Notoriety is better than failure, witty and unconventional Rowena Fallows resolves not to marry wealthy aristocrat Thomas Brickdale.
Pressured by his family to marry and produce an heir, Brickdale exudes the kind of danger a wise woman avoids. He, too, has no wish to marry, but he’s not indifferent to the beautiful Rowena. He wants no more than to put this wayward girl in her place—and in his bed.
In desperation, Rowena challenges fate, gambling her reputation by fleeing to Paris but is soon plunged into a terrifying vortex of danger.
Destiny threatens to tear them apart, but in a shattering conflict of fury and desire, will Rowena and Brickdale surrender to love?
“The man is a rake!” Rowena Fallows turned to glare at her mother. “Whether Lord Brickdale is expected to attend the ball at Clifton House is of little consequence to me.”
“Mon Dieu! Of little consequence!” Lady Fallows’ gaze sharpened. “Have you taken leave of your senses? Think, girl! Think!”
Rowena braced herself for what she knew would follow. Her mother was never short of words and rarely paused for breath.
“The man is heir to Meadlow Court, which to my certain knowledge is the finest estate in Gloucestershire—twenty thousand acres no less! And let us not forget the very fact he is also in possession of a considerable fortune. Make no mistake; every single female will be casting an eye in his direction at Lady Mortimer’s ball.”
Rowena paced the room; her mother viewed every situation as a battle to win. But she was ready to do battle. “Not every single female, Mama. I, for one, will not be fluttering my lashes in his direction, no matter how vast his fortune.”
“Do not contradict me, Rowena, and do stop marching around the room. Now, as I was about to tell you, I have secured the services of Madam Arpel—at no mean expense I might add. I declare; her prices rise every time we visit. But no matter, she will create the very finest gown for you to wear to the ball. I shall make her well aware how important it is for you to outshine all the others.”
“Important? Important to whom, pray? Not me. I would as soon throw myself to the wolves than catch the eye of such a man.”
Rowena stopped pacing and regarded her mother with a bitter smile. “Am I to believe that you wish me to be paraded like one of the prize heifers in Papa’s herd? If so I would be wise to practice now. Moo-oo.”
Despite her jesting, Rowena felt a curl of mortification in her stomach. She hoped one day to marry, but to a man of her own choosing, a man she loved and who loved her and her alone, a man who would have eyes for no other woman. From all she had heard about Thomas Brickdale, he was certainly not that man.
Lady Fallows raised her hand in protest. “That’s enough! You are being ridiculous and I will listen to no more of this nonsense. How you form such opinions of a man with whom you have never been acquainted is beyond my comprehension.”
Still indignant, Rowena’s retort was quick. “I am saying nothing which has not already been said many times by people who are acquainted with him. Lord Brickdale and his pursuits are the talk of every social gathering, every coffee house. It’s no secret that he has kept company with a multitude of women, each of whom have, no doubt, desired to become the next Lady Brickdale, and all have said the same—he doesn’t have a heart. This man regards every woman as fair game. He toys with a woman’s affections for his own amusement. Mama, I have no intention of being listed amongst his conquests.”
“Enough of this nonsense. Really, Rowena, I blame your father for this propensity of yours to speak as you do. Never once has he attempted to restrain or discipline your waywardness. Therefore I must take it upon myself to make sure that you know what is proper to your position in society. Too long have you embarrassed your father and me with your outrageous antics. Too long have we made excuses for your behavior. But no more! You will conduct yourself in an appropriate manner when introduced to Lord Brickdale. Is that understood?”
For a moment, Rowena made no reply.
“Yes, Mama.” This battle would not be won today. But win it she would.
“That’s settled then.” Lady Fallows nodded. “Now I’m going to my room. It is unseasonably warm today and far better to be indoors with the drapes drawn against the sun. I suggest that you do likewise.”
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
I was born in Clifton, Bristol which is the setting for my Clifton Scandals series. I now have a home in France and although I’ve learned much about French history, it’s the Regency era, which I feel that I have the greatest affinity. This I attribute to my Clifton roots and a passion for the novels written in that time. I love the eloquence of speech and the manners of that time, and the characters portrayed. I am grateful to all those authors who have fed my passion, authors like the late, great Georgette Heyer, but, for me, Jane Austen reigns supreme, and Mr Darcy will always be THE perfect romantic hero. I always have my copy a Pride and Prejudice with me when I’m travelling and I never tire of reading it. I worked as a journalist for many years with the ATHENS NEWS, GREECE and have interviewed television stars in Hollywood. I now spend my time in France and England.
Visit Gloria on her website: http://gloriaburland.com