1816, England. Brandon St. Clair, the Earl of Vale, has never been one to follow the rules. Even though he must marry a wealthy heiress so that he can be rid of the pile of debt he inherited with his title, he can’t stop thinking of another. Amelia Somerton is the daughter of a forger and is not a suitable wife. But that doesn’t stop Brandon from making Amelia a different offer, the kind that breaks every rule of etiquette…
Sin runs in Amelia’s family. And even though she now rubs elbows with the aristocracy, she knows the truth—she has the ability to forge priceless works of art. She’ll never be seen as an acceptable wife, not that she wants to marry, anyway. So when the earl scandalously offers her the one thing she’s always dreamed of, she can’t help but take it. But what begins as a simple arrangement, soon escalates into much more, and as the heat between them sizzles, each encounter becomes a lesson in seduction…
Each book in the Infamous Somertons series is STANDALONE:
* An Artful Seduction
* Real Earls Break the Rules
* The Duke Meets His Match
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About the Author
Best-selling author Tina Gabrielle is an attorney and former mechanical engineer whose love of reading for pleasure helped her get through years of academia. She often picked up a romance and let her fantasies of knights in shining armor and lords and ladies carry her away.
She is the author of adventurous Regency historical romances, A Spy Unmasked and At the Spy’s Pleasure, books In The Crown’s Secret Service series. Tina has also written In the Barrister’s Bed, In the Barrister’s Chambers, Lady of Scandal, and A Perfect Scandal from Kensington Books. An Artful Seduction is the first book in the Infamous Somertons series, and the next two books will be released by Entangled Publishing soon!
Publisher’s Weekly calls her Regency Barrister’s series, “Well-matched lovers…witty comradely repartee.” Tina’s books have been Barnes&Noble top picks, and her first book, Lady Of Scandal, was nominated as best first historical by Romantic Times Book Reviews. Tina lives in New Jersey and is married to her own hero and is blessed with two daughters. She loves to hear from readers. Visit her website to learn about upcoming releases, join her newsletter, and enter free monthly contests at www.tinagabrielle.com
Read an Excerpt
Real Earls Break the Rules
By Tina Gabrielle, Alycia Tornetta
Entangled Publishing, LLCCopyright © 2016 Tina Sickler
All rights reserved.
June 1815 Hampshire
Sin ran in Amelia Somerton's family. No matter how she tried to suppress it with a strong will or disguise it with a costly dress of the finest muslin, it was there, just beneath the surface.
At least, she'd inherited the tainted blood. Her father was the infamous forger of the ton, and of the three sisters, she was the only one who could forge priceless works of art.
To her credit, only one forgery had been sold.
Amelia took a sip of lemonade and leaned against the large oak tree in the magnificent Huntingdon country estate. The lemonade was just right — sweet with a touch of tart.
A tinkle of laughter drew her attention to the far side of the well-tended lawn. Her older sister, Eliza, smiled up at her husband, the Earl of Huntingdon. A healthy blush on her cheeks, the happiness in her eyes made Amelia's breath catch. Never in their wildest dreams would they have thought her sister would become the wife of an earl, a countess.
Huntingdon's mansion loomed before her. Within the white stone walls, luxury surrounded them. Magnificent crystal chandeliers held dozens of candles, white and black marble floors graced the vestibule, and room after room was decorated with Chippendale furniture, expensive silks, and Oriental rugs.
Amelia shivered despite the unusually warm spring day. She'd never forget the hunger, the fear, the desperation of poverty.
"There you are!" A voice sounded beside her. Amelia turned to see her youngest sister, Chloe, approach in a flurry of skirts, her blond curls bouncing. "We're going to play lawn bowls. Lady Sara is joining us as well." Chloe gestured to a young lady traveling across the expansive lawn. Sara was Huntingdon's younger sister and a friend.
"It will be an uneven number." A liveried footman approached, and Amelia placed her empty lemonade glass on an outstretched tray. "I'm happy to watch and keep score."
Chloe's eyes widened as she stared past Amelia's shoulder. "There's no need. We have an unexpected visitor."
Amelia turned to glance in the direction of Chloe's gaze.
A tall, dark-haired gentleman strolled through the garden gate and called out cheerfully to Huntingdon. Amelia immediately recognized him. Brandon St. Clair, the Earl of Vale. She'd met him once, just over a year ago when he'd entered their print shop with Huntingdon. Her heart began to pound.
He was just as she remembered, a strikingly handsome man who'd captured her attention on their first encounter. His eyes were a remarkable green that reminded her of the ferns that grew in abundance during the summer months. His hair was the color of the rich chocolate that she enjoyed drinking each morning. He wore it slightly longer than fashionable and it brushed his collar. The rich outline of his shoulders straining against his tailored jacket and his athletic physique spoke of a sinewy strength that made a lady sigh when he entered a room. He was tall, nearly as tall as Huntingdon, and Amelia had just reached his shoulder when she'd met him.
She watched the two men — both earls — clap each other's back like longtime friends.
"Isn't that Lord Vale?" Chloe asked, never taking her eyes from the man. "We're to attend his house party in a few days' time to celebrate his sister's betrothal to a marquess."
Amelia was more than a bit nervous about the upcoming house party. They'd be rubbing elbows with the aristocracy for an entire fortnight. She wasn't used to all the rigid social rules and etiquette. She feared making a simple mistake — using the wrong fork during one of the multi-course meals, forgetting to curtsy, or stumbling over proper forms of address such as "my lord" or "your grace."
She continued to watch Vale. He walked with confidence, a man who knew his place in the world. He seemed older since she'd last seen him — a silly notion since it had only been a year. But there was a firmer strength about him, an air of command that proclaimed he was a titled, powerful gentleman of the realm.
Chloe sighed. "He's very handsome."
Amelia's brow furrowed. "Is that all you think about? Men?" She should be used to Chloe's fascination with a handsome face. Eliza had once said that Chloe was searching for a father figure ever since their own had abandoned them rather than face arrest for fleecing half of the ton with his art forgeries. But for some reason Chloe's comment about Vale irked Amelia.
Chloe's eyes flashed. "Not all men. Only the titled ones. Don't you feel the same?"
"Unlike you, I don't want a lord," she snapped.
It was true. Chloe may want to marry, but Amelia had no interest. Art was her passion. No husband would ever allow her the freedom to paint the subjects she wanted under her true name instead of the false male names she had used to sell her work. It would be too scandalous.
"I know you care naught for eligible, titled gentlemen or rich bachelors, but what of him? You are staring."
"You're wrong. Lord Vale doesn't interest me at all," Amelia said.
"Hmm," Chloe said in that annoying sisterly tone that meant she didn't believe a word.
Amelia dared another glimpse at Lord Vale beneath lowered lashes. She drew a swift breath.
He was watching her as intently as she had him moments earlier. As their eyes met and held across the lawn, the corner of his lips pulled into a grin, and he nodded his head in greeting.
Her pulse doubled.
Chloe tugged Amelia by the hand. "Come. We must greet him."
Lord Vale bowed as they approached. "Good day, ladies. I was passing by on the way home and decided to say hello. I'm glad I did. The scenery is lovely," he said, his eyes twinkling as he looked from Chloe to Amelia.
Chloe blushed and curtsied. Amelia was slower to follow, then straightened and met his gaze. His face was bronzed by the sun and faint lines now appeared at the corners of his eyes. She'd been right. He did appear older, but it only added to his masculine appeal. She had a sudden insane urge to paint him — to put brush to canvas and capture the chiseled features, the perfection of his face.
She quickly lowered her eyes. Ladies did not go around painting titled gentlemen. More importantly, she was not a portrait painter. She'd been limited to creating landscapes and still-life oils of flowers in vases and bowls of fruit that would sell at the Peacock Print Shop, their former establishment.
But now, for the first time, watching Lord Vale's captivating face inspired her to paint him.
"We were about to play lawn bowls. Will you join us?" Eliza asked.
Vale's sensuous lips eased into a lazy smile. "I'd be delighted."
"Wonderful," Eliza said. "Huntingdon and I will be a team, and Sara and Chloe can pair off together. That leaves you and Amelia."
Amelia's heart jumped in her chest. She was to partner with Lord Vale? Alarmed, she looked up and caught his gaze. His eyes were not entirely green, the flecks of gold surrounding the irises reminded her of a painting she'd seen of an exotic tiger.
"Ours will be the red bowls. Let's practice before we begin the actual game," Vale said.
The teams paired off with their colored bowls on separate sections of the lawn. Amelia followed Vale to a far corner and halted beside him. He was even taller and more powerfully built than she'd remembered.
"You're looking well. I've often thought of you since we met a year ago," he said.
Her mind fluttered away in anxiety, and she regarded him curiously. Why should he think of her? And how often?
Before she could think of a response, Vale stepped closer and handed her a red bowl. "Ladies first."
She felt the weight of the bowl in her hand. It was solid, but not too heavy. She'd never played lawn bowls before. There was never time for such frivolities when they owned the print shop. She'd worked for a living.
Her fingers tightened on her bowl. She rolled it, but misjudged badly and the bowl flew past the white jack.
She frowned. "It's not as simple as I had thought."
"Don't be discouraged. You must roll the bowl with force, but not too much, just the right amount to get close to the jack without hitting it. Let me show you." He stepped behind her and put his arms around her.
Heat from his body enveloped hers like a cloak. The masculine scent of his shaving soap and something else ... something primitive and unique to him, curled around her. Her pulse leaped.
It couldn't be proper. She glanced to the others. Eliza was preoccupied with Huntingdon, and Chloe and Sara were off fetching their own bowls. No one was paying the two of them any attention.
Vale's hand cupped hers as she held the bowl. Warmth seeped from his hand to hers, and her skin prickled pleasurably. For the first time, she regretted not wearing her gloves. She constantly forgot them. She never wore them when she painted, and she often left them on the dining room table after finishing a meal. She hadn't worn them in the shop, and now that she was expected to, she disliked the tightness of the leather.
He wasn't wearing gloves, either. Had he taken them off to play? His breath brushed her ear, and a shiver traveled down her spine.
"Throw just like this." He gently pulled her arm back, causing the bodice of her gown to stretch taut across her breasts. Her nipples tightened beneath the fine linen of her chemise.
"Keep your eyes on the target," he instructed, as though she could concentrate on something other than him. "Now step forward with your right foot, bend your legs, and roll the bowl smoothly onto the green."
She moved with him in one fluid motion. His muscular thigh pressed against her hip as she released the bowl. It rolled across the lawn and stopped within inches of the white jack.
"I see now. I'd like to try on my own," she said, her voice sounding a bit breathless to her own ears.
Vale dropped his arms from around her and took a step back. She immediately felt the loss of his heat and the strength of his arms.
He bent to retrieve another bowl and handed it to her. Her grip felt weak. Her gaze dropped to the dip in his chin, and she wondered what it would feel like to press her lips there.
His eyes sparkled, and he looked at her as if he knew her wicked thoughts and was more than capable of satisfying them in pleasurable detail.
"The truth is I came by today to see you," he said.
She blinked. "Me?"
"There's a private matter I wish to discuss with you. A request that I believe we'll both find satisfying."
Did he wish to court her? The notion sent a thrill down her spine.
Don't be ridiculous! She suppressed the wayward thought. He was an earl, and she possessed neither a title nor a dowry.
"What type of private matter?" she asked.
"I was taken with the quality of your artwork at the Peacock Print Shop when I visited a while back," he said.
A sliver of trepidation ran down her spine. Amelia had been embroiled up to her neck in trouble when she had first met him. She had painted a forgery and sold it to an elderly viscount at an urgent time when they needed funds. For years, the forgery was in a viscount's private collection until he died.
They had been in a panic. If the painting had been discovered to be a forgery, it could have been traced back to them. Fortunately, Lord Huntingdon had purchased the painting before he'd married her sister, Eliza. But for a time, Amelia feared imprisonment for her crime.
Was that what Vale was referring to?
"Lord Vale, I don't know what you intend, but our circumstances were different when you visited the shop a year ago. I haven't sold a painting in a long while."
"You misunderstand. I'm looking to commission a couple of paintings."
Her brow furrowed. "I could give you the names of London artists."
He shook his head. "I'm not interested in names."
"There is a landscape painting by the Dutch artist Aelbert Cuyp at Rosehill titled Herdsmen with Cows. A while back a friend, a wealthy American, visited me and now wants the painting for his private collection. I want to gift the painting to him, but I'd like a copy to remain at Rosehill. I want you to paint me one."
She stiffened. "You want me to paint a forgery?"
"No. A copy. I would never ask you to paint a forgery. I plan to give my friend the original and keep the copy for myself. My motives are twofold. I may not be an art critic like Huntingdon, but I've grown accustomed to the painting hanging in the library and wish for a duplicate. Second, my grandmother, the dowager, would frown upon me giving anything to an American. If an exact copy remains hanging in Rosehill, she will never know. So you see, I need you. Your specific talent is not commonplace."
A tumble of confused thoughts and feelings assailed her. She should be insulted. He'd sought her out because of her past, because her father's blood ran in her veins. But deep down a part of her was flattered. He'd come to her because he knew she had the talent to replicate the most intricate paintings. He wasn't asking her to do anything illegal — he wanted a copy, not a forgery. It made sense. Why would an earl want a forgery? She was familiar with Aelbert Cuyp's seventeenth century work. It wouldn't take her long to paint the piece.
Goodness, was she truly considering his request?
She hesitated, measuring him for a moment. "You mentioned paintings. What else?"
An easy smile played at the corners of his mouth. "I'd like to commission you to paint my portrait."
The bowl slipped from her fingers to thump on the lawn. "Pardon?" This second request was much more shocking in ways that alternately thrilled and frightened her.
"It's simple, really. All the past earls in my family have their portraits hanging in Rosehill's portrait gallery. It's tradition. I want you to paint mine."
Oh, to have a chance! She'd already believed he would make a stunning model, and her face heated at the thought of capturing his image on canvas. Lord Vale wasn't just a handsome man, but a complex and mysterious one. Beneath the polished veneer, she suspected there was so much more ...
What was she thinking? He was asking her to do something beyond her capability. She couldn't even consider it.
"I'm astonished by this request, my lord."
"I understand why you sought me out for a copy of Cuyp's piece. But why would you think of me for your portrait?"
"Like I said, I saw your work at the shop. Exquisite."
She was finding it hard to breathe. She felt lightheaded, as if her corset were laced too tight. The way he looked at her with those wicked green eyes. Was he calling her work exquisite or her?
She struggled to steady her erratic pulse. It wasn't like her to fall victim to a good-looking man — no matter how attractive or tempting the dip in his chin. "You don't understand. I am not a portrait painter, and it's not a simple task. Artists train for years to paint portraits."
"I have confidence in your ability, and I'd pay you for your services, of course. One hundred pounds."
Amelia stifled a gasp. She may be the sister-in-law of the Earl of Huntingdon and not in need of funds, but her past wasn't easily forgotten. Not long ago, that amount of money would have paid their rent and fed them for an entire winter and long into spring.
"It will have to be in increments. Twenty-five pounds when you arrive at Rosehill for my first portrait sitting and additional payments as the work progresses."
Her voice rose in surprise. "Your home?"
"Yes. The upcoming house party offers the perfect opportunity. You can work in my study."
It wasn't just a matter of ability and money. A respectable female didn't paint an earl's portrait or work in his study painting anything. Eliza would throw a fit. How often had she talked about good marriages for both Amelia and Chloe?
"I'm afraid it isn't proper. I must decline both offers."
Something flickered in his eyes, something dark and disturbing, troubled even, but it was gone so quickly she wondered if she'd imagined it. She'd learned long ago to rely on her instincts. Her artistic eye focused and saw details others often missed.
He leaned an inch closer, and a wild fluttering began low in her belly.
"I understand your concerns. But it will be done in secret. No one but my most trusted servants enter my private study."
Excerpted from Real Earls Break the Rules by Tina Gabrielle, Alycia Tornetta. Copyright © 2016 Tina Sickler. Excerpted by permission of Entangled Publishing, LLC.
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