Reviews – Lucinda Brant’s Roxton Family Saga

As I have added two new reviews to my thoughts on the Roxton Family Saga by Lucinda Brant, I decided to post them all again. If you haven’t read this great series, combining sweeping historical romance with the traditional historical family saga, please pick it up soon.


Mari’s Reviews of The Roxton Family Saga

(In reverse order, starting with the most recent release.)


Satyr’s Son

London, 1786. Lord Henri-Antoine has returned from the Grand Tour to a life of privilege and excess. A vast inheritance allows him every indulgence, free from responsibility. Yet, Henri-Antoine maintains a well-ordered existence, going to great lengths to conceal an affliction few understand and many fear.

Miss Lisa Crisp is a penniless orphan who relies on the charity of relatives to keep her from the poorhouse. Intelligent and unflappable, Lisa will not allow poverty to define her. She leads a useful life working among the sick poor.

Under startling circumstances, Henri-Antoine and Lisa meet. There is instant attraction. When they find themselves attending the same wedding in the country, Henri-Antoine offers Lisa a scandalous proposition, one she should refuse but yearns to accept. Following her heart could ruin them both.

Review

In Satyr’s Son, the two most vibrant and visible children of the entire series, Teddy and Jack, find their happy-ever-after. (A match I predicted a few books ago, if anyone is counting). Teddy, daughter of Lady Mary Cavendish (Proud Mary), and Jack, brother of Deb, Duchess of Roxton (Midnight Marriage), each only had secondary or tertiary billing in past books, but nevertheless stole the scenes in their much-younger years.

However, they are not the central HEA, even though most of this book plays out at their wedding. (As such, I put forth the notion that Teddy and Jack were, in fact, robbed of their own book. I am hopeful these two will appear in the Roxton Family Letters, Volume Two, and would urge Brant to fill in the outlines of their story in a future bonus novella or short.)

Now, as to the actual hero and heroine of Satyr’s Son: Henri-Antoine (Harry), second son of Monseigneur, the former Duke of Roxton (Noble Satyr)—the great love of matriarch Antonia’s life—and brother to Julian, the current duke, is thumped in the head sideways by love of another commoner (following Christopher Bryce from Proud Mary), Miss Lisa Crisp, bosom friend of Teddy, niece to Antonia’s former lady’s maid, and beneficiary of the Duchess of Kinross’s quiet patronage.

The two main characters meet in the throes of the hero’s deepest vulnerability, and she manages to help him mask it from the rest of the world, which sets the stage for as many displays of ducal emotional armor as we ever saw with his father. Harry has been able to manage ill health his entire life with the help and support of enormous wealth, a loving, if intrusive, family, and the innate dignity instilled by Monsiegneur. His noble upset is handled with a different sort of grace than Monseigneur (and Antonia) always displayed, but grace nonetheless. His core fragility, however, is the perfect complement to his heroine’s core competencies.

Also complementary are their plans for each other—at first. As she is not of noble blood, he sees her as a mistress, and she agrees; how else will she spend time with a nobleman she is falling in love with, when he will surely have to marry in his own class? But Teddy, Jack, Antonia, and the rest of the family will not have it.

As his father did before him, he comes to what is left of his senses after Cupid’s assault, but requiring a similar sort of brick to the head as Monseigneur did when Antonia captivated him. Harry is not his father—he is more serious (by necessity), less frivolous, more intellectual, more goal-driven.

But he is similar enough. The haughtiness, the charm, the gloriously handsome physique, the seemingly blithe pursuit of pleasure, force a look backward: if the son invokes the “ducal defense” to cover up his great vulnerability, what then, was the father’s weakness? And in what ways did his heroine help him overcome it? Perhaps Monseigneur himself will be revealed in the next volume of the Roxton Letters.

As this has been billed as the last book in the Roxton Family Saga (barring the forthcoming epistolary Volume Two of the Roxton Letters), we can now bring some things full circle, and review the arc of the saga. There were many, many characters’ stories left unexplored in this series, among the most obvious, Teddy and Jack, and Estée and Vallentine. (Evelyn warrants a spin-off mystery series.) Since this is a specialty of Brant’s—tugging at threads of stories to create new books—one hopes for a “Next Generation” series, or more shorts, or some similar device to keep the Roxtons on the shelves for many years to come.

However, overall, from Noble Satyr to Satyr’s Son, she expertly weaves two genres into a comfortable whole: historical romance, of course, of the most glorious and sweeping sort; but also the traditional historical family saga, leading three generations through trials and tribulations equal to their great wealth and privilege.

Buy Satyr’s Son Here


Proud Mary

1770s Gloucestershire and Hampshire.

Widowed and destitute, Lady Mary Cavendish is left with only her pride. Daughter of an earl and great-granddaughter to a Stuart King, expectations demand she remarry. But not just any man will do; her husband must rank among the nobility. As always, Mary will do her duty and ignore her heart.

Country squire Christopher Bryce has secretly loved his neighbor Mary for many years. Yet, he is resigned to the cruel reality they are not social equals and thus can never share a future together. Never mind that his scandalous past and a heartbreaking secret make him thoroughly unworthy of such a proud beauty.

But with the help of a family ghost, and the never ordinary members of the Roxton family, Mary and Christopher realize that a happily ever after might just be possible.

Review

One thing Lucinda Brant does particularly well in The Roxton Family Saga, a perennial favorite of mine, is tugging at the strings of stories left hanging to be woven into later books. So, in this case, we get to know Lady Mary Cavendish, whom we have met ever-so-briefly in prior books: the ill-used wife of the obnoxious Gerald Cavendish. Now, however, Mary is a sensible widow in reduced circumstances, ready to do her duty by the Roxtons and her daughter, Teddy, marrying well to meet the demands of her family’s position.

Both Mary and her hero, country squire Christopher Bryce, are a healthy distance from the loftiest heights of the Roxton inner circle (as far away as Antonia ever allows any family member), and provide an earthy, almost-but-not-quite populist balance to earlier books (and, one hopes, new, more rigorous blood—and political philosophy—to the family tree). Mary is the most practical and pragmatic of Brant’s heroines thus far, and Christopher is almost too steady and comfortable to be a hero in a sweeping romantic novel, with an unremitting sense of duty similar to the Duke of Roxton.

The Roxton series is exceptionally good at showcasing the extravagant, over-the-top surroundings of a families of enormous wealth and aristocratic breeding. While characters do appear who are of more limited means or lesser class status (not usually both), the overwhelming majority of characters and settings highlight and glorify the opulence of the Georgian period. In this book, however, we are given a heroine who is of noble blood, but gentry spirit, and a hero with some money, but limited status.

As important as meeting the heroine of this book, we meet her daughter Teddy, whom we have also seen in brief flashes in prior books, but who has intrigued from her first appearance. She is central to her mother’s life, and so must be central to the reader’s attentions. The contrast between the irrepressible, headstrong Teddy and [all but one of] the other children in Brant’s books has always been especially marked, even if brief. Brant includes children—one cannot populate a multi-generational family saga without them. However, with two notable exceptions (I made a prediction months ago about them, which I shall reveal in due course), they are loved deeply by the central characters in the books, but to some degree sidelined in the narrative. This is, in part, the nature of children who have less life experience to draw from; in part, the “arms’ length” Georgian child-rearing system; and in part, the authorial privilege of backgrounding different parts of the story. But because of this shunting aside, when the compelling and arresting Teddy—who will never, ever allow herself to be shunted anywhere—walks onto the stage in Proud Mary, she is in full-color, larger than life. When she is in the proscenium, you will not be able to look away.

While Mary dithers, and Christopher quietly and competently ensures the safety of her family, each of these characters must come to terms in their own way with the fact that Christopher provides a sort of security to Mary and Teddy that cannot be bestowed by a title or instilled by great wealth.

Buy Proud Mary Here


DD-ecover-0180Dair Devil

1770s London and Hampshire.

Alisdair ‘Dair’ Fitzstuart, hero of the American Revolutionary war and heir to an earldom, known by all as a self-centered womanizing rogue. But his dashing and rugged façade hides a vulnerable man with a traumatic past. He will gamble with his life, but never his heart, which remains his own.

Aurora ‘Rory’ Talbot, is a spinster and pineapple fancier who lives on the periphery of Polite Society. An observer but never observed, her fragile beauty hides conviction and a keen intelligence. Ever optimistic, she will not be defined by disability.

One fateful night Dair and Rory collide—the attraction is immediate, the consequences profound. Both will risk everything for love.

Review

Once again, Dair Fitzstuart is a hero I’m not inclined to like. He starts the book as a buffoon, more than anything else, thoughtless, indiscreet. But oh, so very handsome while he does it. My primary problem with Dair is that he too quickly throws off that bad boy image, and shows himself all that is decent and honorable. He lacks the darkness that imbued both Dukes of Roxton, and to a lesser extent, the Duke of Kinross, and that change in tone is a noticeable departure for the series. Dair is an unquestionable good guy. (And I admit, I like my heroes with a dash of villain.)

Rory, while his match in goodness, continues Brant’s tradition of heroines I can adore. She lives with a disability, but the limitations it presents are, in the main, self-imposed, and certainly not a barrier to her happy ending (if the hero has anything to say about it, and he does). She is a gentler, quieter personality than Brant’s other heroines, and is more a bluestocking, but no less opinionated or forceful or engaging.

Both hero and heroine, though, come to the first meeting with baggage, One thing I love about the Roxtons is that Brant never stints on the trials and tribulations, in this case, spying and political intrigue. She is very good at tying her books together by overarching story arcs and by intertwining characters in each other’s stories, so it is highly recommended her series be read in order, but it is by no means required.

Buy Dair Devil Here


EY-ecover-0180Eternally Yours: Roxton Letters Volume One

Previously unpublished letters from the private correspondence of the Roxton family, spanning 1743–1777, with extracts from the diaries of Antonia, 5thDuchess of Roxton and 7th Duchess of Kinross. Includes Roxton’s last letter to Antonia. Volume One complements the early chronology of the award-winning Roxton Family Saga: Noble Satyr, Midnight Marriage, and Autumn Duchess. With a foreword by a late-Victorian descendant, Alice-Victoria, 10th Duchess of Roxton.

Review

I have an inherent bias toward epistolary fiction, as it is among my favorite forms to write, including a forthcoming novel that is about a third correspondence and written commentary. However, because it is an area of particular literary interest, I am very picky about it.

Writing in a character’s written voice is a special skill, especially placed in a different era, where not only the tone was inherently different, but also the rhythms, the conventions, the level of formality. When a letter has to stand in place of hearing a voice or seeing a face, and must span time and distance, how do characters manage the emotional events of lives spent separated from loved ones in a way we, of Skype and email and international airlines, cannot fathom? Done poorly, it can destroy a book. Done well, with a deep understanding of the characters, the situations, and the times, it can add a layer of detail and depth that cannot be found in narrative and dialogue. How a man writes a letter is as distinct as his speech.

Now, consider writing letters not only for one character, but several. Not just an emotional event, but THE emotional events alluded to in the first three Roxton books. Brant is able to bring characters back who have left the Roxton family for one reason or another, and explain the genesis, or end result, of stories left untold in the series.

Brant’s book have made me laugh and cry; I would not read the entire catalog of an author who doesn’t. This book, though, was in a class by itself, emotionally speaking. In this volume, we say goodbye to some series favorites, finally learning the details of their fates, and are given hope for the future. (And there is a future planned for this series!) I am not a weeper, in the main, and am rather cynical, even (some days, especially) about romance novels, but this was a box-of-tissues-by-the-bedside book.

Buy Eternally Yours Here


AD-ecover-0180Autumn Duchess ***SPOILER ALERT***

1770s England: Treat, the ancestral home of the dukes of Roxton.

Antonia, Dowager Duchess of Roxton, has mourned the loss of her duke for three long years. Her grief is all-consuming. Then into her life steps a most unconventional man.

Jonathon Strang, East India merchant and widower, lets nothing stand in the way of success, in business or in pleasure.

On spying Antonia, Jonathon is immediately smitten. He sees a beautiful woman who has not only lost the love of her life, and her exalted position in society, but is bullied, badgered, and totally misunderstood. She needs someone to talk to and a sympathetic shoulder to cry on.

Antonia’s opinion of Jonathon is less charitable. Insufferably arrogant. Overbearing. Dangerous. She must keep her distance. Better still, she will ignore him and pretend they had never been introduced.

Review

This book represented a radical change in the series, and as such, I could not review without spoilers. You can go see it on Goodreads at your discretion. 🙂

Buy Autumn Duchess Here


MM-ecover-0180Midnight Marriage

1760s England and France: Based on real events, a hasty midnight marriage establishes a dynasty.

Just twelve years old, and drugged with laudanum to make her compliant, Deborah Cavendish is woken in the middle of the night and married off to a distraught boy not much older than herself.

Years later, Deb stumbles across a wounded duelist in the forest, and it is love at first sight. Deb has no idea the wounded duelist is in truth her noble husband Julian Hesham, Marquess of Alston, returned to England after years in exile to claim his wife.

Remaining incognito, Julian is determined Deb will fall in love with him, not his title, and sets out to woo her before she can be seduced by a persistent suitor with ulterior motives. Their marriage, and the future of the Roxton dukedom depend upon it.

Review

This was the first Roxton book I read, which I count a good thing. Had I been comparing Julian with his father, the Noble Satyr himself, I might not have liked him as a hero. Roxton he is not (yet).

He is another hero who begins as less than attractive. Julian at the age of fifteen is drunken, petulant, and mean, and a few years later, returns from years abroad as a careless, entitled, sometimes-whiny youth, who shows signs of his father’s arrogance and disregard for emotional consequence to others. He is handsome and charming, to be sure, and with a wide streak of kindness, more in the manner of his mother than father, but he does not demonstrate empathy in any great quantity, or at least, he does not value it highly.

Deb is a heroine after Antonia’s heart. Gutsy, snappish, and more concerned with the people she loves than propriety. She is an unlikely heroine for Julian. She seems too spirited for him, too grounded, too honest, for a man who is too young to be jaded. That she has her own mind seems, at times, to be some sort of divine karmic retribution. She is not a lady willing to accept her lot, but who will fight for her happy ending. And win.

Midnight Marriage features another cast of lovable secondary characters, including some young enough to appear in later books in the series, and the return of the duke and duchess, now parents, with different priorities, but the same palpable love that places them always in the center of each other’s world.

Julian could have grown to be a different, much less pleasant, man, without Deb’s influence, and I might have then liked the later books in the series far less. Thankfully, however, she tempers him, humbles him, and reminds him of the depth of his honor.

Buy Midnight Marriage Here


NS-ecover-0180Noble Satyr

1740s France and England—the age of hedonism and enlightenment.

Renard, Duke of Roxton, head of an ancient noble family, is wealthy beyond measure. Arrogant, and self assured, this noble satyr is renowned throughout Europe as the consummate lover of other men’s wives, but Roxton’s heart remains his own.

Beautiful, optimistic, and headstrong, Antonia Moran is determined to flee the Court of Versailles and escape the lascivious attentions of the predatory Comte de Salvan.

Antonia orchestrates her escape with the unwitting assistance of the Duke of Roxton, a man she has been warned against as too dangerous for her to know. Roxton is an unlikely savior—arrogant, promiscuous, and sinister. Antonia’s unquestioning belief in him may just be his salvation, and her undoing.

Review

I admit to a certain bias: I claim the Duke of Roxton as my forevermore book boyfriend. Of course, I mean the man who existed directly before the start of this series, who hadn’t yet fallen in love with his Mignonne, because after that, frankly, he is useless to me (or any other woman). And if there was ever a woman with whom I have no wish to compete, it is Antonia.

Roxton is hard to get to know, both by his author’s design and his own. He is not a simple hero with a pure love for an angelic heroine. He is hardened and arrogant and callous, a jaded courtier who wields his power with as much force and precision as his rapier. One cannot tell, in the earliest stages of the book if we are meeting hero or villain. (I contend the character himself isn’t quite certain.)

By contrast, for all the book is named for him, Antonia immediately takes center stage as the heroine around whom his world will eventually turn. She is a bright light that shines on every page, exactly the kind of heroine I love: smart, spirited, fearless, genuine, with no love for rules or social constraints. When she sets herself on a course, she will not stop until the race is run… rather like her hero, though sweeter and kinder when confronting an obstacle.

There is a significant age difference between the young and sprightly Antonia and the aging roué, though not so much as to frame him as lecherous, and by the way he is written, there is no doubt of his appeal to her, to a wide variety of beauties in the French Court, and to any woman with a pulse who has a penchant for rakish dukes. He is old enough to sleep alone when it suits him, and young, handsome, rich, and virile enough to never need to. She is young enough to romanticize him, but wise enough, after some time in the decadent and permissive French court, to know what she will find in his bedchamber when she goes looking.

Both hero and heroine are charming and intriguing, for exactly opposite reasons. He because he is enigmatic; she because she is forthright. He because he tries so hard to follow the rules (where she is concerned); she because she tries so hard to ignore the fact rules exist. He because he thinks himself unworthy; she because she never doubts his worth, and never loses sight of her own. She is the only person for whom he will change any detail of his life, and she never once asks him to.

Because I am a sucker for a good villain, it must be said that along with wonderful secondary characters, Brant brings us three villains, all working at mutual or cross purposes at different points in the book. Between them, Brant covers nearly all of the seven deadly sins (and more): le comte de Salvan is a villian by greed and lust; le viscomte d’Ambert by cowardice and sloth; and the Countess Strathsay by carelessness and envy. And none of these have such weak teeth that they can be overcome by a show of ducal force. They attack and fall back in turn, nipping at the heels of the hero and heroine even to the bitter end of the book.

Set in the lush locale of Louis XV’s Versailles and the England of George II and III, Brant brings us into the 18th century by grasping our senses—the smell of the streets of Paris, the sound of carriage wheels in the courtyard of a noble hôtel, the taste of brandy choked down to deaden pain, and of course, rich descriptions of the rooms, the clothes, the sumptuous life lived in (arguably) the historical cradle of Western hedonism. With an equally deft hand, we are placed in the center of tense political intrigues endemic to royal courts through history, with players particularly suited to survive that cutthroat world.

Throughout the Roxton series, Lucinda, again and again, shows the highest levels to which historical romance can be taken. These are not “pulp” books, but smart literature in the vein of earlier generations of female novelists, who no one would now call “romance writers,” because they are studied in the canon, but who offered the same fictional escape to her female readers in the Georgian era as Brant does now.

Lucinda Brant’s books exemplify the historical romance genre for me. As a writer, I hope to emulate her excellent prose, as a reader, I just want her to write more books, so I can move on from reading these again and again.

Buy Noble Satyr Here


About the Author
Lucinda-Brant-Author-picLucinda Brant is a NY Times & USA Today Bestselling author of Georgian historical romances & mysteries. “Quizzing glass & quill, into my sedan chair & away! The 1700s rock!”

Buy Lucinda’s Books Here

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The Cutting Room Floor – Blind Tribute

One of the most unique elements of Blind Tribute is the epistolary writing that underpins the narrative. Not only letters and telegrams you might expect in a certain type of historical novel, but also the newspaper editorials the main character, Harry Wentworth, writes about the issues of the day (in the 1860s in America, slavery, secession, and the Civil War). However, as with any novel, there were many pieces of the book left on the cutting room floor. In this case, one of the shortest editorials ended up replaced with:

“Today, however, would be a true day of rest, which always required solitude. He knew he needed to consider how to address General Sherman’s despicable show of force, as well as the fact that his family, friends, and colleagues were still spread out across the Confederacy, about to be trampled by the annals of history, if they hadn’t been already.”

So, indicative of the flavor of the dozen or so editorials that remain in the book, today, I am offering up an exclusive look at one that didn’t make it through the final editing round.


December 3, 1864

MERCIFUL HONOR
by P. H. Wentworth III
National News Editor

Reader:

An age-old weapon in the waging of war is a heavy-handed, uninhibited use of force by the prevailing army. While force is clearly the objective of any armed conflict, the spectacular nature of such a campaign is undisputed and has been the making of many wartime triumphs. This will likely be the case with the long, terrifying, and ruthless march of General Sherman, which began with the burning of Atlanta and continues unchecked through the countryside.

I am not conflicted as to the validity of such an act of war, nor the rightness of using all necessary force to put down the Rebellion. Such a crusade—as it has been for centuries—is the consequence of many failed military actions. Compassion and mercy are rare in a clash between generals, and Sherman’s actions do not disappoint in this regard. This serves as a microcosm of the gratuitous destruction of the entire South, and a warning to the losing side of what is to come upon their defeat.

There are many reasons such military exploits are not in the best interest of the Union Cause. While it is true that I have personal feelings about the burning, looting, and terrorist actions Sherman’s men are taking—fear for the lives of my family, grief at the destruction of the countryside I love, futile longing for a peaceful resolution—the primary arguments I present here are not predicated on my limited concern for what remains of the Confederacy.

Economically, this campaign and its larger context are the death knell of prosperity for the winners and those defeated. The wanton destruction of property that might otherwise be used to finance the dwindling Confederate Cause also ensures such material goods may not be used to repay debt raised in the pursuit of Northern victory, nor assist in the reintegration of the Southern States at the conclusion of this conflict. It also brings surety that global interest in a newly formed Union will remain elusive due to internal instability and a marked shortage of agricultural production. Additionally, this war in its entirety will leave America burdened with debt and our military inadequate to defend against outside invasion.

Societally, this march ensures a long-term, radical distrust of half the populace of a united nation. The willful ruin of noncombatants—women, children, the sick, the elderly—and the pilfering of already inadequate stores demonstrates that the South will be denied justice from their appointed overseers for many years to come.

Such a population will naturally eschew efforts toward integration. Sherman’s actions will only create additional reason for the Southern states to remain in defiance, in heart and mind if not in action, long after the cessation of combat. This is incompatible with the best interests of both a defeated South and a victorious North.

Further, perhaps least important to those carrying out General Sherman’s orders and possibly to you, Reader, this campaign impugns the honor of these men, and indeed the Union Cause itself. Assuredly, men given free rein to indulge their basest instincts will never be inclined to mercy toward their eventual countrymen, even with the Southern population vanquished. It is with great sorrow I predict continued atrocities against the populace long after the cessation of military hostilities. There is no telling what form this violence may take, but it is certain such punishment will be swift, terrible, and long-lasting.

I have not been a centrist in many months, and this remains true even with knowledge of Sherman’s troubling tactics, but I am justifiably concerned for the future of a unified nation. A Union victory is inevitable, as it has been since the first shots of the war, and the pillaging of the defeated Southern homeland serves no purpose but the unbridled terror of the conquered Confederate states. This has been the goal of nearly every military conquest in history, but in this instance, will only result in an irreparable tear in the loosely woven fabric of this new American nation.


Blind Tribute

As America marches toward the Civil War, Harry Wentworth, gentleman of distinction and journalist of renown, finds his calls for peaceful resolution have fallen on deaf—nay, hostile—ears. As such, he must finally resolve his own moral quandary: comment on the war from his influential—and safe—position in Northern Society, or make a news story and a target of himself South of the Mason-Dixon Line, in a city haunted by a life he has long since left behind?

The day-to-day struggle against countervailing forces, his personal and professional tragedies on both sides of the conflict, and the elegant and emotive writings that define him, all serve to illuminate the trials of this newsman’s crusade, irreparably altering his mind, his body, his spirit, and his purpose as an honorable man. Blind Tribute exposes the shifting stones of the moral high ground as Harry’s family and friendships, North and South, are shattered by his acts of conscience.

Buy in ebook or print at major online retailers.

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New Historical Romance from Heather King

The Missing Duke

By Heather King

When his father dies, Lord Adam Bateman refuses to succeed to the dukedom which rightly belongs to his missing elder brother. Whilst performing secret and sensitive missions for the Duke of Wellington, he continues his efforts to find his twin. The search has become Adam’s all-consuming passion, leaving no time for affairs of the heart.

Miss Lucy Mercier is also seeking answers. Her father, a tailor, had been used to make hot air balloons for various noble patrons, including Lord Adam’s sire. Believing the deceased Duke of Wardley had been involved in her papa’s failure to return from the Continent, she takes employment in Lord Adam’s household in order to discover the truth. Then she accompanies him on an important commission for the Allied Army, and finds herself having to guard against a growing attraction for a man she knows she can never have.

Are the two disappearances connected and will two heads prove better than one in the pursuit of answers? Will Adam and Lucy find true happiness together or will the past – and their different stations – rise to keep them apart?


Excerpt

Adam urged his hired roan to greater efforts. It was game enough, a little French blood horse of sleek lines and clean limbs, but somewhat one-paced. If only he had his Goliath under him! With a bloodline that traced back to the fleetest racehorse of a generation, Flying Childers, his black stallion would have eaten up the miles with his effortless stride. There was no sense in repining, however. Goliath was safe back in Berkshire and his owner must make the best of what was available.

By the time Gilbert Mercier’s message had reached him at a coffee-house in the Palais Royal, where he had been conducting a further meeting with Mrs. Perkins, the escaped balloon was already flying at speed across the roofs of Paris. Adam was therefore well in advance of the pursuers who had set out from Mousseaux. Nevertheless, the velocity of the globe was so great, due to the swirling gale, mere horsepower was insufficient to keep up with it and the balloon had soon stretched the distance between them.

The roan started to flag, so Adam drew rein for a while and allowed the animal time to recover. Negotiating the narrow streets choked with vehicles and pedestrians had been exhausting and time consuming. He turned on to one of the perimeter boulevards and on reaching an open stretch, the roan’s heaving flanks having lessened, he pushed on again. Above the trees, the balloon was still visible, although considerably smaller, its’ bright colours easily remarked against the angry black sky behind it. Without conscious thought, he pulled the horse up and stared at the receding object of his attention. Was the basket hanging nearer to the forest than it had been? Shaking up the bridle, he took a track into the wood and galloped as fast as he dared.

The balloon was definitely sinking in the sky. Catching glimpses of it now and then between the branches of the canopy – fortunately far thinner than it would have been, but for the war – he saw several flares of orange flame as the aeronaut worked to raise his vessel. It appeared to be having little effect; although now some miles distant, the globe looked to be shrinking. Buffeted by the storm, it swayed and tilted in an alarming fashion, tossing the flimsy wicker boat from side to side. With difficulty, Adam forced himself to remain calm. Panic would not serve either him or the man and woman in the basket. Lucy! He raised his eyes to the broiling heavens and sent up a silent prayer for her not to be harmed. She was everything he had ever dreamed of… although when the recognition of that had come to him, he could not conjecture. She was beautiful; she was intelligent, determined and brave. She had entered into that foolish masquerade with no thought for her safety, and then had allowed him to autocratically oblige her to accompany Madame Grancini and the silver to Paris. How dangerous a position he had put her in. How wrong could it have gone? Thank the Good Lord he had inadvertently provided her with a chaperone! Praise was also due to Captain Ratcliff for the measures he had taken.

Adam took a huge breath and swallowed a mouthful of rainwater. Even within the shelter of the trees, the drops were getting heavier and heavier; a steady veil of rain of the kind which soaked in minutes. The roan’s pink-red hide was turning a red-brown patterned with white foam. Water trickled from Adam’s hat and down the back of his neck. He could barely see for the stream of precipitation driving into his face and had, perforce, to trust to his horse’s instincts.

The roan proved sure-footed and they at last emerged from the relative darkness of the wood. The damp smells of peat moss and sodden earth lingered in his nostrils and he had to blink for a few moments in order to see properly. It took several seconds to find the balloon from this different perspective, and his heart plummeted to the base of his chest. The joyful red and yellow silk stripes had collapsed inwards and the craft was fast descending on the other side of the river.

Almost frantic now, he set spurs to his horse and charged along the road to find a bridge. To his relief, the aeronaut had managed to nurse his vessel to the other side of the Seine’s broad expanse, so at least they would not drown. A wry smile teased his cold lips. He would wring Lucy’s lovely neck for this start… and then kiss her into oblivion. Then, when she fully comprehended how many times he had died on this ride, he would pink both Gilbert and the balloonist on the end of his small-sword for allowing her into the machine in the first place. The time of waiting for her to trust him enough to confide in him was well and truly past.

Further ruminations were abruptly curtailed by the sight of the balloon jerking and leaping in violent parody of a mummer’s dance, before it dropped like the Prussian artillery which had cannonaded the distant palace of Saint-Cloud. Adam leaned forward over the roan’s neck and demanded another burst of effort. The little horse complied with a will and they clattered at full-pelt across a wide, many-arched wooden bridge. The balloon had come down in farmland to the north of the town and the sculptured, terraced gardens of the great château. Turning his back on this splendour without a second thought, Adam careered recklessly down the road bordering the river.

Dodging a cart laden with baskets of squawking poultry, and a peasant straddling a bare-backed nag reminiscent of Rosinante, Adam clapped heels to the roan’s sides and pressed on. The horse being too tired to jump a hedge, Adam was forced to waste precious minutes searching for a gate. By the time he reached the stricken craft in the corner of a field of barley, therefore, Lucy was already sitting on the inverted basket, one hand nursing her temple. The aeronaut was on his hands and knees, attempting to gather up the acres of sodden silk.

“Lucy! I mean, Mademoiselle, are you harmed?”

Her head shot up; her eyes were wide with shock. “Sir—? Lord Adam! How do you come to be—? You know who I am?”

He dismounted and ran to her side, drawing her up to face him. “Foolish girl, of course I know who you are.” Anxiously, he studied her. “Are you harmed?”

“Nothing of moment, my lord,” she answered. She lifted her hand towards her head. “’Tis no more than a graze, I am sure, though I will admit the place is tender. I will not consider it; I am fortunate to have escaped greater injury.”

“Indeed you are!” he said gruffly, to hide his emotion. “I have it in mind to throttle you for indulging in such sport. Whatever possessed you? And you, sir!” he called to the other man. “I should call you out for permitting her to join you in such a perilous enterprise.”

“It was an accident, my lord,” she protested, clutching the sleeve of his waterlogged coat. He could not tell whether she intended to hold him back or support herself.

The balloonist turned around… and Adam died yet another death.



About the author

A confessed romantic and bookworm, Heather King has always made up stories. Discovering Georgette Heyer’s Regency novels began a lifelong love of the era, although she enjoys well-written books from other times too. Heather’s stories are traditional romps – light-hearted and witty, with bags of emotion. You walk with her characters through the world they inhabit. She also writes Paranormal Shape Shifter romance.

Visiting her Dark Side as Vandalia Black, she wrote Vampires Don’t Drink Coffee and Other Stories which includes a novella set during the English Civil War.

When not looking after her two hairy ponies, three cats and boisterous Staffie X, or frowning over keypad or notebook, she likes nothing better than taking long walks and curling up with a good book.


 


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Weekly Serial Fiction: Never Kiss a Toad – Chapter Nineteen

Chapter Nineteen

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Toad poked his head around the door, wishing he were anywhere else, hoping not to be seen by anyone who might call him over to talk. Piero was already halfway across the room on his mission: distracting the comtesse so Toad could release the cats without being seen.

Piero made a path through the assembly with a touch to his left, a compliment to his right, a laughing remark over his shoulder. Toad breached the doors, Bey behind him on one side, Zajac on the other, the better to mask the wriggling burlap sack. The half-dozen cats were starting to move again in the bag, after he had dosed them with laudanum to bring them to the comtesse’s hotel particulier. Soon enough, they would start yowling if he didn’t release them.

To read the rest of Chapter Nineteen, go to the blog page.


About this Book

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David “Toad” Northope, heir to the Duke of Wellbridge and rogue in the mold of his infamous father, knows Lady Sarah “Sal” Grenford, daughter of the once-profligate Duke of Haverford, will always hold his heart. But when the two teens are caught in bed together by their horrified parents, he is sent away to finish school on the Continent, and she is thrown into the depths of her first London Season.

Can two reformed rakes keep their children from making the same mistakes they did? The dukes decide keeping them apart will do the trick, so as the children reach their majority, Toad is put to work at sea, learning to manage his mother’s shipping concern, and Sal is taken to the other side of the world, as far from him as possible. How will Toad and Sal’s love withstand long years of separation, not to mention nasty lies, vicious rumors, attractive other suitors, and well-meaning parents who threaten to destroy their future before it has begun?

© 2016 Mariana Gabrielle and Jude Knight

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Weekly Serial Fiction: Never Kiss a Toad – Chapter Eighteen

Chapter Eighteen

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Sally begged off the afternoon treasure hunt the fourth day of an interminable house party, claiming she had letters to write. Which was not untrue. Currently, she was sitting at the table under the window in the bedchamber she had been assigned, her little travelling desk open and a fresh sheet of paper headed with her name and direction and the date, followed by the familiar salutation:

Dear David,

Dear David, what?

To read the rest of Chapter Eighteen, go to the blog page.


About this Book

toad-and-sal-wattpad-cover-draft5

David “Toad” Northope, heir to the Duke of Wellbridge and rogue in the mold of his infamous father, knows Lady Sarah “Sal” Grenford, daughter of the once-profligate Duke of Haverford, will always hold his heart. But when the two teens are caught in bed together by their horrified parents, he is sent away to finish school on the Continent, and she is thrown into the depths of her first London Season.

Can two reformed rakes keep their children from making the same mistakes they did? The dukes decide keeping them apart will do the trick, so as the children reach their majority, Toad is put to work at sea, learning to manage his mother’s shipping concern, and Sal is taken to the other side of the world, as far from him as possible. How will Toad and Sal’s love withstand long years of separation, not to mention nasty lies, vicious rumors, attractive other suitors, and well-meaning parents who threaten to destroy their future before it has begun?

© 2016 Mariana Gabrielle and Jude Knight

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Weekly Serial Fiction: Never Kiss a Toad – Chapter Seventeen

Chapter Seventeen

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“As often as you boast about your reception at the French Court, Abersham,” Zajac said, “I’d think you would be more amenable to overtures from the ladies.”

Toad kept his eyes on his textbook. They were all supposed to be studying. That was the point of gathering thrice weekly, away from the clubs where they spent many of their evenings. But as they had become closer friends, it became more and more difficult to marshal the whole group’s dubious concentration.

And here was yet another attempt to corrupt him, probably because he was the only one who wished they would all be quiet.

To read the rest of Chapter Seventeen, go to the blog page.


About this Book

toad-and-sal-wattpad-cover-draft5

David “Toad” Northope, heir to the Duke of Wellbridge and rogue in the mold of his infamous father, knows Lady Sarah “Sal” Grenford, daughter of the once-profligate Duke of Haverford, will always hold his heart. But when the two teens are caught in bed together by their horrified parents, he is sent away to finish school on the Continent, and she is thrown into the depths of her first London Season.

Can two reformed rakes keep their children from making the same mistakes they did? The dukes decide keeping them apart will do the trick, so as the children reach their majority, Toad is put to work at sea, learning to manage his mother’s shipping concern, and Sal is taken to the other side of the world, as far from him as possible. How will Toad and Sal’s love withstand long years of separation, not to mention nasty lies, vicious rumors, attractive other suitors, and well-meaning parents who threaten to destroy their future before it has begun?

© 2016 Mariana Gabrielle and Jude Knight

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Weekly Serial Fiction: Never Kiss a Toad – Chapter Sixteen

Chapter Sixteen

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Sally was in her favourite part of her favourite room in the house, the conservatory, a grand space that opened out on to the terrace that led to the lawn. Her little corner had been marooned by the extensions and alterations planned by past duchesses, and the planting schemes of past gardeners. She and Toad had discovered it when he was seven and she six, wandering away from their mamas and nursemaids, who were admiring Jonny when he was the brand-new Marquis of Aldridge, heir to the Haverford duchy, in the main part of the conservatory.

To read the rest of Chapter Sixteen, go to the blog page.


About this Book

toad-and-sal-wattpad-cover-draft5

David “Toad” Northope, heir to the Duke of Wellbridge and rogue in the mold of his infamous father, knows Lady Sarah “Sal” Grenford, daughter of the once-profligate Duke of Haverford, will always hold his heart. But when the two teens are caught in bed together by their horrified parents, he is sent away to finish school on the Continent, and she is thrown into the depths of her first London Season.

Can two reformed rakes keep their children from making the same mistakes they did? The dukes decide keeping them apart will do the trick, so as the children reach their majority, Toad is put to work at sea, learning to manage his mother’s shipping concern, and Sal is taken to the other side of the world, as far from him as possible. How will Toad and Sal’s love withstand long years of separation, not to mention nasty lies, vicious rumors, attractive other suitors, and well-meaning parents who threaten to destroy their future before it has begun?

© 2016 Mariana Gabrielle and Jude Knight

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New Historical Fiction from Jude Knight

A Raging Madness

By Jude Knight

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Ella survived an abusive and philandering husband, in-laws who hate her, and public scorn. But she’s not sure she will survive love. It is too late to guard her heart from the man forced to pretend he has married such a disreputable widow, but at least she will not burden him with feelings he can never return.

Alex understands his supposed wife never wishes to remarry. And if she had chosen to wed, it would not have been to him. He should have wooed her when he was whole, when he could have had her love, not her pity. But it is too late now. She looks at him and sees a broken man. Perhaps she will learn to bear him. 

In their masquerade of a marriage, Ella and Alex soon discover they are more well-matched than they expected. But then the couple’s blossoming trust is ripped apart by a malicious enemy. Two lost souls must together face the demons of their past to save their lives and give their love a future.


Excerpt

17973986_803367466479488_289686069_n17976696_803367609812807_756542353_oAlex poured the coffee, his rinsed shaving mug doing service for Jonno’s portion. Ella sat and sipped while Jonno cleared the table and pushed the serving trolley out of the way. At Alex’s gesture, he sat on the stool again.

“Now, Lady Melville. What trouble are you in, and how can we help?” And should he believe a word she said? She did not act like a lunatic, apart from appearing half-naked in his room in the middle of the night. Apart from the panicked response to her brother-in-law.

That she had taken opium in some form was beyond a doubt. The contracted pupils, the loss of appetite, the shaky hand, the restless shifting in her seat, all spoke to that. Thanks to his injury, Alex had far too close and personal an experience of the symptoms to mistake them. The bruises on her jaw hinted that the drug taking might not have been voluntary, but perhaps her keepers needed to drug her to keep her calm.

Sane or not, Alex hoped he would not need to hand her back to Braxton. Her fear might be irrational, but when she had stood at bay, begging for his help, he had been thrown back ten years. Not that she begged him then. But he left camp on a short trip for supplies, and returned to find Ella married and much changed, her fire banked; her joy extinguished. That time, he had ignored her plight, hardened his heart and left her to the fate she had engineered. And had suffered with her as the consequences quenched her vitality and sucked away the last of her childhood. Suffered, and been powerless to help.

“I have been drugged,” Ella said baldly. “Twice a day. For weeks now. They won’t tell me why. If I refuse, they force me.”

“‘They’ being Braxton and his wife?” Alex prompted.

“And Constance’s dresser.”

“Go on.” He was careful to show no disbelief, no surprise.

“I have been kept in my room. They locked the door. They took all my clothes, my shoes. I saw you out the window and so I came. Will you help me, Alex?”

“I can take you to the rector.” Even as he said it he remembered the plump little man greasing at Braxton’s elbow. Ella would find no help there.

“No!” Her rejection was instant and panicked. “He will give me back and they will send me to that place. No, Alex. You do not know what they plan for me.” She was weeping. Alex had seen her calm under cannon fire, dry-eyed at her father’s funeral, efficient and unemotional in the midst of the carnage of a hospital tent after a battle. He had never seen her weep.

He captured her hands, and kept his voice low and soothing. “I do not, Ella. Tell me.”



About the author

10726384_438048036344768_1967130616_nJude Knight’s writing goal is to transport readers to another time, another place, where they can enjoy adventure and romance, thrill to trials and challenges, uncover secrets and solve mysteries, delight in a happy ending, and return from their virtual holiday refreshed and ready for anything.

She writes historical novels, novellas, and short stories, mostly set in the early 19th Century. She writes strong determined heroines, heroes who can appreciate a clever capable woman, villains you’ll love to loathe, and all with a leavening of humour.



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Weekly Serial Fiction: Never Kiss a Toad – Chapter Fifteen

Chapter Fifteen

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Dear Toad,

Today’s letter must perforce be short, for we were delayed at a dress fitting. Now that we are home, Mama has sent for me to come to meet my callers, which I will not do until I have penned a quick note to my dearest friend.

Sally was tempted to underline the last three words, since her father would read this letter before Toad ever saw it. But she would not give Toad the satisfaction. She had overheard her parents and cousins talking about his exploits at different times—and in very different tones—though they all hushed the moment they knew she was listening. She had heard frustratingly little, but it seemed he had lost no time in seeking his own pleasures among the artists and dancers of Paris.

To read the rest of Chapter Fifteen, go to the blog page.


About this Book

toad-and-sal-wattpad-cover-draft5

David “Toad” Northope, heir to the Duke of Wellbridge and rogue in the mold of his infamous father, knows Lady Sarah “Sal” Grenford, daughter of the once-profligate Duke of Haverford, will always hold his heart. But when the two teens are caught in bed together by their horrified parents, he is sent away to finish school on the Continent, and she is thrown into the depths of her first London Season.

Can two reformed rakes keep their children from making the same mistakes they did? The dukes decide keeping them apart will do the trick, so as the children reach their majority, Toad is put to work at sea, learning to manage his mother’s shipping concern, and Sal is taken to the other side of the world, as far from him as possible. How will Toad and Sal’s love withstand long years of separation, not to mention nasty lies, vicious rumors, attractive other suitors, and well-meaning parents who threaten to destroy their future before it has begun?

© 2016 Mariana Gabrielle and Jude Knight

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Weekly Serial Fiction: Never Kiss a Toad – Chapter Fourteen

Chapter Fourteen

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When it chimed at five, Toad looked up at the clock from the head of his table for thirty, chewing on the end of his pen. His Accountancy textbook and stacks of reference books and papers covered four place settings on both sides of the host’s chair: geography and history, writing, accountancy, international trade regulations, and by his mother’s request direct to the administration, diplomacy. A table-top globe took up the space usually occupied by one of his mother’s three candelabra.

He had but one more week to study before his exams. He had hoped to meet his friends later this evening, his first night out in days, but until he mastered double-entry bookkeeping, he would not be able to enjoy the opera, the view of the opera dancers, or the rest of the evening. He would have had to make an early night of it anyway, since Bey would want to get home to his new mistress, and Toad needed to get through six more chapters before the morning.

He tugged at the hair now standing on end, his back straightening at the sound of footsteps coming up the building’s endless flights of stairs, then a knock. He made no move. Blakeley would take care of it.

Moments later, the butler cleared his throat at the dining room door, but before he could get a word out, “Clear the way, Blakeley. He should know better than to send regrets on a night like this.”

To read the rest of Chapter Fourteen, go to the blog page.


About this Book

toad-and-sal-wattpad-cover-draft5

David “Toad” Northope, heir to the Duke of Wellbridge and rogue in the mold of his infamous father, knows Lady Sarah “Sal” Grenford, daughter of the once-profligate Duke of Haverford, will always hold his heart. But when the two teens are caught in bed together by their horrified parents, he is sent away to finish school on the Continent, and she is thrown into the depths of her first London Season.

Can two reformed rakes keep their children from making the same mistakes they did? The dukes decide keeping them apart will do the trick, so as the children reach their majority, Toad is put to work at sea, learning to manage his mother’s shipping concern, and Sal is taken to the other side of the world, as far from him as possible. How will Toad and Sal’s love withstand long years of separation, not to mention nasty lies, vicious rumors, attractive other suitors, and well-meaning parents who threaten to destroy their future before it has begun?

© 2016 Mariana Gabrielle and Jude Knight

Save