With Groom of Convenience (Scandalous Whispers of the Remmington Realm) releasing from Dreamspinner Press on Friday, the 17th, I’ve decided to do a post every day this week, giving you background, insight, deleted scenes, pics, etc. all tied into the theme days of the week that I have.
So here’s what to expect:
Monday: Man-oh-Man Monday: Two pictures are given and a short flash is written based on the pictures. This week I am going to give you the two pictures that most resemble Lucien and Heathcliff from GoC and give you an excerpt from the book.
Tuesday: Tantalizing Teaser Tuesday: A naughty, teaser, excerpt from GoC will be shared and the blurb. Usually it’s a tantalizing, seductive excerpt from a book and the blurb.
Wednesday: Work-In-Progress Wednesday: An excerpt is shared from a current WIP. Because this week is all about GoC, I will be sharing an excerpt from The Servant Duchess of Whitcomb as well as insight into the other books in the series.
Thursday: Thursday Pimping/New Release: Information is shared about a new release. Cover, blurb, excerpt, buy-link, etc.
Friday: Freaky Friday: Anything can happen on this day. Since this week is dedicated to GoC, the same thing applies… anything can happen.
Since today is Monday it’s Man-oh-Man Monday so I’m going to share the two pictures that are attributed to Lucien and Heathcliff and an excerpt from the book. Enjoy! Don’t forget to sign up for the Rafflecopter giveaway at the bottom as well!
The Year of His Majesty, 1814
HE WAS going to be sick. No, not sick. He was going to hurl himself through the window of his carriage and put himself out of his misery.
The clacking of the wheels of Lady Lucien Timothy Hawthorn’s barouche echoed in his brain, and he raised a slim-fingered hand to his head and lightly pressed against his temple. He would be beyond ecstatic the moment this infernal trip was over and he could get back to his school chums at the Remmington.
Had he his own bit of blunt and perhaps a town house that was not in his mothers’ names, he might have had the fortitude to reject his parents’ missive, but he was only eight and ten years of age. The law would only see him as independent if both his parents, Annabelle and Rosemary—the Earl and Countess of Yorkshire—were to perish along with his older sisters, Mary, Amelia, Frances, and Charlotte. And while his life often seemed completely unbearable, Lucien would not wish death on his only living relatives.
He sighed and settled more firmly in the cushion of the luxury carriage that belonged to his mother, Earl Annabelle Hawthorn. Annabelle’s parentage was one of the oldest and most distinguished in the country, and, growing up, all Lucien had heard was that not merely as the only son of an earl, but as the youngest child, more eyes would be upon him to make sure he lived a life of honor and sophistication. Those two words had the power to make Lucien’s testicles draw up close to his body. He knew what was expected of him; it had been drummed into his head since he was old enough to understand, but while his mothers and sisters seemed to love being out among society—attending balls, dinners, and musicales—all Lucien wanted to do was sit around at home and read. It was one of the reasons Mr. Madison Kipling, son of Viscount Cavendish, never so much as glanced in his direction, no matter how many balls he was forced to attend. Lucien was not the beautiful one of his siblings. He was the quiet one; it was why he’d had an unrequited love for Mr. Madison two years ago. Thanks to his books, however, he’d quickly gotten over it.
He sighed again as he thought about the book by Don Jonne sitting on his night table at home. How he longed to be there reading it, or back at the Remmington getting totally sloshed. He could only hope this mandatory meeting with his parents ended quickly and he could return to his friends.
Lucien watched as the town houses, buildings, storefronts, and parks of Tlondon passed by outside his barouche, and allowed his mind to drift. He thought of the gorgeous man who had walked into the Remmington just as Lucien was leaving. The stranger had been tall, extremely tall, with broad shoulders, black hair, piercing gray eyes, and a scar on his face. His jaw was square, and his lips pulled into a thin line as he’d perused the gentlemen’s club.
For all intents and purposes, Lucien shouldn’t have been in the Remmington. He wasn’t a lord or anything of that nature—because of the uterus he’d been born with, he was a lady. He would spend the rest of his life taking care of children and his spouse, whoever that turned out to be. Lucien didn’t mind that so much; he wanted to stay inside and do that. He was just nervous that he would end up marrying a female.
Lucien wasn’t really attracted to females. He couldn’t see the appeal of them. With all of their curves and extremely delicate features, Lucien wouldn’t know where to put his hands or how hard he could hug one.
Not all females were dainty. Some were born with a distended clitoris that hung between the folds of their womanhood and was used for penetration. Those females tended to look a little more like the males Lucien saw around the club all the time. Lucien was attracted to males. He always had been. Any time he had ever even entertained the notion of being with a female—perhaps they were dancing at a ball or chatting at a musicale—the thought of it made him so confused and concerned it ruined the moment. It had happened more than once.
Their society was built and run by the notion that those born to do the penetrating of their partners, to sire the children, to rule the country—those born to be dukes, lords, earls, etc.—were superior to those who were born to receive during sex, to conceive the offspring, and to take care of the house and the progeny. Titled women were required to stay home, manage the estate, and take care of the children. Lucien had heard tales of women who were forced to work, and he found the notion absolutely fascinating. He had only brought it up to his maldy once, and she had informed him in no uncertain terms that he had no need to work. He would marry a man of substance, one with a title and wealth who would take care of him. Lucien had acquiesced, albeit reluctantly, and hadn’t brought it up again.
Their plans for him were all well and good, but sometimes Lucien thought it was all a load of bullshit. Though his body was crafted to give birth to the offspring of his future spouse, though he was created to take on the role of homemaker, a lady who enjoys being cared for and being a lovely bit of fluff for his spouse, Lucien wanted more. He had goals and plans for his life. He wasn’t exactly sure what those plans were, but he knew whenever he chose to pursue them, they would be huge.
“We have arrived at the Yorkshire Estate, milady,” the driver’s voice came through Lucien’s open window.
“Thank you, Kingston,” Lucien responded. He immediately sat up to smooth out any wrinkles in his clothes from lounging around inside the barouche. He heard the gliding of the gates as the estate’s entrance servants pulled them open, and he looked through the window and smiled at Elaine and Joseph. They both smiled back, and Lucien felt just a little bit better about coming home.
He had made quite a number of friends with their help when he had still been living under his parents’ roof, but for the past two months, he had been living in the Red Rose Town House, so named for his maldy Annabelle’s love for the flower.
Lucien kept his back straight and eyes forward, just as he’d been taught in his etiquette classes with his sister Charlotte, the only one of his sisters born with a uterus. Charlotte was a lady just as Lucien was, while Mary, Amelia, and Frances were lords. It made Lucien and Charlotte extremely close, for which Lucien was exceedingly grateful.
Growing up a Hawthorn wasn’t an easy thing. While they were not the wealthiest family in the country, they were one of the oldest families in the area. Lucien could remember countless hours spent sitting at his grandfather’s knee, listening as the earl told him about how the Hawthorns, Remmingtons, and Harringtons had been the first families to settle in Angland.
Lucien had been fascinated hearing all about the history of the country and the way society used to run. History was one of his favorite subjects, and one of his beloved pastimes was taking one of his history books and riding his gelding, Lucky Star, out to the park, sitting under a tree, and losing himself in the pages of wars, culture, and historical events. His mothers indulged his fascination with history and hadn’t pushed him into marriage just yet, even though all of his sisters were married off to different members of the gentry. He had a sinking feeling that was all about to come to an end.
Lucien was startled out of his musings when the barouche came to a stop and a footman opened the door.
“Good afternoon, Lady Lucien,” Gavin, one of the footmen, greeted him, holding out a hand and helping Lucien step out of the carriage. Lucien’s boots clicked on the paved circular driveway of his parents’ estate, and he smoothed down the front of his blue tailcoat before touching his cravat to make sure it was straight. He ran his fingers through his thick blond locks and accepted the top hat Gavin held out for him.
“Thank you, Gavin,” Lucien said softly, a wave of shyness rushing over him. Gavin was gorgeous, and if the circumstances of his birth had made him a titled man or the son of a titled man, Lucien might have asked his mothers to allow him to marry the man. Though with Gavin’s good looks, he no doubt would have been married by the time Lucien had been presented to society.
Gavin stood at six foot four, towering over Lucien’s own five foot eight. Gavin’s hair was a deep chestnut color, and his eyes were a brilliant hazel. His shoulders were broad, which was more a result of his Tscottish heritage than because of any type of work he did on the estate, though Lucien could possibly be wrong about that. His bottom lip was fuller than his top lip and his nose had a small bump in the middle—something he’d gotten when he’d engaged in a brawl as a young man, or at least that’s what Gavin had told Lucien when he’d asked him about it years ago. His hands were big, the fingers wide and nails blunt. He was dressed impeccably in the livery uniform, his breeches a dark green, gorgeously complementing the gold waistcoat he wore.
Lucien had spent many years in his room looking down at the servants as they worked and wishing he could join them in hard labor. Five minutes after he would begin fantasizing about having one of the male servants bend him over the nearest flat surface, his governess would say his name sharply and pull him back to his studies.
Lucien and Charlotte were much more learned than other ladies, which was no doubt due to his family’s name and heritage. So while his general studies of history, science, math, and geography should have ended earlier so he could learn about running a household, Annabelle had paid for a governess and tutor to continue teaching and training Lucien and Charlotte until they had both reached the age of seven and ten.
“My dear Lucien!” sounded from the direction of the large mansion, and Lucien turned and smiled at the sight of his mother, Rosemary, coming down the steps with her arms outstretched.
“Mother,” Lucien called back in greeting, hurrying toward her. Rosemary was only an inch shorter than Lucien; he and Charlotte had obviously inherited their height from her. As he wrapped his arms around his mother’s waist, Lucien was enveloped in the scent of lavender and vanilla, his mother’s signature fragrance. They stood in the drive hugging for a long moment before Rosemary finally released Lucien from her tight grip. One would have thought they hadn’t seen each other for an age, when the truth was they had just had brunch together three days prior.
“Have you been well?” Rosemary asked, turning and linking her hand on the inside of Lucien’s elbow.
“Yes, Mother,” Lucien said with a smile.
Rosemary wore a green paisley morning gown with a high waistline, the hem brushing against the ground as they walked up the stairs to the front door. She wore no bonnet on her raven black hair—the only thing Lucien didn’t inherit from her; he got his blond hair from his maldy, Annabelle—and had on no gloves. Looking down at her feet, Lucien tried to see if she’d surrendered her heels in favor of slippers, and when the tips of her slippers peeked from beneath her wide skirt, Lucien chuckled.
Rosemary looked up at him with a smile. “What are you laughing at, Son?”
Lucien gestured toward her feet. “I was right about you wearing your slippers today,” he told her, and delighted at the musical sound of her laughter as she led him through the large entrance hall to the red rose room. The red rose room was one of the only private receiving rooms, reserved for family members only, but still Lucien felt tension flood his body. Usually when his parents summoned him, they would meet him in the yellow room or his maldy’s office to discuss some grievous error he had committed or caution him about his friends. For them to take him to the red rose room meant the blight was on their record and not on his. They had done something he wasn’t going to like and were using the red rose room to tell him so.
“Yes, well, your maldy decided to close the grounds to unexpected visitors, so I thought I might as well be comfortable,” Rosemary said as she continued to lead him down the long corridor. Lucien wanted to fight against the upcoming meeting, maybe remove his arm from his mother’s grip and rush back to his barouche and then back to his town house, but he knew it was futile. His mothers would only follow him in their own carriage and tell him their news in his home. Lucien had no options that he could think of; no matter what move he made, his family would act as well. Bloody hell.
“Here we are,” Rosemary announced, her voice louder than normal, with a false cheeriness to it. Lucien’s eyebrows rose at his mother’s behavior, and he stopped her in front of the closed doors, which once again let Lucien know something or someone was behind those doors that his parents didn’t want him to know about until they’d had a chance to explain it to him.
“Mother, what is going on?” Lucien asked her.
Rosemary looked at Lucien and shook her head. “Why, Luce, absolutely nothing. Why would you ask me something like that?”
Lucien was really concerned, as neither of his parents used his nickname. Ever. He said nothing to her, just stared, unmoving.
Rosemary removed her hand from Lucien’s elbow and raised it to the pearls hanging at her neck to play with them a moment. Lucien was very aware of that gesture; it meant Rosemary was nervous and trying to figure out just what to reveal. He waited expectantly, confident she would let him know what was going on before he had to face his maldy, but when Rosemary shook her head and squared her shoulders, Lucien knew his ploy of silence wouldn’t work this time.
“All you need to know, Lucien, is that everything we do, we do as your parents and because we love you,” Rosemary told him. She raised a hand to his cheek and stroked the skin gently, lovingly. “We were so happy when I gave birth to you and discovered you were a girl. We had been surprised by the pregnancy, as the doctors told me I was past my conceiving years, but you were a delightful surprise. We always wanted a son, and we were finally given one.” She dropped her hand from Lucien’s cheek and lifted it to her face to wipe away the tears that had gathered in her eyes. “We do this because we care about you and only want the best for you.”
Rosemary turned back to the double doors of the red rose room and pushed on the handles to open them. She grabbed the skirt of her morning gown in one hand and glided into the room. Lucien stood in shock for only a moment before he followed her.
“Close the doors, Son.” His maldy’s husky voice came from the direction of one of the chairs next to the fireplace. Lucien nodded and, as he turned to close the doors, saw the Duke and Duchess of Cumbria sitting on the loveseat across from his maldy. He froze in shock for but a moment. Years of etiquette training wouldn’t allow him to just stand in front of the door, but he had never seen anyone in the red rose room who wasn’t family, and now here were two of the most prestigious peers of the realm, not only in their home but in their private family room. Lucien took a moment to compose himself. He smiled at both of them and bowed slightly before turning back to close the doors. After he released the handle, Lucien took a steadying breath and moved to face his parents.
“Well, have a seat, Lucien,” Annabelle directed him.
“Yes, Maldy,” Lucien answered automatically. His maldy was a stern woman. Lucien could only remember one instance where he had ever seen her be soft and loving, though he wasn’t supposed to have. He had woken up in the middle of the night when he was seven years old and had walked out of his room and down the family wing toward his parents’ room. He knew he was too old to actually sleep in the bed with them, but he had wanted comfort from a dreadful nightmare. Halfway down the hall, he’d stopped, frozen in place as he saw his mothers pressed together against the wall next to the bedchamber. They were dressed in evening attire, Rosemary in a gorgeous dress of blue velvet, one hand holding a white shawl, her black hair spilling down her back in a mass of curls. Annabelle was pressed close to Rosemary’s body, her thick blond hair pulled back into a harsh, unforgiving bun, her face pressed into the crook of Rosemary’s neck. Annabelle wore a slim dark green evening gown, embroidered in onyx gems under her small bust and around the hem. As Lucien continued to watch them, he saw Rosemary lift her leg and circle it around Annabelle’s waist, while Annabelle dropped a hand beneath Rosemary’s skirts. Lucien’s eyes had widened, and he’d turned to leave, not in the least bit interested in watching his parents copulate in the middle of the corridor. It was something he only knew about because he’d overheard his sisters speak of it and because he’d sneaked into the servants’ quarters many times and seen the same thing occurring among the servants. Just as he started to turn away, he saw Annabelle lift the hand that had been pressed against the wall on the side of Rosemary’s head and tenderly stroke Rosemary’s cheek. She had leaned close and kissed Rosemary’s lips gently before lifting Rosemary’s leg higher. It was Rosemary’s gasp and harsh groan of Annabelle’s name that had spurred Lucien to turn and race down the hallway to his room.
So while one part of him was happy to know his maldy had a gentle side, the self-preservation side of him tried not to remember how he knew that.
Lucien settled himself on the edge of the chaise next to the loveseat where the duke and duchess sat.
“I believe you know the duke and duchess?” Annabelle said, smiling thinly up at Rosemary, who stood and began pouring tea for all of them. Lucien crossed one leg over the other, balanced his teacup and saucer on his knee, and sat straight up—something else he’d learned how to do in his etiquette class—and nodded.
“Yes, Maldy. So nice to see you again, Your Graces,” Lucien said with a smile at two of the highest-ranking members of society. The Duke of Cumbria was a harsh-looking man. His skin had a healthy tan from spending a great deal of time outside, no doubt riding his horse or hunting, like most titled members of the gentry. It was a luxury Lucien wished he would have once he married, but one he believed he would have to go without once that occasion happened upon him.
The duke’s black hair was brushed back from his face and pulled into a queue at the back of his neck; gray had seeped into the dark strands and colored his temples. His eyes were a mesmerizing shade of light gray, almost silver, his chin pointed, a dimple resting in the middle of it.
He had broad shoulders shrouded in a brown morning coat over a startling white dress shirt with a white cravat and a black vest. He wore black breeches, which could barely contain his large thighs, and black boots on his feet.
Next to him, the Duchess of Cumbria wore a morning gown of yellow that caused her pale skin to look sallow. Her red hair, cluttered with gray strands, was pulled back in a bun, tendrils escaping to curl around her rounded face.
Lucien admired the fact that the Duchess had not felt the need to buy a wig of blonde or black hair that would make her much more fashionable. She no doubt felt she didn’t have to, being a superior member of the gentry. Her bonnet rested on her lap, and Lucien wondered if perhaps she had just removed it moments before he’d entered. Where his mother Rosemary had foregone heels for slippers, the Duchess wore a beautiful pair of white heeled shoes with lace and embroidery over the front of them. Her eyes were a deep jade color, and she smiled brilliantly at Lucien when his eyes fell on her.
“And it is indeed a pleasure to see you again, young Lucien,” the Duchess, Jane, if Lucien remembered her Christian name correctly, said, her voice light and melodious.
“I am sure you are wondering why you were summoned to the family home when we did not have a scheduled meal,” Annabelle stated, and Lucien gave the Duchess a final smile before turning his attention to his maldy.
“The thought had crossed my mind, yes, Maldy,” Lucien admitted.
“Well, my dear, we have taken it upon ourselves to make a decision about your life that I am sure you will find not only agreeable but practically miraculous and fortuitous,” Annabelle stated with a pointed look.
That look Lucien knew quite well. Even if he didn’t find the decision “miraculous” or “fortuitous,” he was being ordered to pretend he did in front of the duke and duchess.
“Thank you, Maldy. I am sure that I will,” Lucien agreed. He wondered if he had been offered to be a companion to the Duchess. While it wasn’t at all a notion he would have chosen for himself, it was inherently better than what he thought he’d been summoned to the estate for.
“Your mother and I have decided to accept the suit offered by the Duke and Duchess of Cumbria,” Annabelle told him before calmly lifting her teacup to her lips and taking a sip.
“Suit?” Lucien questioned, looking back and forth between the two couples.
“Yes. You are to wed Heathcliff Eddington III, His Grace, the Duke of Pompinshire, Marquess of Manchester, Earl of Southerby, Viscount of Berkinstock, Baron of Hempstead, heir to the Dukedom of Cumbria, in six months’ time.”
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