When Lady Charlotte Engles receives an offer of marriage from an eligible suitor, she’s finally ready to let go of her long-held hope that her engagement to Lord Valentinian Shaw will result in marriage. For despite the betrothal their families made between them, Val shows no interest in leaving his reckless life behind in favor of one with Charlotte. But when her plea to end their arrangement ends in a heated embrace, suddenly Val seems reluctant to let her go . . .
The last thing Val wants is a wife, despite how desirous his lovely bride-to-be has become. But when he discovers sweet Charlotte is planning to marry a dastardly man, he feels duty bound to keep her safe, even if that means making good on his marriage pledge. Then Charlotte is taken hostage by her dangerous suitor and suddenly Val is ready to risk everything for the woman who has won his heart . . .
“Lynne Connolly writes Georgian romances with a deft touch. Her characters amuse, entertain and reach into your heart.” —Desiree Holt
“Plots, deviousness and passion galore…a truly enjoyable read.” –Fresh Fiction on Temptation Has Green Eyes
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Charlotte spared her betrothed a glance but took care not to linger. People might notice her looking. Val was talking animatedly to a group of friends, standing at the rear of the garden. As if he felt her regard, he turned his attention to her and returned her look, the corner of his mouth tilting so slightly she wasn't sure she'd seen it.
Then he returned his attention to his friends.
Of course he did, because that was what he always did. Indeed, why should he not? They might be affianced, but their attachment was not a romantic one. At least, it was not supposed to be.
Lord Valentinian Shaw and Lady Charlotte Engles had entered into an arranged marriage, brokered by their parents. What was so unusual about that?
Only the secret Charlotte held closely to her heart. Fortunately she had practiced at hiding her emotions, so only she knew the truth.
Charlotte gave the lady chatting to her a broad smile, not at all sure what she was talking about. Lady Duckworth had the proud reputation of boring for England, as Val had said once, but she meant well. Fortunately, all she required was an audience. Responses were optional.
She shuffled her toe in the gravel but kept the smile in place, listening to Lady Duckworth's conversation long enough to agree with her proposition that all satirical poets should be forced to debate their absurd propositions. Then she returned to her private thoughts.
She should be grateful for the brilliant match her father had contrived. People kept telling her, therefore it must be true. When Val had asked her to marry him, he'd done it formally, with a kiss on the back of her hand when she duly accepted. The betrothal was perfectly conventional. Nobody had asked for Charlotte's opinion. If they had, she might have begged for him. She had fallen deeply in love with her betrothed.
Her guilty secret accompanied her everywhere. She had agreed to the proposal as a way of getting away from her home, a way her father had agreed upon, but once she'd met Val, her opinions had changed. She wanted Lord Valentinian Shaw so badly, she'd even become his respectable companion while he roistered and scandalized society. She had continued with the arrangement as a way of providing a new home for herself and her sister, but after an inordinately long betrothal, she was forced to think again. She had to get away from her father's house and provide a place for herself and her younger sister.
A masculine voice broke into her thoughts. "Lady Charlotte."
She tilted her head, which would have meant she was staring directly into the sun, but someone was shielding her from it. The sun blazed on either side of him, leaving the man in darkness, as if he were a visitor from the heavens.
After bowing over Lady Duckworth's hand, the man begged her to grant him the favor of allowing him a few moments of her company.
Charming, elegant and smooth, Lord Kellett had shown her flattering attention of late, but Charlotte found him less daunting, more approachable than her future husband. He listened to her conversation, he sought her company at balls, and if she had not been spoken for, she would have given him even more attention. However, he had never stepped over the rules of propriety. He behaved to her like a friend, as he was doing now.
Having seen Lady Duckworth to another group of people she could bore, Lord Kellett offered his arm. Charlotte took it with a smile.
"You should smile more often," he said. "It suits you." He led her on a gentle stroll across the width of the terrace and then down the stairs at the end. The stone staircase led to the main part of the garden.
Rosebushes massed in pleasing abundance, trained well away from the paths. The fragrance surrounded them, perhaps a little too sweet for Charlotte's taste, but the effect was heavenly. "Whoever the gardener is, he deserves a medal for pruning the bushes so carefully."
Lord Kellett didn't sound interested, but Charlotte plowed on. "Sometimes negotiating a rose garden is more like fighting through a thicket."
He frowned, but gave her no response.
Charlotte sighed. "Never mind."
"You have a droll sense of humor, my lady," he said then, and laughed.
She hadn't meant her comment humorously. The gardener really had considered the width of ladies' hoops and taken the full skirts of a gentleman's coat into consideration too. The thorns did not discommode her wide skirts at all.
"Thank you." She consoled herself with the knowledge that he meant well.
They moved along the path that led to the next part of the garden, still well in view of the house. Her aunt, who acted as her chaperone, was somewhere indoors, so Charlotte had relative freedom. One would have thought that at her age her father would have allowed her more discretion, but they did not. Not many people had a father like hers, though. They should thank heaven every day for that.
Charlotte could relax and allow his lordship to take her for a little perambulation around the lovely gardens attached to this equally gracious London house.
The house belonged to her betrothed's family, and if she married him, she would live here, or Val might even lease an establishment of their own. The Shaws were a large family, sprawling, noisy and somewhat uncontrolled — all things her father detested. But he had agreed to the betrothal, because few people ever denied the Shaws anything.
Frankly, the family of the Marquess of Strenshall, and the extended family known in society as the Emperors of London, unnerved Charlotte, but she could hide behind her proper mask and smile and nod. She was perfectly aware that people thought she was dull, but she had little choice. So she smiled and nodded, just like always as Lord Kellett asked her about her favorite pieces of music, and the uncomfortably warm spring weather.
Charlotte was tempted to tip her head back and hold her face up to the sun. However, that would dislodge her hat and draw attention to her. She refrained, as she always did, from succumbing to temptation.
"I find the Italian operas somewhat too dramatic for my taste," she confessed.
"Indeed, ma'am? I must introduce you to the great Sodrendo. His tone is divine."
"A good countertenor is a marvelous thing." Not that Sodrendo was a great countertenor. He sounded as if he was imitating the pure tone of the greats. The passion for the high-toned male voice had led to much mutilation of young boys and a few men who had remained intact but could sing in the higher range. For Sodrendo's sake, Charlotte prayed he hadn't sacrificed his manhood for an inferior voice. However, she wouldn't dream of saying that out loud.
"Indeed, sir. I will ask Lord Valentinian to escort me and my chaperone one night."
"Now that," he said softly, "is what I would particularly like to talk to you about."
With a swift left turn, he rounded a hedge and kept going, taking her to a small building at the end of the path. Nobody could see them if they entered. Greatly daring, Charlotte allowed Lord Kellett to take her between the twisted columns into the cool space within.
He escorted her to one of the hard wooden benches lining the white-painted walls, and she sat, her smile fixed in place. He sat next to her, as close as he could get, gazing at her.
He glanced down and then back up at her face. A small crease marked his smooth forehead. "Lady Charlotte, I find you charming and a delightful companion."
If she didn't know better, she'd think he was making a declaration. However, he could not intend that. "Thank you, sir. I confess, it is delightfully cool in here. How clever of you to find it." She laid her fan on the seat next to her and folded her hands in her lap. "The garden is beautiful from this aspect."
He barely spared the vista a glance. "I prefer the view from where I am sitting."
"Sir —" She got no further.
"Madam, my lady ... Charlotte. I have done my best to quell my feelings for you. But I can bear no more."
He paused, seemingly at a loss for words, catching his bottom lip between his teeth. Although his words made her uncomfortable, Charlotte stayed to listen. "Lord Kellett ..." She laid a gentle hand over his, which proved a mistake, because he captured it in both of his.
"Hervey, please call me Hervey, at least in private."
She should not, but she'd do it to pacify him. "Hervey, then. You are aware I am betrothed?"
"Yes, and I am also aware that I am transgressing, not only with you, but with the hospitality of Lord Strenshall and his family."
She nodded. Being in their house, he most certainly was.
"I cannot hold my emotions back any longer. Lady Charlotte, why do you allow Lord Valentinian to treat you so?"
Now it was her turn to frown. What on earth did he mean? "He treats me with respect."
"I would not say so!" He spoke with such passion that she moved back. However, he did not let go of her hands. "He treats you with a great deal of carelessness. He is happy merely to have you in his sights, although he makes no move to further his connection with you."
"We like one another well enough, but we prefer not to live in one another's pocket." Wistfulness infused her. She would like to know what that felt like, to have a man devoted to her, one who could not wait to marry her. Val had enjoyed a number of mistresses. She had no idea if he had one now. The thought did not sit well with her, but she would have to endure many such once they married.
Her mother had tolerated many before her death, but her father kept his women carefully closeted. There was never any scandal. He never used a society lady and he paid off his mistresses with enough of an annuity to keep their mouths shut. Charlotte only knew because she'd heard her brother talking about it with a friend. "My father has to pay for his pleasures because of his proclivities," George had said with a sigh. George sent abroad for that transgression, to tour Europe with his tutor. Not that it proved any punishment, because he was soon setting Versailles on its ear.
"You have been betrothed for an age," Hervey gently pointed out.
As if she needed reminding.
"Two years," she said, setting her jaw. In all that time Val had treated her more like one of his sisters than his betrothed, and he had never broached the subject of setting a date for their wedding.
"Will Lord Valentinian not come to the mark? Because if he will not, there are plenty of people who will."
Was he speaking to her as a friend? He was caressing her palm with his thumb, which she found distracting. She wasn't at all sure she liked it. His gesture made her want to scratch her hand. "I haven't noticed a preponderance of men flocking to my door."
"You only need one. May I be frank, Charlotte?" She allowed the use of her first name. Intrigued, she nodded.
"My dear, I have become very fond of you. More than fond, if truth be told."
"We have only been acquainted for three months."
"I only needed an hour." His fervent voice echoed around the hushed space, bouncing off the roof and back to her. "I have tried to remain silent, but I can do so no longer. I adore you, Charlotte, and I would love nothing more than to offer you my hand and protection in marriage."
Shocked, she stared at him. Was he truly saying this? She'd had no idea he felt so strongly toward her. His blue eyes were wide and his mouth partially open, even though he had stopped speaking, revealing the gleam of sharp, white teeth. "I can say nothing, you know that." What else could she say? The experience of having a man wildly in love with her had never come her way before, and she floundered, not knowing how to respond.
She found his fervency somewhat alarming, but all the same it fascinated her. "How can you possibly know you want me?" She bit her lip, wetting the suddenly dry, delicate skin.
"I know, dearest Charlotte. Believe me, I know. Is there any way our love can be fulfilled, or are we doomed to watch each other from afar?" He lifted her hand to his lips and kissed it, letting his tongue dip between her knuckles with a flicker she wasn't sure of until she saw the flash of pink that went with his gesture. He had tasted her.
Charlotte knew her duty. "We cannot, sir. I have always been obedient, never gone against what my father wished ..." Indeed, how could she? Unlike her sister, who she had not seen in over a year, the sister she was forbidden to talk about. A tinge of sorrow touched her when she recalled Sarah, her laughing face and the daring ways that had eventually led to her downfall.
"You are a good and obedient daughter," he said in an approving tone. "I have spoken to your father, told him how irresistible I find you."
Charlotte quailed. "Did he not forbid you?"
"Not precisely. He reminded me of your contract to Lord Shaw, but he gave me permission to speak to you. However, he said the choice must be yours. You must speak to him yourself."
Her father was actually amenable to this change?
"Will you not ask your father on our behalf? Surely he does not wish to see his daughter dwindle into an old maid while her betrothed gads about with not a care to his responsibilities?"
Should he be talking about Val like that in front of her? But he had cause. However, honor demanded that she remind him of the proprieties.
A bee buzzed by her nose, circling her, probably after the roses in her hat. It was doomed to disappointment, since they were made of silk. "Sir, Lord Valentinian and I are considering our wedding date." They weren't, but it didn't hurt to say so.
With his free hand, he made a grand dismissive gesture worthy of an actor. "Pah! Lord Valentinian is deferring his wedding for all he is worth. If I thought there was true feeling between you, that you were devoted to each other, I would never dare speak, but that is not the case, is it, dearest Charlotte? I can make you happy. I swear I can. I will devote my life to you and consider it well lost!"
His fervency spoke volumes. Had he really lost his heart to her? Did she dare to believe that she, dowdy, quiet Charlotte, had engendered passion in a man?
More importantly, his estate assured Charlotte that he was no fortune hunter. The fervency of his declaration and the suddenness with which he made it could have made her suspicious. Society took her for granted, gave proper due to her status as the daughter of a duke, but nobody took much notice of her.
Or did he want a wife with status? Lord Kellett was a peer in his own right and possessed of considerable wealth. So no, he would not need her standing in society or her fortune, which, for a duke's daughter, was relatively modest.
He had brought her here for a private conversation, but he could easily have chosen this place to compromise her and force her decision. If she'd thought he'd have any degree of success, she would never have accompanied him to this secluded spot.
Charlotte was no naive society miss with feathers for brains. Moreover, if he sought to compromise her, this was not the house for it. The Shaws had their own scandals, most of which society forgave, because the Emperors were society's darlings. She stared at Hervey, a million different thoughts sparking in her head.
Had he really lost his heart to her? That would make a refreshing change. She'd waited a year to see if Val would see her as more than a convenient excuse. When they had become betrothed he'd been frank, asking her to allow him some freedom before pressing him for a wedding date. He'd proceeded to use her as a useful way of dissuading the more importunate matchmakers who clustered around the Shaw family every season.
Charlotte had allowed it. In the back of her mind, she'd waited for him to fall in love with her, or at least show her some affection, but he still treated her with the same careless but polite indifference he used with everyone else he knew.
Hervey was handsome and passionate. She was sure she could come to love him in time. He would be hers, devoted to her. Moreover, she did not feel the same despairing love for him. She liked him well enough, in a way that could, she imagined, easily turn to love as time passed.
Yes, she would do it, on one condition. "Would you offer my sister a home?"
He gave her a quizzical look but nodded after a moment.
"I would be honored to do so, should she be in need of one."
That was the answer she needed. Resolution took her. She could not continue as she was, with her sister and herself under their father's thumb and with no prospect of actual marriage to Val. She had to move on with her life. If possible, she would take this man.
Ever since he had appeared in London at the start of the season, Hervey had paid her particular attention, so his regard, while premature, was not totally unexpected.
He clasped her hands, tightening his hold. "Please, my dearest one, give me an answer. If not now, tell me when you will be free. If you tell me to leave, I will never mention this again!"
"You had better not," a voice drawled from the doorway.(Continues…)
Excerpted from "Fearless"
Copyright © 2017 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.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
The H was alpha male and the h was humble. The story kept my attention and was believable to me. The romance was later in the story and descriptive in places. Good read.
I had read SINLESS, book #2 of The Shaws, prior to FEARLESS, and I needed to read Valentinian Shaw’s story – Darius’ twin. I knew this would be an interesting read, as the family of the Marquess of Strenshall – The Emperors of London – is particular. But nothing had prepared me for what an extraordinary book this is. Unbridled passion, loyalty, drama; this is not fluff, this is the real thing! A fabulous debut to what will be an extraordinary series!
I really enjoyed this story! When Val finally put some effort into knowing Charlotte, he could deny his attraction to her. I really liked Charlotte! She finally gave up her dream of marrying Val when she couldn't deny that he didn't seem to ever want to get married. She planned to move on and find someone that had the same dreams that she did. Good for her! I'm just glad that Val finally saw what he was going to give up if he broke the betrothal! I loved watching these two together! I'm really looking forward to reading the next book in The Shaws series!
'Fearless' by Lynne Connolly is The First Book in a New Series called "The Shaws". This is the story of Lady Charlotte Engles and Lord Valentinian Shaw. Charlotte and Val have been engaged for a few years. Charlotte has come to the conclusion that he won't every marry her as he never wants to set a date. But Charlotte has been under and overbearing father and her youngest sister that she feels needs protection, Charlotte goes to Val to see about calling their engagement off. They shared a kiss and when Val learns who wants to marry her he knows he can't let Charlotte fall victim to this man. But can he work out his feelings? Loved it! "My honest review is for a special copy I voluntarily read."
Lord Valentinian Shaw was betrothed to Lady Charlotte Engles and had been for two years. His family was called the Emperors because they had so much power. Charlotte's father was a very strict duke. The evil men do sometimes.. The descriptions were at times distressing, like Lord Kellett, when he went to the house of Correction. The characters seemed to be very realistic. I enjoyed Darius, he was gay and had to be careful because at the time it meant death, but he was such a kind and dangerous man and loved his family, deeply. There are a lot of twists to this plot. It amazes me how the author was able to keep track of the story and have a cohesive, even paced and easy to read book. I received this book from Net Galley and voluntarily reviewed.
Not your typical love story but perhaps more true to life than many historical novels. This is dark and at times gritty with hints at abuse, caning, BDSM and more. Charlotte Engles has been betrothed to Valentinian Shaw for two years when Hervey Kellett comes to her and asks her to break off with Val and marry him instead. With her older sister gone, her younger sister in need of a safe haven and no surety that Val will ever actually marry her she considers Hervey’s potential BUT asks for one kiss from Val before they break things off. Well, who knew that one kiss might mean that the betrothal would not be called off after all…especially as more light is gradually shed on Hervey’s proclivities. I have not read “The Emperors of London” series but imagine that it must be excellent from what I have seen online and especially so based on this book. This book is not for the faint of heart…but it is definitely worth reading. I admired Charlotte’s strength and love for her sisters. I found the Shaw family’s support, acceptance of all members a joy to behold. I fell in love with Val. This book made me thankful I did not live in the era. Women were “owned” by their fathers and then their husbands, a simple law broken could see a person publicly executed or transported, and things were definitely more difficult than they are now. This book made me think and care and desire to read more books in this series when they are published and also search out other books by this author. Thank you to NetGalley and Kensington Books – Lyrical Press for the ARC – This is my honest review.
I really enjoyed this book. Highly recommend it