on February 28th 2018
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Lord Garson's dilemma.
Hugh Rutherford, Lord Garson, loved and lost when his fiancée returned to the husband she'd believed drowned. In the three years since, Garson has come to loathe his notoriety as London's most famous rejected suitor. It's high time to find a bride, a level-headed, well-bred lady who will accept a loveless marriage and cause no trouble. Luckily he has just the candidate in mind.
A marriage of convenience…
When Lady Jane Norris receives an unexpected proposal from her childhood friend Lord Garson, marriage to the handsome baron rescues her from a grim future. At twenty-eight, Jane is on the shelf and under no illusions about her attractions. With her father's death, she's lost her home and faces life as an impecunious spinster. While she's aware Garson will never love again, they have friendship and goodwill to build upon. What can possibly go wrong?
…becomes very inconvenient indeed
From the first, things don't go to plan, not least because Garson soon finds himself in thrall to his surprisingly intriguing bride. A union grounded in duty veers toward obsession. And when the Dashing Widows take Jane in hand and transform her into the toast of London, Garson isn't the only man to notice his wife's beauty and charm. He's known Jane all her life, but suddenly she's a dazzling stranger. This isn't the uncomplicated, pragmatic match he signed up for. When Jane defies the final taboo and asks for his love, her impossible demand threatens to blast this convenient marriage to oblivion.
Once the dust settles, will Lord Garson still be the man who can only love once?
This is from chapter one when Lord Garson calls unexpectedly on his childhood friend Jane Norris, who is preparing to leave the home where she grew up to embark on an uncertain future.
Cavell Court, Dorset, February 1833
“I appreciate you making the effort to check that I’m all right.” Jane slid her teacup onto the windowsill. “But it wasn’t necessary. I’ll be in Town in a fortnight, staying with my sister Susan and her family.”
Hugh put down the tankard and surveyed her out of somber dark eyes. He’d always been thoughtful rather than flashy. But the serious habit seemed to have grown on him over the years. She wondered when he’d last laughed from sheer joy. A long while ago, she’d wager.
“You never had a London season, did you?”
“One was planned, then Papa fell ill.” And she’d become nurse and companion and estate manager.
“You’ll love the social whirl.”
Her lips twisted in self-derision. “Oh, I’m too old for all that nonsense.”
“Rot, Jane. You’ll find London provides plenty of amusement for a mature woman.”
She tried not to mind that he didn’t argue with her about her age. However ancient she felt after these last difficult months, she was only twenty-eight. She made herself respond lightly. “I hope so.”
His expression was assessing rather than disapproving. “So you’re going to live with Susan?”
“No.” Jane barely hid a shudder. She struggled to sound enthusiastic about her intentions. “That’s only a visit. I hope to find a suitable house in a provincial town. Perhaps Lyme or Weymouth. I’d like to live by the sea. Miss Ashton, my old governess, has agreed to come along to preserve appearances.”
This definitely didn’t please him. Those thick mahogany brows drew together over his long, straight nose. “You can’t be looking forward to that. Within a month, you’ll be bored stiff. Why don’t you stay in London?”
Because in the years since her mother’s death, her father had made a series of unwise investments, and the money Jane had inherited didn’t allow for high jinks in the capital. But that was none of Hugh’s business. In fact, she was puzzled that he thought he had some right to advise her on her future. Despite long acquaintance, as adults they verged on being strangers.
“I like Dorset,” she said.
“You haven’t been anywhere else,” he said shortly. “Wait until you’ve seen London and tasted what it has to offer.”
Actually, she had a suspicion that London just offered more family duty. She loved her sister, but she wasn’t blind to Susan’s intention to foist the four youngest children onto Jane, while she launched her oldest daughter Lucy into society.
“Perhaps,” Jane said neutrally. “I haven’t made any final decisions.”
“Susan hasn’t offered you a permanent home?”
A permanent post as poor relation and uncredited governess, he meant. “Yes, she has. But it’s time I tested my independence.”
Compassion turned Hugh’s eyes a deep velvety brown, so deep Jane felt she could drown in the rich color. She’d never before noticed what nice eyes he had.
“High time.” He paused. “Although I’m hoping after we’ve spoken, you might choose another path altogether.”
She frowned. “I don’t understand.”
He smiled, although she couldn’t feel he put his heart into it. “It’s a credit to your modesty that you don’t.”
Good heavens, what was all this about? It sounded like the prelude to a proposal of marriage. She’d had a few of those over the years, from older gentlemen who noted her devotion to her father and wanted her to look after them with similar dedication in their declining years.
But Hugh was no decrepit old codger. He was in the prime of life.
“Are you well, Hugh?” she asked in concern, studying that tanned face and the large, powerful body.
Well? He appeared almost aggressively fit.
He looked startled and sat up straight in his chair. “Are you worried about my sanity?”
She realized how bizarre the question must have sounded. “I’m sorry. I was wondering if you needed a nurse.”
At least his laugh emerged more naturally than his smile. “Not a nurse, you goose.”
He stood and without shifting his attention from her, leaned one brawny arm on the mantelpiece. The room suddenly seemed very small. Jane had never before been quite so aware of his vigorous, masculine energy.
Cavell Court had turned into a female domain, as her father faded and Jane, by necessity, took over the estate. Lord Garson seemed to come from a larger, more charged universe.
She swallowed to ease a ridiculous nervousness and edged back on the window seat until she bumped into the sill behind her. “I thought perhaps you might have a sick relative, if you don’t require a nurse for yourself.”
The genuine fondness in his expression reminded her how she’d hero-worshipped him when she was a child. “You’ve been tucked up away from the world too long, Jane. Surely you can guess what I want. I’m trying in my ham-fisted way to express my admiration.”
That left her more bewildered than ever. “Your admiration?” she repeated in a shamefully scratchy voice.
“Jane, I’m not here seeking a nurse.” His smile was wry as he stared down at her. “I’m here seeking a wife.”
I’m really excited to be back at Buried Under Romance to talk about my first full-length novel in quite a while. Lord Garson’s Bride finishes up the Dashing Widows series with the story of the man Morwenna Nash left standing at the altar when her husband returned from the dead in Catching Captain Nash.
Garson behaved so beautifully in Captain Nash, I knew immediately I had to give him a happy ending. And in my latest book, he finds it – eventually! He needs to go through a lot of heartache before he gets there though.
I had great fun with my heroine of this story too. There’s a touch of the Cinderella about Jane and like Cinderella, from the moment she goes to her first ball in London, she discovers that she’s not so shy and plain after all. I love marriage of convenience stories and I love makeover stories and this one gave me a chance to combine both themes.
So these are some of the things Jane does in London:
Top 5 Things to Do When You’re The Toast of the London Season in the Regency:
- Kiss handsome gentlemen in moonlit gardens while London society waltzes through the evening inside the ballroom
- Buy beautiful dresses
- Ride in luxurious carriages. Who knows what you can get up to in a carriage?
Oh, and if any of you missed out on Catching Captain Nash, where Garson plays such an important role, now is a great time to pick the novella up. It’s free until the end of March.
For the chance to win a Kindle copy of Lord Garson’s Bride…
Here’s Anna’s question for you:
What would YOU like to do if you were the toast of Regency London? Any of the things on her list,
or would you rather kick up your heels in some other way?