From the author of the widely acclaimed The Widow’s Redeemer, comes a new Regency romance from Philippa Jane Keyworth.
Six years after being jilted without a word of explanation, Julia Rotherham finds Lucius Wolversley standing before her once again–unexpected, unannounced, unwelcome. With her heart still hurting and, more importantly, her pride, Julia must chaperone her younger sister, fend off fortune hunters, orchestrate a fake engagement, and halt an elopement–all whilst keeping the man who jilted her at arm’s length. But what Julia doesn’t know is that this time, the Earl has no intention of disappearing, and this time, he has more than an explanation to offer…
When Julia Rotherham caught sight of Lucius Wolversley at her sister’s coming-out ball, her jaw shot downwards, her fan fell to the floor, and her feet stumbled backwards in quite an unladylike fashion. She blinked, but rather than the Earl’s presence being a trick of the mind, as it so often had been, he remained. She felt her fan pressed back into her hand by one of the servants, but her gaze could not be shaken from the man who had just entered the ballroom. He had not seen her yet, and she prayed that it would remain that way. If only the priceless crystal chandelier would fall down and break a hole in the ballroom floor through which she could be swallowed.
At any moment, according to decorum, he would come to greet the hostess, her mother, the woman next to whom Julia was standing. She absolutely could not speak to him. Why on earth was he here? Had he been invited? How dare he invade her home in this manner!
Julia’s wide green eyes flashed around the room, in the hopes that Peter Highsmith, who had greeted her mother just before Lord Courtenay, was still in the vicinity. Surely, he would lend her his arm and support her through this nightmare? They were friends, after all, despite the proposal he had offered and she had declined last year. Where was he? It was no use, thought Julia. He had already dissolved into the crowds.
The shock Julia felt at once again seeing the dark hair and cool eyes of Earl Wolversley gave way to sheer panic. He was closing in on her. She glanced about again. How could she escape speaking to him?
Her darting eyes found a path through the crowd. Perhaps if she ran now…. She looked back at her mother and father and knew in an instant she could not run. It was quite simply the most scandalous thing for a lady to do in the midst of a ball, and her mother would not forgive her for it.
The middle-aged woman, dressed in dark blue, began sending her eldest daughter excited looks. Julia could sense that her mother had spotted Earl Wolversley and her panic increased.
No, she could not run, but if she managed an athletic leap, she might dive under the seats lined up against the wall just to the side of her. A whisper of reason told her that this plan was also no good. Even if she managed to fit through the chair legs, she would most probably upset the occupants of said chairs, not to mention that it would be far more improper than merely running away.
Botheration! Why was it so difficult to form a devious, last-minute departure plan in the midst of a ball? One would think that, owing to the large amount of people, it would be easy to dissolve into the melee. Not for Julia Rotherham it seemed. There was a spacious gap between the Rotherham welcoming party and their guests, and her mother’s watchful eyes would catch and put a stop to her flight in seconds. Julia glanced again at the chairs next to her and huffed in frustration.
In mere seconds she would come face to face with the man who had broken her heart six years ago and not one decent plan of escape would materialize in her mind. Fiddlesticks! If only she had worn a better dress. She had not wanted to steal attention from her sister this evening—as if she could steal attention from her golden haired, Greek goddess of a younger sister—but the determination not to do so had led her to wear a plain evening gown with very little decoration and a rather high neckline. If only she had taken up her mama’s offer to buy her a new dress. She could have chosen a ravishing one. She would have had it made up in green silk to pick up her eyes and set off her rich brown hair. She would have asked Madame Trouleux to cut it daringly low. Oh, the preparations she would have made if she had known that Lucius Wolversley would be in attendance. She would have looked so enchanting that Earl Wolversley would have fallen on his knees and begged for her to take him back.
Ridiculous! She reprimanded herself silently. Her daydreams were even more foolish than her plan of running through a crowded ballroom or diving under a set of chairs. She closed her eyes and shook her head a little just to be sure she had rid herself of the ludicrous notions her panicked mind was manufacturing.
She opened her eyes again to see a much larger hand taking hold of her own. Before she could look up, she felt the briefest press of lips on her silk glove.
“Your servant, Miss Rotherham.”
After presenting her hand with a perfunctory kiss, the face before her rose steadily, its eyes intentionally evading her own. Her hand froze into position, and it was just as well that the Earl’s larger hand let go of it, for she would not—could not—have made the conscious effort to take it back.
After the first jolt of recognition, her lips became an uncompromising line and her eyes widened with anger. It took all her will power to keep herself from laying a stinging slap across Earl Wolversley’s falsely smiling face. Fortunately for him, the gentleman had turned back to her mother almost immediately after greeting her, thus avoiding the blow to the cheek that he richly deserved.
How dare he! She cast a look of fury in his direction. She could still feel the heat of his fingers where they had touched her silk gloves. She clenched her hand, pressing all her fingertips savagely into her palm, obliterating the sensation of his hand holding hers.
She watched his face as he spoke to her mother. It still contained many of the features of the youth that she remembered, and yet now she could see small lines at the side of his mouth and eyes. The latter were still the pale, engaging gray they had always been, but now they seemed less open, with a sharpness she had never seen. His face also seemed stiff and guarded. He appeared old—well, not old, but certainly aged. She remembered the boyish side of his character with the mischievous tendencies that she had found so amusing in youth, but now he looked world-worn. If she had been on good terms with him, she might even have accused him of being in the sulks. Then again, she was fairly sure her own face did not hold any affability at this present moment, and besides, she was most certainly not on good terms with this man.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Philippa has always written stories and believes that, since it is one of her loves and passions, she always will. In her early writing career, she dabbled in a variety of genres, but it was the encouragement of a friend to watch a film adaptation of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice that began her love affair with the British Regency. Since then, she has watched every Regency film and TV series she could get her hands on and become well acquainted with Georgette Heyer’s novels which gave her the inspiration to write her own.
Both as a reader and a writer, Philippa believes it is important to escape into a world you yourself would want to live in. This is why she writes stories that will draw you into the characters’ joys and heartaches in a world apart from our own. Her debut novel, The Widow’s Redeemer (Madison Street Publishing, 2012), is a traditional Regency romance bringing to life the romance between a young widow with an indomitable spirit and a wealthy viscount with an unsavory reputation. The novel has been received well by readers and reviewers who have praised the heartfelt story and admirable characters. Her second novel, The Unexpected Earl (Madison Street Publishing, 2014), explores another romance in the Regency era when an impetuous young woman has her life turned upside down by the reappearance of the earl who jilted her six years ago.
So, what are you waiting for? Get swept away into another time with characters you will learn to love, and experience the British Regency like never before.