Miss Miranda is not really a Miss, exactly. Nor is her name Miranda, exactly. But to escape her tyrannical duke of a father, changes were required. Now in the Scottish countryside, employed by her new brother-in-law’s unsuspecting friend, Heathcliff Marston, Viscount Kilpatrick, Miranda feels safe—except for the danger of falling in love. And the Viscount’s broad shoulders and seductive brogue are no help at all. Certainly, a peer of the realm would never entertain a dalliance with the help . . . And definitely not kiss the help . . . Except this Viscount isn’t a typical peer of the realm . . .
Between managing Temptations and his newly acquired ward, the last thing Heathcliff needs is investigators inexplicably hounding him about the whereabouts of some duke’s runaway daughter. At least he’s secured a governess—no doubt a sour woman. Or so he expects, until he meets intriguing Miranda. Now Heathcliff is the one faced with temptation. But there’s more to lovely Miranda than meets the eye—a truth that could change the course of all their futures . . .
Praise for Kristin Vayden’s Heart of a Cowboy
“Obsessed. That’s how I felt while reading this book, like every page was better than the previous. Just try to put this down, I dare you.”
—#1 New York Times bestselling author Rachel Van Dyken
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Edinburgh, ScotlandTwo days later
Miranda took a deep, calming breath through her nose before releasing it slowly and forcing a calm demeanor. The footman extended his hand, offering his assistance from the carriage, and with a resolute step forward, she accepted.
Her eyes were drawn to the large manor before her. Gray stone rose high above the courtyard, with beautifully trimmed boxwoods that made her immediately homesick for London. Stepping from the carriage, her foot crunched along the gravel. She released the footman's hand, and met the curious gaze of the elderly woman beside the door. Her back arched in a perfect posture that bespoke some English training. Miranda was drawn to her inviting smile, which was decidedly Scottish, not distant like most proper English servants.
"A pleasure, Miss Miranda." The woman nodded kindly and stepped forward. "I'm the housekeeper, Mrs. Keyes. We're quite delighted to have you on staff here at Kilmarin; you'll be a blessin' for sure." A slight brogue leaked through the crisp accent.
Miranda nodded kindly, her mind whirling as to how to act like a governess when she had been raised the daughter of a duke. She gave a slight curtsey. "It's a pleasure to be of assistance. Is the young lady I'm to educate in residence or still en route?"
Mrs. Keyes gave another smile, and a measure of Miranda's tension melted. "She's is most certainly in residence, Miss Miranda."
Miranda wasn't sure how her words were intended, but a shiver of foreboding trailed up her spine. Perhaps this wouldn't be as easy as her sister, Liliah, had led her to believe.
Even as she thought of Liliah, her heart pinched with sorrow. How she missed her, and it hadn't even been a fortnight! She quickly reminded herself that she would soon see her once again. As a newlywed, her sister surely deserved a measure of privacy.
A blush heated her face at the thought, but she pressed it to the back of her mind and focused on the task at hand
Being someone she was not — but that shouldn't be too much of a problem. Hadn't she done that most of her life?
"If you'll follow me, Miss Miranda, I'll show you to your room and give you some time to freshen up before dinner." Mrs. Keyes signaled a footman with an efficient twist of her wrist, and Miranda followed the woman as she ambled up the marble stairs.
Mrs. Keyes nodded to the butler at the door. "Sothers, this is Miss Miranda. She is to be Miss Iris's governess."
The butler nodded his salt-and-pepper head and murmured a soft welcome.
Miranda curtseyed to him as well.
Her gaze lingered on the foyer. The flagstone tiles were a rich green color, one she would have associated with Ireland rather than Scotland, yet the color somehow fit. A coat of arms decorated a wall, along with an ancient-looking suit of armor. She eyed the sword dubiously, hoping it was anchored well to its position.
"Yes, Lord Kilpatrick keeps that old decrepit thing in the foyer. We've all done our best to encourage him to move it elsewhere, but it belonged to his grandfather, then his father, both of whom kept it in that very spot. A tragedy, if you ask me. So many other things would be far more welcomin' for guests. Not tha' we get them so often." She shrugged and moved on.
Miranda bit her cheek to keep from grinning. Scotland was quite different from England; either that or servants spoke to other servants vastly differently from their betters. She had a suspicion it was the latter.
Even though it was acutely awkward to bypass the private quarters and follow Mrs. Keyes into the section of the house dedicated to the nursery, she reminded herself that this place was safe.
It was strange how such a small word would mean so much.
As Mrs. Keyes opened the door, sunshine beamed through wide windows. Several tables were strategically positioned on the wooden floor, with several shelves of books lining the walls in between the windows. Miranda stepped into the room, her gaze taking in the vast view of the gardens that appeared to be behind Kilmarin. Green hills rolled in the distance, creating a picturesque scene before her. Hedgerows lined the gardens and stone archways led away from the middle courtyard into smaller ones, a fountain in the middle of it all.
"It's majestic, is it not? Of course, I'm partial to the manor because I've been here since the master was in leading strings. But if I do say so myself, it's stately enough." Mrs. Keyes chimed in as she stood beside Miranda.
"It's lovely," Miranda agreed. "And the sky." She blinked at the azure blue that seemed to be so much brighter than in London.
"Ach, that's right. You're from London. It's a bit brighter here. Not always; we get our share of the rain, bein' so close to the sea. But at least you're not downtown Edinburgh. It's more of the smoke you're accustomed to. Though we're only a mile out, it's a bit fresher — yet you can still taste the sea." She gave a carefree shrug of her shoulders.
Miranda inhaled through her parted lips, smiling as the tang of the sea teased her tongue, reminding her of the times when the wind blew from the sea into the City. "I do love the sea."
"I'm sure Miss Iris will love an excursion or two." Mrs. Keyes remarked, then stepped back away from the window. "Speaking of Miss Iris, you'll be meeting her at dinner, and because none of the family are in residence, I've taken the liberty of setting the family table for just the two of you. I'm not certain how you'd prefer to take your supper, but being just the two of you, I figured you'd not want to eat alone."
"Thank you, I'm sure that is preferable," Miranda added, glancing to a nearby bookshelf.
"And do look over the volumes we have, then let me know if there's anything you're missing. Lord Kilpatrick wishes Miss Iris to have the best education possible, I'm sure you understand."
Miranda agreed. "I'm sure what you have here will suffice for a while, till I can ..." Miranda paused, thinking over how to actually teach what needed to be taught ... "Ascertain where the pupil stands in several subjects," she finished, feeling quite relieved at how she had handled the question. Tonight she would need to look over all the books, and make notes on what she remembered from her own governess. It couldn't be that difficult, could it?
"Then I'll leave you to find a few moments of rest." Mrs. Keyes nodded and turned, but Miranda could have sworn she whispered, "You'll certainly need it."
Before Miranda could question her, she gestured to an open door. "If you'll follow me, I'll show you to your room."
Miranda paused, but didn't remark on the housekeeper's words. She followed the woman's mobcap into the next room.
"Again, if there's anything you're needing, please notify me at once." Mrs. Keyes gestured to the room.
A small writing desk was beside a tall, stately window that overlooked another aspect of the gardens. A pitcher with water rested upon the large dresser, and a dressing table boasted a small mirror. By governess standards, it was quite impressive.
By a lady's standards, it was underwhelming.
A small bed rested in the middle of the room, and immediately, Miranda missed her feather bed, and the warming pan that would heat the sheets before she snuggled in deep, listening to the crackling fire.
She glanced to the opposite end of the room, and relaxed slightly at the sight of the larger hearth. At least she wouldn't be cold — even if it was still summer.
She had heard about Scottish winters, and she hadn't a clue how long she'd be in residence.
A delicate shiver ran up her spine.
Belatedly, she realized Mrs. Keyes was awaiting some sort of response to the room.
"Thank you, I'm sure it's more than adequate," Miranda replied, keeping close to the truth so she wouldn't have to remember a lie.
"Lovely." Mrs. Keyes beamed. "I'll send Maye up to fetch you when dinner's ready. We keep country hours, even if we are close to town." And with a warm nod, Mrs. Keyes quit the room, leaving Miranda to her thoughts.
At the housekeeper's departure, Miranda sighed in the most unladylike fashion, quite reminding her of her sister's antics on multiple occasions. And once again, a pang of homesickness waved through her.
But she wouldn't dwell on what she had left behind.
She glanced to the door, seeing the footman had deposited her belongings on the floor.
As she studied the parcels and bags, she noted she had never once unpacked her own things.
A maid always assisted — with everything.
But now, she was the help. She glanced at her two hands, which had only seen delicate needlepoint and piano study, and wondered if they were capable of more.
If perhaps she were capable of more.
She wanted to be.
Which was a good thing, because she was going to have plenty of opportunity to test her strength, inside and out.
And maybe, just maybe — she'd discover she was stronger than she thought.
That maybe, just maybe — she was more like her sister than not.
She certainly hoped so.CHAPTER 2
"For the last time, I've never met this Samantha before, nor am I associated with the Duke of Chatterworth!" Heathcliff Marston, Viscount Kilpatrick, was about to lose the last of his patience as he studied the men before him, drinking his brandy and lounging about in his study.
"We have reason to believe —"
"And I have appointments and other responsibilities!" he all but shouted. He took a small sip of brandy, using it as a buffer between his anger and the men provoking it.
They exchanged a glance, the kind that said we're going in circles here, and then the older one rose from his chair.
Heathcliff almost wept in relief but kept his gaze hardened and trained on the interlopers.
"You'll be in contact if you hear anything." The man set his calling card on Heathcliff's desk. He noted the question wasn't exactly that; it was a demand.
Heathcliff wanted to take the card and toss it into the fire, then pour brandy over the flames just to make the point more spectacular, but working with Lucas and Ramsey had taught him to temper his, well ... temper, and he suppressed his somewhat barbaric reactions.
Most of the time.
And this was, regrettably, one of the times he suppressed his baser reactions.
"Of course," he lied smoothly, watching as the younger gentleman, probably in training, followed the older man to the study door.
"We can see ourselves out."
Heathcliff withheld a grin at the sudden appearance of Wilkes, his longtime butler, at the door. "If I may, gentleman?" he offered.
Damn butler was worth his weight in brandy. French brandy.
Heathcliff gave an approving nod to Wilkes as he led the men from the study to the front door.
Good riddance. Bloody blooming hell. That was the third time in the past fortnight the investigators had come knocking at his door. The first time had caused him to miss the introduction to the governess for his newly acquired ward.
Though that particular instance wasn't exactly a hardship. He wasn't looking forward to meeting a sour woman who educated other high- maintenance women for a living. Regardless of how highly recommended she came, he had no desire to meet her. He simply wanted her to do her job well.
Lord willing, if she was as good as Lucas, the eighth Earl of Heightfield, his best friend and business partner had suggested, soon he'd be marrying off his bloody ward to the first man who showed the slightest bit of interest in her. Then he could be finished with the whole bloody lot of them, and go back to his bachelor ways.
Not that he had any intention of quitting his bachelor ways in the interim, but he did have to be moderately careful — wouldn't want his reputation to sully his ward's. Then he'd never be rid of her!
The fire crackled and sparked, bringing his attention back to the moment. He bloody had to stay in residence for at least another week to allay suspicion. Damn, Lucas owed him.
Not only was he covering for his friend's hasty marriage, but he was also dodging the duke's private investigators. Heathcliff couldn't suppress a grin at the memory of the last few weeks' events. In fact, he felt a smug satisfaction in knowing his friend's future before his friend did. It didn't take a scholar to know that Lucas was utterly undone by Lady Liliah Durary. Of course, his friend wasn't willing to admit the truth till it had been almost too late. But all was right in the world now, minus the fact that the duke had never approved of Lucas's secretive marriage to his daughter. This was truly a case of knowing the right people and having the right leverage.
There weren't many who would risk the ire of a duke, but when you had the right dirt on the right people, the reward far outweighed the risk. And in their line of business, secrets were their currency.
And they were wealthy in that specific currency, wealthy indeed.
Heathcliff's thoughts drifted to their business, and he set down his glass and shifted the papers across his desk till he found the one he needed. He, Ramsey Scott, the Marquess of Sterling, and Lucas Mayfield, the eighth Earl of Heightfield, operated the most secretive, selective, and seductive club in all of London. Temptations was the brilliant idea of Lucas, but as Lucas was currently on his honeymoon, the operation of the club fell to him and Ramsey. It was almost the end of the Season, and the final masquerade loomed on the horizon. It was a large, heavily attended event by most, if not all, of the exclusive members and their ... invitees. Heathcliff smirked. Courtesans, mistresses, strumpets would be better terminology, but he wasn't one to judge. Rather, he was only concerned with their ability to pay for membership and gamble at the tables. With whom they spent their time was none of his concern. The masquerades seemed to bring out more of the demimonde than the regular events, which seemed to spawn a heightened flair to the parties. He was certain this last event would be no different.
He made a note to check whether the Duke of Chatterworth — Lucas's unwilling father-in-law — planned to attend. That could be problematic, but Heathcliff didn't suspect he'd show his face in his new son-in-law's den of iniquity, even if his son-in-law was astoundingly monklike before his marriage.
The irony was thick amongst them all.
"My lord?" Wilkes bowed as he entered the study.
Heathcliff nodded once.
"Lord Sterling is here to see you." Wilkes waited expectantly.
Heathcliff waved his hand. "Show him in, of course."
"About bloody time." Ramsey strode in, giving an annoyed glance to Wilkes, who ignored the slight, bowed, and left the gentlemen alone.
As the door closed, Ramsey turned to Heathcliff. "I suppose you've been interrogated as well? What was he thinking? Does he know the depths of the scandal involved here? A duke's daughter!" Ramsey tugged on his cravat, then took a seat opposite Heathcliff.
"It will all blow over soon enough," Heathcliff remarked calmly, quite accustomed to Ramsey's aversion to scandal of any sort.
"Twice! Bloody investigators have been in to see me twice."
"I only just excused them, yet again. I've lost track. This was either three or four times," Heathcliff remarked, then stood from his desk, lifted his glass, and raised an eyebrow of inquiry to Ramsey.
"Thank you." Ramsey accepted the invitation.
Heathcliff poured a generous portion into a clean glass for his friend and refreshed his own brandy. As he handed the amber liquid to Ramsey, he took a seat on the edge of his desk. "It could be worse." He took a sip.
"Enlighten me," Ramsey remarked dryly and sipped as well.
Heathcliff shrugged. "They only have suspicions. And I'd wager they already know Lady Liliah Durary is now the Countess of Heightfield and are only looking for more information. What's done is done."
"True, but what of the other daughter?" Ramsey asked stiffly. "She is still in question."
"I know nothing of her. So I'm not helpful in the least."
Ramsey nodded. "I heard something about America, but who's to say? Still, it makes me nervous. A little too close for comfort. I always knew Lucas would create a scandal."
Heathcliff chuckled. "Ramsey, we are scandal. The three of us! Think upon our reputations! Not even the current ones, but the rumors that surrounded our descent into hell," he remarked, standing up. "What redemption is left for us? None."
Ramsey twisted his lips, then adjusted his spectacles. "Indeed. Regardless of what truly occurred, our reputations do precede us."
"And we've used it to the best advantage possible."
"Very well, you've made your point."
"Thank you." Heathcliff lifted his glass to salute his friend.(Continues…)
Excerpted from "Escaping His Grace"
Copyright © 2019 Kristin Vayden.
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.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
This is the second book in this series and just as enjoyable as the first one. I guess you can read it as a standalone since the author does a fairly good job of explaining who is who, but you will get so much more from the story if you read the first book to know how everything came to be and you will not regret it since I loved that story too. In this book we have Samantha who is going by Miranda and is working as a governess for Heathcliffe and working with his new ward Iris. I liked Iris she was spunky and as Samantha kept thinking reminder her so much of Lila (first book). When Heathcliffe finds out who she really is he is upset since he is really attracted to her and already kissed her and was planning to do so much more, but now knowing who she is changes everything since he is not thinking of marriage, he has been there and regretted it and now does not see himself as worthy of Sam. The story was fun my friends so grab a copy and Enjoy! Loved reading of Lila and Lucas, and can't wait for the next one with Iris.
I really enjoyed this story. Samantha is hiding secrets including going by the name Miranda. She becomes a governess for Heathcliff’s ward. Heathcliff has had a rough past and has trust issues. But the chemistry is strong between them and love conquers all.
Escaping His Grace by Kristin Vayden Gentlemen of Temptation #2 In book two of the series we find Lilah’s younger sister on her way to Scotland to be governess to Iris, Heathcliff Marston’s ward. She is a lady masquerading as a governess and wants to be free from her father so has taken the chance her sister’s husband offered to help out his friend and finds herself teaching dancing lessons and comportment and such to a young woman soon to make her debut into society. Heathcliff and the governess Miranda/Samantha do a bit of a dance as he thinks a dalliance might be fine with the hired help BUT when he finds she is a lady his mind begins to think otherwise...though hiss body does not. He has had one dipping of the toe into marriage and has no desire for another. This is a somewhat predictable story without too much of a ruckus occurring and a straightforward romance with a HEA. Did I enjoy the story? Yes Would I like to read more in the series? Yes Thank you to NetGalley and Kensington-Lyrical Press for the ARC – This is my honest review. 3-4 Stars
A story of a hidden identity to escape a tyrant of a father, that weaves a tangled tale! Samantha has escaped her father and ends up hiding under the name of Miranda, becoming a governess.. Her new brother in law has found her a position in the home of his best friend, Heathcliff ( yes I do love that name!). Iris is the ward of Heathcliff and she is suppose to get her ready for her come out. Heathcliff has endured one tragedy after another, the last being his cheating wife and stillborn child. He tries to stay out of the spotlight and runs an exclusive gaming hell. But when he arrives home thinking the new governess will be an old curmudgeon, imagine his surprise when he finds Sam/Miranda? A beautiful lady who he cannot help but be attracted to! But the adventure begins when he finds out who she is and that she is being hunted down by investigators hired by her father! Another lying woman! A delightful story that runs through the gamut of emotions and takes you on a page turning read. I read the first book in this series which was just as good but this can be read as a standalone. But trust me, you will want to read this one too!! I read this through NetGallery. Lori Dykes
I loved Miranda (Samantha) and Heathcliff's story!! Miranda has been sent to Scotland by her sister to make sure that she is safe from her father's plans to marry her off for his gain. She ends up at the home of Heathcliff who needs a governess for his ward. She didn't plan for for for her employer. Heathcliff is shocked by his reaction to the new governess. After a disastrous first marriage, he has no plans to marry again. But the temptation of Miranda, might be enough to change his mind. Only she wants a marriage based on love and he doesn't know if he is capable of loving again. Can they get their HEA? Loved this story and have been looking forward to it since I read the first book in the series. Vayden did not disappoint! The attraction between the two was there from the start. Heathcliff didn't think he could give Miranda what she needed, so he was determined to stay away from her, but things out of their control changed all that. :) I've loved both books in this series and can't wait for the next one, which comes out in April!!
Masquerade. An enjoyable story with likeable characters, that made me want to read both the previous and next book in the series. To escape her father, Samantha’s new brother-in-law finds her a position in the Scottish household of his best friend. However in order that Samantha’s new identity and location is not inadvertently given away to her father’s investigators he doesn’t tell Heathcliff the truth whilst he is residing in London. Therefore when he returns to Scotland and first meets and is attracted to “Miss Miranda” he is not aware of her social standing as Lady Samantha, younger daughter of the Duke of Chatterworth. Once he knows the truth he pulls away, knowing he is not worthy of her but he finds her temptations difficult to resist. What I disliked was the use of American words such as fall, if a book is set in England and all the characters are English, I find this jarring and it interrupts my reading flow. At least there were only a few typos (these may have been addressed in the final copy). I voluntarily read and reviewed an advanced copy of this book from NetGalley. All thoughts and opinions are my own.