For the first time since she’d begun learning the piece, Lady Madeline had played through the first twelve measures of Bach’s Italian Concerto in F Major without once stumbling. She then heard the announcement, intoned as it was in Foster’s booming voice, reverberating throughout the halls of Aspendale House.
“Lord Oliver Hartwell.”
At this, she hit such a clatter of discordance that her teacher was inclined to jump in his seat beside her.
“M’Lady?” he said, turning his round spectacles down.
Her fingers lifted from the pianoforte keyboard and hovered there. Her mouth was agape. She turned to him. He had a face like an upside-down pear, and she stared at it.
“M’Lady,” he repeated, “are you …”
“I’m hearing things, Mr Braun. What time is it?”
He reached into his breast pocket and withdrew his watch. “Half past the hour.”
“Oh dear,” she said, promptly rising.
“M’Lady, we’re not through yet with—”
“We’re through,” she called over her shoulder as she retreated from the parlour as if running from a fire.
When she reached her bedroom, she was delighted beyond the telling that Lisbelle was there.
“Oh, thank heavens,” she said, fighting the urge to throw her arms around her lady’s maid. “He’s here. He’s early. Or I’m late. I have no idea!”
She was already undoing the laces of her bodice when Lisbelle’s deft hands took over the task.
“Let’s just get you out of this, then, M’Lady. No need to panic.”
“Dear me,” she said, catching sight of herself in the mirror. “I look like ten frights.”
“Not at all, M’Lady,” said Lisbelle. “But we’ll get you cleaned up for Lord Oliver in no time.”
“How do you stay so calm all the time, Lisbelle?”
The lady’s maid gave a slight smile. “Me mum had nerves of steel. It runs in the family. At any rate, it’s wise to keep a man waiting. I’ve heard the Countess tell you that many a time.”
Madeline rolled her eyes. “My mother giving advice on romance. I suppose I should take medical advice from a butcher’s man.”
Lisbelle stifled a giggle. “If I may, M’Lady, the Countess did alright for herself.”
“I suppose,” said Madeline, finally calming a bit. “Gaining the hand of the Earl of Stamford was no easy feat, you know. She had to fight for him.”
“So they say, M’Lady.”
“My hair is ghastly.”
“Oh, pish tosh,” said Lisbelle. “But let’s just get this brushed and put up proper then, shall we?”
She ran a marble-handled brush through Lady Madeline’s auburn locks, following each stroke with a gentle sweep of her palm.
Lady Madeline closed her eyes and took a deep, cleansing breath.
“There you go, M’Lady. You’ll look like a dream for Lord Oliver in no time. Ripe for popping the quest—”
She stopped mid-stroke and put a hand to her mouth.
“Pardon me?” said Lady Madeline.
“I spoke out of turn, M’Lady, forgive me.”
“Oh,” said Madeline, unable to hide the joy on her face, “it’s true. But how did you know?”
“It’s the gossip downstairs, M’Lady.”
“I should have known.”
Lisbelle began the task of putting up Lady Madeline’s hair. “We don’t talk much amongst ourselves, you see, and we don’t hear much. And so, we’re hungry for news when it comes round.”
“I see. Well then out with it. What have you heard?”
“Oh, not much, like I said. Only that Lord Oliver has … intentions.” She smiled at her lady through the mirror. “On account of the fact that Oskar Braun the music master has designs on Mrs Andrews.”
“Mrs Andrews! Our cook?”
“I don’t understand.”
“Well, M’Lady, they say Mr Braun’s got a bit of gout that troubles him from time to time, but it’s no bother if he hasn’t had any drink, which he’s inclined to do from time to time. A pint of champagne every day at midday for Mr Braun, like clockwork. Ever notice his hands shaking when your lesson’s coming to an end?”
“I don’t believe I have.”
“Well, they do. At any rate, Mr Braun, he comes downstairs, and he plays it all sweet-like on Mrs Andrews. She gives him his pint of champagne. If it was only for the drink, you would think he’d take it and be off. Well, Mr Braun takes his drink, and he sits and he leans his elbows on the table and stares over his tumbler at Mrs Andrews like his eyes are going to fall out of his head. He talks an awful lot to her. And Mrs Andrews, she tells us all the details after he’s off. It turns out one of his students is a Lord by the name of Sigmund out of Surrey.”
“Lord Sigmund of Surrey. I can’t say I’ve heard of him.”
“No matter if you did. There’s a footman for Lord Sigmund who once filled in as valet for a visiting courtier by the name of Mr Gardiner. This Mr Gardiner, as it turns out, also suffers from gout and required, every morning at ten, an egg whipped in a half pint of sherry. Well, this footman-valet, name of George, he goes out because the house’s store of sherry has been depleted because Lord Sigmund apparently suffers from gout quite a lot – often at night when everyone else is asleep and he can access the cellar all by himself. They say he falls asleep down there from time to time. Although, to be honest, M’Lady, I don’t understand how such drink can be the simultaneous cause and cure of gout if you were to ask me.”
“Lisbelle,” said Lady Madeline, “does this tale of yours have an end?”
“I’m getting there, M’Lady. Won’t be a moment. Where was I? Oh, yes, so this footman-valet, George, he has to go and find some sherry spit-spot. He goes to a local vintner, and there he runs into a footman for … guess who?”
“Your Lord Oliver!”
“Is that so?”
“He does. And he chats with him. And this footman for Lord Oliver, he tells George that he hasn’t had much of a request in the house for sherry as of late, for the Lord is all light in his step without the stuff. And George asks him why, you see, and this footman says it’s because Lord Oliver has been courting a certain Lady who resides at Aspendale House and fancies her enough to set his noble sights on marrying her!”
Lisbelle put the back of her hand to her mouth, stifling a giggle.
“Fascinating,” said Lady Madeline.
“So you see, My Lady, we don’t hear much. But we hear some things. And there, I believe you’re finished. And now, the gentleman has been waiting sufficiently for you, M’Lady. I think you ought to go downstairs and drop his jaw.”
Lady Madeline beheld herself in the mirror. Lisbelle had left small, lustrous ringlets dangling in front of her forehead. The rest of the hair was piled up and held in place by a bandeau studded with silver sequins.
“I … oh, Lisbelle, I don’t know what to say. Thank you!”
“All in a moment’s work, My Lady. It isn’t difficult with such beauty at my disposal, to begin with.”
“You’re too kind.”
“Not at all, M’Lady.”
As she descended the staircase, she realised with extreme consternation that someone had filled her stomach with a thousand hot moths with tiny fans. But she was resolute. Lord Oliver was waiting for her, and she would give herself to him freely. All the better, for she knew her parents disapproved of the man.
Perhaps disapproved was the wrong word. They merely approved some more than him. There was Lord Benjamin Sutton, Earl of Chatham, for instance. How they fawned over him when he came to court her. Papa was never more in earnest in the presence of a fellow Earl.
Lord Chatham was a sweet man. Handsome, even dashing in a way. But he was missing … something. What was it? And why couldn’t Mama and Papa see that? And why couldn’t they see that she just couldn’t bring herself to want him as much as they?
His back was turned to her when she entered the library. Papa’s face lit up when he caught sight of her. And then Lord Oliver turned around.
Her heart leapt in her chest as if it was trying to catch the breath that left before it.
He was as captivating as ever. There was the jaw like stone, cut from a rare source and rounded lovingly with a deft hand. And then the full lips that were ripe for kissing – how she blushed at such a thought! – and his straight back and the broad expanse of it like an inverted triangle. The one arm bent behind it, reserved, strong, and fisted. He smiled at her, and his lips curled slightly more on one side than the other – funny how she’d never noticed it before. She noticed it now, for his neatly trimmed moustache – the colour of honey – moved ever so slightly as if winking on its own – and suddenly all pretense of poise left her, and she felt herself near swooning at the mere sight of him.
“Lady Madeline,” he said, his voice like dark silk.
“Lord Oliver,” she squeaked. God, not her voice! Not now!
The small falter seemed to delight him, as he turned fully to face her, his face beaming.
Papa’s head tilted upward. “Erm, Lord Oliver and I were just discussing this business involving Mr John Bellingham’s execution.”
“Ghastly,” Lady Madeline said breezily, her eyes trained on Lord Oliver. His eyes, she thought, they are endless – light brown in hue, and yet deep with many mysteries.
“Well,” said Lord Oliver, “we shouldn’t weaken the lady’s constitution with such talk. Speaking of talking, as a matter of fact, Lord Stamford, I should like to take a walk with your daughter through your lovely garden and have a chat of our own. After all, it has been some time since I’ve last been here, and what stories of gallant exploits there must be of the goings-on at Aspendale.” He cast a winking glance at Papa, who returned it with a smile.
“Of course,” said Papa. “And I’m sure Lisbelle is available to chaperone.”
“Well,” said Madeline, “I should be only too glad to escort you through the gardens, but I’m afraid there are no tales to tell, save for Papa’s gallant efforts to learn the intricacies of chess.”
“Oh, Madeline,” said her father, Lord Stamford, “no sense in revealing the family shame!”
They laughed as Lord Oliver extended an arm, and Lady Madeline took it, and they strode out of the room – she on air, he as grounded and sure as a steed.
“It’s wheat,” said Lady Madeline.
Lord Oliver screwed up his face at her. “Are you sure?”
“I live here, don’t I?” she said with a laugh. “Papa insists we plant a few stalks every year. It’s on the coat of arms.”
“You don’t say.”
“You haven’t seen it. I’m surprised. You’ve been here often enough.”
“I guess I always missed it. I was … somewhat distracted on every one of my visits, you must know.”
She turned her head as she felt her face flush.
They strode through the garden, Lisbelle following far enough away not to intrude, but close enough to hear every word.
“At any rate,” Lord Oliver added, “you must show it to me when we return to the house.”
“And I will,” she said. “The Whitcombes are a proud family, Lord Oliver, you ought to know that. We pride ourselves on our ability to provide, hence the wheat on the coat of arms. The crest is hanging in the great hall. I’ll show it to you when we return to the house. It’s a boar emerging from a patch of wheat and gillyflowers. Flanking the boar is a sword and a torch. The boar indicates a fierce warrior, and yet it is the protector, and a generous one. The motto is verum sit ex igni—”
“Out of fire, let there be truth,” said Lord Oliver.
She smiled. “Precisely.”
“And do you believe that’s possible?”
“That fire can reveal truth.”
She nibbled her lip. “Well, fire does bring light, does it not? And light is truth, is it not?”
“I suppose so.”
“You don’t think so?”
He stopped walking, and she stopped with him. He stared out into the distance. The aspens that gave the house its name lined a verdant knoll in the distance, giving the place the look of a secluded spot that had suddenly arisen just for them. He started towards it.
“I do know one thing,” he said, not taking his eyes from the distance, “that a fire burns within every one of us. Whether it is lighting some path of truth, or else destroying everything it touches, I do not know. But I do know that all fires must have fuel.”
He turned to her. His eyes smoldered.
“And I know that I need my fire. And it needs to be fed. And I don’t believe that anyone could fuel it like you.”
She felt herself weakening at the knees. She grasped his forearms for support. They were rigid like the branches of an oak.
“Lord Oliver,” she said unable to say much else.
“Lady Madeline,” he said, lowering himself to a knee, “it would be the highest honor any person on Earth could bestow to me if you would accept my hand. Be the fuel to my fire, My Lady, and I assure you, it will never die.”
Something arose within her. She couldn’t identify it at first, but it was nothing that anything could have prepared her for. It was a strange feeling, one she had never felt in his presence.
“Oh, Lord Oliver,” she said, “I … don’t know.”
A blow to the head with her palm wouldn’t have left a deeper mark on his face.
“But, we are meant—”
“Oh, no,” she said disarmingly, “you don’t understand. I believe we are meant to be with one another. I would die for you, Oliver.”
His chest rose and fell upon hearing those words.
“But understand,” she continued, “my life is one of … complication.”
“I don’t understand.”
“You know of my other suitors.”
He turned his head to the ground. “I do.”
She took a knee before him. “Rest easy, My Lord, you are not in competition. It’s just that, my father …”
“I thought as much. He talks to me as if I’m a footman or something.”
She chuckled. “I wouldn’t say that.”
“Oh, but it’s true. I am not your equal, not in his eyes. And to be honest, I am not your equal in my own eyes either.”
“Oh, tosh! Papa’s notions of love are grounded in antiquary. He believes one grows toward love. Absurdity of the highest order.”
She reached over and touched his chin. It was the first time she’d ever touched any part of him that wasn’t covered by cloth. She quickly withdrew her hand when his head lifted, and his face softened.
“Yes,” she said.
His features distorted. “I—I’m sorry, what?”
“Yes,” she said again, tears filling her eyes, a song in her voice.
They stood. His face was brighter than ever.
“Are you sure,” he said, his mouth fully extended in a great smile.
“Of course, I’m sure. I’ve known you quite some time. Isn’t that remarkable? And I’ve come to know the safety I feel in your presence, by your side. I’ve never known such bliss. My Lord … my husband … yes.”
“Hurrah!” he exclaimed. “Let us go and tell your parents. Right now.”
They turned and saw Lisbelle, a handkerchief to her face.
“Oh my,” the maid said through tears, “that was just splendid. Splendid, my darlings!”
The three started back towards Aspendale House when Lord Oliver stopped and turned towards Madeline once more.
“Are you indeed sure, My Lady? I do not wish to force your hand.”
“I am more than the fuel to the fire that burns within you,” she whispered. “I am the fire itself.”
They hastened their pace back towards the house.
“Foster, there you are.” She’d caught the butler of Aspendale in the midst of his righting Papa’s portrait in the gallery. He was a short, stout man whose physical presence managed to occupy a space three times his size.
“Ah, M’Lady,” he boomed as he sprang to attention. “What can I do for you?”
“Summon my sister to the parlour, will you?”
The man’s face was one of perplexion. “Lady Emily is already in the parlour, M’Lady.”
“Oh, very well,” said Madeline. She turned to Lord Oliver and grinned. “It seems the secret is out. They’re all awaiting our return.” She turned back to the butler. “Thank you, Foster.”
The butler’s massive chest puffed. “M’Lady, if I may, I was asked to bring some champagne to the parlour … in opaline goblets?” He asked this as if intoning some sort of code.
“Yes, Foster,” she said, unable to hide her excitement, “there is cause for celebration.”
The man’s face brightened into a smile that could have warmed ten winters. “Very well, M’Lady.”
They made their way through the gallery, the approving looks of four generations of Whitcombes upon them. She held his arm. It was so strong and rigid, so steady and sure.
A flutter of nerves in her belly took full wing as they entered the parlour.
“Papa, Mama,” she said, her voice nearly breaking, “Lord Oliver has asked for my hand, and I’m pleased to say I have accepted.”
There was a universal cry of joy as the family surrounded the couple.
“Welcome to the family,” said her mother.
“It is my honour, truly, Lady Abigail,” said Lord Oliver. He turned to Madeline’s younger sister. “And Lady Emily, I shall watch over your sister as if it were my only duty in life.” Finally, he turned to Ambrose, the Whitcombe patriarch. “And last, but not least, Lord Stamford. I swear on this day, I shall uphold the honour of the Whitcombe family as if I bore the name myself.”
Lord Stamford took his future son in-law’s hand and smiled. “Congratulations, my boy.”
Madeline eyed him suspiciously. She knew Papa didn’t approve of Lord Oliver as a suitor, much less a husband. But that was Papa – always putting on airs.
“Well,” said Papa. “This calls for a drink.”
“We already ambushed Foster on his way to the cellar,” said Madeline, relief and joy flooding her soul in equal parts. She felt as though everything in her life had led to this moment. In this mundane relaying of their catching the butler of Aspendale in the midst of his duty, here was the golden moment in her life.
“Well, then, we shall wait,” said Papa.
“Perhaps,” said Lord Oliver, “this would be a good time to have a look at that family coat of arms you told me about.”
“Oh, well, I was thinking perhaps Emily could show it to you. You wouldn’t mind, would you, Emily dear?”
“I would love to show it to you, Lord Oliver,” the girl said, her green eyes gleaming. Her twenty-two years revealed a woman in the prime of youth, and yet there was a certain wiseness in her countenance that made Madeline proud to call her sister. Indeed, Madeline found it hard to fight a touch of envy towards her sister, how the girl at twenty-two could command the attention of men several years her senior as if they were her equal in every way.
“Please,” said Madeline. “I wish to have a word with Papa.”
“Very well,” said Lord Oliver, his arm offered. “I’d be delighted.”
She took his arm, and off they went, Lisbelle close behind, and Madeline watching with gladness in her heart.
“As long as you two are talking,” said Mama, “I am going to check with Mrs Hastings about the dinner arrangements. She winked at her husband and left father and daughter alone.
“What is it, my heart?” said Papa.
She smiled knowingly at him. “Papa, dear …” She could no longer restrain herself and threw her arms around the man. She felt like a child, as she always did in his arms, feeling the expanse of his warm back, her head against his chest. Tears welled in her eyes and spilled gently down her cheeks.
He must have felt the sob in his arms and so pulled away. “Come now. What is it, my child?”
She brought a white knuckle to the corner of each eye in turn. “Papa, you don’t have to pretend any longer. I can see it breaks your heart.”
“Whatever could you possibly mean?”
“There were quite a few who you had deemed suitable for me, I realise this. I know you must be disappointed that it’s Lord Oliver.”
“He is the son of an Earl,” Papa said reassuringly, turning towards the fireplace.
“Oh, Papa, come. He’s the second son. He’s no more an heir to his father’s title than I am! But, Papa, he is a great man of business. And he will make his name. And … I love him. Dearly so. I’m sorry, Papa.”
Her father turned back to her, a slight smile on his face. “Do you really think I care about his status?”
“It hasn’t crossed your mind at all? Papa, I know you better than that.”
“Oh, no you do not, child,” he said. “Do you know, once, when you were a baby, we took you to Vauxhall. There was a band playing, and your mother and I stopped to listen. It was a beautiful summer’s evening. Salt in the air and whatnot. And your mother and I, well, we were still quite young. We sat there in the grass, and we lay you down in front of us. Your little legs kicked at the music. And then you did something curious with your arms. They began to grasp at something invisible.”
“You don’t say.”
“At first, we weren’t sure what it was you could see that we couldn’t. And then, it struck me as I looked up at the sky that you were reaching for the stars in heaven. My child …” Tears welled in the man’s soft eyes, and he turned his head and put a gentle fist to his pursed lips. After a moment, he said, “Excuse me. My child, if I could have reached up there and plucked down every one of those heavenly lights, I would have, at that moment, yes, I would have. And every moment since. You would have them all, my heart. I want nothing but your happiness. Whether you are to find it with a London merchant or the Regent himself, it matters not.”
At this, she truly could not restrain herself. She threw her arms around him once more, nearly knocking the man to the ground.
“Bless me,” he said, a hearty laugh erupting from his chest.
“Papa, you are the finest man who ever walked the Earth.”
“Easy, child. You’ll break my back,” he said, mirth leavening his voice.
“I won’t let you down, Papa. Ever.”
“In that case,” he said. “I lied about the Regent. I’d rather you steered quite clear of him.”
They shared a laugh and embraced once more.
Madeline’s mother returned, and Emily soon thereafter with Oliver. A footman entered with glasses and a tray, with what looked to be a fine emerald-coloured bottle accompanying.
“Here we are with the champagne, at last,” said Papa. “Where on earth is your mother?”
“I’m right behind you, Ambrose,” said Mama, “no need to send out a party.”
“Ah, of course, said Papa. “Now then, everyone take a glass and allow me to propose a toast. Here’s to a joyous union, perfect fellowship, and a son to the house of Hartwell.”
“Hear, hear,” said Mama, the echo of her sentiment following.
“And now, Lord Oliver, I insist you stay for dinner.”
“Oh, I couldn’t—”
“I insist,” said Papa, his face lowered.
“In that case, how could I refuse? I shall be delighted.”
Papa’s face beamed. “My dear, you talked to Mrs Hastings?”
“I did. She’s all set.”
“You had it all worked out in advance,” said Madeline.
“My dear,” said Mama, “you can’t run a house on a whim.”
“You’ll be most welcome, Lord Oliver. I’ve invited an old friend of mine. Mr Ethan Powell, have you heard of him?”
“I’m afraid I haven’t.”
“Ethan Powell,” said Emily. “Oh dear.”
“Who is he?” said Oliver.
“You mean what is he?” said Madeline. “Ethan Powell is a force of nature. He’s rather an odd duck. Papa insists on inviting him to all sorts of affairs.”
“Now, now,” Papa rebuked, “there shall be none of that. The man saved my life in the war.”
“I’m sure he did it because it was in fashion to do so,” said Madeline.
“Child, that is not fair.”
“It most certainly is,” said Mama.
“Now I’m intrigued,” said Oliver. “Who, or what is this man?”
“Mr Powell is an artist and a poet,” said Emily. “I’m sure you’ll find him … well, you’ll find him; let’s just leave it at that.”
“He’s an eccentric, to be sure,” said Papa. “But he’s brilliant, and good company and I wouldn’t dream of calling him a stranger to this family or this house, ever. I’m afraid, my loves, you’re outnumbered by a majority of one. And you’ll all just have to grin and bear it.”
“Grinning is a task on its own,” said Mama. “Bearing it another matter altogether. But my husband has spoken. Take copious notes, Oliver.”
They shared a laugh, and they drank and talked of small things. And soon it was time for dinner.
When he was a boy, Lord Oliver Hartwell’s father had taught him to stand up for principle, to champion morals, to assert his presence in the world, and all the attendant lessons a father with fine intentions imparts to his son. And so, Lord Oliver Hartwell the man carried these principles in his heart. And he knew with the surety of the coming of the seasons that such principles were not just there for decoration. Such principles had to be employed in the service of the man and his attention.
And so, Lord Oliver knew that he had to be prepared for whatever life had to offer him.
And he was, to a degree. For whatever he was prepared for in life – with thanks and gratitude to his fine father – he was by no means prepared – nor could he have been – for the spectacle that glided through the doorway in the personage of Mr Ethan Powell, formerly of Yorkshire, late of London.
He could not, for instance, have ever been prepared for the broad-brimmed hat that tilted lasciviously over the brow. And nothing in his nature had been fortified to withstand the terror of trousers that were the colour of milky tea, held as they were with suspenders that looked to be made of snakeskin – or some terrible beast that slithered rather than walked. He could not have predicted, were he to guess for a thousand years and a year, that the man forecasted to leave such a grand impression on him would arrive bedecked in sparkling rubies on every finger, four of which appendages clasped a cane of polished maple, a roaring lion’s head forged in gleaming silver at its tip.
“Powell!” exclaimed Lord Stamford, thrusting out a rigid arm.
“My dear Lord,” said Ethan Powell, taking the hand tightly, “I was wondering if I was welcome.”
“Why, you’re always welcome.”
“Pity. Being welcome is so boring. I much prefer being unwelcome. Rattling cages from the outside is much more fulfilling than gripping at the bars that have sealed behind you from the inside. Don’t you agree, Foster?”
The butler puffed out his chest. “’Tis not my place to agree or disagree, sir. I am just a butler.”
“Stuff and nonsense, Foster. You’re a cage-rattler if I ever saw one. Isn’t he, Stamford?”
Foster cleared his throat, a bovine sound that buzzed in the room.
“Ethan,” said Lord Stamford, “go easy on Foster. He’s our man and a credit to his race.”
“Thank you, M’Lord.”
“Not at all, Foster.”
“Foster?” said Powell.
“Your launderers have told me that your sense of humour will be a little late in the return. Is that alright?”
The man’s jaw stiffened, and he turned on his heel to dispose of Powell’s things.
“Ethan,” said Lord Stamford, “I must say, your humour is often unbecoming.”
“We shall wait, then, and see what becomes of it. And whom do we have here?”
Powell approached Lord Oliver like a great cloud propelled by a gust, his eyes sparkling with possibility.
“Ah, allow me to introduce Lord Oliver Hartwell.”
“How do you do,” said Lord Oliver, nodding courteously.
“I do well most of the time.”
Oliver fumbled for words. “Er … I hear you and His Lordship served together in the war.”
Powell rolled his eyes. “That old story. Really, Stamford, you must do your best to procure new material.”
“Mr Powell saved my life.”
“You won’t ever allow me to live it down, will you? I’ve atoned for that most egregious offence, M’Lord, I assure you.”
Oliver smiled outwardly, while inwardly, a whirlwind of confusion assailed every one of his sensibilities.
“Well,” he said in an attempt to recover, “you must be a most courageous and moral man, Mr Powell.”
“Courageous?” said Powell as if the word were a poison. “Moral? My dear fellow, the effects of courage are the same even if one is merely pretending to be courageous. And as for morals, I have none. I am, on the other hand, highly ethical. Morality is a false principle conjured by robed eunuchs to beguile the innocent into travelling in the direction opposite from sainthood. Ethics, however, are as solid as adamant, and the foundation upon which the soul may stand up and sing.”
Oliver was struck dumb. “I-“ he began, then faltered.
“No need to feel ashamed,” said Lord Stamford, placing a hand upon the man’s shoulder. “He does this to everyone.”
“The Curious Story of the Missing Lady” is an Amazon Best-Selling novel, check it out here!
On her wedding night, Lady Madeline Whitcombe is abducted by a terrifying stranger. After being brought to a house deep in the middle of a dark forest, she will find out she is being held captive by a malicious woman, who is willing to go to great lengths for revenge… But when a charming heir gets lost in the woods, the hopes of her rescue come alive. Will he manage to read between the lines and understand what a great danger she is into? And if so, will he dare risk even his life to save her?
Lord Peter Lytton is the future Duke; a title he doesn’t really crave. His father’s urge to find a woman to marry doesn’t really appeal to him, while he prefers chasing new adventures riding his horse, feeling free and untamed. He will have to reconsider his beliefs though, when he meets an enigmatic maid in a hidden house deep in the woods, with a peculiar aristocratic behaviour. Will he solve the mystery behind her desperate glance and keep her from landing herself in harm’s way once again?
Fate brings Peter in Madeline’s life but she will have to inevitably leave his side sooner than she expected. Madeline is already betrothed to another man and her rescue is just the beginning… When the situation gets more and more complicated, she will have to choose. Will she reconcile with her former fiance or will she listen to her heart telling her there is something dreamy in her chemistry with her saviour she just can’t neglect?
“The Curious Story of the Missing Lady” is a historical romance novel of approximately 80,000 words. No cheating, no cliffhangers, and a guaranteed happily ever after.