Ruth’s sister is dead, and her suspicions are aimed squarely at the powerful, magnificent, brooding Duke of Lyndhurst, ward of Rhea’s orphaned children. Ruth’s goal? Secure a job as the children’s governess.
At the very least, she means to ensure her sister’s twins are raised properly. A task she suspects is beyond the duke, who wanders away at night, comes to dinner disheveled, and stirs desires she’s never felt before.
Marcus isn’t just the Duke of Lyndhurst. He is Mars, god of war, and his nightly dinners with Ruth are his only respite from his desperate struggle with the Titans.
Little does the drably dressed, socially inept woman realize, she is a constant temptation to him—and he’s losing the battle to resist. But if he allows her to break the chains around his heart, their love will make her a target in a fight to the death.
Each book in the Even Gods Fall in Love series are STANDALONE.
- Lightning Unbound
- Mad For Love
- Arrows of Desire
- Forged By Love
- War Chest
- Her Quicksilver Lover
About the Author
L. M. Connolly, also writing as Lynne Connolly, writes historical romance, paranormal romance, and contemporary romance. She loves the conflicts and complications that come about if someone lives their life to the full.
She has her own blog, but she also blogs for The Good, The Bad and The Unread, the UK Regency/Georgian writers' blog and Heroes and Heartbreakers. She lives in the UK with her family and her mews, a cat called Frankie. She also enjoys making and decorating dolls' houses. She visits the US at least once a year, attends conferences and has a great time.
Visit her at: http://lynneconnolly.com.
Read an Excerpt
"Anna says she will come to term in the next two weeks." Lady Simpson put down the letter from her eldest daughter by the side of her plate. "Is that not good news?" The sleeve of her delicate silk dressing gown came perilously close to the butter dish.
Sir Samuel replaced his dish of tea in its saucer. "That's wonderful news, my dear."
"She says she is doing very well." She beamed at her family, and then glanced at her second eldest daughter, Ruth. Her bright smile disappeared, replaced by a thoughtful frown.
Ruth forced a smile and got on with her food, waiting for the penny to drop.
Here it came. "Ruth, I may send you to her, to see if you can aid her in any way?"
"Don't you think she will want you, Mama?" Ruth asked mildly. Inside, she seethed. What if seeing her sister's baby reminded her of her lack of husband and children? Who cared about that except her?
"How many will this be?" her father said, reaching for the last slice of toast, ignoring the fact that Ruth was about to take it. Her hand met nothing but air.
"Four," her mother replied fondly. "Let us hope this one is a boy; then dear Joshua may have his heir." Anna was married to Joshua Renwick, who, next to Sir Samuel, was the most important man hereabouts. Some said he was worth more than Sir Samuel, but not in his hearing. "That will give us four grandchildren."
The spirit of rebellion Ruth customarily squashed came up. "Six, if you count the two Rhea bore."
Silence fell. Rhea, the sister nobody talked about. Rhea, who succumbed to the wiles of a visiting aristocrat. Rhea, who gave birth to two sons out of wedlock. Rhea, who ran off to London to confront the duke. Rhea, who died by her own hand in a London club. As the putative father of the children, surely the Duke of Lyndhurst should also be accounted at fault? Men got away with behaviour that ruined a female, whatever their rank. After the duke disowned the children, a despairing Rhea had taken her own life. Her parents refused to acknowledge the babies, and did their best to deny the existence of their disgraced daughter.
The resulting silence snapped with tension.
Ruth kept the hastily scrawled letter Rhea sent her after she left. She treasured it. If she had not been passing when the letters arrived that morning, no doubt she would never have received it. How many other letters Rhea sent, Ruth had no way of knowing.
Lady Simpson glared at Ruth balefully. "She is dead to us. It will not do her any good, nor us, to remind people of our disgrace. How else may we support ourselves here?"
By defying opinion in favour of doing the right thing by their grandchildren.
"You will not speak her name again in this house." Sir Samuel got to his feet, his chair scraping against the wooden floor. Ruth noted her mother's flinch at the scarring of her carefully polished floor, but ignored it. "You will go to your room for the rest of the day."
A small price to pay.
Her father pushed his spectacles up his nose. "Put all your books there outside the door. You will have bread and water brought to you."
The small price became much larger, because she had counted on those books. She would — what? Remain quiet and obedient, turn into the daughter they wanted, the one who was expected to do all the tasks required of her? Fury rose to choke her.
"She was my sister," she said bitterly, then got to her feet too. "She would have married the duke, had she not died." That would not have made their children legitimate in law, but she would not mention that now. Rhea would have given him heirs for the title. She lifted her chin proudly. "Rhea would have been a duchess."
At five feet ten inches, she was as tall as her father, and she stared him in the eye. Something he detested that she avoided for the most part. His displeasure hurt. Sir Samuel was a proud bearer of the saying, "Spare the rod and spoil the child."
Looking at her father, with his rotund belly and his wheezing gasps, Ruth doubted he could touch her if she did not wish it.
At that moment something passed between them and Ruth found strength she did not know she possessed. She might be the disregarded disappointment of a daughter here, but elsewhere, she might find a life for herself. She had reached her limit. Penniless without her allowance, powerless because of her sex, she nevertheless meant something to someone — herself. If she continued as the quiet, well-behaved daughter, she would betray part of herself. Rhea was a part of this family, even though she would never sit in her place at the table again.
"I will not deny her," Ruth said.
"Three days," her father said. "No books, no writing materials. You may pray for forgiveness and spend your time in contemplation."
As if he ever properly contemplated any action of his. He had developed this punishment after consulting with the local vicar, a particular crony of his. Ruth would rather he beat her. The boredom was worse than anything she could imagine.
Holding her head high, she left the room and made her way upstairs.
After half a day ruminating and striding around the small area allotted to her, Ruth was ready to tear out her hair. Sighing, she sat on the floor and slumped against the bed, tipping her head back. Without the tasks that kept her busy, she had little to do except contemplate her fate and the lonely years ahead. When Rhea had been alive, she had promised Ruth she would take her to her house when she married and give her a proper season. "You're unusual, that's all," she would protest, and Ruth would laugh. Few men liked a woman who overtopped them in height. Tears pricked Ruth's eyes, but she refused to let them fall. That would be to give in to her father, to show regret.
Her room was on the second floor of the house, a small chamber, because all the main bedrooms were occupied. Ruth suspected it also served to put her in her place, as future unpaid drudge. Her relatively Spartan surroundings emphasised her position. As a child she'd never imagined her life would come to this. Like other girls, she'd dreamed of a husband, of a life where she mattered. Where people called her stately instead of freakish, and admired instead of useless. Listened to instead of overlooked and ignored.
She could earn a living as a governess. Certainly more than the measly allowance her father allotted her.
Why not? Her parents could afford to keep her, something they never failed to tell her, but they had her dress bills sent directly to them, and her pin money was paltry. She was totally dependent on her parents. Surely she'd have more and do more on her own?
Fully aware of the life of the governess, the life many thought miserable, surely it couldn't be any worse than this? Unlike Rhea, she might have an opportunity to return. Her father was a gentleman, not a lord. He might disown her, but at present she did not care. What could be worse than this?
At the moment, she didn't care.
She would do it.
Her heart in her mouth, she made her preparations. At her lowest, before Rhea's death, Ruth considered following her and finding her for herself, perhaps bringing her home. To that end she'd gathered a few items of use, not the least money. She spent little and saved the sum of ten guineas, which would keep her for a while.
During a recent visit to Harrogate, accompanying her mother, she'd found an advertising card for a registry office, a place that hired servants and the like. She could go there. Or — and the notion made her feel a little sick — she could go to another place. She could find those poor motherless children and make sure they were being taken care of.
Ruth put her complete weight behind the old chest under the window. It moved a fraction of an inch at a time, scraping along the floor. She did not have to shift it far, only to the edge of the floorboard that lifted last winter when the big gaps between the windows let the rain in. Normally she'd have reported the problem to her father, but she bore with the draughts and the damp until the floorboard had raised enough to be useful, the old, iron nails rusted through and useless. Underneath she'd secreted a purse with her money in small coins, a few sheets of paper and a pen and portable inkstand. She had purposely collected different kinds of paper. Caught up with her plotting, in her heart she had believed she would not ever put it into place, but the planning amused her and given heart at a dark time.
Now she would do it and risk her father's permanent displeasure. Her foolish father. When their landlord, the Earl of Valsgarth, visited last year, he offered to do what he could for Rhea, but her father refused to have anything to do with the twins Rhea had borne. They could have requested favours from him, but no, they had not. Ruth had been away at her sister Anna's house, or she might have tried to speak to his lordship. Find out what had happened to Rhea, because she was not entirely happy with the account of her death.
Rhea had killed herself? Ruth still could not credit it. Her fun-loving sister would have fought every inch of the way for her life, and most of all for her children. Ruth's chief suspect was the father of the boys. He had them now.
The stagecoach to London left at dawn. If she got off at York, she could get another coach headed towards Scarborough, and ask them to let her off at the duke's house. By then she'd have the appearance of just another domestic servant.
She set to work. After pulling out what she'd hidden, she wrote three letters. Two were forged references. Writing character references for servants bored her mother, so Ruth did them for her. She knew exactly what to say and what not to say. Too effusive and they would check the accounts. So she made use of words like "Satisfactory" and "Good," "Efficient" and "Quiet."
She slanted one script to the right and the other upright, making the first more elaborate and refined. The second she fashioned in a more schoolroom copperplate way. She signed both with the names of ladies she had made up, who lived in the far reaches of Derbyshire and Scotland. The other letter she addressed to her father.
I am going to find Rhea's children to ensure they are taken care of. I undertake not to bring them back home. I want to find out what truly happened to my sister. For your own welfare, I suggest you tell the neighbours I am on an extended visit to my cousin. I care not which one; you may tell me when I return.
If you desire to cast me off as you did Rhea, you may do so, but the neighbours will think that passing strange, so perhaps you would care to think twice about taking that path. I will not disgrace you. I will not use our family name while I am travelling. I will keep in touch if I can.
I hold you and my mother in the greatest respect and love, and it would break my heart if you chose not to take me back. I will return. The rest is up to you.
Your loving daughter, Ruth Simpson.
She signed her name with a flourish, the last time she would do so.
"There's a woman to see you, your grace." Mrs. Brindlehurst's demeanour told Marcus exactly what she thought of the woman. His housekeeper had a way of conducting herself, one that revealed her feelings far more than her words ever did. She held her hands clasped together in front of her, and her eyes were narrowed.
"Is there something wrong with the woman?"
"She appears perfectly respectable, sir. However, she is a positive mountain."
For the first time in months, Marcus found his interest piqued. "A mountain? She's a large female?"
"Indeed. We are not expecting her. However, she said the register office sent her. Before I send her on her way, I wanted to ensure you had not contacted them and told them to send someone. After all, we are a nursemaid short."
"A mountain! I take it you're referring to the registry office in York?" He lifted his feet off his much-abused desk and planted them on the floor before reaching for his wig, which he'd stuck on the corner of his office chair. August was far too hot for wigs, but he'd need to don it if he needed to interview someone. The woman's description intrigued him, so he might see her.
Mrs. Brindlehurst folded her arms. "You cannot employ her, sir. She is a giant. She would terrify the babies."
Marcus cared only that the babies were kept out of his way. Of course he wished them safe and healthy, but above that, nothing.
He waved his hand at Mrs. Brindlehurst. "Send her in. I'll see her."
Marcus anticipated meeting a freak of nature, someone as wide as she was tall, maybe bursting out of tightly laced stays. What he met was a tall, cool, self- possessed woman carefully and neatly attired in a dark green wool gown far too warm for this balmy summer day. He had only shrugged on his coat before she entered the room and already he was beginning to perspire.
He motioned to the seat after watching her neat curtsey. She was tall, true, but she bore an air of elegance. Rather than being plump, she was too thin, with little to show below the practical linen fichu that covered her bosom tidily. Her hair was a dark blonde, or maybe light brown, and when the sun hit it, it gleamed gold. She had removed her hat, but still wore a decent linen cap. In fact everything about her seemed decent. That air — she intrigued him. He wanted to discover more.
At last, something to take his mind off this damned fever plaguing him night and day. His sleeplessness and the constant demands of his body were running him ragged. He needed a distraction, and he might have just found it.
"Miss ...?" He waited.
She didn't disappoint him, but met his gaze boldly. "Carter, sir. Miss Carter."
"Your first name?"
She glanced out of the window behind him, then turned her attention back to him. "Ruth," she said, gazing at him as if daring him to do something about it.
Why should he? Ruth was a perfectly good name. He had nothing against it. Narrowing his eyes, he watched her sit, spreading her modest skirts carefully around her. She was neat as a pin, and as contained as one. When he stretched out his mind to read her mood in the way of his kind, he found her edgy. Not surprising.
He withdrew before he could detect anything else. He disliked prying. It seemed unfair to him.
How shocked would she be if she knew she was in the presence of a god? At least partly one. Before he was born, the god Mars entered his mother's pregnant body and taken possession of the unborn child. Strange though it might seem, he lived with that dichotomy all his life and it was his normality.
He longed to reveal his power to this self-possessed young woman, to shock her and take her unaware. Just to see her reaction. Anything to break out of this damned malaise pestering him night and day. He couldn't remember the last time he'd slept through the night.
"What are you doing here?" he rapped out.
"The — the agency sent me," she said.
He didn't need his extra senses to tell him she was lying. Or at least uncertain. She did not meet his eyes when she answered, and shifted from one foot to another. He held out his hand, beckoning. "Your characters, if you please."
She gave him the papers. He glanced at them. They were very good indeed. Written with the same pen, in the same ink, at the same pressure, because all the stems were the same thickness. A bend in one corner told him the papers had been stored together. Not recently, either, as would have been the case for the journey from the agency to here. The creases were old.
He put the papers aside, well and truly intrigued. "The point is, Miss Carter, I'm not in need of a governess. The children are babies, not yet a year old. They will not require lessons on anything other than how to sleep and eat for some time." He steepled his hands, pressing the fingertips together. "So how do you explain that?"
"The agency must have made a mistake. Taken months for years." She brightened. "Yes, that was it." Then she frowned. "I can supervise a nursery. These are your heirs, sir? You will want them most carefully cared for."
Scowling, he told her, "They are not my heirs. They are my wards, that is all."
"Ah. I see." She didn't seem surprised. So she knew about the babies? That would not surprise him — the scandal had briefly occupied London and appeared in the papers. He had been hard put to keep the mother's name out of the gossip sheets.
She was exactly what he needed to distract him. Not her undoubted appeal to his baser nature, but the mystery that surrounded her. This woman was almost restful in her self-contained bubble.
Excerpted from "War Chest"
Copyright © 2016 Lynne Connolly.
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.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
This is a paranormal story book 5 in the Series Even gods Fall in Love . Hero is Marcus . Heroine is Ruth . Rhea sister from book 4 About the story . You meet Rhea in book 4 who had The Dukes Children twin Boys . Marcus (Mars ) is a Duke in this lifetime . He knows the Children are not his . But he keeps them on his estate as wards . Rhea was Ruth sister . Rhea is dead now and the parents (Ruth and Rheas ) will not recognize them . Ruth has no choice but to leave her house to go see how the twin boys are. Ruth has put some money away . Ruth gets away and arrives at the Dukes residence . She has made a story saying she was sent for the governess opening . Marcus knows she is lying . The boys are only a few months old ... They won't need a governess still, not for a few years. Ruth is shown to her part of the house and she sees its more generous than her parents house . Ruth has made up a name so The Duke won't put 2 and 2 together and know she's Rhea sister . Marcus feels comfortable with Ruth . He has one condition ... That Ruth has dinner with him every night . The first night things went smoothly . Marcus then has another condition ... That he asks a question and Ruth has to answer it truthfully . Ruth then tells Marcus that she would like the same condition that she asks Marcus a question and he needs to answer it truthfully . So the questions start . Won't say what kind grab it and find out . The God Mercury in that time as a human comes by for a visit . Mercury knows right away Ruth's full name .. Marcus feels betrayed . The Duke asks Ruth why . Grab it and find out . Ruth and Marcus had feelings for each other . Mercury has to remind Marcus (Mars) who he is intended for . And Mars intended is on her way . This is a great read . Lynne writes every little detail . She goes deep into the characters . Grab it and find out