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The Honorable Heir [NOOK Book]

Overview


CATHERINE VanDORN IS NO THIEF 

Catherine, Lady Bisterne, returns to Tuxedo Park cloaked in scandal, the widow of a nobleman who'd loved only her fortune. As she sets out to repair her family's reputation, another Englishman in her midst is seeking reparations of a different sort. While Lord Tristram Wolfe may suspect that Catherine has stolen the Bisterne jewels, he looks at her in a way her husband never had. 

As Tristram's ...

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The Honorable Heir

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Overview


CATHERINE VanDORN IS NO THIEF 

Catherine, Lady Bisterne, returns to Tuxedo Park cloaked in scandal, the widow of a nobleman who'd loved only her fortune. As she sets out to repair her family's reputation, another Englishman in her midst is seeking reparations of a different sort. While Lord Tristram Wolfe may suspect that Catherine has stolen the Bisterne jewels, he looks at her in a way her husband never had. 

As Tristram's investigation continues, one thing becomes clear: the only thing Lady Catherine has ever stolen is his heart. But can he convince her to trust another English nobleman…and take a second chance on love?


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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781460332153
  • Publisher: Harlequin
  • Publication date: 5/1/2014
  • Sold by: HARLEQUIN
  • Format: eBook
  • Edition description: Original
  • Pages: 192
  • Sales rank: 141,960
  • File size: 239 KB

Meet the Author


“Eakes has a charming way of making her novels come to life without being over the top,” writes Romantic times of bestselling, award-winning author Laurie Alice Eakes. Since she lay in bed as a child telling herself stories, she has fulfilled her dream of becoming a published author, with nearly twenty books in print . Besides writing, she enjoys giving inspirational talks, long walks, and knitting albeit badly. She lives in Texas with her husband and sundry animals.


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Read an Excerpt

Tuxedo Park, New York
November 1, 1900


She felt his gaze upon her from the instant she stepped into the clubhouse ballroom. That ballroom, all white pillars and blue velvet benches against the circular walls, fell silent the moment Catherine VanDorn, now Lady Bisterne, stepped through the doors from the great hall, and a hundred pairs of eyes swiveled in her direction. Yet the intensity of one man's bold stare drew her gaze past the gowns and jewels of the New York elite, to the audacious dark eyes of a gentleman at the far side of the room.

Her heart skipped a beat. Her gold-shod feet stumbled. The rainy November cold crept through to her bones, and for the first time that evening, she admitted that Mama, a yard behind her with Papa, was correct to tell her not to wear the mauve satin ball gown a mere thirteen months after her husband's death. It was too bright, too frivolous, proclaiming, however falsely, that the debutante who had departed from Tuxedo Park in triumph on the arm of an English lord, a scandal in her wake, intended to seek a new husband.

Behind her, her sister, Estelle, poked Catherine in the spine. "If I have to be here, at least let me in." She spoke in a whisper loud enough for the staring gentleman to hear.

The entrance unleashed a rising tide of exclamations, speculations, and a handful of greetings. "She doesn't look to be mourning anyone" came from a pretty matron in lavender tulle, and "I wonder whose fiancé she'll run off with this time" emerged from the pouting lips of a slip of a girl in white lace. But Mama's circle of intimate friends glided forward to embrace Catherine with wide sleeves and perfume and niceties like "I know your family is happy to have you here" and "You're too young to stay in blacks forever."

Pompadours and powdered cheeks blocked Catherine's view of the staring gentleman. Warmth began to steal back into her limbs, and she felt hopeful that perhaps she could make this homecoming work out well for everyone, especially her family.

She smiled back at the ladies, shook the hands of some older gentlemen, friends of her parents. Orchestra music rose from the stage, rising into an invitation for the annual ball to commence. Onlookers and interlocutors began to drift away in pairs to take their places in the center of the circular room. Catherine's parents strode off arm in arm, a young man claimed his dance with Estelle and their brother, Paul Henry VanDorn III, claimed the hand of the doll-sized girl in white lace.

Catherine stepped back, her ruffled skirt brushing the blue velvet of a curving bench. She should seat herself and remain unobtrusive after her explosive entrée back into Tuxedo Park society. But sitting felt like surrender. Standing, on the other hand, looked too much as though she were inviting one of the still unattached gentlemen to ask her to dance. Indeed, two youthful men headed in her direction. She glanced away so she wouldn't meet their eyes as she had those of the man who had stared without subterfuge, but she found herself face-to-face with another issue.

"You aren't dancing, are you, Lady Bisterne." Delivering the question as a statement, an older lady who'd worn black for longer than Catherine's twenty-four years stomped forward with the aid of an amber cane and seized Catherine's hand in a crushing grip. "We may all recover from you returning in mauve, and perhaps even from the sight of those jewels in your hair, but if you dance tonight, you may as well take yourself back to England, as no one worth knowing will receive you."

Catherine granted the lady a curtsy. "I doubt you'll receive me regardless of whether or not I dance, Mrs. Selkirk."

"That depends."

"On what, ma'am?"

"Whether or not you're sorry for what you did to my granddaughter."

"Oh, I'm sorry if I hurt her. Perhaps she'll let me tell her just how sorry I am." Catherine looked for her old friend Georgette Selkirk, whom she had, in truth, done a favor by keeping her from marrying Edwin, the Earl of Bisterne.

She spotted Georgette gliding around the floor to the Strauss waltz-in the arms of the staring stranger. Georgette caught Catherine's eye for the merest heartbeat, then let her gaze flick away without acknowledging the look. A cut. A cut in front of most of the members of The Tuxedo Club. It may as well have been a slice to Catherine's heart.

In contrast, her companion caught Catherine's eye and inclined his head before the swirl of dancers carried him out of her sight again.

"Is that her new beau she's dancing with?" Catherine asked.

"A mere friend of my grandson's, but Georgette seems to have a growing fondness for him." Mrs. Selkirk rapped her cane on the floor dangerously close to Catherine's toes. "So keep your distance from Lord Tristram."

"Lord Tristram Wolfe?" Invisible hands seemed to have gotten hold of Catherine's stay laces and drawn them tight enough so that she could no longer breathe.

Mrs. Selkirk leaned forward to peer into Catherine's face, though she was a full head shorter. "Do you know him?"

"No, I never met him. But his cousin was with my husband when he died."

And if she didn't get away from Mrs. Selkirk's overwhelming scent of peppermint and the crowded ballroom, Catherine was going to expire right there.

"If you will please excuse me, ma'am.. " Catherine slid a few inches over in preparation for gliding out of Mrs. Selkirk's reach. "I should ensure my sister's instruments have gotten stowed away behind the stage safely." She added a smile. "Would you like to sit for the upcoming performance?"

The cane thumped on the floor loudly. "I'd like you to assure me you won't hurt my granddaughter again."

"On the contrary, I wish to make amends for the past. May I call on your family in the near future?"

"I don't want you near our house."

The clipped words resounded like a blow to Catherine's heart.

She winced, blinking against blurriness in her eyes, and half turned away. "Then I'll be on my way." Without waiting for a fare-thee-well or permission to depart the woman's company, Catherine swept around fast enough to send the green velvet ruffles on the bottom half of her skirt flaring out like a dozen fans.

With Estelle swooping around the ballroom, Catherine did need to ensure her younger sister's instruments had reached the clubhouse. Being allowed to provide part of the night's entertainment, along with some of the other young people from Tuxedo Park, was the only reason Estelle agreed to attend the ball launching her into society. But if so much as a fingerprint marred the cello, violin, or the banjo especially, Estelle would leave, even if she had to walk uphill to Lake House through the rain. Having endured enough trouble getting Estelle to the festivities, Catherine was not about to let her younger sister behave with even a hint of scandalous behavior.

She slipped around a group of gawking young men she didn't recognize and headed for the doorway.

"Heed my warning." Mrs. Selkirk's voice rang out in the sudden lull as the waltz concluded.

She would have to find another way other than a social call in order to talk to her old friend Georgette. Right now, she needed to escape from Mrs. Selkirk and the folly of her imprudent decision to wear mauve and green to announce she had left first mourning several months early.

"Lady Bisterne." A drawling English voice cut through the hubbub of the throng-an all too familiar voice.

Her heart lurched in her chest like a badly sprung carriage. She halted and turned toward Ambrose Wolfe, for not doing so would be insufferably rude. He strode toward her with two other gentlemen in tow, one being Florian Baston-Ward, the younger brother of the cousin who inherited her husband's estate, and the other the man who had been dancing with Georgette. Even if his looks likely opened any door he wanted, his choice of friends didn't recommend him as someone she wanted to meet.

Before them, the company parted as though the men were royalty.

"What are you doing here, Ambrose?" In as chilly a voice as she could muster, she addressed the man who had called to her, the man who had been with her husband when he died.

He stopped before her and bowed. "I had an invitation to visit this fair land of yours, so I took advantage of it."

"How nice for you." Her tone was sweet, though her stomach churned. "And you didn't come alone."

Ambrose's teeth flashed in a grin. "You know I never liked being alone."

Neither did she, but she had been for too many years thanks to men like Ambrose Wolfe.

"I have my cousin with me." He gestured to the stranger. "Lord Tristram Wolfe."

She'd never met the younger son of the Marquess of Cothbridge, but she'd heard of him in less than favorable terms. He was rather better looking than the gossip rags led her to believe. Actually, he was rather better than good-looking, with high cheekbones, a square jaw and eyes the color of fine dark Chinese jade, in perfect contrast to hair the color of caramel sauce with a rather delightful cowlick.

"Pleased to finally meet you, my lady." Lord Tristram bowed.

"How do you do?" She dropped a perfunctory curtsy, then glanced at her husband's cousin, Florian Baston-Ward.

He sidled closer to take her gloved hand and raise it to his lips. "Cousin Cate, I see you've come out of mourning already, complete with wearing stolen Bisterne jewels."

* * *

Later, Tristram decided, he would take Florian to task for tipping his hand regarding the jewels. For now, he would save his concentration for the lady and how she responded to the careless remark.

"Stolen?" Other than that single word and a widening of her long-lashed eyes, Lady Bisterne gave no telling reaction. Her complexion maintained its porcelain purity. No color drained from her cherryice-colored lips, and her gaze remained fixed on Florian's face.

In short, she didn't look guilty, despite the fact that two of the jeweled pieces Tristram had crossed half of Europe and the Atlantic to find shimmered and sparkled against her glorious dark auburn hair.

"Not a discussion for the ballroom." Tristram tore his regard from the lady to scowl at the younger son of his mother's cousin and his father's oldest friend. "Badly done of you, Baston-Ward. You should ask her to dance, not make careless accusations."

"I'm not dancing," she said at the same time as Florian exclaimed, "You expect me to ask her to dance? It's bad enough she's wearing colors-"

"Florian, be nice." Ambrose punched the younger man in the shoulder.

"Go foist yourself off on some pretty American girl," Tristram added, hoping to be rid of the youth so he could have a moment alone with Lady Bisterne.

Florian's blue eyes flashed with lightning. "When she left me penniless?" He waved a hand toward her ladyship. "No American girl would be interested in me."

"Try a wallflower." Tristram glanced around to locate the inevitable row of young ladies with whom no one wished to dance, either because of their poor looks or lack of money.

A lack of money wasn't prevalent in the land of the wealthy elite, though some plain-faced young women did perch on the edges of the cushions as though about to jump up and run. Others lounged back as though they wanted to sit out the dance. One of the latter wasn't plain-faced at all. Indeed, she looked very much like Lady Bisterne.

"I see any number of young ladies not dancing." Tristram jostled Florian's elbow to get him thinking with reason about going away.

Florian opened his mouth as though to protest, then shut it again and stalked off toward the wallflower row. Ambrose followed with a mumbled, "Wouldn't mind another dance or two myself."

Tristram turned back, but Lady Bisterne had gone. She'd been heading for the door when Ambrose waylaid her. Tristram knew he should follow her in the event she disposed of those bejeweled combs in her hair. Not that doing so would change the fact that a hundred people had seen her wearing them as if she possessed a right to do so.

Tristram's mouth hardened and he headed for the exit. The sooner he learned the truth from her ladyship, the sooner he could return home and settle matters with his father. Only a little matter of first recovering the Bisterne jewels, and then explaining to her ladyship that if she didn't also pay back the money spent to recover those jewels, everyone in English and New York society would learn of her crime against her late husband's family. Simple tasks in the planning. At best difficult in execution.

"You're not going to go hide away with the old men, are you, Tris?" His host, Pierce Selkirk, clapped Tristram on the shoulder. "Never used to be the type to drink spirits and smoke cigars."

Tristram shuddered. "Not in the least." His lack of enthusiasm for such things remained, though it hadn't gone over well with his fellow army officers. "I simply wished to…"

He trailed off, unwilling to admit he was going after a lady. Ambrose and Florian knew why he was in Tuxedo Park but as far as Pierce, his friend from university, was concerned, he was doing what titled men from all over Europe had been doing in the past decade or two-looking for an American heiress as a wife.

Not that he would object to marrying an heiress if he loved her. But his priority was to find proof that Lady Bisterne had stolen the jewels from her late husband's family in order to appease his father and prove he could succeed at something, having failed to bring military glory to the family.

Pierce was watching him with one sandy brow raised in enquiry, and Tristram struggled for a truthful response. "I wish to avoid another dance so soon." He touched the back of his head, where his hair now sprang up in an unruly cowlick from a ridge of scarring beneath.

"Ah, the old 'head not up to more twirling about'?" Pierce laughed. "Mine doesn't like it much, either, and I don't even have your excuse. But no need to worry. After this dance, there'll be an entertainment. Some of the younger set will perform."

"Sounds like a good reason to escape."

"Miss VanDorn, however, is a true talent." Pierce's gaze flicked to the dance floor where the auburn-haired young lady who resembled Catherine was whirling about with Florian.

"She's an extraordinary talent, actually," Pierce added. "And pretty. Do I detect some interest there?" Tristram smiled.

"About as much as you have in my sister Georgette."

Tristram's smile died as the music ended. Dancers and chaperones cleared from the dance floor and politely jockeyed for seats on the blue velvet benches along the walls. Georgette, Ambrose and Florian joined Tristram and Pierce near the doorway.

"Miss VanDorn is one of the performers." Florian's eyes gleamed. "She plays the banjo. I've never heard one."

"They're all the rage with the ladies here." Pierce grimaced. "Most should burn theirs."

Both Florian and Ambrose protested such a notion, being musicians themselves.

"Pierce is referring to my attempts." Georgette's sweet voice held a laugh. "But Estelle is quite different. You'll enjoy her part. Now, do excuse me. I see Grandmother beckoning to me."

The old lady was waving her cane in their direction, much to the peril of those around her.

"She's going to brain someone with that one day." Pierce laughed.

Lights in the ballroom darkened as a hush fell over the ball, and several young ladies in fluttery white dresses filed onto the stage escorted by young men with dark coats and stiff collars. From behind them, an unseen musician gave them a pitch, and the chorus began to sing in voices angelic enough to grace any church.

A theatrical sketch followed the ballads. When she forgot her lines, the leading lady dissolved into nervous titters. As though this were part of the drama, the audience laughed with-or perhaps at-her. Someone prompted her from the rear of the stage, and she proceeded without another hitch.

"How long does this go on?" Ambrose whispered a little too loudly.

Tristram elbowed him in the ribs. "You'll never catch an American wife if you are rude."

"I'll never catch an American wife without a title," Ambrose countered. "Even your poor excuse of a courtesy title is worth something here."

Several people nearby hushed him.

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  • Posted September 4, 2014

    Catherine Bisterne returns home surrounded by scandal. She must

    Catherine Bisterne returns home surrounded by scandal. She must overcome some past mistakes and try to prove her innocence. She is a regal, loving, strong woman. When another Englishman enters her life, will he be nothing but trouble or can more develop? Will Catherine find the forgiveness she seeks from others and within herself?

    Tristram Wolfe must prove to his father he is worth being proud of. Yet, when his heart gets involved will he be able to find out who stole the jewels? Can he also find forgiveness and acceptance?

    I enjoyed the characters in this book, the dialogue and the mystery. I would recommend this book to anyone who likes historical Christian Romance fiction with a side of mystery. Especially if you enjoy reading about the wealthy.

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