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Dauntless

Dauntless

by Lynne Connolly

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Overview

From the USA Today–bestselling author, “an extraordinary read . . . Filled with breathtaking intrigue and laced with a realistic and very sensual romance” (Fresh Fiction).

The Shaws are one of Britain’s most influential, dynamic families, but one Shaw prefers to keep a low profile. Unfortunately, the limelight can shine behind-the-scenes . . .

Lady Drusilla Shaw may be a bit introverted, yet she has the observant mind of a writer, capturing all of society’s quirks and scandals. But when the novel she’s been working on disappears from her room, that is just the beginning of her problems. Confident, magnetic Oliver, Duke of Mountsorrel, has taken an interest in Dru, and when he proposes, she is both thrilled and anxious. Her book depicts a ruinous family story that is uncannily similar to Oliver’s real-life, not to mention libelous. The manuscript could surface at any moment—and eventually it does, in published form, for all to read . . .

Oliver is bewildered by his new wife and her blasted book. Worst of all, how can he love a woman he no longer trusts? But when it becomes obvious that someone is taking their cues from the book in a series of attacks, he has no choice but to stick close to her. Their explosive connection in bed should take care of the heir-making, but for that to happen, Drusilla has to stay alive—and so does Oliver.

“Lynne Connolly writes Georgian romances with a deft touch. Her characters amuse, entertain and reach into your heart.” —Desiree Holt, New York Times–bestselling author


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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781516102495
Publisher: Lyrical Press, Incorporated
Publication date: 06/26/2018
Series: The Shaws , #2
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 215
Sales rank: 284,186
File size: 2 MB

About the Author

Lynne Connolly was born in Leicester, England, and lived in her family’s cobbler’s shop with her parents and sister. She loves all periods of history, but her favorites are the Tudor and Georgian eras. She loves doing research and creating a credible story with people who lived in past ages. In addition to her Emperors of London series and The Shaws series, she writes several historical, contemporary and paranormal romance series. Visit her on the web at lynneconnolly.com, read her blog at lynneconnolly.blogspot.co.uk, find her on Facebook, and follow her on Twitter @lynneconnolly.

Read an Excerpt

CHAPTER 1

Spring, 1756

Lady Drusilla Shaw bent over her work, growing ever more engrossed in the story she was telling. Her sense of time and place disappeared, as it always did when she was in her own world. Since childhood, she'd let her vivid imagination hold sway over reality, finding solace in the work. Being the middle child between two sets of twins had forced her to rely on her own company growing up. Now she preferred it.

She bit the end of the pen, wondering what to make her villain do next. He wasn't nearly evil enough for her liking. He had to do something really heinous, but she couldn't think of anything. That was partly because she was a member of an outrageous family. Indulged and cosseted by society, the Shaw children had to commit something really outstandingly shocking for society to turn its collective back.

With a stroke of her pen, Dru eliminated three uncles and their families, although she left the maiden aunt. Now the villain had one brother.

The nib snagged on the paper, leaving a blot behind. With a wordless exclamation of dismay, Dru reached for the pounce box. She scattered sand over the offending mark, although in doing so she dragged her triple-lace ruffles across the paper and made a worse mess. She had not donned the linen covers that protected her lace because she was due to go downstairs, and time was short. Now she was paying for that omission.

She grabbed her handkerchief, wrapped it around the lace, and squeezed hard. When she released it, the black had faded somewhat. Nobody would notice. Nobody except her mother. Since the lace was creamy white, it would bleach. Or something. Her maid could handle it. She'd managed enough ink stains before.

As if summoned, after a brief knock, Forde opened the door and stepped inside. "Forgive me, ma'am, but your lady mother is asking for you."

Dru glanced at the clock. "Damnation!"

As usual, Forde tut-tutted at Dru's profanity. Not for the first time, she felt a touch of annoyance at her maid's attitude. She had inherited Forde from her sister Claudia, when she had moved away on her marriage. Although Claudia's twin, Livia, was still at home, she graciously refused Forde's services and employed a new maid. Now Dru understood why.

But Forde could work miracles on ink stains, and she kept Dru's wardrobe in immaculate condition, so matters could have been worse. Forde was a London girl, through and through. She had the twang of the Londoner to prove it, although she did her best to cover it up.

Dru found the habit amusing and somewhat of a relief because Forde was perfect in every other way. Since she had no desire for her maid to see the ink stain, she concentrated on covering the mark, tucking the offending flounce up as if it were caught on something. Her mother would be very sad if she was late again, and the marchioness's sadness was something every member of the family avoided. Then her father would be disappointed, and that was even more unbearable.

On a vague smile, she left the room.

Outside, she nearly collided with her sister. Livia wore a gown in the latest style, a froth of lemon silk and pinked ruffles with the embroidery detail beautifully delineated. Her red-gold hair was drawn back to a glossy knot, with curls drooping on to her shoulders.

Livia drew back, studying Dru's appearance. "Your ruffles aren't properly arranged," she said, but a sudden smile flashed across her face. "They do call them ruffles, don't they? Maybe they should be, you know, ruffled. You look charming. Have I seen that gown before?"

Dru shook her head. "This is its first ball." She fluffed the skirt a little and smoothed the sky-blue silk over her panniers. Plunging a hand into her capacious pocket, she found her gloves. She concentrated on putting them on as she accompanied Livia to the drawing room, where the rest of the party would no doubt be waiting.

Balls were a waste of time. Nobody had shown particular interest in her this season, but she would go through the ritual of attending them. New, younger, more biddable girls entered society every year, outshining the veterans like Dru and Livia. She could not make herself too concerned. Her inheritance, a generous dowry plus an inheritance from a maiden aunt, meant Dru would never have to worry about money. Her status as the daughter of a marquess was assured.

Still, she had to admit that sometimes her potential to attract a spouse rankled. Only occasionally, because she kept busy enough.

Although Dru's mother didn't criticize, she did give Dru a long-suffering sigh. At least she hadn't reached the caustic remark or the terrible phrase, "You disappoint me, Drusilla." But she did say, brightly, "Ah, Drusilla and Livia. Are you quite ready to leave?"

"It is not fashionable to arrive too early," Livia remarked. A year younger than Dru, she was the leftover twin. Unlike Dru, her blond hair and blue eyes gave her an angelic appearance, one she rarely troubled to contradict, except when events called for it. Out of sight of their mother, she grinned at Dru.

As if to contradict her, the clock struck nine, its emphatic chime reminding everyone of the time. That was why the marchioness kept the ugly thing in the drawing room. It tacitly informed visitors tempted to linger that their time was up. The smirking cherubs dancing around the base told the same story, as if laughing at anyone who dared defy it.

They were laughing at Dru now. They laughed at her a lot.

Head down, she hurried after her parents and aunt. She concentrated on hiding the stain on her ruffle as Forde helped her into her hat and cape. Then outside, past the frozen footmen, and into the carriages. She didn't take much notice of the conversation as they drove the short distance to the mansion owned by her uncle, the Duke of Kirkburton.

"The spinsters traveling together," Livia remarked caustically. "Do men think they are so indispensable? Have you read the ancient texts?"

"Lysistrata," Dru murmured.

Her sister frowned, but Dru didn't explain herself. She would not discuss the old play, because she probably should not have read it in the first place. Her mother would undoubtedly not approve.

Dru shrugged. "I don't care." But she did. She poured all her dreams into her stories, even though nobody would ever read them, or even see them. She wrote them and then burned them. Writing was enough.

The carriage stopped with a jolt, right outside the Piccadilly mansion of the Duke of Kirkburton. Although she had known the place from childhood, the sight of the formidable house, more a palace really, still daunted Dru. Her cousin Julius, heir to the mansion, asserted he would have the place torn down when he became duke. Dru couldn't imagine Piccadilly without it. But many other great mansions had been sacrificed in the name of modernity and profit. The land they stood on provided the West End with its elegant squares and gracious streets. A generation ago much of the area had been almost rural.

If she was of a philosophical turn of mind, Dru might have found something to ponder on. But apart from admiring the place anew, she did not remark on it. The circular drive before the house was packed with vehicles, people in staggeringly lovely and expensive clothes climbing out of them. Dru and her companions joined them.

Dru's father led the way and somehow found a way through to the shallow steps leading to the front door, which was flung wide open. Light glowed from the interior, blazing from every window on the first two floors, setting the night alight. Going inside, Dru felt the heat from the two flambeaux set in holders either side of the impressive stone portal.

Still, excitement simmered. Every time she attended a ball, or the theater, or any other society event, she had that expectation. Would she meet him tonight? The man who would make her world shine, the one she'd written about all her life? The fact that she'd met most of the eligible men in society, that there were no more left to meet, didn't stop that traitorous feeling of maybe this time, maybe tonight ...

While a maid was helping her divest herself of her hat and cloak, an elbow dig from a nearby countess who did not even attempt an apology was enough to persuade her to take a step back.

Unfortunately, her heel caught in the ruffles of her petticoat, and she tumbled backward. Just what she needed — an undignified tumble. At least she wore enough layers to protect her. She'd probably take a few members of the peerage with her. Then the gossip writers would report on that and nothing else, and her aunt, the formidable Duchess of Kirkburton, would be severely displeased. And her mother would be disappointed.

She should have never come. She could have pleaded illness and stayed at home with her writing.

But none of her doom-laden prophesies happened. Instead, a pair of strong masculine arms caught her and drew her close to a wall of muscle. While the contact lasted barely a few seconds, its impact jolted her into total awareness. The dreamy cloud that surrounded her most times melted away. All she felt was a wall of muscle and being held in a secure grip. She would have given anything to subside into his arms, and for a moment she did just that. His arms closed around her, giving her a satisfying sense of security.

Dru forced herself to pull away. When she turned, she confronted a pair of startled gray eyes set in a face so ruthlessly masculine she wondered if a hard-bitten soldier had somehow forced his way into a society ball.

His unmistakable air of command easily dominated this hall full of the cream of society. Here, more titles and wealth abounded than anywhere else in the country. This man did not get his air of power from his wealth.

Recalling her manners, she dropped a curtsy. He responded, bowing slightly, but they hadn't been introduced, so they could do nothing more.

For all that, she knew him. Their paths had not crossed. The Duke of Mountsorrel attended few society events, but he could not elude them completely. However, he avoided single eligible ladies as if they bore the plague. His severe dress spoke of the Puritan, but he was no City merchant. If observers looked closely, they would see that his dark blue twilled silk coat and the matching waistcoat were the finest fabric and the best work money could buy.

He turned away, only to confront Livia, who stared at him blatantly. Her curtsy was even more perfunctory than the one a shaken Dru had given him. She received the same stiff bow before he turned around and left.

* * *

A cupboard. Oliver found he'd entered an anteroom that was little more than a closet. So leaving it with dignity was out of the question. And he could find only one door. That damned woman had stumbled on purpose, he was sure of it, and her accomplice had been waiting for a chance to block him. Such snares would trap a boy barely out of petticoats, but Oliver should have known better.

He hated balls and social occasions with a passion he usually reserved for murderers and cabbage. Especially now, when one touch of warm female flesh had driven his body into hard, needy arousal. It didn't matter that the woman had been respectably clothed. He wanted her anyway.

Oliver took in the room with a comprehensive glance. That was all the place deserved. A hard chair and a table, and rough pegs on the wall. No doubt the unfortunate footman on duty spent hours here, but Oliver saw no trace of occupation. No book, no newspaper, not even a glass. He would have allowed the footman who occupied this room something to do. Even Charles's attendants had a more comfortable life, and God knew they had plenty to do.

Well, he'd tried. Even thinking of his brother had not caused his raging erection to subside. One touch, that was all it had taken. One accidental tumble. As if he'd never felt a woman's soft body in his arms before. Lady Drusilla Shaw did not even sport the abundant curves he preferred in his women. Her waist was impossibly slender. The notion of hoisting her up, his hands circling her waist, and driving into her took him by complete surprise. It sent a thrill of recognition all the way up his spine to the center of his mind. He would probably never rid himself of that vision now.

Yes, he knew who she was. One of the Emperors of London, hence her unusual name. They were all named after emperors and empresses of the past in a conceit invented by their parents. He'd seen the tribe working, watched the way they smoothly covered all parts of a ball. Many would be here tonight, since this was Emperor territory. They would watch him, he knew. Unmarried women abounded in the family, although their numbers had decreased of late.

He would not succumb to her ladyship's less-than-voluptuous charms. She had the appeal of a dainty, pretty woman, one who would break under his big body. No, she was not for him.

He couldn't even pace properly in this tiny space. So he put his self-control to work, leaned against the wall, and folded his arms.

Oliver waited until the murmur outside had changed to a dull roar and the influx of guests he'd arrived with had left.

Then he stepped out of the room, dusting off his waistcoat, and tried to slide into the maelstrom that surrounding him. To a great extent he succeeded. As he glanced up, he saw two women standing side by side, goggling over the banisters on the next floor. Lady Drusilla and her sister Lady Livia.

Those women should be hanged at dawn. Or banned from attending society events. Either would work for him. They had not the least idea of how to behave. Were it not for their fine clothing, he'd have assumed they were country girls up for the season.

With all the dignity he could muster, he ascended the stairs and greeted his hostess. The Duchess of Kirkburton, while diminutive in stature, towered over society as one of its best established and most influential hostesses.

Dressed in white satin with a plethora of ruffles, lace, and embroidery, her grace should have been swamped. However, her personality defeated any attempt to overwhelm her. Graciously she offered her hand. Gallantly, Oliver bowed over it, wishing he were anywhere but here.

He would put a bold face on his worries and concentrate on finding his life's partner.

"Your grace, I'm pleased to see you here. Welcome to my house."

Said the spider to the fly. Used to schooling his features, Oliver stretched his lips into a semblance of a smile. "It is entirely my honor, your grace."

Her bosom tightly constricted in stays that must have made breathing difficult, the duchess inclined her head. "It is a great pity you were not in town last year, sir. My daughter Helena would have been perfect for you. However, I do have another daughter, and she is dazzling the world. I would be honored to introduce you."

What an odd thing to say! Lady Helena had made an advantageous marriage recently. Why would her mother resent that? And she clearly did, from her frosty words as she skipped over one daughter and right to another.

The duchess's unmarried daughter was ten years younger than he, perhaps more since she had barely been out a year. While others might not balk at the age difference and some would welcome it, Oliver needed a mature female, someone of sense and gravity. Perhaps he should set his sights lower. A vicar's widow or a young woman of genteel family might prove a better duchess, if only because she was closer to the realities of life. She would have a lot of reality to manage. He had no intention of keeping secrets from his bride.

With a tug to set his waistcoat to rights, his invariable habit when making a decision, he bowed to his hostess and strode forward into the ballroom.

* * *

"Just look at him," Livia murmured.

"Who?" Dru peered around the magnificent room.

"Mountsorrel."

"Mmm?" Not wanting to appear anxious and doing her best to forget the brief but memorable encounter, Dru shrugged. "Is he upsetting people?"

"No, he's dancing nonstop. Paying attention to all the young ladies. The unmarried ones, anyway."

Dru caught sight of the duke whirling a girl in pink around until she breathlessly laughed into his face. "She wants him to take her into supper. Or more likely, out into the garden for some air. Our sainted aunt ensures all parts of the garden are well lit. She'll have to work hard to find a dim spot."

Livia laughed. "But I'll wager you could discover one."

Dru shrugged. "I've visited this house many times. You could find a secluded spot too. Don't even pretend you could not."

She won another laugh for that. But Livia had drawn her attention to the one person she had wanted to ignore, and now she could not look away.

(Continues…)


Excerpted from "Dauntless"
by .
Copyright © 2018 Lynne Connolly.
Excerpted by permission of KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP..
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.

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