Never_Resist_a_Rake-300 (2)Yes, my friends, I’m delighted to share that my publisher is running an amazing sale on Never Resist a Rake! For a limited time, it’s only $0.99 for your Kindle. Nook or  iBooks.

I love the relationship between Rebecca and John and so did RTBookReviews:

4 1/2 STARS “Marlowe’s delightful tale is replete with unexpected characters, a wonderful romance and a page-turning plot. Marlowe cleverly turns a rascal into a hero readers will adore, while adding a depth of emotion that will touch their hearts.” ~ RTBOOKReviews

Hope you love it too!

When I was little girl, I wanted to be a boy scout.

Not a boy, mind. Just a boy scout. After all, they got to go camping and learn to tie knots and all that fun stuff. All we girl scouts got to do was sell those stupid cookies.

The heroine in my new Regency romance, Lady Caroline Lovell, feels a little bit the same. Her brothers all get to complete their educations by going on a Grand Tour. She gets to be “finished” and is trotted out for a Season or two where she’s expected to snag an eligible husband, marry and produce a gaggle of heirs for him.

Caroline, however, has other plans…

 

Is there a more alluring sight in all the world than the sun rising over an unknown sea?

~from the diary of Lady Caroline Lovell, daughter of the Earl of Chatham, who has never in her life set foot on a water craft larger than a row boat.

Chapter 1

London, The Ides of March, 1818

“And then, because Lord Ware arrived late,” Horatia Englewood said, pausing for effect, “Lady Jersey ordered him to remove from the premises forthwith.” When this bit of information was met with a shocked gasp from Frederica Tilbury, Horatia added, “Politely, of course.”

The breath of minor scandal was almost enough to pull Caroline away from the parlor window and back into her friends’ gossipy patter. But there were so many carriages moving past her family’s town house in St. James Square, she couldn’t look away. It was too delicious to imagine where they might be going.

Granted, most of the travelers were bound for parlors like hers, where dainties would be offered, both in the form of petit fours and in juicy tidbits about the ton. It was the time of day reserved for calls, after all, and Polite Society lived to see and be seen.

But surely some of the carriages rolling by were headed for the docks. And perhaps a fortunate few of the passengers would board ships.

Bound for far off Zanzibar or Madagascar or . . . some other exotic place ending in “–ar.” The colors would be brighter there, I’ll be bound, and even birdsong would sound deliciously foreign. Best of all, when I went to the beach, I’d feel warm sand beneath my feet instead of those horrid pebbles at Brighton.    

Caroline sighed, wiggling her toes inside her slippers, dreaming about what that mysterious sand must feel like. She squeezed her eyes shut and, for a heartbeat or two, she actually thought she felt a soft breeze drift past her.

When she opened her eyes, the gossamer curtains were swaying a bit. One of the parlor windows had not been locked down tight when the maids dusted last.  

Caroline sighed again. She wished it’d been a trade wind that caressed her cheek. Her imagination was almost always more interesting than what was actually happening around her.

However, her friend Frederica, who, it must be admitted, did not suffer from an abundance of imagination, was riveted by Horatia’s story about Lord Ware. The girl giggled loudly over the tale, mostly out of nervousness.

It was a bad habit from which Caroline was trying to wean her. Freddie was pretty enough and her dowry several notches above adequate, but more than a few young bucks might scamper away from that giggle.

“Surely, Lady Jersey never did such a thing,” Frederica said, her words tumbling over each other instead of flowing gently in a calm, ladylike stream. It was yet another thing Caroline was trying to improve about her friend. The rapid delivery betrayed a lack of confidence, Caroline insisted, and Frederica was making some progress. But when excited, dear Freddie reverted to her jack-rabbit manner of speaking. Now she rattled on, “Not even a lady patroness would dare turn Lord Ware away from Almack’s. Indeed, she wouldn’t.”

“Oh, yes, indeed, she did. As I live and breathe.” Horatia straightened her spine to ramrod uprightness. Then she looked down her nose in a surprisingly good imitation of Lady Jersey at her imperious best. “She said, ‘If we turned away Lord Wellington for neglecting to honor the rules of dress, do not think for one moment we will not refuse to admit you, Lord Ware, since you have the temerity to arrive late to supper.’”

“Not that supper at Almack’s inspires punctuality,” Caroline murmured. To call the meager refreshments served promptly at eleven ‘supper,’ was charitable in the extreme. The weak punch and thinly sliced bread were famous for their awfulness.

“Still,” Frederica said with a shiver, “imagine having the courage to snub Lord Ware?”

“Oh, Freddie, you little goose. Lady Jersey doesn’t need courage. She has the rules on her side.” Horatia raised her teacup and sipped delicately, pinky properly out.

She was right. Lady Jersey had the power of revoking Lord Ware’s voucher to Almack’s permanently. It was acceptable not to have that coveted ticket because one had not applied for a voucher. It was quite another to have been awarded one and then have it stripped away for behavior judged to be déclassé. No matter how wealthy, how influential, or how important the Earl of Ware might be in the House of Lords, Lady Jersey wielded an even heavier club in matters of Polite Society.

Frederica shivered again.

Like a wren fluffing out its feathers. There’s another thing I need to correct before the Season starts in earnest.

Since traffic had dwindled, Caroline left the window and rejoined her friends. She settled into the Sheridan chair opposite the settee and helped herself to a biscuit. “Horatia, tell me. Did you see this astonishing exchange between Lady Jersey and Lord Ware with your own eyes?”

Her friend’s lips pursed into a disgruntled moue. “Well, no, but—”

“Then, may I ask how you happened upon this extraordinary bit of intelligence?”

“You see, my cousin Violet’s bosom friend, Amelia, heard it from—”

“So neither your cousin nor her bosom friend witnessed Lord Ware’s humiliation?”

“You didn’t let me finish,” Horatia complained. “Amelia got it straight from her Aunt Harriet, whom she swears is the soul of discretion. And Amelia’s aunt heard about the incident from Penelope Braithwaite, who was there.

“Penelope Braithwaite,” Caroline cast about through the myriad of introductions she’d suffered through during the last two Seasons, trying to remember the lady.

“Didn’t we attend one of her recitals?” Freddie prompted.

Suffered through one was more like almost escaped Caroline’s lips, but she held it back. Her dear mother always warned that speaking ill of others was a prayer to the devil. Caroline wasn’t sure she believed it, but it didn’t do to take chances.

“Yes, now I remember,” Caroline said. “You and I have heard her perform.”

“As have I, but only once,” Horatia said with a snicker. “She abused the Mozart Alleluia with such gusto, one hearing was more than enough.” Horatia shook her head. “And she fancies herself a lyric soprano.”

“Yes, I believe she does,” Freddie said innocently.

Dear Freddie. If Horatia said Miss Braithwaite fancied herself a trained chimp in a Parisian frock you’d be tempted to agree.

Caroline recommitted herself to shepherding her suggestible friend through the coming Season. She had no doubts that fair-haired Frederica would turn heads. She was as pale and dimpled as the prevailing standards for beauty required. But fashionably pretty girls possessed of large dowries and small imaginations might easily fall prey to all manner of deception.

It was no trouble for her to guard Frederica’s interests. After all, this would be Caroline’s third Season. She was clearly on the shelf and not likely to be plucked down from it. Not since she’d turned down half a dozen proposals and avoided a few more by tactfully discouraging her admirers.

Which upset her parents no end, but suited her just fine. The sooner they realized she was unmarriageable, the sooner she’d be on her way to being her own mistress. Once she reached the magical age of twenty-one, she’d have access to the minor fortune bequeathed to her by her grandmother. Alas! She lacked another year before she attained this great age.

Caroline only needed to remain unmarried until then to retain control of the means to her freedom.

Then Zanzibar, here I come!

~~~

Hope you enjoyed this little snippet from Book 1 in The House of Lovell series. Sign up to receive my newsletter if you’d like to be notified when the book is available!

 

Have you ever had a dream that ran contrary to what was expected of you?

I probably won’t get to keep that title. Authors rarely do. But The Singular Mr. Sinclair is the working title for Book One in The House of Lovell series.

When I first get to know my characters, I like to meet them as children. So much of who we are is shaped during those early years so it’s important for me to know what happened to them then, whether I share that information with my readers or not. You’re in luck. This time, I’m sharing. Last week I promised to give you a taste of this story, so without further ado, let me introduce you to our hero, Lawrence Sinclair:

Prologue

Ware Hall, Wiltshire, 1796

By the time Lawrence Sinclair was ten years of age, he was certain of one thing in this world.

He would never make a scholar.

Mr. Hazelton, his tutor, despaired of Lawrence ever amounting to anything in the classroom. To start with, even after years of practice, his penmanship was still a rough scrawl of chicken scratches and uneven lines.

“I cannot be held to account for it, Your Lordship,” Mr. Hazelton explained to Lawrence’s uncle, Lord Ware. “The boy persists in using his left hand unless I tie it behind his back.”

Mr. Hazelton didn’t tell the earl that he also routinely beat Lawrence’s left knuckles with a ruler until they were red as poppies. Nothing worked. Lawrence remained stubbornly cack-handed.

Perhaps his struggle to write legibly bled over into other subjects, but he failed to excel in any area of Mr. Hazelton’s tutelage. Lord Ware, however, was delighted with the progress of his son Ralph. Though a year younger than Lawrence, his cousin was already leagues ahead of him in grammar, rhetoric and Latin. Ralph could do a long column of sums in his head and translate a John Donne poem into French so beautifully that the words still sang.

Lawrence’s only flash of brilliance was that he sat a horse with distinction. He and his mount took leaps with ease, even ones from which older, more experienced riders might shy. He also learned that his tendency to use his left hand could be an advantage in fencing.

“Your foe willna ken how to come at ye,” his old Scottish fencing master had told him. “But dinna let His Lordship know I let ye practice so. We must make sure ye can switch hands at will, aye?”

Still, a gentleman with no prospects shouldn’t rely on those talents alone to make his way in the world.

For make his own way, he must.

Lawrence would inherit nothing. He and his mother had lived under the begrudging care of Harcourt Sinclair, Lord Ware, since his father, the earl’s younger brother by less than a minute, died in a curricle accident a month before Lawrence was born. Lawrence regretted not having any memory of his sire, but he wondered if he should. Whispers of “just deserts” and “larking about with a Bird of Paradise” floated in conversations just over his head when the adults in his life thought he wasn’t attending.

People also remarked how different Lawrence’s father had been from his brother, the earl. In appearance as well as temperament, where Harcourt was a steady, plodding, draft horse, Lawrence’s father Henry had been a flighty racer, lean and strong. Twins were like that sometimes. The earl took after their mother’s people while Henry favored the Sinclair’s darkly handsome line.

Sometimes Lawrence stood before his father’s portrait in the family gallery of Ware Hall, gazing up at the deep brown eyes that were so like his own, and puzzled over the man. He often imagined how different his life might have been if his father hadn’t died while “larking about,” with or without any sort of bird.

For one thing, Lawrence likely wouldn’t be living under his stern uncle’s roof. That would be a blessing beyond measure. Ware Hall was a fine estate, with expansive grounds, but however well appointed, a cage was still a cage. Lord Ware’s strictures were hard enough on Lawrence, but the earl ruled the whole family with a heavy hand.  

Just once, Lawrence would have rejoiced to see his mother contradict his uncle on anything. But his mother was a quiet woman who seldom smiled, so docile and frail, Lawrence was forced to wonder if she cared about anything at all. Still, surely she would have been happier, he thought, if she’d been allowed to return to her own family in the Lake District.

Lawrence had never met his mother’s people. His grandfather on that side reportedly held a tidy baronetcy, but Lord Ware always said his brother had “married beneath himself, if that were possible.” The daughter of a minor, late-made noble simply did not signify when weighed against the son of an earl.

Even a second son.

But Lord Ware wouldn’t hear of Lawrence and his mother returning north. The earl might not like Lawrence over much—or his mother, either, come to that—but he was duty bound to provide for his nephew’s upbringing.

For if there was one thing the earl was certain of in this world, it was duty.

“The boy is my blood, demmit. He bears the Sinclair name. I’ll not have him growing up wild as a thistle and ending up like his father. We don’t need another foolish accident to blacken the house of Ware.”

Then just before Lawrence’s eleventh birthday, another accident did happen. It might not have been accompanied by whispers of shame and disgrace, but it was so horrific, so unexpected, it was an affront to heaven and the natural order of things and surely the will of God Himself. It made his father’s sins—including the “larking about” bit—seem small by comparison.

And Lawrence became certain of a second thing in this world.

His uncle wished him dead.

~~~~~

Hope you enjoyed meeting young Lawrence. Next week, you’ll get to know Lady Caroline!