After fifteen years roaming the globe, the Countess of Huntleigh returns to England with her dying husband. She soon finds herself plagued by terrible troubles: a new title, estate, and sizable fortune; marked attentions from the marriage mart; the long-awaited reunion with her loving family; and a growing friendship with King George IV.
Settling into her new life, this shy-but-not-timid, not-so-young lady faces society’s censure, the Earl’s decline, false friends with wicked agendas, and the singular sufferings of a world-wise wallflower. Guided by her well-meaning husband, subject to interference by a meddlesome monarch, she must now choose the dastardly rogue who says he loves her, the charming French devil with a silver tongue, or the quiet country life she has traveled the world to find.
“Why are you here, Michelle?” he asked, displeasure oozing from his voice as he entered his study. He had traveled from London for his brief monthly sojourn in the country, expecting no distraction from his estate business, since he had sent his needy mistress back to France the third time she mentioned marriage. Aside from meeting with his steward to collect the quarterly rents, he wanted only to blow off the stink of bowing and scraping to people less noble than he, not to entertain uninvited, unwanted guests waiting at his gate. He would have to leave on the morrow to return to the rank, dirty City, and he wanted nothing but quiet and the view of France from his cliffs between now and then.
Instead, he was forced to attend to this unwelcome female.
Having been ushered into his study and made to wait two hours without refreshment, the obsequious woman rose from the Bergère chair upon his entry into the room, curtsying deeply. Taking a seat at the gilded Riesener desk, he ran his eyes up and down his visitor, but did not invite her to sit. Her cheap, grimy, green muslin dress had no place in this elegant room, nor did the smell of weeks travelling by public coach and steerage. The aroma nearly made his eyes water, but he would never rise to open another window. It would only serve to emphasize how few servants he could now afford.
The sound of the waves crashing against his Dover cliffs flowed in through the one open casement, not quite obscuring his profound irritation.
“It has been more than thirty years. I had hoped never to see you again.”
Mariana Gabrielle is a pseudonym for Mari Christie, a mainstream historical and Regency romance writer. She is also a professional writer, editor, and graphic designer with twenty years’ experience and a Bachelor’s in Writing from the University of Colorado Denver, summa cum laude. She lives in Denver, Colorado with two kittens who have no respect at all for writing time.
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