The Earl is Mineby Kieran Kramer
The Earl is Mine
Handsome, charismatic, and on the verge of becoming a successful architect, Gregory Sherwood, Lord Westdale, could have just about any woman he wants. So why rush to marry? So far there's only been one woman he's ever truly loved. But that was before she had a secret affair with his best friend…with the/p>/b>/p>/b>
The Earl is Mine
Handsome, charismatic, and on the verge of becoming a successful architect, Gregory Sherwood, Lord Westdale, could have just about any woman he wants. So why rush to marry? So far there's only been one woman he's ever truly loved. But that was before she had a secret affair with his best friend…with the help of an unwitting accomplice named Lady Pippa Harrington.
Pippa may not have acted in her old friend Gregory's best interests, but she's always believed that the heart sets its own rules. This is why Pippa must escape her arranged marriage—fast—by fleeing to Paris, where she hopes to pursue her artistic passions. To do so, Pippa will need all the help she can get—from Gregory, the one man she isn't sure she can trust…or resist…
“A delectable debut…I simply adored it!” Julia Quinn, #1 New York Times bestselling author of the Bridgerton series on When Harry Met Molly
“Clever banter, stellar pacing, and appealing, exceptionally well-drawn characters make this fresh, sexy, and gloriously funny debut a knockout and a perfect start to Kramer's Regency-set quartet.” Library Journal (starred review) on When Harry Met Molly
“In her exceptionally entertaining literary debut, Kramer deftly sifts deliciously humorous writing, a cast of exceptionally entertaining characters, a outrageously inventive yet convincing plot, and a splendidly sexy love story into a delectable literary confection that will have Regency historical readers begging for seconds.” Booklist (starred review) on When Harry Met Molly
“You'll smile and even laugh out loud reading Kramer's delectable debut--even the title's nod to the famous film elicits a grin. With her perfect sense of pacing, comic timing, poignancy and marvelous characterization, this utterly enchanting new voice will have you eager for more.” RT Book Reviews, 4 ½ Stars HOT TOP PICK on When Harry Met Molly
“At once frothy and heartfelt, When Harry Met Molly satisfies. This book is better than dessert!” Celeste Bradley, New York Times bestselling author of When She Said I Do on When Harry Met Molly
“Utterly charming and delightful with a twisted spy plot mixed in with Russian Royalty, unruly dogs and gossipy cooks.” Publishers Weekly on Dukes To the Left Of Me, Princes to the Right
“Kramer's captivating Impossible Bachelors series returns with another memorable, well-crafted, deftly plotted story as enchanting and romantic as the first. There is great joy in her storytelling (and titles) that compel readers to smile and laugh with her characters. You'll be up all night until the satisfying conclusion to this delicious romance.” RT Book Reviews, 4 ½ Stars TOP PICK on Dukes To the Left Of Me, Princes to the Right
“Quirky, fresh, and filled with brilliant dialog and whimsy, this sexy confection from the talented Kramer is pure sunshine.” Library Journal (starred review) on Cloudy With a Chance of Marriage
“Wonderfully quirky characters, a devilishly clever plot, and writing that is both laugh-out-loud funny and sweetly romantic all add up to a completely captivating Regency historical from one of the romance genre's most dazzling new authors.” Booklist (starred review) on Cloudy With a Chance of Marriage
Read an Excerpt
The Earl is Mine
By Kieran Kramer
St. Martin's PressCopyright © 2013 Kieran Kramer
All rights reserved.
One Year Later
For Lady Pippa Harrington, it wasn't going to be the usual Sunday family dinner at Uncle Bertie's. Those were full of ridiculous speeches by her stepfather, Mr. Wilfred Trickle, followed by taut silences and the occasional grrr from one of Uncle Bertie's eight corgis under the table. No, tonight, Pippa's great-uncle was celebrating his birthday, and as a guest he'd have his godson Gregory Sherwood, Lord Westdale, son of the Marquess and Marchioness of Brady — one of the most eligible bachelors in London and an up-and-coming architect.
And the last man on earth I want to see, thought Pippa.
But he was back in England — back from an extended stay in America.
"Pippa?" Mother stood at the door to the small, private studio near the kitchen, her soft brown hair in a tidy chignon held back with painted Spanish combs, her delicate shoulders draped in a spectacular spangled gold shawl.
Her exotic accessories had come from Uncle Bertie's trunks. He owned five modest theaters in southwest England, including his pride and joy, the Roger, in the big city of Bristol. Every once in a while, costume inventory in transit from one theater to another between shows made its way to his country house, where Mother, Pippa, and two maids repaired or retired them, depending on their general state.
"Oh, Mother!" Pippa looked up from attaching the final miniature crown to a tiny window on a pale silver sugar sculpture she'd made for Uncle Bertie's birthday celebration. "The red gown is beautiful on you. Are you Desdemona?"
"I'm not sure," Mother said shyly, but she had the proud look of a young girl at her debut. "I think the entire ensemble might be a combination of Lady Macbeth and Kate, from The Taming of the Shrew."
Pippa laughed. "You're not the least bit like either of those ladies. But you look lovely, and you should dress like that always. Not only on Uncle Bertie's birthday."
"I wouldn't dare," said Mother. "This is for Bertie. You know how he is."
"Yes, I do, and you need to be like that, too." Pippa was kitted out in a severe ivory satin frock with seed pearls sewn in a square pattern across the bodice — an altered Ophelia from Hamlet, actually — protected, for the most part, by a sunny blue floral apron. "You were well on your way to becoming the toast of the London stage at one time, and no matter what your situation in life, you should never forget it."
Mother ignored her, but she knew very well Pippa was implying that Mr. Trickle, whom Pippa had secretly nicknamed the Toad — with his protruding eyes, ample jowls, and bald head covered in a perpetual sheen of perspiration — had stolen nearly all the light from his wife's eyes. Some of the blame also had to go to Pippa's own late father, Uncle Bertie's nephew, who'd fallen in love with Mother when he saw her on the stage, married her, and cast her off when he'd tired of her.
Now Mother's limpid blue gaze took in the pretty disarray of molds, marzipan, and cutting tools surrounding Pippa's sparkling creation on the table.
"What do you think?" Pippa spread her arms wide so her mother could experience the full effect of viewing the miniature castle unimpeded.
"Very nice, as always, darling." Mother pulled distractedly at her shawl. "But shouldn't you be preparing yourself for this evening?" With a harried eye, she scanned her daughter for imperfections. "Now that Gregory is back, you must at least try to entice him to marry you. Your gown is perfection, but your hair needs taming."
"After you leave, I'll braid it." Pippa strode across the room to a drawer and pulled out a comb.
"Here?" Mother sounded aghast.
"Why not? I even have a spare tiara in this drawer." She pulled one out and blew on it. "See? It's only missing one false emerald. I'll fix it with some green marzipan. Gregory will never notice." She set it back down and returned to the table.
Mother sighed. "It's all that walking across the moors that makes you so uncivilized. It's unseemly."
"But the fells are far too pretty at every turn of the season to stop my daily hikes." Deftly forming a marzipan turret for the castle, Pippa looked up with an arched brow. "I wish you'd join me. It would do you good to get away from —" She nearly said the Toad, but caught herself just in time. "Nothing's ever the same on the moor."
The way it is here, she wanted to add. Day after day of tension between the Toad and Mother, Uncle Bertie steadily ignoring them, lost in his own theater dreams. And Pippa wishing for ...
Wishing for something else.
"Pish," her parent replied. "Every day, the moor's the same. Sky, meadow, tor. Over and over again."
"But it's never the same." Pippa was hurt on behalf of every living creature she'd encountered on the moor, and on behalf of the dramatic landscape itself, a giant, breathing presence — with moods from light to dark — cradling them all.
Ah, but what did she expect? The Toad was a nasty influence on Mother. A dozen years ago, she'd often gladly traipsed hand in hand with Pippa over rough pastures filled with gorse and heather or stood on a rocky outcrop and shouted into the wind.
But those days were no more. Pippa vowed she would never let a man steal her happiness. She would marry for love only, and that didn't seem a bit likely, not when she lived outside the tiny village of Plumtree, which was well off the beaten path.
"Mother, please," she said now. "You know from Uncle Bertie's past birthday dinners that I'm not interested in marrying Gregory, and he doesn't want to marry me, either. We're going to have a perfectly ordinary meal this time, and life will go on as usual — at least until Madame DuPont calls me to Paris."
Madame DuPont was Uncle Bertie's old amour. Her spinster daughter would soon be traveling to Italy for six months, and while she was gone, Madame required a companion, preferably an excellent reader. She'd written Bertie to ask for a recommendation.
"I don't approve of your going to France." Mother's tone was agitated. "You're much better off staying in Devon and finding a husband. Gregory is the perfect one."
An image of him kissing her hard beneath the trees in Eliza's garden — punishing her, taunting her — flooded Pippa's mind, and she felt a moment's shame and anger.
Why had she responded? A year later, and she still regretted it!
She tried for patience. "But this is such a golden opportunity. I'll have a place to live — a safe place with a respectable widow. And on my days off, I'll improve my sugar-sculpting skills under the great Monsieur Perot's tutelage."
"He won't have you in his kitchen," Mother insisted. "You're a woman, and a lady, at that. Only men make fine pastry chefs. You'll find yourself pining away for England, and when you return, you'll be even more firmly on the shelf."
Pippa sighed. "It's a chance I'll have to take. And I have Uncle Bertie's blessing."
"But how can he support your going to Paris when he wants you to marry Gregory?"
"He won't go back on his promise to me just because Gregory chose to come back to England unannounced." Pippa gave a short laugh. "I suspect tonight, because Uncle Bertie loves us both and adores drama, he'll be tempted to interfere, but whatever he says or does won't make any difference to me. As for Gregory, he'll have his pick of dozens of debutantes in London to marry. Bertie's machinations will no doubt fall flat with him, too." She threw her mother a tender look. "Don't forget that I'm like you." The former you, she wanted to add. "I have dreams I want to pursue. And it's not as if six months is a very long time."
Mother let out a sharp sigh. "Well, make haste here. Gregory awaits." She sent Pippa one last warning look then departed.
Slowly, Pippa circled the table and looked at her little castle. Everything felt different now that Gregory was here. The studio seemed bigger and brighter, but she felt smaller, her little castle a feeble testament to the fact that she'd done nothing grand with her life.
At least not yet.
But if she could embrace the unpredictable, brooding nature of Dartmoor — which she did, with every ounce of her being — and if she could endure the despicable Toad and his cruel, conniving ways for ten years, she could certainly withstand Mother's disapproval over her spending half a year in Paris.
She swallowed hard. She could even face seeing Gregory again.
With one brisk movement, she swept up some crumbs of sugary dough into her hand and flung them into the fire. "There," she said to the tiny room which had housed her dreams for the past year, a room Uncle Bertie had used to sketch designs long ago. "I've spoken my wildest aspirations to the world."
Well, almost all of them.
One dream she'd never said aloud, even though Gregory alone already knew what it was. He'd seen it on that sketch pad, but he'd also tasted it on her lips, read it in the way she'd hungrily kissed him back in Eliza's garden.
Quietly, she hung the apron on its hook and began to braid her hair. She wasn't daunted by mere mortal men. A year may have passed since she'd seen Lord Westdale, but she'd known him forever.
Despite the awkwardness between them, he was nothing to fear.
The small mirror next to the door assured her that her braided hair was neat and proper. She placed the tiara on her head, put her chin up, and took a deep breath as she left the studio.
* * *
Several nervous moments later, Pippa rounded a shadowy corner and peeked into the drawing room to spy on Uncle Bertie's birthday dinner guest, and her whole body reacted with a suffusion of heat.
She was sure — positively sure — that the effect no longer came from girlish fantasies of love. She'd told herself she was well over that. The heat in her palms and on her face now came instead from a combination of embarrassment, chagrin, and humiliation. He'd given her no chance to explain the part she'd played in that horribly awkward situation with Eliza.
She was tempted to be angry, but it always dissolved when she thought about the heartbreak that afternoon, hard and harsh as his expression had been when he'd slammed the billiard room door in her face.
Oh, that expression. She'd seen a whole world in it. What he believed, and what he didn't. And he hadn't believed in love anymore — if he ever did. That much was clear.
In the soft glow of early evening candlelight, he was deep in polite conversation with her uncle and Mother, while the Toad glowered in the corner, alone.
Gregory's profile, Pippa thought, moved her for far more than the usual reasons. He was classically handsome, yes, but she saw the sensitivity in his mouth, the intelligence in his forehead, the unplumbed depths ... of him, in his eyes.
Her stomach tightened. One long year she'd pined for him.
The oddest sensation — half dizziness, half wonder — seized her and left her breathless. It was the same heavy feeling she got at night when she looked out her window and remembered their kiss and was so overcome that she had to turn her head into her pillow and breathe goose feathers for a few seconds.
But then the visitor saw her and stood to greet her.
Pippa pretended she hadn't stopped to stare at him and walked in with all the sangfroid she could muster. Good God, she thought, he was completely, utterly different. Gone was even the remotest sign of hurt. Of vulnerability. His eyes were hooded, dark. Inscrutable.
"Lady Pippa." His tone was perfectly cordial, but apart from that, Pippa couldn't distinguish anything else in the greeting.
"Lord Westdale," she said in a throaty voice, genuinely moved by the changes in him. "How are you?"
And she meant it. How was he?
He'd grown even more into his splendid good looks since she'd last seen him. She had to gather her wits when he bent that head of glossy black hair over her hand.
"So good to see you again," he murmured smoothly.
She refused to let the warm, bold pressure of his fingers on her own disconcert her. "It's been rather a long while," she returned, striving for cool but failing miserably. There was that catch in her voice, after all. The truth was, she relished his touch.
He stood tall again. "No more than our usual year. But while I was away, I recalled Plumtree and its inhabitants fondly."
"As we did you," she said, "and wished for your safe return."
To me, she thought.
They eyed each other, measure for measure. It was a whole new world between them now. Gone was her childhood playmate — long gone — but also absent was the artificial friendship that had sprung up between them over the years. In its place was ... what was it, exactly?
She couldn't say she hated it. A layer had been peeled away. Now there was only a man. And a woman. A woman rejected, yes. And a man betrayed by two clandestine lovers and Pippa, at least in his mind. Yet it was a more honest place than they'd ever been together before.
"We're very glad you're back," she said gamely, and took a chair near Mother's. "How was your American tour?"
"Productive. Pleasant." Gregory sat on a sofa across from Uncle Bertie and threw his arm across the back. He was at his most casual and charming, but the deep undercurrent between them belied his words and his pose. "I met up with several good friends, made new ones, too, and managed to see a great deal of the country's best architecture, as well."
"Did you receive my letter?" Pippa dared to ask him. "I sent it to the address in Savannah your mother provided. Hopefully, you caught up with it. But I suspect you didn't."
"I did receive it, yes."
"And you read it?" she boldly inquired.
"Of course." He arched a brow. "I'm sorry I wasn't able to write back. Time got away with me."
And pigs flew.
"Heavens, I never expected to hear back." Pippa swept open her fan and waved it in front of her breasts. "You're an important man, my lord."
Who can jump into a lake of those wretched American alligators, for all I care, she said with her eyes.
"We could debate my importance," Gregory said matter-of-factly.
Which was why she was blindsided when for the first time in their long acquaintance, he looked at her as if he saw her without a stitch of clothing on her body.
How had he managed to sneak that look in?
She guessed he was using the garden sketch against her in every way he could — and it was working, damn him. It was working very well.
"So your parents are in the area, too?" Mother asked Gregory in timid fashion.
"Yes, Lady Graham, they're in Dawlish. My stepmother loves the place, so Father took her there for a few days' holiday and some good sea air. They were anxious to see you, but he's got very little time to spare away from Whitehall. They asked me to convey to you their deepest wish that you come to London as soon as possible as their guests."
"How kind," barked Bertie.
"You've such a lovely family," said Mother.
"Your stunning stepmother puts every other woman her age to shame," rasped the Toad, which was rude of him as his own wife was Lady Brady's age.
There was a few seconds' painful lull in the conversation, and just when Pippa thought she might actually jump out of her own skin, Uncle Bertie said in a leading fashion, "Speaking of family ..."
In a great scarlet chair facing a modest fire, he sat with his stocky legs apart, his back straight, his stomach protruding like a pillow, all because he refused to remove the corgi sleeping behind him. His mouth drew down, and he lowered his brows at Gregory.
It was his recitation mode.
Pippa braced herself. Surely he wouldn't do what he usually did — which was matchmaking — not when he knew she was going to Paris. If so, who would he dangle in front of Gregory this time as a rival for her affections? And how did Uncle Bertie manage to get anyone interested in the first place? Her dowry was nothing, in tonnish terms: his theaters upon his death.
"My great-niece's latest admirer —" he began in a ponderous tone to his godson.
"A handsome lad with fine manners and an abundance of funds —" interrupted the Toad in his croaking voice.
Excerpted from The Earl is Mine by Kieran Kramer. Copyright © 2013 Kieran Kramer. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
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.
Meet the Author
USA Today bestselling author Kieran Kramer is a former CIA employee, journalist, and English teacher who lives in the Lowcountry of South Carolina with her family. Game show veteran, karaoke enthusiast, and general adventurer, her motto is, "Life rewards action." Find her on Facebook and Twitter. Or stay connected to Kieran on the go with her FREE mobile app available for iPhone and Android devices.
Kieran Kramer, author of the Impossible Bachelors series, was born in Washington, D.C. to an Air Force pilot father and actress/singer mother. She grew up mainly on Johns Island, a rural sea island near Charleston, South Carolina, where she helped build her family’s log home. Having worked for the CIA and as journalist for The Charlotte Observer, Kieran is now a stay-at-home mom. She once won $34,000 on Wheel of Fortune, and also won on Family Feud. She’s been married to her naval officer husband, Chuck, for twenty-one years, and they have three children.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
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As someone who grew up watching the original Brady Bunch, in reruns, I was curious about The Earl is Mine and how they, being the Brady's of the late 1960's early 1970's, would relate to a romance novel set in the 1800's. Having read Ms. Kramer's books before I knew it would be good, but it was so much better than good! I didn't think of the t.v. Brady's at all while reading this. It is quite clever of the author to use something many of us grew up with and turn it into something new and exciting. With well developed, not to mention very likable, characters I couldn't put it down. When Gregory Sherwood, Lord Westdale, ends up with Lady Pippa Harrington, whose had to escape a very unscrupulous stepfather by playing the part of a man and acting as "Greg's" valet you can just imagine the ensuing chaos, very reminiscent of the show now that I think of it. :D With a couple of twists and turns including a pushy Lady, a lost love with a baby, a possible kidnapping, a sweet old man and a deep dark family secret you can't help but be entertained. I want more of this new "Brady Bunch" and am looking forward to the next installment. Truly enjoyed reading this book and read the last page with a smile on my face. You can't ask for more than that.
This book was passable, with some comic moments and a little bit of angst about following your dreams. When I realized the characters were modelled on the Brady bunch, however, I wanted to puke. PLEASE! Why would you model anything on the contrived and totally superficial anxieties of the Bradys. Ugh. If you want something fun but with true emotion try Julie Anne Long.
This continues the series, great characters and story line. Sometimes a bit long winded before action. Can't go wrong with Kieran Kramer.
When I am in the mood for a feel-good, light, smart book I know I can count on Kieran Kramer to deliver and The Earl is Mine is no exception. The banter and tension between Gregory and Pippa was a delight to read. Hijinks just seem to follow Pippa and Gregory seems to be the one to deal with them, from her dressing as a man to escape a horrible marriage offer to serving as Gregory's valet (which you know leads to some very heated moments) this couple is just destined to be together. Gregory is holding a family secret very close to him and he has built some walls around him and Pippa, with her dreams of being a sugar sculpture (really loved this element, almost wish we had seen more of it!) and her determination to only marry for love, form a very unique, bold couple that have much to overcome before true feelings can be explored and delivered on. The ending was very satisfying and answered any questions I had throughout the story. Warmth, humor, strong family bonds and heat; Kieran Kramer delivers it all and I can't wait for more. 4 stars
I just love Kieran Kramer's books. They are a laugh out loud read that you just can't put down! The hero Gregory Sherwood carries a dark secret and Lady Pippa Harrington has no secrets. It was very humorous how Pippa wants to go to Paris and learn how to transform sugar into masterpieces. They obviously get together in the end. Kieran has a gift for making her stories seem fresh and new and not like any other story teller out there. She's quickly become my favorite author.
The Earl is Mine is a good book and I really enjoyed it. Although, I liked Loving Lady Marcia more. Gregory Sherwood, Earl of Westdale and Lady Pippa Harrington have been friends for all their lives. Gregory is an architect and while on his way to a house party, he rescues a bedraggled young man from a rainstorm. The young "man" turns ot to be Pippa who is running away from her horrible step-father. She bargains with Gregpry and becomes his valet for the two weeks of the house party. What ensues is funny and fraught with misadventures and misunderstanding. Do Gregory & Pippa ever realize their true feelings for each other? You must read The Earl is Mine to find out.
I loved this book and cant wait for the next book to come out. The sex scenes were hot i just wish that when they actually cane together there woukd have been more detail about what they were were feeling.
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