Saturday, 18 January 2014

Latest Release - Romantic Regency Murder Mystery

The Reluctant Duchess is a Regency tale of romance, abduction, mystery and murder. The setting is Exmoor in Somerset, a place made famous by the novel Lorna Doone, of which the local inhabitants refer to as Doone Country.
Devon Howard, the Duke of Malchester, acquires a bride by dubious means. Well aware Liliana is a reluctant duchess, and although his new wife submits to his ardent advances on the wedding night, he cannot be sure, that even if given time, she will ever surrender her heart to him. While his past continues to damn him, he sets out to win Liliana by inciting jealousy and rivalry ‘twixt her and Serenity: a would-be mistress?

Likewise Liliana has a dilemma, for although she despises her circumstances and feigns disinterest in Devon, she cannot deny his desirability. Twice married, rumours abound. Devon has twice bedded and broken a wife. Liliana believes otherwise. Nonetheless, evil does exist within the walls of Calder Hall, and Liliana fears for her life when she’s brutally abducted from her coach whilst en route from Dorset to Exmoor. But it is Devon’s blood that is sought, and while revenge for one person proves bittersweet, for another it proves fatal.
Excerpt: The duke's thoughts and discourse with his friend, an earl, whilst travelling in the duke's coach.
    Damn it to hell, from the moment of first setting eyes on Liliana, desire had embraced him as it never had before. Youthful romantic ideals had fallen pale against the gut-twisting moment of their second encounter. Perhaps his personal experience of grasping manipulative women had turned him from carefree youth to cynical lusty libertine, but on that day, that memorable day of having signed a promissory note to her father to rid her papa of debt, Lilana had unexpectedly rushed into the room declaring ‘Papa, I shall not wed a man I neither know, nor love’.    Dear God, how his pulse had raced, his heart near stalled, and with one fleeting glance of the situation before her, horror befell her. Her violet eyes turned mutinous, her kissable lips hardened, she tossed her golden head much like a yearling filly resisting the bit, and her voice tinged with ice sliced the air. ‘You can marry me to this libertine, but I shall not succumb to him of my own free will’. Those very words, ‘shall not succumb’ had tainted the marital proceedings, had set him ill at ease and thus he had sought solace and courage from liquor prior to entering her bedchamber. And now, an evening of bliss, and a night of delight in his wake he was feeling reborn.
    Marcus drew him from reverie, with a chuckle: “Well dear fellow, ‘twould seem your smug expression doth declare the duchess finally rolled over and laid her prickles to one side.”
    “Happen she did.”
    “Oh come now, Devon, the spring in your step is that of a happy rutting swain: if ever I did see one. Serenity is sore vexed at your betrayal.”
    “How dare she, how dare she raise betrayal as a weapon to beat my hide behind my back? Long before she became my mistress, though mistress being a loose term in respect of the fact we have never shared a bed. At the outset of any woman seeking favour from my purse, I have at all times made it abundantly clear I am a selfish individual, my own desires uppermost. And yet, women have rallied to my needs, have performed fellatio in the strangest of places, daringly at times, and all no doubt in the belief they could win my heart: eventually.”
    Marcus shrugged. “Women set out to change us, it is an inherent weakness in their makeup, and in rare cases they succeed. But, for the most part, we choose to let the ladies think they have conquered all whilst we covertly carry on with amours aplenty. Though, I confess, as a carefree singleton, I am exempt from the scurrilous business of infidelity within marriage.”
    “True enough, and when husband’s are caught delving beneath another woman’s skirts, those same men endure a home existence of purgatory involving narrow-eyed disdain, sharp tongued slights, slamming doors, cold beds and what amounts to unhealthy households where children despair their parents sanity.”
    “By God, Devon, you’re not seriously looking to become a righteous family man, are you?”
    Devon thrust a booted foot to the seat opposite; nudging Marcus elbow. “What is there, that betters the delights of a warm bed and a responsive wife?”
    Marcus expressed incredulity as a second boot landed on the seat beside him. “You cannot mean you are. . . By God, you really do have every intention of casting Serenity aside and taking yourself off to the marital bed.” Marcus shook his head, sense of despair about him. “And what is to become of us, the merry libertine troupe? We shall not survive without you, you know. You lead and we follow.”
    Silence hung heavy, each staring the other down, until Marcus averted his eyes out through the carriage window and mumbled, whether to himself or Devon, it mattered not. Devon closed his eyes, and said, “Wake me when we arrive at our destination.”