A Duke’s Garden of Love (Preview)

Chapter One

Lord Albion Brightling, the Duke of Somerfield, was not known for his sparkling personality or indulgent parties. At times, he wished that he could be the sort of man who entertained others, who made them happy to be near him. But it simply was not in his nature.

He had always been a serious man, but since the war, he had grown ever more quiet and overwrought by his need for solitude.

His dark eyes scanned the garden, taking in the image of all that he had built in memoriam. The sunflowers were a tribute to his older brother, who had always brightened their days. He passed away early on in the war. The baby’s breath were for his younger brother, the baby of the family who had made it nearly to the end. And the roses were in honour of his mother, who passed away from her grief.

And now, Albion was alone. He had been left with the family estate, the title, the fortune. All of it was meaningless, but he wished to use it wisely. And a part of that use, he decided, would be building this garden to remember them.

The previous four days had been awful, not being able to come out and see the garden, to smell the beautiful flowers, and to relive the memories of his family. But he had been bedridden with a brief, but terrible cough.

The fresh air was a delight, as was the process of inhaling without descending into a fit of coughing. But when Albion reached the roses, the part of his walk when he typically stood and lingered over thoughts of his mother, he was immediately shocked by what he saw.

A handful of the blooms were covered in ugly, black spots.

They appeared diseased, hideous and ruined. Albion had never seen anything like this before and could not understand what was happening.

Was this normal? Was it something that he had done to the flowers or had they grown this on their own? Was it an insect that had poisoned the roses?

He couldn’t imagine what it was.

Albion needed to speak with his gardener. Perhaps the man knew something about this. But why had he not told Albion? Why was he not, this very moment, handling the problem?

Rushing back to the house, Albion quickly found one of the maids.

“Miss Potter, where is Mr. Hillsborough?” he asked.

Miss Potter appeared alarmed and confused by his sudden need for the gardener.

“Honestly, Your Grace, I cannot say. I have not seen him at all this morning. Actually, I have not seen him for the past few days, now that I think of it,” she said.

“Please, do find him for me. I shall continue looking, but he was not outside. Perhaps he is in his room?” Albion asked.

“I am perfectly happy to check for you, Your Grace. Give me but a moment,” she said.

Albion waited and then heard a screeching sound. He rushed to see what it was that Miss Potter had been upset by, but she came rushing out to him instead.

“That man! Oh!” she said in anger.

“What is it? What has happened?” Albion asked.

“He is lost in a drunken stupor. What a useless creature,” she said, shaking her head.

Albion fumed. He paid this man very well to keep the gardens in perfect shape. And he had spent the past few days locked away in his room with a bottle? Albion would not stand for that!

Within the hour, Mr. Hillsborough had been packed up and sent from the estate. Under his lack of care, Albion’s roses were dying and he had no one to tell him why. What was most important to Albion was getting to the bottom of this and ensuring that he was able to have the garden which honoured his family the way he wished for it to.

“What am I to do now? He was considered one of the best in all of England,” Albion said, collapsing in his study as Miss Potter brought him tea.

“There has to be someone better out there, Your Grace. Someone who will not be a slave to his vices,” she said.

“Oh, dear. It appears I missed something quite devastating,” Theodore said, rushing into the study.

“I shall leave the two of you,” Miss Potter said, shuffling away.

Theodore Connelly had worked at the estate for nearly ten years, the past two as Albion’s private butler. He was also Albion’s dearest friend, the only companion to whom he could share what was on his mind during the difficult days.

“Theodore, I am so glad that you have returned,” he said.

“Of course, of course. Now, what is it? What has happened? I saw a couple of the maids clearing out some bedding, all in a huff,” he said.

“It is Mr. Hillsborough. He has proven to be a drunkard and he allowed the garden to grow…diseased or something. He has been stripped of his duties,” Albion said.

Theodore’s brows drew together in thought.

“I see. But who is going to care for the gardens now?” he asked.

“That is precisely my dilemma,” Albion said.

“And what do you mean when you say that they are diseased? What, precisely, has happened to them?” he asked.

“It would appear that they are covered in some sort of black spot. Not the whole garden, mind you, but a portion of my rose bushes,” Albion said.

“Well, that cannot be good at all,” Theodore said.

“No, it is not. You know how important the gardens are to me. And my own knowledge is enough to care gently for the garden, but certainly not enough to keep it alive. I am limited in my skill with plants, even if I do adore them and wish to have them providing such beauty,” Albion said.

“Certainly, it is important that it does not die away,” Theodore said, as though he was going to continue speaking.

“I need someone who can rescue the roses before it is too late and we have to begin anew. I know no other who is so well connected in society as you and I trust that you shall be able to find me the right man for the job. I need someone who is able to be here often, to take care of everything,” he said.

“Indeed, and I think—” Theodore began.

“If you are able to find someone who comes highly recommended and is able to start right away, all the better. This all began during my four days inside, in the midst of Mr. Hillsborough’s neglect. We cannot delay another day if we do not have to,” Albion continued on.

“Certainly, and I know—” Theodore began again.

“I do not know what I would do if we had to start all over again,” Albion said in despair, wondering if he had failed in creating the stunning memorial to his family.

“Ahem?” Theodore signaled, clearing his throat as politely as possible to .

Albion paused and looked up at Theodore, patiently.

“Oh, forgive me,” he said. “I was interrupting you. I know that I am in a panic and have not allowed you to speak.”

“I understand. I know how important this is to you. But, if you will, I do have an idea,” Theodore said.

“Yes, yes, of course. You must forgive me for being so distracted. What is your idea?” Albion asked.

“I understand that you are seeking a gentleman for this task, but would you be opposed to a young lady instead?” Theodore asked.

Albion cocked his head to the side. He had not considered hiring a young woman for his garden. But he had female maids in the home, so why should he not? After all, a young woman might be equally skilled in the task for which he needed her.

It was clear to Albion that Theodore had someone specific in mind. Was this a young woman Theodore cared for? And why had he not mentioned her before?

“I certainly do not mind,” he finally said. “Is this a young lady well known to you?”

“Indeed, she is. In fact, she is a relation of mine. Her father is my mother’s cousin,” he said.

“Interesting. And she is aware of the ways of plants?” Albion asked.

“She is the best. People say that she has nearly mythical abilities. Her father is a florist, but she is the one who truly brings the plants to life,” Theodore said.

“Is that so?” Albion asked.

“Indeed, it is. And I would guess that she would find herself utterly astonished by your garden. Her own family cannot afford such extravagance, but to work in a place like this? I assure you that she would be most impressed,” Theodore said.

“Very well, very well. You have convinced me. If she comes at such a high recommendation from you, I can hardly deny her. Do you believe that she would be willing to start at once?” Albion asked.

“I can hardly see why not. She is always looking for an opportunity to be outside of the house,” Theodore said with a laugh.

“Ah, so she is not overly fond of being indoors with her family?” Albion asked, wondering if this young woman would prove unruly.

“No, it is not that. Simply, she needs to have her hands in the dirt and among the plants. Nothing else makes her so happy as that,” Theodore said.

“How delightful. Well, in that case, please welcome her here, most heartily. I look forward to meeting this cousin of yours and seeing whether or not she can save my garden,” Albion said.

The truth was, he had no desire for anyone else to come into his home. Albion did not do well with people. Even the maids, he often wished to be rid of. Theodore was the only person left with whom he was truly comfortable.

This young woman would need to be set apart from the rest of he staff, left entirely to her own devices. Albion had no intention of speaking with her directly, but Theodore would take care of that. It was his duty and it worked out nicely that this was his relation.

But what mattered most would be for Albion’s garden to be restored. Whatever the cost of this young woman’s services, he would pay it. He had to.

Albion recognised the strangeness of his affinity for the garden. No, it would not bring back his family, but he couldn’t help feeling as though it kept them close to him, somehow. When he really, truly needed to know that he was not alone, he could wander among the flowers and feel his family again.

His father had died when he was young, but his mother had raised him along with his brothers to be a good man and to be a leader. It was simply a shame that he was the only one who survived. And as the only survivor, the responsibilities upon his shoulders could seem daunting at times.

Perhaps that was why he chose to withdraw. Maybe it was easier this way, to be alone and to pretend that he could go amongst the flowers and be with his family all over again. But Albion could not stop himself. It was too tempting to isolate with nothing other than his hopes.

Regardless of what he wanted, there would soon be a new life among them. And if Theodore’s recommendation was anything to go off—which Albion believed it was—she was something of an enigma.

Yes, it was a misfortune that he had lost his old gardener, but perhaps this was how it was always supposed to be. Maybe this young woman could truly bring the beautiful flowers into a flourishing splendour.

At least, that was what Albion was hoping for. And he realised then that he had something he had not had in a very long time. That very feeling of having something to look to that would bring hope.

 

Chapter Two

It would do no good to prune off every last leaf. 

Rosamund well knew that she needed to stay busy. But did that really mean she had to take apart each plant, bit by bit?

Surely, her father didn’t mean that.

But the florist shop was slow. There were hardly any customers and Rosamund was desperate for something to do. She needed a project. After setting down her shears, she decided to look through some of the seeds that were set aside.

She was eager to try growing some of these. A few of them were imports from other regions. Even some from the far east.

She wondered if she would manage to make them grow. Would they survive in such a different climate? She had seen many that managed to, but also many that did not.

Regardless, she was eager to find out.

Just as Rosamund was preparing the soil in a small crate for the seeds, the door of the shop opened. She turned to greet the customer, but saw that it was none other than her distant cousin, Theodore.

“Theo! My goodness, I did not expect to see you. It has been months. Are you well? How is your family? Your work?” she asked, her brown eyes lighting up with excitement.

“Very well, Rosie, thank you. Yes, it has been quite some time, indeed, since we saw one another. But I am glad to see you now,” he said.

She was happy to see him as well. He was such a nice man and they had always gotten along very well. Then again, they did not see one another all that often so this time apart was hardly unusual. He worked for a rather sequestered and somewhat demanding nobleman.

Nevertheless, she was glad for a visit from Theodore now. Curious as to why he had come, she set down the seeds and relaxed.

“Well, what can I do for you? Are you in need of seeds? I have heard that your employer has rather legendary gardens,” she said.

“Well, it is not about seeds, but it is regarding my employer,” Theodore began.

“I see. Do you need to speak with my father?” she asked.

“No, actually. It is you who I need to speak with. Do you mind?” he asked.

Surprised, but not wishing to show it, Rosamund simply nodded and took a seat on a stool beside the many leaf clippings on the table. She wished that she was better dressed or that she didn’t always seem quite so young and naive when she was around Theodore. Despite her self-assurance as a gardener, she was well aware that her cousin worked for one of the wealthiest dukes in England, whereas she was extremely poor.

“Please, Theo. What is it you wish to speak about?” she asked.

“It is about that garden you mentioned, actually. Lord Brightling has run into a bit of a difficult situation in which his gardener grew neglectful and…well, he was a foolish drunkard and it was actually quite a shame that he was allowed to remain at the estate as long as he had,” Theodore said.

“Well, that is disappointing,” Rosamund acknowledged.

“Indeed. It was Mr. Hillsborough,” Theodore told her.

“Truly? But he is said to be one of the best gardeners there is. I must confess that I am surprised,” she said.

“Yes, it was all very unfortunate. But, anyway, there is more to it,” Theodore said.

Rosamund remained silent and waited, still uncertain what all of this meant and why Theodore had come to her to handle it.

“The roses are the Duke’s greatest pride. They were planted in honour of his mother. And now, they have grown…sick? I don’t know what term you use, but they look awful. Anyway, Lord Brightling loves the roses and his garden is his greatest pride. He spends the vast majority of his time there,” Theodore said.

“And?” she asked.

“And he asked me to find someone to handle it. Of course, I immediately thought of you,” Theodore said, finally arriving at his point.

This was intriguing. Rosamund had never imagined an opportunity to work in the garden of a wealthy man like this. But, then again, she did have quite a reputation.

It always amused her that people thought so highly of her abilities with plants. It wasn’t so hard. All she had to do was tend to them and make them grow. They told her what they needed. If they were dying, it was clear. If they were drowning, she could see that they were not drinking the water. Couldn’t everyone figure these things out?

Apparently not. Certainly not some fancy duke, and certainly not anyone else who came into the shop, seeking their assistance.

“Well, that is very interesting, Theo. I confess that I am surprised,” she said.

Indeed, it was interesting. She would need to speak with her father to ensure that he did not mind. But Rosamund that he would be happy about it. After all, it was money. Money from a duke would be extremely beneficial for their business. Otherwise, she did not know what they would do. The business was falling to pieces and this could be exactly what they needed.

“Well, we need to speak with my father and get his approval,” she said.

“So you wish to do it?” Theodore asked, not sounding exactly surprised.

“Of course I do. You know that I love to spend my days in a garden. This shop is…” at this, Rosamund simply mouthed the words instead of saying them aloud, “so boring!”

Theodore chuckled.

“But, as I said, we need to confirm with my father that he approves of this,” she said.

Just then, as if he heard them speaking about him, her father came out into the shop. He had been outside, transferring some of the starts into larger pots.

“What am I approving of? Oh! Theodore. How nice to see you,” he greeted.

“And you, Uncle. Well, I hope you do not mind, but I have come to sweep your daughter away in the hopes that she might assist my employer. Although he will eventually need a full-time gardener, at the moment he needs someone who can help his roses recover from some black spot they have,” Theodore said.

“Ugh, black spot. It is dreadful,” Rosamund said.

“The Duke of Somerfield wishes for my daughter to rescue his infamous garden?” her father asked.

“Indeed, Uncle,” Theodore said.

She could see the look in her father’s eyes. He was obviously thrilled. It was clear that this was precisely what he would have wanted. He now had an opportunity to have an income as a result of Rosamund’s reputation.

“Most definitely. Tell the Duke that she would be delighted,” he said.

“Well, if she is delighted, would she be delighted to come with me right now?” Theodore asked, shifting his gaze from her father to Rosamund directly.

“Of course I would!” she exclaimed.

It was all settled. She was going to have a wonderful opportunity, getting to wander such beautiful, flourishing gardens.

Theodore had mentioned them in the past, telling her that she would love them. But she had never anticipated an opportunity to actually go and see them. It was wonderful that she was going to get a chance to walk among his legendary memorial garden.

They spent some time arranging the situation and when she would be able to go with Theodore to the estate.

“I can hardly wait!” Rosamund exclaimed, once they had decided on how long she would be there that afternoon.

Just then, the door opened again. They all held their breath as they turned, again eager to see if they had a new customer.

But this time, as well, it was just another visitor.

Juliet was Rosamund’s dearest friend. She was a young woman who clearly wished for the same skills that Rosamund had.

“Juliet! Well, it looks like I am being visited by two of my favourite people today,” she said.

Juliet smiled and looked at Theodore and then back to Rosamund, as if perhaps this gentleman was a secret admirer that Rosamund had never told her about.

“Oh, forgive me. This is my cousin, Mr. Theodore Connelly. Theo, this is my dearest friend, Miss Juliet Grimes,” she said.

“It is an honour to meet you Miss Grimes,” Theodore said, his eyes taking in the blushing Juliet.

“And you, Mr. Connelly,” Juliet replied, keeping her eyes low and a quiet smile on her lips.

As Juliet and Theodore introduced themselves to one another, Rosamund could see that there was a spark between the two of them. She had never expected this. But she ought to have.

In fact, why has she not thought before about arranging a meeting between her cousin and her friend? Yes, Theodore was a little bit older, but there was nothing wrong with that. They would actually be quite a sweet couple.

“Anyway,” her father said, suddenly, clearing his throat. It was startling enough to break Juliet and Theodore from their moment and it very nearly made Rosamund jump. But her father was always shy around romance and she found it amusing that he would try to break that moment.

“Yes, we must be on our way,” Rosamund said.

“On your way?” Juliet asked.

“Indeed, I am very sorry we shall not spend time together today. I am going to pay a visit to the gardens of the Duke of Somerfield,” Rosamund said.

Juliet was downcast, but understanding.

“In that event, I shall speak with you later,” she said.

Theodore led Rosamund to the coach. They climbed in and started on their journey.

Rosamund was excited. Any opportunity she had to get out of the shop and away from the house was a good one. But knowing that she was going to be in a grand garden was like a dream.

She was always eager for opportunities to enjoy florals of nobility. The wealthy always had such grand gardens. And now, she would get to be among them.

“Are you ready?” Theodore asked.

“Of course I am. Why wouldn’t I be? You know that I love beautiful flowers and this is a great opportunity to use my skills. Father will be overjoyed because I know that your employer will be able to keep us flush for a month if we assist him in this,” she said.

“Very true. But you have never done work at a place like this, have you?” Theodore asked.

“I did save the tulips of the Baron of Morran,” she said.

“Ha! The Baron of Morran? That is not a garden, that is a bouquet,” Theodore said, eliciting a laugh from Rosamund.

“Yes, you are right. But my point is that I have worked for the wealthy before,” she said.

“I have a feeling you do not rightly know what you are in for. Will you do me a favour?” Theodore asked.

“Certainly,” she replied.

“Open the curtain and tell me what you see,” he instructed, gesturing to the window in the coach.

Rosamund looked out the window. What she saw was astonishing.

The estate was enormous. It was larger than she had ever dreamt of. In fact, she had never even heard of places like this. Was it a palace? She could imagine a palace this size.

“I…” she trailed off, looking back at Theodore and then immediately turning her head back to look through the window again.

“What do you think?” he asked.

“I think I had no idea what you really meant all this time,” she said.

Theodore laughed and she got the idea that he understood her confusion and amazement. But how could he not? No matter how long he had lived at this place, how could anyone get used to it?

If the gardens were anything like the rest of the estate, Rosamund was going to be very happy indeed.


“A Duke’s Garden of Love” is an Amazon Best-Selling novel, check it out here!

With her mythical abilities to grow and restore any garden in England, Rosamund Fleet is living a happy life in the midst of nature. Unfortunately, she is engaged to be married to Horace Filbert, a man with no respect to her abilities or the work she does for her father. Just when life starts feeling meaningless, she gets a surprising invitation by a mysterious Duke and instantly packs all her belongings. Moving to the brooding Duke’s mansion, the last thing she expected was to fall for him and get herself into trouble… Soon, she finds herself determined not only to save his precious garden, but the Lord himself. Will this bright Lady find her soulmate in this magical garden of love?

Lord Albion Brightling, the Duke of Somerfield, is a lonely soul. After the death of his entire family during the war, he dedicated his garden to those who mattered most to him. He would rather die alone than love and lose again, so he chose isolation and he decided to spend his days at his estate far away from everyone… But when Albion’s roses grow sick, his butler calls in the only person in England who can save the garden, Rosamund. What he would never expect, though, is that this charming lady will soon threaten to destroy the walls he has built to protect his broken heart with her soft tenderness. Will this compassionate Lady help him fight the demons of his past and start all over again by believing in true love?

As Rosamund brings his flowers back to life, love and hope are also finding their way back into the Duke’s life. The more the two of them emotionally connect within this magical garden, the more the Duke’s reputation as an isolated madman is challenged. When Rosamund’s betrothed discovers this unexplainable connection, he will do anything he can to stop the two from growing closer… With everyone set against them, will their love come up roses? Or will they be pricked by society’s hurtful thorns?

“A Duke’s Garden of Love” is a historical romance novel of approximately 80,000 words. No cheating, no cliffhangers, and a guaranteed happily ever after.

Get your copy from Amazon!

7 thoughts on “A Duke’s Garden of Love (Preview)”

  1. Loved the 2 chapters that I read. I feel so sorry for Albion that he’s lost everyone and is alone in the world save for this staff.

    Am looking forward to reading the rest of this story and see how that develops. Also interested in the early “love connection” between Juliet and Theodore!!

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