Wednesday Special Spotlight
Regency romance, historical romance
R for brief sexual content, 3-4 out of 5 flames
Two lucky commenters will receive their selection of a Kindle copy of one of Caroline’s first two books. The giveaway runs today through tomorrow 10:00 a.m. EST.
Lily wants to solve her own problems. Why won’t she let Richard do his duty? He’ll chase her to hell and back if he has to.
If women were as easily managed as the affairs of state—or the recalcitrant Ottoman Empire—Richard Hayden, Marquess of Glenaire, would be a happier man. As it was the creatures—one woman in particular—made hash of his well-laid plans and bedeviled him on all sides.
Lily Thornton came home from Saint Petersburg in pursuit of marriage. She wants a husband and a partner, not an overbearing, managing man. She may be “the least likely candidate to be Marchioness of Glenaire,” but her problems are her own to fix, even if those problems include both a Russian villain and an interfering Ottoman official.
Given enough facts, Richard can fix anything. But protecting that impossible woman is proving to be almost as hard as protecting his heart, especially when Lily’s problems bring her dangerously close to an Ottoman revolution. As Lily’s personal problems entangle with Richard’s professional ones, and she pits her will against his, he chases her across the pirate-infested Mediterranean. Will she discover surrender isn’t defeat? It might even have its own sweet reward.
“Who invited Lilias Thornton?” Richard demanded under his breath. His eyes followed a slender young woman who paced out the steps of the Quadrille across the parquet floor of the earl’s ballroom.
“No ‘thank you for turning your country seat into a diplomatic snake pit for an entire week so the haut ton can mingle with exotic visitors from the East while the foreign secretary manages the fate of Greece over Brandy and cards?’” Will demanded.
Richard looked at his friend, one eyebrow raised. “Chadbourn Park fit the need precisely. I thanked your Catherine this morning.”
Will grunted. “My Catherine worked miracles when Sahin Pasha showed up with six extra people in his party.”
“We can’t predict how many retainers the Turks will impose,” Richard growled. The Ottomans danced to their own tune; the Foreign Office never knows what to expect. Richard loathed the unpredictable. He went back to surveying the overheated ballroom.
“Who invited Lilias Thornton?” he repeated while he moved along the mirrored wall of the earl’s spectacular ballroom to a position next to a massive marble urn that gave him a better view of his quarry. His eyes never left the dancers.
Will snatched two glasses of champagne from a footman stationed discreetly along the softly flocked wall, tray in hand. He handed one to Richard who took it without looking.
“Catherine also had to scurry when your mother demanded that she invite three more marriageable young ladies and their eager mamas,” Will complained.
“I would rather that she refused.”
“Refuse the Duchess of Sudbury? Surely you jest.”
Richard nodded without taking his gaze from the dancers. “I jest. I have less control over my mother than I do Sahin Pasha.” He loathed loss of control even more than unpredictability. He had been forced to sidestep the marriage-minded chits for two days.
Right now only one woman interested him, Lilias Thornton. He watched her throw her head back, send auburn curls bouncing, and laugh up at her partner. She dances with grace, I’ll give her that—grace and unbridled joy. A man could lose his senses over that look. The last thing he needed was to lose his senses.
Will followed his friend’s line of sight. “Beautiful woman,” he acknowledged. “Catherine called her dress ‘beyond perfection.’”
That dress radiates so damned much continental sophistication she makes the women around her look countrified, my esteemed mother’s protégées included. The woman laughed freely again, and Richard felt himself harden in spite of his determination; the surge of attraction irritated him. I have no time for such nonsense.
“Who invited her?” he demanded. “It’s a matter of some urgency.”
Will shrugged. “I believe Catherine included some regular attendees at your sister’s literary salon. She must be one of those. You said to invite women who could provide intelligent conversation to members of the diplomatic corps.”
“So I did. My men tell me she has been in conversation with Konstantin Volkov three times these past two days.”
“You’re tracking her conversations?”
“Volkov’s. He has no official role, yet he follows the Russian delegation and slinks through society in the shadows. I want to know who he works for, why he sought an invitation, and what he intends.”
The entire house party had been arranged to provide a discreet opportunity for the foreign secretary—or more precisely, Richard, his second—to persuade Ottoman officials to moderate their suppression of revolutionary rumbling in Greece. England did not want the kind of chaos that would tempt Russia. Expansionist Russia threatened all of Europe. The weak and floundering Ottoman Empire did not.
“Ask him,” Will suggested. “Unless diplomacy requires a more devious approach.”
“Lilias Thornton accompanied her father to St. Petersburg three years ago. The crown appointed him to the trade delegation at our embassy there,” Richard explained. “She returned without him rather abruptly in early January. I wonder why. Volkov arrived shortly after. It puzzles me.” He did not like puzzles.
“It isn’t unusual for a young woman of marriageable age to seek London before the Season starts,” a woman’s voice cut in. Catherine Landrum, Will’s countess, reached for her husband’s glass and took a sip. She tasted it slowly, seemed to pronounce it fit, and handed the glass back. “Lilias made it clear she’s seeking a good marriage,” the countess told Richard. “Who is Volkov?”
“She’s well beyond the age,” he answered. He ignored her question about the Russian.
“Surely not!” Catherine laughed. “Twenty-two may be somewhat older than the norm . . .” She paused when a young woman of seventeen pranced by and smiled coyly at the marquess over her partner’s shoulder.
“Well, perhaps quite a bit older,” she acknowledged when they passed.
“She served as her father’s hostess in his postings abroad since she turned sixteen. She has shown no interest in the marriage mart until this year,” Richard said. “I don’t care about the gossip. I want to know about her connection to Konstantin Volkov.”
“Ask her,” the countess suggested.
“I intend to,” Richard said as the last notes of the dance faded. He set out in the woman’s direction.
Caroline Warfield has at various times been an army brat, a librarian, a poet, a raiser of children, a nun, a bird watcher, an Internet and Web services manager, a conference speaker, an indexer, a tech writer, a genealogist, and, of course, a romantic. She has sailed through the English channel while it was still mined from WWII, stood on the walls of Troy, searched Scotland for the location of an entirely fictional castle (and found it), climbed the steps to the Parthenon, floated down the Thames from the Tower to Greenwich, shopped in the Ginza, lost herself in the Louvre, gone on a night safari at the Singapore zoo, walked in the Black Forest, and explored the underground cistern of Istanbul. By far the biggest adventure has been life-long marriage to a prince among men.
She sits in front of a keyboard at a desk surrounded by windows, looks out at the trees and imagines. Her greatest joy is when one of those imaginings comes to life on the page and in the imagination of her readers.
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