Lady Gillian had promised Sky her hand in marriage but cannot give him her heart — not when she gave it to another man three years ago. Afraid of repudiation, Gillian buries her secret so deep inside herself, no one will ever know — or so she hopes.
Through lies and deceit, their marriage slowly unravels. Then Sky becomes deathly ill, and his newfound faith offers two virtual strangers a second chance at becoming husband and wife.
|Publisher:||Steeple Hill Books|
|File size:||2 MB|
About the Author
There were many detours along the way as she pursued more realistic goals. She studied comparative literature at Smith College, where she received a Bachelor's degree; spent her junior year in Paris; taught English and lived as an au pair in the Canary Islands; worked in international development in Miami, Florida. It was there she met her husband, a Dutchman from Suriname, who took her to the Netherlands to live for six years.
In Holland Ruth began crafting her first serious story in between having children Justin, Adaja and Andre. It was there, too, she gained her first recognition as a writer when she made the finals in the Romance Writers of America Golden Heart Contest in 1994.
After the initial euphoria wore off, it was still several years before she made any progress. Ruth and her family moved back to the U.S. to the east coast of Maine. It was the ideal location--surrounded by spruce and fir, a short walk from the rocky seashore--to hunker down in front of her computer and write the stories simmering at the back of her mind.
Ruth's inner journey of faith parallels her outward journey--seemingly circuitous, sometimes wandering in the desert--yet ever-guided by the Good Shepherd.
Ruth currently teaches Spanish to her children and a small group of elementary school children in an after-school program. She also enjoys gardening and has recently learned to knit. Living in rural Maine has given her an opportunity to learn to start a fire in a woodstove on a cold winter morning, shovel snow and realize how many stars are in the sky at night.
Read an Excerpt
Tertius Pembroke, Fourth Earl of Skylar, observed his future bride across the drawing room.
"She's a comely lass, isn't she?" his father, the Marquess of Caulfield, asked in the false hearty tone Sky recognized as the striving-to-please one when he wasn't at all sure his news would be well received.
When Tertius said nothing, his father went on. "Look at that porcelain skin, those exquisite arms, the dainty turn of her ankle." He was positively gushing now.
Sky surveyed Lady Gillian Edwards, determined to find some fault with his father's choice. He took a critical appraisal, from the crown of her brunette curls cut in the latest short fashion to the tips of her silver slippers.
What he found in between was in no way displeasing. Pale skin delightfully tinged pink at the cheeks bespoke untouched innocence. A pleasant tinkling sound reached his ear when she laughed at what the young dandy beside her was saying.
Comely indeed, he thought, noting the even white teeth. "A true English rose," his father added.
A low-cut evening gown revealed a creamy bosom. There was nothing inordinately immodest about the fashionable neckline, just enough to whet a man's appetite. A silver ribbon cinched in the high-waisted white gown.
"Well, haven't you anything to say?" his father demanded.
"Didn't I tell you I'd picked the best for you?"
"So you did." At that moment, the young lady's glance strayed to him. The two stared at each other across the room. He weighing, judging. She caught in midsmile, a smile that slowly died as it wasn't returned, and she stood trans-fixed, as if uncertain what to do next.
Then the moment passed. His father nudged him on the elbow. "Come, Tertius. I told the duchess we would be here this evening to present you to her daughter."
Skylar made no reply, having become resigned if not wholly convinced of his duty to marry and produce an heir. He'd made it clear to his father earlier that he would commit to nothing until he'd seen the young lady.
"Duchess." Bending over her hand, his father greeted the stately woman seated near her standing daughter at the opposite end of the drawing room. "Delighted to see you. As always, you are looking more splendid than all the ladies present."
His father's eloquence grated on Sky's nerves. He, in turn, bowed over the duchess's gloved hand. "Lord Skylar, my youngest son. It has been long since you last met, nigh on ten years, I believe."
"Lord Skylar." The Duchess of Burnham gave Tertius the barest nod while directing her comments to his father. "I remember. He was making his mark here in London." The elegant, middle-aged woman appraised him. "You are much changed, my lord."
Sky knew the words were not a compliment. "The tropics," he replied. "They either kill you or leave you a wrecked shell as you see me now." He gave a thin smile, having learned it was better to preempt an intended insult by stating it plainly. That usually gained one a temporary advantage.
"You have my deepest condolences on your brother's demise," the duchess said in the silence.
Skylar inclined his head a fraction to acknowledge her remark. He took time to observe his future mother-in-law. She was perhaps in her late forties or early fifties, her beauty skillfully maintained with the aid of cleverly applied cosmetics, her honey-hued hair not revealing any gray.
He gave his attention to her daughter. Lady Gillian was petite, brunette to her mother's fair hair and, not quite as slim but shapelier than her mother, dressed in white muslin adorned with silver ribbons. Up close she presented even more distinctly the picture of youthful innocence than she had from across the room. Her pink cheeks contrasted prettily with her dark hair. Her neck, slim and pale, led the eye downward to the creamy expanse of shoulder exposed by the wide scalloped neckline.
She did indeed appear to be of superior quality. Trust his father to choose well. As the marquess had described her, she was "exquisitely fashioned, in good health, untouched."
In short, all the endowments required in a wife of a peer of the realm.
His father beamed at him. "What do you think, Sky, isn't Lady Gillian a pretty lass?"
"She'll do," he said, wanting as always to put a damper on his father's perpetual good humor.
He hadn't noticed the color of Lady Gillian's eyes until that moment, but as she turned their dark-lashed focus on him, he was struck by their pale green. Wintergreen, he thought, taking in their icy hue, rimmed by a dark spruce. She looked as cold as an icehouse, he thought, comparing her to the warm, honey-toned women of the Indies, with their open nature and easy embraces.
Knowing it was up to him to initiate the act of courtship, he asked her, "May I entreat you to take a turn about the room?"
She gave a slight bow of her head. Like mother, like daughter, he thought, comparing her condescension with the duchess's.
He held out his arm and she placed her hand around it, barely resting her weight upon it. Slowly they promenaded the long, guest-filled drawing room, as his father's voice trailed after them. "See there, what a handsome pair they make." He could be speaking of a matched set of bays. "I knew they would be agreeable to the arrangement."
Sky led Lady Gillian about the room as the tinkling strains of Telemann vied with the babble of voices in the background.
The top of her head scarcely reached his shoulder. She was looking away from him, and he realized she hadn't looked at him since that first straight-on stare.
He had no clue how to court a young lady of the ton. He hadn't even done so back in his days as a young buck in London society, preferring the company of tavern wenches. And now it had been at least a half dozen years since he'd said anything meaningful to a young chit barely out of the schoolroom.
He cleared his throat. "Is this your first season?"
"No, my lord," she replied, not deigning to turn toward him.
"Your second?" he asked blandly.
The deep-fringed eyes stared up at him. "It's my third." The tone dared him to make anything of the fact.
Something about her haughtiness impelled him to bait her. "Hanging out for a title?"
"Putting off the state of matrimony as long as possible." He raised an eyebrow. "I thought a young lady's sole ambition was to make a match approved by society?"
"If there were a worthy candidate, I might have changed my mind." When he continued studying her, she said, "It appears you have avoided the state longer than I. How old are you? Forty? And still not wed?"
"I'm sure the duchess has made you aware of my five-and-thirty years," he said, irritated that he felt the barb.
"Painfully," came the acid reply.
Wondering at her animosity, he said, "I have not 'avoided' the state, as you misjudge. In my case, there was no undue hurry. I was not in search of a fortune or anyone's good name to improve the Caulfield line. That responsibility rested upon my elder brother's shoulders. I could take a more leisurely approach to matrimony. A young lady hasn't that luxury. Her bloom quickly fades and soon she is what the gossips term 'on the shelf."
"I can assure you, my lord, I am far from on the shelf!" The hue of her cheeks deepened. "I have had plenty of offers, but I, too, could afford to wait. Just as you, I have no need of someone else's title or fortune."
"It appears we are well suited then. We should be grateful for our parents' having taken the trouble of the selection of partner out of our hands."
When she made no reply, he mused, "Three seasons... Aren't you concerned the gossips would have commented on you by now?"
She flashed him a look of anger. "I had no need to be! My mother has been very particular of whom she has allowed to pay court to me. When your father approached her, she viewed your suit favorably."
"How fortunate for me."
"As my mother has pointed out, apart from our difference in age, we are social equals in every way."
She feigned a cool facade, but contained some fire in her, he thought in grudging admiration. Beneath that exquisite bosom beat a proud little heart — perhaps as proud as his own. At least he wouldn't have to worry about diluting his bloodline with inferior stock. "We should suit admirably by all conventional wisdom," he concluded.
Her dark eyebrows drew together in a slight frown. "As to that, I have no opinion. I trust, as is customary, we shall each go our own way once we are wed."
"Do you?" he murmured. "That depends," he added softly.
She disengaged her hand from his arm and turned to face him. "Lord Skylar, I think we should be clear on this point. I have agreed to this betrothal because, as my mother has so sensibly explained to me, you are Lord Caulfield's heir, which means I stand to become the Marchioness of Caul-field someday. Apart from your advanced age, you possess all the qualities suitable for a good match." She gave him the same kind of appraising look her mother had. "In short, my lord, you'll do."
Ah. Comprehension dawned. He had offended the chit and now she was striking back. She had spirit, and he liked that. Better than a simpering deb.
He smiled at her. "And did your mother further explain that, together, we need to produce one healthy male heir — a feat my dear, departed brother Edmund, for all his other accomplishments, was not able to achieve. What think you? Shall we manage it?"
She seemed unfazed. "It remains to be seen."
"I would say, rather, it remains to be done." Her color rose to her already rosy cheeks until it suf-fused her whole face and neck at this direct reference to their marital duties. Tertius was almost sorry he had spoken so quickly, but he needn't have worried. She rallied admirably.
"You, my lord, are disgusting." With that pronouncement, she wheeled away from him and marched back toward her mother.
The next morning, Gillian paced back and forth in her bedroom. Her opinions about the insufferable man she had been introduced to the evening before had not changed overnight. Each time she thought of his words "she'll do!" she was outraged afresh.
"Mother, he's ghastly! You can't make me marry him."
Gillian stopped in front of the chaise where her mother lounged in her embroidered silk dressing gown.
She shuddered at the memory of Lord Skylar's supercilious way of looking down at her from his great height while he pronounced some shocking statement in that lazy drawl. And that last ungentlemanly remark! Oh, it didn't bear thinking on!
"Don't speak nonsense," her mother replied, examining her buffed nails in the morning light. "Lord Skylar is the best catch of the season now that he's inherited his brother's title."
"Well, let someone else have him...if they can stomach his company," she added under her breath as she resumed her pacing. She shook her head at the sprigged muslin her maid held out to her.
"He's positively gothic. He reminds me of some creepy villain with those black eyes and hair and those gaunt cheeks. When he looks at me, I feel as if he sees right past me."
"It's a pity Lord Skylar doesn't have his brother's looks," her mother conceded, "but he's just got over a terrible fever. Who knows what malady a person can pick up in the Indies? But after he's been in London a few weeks, he'll put on some weight and be in the pink of health, just in time for the wedding, you'll see."
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
After reading Winter Is Past and thoroughly enjoying it, I wondered if the rest of the series would be as good. Well this second book sure is. I absolutely hated the hero in the first half of the book and absolutely loved him in the second. What I like most about Ruth's ability to write a good conversion story is that it doesn't happen in just a couple of pages and thereby comes across as hokey and fake. The hero's conversion takes time and struggle. He goes through hell and back and comes out winning your heart. My favorite part is when Althea shows up and she kicks Satan's butt! As with the first book, Ruth's writing style is excellent. Her conversations flow nicely and come across with a realistic feel. You really get to know the characters and who they are and why they are the way they are. After reading the two negative reviews left on this book I have to say that if you like your Christian Romance books to be all peaches and cream then no, this book is not for you. But if you like a book that is realistic (we are all sinners) and presents an excellent story of conversion then you will enjoy this book. I found the wedding night to be very realistic based on the plot and the type of person the hero was at that time. And I didnt' feel it crossed the line in any way. ***** REVEAL: The hero at the time of his wedding night was an egotistical creton that thought it was okay for a man to have lived a life of promiscuity but when he takes a wife she must be a virgin. And the heroine was a terrified innocent that was taken advantage of in a previous relationship by an unscrupuous man.