I first met the hero, Richard, the Earl of Stanton, many years ago when he was a drop dead gorgeous secondary character in my first ever attempt at writing a Regency romance. That attempt has not yet seen the light of day, but I always knew Richard would have his own story one day. I had no idea which lucky lady would share his journey until, one day, he ran up the stairs in his shirtsleeves and came face-to-face with an unprepossessing but sparky spinster who had absolutely no intention of ever getting married.
One year on from that meeting, Lady Felicity Weston’s fear of unrequited love is as strong as ever, but her circumstances have changed. She begs her mother to find her a quiet, unremarkable gentleman with whom she might be content, little realising she will end up with Society’s most eligible bachelor.
Here is an excerpt:
‘This is ridiculous. You are right. If we are to wed, we need to understand one another. And, I admit I have doubts. Not about you. Well, that is…’ She paused, her brows drawn together in a frown. ‘No, that is untrue. It is about you, but it is about me, also. You and me. Together. You see, I hadn’t thought…I never presumed to be presented with such a…such a…catch, if you do not object to my calling you that?’
Richard bit back a smile. He had been called a catch many times, he was aware, but never to his face before. And never by an earnest-faced female who appeared to believe herself unworthy of a ‘catch’ such as he.
‘You may call me what you will,’ he said, ‘as long as you promise not to use such insultingly offensive terms that I shall be forced to take umbrage.’
She laughed, revealing a glimpse of white teeth. ‘Umbrage? I always thought that to be a state applied to elderly dowagers. Do you sporting gentlemen consider it a fittingly masculine trait, my lord?’
This was better. The spirited girl he remembered from last year had surfaced, her face alive with laughter, her eyes bright.
‘Perhaps umbrage does not quite convey the precise meaning I hoped to convey,’ he conceded. ‘Which word, in your opinion, should I have used, if I am to portray a suitably manly image to my future wife?’
Disquiet skimmed her expression, then vanished. Had he imagined it? Was it the bald reminder that she would be his wife that had disturbed her? Her countenance was now neutral, but her eyes remained watchful and she made no attempt to answer him.
‘Would you have preferred me to use “offence” perhaps, or “exception”?’ He leaned closer to her, and said, ‘I do not, you notice, suggest “outrage” for that, I fear, would not meet with your approval any more than “umbrage”. It is too synonymous with spinsters, would you not—?’
Felicity stiffened. ‘Do not make fun of me, sir. I may be a spinster and, therefore, in your eyes, a poor, undesired thing, but I have feelings and I have pride.’
‘Felicity, I promise I intended no slight. The thought never crossed my mind that you might think I was making fun of you. I was…I was… Oh, confound it! Come here.’
He had run out of words. He clasped her shoulders and drew her close. A finger beneath her chin tilted her face to his. He searched her eyes. They were shuttered. She was rigid in his arms. Was she scared? Had she never known a man’s kiss? The thought, strangely, pleased him: knowing his wife had never experienced another man’s touch. But he must take care not to frighten her. He lowered his head, slowly, and put his lips to hers.
He almost recoiled in shock. He had expected ice. What he felt was fire.
The Prologue and Chapter 1 can be read by clicking on My Books/ From Wallflower to Countess /Prologue and Chapter 1 from the menu at the top of the page.