His Good Opinion: A Mr. Darcy Novel (Brides of Pemberley 1), Nancy Kelley {$0.99}

Mr. Darcy Speaks from the Heart:
Pride and Prejudice from his Point of View

Though tired of Society’s manipulations, Darcy never thought to be enchanted by a country maiden. Yet on a visit to rural Hertfordshire, Elizabeth Bennet captivates him. Lovely and vivacious, she is everything he is not, and everything he longs to have.

Unfortunately, her connections put her decidedly beneath him, and the improprieties he observes in her family do not win his favor. Putting her firmly out of his mind, Darcy returns to London, but Elizabeth is not so easily forgotten.

When chance throws them together, Darcy can no longer deny his love, but Elizabeth, put off by his manners, refuses him. To change her mind, he must set aside his proud ways and learn how to please a woman worthy of being pleased. It takes a serious incident for his true character to shine, and for Elizabeth to learn just how valuable is…

His Good Opinion

Includes an excerpt of Caroline Bingley by Jennifer Becton

What readers are saying:

A classic retold through the eyes of the sometimes pompous and often prideful Darcy Fitzwilliam. His Good Opinion answers the question, what was Darcy’s side of the story? Pride and Prejudice leaves much to the imagination. Was Darcy truly has prejudiced as he seemed and what were his intentions in his first proposal to Elizabeth Bennet? A true and timeless love story now told through the eyes of the undeniably dreamy Darcy.

Reading His Good Opinion by Nancy Kelley is similar to having the opportunity to re-read an old favorite classic all over again for the first time. Readers of Pride and Prejudice will fall in love all over again as your venture into the mind of the beloved Darcy. His prejudice, pride and pompous behavior are exactly what one would expect, but it’s his journey falling in love with Elizabeth that makes His Good Opinion a must read. This is a quintessential companion to the original “Chick Lit” novel Pride and Prejudice, and I’m certain long time fans as well as new readers will absolutely adore this new take on a classic love story.

Danielle M. Smith

The book follows the timeline of Pride and Prejudice, but because it is told from Darcy’s point of view, readers are treated to scenes that we have previously been imagined, such as Darcy’s hunt of Wickham and his eventual confrontation with him in London. We are also get to see the relationship between Darcy and his sister Georgiana, as well his relationship with his cousin Colonel Fitzwilliam. All of this serves to flesh Darcy out and make him an even more desirable hero.

And here is where Nancy Kelley’s genius really shines. Darcy is already an incredibly loved, and if we are all honest with ourselves, desired, hero. She has managed in this story, to make him even more desirable while also injecting levels of sensitivity and vulnerability that are absolutely heart-wrenching. While this book could be given a G rating based on it’s content, Ms. Kelley manages to raise the reader’s temperature with a look or a gesture. In fact, every time Darcy loosened his cravat I melted into a tiny puddle of goo.

The tagline of this novel is “Mr. Darcy speaks from the heart,” and in the end that is what endears readers the most to this incarnation of Mr. Darcy. Yes, he’s tall, dark and handsome (and has ten thousand a year), and yes he is very, very hot. But in this retelling of Pride and Prejudice it is his heart that truly shines through. And I think it is that heart that will make readers fall in love with him all over again and wish that they too could be a woman worthy of… His Good Opinion.

Jessica Melendez

The average Amazon Reader Review Rating is currently 4 stars {104 reviews}.

 Click here to read more about and purchase His Good Opinion: A Mr. Darcy Novel (Brides of Pemberley 1) for $0.99!

THE SEAL (Rosicrucian Quartet), Adriana Koulias {FREE!}

Action, Adventure, History.

It is 1307 and King Phillip of France and Pope Clement are scheming to bring down the Order of Knights Templar. Etienne de Congost, Seneschal of the Templar Order must travel to the outer edges of Europe taking with him a most sacred relic, the Grand Master’s secret Seal.

While his brothers are burnt at the stake or lie rotting in the king’s prisons, Etienne must dodge papal spies and assassins to find his way to Lockenhaus Castle where he can lay the relic to rest. But what he discovers is that his greatest enemy is the enemy that lies within.

700 years later, a writer arrives at the Castle, and together with an eccentric old woman she discovers how closely their destinies are bound to the destiny of The Seal.

What readers are saying:

This is a terrifically entertaining work of historical suspense that contains a lot of fascinating esoteric insights. Far better researched than “The DaVinci Code” and more action and suspense oriented than Paul Coelho’s “The Alchemist”. In a way it’s like “Ivanhoe” meeting Carlos Castaneda or the film “The Kingdom of Heaven.” First rate fun!

—-

Set at the time of the Templar arrests the story revolves around Etienne de Congost, a battle weary and incorruptible knight of the Temple, who must travel to Austria taking with him the most precious relic of the order away from the clutches of the French king.

The characters are well drawn, the action and suspense keeps you turning the pages. This book will appeal to those who love history and action. Recommended highly for Templar fans!

———
I loved this book for its historical accuracy, its beautiful writing, the depth of its characters and a plot that is full of intrigue.

The Seal begins with the fall of Acre and follows Etienne de Congost’s – the Seneschal of the order – struggle to safeguard the greatest treasure of the Templar Order, The Grandmaster’s Secret Seal. It explores the arrest of the templars at the hand of the avaricious Phillip le Bel and his henchmen and the machinations that led to their ultimate downfall.

This book is full of political intrigue, an intelligent historical mystery for fans of the genre, but it is deeper than you generally get in this genre. I would compare it to Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall, but it is better than that in that the author clearly delineates her characters and gives a good description of the milieu in which they exist. I was completely immersed.

If you love history with some metaphysical overtones, if you are not afraid to think, and you have an attention span, then this intelligent, elegant book is for you.

HIghly Recommended.

The average Amazon Reader Review Rating is currently 3.9 stars {42 reviews}.

 Click here to read more about and purchase THE SEAL (Rosicrucian Quartet) for FREE

THEN LIKE THE BLIND MAN: Orbie’s Story, Freddie Owens Wegela {FREE!}

A storm is brewing in the all-but-forgotten backcountry of Kentucky. And, for young Orbie Ray, the swirling heavens may just have the power to tear open his family’s darkest secrets. Then Like The Blind Man: Orbie’s Story is the enthralling debut novel by Freddie Owens, which tells the story of a spirited wunderkind in the segregated South of the 1950s and the forces he must overcome to restore order in his world. Rich in authentic vernacular and evocative of a time and place long past, this absorbing work of magical realism offered up with a Southern twist will engage readers who relish the Southern literary canon, or any tale well told.

Nine-year-old Orbie already has his cross to bear. After the sudden death of his father, his mother Ruby has off and married his father’s coworker and friend Victor, a slick-talking man with a snake tattoo. Since the marriage, Orbie, his sister Missy, and his mother haven’t had a peaceful moment with the heavy-drinking, fitful new man of the house. Orbie hates his stepfather more than he can stand; this fact lands him at his grandparents’ place in Harlan’s Crossroads, Kentucky, when Victor decides to move the family to Florida without including him. In his new surroundings, Orbie finds little to distract him from Granpaw’s ornery ways and constant teasing jokes about snakes.

As Orbie grudgingly adjusts to life with his doting Granny and carping Granpaw, who are a bit too keen on their black neighbors for Orbie’s taste, not to mention their Pentecostal congregation of snake handlers, he finds his world views changing, particularly when it comes to matters of race, religion, and the true cause of his father’s death. He befriends a boy named Willis, who shares his love of art, but not his skin color. And, when Orbie crosses paths with the black Choctaw preacher, Moses Mashbone, he learns of a power that could expose and defeat his enemies, but can’t be used for revenge. When a storm of unusual magnitude descends, he happens upon the solution to a paradox that is both magical and ordinary. The question is, will it be enough?

Equal parts Hamlet and Huckleberry Finn, it’s a tale that’s both rich in meaning, timely in its social relevance, and rollicking with boyhood adventure. The novel mines crucial contemporary issues, as well as the universality of the human experience while also casting a beguiling light on boyhood dreams and fears. It’s a well-spun, nuanced work of fiction that is certain to resonate with lovers of literary fiction, particularly in the grand Southern tradition of storytelling.

What readers are saying:

Reminiscent of To Kill A Mockingbird, this “sensitive and gripping” coming-of-age story evokes backcountry Kentucky in the troubled 1950′s in prose that’s spare yet lyrical — a “special” novel worthy of joining the ranks of an illustrious Southern literary tradition.
- Kindle Nation

Every once in awhile, you read a book in which every element fits together so perfectly that you just sit back in awe at the skill of the storyteller. Then Like the Blind Man is one of these books. …[It] grabs you from the very first page and carries you along, breathless and tense, until the very last, very satisfying sentence. Freddie Owens has created something special.
- The San Francisco Book Review

In an American coming-of-age novel, the author presents a stunning story with clarity and historical accuracy, rich in illuminating the Appalachian culture of the time period. …[It] brings history alive, depicting American union labor practices and the racial prejudices that were so prevalent in the 1950′s.
- Publisher’s Weekly

Then Like the Blind Man is an electrifying porthole to the south of the ’50s, where, though inane prejudice may have dominated, kindness and justice also had a place. Orbie’s sharecropping grandparents, by defying convention with unnerving grace, become founts of colloquial wisdom whose appeal is impossible to resist, and the Orbie they nurture — the best version of a boy who may otherwise have been lost — is someone the reader comes to love.
- Michelle Schingler / ForeWord Book Review

The average Amazon Reader Review Rating is currently 4.2 stars {109 reviews}.

 Click here to read more about and purchase THEN LIKE THE BLIND MAN: Orbie’s Story for FREE!

Daughter of the Sky, Michelle Diener {$3.99}

The Victorian Empire has declared war on the Zulus if they don’t accede to their outrageous demands. The clock is ticking down to the appointed hour. With no idea why the British are marching three massive columns of men and guns towards them, one Zulu general is prepared to take an impossible risk. But the life he’s gambling with isn’t his own . . .

The sole survivor of a shipwreck off the Zululand coast, 15 year-old Elizabeth Jones is taken in by the Zulus, the people of the sky. Six years later, her white skin becomes useful to the Zulu army as they try to work out why the Victorian Empire has pointed their war-machine at the Zulu nation. Elizabeth is suddenly Zululand’s most important spy.

While infiltrating the British camp, Elizabeth’s disguise as a young soldier is uncovered almost immediately by Captain Jack Burdell. However, he believes the tale she spins of searching for a missing brother and shields her from discovery, allowing her to bunk in his tent and giving her a job as his batman. Burdell is war-weary and disillusioned – no longer willing to follow regulations at all costs.

But as Elizabeth and Jack explore their growing attraction to each other, the two armies move towards their inevitable clash. Elizabeth is torn between the guilt of betrayal and her fierce loyalty to her Zulu family, and when Zulu and British meet on the battlefield, both she and Jack find their hearts and their lives caught in the crossfire.

What readers are saying:

“If you like strong historical fiction with romantic themes and an unusual setting, this could be the book for you. I truly enjoyed it!” The Adventures of an Intrepid Reader

“I read this in one sitting, staying up late into the night to finish. It was a fascinating story woven by a writer who knows her history and knows how to bring that history to life.” Broken Teepee

” . . . it was just the read I needed. Easily losing myself in the story, it had a romance I was rooting for and a larger historical arc that was tense and fascinating.”Unabridged Chick

“Set in Victorian Africa, the winds of war are blowing across the grassy plains. Diener explores loyalty, passion, and morality to create a multidimensional romance that will appeal to historical fans who would like to explore outside the English Ballroom.” The Reading Reviewer The Reading Reviewer

The current Average Amazon Review Rating is 4.6 stars {8 reviews}.

 

Click here to read more about and purchase Daughter of the Sky for $3.99

 

 

THE FRUGAL FIND OF THE DAY: Seduced at Sunset (Pembroke Palace Series), Julianne MacLean {$4.99}

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Julianne MacLean‘s Frugal Find Under Nine:

Description of Seduced at Sunset (Pembroke Palace Series):

Sometimes the matchmaker finds a love of her own…

Lady Charlotte Sinclair has long given up her dreams of happily ever after. Years ago, a tragic accident claimed the life of her beloved fiancé, but somehow she found the strength to go on—as an independent woman with a secret double life that has earned her millions. Lately, however, she has begun to yearn for something more…

While setting out to play matchmaker for her mother, Lady Charlotte meets a rugged, handsome stranger who saves her from a thief in the street, but her heroic rescuer soon turns out to be more mysterious—and dangerously captivating—than any man she has ever known. Swept away by passion into a sizzling summer affair with a man who leads a double life of his own, she vows to live only for pleasure with no promises of tomorrow. But soon she must accept that one final night of ecstasy with an irresistible lover is never going to be enough…

 

Accolades:

“Julianne MacLean’s writing is smart, thrilling, and sizzles with sensuality.”—Elizabeth HoytPraise for Julianne MacLean and her bestselling romances…

“You can always count on Julianne MacLean to deliver ravishing romance that will keep you turning pages until the wee hours of the morning.”—Teresa Medeiros

“She is just an all-around, wonderful writer and I look forward to reading everything she writes.”—Romance Junkies

 

Amazon Reader Reviews:

Seduced at Sunset (Pembroke Palace Series) currently has a Amazon reader review rating of 4.7 stars, with 6 reviews! Read the reviews here!

 

Excerpt from Seduced at Sunset (Pembroke Palace Series):

Chapter Three

Drake Torrington was just exiting his townhouse when the sound of a lady’s voice from across the street drew his attention.
“I will not!” she screamed.
He spotted her as she was knocked into the fence by a scoundrel who made off with her purse.
Drake leaped down the steps, darted across the street, and reached the woman in a matter of seconds. “Are you hurt?” he asked, kneeling down to lay a hand on her shoulder, for she had collapsed.
She seemed dazed by the strike to the head, but then she frowned up at him with a pair of gleaming blue eyes that upset his balance, for he hadn’t seen a woman so beautiful in years––perhaps ever.
“I am fine, thank you, sir,” she said as she struggled to rise, “but that man has stolen my reticule. I want it back.”
He helped her to her feet. “You’re certain you are all right?”
“Yes.”
“Wait here, then.” He took off after the thief who had paused foolishly at the corner to rummage through the contents of the purse.
Drake sprinted toward him. The man looked up in surprise, then turned to make a run for it.
Reaching into his pocket, Drake grabbed his watch—a conveniently heavy piece of gold weaponry—and pitched it at the back of the man’s head.
The strike was spot on. The bandit tripped and tumbled forward to the ground. Disoriented, he rose up on his hands and knees and shook his head like a wet dog just as Drake came upon him, grabbed him by the lapels, and pulled him to his feet.
Drake shook him. “Hand it over, scoundrel, or I’ll knock your brains out.”
The thief refused to part with it. He threw a flimsy punch, which by some dumb stroke of luck connected with Drake’s jaw. The pain reverberated through his skull and sparked his blood into red-hot flames of savage aggression.
It had been years since Drake had enjoyed a good fight, and he wondered what happened to his old instincts, for there was once a time he would have anticipated and easily skirted such a watered-down blow. His pride bucked violently in response, and a heartbeat or two later, the thief was sprawled out, unconscious, on the pavement while Drake stood over him, feet braced apart, flexing his bloodied fist.
The noises of the street had somehow faded away. All he could hear was the heavy beating of his own heart, like a continuous rumble of thunder in his ears.
As his body rhythms returned to a more natural pace, reality came crashing back. He dropped to his knees to check the man’s pulse at his neck. He was still alive, thank God. Drake removed the reticule from the man’s possession, rose to his feet, and turned around to discover the lady with the disarming blue eyes stood only a few feet away, staring at him in shock.
* * *
Charlotte felt slightly dizzy and considerably alarmed as she locked gazes with the man who had retrieved her reticule. Naturally, she was grateful that he had come to her rescue, but after witnessing such a shocking display of violence, she felt no safer now than she had when the thief came upon her.
She had watched every heated second of the altercation, and had recognized the force behind the gentleman’s blow. Her breath had hitched in her throat when the thief was propelled backward through the air, as if he had been rammed by a raging bull at full gallop.
Glancing down at her rescuer’s big brawny fist and bloody knuckles, then down at the lifeless form on the ground behind him, she carefully asked, “Is he alive?” It would be a miracle if he were.
“Yes.” The gentleman’s voice was husky and low, barely more than a growl, and she was riveted to the spot. “I believe this is yours,” he added as he stepped forward and held out her reticule.
Charlotte stood utterly still as he drew near, for she felt rather breathless. From a distance she had known he was a tall man, but now she could sense—and feel—the looming power of his massive male brawn. His chest was thick, his shoulders wide, though his torso narrowed down to slender hips and undoubtedly strong legs.
“And this must be yours,” she replied, holding out his pocket watch, which she had picked up on the street a moment before. “It still appears to be working.”
As they made the exchange, Charlotte felt a shiver move through her. She wasn’t sure what caused it. She told herself there was nothing to fear from this man who had subdued her attacker. Judging by the way he was dressed in a fine black frock coat, silk top hat, and shiny black shoes, he was a gentleman.
Nevertheless, her head was spinning like a top, for there was very little about him beyond his clothing that seemed the least bit refined. He was coarse looking, like a laborer. Crude, even. And perhaps it was the way he moved––with a dangerous swagger––that seemed particularly threatening after what she had just witnessed.
Or perhaps it was his rugged facial features. His eyes were a pale shade of blue-gray, his nose was misshapen, as if it might have been broken a few times in the past, and there were scars on his cheekbones, and evidence of an old gash through one of his eyebrows. His upper lip was scarred as well.
He reminded her of a barbarian from another time. She could easily imagine it—this man, with his huge, scarred, muscled body, standing shirtless in battle, swinging a sword in one hand, wielding a dagger in the other, his eyes burning with bloodlust. He was perfect…
Stop it, Charlotte.
“That was quite a punch,” she said. “How is your hand?”
He flexed it a few times and looked down at his bloodied knuckles. His fingers were thick. So were his wrists. “It’s fine.”
“It doesn’t look fine to me,” she replied. “I daresay you did some damage, on both sides.” She looked up and down the quiet street. “Should we send for someone? A constable perhaps? Or a doctor?” The side of her head was throbbing. A bump was probably forming already.
“I was thinking the same thing,” he said in that husky, mesmerizing voice. “I live just there.” He pointed at his townhouse, a few doors down. “If you will accompany me, madam, I will send one of my servants to fetch assistance, and I promise this man will be arrested.”
“Is it wise to leave him here?” Charlotte asked. “What if he wakes up and runs off?”
“I will have him brought inside.”
Then his eyes narrowed with displeasure and he took a step closer.
For some reason, Charlotte quickly backed away, as if he had swung another punch, this time in her direction.
“You’re hurt,” he said, not appearing the least bit surprised that she had recoiled from him.
“No, I’m not,” she insisted.
He pointed to a drop of blood on her collar, and only then did she notice a wet sensation on her scalp. The dizziness she experienced earlier suddenly made sense, and when she slid her gloved fingers into her upswept hair and felt a gash just over her ear, her stomach turned over. “I’m bleeding.”
For the second time that day, the world turned white before her eyes, her knees buckled beneath her, and she began to sink toward the ground.
Though teetering on the muddled edges of consciousness, Charlotte was keenly aware of the man scooping her up into his arms—as if she weighed no more than a bolt of fabric—and carrying her toward his home.
Clinging tightly to the frame of his shoulders, she fought to stay awake and not faint in his arms. He was rock-solid beneath her hands, and his exotic spicy cologne smelled delectable. She warmed with appreciation and something else…
He mounted his front steps lightly, with no effort at all, as if they were both floating on air, and his incredible virility had a strange, appealing effect on her. Every fiber of her being hummed with awareness, energy, and excitement. A bolt of fear whizzed through her veins too…though perhaps it wasn’t fear, but something else entirely. Something exhilarating…something more heady, more dangerous. Indeed, even in her fantasies she had never projected anything quite like it.
“That’s it,” he whispered softly in her ear as he shifted her in his arms to rap the lion’s head door knocker. “Just hold on to me, darling. You’ll be fine. My housekeeper will tend to you. One shouldn’t ignore a head wound, you know. They can be serious.”
She suspected he was making conversation to keep her conscious, but there was little danger of nodding off, for she didn’t want to miss a single moment of this strangely thrilling ordeal.

Seduced at Sunset (Pembroke Palace Series) is available for purchase at:

Amazon Kindle for $4.99


Connect with Julianne MacLean:

Website: http://www.juliannemaclean.com

Twitter: http://twitter.com/JulianneMacLean

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/JulianneMacLeanRomanceAuthor?ref=pb

THE FRUGAL FIND OF THE DAY: Scent of Triumph / Historical Fiction, Jan Moran {$0.99}

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Description of Scent of Triumph:

When French perfumer Danielle Bretancourt steps aboard a luxury ocean liner, she has no idea that her life is about to change forever. The year is 1939, and the declaration of war on the European continent soon threatens to devastate her beloved family and young children.

Traveling through London and Paris into occupied Poland, Danielle searches for the remains of her family until she is forced to flee to America.

Gathering the fragments of her impoverished family, Danielle begins life anew in 1940s Los Angeles. Through determination and talent, she rises from meager jobs in her quest for success as a perfumer and fashion designer to Hollywood elite. Through it all, the men she loves suffer mounting losses.

As the war continues to rage around the world, Danielle aids the French Resistance in its quest for freedom, and continues the search for her lost son, Nicky.

Can Danielle and her family overcome the devastation that haunts their life?

Set between privileged lifestyles and gritty realities, SCENT OF TRIUMPH is one woman’s story of courage, spirit, and resilience.

 

 Accolades:

“SCENT OF TRIUMPH offers action, suspense and romance as it follows its intrepid heroine through the turbulent years of World War II, from the depths of tragedy to the heights of success.”
- Nancy Arnott, A&E Television Networks

“[A] historical fiction carried by a complex, resourceful heroine with a nose for business.”
- Kirkus Reviews

“SCENT OF TRIUMPH [is a] World War II epic.”
- Los Angeles Times

“Jan Moran is the new queen of the epic romance.”
- USA Today Bestselling Author Rebecca Forster, Author of Expert Witness

“I absolutely loved this story!”
- Carrie, a reader from Goodreads

 

Reviews:

Scent of Triumph currently has an Amazon reader review rating of 4.5 stars from 61 reviews. Read the reviews here.


An excerpt from Scent of Triumph:

Danielle Bretancourt von Hoffman braced herself against the gleaming mahogany-paneled stateroom wall, striving for balance as she flung open a brass porthole. A damp kelp-scented wind whistled through the cabin, assaulting her nose with its raw intensity.
She kept her eyes focused on the horizon as the Newell-Grey Explorer slanted upward, slicing through the peak of a cresting wave. The sleek new 80,000 ton super liner creaked and pitched as it heaved through the turbulent grey waters of the icy Atlantic on its voyage from New York to England. Silently, Danielle urged it onward, anxious to return home.
A veil of salty spray prickled Danielle’s fevered brow, and her usually sturdy stomach churned in rhythm with the sea. Was it morning sickness, or the ravaging motion of the sea? Probably both, she thought, her hand cradling her gently curved abdomen. She gnawed her lip, the metallic taste of blood spreading on her tongue, thinking about the last few days.
Dabbing her mouth with the back of her hand, she blinked against the stiff breeze, her mind reeling. Had it been just two days since she’d heard the devastating news that Nazi forces had invaded Poland?
A staccato knock burst against the stateroom door. Gingerly crossing the room, Danielle opened the door and caught her breath at the sight of Jonathan Newell-Grey, vice president and heir apparent to the British shipping line that bore his name. His tie hung from his collar, and his sleeves were rolled up, exposing muscular forearms taut from years of sailing. A rumpled wool jacket hung over one shoulder. Though they hadn’t been friends long, she was truly glad to see him.
“Is your husband in?” His hoarse voice held the wind of the sea.
“Max will be back soon. Any news?”
“None.” He pushed a hand through his unruly chestnut hair. “The captain has called a meeting at fifteen hundred hours for all passengers traveling on Polish and German passports.”
“But I hold a French passport.”
“You’ll still need to attend, Danielle.”
“Of course, but—” As another sharp pitch jerked through the ship, Jon caught her by the shoulders and kept her from falling.
“Steady now, lass,” he said, a small smile playing on his lips.
Feeling a little embarrassed, Danielle touched the wall for support. Suddenly, she recalled the strange sense of foreboding she’d had upon waking. She was blessed—or cursed—with an unusually keen prescience. Frowning, she asked, “Jon, can the ship withstand this storm?”
“Sure, she’s a fine, seaworthy vessel, one of the finest in the world. This weather’s no match for her.” He stared past her out the porthole, his deep blue eyes riveted on the ocean’s white-capped expanse. Dark, heavily laden clouds crossed the sun, casting angled shadows across his face. He turned back to her, his jaw set. “Might even be rougher seas ahead, but we’ll make England by morning.”
Danielle nodded, but still, she knew. Oh yes, she knew. Anxiety coursed through her; something seemed terribly wrong. Her intuition came in quiet flashes of pure knowledge. She couldn’t force it, couldn’t direct it, and knew better than to discuss it with anyone, especially her husband. She was only twenty-four; Max was older, wiser, and told her that her insights were simply rubbish.
Jon touched her arm in a small, sympathetic movement. “What a sorry predicament you’re in. Anything I can do to help?”
“Not unless you can perform a miracle.” Jon’s rough fingers felt warm against her skin, and an ill-timed memory from a few days ago shot through her mind. On Max’s encouragement, they’d shared a dance while Max spoke to the captain at length after dinner, and Danielle remembered Jon’s soft breath, his musky skin, his hair curling just above his collar. He’d been interested in all she had to say, from her little boy to her work at Parfums Bretancourt, her family’s perfumery in France.
Danielle forced the memory from her mind, took a step back out of modesty. “I had a bad feeling about this trip from the beginning,” she started. She caught sight of herself in the mirror, her thick auburn hair in disarray, her lip rouge smeared against her pale cheek. She drew her fingers across her cheek, straightened her shoulders, and went on. “We’d planned to take care of our business in New York, then return to Poland to close the chateau. After that, we were to join Max’s mother, Sofia, and our little Nicky in Paris, for a brief visit with my family before returning to America.”
“Why didn’t you bring Nicky with you?”
“I wanted to, but he’s so young that Max thought he’d be better off in Paris with my family.” Why, oh why, had she agreed to leave Nicky? Max had made it sound so sensible. Wincing with remorse, she fought the panic that rose in her throat. “But now Sofia’s terribly ill, her last cable said that she and Nicky haven’t even left for Paris.”
Jon wiped a smudge from her cheek and said quietly, “Danielle, they’ve got to get to Paris as quickly as possible.”
Mon Dieu! she thought. They hadn’t realized Sofia was so ill. ‘It’s just a cold,’ her mother-in-law had told them as they left. What if Sofia isn’t well enough to travel?
The ship pitched, sending the porthole door banging against the paneled wall. Shifting easily with the vessel’s sharp motions, Jon caught it, secured the latch, then turned back to Danielle. “Max told me he thinks he has your immigration to the States sorted out.”
“That’s right, a senator from New York helped us secure a financial partner. Max plans to reestablish our crystal manufacturing facility there by the end of the year, but now, the workers he’d like to bring—” Her voice hitched as she thought of what their friends and family faced.
“You’ve done the best you could, Danielle.” But even as he spoke, his gaze trailed back to the sea, his eyes narrowed against the sun’s thinning rays, scanning the surface.
She matched his gaze. “Anything unusual out there?”
“Could be German U-Boats. Unterseeboots. The most treacherous of submarines. Bloody hell, they are.” He moved toward her, and leaning closer he lifted a strand of hair, damp with sea mist, from her forehead. “If I don’t see Max, you’ll tell him about the meeting?”
“We’ll be there.” She caught a whiff of his salt air-tinged skin, and as she did, a vivid sensory image flashed across her mind. A leather accord, patchouli, a heart of rose melding with the natural scent of his skin, warm, intriguing…then she recognized it—Spanish Leather. But the way he wore it was incredible. She was drawn in, but quickly retreated half a step.
His expression softened and he let her hair fall from his fingers. “Don’t worry, Danielle. The Newell-Greys always look after their passengers.” He left, closing the door behind him.
She touched a finger to her lips. Jon’s casual way with her sometimes made her uncomfortable. Fortunately, Max was too much the German aristocrat to make a fuss over nothing. And it was nothing, she told herself with a firm shake of her head. She loved her husband. But that scent…her mind whirred. Fresh, spicy, woody…she could recreate sea freshness and blend with patchouli.
Abruptly, the ship lurched. Cutlery clattered across a rimmed burl wood table, her books tumbled against a wall. She braced herself through the crashing swell, one hand on the doorjamb, another shielding her womb. She pushed all thoughts of her work from her mind, there were so many more urgent matters at hand. Her son, their family, their home.
When the ship leveled, she spied on the floor a navy blue cap she’d knitted for Nicky. He’d dropped it at the train station, and she’d forgotten to give it to Sofia. She pressed the cap to her cheek, drinking in the little boy smell that still clung to the woolen fibers. Redolent of milk and grass and straw and chocolates, it also called to mind sweet perspiration droplets glistening on his flushed cheeks. They often played tag in the garden, laughing and frolicking amidst thicketed ruins on their sprawling property. Oh, my poor, precious Nicky. The cherished memories enveloped her with sadness.
She picked up her purse to put his cap inside, then paused to look at the photo of Nicky she carried. His eyes crinkled with laughter, he’d posed with his favorite stuffed toy, Mr. Minkey, a red-striped monkey with black button eyes she’d sewn for him. At four years of age, Nicky was an adorable bundle of blond-headed energy. A streak of fear sliced through her. She stuffed the cap into her purse and snapped it shut.
The door opened and Max strode in, his proud face ashen.
Danielle turned. “Jon just left. There’s a meeting—”
“I know, he is behind me,” he said, clipping the words in his formal, German-accented English. He smacked his onyx pipe against his hand, releasing the sweet smoky scent of vanilla tobacco.
Jon appeared at the door. “Shall we go?”
The muscles in Max’s jaw tightened. He slipped his pipe into the pocket of his tailored wool jacket. “I need a drink first. You, Jon?”
“Not now.”
Max pushed past Danielle to the liquor cabinet. As he did, he brushed against her vanity and sent her red leather traveling case crashing to the floor, bottles bursting from within, smashing against one another.
“Max, my perfumes!” Danielle gathered the hem of her silk dress, and sank to her knees. The intoxicating aromas of jasmine, rose, orange blossom, bergamot, berries, vanilla, cedar, and sandalwood surged in the air, jumbling and exploding in her senses like brilliant fireworks. She sighed in exasperation. She knew Max hadn’t meant to destroy her precious potions, but she wished he’d been more careful. Now there was nothing she could do but pick up the pieces. With two fingers, she fished a crystal shard and a carnelian cap from the jagged mess. “Max, would you hand me the wastebasket?”
Instead, he turned away and reached for the vodka. “Leave it, Danielle. The cabin boy will see to it.”
Jon crossed the stateroom and knelt beside her. “Are these your creations?”
“Yes, I blended the perfumes at my family’s laboratory in Grasse. The case was Max’s wedding gift to me.”
Max poured a shot of vodka. “Get up, Danielle. And for God’s sake, open the porthole. That stench will kill us.”
Anger burned in her cheeks, but she said nothing. She angled her face from Jon and continued picking up slippery shards, though she was glad for his help.
Jon rested a callused hand on hers, sending a shiver through her. “These are beautiful works of art, Danielle. Max told me you were once regarded as the child prodigy of perfumery.” He took a sharp piece from her. “Don’t hurt yourself, I’ll send someone to clean this up while you’re gone.”
She caught his eye and mouthed a silent thank-you, then rose and opened the porthole. A gust caught her long hair and slapped it across her face, stinging her flushed cheeks. Staring at the ocean, a sudden thought gripped her, and she spun around. “Jon said there might be U-Boats out there.”
Max paused with his glass in mid-air. “Impossible.”
“Anything is possible.” Jon brushed broken crystal into the wastebasket and straightened.
Danielle arched an eyebrow. “Is that why we’re zigzagging?”
Jon shot a look at Max. “Smart one, your wife. I’ll grant you that, Danielle, but it’s just a safety measure. U-Boats aren’t a threat to passenger liners.”
Pressure built in her head. “Like the Lusitania?”
“That was a long time ago,” Jon said. “A disaster like that couldn’t happen today.”
“And why not?”
“There are measures to ensure against such errors,” Jon replied. “In times of war, every captain checks Lloyd’s Register to compare ships. It’s obvious that this is a passenger ship, not an armed destroyer. It’s virtually impossible to make such a mistake.”
Her mind whirred. “But you said anything is possible.”

 

Scent of Triumph is available for purchase at:

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Connect with Jan Moran:

Author Website: http://www.janmoran.com

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THE FRUGAL FIND OF THE DAY: The Mummifier´s Daughter – A Novel in Ancient Egypt, Nathaniel Burns {FREE!}

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Description of The Mummifier´s Daughter – A Novel in Ancient Egypt:

Ancient Egypt, 1233 BC

The Mummifier’s Daughter returns us to a land steeped in mystery and magic. The detailed storytelling paints a picture of ancient Egypt in all its glory.

Bestselling author Nathaniel Burns has woven a delightfully dark tale around what must have been the most remarkable period of Egyptian history.

So stoke up the fire, draw the curtains and put your feet up in order to enjoy this delightfull tale of love, intrigues and mummies in old Egypt…

 

Accolades:

5 Stars – Bottom line: I really, truly enjoyed this book and sincerely hope to see a sequel or series of books based on the main characters. The author has made ancient Egypt exciting and accessible in this fun book, and I look forward to seeing more!

5 Stars – I couldn’t put this book down! This is a fascinating and historically accurate depiction of life in ancient Egypt. It is an excellent novel full of surprises. I can’t recommend it highly enough for all readers, but especially those interested in ancient Egypt.

Reviews:

The Mummifier´s Daughter – A Novel in Ancient Egypt currently has an Amazon reader review rating of 4.5 stars from 4 reviews. Read the reviews here.

 

The Mummifier´s Daughter – A Novel in Ancient Egypt is available for purchase at:

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THE FRUGAL FIND OF THE DAY: The Bearwalker’s Daughter, Beth Trissel {$0.99}

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Frugal Find of the Day

 

Description of The Bearwalker’s Daughter:

Karin McNeal hasn’t grasped who she really is or her fierce birthright. A tragic secret from the past haunts the young Scots-Irish woman who longs to learn more of her mother’s death and the mysterious father no one will name. The elusive voices she hears in the wind hint at the dramatic changes soon to unfold in the mist-shrouded Alleghenies in Autumn, 1784.

Jack McCray, the wounded stranger who staggers through the door on the eve of her twentieth birthday and anniversary of her mother’s death, holds the key to unlock the past. Will Karin let this handsome frontiersman lead her to the truth and into his arms, or seek the shelter of her fiercely possessive kinsmen? Is it only her imagination or does someone, or something, wait beyond the brooding ridges–for her?

(The Bearwalker’s Daughter is a revised version of romance novel Daughter of the Wind)
Publisher’s Weekly BHB Reader’s Choice Best Books of 2009

 

Accolades:

“Ms. Trissel’s alluring style of writing invites the reader into a world of fantasy and makes it so believable it is spellbinding.” -Long and Short Reviews“I picked this novel up for a bit of light reading, assuming it to be a novella at first. I was soon surprised by how compelling this story is. Coupled with a sweeping backdrop of post war Pioneer America and the prejudices of two very different peoples, “Bearwalker’s Daughter” is beautifully balanced. With plenty of heaving bodices and mountaineer Scotsmen running around, Trissel imbues a nice dose of heat in this wintry backdrop. I enjoyed the characters and the simple complexity of their past struggles. Though this novel is romanticized to a degree, it also manages to maintain the raw beauty of this distant time.” Jennifer Silverwood

 

Reviews:

The Bearwalker’s Daughter currently has an Amazon reader review rating of 4.4 stars from 30 reviews. Read the reviews here.


An excerpt from The Bearwalker’s Daughter:

As for Jack, Karin spotted his shadowy figure inside the farthest stall. He’d bridled his mount and looped its reins around one of the stout poles joined to the wide beams overhead. His back to her, he curried a magnificent strawberry roan stallion, its chestnut coat heavily mixed with gray. The horse snatched hay from the manger and stood quietly, seemingly good-natured and well trained.

How on earth did he come by such a superb mount? Karin had no more opportunity to wonder, and it wasn’t the stallion she kept close watch on as she approached the two, unsure what Jack might say or do.

“Mister McCray!”  She was careful not to take him by surprise as she’d done last night, ready to turn and race back outside in an instant if need be.

Jack turned his head, eyes narrowed beneath his hat. Tension ran the length of his jaw. She faltered at the anger in his face. He must still be vexed with her grandfather; possibly with her too. Uncertain, she said, “Jack?”

A smile turned up the corners of his drawn mouth, making him appear even more youthful and less like a hardened frontiersman. “So, you’ve come. I figured John McNeal would hold you prisoner before ever letting you go off with me.”

Maybe he should have. Karin stepped nearer to Jack, the hay cushioning her shoes. “Grandpa can be prevailed upon by your bonnie mother.”

He paused, the brush in his hand. “And you?”

Karin shifted from one damp sole to the other and ran her tongue over her lips. “Perhaps.”

His smile widened. “Come and meet Peki.” He opened the short stall door.

She hesitated outside the narrow space.

“You’re not afraid, are you?”

“Not of the horse.”

Jack chuckled. “I’ll be on my best behavior.”

“For a warrior or a soldier?”

“Myself.”

Keeping her eyes on his broad back, she said, “I’m not sure if that’s good or bad.”

“Come discover.”

She slipped inside the pen bedded with clean straw and turned almost in awe at the horse towering above her. She patted his sleek neck. “He’s beautiful. You could start a new line with him.”

“Yes. He’s the finest I’ve ever known. But God help me, Karin, so are you.”

A current charged through her at his words and the emotion behind them. She swiveled, lifting her eyes to the intensity in his. “Why do you need the Lord’s help?”

“You have no idea,” he said huskily.~

 

The Bearwalker’s Daughter is available for purchase at:

Amazon Kindle for $0.99

 

Connect with Beth Trissel:

For more on Beth Trissel and her work, her blog is the happening place: One Writer’s Way
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THE FRUGAL FIND OF THE DAY: Blood and Honour – The Battle for Saxony (A Historical Novel Set in the Dark Ages), John Lincoln {$2.99 or Borrow FREE w/Prime!}

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Description of Blood and Honour – The Battle for Saxony:

Europe, in the year of the Lord 772

Like a bloody storm, Charlemagne’s armies ravage early medieval Europe, leaving devastation and misery in their wake. They have subdued the kingdom of the Langobards, defeated the duchy of Bavaria; they threaten the Moors in the west and, in the south, the pope in Rome.

Yet Charlemagne has even more ambitious plans: he covets the Saxon territories in the north. The Saxons put up an unexpectedly fierce resistance. When Charlemagne’s troops destroy the Irminsul shrine, the Saxon holy of holies, there ensues a struggle to the death. Led by the legendary Duke Widukind, for decades the Saxons fight savagely for their beliefs and their independence. And they will have their revenge…

The Duke and the Kings will transport the reader right into this legend-shrouded part of the Early Middle Ages. With his story, John Lincoln has woven a rich, dark tapestry of one of the pivotal periods in medieval European history. His historically accurate descriptions rich in authentic detail bring this remote, mysterious world to life again before your very eyes.

So stoke the fire, draw your armchair closer and dive into this wonderful historical novel full of the love, the intrigue, the warriors and the battles of a bygone Europe…

 

Accolades:

“John Lincoln’s Blood And Honor, The Battle for Saxony, is an important piece in the puzzle of 8th century history. ” — Peter Prasad, Amazon.com

“Blood and Honour is an excellent and highly entertaining work of historical fiction.” — R.Lee Holz, Amazon.com

“Even though it is set in the dark ages, this story warms the heart with a deLIGHTful bond, trusting, and tumultuous. The characters’ relationship transcends time and you are drawn to them from the very beginning.” — TJ, Amazon.com

Reviews:

Blood and Honour – The Battle for Saxony currently has an Amazon reader review rating of 4.1 stars from 19 reviews. Read the reviews here.

 

Blood and Honour – The Battle for Saxony is available for purchase at:

Amazon Kindle for $2.99 or Borrow FREE w/Prime!

 

An excerpt from Blood and Honour – The Battle for Saxony:

Prologue

West of the city stretched the May Field where the Franks who had been summoned to the general assembly and to wage war were camped. To their north, where a creek flowed into the Rhine, was housed an itinerant army of traders and craftsmen, of jugglers and whores who would flock together wherever the counts and nobles, the bishops and abbots, the freemen called to military duty, the soldiers and the servants assembled in obedience to the king’s command.

Abbot Sturmius rode through the chaos of booths and shacks, of carts and wagons forming a labyrinth of crooked passageways. Each of the craft guilds was grouped together. Over there, in the open booths of the saddlers and shoemakers, all kinds of footwear were on display, from riding boots to fine women’s slippers. Not a few of the fighters spent their pay earned by blood and sweat on fine leather goods for their lovers of a few nights. Next to their carts, the saddlers displayed belts and harnesses, while all around lay pieces in various states of repair.

The blacksmiths made a contrast, with smithies and tents that were more impressive and more solidly built lining their lane in straight rows. Not a tear or spot blemished the canvas, not a loose board or bent nail was to be seen on them.

The abbot slowed his horse to a leisurely pace, the better to take in the varied products on view. Stirrups and spurs expertly inlaid with silver were there to tempt any knight. Wherever there was haggling over a sale, small crowds would form to exchange lively opinions about the quality of an item and its price.

Warriors thronged around the armorers’ stands. Among them were nobles, shopping for a battle-ax or sword.

Here, Sturmius quickly dismounted, throwing the reins to his companion. He could use a new chain mail shirt and iron helmet for the battle with the Saxons. The crowd readily parted for his imposing figure as he strode along the booths. “The Abbot of Fulda,” whispered this or that warrior to another. “A mighty champion of the Lord!”

Sturmius carefully inspected the individual pieces, soon found what he was looking for and paid the asking price without haggling. Before leaving, he ordered the master to deliver his purchase, saying, “You will find that some of my men’s armor needs fixing and improving, so bring one or two of your assistants along.”

Mounting up again, the abbot rode toward the shacks of the lowlifes. Here the chaos and noise were even greater. Soldiers and servants sat at rough-hewn tables, some with girls on their laps, rattling dice cups or raising tankards and others spooning out their earthen bowls. The shrill cries of women in the embrace of rough men blended with the bawling of drunks.

On the grass, jugglers were showing off their tricks, and sellers of sausages and baked goods carried on poles made their way through the crowd.

The abbot’s ears picked up many a coarse or mocking shout unchristian oath and nasty joke. His face showed no emotion as he slowly rode through the mass of people. His eyes swept searchingly over the groups of people surging this way or that.

He came on a dense crowd that forced him to rein in his mount. Sitting on a tree stump in its midst was a curious figure of a man, very thin and tall, with a narrow, aristocratic face dominated by a mighty hooknose. Flashing grey eyes and a mocking expression around severe, thin lips half hidden under a drooping blond mustache completed a remarkable face.

His long, blond hair stirred in the breeze, his plain leather jerkin lacked decoration of any kind, as did his leggings that were untied up to the knees. The man held a lyre of remarkable size in his arm. Nimbly plucking its strings with long, slender fingers, the odd fellow sang, in a soft, resonant voice that gripped the abbot, of Hildebrand, forced by his son’s defiance into killing the only issue of his blood.

It was not a Christian tune that monks would sing, but these familiar, harsh verses and the force of the minstrel’s delivery deeply moved Sturmius nonetheless.

As the song ended, the abbot threw a gold piece to the singer over the heads of the crowd, but the gaunt one ignored it to leave it lying in the grass. The look he cast toward the cleric was one of pride alloyed with silent contempt.

Before Sturmius had a chance to give his anger free rein, suddenly laughter and shouting rose up around him. What looked like a large ball, pushed and urged on, was rolling toward him, but it had legs and a head that sat like a second ball on the bigger ball made by the body. The arms were not visible, for the man, and that is what the object of the laughter was, had hung pelts all over him!

“Furs, pelts! Buy my beautiful furs! Ferret and mink! Otter and sable, even our Lord King wears no better! Furs! Pelts! Buy these beautiful furs!”

The merchant’s deep voice ended every one of these appeals in a falsetto that made a hilarious contrast with the short man’s rotund figure. His small, watery eyes, sliding rapidly and slyly over the crowd, became round when they fixed on the abbot. Pushed back and forth, the potbellied fellow tried a bow before the august personage, but tripped and rolled onto the ground, to the crowd’s great amusement. With surprising alacrity, he was back on his short legs. “Pelts! Beautiful pelts, worthy sir, buy my otter and sable, the same worn by the king!”

The abbot had to stifle the impulse to join in the laughter. As the human ball had rolled toward him, he had immediately recognized Brother Franciscus, the cleverest of all his monks, whom he had sent north into the land of the Saxons. Brother Potbelly, whom the monastery kitchen had to feed extra rations, seemed to have become even bulkier, but he knew how to play his role perfectly. “Pelts, beautiful pelts! Exalted sir! The Holy Church is rich! Buy my otter and sable! You can afford it, most honorable abbot, even if you just take a tenth of my furs as your tithe!” The bystanders rewarded these words with another round of loud guffaws.

Playing on the sarcasm, Sturmius said to him, “Bring a tenth part to my tent, and you shall receive back double in gold!”

Blood and Honour – The Battle for Saxony is available for purchase at:

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Author Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/john.lincoln.9081

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THE FRUGAL FIND OF THE DAY: A Kiss Before the Wedding – A Pembroke Palace Short Story, Julianne MacLean {$1.99}

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Description of A Kiss Before the Wedding – A Pembroke Palace Short Story:

A Kiss Before the Wedding – A Pembroke Palace Short Story

Lady Adelaide Robins, the charming and beautiful daughter of an impoverished earl, was raised on the foggy moors of Yorkshire. Never in her wildest dreams did she imagine she would travel to London, capture the heart of a duke, and receive a proposal of marriage. Is she ready for a life of luxury and privilege as a duchess? Or will her heart forever belong to another?
William Thomas, the second son of a Yorkshire viscount, is about to be disowned for his unbecoming ambitions to become a medical doctor. But what does it matter if he can have the woman he loves at his side? Determined to finally claim the hand of Lady Adelaide, his lifelong beloved, William is shocked to discover that she has accepted a marriage proposal from a duke. With the wedding only days away, will he be able to win back her heart?

Lady Adelaide is engaged to be married to a duke, but sometimes the heart creates a new destiny…

Accolades:

“Julianne MacLean’s writing is smart, thrilling, and sizzles with sensuality.”—Elizabeth Hoyt

 

Amazon Reader Reviews:

A Kiss Before the Wedding – A Pembroke Palace Short Story currently has a Amazon reader review rating of 4 stars, with 2 reviews! Read the reviews here!

Excerpt from A Kiss Before the Wedding – A Pembroke Palace Short Story:

One

June 12, 1842

Though she was young—only one month shy of her nineteenth year—Lady Adelaide Robins possessed the wisdom to understand that certain moments in one’s life were turning points that could never be undone.

This, she knew, was one of those moments.

Years from now, she would look back on the choice she had made this evening as she sat at her desk, quill in hand, and wonder, what if I had acted differently? What if I had never written this letter?

Lady Adelaide did not know if she was making the right decision tonight. How could she? She did not possess a crystal ball, nor the life experience to judge most men of the world.
Except, perhaps, for one man, who was very dear to her heart.

William Thomas, her friend since childhood, was the second son of a viscount, while she was the daughter of an earl, raised on a vast estate in Yorkshire with her two older sisters, who were now married.

Their father was thankful for the husbands her sisters had procured, for it was common knowledge that their family was impoverished, and there was no money for dowries. Not a single farthing.
Nevertheless, Mary and Margarite had married well, which was no great surprise, for they were widely regarded as incomparable beauties.

Margarite had married the handsome eldest son of a baron from the south who would inherit his father’s prosperous estate one day, while Mary had wed a less handsome but exceedingly amiable youngest son of a marquess, who was a well-loved vicar in Devonshire.

Now it was Adelaide’s turn to walk down the aisle, and her father was beside himself with joy, for she had done better than both her sisters. Somehow, against all likelihood, and without intent, she had captured the heart of a duke.

Not just any duke, mind you. Adelaide was now famously engaged to Theodore Sinclair—His Grace, the Duke of Pembroke—one of the highest ranking peers in the realm, wealthy beyond any imaginings, impossibly handsome of course, and with a palace considered to be one of England’s greatest architectural achievements. It was an extravagant baroque masterpiece with splendid Italian Gardens (recently designed by the duke himself), a complex cedar maze which provided hours of entertainment for prestigious guests, and it was allegedly built upon the ruins of an ancient monastery.

Some said the complex network of subterranean passages beneath the palace was haunted by the monks, but Adelaide did not believe in ghosts. She did believe, however, in the properly documented particulars of history, and in that regard, it was a well-known fact that the first Duke of Pembroke had been a close, intimate friend of King Henry VIII, who had awarded the dukedom in the first place.

Yes, indeed. Theodore Sinclair, the current Duke of Pembroke, was the most sought-after bachelor in England, and for some unknown reason, he had taken one look at Adelaide from across a crowded ballroom and fallen head over heels in love with her.

She wasn’t sure what she had done to arouse his passions to such a heightened degree. She had danced with him twice at the ball where they met, then accepted his invitations to go walking in the park the following three days in a row, and had sat with him in his box at the theater the following week.

She could not deny her own infatuation, for the duke was very handsome and very grand. Even now she was distracted by the image of his fine muscular form, his charming smile, and the flattery of it all.

And then… he had come to her father practically begging for her hand in marriage. Her father had agreed and was now his old self again, pleased that his family circumstances would improve, as were her sisters who would also benefit from her marriage.

Which was why this letter was probably a mistake.

Adelaide set down her quill.

No… I must not write to William. It would be the equivalent of sticking a hot poker into a hornet’s nest and stirring it around.

She was engaged to Theodore now. William had been gone from Yorkshire for more than a year, and he had left without expressing any feelings for her, other than friendship. She had shed enough tears and waited too long for letters that never came. Her good sense told her she must forget him once and for all and move on with her life. Without him.

Rising hastily from the chair, she padded across her candlelit bedchamber to the fireplace. The flames danced wildly in the grate and the charred log snapped and crackled in the silence of the room.

It was nearly midnight. She should go to sleep and forget about the past. In three weeks she would marry one of the greatest men in England and become Duchess of Pembroke. Her family would rise very high in the world, and she suspected there was some promise of a generous settlement that would end her father’s financial hardships.

Knowing that she must act responsibly and dutifully, she padded back to her desk, crumpled the letter that began with ‘Dear Mr. Thomas,’ and threw it into the fire. Then she snuffed out the candle and climbed into bed.

The following day, Adelaide struggled with her decision not to write to William.

How can I marry without a word to him? Surely he deserves to know. What will happen when—if—he comes home from Italy and discovers I am a duchess and had not told him a single thing about it? He will be shocked and very hurt.

Adelaide frowned.

Despite the fact that William had inflicted great pain and frustration upon her lately—for he had not written a word since February—she could not bear the idea of hurting him. All her life he had been her closest friend. She could not take this step without telling him. He must hear it from her, and no one else.

That was it, then.

After dinner, she sat down at her desk and brushed the feather quill across her chin. She would write this letter and send it to him in Italy. William probably wouldn’t even receive it until after the wedding—so there would be no danger of him talking her out of it—but at least he would know she had cared enough to explain herself to him personally. And though she was angry with him for leaving her behind, she did care, more than words could say. More than she should.

Carefully dipping her quill into the rich black ink, she touched it to the page and began, at last, to write.

My dear Mr. Thomas,

There is something I must tell you…

Two

William was half in his cups when he returned home from the doctor’s dinner party at the villa. He had not yet learned how to keep pace with the Italians and their constant flow of fine wine, but he was no quitter, dammit. And by God, he enjoyed their hospitality and was learning a great deal about things that were of enormous interest to him.

Human anatomy. Medicines. The workings of the brain.

They were fascinating subjects, and he was thankful to have been given the opportunity to travel here. Though he had not expected to remain so long…

Two years ago his sister had married an Italian count. Nine months later, William had come, at his father’s request, to acquaint himself with his new nephew.

Little did William know that he would discover a new passion, a life’s calling, while in the presence of his hosts. It happened on the day he arrived, when they’d introduced him to their neighbor, Giulio Donatello, a prominent Italian physician and medical researcher.

Since that day, William had immersed himself in every medical book he could lay his hands on, and was considering a life devoted to science and discovery and medicine, despite the fact that his father would most certainly frown on such pursuits. His father considered any profession outside of the church or the army to be well beneath his sons, for they were aristocrats—though not very highborn aristocrats in the greater scheme of things. William’s father was viscount, and as a second son, William was a mere ‘mister.’

Not that it mattered. William never coveted his father’s title. Instead, he craved freedom—freedom to choose his own path in life.

And tonight he felt positively euphoric. Donatello had invited him to attend a dinner at the Vatican the following week with a group of physicians that had come all the way from Amsterdam.
As William made his way up the stairs to his bedchamber, he realized it had been months since he’d written a letter home. He felt a sudden compulsion to pick up his quill and write to Adelaide about all that had happened recently. He wished she were here so that he could show her all the wonders of Rome. It had been too long since they’d sat in the same room together, or went riding across the moors, or swam under the waterfall on her father’s estate. God, how he missed her.

She would celebrate her nineteenth birthday soon. A woman, at last. Perhaps, finally, it was time to go home, for he had been waiting a very long time to declare his feelings. His whole life, it seemed.

When he reached the door to his bedchamber, he entered quietly, as it was late and he did not wish to wake anyone in the household.

He closed the door behind him and set the candle down on the cabinet to his left.

Shrugging out of his dinner jacket, he glanced at the fireplace. The kindling was laid out for him, but he did not wish to light a fire on such a warm summer night. A few candles at his desk would serve him well enough.

William tossed his jacket over the upholstered bench at the foot of his bed, but as he tugged at his neck cloth, he noticed a letter on the corner of the desk. It must have been delivered while he was out.

Quickly, he crossed to it, picked it up, and turned it over. As he beheld the familiar red seal, his heart leapt, for the letter had come from Adelaide. What perfect timing.

Surely there was some form of destiny at play here, for now that he knew his true purpose in the world, he had been thinking such wonderful thoughts about the sort of future they could enjoy together.

He tore eagerly at the seal, sat down in the chair, and began to read…

My dear Mr. Thomas,

There is something I must tell you. It hardly seems possible that I am writing this. I cannot believe it has been almost two years since you left Yorkshire. I am sorry for not writing to you more often these past few months, but recently I have been rather swept away by circumstances that I must now convey to you.

In May, I visited London for part of the Season. At one particular ball, I was introduced to a most illustrious person, His Grace, the Duke of Pembroke. If you were here, I would tell you every detail, but I cannot possibly write the words. To put it plainly, the duke has asked for my hand in marriage, and I have accepted. His Grace does not desire a lavish or extravagant wedding, so we will be married at his private family chapel, at Pembroke, in July.

The whole world turned white before William’s eyes. He rose abruptly from his chair and knocked it over onto the floor.

Adelaide had accepted a marriage proposal from a duke? No, it could not be!

I wonder what you must be thinking as you read these words. I hope you are not too terribly astonished.

This feels strange. I wish you had been here to advise me before I made my choice of a husband. You have always been my closest, dearest friend, and you have always told me the truth, even if it was not what I wanted to hear. But in this case, I am sure you would approve.

The duke is a handsome, pleasant, and very wealthy man. I am sure I do not need to explain what this means for my family. Father has been doting over me like never before, treating me like a fragile piece of porcelain, indulging my every whim. I am happy, of course, that he is so pleased, but there is a part of me that is unsure.

I wish you were not so far away, for you would know just how to ease my mind. You would help me remember my duty.

Perhaps I shouldn’t be writing to you like this, but I could not take this step without some word to you. I felt you must hear it from me

Please know that you will remain my dearest friend, William, and I will never forget what we were to each other, growing up as we did as neighbors here on the moors of Yorkshire.

Wish me well, as I will wish you well in return.

The next time you see me, I will be a duchess, but I promise to always remain the girl you knew.

— Adelaide

His stomach in knots, William slowly bent forward and picked up the chair so that he could sink down onto it. He sat for a long moment, stunned, trembling in the heart, then tossed the letter onto the desk as if it were infected with the plague.

A sickening ball of confusion rolled over in his gut while he fought to comprehend the truth of what he had just read. Perhaps this was not real. Perhaps she was playing a trick on him.

But no… Adelaide would never toy with his emotions in such a manner. They were friends. More than friends. They had always understood each other intimately, as few people do.

He had imagined she would wait for him, that when he came home to Yorkshire, he would propose marriage and she would accept. Had he not been clear about that? Had she not recognized his feelings and understood that she was far more than a friend to him? Apparently not.

It killed him to know that her father had taken Adelaide to London for the Season. In a way, William had considered her to be his own discovery, perhaps even his own private possession. They lived in the remote northern country. There had never been any competition from other men for her affections. Her father had no money to spare, so even the thought of a London Season for Adelaide had seemed out of reach.

William should have known better. He should not have taken her for granted. He should have predicted that her father would find a way to present her to important people.

William buried his face in his hands. It had been a mistake to remain in Italy so longand presume she would not venture out into the world without him. What a fool he had been to assume she would remain his.

But what was he to do now? Was it too late? Had he lost her forever?

No, that was not possible. She was his, and no other man would ever understand her, worship her, love her as he did.

Suddenly he was dragging his trunk out of the dressing room and tossing clothes into it with a mad urgency he could barely fathom.

He penned a brief note to Donatello to apologize for his unexpected departure, and to send his regrets regarding the upcoming dinner at the Vatican.

‘A personal emergency,’ William called it.

Indeed it was an emergency. Would he reach England in time? Or would he arrive too late to pour out his heart in plain words, as he should have done before, and stop one of the most prestigious weddings of the decade?

A Kiss Before the Wedding – A Pembroke Palace Short Story is available for purchase at:

Amazon Kindle for $1.99


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