One knight, one runaway heiress, one rollicking romance: A breath of fresh air in Regency romance!
Proud and haughty, Lord de Waare is almost as medieval as his castle…until he accidentally abducts a governess, who turns out not to be a governess at all, and who shows this knight that his heart is not as armoured as he thought.
A girl with a dangerous past, Marina would happily disappear again, but since de Waare won't let that happen, then the least he can do is help her clear her name. But moving back into society is dangerous for her and for the stern man she's coming to love. She knows the rules of honour and society, and she won't allow de Waare to compromise the principles that define him.
But de Waare didn't become the Crusader by accepting defeat. Faint heart never won a fair lady, and de Waares always win.
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About the Author
Elise Clarke has a great love of history and a weakness for tall, handsome men. She wrote her first novel to combine the two.
When not writing, Elise is a history lecturer who has also published non-fiction. She lives in Kent with a tall, handsome man of her own, and drives him mad on a regular basis. She has two wonderful children who do the same to her.
Read an Excerpt
Marina Frome, governess to Lady Kemp's three daughters, was a great fan of Jane Austen, but whilst she agreed about the young man in want of a wife, she thought that at present there were other universally acknowledged truths that were rather more important. Such as, a single man in possession of a good fortune must face unbelievable sycophancy wherever he went. Or that the marriage mart was a singularly cut-throat business. Or, most strongly of all, that there was nobody as blind as an ambitious mama — as was being shown to her right this minute in the drawing room where she sat in the corner, one beady eye on her charges.
Charlotte and Jane were behaving angelically, but it was not on them that her attention was currently fixed. This was reserved for their elder sister, Amelia, who was making the biggest idiot of herself imaginable, along with her mother, Lady Kemp, smiling in approval as her daughter batted her lashes, gazed admiringly upwards at what Marina had to think of as her prey.
'How brave you must have been fighting in the Army!' she simpered to the single man in possession of said fortune, which struck Marina as deserving of a box on the ears for pure stupidity.
She did not get one. Well, not a real one — the response of, 'You flatter me,' was said so coldly that for a moment Amelia did pause, her pansy-brown eyes wide. She looked confused, then darted a glance at her mother for guidance because in her world this wasn't how it worked. And lo, there was Marina's next truth, because Lady Kemp did not shoot her daggers nor intervene, but smiled to urge Amelia on, and Amelia hastened to obey. 'Oh, I am sure I do not! It must have been so very dreadful to fight in a war!'
In her ugly shoes, the governess's toes began to curl. There was nothing she could do, she knew, yet she tried with all her might to will to Amelia a sense of just how idiotic this was — not to mention how crass — before the girl really did the unforgivable.
Don't say it, she thought furiously. Do not say it. Don't you dare.
'Is it true you were wounded a second time at Barrosa?'
Marina's eyes flew shut with horror, then flew open before she could help it to shoot daggers of outraged disgust at Miss Kemp, who was now pouting in the adorable way only a seventeen-year-old girl could.
She doesn't realise, Marina suddenly thought. She honestly has no idea. Oh, poor Amelia. You poor, silly little goose.
'It was nothing to speak of.' And he really wasn't helping. She shifted her narrowed gaze of disapproval to Amelia's target. What a stiff — necked, stuck — up, cold fish he was.
Then he looked at her.
His eyes were grey — not the indeterminate shade so many people described as such, but a clear, silvery colour that would never look blue, accentuated by his remarkable complexion. Thomas Beltring, the fourteenth Baron de Waare, came from the far north of England and had a pallor a woman might envy. He had no tan, no freckles, no high colouring at all, despite spending much of his time outdoors; just pale, clear skin that contrasted with his black brows and lashes and his thick, dark hair. Those hard eyes now lit on her in a silver beam that she didn't even attempt to meet. Her eyes went shooting back down to the floor because there was no way she wanted Lord de Waare to know she even existed, and Lady Kemp would dismiss her for being forward with her guest if that changed.
Why Lady Kemp was so insistent on de Waare's presence was no secret to Marina either. She had invited a variety to her hunting party, but her cynical governess, knowing her well, had sniffed out the stratagem at once. Amongst the guests were two targets. Technically both were out of her league, the first being impossible: Jack, Lord Darenth, who was gorgeous, wealthy, good at everything and, Marina had to own, an absolute sweetheart.
Unfortunately, Lord Darenth was both adept at dodging ambitious mothers and extremely cautious, but then Lady Kemp had always known she would be aiming at the stars with him. Hence her equally ambitious second: Lord de Waare. He was wealthy, titled and extremely well-connected; he was not a sweetheart, absolute or otherwise, although this was no disadvantage for the Kemps. Unlike Lord Darenth, Lord de Waare was hamstrung by his own personality, which found several of his friend's precautions demeaning, and he could no more have imitated them than he could have danced on the breakfast table. He could do a splendid job of trying to freeze Amelia, but under her mother's guidance, Amelia was determined not to be frozen.
'I wish he were better-looking,' she had sighed to Marina one evening after being forced to make small talk to him all through dinner. 'He's not half as handsome as his friend and he's so cold. Still,' she continued more cheerfully, 'he's got a house on Charles Street and two of his aunts are duchesses, and his home in the North is said to be like a palace, so I daresay I shall contrive even if he isn't that well-favoured.'
Mercenary little wench, Marina had thought, although ever since then she had been struck by surprise whenever she saw his lordship, because she thought he was very well-favoured indeed. True, he didn't compare to Lord Darenth's beauty, but then Lord Darenth could outshine a Michelangelo painting. And de Waare was, she had to admit, cold in expression. He had the determined, chiselled features of a medieval Crusader, with a rather thin-lipped mouth, forceful nose and chin, and high cheekbones, although if he ever laughed he might be more handsome. Similarly, Amelia had complained that he was too big. She didn't find men built like strapping farm labourers attractive, it seemed, and de Waare, at six feet, had arm muscles so obvious that they made Marina swallow as they strained against his coat. She was actually smaller than Amelia, but somehow the idea of complaining he was too big had never occurred to her.
Staring at the floor, however, she could hear perfectly as he decided enough was enough. 'It was a very tedious event, Miss Kemp; I should not wish to bore you with it.
Would you excuse me?'
And then he bowed before walking off, leaving poor Amelia poppy red until Major Macfarlane intervened with a question about music to spare her blushes. Hers and her mother's, Marina saw when she ventured to lift her gaze again; Lady Kemp had two spots of anger burning on each cheek at this patent set-down, as patent as Lord de Waare's indifference.
Ooh, that wouldn't be a good sign for him. A year in the Kemp household had taught the governess that Lady Kemp did not brook insults from anyone, and that she had a vindictive streak as wide as the Thames.
Now how will this play out, Marina wondered, eyes flicking from one player to another, and because de Waare had his back to her, her heart didn't start beating furiously as it had moments before.
'The rudeness! These Northerners — odiously top-lofty, the lot of them. One would think they lived in a different country — as if manners meant nothing to them. I must say that man thinks far too highly of himself!' Still angry, Lady Kemp paced the small salon the next morning where Miss Frome and Miss Kemp were at needlework. 'Why, he walks around as if he owned the place! Such arrogance indeed; I am almost sorry I invited him.'
Until you recalled he has twelve thousand a year and a house on Charles Street, thought Marina, smothering her amusement as her employer snorted on.
'He sneers so — he's as stiff as a poker, he has little conversation and even less charm! Such a pity he can't be more like his friends,' she sighed, although there the governess agreed with her. If more men were like Macfarlane and Lord Darenth, then the world would be a far nicer place, although she still hadn't ceased marvelling that they were the chilly Lord de Waare's closest friends. 'As it is he's dreadfully unpromising. You must do everything you can to please him,' Lady Kemp went on to Amelia. 'Everything.'
An hour after this conversation, Lord de Waare was standing on the roof of the Kemps' house admiring, or rather not admiring, the view. Leicestershire. Excellent hunting country — far better than where he lived — and pretty enough in its own way, but to his eyes far too tame. The gently rolling hills around the manor had no great peaks beyond, no forceful rivers, no bluffs like the one Waare Castle stood on and no moors where a man couldn't find a house for twenty miles, but most importantly of all, no coast. When he stood on the roof at Waare he could see the German Sea stretching along in its blue streak, and he wasn't used to being up this high without the blue streak there. He found he rather missed it.
Not that the German Sea was the reason he wished he weren't in Leicestershire. He could have kicked himself for his stupidity in coming here, excellent hunting or not. His hostess had become the worst kind of matrimonial shark now her daughter was seventeen; he was surprised she hadn't stripped the girl naked and flung her into his bedroom, or at the least tried locking them in together somewhere, but even without that he found her tedious. She had no conversation beyond small talk delivered in tones that dripped with sycophantic honey, on subjects he could not comment upon. He had little wish to discuss the marriage mart and its alliances, nor the latest on-dits, which left them little to talk about since his attempts to move on to politics had been embarrassingly unsuccessful with both Lady Kemp and her daughter. Her poor daughter, he supposed without sympathy, although his friends had told him afterwards not to be such a judgemental swine. 'She didn't mean any harm,' Sandy Macfarlane had pointed out.
'She didn't ask you about it!'
Sandy had rolled his eyes, flourishing his cane. 'Well, no, because I have a very visual reminder of why it might not be tactful. You don't. For all she knows you might think yourself the great hero and be delighted to discuss it. Come on, Tam, be a little kinder! She's seventeen.'
'Precisely. She's a child!'
'A child doing as she's bid,' Sandy had retorted, with which view he had to agree. Amelia Kemp was powerless in the face of her mother's ambition, which was why he had told everyone he was going to the village, then vanished up to the roof, watching as five minutes later Miss Kemp set out in hot pursuit.
That made it definite; tomorrow morning he'd claim urgent business in the North and leave before this nonsense got out of hand or he had any more evenings being asked about the war. He rotated his shoulder at the memory, still taken aback that any girl could be that stupid, although at least her governess had been horrified.
Her governess ... how very odd he should even have noticed the frizzy-haired, bespectacled frump sitting in the corner in the ugliest dress he'd ever seen, saying nothing. Usually those dowds passed him by beyond his nodding an acknowledgement, but there was something about her that had caught his attention even before she had made the face that said exactly how he felt.
Not that he had looked directly at her, naturally, yet he had been aware of her for several evenings, including the previous one where she had shown quite clearly that she was disgusted with him as well. Quite why she was — or how she had dared and why he was even noticing — was not something he understood, and he wasn't about to demean himself by asking her. She deserved no such attention, although if he ever got her on her own he might well ask because the woman was obviously in need of a set-down.
And lo! Just as he thought that, Fate took a hand. Behind him, there was a swish of some heavy material and a clump of boots, which as he swung around proved to belong to Miss Frome herself. She came tramping around the corner with two books in hand, an ugly cloak over her shoulders and an uglier bonnet over the frizz, while the sight of her boots beneath a nasty puce material made Lord de Waare suppress a shudder. The most unprepossessing female, he decided, with all her weight on her bottom half, goggle-eyed and short. Squat. Squat and unflatteringly dismayed to see him, because she started going backwards even as he turned to see her, and he surprised himself further by not letting her go but saying her name. 'Miss Frome.'
'Ah ... Lord de Waare.' Behind the spectacles her eyes flickered. Blue eyes. Actually, very blue: they were as intense as speedwell flowers. He shook his head to clear this thought, at which Miss Frome went backwards again. 'Forgive me, I didn't realise ... I would not intrude.'
Again he found himself stopping her. 'It's not an intrusion; I am merely surprised to see you. Where are your charges?'
'Um, well, Jane and Charlotte have gone with Lady Kemp on a call, and Amelia is ... visiting a sick parishioner. She is very charitable. Very,' she added, with an earnest air he didn't find entirely convincing. Intrigued, he tilted his head slightly to one side and gazed down at her, his face polite.
'Indeed? I daresay she's very musical as well?'
'Yes, indeed, my lord!'
'And artistic too, no doubt. Doubtless her embroidery is perfection.' The governess, who had opened her mouth, closed it, her eyes narrowing on him. 'Her dancing superb and her riding astonishing. What a shame she hasn't the sense of a hen.' At which Miss Frome gasped, slapped her hand over her mouth and suppressed a very disloyal choke of laughter. 'A wet hen,' he added thoughtfully, then shot out, 'Who's the soldier in your family?'
'My brother.' Her hand went back up, the speedwell eyes blinking at him, her expression hidden.
'Really? Which regiment?'
'He was —' she began, and Tam realised in dismay that he had just done exactly what he'd condemned Miss Kemp for doing earlier. He cut her off.
'I'm so sorry. Please forgive me.'
'Oh, no! You couldn't have known, and it's — it's different coming from someone who was there, somehow, isn't it?'
Since he had to agree with this, he nodded, still embarrassed by his gaffe, and had a brief smile from Miss Frome that reassured him. 'And I have had time to grow accustomed to it; he was killed four years ago.' She cut off then, turning away to compose herself, saying from over her shoulder, 'I am sorry Amelia asked you; had I realised her intention, I would have warned her. She is so very young. She still thinks these things are all heroics and glory. She would never have meant —'
'Any harm. I know.' Then without at all intending to, he smiled at her. As in, he properly smiled at her, which was not something he did very often, let alone to governesses, although he had no idea of the effect and nobody had ever dared tell him. Not even Amelia Kemp would have been silly enough to remark that the cold, rigid de Waare, who was about as welcoming as an icicle, melted into a much younger man when he smiled. Two deep laughter lines appeared running from nose to chin, matched by several finer ones around his eyes, which sparked with warmth. His smile showed his splendid teeth, he wrinkled up his oh-so-superior nose and he became undeniably attractive. Some women might even have said he was gorgeous.
However, the governess was not one of them. Looking faintly alarmed at the smile, she made an odd little wobble and then began to excuse herself, to be promptly stopped by Tam, who found himself saying that he needed her assistance, pointing one obscenely muscular arm westwards. 'Is that a folly?'
'Yes. Yes, it is. Uh ... it was built by Sir John's grandmother when his father came home from Culloden. She used to stand on the hill waiting for him, according to legend.'
'Where are you from?'
'Norfolk, my lord.'
'Should I offer for Miss Kemp?'
'Of course not,' she blurted, before she realised he'd caught her out a second time, pulling a face of outrage as he watched her. It was a good face. She screwed her eyes and mouth up in annoyance, pointed chin thrusting forwards, and clearly suppressed the 'Unh!' noise. Adding in her hideous spectacles, it was quite a sight, the frizzy hair frizzing up further and obscuring half her face.
Does she paper it like that? Tam wondered. It made her look about ... actually, how old was she? And why was he enjoying himself as she blushed when she realised what she'd said? 'Indeed? Why not?'
But she had recollected herself, shaking her head, shoulders lifting.
'Come now, Miss Frome, you needn't be shy about it. Give me your honest opinion.' His eyes glinted in amusement. 'I'm sure it'll be worth hearing.'
'You must excuse me.'
Excerpted from "My Lady Governess"
Copyright © 2017 Elise Clarke.
Excerpted by permission of Harlequin Enterprises (Australia) Pty Ltd..
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
My Lady Governess by author Elise Clarke is fast-paced Regency Romance you are sure to enjoy. Marina is a governess to the three young daughters of Lady Kemp. The two younger girls were well behaved, the older daughter Amelia is behaving shockingly while trying to attract the attentions of Thomas Beltring, Lord de Waare. Worse yet, her mother clearly approves of her behavior. Lady Kemp is determined to get Lord de Waare for her daughter even if she has to trap him. Finding out that he has a secret intolerance to gin, she slips it into his wine to ensure his utter intoxication and sets out to trap him into marriage to her daughter. The trap is set and sprung but de Waare isn’t fooled. As drunk as he is he realizes what is happening and refuses to offer for young Amelia. When Marina slaps him in an effort to sober him up, he is angry enough to throw her over his shoulder and storm out of the house with her. He intended to humiliate her by making her walk back in her nightgown. He quickly realizes she isn’t the governess he thought she was though. She is clearly a lady and so he must offer her marriage. This is just the beginning of a fast-paced adventure. Lord de Waare sets out to discover who she really is and Marina works to keep it from him. I really enjoyed how the author kept the action going and the interplay between the two. Easy To Read This book was fun and easy to read. I thoroughly enjoyed it and will be looking for more from Elise Clarke. Reviewed for LnkToMi iRead in response to a complimentary copy of the book provided by the publisher in hopes of an honest review. KriisGaia