Sir Robert Garreck, an artist knighted by the queen, lives in a mansion near the family estate Georgiana's father won in a crooked card game. Rob sets out to regain Summerfield Hall to keep Georgiana's son from inheriting Rob's rightful home. However, when he and Georgiana are thrown together, he craves the forbidden lady he never stopped loving. Facing danger and a long-hidden truth, Georgiana and Rob try to claim the powerful love hey once had.
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Portrait of a Forbidden Lady
A Those Magnificent Malverns Novel
By Kathleen Bittner Roth, Erin Molta
Entangled Publishing, LLCCopyright © 2016 Kathleen Bittner Roth
All rights reserved.
Deep in the countryside of Kent, England, 1859
Rob shot a glance over his shoulder at his four male cousins leaning on their shovels and observing the flamboyant procession heading their way. "Bugger me if we aren't about to engage in high tea."
Sir Robert Garreck, knighted by Her Majesty for bravery during the Crimean War, figured he was about to relinquish command of his day to his pip of a grandmother. He grabbed his shirt off a fence post and used it to swipe perspiration off his brow and bare torso.
Mum may as well have been on her way to Buckingham Palace rather than heading for Rob's private drive. Decked out in blue from head to toe, she wore an oversized hat festooned with a large jewel flashing brilliantly in the afternoon sun. Furniture and baskets filled the back of the small wagon transporting her. Another cart carrying properly clad servants brought up the rear.
Lady Rose, another of Rob's eight Malvern cousins, circled Mum's wagon atop a thoroughbred even wilder than she — if a horse could be so wild. As usual, the seventeen-year-old wore male attire whenever she rode — which was inevitably astride.
Damn. Another hour and Rob would've been done with removing the enormous brass horses' arses flanking the entry to his drive. He'd erected the controversial statues a few years earlier as a denigrating salute to his neighboring cousin, Viscount Eastleigh, when the two were at odds. The so-called art mimicked the magnificent brass equines Eastleigh had fashioned for the entry to his drive. It was past time Rob destroyed his mocking beasts. Although he'd be damned if he'd admit it, he had been rather pleased this morning when his cousins had turned up unannounced and, with shovels in hand, pitched in.
Eastleigh snorted. "Mum and her rituals. She wouldn't think of conducting the blasted ceremony alone. Don your shirts, gentlemen."
"Ah, what strapping, hard-working grandsons," Mum called out as her driver halted the wagon in front of them. A footman dressed in full livery helped her from the cart while servants marched forward to lay a Persian carpet smack in the center of the pebbled drive. A wrought iron table and several fanciful chairs came next, followed by a pristine white linen cloth, and a silver candelabrum lacking candles. Fine china and an array of foodstuffs that would impress a monarch topped off the display.
"I thought you might enjoy our company," Mum said. "Especially since Thomas and Sebastian are set to leave for London in the morning." She shot the two men a wicked grin.
Rob hiked a brow. So the youngest of his male cousins — twenty-seven and twenty-five respectively — were off to Town, were they? And their flinty grandmother, with her scandalous past, knew full well what the two miscreants would be up to. He chuckled. "Did you bring along your gin, Mum? I could use a good swallow."
"Tsk, tsk, Robbie. Taking tea without my gin would be like having a bath without water."
He chuckled and headed for the footman who now stood beside a bucket of water with five crisp linen towels draped smartly over one arm. Hands and forearms scrubbed, Rob and his cousins joined Mum seated at the head of the table. One look at the banquet before him and his stomach growled.
Mum proceeded to pour from a tall and slender hammered silver carafe. "Gin or milk, gentlemen?"
"Gin," Rose said.
"Like hell," her brothers snapped in unison.
Rose shrugged and popped a biscuit into her mouth. "One can only hope. Two lumps of sugar, then, Mum."
Mum winked at Rose and dropped in the sugar. Rob would've wagered a few guineas that had Rose's brothers not been present, the girl would've snared herself a good swig.
The men dove into cold roasted chicken, cucumber sandwiches, and thick slices of cheese as if they'd not eaten in days. Rose filled her plate in equal measure.
"Her Majesty would be ashamed of your beastly manners," Mum said.
Rob fought a grin. Some years back, Mum had decided her daughter was the queen, which then made Mum the Queen Mother. No one had challenged her claim. Were they mollifying a woman who'd grown a bit addled in her old age? Was it the amount of spirits she tippled that had her thinking wrong? Or did she play the lot of them like a fine fiddle? Rob suspected a bit of both. At least life was never boring with her around.
Ever since Rob had returned to the fold, Mum had taken to spending nearly as much time in his home as at Eastleigh's and now had a suite of rooms in each place. Not that he minded. Mum roaming about his cavernous abode pricked the cloud of loneliness that hovered over him recently. But how else would he have his life go? After the raucous group he'd run with in London during his youth, and after those hellacious years at war, he had no desire to so much as pass through a crowded city.
Breathing in a lungful of fresh air, he focused on the green rolling hills dotted with sheep and fruit trees, on the colorful spring flowers banking the country lane. Except for those blasted bouts of lonesomeness that seemed to occur more frequently of late, country living as a confirmed bachelor suited him just fine.
With the boisterous high tea completed, the sated group grew quiet as the sun made its slow descent toward the horizon. The changing sky promised a brief but dazzling display of color at day's end. Here was a sight that could make a person more light-headed than any cup of Mum's special brews. The outdoors at dusk, when birds ceased their singing, when rabbits and deer scurried to their nighttime hiding places, seemed holier than the inside of a church to Rob. Even Rose, who usually chattered like a magpie, had mellowed.
A noise like a distant roll of thunder fractured the quietude. Rob cocked an ear. A moment longer and a rumbling of carriages announced their intrusion. Heads turned to the south. Like ants marching to a picnic, a line of black conveyances traveling the long ribbon of road slowly approached.
Foreboding snaked through Rob. "Are you expecting guests, Eastleigh?"
Eastleigh shook his head. "Are any of you?"
The others shook their heads, as well.
"Mother said nothing about expecting company," Eastleigh said. "Surely she would have mentioned guests, given Father's condition."
The group fell silent, waiting for the parade to pass. Rob didn't care much for unannounced visitors traveling the road, no matter that it was a public passageway. Not that they would be headed to his home, since he rarely entertained anyone other than family.
The elegant lead coach pulled by four magnificent black Friesians grew larger as it lumbered toward them. Noisy wheels and rattling tack fractured the quiet country air. Behind the head coach trailed three plain black carriages, most likely filled with servants and luggage. Five outriders brought up the rear.
The hair on the back of Rob's neck stood on end. He swiped at it, as if swatting a fly.
The lead carriage, curtains concealing the occupants, halted on the road in front of Rob's drive. A familiar crest shining red and blue against the glossy black door sent his heart stalling in his chest.
"Bloody hell," Eastleigh muttered.
A curtain covering the window parted, just barely.
His cousins sat in silence, unable or unwilling to speak. Something primordial stirred deep in Rob's belly. How bloody weak of him. Wrestling with an anger that threatened to explode, he stood. Without a word, he turned on his heel and started for his house.
Mum reached out and grabbed his hand, stopping him. He glanced down at her, his teeth grinding together. Her eyes, filled with a clarity and wisdom that told him she was no fool, gripped his soul. "She's come back, Robbie."
* * *
Georgiana Blakeslee, Lady Cressington, eased the curtain aside with her kid-gloved fingers just enough to catch a glimpse of the odd gathering. A picnic in the middle of a lane? Adjacent to a public road? And what were those odd statues on either side of the drive? If she weren't mistaken, they appeared to represent the back ends of horses. A buzz raced along her skin. Those had to be Malverns at play. Who else would conduct themselves so unconventionally? But what in heavens were they doing here when their family seat was still a good ways down the road?
A man abruptly stood, his back to her. She failed to catch a glimpse of his entire countenance, but his physique and bearing alone outlined a formidable presence. It appeared as though he'd meant to walk away but an elderly lady — could the Malverns' eccentric grandmother still be living? — grabbed his arm, halting him. His broad shoulders expanded, as if he'd taken a deep breath. Then he turned and shot a severe glance at the carriage, his full-faced features exposed.
He strode off, shoving his long fingers through his black, collar-length hair as he went. Georgiana knew that habit well — knew how capable those long, supple fingers were. A wild tangle of forbidden emotions closed in on her. Some things the body never forgot. Her heart shifted to her throat, obliterating her ability to breathe. Lord, he was even more magnificent than he'd been at eighteen, when she, at fifteen, had last set eyes on him. He must have recognized the coat of arms. They all had by the way they ogled the coach.
She didn't blame them for openly gawking.
Not after the scandal. Certainly not after what she'd done to Rob.
Her father's rheumy cough rumbled in his chest, interrupting her thoughts. Dropping the curtain, darkness flooded the carriage once again.
"What the blasted hell are you doing sitting in the middle of the road staring out at what — Lord Ardmore's estate?"
"We've still a bit to go before we reach that particular marker, Father."
"Then get on with you, for God's sake. I need to take to my bed."
"Indeed." She tapped the pointed end of her parasol against the carriage roof. The conveyance hitched, then lurched forward with a great rumble as it headed for Summerfield Hall.
And to her lonely existence.
* * *
By the time Rob reached the stables, sweat rolled off him like a hot summer rain. Mumbling another litany of curses, he relieved himself of boots and clothing and dove into the deep pool carved out of the riverbank. The icy water felt torturously rejuvenating. There he remained, floating on his back and watching the color of the sky deepen. One by one, the stars gave a twinkle and then burst to life, diamonds on black velvet. He didn't want to think. Christ, he didn't want to think of her.
Swathed in darkness now, with a chill that had set his bones to aching and his teeth to chattering, he exited the water. A shake of his head sent his hair flying about his shoulders like a wet dog. Using his shirt for a towel, he headed for the house — and to his best brandy.
Dressed in clean clothing and bare of foot, Rob warmed his toes before a blazing fire in the cavernous living space. Ever so slowly, he sipped his drink while he stared at the unfinished portrait he'd begun some years ago. Only half of the woman's hauntingly beautiful face had been completed. Most of it remained a vague sketch. He'd dry-brushed a subtle haze over the entire canvas, giving it a mysterious appearance that mirrored the foggy image in his mind.
For the life of him, he couldn't conjure up what Georgiana's features might be like since sixteen years had passed. Had he captured anything of how she might appear as a woman? After all these years was his forbidden lady even real or only an illusion? He no longer knew.
And he didn't want to know.
That wasn't the whole truth, and he bloody well knew it. He hadn't made further attempts at completing the portrait because years ago, taking one more stroke of the brush had become too painful an ordeal.
Why hadn't he destroyed the blasted canvas instead of letting it haunt him for so long? Why had he spent nights in this vacuum of a house devoid of life — of even permanent servants — contemplating the unfinished painting until he'd drunk himself blind?
Old resentments boiled up in him until he felt as though the veins at his temples might burst. "God damn it!"
He rose on unsteady feet and made his way from the room, up the stairs, and into his sleeping quarters. The last servant to leave for the night had left a blaze in the fireplace, but the flames had since gone to embers. How the hell long had he been below stairs for that to have occurred? How much had he drunk? Shedding his clothing, he staggered to the bed and flopped on his back, naked as a newborn. He lay in the soft fur of the sable throw at the end of the mattress without moving and stared at the timbered ceiling until he drifted off.
He didn't know how long he'd slept — minutes or hours — but his first thought upon awakening was that he knew what he needed to do. He'd be damned if Lady Georgiana Cressington would haunt his mind a moment longer. He'd go downstairs, stoke the fire, and burn the bloody portrait. Afterward, he'd not give another thought as to who might have been inside that blasted carriage.
Leaving his room, he made his way along the dark corridor, well aware he was still foxed. He didn't need a sodding light to see. He could make his way blindfolded.
He reached out to take hold of the banister.
What the hell?
It wasn't there.
He took another step forward.
The floor disappeared beneath his feet.
The last thing his sotted mind grasped was that his naked body had taken flight and he'd gone tumbling down the stairs head over arse.CHAPTER 2
Georgiana drank the last of her tea and set the cup on its saucer. The slight chink of porcelain against delicate porcelain somehow created a discordant echo in the awful silence of the vast library. She paid no heed to the numerous books lining the walls. Instead, she rested her weary head against the chair's back and focused on the gray skies beyond the tall stack of windows flanking either side of the blazing fireplace. Lofty oaks swayed in a wind gathering more force by the hour. A fresh gust bent branches, and a few juicy leaves sacrificed themselves to the storm gods. She heaved a great sigh. Not another wretched night of rain.
Between the foul weather, Father's constant demands, and supervising the servants as they cleaned rooms that had been shuttered for years, she'd not stepped foot outside for a fortnight. Tomorrow, she'd explore the grounds. No matter the weather. No matter the consequences. Father could bleat like a bloody goat at her leaving him unattended for all she cared.
God above, would the man ever cease his incessant grumblings? Would he never cease demanding her presence at his bedside with his petty whims? Any one of the servants was capable of giving Georgiana a respite but, no, Father demanded she be at his beck and call lest he follow through with his threats to disinherit her and her son.
Blast it all, how had her life come to this? Widowed and, unless she wished to find herself homeless, forced to cater to a belligerent old man who despised life and most everyone in it, especially her. She had no doubt his intentions were to get back at her for what had occurred sixteen years ago.
Bang! Bang! Bang!
Georgiana jerked and jumped from her chair. That couldn't be Father summoning her with his cane — she'd given him a dose of laudanum to see him through his afternoon nap.
Bang! Bang! Bang!
Good heavens, was that someone pounding at the front door? There wasn't a neighbor in the vicinity Father wouldn't order off his property. She bolted from the library and hurried along the corridor, her footsteps muffled by the thick hall runner.
Bang! Bang! Bang!
The butler reached the door first.
Georgiana skidded to a stop and whispered, "Whoever it is, Jenkins, get rid of them."
"Indeed, milady." Nose in the air, the tall, lanky butler reached for the door's handle.
Georgiana scooted back down the hall and slipped into the drawing room. No movement from above stairs, no pounding of a cane or bellowing from Father. Thank heaven, he still slept.
Excerpted from Portrait of a Forbidden Lady by Kathleen Bittner Roth, Erin Molta. Copyright © 2016 Kathleen Bittner Roth. Excerpted by permission of Entangled Publishing, LLC.
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
Portrait of a Forbidden Lady is a beautifully crafted story of broken hearts, devastating secrets, and a second chance at love. I found myself rooting for Lady Georgiana and Sir Robert from the moment of their first reunion after she returns to her childhood home. The supporting characters are delightful, especially the eccentric yet wise grandmother, Mum. This story touched my heart, even as it made me smile. I truly enjoyed this engaging love story.
This is book 2 in the Magnificent Malverns series. Sir Robert (Rob) Garrick has returned home after fighting in the Crimean War and has settled into a quiet life in the country. Determined to get back the home that his family lost during a crooked card game, Rob plans to make sure that the current owner's grandson never inherits it. Unfortunately, that heir just happens to be the son of his former lover. Lady Georgiana (Georgie) Cressington is biding the time until her father passes away. He has forced her to be with him or her son takes the chance of loosing his inheritance. Going back to her childhood home does bring some perks in the form of her childhood friends, but it also brings heartache when she met face the man she never stopped loving. What happens when these former lovers come face to face again? LOVED this story!! I love reunion stories and this was no exception! For a lot of the story, we see Rob and Georgie trying to deny to themselves that their feelings for one another have never left. But once they give in to their feelings once again, oh boy!! I loved seeing Rob's grandmother (Mum) again, she is just so full of mischief. I'm hoping that we get stories for all the Malvern cousins!! Thanks go out to Entangled Publishing via NetGalley for a copy of the book in exchange of an honest review.
I received this book for free from in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review. Desperate times call for desperate measures. Lady Georgiana Cressington is biding her time until her father dies to let loose of a secret she held in her heart for sixteen years. When torn from the bed of her one and only love at age fifteen, she did what she had to do to survive. Sir Robert Garrick was Georgie’s lover before she was forced to marry her father’s best friend. Now that old Cressington is dead and Georgie’s father won’t be far behind, Rob wonders if her reappearance will give him a chance to get her out of his system for good. I read the first book in this series, The Seduction of Sarah Marks, from cover to cover in one sitting as soon as it was released. I was ecstatic to be able to review book two. I loved it as much or more than the first book. Rob, also known as Sir Crocodile, was introduced in the first novel and while gruff, I fell in love with his charm and enthusiasm. This book only endeared him more to me. Rob is an artist of the first water able to turn oils or even metal into beautiful works of art. He is charming, infuriating, and sexy as hell. Exactly what Georgie needs after her own years of confinement to the country. Bittner Roth took me into the Malvern family and showed me the privilege and peace that comes from having a supportive brood of relatives. I adored Mum, Rob’s grandmother, even more in this installment. I wish my own family could’ve produced such a wonderful woman. Lost love, passionate escapades, and bitter agonies are bound within the pages of this exquisite novel. I can’t wait to delve into another offering of Those Magnificent Malverns Series as soon as it releases.
Sublime! 6 stars Truly, Kathleen Bittner Roth, has outdone herself with this touching Victorian love story of forgiveness, hope and second chance. I truly enjoyed, Portrait of a Forbidden Lady, I could not put it down! I adored her main characters, Robert and Georgie, they are so charming and so sweet! Different characters play an important role, such as Lucas, a young man, Mum, the funny and meddling grandmother and the magnificent Malvern clan. England 1859. Robert and Georgie, had fell in love, sixteen years ago, but a scandal broke them apart. Destiny, has other plans for them! They meet again, and suddenly, discover the same feeling of passion, still exist between them. Old memories come to haunt Robert and Georgie! Sparks flare and ignite, a beautiful passion, they won't be able to resist. The chemistry between the two is so hot and sensual . Meanwhile, Georgie, is coerced by her evil father, and becomes a pawn in his elaborated scheme of revenge. Will it backfire on him? Will Robert be able to protect Georgie? Will they get a second chance and finally find happiness? Will he loose her again? Mum, with the help of the Malvern clan, will do their best to reunited these two! What will happen next? I highly recommend this Victorian historical romance, because it's very well written, filled with moments of tenderness and passion, the plot is very well developed. This author never disappoints me, her style of writing is smooth and her charming characters are so much fun to follow! Another beautiful story about a smart and spunky heroine with a charming hero!
Lady Georgiana Cressington is living a nightmare. Coerced by her father into returning to her childhood home, the young widow becomes a pawn in another of his heartless games. Her return to Summerfield Hall reunites her with the man she once loved before their hearts were shattered by a devastating betrayal. Sir Robert Garreck, an artist knighted by the queen, lives in a mansion near the family estate Georgiana’s father won in a crooked card game. Rob sets out to regain Summerfield Hall to keep Georgiana’s son from inheriting Rob’s rightful home. However, when he and Georgiana are thrown together, he craves the forbidden lady he never stopped loving. Facing danger and a long-hidden truth, Georgiana and Rob try to claim the powerful love hey once had. Review: **Spoiler Ahead** This was an emotionally charged tale of long, lost love. As the true story unfolds of why Georgie left and what she had to go through, I liked her more and more. Rob is closed off, still hurting after all these years and has never gotten over the one who got away. His being an artist added to my appeal for him. Rob of course is not sure he can trust Georgie because of all that has happened, but their passion and love even after 15 years is still there and undeniable. Georgie is still keeping some secrets from Rob and there is lots of danger and intrigue surrounding those secrets and her staying at Summerfield Hall to take care of her father. Rob's extended family is just wonderful; they are supportive, loving, funny, eclectic and irreverent, I loved reading about them too. Mum cracks me up. Her father is a terrible man and I was so glad that he got what was coming to him in the end. The resolution to the story was very satisfying and made sense for the story and the characters. Wonderful tale of Georgie doing what she has to in order to save the lives of the man she loves and his unborn child and how these two come to find true happiness. 4Stars *Received a copy of this story from the publisher in exchange for a fair and honest review.*
I am a true fan of Kathleen Bittner Roth's books - and her latest, Portrait Of A Forbidden Lady, was great - lots of steamy bits, great characters and beautiful settings. I was right back there with that Malvern family again! Georgie's motivation was plausible and the chemistry with Sir Rob was palpable - I couldn't put it down in the end. There was suspense, comedy, passion, and a well-developed back story that make me really care about and root for these characters. Now I just want a bit of Mum's cherry cordial and get to know more about this strapping young sexy Lucas we were introduced to! I look forward to the next books! I received an advance copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
Portrait of a Forbidden Lady, a Those Magnificent Malverns book, by Kathleen Roth Bittner demonstrates that not only the Malverns are magnificent but the author who writes about them! This beautifully told tale of true and lasting love was dramatic and impassioned as secrets and festering sentiments rose to the surface after years of lying dormant. A hero and heroine who stood out with their ability to work through their anger and show compassion to each other, despite bearing emotional scars from the past, was striking and made for noteworthy interactions. Wisdom masked in levity tempered the profound injustice the two lovers in this work suffered. Kathleen Roth-Bittner's novel Portrait of a Forbidden Lady shows just how good a story can be when coupled with a great writer. *I received this ARC in exchange for an honest review.* *While part of a series this book can be read as a stand alone.*
I truly enjoyed reading Portrait of a Forbidden Lady! Following the adventures of the Magnificent Malvern Clan is sexy, exciting and smart. Sir Crocodile meets up with and has to deal with his past. We also finally meet the lady in the portrait. I simply adore Mum and kind of want to be like her when I grow up....there is nothing she can't get away with. Seeing her character reappear in this installment made my day. I have truly become a die-hard fan of Ms. Roth's books. Her fresh, new style of writing has convinced me to become reacquainted with the Historical Romance genre that I gave up many years ago. I can't wait for the next installment! I received an advance copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
Kent England - 1859 Sir Robert (Rob) Garreck prefers country living and his quiet bachelorhood. After fighting in the Crimean war, he returned to Kent and built a lavish home. He lives fairly simply spending his days painting and working with metals...and drinking. Rob’s home is adjacent to his cousin and neighbor, Viscount Eastleigh. They are all part of the large Malvern family. Their grandmother, known as Mum, is an outlandish woman who fancies herself the Queen Mother and her daughter the Queen. Mum is always brewing some potent alcoholic drinks that she enjoys and lavishly shares. The widowed Georgiana (Georgie) Blakeslee, Lady Cressington, is traveling with her ailing father to Summerfield Hall nearby the Malvern families’ homes. An extremely demanding man, Georgie must tend to his constant demands or he threatens to disinherit her and her son, Lucas. Forced by her father to marry a much older man, now deceased, her life consists of caring for and catering to her father who is slowly dying. Having grown up at Summerfield Hall, Georgie has not been there for sixteen years, when at age 15, she was caught in bed with Rob. Her father grabbed her up, took her away and made her marry Lord Cressington, an evil man. Seeing that Georgie has returned, Eastleigh’s sister, Lady Williamette (Will) Malvern, who had been good friends with Georgie when they were young, asks her to join them for tea. Will is unmarried and relishes her freedom to do as she wishes. Georgie agrees to attend. When Georgie and Rob see one another again after all that time, Rob is rude to her. He feels that she should have fought and stood up to her father so they could have been together. Rob’s father had killed himself after which his mother went insane. It turns out that his father had been ruined by Georgie’s evil father, Ecclestone. Lucas has been in Italy taking painting lessons and is due to arrive at Summerfield Hall soon. He is the only person that his grandfather loves. The man keeps constant tabs on Georgie via another evil cohort called Briggs. Georgie wants to spend time with the Malvern family and get to know Rob again, but she has a difficult time getting away from the house. She is also hiding a secret from Rob that she eventually wants to share with him. A painting that Rob has worked on for a long time is one of Georgie that he calls portrait of a forbidden lady. Will George ever see it? What is the secret that Georgie carries? Will she be able to continue to cater to her father’s demands and vileness toward her? What about Rob and Georgie? Can they get back together again? An interesting story with some well-developed characters. I’m sure others will enjoy the book as much as I did. Copy provided by the publisher via NetGalley