Tainted by scandal and forced to leave London for the quieter Brighton countryside, the Honorable Miss Clara DeLancey is a shadow of her former society self. She's lost the man she loved to another and, in a culture that has no patience for self-pity, is struggling with depression. A chance encounter brings her a healing friendship with the sisters of an injured naval captain. But Clara's society mama is appalled at the new company she's keeping.
Captain Benjamin Kemsley is not looking for a wife. But his gallant spirit won't let him ignore the penniless viscount's daughternot when she so obviously needs assistance to keep moving forward from day to day. Can he protect his heart and still keep her safe?
When they're pushed into the highest echelons of society at the Prince Regent's Brighton Pavilion, this mismatched couple must decide if family honor is more important than their hopes. Can they right the wrongs of the past and find future happiness togetherwithout finances, family support, or royal favor?
The Dishonorable Miss DeLancey is full of the captivating, flawed characters, fascinating historical details, and masterful writing that Carolyn Miller's fans have come to know in The Elusive Miss Ellison and The Captivating Lady Charlotte. If you love Lori Wick, Georgette Heyer, and other clean, wholesome Regency romance, you'll love this third book in the Regency Brides: A Legacy of Grace series.
Enjoy the entire Regency Brides: A Legacy of Grace series!
1. The Elusive Miss Ellison
2. The Captivating Lady Charlotte
3. The Dishonorable Miss DeLancey
And don't miss Carolyn's new series Regency Brides: A Promise of Hope, coming in 2018!
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About the Author
A longtime lover of Regency romance, Carolyn's novels have won a number of Romance Writers of American (RWA) and American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW) contests as well as the Australian Omega Christian Writers Award. She is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers and Australasian Christian Writers. Her favourite authors are classics like Jane Austen (of course!), Georgette Heyer, and Agatha Christie, but she also enjoys contemporary authors like Susan May Warren and Becky Wade.
Her stories are fun and witty, yet also deal with real issues, such as dealing with forgiveness, the nature of really loving versus 'true love', and other challenges we all face at different times.
Her books include:
Regency Brides: A Legacy of Grace
The Elusive Miss Ellison
The Captivating Lady Charlotte
The Dishonorable Miss DeLancey
Regency Brides: A Promise of Hope
Winning Miss Winthrop
Miss Serena's Secret
The Making of Mrs. Hale
Regency Bride: Daughers of Aynsley
A Hero for Miss Hatherleigh
Underestimating Miss Cecilia
Misleading Miss Verity
Read an Excerpt
Brighton Cliffs, England April 1815
The Honorable Clara DeLancey stood atop the chalky cliffs. Above her, heavy clouds menaced the moon, revealing then concealing the scene below. At her feet glowed the lantern borrowed for tonight's escape, while far beneath, the English Channel churned white and deadly. Wind whipped clothes around her body, tugging at her, like the despair that had tugged for months, begging release.
Leaning forward into the night wind, only half hoping it would retain its furious strength, she closed her eyes and breathed in the salty tang as sea spray spattered her cheeks. Another breath. Another. She hadn't felt this alive in weeks.
The wind grew louder, rushing in her ears, a snarling, savage thing. How capricious nature could be, how cruel; capable of causing shipwrecks, yet also of sustaining life. How strange that something could be one day so admired, the next feared or despised. A broken laugh escaped. She, like nature, fell into the latter category.
A kaleidoscope of images raced through her mind. A handsome man. A beautiful lady. A ballroom filled with the expectations of the ton. A broken promise. Soul-sweeping shame.
The anger burned again, as if stoked by the very fires of Hades. How could he? She dragged in another breath. How could he reject her?
She opened her eyes. Peered down through the gloom to where specks of foam denoted the crashing waves of high tide. The wind continued its merciless grasp, teasing free her hair from the cloak's hood. Would the wind hold her should she step out? Did she even want it to? She leaned forward, farther still. The roaring surf grew louder, louder. Should she dare —
She jumped. Pebbles scattered beneath her feet, upsetting her balance, and she was sliding, sliding, closer to the treacherous edge — And in that moment, knew she did not want to die.
A scream erupted from her depths.
A firm hand grasped hers.
She clung desperately, as ebony locks lashed her face. Angry fire roared down her right arm until it felt like it would snap. She scrabbled frantically amid the rock and wispy tufts of grass for a handhold, tearing her left hand's nails and skin.
Slowly, slowly she was hefted to the clifftop, the final tugging momentum surging her forward to collapse on the grassy verge. She dragged in air, heart pulsing faster than her fingers could ever play, and rubbed her right arm, so near to being wrenched off. She would never play piano again!
She'd nearly never played anything again.
Guilt streaked through her, twisting her insides. How dared she have been so foolhardy? How dared her rescuer risk his life for her?
She glanced to where he lay gasping beside her, one hand over his face. An angel sent from the Almighty? No. Not unless the Almighty employed angels who looked like disreputable seafarers, dressed as this person was in a battered cocked hat and sealskin cloak. She inched away, pushing to her grazed hands and knees, wincing as she rose. She snatched her hair back, pulled the hood down nearly to her eyes. Perhaps he hadn't really seen her, would not recognize her and add further shame to her already impressive roll of dishonor.
Angels didn't growl, did they? She peeked across. And they definitely wouldn't have a propensity for startlingly blue eyes capable of flailing a person with an angry glare.
"What the blazes did you think you were doing?" the most unangelic creature yelled, getting to his feet.
She scurried, wretchedly rabbitlike, away from the dim glow cast by the lantern. "Th-thank you." Her voice was too soft to be heard above the wind's roar. She tried again, slightly louder. "Thank you."
The man stood — sandy haired, taller and far broader than she'd first realized — and took a step toward her. "Thank you? That's all you have to say?
What more could she say? She lifted her shoulder in a shrug.
He took another step toward her. "What on earth were you doing?"
She paced back. Lifted her chin. "Thank you for saving me" — her voice was now too high, too squeaky — "but I do not think I need tell you of my personal business."
"Tell of your personal — Miss, I'll have you know I just saved your life! You could have died. I could have died! What fool game were you playing at?" Clara tugged the cloak closer as shivers rippled up her spine, through her limbs. How could she explain her moment of insanity? It wasn't a game, but life and death. Her eyes filled. Thank God the hood hid her features, offering small hope of recognition.
He studied her a moment, his fair hair gleaming in the moody moonlight, the hard contours of his face softening a smidgen. "Look, miss, I'm sorry for startling you. But you were standing so close." He shook his head. His frown returned. "What are you doing here at this time of night, anyway?"
She shook her head. Took a step away, inching closer to the path, not the cliff edge.
He snorted. "Meeting a lover, is that it?"
Another broken laugh released, sounding like the rasp of a dying bird. If only he knew. He was obviously not a member of the ton — otherwise he would most certainly both recognize her and know just how unlikely that scenario would be. She shook her head again.
"No?" His brows shot up, his gaze intently curious.
Clara retreated another pace. She had the feeling if she fled he'd simply chase her; if she spoke again, this illusion of anonymity might be pierced. Either could prove fatal. If she somehow returned home without either occurring, she might have a chance to slip into bed and pretend this was some kind of Gothic nightmare she would never dream again.
"Still nothing to say for yourself?" He gave a surprisingly warm chuckle. "Look, can I at least have your name? Or where you live? I'm sure there must be someone somewhere who cares about you."
Cared about her? Sadness rolled through her, certain and ceaseless as the waves pulsing below.
"Look, miss, I understand you might feel embarrassed, but I promise not to tell your parents." The wind began to shriek. "You do have parents, don't you?"
She took another step behind. He followed. What a bizarre clifftop dance in the moonlight this must seem to those angels tonight, those angels who had definitely not descended to assist her, electing as they had to watch the show like a poor man from Covent Garden's uppermost stalls. Why would God send angels to help her? He certainly didn't care.
Another step, another. When she judged enough paces met, she whispered another thank-you, then turned and fled into darkness.
Behind her, she heard, "Hey!" but she did not stop. Could not stop. Thank God Mother could not see her. Thank God Lady Osterley couldn't see her — any hope of regaining a reputation would surely be lost. Legs pumping, she picked up her skirts and ran faster, even faster, until another sound gave her pause. A short cry, then a thud. Her heart thumped. Surely he couldn't have fallen from the cliff? She glanced behind, saw a figure prostrate on the ground. So maybe the angels had decided to assist her after all. But delaying to check he was not hurt would eat into her escape and her chance to remain unknown. She picked up speed, panting, lungs burning. Anyone who saw her would think her a madwoman! A sob escaped. Anyone who knew her would think the same.
Eventually, with lungs fit to burst, her mouth tasting of metal and blood, pulse thundering in her ears, she recognized the path she'd walked daily this past fortnight had opened onto the lane linking Brighton to Rottingdean. She slowed, approaching the gentle crescent of near-new houses that formed Brighton's outermost limits. None of the brick-and-stucco terrace houses were, of course, large enough for her parents' satisfaction, but that mattered not; Lord and Lady Winpoole received few visitors these days. Besides, satisfaction played little part in her family's world anymore, what they could afford being of far greater importance.
She hurried past the central garden with its sad statue of the Regent — designed to win the builder acclaim but instead reaping disdain for its disproportions and now-missing right arm — carefully avoiding the gravel as she rushed to number ten. Fortunately, their elderly neighbors' lights were dim, but still she needed to moderate her frantic breathing to be as soundless as possible. A step up to the front door — remaining unlocked, thank God — a twist of the handle, and she was inside, had removed her shoes, was creeping up the stairs, careful to avoid the eighth and ninth steps which always creaked. A heart-pounding minute later she was in bed, her pelisse hung crookedly on the back of a chair, her cloak puddled on the floor, two more items she would need to remedy tomorrow morning.
Clara crooked an arm around her pillow, huddling into warmth as the clock downstairs struck midnight.
The witching hour. The hour of affliction.
She closed her eyes, her escape still beating frantically in her chest, and begged the dreams to stay away.
Cursed hour? Cursed life.
No one would ever tell her different.
"Benjamin Richmond Kemsley!" His sister's eyes widened.
Ben stumbled to the fireplace, holding out his hands, wishing they would heat faster. He might have faced a thousand nights of icy furor on the open seas, but he'd never felt so chilled as he did tonight. He snuck a peek at his sister. Sure enough, her jaw still sagged.
Matilda closed it with a snap. "What on earth were you doing, racing out of here like that? And now, look at you! You seem to have faced Napoleon singlehanded!"
He fought the pang of regret at missing such a fight and nodded to Matilda's husband. The Reverend David McPherson possessed humility and meekness that often proved the perfect counterbalance for Matilda's volubility, volubility a trait all Ben's family seemed to possess.
A noise drew his attention to the drawing room door and the other member of the household, young Tessa, her red hair tousled as if she'd just woken from sleep. "Benjie!"
"Why aren't you in bed, little sister?"
"I heard noises." She frowned. "Why aren't you in bed?"
"Because I am not seventeen." He ruffled her hair, smiling as she protested this usual display of affection.
"What on ..." Her blue eyes widened as she took in his appearance. "For heaven's sake!"
Humor faded as the events from earlier grew large in his mind again. Yes, he'd felt heaven's urgent call guiding his steps tonight. "Just that."
"What happened?" Matilda gestured him to sit, handing him a cup of steaming tea. "You had us worried."
"I ..." Couldn't explain, really. How to say he'd felt a sudden urge to go to the clifftop, when it was nearing gale-like conditions outside? Couldn't. "I needed a walk."
He nodded to his sister, even as he exchanged glances with the reverend. He could perhaps share his suspicions with his brother-in-law, but not while Tessa was in the room.
Matilda scowled. She murmured something to Tessa. Whatever that was, it resulted in Tessa hugging him and whispering, "I'm glad you're safe" before she departed.
Leaving him with his not-to-be- s o-easily-placated sister. Her brows rose. "Well?"
He shrugged. "I was using Tessa's telescope, and I saw a light."
"A light?" She sighed. "Don't tell me you were off saving the world again?"
"All right. I won't."
She snorted, but it sounded more like a chuckle. "Why you think you need to rescue everyone and everything, I'll never know."
"Mattie," her husband murmured.
Ben studied her levelly, as a hundred raw memories surged through his soul. African skies, desperate children, shark-menaced waters, a life unsaved ...
Pink tinged her cheeks. "Well, yes, there is that." She shook her head. "My brother, the rescuer."
"Not always," he muttered. He cleared away the emotion clogging his throat. "I saw a light atop the cliffs."
"What? Someone was out in this weather?"
"Who was it? Anyone we'd know?"
He slid David a look before meeting his sister's blue gaze. "I'm hardly acquainted with my new brother-in-law, let alone all the people of your acquaintance, dear sister."
The rose hue darkened but the intense stare did not waver. "Why do you think they were there?"
"I don't know."
He thought about the girl. He did have a suspicion, but such an action was so drastic he barely dared form the thought, let alone speak such a thing aloud. What would cause someone to abandon all hope, ignore God's principles, and risk eternity?
The pain etched in his heart sharpened. He'd seen men give up, men in war, those flung into seas, men who'd succumbed as pain or blood leached all life from them. But he'd never known someone to yield who was healthy — and from the way she'd sprinted off, the firm body he'd so briefly held, the lass was certainly healthy.
He glanced up, met their worried faces, worry he'd seen too often in the weeks since his return from the seas ringing Cape St. Francis. He smoothed his forehead free from scowl, forced his lips up. "What does a man need to do here to get another cup of tea?"
Mattie eyed him, then rose and exited the room.
The fire snapped, crackling warmth through the wee hours. Outside, the wind continued its weird moan. He pressed against the pain still throbbing in his knee. The absence of his sister might bring a hush to the room but never to the questions in his heart. Why had God allowed him to live? Was it for nights like these, when he just might have made a difference?
Matilda reentered the room carrying a fresh teapot and mug. She poured, he murmured thanks, and she resumed her seat. "Did you injure yourself?" She nodded to his dirt-stained leg. "You know the doctor wants you to be careful not to twist things again."
Too late for that. He batted away her worries with a genuine-enough-sounding laugh. "You worry too much, Mattie." He turned to his clergical brother-in-law. "I'm afraid you'll discover my sister has a tendency to overdo her gifts of compassion."
"One of the reasons I care for her so."
Ben smiled, pleased to hear his sister's soft sigh and see the pink filling her face. "You'll do well," he said to the new husband, garnering an answering grin and a mild "I hope so."
Mattie put her cup down with a clatter. "So you do not know who it was?
He shook his head. "All I know is that she left that lantern." He gestured to the small tin lantern on the table beside the door.
"She?" His sister exchanged a glance with her husband. "Benjie has never been able to withstand helping a pretty maid in distress."
His smile dipped at her use of the long-familiar, long-despised nickname. "She wasn't pretty." Possibly untrue, but he'd barely been able to make out her features, shadowed as they were by that hood. All he knew was she possessed raven black hair and a high-pitched voice that suggested she was younger than her sweet, ripe form declared.
"Oh! A hag!" Matilda chuckled. "Perhaps she'll turn out to be a beautiful princess in disguise."
"I doubt it."
"How disappointing," Mattie said. "Well, heaven knows you need a wife. Perhaps we'll need to find this lady of mystery and learn her secrets."
Ben pushed his chair back, forced himself to rise without wincing. The poor wild creature he'd barely met tonight give up her secrets? "Good luck with that."
"We don't need luck," Mattie replied, an evil gleam in her eye. "We just need God."
He nodded, said his good-nights, and left to ascend the stairs to his bedchamber, his heart sinking. Experience chanted that Matilda would not rest until the mystery lady was found.
The knock disturbed her dreams. Wild dreams. Frightening dreams of plummeting, plummeting to hungry rocks below. Clara woke with a gasp, breathing hard, yet striving for quiet as the knock came again and the maid immediately entered the room.
"Begging yer pardon, miss, but madam wants you downstairs."
A glance at the windows revealed sunlight peeking past the curtains. "What time is it?"
"Near noon, miss."
She sat up in a hurry. "I had no idea it was so late."
"You missed services today."
They missed services most Sundays. Why should today be any different?
Meg remained hovering near the doorway, as if unsure what to do. Clara fought the flicker of annoyance. Oh, to have a proper lady's maid again, one who knew to wait to be granted admittance, one who could fix hair as well as she could hold her tongue.
Meg moved half-heartedly towards the chair holding the abandoned pelisse.
"Please leave it. I'll deal with it later."
"Are you sure, miss?"
"Of course I'm sure."
Excerpted from "The Dishonorable Miss DeLancey"
Copyright © 2017 Carolyn Miller.
Excerpted by permission of Kregel Publications.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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