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SATURDAY SPOTLIGHT: Married for His Convenience by Eleanor Webster

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Tainted by illegitimacy, plain Sarah Martin has no illusions of a grand marriage. So when the Earl of Langford makes her a proposal that will take her one step closer to finding her half sister, she can’t refuse!

Sebastian’s dreams of romance died with his late wife’s affair, so now he needs a convenient wife to act as governess for his silent daughter. Yet Sarah continues to surprise and challenge him, and soon Sebastian can’t deny the joy his new bride could bring to his life—and into his bed!

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EXCERPT

But even as the thought passed through her mind, a hand clamped across her mouth and she was pulled against a hard, muscular figure.

She tasted cloth. Her heart beat a wild tattoo. Her body stiffened, paralysed not only by fear but an almost ludicrous disbelief as she allowed her valise to slip from her hand.

Dramatic events never happened to her. Ever.

‘If I remove my hand, do you promise not to scream?’ The voice was male. Warm breath touched her ear.

Sarah nodded. The man loosened his hold. She turned.

Her eyes widened as she took in his size, the breadth of his shoulders and the midnight-black of his clothes.

‘Good God, you’re a woman,’ he said.

‘You’re…you’re a gentleman.’ For the cloth he wore was fine and not the roughened garb of a common thief.

She grabbed on to these details as though, through their analysis, she would make sense of the situation.

‘What was your purpose for spying on me?’ His gaze narrowed, his voice calm and without emotion.

‘Spying? I don’t even know you.’ The rabbit squirmed and she clutched it more tightly.

‘Then why are you hiding?’

‘I’m not. Even if I were, you have no reason to accost me.’ Her cheeks flushed with indignation as her fear lessened.

He dropped his hand, stepping back. ‘I apologise. I thought you were a burglar.’

‘We tend not to get many burglars in these parts. Who are you anyway?’

‘Sebastian Hastings, Earl of Langford, at your service.’

He made his bow. ‘And a guest at Eavensham.’

‘A guest? Then why are you in the kitchen garden?’

‘Taking the air,’ he said.

‘That usually doesn’t involve accosting one’s fellow man.

You are lucky I am not of a hysterical disposition.’

‘Indeed.’

Briefly, she wondered if wry humour laced his voice,

but his lips were straight and no twinkle softened his expression. In the fading light, the strong chin and cheekbones looked more akin to a statue than anything having the softness of flesh.

At this moment, the rabbit thrust its head free of the shawl.

‘Dinner is running late, I presume.’ Lord Langford’s eyes widened, but he spoke with an unnerving lack of any natural surprise.

‘The creature is hurt and I need to bandage him, except Mr. Hudson, the butler, is not fond of animals and I wanted to ensure his absence.’

‘The butler has my sympathies.’

Sarah opened her mouth to respond but the rabbit, suddenly spooked, kicked at her stomach as it clawed against the shawl. Sarah gasped, doubling over, instinctively whispering the reassurances offered by her mother after childhood nightmares.

‘You speak French?’

‘What?’

‘French? You are fluent?’

‘What? Yes, my mother spoke it—could we discuss my linguistic skills later?’ she gasped, so intent on holding the rabbit that she lost her footing and stumbled against the man. His hand shot out. She felt his touch and the strangely tingling pressure of his strong fingers splayed against her back.

‘Are you all right?’

‘Yes—um—I was momentarily thrown off balance.’

She straightened. They stood so close she heard the intake of his breath and felt its whisper.

‘Perhaps,’ she added, ‘you could see if the butler is in the kitchen? I do not know how long I can keep hold of this fellow.’

‘Of course.’ Lord Langford stepped towards the window as though spying on the servants were an everyday occurrence. ‘I can see the cook and several girls, scullery maids, I assume. I believe the butler is absent.’

‘Thank you. I am obliged.’

Tightening her hold on the rabbit, Sarah paused, briefly reluctant to curtail the surreal interlude. Then, with a nod of thanks, she stooped to pick up the valise.

‘Allow me,’ Lord Langford said, opening the door. ‘You seem to have your hands full.’

‘Er—thank you.’ She glanced up. The hallway’s flickering oil lamp cast interesting shadows across his face, emphasising the harsh line of his cheek and chin and the blackness of his hair.

She stepped inside and exhaled as the door swung shut, conscious of relief, regret and an unpleasant wobbliness in both her stomach and knees.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Eleanor Webster has a passion for many things, the most ardent likely being shoes. But she’s also passionate about a story well told. With the help of some debutantes and viscounts and a twist of the unknown, Eleanor’s stories weave a tale of enchantment, hope, and most importantly, love.

When not writing, you’ll find Eleanor dreaming of being a world traveler, reading, running, reading, hiking in the wilds of British Columbia, where she makes her home with her husband and two daughters, and – did we mention reading?

Connect with Eleanor:

Website: https://eleanorwebsterauthor.com/
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Married for His Convenience by Eleanor Webster

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A plain countess…

Tainted by illegitimacy, plain Sarah Martin has no illusions of a grand marriage. So when the Earl of Langford makes her a proposal which will take her one step closer to finding her half-sister, she can’t refuse!

Sebastian’s dreams of romance died with his late wife’s affair, so now he needs a convenient wife to act as governess for his silent daughter. Yet Sarah continues to surprise and challenge him, and soon Sebastian can’t deny the joy his new bride could bring to his life – and into his bed!

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Publisher and Release Date: Harlequin Historical December 2016

Time and Setting: England, 1794
Genre: Historical Romance
Heat Level: 2
Reviewer Rating: 3 stars

Review by Wendy

The title of this book attracted me as I’m rather fond of the ‘marriage of convenience’ trope. There are a number of  potentially interesting plot lines in this story, but there are far too many of them going on at the same time to be plausible and none are particularly well developed, making it an easy book to put down.  What saved it – enabling me to give it 3 stars – is that it is nicely written with likeable characters.

Sarah Martin has led a rather sad life which luckily, has barely touched her – she has been blessed with a sunny disposition and mostly sees life through rose-coloured spectacles. Sarah lived the first years of her life with her older sister, Charlotte, and their glamorous mother in London, only rarely seeing her rather austere, much older father. After her mother’s death she discovers that she is illegitimate and that Charlotte is her half-sister; and unless I missed something in this tumult of happenings, I couldn’t quite work out at what point Charlotte disappeared into the depths of London. Perhaps it was when Sarah’s father made it clear that he was prepared to care only for Sarah… but in any case, he takes her home her to his wife. I bet that went down well! His wife is mentally unstable but is also a religious zealot and I’m sure her condition couldn’t have been helped by having her husband’s bastard dropped onto her when she herself is childless. Eventually he ups and dies leaving kind and caring Sarah to the not so tender mercies of her guardian.

Sebastian, Earl of Langford, needs a mother and carer for his severely traumatised daughter, who is part of just one of the too many plotlines running through this story. Suffice it to say that the child has withdrawn into herself and refuses to speak. Both his son and daughter were taken to France by his adulterous wife when she ran off with her lover, and he is now desperate to rescue his son.  His wife is now dead at the hands of Madame Guillotine and although Sebastian’s little girl has been returned to him, she has been so badly affected that she is unable to cast any light on what has happened to her brother. Understandably, Sebastian is not in a romantic state of mind and in his desperation to do the right thing, seeks for help with his little girl which in turn will free him to continue his search for his son.

Sebastian has witnessed Sarah rescuing and caring for a rabbit that had been caught in a trap. He sees this kind, soft-hearted girl in action whom he sees has a calming effect on damaged creatures and so it occurs to him that despite her dubious birth, she’ll do fine. He no longer wants love and finds it difficult to trust, so the fact that she has a caring and nurturing manner is good enough for his purposes. He eventually persuades Sarah to marry him, although not without difficulty, as she is aware that her lack of beauty, social skills and bastardy make her a poor match for an earl.  But once Sebastian mentions that they will go to London, she immediately agrees. Again another plot line that I will not go into.

Honestly, my head was buzzing by this time and I kept losing track of what was happening. I liked the main characters and there are some amusing moments, such as when Sarah is drunk on her wedding night, but on the whole the entire story is full of implausible plot lines, animals and children popping up all over the place. For instance, there’s a boy called Fred who listens at doors and immediately understands and acts upon complicated instructions. And there’s Sarah racing across the country on a horse when she can barely ride and with no clue as to where she’s going but miraculously ending up in the place she needs to be! There’s a mysterious character called The Lion – I’m still confused about him! And then there’s the authors unfortunate proclivity with the ‘word’ um… I started noticing this about one third of the way through the book and it was very irritating.

This was a difficult book to grade, because as I said the writing is good and the characters are likeable but it seems to me that the author has an overactive imagination and could have shared these plots amongst three books and developed them further to greater effect. So yes, Married for his Convenience did live up to its title, because the hero and heroine did marry for his convenience but there was just too much going on for plausibility.

SATURDAY SPOTLIGHT: No Conventional Miss by Eleanor Webster

No Conventional Miss
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She’s always been different…

Amaryllis Gibson is an unlikely debutante. She favors fact over fashion, cares not for “proper” conversation and is haunted by ghostly visions which could land her in the madhouse! Marriage is definitely the last thing on Rilla’s mind…

But when she’s caught in a compromising position with Viscount Wyburn, suddenly she finds herself betrothed! And worse, his powerful presence only increases her visions. By shedding light on the viscount’s past, can Rilla gain his trust and win him round to her more…unconventional traits?

EXCERPT

Lyngate Estate—1817

‘This sounds like yet another of your ill-advised schemes,’ said Paul Lindsey, Viscount Wyburn, with as much patience as he could muster.

‘Piffle,’ his stepmother retorted, shaking her grey ringlets. ‘It would be a crime to allow such delightful girls to languish in the country.’

‘But hardly incumbent upon you to rectify the situation.’ Paul stood by the mantel. His gaze drifted from the china figurines to the requisite pink, dimpled Cupids depicted across the drawing-room ceiling.

‘Who else will take them in hand? Their dear mother is dead, and Sir George has a predilection for horses and cards. Very sad.’ Lady Wyburn bent with apparent diligence over her needlework.

Turning, Paul sat across from his relative and studied her more closely. He drummed his fingers on the low rosewood table. Lady Wyburn was the only person on God’s earth he gave tuppence for, and he’d not allow some sticky-fingered squire to rob her blind.

‘Stepmother.’ He leaned forward on the ludicrously low sofa. ‘People tend to take advantage of you. If you recall, your young nephew—’

‘Not the same thing.’ She fluttered her hand in front of her face as though shooing a non-existent pest. ‘Rilla and her younger sister, Imogene, are charming. Imogene’s looks are exceptional and Rilla is refreshing. Not beautiful exactly, but exotic and interesting.’

‘Admirable attributes in a book or a flower.’

‘Don’t be flippant, dear.’ She waved her needlepoint, a colourful object of pinks and purples with no discernible pattern. ‘Anyway, Sir George hasn’t a clue how to find them suitable husbands and lacks the funds—’

‘And sees you as a lucrative prospect, I suppose.’ Paul shifted his legs, moving them away from the fire’s warmth, again drumming his fingers. He stopped. The noise irritated and revealed an emotional response he would not allow.

‘Nonsense. Sir George is an academic of repute. The only prospects that interest him involve ancient Greeks or Romans.’

‘Except for the occasional English racehorse. What about their dowries? Will you contribute to that charity?’ he questioned.

‘Dear Sir George would not agree. Besides, Rilla would create a rumpus. She is proud and not at all keen on marriage.’

‘That will be a change. Rilla? An unusual name.’ ‘Short for Amaryllis.’

‘How unfortunate. Her mother was in a botanical mood, I presume.’ But the name was unforgettable. He’d heard it before.

Good God!

‘Not that girl who rode the pig through Lady Lockhart’s garden at that party we attended before I went to the Continent?’ he asked with dawning comprehension.

‘A goat, actually. And she was younger then.’

‘You plan to present this…urn, young lady?’ A smile tugged at his mouth.

‘Rilla is much improved. And we all fall into scrapes in our youth.’

‘I do not remember riding stray barnyard animals.’

‘You were always a responsible youth. Besides, as I recall, you said it was the best part of the day.’

‘That was a long time ago.’ Paul stood and walked to the window, stifling a yawn.

‘You’re tired.’ Lady Wyburn spoke sharply. ‘You did not sleep well.’

Of course he had not slept well. He’d been at Wyburn, hadn’t he? He never slept well at his estate. Or within a ten-mile radius of that cursed lake.

He rolled his shoulders. ‘It is more likely the heat in this room and not my sleeping habits which make me yawn. Might we return to the subject of your neighbours?’

‘Delightful girls.’

‘Generally people you find delightful prove unscrupulous.’ He turned from the window with sudden decision. ‘I will pay my respects to the Gibsons this afternoon. I trust you will take note if I am dissatisfied with their character.’

‘I always listen to your insights. Ride over now, dear.’ Lady Wyburn waved a hand in the direction of the French window as if expecting him to leap through it on his mission.

Paul preferred a more conventional exit. ‘Goodbye, Stepmother,’ he said, kissing her cheek. ‘Enjoy yourself.’

‘As I would a visit to the tooth extractor,’ he muttered, striding from the room.

Miss Amaryllis Gibson sat on the wooden swing that hung from the lowest limb of the chestnut tree. She scuffed her feet. This was her favourite spot on the estate. She liked the view of their solid red-brick house. She enjoyed the ramshackle shapes of the dairy, wash house and stable. She even appreciated the smell, a sweet mix of soap, grass and horses.

But today, none of this helped. She poked the toe of her shabby black-buttoned boot into the earth.

She’d woken with one of her feelings.

Rilla hated her feelings. No, hatred would be a far preferable emotion. She feared them. They made goosebumps prickle her arms and her shoulders tense. She wanted to run or gallop, as though with enough speed she could escape from her own mind.

Pushing the swing higher, she breathed deeply. Her petticoats billowed as she stretched too-long legs, gaining height and speed. Loose strands of hair tickled her face and the fields blurred.

Briefly, her stomach lurched as she hung at the highest point, only to fly down in tumultuous descent. Momentum, it was called. Momentum fascinated her.

Many improper things fascinated Rilla: Roman aqueducts, force, gravity, Sir Isaac Newton’s theories and her mechanised butter churn. Unfortunately, no one appreciated such items, and her water-powered churn had only succeeded in flooding the dairy.

Rilla frowned. Of course, in London she’d have little time for her inventions. Proper ladies did not develop churns.

Or flood dairies.

Or have feelings.

Sliding to a stop, Rilla jumped from the swing. Even thinking about London bothered her. She had no desire for the city with its meaningless social niceties and the constant pressure to find a husband, which was, of course, the one thing she must not do.

How she’d always loved this tree. She liked its thick, sheltering canopy of green and the feeling of her own strength and invulnerability as she pulled herself, branch by branch, through its foliage. It was even the site of her first pulley. She could see it now, the wooden wheel and rope partially entangled within the twigs and leaves.

Could she? Just once more? After all, the rope should be removed for safety’s sake. With a thrill of forbidden pleasure, she looked about the still garden and drive.

Nothing and no one.

Stepping forward, she touched the trunk. The bark was rough under her fingertips. She inhaled. The air smelled wonderful, of wood, and earth, and mushrooms.

Scooping up the loose cloth of her skirt, she tucked it into the sash around her waist and grabbed the lowest branch. With strong, quick movements, she reached the pulley and, leaning forward, untangled the rope and tossed it to the ground below.

Done. She exhaled, allowing herself a moment to relax in this world of green light and dappled sun. A late-spring breeze touched her cheeks and the leaves rustled.

She would have stayed longer if she hadn’t heard the rhythmic clip-clop of a horse’s hooves. She stiffened. They seldom had guests, unless they were of the card-playing variety, but Father had given that up two months since.

Bending, she squinted through the leaves.

A gentleman approached along their rutted drive. He stopped his horse under her tree and dismounted with elegant, long-limbed grace. He was tall and lean with hair so dark it looked black.

Then it came.

The sensation was of loss and pain so intense her world spun. Branches and leaves joggled in a blur of green. Rilla gulped for air.

The world turned dark, as though night had descended.

Dimly she saw a lake, ink black and spattered with raindrops. So cold her fingers numbed and her grip loosened. She reached out, snatching a twig.She missed and, with a cry, fell through the sharp, splintering branches to the ground below.

She landed with a jarring jolt and gasped in shock and pain.

‘What –? Miss, are you all right?’ The voice came as if from a distance.

She opened her eyes. Daylight reappeared.

A man bent over he, a man different than any she had met before. The straight dark brows, unyielding jaw and mouth gave her the confused impression of harsh strength. Briefly, his stark silhouette seemed mythical – Hades searching for Persephone.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Eleanor WebsterEleanor Webster loves high-heels and sun, which is ironic as she lives in northern Canada, the land of snowhills and unflattering footwear. Various crafting experiences, including a nasty glue-gun episode, have proven that her creative soul is best expressed through the written word. Eleanor is currently pursuing a doctoral degree in psychology and holds an undergraduate degree in history and creative writing. She loves to use her writing to explore her fascination with the past.

You can connect with Eleanor at her website * ~ * ~ * Goodreads.