Swan's Graceby Linda Francis Lee
Grayson Hawthorne is everything blue-blooded Boston society admiresrich, ruthless, untainted by scandal. While always keeping a tight rein on his emotions, he has never forgotten Sophie Wentworth, the spirited but awkward child who captivated his youth with music and a young girl's
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HE WAS A MAN WHO MADE THE RULES, WHILE SHE WANTED ONLY TO BREAK THEM . . . .
Grayson Hawthorne is everything blue-blooded Boston society admiresrich, ruthless, untainted by scandal. While always keeping a tight rein on his emotions, he has never forgotten Sophie Wentworth, the spirited but awkward child who captivated his youth with music and a young girl's adoration. But one night long ago, she left the city unexpectedly. Now the toast of Europe, Boston's ugly duckling is returning home with the grace of a swan.
Through provocative performances, Sophie has found great fame as a concert cellist. She hopes to keep her past and her new life a secretuntil she discovers that her family has bargained her away to Grayson, the lonely boy she once lovednow a cold, forbidding man with the power to break her tattered heart. At that moment, she vows to bring Boston . . . and Grayson . . . to their knees.
Swan's Grace is the sophisticated, unforgettable story of a gifted but defiant woman and an unforgiving man who must find a gentleness in his soul to heal both their tarnished hearts.
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The lights went down.
Voices in the opulent gilt hall quieted to a buzz of anticipation.
Standing behind the long velvet curtain, Sophie Wentworth could feel their desire. Unrelenting, intense.
With a slow, sensual pull, like strong male hands to a woman's velvet gown, the draperies slid back. Sophie stood onstage, but she stood in darkness, waiting, her heart pounding in her chest, excitement and anticipation swirling together in a heady mix. She could sense the sea of faces in the dark, sense the hundreds of people who filled the concert hall, waiting for her.
Then it happened, that one piercing stream of light, capturing her,
tangling in her upswept hair, reflecting off the black satin cape she wore around her shoulders, and the crowd erupted in a roar of applause.
She smiled into the light, her head tilting back as if she were soaking up the sun, her throat tight with exhilarating joy.
This was the moment she lived for--the wave of excitement that swept through an audience when she appeared.
It was the end of her first tour, and over the past months she had taken Paris by storm. Stockholm and Salzburg. Geneva. Even London, with its strict Victorian ways, had adored her.
Only Vienna, the crowning jewel of the music world, remained. It was the city where the greatest had composed and played. Bach and Beethoven,
Mozart and Mendelssohn.
And now she would play there, too.
She stood without moving in the Grand Hall of Vienna's Musikverein, the deafening applause feeding her soul. It hadn't started out this way six months ago when she first began the tour. In the beginning she had played as she was taught, proper and decorous--played as she should. And critics had dismissed her as yet another former child prodigy who played the cello with a small, quaint sound.
But she had changed all that, had changed her show. And she had surprised herself by reveling in the change. She loved the extravagant gowns and the glittering jewels. The drama. The deep, throbbing pulse of excitement.
Boston would no doubt keel over from shock if they saw her perform now.
She started to cringe, but determinedly held it at bay. Boston was the past. Europe was her future.
Pushing back whatever remnants of inhibition she felt, Sophie let the satin cape drop from her shoulders. A gasp rose from the rows of velvet-cushioned seats up through the ornate tiers of elegant boxes at the sight of her creamy white skin revealed from her low-cut, crimson gown.
And Sophie could feel the instant that they started wanting her even more.
Confidence filled her like wine poured into a glass, and she took her cello from its stand, then gave a discreet nod for the pianist to join her onstage. The excited buzz ceased abruptly,
encapsulating the concert hall in silence, complete and clear--not even a whisper was heard.
She could feel the audience, feel their anticipation like a touch as she sat down with the grace of a perfect lady, then slowly pulled the instrument between her legs in the manner one of her more persistent admirers had called a provocative mix of bold abandon and startling titillation.
No one seemed to breathe. Sophie savored the moment, closing her eyes in that crystalline space of perfect quiet while the audience waited, her bow poised. Then she began with a flourish, the faces and adoration forgotten,
the world set back as she brought the bow to the strings and pulled a dazzling G major from a lively, popular tune that ensnared every man and woman there. She drew out the music with such passion and beauty that no one in the audience gave a thought to the fact that the piece she played wasn't technically difficult--so different from the pieces she had played when the world had considered her a prodigy. There was no more Beethoven.
No more of her beloved Bach.
After that she flew through a repertoire of favorite operatic pieces that had been adapted for the cello, mixing in a few heart-stirring waltzes,
and captured the one remaining citadel of Europe with her dazzling up-bow staccato that wowed the crowd.
The night was exhilarating. She could feel their desire--for her music, for her. But toward the end of the show, during a piece that was different from the rest, a more complicated composition she had thrown in because she couldn't help it, she started to savor a note, shaping it. For one unexpected second she tumbled back in time to Boston and long hours of devoted study. Playing and practicing. Striving to be perfect.
But then she remembered where she was, and what her audience was there for. Flourish and vibrato. Spectacle and show. And she leaped into a Danzi duet with a flutist who joined her onstage.
Then it was over, the repertoire complete, two encores played. And Sophie found herself in a dressing room backstage filled with flowers from admirers and compliments from her entourage, who traveled with her everywhere she went.
"You were spectacular!"
"You were beyond spectacular!"
Sophie smiled euphorically, adrenaline pulsing through her veins as Henry Chambers kissed her extravagantly on both cheeks. He was a slight man with dark brown eyes and sandy blond hair. And he was devoted to Sophie.
Deandra Edwards lounged on a sofa, her auburn hair artfully arranged, a glass of champagne between her long, manicured fingers. "Yes, you were fabulous. But you'd best freshen up, chÈrie. The crËme de la crËme are here. Powerful politicians. Wealthy industrialists. An assortment of men."
Indeed within minutes the suite was filled with dignitaries and important politicians sipping the finest of wines and vying to get closer to Sophie.
"Miss Wentworth," the mayor of Vienna called out in a grand and courtly manner when she entered, quieting the room. "You were divine."
"Thank you, sir." Her voice wrapped around the guests like honeyed velvet.
"Your city is a jewel, and I am thrilled to have been given the chance to play here."
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Meet the Author
Before turning her hand to writing, Linda Francis Lee taught probability and statistics. Lee is also the author of Dove's Way. She currently lives with her husband, Michael, in New York City, where she is at work on her next historical romance.
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Linda Francis Lee has such a talent for writing. It's unbelieveable! Swan's Grace really captures your heart and makes you want to cry for more. Sophie & Grayson are the perfect couple!
Sophie Wentworth had left Boston for Europe. She played the cello on stage. Her tours took her all over Europe. Her music was not only fantastic, her show was different from any other. The difference was what made her a success! If anyone from prim and proper Boston ever saw her performance, they would faint!
Grayson Hawthorne was ready to finally choose a wife, settle down, and have children. No one would do except Sophie. Only she had helped him in his times of need. He signed the betrothal contract with her father. Then he purchased Swan's Grace, the only stable foundation in Sophie's life.
Sophie returned to Boston for what she believed to only be a visit until her touring began again. Funds were low. When she learned about the betrothal and Swan's Grace she rebelled! It did not matter that she had loved Grayson since she had been a small child. He and her father (and her step-mother) were now the enemy! She would do anything to get out of the pending marriage and reclaim her home ... even give a cello concert that Boston would never forget!
*** This novel is a true delight! I do not recall the last time I have had so much fun watching the heroine put everyone in their places! Readers will not soon forget Sophie's story! Brava! ***
In 1892, American expatriate Sophie Wentworth takes Europe by storm as her exquisite musical talent thrills patrons throughout the continent. However, when her father asks Sophie to return to Boston, Sophie agrees. Sophie misses her home SWAN¿S GRACE and has waited five years for her father to ask her to come back. She wonders how her stepmother will react when she returns to New England. However, the States prove an immediate shocker when Sophie learns the hard way that her father sold SWAN¿S GRACE without even informing her. Worse yet, he completed a business deal that has her engaged to attorney Grayson Hawthorne a person Sophie is attracted to but hates for betraying her. Grayson wants Sophie just as he did when she fled for the continent. However, Sophie tries to make Grayson hate her even as she falls deeper in love with her fellow Bostonian. SWAN¿S GRACE is an entertaining Americana romance that centers on love lost and love recovered. The story line is fun as Boston in the ¿Gay Nineties¿ seems real. The lead couple is a charming duet whose feelings for one another are hidden behind cold walls of distrust. Sub-genre fans will welcome Linda Francis Lee¿s latest tale and want to also read her fabulous DOVE¿S WAY. Harriet Klausner