Sunday, 31 July 2011

Highland Arms by Cathie Dunn

Betrayed by her brother's lies, Catriona MacKenzie is banished from her Edinburgh home to her godmother's remote manor in the Highlands. While her father ponders her fate, Catriona's insatiable curiosity leads her straight into trouble--and into the arms of a notorious Highlander.

Five years after an ill-fated Jacobite rebellion, Rory Cameron works as a smuggler to raise money for the cause--until Catriona uncovers a plot against him and exposes his activities. Now Rory is faced with a decision that could save their lives or destroy them both.


Yes, she’d just have to convince Auntie Meg—and Rory Cameron—that she simply had to stay.

Her mind made up, she rose and wrapped a thick blanket around her shoulders. As her bare feet touched the wooden floor, she hissed at the chill. With no maid to call upon, she left her room and went downstairs in search of the kitchen. The thought of a warming cup of tea raised her spirits. Then she’d continue to set her plan into motion.

She pushed the kitchen door open and stopped short. Standing by the mullioned window, in front of a large bowl overflowing with water, was Rory Cameron. He turned as he heard the door. Catriona caught her breath, and grabbed the handle, letting go of the blanket.

Water dripped over his head and down his torso, trickling in small rivulets over his kilt held by a broad belt with a round silver buckle in a Pagan design of interlacing swirls. The light curls of hair on his tanned chest glistened with moisture. His shoulder-length hair was unbound, falling softly over taut muscle. A dry smile told her she was staring at him. Again.

She swallowed hard. “I...” She stuttered. “I’m so sorry, Mr. Cameron.” She averted her gaze to her feet. “I was just looking for a pot of tea. I didn’t mean to interrupt.”

The insufferable man laughed as he grabbed a piece of cloth and began to pat himself dry. “I don’t think you did.” He shook his head, sending strands flying before rubbing it vigorously. “And it’s Rory, remember?” He grinned. Catriona stood rooted to the spot. Words failed her. Her mouth went dry.

“But tell me...” He went on. “Do you always venture into the kitchen so early? If so, you’d better get dressed next time.”

Transfixed by his mocking gaze, her cheeks heated as she became aware of her own state of undress. What an impression was she giving him with her hair falling loosely over her shoulders, and the blanket barely covering her modesty?

Oh, dear God, the blanket!

Cathie Dunn lives in Edinburgh with her husband and two cats. She writes historical fiction and romantic mystery. A hobby historian, she loves researching her favourite eras - medieval and Jacobite Scotland, England under the Normans and Tudors. Cathie is a member of the Historical Novel Society and the Romantic Novelists' Association.

Highland Arms is available as an ebook from The Wild Rose Press, Amazon UK, Amazon US and other ebook outlets.

"Cathie Dunn’s descriptions of the magnificent, unpredictable Scottish Highlands and Catriona’s sense of belonging there is remarkable." -- Long and Short Reviews

Sunday, 24 July 2011

The Lady's Slipper by Deborah Swift

Historical adventure and romance, with added material for book groups.

The King is back, memories of the Civil War still rankle. In rural Westmorland, artist lice Ibbetson has become captivated by the rare Lady's Slipper orchid. She is determined to capture it's unique beauty for posterity, even if it means stealing the flower from the land of the recently converted Quaker, Richard Wheeler. Fired by his newfound faith, the former soldier Wheeler feels bound to track down the missing orchid. Meanwhile, others are eager to lay hands on the flower, and have their own powerful motives. Margaret Poulter, a local medicine woman, is seduced by the orchid's mysterious herbal powers, while Geoffrey Fisk, Alice's patron and former comrade-in-arms of Wheeler, sees the valuable plant as a way to repair his ailing fortunes and cure his own agonizing illness.

It is 1660. The

Fearing that Wheeler and his friends are planning revolution, Fisk sends his son Stephen to spy on the Quakers, only for the young man to find his loyalties divided as he befriends the group he has been sent to investigate. Then, when Alice Ibbetson is implicated in a brutal murder, she is imprisoned along with the suspected anti-royalist Wheeler. As Fisk's sanity grows ever more precarious, and Wheeler and Alice plot their escape, a storm begins to brew, from which no party will escape unscathed.

Thank you for visiting! Here's an excerpt:

Chapter One

Alice tiptoed into the hallway. Perhaps it was a blessing she was still in mourning, for there would be less risk of being seen. Wheeler would be watching out, and his eyes were sharp as pikes–he would spot any movement, any slight shift in the features of the landscape.

She reached up to the peg for her black bonnet and put it on, pulling the lace veiling down so it hid her face. Regretfully, she looked down at her narrow feet, shod now in pale yellow sateen. This was her favourite pair of shoes, in a style considered far too fancy these days. They were one of the few pretty things she had saved from the fire and she was loath to get them wet and muddy. But her leather bootees made too much noise; even on tiptoe the irons would clang against the flagstones in the hall. These shoes were silent, and outside would leave hardly a trace if she was careful to tread where it was dry. There must be no mishaps. This was the only night with no moon, and the orchid would fade fast, so it had to be tonight.

The basket stood ready by the back door. She had prepared it earlier with a lining of soaked green moss and dampened sackcloth. A bunch of fresh herbs was waiting in the pantry for her return: parsley, salvia, rosemary; they would be her excuse if Thomas were to wake and ask her where she had been. She glanced over towards the fireplace where he snored lightly, his mouth drooping open and his arm dangling over the edge of the chair. As usual, his boots were almost in the embers.

At the door she leaned her shoulder against the jamb, to ease the latch out of its socket; the door swung open silently and she stepped out into the night air. She heard the latch clack gently into place behind her.

The night was a soot-black tunnel. She listened, senses quivering. Her heart beat loudly as if caught in her throat; her breath came in sharp little puffs. She gathered herself. Soon she would have it, and though Wheeler might suspect her, he would never be able to prove it.

She felt her way down the path with an outstretched hand on the fence, for Wheeler must not see any glimmer of her presence, and a lantern would surely draw his eye like bait to a fish. Her foot stubbed against a wooden milk churn and she momentarily lost her balance. She lurched for the gate with her hand and shuddered as she felt the wet body of a slug on its night-time foray for food.

Her eyes strained to accustom themselves to this new, lightless world. Thank the Lord she had rehearsed the route. In the daylight she had practised with eyes closed, opening them again as she passed close to Wheeler’s house, for in the dark of the moon she knew it would be hard to find her way. Becoming more sure-footed, she followed the smell of wood-smoke from the village chimneys until she saw the lights of Wheeler’s house and the barely perceptible outline of the kissing-gate to Helk’s Wood.

The house lay directly next to the gate, with a window that over-looked the path. From here Wheeler could keep watch on anyone coming or going. Lights flickered in the downstairs room. She stopped short.

He was awake–and probably at his vantage point at the window.

A lozenge of yellow light slanted across her path. She reconsidered her route; she dare not risk passing the window. Instead, she felt along the hedge for a gap.

A bramble wound its thorny teeth round her ankle and she winced as she tore free. She stumbled forward and found herself in a cut cornfield. She walked faster, despite the scratchy stubble, which snagged on the silk of her shoes and caught at her under-skirt. The dew was already heavy, her dress damp–the sodden hem swung over her ankles.

Above her the stars were fixed points of light, too faint to reach the shadows under the stooks, too faint to touch the flurry of a hare as it leapt into the hedge’s black underbelly. She felt for the wall to the wood. Here, she could hide and keep away from Wheeler’s gimlet eyes. The wall had substance, solidity–so she kept her hand there. As she listened, the ancient presence of the woodland loomed beyond; the trees were watching, and the grasses, even the stones in the wall. They were conversing with each other in an unknown silent language. She shivered and withdrew her hand.

Beyond the wall the trees were shapes distorted by the dark. Each one grew into the next; one dim shape concealing another, brooding. A crawling sensation curled at the top of her spine. From nowhere a chill breeze swept through the branches making the mounds of creamy meadowsweet float like ghostly clouds against the hedge. In the night air their smell was sickly and cloying.

But there was another smell, fainter, more familiar. Alice sucked in her breath. It was a smell she knew, something sweet and musty, like peat. Instantly she dropped down behind the wall. Tobacco. There was someone smoking close by.

Her back pressed against the stones, she pulled the veil of the bonnet down over her face and undid the ribbons, straining her ears for the least sound. A cough, and then the sound of boots approaching. She heard the ring of them on the stones, and the slight squelch as they landed in the muddy wheel tracks. With consternation Alice saw a light getting closer. From her hiding place she saw the leaves of the trees in the canopy flare into colour and then disappear into the dark. She shrank further into the shadow of the wall. She knew only one man who smoked that tobacco. Wheeler.

He must be guarding the wood.

The footsteps got nearer, until she heard what must be the buttons of his long coat scratching against his boots.


She put a hand over her nose lest the steam of her breath should betray her. She heard a dull hiss as a taper caught light. The corn near her feet was illuminated as he drew on his pipe. She crouched low, head bent forward, hands now clutching the fabric of her gown about her. The smoke drifted over the wall and fogged above her head, like the creeping mist near the river.

What would he think if he knew she was only inches away, spying on him from behind the wall? The situation struck her suddenly as absurd. She suppressed an unaccountable urge to laugh. Mirth began to bubble up inside and she had to quash it by stuffing her sleeve over her mouth and nose.

Wheeler must not see her here. He was such a serious man–so serious he made her feel like a fool. If she were to give herself away, he would know straightway what she was about, and would have none of it. He would be incredulous to think she could consider doing such a thing.

Presently the footsteps moved away up the path. She listened to them fade away and let out a long exhalation. All desire to laugh had disappeared. When she was certain he had gone, she stood up stiffly, aware that the hour was passing and she must hurry if she were not to make trouble at home. Finding a place where the wall had tumbled down, she hitched up her skirts and climbed over, landing softly on the path below. She walked until she felt the ground become springy under her feet–a mossy clearing.

A breeze blew up again, a soft muttering of leaves, a swing of shadows, the branches moving silver-limbed against the sky. Her eyes had opened out to the dark. She stopped a few feet away and looked.

The pale globe of the flower shone out like Venus in the night sky. She tiptoed closer. Indeed, silence came easily. It was a natural response to something so exquisite.

She knelt down in front of the plant so she could look inside the fragile petal bowl and see the tiny stigmata of maroon and pink, appearing blue-black in the darkness. Reaching out a finger, she caressed the edge of a fleshy leaf.

‘Cypripedium.’ She whispered the Latin name softly, caressingly, as if calling for it to come home, feeling the taste of the words on her tongue.

Squatting down she started to dig around it, her movements precise and delicate, careful not to disturb the roots. She worked quickly with the trowel to prise away the heavy soil, not noticing that the dirt was forced up into her fingernails. In one deft movement she plucked the whole plant and lowered it gently into the basket of damp moss.

A movement made her startle. An owl flew overhead, pale faced, wings beating quiet as breathing. Again she shivered and looked over her shoulder. There was nobody there, yet she could not shake off the feeling that someone was watching, unseen in the cold shadows.

She stood up and regarded the empty hole, wondering whether to fill it in or disguise it in some way. But then she had an idea. She reached into her handkerchief pouch and pulled out a few coins. She tossed them into the hole, hearing them chink at the bottom. There, she thought, I have paid you for it. She repressed a small chuckle as she imagined Wheeler’s face when he returned in the morning. He was always so keen on the idea of everything having its price.

She picked up the basket and, confident now, followed the same route she had come. She turned to look back. Behind her, another dark human figure melted into the shadow of the undergrowth.

When she passed Wheeler’s house she trod softly, for although his lights were still lit, it was even more vital to be invisible now. But the only sound was the chek, chek of the corncrakes in the meadow and the distant lowing of a cow.

She went straight to the summerhouse and gently took out the orchid to stand it upright in a small pot of earth. It looked small and insignificant, almost insipid, next to the pink curling papers of the flowering geraniums. She felt a pang of remorse. The orchid looked somehow less, out of its woodland setting.

It was for the best, she convinced herself. She knew she had the skills to divide it, whatever Wheeler might think; soon there would be lady’s slippers growing in abundance. She watered it, just a few drops. Not because it was dry, but because she wanted to tend it–to make amends for uprooting it and bringing it to a strange place. After hiding it out of sight under the table, she locked the door with the little bronze key and crept into the house.

She need not have worried. The fire was barely aglow, and Thomas’s wheezing snores told her he was still sleeping. Only now did she allow herself a sigh of relief. She thought of her dear sister, Flora, and her delight if she could have seen it. She could not wait to tell Geoffrey, and looked forward to his expression when he saw it for the first time. He would understand her excitement, and she knew she could trust him to keep her secret.

Her cuffs were brackish-brown and there was a quantity of dirt under her nails, so she washed in the scullery, out of Thomas’s earshot, by the light of a lantern. She soaped and drubbed the cuffs until the water ran clean; they would dry overnight. Looking down at her shoes she could see they were ruined–the fabric soaked through and scuffed with mud, but worse, the deep scratch on her ankle had bled and dribbled over the embroidery in a dark red stain.

She carried the shoes to the kitchen and wrapped them in brown paper. It would be difficult to explain their condition to Thomas so they would need to be disposed of. She dare not pass him, in case he should wake. For the moment she pushed the shoes right to the bottom of the turnip sack. Her bare feet padded softly on the stairs as she made her way to bed. Thomas slept on–his snores loud above the ticking clock, while the embers grew cold.

THE LADY’S SLIPPER Copyright © 2010 by Deborah Swift.

Read the rest now on Kindle

Amazon UK

Amazon US

"With realistic dialogue, an author’s obvious love for history, and characters that leap off the pages, THE LADY’S SLIPPER is a brilliant saga set in a time of confusion in England as it recovers from years of civil


Romance Reviews Today

"Deborah Swift’s writing style, combined with her knowledge of mid 17th Century life is masterful in her portrayal of a crueller and less tolerant time, where suspicion is enough to condemn the innocent and women were regarded as the cradle of all evils."

Historical Novel Review Blog

"it is a genuinely engrossing story, with characters you can get interested in."

"This is an utterly captivating novel written with a beautiful observation of detail. The lives of the characters intertwine in a way that is both intriguing and often completely unexpected. The reader is constantly have to shift their opinion about which character is 'good' and 'bad', making for a fascinating read. It is set against an often neglected period of history and the author manages to weave the plot strands of politics, spite, liberty, lust and obsession into a very rich and luscious tapestry. It builds to a nail-biting conclusion, but I was left curiously warmed by the sheer compassion in the novel."

Karen Maitland

author of "Company of Liars" and "The Owl Killers"

"Swift has obviously done her homework, with the historical detail and in particular the account of Alice’s time in gaol, being intensely atmospheric .....a delicately handled, loving recreation of a bygone era with all its incongruence."

The Truth about Books

"The Lady's Slipper has all the characteristics of well-received historical romance. Recommended for fans of Philippa Gregory and Rose Tremain, as well as students of the English Civil War."

"A dark and gripping tale deeply rooted in rural English history, The Lady's Slipper reads at times like a 17th-century folk ballad come to life. Though neither bawdy nor ostentatious, as novels of the Restoration court in distant London can sometimes be, it stands well on its own merits, a novel as rich and haunting as the setting it evokes."

Reading the Past

"..the history provides a frame of reference for a great story fueled by timeless motives of greed, envy, and lust, and the universal theme of redemption. Ms. Swift has struck just the right balance, including enough history to support the narrative and make it thoroughly interesting and authentic, while never impeding plot flow. The intertwined stories of the orchid’s fate, the mounting problems between the Quakers and the King’s men, and Alice’s murder trial and its aftermath make for a riveting narrative."

For the Love of Books Blog

"It is a beautifully told story, set in Restoration Westmorland in 1660, and tells of the tragic consequences of the desire to possess a rare and delicate wild flower. It’s a terrific read."

Gabrielle Kimm

author of "His Last Duchess"

"an impressive first book indeed.....Swift has done well in creating a richly-textured universe for her story, populating it with characters who are all too human"

PhiloBiblos Blog

"If you are a fan of historical fiction, then definitely pick up The Lady's Slipper, you will enjoy a great story about a beautiful flower and one woman's quest to save it during a time of political unrest. The book would make a wonderful book club pick."

Girls Just Reading blog

"wonderful nuanced characters and an engrossing plot, Deborah Swift has created a rich read. While many people know of the Pilgrims and Puritans fleeing England for religious freedom, Quakers facing religious persecution is a lesser known event. With their belief in non-violence, it is hard to see how they could be thought a threat by the government, but it was interesting to read of the means used to subdue this growing group. Definitely a great read for fans of sweeping historical novels."

Night Owl reviews

"Throughout The Lady’s Slipper, Swift writes of things in such detail that you feel like you are holding the lady's slipper in your own hand.....Swift deftly layers plots to build a story that is complex and engaging."

Still not convinced? Read another extract here at RT Book Reviews

Tuesday, 19 July 2011

Grace Elliot: A Dead Man's Debt

Celeste Armitage has a plan…and that plan doesn’t include marriage.

 After deliberately humiliating a suitor, Celeste’s despairing parents exile her to the country. But once there she discovers a sketch book of daring nude studies and is shaken to find the artist is her hostess’s eldest son, Lord Ranulf Charing. This darkly cynical lord is exactly the sort of dissipated rogue she despises most…if only her blood didn’t heat at the thought of him…

Nothing is as it seems. Lord Ranulf’s life is a fa├žade. Only he can save the Charing’s from disgrace as a blackmailer seeks to ruin his late brother’s reputation. But just as Ranulf dares to open his heart to Celeste, the fury of his nemesis is unleashed… facing him with the stark choice between true love and family duty. However when Celeste guesses the truth behind his rejection, Ranulf underestimates her resolve to clear his name and in so doing places the woman he loves in mortal danger….


Holding his nose, in one gulp Ranulf swallowed the bitter draft and braced himself for the after effects. Smethwick’s concoction burnt its way down his gullet into his stomach and within seconds the familiar nausea was rising. Within five minutes he would be shaking and his skin deathly pale, all part of the success of his disguise as Vincenzo. As Smethwick repeatedly assured him, make up not matter how well applied could be spotted close and only the physic was foolproof.

“Here Sir, let me help you on with the padding.”

In old fashioned knee breeches, silk stockings and buckled shoes Ranulf grunted as Smethwick strapped a theatrical hump back in place, too afraid that if he opened his mouth to speak he may vomit. It took the addition of a flouncy shirt frothy with frills, a richly embroidered waistcoat and then a paint stained smock to complete the costume.

Already the potion had creased his skin and stomach cramps made it natural to stoop. The final element was a fine wig of real human hair, grey to the side of silver, flowing around his shoulders. His eyelashes and brows had been bleached and with cotton padding in his cheeks, the disguise was complete; the athletic, virile Lord Charing was replaced by a shuffling old man, with flowing grey hair and a hunched back.

"Well, how do I look?” Ranulf mumbled, turning this way and that in front of the mirror.

“Awful, sir, truly awful,” Smethwick grinned, “your own mother’d not know you at this moment.”

Downstairs, the front door bell rang. The maid, the daughter of Smethwick’s oldest friend, hummed as she pattered along the corridor to answer it.

"That’ll be Black now sir. Best I keep a low profile in case she recognises me.”

“Do that. Thank heavens this is the last sitting…I don’t think I can bear that woman for much longer.”

"How goes the painting sir?” Smethwick fussed around, arranging locks of hair to fall in a more natural disorder.

“A masterpiece, one of my finest works.”

“That’s good then sir isn’t it?”

“Oh yes, you could say that… an image rich with irony… “

“Right you are then sir, best settle in the studio before Alice shows her up….”

Author Bio:

Grace Elliot leads a double life as a veterinarian by day and author of historical romance by night. Grace lives near London and is addicted to cats, acting as housekeeping staff to five mischievous moggies.

Grace believes intelligent people need romantic fiction in their lives as an antidote to the modern world and as an avid reader of historicals she turned to writing as a release from the emotionally draining side of veterinary work. Her debut novel ‘A Dead Man’s Debt’ is a story of blackmail, duty and unexpected love.

Now available from most eBook stores including Amazon, price $2.99.

My blog is at:

My Website is at: $2.99 GBP 2.14

Coffee Time Romance

Solstice publishing.



Books on Board UK's%20debt

Sunday, 10 July 2011

New excerpt from 'To Touch the Knight'

Here is a new excerpt from my latest historical romance, To Touch The Knight, published this month:

     Edith had not been allowed to return to her camp. She had retired with Lady Blanche and her ladies, to bed down in the solar of the castle, although she did not sleep a jot. At dawn she heard a creaking of wagons and the steady march of men and peeped through a shutter to see the captain of Sir Tancred's guard already on his way, riding steadily by castle Fitneyclare on the road to London. She recognized his banner, and then spotted the wagon Teodwin had brought from the miller's house at Warren Hemlet.
     She put her fist in her mouth and bit down hard on her knuckles, so as not to cry out. Her people were going. It was good sense that they left, safer for them, but, selfishly perhaps, she had hoped they would stay. Now she was alone, without friends, and she would never be able to relax and be herself, never put aside her veil.
     Perhaps this is how a true princess feels?
     Gregory's barbed irony made her want to snort with laughter, except she could not - that would be unlady-like. Instead she watched the slow column creep past until the rising dust of their travel obscured them, wishing she could slip like a sparrow through the narrow casement to join them. When she was sure they were gone, she knelt in a corner in a pose of prayer, so as not to be disturbed, and tried very hard not to cry. She had thinking to do.

      Later, she waited until Lady Blanche and her women were in the midst of dressing and maids and heralds were darting in and out of the solar, carrying gloves or messages, and then mentioned she was for the gardrobe. She left the room and when she was certain she was unnoticed, Edith set off for the bath-house instead. There, for her own veil and cloak, she bartered a drab tunic from a weary mid-wife who had been up all night at a birth and, with a thought and good-wish for Maria, also close to her time, she dragged on the tunic. Flinching at the coarse cloth and fleas, she set off for the postern gate of the bailey, planning to be far away before she was missed.
     Ranulf fell into step beside her and dangled a long scarlet sleeve before her face - one of his own? She could not tell, since his own huge cloak covered his large frame.
     "I will not look," was all he said. Indeed, he stared resolutely ahead at the grooms walking the palfreys in the bailey yard, while Edith tied the sleeve about her head and face, "veiling" herself afresh.
     "I had meant to give you a sleeve later," he went on, before she could protest. "I suppose now is as good a time as any."
     Edith ran forward so she could stop smack in front of him. "You followed me! You must have done so!"
     "I watched out for you, princess, as a knight should for his lady, and recognized you by your height and shape and way of walking." Now he made great play of staring, head tilted on one side, like a man buying at a fair. "I like your silks better."
       "You are not to judge." Said more harshly than she intended.
       "No." He smiled and offered his arm. "May I escort you to your tent?"
       She remained unmoved. "I will not be any man's prize." She had not broken the shackles of her serfdom for that.
       "Not even your lover's?"

      Ranulf expected her to protest, or deny his question. Instead she confounded him afresh by replying "Perhaps," an exasperating answer that made him wish he had looked at her properly while she was unveiled.
     "Who is he?" Even as he knew he was being stupid, driven by jealousy, Ranulf touched the rough knot where she had tied the sleeve, as if he would strip her face then and there. "Who sees you, princess?"
If it was Giles, he would maul him, best him, beat him.
     Without waiting for her answer, he dragged her into his arms.
     "I am in mourning!" She closed her eyes, refusing to look at him. She was fragile in his grip but unyielding, like a killing knife. "And I am not your wife!"
     A scald of rage broke through him like a bursting blister, followed by horror. He shook with the force of both emotions where he wanted to compel her.
     "Master yourself." Her scorn ripped down his back like a flail.
     "You ask much, madam," he said, and her eyes opened, giving him a fleeting glimpse of regret, but not fear.     
     "If you were my maid, I would take you back into the bath-house and dunk you in a tub."
     "Good, for it would rid me of these wretched fleas!"
     In her answer, he saw maid and princess and he laughed, lifted out of his temper in the knowledge he had at last her full attention and he was facing all of her. "You are such a little liar. One day, I may put you over my lap and smack your bottom very soundly for all those lies."
     Taking advantage of her rare silence, he lifted her off her feet, warning, "We go this way, princess, back to your tent, and you can travel in comfort, in my arms, or over my shoulder." Part of him, the base part, wished she would struggle, so he could carry out his threat.
     "Being in mourning does not mean I have forgotten how to walk."
     "The ground is dusty and your feet are bare - had you forgotten that?"
     She smiled. He did not know how he knew that, with the red sleeve wound about the lower half of her face, but he felt her rest her head more comfortably into the crook of his arm.
     Ignoring the leering guard, he walked very slowly with her through the postern gate.


Sunday, 3 July 2011

GIFTS GONE ASTRAY, Regency comedy romance

A gift is a wonderful surprise. Or maybe not.

At the Earl of Langley's family gathering, everyone receives a gift, including the servants. Tutor Stephen Fairfax expects a small token, but the present from family member Mrs. Anne Copley, the widow who has caught his eye, is a dream come true.

Until he opens it. What a gift! How did that demure lady acquire such a book? And she wants to "study" the positions in it with him? If he accepts her offer, tempting as it is, he could lose his job.

Anne has no idea why Mr. Fairfax is in such a flutter. Her present is a simple book of illustrations. The subject interests them both, and she would like nothing better than to examine the book—and Mr. Fairfax—more closely.

She glanced at the mantel clock. "Oh, look at the time! I must return to the drawing room. So much to do before the family party tonight. But, before I leave..." She swallowed. "We had some trouble with the gifts today. Yours went missing. I apologize—"

"But I received a gift. Someone left it outside my door."

"Thank the stars." She pressed her hand to her bosom.

Stephen's gaze followed her hand, and his throat dried.

"I worried your present was lost."

She worried about me. Capital! He tore his attention from her breasts and lifted his head. "I have not yet unwrapped it. A book, I take it?"

"Yes. The volume belonged to my husband. He was a scholar, and that book was one of his favorites. Mine, too. We spent many happy hours enjoying it." Another dazzling smile curved her lips. "I selected it with you in mind."

His pulse thumped. I have a chance. "You flatter me with your consideration."

"My pleasure." She flashed another of her heart-stopping smiles. "As much as I long to, I will not ruin the surprise by telling you what the book is." She smoothed her face into a blank stare, but her glorious chocolate eyes twinkled.

So, she wanted to play games. He gave an inward smirk. He would love to play games of a different sort. But he would settle for a guessing game. For now.

Buy Link:

5 Stars from Lindsay Townsend (To Touch the Knight):
"Gifts Gone Astray by Linda Banche is a delightful romantic comedy of misunderstandings, ghastly relations (old and young) a sinister suitor and two very different books sent as gifts to the 'wrong' people. "
Full Review here.

Author Bio:

Welcome to My World of Historical Hilarity!

I'm Linda Banche, and I write witty, sweet/sensual Regency romances with nary a rake or royal in sight. Most contain humor, some fantasy, and occasionally a little paranormal. But comedy is my love, and I've created my own wacky blend of humor and Regency with stories that can elicit reactions from a gentle smile to a belly laugh.

Like many other romance authors, I read romances for years before I wrote my own. Once I tried, I quickly discovered how difficult writing is. Did I stop? No, I'm persistent--that's French for "too stupid to quit".

I live in New England and like aerobics and ducks.

So, laugh along with me on a voyage back to the Regency era. Me and my ducks. Quack.

I have four Regency novellas, all from The Wild Rose Press. LADY OF THE STARS (time travel, finalist in Science Fiction Romance in the 2010 EPIC eBook Contest), PUMPKINNAPPER (finalist in the 2011 EPIC Contest in the Historical Romance category. I'm two for two now. I've entered the EPIC contest twice, and I've finaled twice.), MISTLETOE EVERYWHERE (Christmas), and my latest, GIFTS GONE ASTRAY.

Thank you all,
Linda Banche
Welcome to My World of Historical Hilarity!