Published by St. Martin's Paperbacks on January 30th 2018
Purchase: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo
THE PICTURE OF ROMANCE
A dedicated painter, Miss Sophia Hastings is far more concerned with finding the right slant of light than in finding Mr. Right. But when an overhead conversation hints at danger for another local artist, Sophia is determined to get involved. Even it means accepting help from an impossibly good-looking vicar who insists on joining her investigation—and threatens to capture her heart…
Reverend Lord Benedick Lisle knows that Sophia is no damsel in distress. But he won’t allow her to venture into peril alone, either. . .especially since he finds Sophia’s curious, free-spirited nature so alluring. But protecting her from harm is becoming more difficult than the vicar could have expected as he and Sophia confront their fiery mutual passion. Who could have known that the art of love would prove so irresistible?
Consumed by the need to capture the scene in front of her before the light changed, Miss Sophia Hastings didn’t notice the newcomers until it was too late.
She’d struck out early that morning—an unusual occurrence for her—carrying her own equipment to her favorite spot at the edge of the Beauchamp House property, atop the chalk cliff overlooking the sea.
The desire to capture the morning light dancing over the waves had been building in her for days. It was always thus with her artistic motivations. Every painting she’d ever completed had begun as the kernel of an idea: a hint of color, a flicker of light, a touch of shadow. And slowly, over time—while she worked at other tasks—the idea would grow from thought to need. And she would give in to the impulse that made her try—however fruitlessly—to capture what she saw on canvas. Sometimes what she saw was a scene she’d crafted with models and costumes and props. But other times, like today, the scene was one that nature had provided for her. And that meant bringing her tools to the spot that nature herself dictated would give the best view.
Having removed her slippers so that she could feel the solid earth beneath her stockinged feet, she dashed her brush across the canvas, blending greys and blues and a hint of white in an energetic frenzy. Her arm arced in wide sweeps, mimicking the movement of the waves below and the wind that whipped around her. She’d been working for almost an hour and was in that other world where her awareness of her own surroundings was dimmed by the vision before her when several things happened at once.
A deep male voice sounded from somewhere in the trees behind her.
Footsteps crunched on the pebbled beach below.
And she lost her balance in the middle of a particularly energetic brush stroke, tumbling over the edge of the cliff.
The fall itself seemed to happen in an achingly slow unfurling of time, though in actuality it took only seconds for her to drop the ten or so feet from the precipice to the rocky beach. And somehow she managed to twist in such a way as to land on her feet and not her head.
Unfortunately, one of those feet landed on a rather sizeable stone that twisted her ankle.
She’d no sooner hit the ground than a large male form knelt beside her on the beach.
“My God. Are you hurt?”
Sophia blinked and looked up into the alarmed face of Lord Benedick Lisle, vicar of Little Seaford. With a visage that was almost too fittingly angelic, his clear blue eyes and unruly brown curls had set every female heart in the vicinity into a flutter since his arrival some months earlier. And as an artist, with an eye for beautiful forms, Sophia couldn’t help but notice that the vicar was almost perfectly made. That he possessed an innate decency and sense of humor was perhaps gilding the lily.
Now, however, his usual good humor was replaced with real concern.
“Of course you’re hurt.” He didn’t seem to need a reply, which was good because she’d lost her breath from the fall. “No one can fall that far and remain unscathed.”
He waited a moment, just taking her hand in his, watching her with a mixture of concern and wonder. Shoving away her response to his gaze, she began assessing herself for damage. Her arms and upper body seemed fine. But her right ankle was throbbing and when she gave it an experimental flex, it made her cry out in pain.
“It’s my ankle,” she said through gritted teeth. It was mortifying to be in this situation. Not only because the vicar—who was undoubtedly the most handsome man in the county—was seeing her in such a vulnerable state, but also because he’d likely think this was some sort of ruse to get him to notice her. Not that he was vain—quite the opposite—but the unmarried young ladies of Little Seaford had all but turned vicar hunting into a sport. Why should he think she’d be any different?
But Lord Benedick didn’t seem to be overly concerned about his hide, for he gave a grim nod. “I’m just going to feel for broken bones, Miss Hastings,” he assured her solemnly. “Let me know if something pains you.”
Moving back so that he could get to her foot—which was bare but for her stockings—he very carefully slipped his large hand beneath her heel and lifted it. Sophia bit her lip to keep from voicing her pain at the movement, and when he probed the joint with steady fingers she nearly levitated.
For a moment, all she felt was white-hot pain.
“Easy,” he soothed, lowering the offending extremity gently to the ground. “There’s no sign of a break. At least not that I could feel. I think you’d better get Dr.—”
He broke off at the sharp bark of a shout from the clifftop above them.
Comment with your answer to have a chance of winning a digital copy of Wallflower Most Wanted!
The hero of WALLFLOWER MOST WANTED, Lord Benedick Lisle, is a vicar. In the 19th
Century it was common for younger sons to go into either the church or the army since
they wouldn’t be able to count on a massive inheritance.
What other romances have you read with vicar heroes?
Or if you haven’t read any, what is your favorite profession for a younger son in a historical romance?