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About the Author
Angela Breidenbach is a bestselling author, host of Grace Under Pressure Radio, and the Christian Author Network's president. And yes, she's half of the fun fe-lion comedy duo, Muse and Writer, on social media.
Note from Angela: "I love hearing from readers and enjoy book club chats. To drop me a note or set up a book club chat, contact me at email@example.com. Let me know if you'd like me to post a quote from your review of this story. If you send me the link and your social media handle, I'll post it to my social media with a word of gratitude including your name and/or social media handle, too!"
For more about Angela's books (especially more Montana-inspired romances) and podcast, or to set up a book club chat, please visit her website: http://www.AngelaBreidenbach.com
Facebook Author Page: http://www.facebook.com/AngelaBreidenbachInspirationalSpeakerAuthor
Lisa Carter and her family make their home in North Carolina. In addition to "Mule Dazed," she is the author of seven romantic suspense novels and a contemporary Coast Guard romantic series. When she isn't writing, Lisa enjoys traveling to romantic locales, teaching writing workshops, and researching her next exotic adventure. She has strong opinions on barbecue and ACC basketball. She loves to hear from readers and you can connect with Lisa at www.lisacarterauthor.com.
Mary Connealy writes romantic comedy with cowboys. She is a Carol Award winner, and a RITA®, Christy, and Inspirational Reader’s Choice finalist. She is the bestselling author of the Wild at Heart series, Trouble in Texas series, Kincaid Bride series, Lassoed in Texas trilogy, Montana Marriages trilogy, Sophie’s Daughters trilogy, and many other books. Mary is married to a Nebraska cattleman and has four grown daughters and a little bevy of spectacular grandchildren. Find Mary online at www.maryconnealy.com.
Rebecca Jepson is a homebody who loves a good book, a cup of freshly ground coffee, and all things autumn. She is the author of A Highbrow Hoodwink, a novella included in the ECPA bestseller, TheLassoed by Marriage RomanceCollection. In addition to writing, she works as a paralegal and volunteers in various ministries at her church. She lives in Reno, Nevada, with her husband, Mike.
Amy Lillard loves nothing more than a good book. Except for her family. . .and maybe homemade tacos. . .and nail polish. But reading and writing are definitely high on the list. Born and bred in Mississippi, Amy is a transplanted Southern Belle who now lives in Oklahoma with her deputy husband, their genius son, three spoiled cats, and one very lazy beagle. When she’s not creating quirky characters and happy endings, she’s chauffeuring her prodigy to guitar lessons, orchestra concerts, and baseball practice. She has a variety of hobbies, but her favorite is whatever gets her out of housework. An award-winning author, Amy is a member of RWA and ACFW. She loves to hear from readers. You can find her on Facebook, Instagram, Google+, Twitter, Goodreads, and Pinterest. For links to the various sites, check her website: www.amylillardbooks.com.
ECPA- bestselling author Gina Welborn worked for a news radio station until she fell in love with writing romances. She serves on the American Christian Fiction Writers Foundation Board. Sharing her husband's love for the premier American sportscar, she is a founding member of the Southwest Oklahoma Corvette Club and a lifetime member of the National Corvette Museum. Gina lives with her husband, three of their five Okie-Hokie children, two rabbits, two guinea pigs, and a dog that doesn't realize rabbits and pigs are edible. Find her online at www.ginawelborn.com!
Kathleen Y’Barbo is a multiple Carol Award and RITA nominee and bestselling author of more than one hundred books with over two million copies of her books in print in the US and abroad. A tenth-generation Texan and certified paralegal, she is a member of the Texas Bar Association Paralegal Division, Texas A&M Association of Former Students and the Texas A&M Women Former Students (Aggie Women), Texas Historical Society, Novelists Inc., and American Christian Fiction Writers. She would also be a member of the Daughters of the American Republic, Daughters of the Republic of Texas and a few others if she would just remember to fill out the paperwork that Great Aunt Mary Beth has sent her more than once.
When she’s not spinning modern day tales about her wacky Southern relatives, Kathleen inserts an ancestor or two into her historical and mystery novels as well. Recent book releases include bestselling The Pirate Bride set in 1700s New Orleans and Galveston, its sequel The Alamo Bride set in 1836 Texas, which feature a few well-placed folks from history and a family tale of adventure on the high seas and on the coast of Texas. She also writes (mostly) relative-free cozy mystery novels for Guideposts Books.
Kathleen and her hero in combat boots husband have their own surprise love story that unfolded on social media a few years back. They make their home just north of Houston, Texas and are the parents and in-laws of a blended family of Texans, Okies, and one very adorable Londoner.
To find out more about Kathleen or connect with her through social media, check out her website at www.kathleenybarbo.com.
Multi-published author and RITA finalist, Rose Ross Zediker, writes contemporary and historical inspirational romances and has over eighty publishing credits in the Christian magazine genre for children and adults. Rose works full time at the University of South Dakota and writes during the evening or weekends. She is a member of the American Christian Fiction Writers and Romance Writers of America.
Read an Excerpt
The Lassoed by Marriage
By Mary Connealy, Angela Bell, Angela Breidenbach, Lisa Carter, Rebecca Jepson, Amy Lillard, Gina Welborn, Kathleen Y'barbo, Rose Ross Zediker
Barbour Publishing, Inc.Copyright © 2015 Barbour Publishing, Inc.
All rights reserved.
On a Sunday in June of 1865
Gwen's husband suffered quite the shock upon lifting her Brussels lace veil at the conclusion of their wedding ceremony. A most natural response, when taking into consideration that Lord Carlyle had rather expected to see her sister.
Cynthia, his betrothed.
Poised at the altar of St. James's Church, dressed in a gown of white and a veil of falsehood, Gwen held her breath. Lord Carlyle's complexion dulled. Mouth agape, his brown eyes gawked at her as if he had unveiled a diseased hag, not a bespectacled spinster. She clutched her white rose bouquet, hands trembling. Please God, don't let there be a scene.
Clearing his throat, the bald vicar repeated himself. "I have pronounced thee man and wife, Lord Carlyle. God will not take offense if you kiss your bride."
Gwen's cheeks flamed under expectant gazes. God might not object to such a display of affection, but Lord Carlyle appeared to object more than she had feared. A furrow entrenched along his brow, deepening by the second. She never should have allowed Mamma to push her into this scheme. Yet now it was too late. Here she stood, before a hundred guests, at the mercy of a man whom she'd met but twice and never shared a word.
Would Lord Carlyle expose her sham?
With visible effort, Lord Carlyle closed his mouth into a firm line. He thrust a rigid elbow in her direction. Gwen's head lowered as she slipped an arm through Lord Carlyle's. There would be no kiss. Not today, not ever. In silence he led her up the church's middle aisle bookended with smiling faces, feathered bonnets, and wildflower garlands.
Once concealed in the vestry, Lord Carlyle broke free of her arm and paced the diminutive room. He seemed to have forgotten Gwen's presence — not speaking, avoiding eye contact and physical touch. Nothing she wasn't already accustomed to after seven seasons in London society. After all, why would anyone notice her while stunning young Cynthia flitted about on a cloud of mirth and light?
Heaving a sigh, Lord Carlyle leaned against the wood-paneled wall. Gwen pursed her lips. The poor man seemed so distressed, so utterly disappointed. She ought to say something. Some sort of apology. He deserved better than this, better than her.
Before Gwen could muster the courage to speak, the vicar entered, accompanied by her twittering mother, beaming father, and Lord Carlyle's esteemed aunt, Lady Agatha Carlyle, social pillar of the ton. The clergyman handed Gwen a quill, issuing orders as to where she ought to sign the register. After writing her name, she offered the pen to Lord Carlyle.
For a moment Lord Carlyle remained still. Gwen swallowed. What would she do if he refused to sign? Please, please, just end this.
Lord Carlyle snatched the quill, plunged it into the inkwell, and hastily scrawled his name. Dropping the pen upon the register, he struck her with a glare and strode out of the vestry. Gwen's shoulders drooped, the surrounding voices fading into a droll hum. What must he think her? A fortune hunter? Conniving social climber?
If only she could tell him the truth, that she had never wanted this. She'd only wanted to fulfill her duty as a daughter by making a good match and save her family further embarrassment. With a gloved finger, Gwen pushed her wire frames up the bridge of her nose. Lord Carlyle wouldn't believe anything she said. Not while blinded with love for Cynthia — an infectious malady caught by every man in her younger sister's sphere, which resulted in the illusion of reciprocated feelings. None of them knew that only Cynthia's mirror enjoyed her affections.
"Gwendolyn." Mamma's high-pitched voice shattered all thought. "How wonderful it is to see you rescued from the shelf. I thought the day would never come. But here you are. A bride." Sighing, Mamma clasped her hands together. "Finally."
"Yes, Mamma." Finally married — to a man who despised her. Every girl's dream.
Papa caught her up in an embrace warmed by the aromas of sandalwood, turmeric, and cinnamon. The spices of his merchant trade. "I'm glad to have found a smart chap who appreciates my special girl."
Tears burned Gwen's eyes, fogging her spectacles. How pained dear Papa would be to know that wasn't true. Keeping him in the dark was the worst part of Mamma's plot, one for which she would never forgive herself.
Shortly, a stoic Lord Carlyle returned to half-escort, half-drag Gwen to his waiting carriage. After assisting her inside, he seized a place on the opposite seat. In the farthest corner possible. As the carriage tottered over cobblestone, Lord Carlyle's gaze stayed fixed out the open window. Burdened by the oppressive silence, Gwen bowed her head.
This, then, was her future.
* * *
Thank God for the serving of cake. If Elliott had been forced to endure another lengthy congratulatory toast, his ego would've spontaneously combusted.
While the quiet bride studied her frock and her conniving parents made small talk with the guests in their home's front parlor, Elliott managed to escape to an unoccupied corridor. With both hands, he raked fingers across his scalp. How he wanted to shout. Stride up to Mr. and Mrs. Bradbury and demand an explanation. But he couldn't afford to ignite a boisterous row, not with Aunt Agatha and all the cousins here. Such a spectacle would only alert the family to his stupidity. Besides, no explanation was actually required. It was quite clear.
He'd been duped into marrying a spinster. His entire engagement to Cynthia had been nothing but a ruse. A ploy by the Bradburys to rid their nest of an elder daughter whom no one wanted. All the while Cynthia ...
Oh, dear Cynthia. Elliott's hands sank back down over his face. His sweet, angelic Cynthia. What agony she must feel at their permanent separation. The betrayal he felt could be slight in comparison to the pain she'd suffered at the hands of her own family. He had to speak with her. Alone. And find out what in blazes had happened while he'd been away from London.
Elliott strived to regain a look of composure, tugging at his waistcoat and smoothing his hair. The Bradburys had kept Cynthia out of sight during the wedding, but she must be in or near the house someplace. Maybe consoling herself in the garden? She did so love flowers. With determined steps, he marched toward the front door.
Aunt Agatha's bejeweled person barred his path. Blast.
"There you are, Elliott. How marriage suits you." Aunt Agatha stretched her short height to give him a wispy peck on either cheek. "I admit, upon first meeting the Miss Bradburys, I was a trifle shocked you'd chosen the plainer of the two."
Elliott bit his tongue. Not as shocked as he.
"However, I'm sure she will make a fine wife." Waving a fan before her line-etched face, Aunt Agatha continued in her dry manner. "In fact, I believe it will be good for you to have a stabilizer, something grounding you to reality. Now your time can be more appropriately utilized, instead of frittered away on those silly contraptions."
"Automata," he corrected, jaw tensing.
Aunt Agatha flicked the annoying word away with her fan. "The point is, now you can put aside your little hobby and focus on the responsibilities of family life. Producing an heir for the barony. Overseeing the running of the estate with greater involvement. Along with other serious matters more deserving of a true nobleman's attention."
While Aunt Agatha droned, Elliott nodded curtly. He'd heard many variations of this speech over the years. A true nobleman hunts game outdoors, discusses business with his land steward, etcetera. He does not stay cooped up in a workshop and tinker with clockwork automaton figures. That makes a man an absurd joke. Elliott bit his inner cheek. This marriage was meant to elevate him in the family's esteem. Rob them of their punch line.
Instead it had only proven them right.
A familiar tinkling laughter wafted from outside, penetrating Aunt Agatha's musings. Cynthia. Elliott sidestepped his aunt. "Beg pardon. I need some air."
He rushed outside as a footman aided Cynthia's graceful descent from a newly arrived carriage. Blond ringlets framed her fair face, bouncing as she moved. Elliott clasped her gloved hands. "Darling, where did your parents have you cloistered? Which one arranged this outrageous switch?"
Cynthia's blue eyes captured the sunlight, improving upon its rays. "Mamma, of course. She always has the most brilliant ideas, and I believe this is her greatest accomplishment, for it works to the advantage of all concerned."
Advantage? Of whom? Elliott swallowed. "My love, what do you mean?"
Coral lips forming a smile, Cynthia beckoned over her shoulder. "Do come out, beloved. You know I simply wither away when deprived of you too long."
"Coming, my pet."
A broad-shouldered man exited the carriage. Cynthia ripped her hands from Elliott's touch and practically threw herself at the other gentleman, latching on to his thick arm. A new kind of glow illuminated her delicate features. "Lord Carlyle, allow me to introduce my fiancé. Lord Algernon Mountbatten, Marquis of Glendover."
Fiancé? Elliott's heart caught and sputtered like jammed gears. As their carriage left for the stables, he struggled to find words. "When ... did this ... joyful event occur?"
Cynthia rested her head upon Mountbatten's shoulder. "After my family had the pleasure of seeing you off on the morning train to Essex, concluding your stay in London. Only an hour later, Algernon paid call and proposed in our front parlor. It was quite romantic."
He took in a slow, deliberate breath. An hour later, the morning he'd departed from London. Meaning after she had already accepted his proposal.
"It was a blissful day for the whole family," Cynthia cooed. "For after Algernon departed, who should arrive but Lady Agatha to begin preparations for your union to Gwen. Imagine, two sisters engaged in the same season. It's marvelous. We've just returned from delivering our engagement announcement to the Times. Isn't it exciting?"
This final proclamation knocked out the breath Elliott had forgotten to exhale. His lips fumbled, attempting to fasten words into a reply but failed. Cynthia, his dear Cynthia, wasn't the least despondent. It was like she'd never met him. Never giggled at his jokes, never danced in his arms.
"I've had so many decisions to make." Cynthia's hand flitted about, flashing a lavish engagement ring. "Wedding date, gown selection. Not to mention the matter of where to set up house. At first, I couldn't settle on which of Algernon's exquisite country manors would suit me best, but then I decided on his house in Berkeley Square. I've always preferred living in town."
"I see." His single country house must've been most unsuitable to her tastes. Just like his lower-ranking title.
Mountbatten patted Cynthia's hand. "I'm quite lucky she said yes."
Playfully swatting Mountbatten's arm, Cynthia giggled. "I'd have said yes much, much sooner had you made your intentions known. Fool."
Elliott's heart ground to a painful halt. Much, much sooner. How could he have been so deceived? Cynthia partnered in her mother's plan from the start. His love had been nothing more to her than a trivial consolation prize when Mountbatten had yet to propose and a hindrance once he had. He was the fool.
At that moment his carriage rolled up as Mrs. Bradbury led his bride from the house. Mrs. Bradbury's shrill tone quipped sharp as her angular features. "Time to leave for the wedding tour."
A footman produced Elliott's hat and kid gloves. Time to leave, indeed. One last time, he searched Cynthia's face for a remnant of the sweet girl he'd known, but found none. It had all been smoke and mirrors, a sparkling facade. A game. The Cynthia he knew had never existed.
Without a single remark or good-bye, Elliott climbed into the carriage and rode away with his substitute bride.CHAPTER 2
Gwen crossed the threshold of Briarcliff Park on her own two feet, her husband having fled the carriage — and her presence — immediately upon arrival.
An empty foyer constituted her welcoming party. Its dark woodwork and autumnal colors failed to warm the coldness of her first entrance into her new residence. Running her teeth along her bottom lip, she clutched the folds of her skirt with a gloved hand. She dared not move from the vestibule. Not without specific instruction. Would Lord Carlyle reappear long enough to escort her to her new living quarters? Her gaze lowered to the floor.
After what she'd put him through, she deserved no such courtesy.
The click-clack of heeled shoes lifted Gwen's gaze to the main staircase. A woman thin as the spine of a children's book took each of the steps at a brisk pace. Strands of thread, in a wide array of outlandish colors, hung out of every single pocket in the woman's black uniform and white apron. Such a sight could not be found in London.
"Apologies for the postponement of politeness, dearie." Now standing before her, the tall woman bobbed a crooked curtsy. "I'm Mrs. Nesbitt, head of housekeeping. Welcome to Briarcliff, Lady Carlyle."
A sinking feeling tugged at Gwen's stomach. That honored name had never been offered her, and she could not bring herself to don it now. Not in the house of the man she'd deceived. "Please, Mrs. Nesbitt, call me Gwen."
"Very well, m'lady." Mrs. Nesbitt withdrew a fuchsia thread from a pocket and expertly tied it in a bow around her left ring finger, her only digit not festooned in a rainbow of string. Having done this, she bestowed on Gwen a crinkled smile. "Let me see now...." Her fingertips danced up and down the bows, landing on a teal string looped about a knuckle. "Ah, yes. I'm to convey you to your quaint quarters. Follow me, Lady Gwen, if you please."
As Mrs. Nesbitt started back up the staircase, Gwen trailed closely behind. What would the situating of rooms be like? Would she and Lord Carlyle ... share a chamber? Flaming heat washed over her cheeks, and her empty stomach rolled. Please, let that not be the case. Not so soon, at any rate.
She placed a hand upon her traveling dress's tight bodice, willing her uneasy stomach to be tranquil. Indulging worry was useless. Besides, if one judged things by the speed of Lord Carlyle's escape from the carriage, a shared chamber seemed rather improbable. Adjoining rooms, like Papa and Mamma had in their London town house, would be a more likely and desirable scenario. In such an arrangement, things could be taken slowly. Develop gradually. While a connecting door retained a hopeful prospect.
Assuming, of course, that Lord Carlyle didn't keep the door forever bolted.
At the top of the stairs, a long corridor branched out in two separate directions. Mrs. Nesbitt guided her down its right end and opened the final door of the same side. "Here we are, dearie." She removed the teal string from her finger, tucking it into a pocket. "Hope everything is to your liking."
Gwen took a turn about and studied the room. Small but not cramped. Comfortably furnished with the necessities — bed with nice linens, washbasin atop a stand, and a desk. Her new quarters appeared to have everything important except books and ... a second door.
This was not a grand master's suite, nor was it an adjoining couple's quarters.
In what kind of room had Lord Carlyle placed her?
All previous blushing worries diminished under a frosty wind of suspicion. Gwen inhaled a deep breath and faced the doorway where Mrs. Nesbitt stood. "The master of the house ... Where is his room located?"
"His room?" Mrs. Nesbitt's decorated fingers twiddled with her apron hem, and her gaze flitted down the other end of the corridor.
Gwen exhaled as her suspicion froze over, heavy and cold. It was true, then. The Carlyle family quarters, including the master's suite, were situated on the opposite wing of the house. Lord Carlyle had run ahead of her to ensure she never drew near that wing. By his order, a teal-colored string had hastened to prepare a far-off guest room and convey her to its door. Like an unwanted visitor.
Excerpted from The Lassoed by Marriage by Mary Connealy, Angela Bell, Angela Breidenbach, Lisa Carter, Rebecca Jepson, Amy Lillard, Gina Welborn, Kathleen Y'barbo, Rose Ross Zediker. Copyright © 2015 Barbour Publishing, Inc.. Excerpted by permission of Barbour Publishing, Inc..
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.
Table of Contents
ContentsThe Substitute Bride,
The Sweetwater Bride,
A Highbrow Hoodwink,
Not So Pretty Penny,
The Colorado Coincidence,
Railroaded into Love,