A Regency-set historical romance, with wonderful emotion, adventure, and humour.
When Eleanor Tennant was called to look after her niece Belinda, she swore she’d help her find the perfect suitor. Unfortunately, Belinda prefers the attentions of Geoffrey Barkwith, a handsome, notorious rake with an unsavoury reputation. In a letter to an advice columnist for The Ladies’ Fashionable Cabinet, Belinda asks the woman – should she go after her heart’s desire? Her response is yes!
Eleanor, furious with this advice, goes in search of the mysterious Busybody. She finds out that the wretched woman giving such public encouragement is not a woman at all, but a man!
About the Author
Candice Hern is the award-winning author of historical romances set during the English Regency, a period she knows well through years of collecting antiques and fashion prints of the era. She travels to England regularly, always in search of more historical and local color to help bring her books to life.
Read an Excerpt
Once a Dreamer
A lady should never voluntarily resign her life to a gentleman, however generous, amiable, and honorable he may be, if it is not within her power to regard him with any sentiment more tender than gratitude and esteem.
"Mrs. Eleanor Tennant to see Lady Westover."
The dour butler studied Eleanor's card, then said, "I am sorry, but her ladyship is not at home."
Eleanor, already beyond irritation over how long it had taken to track down the wretched woman, was not about to be so easily dismissed. The impudent fellow had not even gone through the motions of pretending to see if his employer would receive her. One look at her card and he'd made the decision on his own.
Officious prig. But he knew not with whom he dealt.
Eleanor pushed him aside and stepped into the entry hall. "Then I shall wait."
The butler, caught off guard by her temerity, lost no time in blocking her way. "Madam," he said in a voice dripping with icy disdain, "I am afraid her ladyship is away from home. I will, of course, see that she receives your card upon her return."
Undaunted, Eleanor stood her ground and directed a steely glare at the man. She was not about to be put off because her ladyship was not receiving today. This was no social call. "It is most important that I speak with Lady Westover. Today. Now. Please show me where I may await her, then inform her at once that I am here. You may assure her that I am not leaving until I have spoken with her."
The butlerappeared near apoplexy, but somehow managed to maintain his dignity as he led Eleanor into a small salon off the entry. "Please wait here," he said, and left the room with more speed than she would have credited a man of his age.
Figuring the wait could be a long one if Lady Westover was not yet dressed, Eleanor settled into a comfortable-looking wing chair and took stock of her surroundings. It still surprised her to have discovered the Busybody that loathsome dispenser of irresponsible advice in one of the finest homes in Mayfair. The beautiful town house on Portman Square was a far cry from the modest home on Charlotte Street where Eleanor lived with her niece.
This room, though, was small and not particularly elegant. No doubt it was used only for those visitors not important enough for the grander rooms suggested by the majestic staircase rising beyond the arched columns of the imposing entry hall. It irritated Eleanor to be placed in such a pokey little room as though she were a common tradesman, but she could not fault the butler for doing his duty. It was not an uncomfortable room. In fact, it was only slightly smaller than their own drawing room on Charlotte Street. She suspected the main drawing room here was larger than the entire house on Charlotte Street, but she was unlikely ever to see it. So she inspected what she was allowed to see and tried to imagine the mistress of the house.
And she rehearsed in her mind what precisely she would say to her when she walked in. Or perhaps she should get straight to the point and simply whack the idiot woman over the head with her parasol.
When Eleanor had enlisted the aid of her cousin Constance in tracking down the Busybody, they had both been shocked to find the trail leading straight to Lady Albinia Westover. They had first approached the publishing house where The Ladies' Fashionable Cabinet was printed, but no one would provide them with so much as a hint as to the identity of the Busybody. The printer himself claimed not to know, but Eleanor had not for a moment believed him and had haunted his premises for days before deciding he was never going to divulge the information she needed.
Constance had come up with the idea of sending a packet in a very distinctive wrapper to the Busybody in care of the printer. They would then watch the building to see if anyone came to claim the package, which is exactly what happened. But the Busybody was no fool and went to some lengths to protect her identity. They followed the courier who left the building with Eleanor's package, only to find him handing it off to another man. Hidden behind the draperies of Constance's elegant carriage, the two women watched one hand-off after another, following a zigzag route that took them from one end of the city to the other, through St. James's and, the West End, through Westminster and finally to Mayfair. When the last courier, had descended the steps to the servants' entrance to the house on Portman Square, it was Eleanor's cousin who'd recognized the house and knew its owner.
Constance, who had married well and was part of a much more elevated social circle than any Eleanor could claim, had met Lady Westover on occasion, but was not well acquainted with her. She was married to Sir Harold Westover, an outspoken Tory member of Parliament notorious for his longwinded anti-reform harangues and sponsorship of various conservative bills. Constance admitted to finding Lady Westover somewhat featherbrained, though dutifully supportive of her husband and his causes. The notion of her secret identity as the romantic Busybody had sent Constance into paroxysms of laughter as they sat in her carriage across the square.
Eleanor would like to have brought her cousin along for this difficult interview, since she at least had the claim of acquaintance. But Constance could not be trusted to take the matter seriously. It would not serve Eleanor's purpose to have her cousin burst into giggles at the first sight of Lady Westover.Once a Dreamer. Copyright © by Candice Hern. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.