The Improper Wife

( 5 )

Overview

Drowning in whiskey, war veteran Captain John Grayson is shocked when a pregnant woman bursts into his room and claims to be his wife in a wrenching story of mistaken identity, misguided honor, and true love. Original.
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Overview

Drowning in whiskey, war veteran Captain John Grayson is shocked when a pregnant woman bursts into his room and claims to be his wife in a wrenching story of mistaken identity, misguided honor, and true love. Original.
Read More Show Less

Editorial Reviews

Kathe Robin
dynamic, fresh voice with a memorable story (a la Sommersby) and unforgettable characters...must-read.
Romantic Times BOOKclub, Four Stars; K.I.S.S. award
Nancy Riggins-Hume
engrossing... The detail is lush...The dialogue is realistic for the time period ......an absolute keeper.
The Road to Romance, Reviewer's Choice
Kris Alice
a very satisfying romance...an amazing storytelling talent
A Romance Review, Five Roses
Shayne Sawyer
an emotionally charged story with twists and turns and brilliant characters...I highly recommend this book.
The Best Reviews
Naomi Lean
The sweet and sensual resolution is very natural, not forced and introduces a heart wrenching element of angst into the final chapters. This is a traditional love story that readers are sure to put with their favourites!
Fallen Angel ReviewsTHERE
Jane Bowers
THE IMPROPER WIFE is a grand historical romance written with deep emotion, authenticity, and originality. One for the keeper shelf.
Romance Review Today
Mary Emmons
Talented Diane Perkins gives the reader a look into the past...Highly recommended as a very enjoyable read.
ReaderToReader
Publishers Weekly
An underdeveloped, lackluster romance mars Perkins's debut Regency. Believing that her husband, whom she thought to be Capt. John Grayson, drowned when she angrily pushed him into a river, Maggie Delaney Grayson rejoices to learn that he's living in London. Soon after a very pregnant Maggie arrives at John's rooms, the stranger residing there helps deliver her child and later reveals that he's the real Capt. John Grayson; apparently, the man Maggie married was merely a rogue with a stolen name. John foists Maggie and her son, Sean, onto his cousin and his wife, Lord and Lady Caufield, while he rejoins his regiment on the continent. Unbelievably, the Caufields discover Maggie's marriage certificate and decide to take Maggie and Sean to Summerton, John's ancestral home, where Maggie ingratiates herself with the delusional Earl of Summerton, John's estranged father. John's return to Summerton two years later is naturally fraught with dissension, especially when he decides to go along with Maggie's claim that she's married to him. Though Maggie and John learn little about themselves or each other during their improbable journey, and their dialogue can be stilted, a sizzling love scene suggests the author is capable of doing better next time. Agent, Richard Curtis. (Nov.) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780446614375
  • Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
  • Publication date: 6/15/2009
  • Pages: 386
  • Product dimensions: 8.00 (w) x 5.00 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Read an Excerpt

Improper Wife


By Diane Perkins

Warner Forever

ISBN: 0-446-61437-8


Chapter One

May, 1814

The pounding of French cannon thudded in John Grayson's brain. Acrid smoke stung his nostrils while his horse's hooves dug into the dry Spanish earth. Screams of dying soldiers assaulted his ears. The battle raged around him, and Gray lost his bearings. He swung his horse toward a clearing. From the mist a figure ran toward him, a woman clad in a gown as yellow as the sunshine, raven hair billowing behind her. Rosa? What was she doing in this ungodly place? He spurred his horse toward her. The fool. He'd told her not to follow him.

"Vete!" he yelled. "Go back!"

Oblivious of the carnage around her, she stretched her arms toward him. Her bright-colored dress fluttered behind her like wings of a butterfly, molding against her rounded belly as she ran.

Canister continued to shower from the incessant guns, its shot spattering the ground around him. He opened his mouth to bid her take heed, but an explosion of cannonade drowned his words. In the sky where threads of blue still peeked through the smoke, the canister arced and headed directly toward her.

As the canister tore her apart, sending pieces of her skittering through the dirt and flying into the trees, Gray heard amused laughter.

Leonard Lansing's face loomed before him, grinning as Lansing so often did when scorning the rules. "What luck! Free of the leg-shackle, old fellow."

Gray woke in a sweat, half sprawled on his bed, panting as if the French cannon had been pelting his dingy London rooms. It had not been real. It had merely been The Dream. The only battles he waged these days were with his own demons.

The pounding continued, more urgent and coming from his door. The sound echoed in his skull like ricocheting musket balls. Gray clutched his head and forced his body into an upright position. A sharp pain in his side made his breath catch. He'd moved too quickly for his still healing wound.

"Stubble it!" he growled. "I'm coming."

Ah, his head! How many bottles of brandy had he consumed? He could not precisely recall. In fact, he barely recalled staggering back to his rooms.

Something caught round his feet and he stumbled, grabbing the back of a chair to keep from falling. His coat, thrown in a heap on the floor. At least he'd not slept in it, though he still wore the clothing he'd put on the previous day. His waistcoat flapped open and his shirt hung out of his trousers. Both reeked of stale alcohol and cigarillos.

More pounding. Who the devil would call at this ungodly hour?

Gray flung the door wide.

The bright midday sun poured in from the hallway, blinding him and throwing the figure standing in the doorway into silhouette. For a brief second he thought it was Rosa returning to haunt him. He clamped his eyes closed, rubbed them with his fingers, and cautiously opened them again.

"Are these Captain Grayson's rooms?" The woman's voice was tight and her breath rapid.

Gray's heart pounded so hard he could not speak. But this was not Rosa. Too tall. Too English. Skin too pale, like French porcelain.

He forced his mouth to move. "One might say."

She stepped forward, grabbing the doorjamb and leaning against it. "Please. May I enter?"

Gray stepped back. Her face was taut. She nearly fell into the room.

"Have ... have I made your acquaintance?" He did not recall her, though she looked the sort a man would not likely forget. Her fair skin was framed by hair the color of polished mahogany. Her large eyes were the blue of a clear spring sky, but they were rimmed with red. Her rosebud pink lips were compressed into a thin line.

She wrapped her arms around her waist, a gasp escaping that perfectly formed mouth. It was then Gray noticed the swelling of her belly.

By God, she was with child.

Gray drew his hand through his hair. What hellish retribution was this? The only fathomable reason for a pregnant woman to seek him out was ... unfathomable. A nightmare of a new sort.

"Oh," she moaned, squeezing her waist. "The baby is coming! It is too soon. Too soon."

Gray pressed his fingers against his throbbing temple. Let it not be so. She could not possibly give birth to a baby in front of him. It was too cruel a joke for God to play.

She reached out, as if trying to grab hold of something. Gray obliged her by stepping forward, and bloodless fingers wrapped around his arm like a vise.

"Please get help. The baby. I can feel the baby." Her voice trailed into a wail and her knees buckled.

Silently cursing, he helped her to the threadbare rug on the floor. The dust tramped into its nap by countless boots had wafted into his nostrils. Who was this woman? He considered running out the door. If he ran far enough perhaps the nightmare would cease, or perhaps he could find help. Some woman. Any woman.

She rolled to her side, grabbing her knees and rocking. The skirt of her dress was wet. That meant something, but Gray was uncertain what - except that there was no time to seek help.

Gray wheeled around wildly, considering what to do. At the same time he tried to mentally compute the months. Where had he been nine months ago?

After Vitoria, after that damned night with Rosa, he'd accompanied Lansing to Gloucestershire. Lansing had traded his commission in the 13th for a militia post, and Gray had thought to have one last lark with his friend. That was before Lansing's antics turned sour on Gray's tongue, however. Gray shook the memory out of his still throbbing head and opened the cabinet where the maid-of-all-work stored blankets, towels, and linens. He grabbed them all.

The woman's breath was coming in rapid bursts. Her eyes were wide and bulging. He'd seen a foaling mare with that same expression.

Terror.

It inexplicably registered with him that this woman had the appearance and speech of a well brought up young lady. He would not have dallied with a respectable miss, would he?

Could he have repeated the dishonorable behavior that still plagued his conscience? Truth was, he and Lansing had remained quite permanently drunk in Gloucestershire, and Gray could not recall everything he had done there. Could he have met this lady? Even so, would she have frequented the kinds of places where he and Lansing sought entertainment?

He dropped the linens at her feet.

"Will my baby die?" she managed between breaths.

He gaped at her. Now she'd given him another even worse anxiety. His conscience could bear only so much. She clutched her abdomen, grimacing in pain.

"Do not fret." He attempted a reassuring smile, but felt none of it himself. "I know precisely what to do. I grew up on a farm and have witnessed calving and lambing and ... what might you call it? ... kittening?"

"Get me a proper midwife!" She rose up off the floor, grabbing the cloth of his shirt in her fists. Daggers shot from her blue eyes. She was like one of the Furies. Tisiphone, the avenger of murder.

That was fitting.

Good God! Citing the Classics. He was turning damned bookish.

No time to dwell on that. He had bigger problems to ponder. Like a baby about to be born on his floor.

Gray eased the Fury back to the floor and fell to his knees. The woman convulsed in pain. Trembling himself, Gray pushed the blankets underneath her, pulled off her shoes and stockings, and pushed her skirt above her waist. Hesitating only a moment, he worked at removing her undergarments, fumbling like a lad taking his first tumble. He needn't have worried. Her eyes no longer focused, the liquid blue hardening like glass. She stared past him, concentration inward.

"The child is coming." Her voice turned eerily calm. Gray felt a line of sweat trickle down his back.

From between her legs, something round and full of dark hair appeared. "The baby's head!" he said, his voice cracking.

This could not be happening. Gray thought longingly of the bottle of brandy on his bureau. Would that he could pour the warming liquid down his throat until sweet oblivion was his.

Instead he grabbed a towel and held it ready.

Half-sitting, she strained, face red. She made a low moan that gradually rose in pitch. Gray watched in fascination as the dark-haired head pushed out of its confines. She collapsed and the head disappeared again.

"You've lost it," Gray said.

"What do you mean, I've lost it?" she gasped, her eyes looking a bit wild.

"It went back ... inside," he explained.

"Don't you think I know that?" she rasped. "It's inside me." Her face was red now, and her muscles tensed. Suddenly she wailed. The intensity of the sound pierced deep into his gut.

"It is coming!" he said, dropping the towel.

The head moved out slowly as she strained. With one final feral cry, she pushed. The baby shot out, landing in Gray's bare hands.

The woman sat up, grasping for the baby. "Is my baby alive? Is my baby alive?" Her fury was gone. Fear replaced it.

Gray turned away from her. The infant made no sound, no movement. It was deep purple. Oh, God. That could not be a good sign. He hurriedly wiped off the child, jostling it as he did so. It was a boy, but so small, much smaller than he'd expected. Would such a tiny baby creature have had any chance to survive?

"Give me my baby!" She grabbed his arm, nearly knocking him off balance. How the devil could he tell this woman her baby was dead?

At that precise second, a cry burst from the miniature mouth. Tiny arms fluttered and shook. Gray laughed with relief.

"Oh!" the woman cried. She released Gray's arm and held her hands out for the infant.

He unwrapped the cord from around the newborn's abdomen and placed him into her hands. Deuce. He'd have to cut the damned cord. But before he figured out that unpleasant task, she groaned again. As she clutched the baby to her chest, her body convulsed again.

The afterbirth plopped down on the blanket between his knees, followed by a gush of fluids. "Bloody hell."

Unmindful of his difficulties, the woman cradled the baby in her arms. "Dear, dear baby." Tears rolled down her cheeks, but her face was radiant with joy. She fingered each tiny hand, counted every tiny toe, examined every inch of him. "You are a boy! A lovely boy."

Gray stared at the infant. He'd never seen a newborn, except for his nephew, but only a glimpse when the boy was swathed in blankets. "He's well equipped."

She glanced at him. "Well equipped?"

He gestured with his fingers. "You know, his ... male parts."

Lifting one eyebrow, she regarded him with reproach.

He cleared his throat and jumped up to rummage through a box on the bureau, searching for a piece of string. He grabbed his razor. Not wishing to think too much on the task he would put the razor to, he tied off the cord and cut it, wincing at the same time. That odious job done, he pulled the blankets out from under her and folded them into a bundle containing all the unpleasantries of the birth.

Turning back, he caught sight of her gazing down at her baby. Her face was aglow as if lit from within. Her dark hair had come loose of its pins and tumbled around her shoulders in disordered curls. She put Gray in mind of a statue of the Madonna he'd seen in a Barcelona church. As he watched, she placed her lips on the soft down of the baby's head.

His throat went dry.

An overwhelming wave of regret washed over him, leaving an incredible void inside. He continued to stare at the mother and child, but all he saw were the blackest recesses of his soul. Had he been a better man, he might have held another infant as she held this babe. Would that child have been as wrinkled as this little one? Would it have turned the same healthy shade of pink? Would its cries have been as angry? This little creature ought to be angry. Gray had delivered him into an abominable world.

The woman then lifted her eyes to Gray. Tears clung to her dark lashes like tiny jewels. She smiled at him, a look of wonder on her face. Gray's breath caught in his throat. She was a living, breathing Madonna, sharing with him an intimate moment he did not deserve. He thrust his own misery aside.

"Let me help you to the bed," he said. "Hold the baby tight."

(Continues...)



Excerpted from Improper Wife by Diane Perkins Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Customer Reviews

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( 5 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 5 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted August 22, 2005

    Good Read...

    First time I have read a Diane Perkins, and I must admit I enjoyed it.. Interesting tale..

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 14, 2005

    Disappointing

    I love romance novels, especially regencies, but this one was really slow, uneventful, and dull. I found the characters were weak and uninspiring.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 31, 2004

    Wonderful first time read!

    This was the first romance novel I have read not to mention the first I have read since I was 15, in those days it was Christopher Pike Teen Murder/Mystery/Romance novels (about 15 years ago). My mother insisted I start reading again to pass the time before I was to move, 'To help De-stress you', she said. She was right! This book was one I could not put down. I could not wait to see what happened next. I highly recomend this novel to anyone who is looking for a good read. You seem to become part of the charicters world and want to yell out to them on what they should do or what they should say. After I finished the book I wanted more from Mrs. Diane Perkins so I look forward to Diane's next novel and hope to see it soon! I would also hope to see this as a 'Lifetime Move'. THANK YOU Diane for bringing me back to the world of reading.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted October 22, 2004

    Delightful Regency romance!

    Diane Perkins brings an interesting, intriguing twist to the ¿marriage of convenience¿ theme in her first U.S. release, THE IMPROPER WIFE. Captain John Grayson, known to his friends as Gray, is a man of means ¿ but is also a haunted man. Gray was disowned by his father when he decided to enlist. He drinks himself to sleep each night, trying to forget his young, pregnant wife who died. Despite his best attempts, visions of her tragic death haunt his dreams. One morning, he¿s awakened by a pounding on his door and opens it to find a lovely, but obviously pregnant woman asking for Captain Grayson. Before he can clarify the obvious error, her child insists on being born, almost immediately. Gray has little choice but to help her deliver her baby boy. Maggie Delaney believes she has murdered her husband, Captain John Grayson, when she pushed him into a river during an altercation. Alone, pregnant and left with minimal funds, she struggles to survive ¿ until she reads in a discarded paper that Captain Grayson has returned to London. Surprised that her husband is still alive, she learns his whereabouts from the Regimental offices, and then rushes to his quarters, only to be told by a man whose dark looks remind her of a pirate that he is Captain John Grayson. She has little time to pursue the man¿s lies when her baby insists on being born. And until she discovers the truth behind Gray¿s lies, she provides a false identity, that of Maggie Smith. After the child¿s birth, Maggie continues to insist that she is Captain Grayson¿s wife. Annoyed, yet reminded of his personal loss as he watches her hold her new baby son, Gray doesn¿t have the heart to send her away. Instead, he places her in the charge of his cousin Harry and Harry¿s wife, Baroness Tess Caufield, with instructions for Tess to deliver Maggie back to her proper home, wherever that might be. He leaves funds with Harry for Maggie¿s intermediate care, then returns to duty. Harry and Tess find Gray¿s request somewhat suspect. Who wouldn¿t, when the young, beautiful female he claims is a stranger is holding an infant? They take her to their home and, as Tess helps Maggie unpack, she finds papers revealing the marriage of Maggie Delaney to John Grayson. Now convinced that Gray has deserted his wife and child, Harry and Tess decide to take Maggie and her infant to Gray¿s family estate and Gray¿s father, Lord Summerton. Maggie, homeless and alone, agrees for the sake of her son. Gray returns to London, only to discover that Maggie is at his family estate and has insinuated herself in his family¿s lives. Has she does this for financial gain? Or is she really the caring person she pretends to be? Gray resolves to discover the truth behind these questions ¿ and more. THE IMPROPER WIFE is a fast-paced, captivating, not-to-be-missed Regency novel. I thoroughly enjoyed the suspense in the story, the fully developed characters. Maggie¿s pain, her determination to provide her son ¿ her only living relative ¿ with a home, was thoroughly engrossing. Gray¿s feeling of loss after his older brother¿s death, his father¿s banishment, and his initial distrust of Maggie were totally believable. THE IMPROPER WIFE is a real keeper!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 13, 2013

    No text was provided for this review.

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