Excerpt From “Wallflower” by Catherine Gayle

The choice between adhering to a long-held pact and finally accepting love could prove Lady Tabitha Shelton’s unhinging. She is plump, plain, pleasant…and thoroughly unappealing to any of the men of the ton—apart from fortune hunters. A self-appointed wallflower, she has every intention of remaining one. Tabitha made a vow of spinsterhood with her cousins when they were girls, and she refuses to go back on her word. So far, she’s proven herself quite adept at warding off the blasted fortune hunters’ pursuits.

Noah deLancie, Marquess of Devonport, would prefer to marry for love and companionship—he’s a gentleman through and through—but circumstances have forced his hand: he needs money as badly as he needs a bride. When Noah’s brother-in-law suggests pursuit of his sister, Tabitha, a woman with a dowry large enough to cause even Croesus to blush and who is tantalizingly good company to boot, Noah stumbles into the future he hopes to secure. He’ll stop at nothing to convince Tabitha to marry him.

Nothing, that is, except perhaps the barrel of a dueling pistol, held to his face by his ladylove.

Excerpt:

“It won’t work.” The smooth, rich voice of Lord Devonport reverberated at Tabitha’s other side, and she jumped. “He fully intends not to be foiled by you, Lady Tabitha.”

She pinched her eyes closed. Blast, how had she not noticed Lord Devonport coming her way? She’d as soon die of mortification as allow him to hear her plans for Toby. But it was too late for that.

Still, maybe the gentleman would prove himself useful.

“And what, pray tell, is he planning, Lord Devonport?” Steeling herself, Tabitha turned to face him. The laughter in his eyes never ceased to captivate her. Someone ought to find a way to bottle that joy so everyone could experience it. “Surely you know, since you’ve been over there with him this last half hour. What does he intend to do to me this time?”

“Alas, I cannot tell. I’ve been sworn to secrecy.”

“Would it not be more gallant to warn a lady of a plot against her, my lord? Surely you must recognize the difficulty of my position.”

The smile moved down to his lips. They looked soft, like velvet. Tabitha had a sudden, irresistible urge to kiss them, just to find out for sure. But that was a ridiculous notion.

“Ah, but you do not seem to recognize the inherent problems of mine.”

The way Lord Devonport stared at her was more than just a little unnerving. Tabitha realized she was toying with her necklace and forced herself to stop, allowing her arms to fall straight at her side.

“And neither of you recognize the adversity of mine,” Jo said. Her voice seemed much louder than either of theirs had been, though surely no one else could hear her. “If you’ll excuse me, I must go and visit with Lady Crestridge. That shade of evening primrose makes her complexion look downright ghastly.”

Jo strolled away, and as usual, a series of eyes followed her path across the ballroom, Tabitha’s included. When she turned back to Lord Devonport, however, his eyes had not left Tabitha’s person. Oh, why had Jo decided to abandon her? She’d been Tabitha’s one source of protection against…against what, precisely? Surely she didn’t need protection from Lord Devonport, a perfectly agreeable gentleman—one who was essentially family.

So why did she feel like she needed fortification? Why, all of a sudden, did his gaze make her skin tingle? The prickles of goose flesh that had popped up along her arms were perplexing. Tabitha wasn’t cold—rather she was exceedingly warm—and she was experiencing the joint, warring desires to leave Lord Devonport’s presence without looking back and to draw closer to him.

Tabitha had been attracted to men before. More than attracted, actually. She’d thought herself in love with one of her father’s footmen once upon a time. But James Marshall had never made her feel quite like this—nervous and flighty, and somehow even a little bit attractive. On second thought, maybe Jo had been right. Maybe she was feeling ill. No gentleman in possession of his faculties would ever find her attractive. She brushed the notion away and faced Lord Devonport again.

“The inherent problems of your position?” she asked, wishing her words had not come out sounding strangled. Good Lord, it sounded like she was attempting to swallow an entire flock of geese. “And what might those be?”

“Surely you can work that out on your own, my lady.”

He leaned closer to her and the heat of his body wafted a trail of his cologne over her. It was musky and spicy and manly; it tingled against her nose and tantalized her to draw closer to him.

“If I am to maintain my reputation as a gentleman in your eyes,” he said, his voice hardly more than a whisper, “I must divulge secrets that are not mine to tell. However, if I am to maintain the same in the eyes of your family, I may do nothing of the sort.”

His eyes bored into hers. Tabitha felt as though he could see straight into her mind, directly into her heart. Her pulse beat a frantic pace against her neck. She wished he would touch her right there, just below the lobe of her ear, to calm the pulsing, heated flow.

“Indeed,” she said. “That is quite a predicament.”

***

Catherine Gayle has been an avid reader of romance novels (and almost anything else she can legally get her hands on) for as long as she can remember. Her mother might say it started in the womb. When she is not writing or reading, she can often be found buried beneath her sleeping cat or chasing the Nephew Monster.  She’s a reality TV junkie, a hockey addict, and experimental cook.

Catherine Gayle’s books are available from: Second Wind Publishing, LLC

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Excerpt From “Saving Grace” by Catherine Gayle

The blasted man will not stop following her. Well, he isn’t following her . . . not exactly. They are just always thrown together, and he is everything she wants but cannot have. It is downright infuriating—especially when he kisses her.

Lady Grace Abernathy has been ravished and left pregnant (and thoroughly unsuitable for any honorable gentleman). This would not be such a gargantuan problem if Lord Alexander Hardwicke would simply stay away from her as she asked. But leave it to her meddling Aunt Dorothea—who means well, of course—to continually thrust the two into each other’s company. Against both their wishes. These distractions are almost more than a reasonable lady should be forced to bear, let alone one who is dealing with all the difficulties inherent with both an unwanted pregnancy and a dire lack of a husband.

Alex left London to visit his deceased father’s oldest friend, Lord Rotheby, and to get away from his mother and her matchmaking schemes, only to run into more of the same at every turn. Why can he not determine for himself the course his life will take before everyone pushes him to take a wife? But the more time he spends in the company of Lady Grace, the less he finds himself able to ignore his growing attraction—and his burgeoning need to protect her. Must he cause a scandal in order to protect her from one?

Excerpt:

Her silence lasted just a touch too long. His aggravation finally got the better of him and he snapped, “Am I thoroughly disagreeable to you, ma’am? Am I so horrible you are unable to converse with me at all, or is something else wrong? I’ve apologized to you repeatedly for taking liberties in Lord Rotheby’s garden, and for everything else under the sun. I don’t know what else I can do to convince you to speak to me. You could at least make some effort at being civil. Lord knows I have made enough efforts for the both of us.”

Her eyes grew wide, and then slowly filled with heat. “You…you…how dare you! May I remind you, sir, you are the one who took those very liberties you speak of with me.” She stood with her hands haughtily on her hips and her icy eyes turned to deep, blue flames of anger. “I didn’t ask you to do so, I didn’t encourage you to do so, and I most certainly didn’t want you to do so. That was entirely your choice. You’ve made it abundantly clear you only suffer my presence as a favor to Lord Rotheby and my aunt and uncle. Yet you continue to stare lasciviously at me, leaving me thoroughly baffled as to what, precisely, you want from me.”

Her voice rose no more than a whisper as she built a head of steam. Now that she had started, Alex worried she might never stop her tirade. Yet this harangue of hers was intriguing. She suddenly had so very much to say.

He stood in the middle of the Pump Room with his mouth agape, unsure of how to proceed other than allow her to continue her verbal assault. So he did.

“I do not know how to act around you. I’ve tried to ignore you, as you seemed disinclined to my company, and I therefore assumed you would prefer that reaction. So how, pray tell, am I supposed to react? I’ve tried to stop you from making a gargantuan mistake, but you seem to have an aversion to accepting my assistance. I would very much like to help you by doing whatever it is you want, but I’m quite incapable of interpreting your thoughts. So, my lord, why don’t you tell me what to do and save us both a good deal of trouble? It would alleviate the ache that is rapidly building in my head.”

Lady Grace finally took a breath, and waited. By this point, most of the room openly stared at the two of them, some with their jaws hanging open, others seeming to note every word said so they could rush to the nearest gossip and fill them in on these newest, juicy on-dits. Her words, while hardly more than a whisper, seemed to echo in the spacious area.

Alex, too, heard every word she’d hissed at him. Yet he had listened to only a few. The passion she displayed entranced him. She was normally so cold and collected, never losing the veneer of control she kept such tight rein over.

Yet that had all gone by the wayside, and he could think of nothing but how beautiful she looked when angry. Her eyes had flashed and flared, and some strands of her hair had pulled free from the exacting knot and whipped about her face. He wanted to capture her passion, to hold onto it for a later moment when she resumed her cold demeanor.

Alex yearned to touch her.

Maddening. Most men would do anything to avoid infuriating a lady, but he was formulating ways he could do so again. He loved seeing her out of control, reckless and passionate. He wanted more. So much more.

Without a thought to the consequences of his actions or the audience that had gathered, he closed the distance between them and kissed her. Greedy this time, he took more than he gave. One hand fisted in the knot of hair at the nape of her neck and worked to free more of it than was already framing her face, while the other drew her closer to him so he could feel her length against him.

Their audience drew in a collective, scandalized breath, which appeared to register with Lady Grace. She struggled against him, but he would prefer to ignore them. However, she increased her struggles and pushed hard against his chest to separate them. Reluctantly, Alex relinquished his hold.

She took a calming breath, then another, and a third, all while glaring daggers of ice-blue fire into his eyes. Then she reached a hand up and slapped him across his cheek. “You forget yourself, sir,” she spat out. Then she turned on her heels and fled, with the Kensingtons close behind.

Alex started to follow her as well, but Gil appeared as if from nowhere and placed a hand on his arm. “Let her go, Alex. This will all be sorted out. Just let her go for now.”

So he did.

***

Catherine Gayle has been an avid reader of romance novels (and almost anything else she can legally get her hands on) for as long as she can remember. Her mother might say it started in the womb. When she is not writing or reading, she can often be found buried beneath her sleeping cat or chasing the Nephew Monster.  She’s a reality TV junkie, a hockey addict, and experimental cook.

Catherine Gayle’s books are available from: Second Wind Publishing, LLC

Excerpt From “Merely a Miss” by Catherine Gayle

Miss Jane Matthews feels completely out of place amongst the finery of the ton. She’s the daughter of a country vicar, for goodness sake, and nearly a spinster to boot. Frankly, she would prefer to stay that way. How can a lady of Quality start up her own modiste shop, after all? But when her distant cousin—the Dowager Duchess of Somerton, of all people—offers to sponsor her for a Season in London, she agrees, but only so she can take the opportunity to search for a storefront for her business. Perhaps, in that regard, the Season won’t all be in vain.

The widower of a loveless marriage, Peter Hardwicke, the Duke of Somerton, has already done his duty and provided an heir for his dukedom, so he sees no reason whatsoever to remarry. Even if, heaven forbid, something should happen to his son, he still has three younger brothers who are each quite capable of inheriting. Taking a wife would only mean adding a new responsibility to his already too-full schedule. He’s more than busy enough keeping his mother, siblings, and children in line—not to mention sorting out the myriad problems plaguing one of his estates.

But when Lord Utley, one of Peter’s childhood friends and a man who has been on the wrong side of Peter’s ire for many years now, takes an unlikely interest in Jane, he has to intervene. Peter will be damned if he’ll allow Utley to ruin yet another life. But will rescuing Jane from Utley’s clutches land Peter with another loveless marriage?

Excerpt:

“And you call that scoundrel a gentleman, do you?” A raging fire was building in his chest, boiling like a kettle over a fire, and he fought to tamp it back down. Miss Matthews was becoming a devilish nuisance, causing reactions within him that no one had ever done before, damn it all. “Do you know who he is, ma’am? Do you know anything about Lord Utley at all? Or any of the myriad gentlemen present at the ball this evening, for that matter?”

She started to pipe in with a response, but he cut her off.

“No. You don’t. And since you are so dreadfully unaware of anything related to these gentlemen’s reputations, you have been relegated to my mother’s chaperonage. For your own protection, ma’am.” Peter’s voice had risen so loud, surely someone within the ballroom would hear him soon. He deliberately lowered it again, taking a deep breath to regain control. “You’re to do as she says in order that you don’t make an unwarranted mistake. If left to your own devices, you’d likely ensure your own ruin if this jaunt into the gardens is any indication. You’re most certainly not to take it upon yourself to accept a dance with one of the most notorious rakehells in Town, nor are you to then proceed to situate yourself entirely alone with said ‘gentleman’ without the knowledge of your chaperone, or anyone else. Yet you thoroughly ignored her on this matter—”

“I most certainly did not ignore Cousin Henrietta on any matter,” Miss Matthews spat out at him with sparks in her eyes. “She introduced me to Lord Utley, and she saw no harm in my dancing with him since you had sent him over for an introduction. We both complied with your guidance, Your Grace.” Miss Matthews took the tiniest step forward until she stood only a hair’s breadth away from him, wagging a finger in his face. “If anyone here is to blame for anything, it is you. You’re the one who set this all in motion.”

“You and my mother were both terribly mistaken if you think I’d have sent anyone like Utley for an introduction. How she could possibly think I would approve of such a thing, I’ll never be able to fathom. But I’ll deal with her later. You, on the other hand, must be dealt with immediately.”

“Dealt with. Dealt with? Why, you arrogant popinjay!” She took another step toward him, stepping on his toes in the process and shoving him backward with no small amount of force—a fact that surprised him—and matching him step for step as he backed away. “I am not some green chit barely out of the schoolroom. Nor am I one of your siblings. You have no right to order me about in any way. You will kindly remember that in future.”

Never in his life had he struck a woman before, not even one of his sisters when they were children, yet he found it difficult to restrain himself from that very atrocity at this moment. Her impudence stung.

“And you would do well to remember, Miss Matthews, that as long as you live beneath my roof you are under my protection and therefore must abide by my decisions.”

“Well, perhaps I should not live beneath your roof any longer, then.” She crossed her arms over her chest, which only served to plump up her already breathtaking bosom before his eyes.

“Perhaps not. Nevertheless, you currently do, so my word is law.”

Her fury shone through in a great huff and a flash of her eyes. Dear Lord, she was beautiful when she was angry. Almost like a siren.

Peter shook his head, as though to rid it of such thoughts. Thinking along those lines would get him nowhere. “And my word is that you are to avoid all contact with Lord Utley from this moment on. For that matter, you’d better reject any attentions from Mr. Aldous Forster or Lord Tansley, should they attempt to pay you court. Maybe a few others as well. I’ll let you know as I think of them. But I might never secure you a husband if some nefarious scoundrel ruins your reputation before you have a chance to make a decent match.”

And the sooner she was married, the sooner he could set aside the way her ire bewitched him and move on with his life—without the chaotic wake that seemed to follow her everywhere that currently had his head in a twist.

“I see,” Miss Matthews murmured with narrowed eyes. Thank heavens. “So I should avoid and blatantly ignore Lords Utley and Tansley and Mr. Forster. Would you like to add anyone else to that list, Your Grace?” Her heated glare could fell an entire army. But instead of sounding a retreat, Peter’s only thought was to advance.

His eyes slid to her lips, which were darkened from the furious pinch she had kept them in for several moments. He wanted nothing more than to kiss them, to press his own lips against their angry pout until the heat in them turned to passion and promise instead of anger.

“Well?” Miss Matthews placed her hands on her hips in a posture much like an overbearing governess—which he found disturbingly alluring.

Christ, he ought to walk away now. But for some confounding reason, he couldn’t. “Yes. There is one more.”

“And? Who might this dreaded gentleman be?”

Peter advanced toward her, closing the small gap between them. “Me.”

***

Catherine Gayle has been an avid reader of romance novels (and almost anything else she can legally get her hands on) for as long as she can remember. Her mother might say it started in the womb. When she is not writing or reading, she can often be found buried beneath her sleeping cat or chasing the Nephew Monster.  She’s a reality TV junkie, a hockey addict, and experimental cook.

Catherine Gayle’s books are available from: Second Wind Publishing, LLC

Excerpt From “Twice a Rake” by Catherine Gayle

Some scandals are meant to be . . .

When Aurora Hyatt loses her journal in Hyde Park, her ruin is a foregone conclusion. After all, if anyone discovers her writings, they’ll find scandalous fantasies involving the newest rake in Town alongside entirely-too-candid thoughts about her typical dreary suitors. Aurora will either be forced into a loveless marriage with the first nodcock to make an offer, or she’ll be assigned a permanent position on the shelf. Oh, dear good Lord. What catastrophe will God smote down upon her next?

If Niles Thornton, Baron Quinton, desires to maintain any semblance of his current lifestyle, he must fulfill the requirements his grandfather has set for him. First and foremost: he must marry and begin filling his nursery within the year. When he is nearly barreled over by a racing curricle and a journal flies out to land at his feet, his troubles are over. Inside the journals pages, Quin discovers a scandal waiting to happen. Surely a young lady who would write such brazen things in a journal (and then dare to lose it) must recognize the necessity of a hasty marriage, even if the gentleman making the offer is rather less-than-honorable.

In a drunken haze, Quin kisses Aurora on a crowded ballroom floor, necessitating their immediate marriage. Quin’s troubles are only beginning, however, as Aurora’s writings are soon the focus of both gossip rags and drawing room conversation. When word arrives of an even greater scandal following in his wife’s wake, will he prove himself a drunken abuser like his father, or will he become the loving husband of Aurora’s fantasies?

Excerpt:

Aurora heard no music. She saw nothing but him, Lord Quinton, staring down at her with an intensity she’d never experienced. He smelled of brandy and heat. She was nearly intoxicated just from his sheer proximity.

After moments or hours, she would never know, she finally found her tongue. “My lord, how did you know who I am?” What a foolish, silly question. She was a ninny. What did that matter? Not a whit.

“I would imagine in the same manner you knew who I am.” His eyes bored into her. “You do know, do you not?”

She would be perfectly content to never take another breath so long as he never stopped looking at her like that. Aurora tingled everywhere he touched her, with the delicious gooseflesh spreading through her limbs, up to her head, and then plummeting all the way down to her toes—which somehow curled beneath her.

“Yes. You are the mysterious Lord Quinton.” And he would think her an utter dolt if she did not manage to remove the derisible grin from her face. There was also the rather embarrassing problem of a blush spreading over her cheeks and all the way to her bosom. The heat flowed like gauze in the wind. She looked down to see how bad it was, only to realize too late she had drawn his gaze to that very same place.

“That I am.” He stared at the low bodice of her gown, or rather at the display just above it, for an inordinately long period of time. Finally, his eyes moved slowly up her chest to her neck, to her chin, to her lips—where they paused yet again.

She felt parched. She needed something—something—something to calm her nerves and to cool her off. Yet all she wanted to do was move closer, still.

Aurora licked her lips.

Lord Quinton’s hand at her waist flinched and grew tense, pulling her in as though on command.

“I am also, Miss Hyatt, not the kind of gentleman a proper young lady should have anything to do with—not if she wishes to keep her reputation intact.”

“I am aware of that.” Too aware. But that was the last thing she wanted to think of at the moment. She preferred to focus on the day’s growth of stubble lining his jaw and to imagine how it might feel if she drew her hand across it.

The corners of his lips quirked up in the slightest hint of a rakish grin. It looked lascivious. Fiendish. And entirely too appealing. “Then you must also be aware, Miss Hyatt, that every eye in the room is trained upon the two of us. Including those of your chaperone. Perhaps even your father.”

“Yes,” she said, with a slight tremor in her voice. Blast him for reminding her of all the reasons she should run screaming from him. And blast her for not doing as she ought.

Lord Quinton’s eyes smiled at her then, a smile only a true rogue could muster. “And yet you remain with me. Dancing.” He twirled her about so fast she would have lost her feet, but for his strong arm at her waist pulling her ever closer. “Waltzing.”

At this new distance she smelled his cologne, much like she had imagined it in her story. “Yes,” she whispered, no longer trusting her voice not to fail.

He stood still and held her steady before him. “Lovely,” Lord Quinton growled just before his lips descended upon hers in a kiss. A kiss nothing like what she imagined.

This was nothing tender or chaste. It was needy and possessive and hot.

He pulled her closer until her body was melded into his, her curves tucked neatly into his angles and planes like they had been made just for that purpose. One hand moved up into the chignon at the nape of her neck, fisting and tugging and drawing her ever closer.

His lips were hard and demanding. The stubble along his jaw assaulted her tender skin in a way that left her panting for more. He bit her lower lip and she cried out, but it was muffled against his tongue as it moved inside her mouth.

Aurora tasted his brandy—smooth and dark.

Lord Quinton moved his tongue in and out and around. When he suckled, her toes sang and the tips of her fingers trembled and something both terrible and wonderful happened between her thighs.

She wanted more.

She wanted to do the things to him he was doing to her, to make him feel these wanton feelings.

She wanted it never to end.

But then he pulled his head back, the absence of his lips leaving hers aching for their return.

Lord Quinton stepped away from her. Removed his hands from her. He bowed his head briefly. “Miss Hyatt. I bid you good evening.”

And he left.

***

Catherine Gayle has been an avid reader of romance novels (and almost anything else she can legally get her hands on) for as long as she can remember. Her mother might say it started in the womb. When she is not writing or reading, she can often be found buried beneath her sleeping cat or chasing the Nephew Monster.  She’s a reality TV junkie, a hockey addict, and experimental cook.

Catherine Gayle’s books are available from: Second Wind Publishing, LLC

 

More Than a Governess by Jerrica Knight-Catania

Becky Thorn has been keeping a secret for more than seven years. A secret that, if found out, could destroy her. So before she gets too ensconced in London society, she accepts a position as a governess for a reclusive Viscount and his wife, far away from the ton.

Stephen Hastings, the third Viscount Hastings, is nothing short of perturbed when the tart Miss Thorn shows up on his doorstep. He is a man with little time and even less patience, who feels his pushover housekeeper is doing a fine job keeping his wards out of his hair. But Miss Thorn thinks differently and needles her way into becoming his governess, and eventually, the object of his affection.

Excerpt:

“Good evening.”

Becky gasped and spun from the bookshelf to find herself face to face with the lord of the manor. She stammered as she fished for an appropriate excuse. Truth be known, she should not have been traipsing about the house at this hour, let alone on a mission to borrow one of the library’s books. She would be dismissed before she’d even had a chance to begin.

“I’m so sorry, my lord, I was just…”

Lord Hastings raised his brows in question and sipped lazily from the snifter he held in his hand.

“I was just leaving, actually. Good night.”

Becky bobbed a shallow curtsy and then backed towards the door, eager to return to her room.

“Miss Thorn, you needn’t leave on my account,” Lord Hastings said dryly. “You interrupted the rest of my day, why not finish it out?”

Becky stood frozen, trying to decide whether she should be grateful for the chance to stay and choose a book or outraged that he’d insulted her yet again. Unable to keep her thoughts or feelings to herself, she opted for the latter.

“Forgive my impertinence, my lord,” she began, “but may I ask why you have taken it upon yourself to be exceedingly rude to me since my arrival?”

A sinister chuckle escaped from Lord Hastings’ lips. “Don’t take it personally, Miss Thorn. You’re a servant. I treat you no differently than I treat anyone else in my employ.”

“Considering I’ve been brought here under false pretenses, I find your behavior reprehensible.”

“Behavior?” he asked indignantly. “Need I remind you that you are governess to my niece and nephew and not to me? However you find my behavior it is none of your concern.”

“It is when it affects me.”

“Then I suggest you grow a thicker skin, Miss Thorn, for I am not in the habit of walking on eggshells for the sake of my servants’ feelings.”

Becky remained silent. She had already overstepped her boundaries more than once today and she would not put it past Lord Hastings to turn her out even at this late hour. Though a thousand retorts swirled in her head, she merely clamped her lips shut and walked to the shelves of books that lined the walls, drawing her robe tighter around her as she did.

But there was no hope of concentrating on the books or their titles. She was outraged and tired and feeling completely lonesome and helpless. All she really wanted was to go to sleep but she was still too wound up from the day’s events.

When the hairs on her neck stood involuntarily, she was certain she was being watched. She turned around to see Lord Hastings regarding her with a cynical smile.

“Would you please stop staring at me? It makes me uncomfortable.”

“Would you care for a drink, Miss Thorn?”

That caught her off guard. She was prone to a glass of wine or a pint of ale from time to time, but only amongst friends, never with intimidating strangers.

“No, thank you,” she said proudly and turned her attention back to the books.

“It might help you sleep.”

He had a point there.

“All right, then,” she sighed. “Perhaps just a little.”

 ***

After obtaining a degree in Vocal Performance from the Manhattan School of Music, and years of pursuing a career on the stage, Jerrica left the “glamorous” life of an actress in favor of writing romance. She continues to reside in the New York City area with her husband, cat, and precious daughter.

Love Trumps Logic by Lucy Balch

When suitors are baffled by Miss Fiona’s scientific turn of mind, her mother tearfully predicts that her daughter will be doomed to spinsterhood—until Lord Henry comes along. Nicknamed “the Mad Scientist,” Henry appreciates Fiona’s mind as well as her face. Fiona thinks she’s found the perfect husband in Henry until notorious Lord Beaumont crashes through her neatly laid plans.

Characters:

Lord Albert Beaumont (Beau) is the George Clooney of his era in that his charisma and disinclination to marry make him prime gossip material. At the beginning of the story, he breaks with his latest mistress, Daphne Tarkington, whose beauty is far outweighed by her nasty personality. Beau’s weary cynicism about the breakup makes his valet think that hes ready to turn away from courtesans and settle down, but Beau disagrees. Even though his dying father wishes him to be married, he cant stomach the idea of wooing a naive and awestruck debutante. But he promises his father that hell try to find a suitable bride, agreeing to attend an insipid garden party for the express purpose of looking for one.

Fiona Fairmont, a reluctant debutante if ever there was one, is more interested in herbal remedies and reading than she is in finding a husband. Eccentricities notwithstanding, her beauty has won her two marriage proposals, both of which she has turned down. After the second refusal, Fionas mother whisks her off to the country to meet a rich and science-minded recluse, Lord Henry Featherstone. She hopes that his love of academia will intrigue her unusual daughter, and the plan appears to be working … until Beau meets Fiona at the garden party.

But is he too late? Fiona is already fully enmeshed in Henrys world of homeopathy, assisting him in his laboratory, her respect for him growing every day. The attraction she feels for Beau isn’t worthy of notice, especially since, according to the gossip papers, he can have his pick of any woman in England. Besides, she’s certain that Beau’s marked attention toward her is his way of alleviating the tedium of country life. Flirting is his passion as much as homeopathy is Henry’s passion. Once he returns to London, he’ll forget her completely.

With a heart that isn’t in full agreement with her decision, she accepts a proposal from Henry, certain that she’s taking the only sensible path.

Beau almost gives up, but when Daphne Tarkington’s vengeful mind causes him to be badly injured, Fiona finally realizes that love trumps logic.

Their story doesn’t stop there. Daphne Tarkington’s evil interference almost ruins their newfound bliss. Read their story in Love Trumps Logic to find out how they triumph in the end.

Excerpt:

Fiona visibly started, and put a hand up to calm her racing heart. She recognized the voice immediately, of course.  Beau’s rich baritone could not easily be mistaken for another’s, and besides, she had heard it so recently in her dream, saying words of love that had pulled her away from Henry forever. Silliness! she scolded herself, taking a steadying breath.

“You startled me,” she said, turning toward the stable door.  “Are you an early riser by habit?”

“No,” he answered, leaning a shoulder against the stable doorway.  Merlin peeked over his shoulder, saddled and snorting impatiently at the delay.  “But when I’ve had trouble sleeping, a ride usually helps to clear the cobwebs.”

He looks tired, Fiona thought, squelching an impulse to go to him and stroke his unshaven face.  “I find a walk refreshing in such circumstances.  I was on my way to the sunflower garden.  I told Lord Hasselton I’d see it so that I could tell him how it compares to the Aldwinkles’.  He’s fully expecting me to rave about it.”

Why am I chattering on like an idiot? Fiona wondered, forcing herself to stop.

Beau reached up to stroke Merlin’s nose, never taking his eyes off her. “What about you? Do you always rise this early … or did you have trouble sleeping too?”

“I’m a bit of an early bird.  This hour might be a tad early, even for me,” Fiona lied, wishing she had a horse’s nose to busy her hands with. Since she didn’t, she folded them in front of her.

“Your thoughts are busy with wedding preparations, perhaps?”

“I don’t know,” Fiona hedged, shrugging.  She’d best be on her way, before he caused her to say something she regretted.  “I’d best—” she began, gesturing toward the garden, but Beau interrupted her.

“Last night’s news caused my sleep loss, especially since—just one night before—” he broke off and gave a shrug and a small shake of his head.  “That was truly an experiment, wasn’t it?  You wished to see if flirtation would stop my pursuit of you. You really don’t think very highly of me.”

Fiona bit her lip.  “No!  It wasn’t like that.”

“Perhaps you think I have a heart that can’t be hurt.  That I’ve loved so freely that my heart is immune to pain.  Is that what you think?”

Fiona shook her head, her heart breaking at the pain she saw in Beau’s eyes.  Pain that she had caused.

“What, then?” he asked softly, closing the gap between them, Merlin following close behind.

“I don’t know. It—my heart—was stronger than my will.  I enjoy your company very much—too much! And for once I allowed myself to indulge my heart. There, that’s the truth.”

“Follow your heart, Fiona! A marriage without love, without passion, will be like a slow death,” Beau insisted, stopping in front of her.

“The type of love you speak of isn’t enough to sustain a marriage.  If you believe it is, then you live in the world of romance novels.  You’re not alone; many people do!”

“So you want a marriage in which passion is absent?” Beau asked, doubt etched on his face.

There it was: the question that had tortured her all night.  “Passion fades. In the end, compatibility and friendship are what lasts.”

“Aren’t you over-generalizing?  Who has put so firmly into your head that passion has to fade?” Beau asked gently.

“It depends on the couple, of course.  I don’t trust that any passion felt between us would last.” Fiona was sorry for the blunt words the second they left her mouth.

Bio:

Lucy Balch grew up in Atlanta, Georgia. As a young woman she moved to New York City to pursue a career in acting, but instead discovered a love for writing, met her husband, and earned a master’s degree. Love Trumps Logic is her second novel but the first to be published. It was inspired by favorite romance writers Jane Austen, Connie Brockway, Eloisa James and Georgette Heyer, as well as Lucy’s passion for homeopathy and other forms of alternative medicine. Lucy currently resides in Richmond, Virginia and is working on her third book.

 

See also:
First Chapter of Love Trumps Logic
A Never-Before-Seen Interview with the Hero of Love Trumps Logic by Lucy Balch 

A Gentleman Never Tells by Jerrica Knight-Catania

Benjamin Wetherby, Earl of Glastonbury and heir to the Marquessate of Eastleigh, has just received an urgent letter from home. His father is dying and he must return to England at once. Benjamin is a man bound by honor and duty, to both his country and his family. So, despite his reservations, he leaves his life in New York City behind so he may find a wife and assume his role as the Marquess of Eastleigh.

Miss Phoebe Blake is finally out of mourning for her father, and just in time. She and her mother could be days away from being carted off to debtors’ prison, so Phoebe returns to society with the intent and determination to secure a rich husband.

Sparks fly when Benjamin and Phoebe meet, and it appears they have both found just what they are looking for. But will a dark secret keep them from finding their happily ever after?

A Gentleman Never Tells is available from: Second Wind Publishing, LLC

Excerpt from A Gentleman Never Tells:

      “Would you like to hold one?”

      “Hold one?” Phoebe choked out. “What if it pecks at me?”

      Benjamin laughed and waved her over. “They’re tame, Phoebe. Come.”

      She did as she was bid with a hint of reluctance. She wasn’t known for her adeptness with animals, but she supposed if Benjamin were there to assist, she might be all right.

      As she approached, Benjamin reached a gentle hand into the cage and closed it around one of the bright yellow birds. It struggled for only a moment before it realized it was in good hands. Then he unclenched his fist, leaving it cupped slightly, cradling the small bird.

      “Why does he not fly away?” Phoebe wondered, reaching a tentative finger out to pet him.

      “She,” Benjamin corrected, “has had her wings clipped, for her own safety, of course.”

      “Ah . . . like the ravens at the Tower. Is it painful for them?”

      “Far less painful than getting loose and flying head-first into those windows. Besides, it’s only temporary. When she molts, they’ll have to clip them all over again.”

      “May I hold her?”

      Phoebe met Benjamin’s soft gaze and felt the color rise to her cheeks. The looks he gave her were so intimate they tended to reduce her insides to mush. She hated to get her hopes up for fear she might be let down, but her instincts told her a proposal might not be too far in the offing.

      Benjamin carefully transferred the bird to her cupped hands, taking care to brush lightly against the exposed skin of her wrist before he pulled back.

      “If you don’t stop that,” she whispered, “I’ll never be able to look your sister in the eye.”

      “Stop what?” Benjamin asked, a playful smile lighting his dark eyes.

      “Being so . . . familiar with me.”

      “Why? Don’t you like it?” His voice lowered to a gravelly whisper and he leaned in closer, close enough that she could smell the distinct scent of his cologne. It was sharp and manly, and it made her feel . . . tingly inside.

      “I like it very much,” she replied, matching his whisper. “That is the problem.” Desperate to change the subject before the duchess came upon them, she asked, her voice noticeably shaky, “Why does this one not sing?”

      “Because she is a female. Typically, only the males sing.”

      “Typically?”
 

      “Yes.” He paused and captured her chin gently in his hand. “There are exceptions, though. Many of the females can sing . . . with the right coercion, of course.”

      Phoebe wasn’t exactly sure what Benjamin was talking about, but she had a sinking feeling they were no longer on the subject of birds. Instinct very clearly told her that much. And his lips confirmed it as he swept low, like a bird of prey, and captured her lips.

After obtaining a degree in Vocal Performance from the Manhattan School of Music, and years of pursuing a career on the stage, Jerrica left the “glamorous” life of an actress in favor of writing romance. She continues to reside in the New York City area with her husband, cat and ever-expanding belly, anxiously awaiting the arrival of the newest addition to their family. In the meantime, she continues to work on the fourth installment of the Wetherby Brothers’ Novels.