mighty coincidence. Was this some ploy to rob him? He did not respond for a moment. Soft rain slickening his face, he stood there gazing at the young lady. There was something incredibly vulnerable looking about her. She was small of stature and from her dress and lack of sophistication, provincial. As she stood there, shivering, a querying expression on her face, he knew she was sincere. A more innocent face he’d never beheld. “As it happens, that is my direction. I will accompany you there.” He eyed her portmanteau. “Please, allow me to assist with your trunk.”
She brightened. “Do you know my uncle, Simon Hastings?”
“The name rings a bell, but I daresay it’s not someone I know well.” If he weren’t so inebriated, his recall might be more accurate. He began to haul the cursed portmanteau behind him, wondering what it beheld but refraining from asking.
The young lady moved to his side. “I shouldn’t like you to think me a doxy or something equally as frightful.”
Good lord, he’d never heard that word pass the lips of a gently bred woman. He did not know how to respond. He could hardly tell her that because of his vast experience with doxies he was assured that she was not of their ilk. Instead he merely said, “Anyone would know you are a lady.”
“Thank you. Though I have never met my uncle, he’s invited me to come live with him in London. I’ve just arrived today from Upper Barrington, but Uncle failed to meet my coach.”
So that explained why the lady was hauling that monstrosity. “Could you not have hired a hackney to carry you to Curzon Street?”
She shrugged. “I have very little money and very little idea of how much a hackney driver would demand for his services.”
He stopped and whirled to her, his brows lowered. “This your first-ever time in London? Your first day . . . er, I mean night?”
“Do you not realize how dangerous it is for a gal to walk about alone at night?”
“Oh yes. My Aunt Harriett has warned me about the madmen in London who prey on women. Since I left the coaching inn. I’ve raced along as quickly as I could. And I prayed the whole time that the Almighty would keep me safe.”
He cast a glance at her. How truly virtuous she must be. “And stupid.”
“Pardon? Are you saying I’m stupid?”
He’d thought it, but he hadn’t meant to say it. “Forgive me. I’m sure you are not stupid, but it is highly unlikely the Almighty will descend into this metropolis to protect a young lady from Upper Barrister.”
Her manner stiffened. “Barrington,” she corrected. “Upper Barrington, and you, sir, must be a heathen.”
He nodded. “Your Aunt Henrietta would be most appalled over my heathen ways.”
“Harriett,” she corrected.
He screwed up his (admittedly handsome) face and regarded her thoroughly. “Are you, by chance, a governess?”
“No. I am soon to be learning how to preside over the Ceylon Tea Company, which my uncle owns.”
“I say, the fellow who lives next door to me is one of the owners the Ceylon Tea Company.”
“Then you, sir, must live next door to my uncle, who resides at 302 Curzon Street.”
“Daresay you’re right.”
They walked along in silence for a good while when he saw the huge lanterns that illuminated Nick’s house. He mumbled a curse. “We’ve gone too bloody far.” The fog and the distraction of the girl–not to mention his brandy-impaired state–had caused him to miss turning onto Halfmoon Street.
Ignoring him, she strode to the iron gates and seemed mesmerized by his brother’s house. In addition to the abundant lanterns, the courtyard was lighted from rows of huge Palladian windows glowing from abundant candlelight. “I’ve never seen anything so magnificent! Is this where the Prince Regent lives?”
“No.” Though it was said to be the finest house in London. “Me brother lives in that pile of opulentaciousness.”
She whirled to him, eyes rounded. “Are you jesting?”
“About the house or my brother?”
“Neither. Would you like to see the house?”
“Oh, I couldn’t. Not the way I look at present.” She continued to eye him suspiciously. Did she think he was lying about it being his brother’s house? Finally, she spoke. “Opulentaciousness is not a word. I declare, sir, have you been imbibing strong spirits?”
For the chance of winning an ebook of Miss Hastings’ Excellent London Adventure,
just answer this question in the comment section below……
Who do you think had it easier when it came to love and marriage in regency times…the rich, or the poor?
~~Reviewed by AnnMarie~~
Miss Hastings’ Excellent Adventure is the fourth book in the Brazen Brides series by Cheryl Bolen. The book can easily be read as a stand alone one.
Emma Hastings has left her very elderly aunt’s home in Upper Barrington to join her Uncle in London. He wants to teach her how to run his very successful company, the Ceylon Tea Company, so that he can retire and travel, leaving his home and company in good hands.
Emma is distraught when her uncle doesn’t meet her at the posting inn when she arrives. After spending the whole day and into early evening waiting for him, she realises that she will have to try to find his home by foot. She can’t afford a night at the inn, and she can’t afford to take a hackney. It’s during the very long walk, made worse by rain that Emma meets Adam Birmingham.
Adam is very drunk, and broken hearted after the woman he was in love with married somebody else and moved from London. Drunk as he is though he is shocked to see a well bred, gentle young lady walking through the rain dragging a large portmanteau behind her. The gentleman that he is, drunk or not, comes to her rescue, and he offers to see her to her Uncle’s home. Which to both of their surprise is right next door to where he lives.
Emma’s uncle’s home is in darkness, nobody is there, not even a servant. Adam can’t leave Emma on the street of course, so he invites her to stay the night in his home. It’s only while he is showing her to her room for the night that he remembers that Emma’s uncle is dead.
It turns out that not only is he dead, but he is supposedly meant to have written a new will leaving everything he owns to his office clerk! Not Emma, not even his partner in the company. Emma is distraught, she doesn’t care about the money, but without her Uncle, and no place to live she doesn’t know what she can do to survive. That’s when Adam decides to ask her to marry him. He vows never to marry for love because of his heartbreak, so why not marry Emma and help her out of a dreadful situation?
They marry, and despite the excitement that has already occurred in the story, it just gets more intriguing. Emma and Adam both believe the new will to be a forgery, and they set out to prove it, not knowingly putting Emma’s life at risk. Adam married Emma to give her a home, and to look after her, protect her, little did he know just how much protection she would need! Can he keep her safe, can they find out who forged the will, and was Emma’s uncle’s death of natural causes or was it murder????
I have read many regency romance books by many different authors, and although they can be wonderful and earn 5 star ratings, Cheryl Bolen is in a league of her own when it comes to writing in that era. She is the Queen of regency romance in my opinion. Her description of London, of it’s homes, of the balls, the aristocracy, the poor, of everything relating to that time period is exceptional. A reader can picture the scenes so easily and imagine themselves amongst the characters in the story. This book, like all of her others, was pure perfection. It had just the right amount of humour amongst the skulduggery, the romance was beautiful, not just between Emma and Adam, but also his siblings and their spouses that are in this book also. Cheryl can write a steamy love scene, but this book is a sweet romance, with the intimacy behind doors. Beautifully done, and still allowing the reader to know just how much the couple come to love and lust for each other. I loved that not only was this book a romance, but that I was kept captivated from beginning to end wondering if the villain of the book would get his comeuppance before causing any more harm to Emma. I thoroughly enjoyed this story and recommend it wholeheartedly. I just wish I could give more than 5 stars!!!
I voluntarily reviewed an advanced readers’ copy of this book.