Are you looking for some Halloween Reading?
This is the time of year when I like to read ghostly books and watch scary movies. (Or somewhat scary, since I’m a wimp!)
I especially love humorous stories with pixies, and hobgoblins, and fairies, and other fanciful creatures from Celtic lore, especially if they’re set in the Regency.
So I loved this new release from my fellow Winter Wishes anthology author, Barbara Monajem, just in time for Halloween!
Lord Bellweather’s Lady
How does a lady escape a fate worse than death? She runs away to the fairies…
When Augusta Furlough flees her vile brother to plead with the fairies to take her in, she’s rescued by a handsome stranger on a huge, dark charger, and whisked away to his home. Grateful but suspicious of his motives, she’s determined to leave and try the fairies once again.
Lord Bellweather, the half-human liaison with the fairies, spent most of his youth in their realm. Now he’s taking his place in the human world and must adapt to its peculiar customs. What better prospect for marriage than a delightful lady who understands human society and also believes in fairies?
But it’s not that simple, for Augusta is branded a madwoman, and Bellweather is also part hellhound, a ferocious otherworldly beast with which not even a desperate madwoman could fall in love.
Forced to choose between marriage to a diseased libertine or confinement in a lunatic asylum, Augusta leaves her vile brother’s house to plead with the fairies to take her in. But a strange man stops her, and then her brother pursues her. She flees into the ocean, but the waves hurl her against the treacherous rocks known as the Devil’s Maw.
Augusta woke to find herself hanging head-down over the shoulder of a whistling man. For a while she did nothing, muzzy and tired but feeling extraordinarily safe. Which made no sense at all…
She snapped wide awake. She clutched at the man’s wet shirt and twisted her head round. Far below, waves pounded; they must be almost at the top of the cliffs.
He was taking her home.
“No!” she cried. “Put me down!”
“What, awake already?”
She squirmed in his grasp, straining upward. “Let me go!”
“Stay still,” he ordered. “It won’t be much longer. My horse is waiting. He’s a big fellow—won’t mind in the least carrying both of us.”
She dug her hands into his sides and heaved, which proved useless, as she flopped helplessly back down again. “I won’t go with you,” she panted. “I won’t.” She flailed and squirmed, and got several good blows on his backside, but again it did no good. “Why didn’t you let me die, you stupid beast?” How had he managed to get her free of the Giant’s Maw?
“Are you sure you want to die? I got the impression you didn’t.” She felt his shrug under her belly. “I suppose I could toss you back in the drink.”
The man was talking like a lunatic. Did she sound like that to people? “Let me down, for God’s sake. I can’t speak properly when my nose keeps bumping your coat.”
He swung her up with a grunt, but kept a firm grip on her, carrying her like a baby now. “There we go. Is that better?”
Yes, but all that heaving and swinging made her dizzy, and it was most disconcerting to be held in this man’s arms, his face so close to hers. It was too dark to see him properly, but she could tell he was smiling. His long, fair hair hung in wet clumps, and his eyes shone oddly in the moonlight. “Put me down,” she commanded. “I must leave at once.”
“Leaving is what we’re doing. There’s my faithful charger.” A huge, dark horse came into view at the top of the path, snorting a greeting. “Look what I found, Agamemnon. A lady! We’re taking her home.”
“No!” Augusta grabbed the man’s hair and yanked, and abruptly he let her go. She landed hard on the turf, but clambered up and backed away from him. “I can’t go home. You must believe me. It means certain death.”
“Are you quite sure?” he said. “It seems frightfully unlikely—” He broke off at the sound of blundering footsteps. Two men burst into sight, their lantern bobbing crazily.
Augusta fled, scrambling through the gorse, seeking a path, any path. The moon went behind a cloud, and she ran blindly on.
“You there!” Jonathan shouted. “Catch her. She’s a dangerous lunatic. She must be subdued at all costs.”
Sobbing with terror now, Augusta lunged for the cliffs. Path or no path, she was going over the edge. Hooves pounded behind her, merciless in their approach. She leapt crazily outward, but a powerful arm scooped her out of the air. She screamed and sobbed. “Let me go, let me die!”
Her persecutor slowed his horse. “Stop struggling, woman. I have you safe.” With both hands he pulled her close against him, while Agamemnon sidled beneath them.
She bit his ear, hard.
“Ouch!” But he didn’t let go, controlling both her and the horse with ease. “I said, I have you safe.”
Longing rolled through her, an urge to believe him and to give in, but that was absurd. She wasn’t safe at all. “Please release me,” she wept. “Please.”
“Excellent, my good man.” At Jonathan’s hated voice, terror washed through her again. “Hand her over. We’ll take care of her from now on.”
“Hand her over, after I went to all the trouble of rescuing her, not only once but twice? I think not.”
He wasn’t going to hand her over? Augusta gaped at him, shivering uncontrollably.
“What the devil?” Jonathan stormed closer. “Don’t be a fool. She’s my sister.”
“No, please, no, please, no, please.” She was whispering now, burying her face against the man.
He tightened his arm. “Is that so? Well then, you’re no competition at all. Up, Agamemnon. Let’s go.”
Jonathan ran now, shaking his fist. “Give her to me!”
“No,” the man said. “She’s mine now—the spoils of war, the victor’s prize, et cetera. She’s going home with me.”
Miss Furlough sagged against Worthington, out like a snuffed candle. There had been a bit of a delay in the spell’s taking effect. She’d woken much too soon from the previous one as well. He must be out of practice.
Meanwhile, the irate brother plunged toward them through the gorse, his servant with the lantern lumbering behind. It was most amusing. With a flick of his fingers, he put out their lantern. Simple magic. Let them stumble home in the dark.
He wheeled Agamemnon and rode away.
Start your Halloween Reading here:
About the Author
USA Today bestselling author Barbara Monajem wrote her first story at eight years old about apple tree gnomes. After publishing a children’s middle-grade fantasy, she settled on historical mysteries and romances with intrepid heroines and long-suffering heroes (or vice versa). Often there’s bit of fantasy mixed in, because she wants to avoid reality as much as possible.
Barbara used to have two items on her bucket list: to make asparagus pudding and to succeed at knitting socks. She managed the first (don’t ask) but doubts she’ll ever accomplish the second. This is not a bid for immortality but merely the dismal truth. She lives near Atlanta with an ever-shifting population of relatives, friends, and feline strays. Learn more at www.BarbaraMonajem.com.
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I LOVED THIS STORY!
Can you recommend some good Halloween reading set in the Regency? Please comment below!
Image credit: Haunted house is from Stencil