Published by Harlequin Special Releases on April 17th 2018
Purchase: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo
Love or family...How can she choose between them?Lady Cecily Beauchamp has always put her family first. Until she falls under the spell of the mysterious Zachary Gray--a man of Romany descent. Knowing her family will forbid their match, Cecily steels herself to do her duty and marry someone else. Only she finds herself irresistibly drawn to Zach as the spark between them ignites a passion neither can deny!
Cecily sped through the moonlit garden, expecting at any moment to be summoned back to the house by a shout. None came. She slowed at the paved square, but still headed with purpose for the archway that led to the parkland beyond, to the lake where she and Zach had talked, where Athena had skimmed, ghostly and silent, across the surface of the water to land on Zach’s outstretched arm.
Zach had not joined them for dinner. Nothing was said of his absence and she did not ask, preferring not to know if it had been at Leo’s behest. She prayed he had not already left Stourwell Court. She wanted to say goodbye. She had pleaded a headache and retired to bed early. As soon as Anna, her maid, had left her she had swiftly dressed again—donning just her shift and a simple round gown—and wrapped a shawl around her. Heart pounding, she had sneaked along the corridor to the back stairs, praying she would not bump into any of the servants. She was fortunate. She reached the side door she had used before and slipped outside without being seen.
They were leaving in the morning. She had no other chance to say goodbye; to say thank you. She didn’t stop to debate the rights or wrongs of her choice—she followed her heart.
At the shore of the small lake, she turned to her right. As she followed the shoreline there, in the distance, she saw a flame flicker. Her heart—until now clenched in anxiety—softened and expanded. He had not gone. She walked slower now, smoothing her hair back and readjusting her shawl. Steadying her breathing.
At the site, she paused. Beyond the fire, burning steady and low, she could make out the dark bulk of his wagon and the rounded hump of his tent. And the figure of a man.
‘Why are you here?’
He moved forward, his face still in the shadows, but his body highlighted by the warm glow of the fire. Loose trousers rode low on narrow hips and above…above…
Her heart near climbed into her throat as she surveyed the wide expanse of his naked chest, covered in dark curls. A flame flared and its light danced across his bronzed skin, emphasising his broad shoulders, muscular arms and the planes and hollows of his sculpted chest. He looked powerful and dangerous, and very, very male. She swallowed the urge to turn and flee and made herself approach the fire. The flames did nothing to cool the heat spiralling through her entire body.
‘I had to come. We leave after breakfast. I wanted to… I did not want to go without saying goodbye.’
He stepped closer to the fire and hunkered down to feed in more wood, his attention focused on his task. She drank in the sight. Never had a man affected her like this—her heart twisted at the impossibility of even a simple friendship between them, at the width and the depth of the gulf between their positions in society. And yet, she was here. She had come, despite knowing that visiting him here, at night, unchaperoned, would ruin her if it ever became known.
He looked up and captured her gaze, studying her, revealing nothing of his feelings or his thoughts about such a shocking indiscretion on her part. She fought to keep her own emotions hidden.
‘And your brothers?’
‘What about them?’
‘Are they aware you are here?’
That startled a laugh from her. And the tension in the air softened somewhat as one corner of his mouth lifted.
‘The answer is no, then.’ He stood and rounded the fire to her. Loosely clasped her hand and led her to a log, set on its end. ‘Please. Take a seat.’
She did, lowering herself carefully. No sooner had she settled than something nudged under her hand and she found herself stroking Myrtle’s ears. Pleasure, pure and simple, fanned through her.
‘She would not come to me yesterday,’ she said in delight.
‘This is her home. She is more confident here. She can sense you are no threat now, but the bustle of the stables scared her.’
He sat cross-legged on a pallet of bedding, across the fire from Cecily.
‘So you leave tomorrow?’
Sorrow dispelled her pleasure. ‘Yes.’
‘Yes to the first. As to the second…possibly.’
He propped his elbows on his knees and rested his chin on his hands. ‘Tell me.’
He said no more, but waited. Where should she start? But she knew the answer to that, for what had he been telling her all along? She would speak from her heart.
‘I have been thinking about what you said.’
‘I have said a great many things.’ His teeth gleamed as he smiled. ‘More to you than to anyone since my mother died.’
The thought pleased her, that she had not just taken from him, but given something in return.
Janice is giving away an eCopy of Lady Cecily and the Mysterious Mr Gray.
For a chance to win just comment with your answer to this question from Janice…
Lady Cecily and the Mysterious Mr Gray – although a standalone read – is the third book in my series about the Beauchamp family. My husband had no idea how to pronounce the family name properly until I told him, so now I’m going to ask you…
What is the correct way to pronounce Beauchamp?
Is it – A. Bowchamp? B. Bowcham? or C. Beecham?
All answers right or wrong will go into the draw.
~~Reviewed by Monique~~
It was at her brother Vernon’s wedding that Lady Cecily Beauchamp started feeling melancholy. She was glad that her two brothers were happily married, but what was to become of her now? They had no need for her anymore, would she remain the dependent relation from now on with no husband, no children, no household of her own? Feeling despondent, Cecily went to the garden where she met the most exotic man she had ever laid her eyes on: Zach Gray, the man with the diamond earring was a friend of the brother of the bride. And a very perceptive man, it turned out, a near stranger to whom she eagerly unburdens her conflicted soul. Oh, that she could have so charming a suitor! Except that Mr Gray is of Romany descent; even for a thirty-year-old spinster, it would not be acceptable, she a daughter and sister of dukes. With a heavy heart, Cecily concludes that she will accept Lord Kilburn’s proposal, does she truly have any other choice?
Do not expect LADY CECILY AND THE MYSTERIOUS MR GRAY to be a cute little story where pretty people make googly eyes at each other, where some aristocrats are slightly shocked then charmed by the colourful Romany man, and that after a little pish posh, all is well; this is not fluff. LADY CECILY AND THE MYSTERIOUS MR GRAY is one of the most emotionally gripping stories I have recently read, and a spellbinding one; not because of some mystery, but from a human point of view. Zach has dealt with prejudice for most of his life, from people like Cecily’s family, and he chose to live his life the way he wanted: that of a Romany, like a nomad. Cecily has always done the right thing, done what was asked of her, never ruffling any feathers, but she loves her family and her life of privilege. Cecily and Zach do fall in love, but what is right: doing what one must or doing what one wants to do?
Janice Preston paints an extraordinary picture of Regency society and its prejudices, which affect even our heroes and heroines. I was extremely surprised – and delighted beyond belief – at how realistically the question of this “forbidden” romance was handled. I nearly subtracted a star from my review because of a detail in Zach’s past, but then mentally I added three more stars for the way Zach reacted to the situation, and how bravely Ms. Preston dealt with the prejudice issue. There is so much tension on all sides, and so well conveyed, that I could almost feel the atmosphere vibrating with the tension, the sparks flying between Zach and Cecily, and the storm brewing on Leo’s side – Cecily’s older brother, the Duke. Leo is one formidable character, and slightly terrifying. LADY CECILY AND THE MYSTERIOUS MR GRAY is filled with exceptionally fleshed-out characters, and I loved Daniel Markham and Olivia – one of Leo’s daughters, among others. Character development is possibly the most impressive I have ever read, and no one has it easy.
I could say so much more, but some of it could be seen as spoiler material, so I will reluctantly abstain, but take my word for it, you will cheer, you will feel humbled, maybe even slightly ashamed, you will hurt and weep and rejoice; I believe LADY CECILY AND THE MYSTERIOUS MR GRAY will leave no one unmoved. I was alternately stunned, ecstatic, and in tears at how the story, and the romance, unfolded. Janice Preston’s weaves her magic through her dynamic, eloquent, flowing prose and smart dialogues, thus creating a Regency world of such authenticity that I was immersed in that world from the beginning. I am in awe.
I voluntarily read and reviewed an advanced copy of this book. All thoughts and opinions are my own.