Becoming nursemaid to Paul Holmes's orphaned niece seems like the perfect solution to Becky Siddons's problems. After having her romantic hopes dashed, she's determined to focus solely on her charge and not the little girl's handsome uncle. Until Becky realizes she is losing her heart to a man determined to keep his own under lock and key .
Paul had hoped hiring Becky would allow him to keep a distance from his niece, a reminder of his late sisterand his failings in raising her. Yet he soon finds himself enjoying spending time with outspoken, impulsive Becky and the child. Can he take a chance on this unexpected, joyful new family?
About the Author
Lily George lives in northwest Texas with her husband and precocious child, and they are restoring a 1920s farmhouse. You can read more about her work by visiting www.lilygeorge.com.
Read an Excerpt
Tansley Village, Derbyshire
The letter from the penny post gave a nervous crackle as Rebecca Siddons, commonly known to family and villagers alike as Becky, withdrew it from the willow basket she used for her weekly marketing. Her heart thumped solidly against her rib cage as she glanced over the fine, meticulous handwriting on the envelope. Yes, it was from Lieutenant Walker. She hadn't heard from him in ever so long. One would expect a letter sooner from a young man who was, hopefully, soon to be one's fiancé.
She'd lain awake night after night since the lieutenant's regiment left the village, praying for his safety. And when no word camewell, it was difficult indeed not to imagine the worst. But at long last, he'd sent a painfully thin missive. Perhaps his duties at his new post kept him too busy to compose any letter of great length.
Becky turned off the well-beaten path along the storefronts of the tiny village and struck out into the open. One couldn't read a letter like this in the confines of the prim and proper millinery shop she kept with her younger sister, Nan. She certainly couldn't bear to dawdle along, snatching glimpses of her letter while making polite conversation with passersby.
No. For this letter, she craved the wild freedom of the moor.
Becky dashed across the meadow, the long grass catching at her skirts as she ran, her bonnet wrenching free of its hold and dangling down her back like a useless sack. Her long mahogany curls tossed breezily in the wind. Yes. One could breathe up here. One could dream romantic, impossible dreams without being dragged down to earth by a practical little sister or a bossy older one.
She flung her basket aside and with shaky fingers broke the seal of the letter. Would he ask her to join him in Liverpool? Had he finally kept the unspoken promise between them? At last she would be wed to a dashing military hero, have a home of her own, to be a mistress of that house everything her elder sister Susannah had, and which Becky secretly envied.
My dear Miss Siddons
Rather formal, but perhaps he had fears of their secret romance becoming too quickly public?
I must tell you that I have met and married the sweetest girl here in Liverpool. I know you will rejoice in our happiness, as kind and generous as you are. Her name is Rachel
A faint buzzing sounded in her ears. Becky gave a quick, decisive shake of her head. Either her eyes were playing tricks on her, or this was some sort of cruel joke. Surely Lieutenant Walker felt about her as she felt about him. With an achy heart, she grasped one of her curls and wound it about her finger, a gesture that brought comfort to her since childhood. The smiles they'd shared, the lingering glances, the brief touch on her arm as he bade her goodbye.
She opened her eyes wide and forced herself to read each word deliberately and slowly, until she reached the end of the letter. This Rachel was her lieutenant's new bride. When she, Becky, had been so certain that she would, in a matter of months, bear that title.
The weight of dawning realization pushed down her shoulders, forcing her to her knees in the grass. The letter fluttered away and caught on a twig. Hot tears pooled in Becky's eyes and she pursed her trembling lips. No wedding was hers, with redolent orange blossoms. No home of her own waited patiently for its mistress. She must continue to toil away in her millinery shop with Nan and her blunt, practical ways, her constant criticisms and complaints draining the very artistry from Becky's days. She was both a spinster and a fool.
Becky dropped her head in her hands and allowed the tears to fall, deep, wrenching sobs that convulsed her as she knelt in the rough, scrubby stalks. Her heart thumped in her chest, the sound growing louder as she continued to weep.
She must inhale. Otherwise, she might faint. She took a hitching, jolting breath. Her heart was pounding heavily.
No. She raised her head, forcing her streaming eyes open.
Nonot her heart. Hoof beats.
"Ho there!" the rider called in a deep bass voice, reining in sharply. His mount, a magnificent sorrel, made a jagged turn to the right, showering Becky with stinging little blades of grass as he skidded to a halt. Becky froze, her sobs quelled as she watched the precision and control with which the rider managed his horse. He dismounted in one easy, fluid movement and tossed the reins over the saddle.
"Really, miss," he scolded. "What on earth are you playing at, hiding out here in the moor? I could have run you over." He strolled over, tucking his riding crop under one arm, and removed his hat.
As he looked down, Becky gave an inward groan. How perfectly perfect, as her sister would say. Here she was sobbing out here on the moor over her lost dreams and hopes, and along came Paul Holmes, her brother-in-law's teasing and jesting friend.
"Beckywhat on earth? Are you quite all right?" He held out his hand and she took it, allowing him to pull her up from her hovel in the grass. "Whatever has happened?"
"Iuh." She couldn't brazen this one out. She must look a sight. Her nose must be swollen, her eyes must be the color of a tomato, and tear tracks must certainly have trailed down her cheeks. And yet, one couldn't let Paul in on the most private, secret dashed hopes of her girlhood. Paul was so intimidating, really. He was handsome, with dark brown eyes and sandy, wavy hair that always looked rather tousled. And he was wealthy. But what made him most nerve-racking was his teasing manner, coupled with his high-handed attitude. If she spoke the truth, he'd laugh. Or lecture. And she didn't particularly relish hearing either right now. "I received a letter with some distressing news."
"I am sorry to hear it." He fumbled in his jacket pocket and withdrew a fine linen handkerchief. "Here, blow your nose. There's a good gal." He held the crisp linen square to her nose as if she were a mere five years old.
"I can handle it by myself, thank you," she responded in her haughtiest tone, and took the handkerchief with as much dignity as she could muster. After being jilted by one man, she was having a difficult time being civil to another, especially one who treated her as a child.
She gave her nose a hearty blownot a romantic sound, but then who could think of romance now? She flicked a glance over at Paul. His sandy hair blew untidily in the wind, and his brown eyes held a distinct gleam of mockery. He was tall and powerfully built, but for all the handsome figure he cut, one couldn't get past the feeling that he was laughing at everything in general and her predicament in particular. She must compose herself before going back to the millinery shop, and how could she do it now, with Paul standing like a comical sentry before her?
"I really should be going back," she managed, folding the handkerchief into a dainty square. "Thank you for the use of this. I shall launder it and return it to you."
"No need, no need." He brushed aside his handkerchief the way some men might brush aside a scrap of paper. And it was fine Irish linen, too, quite dear. The kind of material they sometimes received in their shop for the use of the gentry. "And I wouldn't dream of you going back by yourself. Not in this condition. I could never look Susannah or Daniel in the eyes again if I left you weeping all alone on this dreadful moor."
"My sister and brother-in-law don't have to know about this." The words tumbled out before she could check them. No, indeed. No one need ever find out if only Paul could leave well enough alone. "I was crying over a private matter, and now I feel better."
"But you look miserable." Paul strolled over to his horse and gathered the reins.
"Thank you." She could not check the sarcastic tone. What was coming over her? Usually Susannah was the sharp one and Nan the biting one. She'd hardly ever uttered an acerbic comment in her life.
Her tone must have shocked Paul, for his grin faded and he cocked one eyebrow at her. "I didn't mean that in an insulting way. I just mean that, whatever your news was, it must have been quite shocking. I've never seen you behave in such a manner." He led his horse over to her, pausing to scoop up her basket and the letter still tangled against a twig. "Here. Jump up. I'll lead you. I am sure you'll feel better once you go home and see Nan, and start work on a new bonnet."
"You sound like Susannah. Work is not my panacea.
And Nan is so difficult." She folded her arms across her chest. "I'd like to stay here a bit longer." She couldn't face the prosaic reality of her life once more. She had to stay out in the moor just a few moments more and lick her wounds in private. If only he would just go away and leave her in peace.
"Nan has always been trying, hasn't she?" Paul leaned against his mount, fixing her with his mildly amused gaze. "What makes her company so unendurable today?"
"Because " Becky paused. How much should she say? She couldn't tell Paul that her marriage prospects were now completely obliterated and she'd be living under her little sister's thumb for all eternity. "Susannah was the heart behind our business. And now she is married and committed to managing Goodwin Hall. Nan is the brains behind the business." She couldn't tell him the whole truth. 'Twould sound too selfish and childish to admit that she was stuck in the middle, not allowed to make any business decisions, her designs often hampered because they were too expensive or too fancy or too delicate for rural wear. She wasn't consulted as an artist, and her opinion was often simply passed over.
"And as for you you've no real place." He nodded. How funny. 'Twas as though he understood her thoughts precisely and yet didn't think her quite a ninny for feeling them. "Have you ever thought about something else? Do you have to work in the shop, Becky?"
"I thought my circumstances might soon change, but they won't, so I might as well face facts." She looked at him squarely, though it was terribly difficult to do so. It wasn't that she was afraid of Paulhe wasn't a scary sort of person. He just made her nervous with his joking ways.
His expression shifted, and the vague sympathetic moment they'd shared vanished like ice melting in the sun. "I think the reason you're out here sobbing is in this letter I found." He cast a crooked grin her way and tapped Lieutenant Walker's letter against his chin with a mockingly thoughtful gesture. "Shall I read it and find out?"
That was a mistake. Paul had pushed the teasing too far, just as he had with his own younger sisters. Becky's fine, dark brows drew together as she made an impetuous grasp for the letter.
"Give it back to me," she pleaded, her violet-blue eyes sparkling with fresh, unshed tears. "You have no right to take my private property." She extended her small, trembling hand out, palm up.
He swallowed, giving himself an inward kick. Here he was, making matters worse when she had finally begun to calm down. He pressed the epistle back into her hand, taking a quick glance down as his did so. Bold, decisive scriptdefinitely the handwriting of a man. Likely she had been jilted in some form or fashion by some ridiculous blackguard. And that was the reason she was out here cryingshe'd lost her chance that marriage would end her servitude at the shop.
"You're right, I don't." He shrugged and handed her back the basket she'd dropped. "Forgive me. It's the privilege of being the eldest brother, you see. I always teased my younger siblings in a merciless fashion."
"I'd love to have a fraction of your license," Becky admitted, the ghost of a smile hovering around her pretty lips.
She looked a little like his younger sister Juliana, though Becky's features were softer, more feminine. Juliana, too, had had her heart broken by an undeserving male.
"I had no idea you had so many brothers and sisters to lord over."
"Oh yes, Juliana is close to your age." Or was. One short week was hardly enough time to adjust to the fact that his beautiful young sister wasbut no. This wasn't the time or place for such thoughts. He stifled a cough and continued with a happier memory. "But she always got her revenge. Once, Juliana put pepper in my snuffbox. You can only imagine how long it took me to recover."
Becky laughed, a dimple touching her left cheek as she smiled. "Jolly good for her." Then her laughter ceased, and the dark shadow fell over her face once more. The change was disappointing, for Becky was a pretty little thing. With her dimpled cheek and that dark waterfall of hair, she could certainly become a diamond of the first water, had her family been able to give her a season. Funny, he'd always thought of her as just the middle daughter of an extraordinary family but she was coming into her own now. Not that it mattered to him, of course.
"I don't suppose I've convinced you to return to the shop, then?" He gave the reins a tug, and Ciro stopped munching the moor-grass. He had business to attend to, and couldn't spare any more time talking to a girl, appealing though she might be.
Becky shook her head, the wind ruffling her curls. "No, thank you."
"Well, if you insist on staying out here, then I must ask you to at least stand upright." He swung into the saddle and settled in comfortably. "I could have run over you, buried as you were in the grass."
Becky's delicate features hardened and she turned her head aside. "I promise I won't do anything as silly as allow myself to be run over. You might be more careful yourself, you know."
He suppressed a grin at her haughty tone. She certainly hated being told what to do. No small wonder, being squeezed in between two termagants like Susannah and Nan. Just to be perverse, he leaned down over his saddle and fixed her with his best "lord of the manor" gaze. "If you aren't home by sundown, I shall tell Daniel and Susannah that you were wandering the moor like some lovesick heroine in a Romantic poem."
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
“The Nanny Arrangement” by Lily George is the second book in her "Home to Tansley" series and wow oh wow it was as good as the first. This one did that have that fairy tale feel to it but yet there was something more to it as well. This story is a Regency era book set in England 1811 but at the same time it seems as if it is a timeless love story. Though this book does center around Becky Siddon, the middle sister, it is not important to have read the first book. although it is really truly worth the time to read it. The hero of this book is Paul, who was also seen in the first book and I so wanted to see more of him as well from that first book. Becky is a young lady who is romantic and artistic not to mention trying to figure out which way works for her the best. When her romantic hopes are dashed, she agrees to help Paul by being the nursemaid to his niece, and while doing so she learns quite about herself. She has certain ideas about how things should be done, but when things don't quite right she is a little uncertain about what to do. She is set on though making things better for her young charge even if it means going toe to toe with other people like a momma bear protecting her cub. Becky's faith is strong and a light that shines brightly throughout the story without it being in your face preachy. Paul is a man who is frankly running from so many things, that it is amazing that he had the priorities that he did have at all. Here is a man who goes through a lot of changes throughout the story and it was so interesting in watching how those changes took place. He was not preached to in order to change things in life, but there was some subtle pressure put on him by an unexpected character that is for sure. I truly loved watching the change in Paul for there is such a difference from the start of the book Paul to the end of the book Paul. I would have to say that there is not a lot of external conflict, but more of this being the story of Paul and his change. I really wish I could say more to the conflict but if I do then I risk giving something away, and I hate when people give spoilers in their reviews so I try to avoid that as much as possible. The way this story is told, it is hard not to be drawn in the struggles that both Becky (yes she is struggling as well) and Paul are going through. I really need to remember my limit on times as to when I start reading a book for I didn't finish this book until nearly 2 in the morning for I had to see how everything is resolved. It almost seemed as if one thing resolves then another thing pops up until all those pieces fall into place for the fairy tale ending. With “A Rumored Engagement” it didn't have that fairy tale feel to it, which really suited Susannah who was a no nonsense kind of character. Then with “The Nanny Arrangement” the book had that fairy tale feel which really suits Becky. It is going to be interesting to see how Nan's story is going to come out. I think there is something about Nan that we just don't know yet but will explain so much about her. I think it is so wonderful when a story is told in which it suits one of the characters like these books do. I really hope all who read this book enjoys it as much as I did. *I received this book from Ms. George in exchange for an honest review.
This is the second book to A Rumored Engagement, but can honestly be read as a stand alone, though I recommend reading the first one because it was a very good book. Ms. George just keeps getting better with every book she writes. I immensely enjoyed the first book but the second (this one) was even better! One thing I loved so much about this book was Paul, (the hero) his struggles were so real to the ones we face this day and time that it made his character seem so real. He struggled with loss early on in his life and in turn went to worldly pursuits to ground out the pain he felt in his life. Trying to drown out his sorrows in other things, rather than turning to God to help heal the pain he was enduring. When God started coming closer and life got a little harder he would run away. Until one day an accident traps him at his home for a few weeks, he becomes challenged in sorts by Becky Siddons (the heroine) and the nursemaid to his young niece. His heart then begins to soften over those weeks toward them both. I thoroughly enjoyed his journey with faith, hope and love. Another thing I enjoyed greatly as well was Ms. George gives us a good reminder of how our plans in life do not always come out the way we expect. How God may sometimes have different and better plans for us then we have for ourselves. Rebecca Siddions (Becky) is a hopeless romantic, that is until her hopes were one day dashed and from then on swears she shall never fall for another man again. So she becomes a nursemaid to Paul Holmes young niece. She feels this is her calling from the Lord, so she gives it her all even though she struggles with her headstrong charge. I adored Becky's character as well, she was kind, caring and loving. This was an amazing story about two strong-willed people determined to do best for Juliet, Paul's niece and charge. This was a very inspirational story, we could take many things from this book. There are just one little thing I would have liked to have seen just a bit more of, that being more in depth thoughts from Holmes as God was working on his heart. But it didn't make it any less wonderful! I recommend this book to anyone who enjoys a regency romance and give it four stars! Also, I can not wait for Nan's story! She is the third sister in the Siddions family. I can't wait to see what Ms. George does with her story! I received this book from the author in exchange for my honest review in which I have given.