Engaged by proxy to a man she’s never met, Lady Daintry Tarrant is dismayed when the war hero returns, introducing himself as her fiancé, Lord Penthorpe. She cherishes her independence and has turned away many suitors, but this one she must marry. Penthorpe is completely captivated by Lady Daintry—but he’s not who he claims to be. Penthorpe and Lord Gideon Deverill fought together at the battle of Waterloo, and when Penthorpe fell, Gideon assumed his identity in order to see the beautiful Lady Daintry. Gideon knows there’s bad blood between Lady Daintry’s family and his own, but he’s smitten with Daintry and determined to reunite the bitterly feuding clans. When a ghost from Gideon’s past appears, he could lose everything—including Daintry’s love.
Dangerous Illusions is the 1st book in the Dangerous series, but you may enjoy reading the series in any order.
About the Author
A fourth-generation Californian of Scottish descent, Amanda Scott is the author of more than fifty romantic novels, many of which appeared on the USA Today bestseller list. Her Scottish heritage and love of history (she received undergraduate and graduate degrees in history at Mills College and California State University, San Jose, respectively) inspired her to write historical fiction. Credited by Library Journal with starting the Scottish romance subgenre, Scott has also won acclaim for her sparkling Regency romances. She is the recipient of the Romance Writers of America’s RITA Award (for Lord Abberley’s Nemesis, 1986) and the RT Book Reviews Career Achievement Award. She lives in central California with her husband.
Read an Excerpt
By Amanda Scott
OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIACopyright © 1994 Lynne Scott-Drennan
All rights reserved.
June 18, 1815, Waterloo
"They say lady Daintry's got a mind of her own, Gideon," Viscount Penthorpe said, leaning his lanky, rain-drenched body against his horse's sodden flank, "but even though I ain't such a dab-hand with the fair sex as you are, I'll wager that if Boney don't get me first, once I wed the chit, I'll soon bring her round my thumb, all right and tight."
Major Lord Gideon Deverill, a head taller than Penthorpe and blessed with a far more imposing figure, was scanning the mist-dimmed scene before them through his telescope, listening with only half an ear to his friend's account of his recent betrothal. He was damp and cold, and well aware that his usually immaculate uniform was heavy with mud, but he knew, too, that his men were equally bedraggled and uncomfortable, and he was conscious of an increasing tension among them as he strained his eyes to pierce the mist, to try to make out details of the enemy troop movements across the valley. Though he was certain their tension stemmed not from fear but from expectation—for they were all brave men who had proved themselves in battle—it nonetheless reminded him yet again of his deep responsibilities as their leader.
Throughout the seemingly endless, rainy night and dismal morning they had occupied a long, low ridge bordering the plateau called Mont-Saint-Jean a mile south of the Belgian village of Waterloo, their squadron flanked on the right by the rest of Major General Sir William Ponsonby's brigade and on the left by Major General Somerset's. The other nine brigades of Lord Uxbridge's gallant corps of cavalry waited in the valley behind them, while the hillside below writhed with restless infantry units. English artillery lined the entire crest of the ridge.
Not one of Gideon's men was sitting down, for the entire ridge appeared to be composed solely of sharp rocks and muddy puddles. Moreover, in anticipation of the fierce battle that lay ahead, they had been ordered to spare their mounts any extra weight for as long as possible.
Gideon's attention returned to Penthorpe when that gentleman sighed, glanced up at the gray sky, and said, "At least the rain has stopped, but by Jove, I'd give my soul for a dry bed and a willing wench in place of all this damned waiting. Can you make out what's happening, Gideon? 'Tis a bad business, this, and dash it all, for once I don't believe the Duke knows what he's about. They say Boney's so confident of victory that he's ordered his men to carry their red and blue parade uniforms right along with them so as to have them at hand to wear when they march into Brussels. That little upstart just might be the death of us yet!"
"Nonsense," Gideon said crisply, but surveying the scene around them and feeling a surge of pity for the cold bodies, shaggy wet beards, and filthy clothes of his men, he repressed the impulse to say more, to reprimand the man whom for years he had counted more as friend than subordinate. Penthorpe's face was so mud-streaked that scarcely a freckle could be seen. Even his hair, a flaming red that usually could be seen for miles, could be discerned now below his helmet only as more blobs of mud. Realizing that the others, sharing Penthorpe's physical discomfort, most likely shared at least some of his doubts as well, Gideon wished he could somehow relieve them.
The rain that had fallen so heavily all night did seem to have stopped, but the mists were still heavy in places and the ground saturated, with muddy pools filling every hollow. Ahead, between their forces and Bonaparte's, soggy wheat fields crisscrossed by two highroads sloped gently down for a quarter of a mile, then rose the same distance to a second ridge. Peering again through his telescope, Gideon saw, less than six hundred yards away, dark enemy cannons mounted against the gray horizon.
Despite the drab day, the scene itself was not dull, for the French fighting uniforms were even more colorful than their parade dress. Not only did each regiment wear colors different from the others, but many wore colors similar to the British, Dutch, and Prussians. In the heat of battle, Gideon remembered glumly, one could scarcely ever tell Allied soldiers from French. Glancing again at his men, he realized with a grim, sinking feeling that once the fighting began, mud would coat everyone equally, making it nearly impossible to tell friend from foe.
Below to his left he could see outbuildings, a garden wall, hedges, and a small grove of trees that clustered about Chateau Hougoumont, presently occupied by the Allied forces. Directly before him, in the midst of the wheat fields, lay the farm known as La Haye Sainte, where the Duke of Wellington, commander of the Allied army, had spent the past night—hopefully a less disturbed one than Gideon's own. Unable to sit or to lie down in the sea of rocks and mud, he and his men had dozed standing or in their saddles, and several times during the night, when horses had broken tether and galloped down the hill, Gideon had snapped awake, tense and alert, believing the cavalry charge had begun.
The two armies now facing each other were almost equal in size, and he could see that Bonaparte had drawn his men up in three lines. Clearly, his infantry would launch the attack, followed by the cavalry, while behind them, utterly formidable and terrifying, the famous French Guard, in their familiar tall bearskin hats, were poised to charge in for the kill.
"Gideon, what do you see?" Penthorpe repeated more urgently, moving nearer. "Dash it all, even from here it looks as if Boney's about ready to make his move. We'll soon be done for."
"No, we won't," Gideon said, ignoring a small voice at the back of his mind that traitorously urged him to share Penthorpe's fears. Still peering through the telescope, knowing full well that his men would quickly sense any lack of confidence in him, he added firmly, "The Duke knows precisely what he's about."
"Dash it all, how can you say so?" Penthorpe demanded. "We've already had to retreat once!"
Looking straight at him, Gideon said, "That withdrawal, my lad, was a vastly different affair from any retreat. Come now, think about it," he added when Penthorpe looked skeptical. "The move from Quatre Bras was accomplished at no more than a smart parade march. The Duke wanted to be nearer Blücher, that's all, for he had determined that Boney was attempting to drive a wedge between the two forces, so as to defeat Blücher before he had to deal with us. Nearly did it, too," he added grimly, but in that same moment the memory that Wellington had outsmarted Bonaparte brought his usual confidence surging back. What the Duke had done once, he could certainly be depended upon to do again.
"They say Blücher was dashed near done for," Penthorpe said.
"His horse fell with him," Gideon said applying an eye to the telescope again. He had heard Wellington tell Lord Uxbridge that the splendid white charger given the Prussian commander by England's Prince Regent had been killed in that battle, but seeing nothing to be gained by imparting that information just now, added only, "Blücher was merely bruised, nothing more."
"Merely bruised," Penthorpe muttered. "Look here, Gideon, I've got a devilish queer notion we ain't going to see England again. Daresay that impudent young woman of mine won't ever know what she's missed. Nor will I," he added in a more despondent tone. "Ain't even laid eyes on the wench yet, but my uncle's as good as promised me she's worth twenty thousand a year, and truth is, I could do with more income. Still and all, I ain't a man to rush headlong into things. By Jove," he added, clapping a hand to his head, "what am I thinking? She's from Cornwall, ain't she? Dashed if it ever even crossed my mind before, but she must be better known to you than she is to me. Lived there for years, didn't you, before your father came into his title?"
Lowering the telescope, grateful for the change of topic, Gideon smiled and said, "Deverill Court is in Cornwall, right enough, and my father still seems to spend a good portion of the year there; however, I cannot really say I've lived there, Andy. What with school and the military, I've not done so for years."
"Still, you must know the family," Penthorpe insisted.
Gideon's smile widened. "It is possible that I do, of course; however, not only have you scarcely mentioned your betrothal before now, but you've never once told me the chit's surname. I'll grant you that Daintry is a name I'd remember, especially since there is only one family I know of that might run to heiresses of such magnitude, but as I recall, the Earl of St. Merryn's daughter is called Susan, so it cannot be she."
"He's got two daughters," Penthorpe said. "Fact is, it was Daintry's being Lady Susan Tarrant's sister that let me swallow such a dashed odd betrothal at all, and the reason I haven't talked much about it till now is that I was in no great rush to try explaining how it came about that I've never so much as clapped eyes on the wench I'm intended to marry."
"Fact is," Gideon retorted with a teasing grin, "that you put off talking about it because you always put off things you don't much want to do. You are the worst procrastinator I know. But tell me what Lady Susan had to do with all this. I don't know her, but I've been told she's something of a beauty."
Penthorpe sighed. "I don't mind telling you, if I'd been eligible ten years ago when she made her come-out, I'd have tried my best to cut Seacourt out, though I haven't got an ounce of his cleverness with females, and I was only nineteen at the time. You remember him, don't you? Several years ahead of us, of course, but an Eton man, all the same."
Gideon nodded. Certain memories of Sir Geoffrey Seacourt made him frown, but Penthorpe did not wait for comment.
"Don't signify," he said, "because I hadn't a notion then that I'd come into the title. Didn't do so until four years ago, you know, and didn't have a penny to bless myself before. If I had shown my face to St. Merryn then, he'd have sent me packing, but now, for reasons best known to himself and my uncle—school chums like us, they were—he's hot to match his younger daughter with my humble self, and he wants the whole business handled by proxy, which makes me think Lady Daintry must be past praying for. Wench is twenty, after all, so she's nearly on the shelf. When my uncle pressed me to do so, I agreed to a proxy betrothal, but I dashed well want to see her in the flesh before I marry her. Dash it, any man would. You do know the family, you say?"
"Oh, yes. Their land adjoins ours on the moor for several miles. The fact is that my father—"
"Good God, don't say Jervaulx harbors ambitions for you in that direction! Of course, it's only natural if St. Merryn's daughters will come into twenty thousand a year, but look here, Gideon, if I had known—"
"No, no," Gideon said, laughing. "Quite the reverse. I just told you I wasn't even aware of a second daughter. I've never laid eyes on the first, and I don't expect to do so unless by some unforeseen circumstance our paths should cross. My father and theirs don't speak—never have, as far as I know. Our respective grandfathers had a falling-out long before I was born, when my branch of the Deverill tree was still the junior one, and there has not been an amiable word spoken between the families since. I don't even know enough about the Tarrants to tell you if Lady Daintry is as pretty as her sister."
"Well, she ain't, because I do know what she looks like," Penthorpe said, reaching into his inner coat and withdrawing an oval miniature in a gold frame. Handing it to Gideon, he said, "There you are. My uncle sent it. Too dark for my taste, but she's pretty enough, I suppose. Not that one can go by miniatures. Only look what happened to the Regent, thinking Caroline of Brunswick was a fine-looking woman, then getting stuck with such an untidy, vulgar sort of wench in the end."
Gideon murmured, "But then, Caroline was shown a picture of Prince Florizel, as he liked to call himself, painted a good ten years or more before she saw it. And you cannot say Prinny was any great prize on the Marriage Mart, Andy, aside from his rank, that is." Gazing at the miniature Penthorpe had handed him, he didn't think his friend would be as gravely disappointed as the Prince of Wales had been twenty years before.
What Gideon saw was a pair of laughing blue eyes, a tip-tilted nose, and pouting cherry-colored lips in a piquant little face surrounded by a cloud of sable ringlets. Her cheeks were the color of dusty roses, and except for the merry twinkle the artist had managed to capture in her eyes, she appeared to be both fragile and sultry. Her lips looked as if they longed to be kissed, and her lashes were so thick that they seemed to weigh her eyelids down, giving her a most beguiling look. An instant, intriguing sense of gentle warmth spread through Gideon's body, stirring curiosity and much more primitive sensations, and he found himself wishing he might see her smile like that at him.
"Looks a bit spoilt, I thought," Penthorpe said. "Her sister was much the same till she married Seacourt. But maybe you didn't know she'd married him. You ain't been back in a while, now that I think about it. I went home last year, after the Peace, of course, then joined up again to be in on Boney's capture, but you stayed over here the whole time, raking and larking about with Lord Hill's people, didn't you?"
Gideon nodded, still looking at the miniature. Reluctantly and with an odd sense of loss, he returned it, thinking back to a day in his youth, not many months after his mother's death, when he had told his brother, Jack, that he meant to learn all about the feud between the Deverills and the Earl of St. Merryn even if he had to go to Tuscombe Park and demand that the earl tell him what their father would not. Jack had informed on him, of course, and he had taken a thrashing for what his father had called his damned insolence. He had not thought of that feud in years, but now, gazing at Lady Daintry's fascinating likeness, he began to think he ought never to have allowed a mere thrashing to deter him from learning more about the Tarrant family.
Not that opportunity had often come his way. He had been sent to Eton soon after that unfortunate episode, and except for school holidays—spent as often with his maternal grandparents as with his father—he had enjoyed little time in Cornwall during the intervening years. First there had been Cambridge, and then, because he was the second son, a career in the army. That his father had become sixth Marquess of Jervaulx the previous year (following the unexpected demise of the last male twig on the senior branch of the Deverill family tree) had changed little in Gideon's life, although the one letter he had received from Jack in the meantime indicated that his graceless brother greatly enjoyed his position as the new heir to that great title.
"Gideon, look there," Penthorpe said suddenly, his words accompanied by an ominous thunder of cannonfire from the opposite ridge. "Boney's moving on the chateau!"
Startled, Gideon saw at once that Penthorpe was right and ruthlessly dismissed all thought of Cornwall from his mind, riveting his attention instead on the formidable duties at hand.
That opening salvo, accompanied by a rhythmic beat of drums and a strident blaring of horns, could have been heard for miles and filled the misty air with a heavy cloud of smoke. Eight thousand men stormed Chateau Hougoumont, but Gideon could see at once that the huge fortress would be nearly impossible to take. That realization strengthened his confidence, and he said calmly, "They may take the orchard, Andy, but our lads will hold firm inside." Handing him the telescope, he added, "Keep watch now, for I must see to the others. And guard your fears, man. Our position is strong. This line extends for three miles along the ridge, and Boney can't even see the reserves in the valley behind us. He's in for a shock. You may take my word for that."
Excerpted from Dangerous Illusions by Amanda Scott. Copyright © 1994 Lynne Scott-Drennan. Excerpted by permission of OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIA.
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