To Win a Lady's Heart

To Win a Lady's Heart

by Ingrid Hahn

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781682811597
Publisher: Entangled Publishing
Publication date: 03/07/2016
Pages: 232
Product dimensions: 5.00(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.53(d)

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To Win a Lady's Heart

A Landon Sisters Novel


By Ingrid Hahn, Erin Molta

Entangled Publishing, LLC

Copyright © 2016 Ingrid Hahn
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-63375-614-4


CHAPTER 1

1811

"You're not going down there, are you?"

Lady Grace Landon, eldest daughter of the late and still infamous Earl of Bennington, turned to face her approaching sister, Phoebe. "Why not? The servants have the afternoon off."

"Nobody will find you down there."

Precisely. The November afternoon was a severe sort of gray, sodden as anything. It stood up as a fine compliment to the old manor house's smell of damp stone and aged tapestries.

Unfortunately, the weather left the members of the house party stranded inside with only their own ingenuity for entertainment. And one particular invention more creative than most was already afoot. Their host had instigated a game. Everyone was to hide, and he would seek them out.

With such a large party of guests, the game seemed impractical. The least Grace could do was to seize the opportunity for some much-needed time to herself.

"Then I suppose I'll win, won't I?"

Phoebe's eyes landed on the slender book Grace had tucked under her arm. "I'd wager you don't want to play, never mind actually win." Her attention caught on something behind her, making Grace turn, a prickle riding the length of her spine at the sight of the form looming at the other end of the corridor.

John Merrick, Earl of Corbeau, broad and tall and lean as a mythic figure of old, said nothing. He bowed and continued walking the other way.

Phoebe gave Grace a discerning glance. "Are you ever going to tell us what it was that happened between the two of you?"

Grace started, but held her ground, returning her sister's look with a harder one of her own. The matter had remained private for eight years. She wasn't about to reveal anything now. "What do you mean?"

The posturing worked. Phoebe's face flashed something suspiciously like guilt. "Well, we always thought — that is, we wanted to ask you, but, you know —"

"Who's we?"

Her sister shifted her weight from one foot to the other, then back again.

"It's all right, I can surmise perfectly well on my own." By we Phoebe had meant herself and the rest of their sisters. Their mother, too, in all likelihood. Of course they had conjectured amongst themselves.

It wasn't so incredible that they did, or that they had a suspicion of something having passed between Grace and Lord Corbeau. What was incredible was that the question still lingered in their minds almost a decade later.

Grace went on. "I propose a bargain. You tell me what it is you think you know. I will tell you whether or not you're correct. And then you can tell me why you were absent for so long after dinner last night."

Phoebe's face flushed a rather remarkable shade of red.

"Well?" Grace's brows rose. This ought to be good. With Phoebe it always was.

"Oh, well, you know. I mean, rather ..."

"Oh, never mind." Grace took pity on her. It wasn't as if she would begrudge anyone enjoying their own secrets, least of all any of her sisters. Besides, as to why Phoebe had slipped away last night, Grace already had a fairly keen notion, one she wasn't sure she wanted confirmed.

Then again, with Phoebe, the youngest of the four sisters, one never knew. Perhaps Grace shouldn't be so sanguine.

"Just know whatever it is you're thinking about in my past related to that man, you're wrong. And I haven't told you anything because there was never anything to report."

Her sister gave an indifferent shrug and retreated down the shadowy corridor in the same direction Lord Corbeau had gone.

Picking up her light muslin skirts and shaking her head, Grace retreated down the steps to the lower part of the house. At the bottom, she stopped to survey the kitchen. It was a large room with glazed tile and a bank of paneled windows on the south wall allowing natural light, such as it was, on this overcast day. The modernity was striking against most of the rest of the crumbling pile.

Instead of smelling of old food, the scent of soap lingered in the air, the strong sort used to scour metal to gleaming. Rows of polished pots and saucepans shone, one special vessel for every imaginable type of preparation. Not surprisingly, everything was in perfect order.

Coming down here had seemed a fine idea while she'd been upstairs. Unfortunately, there didn't seem to be a place to make herself comfortable while the game played out in the rest of the house.

There was a door across the way. No doubt it led either to the laundry or the scullery.

Perfect.

Grace lifted the latch and silently eased her way inside the cool space. It was the storeroom. Shelves of food reached from floor to ceiling. She kept the door ajar so as not to lock herself inside.

A small casement window allowed in enough of what passed for light on this dark day of late autumn. There was a narrow wax candle, if evening started falling while she hid. A little footstool would do very well as a perch.

She settled below the rain-spattered window glass and set the spine of the book between the crux of her knees. The pages fell open to the unopened letter she'd hidden among the leaves, the scent of the crisp new book floating upward.

At last.

Her insides fluttered with anticipation. Her chest heaved, and the rush of air left her strangely breathless.

The paper stock was so fine, so creamy. Her name written on the front above the direction had been reduced to Miss Landon. She'd dropped mention of her title. To attain what she pursued, she could not be Lady Grace.

It'd taken some doing to manage the correspondence in secrecy, but the sale of a silver snuffbox and the resulting coins spread across the correct palms had worked admirably well.

Her pulse beat in her ears. It had to be the offer. It had to be.

She flipped the letter over and slid her finger along the fold, stopping at the thick red wax seal. This was it. With one flick, the seal broke. The paper crinkled as she unfolded it.

At first scan, the marks on the page were nothing but odd symbols, loops and slashes and crosses, not words.

Squinting, she tried again.

Her heart flipped. The job was hers for the taking.

Relief poured through her like a cool drink on a hot day. She, born the daughter of an earl, was going to earn wages.

Wages!

It wouldn't be much — she couldn't dream of restoring her family to what they'd been before their father had died and left them all penniless — but it would be something. No more relying on the thin-worn charity of others. Namely, the thin-worn charity of their Cousin Bickham and his new wife whose sly remarks reminded them they were less and less welcome with each passing day.

What Grace's sisters would lose by being intimately connected to a governess, they would gain by benefiting from what Grace would be able to provide them.

No more charity.

Her mother's great hope was that she would make a good match. That, of course, was now closed forever.

As it was, the hope had been threadbare enough. Being the daughter of an earl might have counted in her favor against a complete lack of fortune, but given that she was the daughter of the mad old Earl of Bennington — no. No man could overlook the infamy. The family remained dragged down by scandal, even all these years later. Not even a love match could overcome the barrier to a good marriage.

Besides, there was her age to consider.

While twenty-seven seemed perfectly adequate and amiable to her, others thought differently. Much differently.

Any chance she might have had was long lost. She had to think of what the family needed most: somewhere quiet to withdraw from the world. And that required money. Not much. Her governess's salary wouldn't afford anything but a modest existence, but it would buy them out of a life relying upon others.

Besides, Grace liked children. However, after her father's flaming fall into infamy, the one thing she'd always promised herself was that she'd never have any herself. Now she would have the chance to have that for which she'd always secretly longed. There was absolutely no reason in the world she couldn't come to love her young charges as much as she might love a child of her own. She wasn't losing anything. On the contrary, everything about her situation said she stood to gain.

Only think how she should have followed her instincts and sought employment sooner.

The door to her hiding place began to open. Grace's pulse leaped in surprise, and she hastily shoved the letter back inside the book. To be discovered so soon — how disappointing. She'd have to put a placid smile on her face and pretend to enjoy rejoining the others.

But the man entering kept his back to her and shut the door.

Oh, bother. Why did it have to be him? That dark hair with a hint of wave. Those shoulders, so perfectly delineated in the crisp cut of his jacket. He was a sight, well enough — a sight best admired at a comfortable distance. Preferably at the opposite end of the largest ballroom in London. Better yet, across the other side of the park.

It could have been anyone else, anyone — even one of the under-gardeners slipping away for a nip of brandy — she would have remained level and composed and altogether unruffled.

But no. It had to be Lord Corbeau. His awkwardness always put her on guard, making her heart beat a little harder whenever he was near. There was something about him, something that made her skittish. She was always so — so aware of him.

He remained poised by the door as if listening for someone to approach. Were he anyone but himself, she might think the man was instigating some childish prank, making himself ready to jump out and give someone a terrible fright.

He thought he was alone, no doubt.

The moment to make herself known with any measure of decorum passed.

Inwardly, Grace sighed. There was no measure of decorum to be had around this man.

She rose.

The room would have remained shrouded in perfect silence had the rain not picked up and clattered against the glazing behind her.

The earl didn't turn. He hadn't heard her come to her feet.

Marvelous.

There were some lessons her own governess had despaired of having imparted to her. Moving like a lady wasn't one of them.

Grace shifted her weight. She opened the book. Before she could close it again, her whole body rebelled, freezing her in place.

She was going to have to do this. It would be nothing but awkwardness if her thudding heart made itself known to him before she did.

Snap. She shut the book.

Lord Corbeau jumped visibly and turned.

And said nothing. He just looked at her, in that steady way of his, as if he could ... as if he could ... well, never mind as if he could what precisely, she was not going to allow herself to consider. Not for one single moment.

"It's you." As soon as he spoke, he seemed to recover himself, and bowed. "Lady Grace."

Her cheeks flooded with unfortunate warmth. Not her fault. What woman wouldn't blush when a man like him pronounced her name in the rich intonation of his low voice?

If only she'd been able to accept him. She'd wanted to. But she hadn't been able to.

The refusal had been for his own good. Of all the men in all the world to be tarnished by marrying into a family such as hers, he was the man she would have picked last.

Her father's situation had still been hushed when Lord Corbeau had made his interest in her known, but it wasn't long after that when the family's secret became known all about town. And that's when the ramifications began.

Most men would have been grateful for the narrow escape.

Not him. Corbeau had hated her ever since she'd turned him away.

She nodded. "My lord."

"It seems my hiding place was less clever than I'd supposed."

"Yes." Yes? Well, wasn't she the very definition of wit.

"I've disturbed you." The stern features of his guarded face flashed a hint of emotion. Grace's heart twisted. The poor man was terribly awkward, wasn't he? The worst part of it was, he was obviously aware of the fact and seemingly helpless to alter himself.

"Not at all."

He gave her a dubious look.

"I was going to read." She held up her book and tried to smile. If the stiffness in her face were any indication, she'd failed abominably.

"A fine thing for such a day. I myself enjoy the pastime."

In the wake of his pronouncement, Grace could almost feel his inner cringe.

Because of her close friendship with his sister Hetty, she'd spent plenty of time around the man. If he'd said so much to her in all of their ten years' acquaintance since that afternoon together she couldn't recall the instance. Perhaps what was playing out between them now was evidence of why he had stayed so silent.

"Yes." She scrambled for something else to say — anything. "It is. Reading." She hated herself for nodding, but couldn't stop. Perhaps she should thank him. There was a certain comfort in the knowledge she wasn't the only lackwit in the room. "It always amuses me. But I rather prefer being beside a fire on days such as this one."

Instantly his expression shifted to concern.

"You're chilled." He pulled at the door. Then pushed. "I'll bring you —" He cleared his throat and tried again.

Nothing.

It was locked.

The ground below her feet seemed to sink. Grace had left the door ajar with good reason.

If there were ever a time to keep a level head, this would be the prime example. She licked her lips and ventured what she almost didn't dare hint at, lest she give the fates ideas to make a cruel joke of her.

The words didn't come.

Absurdity. Grace didn't believe in fates, and she wasn't about to begin now.

She took a breath. "You don't suppose it locks from the outside, do you?"

CHAPTER 2

John Merrick, Earl of Corbeau — Corbeau as he'd been called since childhood by all closest to him — pushed on the door, a faint twinge of desperation flickering in the depths of his chest. The latch held.

It was one of those days. After burning his tongue on his first sip of morning coffee and in quick succession overturning an entire pot of ink on himself, he should have retired to a dark corner. More than anything, he should have steered clear of his friend Max's ridiculous game.

Too late. He'd found himself in about the worst possible place with the last person in the world with whom he could wish to be trapped in a confined space.

And if he knew his host, the game was a thinly veiled cover for an opportunity for Max to find a quiet place to steal a kiss from one of the ladies.

Now Corbeau was not only locked in a storeroom but also locked in a storeroom with Lady Grace. He studied her in one of those interminable silences that always reared its ugly head when he was within ten feet of the woman.

Trouble was, he never wanted to stop looking at her. The simplicity of her sprig muslin day dress set off her quiet allure, as strong today as when he'd first seen her.

Around her, his composure never failed to flee. If anyone could be said to know what a tree must feel like, it should be him. Being around her made him wooden, and not always in terms that might hope to pass for gentlemanly.

Life was a cruel mistress. It wasn't like Corbeau was free to remedy the situation, by, say, offering for her. She'd made her feelings for him only too abundantly clear, and he'd sworn to himself he'd always honor them.

He had a single goal: hide how much he wanted to be near her. But trying to conceal his feelings only exacerbated his utter dearth of social graces.

"Well, I daresay we won't go hungry." She was smiling at him as she spoke.

His balls tightened. Please, mercy — not now. "We can't be discovered."

"You might wish to spend the remainder of your days here, my lord. I reserve the right to want differently."

"No, you don't understand. You and I are together in a locked room. Alone."

The word "alone" was all it took. It conjured images — did things to him. Physical things. Things that might prove useful lurid fodder for when he was by himself in bed tonight.

Whatever effect she might have on him, he did not have on her.

"A room locked from the outside." She spoke offhandedly, as if stating the obvious. "I hardly think anyone will look askance on a simple mistake."

He shook his head. "It's a risk I can't take."


(Continues...)

Excerpted from To Win a Lady's Heart by Ingrid Hahn, Erin Molta. Copyright © 2016 Ingrid Hahn. Excerpted by permission of Entangled Publishing, LLC.
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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To Win a Lady's Heart 4.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 8 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Wow! Really loved this story. Sweet and great characters. Fun read.
UberreaderKS More than 1 year ago
Uberreader’s review of To Win a Lady's Heart by Ingrid Hahn May 22, 2016 By Heather Danielle Absorbing you will hate to put it down. This book may dawdle but that does nothing to hinder the story. I found that when I had to put this book aside to do something else I resented it. It could have used a little more action, but the turmoil between and within the characters more than carried this book. The characters struggles both internal and external just make this book work, you can relate to their tribulations. I would recommend this book to any historical romance enthusiast.
Sailon More than 1 year ago
Lady Grace’s family social status and finances have been destroyed by her father’s actions prior to his death. Making her family social pariahs. Lord John has always desired that Grace would stand by his side as his wife. When they are accidently locked in a closet together John does the honorable thing and asks for Grace’s hand in marriage. Grace would rather have John have a marriage of love than force John to make the sacrifice to save her honor. John is socially inept in crowds, only doing well one on one, so there is a huge communication problem between John and Grace. When it comes to a historical love story I'm all in. Swoon worthy characters make it even better. I really enjoyed this story but around the half way through I realized that neither character was making any progress toward communication. There comes a time during a love story that one must realize the heart of other person to truly fall in love. Grace continued to push John away for over 90% of this story and that is where you lost me. That is also what this story was missing to make it an amazing read for me; the believability of these two people truly loving each other if neither had a clue of the other's heart. I received this copy of To Win A Lady's Heart from Entangled Publishing in exchange for a honest review.
Historical_Romance_Lover More than 1 year ago
This is book 1 in the Landon Sisters series. Years ago, John Merrick, the Earl of Corabeau, wanted to court Lady Grace Landon. She turned him down knowing that it would soon be revealed that her father had financially ruined her family and she didn't want her scandal to effect him. But that all changes when they are caught together in a storeroom during a house party. John immediately tells the others that they are engaged. Unfortunately, Grace's situation isn't any better than it was all those years ago and she is determined to get John to break the betrothal. But John is not about to walk away from Grace a second time when he never stopped loving her. Can John convince Grace that there love for each other is more important than what society is saying about them? I really liked this story! Grace held out against John much longer than I would have been able to, LOL! Even though he was a little different (he didn't like to be in big crowds), I loved that when he was with just Grace he was able to open himself up and be the man that he wanted to be with her. I honestly felt bad for Grace. After what her father died, she really didn't want what happened to her to happen to anyone else. Therefor she turned down John when he asked to court her. Because she didn't discuss all of this with John, she lost so much time with him. When she tries to get out of the betrothal with John, it felt to me like she didn't feel like she deserve to be happy. John sure had a lot of work to do to win her over!! I really enjoyed Grace's sisters and can't wait to read their stories! Thanks go out to Entangled Publishing via NetGalley for a copy of the book in exchange of an honest review.
greekgoddess422 More than 1 year ago
Regency historical . Hero is John Earl of Corbeau . Heroine is Lady Grace . Year is 1811. Lady Grace was at an Estate party . SHe had to get away and read a personal letter she received that she hid in a book . . So she goes down to a pantry and leafs the door slowly open so she can slowly slip out and rejoin the others once she reads it . She has to do something for her family . Her father the Earl left them penny less. Going from house to house for lodgings and all of London turning their backs on them . Corbeau goes into the same pantry but with his back to her . The Earl didn't see her . She snaps closed the book to get his attention . Both Grace and Corbeau find they are locked in together . And during that time period it only means one thing .... Marriage . Thing is Corbeau has want her for a wife for a long time . Their is something about Corbeau also that he is hiding . Yes they are caught and Corbeau does say that they are going to be man and wife . Lady Grace has other ideas . Grab it and find out does Grace give in . And what is Corbeau hiding
ilovereading501 More than 1 year ago
A charming historical romance. I loved the earl and the story of his engagement. I hope there's a sequel soon!
Lashea677 More than 1 year ago
Grace is a woman that takes on the role of rebuilding her family. Betrayal, poverty and responsibility has been heaped on her shoulders leading her down a path of bitterness and mistrust. To be honest it was hard to like Grace fifty percent of the time but easy to understand her attitude. She has been hurt by a person that she counted on to look out for her and her family. She is being judged based on the actions of said person and to top it all off she has to contend with rumors of misconduct between her and John. John was fabulous. Dashing, chivalrous and intent on proving he can be everything that Grace wants, deserves and has lacked in her life. My kind of guy. Thank you NetGalley and Entangled for bringing Ingrid Hahn to my attention. To Win a Lady's Heart is a work of well configured art and I look forward to reading more from this author.
rabidreaderSR More than 1 year ago
This was a charming read. The story surrounds the Earl of Corbeau trying to win over Lady Grace, after they were forced to be engaged due to a compromising situation. The Earl is earnest in his pursuit and attentions, but lady Grace is wary of tarnishing his reputation because of a past family scandal, even though she has feelings for the earl. The story was contained around our couple, but very enjoyable as it gave the opportunity to explore their growing attraction and love without much distractions, and allowed me to truly appreciate the characters charm and oddities, especially the earl with his distaste of crowd and society’s attention. There were secondary characters, but they were not overwhelming and the focus stayed on the Earl and lady Grace, and I loved that. The author’s writing is wonderful, she easily had me invested in the Corbeau and Lady Grace journey to finding love with each other. Their intimate times with each other was sweet, charming and without a doubt sensual, and made the love between them even more realistically drawn. I enjoyed To Win a Lady’s Heart and I am eager to read all the sisters story.