The Maid of Milan

The Maid of Milan

by Beverley Eikli

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781781891285
Publisher: Choc Lit
Publication date: 03/01/2014
Pages: 356
Product dimensions: 5.10(w) x 7.70(h) x 1.10(d)

About the Author

BEVERLEY EIKLI wrote her first romance when she was seventeen. However, drowning the heroine on the last page was, she discovered, not in the spirit of the genre so her romance-writing career ground to a halt and she became a journalist. After throwing in her secure job on South Australia's metropolitan daily The Advertiser to manage a luxury safari lodge in the Okavango Delta, in Botswana, Beverley discovered a new world of romance and adventure in a thatched cottage in the middle of a mopane forest with the handsome Norwegian bush pilot she met around a camp fire.

Eighteen years later, after exploring the world in the back of Cessna 404s and CASA 212s as an airborne geophysical survey operator during low-level sorties over the French Guyanese jungle and Greenland's ice cap, Beverley is back in Australia living a more conventional life with her husband and two daughters in a pretty country town an hour north of Melbourne. She writes Regency Historical Intrigue as Beverley Eikli and erotic historicals as Beverley Oakley.

Read an Excerpt

CHAPTER 1

It was not the name by which she knew him. Since inheriting the title, he'd won celebrity as a poet and become the darling of the gossip columnists. Adelaide's mother couldn't keep those snippets of the real world from her, though she tried.

James. Fifth Viscount Dewhurst. Adelaide closed her eyes against the afternoon sun and tried to block her last memory of him: desperate, pleading. Not the James she knew – the irrepressible charmer who knew no woman could resist him, least of all Adelaide.

Tristan must have misinterpreted her shocked silence for memory failure, for he squeezed her hand and repeated, 'Lord Dewhurst. I'm talking about my old friend, James.' Very gently he added, 'He and his wife were very good to you, if you remember.'

If you remember ...

Her husband's reference to her previous life was almost more painful than the reference to James, though panic quickly succeeded shock at his next remark.

'James is coming to visit us? Here?' She gripped Tristan's arm tighter and concentrated on the path. One foot in front of the other, head down so she didn't stumble on the stones that bordered the hydrangeas from the neat gravel walkway.

Tristan continued to talk in the measured, comforting tone he used when her equilibrium was unsettled. In the past he'd sought her reassurances that she was comfortable with his plans; that there was nothing he'd neglected to facilitate her comfort. Always Tristan put Adelaide's feelings first. Not today.

Tristan was too excited at the prospect of seeing his boyhood friend to recognise her horror, assuming Adelaide would be delighted to play hostess since she'd foolishly voiced the desire just last week to entertain more often.

She remained silent as she walked at his side, contemplating her own strategy if this visit was a fait accompli. She just needed to know when, so she could prepare.

'At the end of the week!' She repeated Tristan's calmly delivered answer to her question in the tone Black Jack, the South American parrot she'd owned in Vienna, used to mimic the death throes of a man at the end of the gallows. A good thing her husband considered Adelaide an invalid, that he'd misconstrue the flare in her eyes, the gasp as she pressed against the pain in her side – her heart?

'Adelaide, you are discomposed. Perhaps I should not have invited James without consulting you, but I thought since ...' Concern clouded his kind blue eyes as he trailed off.

'He was very good to me.' She whispered the old litany. It's what Tristan liked to believe.

'He was. Shall we go back to the house?' He stooped to cup her face in his hands, as tender with her as if she were another of his rare hothouse blooms. As if she might wilt at the suggestion of anything beyond the ordinary, the mind-numbingly mundane.

And yet today she more than wilted as she stumbled on the smooth, carefully raked gravel path. Her heart was in danger of tearing in half. James. Here, at Deer Park ...?

She pushed away the fear, straightening of her own accord. Adelaide could be a good deal stronger than Tristan believed her. Than her mother painted her.

'So silly of me,' she murmured, smiling as she tucked her hand once more into the crook of her husband's arm, firming her step, indicating with a nod that they continue their usual morning walk. Minutely managed and predictable. Around the path that bordered the maze, over the little bridge and across the lawn, skirting the deer park beyond the iron gated border to the dower house where her mother would be waiting. Keeping up the pretence of recovery in response to his troubled gaze, she added, 'Really, I'm perfectly fine.'

How many times had she made similar reassurances? Of course, she hadn't been fine when Tristan had made her mistress of Deer Park three years before; a marriage offer she'd only accepted because she believed she'd be dead of grief within the twelvemonth. And if not dead, then at least free of her mother. Neither had happened.

'So James has left Milan.' She forced herself to say his name. It came out as a faint thread of sound.

James. He needed to stay far across sea and land if she were to have any peace in this life.

'James's father died three months ago so of course he must return from the Continent and take up his responsibilities at Dingley Hall.' Tristan stopped and put his hands on her shoulders to study her more closely. 'Darling, you're very pale. Perhaps we should call Dr Stanhope —'

'No!' She truncated the hysteria in her response, adding with commendable calm, 'Please, let us carry on.'

Tristan was clearly not convinced by her assurances, but he returned to his commentary as they walked sedately through Deer Park's beautiful gardens. 'James's standing has changed with his father's death, and now that his book has become a sensation so have his fortunes. He'll be able to put to rights all that his father almost destroyed through his love of gaming.' He gave a half laugh. 'I'm told my old friend is nearly as famous as those fellows up in the Lakes. I daresay I should read The Maid of Milan before he arrives. Perhaps you'd enjoy it, Addy.'

The Maid of Milan. Dear God! An image of herself and James, naked limbs entwined upon a vast expanse of white linen tablecloth in the Villa Cosi after the guests had gone, seared her brain.

No, she was getting beyond herself. James had continued living in Milan with Hortense, the wife he despised. Of course there'd have been other women after Adelaide had been dragged, screaming, from James's arms. Adelaide could not be James's Maid of Milan. Not after the terrible finale to their affair. In three years Adelaide had heard nothing from him. Nothing, except that one terrible, terrible letter ...

She nodded weakly, forcing herself back to the here and now, noticing Tristan's limp was more pronounced than usual. He hated his disability while embracing Adelaide's weakness. She clenched her gloved hands, breathing away the panic, about to quiz him on his health when he forestalled her, the normal resolve of his firm mouth sweetened by reminiscence. 'I haven't seen James since his marriage to Hortense, and they were newly-weds, just like Cassandra and I.'

Trying to calm her breathing, Adelaide studied her husband's strong, handsome profile for some sign that he was testing her. The fear of losing Tristan's high regard was always with her now. How much easier it had been when she'd felt only indifference towards her husband.

But he was not testing her. Of course not, for he believed Adelaide as pure as the driven snow and as delicate as a porcelain vase. Why would he question her when she'd been so very careful with the truth?

Her mother had seen to that.

But this was not about her, she could see that as she studied the uncharacteristic excitement that roiled in his eyes and the agitation with which he mused upon the past.

'The happy foursome,' Adelaide said, smiling weakly, recalling Tristan's tales of the convivial friendship shared by Tristan and James, and the neighbouring young women they'd married: Tristan's first wife, Cassandra, his childhood sweetheart, who'd died five years before he'd married Adelaide, and James's first wife, Hortense, Tristan's cousin, who'd died three years ago.

For so long Adelaide had felt no jealousy and little curiosity. Lord, she'd felt almost nothing for two years.

The fact that James and Tristan had been boyhood friends had seemed of no importance when she and her mother had arrived at Deer Park for what was to be a one-week stay while they looked for other lodgings. Hortense had asked the favour of her cousin Tristan on behalf of Adelaide's mother, Hortense's mentor. Naturally Hortense wanted Adelaide as far away as possible from James.

An irony, then, that Adelaide had married Tristan. Hortense must have railed at that.

Now James was coming and Adelaide had no idea where his loyalties lay.

'Do you miss Cassandra? Am I anything like her?' Swallowing down her anxiety, she slanted an enquiring look up at him. He'd given her an avenue to change the subject.

Tristan raked his hand through his buff-coloured curls, fashionably long about the forehead, then touched her face. She'd not thought him as handsome as James until recently. Now his chiselled features and air of studied calm appealed so much more to her than James's careless passion.

She was moved by the thickening of his voice. 'Cassandra has her place in my heart but, Addy, I swear, until I met you I knew nothing about true love.'

She could not meet his eye and hoped he'd not misinterpret her lack of response. In the early days of their marriage she'd not troubled to hide her disinclination for his attentions, but now, the truth was she was too choked by emotion to know what to say.

She continued to walk, silent, gaze focused on the middle distance, her expression betraying nothing. Nothing of the terror that James's visit would disrupt the peace she'd finally found in her life, or of her admiration of her husband's fine character, his handsome looks, his noble aspirations which to her surprise, she who was so shallow, was beginning to share. Tristan had presence though he was not one to worry about his appearance beyond ensuring he was in line with fashionable trends. He was comfortable in his own skin, decided in his views.

Determined as to what was morally correct.

'You seem preoccupied, Addy. I shouldn't have mentioned your departure from ...'

He trailed off and Adelaide waited, her breath coming faster, fear replaced inexplicably by the desire for him to touch upon the forbidden topic. Suddenly she felt infused with the strength to tackle the lie her mother had concocted to explain Adelaide's invalidism. Perhaps it was the danger posed by James's return that crystallised how much more Tristan deserved than Adelaide had given him.

Not that she could ever give Tristan the whole truth – his love for her would never survive that – but she could at least begin to assert herself. Transcend the lie her mother had fabricated that had made Adelaide acceptable to Tristan but which had shackled her to a life of deception.

Tristan left his sentence unfinished as he slid his gaze across to her mother coming across the bridge to fetch her.

She fought to steady her voice. 'I'm glad you're so happy, Tristan.'

'More than I can say. James and Hortense were very fond of you, you know. But you seem anxious.' The concern in his blue eyes was genuine. How many women were lucky enough to be granted a second chance with a man of Tristan's calibre? Not only had he fallen immediately in love with her, but his fortune – which her mother had found so irresistible – came with an unexpected title, to boot. Not that any of that had mattered back when Adelaide had wished for death rather than marriage.

'A slight megrim, that's all.' The familiar lie tripped off her tongue. She couldn't remember when she'd last had a megrim. Her robust body continued to betray her, yet the pretence of delicacy was ingrained in her.

The flare of disappointment that clouded Tristan's expression reminded her it was Thursday.

'I'm sure it'll be quite gone by this evening,' she reassured him, bolstering her own smile as feeling shot through her heart. Thursdays were becoming increasingly fraught as she welcomed her husband to her bedchamber for the weekly duty visit. In the first two years of marriage that's all it had been; a duty as she lay in the dark and let Tristan do to her what a husband did. She didn't even think of James, for it would have sent her mad – more than she already was – to dwell on what she'd lost, knowing she'd never feel love and passion in her life again.

She slid another glance up at Tristan and was surprised at the little thrill she felt to see how affected he was by her reassurance she would be well enough for him to bed her. He wanted her, desired her.

And she was starting to desire him. No, she very definitely did desire him.

Maybe she could respond tonight, though he must never discover her true nature. Her lustful impulses would only shock him and threaten the security for which she had traded everything else in her life. It was what her mother always said, though lately Adelaide's feelings for her husband were giving her the strength to challenge her mother's strictures. Surely Tristan could only be delighted at some spark of feeling from her?

His soft kiss upon her brow made her restless for more. Tonight she would meet Tristan halfway. Her mother need never know.

'Mrs Henley is here,' he whispered, giving her shoulders a squeeze and smiling a guileless smile, for how could he know how dangerously he had tilted her world by his invitation to a man she'd hoped never to see again? 'And I must go, for I have an important paper to write.'

She gripped his wrist to stay him. 'You take your responsibilities as the local MP seriously, Tristan.' She bit her lip, wanting to convey something of what she felt when the avenues open to her were so limited. 'I'm proud of you.'

He looked taken aback, as well he might. Adelaide had not voiced such a sentiment, before. She tilted her head, warming to her theme: her admiration for her worthy husband. 'You are firm in your convictions, even when all is lost.'

Smiling at his unconcealed amazement, she released his wrist as she prepared to meet her mother. She wanted Tristan to know how much she'd started to take an interest in the events which concerned him, that she was preoccupied with more than her own supposed frailty. She might wait a little, though, to tell him she'd begun reading, with growing interest, the pamphlets and news-sheets he discarded. Her mother declared he'd dislike Adelaide voicing strong opinions, and as much as Adelaide believed her mother mistaken, she had the power to make Adelaide's life a misery if she overreached herself. 'Public sentiment is that the ringleaders of this latest agitation should hang. You preach moderation, Tristan, and I would not hang them, either, but those in power are not so tolerant – are they?'

'Tolerant?' He seemed to look at her with new interest. 'I should like to hear your views, Addy. The law believes that men who seek to overturn society should definitely hang.'

Adelaide smiled her first easy smile. 'I care more than you think. And I follow the issues that interest you, though we might not have discussed politics together in the past. I'm starting to feel well again, Tristan.' A glorious inner glow was permeating her body, infusing her with the strength and moral courage needed to acknowledge the past sufficiently to embrace the future. With Tristan by her side, it could be a good one. She took his hand, bringing it to her lips. 'You ask me my views on what is tolerant? I believe nothing is black and white. When people are judged they should be judged on what is in their hearts as much as by their deeds, for sometimes unintended consequences are the result of passionate beliefs ... or naiveté.' She brought it back to the men standing trial though she could have been speaking of herself. 'Men who cannot feed their families have no choice but to resort to desperate acts.'

There was appraisal in his eyes, and she wished her mother wasn't nearly upon them. 'Perhaps this evening you might expand your views, Addy. I'm a lucky man to have married a woman whose intelligence matches her beauty.'

'James, now Lord Dewhurt, is coming to stay.' Adelaide made sure she said the words while Tristan was still within hearing in as conversational a manner as possible.

Adelaide was almost amused by the horror on her mother's face and the stricken look she sent Tristan's retreating back before she gripped Adelaide's arm and hurried her down the path towards the dower house, well out of earshot. They passed the lychgate and continued down the drive. This was no conversation to be had presiding over the seed cake that awaited them in her little drawing room where they could be overheard by servants.

'Dear God, Adelaide, when?'

The only time Adelaide's ennui was unfeigned in her mother's presence was in response to her mother's overreaction. She shrugged as if the matter were of little concern to her. 'The end of the week, I think Tristan said.'

'Then you must go away! You can't possibly remain at Deer Park with James in the same house.'

Adelaide slanted her mother a pitying look. 'Where do you suggest I go, Mama?' she asked. 'Since we returned to England you have cut off all contact with any of the old society we once enjoyed.'

(Continues…)



Excerpted from "The Maid of Milan"
by .
Copyright © 2014 Beverley Eikli.
Excerpted by permission of Choc Lit Limited.
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.

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The Maid of Milan 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 5 reviews.
CraigLewis More than 1 year ago
I have to be honest, when I got this book I thought it was going to be another fluffy Regency bodice ripper romance with some rake in mole skin trousers. Was I wrong! This book is nothing like you would expect. The only way I can describe it, is as a Regency version of Dynasty. It has everything, secrets, lies,blackmail, love triangles, death, drug addiction, jealousy, affairs, scandals, oh and some bodice ripping too- the only thing it is missing is Joan Collins. However, I think Mrs. Henley, Adelaide’s mother runs a close second. Mrs. Henley forces Adelaide to go along with the story that she created in order to save Adelaide, but all it does is eats her away from the inside. She is later put in a position that the only way to get out of one lie is to tell more. No one is who they seem in this book, except for Tristan. Tristan is truly honourable man with a moral compass who repeatedly saves Adelaide. Adelaide’s only real crime is being young and in love and obeying her mother. Time after time, her loyalty to her mother and her husband are tested. In the end, you learn who the true villain is and why. The book has a genteel opulence of Anthony Trollope’s The Palliser’s but underneath the waving fans it is all gritty intrigue.This is the first book I read by Beverley Eikli and I can say I am now a fan. The Maid of Milan gripped me from the start and kept me there. I read it in a day, I just couldn’t put it down. I highly recommend this unique book.
Anonymous 9 months ago
I did not find this story enjoyable. It is different, the two main romantic characters are in an established relationship and the interrelationships between all the characters are complex. However, the conversations and thoughts expressed by all characters are repetitious. They have the same internal dialog over and over. I found I lost interest in the story, lost patience with the characters and just honestly didnt care if they ended up together in the end. I was disappointed.
Jamie B More than 1 year ago
Wonderfully written, believable romance about marriage and communication. eal love is complex. Very often, a working relationship requires compromise and learning to love, to respect, and to grow together. Sometimes in relationships you have to put aside your pride in order to make things work, sometimes you have to forgive no matter how much it hurts, and often times you just have to be brave and honest with yourself and your partner. This is the truth of love and marriage.I appreciated how the story attempted to illustrate the difference between two very different kinds of love, and how the slow and difficult kind can still last and become passionate. This book knocked it out of the ballpark.
Mystiqex More than 1 year ago
The Maid of Milan was a pleasurable read. There is a whole lot of drama to keep the story moving fast and tension high as the story progressed. I felt apprehension while reading most of the book and even though I was expecting the eventual climax, the story still managed quite a few surprises. It stands out from other historical romance novels for it’s unique cast of characters whose flaws make them pretty believable.
MyBookAddictionandMore More than 1 year ago
Tired of the average, run-of-the-mill historical romance? If so, Maid in Milan is the book for you! With a complex plot, extremely well developed characters and lots of twists and turns, this book will captivate you from start to finish. Adelaide Leeson has been through a lot. After a passionate affair with Lord James Dewhurst, she’s left mourning the loss of their still-born child and is in quite a delicate condition, both emotionally and physically. Thanks to some quick thinking and deceiving by her mother, Addy finds herself married to Lord Tristan Leeson, a genuinely kind and caring man who wants nothing from Addy but her health and happiness. After three years of marriage, Addy is now ready to form a closer relationship with her husband, both emotionally and sexually. But all the lies her mother has told to cover her past are catching up with her. The more she tries to build a relationship, the more her mother tries to keep them apart, fearing that Tristan will learn the truth about Addy and her true nature. To throw even more problems into her life, her ex-lover James is coming to stay with them for a visit and he’s bringing his new fiancée Beatrice. While Tristan is pursuing his political career, he asks James to take her around London and help Addy re-enter society, not knowing about James and Addy’s sordid past. James is relentlessly trying to open up conversations with Addy about their past and trying to rekindle their relationship despite his pending nuptials, but Adelaide is loyal to Tristan and wants nothing to do with James’ advances. But when a risqué opera singer is thrown in the mix along with a painter and someone who knows James and Addy’s secret, the plot thickens and anything can happen. Desperate to try to keep the secrets hidden, Addy will do anything to preserve her marriage to Tristan, but will it be enough or will the truth out itself and turn her world upside down? I absolutely loved this book! The author’s willingness delve into subjects not usually written about in historical romance novels, while staying true to the regency era was refreshing and very entertaining. Tristan’s willingness to overlook his own desires in order to maintain his wife’s mental well-being will have you absolutely falling in love with him. How selfless and loving Tristan is towards Adelaide! I loved the way that despite her history with James, Addy fiercely loves her husband Tristan and does everything to try to stay true to him. I extremely disliked the way that James shamelessly pursued Addy even though she was happily married to his best friend AND he himself was engaged; however, I realize that this component of the plot was crucial to the storyline, so while I didn’t like it, it didn’t make me like the book less. I was disappointed at what happened between James and Addy, but the ending helped to redeem this book and I was very satisfied with how the author chose to tie up all the loose ends left, but be warned, it doesn’t end quite the way you may think! This is definitely a book worth reading! Rating: 4.5 Heat Rating: Mild Reviewed by: AprilP Courtesy of My Book Addiction and More