Having vowed never to wed again, widowed viscountess Claire Hartford is about to do the unthinkable: travel unaccompanied across the continent in search of a lover. Her adventure begins sooner than expected, when she meets a magnificent cloaked stranger on her ship’s gangplank. He is Lord Blythe, a man whispered about in London’s ballrooms and drawing rooms, a scandalous rogue hell-bent on seduction.
Nathan Ferguson curses the day he agreed to look out for his best friend’s wayward sister. The charismatic earl is traveling to Paris to uncover the truth behind his father’s death, but his desire for Claire threatens to be his undoing. From France to Italy, on a journey of passionate discovery and danger, Nathan is honor-bound to protect her—from himself most of all. What can he offer Claire? Only love, as he sets out to prove to the woman of his dreams that she belongs to him—body, heart, and soul.
Look for all of Sharon Cullen’s delightful historical romances:
The All the Queen’s Spies series: WED TO A SPY | BOUND TO A SPY
The Secrets & Seduction series: THE NOTORIOUS LADY ANNE | LOVING THE EARL | PLEASING THE PIRATE | HIS SAVING GRACE | SEBASTIAN’S LADY SPY | THE RELUCTANT DUCHESS
The Highland Pride series: SUTHERLAND’S SECRET | MACLEAN’S PASSION | CAMPBELL’S REDEMPTION
Praise for Loving the Earl
“Loving the Earl is charming and fast-paced. It’s filled with passion, intrigue, a resourceful heroine you’ll love, and a delicious hero you’ll fall in love with. An absolute delight!”—New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Jacquie D’Alessandro
“Sharon Cullen is a natural-born storyteller. Her twists and turns will keep you turning the pages.”—Margo Maguire, bestselling author of The Highlander’s Desire
“With its bad-boy hero and spunky heroine, Sharon Cullen’s Loving the Earl is sure to please readers looking for more than the typical Regency come-out story. Intrigue and romance fuse seamlessly in this adventurous romp that takes the reader from Dover to Paris to Venice and finally to a sigh-worthy happily ever after.”—Shana Galen, author of True Spies
“Gripping . . . I stayed up until dawn reading this historical gem.”—Romance Junkies
Includes a special message from the editor, as well as excerpts from these Loveswept titles: Mistletoe and Magic, What Not to Bare, and After the Kiss.
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Alice’s eyes rounded in terror. Claire motioned for her again, a bit more impatiently this time. If they didn’t hurry, they would miss the ship and she was determined not to miss this particular ship. “Come, Alice.”
Alice shook her head and took a step back. Claire’s heart thudded. “Alice,” she said in her most imperial voice. “Let us go.”
“I can’t . . .” Suddenly Alice turned on her heel and ran away, back toward the shops lining the street and away from the ship.
“Alice!” Claire took a step after her, then looked back at the ship where already the last of the passengers were boarding. She looked toward where Alice had disappeared but the crowd had swallowed her whole.
The bell of the Abby Dora began to ring. She needed to be on that ship and away from England now. With a heart heavy with apprehension and a little bit of fear, Claire joined the other passengers on the gangplank.
Trepidation slowed her steps until she halted, forcing the passengers to move around her with grumbles and irritated looks. She turned to look back at Dover, searching for Alice one last time, her gaze sweeping across the landscape.
She squeezed her fingers together, bunching her skirts as an overpowering need to scurry back down that gangplank seized her. Sebastian would be furious when he discovered her gone and Betsy still at home.
Shaking off the need to run back to solid ground, Claire straightened her shoulders and continued onto the ship.
Once on board she fought her way to the railing among the crush of the other passengers, but there she found she was alone in her wish to wave good-bye to England.
As the ship’s sails snapped full with the brisk breeze, her gaze moved to the famous white cliffs of Dover, her last sight of England for a very long time. She could hardly believe she was finally here, after so many years of dreaming. After so many years of living under the iron fist of her abusive husband, of the prying eyes of the ton, of the stifling love of her brothers. After long nights of swearing to herself that someday she would escape it all.
And now she had.
* * *
Nathan leaned against the railing and watched the lights of Calais bob in time with the ship. Frustration roiled through him. It took only a few hours to sail to Calais from Dover but the ship left England late and they missed the high tide that would have taken them straight to Calais’s shore. Now they were stuck offshore for the night while they waited for the morning tide.
He reached into his pocket to retrieve the letter that changed his world and his beliefs but realized that it was in his cabin, drying, because some damn chit had scattered his papers through the mud. He added her to his list of curses and pushed away from the railing to head to his cabin and at least try to sleep.
Damn. He still had to check on Sebastian’s sister. Why the hell he agreed to help Sebastian Addison was beyond him. The bigger question should be why Addison even approached him in the first place. Everyone knew Nathan Ferguson, Lord Blythe, was unreliable. And, of course, he’d proven that again tonight by not searching out Lady Hartford to see if she was faring well on this voyage.
He recalled bits of the conversation he’d had with Addison the morning three days ago when Addison had asked the favor. To be honest, Nathan had still been half in his cups and hadn’t yet gone to bed while most people were nearly finished with their day. The conversation was a blur to him. Addison had told Nathan that Lady Claire was traveling to France with her old nanny.
It had been her nanny, correct?
Yes, Nathan was sure of it.
“Why would your sister not procure passage on one of your ships?” he’d asked, referring to Nicholas Addison’s company that was fast becoming the biggest shipping company in England and the American colonies.
“She did,” Addison said. “Or rather, I secured passage for her, then I discovered through one of Nicholas’s acquaintances that she went behind my back and made her own plans.”
“Why the devil would she do something like that?” Blythe’s head ached, and the noise from the coffeehouse hadn’t helped.
“Claire is headstrong. She has it in her mind to tour the Continent since she missed out on what she terms ‘an adventure.’ I’m willing to allow her a little freedom but I’m damned if I’ll allow her to go flitting about foreign countries without at least some protection. All I ask is that you watch out for her until she reaches France. I don’t want her falling prey to the con artists and thieves that haunt the docks. She has letters of introduction from me and letters from my bank in the event she needs money. Once she reaches Paris, I suspect she’ll attend balls and do a bit of shopping. Betsy will rein her in if need be, and Betsy has been told to inform me of Claire’s whereabouts and actions.”
“Wait a moment,” Nathan said, a memory coming to him. “Claire. Wasn’t she the one who nearly ran away with that rascal? What was his name? The one who owed nearly everyone money.”
Addison had chuckled but the look around his eyes was strained and guarded. “That was long ago. She’s . . . Well, that was long ago.” He leaned forward. “I haven’t told Claire that you will be watching out for her and I prefer to keep it that way.”