Written by Katy Moran
My thanks to Vicky Joss of Aria for my place in this Blog Tour
Four women sit in the candlelit drawing-room at Nansmornow, an ancient Cornish manor house. The air is thick with unspoken suspicion and secret malice. As Hester Lamorna pours tea for her three guests, she has no idea one of them is about to rock her new marriage to its very foundations.
Half a world away, Hester’s impossible and charmismatic husband, Jack ‘Crow’ Crowlas, will be caught up in a chess game of sexual manipulation, played out across the sumptuous ballrooms of St Petersburg.
All Hester and Crow hold most dear will be tested to the limit and beyond: their love for each other and their child, and for Crow, the loyalty of his only brother.
Many hours later, Lord Lamorna came home again. Crow closed the front door behind himself, barring the dregs of the night and all its danger and disorder. For him, the drawn bolt had presented no great difficulty. Th hall was lit only by embers sulking in a fireplace large enough to roast a pig in, just as Hester had said with her usual asperity when he first brought her home to Nansmornow as his wife. Every sense rendered unbearably acute, he knew immediately that he was not alone. It was not Hughes: Crow’s butler was over six feet tall and, standing on these ancient floorboards, Crow felt the counterweight of a much lighter intruder right through the soles of his boots. The interloper was behind him, concealed by the velvet drape always drawn across the front door once it had been locked, the folds of heavy fabric now still bunched at one end of the brass curtain rod. He reached for the knife at his belt, but eve as his fingers closed around the ivory hilt a frozen prickling sensation shot down his spine, and through the curtain he felt the hard steel nub of a pistol pressed into his side just above the waist. Th shot would pulverise his liver, a messy route to oblivion. With one swift jerk he closed his hand over the velvet-covered pistol-barrel and jerked it to one side. With a crack, a shot was fired, the ball dislodging a gilded boss from the wall-panelling, which crashed to the floorboards; Crow was just conscious of admiring the burst of white plaster that sprang up like ocean spray before he tore aside the curtain with the knife at his side and came face to face with Hester, clad only in a thin linen nightgown and an expression of simmering fury, a blue silk scarf bound around her curls. He had been holding her wrist but let go with a swift curse as if her skin were red-hot, allowing her to back him up against the door so that they were just inches apart. He thought his wife beautiful always, but anger lent such compelling animation to her features – the flash of fire in her liquid dark eyes, the set of her lips. She knew about Louise Burford’s child.
‘You have approximately two minutes to tell me where in heaven’s name you’ve been before you do so in front of an audience,’ Hester said. ‘I shan’t imagine it’ll be long before the servants and possibly our guests come to investigate all this commotion.’
‘Really?’ he said, not daring to smile while she was still so angry with him. ‘Are you to deliver ultimatums?’
‘You had better believe it, my lord.’ Hester poke with what he felt was unnecessary sarcasm. The front of her nightgown clung to her, a little damp with breast-milk; she was no less desirable for it. ‘Where have you been? For all I knew, you were a house-breaker.’ Her voiced cracked infinitesimally as she looked him up and down in rising disbelief. ‘Is that a crossbow?’
‘Yes, and good Christ, you’ve quite ruined the wall.’ He wanted badly to kiss her, but in this present mood she would likely skin him if he tried it, and indeed he could not blame her. ‘Hughes is a fool – where is he?’
‘I sent him to bed once I’d discovered that you’d absconded for the evening. Why should the poor man wait up for dilettantes and criminals?’
‘Because this particular dilettante and criminal pays his annual eighty pounds?’
They were standing so close that Crow felt crackling heat in the air between them, and genuine anger shot through him: markswoman though she was it had been the work of moments to disarm her. ‘Give me that pistol.’ He took it from her unresisting hand, setting it on the mantelpiece even as Hughes himself came in with a pair of nightgown-clad footmen holding lamps, and Lord Castlereagh’s sharp-eyed valet. ‘Go back to bed, all of you,’ Crow said. ‘I have relieved my wife of the night-watch, that’s all, which my own servants – I need not add – ought to have been keeping.’ A single glance at her face was enough to inform him that when they were alone she would make him sorry for his own evening’s work. He had a reckoning to pay, and he would waste no more time. In one movement he lifted Hester, ignoring her stunned intake of breath and a whispered furious blasphemy; bearing her in his arms like a bride crossing the threshold for th first time he carried her up the stairs as Hughes, the footmen, and Castlereagh’s man melted silently back into the servants’ quarters.
‘That was Castlereagh’s valet – did you not see?’ Hester hissed into his ear as they passed portraits of one Lamorna ancestor after another. ‘Are they not all suspicious enough as it is without you creeping about in the night like a common criminal? You’ll break your neck heaving me about like this, and very well it will serve you.’
Tags: Regency romance
- Format: ebook, paperback, hardcover, audio
- Size: 464 pages
- Publisher: Aria
- Publication Date: 5 September 2019
- Purchase Links: Google Play
- Barnes & Noble
- W. H. Smith
Katy Moran is a Carnegie nominated author, she writes high-octane Regency romance, which include muskets, gunpowder, Cornwall and Russia. She writes that when she is inspired by a new place, ‘Regency England, Cornwall, Russia, the ancient palace of Fontainebleau – I want to actually be there. I want to take you there too, in the company of complex characters that you will fall a little (or a lot) in love with on the way.’