Bath, England 1812
“Well, who would have thought it? The Duke of Pembershire has made an appearance at a little Bath assembly.”
John turned round, hearing a jesting voice he knew as well as his own. Before him, his old childhood friend Arthur Colbourne, now the new Duke of Hawksby, walked forward. With dark hair, dark eyes, and sharp facial features, it would not have been surprising for someone to think Arthur was a reserved or even distant man, but John knew that any person who had ever met Arthur found him affable and charismatic, with those deep brown eyes lighting up whenever he spoke.
It was a quality John envied. For his own nervousness towards society, in general, made him appear aloof. He wished he had his friend’s easygoing nature instead.
“Arthur.” He laughed and extended his hand to shake. “You’ve talked so much of this event. Where else would I be tonight?”
“You’re forgetting I have a sister to marry off these days. I have to attend such things for her. You are lucky in that you do not have the responsibility,” Arthur shook his head with the words, making the dark hair across his forehead dance.
“Hmm, lucky indeed,” John stated, looking away from Arthur to see if he could catch a glimpse of the sister somewhere in the crowd of the assembly.
The Bath Assembly Rooms were crowded and hot tonight. Despite the lofted ceilings and tall windows, with so many people, it was difficult to squeeze past other guests, and the heat of the bodies pressed so close together was cloying. The long chandeliers that hung from the ceiling basked the room in an apricot-tinged glow that bounced off people’s faces. Despite John’s wish, he couldn’t see Arthur’s sister amongst these faces. He could only see a medley of suits, cravats, empire-waist gowns, and elaborate headdresses.
“I haven’t seen your sister for some time. A couple of years, I think.”
“Even when we finished university, she was still at finishing school,” Arthur explained as he passed over a glass of punch. John sipped eagerly, needing the courage of the alcohol for the imminent meeting about to take place. “She’s talked of little else other than this assembly for days now.”
“Really?” John asked, startled by the news. He remembered almost everything about Emma. With his country seat and Arthur’s adjoining one another’s, as children they had practically grown up in each other’s pockets, and he had grown to know Emma well. “She’s hardly the kind of lady to worry about such folly. Last time I saw her, she had her nose buried in a folio of Shakespeare’s plays.”
“You know her very well.” Arthur smiled. “Though times are changing since you last saw her. My little sister is a lady now, and she knows she must marry soon.”
“So soon?” John asked, lifting his eyebrows in surprise. “Is it really that imperative?”
“It’s my responsibility as her elder brother to ensure that she does. I cannot have my sister becoming a spinster now, can I?” Arthur laughed as he topped his punch glass up from the bowl behind him on a long table.
I couldn’t think of any woman less likely to be a spinster.
John stopped himself from saying the words aloud. He had first met Emma when she was just a toddler, and he was a child. It had taken many years to admit the truth, especially because of the slight age difference between them, but by the time Emma was fourteen, John knew the truth of his feelings for her. No other woman would ever compare.
Not that he had ever told her that, and he had little intention of telling her so either. He doubted very much that she would ever take two glances in his direction.
“Where is she tonight?” John asked, looking around the crowd in the hope of seeing her once again.
“I can’t see her right now,” Arthur mused as he too took a glance around. “On that subject, though, there is something I would like to discuss with you.” He turned and pointed a finger in John’s direction.
“Why do I suddenly feel rather put on the spot?” John asked, finding some humor in the situation. “It’s like one of my university lecturers is staring at me again, expecting some lofty answer to an intellectual question.”
“Ah, well, that is what I am hoping for.” Arthur waved his hand to the side, showing he intended to walk around the assembly rooms, and wished for John to join him. He quickly took up the invitation to walk alongside.
“You have me intrigued. What is your question?”
“At what age do you think it is decent for a gentleman to be married?” Arthur asked, making John flinch in surprise.
“What an odd question. Can there even be an answer?”
“I heard some gentlemen discuss it the other day at a club in town.” Arthur shrugged. “It got me thinking about marriage. After all, Emma has not yet quite reached her twentieth year, and yet here I am intending to marry her off. I’m a few years her senior, and there is no such expectation for me to marry.”
“It’s true; it’s odd how different the expectations are between men and women,” John said as he looked around the crowd again, desperate for one glimpse of her. After a couple of years apart, he was intrigued to see what she looked like now. Would she be much changed? “I feel there is a further question to your discussion here. What is it?”
“My mother made the intimation the other day that perhaps it was time I married too.” Arthur practically grimaced in response.
“Ha! You’d think you were asked to do a great evil from the expression you just pulled,” John said, pointing at his friend’s face.
“I’m not saying I’m averse to the idea.” Arthur shrugged. “It’s just that I haven’t met a young lady yet who I wish to marry. So, this is the question I wish to ask you.”
“Go on,” John encouraged.
“Do you intend to marry any time soon?” Arthur’s question brought John to a sharp halt. His fingers clenched around the punch glass in his hand as his mind worked quickly to conjure a way to deflect the conversation. The last few years, he’d managed to distract himself from thoughts of marriage with the university, yet now his father had passed away, and he had inherited the dukedom, it was being mooted everywhere that it was time he took a wife of his own and produced an heir.
“I …” John faltered, struggling to know what to say.
“I see I have surprised you!” Arthur chuckled warmly. “Is marriage so shocking to you, my friend?”
“No.” John shook his head. “It’s just been suggested more than once recently. My own mother talks of me producing an heir for the dukedom.”
“Then you have the same problem I have.” Arthur nodded. “So, what are your thoughts on getting married just for the sake of producing an heir?”
John’s reaction was instant. He didn’t talk of who to marry; in fact, he made a specific attempt to push Emma’s memory out of his mind, but he was determined to talk of the one resolution he had made on marriage.
“I don’t think any man should marry for arrangement. Least of all, just to produce an heir.” John shook his head. “It’s what’s talked of, especially any gentleman in our position has this huge expectation, but quite frankly, I couldn’t think of a more miserable life than to spend it with a woman you had no care for whatsoever. Many a man takes a mistress in such a situation, and I certainly don’t ever want to be one of those men.”
“Admirably spoken indeed,” Arthur said, smiling as he led them further around the room once again. The violins on the room’s far side had now struck up their opening tune for the night, and some space was being made in the centre of the floor for dancers to take their places. “I feel reassured that at least I am not the only duke out there averse to marrying for the sake of it then.”
“I can assure you that you are not.”
“And have you met this woman you speak of?” Arthur asked, making John’s brows knit together.
“Well, you inferred that you would only marry if you found a woman to care for. Have you met her yet?” Arthur’s question made John look away and turn his attention firmly to the dancers. He could hardly confess that the only woman who had ever made him think of marriage was Arthur’s own sister.
“No,” he sighed, reaching for a lie. “So, maybe I will be one of those gentlemen who never marry.” He genuinely meant it. After all, if Emma were the only person to inspire such feelings, what chance did he have?
“I hope that is not the case,” Arthur said reassuringly and patted John on the back. “Ah, there’s Emma now.” John flicked his head back around in anticipation, searching for her through the crowd. “Emma?” Arthur called to his sister.
A young woman turned their way, standing amongst a bunch of other guests, and strode forward. John recognized her instantly. Though a couple of years had passed, her features were still familiar. Those soft brown eyes were the first thing he saw; they were bold and large in her face, followed by a gently sloping nose and thin lips. Her face was petite in structure and flattered by a gentle smattering of freckles across her cheeks. The dark auburn hair he could remember flowing down past her shoulders when she was a child was now tied up into an elegant chignon, with a few wayward curls hanging down to frame her features.
The years away from her had only meant that she had matured in her beauty. She was tall now too, almost as tall as him, which was a feat indeed. She had a presence as she strode toward them, her chin high and her curvaceous figure highlighted by the ivory empire gown she wore with a deep neckline and pearled beads around her waist.
As she reached them, John tried to tamp down on the fluttering sensation in his stomach, but it was no good. It was as though Emma were a sorceress, who had placed him under a spell simply by standing beside him.
Emma, what have you done to me?
John is here again!
Emma was struggling to take control of her smile. The man she had been besotted with for as long as she could remember was standing beside Arthur as she walked toward them. To her dismay, when she reached John’s side, he set his gaze on his punch glass instead, seemingly much more interested in that than in her.
“Emma, you remember John?” Arthur said warmly at her side, gesturing to him.
“How could I forget?” Emma smiled. “You two hardly spent a day apart as children. How are you, John?” She used his first name rather than his formal address. After all, they had been children together. One of her finest memories was of a day when she had fallen in the river on her family estate, and John was the one to pull her out. After that moment, with John’s arms around her waist and hers around his neck, surely, they didn’t need titles between them anymore?
He lifted his blue gaze from his punch bowl and looked to her, offering a smile that seemed to her to be rather restrained.
“I am well. It is good to see you again, Lady Colbourne.” The moment he used her formal title, Emma felt her stomach sink. The excitement at seeing John again after all this time became swallowed by sadness.
With how well we know each other, he still doesn’t like me very much, does he?
“And you,” Emma took a small step backwards, realizing that she now had to make a hasty retreat. She’d rather hoped that with not having seen each other for two years, he might have warmed up to her a little bit, but no. But she was determined to have one more go at softening his cold exterior. “I’ve heard much from Arthur of your time together in Cambridge,” she said, offering a smile. “He has told me of some interesting escapades about the two of you. In particular, I remember a tale about you both on the river late at night and someone ending up in the river instead of on the boat.”
Arthur laughed warmly just as John’s eyes widened in surprise.
“I admit, I did tell her about that story.” Arthur was still struggling to control his laughter.
“Why?” John asked.
“Because it is one of the most amusing stories I have to tell,” Arthur said, managing to control his mirth.
“Well, I hope you’ll be able to tell me such stories of my brother too.” She addressed John with the statement.
“Perhaps not, Lady Colbourne,” John said tightly, looking past her shoulder at the crowd beyond. “Such stories are maybe not so suitable for this formal setting.”
Emma felt her spine stiffen in response. It seemed he was determined to be cold and distant with her, no matter what the subject was. Clearly, he was still intent on being the aloof gentleman he liked to be with everyone. It was evident she was no different to him than any other lady.
Feeling a little pain in her chest, she was determined not to reveal it on her face.
“Well, I should return to my friend,” she said boldly, preparing to turn away. “I will not prey upon your time any longer, Your Grace.” She used his formal address and chose her words carefully. He seemed to understand her meaning, for his eyebrows raised as he peered at her over the rim of his glass. Arthur seemed not to notice the intended slight she gave.
“Emma, before you go,” Arthur took her arm and pulled her forward again, leading her back toward John. “Maybe you could dance with John?”
“I’m s-sorry?” Emma stuttered in surprise.
“You have attended finishing school, and we are somewhat out of practice because of university.” Arthur smiled. “You should see the way we danced there. Picture two horses dancing, and you probably can imagine the rather ungainly picture.” Emma was tempted to laugh at the image he had created, but her mind was still occupied by the suggestion he had made.
“That is not necessary, Arthur,” John said, holding out his hand as though physically trying to dissuade the idea.
“Nonsense, Emma’s dance card hasn’t yet been filled,” Arthur carried on as if the objection hadn’t been made. “I’m sure you would appreciate the tutelage, wouldn’t you, John?”
Emma didn’t know what to say. Her practical mind knew she should extract herself from this situation as soon as possible, whereas the childish part of her urged her to stay quiet. She wished to know whether he would say yes or no. The last time she danced with John, it was before finishing school when her mother was trying to teach her how to dance. He’d been aloof the whole way through the lesson, yet she could still remember the way his hand had felt in hers.
Please say yes.
“What do you say, John?” Arthur urged again as John took another sip from his punch glass.
“I say that I am not inclined to dance tonight.” He lowered the glass back down and raised his chin high. He didn’t even look at Emma as he said the words. “I’m sure Lady Colbourne will excuse me, but I am not enticed by the idea and would prefer to stand here.”
Emma’s mouth fell open in surprise. She had never heard him be so rude in his life. The words were offensive, yet he had said it all in a polite tone that suggested he thought he could get away with it.
“If you would excuse me,” Emma said quickly, trying to maintain a smidgen of self-respect. “My friend has just arrived; enjoy your evening.”
She bobbed a quick curtsy to John and walked past him as quickly as she could, heading for her friend who had just appeared through the doorway. The whole walk, she had to keep her chin high, for fear if she let it fall, she would feel as small as John’s words had clearly intended her to feel.
“Anne! Thank goodness you are here.” Emma reached for her closest friend in the world. Anne quickly disentangled herself from her family and rushed forward to take both of Emma’s hands.
“Well, you seem in a state, dearest?” Anne asked, her green eyes wide in worry. “Has something happened?”
“Something has happened, and I feel I must impart it now before I start a cycle of self-loathing.” Emma looped her arm with Anne’s and dragged her away across the room, finding a corner far away from most of the guests and as far as possible away from the dance floor.
“Are we hiding?” Anne asked, smiling. “I rather like this idea if so. Shall we hide here all night behind the candelabras?” She pointed at the nearest candelabra, and Emma laughed warmly. She loved her friend dearly. Anne was from quite a different class. Though a respected family, she had no title and no fortune, which meant enough people had warned Emma away from being friends with her. Emma had strongly rejected this, for Anne was both one of the kindest people she had ever known and one of the funniest.
“Oh, I have missed you while you have been in the country,” Emma said, refusing to let go of her friend’s hand just yet.
“I can tell, squeeze much harder, and you’ll detach my hand from my wrist.” Anne produced a mocked look of pain, drawing out more laughter from Emma. “Well, I’m pleased to see I have made you laugh, but evidently, something has happened. What is it?”
“It is just a friend of my brother’s.” Emma sighed, more frustrated and pained by the encounter than she liked to admit. She had never told anyone of the soft spot she had always had for John, and she had no intention of revealing it now. She would just have to tell her tale while leaving out a few significant details. “The Duke of Pembershire, he’s over there.” Emma pointed him out from where he was still standing beside Arthur. The two of them were laughing heartily about something.
“The tall handsome one with dark hair?” Anne asked.
“He is not so handsome.” Emma rolled her eyes just as Anne looked back at her with a smirk across her lips.
“Hmm, remember that old famous Shakespeare line of the lady doth protest too much methinks?”
“Anne!” Emma waved at her, urging her to be quiet.
“Emma, there is no shame in acknowledging a man is handsome.” Anne shrugged. “If a man can comment on a woman’s beauty, then a woman can definitely comment equally as much on a man’s good looks. So, tell me what this handsome duke said that has worked you up so much?”
“It is just …” Emma paused and looked back to John again. His guard was down now, and he was clearly smiling a lot with Arthur.
Why can’t he be so relaxed with me?
“I have known the duke ever since I can remember,” Emma whispered to Anne conspiratorially. “Our family have always been intimate friends. He and my brother spent most days together growing up, so I did with him too. For all the past we share, all the history, and all the stories, he still must address me as ‘Lady Colbourne,’ and he treats me with less warmth than he would a dog. I’m quite convinced of it.”
“Oh my.” Anne winced. “Did he say something to you?”
“Arthur suggested that we should dance together.” Emma shrugged as though it were no big deal to her. “I was not averse,” she lied, for she had been hopeful indeed. “It could have been good practice, but he dismissed me, saying he was not inclined to dance and that the idea of dancing with me was no ‘enticement’.” She mocked the very word he had used. “How abominably rude!” Emma fully expected her friend to join in with her condemnation, but to her surprise, she only saw Anne staring across the room, biting her lip in thought. “Anne, did you not think it was rude?”
“Yes, of course.” She nodded, glancing back Emma’s way briefly before turning her eyes to John. “I was just wondering if there was more to this.”
“What do you mean?” Emma retracted her hand from Anne’s and began to make an impression of busying herself with her dance card.
“Emma, you look as though you are hiding something.” Anne elbowed her, urging her to lower the dance card once again.
“No, I’m not.” She stood straight.
“Oh, really?” Anne giggled. “Because I was just going to suggest that perhaps you are so offended by the duke’s rejection because there is more than just a friendship between you?”
“What a notion!” Emma said sharply. “There is no such thing. On the contrary, there is not even friendship.” She felt her frustration grow the more she thought of how John had brushed her off in the past. “I just attempted civil conversation with him, and he denied to take part. The last memory I have of him, he even made arrangements to avoid taking a carriage with me, choosing to ride his horse instead. When my mother was giving the two of us dance lessons years ago, he made it clear then how much he objected to the idea. This man cannot bear the idea of friendship, let alone anything else.”
When Emma had finished with her spiel, she looked back to Anne, finding her still smiling.
“Why are you smiling?” she asked.
“Because I still think there could be something here you are not telling me.” Anne shrugged. “How fond of the duke are you?”
“Anne!” Emma made a fuss of pushing her loose curls back behind her ears so that she would have something else to do. “I am not fond at all. I’m … indifferent to him!”
“Then why would you care about him being rude to you? I know I am hardly the most educated lady there is, but even I can tell with my limited intelligence that your statement doesn’t quite make sense,” Anne said with a giggle. Emma wasn’t sure whether to be annoyed or amused that her friend had found her out so easily.
“You shouldn’t put yourself down so.” Emma sighed. “You know I think you are very intelligent.” She’d heard Anne belittle herself so much that it was her constant task to build up her friend’s confidence again.
“Ah! So, I am right? My guess was correct?”
“Anne, stop it.” Emma laughed at her now, waving her hand to brush away the idea. “Look, all I am saying is that I am frustrated that a man I always thought was my friend is still clearly intent on never being my friend. That hurts. So, I have made a decision.”
“And that decision is?” Anne asked, just as Emma straightened her spine in resolve.
“I will give up,” she said dismissively. “If he does not wish to be my friend, then I will no longer try to make him my friend. If he hates me so much, I’ll leave him in peace to carry on hating me.”
“Hmm …” Anne tapped her chin in thought. For a minute, Emma thought she had concluded the conversation, but Anne’s pensiveness intrigued her too much to let it go.
“Hmm, what?” she asked.
“Perhaps he cares for you too?”
“What? Don’t be ridiculous.”
“I am being serious,” Anne said plainly. “I know it’s a rarity for me. I infinitely prefer a jest in life and would much rather talk of something light than something serious, but on this occasion, I promise you I am being sensible. What if the duke cares for you too and is attempting to flirt with you?”
“Flirtation?” Emma shook her head. “If that is flirtation, then good God, how does anyone ever get married?”
“There is no rule that says a man must be good at flirtation.” Anne laughed. “In fact, from what I hear, many men are actually quite bad at it.”
“I am sure you are quite wrong.” Emma stepped forward just as an idea struck her. “I know. I will prove it to you.” She took Anne’s hand.
“Prove what to me?”
“I will introduce you to the duke, and you can see for yourself what an unpleasant manner he has around me,” Emma began to tow Anne across the room.
“Emma, he is a duke! I am a woman of no position. You can’t introduce me to such a man.” Anne began to fuss with her light brown hair. “It was awkward enough when you introduced me to your brother.”
“Nonsense.” Emma brushed the idea away. “Why should you not be introduced to a duke?” She had to stop walking regardless, aware that Anne had dug her heels into the floor and was hurrying to straighten her dress.
“A duke as handsome as that? Believe me; I have many reasons for staying on the other side of the room.”
“You need not worry,” Emma assured, taking her hand again. “With how unpleasant the Duke of Pembershire is in conversation, you could outclass him any day of the week!” She said the words kindly, meant to buoy Anne’s confidence, but as she turned around, she found John was standing much closer than she had expected.
He was walking towards her, with Arthur following close behind, and though Arthur was out of earshot, John had evidently heard, for his feet faltered slightly, and there was an expression on his face that Emma did not recognize.
Oh dear … well, he’s certainly not going to want to be my friend now, is he?
John was gutted. It was as though Emma had winded him with her comments. As his feet faltered beneath him, he felt the truth of her statement. He had been unpleasant in conversation. Not only that, but he had also been intentionally cruel, all with the hope that he could keep a distance between them and stop himself from liking her any more than he already did. Evidently, all he had achieved was hurting Emma’s feelings.
“Oh! What happened?” Arthur stumbled into his back; the collision was sudden, making John whip around. “You all right, John?”
“I’m fine,” he lied. He made up his mind quickly. He had to apologize to Emma. Now. “I just need to speak to your sister about something. Could you give me a minute to talk alone with her?”
“Ha!” Arthur suddenly laughed. “I think you’re too late.”
“What?” John looked round to see there was now a gentleman standing between him and Emma, with his back turned and blocking John out completely.
“Wait, Lord Bolton?” Arthur suddenly stepped forward, walking around the two of them to put himself into the conversation. “It is you; how good to see you again.” As Arthur extended his hand to the stranger to shake, John jumped forward as well, keen not to be left out of the introduction.
“Your Grace,” Lord Bolton said with an affable smile. “So good to see you too. I was just attempting to introduce myself to your sister. Would you be so kind as to do the honours?”
John’s chest twisted at the ease and charm with which he spoke. It was not a skill he could ever hope to have.
“I’d be delighted to,” Arthur said. “This is my sister, Lady Emma Colbourne, her friend Miss Anne Braithwaite, and my friend, the Duke of Pembershire.” John bowed when it was his turn, but he didn’t miss the fact that Lord Bolton never took his eyes off Emma all the way through the introduction. “Emma, this is Lord Antony Bolton.”
“It is a pleasure to meet you, My Lord.” Emma curtsied and offered a smile John wished was just reserved for him.
“Believe me, Lady Colbourne, the pleasure is mine.” At the evident flirtation the lord made, Emma smiled. It made John fidget where he stood, moving from one foot to another. “I was wondering if you would do me the honour of the next dance, Lady Colbourne?”
Please say no!
“I’d be delighted.” Emma offered her hand instantly. From behind her back, John involuntarily stepped forward. Anthony didn’t see it, for it he lapsed into conversation with Miss Braithwaite, but Lord Bolton did see it. As he took Emma’s hand and led her away, he cast a triumphant glance back to John as though he could sense the sudden territorial urge that had erupted.
“You all right, John?” Arthur asked. For a minute, John didn’t answer. He just watched Emma walk away hand in hand with Lord Bolton. He was a rather odd-looking figure, thin and gangly with red hair, but he had a kind of charm in his person that would probably make many women hang on his words. John though, was not so easily fooled. He didn’t like him already. “John?”
“Arthur, who is Lord Bolton?” John pointed toward the retreating figure of Lord Bolton as he and Emma took their places on the dance floor.
“If you would excuse me, Miss Braithwaite.” Arthur bowed to Emma’s friend before steering John away so they could talk in private. “Lord Bolton is a gentleman I know reasonably well. He’s the son of a man who was good friends with my father when he was alive. The family is wealthy, respected, old money, though I hear their investments in America are profiting well.”
This didn’t answer John’s question. He’d merely heard a summary of Lord Bolton’s business matters rather than who he was like as a person.
As John and Arthur circled the dance floor, he watched how Emma and Lord Bolton danced together. Every time Lord Bolton took Emma’s hand and touched her back or shoulder, he felt anger spike inside him.
“Arthur, is this such a good idea?” He lowered his voice and turned back to his friend to stare him in the eye.
“What do you mean?” Arthur asked, frowning.
“Allowing your sister to dance with that man?” John gestured to the dance floor. “Emma is a fine woman. She should make a good connection.”
“While I’m pleased to hear you talking so finely of my sister,” Arthur said pointedly, chastising John a little for his behaviour earlier, “Lord Bolton is a good man who would be an eligible connection.”
“How can you be sure?” John asked, shaking his head. “You do not seem to know so much about him.”
“Perhaps not, but what I do know is all good,” Arthur assured, taking John’s shoulder in a comforting gesture. “You don’t need to worry about Emma.”
“I am worried,” John said boldly, gesturing back to the dance floor. “She is dancing with a perfect stranger. Is it not your responsibility to be cautious of the men she dances with?” To his surprise, Arthur laughed warmly.
“John, you hardly need to be jealous of the responsibility I have towards my sister.”
“I beg your pardon?” John frowned, not following the conversation.
“I know you grew up alongside Emma too, and of course, you wish to see her well settled, but her marriage is my responsibility, not yours, and believe me, it is not a task you should envy.” Arthur smiled, even though he shook his head. “It’s full of constant questions and uncertainties for what is best for her. It’s quite a task, but at the very least, Emma has made the task rather simple.”
“What do you mean?” John asked.
“Well, imagine the task for brothers who have sisters with no title, no wealth, no beauty, and no intelligence?” Arthur said, shrugging his shoulders. “Emma has it all! Fortunately, because she is intelligent, she can spot a fool or a cad as well as I can. She is perfectly safe and very unlikely to fall victim to any rake.”
“Hmm.” John was not so convinced. Lord Bolton’s name was beginning to ring a bell in his head, but he couldn’t quite remember where he’d heard it before. He racked his brains, trying to think of it just as Arthur carried on speaking.
“You don’t need to worry about her now, John. Lord Bolton is from a good family; besides, it is just one dance. They are hardly going to be betrothed after just one dance, are they?”
John hoped with every fibre of his being that they wouldn’t be.
“A Duke’s Secret Romance” is an Amazon Best-Selling novel, check it out here!
The time for the dashing and very eligible Emma Colborne to enter Bath’s high society as a debutante has arrived. Unfortunately, the first event of the Season will turn into a big disappointment, after Emma encounters her secret childhood crush, the Duke of Pembershire. Growing up with him as her brother’s best friend, she had to endure his enigmatic behavior towards her, and that ball was no different. When her dreamy Duke impolitely refuses to dance with her, Emma knows she must protect her heart and move on. However, when she is pursued by another nobleman, will she be able to forget her one true love? Or will she keep dreaming of a future that might never come?
John Kennerley, the charming Duke of Pembershire, is a true gentleman, but not very famous for his social skills, especially when it comes to his best friend’s sister Emma. No one could ever guess that his cold, distant manners are hiding his deep and eternal love for her though. Reality is that he has been in love with Emma ever since they were children, but his fear of rejection has kept him from revealing the truth. However, when another attractive but dangerous lord appears in Emma’s life, John knows that this might be his only chance to act, before he loses her forever. Will he find the courage to tell Emma how he feels and save her from a dishonoured man who lurks to steal her from him?
As Emma and John dance around each other, they will be forced to face their torn feelings and explore the great love that has been deepening with years, hidden away in their lonely hearts. However, it is difficult to say if their tender romance will flourish, as a mysterious Lord who pursues young debutantes without caring for their reputation, will aim to make Emma one of his victims. With Emma lost in a vicious man’s lies, will John manage to gain her trust and protect their common future? Will the two soulmates finally take a chance to be together, or they are doomed to love each other from a distance?
“A Duke’s Secret Romance” is a historical romance novel of approximately 80,000 words. No cheating, no cliffhangers, and a guaranteed happily ever after.