Secrets of Lady Lucy
It’s never easy keeping secrets…
Only her desire to crush the Crown’s enemies could induce Lady Lucille Stanford to endure another Season. For years she has worked secretly for the Home Office, and she has come to London with one purpose: foil the attempted kidnapping of a highly valuable target, identity unknown. Inconveniently, Lord Harrington—Lucy’s brother and guardian—has other plans. He won’t be satisfied until she is at long last married.
He never forgets a face …
After years on the Continent, Blake Gower, Earl of Devonton, returns to England in need of a wife. He should not be surprised when his best friend Harrington’s sister recaptures his attention. But there’s more to the woman Lady Lucy has become than the delightful girl Blake remembers. When she takes an unexpected jaunt to the country during the height of the Season, Blake is determined to know why—and to discover all Lady Lucy’s secrets.
Unwilling to give up her patriotic mission for marriage, Lucy is conflicted when she meets the enigmatic Lord Devonton. She never expected to feel this way about a man again.
When the ransom demand comes due—will it be for Lady Lucy’s heart?
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“Lucy!” Lady Lucille Stanford’s best friend whispered harshly at the open door.
Lucy pressed herself deeper into the desk cavity. Blast, she had nearly been found out. She hurriedly folded and tucked the unread parchment in her hand under her garter.
“Lucy, are you in here?” Muffled steps on the plush carpet came closer.
“Lady Lucille Stanford, come out from under the desk, now!”
Lady Grace Oldridge’s tone did nothing to alleviate Lucy’s frustration at having been discovered. She smoothed out her gown and slowly rolled to her full height, all five feet two inches. “Grace, please don’t be mad. I just needed a little time to myself.”
Despite having successfully kept her unusual activities and investigations a secret during her first Season, Lucy was finding it increasingly difficult in her second now that her twin brother Matthew, Marquess Harrington, was intent on finding her a husband.
At two and twenty, Lucy was practically on the shelf—and far too old for this to be merely her second Season. If she had her way, she would have had none. After losing James, for years she had successfully avoided all of it—the Season, a husband. But Matthew was no longer amenable to her resistance to marriage. The only advantage of being in Town among the ton was her ability to access resources that facilitated what she now considered her true avocation.
Engulfed in a reassuring hug from Grace, Lucy was struck with guilt—which swiftly evaporated as she caught sight of Grace’s fierce expression. “You scared us all to death when we couldn’t find you in your usual hiding spots. I thought someone had… Well, never mind. We need to go back to the ballroom. I’m certain your brother is about to have an apoplexy.”
One scandal. Two broken hearts. A decade apart.
Lady Elise knows all too well the risks of falling in love. Her heart was broken by a rake. Instead of hunting for a husband, she helps other ladies escape the nefarious plans of unscrupulous gentlemen.
After a scandal costs Lord Thornston Elise’s hand and heart, he has lived on the fringes of the beau monde. But when his best friend, the Duke of Fairmont, requests his assistance, Thornston is torn. Helping Fairmont means facing the woman who holds his heart and soul.
Succumbing to temptation, Thornston re-enters Society to find Elise still unwed. But as he seeks to reignite her desire for him and earn back her trust, he becomes entwined in one of her investigations. When events take a dangerous turn, he might lose the woman he loves before he can win her back.
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I need another drink.
Harold Greenfield, the Earl of Thornston, tried to curtail his frustration. He had been enjoying a whiskey at his club when the Duke of Fairmont dared to disturb his peace.
Peering down his ducal nose, Fairmont declared, “It is time you returned to the fold.” Fairmont settled into the closest wingback chair and stretched out his long legs.
The fiery liquid that was about to go down Harold’s gullet spewed from his mouth. “Why would I do that?”
“I need your assistance.”
Squeezing the bridge of his nose, Harold considered the duke’s request. In the twenty years they had known each other, this was the first time Fairmont had come to him for help. It was an odd reversal of roles. This past decade, Fairmont had remained his only contact with polite society. Harold remained silent and consumed another drink or three. The man couldn’t be serious. Could he?
Fairmont rose to leave, and Harold uttered a sigh. The man was his best friend, after all. Following the duke out of the club, he stepped up into the lavish ducal coach.
Seated on the rear-facing bench, Harold glared at Fairmont. “There is no good reason for me to place myself at the mercy of marriage-minded mamas and the empty-headed young chits.”
“All you have to do is accompany me to a few engagements and assist me in choosing the next Duchess of Fairmont.” A smirk appeared on Fairmont’s features. “What do you know of Miss Glenda Heart?”
“Why do you subject me to this torture?” Harold stretched out a leg and kicked the duke in the ankle. “Why don’t you have one of your sisters help you?”
“Are you serious? Lily is lying in, and Elise is… well, she is Elise.”
Harold asked, “Wait, Lily got married? How was it you allowed her to marry before Elise?”
How long had he been away from the ton?
Initially, Harold had enjoyed his freedom on the outskirts of the beau monde. But recently he had grown bored. Perhaps it was time he too considered the idea of marriage. A shiver ran down his spine. No, he still had a while yet; he had only just turned thirty.
Fairmont looked out the carriage window. “Lily endured three Seasons before she threatened a scandal if I didn’t give my permission for Lord Crossworth to marry her. They were married two years past; you were invited.”
“But what about Elise? How is it she is not yet married?”
“She swears she is content.” Fairmont slapped his gloves against his thigh. “I’ve tripled her dowry, but no one worthy has offered for her.”
Unbelievable. Elise was a beauty. Maybe a little quiet, but she had inherited her mother’s kind and patient demeanor. How could it be that no one had offered for her?
“Elise must be… what… six and twenty now?” Harold, for one, didn’t believe it. “What do you mean, no one worthy?”
Fairmont turned to face him directly. Harold could feel the man’s eyes bore into him in the dimly lit carriage. “Oh, she has attracted every scoundrel, rake, and fortune hunter, but they all offered for her dowry. None of them knew one thing about Elise.”
Harold shook his head; he shouldn’t have had that last whiskey before venturing out with Fairmont. “What are you blithering on about? What would you have a blighter know before you deem him worthy of your sister?”
Fairmont cocked an eyebrow. “Lord Crossworth was able to answer all the questions on my test without any issue when he asked for Lily’s hand.”
“Test! What test?”
Fairmont shrugged. “It’s a list of questions I ask every suitor.”
Only Fairmont would come up with such an idiotic scheme. Harold had to ask, although he was certain he already knew the answer. “Do you have a test for the position of duchess?”
Blithely, Fairmont replied, “Of course.”
Harold blinked to clear his vision, who was the man sitting across from him and where were they headed? “What wretched event are you dragging me to this eve?”
“I was informed both the lovely Lady Beatrice and Miss Glenda Heart are to be at the Riverington Ball.”
“Are you mad?” The Riverington Ball. The exact location of his downfall a decade ago.
“I’m of sound mind.” Fairmont employed his ducal stare. “And you are going to assist me in obtaining the answers I seek.”
The coach finally rolled to a stop. What questions could Fairmont have on his blasted lists? How had none of the gentlemen come up to snuff, allowing Lady Elise to remain unwed? Had the years been kind to her? For the first time in ages, Harold found himself in front of one of the ton’s dwellings. Would Lady Elise recognize him?
Making his entrance with Fairmont would be a bad idea. His friend might be in the market for a wife, but Harold was not ready to give up his freedom or his mistress. Confirming his misgivings, every head in the room turned their way as they were announced. The ton appeared to have remained unchanged. Lords and ladies scrutinized his appearance and quickly dismissed him. Damn them all to hell. Harold no longer cared for their opinion, nor did he seek out their acceptance.
“Will Elise be in attendance tonight?”
Fairmont narrowed his gaze. “Why?”
Harold tempered his reply. “I haven’t seen her in years. I’d like to become reacquainted.”
Gone was the relaxed Duke of Fairmont. The man had turned into his childhood friend, Benedict Brownstone, the older protective brother. “Stay away from her. She doesn’t need your sort hanging about her. It will only encourage the other rakes of our set to take notice of her.”
Fairmont’s warning cut. What exactly did he mean by his sort? “What? Am I not good enough for your sister?”
Harold might not have exactly lived the life of a saint, but neither had Fairmont. He was honest, never cheated at cards. He was not a pauper. His estates generated a sufficient—others might say lucrative—income, and while he might not have the wealth of a duke, he could easily support a wife. He wasn’t a dullard, despite only completing one year at Oxford. If he hadn’t been seduced by a professor’s wife and expelled, perhaps he might have graduated. In his defense, he hadn’t any idea who the woman was until it was too late.
When Fairmont failed to reply, Harold put it to him again. “Are you saying I’m not worthy of Elise’s hand?”
“Thornston, you are my best friend, and I know you better than anyone. Stay away from my sister. Find some other lady to pant after tonight.”
The warning sounded more like a challenge. Harold stood ruminating as couples whirled past him. He scanned the ballroom, looking for Elise. His curiosity demanded to find out why she had remained unwed.
Fairmont gave him a look that suggested he considered the matter concluded. He then shifted his attention to a dark-haired beauty who came into view across the room. “I’m off to claim my dance with Lady Beatrice. Try not to cause a scandal while I’m away.”
Scandal. Harold had learned his lesson a decade ago. Never follow a lady anywhere. They were all conniving harlots at the ready to trap a man into marriage. He wasn’t interested in following any of the ladies this evening. All he wanted to do was to locate Elise. Was she aware of her brother’s requirements? How would Harold fare should he attempt the answers?
Hidden behind the pillar, he searched the dance floor for familiar faces—one in particular. Surely, Elise would make an appearance. She had always enjoyed dancing. When he and Fairmont were learning the steps to the various sets, Elise often assisted by partnering with them. She never once complained when he had trod upon her delicate toes.
Bored at having spent most of the night avoiding the gazes of debutantes and their mamas, Harold made his way to the card room. He spotted Lord Kilman, one of the few he would consider a friend, engaged in a game with a lady. Interesting. Lord Kilman was a skilled card player who was known to lose rarely. His lordship’s features were relaxed, but Harold caught the telltale tic in his jaw, which indicated only one thing: Lord Kilman was about to be defeated.
Who was the woman? Her hair shone like silk, a string of pearls expertly woven through her dark brown curls.
* * *
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An entertaining and lively tale of love and ambition set around the end of the Roman occupation of Britain, AD 383 and the threats it brings to a dependent way of life. A strong backstory is the force of the new state religion, Christianity.
Wales AD 383 is the most remote province of Roman-occupied Britain, colonised for over 300 years. Magnus Maximus, known to the Celts as Macsen Wledig, has grown restless with his role as general of the Roman army in Britannia. His nights are broken by dreams of an impossibly beautiful Welsh maiden. He sets his sights on moving his legions out of Britannia to challenge Gratianus - the emperor of the Western Roman Empire.
Flavius Arcadius is less than enamoured by his general's plans. The army's withdrawal will leave his family, neighbours and all of Britannia unprotected and at the mercy of internecine conflict between the local tribes and the even greater threat of pagan invaders from the east. He does, however, have a vision for the future - a fortified villa surrounded by a self-sufficient community - if only he could find a way to stay behind when the legions move.
Flavius starts to plot...
Maximus is sufficiently in thrall to his fantasies to allow Flavius to set out with his two friends and fellow officers, Severus and Caradocus, to seek out, abduct and take this dream girl to him as his bride...
The three soldiers wander through the wilds of Cymru, intent only on delaying their return. To their astonishment, they come across a young woman who is the living image of Maximus's dream maiden. Flavius and Severus are determined to bring the girl, Elen, to Maximus. Caradocus, however, engineers their escape.
Elen's beauty is matched by her wit and intelligence; and her courage is demonstrated when she saves them both from capture. Before long, the two runaways are in love. But Caradocus and Elen are going to need more than their wits to survive, when they are being hunted - not just by Flavius and Severus, but by Elen's father and, for all they know, the full might of the Roman army...
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Victorian London is a difficult place to be when you are gay, as Henry and Gabriel know all too well.
When they were young at Oxford University, Henry and Gabriel’s love burned hot and bright, and they thought to change the world together until a devastating tragedy ripped them apart.
Now, as youth fades away, Henry can no longer stand to see his own reflection in the mirror. All he sees is a sad, tired old man whose body has betrayed him. He craves the touch of another, to feel attractive and vital once more but his obsession with finding a cure for insanity has stolen his life away, and now his work has taken on a dark and sinister dimension. How far will he go to recapture the passion of his lost youth?
Gabriel fears that Henry is losing his mind, and when a brutal killer invades their lives, they are thrust into the dark depths of Victorian London in a fight for their very lives.
As their friendship is tested to its limits, Gabriel cannot help but wonder if there is still a chance for love. Can they move beyond the friendship that has spanned over thirty years and find the love that once made their hearts beat as one?
You may never be too old to find love, but will you be able to survive it?
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Mirror, mirror here I stand, who is the fairest in the land? In some other life, I would like to think the answer would be me.
In some other life.
Age is such a cruel creature. It saps one of all vitality and drains a beauty once perceived from the very nucleus of one’s skin.
The fire burns so hot and high in the hearth, and tonight it is the only light by which I may dare to look upon myself. As I gaze into the mirror, as I see the decrepit thing looking back at me, the other me, the man who is, not the man who wants to be, it is all that I may bear.
I am lost in the darkness of a life I once had, of a youth taken before its time.
Time. The destroyer of beauty. The destroyer of men.
Look at me, sitting here, staring inside of me.
Look at me, sitting here, hating the sight of me.
Once, some thirty odd years ago, I could look in the mirror and see the sun rising, a beautiful golden morning of a radiance revealed. Now there is but darkness and the endless night of wanting.
If I could reach into the mirror, to the time-scarred man within and pull out that which I see...that which I imagine seeing...then I could guide him back into the light of this world. My youth recaptured in the glory of its moment, my life again with all the knowledge I now possess. For I am a man much wiser than the innocent youth now lost, and I am all the better for it. Could I not make that younger me such a man?
How I loathe the shape of my body, the roundness that now characterises my frame. It is a far cry from the musculature of my adolescent years. My sedentary life has put paid to the curvature and tightness of my once boyish physique, as our working lives so often dictate in this most modern of worlds. The demands of my professional life leave little space for adequate exercise, though try as I might, my midlife condition renders my waistline a lost cause. No matter how I may try to modify my intake of food or rationalise the consumption of such pleasures as a carafe of wine during the evening, still my shape bloats out of all recognition.
Even the golden locks of hair that once adorned my proud head, now lay limp and thin, its lust for life dulled by the reduction of its numbers. How I loathe the sight of my own shiny scalp grinning through those unsatisfying golden strands, their lustre dulled with time and the ravages of an industrialised London atmosphere. No matter how I may position said strands across my head, and no matter the expense of the various concoctions I have used to thicken them and restore their vitality, it remains a shameful reminder of my deepening middle age. It is a failure in the design of the male species that the age of a man may be determined so easily by the quantity of hair on his head.
I should wish to do something about that.
I was once told, in the burgeoning blossom of my youth, that my eyes were the most beautiful things to behold, that they spoke of desire and passion, of happiness and abandonment. It was the most perfect complement, and I can remember it as though the words were spoken only yesterday, as such kind words are wanting to stay in the mind’s eye. Yet, the mirror does not lie. I see but the faded pools of a misspent youth gazing back at me from the silver coated glass, their blue the colour of faded winter skies rather than the fierce sapphire of desire. Yes, they speak of my intelligence, oh yes, for that, at least, is something that cannot fade, but only grow stronger with the passing of each year. They speak of my passions for learning, for the chemistry that gives us purpose and life, and yet they lack the glint of mischievousness they once possessed, that singular spark of life which made them so alive. They are as pale and insipid as the rest of me.
I am perhaps not the most attractive of men, though there have been those who have kindly said otherwise. Maybe once, when my figure bore the sculptural quality of those barely born, a momentary flicker of magnificence in a life destined for old age. Is that not the human condition? We are born, we burn bright for but a small portion of our lives before falling headlong into middle age which is in itself nothing more than a rehearsal for the old age beckoning at the door to claim your bones. Maybe twenty years of youth, thirty if one is fortunate before we plummet into the later part of our lives.
Too short. Our lives are but fleeting moments, stolen from time, merely glimpsed in an all too brief flash of youth.
What would we give to be able to hold onto that youth? Would I be a different man if I was more attractive? Happier, maybe, contented? Not so alone? As the years pile upon my carcase, I find the need for companionship all the more pressing, and yet, the mirror tells me that such a thing may never now be possible, as does the society in which I exist.
It is my own fault. For too long, I have consumed my life with those chemistries that bind this world together, rather than the chemistry that binds two men, and while I hide my desires from an unsuspecting world, I see it staring back at me with ever increasing force. While life and vivacity drain with the passing of each year, I find that my need for companionship increases, both in the beating of my heart and the stirring of my manhood. How many nights have I sat before this mirror self-flagellating? My hand is the only lover that I know, and while the release may be welcome and explosive, it is but a fleeting, transient proclamation of my miserable failure.
I crave more than the comfort of my palm against my raging sexuality. To feel the warmth of a man in my arms, to see his eyes open next to me in the waking hours is almost too much for me to hope. Have I left it too late to find such companionship? Have I put purpose before personal gain, and thus lost the opportunity for love? I have hidden the shame of myself from the world for so long that I have inadvertently hidden it from myself so that I no longer know my own feelings. I am as indifferent to the world as the world is to me, and my outward facade is all the plainer for it.
The need within me is so cautious, and now I find that I must listen all the more intently in order to hear it. I try to hold it close to me, to nurture that spark which has seen fit to visit me so late in life before life itself decides to pass me by. I see the man inside me, the other man, the better man. The more attractive man. He is so full of confidence, so full of life, so full of all the qualities that prevent me from finding such companionship, and I find more and more that I wish to be that man, the man inside me.
I will find the answer. Now that I see him, now that his smile creases the corners of my thin insipid lips, I will never lose him, of this, he has my word. For the man inside is me, and I will find some way to set him free. This much I promise, and I will hold him dear to me until the day that I die.
Mirror, mirror don’t you see? What you show is ruining me.
Victorian England 1872
Lady Henrietta escapes from her locked bedroom and stepfather's attempt to starve her into agreeing to an arranged marriage that will only be of benefit to him. Underage, she must avoid his clutches until she turns twenty-one, and as Amelia Brown, she finds employment in the household of Damion, Marquis of Ashton.
High-spirited and fiercely independent, Amelia has a chance encounter with Damion, which establishes a powerful attraction between the two. Their passion ignites, the sex between them of an unrestrained delight hat is contrary to the customs of the times.
But the storm clouds are gathering. Amelia will have to take desperate measures to protect herself and the man she loves.
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Barely fourteen, Ceci Prejean is a tomboy running wild in the hot Louisiana summer. After breaking the nose of a local boy, her father decides to enlist the aid of Hecubah, a beautiful Creole woman, with a secret past, who takes Ceci in hand and turns her into a lady.
Now, eighteen-year-old Ceci meets and falls passionately in love with a handsome young northerner, Trent Sinclaire. Trent is a cadet at the West Point military academy. He acts as if he knows Ceci. They begin a torrid affair, even as the southern states begin to secede from the Union.
Only weeks before their wedding, the Confederate army attacks Fort Sumter and the civil war begins. Trent is called to active service in the north, leaving Ceci heartbroken in the south.
Swearing vengeance on the union, after the untimely death of her family at the fall of New Orleans, Ceci meets with infamous spy master, Henry Doucet. He initiates her into the shadowy world of espionage.
After her failure to avert the catastrophe at Gettysburg, Ceci infiltrates the White House. There, she comes face to face with Abraham Lincoln, a man she’s sworn to kill. Forming a reckless alliance with the actor, John Wilkes Booth, she is drawn deeper into the plot to assassinate the President of the United States. A Confederate spy in love with a Union officer, her next decision will determine whether she lives or dies.
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Albinus, the son of a revered Roman veteran Silus, has always longed to be a farmer, not a soldier, and live his days ploughing and reaping the harvests, with his bride-to-be, Licina. But Silus’ has darker ambitions, for Albinus to follow in his footsteps in the army.
But, as the conflicts between father and son come to a head, a growing threat comes down from the vengeful Germanic tribes to the north. Just as Albinus and Licina are about to marry, their settlement is raided by barbarians and Silus and his veteran comrades are brutally killed, while Licina is kidnapped by the raiders and taken to their king as a gift.
Believing her to be alive, Albinus sets out on a quest to find Licina, finally fulfilling his father’s wishes as training as a soldier, even as he is spurred to avenge his father’s death. As the barbarian hordes gather and plan major rebellion against the Romans, Albinus finds a new fighting spirit within him and grows in stature among the legionaries.
Licina meanwhile has a fight of her own, to escape from slavery and find Albinus. Time is running out, as the northern tribes head for Rome, decimating everything in their path…
With historically accurate details and including characters from legend, Adam Lofthouse’s novel recounts the brutal battles between the Romans and the Germanic tribes, while also telling the heart-wrenching coming-of-age narrative of one young soldier within the Roman camp.
Adam Lofthouse has for many years held a passion for the ancient world. As a teenager he picked up Gates of Rome by Conn Iggulden, and has been obsessed with all things Rome ever since. After ten years of immersing himself in stories of the Roman world, he decided to have a go at writing one for himself. The Centurion’s Son is Adam’s first novel. He lives in Kent, with his wife and three sons.
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A BORDER CROSSING INTO UNMAPPED TERRITORY
Mexican agave farm worker Porro Camorra never meant to do anything wrong. He is in love with his girlfriend but when she becomes pregnant, his life is in danger. Fleeing the vindictive wrath of her enraged brothers who have sworn to kill him, Porro runs for the border. But when he reaches the barrier between Mexico and the United States, he finds more than the safety he seeks. As he is thrust into a mystical realm, he must agree to a fascinating and dangerous bargain in order to reclaim his place in the world. Vivid, inventive and suspenseful, Exchange at the Border is a thrilling and colorful exploration of the timeless battle between good and evil with a story and characters that will keep you spellbound.
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Winner of the Pinnacle Award 2016 for Biographical Fiction, the Feathered Quill Award 2017 for Spiritual/Religious Fiction, and a Foreword INDIES Award for Military/Wartime Fiction.
Balian has survived the devastating defeat of the Frankish army at the Battle of Hattin, and walked away a free man after the surrender of Jerusalem, but he is baron of nothing in a kingdom that no longer exists. Haunted by the tens of thousands of Christians now enslaved by the Saracens, he is determined to regain what has been lost. The arrival of a vast crusading army under the soon-to-be-legendary Richard the Lionheart offers hope -- but also conflict, as natives and crusaders clash and French and English quarrel.
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New Orleans 1841 Ever since her parents died of yellow fever when she was a child, Charotte LeClerc has lived with her grandparents, who rarely speak of their son and his wife. They are on the verge of negotiating a marriage contract with a suitor, a man Charlotte loathes, when they discover that she enjoys the company of Gabriel Girod, a young Creole man. Her future hangs in the balance as her grandparents choose between keeping secrets or revealing a truth they've known since before her birth -- a truth that will make the difference between a life of obligation and a life of choice for Charlotte.
(PLEASE NOTE: This novel was originally published as Love Finds You in New Orleans)
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