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BY MARIANA GABRIELLE
When Bella Holsworthy returns to England after fifteen years roaming the globe with her husband, an elderly diplomat, she quickly finds herself in a place more perilous than any in her travels—the Court of King George IV. As the newly elevated Earl and Countess settle into an unfamiliar life in London, this shy, not-so-young lady faces wicked agendas, society’s censure, and the realities of a woman soon to be alone in England.
Unaccustomed to the ways of the beau monde, she is disarmed and deceived by a dissolute duke and a noble French émigré with a silver tongue. Hindered by the meddling of her dying husband, not to mention the King himself, Bella must decide whether to choose one of her fascinating new suitors or the quiet country life she has searched the world to find.
BY MARIANA GABRIELLE
Myron smiled with difficulty, the face of a man secure in his own position, but ready to defend it anyway. “With due respect, Sir, I’ve been warned to keep my wife close whilst in your company.” Lady Huntleigh took her husband literally, scooting a step closer to his side and holding on to his arm with both hands. “I hate to credit rumors, but I am not in the habit of inviting scandal, especially not involving my wife.”
Nick took a step back. Husbands normally didn’t confront him with his intentions directly.
“No scandal intended. Although, with a wife so charming, it must be trying to keep the blackguards away.” He grinned at Lady Huntleigh, but she looked at the floor. He couldn’t tell if she were being coy or if he had truly caused a problem in her marriage, nor did he know Huntleigh well enough to gauge how he might treat his wife if he were incensed. Nick hadn’t been trying to make trouble, but had spoken more to, and about, Lady Huntleigh in two weeks than he could possibly explain.
“It is not difficult to keep you away,” Lord Huntleigh said, not quite joking, and turned to his wife. “My dear, if you will forgive, we can find the card room to discuss our business.” He pinched her cheek. “And you must never entertain the Duke of Wellbridge outside my company. Any man with a wife will tell you so.” He motioned to Nick. “Shall we attempt to avoid the ballroom entirely?”
About an hour later, Nick made his way back to her. “Lady Huntleigh, I had not meant to keep you from the dancing.”
She looked up in surprise. “My goodness, Your Grace, you startled me. Are you finished with your business then?” She peered around him, twisting her hands together. “Is my husband behind you?”
“Any moment.” He leaned in and lowered his voice. “You needn’t call me ‘Your Grace,’ you know. You are an unquestioned countess now, not a country-mouse-come-to-Town.”
She made a concerted effort to disengage her fidgety hands, but merely moved them from her waist to begin worrying the fabric of her skirt. “Hardly unquestioned, Your Grace.” She conceded with a nod, almost in a whisper, “Duke.” She couldn’t stop the nervous twitching of a wallflower, which might explain her not dancing, if one discounted gossip as the more likely justification.
Before they had retired to play whist, Nick had noted her faintly injured glances toward Lord Huntleigh. They must have had a fight before the party, or Huntleigh said something thoughtless or hurtful. It wasn’t so important she would feign a megrim to go home, but not so small she would forget by morning. Though most women would be flagrantly flirting with every man present to make known any upset with their husbands.
Huntleigh, Nick had discovered in the card room, saw nothing wrong at all, just a youthful, compliant, entirely respectable girl who did everything he asked. He had been nothing but generous in everything he said about her, though never as besotted as some old men become about their young wives. She was a veritable paragon, to hear her husband tell it—as hostess and nursemaid and housekeeper and opponent at backgammon. He probably didn’t even realize she might be pleasing in the bedroom.
Nick would be doing this poor young lady a service, paying her a bit of attention, he told himself, liven things up a bit. Every woman deserves to know when a gentleman thinks she’s pretty, and any husband unaware his wife is upset with him really had no right to keep her.
Mariana Gabrielle is a professional writer, editor, and designer living in Denver, Colorado. As well as Regency romance, under the name Mari Christie, she also writes mainstream historical fiction and poetry.
Links to Mariana’s website, blog, books, etc.
Amazon Author page: http://www.amazon.com/author/marianagabrielle
**SPECIAL GIVEAWAY**: Mariana is giving away an e-copy of ROYAL REGARD to one lucky reader who comments on her *Author Peek* Interview or Karen’s Killer Book Bench blogs. Don’t miss the chance to read these books! Thanks, Mariana, for sharing your story with us!