SPOTLIGHT: By Loyalty Divided by Francine Howarth

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A 17th century story of Undying Love & Scandalous Seduction. All set against the backdrop of the English Civil Wars 1642 -1649. Co-starring Charles Prince of Wales (Charles II) and Prince Rupert.

Orphaned at royal court, Anna Lady Maitcliffe has embraced freedom from courtly restraint whilst residing at Axebury Hall Estate. Wilful and impulsive she wins hearts with ease, but Viscount Axebury duly rejects her romantic overtures, not once but twice and for good reason. Civil War is marching across England and he will soon be regarded as the enemy.

Distraught by his rejection she turns to another for solace, an older suitor whom she trusts above all others. Seduced by her feminine wiles Lord Gantry’s overt desire to possess her gives rise to new meaning of amour. Nonetheless she is trapped in a loveless betrothal. Fate suddenly intervenes and throws her and the viscount together, but hell lies before them and claims terrible dues in payment for their undying love for each other.

Excerpt

Axebury Hall Estate 1644: Royalist Household.

How dare he say that to her? She unhitched her knee from upper horn and leapt from the saddle. Was he blind or plain insensible?

Skirts raised and petticoats frothing she ran after him, but Morton was fleeing at great speed across the meadow toward the river. Hair like golden wings, silk smock rippling, he hauled it over his head and cast it aside. Still he ran, and at two yards two inches tall he could leap clumps of thistles with ease. All the while her skirts alas snagged, no matter how she tried to dodge the beastly prickles.

She thought him for sure about to dive in the river wearing breeches and boots, but all of a sudden he faltered, his knee crumpled and he fell. In her mad rush to reach him she almost tripped over his out-stretched leg, his cornflower blue eyes sparkling with mischievous intent. No serious injury had befallen him, for he heartily laughed and exclaimed, ‘Accursed rabbit hole.’ He then let fall his head to pillowed grass; a smile to his face the like she had not seen in days.

She seized her chance and fell upon him legs straddling his torso to prevent any attempt at escape. Her gown billowed about her in primrose yellow haze, and her dark ringlets cascaded forth to brush his face as she pinned his shoulders to the ground.

Expecting fierce resistance she was stunned that he would surrender so readily, though tinge of irony in voice. ‘Sweet, sweet Anna, you have the advantage in a most unladylike way and I at your mercy.’

She laughed, because this was the first time she had caught him in a running race: albeit thanks to a rabbit dig. ‘The advantage indeed, and I shall have you apologise for accusing me of having a fancy for Thomas Thornton, when it is you who hankers for a Thornton.’

‘Apologize?’ he stormed, eyes glaring in defiance, along with feeble and futile attempt to roll her off and away from him. ‘It’s written all over your face, and has been for weeks now. Who else but Thomas has stolen your heart?’

She resisted his every effort to discard her, despite the muscles of his bare chest tense in readiness for another attempt to impede her commanding position. ‘You’ll not get me off, Morton Gantry, Viscount Axebury,’ she said, emphasising his title. ‘Not until you apologise.’

A flicker of something indefinable gleamed in his eyes, his tone mocking in wont to tease. ‘I shall not be making apology any time soon,’ he said, a throaty chuckle, ‘for I know you harbour secret desires, and sooner or later it will become clear who the devil it is your affections are set on.’

‘And what of Catherine Thornton?’

‘What of her?’ he snapped, air of defence about him.

She relented in her grasp upon his shoulders and knelt upright. ‘Are you not in love with her?

Despite his face a mask of innocence, she was convinced him guilty of flirting with the one person who despised Anna Lady Maitcliffe with a vengeance. Why else would he be constant in attendance at Loxton House, if Catherine was not his heart’s desire?

He laughed again, seeming content to remain her captive. ‘Me, in love with Catherine?’

‘What else am I to think?’ she demanded, emotions taking hold against every effort to avoid exposure of her deepest feelings.

Astonishment swept to his face, his eyes perhaps searching hers for sense of reason to their present conflict. She couldn’t be sure but he seemed confused by her statement.

‘I grant you Catherine is fair of complexion, and pretty with it.’ He chuckled, tweaked her nose. ‘She’s quite unlike you, my little meadow nymph, what with her fancy airs and graces and heart set on a future lord as suitor, presupposing one willing to oblige.’

‘What need I for fancy airs and graces, when already of noble blood?

‘Of noble blood, true enough, but wild and reckless and impulsive and madly irritating at times.’

She punched his shoulder quite hard. ‘So, it is true, what the servants say. You and Catherine Thornton are sweethearts?’

Eyes blazing like white heat in a blacksmith’s brazier, he held her gaze. ‘And if we are, what odds is it to you?’

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About the Author

I’m a very private person and my “public life” is my “writer life” present tense and no comment on my writer past, which involved magazine, TV and radio interviews. I not only part owned a publishing and equine enterprise, my writing career started out as mainstream erotic author and romantic suspense author. In my spare time I reviewed novels for a famous magazine. Then, who knows why (?), but after a serious riding accident I fell into a mid-life writing crisis and started penning steamy historical novels. fhAnd, fed up with publisher fickleness for fashionable subject matter, and the fact Amazon had come of age, the idea of full control as author and publisher (again) appealed. Hence, I dropped my old pseudonym and set out to build a new writing career from scratch. And, here I am writing romantic historical Georgian/Regency murder mysteries and steamy swashbuckling historical romances. I have eclectic reading tastes, but history has always been my greatest love in terms of educational subject matter (since old enough to read), and historical novels became my life-blood in terms of entertainment value along with gleaning from family journals/diaries penned throughout the mid 1600s to late 1800s by my ancestors. My other great passion is that of art galleries, in particular portrait galleries and portraits are oft the catalyst to the penning of my novels.

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