by Anne Stenhouse
Genre Historical Romance
Tags Historical romance, romance, humorous, happy-ever-after, regency-style, dialogue-rich, love triangle
Release June 16, 2015
Editor Judy Roth
Cover Designer Charlotte Volnek
Lady Daisy should be ecstatic when her brother, the earl, allows Mr. John Brent to propose. She’s been plotting their marriage for two years. However, she is surprised to find herself underwhelmed and blames their distant cousin, Reuben, for unsettling her.
Reuben Longreach wonders whether the earl understands the first thing about Daisy’s nature and her need for a life with more drama than the Season allows. It’s abundantly clear to him that Daisy and John are not suited, but the minx accepts his proposal nonetheless.
Meanwhile Daisy hatches a plan to attach Reuben to her beautiful, beleaguered Scots cousin, Elspeth. Little does she know that Elspeth is the focus of a more sinister plot that threatens Daisy too.
Will Reuben be able to thwart the forces surrounding Daisy before she is irretrievably tied to John? Will Daisy find the maturity to recognise her dilemma may be of her own making before it’s too late?
- “Lady Daisy,” Reuben said when he entered a moment or two later. He bowed over her hand, and with a steely glint in his eye only she could see, lifted her fingers to his lips. She snatched her hand away as if he’d nipped it with the strong teeth in his gleaming smile. His eyebrows raised a fraction. Daisy stepped forward, and stumbling, trod on Reuben’s foot.
- “My apologies, sir. I had not realised you were standing so close.”
- Daisy sat down and her aunt reluctantly followed suit, allowing both young men to take seats. John crossed to the sofa occupied by Elspeth and dropped beside her. Reuben, who had begun to walk toward the lady, settled instead beside Aunt Mathilde. Daisy realised he had an excellent view of the whole room and all its occupants from there. She sent up a prayer for her mama’s instant recovery.
- My, my, she’s in a taking. The aunt looks as if she’s sucking on a lemon, and if the old lady purses her lips any harder they’ll disappear into her mouth.
- Reuben gathered his thoughts as he allowed his gaze to roam over the room’s occupants. It was annoying to him that Brent had taken a seat beside Elspeth, but on the other hand, perhaps it was to the good. The young lady now had two gentlemen below the age of senility prepared to talk to her.
- What has gone forward, I wonder. Elspeth was such a high colour when I came in, but she is calming down now. Brent is embarrassed. Aunt Mathilde is on her mettle to defend Daisy, I can see. Mr. Howie snores. And Lady Beatrice...
- “I am surprised my sister-in-law makes you quite as welcome as you obviously feel you are, Mr. Longreach,” Lady Beatrice said, interrupting Reuben’s satisfying perusal of the room’s occupants. “But then extra gentlemen are very useful in the evening.”
- “Why, and so I can be, ma’am, however, I am in London for reasons other than the wedding of the earl, you know.” Reuben smiled reassuringly at Elspeth whose beautiful eyes were clouded with confusion and embarrassment. How appalling it must be to know one’s mama was the daughter of an earl but had inherited only the manners of a partly civilised savage with little education.
- “Other reasons? What other reasons?”
- “You are awake, sir.” Reuben addressed Mr. Howie who had sprung suddenly to life. “I am playing a series of concerts, organ recitals in fact, at the request of the organising council of the Foundling Hospital.”
- “Those people,” Lady Beatrice snapped. “How much money this family has poured into their funds over the years, I shudder to compute.”
- “You compute, ma’am? I had thought you disdained any such activity lest it turn into nervous affliction,” Reuben said, causing John Brent to choke back a shout of laughter by pretending it was a cough.
- “Mama,” Elspeth protested, and Reuben thought she must be sorely provoked to draw her mama’s attention to her. “You know Uncle Frederick was a devoted supporter of the Hospital.”
- “Of course I know that, Elspeth. My brother was always taking on staff from their numbers and advising the rest of us to do so, but what is the point? If these people are the children of feckless women who were unable to support their children, why should we expect those children to be any better a prospect?”
- “You believe poverty is the fault of a wronged woman, Lady Beatrice?”
- “My wife has strong principles, sir. Organ recitals, huh. I had thought you knew of something more masculine.” Mr. Howie made his longest speech of his visit so far. “A mill, perhaps? You make a good showing at Jackson’s rooms, don’t ye?”
- “I go there for the exercise from time to time, but I need to take care not to injure my hands, so I am not perhaps as good as others who have no such constraints,” Reuben replied. He knew Mr. Howie would be little interested in any of the parties or other events arranged to mark the earl’s marriage. “I am not aware of any prize fights taking place while you are with the earl.”
- “Pity,” Mr. Howie allowed before dropping his head onto his chest again and going back to sleep.
- Reuben was aware of the ladies shifting around him. They moved their feet and smoothed the material of their dresses like so many hens in a coop. Lady Mellon would find her work cut out when she recovered her health. Although Daisy was trying valiantly, her aunt was an expert in creating unhappiness. Reuben knew it was time to act.
- “I saw your carriage being led off, Mr. Brent. Would it be available should we decide to take the air?”
- John Brent cast Reuben a sorry glance before replying, “To tell you truly, Longreach, I’d as soon walk out, if the young ladies did not object. My injuries, you understand, make coach travel deuced uncomfortable...”
- Reuben was instantly contrite. “I do beg your pardon, Brent. The repercussions from that sorry event seem to go on and on. However, I think a walk as far as The Grosvenor Chapel would be beneficial to the young ladies. Daisy, can the redoubtable Burtles spare you until luncheon?”
- The effect on Daisy was all Reuben might have hoped and more. She threw him a generous smile and nodded, but the euphoria of the moment was spoiled by Lady Beatrice.
- “I hope you do not intend to set in motion the idle habits you encouraged in Elspeth when you visited us in Edinburgh, Mr. Longreach. She will always be needed by her grandmamma and me.”
- “I think, ma’am,” Daisy said crisply, “you have stayed away too long and forget how many servants Toby employs. Elspeth must surely benefit from fresh air and a little exercise after the days spent in the coach.”