Long before I wrote my sexy paranormal romances, I wrote traditional Regency romances as Debbie Raleigh. I’m delighted that three of my favorites are now available once more. Here is a trilogy about love, marriage, and the best laid plans . . .
After forty years of devoted service, Vicar Humbly is eager to retire to his pleasant cottage and tend to his garden. But before he can live in peace, he must salve his conscience by traveling to the homes of three couples who marriages have troubled him. Though he is a man of the cloth, Vicar Humbly knows that desire sometimes needs a little help from unexpected places . . . and that he may have to be less the Vicar, and more Cupid’s emissary . . .
A PROPER MARRIAGE
When free-spirited Adele Morrow finds herself living a dull existence as wife to a noted scholar, she secretly longs to be carried off by a dashing rogue who will drive her wild with desire. And her husband secretly misses the uninhibited beauty he’d proudly tamed. It seems that every proper marriage deserves a bit of impropriety . . .
A CONVENIENT MARRIAGE
Shy, awkward heiress Beatrice Chaswell is astonished when devastatingly handsome Gabriel Baxtor asks her to be his bride—until she discovers he married her for her money. That may be true, but Gabriel has discovered that his convenient wife is the woman of dreams. Now he must woo her all over again . . .
A SCANDALOUS MARRIAGE
Ravishing Victoria Mallory was lucky to find the perfect, gentlemanly fiancé—until a mix-up leaves her locked in a delicious midnight embrace—with another man. Now to avoid scandal she must wed a seductive rogue—one who is equally furious to find himself shackled. But when an intruder breaches their estate they must unite to avert peril—and discover a priceless love . . .
I’ve fallen in love with these timeless books all over again, and believe that you will too.
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About the Author
Read an Excerpt
It was generally conceded that Adam Stonewell Drake was a gentleman of great presence.
Standing nearly six feet, he possessed a thick mane of dark hair that was liberally winged with silver and unnerving gray eyes that could make the most brazen soul tremble with unease. His features were lean, almost austere in their beauty. And his large form had been chiseled to hard, uncompromising lines.
But it was not just his noble bearing or physical perfection that created an image of formidable power. He was also an intelligent, well-spoken gentleman who demanded precise order in his life. Heaven help anyone foolish enough to interfere in his rigid schedule.
Adam paid little heed to his ominous reputation.
It was true that he preferred a well-regulated household and maintained a detailed schedule of his daily activities. And certainly he possessed little patience with those fribbles who preferred to waste their days upon fashion and gossip. Such self-indulgence seemed to indicate a weak character. But he did not consider himself rigid or unyielding.
Or at least he had not until the past few weeks, he grimly acknowledged.
Pushing aside the schedule he had just completed, Adam sat back in his chair and laid his hands upon the polished desk.
He was seated in his library as he was every morning. There was a solid sense of security in the booklined walls and mahogany furnishings. And of course, it was here that he maintained his vast collection concerning military history that had been his passion since his days at Oxford. It was a passion that had led to his current position at the War Department, offering his expertise in war strategies.
This morning, however, his gaze did not fondly linger upon the rare leather-bound books or large maps of the Continent that were tidily rolled up on a polished table. Instead he brooded upon the icy tension that filled the London townhouse.
He had expected his life to alter somewhat when he married Adele Morrow. It was inevitable that both would be expected to make compromises and adjust to living within the same household. But while he had prepared himself to endure occasional disruptions and even the inevitable confrontation, he was caught off guard by the disturbing chill that had grown steadily more pronounced between himself and his bride.
Damnation, he silently cursed, a slender finger tapping a frustrated tattoo upon his desk.
It was growingly obvious that his expertise in war strategies had been of precious little help when plotting a strategy for marriage.
He had been so certain that it was imperative that he instruct Addy upon what he expected from his wife. Surely it was best to have the ground rules out in the open, he had smugly decided.
And so, he had lectured her upon the proper conduct of a young lady, going so far as to make a meticulous list of behaviors that would and would not be suitable. And he had even personally chosen her wardrobe to ensure the gowns would be suitable.
After all, she had been born into a notoriously scandalous family. Lord Morrow was a lecher and a drunkard who readily made a fool of himself among society. Lady Morrow was hardly better with her eccentric habit of painting nude young men in her own drawing room. Even her elder brother had managed to cause gossip when he had set up household with a married countess and her five children.
How could he not be concerned by the distasteful influence her upbringing must have had upon Addy?
Especially when their marriage was not based upon mutual affection, but instead had been arranged years before by their respective grandfathers?
Addy was a tempestuous beauty with an impulsive nature, which he had often rued. It would be all too easy for her to blunder into scandal without realizing the danger to their position in society. It only made sense to avert disaster before it was too late.
All very reasonable. Unfortunately he had miscalculated the effects of his well-intended efforts.
Addy had indeed become the very model of propriety. Her bold, dashing manner was now thoroughly subdued. She dressed modestly, her raven curls were painfully scraped into a knot and she rarely left the townhouse.
Precisely what he requested, but Adam could not deny that beneath the cool composure a deep resentment smoldered within Addy's heart. A resentment that kept a firm barrier between them and surprisingly sent uncomfortable prickles of guilt rushing through him.
Even more surprising, he discovered himself regretting the disturbing loss of Addy's infectious love for life. It was one thing to request she behave in a manner befitting her position and quite another to see her fading to a mere shadow before his very eyes.
At last a soft knock on the door brought an end to his dark thoughts. Glancing at the gilded clock on the mantel he realized that it was precisely nine o'clock, the hour he met with Addy each morning.
Although he suspected his wife considered their daily meeting rather like a reluctant child forced to confront an overbearing parent, he continued to insist she make an appearance.
It was not that he desired to create further ill will between them, he thought wearily. Heaven knew that he felt chilled to the bone when she was near. But perhaps absurdly he continued to hold the faint hope that they might eventually establish a closer relationship.
Addy was his wife. For better or worse they were stuck together. He did not believe he could endure fifty years of their armed truce.
Smoothing his expression to polite lines he watched Addy slip into the room and obediently move to settle in the chair across the desk from him. This morning she was attired in a dove gray gown with her hair ruthlessly pulled atop her head. Only the heavy gold bracelet that encircled her wrist added a dash of color, a bracelet that had been a gift from her wretched father. He smothered a sigh at the pallor of her lovely countenance and the unmistakable shadows beneath the midnight black eyes.
Gads, to look at her one would presume he beat her at least once a day.
"Good morning, Addy," he forced himself to murmur in cool tones. "I hope that you slept well?" She folded her hands in her lap and reluctantly met his gaze. "Quite well, thank you."
He studied how thin her countenance had become. "You appear somewhat pale. I hope that you have not caught a chill? The weather has been very unpredictable this spring."
She shrugged aside his concern. "My constitution has always been quite sturdy. 'Tis certain a few showers are not enough to make me ill."
He smiled with rueful humor. "Yes, I recall how you used to love walking in the rain. Usually barefoot with your hair hanging down your back."
"I was very much the hoyden when I was young," she retorted stiffly, as if presuming he were somehow censuring her youthful exuberance. "I assure you I no longer run through the rain with or without my shoes."
Adam's smile faltered. Blast it all. What did he have to do to soothe her prickly defenses?
"No, I realize that you have become all that is proper."
"That was what your requested, was it not?"
"So I did." He paused before leaning his arms upon the desk and regarding her with a growing sense of frustration. "I did not mean, however, that you were forced to become a mere ghost of yourself, nor that you imprison yourself in this townhouse. Do you have plans for today?" Her chin tilted in a familiar defensive manner. "I shall go over the menu with Cook and see that the linens are aired."
"Such tasks can be easily put off," he retorted. "Surely you would prefer to go out?" "Where would I go? I know few people in London."
"There are several places of interest. You could visit a few of the more notable sights. Tower of London. St. Paul's Cathedral. Or perhaps you would prefer an afternoon at the museum?"
"On my own?" she demanded. "That would surely look odd to the rest of society?" Adam breathed out a harsh sigh. "You are right, of course," he acknowledged, knowing he had too readily used his duties with the War Department as an excuse to abandon his bride. In his defense, however, she did not bother to hide her preference for his absence from their home. "I shall arrange my schedule so that I will be free to accompany you later in the week. I have been quite remiss not to introduce you to a few ladies who would include you in their activities."
He had meant his words as an apology, but with a jerky motion Addy rose to her feet.
"That is not necessary, Adam. I realize you are very busy."
"Meaning you would prefer that I did not make the effort?"
"Meaning that I understand that you do not have the time." She conjured a cold smile. "Now, if you will excuse me I must speak with Mrs. Hall."
Adam opened his mouth to argue. Could she not bend even a little?
Then he gave a weary shake of his head. He had learned that pressing Addy only drove her further away.
"Of course. I shall see you at dinner."
He watched as she scurried from the room, then pulled his schedule toward him. He had wasted an entire morning on futile regrets. Until Addy chose to make an effort to respond to his tentative peace offerings there was nothing he could do.
In the meantime he had on his mind the thousands of soldiers who depended upon the efforts of the War Department to see them home safely. Such responsibility could not be taken lightly. It was his duty to do his job to the very best of his ability.
He swiftly finished the schedule and sifted through the morning's correspondence. At last satisfied that he had dealt with the most pressing details he meticulously cleared his desk. Storing away his quill he was abruptly interrupted when the thin, stiff-faced butler entered the library and offered a creaking bow.
"Pardon me, sir. A Vicar Humbly has requested to see you."
Adam felt a jolt of shock. Vicar Humbly? In London? Good God, he had known Humbly all his life. It was nearly inconceivable that the vague, rather unworldly Vicar would travel such a distance. He would wager his last quid the old man had not spent more than one night away from the Vicarage.
"Show him in, Chatson," he commanded.
Adam rose to his feet and walked round the desk as he awaited the arrival of Humbly. It had been months since he had last seen the old Vicar. Not since his wedding, he realized with a vague pang.
Within moments Chatson returned with a short, decidedly stout gentleman. Adam smiled at the rumpled black coat and wispy gray hairs that stood on end. Humbly always managed to appear as if he had just crawled from beneath a bush.
"Humbly. Welcome," Adam murmured, moving forward to shake hands with his unexpected guest.
"Thank you, Adam." Humbly flashed a sweet smile as he absently patted his crumpled cravat. "I hope I do not intrude?"
"Certainly not. Although I must confess this is an unexpected surprise."
A faintly befuddled expression crossed the Vicar's round countenance.
"Then you did not receive my note? How wretchedly awkward. I was certain I had posted it before I left Surrey. Of course, the mail coach is never quite as predictable as one would hope. I must offer my apologies for descending upon you in such a fashion."
Adam waved aside the rambling apology. To be honest, he was pleased to see his old friend. Despite Humbly's vague, rather foolish manner he possessed an odd ability to strike directly at the truth of a matter.
"Think nothing of it. I hope you intend to remain with us for a visit? I know Addy would be pleased to have a familiar face about."
"Well, I should not wish to be a burden," the Vicar faintly protested. "Although I have never married, I do know that newly wedded couples prefer their privacy."
Adam gave an unwittingly revealing grimace. "Do not fear, Humbly. Addy will be delighted to have a guest. Please, have a seat."
With a rather searching gaze Humbly lowered his bulk onto a sturdy chair. Adam swiftly smoothed any expression from his features as he leaned against his desk.
"I hope you had a pleasant trip to town?"
"No, indeed. Quite ghastly. Not only did the coachman insist upon traveling at an indecent pace, he halted at the most wretched posting inn. I would swear the food had been found in a nearby gutter and on top of it all, I fear I somehow managed to lose my best hat and at least one of my cravats." He gave a sad shake of his head. "I shall no doubt receive a dreadful scolding when I return to the Vicarage. Mrs. Stalwart does not seem to comprehend how difficult it is to keep one's things about one."
Adam couldn't prevent a small chuckle as he thought of the formidable widow who ruled the Vicarage was well as poor Humbly.
"Perhaps you will have the opportunity to replace them while you are in town."
The Vicar immediately cheered. "A capital notion. Yes, indeed. That is precisely what I shall do."
Adam tilted his head to one side. "Had I known you were coming to London I would have gladly sent my own carriage to fetch you. Is there a particular reason you came to town?"
"Oh, a bit of business with the Bishop." He waved a plump hand. "I am soon to retire, you know."
Adam felt a stab of shock. Brenville without Vicar Humbly? It was impossible to imagine.
"No, I did not know. It will be a sad loss."
The Vicar reddened with pleasure. "Thank you, Adam, but I am certain the new Vicar will be a blessing. He seems to be very energetic and quite determined to put the church in order. The dear Lord knows that I have never been very efficient with records and such. They are in sad disarray." The sherry brown eyes suddenly widened. "Come to think of it, he reminds me somewhat of you, Adam. Very practical and organized."
Adam abruptly stiffened, his features tight. "He has my sympathy."
"Eh?" Humbly blinked in surprise.
With a restless shrug Adam pushed himself from the desk and paced toward a window that overlooked the back garden.
"I have come to realize that I am a rather tedious fellow with all my practical notions and adherence to schedules."
"Nonsense," Humbly protested with gratifying sincerity. "You are a very responsible and worthy gentleman."
Adam studied the roses just coming into bloom. "Not all would think so."
"Well, we cannot please all of God's children," the Vicar said briskly.
The image of Addy's pale, unhappy face rose to his mind. "No, I suppose not."
As if able to read his very thoughts, Humbly cleared his throat. "Tell me how Addy is."
"She is well," he forced himself to say as he turned back to meet his guest's curious gaze.
"I suppose that she has taken London by storm? Such a charming and vibrant child."
"Actually we have not attended many social events. I have been quite occupied with my work."
The older man looked vaguely embarrassed, as if he sensed he had unknowingly pressed a tender nerve.
"Of course. You no doubt have little time to devote to such foolishness. Perfectly understandable."
"To tell the truth I have begun to consider the notion that I have been remiss in not introducing Addy to society," he confessed. "Your visit will be the perfect opportunity to correct my oversight."
"Oh, you mustn't change your schedule for me."
"It is a long overdue change," he assured Humbly. "I will speak with Liverpool. He will not be pleased, but I am certain they will muddle along just fine without my constant presence."
There was the sound of approaching footsteps then, the ever efficient housekeeper marched into the room to place a heavy tray upon a table near the Vicar.
"Here we are, sir," she said in cheerful tones. "I thought your guest might be in need of some refreshment."
"Thank you, Mrs. Hall. Will you inform my wife that we have a guest?" "Of course."
With brisk motions the housekeeper left the room and Adam waved a hand toward the vast array of delicacies that filled the room with tantalizing aroma.
"Please help yourself, Humbly."
"Thank you. Perhaps I will have a cup of tea." Leaning forward, the Vicar poured a cup of tea then gave a sudden exclamation of delight. "Oh my, are those lemon tarts?"
Adam smiled. "Yes. And I can assure you that they are quite good."
"Lovely." Piling a plate with several of the tarts Humbly took a large bite and closed his eyes in pleasure. "Ah, yes. Delicious."
Adam politely remained silent as the Vicar indulged himself in the delicate pastries. It was clearly a treat for the older man.
It was several moments before Addy at last stepped through the door and regarded him with guarded puzzlement.
"You sent for me?"
"Yes." He moved to stand at her side. "As you can see we have a most welcome guest."
Turning her head she noted the plump gentleman struggling to his feet. A wide smile abruptly curved her lips as she rushed forward to give their guest a swift hug.
Excerpted from "Love And Marriage"
Copyright © 2017 Alexandra Ivy.
Excerpted by permission of KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP..
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