and the women who tame them…
New York Times bestselling author Karen Ranney returns with the first novel in a new series about dashing, charismatic dukes—and the women who tame them…
Though raised as a gentleman’s daughter, Lorna Gordon is obliged to take a
position as an upstairs maid at Blackhall Castle when her father dies. Alex
Russell, the Duke of Kinross, is the most tempting man she’s ever seen—and
completely unattainable—until, at a fancy dress ball, Lorna disguises herself
as Marie Antoinette and pursues an illicit tryst…with scandalous consequences.Months after his mysterious seductress disappears, Alex encounters her again.
Far from the schemer the distrustful duke assumed her to be, Lorna is fiercely
independent and resourceful. She’s the one woman capable of piercing his
defenses. But when danger threatens Lorna, Alex must prove himself not just the
lover of her fantasies, but the man who will fight to protect her.
This story, set in the Victorian era, is a character-driven romance in which the aloof, wounded hero meets a daring and sweet heroine who will change his life. It also depicts in a realistic manner the class relations and the distant relationship between aristocrats and servants. Although the plot may not be considered overly original, I found myself engrossed in this story.
It is centered around Lorna Gordon, the daughter of a well-respected botanist, who has been forced into service by circumstances. A maid at Blackhall Castle, residence of Alex Russel, the Duke of Kinross, she has been admiring him from afar. Playing Cinderella at the castle’s masquerade ball will change her life forever. Lorna is attracted to Alex like a moth to a flame and after a passionate, forbidden tryst, she finds herself with child. Independent and strong-willed, she intends to raise the child on her own and wants nothing from Alex. But when the Dowager Duchess is informed of Lorna’s condition, she confronts her son with Lorna’s allegations. Although he considers the whole thing as a ploy, he intends to provide for Lorna and their child. Alex is not a bad man or even a rake, but he has a sorrowful past and huge trust issues. He is a loner and tends to live in a virtual ivory tower, surrounded by servants he hardly sees. He is a scientist in his own right, though, and is passionate about his study of fingerprints.
Although an unlikely pairing, Alex and Lorna have a lot in common and I enjoyed the slow burn building of their relationship. Alex definitely grew on me as he discovers parenthood and starts to let his guard down, encouraged by his lovely mother. But some evil-minded castle hosts will put their relationship to the test.
This book grabs you from the first page and the author did a great job of tying up all loose ends and giving me the happily ever after I wanted for the characters. This book is the first in the author’s new series and can be read as a standalone. If you enjoy sexy, sweet and suspenseful historical romances, this novel is a great pick.
Thank you for visiting and happy reading!
An advance copy of this book was provided by the publisher, via Edelweiss.
“It would be a waste of my time to tell you this is foolish, wouldn’t it? You wouldn’t pay any attention.”
Nan stepped back and surveyed Lorna, shaking her head all the while.
The room they shared was small and with only a tiny mirror over the common bureau. Nan would have to be her eyes.
Each maid was assigned an oil lamp and a certain amount of oil. If it was used before the end of the month, she had to dress in the dark, a way of ensuring that she rationed the light better the following month.
Lorna hadn’t used any of her oil for a week, saving it all for this one night.
“Maybe it is foolish,” she said, glancing down at the wide panniers of the gown she wore. “But it is such a magical evening and when would I have another chance to experience a ball at Blackhall?”
“You’re a maid, Lorna,” Nan said, sighing heavily. “Not a guest.”
“Tonight, though, Nan, no one will know.”
Nan made a sign in the air and she obediently turned so that the back of the dress could be inspected.
Things happened for a reason, didn’t they? The housekeeper had sent her to find a certain table in the attic and she’d gone, reluctant to climb into the darkened space. She couldn’t disobey Mrs. McDermott. The dear lady had taken her on when she hadn’t a whit of training or background in service.
To her surprise, the attic wasn’t gloomy or dark at all. Porthole windows along the outer wall let in the June sunlight. For an hour she’d pulled up one sheet after another, only discovering the table at the far end of the attic. Between the stairs and the door, however, there’d been dozens and dozens of trunks, each begging to be opened and inspected.
In the third trunk she’d found the carefully wrapped wig and the golden dress with the panniers. A fortuitous find, especially since they’d been preparing for the fancy dress ball at Blackhall for over a month.
She was not one to overlook circumstances, especially when they were calling out to her. Her father had often said that fortune favors the bold – fortuna audaces iuvat.
“We could have found a dress for you, too,” she said now as she tugged on the wig.
She’d taken the precaution of grabbing some flour from the kitchen. None of her training had given her any insight into fashions from a hundred years ago, but the wig had given off a cloud of finely milled powder and the only thing she could think of to substitute was flour. Nan dipped a powder puff into the bowl and patted it on her temples and the tall crown of hair adorned with gold bows.
“I’m not as brave as you.”
“Or as foolish,” Lorna said.
“That, too.” Nan stepped back and surveyed her handiwork. “Mrs. McDermott will have no choice but to dismiss you if you’re found out.”
“Then I’ll make sure I’m not discovered.” She turned and smiled at Nan. “It’s a fancy dress ball, Nan. Everyone will be wearing masks. No one will know who I am.”
“What?” she asked.
Nan shook her head again. “You see what you want to see, Lorna. You have ever since I’ve known you. You’re lucky Mrs. McDermott didn’t assign you to serve the guests. What would you have done then? Come up with some sort of sickness?”
“I would have found some way,” she said, smiling down at Nan.
She’d been deliberately clumsy this past week, especially in the housekeeper’s sight for that very reason. She’d dropped an armload of books she was dusting, fumbled with the jar of spent tea leaves used to clean the carpets, and repeatedly stumbled holding her brushes and pail.
After all that, Mrs. McDermott would have been foolish to select her as one of the servers. Better to dismiss her early, send her to her room, and instruct her to appear at dawn to help clean the ballroom. To her relief the housekeeper had done exactly that.
“Well, how do I look?” she asked, carefully affixing the mask strings behind her ears. That, too, had been another miraculous find, a sign that she had to attend the ball.
It was as if Providence, well aware of her barely contained curiosity and fascination, had provided her with a way to see the Duke of Kinross up close. Granted, it would only be for a few hours on a June night in the Scottish Highlands, but who was she to deny Providence?
“You look beautiful,” Nan said, nodding. “The gold makes your brown eyes sparkle. And the white wig accentuates your complexion.”
“Could I pass for one of the guests?”
Nan sighed again. “Yes, but I’m not sure that’s a good thing.”
“My father was Robert Gordon. I’m the equal to most of them there.”
“But it isn’t because of most of them that you’re going, is it? It’s to see the duke. We both know how foolish that is.”
Lorna reached over and hugged Nan, depositing a fair share of flour onto the other girl’s shoulders. Apologizing, she pulled back.
“Don’t worry, Nan. I’ll go and pretend to be someone else for a few hours. Then I’ll return and be a well disciplined upper maid, I promise.”
Nan didn’t appear convinced. Nor was Lorna, if she were to tell the truth. It was going to be so difficult to be herself after tonight.
Karen Ranney wanted to be a writer from the time she was five years old and filled her Big Chief tablet with stories. People in stories did amazing things and she was too shy to do anything amazing. Years spent in Japan, Paris, and Italy, however, not only fueled her imagination but proved she wasn’t that shy after all.
Now a New York Times and USA Today bestseller, she prefers to keep her adventures between the covers of her books. Karen lives in San Antonio, Texas.