Mr. Hugh Grey and Miss Eleanor Broxton share a scintillating liaison the night before he leaves for war in Canada. The memory sustained him for the years he was away. Now, the reputed rake is back, knighted, and he’s got enough money to right the estate his father left in ruins. What would make Sir Hugh Grey’s world perfect is the lovely Eleanor by his side.
Their attraction is sizzling, and the sweet way Hugh is wooing her—a kitten, kisses in the moonlight, and expert help in lighting her dreary work space—makes Eleanor dream of forever with her strapping knight. But she will not risk a scandal, which could ruin his newfound respectability and esteem, especially in her father’s eyes. When Hugh discovers what she’s been hiding, it could drive them apart forever.
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Surrey, April 1815
Sir Hugh Grey huddled inside his greatcoat, tugging the collar up as far as it would reach. Even so, he could not prevent droplets of rain from sliding down his neck and saturating his shirt and coat. If he had a good reason for lingering at his father's grave, he might be able to justify soaking himself to the skin. But the truth was, he didn't know what held him there. There was no explanation, except he'd missed the burial and was sorry for it. And that he had always been, and probably always would be, inextricably bound to his father. By blood, by character, by reputation.
"The Grim Reaper came calling, and even you couldn't turn him away," Hugh said aloud, staring at the gravestone.
His words went unremarked by the denizens of the church graveyard, including his father. The weather reminded him of the day he'd left England more than two years ago, although rather than a spring rain, November sleet had accompanied him on his journey to the coast. He'd been in British North America until six weeks past, when his brother, Adam, had sent word of Benjamin Grey's death. Hugh had been ready to sell his commission by then, anyway. It had been time to come home.
Home to what, remained an unanswered question. Estranged from his brother and mother, Hugh had nobody he considered family. His father had left the country estate, Longmere, where Hugh had grown up, to him. It had been in a sad state before he left, and he dreaded seeing what further damage two more years of neglect had wrought. After another moment of wasted contemplation, he spun around, passed through the lych-gate, and climbed into the carriage he'd purchased in London. The estate owned no such conveyance, and he suspected he might have need of one. Hugh had also bought four Cleveland Bay carriage horses, with strong, capable shoulders. A newly hired coachman sat on the box, and a groom rode at the back, by the boot.
On the drive to Longmere, they passed the approach to the Broxton home. He wondered if Eleanor were there right now, reading, perhaps, or working. She liked to sew, he recalled. Design things. Gowns, and dresses. Then it struck him that she may not live there any longer. She may have wed. Hell, she may even have children. And with that jarring thought, his mind traveled back to the last time they were together, when he'd taken her virginity in a frenzied, heated passion. Visions of that night were what had sustained him through the first year in British North America, during the cold, ceaseless winter. Kept him warm and comforted him. While the mystique of it had faded somewhat, the memory had not. Making love to Eleanor had been, against all odds, the best moment of his life.
She had drawn him from the first. They'd met at his mother's country home, at a house party he'd reluctantly attended because she had entreated him to do so. Eleanor had been the one bright spot in an otherwise lonely week. Her loveliness was only part of it. There was something about her ... her reserve, perhaps. Her reluctance to reveal herself, despite the fact that her every emotion shone out of those radiant eyes of hers. He had found out later that her father had hoped to marry her to Adam. Thank God, Adam had already been in love with Cassandra Linford, whom he'd since married.
Though Eleanor had been reticent with the others, Hugh had drawn her out, and he'd sensed her ease with him. By the end of the week, there was no denying their attraction was mutual. Still, making it known she had wanted to dance with him at the assembly ball, then following him and making love to him with abandon had taken him by surprise. He hadn't expected her to be so daring. So ready. In a mere few months she'd matured, changed. Known what she wanted and wasn't afraid to go after it. After him.
But in more than two years, how else had she changed? Hugh didn't know, but he intended to seek her out and discover the answer for himself.
Three weeks later
The day was waning. The gradual loss of light was Eleanor's enemy. In her north-facing work area, it became too dim in the late afternoon to continue sewing. Not if she expected the highest quality of work from herself and her assistants.
Discouraged, she sighed and pushed herself away from her worktable. "Let's be done for today, Jane."
Needing no encouragement, Jane dropped what she was doing and said, "Yes, miss." She neatly folded the gown she'd been working on, jabbed her needle into a pincushion, and placed her thimble and scissors into a box. Eleanor, who worked best when the tools of her trade were organized, was grateful the other girl followed her example in this.
Eleanor stood and stretched, then hunched and released her shoulders a few times, trying to work out the knots in her muscles caused by too many hours bent over her work.
"Are you eating dinner with your parents tonight, miss?" Jane asked.
"I told them not to expect me." In truth, she was simply too tired to walk up to the house, nor did she wish to be subjected to her mother's belittling comments. "You should be on your way. Your mother will be needing you."
"Nan is there today. She'll help."
Jane had many siblings. The fact that her family needed every penny each one of them of working age could earn was no secret. One of her brothers had been lately looking for work. "Has Simon found employment yet?" Eleanor asked, hoping for good news.
"Oh, aye, didn't I tell you? He's working for Mr. Grey over at Longmere. Or I suppose I'm obliged to say 'Sir Hugh' now, aren't I?"
The box of thread Eleanor had been carrying to the cupboard slipped from her grasp, narrowly missing her toes. Spools of all colors popped out onto the floor and rolled around the rug. It was like a children's game. She and Jane dropped to their hands and knees, scooping up the wayward spools and safely stowing them back in their container, which happened to be an old hatbox.
Eleanor sat back on her heels. "How long has he been home?" She tried to sound indifferent, but she didn't know if she succeeded. How could Hugh have been back for weeks and she not even aware? Was she so closed off from the world? Shut away in the cottage every day, she supposed she was.
Jane rose and donned her bonnet and shawl. "Near a month now, I'd say. He's rebuilding the place, and he needed laborers for the job." She tied her bonnet strings and continued. "Simon thinks he must be rich. He hired himself a top architect from London to draw up the plans for the new house. Simon and the rest of the crew are pulling down the old place meantime."
"I see," Eleanor said, even though she didn't see at all. Clinging to a chair for support, she got to her feet.
When Jane had finally gone, she put the kettle on. Hugh was home, and he'd made no attempt to see her. The cad. The wretch. The complete rogue. She wanted to throw something, but couldn't risk damaging her very small, necessarily tidy work area. Instead, exhorting herself to be calm, she poured her tea, added milk, and wandered outside to her garden.
Her cottage had been constructed on reclaimed meadow, and so her garden bloomed with lady's-smock and buttercups; she had added heartsease and cowslips. It was a small space, dominated by the flowers, which had to be continually thinned or they would, like spoiled children, take over. No room for grass, but there was a flagged area, where she'd installed a bench. It invited her to sit, and so she did.
Why was she so angry about Hugh's lack of attention to her? After all, she'd heard nothing from or about him in all the time he'd been on a different continent. And now he was "Sir Hugh." And, according to Jane, he was rich. A military commission wasn't so lucrative, was it? Amazing that whatever exploits he'd undertaken to gain himself a knighthood hadn't reached her ears, although she'd had other things on her mind since he'd been gone. Given her situation, it was far better that he stay as far away from her as possible. And yet, she yearned for him. She had thought there was genuine affection between them. And for more than two long years she'd romanticized their one night together, the night of the Haslemere assembly. She had relived it, dreamed about it, and no doubt exaggerated its significance. To him, it apparently had meant little. It was different for her. For her, it had changed everything.
A wet nose tickled her ankle and she looked down at her pup, Bobby. Eleanor picked him up, holding him aloft to examine. "Who were your sire and dam, little one?" Her guess was spaniel and border collie, and her father, who knew about dogs, had agreed. The dog had wandered into her garden one day looking lost, probably abandoned, and she hadn't had the heart to turn him out. Probably because he was the most adorable creature, save one, she'd ever seen, with his black and white curly coat and floppy ears. She drew him close, and he licked her nose and face until she put a stop to it.
"Time to feed you, Bob, you bothersome imp." She set him down, and he followed her excitedly into the cottage, where he knew he'd find sustenance and generally a special treat.
The following morning
Hugh stood, hands on hips, monitoring the progress on the tearing down of the old Elizabethan manor house he'd grown up in. He reckoned they had another week's worth of work before it was complete, and then a second week disposing of the remaining rubble before the builders could start on the new place.
He hadn't wanted to take down his childhood home, but the architect he'd hired, John Ridley, who had spent a week in Surrey thoroughly going over the house and working on plans for the new structure, had recommended it as the only sensible — and safe — choice. Parts of the house were rotting away due to improper guttering and a roof that had leaked for years. Other sections were infested with termites. Ridley deemed some of the beams and supports so weak, the place was no longer fit for habitation.
Fortunately, the stables were in far better repair than the house, so the groom, coachman, and footman he'd hired could lodge there temporarily. They'd moved most of the furniture — the pieces worth saving — out there. Without a kitchen, he couldn't feed anybody, including himself. Every day, Hugh purchased cheese, bread, and meat pies from the local shops for his own staff and all the other laborers working on the property. In his experience, well-rested and well-fed men made the best workers.
Hugh was staying in an old tenant's cottage. Unlived in for years, it remained in surprisingly good condition, much better than the manor house. It had been locked, which was a good thing, because it had forced Hugh to search for the estate key ring. He could picture his father, back when he still cared about the place, wearing it over his broad forearm. He'd finally found it in a drawer of Benjamin Grey's desk. Hugh had moved his bed, an old wooden chair, and a small table into the cottage, and it would meet his most basic needs for now. The mere where he and Adam had swum as boys would serve for bathing.
Most days, he labored alongside the other men. Hugh was no stranger to hard work. In the past, he'd often helped tenants with repairs and rebuilding and had done what he could to patch up the manor house with what little money he'd had. And the army had taught him much about putting in long days. But not today. This morning he was traveling to London to meet with the family solicitor. He wanted a list of his father's outstanding debts so he could settle them. He was also meeting with Ridley to finalize the building plans and construction schedule.
That evening, he would be dining with Adam and Cass. He'd reluctantly accepted the invitation and scheduled the other appointments for the same day. His nephew had been born while he was away, and Hugh was looking forward to meeting him, if not spending time with his brother. He hoped to God, Deborah, his mother, wouldn't be there. According to Adam, she was frequently away, in the company of her devoted admirer, Freddie Cochran.
Hugh's attention was drawn by something rooting about in the rubble, a little creature, probably a weasel or a squirrel, and Hugh walked over to chase it off. But no, when he drew closer, he saw it was a small dog. A pup, really. A little black and white ball of fur. Quickly, he reached down and grabbed it. "Hey, little scamp, you must go back from where you came. It's not healthy for you around here." He called to his men. "Anybody know whose mongrel this is?"
Simon Weeks laughed from his perch on a ladder. "That must be Miss Broxton's dog. My sister told me she's got a new pup. Do you want me to take him home before he gets himself killed?"
Hugh assessed. "No, I'll do it myself." It was just the excuse he'd been looking for to see Eleanor. Dressed for Town, he was more presentable than on most days. He set off on a path through the woods toward her cottage, thinking about why he'd delayed this visit, since he'd found out, his first day back, where she was living and what she was doing. Gossip traveled fast among the countryfolk. No, he blamed putting this off on his expectations, or lack thereof. Would she be happy to see him? Would the two years he'd been gone fall away, and she would be eager to hop back in his bed? Or back on top of his hay bale, as it were. Or would she despise him for making love to her and leaving for North America without a word since? Surely, she knew he'd returned. Wouldn't she be wondering why he hadn't called on her?
These disparate thoughts clashed in his mind until the dog distracted him, nuzzling into his coat, probably drooling all over it. "Does your mistress hold you like this, old boy? Does she snuggle with you? God, how I'd like to be in your shoes ... paws. You're a lucky devil, eh."
Eleanor had departed the cottage for the garden to escape from the hurt feelings she'd caused. She'd had to spend the better part of an hour ripping out stitches, and Minnie, her second assistant, blamed herself. As Eleanor had patiently explained, it was the poor light that was at fault. From now on, both she and Jane must tell her if they couldn't see well enough to stitch. Ripping out could ruin expensive, delicate fabrics. And so on. They'd discussed all this before, but the two girls, Minnie especially, still seemed to think haste was better than fine workmanship. The three women were acutely aware of the large number of orders they'd been receiving and worrying about how they would be able to fill them. The Season would be ending in a few months, and ladies wanted new gowns for the final entertainments.
She stooped down by the flower beds and began pulling weeds. The garden needed more attention from her, but she hadn't the time to spare, except erratically. Like now. Muttering to herself, she tugged unmercifully at the damnable, pestilent things, working without pause until her hair came loose and fell around her face. Eleanor didn't notice. She was too busy complaining out loud.
Why hadn't some clever person invented a source of artificial light? Why couldn't she have a larger work space, so she and the girls weren't elbow-to- elbow all the damn time? Why was it so hard for them to understand that the highest quality work, along with her designs, was their stock-in-trade? Their reputation for both was what kept them afloat.
It was then that a pair of booted feet caught her attention, and she ceased her grumbling. Staring at the boots, she inferred two things in short order: they were beautifully made top boots, probably from Hoby's in London; and second, nobody in the immediate vicinity would be wearing such boots. Which caused her to look up at last.
Into the devastatingly handsome face of Hugh Grey. Dazzling dark eyes, prominent nose that screamed arrogance, beautiful male physique boasting wide shoulders and muscled chest. Oh, God, how she had missed him. All six-plus feet of him.
She toppled over onto her haunches and saved herself from tumbling completely backward only by planting her palms on the ground. Was that a chuckle she heard? Before he could help her, she scrambled to her feet.
"Hello, Eleanor," Hugh said.
She must look a fright, with her unkempt hair and her worn day dress. And here he stood, looking like a plate out of Ackerman's Repository. Forest green coat, immaculate shirt, silk waistcoat. And those boots.
She said the first thing that came to mind. "Aren't you a bit overdressed for the country, Sir Hugh?"
He laughed, a deep sound emanating from his chest. And then he said, "Aren't you missing something?"
A stab of fear hit Eleanor in the gut, and she could barely catch her breath. He knew. How? It was the best kept secret in all of Surrey. And then she saw that he was talking about Bobby, and she could breathe again. "That's my pup you're holding."
Excerpted from "A Lady's Deception"
Copyright © 2017 Pamela Mingle.
Excerpted by permission of Entangled Publishing, LLC.
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.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Loved this story!! Second chance at love is always one of my favorite types of stories. Even with all the years apart, the chemistry between Hugh and Eleanor was just as hot as it was before. After what Hugh had gone through with his own mother, I had to wonder if he would ever forgive Eleanor for her deception. I'm so glad that it worked out!! I can't wait to see what Mingle comes up with next!
A Lady's Deception starts out quite passionately! Hugh and Eleanor spend one night in the wild passion but now years have passed can they pick up where they left off? Hugh is still enamored with Eleanor and she realizes she still cares for him but she has too much to focus on and a relationship will not help. The path that they take to get back together was a romantic on Hugh"s part and sometimes annoying on Eleanors. Keep in mind I understand why she wanted to keep her secret BUT she knew she could not keep it forever....so that was a little frustrating sometimes but understandable. What I enjoyed about the book was that there were great secondary characters as well- Eleanor and Hugh's relationship was not the sole focus. Overall, a good read!! (Side note: I am hoping for a book about Ned!!)
'A Lady's Decption' by Pamela Mingle is Book Two in the "Haslemere Men" Series. This is the story of Mr. Hugh Grey and Miss Eleanor Broxton. I have read the previous book but feel this can easily be a standalone book. Hugh and Eleanor had been friends when they were younger and on the Eve of him leaving for Canada he wanted to say goodbye to Eleanor. They had an encounter in the barn that meant everything to Eleanor and she hoped it meant something to Hugh. But for about three years she never heard from him and now his is back in town trying to fix up his old childhood home. Eleanor is working as a seamstress trying to earn money much to her parents upset but her and her parents have a secret that they are keeping. Eleanor feels this money will help her start a new life. but now Hugh is back and she knows she has to stay away from him to keep her secret. Eleanor is also somewhat upset that he never contacted her in all those years he was gone and he has been back in town for all most a month and he hasn't reach out to her. Hugh is trying to fix up his home and his life before moving forward with someone and he finds that he still has feelings for Eleanor but she seems distant and sad to him. This was a great second chance at love story. "My honest review is for a special copy I voluntarily read."
OK Read. I struggled slightly with this book, one because of inaccuracies (a skunk, in England?) but also because of the hero. He is several times described as a gentleman but he seems to have little honour in his dealings with Eleanor. He seems to assume because she slept with him once as a young, naive girl she will be willing to do so again, without the benefit of marriage or at the very least an understanding. Why he would think that whilst she is not a widow nor a woman of loose morals is rather inexplicable. I had rather more sympathy with his reaction when he found out Eleanor's secret and could understand why he would need time to come to terms with it. Because of my disconnect with the characters I at times I found this book boring and could have done with the storyline being tightened and shortened. I received a complimentary copy of this book from NetGalley. I was not compensated for my review, and I was not required to write a positive review. The opinion expressed here is my own.
A Lady’s Deception by Pamela Mingle Haslemere Men #2 One night of abandon between Hugh and Eleanor before he left for war in Canada changed their lives in more ways than one. His return found him knighted, restoring the family residence, still estranged from his mother and brother and also still interested in Eleanor. The story is in keeping with the early 1800’s and at times I felt I was reading one of the books that I enjoyed as a teen that had been printed in the early 1900’s. I understood why things happened as they did in the book and it made me thankful that I do not live in that time period. I felt that Eleanor should have been more honest with Hugh from the first – especially since he asked her to be – and then on his return she missed many opportunities to tell him her secret that would have made some of the turmoil avoidable. I admired her desire to run a business but wondered at her inability to stand up to her parents – though that is not doubt in keeping with that time period. Hugh, though likable in some ways, seemed very rigid and though that rigidity was formed in his childhood I questioned it at times if he truly loved Eleanor. Though most of the story is in keeping with the time period there are things like insta-lust in a barn that didn’t seem plausible. I also questioned Eleanor’s father being so unaware of what Mr. Abbott was truly like – I also wondered why he let his wife get away with so very much. I would be interested in reading another book by this author. I did enjoy the story and would like to thank NetGalley and Entangled Publishing for the ARC – This is my honest review. 3-4 Stars