One Perfect Rose

One Perfect Rose

4.1 142
by Mary Jo Putney
     
 

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Stephen Kenyon, Duke of Ashburton, has always taken the duties of his rank seriously—until shocking news sends him running from his isolating world of wealth and privilege to roam the countryside as an ordinary man. When he meets the lovely Rosalind Jordan, a foundling who has grown into an enchanting, compassionate woman, she stirs the deepest desires of his…  See more details below

Overview

Stephen Kenyon, Duke of Ashburton, has always taken the duties of his rank seriously—until shocking news sends him running from his isolating world of wealth and privilege to roam the countryside as an ordinary man. When he meets the lovely Rosalind Jordan, a foundling who has grown into an enchanting, compassionate woman, she stirs the deepest desires of his heart. Yet how can Stephen declare his love when he is haunted by the knowledge that made him flee his old life? And how can Rosalind risk loving a man who fulfills her secret dreams but can never be hers?

Readers around the world cherish the novels of Mary Jo Putney for their rich historical settings, ingenious plots, and characters so real they jump from the page into your heart. Now the winner of two Romance Writers of America RITA awards and a Romantic Times Career Achievement Award sweeps us into the mesmerizing story of two unlikely lovers, thrown together by fate. . . .

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Hoping to exploit the success of Putney's Fallen Angels series, Fawcett is launching its first rack-size hardcover romancesmall enough to fit on the mass market shelves at the local supermarket but durable enough to cost more. There were originally four "dashing, complicated Regency rakes," as Putney once called the heroes of her Fallen Angels, but with the quartet finished in 1995, she has continued to write spinoffsRiver of Fire and now this novel. Stephen, fifth Duke of Ashburton, seventh Marquess of Benfield, etc., learns that he has only a few more months to live. Widowed (the former duchess was a cold girl with a fondness for needlework) and childless, Stephen takes to the road to ponder his fate and joins a roving troupe of Midlands actors. In an uncharacteristic move for the dutiful duke, he asks one of the actresses, Rosalind (the "perfect Rose") to marry him and share his last weeks on earth. Veterans of historical romance will twig to Stephen's "disease" pretty quickly, but the hero and heroine figure it out a few tedious, gastric chapters later; meanwhile a sugarcoated out-of-body experience teaches him all about love. Like the other couples who inhabit this seriesand for all their servants, swell clothes and cavernous residencesStephen and Rose are basically a nice middle-class pair. Spies or thieves, gypsies or dukes, Putney's lovers are fundamentally alike: scratch those checkered pasts and you have the makings of a carpool. (June)
Library Journal
Stunned when his family physician tells him that he only has a few months to live, Stephen Kenyon, Duke of Ashburton, escapes Ashburton Hall and temporarily leaves his responsibilities behind to wander the countryside anonymously as he tries to sort out his feelings and reconcile himself to his apparent fate. However, when his heroic rescue of a young boy results in his becoming part of a traveling theater company, he meets the compelling Rosalind Jordan. In her superb, inimitable style, Putney (River of Fire, Signet, 1996) takes a pair of magnetic, beautifully matched protagonists, places them in a dark, impossible situation, and makes it work. This title is the first of Ballantine's new "keeper" series of paperback-sized hardcover romances and should be in demand by Putney fans and libraries. She lives in Baltimore.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781568954769
Publisher:
Cengage Gale
Publication date:
09/03/1997
Series:
Large Print Book Series
Edition description:
Large Print
Pages:
498
Product dimensions:
6.38(w) x 9.32(h) x 1.16(d)

Read an Excerpt

One Perfect Rose


By Mary Jo Putney

KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP.

Copyright © 1997 Mary Jo Putney
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-4201-1812-4


CHAPTER 1

Asburton Abbey, 1818


"Mortally ill."

The physician's words hung in the air, stark and lethal as scorpions. Stephen Edward Kenyon, fifth Duke of Ashburton, seventh Marquess of Benfield, and half a dozen other titles too trivial to mention, went still as he donned his shirt after the medical exam. Mentally he repeated the phrase, as if study would somehow alter its significance.

Mortally ill. He had known that something was wrong, but he had not expected ... this. The doctor must have made a mistake. True, in the last few weeks the pain in Stephen's belly had gone from mild discomfort to attacks of wrenching agony. But surely that meant only an ulceration — painful but not life threatening.

Grateful for his skill in controlling his expression, he resumed buttoning his shirt. "That's a surprisingly definite statement for a physician. I thought you and your colleagues preferred to avoid dismal predictions."

"You have always been known as a man who appreciates honesty, Your Grace." Dr. George Blackmer concentrated on meticulously replacing equipment in his medical case. "I thought I would do you no favor to conceal the truth. A man in your position needs time to ... put his affairs in order."

Stephen realized, with jarring force, that the physician was quite serious. "Surely that won't be necessary. Apart from occasional stomach pains, I feel fine."

"I've been concerned about your condition ever since the pains began, but hoped my early suspicions were wrong. However, the truth can no longer be denied." The physician glanced up, his gray-green eyes troubled. "You are suffering from a tumefaction of the stomach and liver — the same condition that afflicted your gamekeeper, Mr. Nixon."

It was another blow. Nixon had deteriorated from a bluff outdoorsman to a pain-wracked wraith in a matter of months. And his death had been a difficult one.

Not ready to face himself in the mirror, Stephen tied his cravat by touch, going numbly through the usual motions. "There is no treatment?"

"I'm afraid not."

Stephen pulled on his dark blue coat and smoothed the wrinkles from the sleeves. "How precise is your estimate of six months?"

Blackmer hesitated. "It's hard to predict the course of a disease. I would say that you would have no less than three months, but six months would be ... optimistic."

In other words, if the physician's diagnosis was correct, Stephen would be dead by Christmas. Probably well before then.

What if Blackmer was wrong? It was certainly possible, but the man was a respected and conscientious physician. A foundling raised by the parish, he'd been so promising that the old duke, Stephen's father, had sent him to study medicine. In return, Blackmer had provided the Kenyon family with excellent care. It was unlikely he would give the son of his former patron a death sentence unless he was absolutely sure.

Stephen forced his numb mind to consider what other questions to ask. "Should I continue taking the pills you gave me on your last visit, or is there no point?"

"Keep taking them. In fact, I've compounded more." Blackmer reached into his case and drew out a corked jar. "They're mostly opium to dull the pain, with some herbs to cleanse the blood. Take at least one a day. More if you feel discomfort."

Like habit, manners were a convenient crutch. As he accepted the jar, Stephen said politely, "Thank you, Dr. Blackmer. I appreciate your honesty."

"Not all of my colleagues would agree, but I believe that when the end is inevitable, a man should have time to prepare himself." The doctor closed his case with a snap, then hesitated, his expression deeply troubled. "Do you have any other questions, Your Grace?"

Next to a death sentence, no other question mattered. "No. I bid you good day, Doctor." Stephen reached for the bell cord.

"I can find my own way." His gaze intense and unreadable, Blackmer lifted his case and went toward the door. "I shall call again in a fortnight."

"Why?" Stephen asked, no longer able to keep the edge from his voice. "By your own admission you can do nothing, so I see no reason to suffer more prodding."

Blackmer's face tightened. "Nonetheless, I shall call. Just continue taking your medicine, and send for me if you feel the need." Then, shoulders bowed, the tall man left the duke's private sitting room.

Stephen stood quite still in the middle of the floor, trying to absorb the reality of the doctor's words. Death in a matter of months. It seemed impossible. He was only thirty-six, for God's sake. Not young, perhaps, but not old, and in excellent condition. Except for the mild asthma he'd had as a boy, he'd always enjoyed robust good health.

A tendril of anger began to twine through his numbness. He should know perfectly well that age had nothing to do with it. His wife, Louisa, hadn't even been thirty when she had died of a fever. Her death had been a shock, but at least it had been mercifully swift.

His gaze fell on the gilt-framed mirror above the mantel. His reflection looked no different than it had an hour earlier: a tall, lean figure, chestnut hair, the strong-boned Kenyon face that was so well suited to arrogance. But an hour ago he had been a duke in the prime of life, a man who had just put off mourning clothes for his wife and who had begun to think of new beginnings.

Now he was a dead man walking.

Anger flared again, as intense as the time when he was fifteen and his father had announced that a suitable marriage had been arranged. Lady Louisa Hayward was only a child, but pretty and exquisitely mannered. The old duke had said that she would grow up to be a perfect wife and duchess.

Furiously Stephen had protested that a decision so important to his future should not be made without his knowledge. His brief rebellion had quickly withered in the face of his father's anger and scorn. By the time he left the study, he had accepted his duty.

Looking back, he had to give his father credit: the old duke had been half right. Louisa had grown up to be a perfect duchess, if not a perfect wife.

He crossed to the door that connected his rooms with the duchess's suite. He had not set foot there since Louisa's death over a year ago. And not often before, if the truth be told.

The bedroom and dressing room were immaculately clean and empty, with no lingering traces of Louisa except for the samples of her exquisite needlework. Beautifully embroidered pillows, chair seats too pretty to sit on. Whenever he thought of his wife, it was with her head bent over an embroidery frame. She had passed through life lightly, guided by the dictum that a lady's name appeared in the newspapers only three times: on her birth, her marriage, and her death.

Stephen closed the door and turned back to his sitting room. A picture of Louisa hung across from him. It had been painted by Sir Anthony Seaton, the finest portrait artist in England. Seaton had done a good job of capturing Louisa's porcelain beauty, and the hint of sadness behind her enigmatic gaze.

Stephen wondered for the thousandth time if somewhere behind his wife's flawless facade there had been strong emotions. Passion, anger, love, hate- anything. But if deep feelings existed, he had never found them. In all the years of their marriage, they had never exchanged a harsh word. Anger required emotion.

It was true that she had regretted not bearing a child, but her regret had been for what she saw as her failure to do her duty. Unlike Stephen, she had not regretted the lack of children for their own sake. But she had been unflagging in her duty, urging him to visit her bed regularly even though their couplings had been joyless.

Would Louisa be waiting for him when he died? Or was that reserved for people who had loved each other? They had been, at best, friends. At worst, strangers who sometimes shared a bed.

He went to the window and gazed out over the vast, rolling acres of Ashburton Abbey. The small lake shimmered like a silver mirror. He could not remember ever being told that someday the abbey would be his; the knowledge had always been part of him. The greatest satisfactions of his life had come from this land.

If Blackmer was right, soon his younger brother, Michael, would be the master of the estate. Stephen had long accepted that his brother or his brother's son would probably be the next duke, but he had thought that would be years in the future. Decades.

His brother would make a just and capable duke because he also knew his duty. But Michael hated Ashburton Abbey. Always had. Given what he had suffered here as the family scapegoat, Stephen couldn't blame him, but it meant that Michael would surely continue to live at his much loved Welsh estate. The abbey would be silent and empty, waiting for some future generation to take pleasure in the ancient stones, in the magnificent great hall and the peaceful cloister garden.

His anger again erupted into rage. All of his life, Stephen had done his duty, striving to master his responsibilities, to be worthy of his position. He had excelled in both athletics and academics at Harrow and Cambridge. He had consciously tempered the arrogance his father considered suitable to a Kenyon, for his own belief was that a true gentleman had no need of arrogance or boasting. He had treated his wife with consideration and respect, never reproaching her for what she was incapable of giving.

He had always played by the rules — and for what? For what?

Violently he swept his arm across a graceful side table, sending china ornaments and fresh flowers crashing to the floor. He had lived the life ordained for him, and it had been no life at all. Now that he was finally in a position to reach for a richer existence, his time had run out. It wasn't fair. It bloody wasn't fair.

With the long wars over, he'd been planning to travel, to see Vienna and Florence and Greece. He had wanted to do foolish things for no other reason than because they gave him pleasure. He'd wanted to learn if he was capable of passion, and perhaps take another wife who would be a companion instead of merely a perfect duchess.

He swung about, half suffocated by his anger. Though he had no intention of discussing his condition, such news would not stay secret for long. Soon there would be curiosity in people's eyes as they studied him, wondering how much longer he would last. Worse, there would be pity. His neighbors would whisper when he entered a room. His valet, Hubble, would go around with tears in his eyes, making a bad situation worse.

For the first time in his life, Stephen yearned to escape Ashburton Abbey and everything it represented. He paced across the room. Though he was surrounded by people, there was no one to whom he could unburden his soul. At Ashburton he was "the duke," always calm and detached. But now he felt a desperate desire to be someplace where he was a stranger while he came to terms with Blackmer's crushing diagnosis. He wanted to be anonymous and free, even if it was only for a few weeks.

Well, why not? He stopped pacing and thought about it. Nothing was stopping him from leaving. He could go anywhere he chose, at any speed he wished. He could stop at village fairs and admire the pretty girls. Stay at inns that his servants would consider beneath their dignity. And August was a lovely time to ride through England.

This might be his last summer.

Gut twisting, he went into his bedroom and jerked open a drawer, yanking out a couple of changes of linen. Since he would go on horseback, he must travel light. How did ordinary people get their laundry done? It would be interesting to find out.

The door opened and his valet entered. "I heard something break, Your Grace." Hubble halted, his eyes widening at the disarray. "Your Grace?"

Stephen straightened from the pile accumulating on the bed. Since Hubble was here, he might as well be put to work. Stephen could be on his way that much sooner. "I'm going on holiday," he said with private irony. "Pack my saddlebags."

Hubble regarded the clothing doubtfully. "Yes, sir. Where are we going?"

"We are not going anywhere. I am going alone." Stephen added a well-worn volume of his favorite Shakespeare to the growing pile.

The valet looked baffled. He was a competent and good-natured man, but he'd never understood Stephen's antic streak. "But who will take care of your clothing, sir?"

"I guess I'll have to do it myself." Stephen unlocked a desk drawer and took out a fistful of money, enough for several weeks. "It will be quite educational."

Hubble visibly winced at the thought of how badly his master would be turned out. Forestalling the inevitable protest, Stephen said sharply, "No arguments, no comments. Just pack the blasted saddlebags."

The valet swallowed. "Very good, sir. What sort of clothing will you require?"

Stephen shrugged. "Keep it simple. I don't intend to go to any grand balls." He lifted his gold card case from his desk drawer, then dropped it in again. Since he wouldn't be traveling as the Duke of Ashburton; there was no need for calling cards.

Then he sat down and wrote brief notes to his secretary and steward, telling them to proceed as usual. He considered writing his brother and sister but decided against it. There would be time enough for that later.

As the duke wrote, Hubble packed the saddlebags. When he finished, he asked in a subdued voice, "Where shall I send urgent messages, Your Grace?"

Stephen scaled the last note. "Nowhere. I don't want to receive any messages."

"But, sir ..." Hubble started to protest, then quieted when his master gave him a gimlet stare. He settled for saying, "How long will you be gone, Your Grace?"

"I have no idea," Stephen said tersely. "I'll come back when I'm ready, and not a moment before."

Beginning to look frantic, Hubble said, "Sir, you can't just run off like this!"

"I'm the most noble Duke of Ashburton," Stephen said, a bitter edge on his voice. "I can do any damned thing I want." Except live.

He slid his arm under the bulging saddlebags and lifted them before remembering something else that must go. There was just enough room to add Blackmer's jar of pills.

Then he spun on his heel and headed for the door. He didn't know how much time he had left, but he intended to enjoy every minute of it.

CHAPTER 2

"Rose!" Maria Fitzgerald cried. "My left wing is falling off!"

"Just a moment, Mama," Rosalind replied. Swiftly she pinned the end of a long swath of shimmering blue-gray fabric onto the rough boards of the barn wall. The generous folds of material had done duty as royal hangings and misty seas, and they made quite a decent magical cave. She attached the other end of the fabric twenty feet away, studied the effect, then went to help her mother.

The barn was bustling as the Fitzgerald Theater Troupe prepared for the performance that would begin in a few minutes. Even though they were staging The Tempest in an isolated market town and half the people in the cast weren't really actors, the members of the company took their work seriously.

Sure enough, one of Maria's silvery wings was drooping. Rosalind retrieved needle and thread from her kit, then ordered, "Turn around."

Obediently her mother pivoted so Rosalind could make repairs. Maria Fitzgerald's lush womanly curves were not what Shakespeare had in mind when he described the delicate sprite Ariel. However, the gauzy, floating layers of her costume would win approval from male members of the audience, and her acting skill allowed her to make any role her own.

Rosalind anchored the sagging wing to her mother's bodice with a dozen swift stitches. "There you are, as good as new. Just don't go flying into any trees."

While her mother chuckled, a clear soprano voice wailed, "Rose, I need you most desperately! I can't find Miranda's necklace."

Rosalind rolled her eyes as she responded to her younger sister's plea. Jessica, a blood-and-bone daughter of Thomas and Maria Fitzgerald, had inherited her parents' beauty and expressive nature. Her dark lashes sweeping upward, she said dramatically, "If I don't have my glittering sea creatures around my neck, everyone will watch Edmund instead of me. It will quite upset the balance of the play."

Rosalind made a rude noise. "You know very well that the men who aren't staring at Mama will be staring at you. As to your necklace, I think it's in that box."


(Continues...)

Excerpted from One Perfect Rose by Mary Jo Putney. Copyright © 1997 Mary Jo Putney. Excerpted by permission of KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP..
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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Meet the Author

Mary Jo Putney graduated from Syracuse University with degrees in eighteenth-century literature and industrial design. A New York Times bestselling author, she has won numerous awards for her writing, including two Romance Writers of America RITA Awards, four consecutive Golden Leaf awards for Best Historical Romance, and the Romantic Times Career Achievement Award for Historical Romance. She was the keynote speaker at the 2000 National Romance Writers of America Conference. Ms. Putney lives in Baltimore, Maryland. Visit her Web site at www.maryjoputney.com.

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One Perfect Rose 4.1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 142 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
As a prolific reader of literally thousands of books, I have VERY few books that I would wish to absolutely have if stranded on a desert island. (About 25) I had read the previous series this book was spun off from but this one truly touches the heart and just so you don't get the wrong idea about this description, there IS a happy ending. The basic premise of this book is that Stephen (a Duke) discovers he has very little time left to live and after having lived life thus far by following all the rules and strictures of his class, he decides to discover if there is anything MORE to life than what he has seen and experienced. He falls into traveling with a theatre troop and meets their adopted daughter, Rosalind and the two characters find themselves questioning their lives, their choices and eventually their relationship. The mental picture of Rosalind and Stephen is so clear and rich with details about not only their lives in terms of where they see their place in the world and how differently they see their lives and everyone in it at the beginning of the book, but also the journey to the appreciation of all the small gifts of life they normally took for granted. Leading up to their final understanding of who and what is truly important and that life is a journey that they can never take for granted, because when that journey ends, the only thing they can take with them is the love, kindness and joy that they leave behind. Mary Jo Putney takes you on their journey and their feelings of joy, happiness, despair, regret and then acceptance. Despite their personal experiences with their families and the determination not to care too deeply about each other, they realize that in the end, it is better to have loved and been loved in return for a span of time counted in days and weeks than to not have loved or been loved in return in an entire lifetime and the importance of showing and sharing that love. I have NEVER written a review before (and probably never will again) but this is one of my most favorite books that still keeps me laughing and crying EVERY time I read it and I absolutely HATED the 'professional' reviewer's opinion about a book I so thoroughly enjoyed and keep on enjoying every time I read it. Take a chance on this book and read it! This is definitely a stand alone book but a couple of the minor characters were in Putney's Fallen Angel series. I have read them and though I thought they were a good read, they didn't touch me like this book. There is only one other book by Mary Jo Putney that is also on my desert isle shelf and that is The Rake, which, unfortunately seems to be out of print. It too, is worth the search to find a used copy or maybe it will be reissued. I'd love to find it in eBook format!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
While it was pretty predictable, the story itself wasn't bad... However, the Nook edition leaves a LOT to be desired. Typos, misspellings, wrong words used, lines repeating themselves, missing italics, and missing punctuation everywhere! It really damaged the enjoyability of the story, as the mistakes were quite glaring and often detrimental to the enjoyment of reading. If you're going to read it, I suggest getting the original paperback edition from 1997 instead.
Danielle Parrott More than 1 year ago
I rather liked this book
Jennifer Chan More than 1 year ago
Simply wonderful. Very unique story, endearing characters, wonderfully written.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This title joins the small list of my favorite books.It's a very simple story about a man and a woman who are brought together after he learns that he's about to die.And that is a good thing because otherwise he'd never have met her.There are no great mysteries or misunderstandings here.Just a very simple story of two people who find each other,share each other's joys and sorrows and in turn make each whole.I felt that I understood what both these characters were going through and found myself rooting for them.There is tremendous chemistry between them and I totally understood why they were falling in love with each other.MJP even manages to surprise us at the very end.How rare is that in a romance novel?Give it a try - you won't regret it.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Out of literallly tens of thousands of books, this is best regenc y romance I have ever read. With a unique perspective and a couple who share such an encompassing, self sacrificing love it is at times funny and erotic but always poignant and a true tear jerker.
TomCorc More than 1 year ago
My wife and I have read this book together several times and think it is among our favorite books, certainly our favorite of the MJ Putney books. As always, we discuss whether the female and male characters are admirable, asking each other "Would you fall in love with a man/woman like that?" In this case the answer is Yes!
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I actually read this book not realizing it is the 7th in the Fallen Angels Series. It was a wonderful stand alone book - but once I read the other 6 books in this series {all incredible and worth the read!} the characters were much much more alive to me since I had been reading about them for 6 previous books and came to know them better. Either way you will enjoy this story!
lunaprecipita More than 1 year ago
Part of the "rogues" series, ONE PERFECT ROSE involves Steven, the older brother of SHATTERED RAINBOWS hero, Michael Kenyon. It is exciting, romantic, and historically accurate. Ms Putney;s historical notes at the end of most books are delightful and informative.
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A great book!
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Loved it!!!
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Loved the whole series when they originally came out and bought the digital copy to read whenever I have nothing else available.
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