Since a perilous fall, Lucie Macbeth has been seeing more than a settled future as the heiress to a Scottish barony. The visions plaguing her include a man—one far above her class and breeding, and English to boot. Also, engaged to a duke’s granddaughter, and thus wholly inappropriate. Though she can’t marry him and she won’t become any man’s leman, when the Sight presents threats of danger to him, her conscience, and her heart tell her she can’t walk away.
Since his return from Waterloo, Major Lord Rudgwick has been rusticating in the country teaching himself how to live as a man with only one hand and pondering how to end the engagement he contracted before his world turned upside down. But then a letter arrives from an old army comrade, requesting he aid his daughter, Lucie Macbeth, the woman he met one year earlier, the woman whose claims on his heart he can’t deny.
Near Hunstanton, Norfolk
“Two letters arrived for you, my lord.”
Tristan Hamilton Howton, Earl of Rudgwick, Major in His Majesty’s Horse Guards and a decorated veteran of the Peninsular campaign and Waterloo, extended his arms for Darby to pry the wet coat from his shoulders and ease it over the lump of wood at the end of his right arm.
The valet’s disapproving clucks both amused and annoyed him. Mother had tracked down his late father’s valet and hired him away from the rich cit he’d been serving. Upon Rudgwick’s return from Flanders, Darby had been waiting at Rudgwick Abbey, the ancestral pile in Cambridgeshire, happy to be back serving nobility, yet missing his favored Savile Row haunts.READ MORE
In Darby’s view, Rudgwick Abbey was paradise compared to their present abode, Thornview Farm. With four rooms below, four bedchambers above, and a few small attic rooms for the housekeeper, cook, and two maids, Darby had been sleeping on a cot in the dressing room. His friend, Lord Jeremy Bolton, who had inherited the estate late the previous year from an aunt, was in alt, declaring himself perfectly happy with the cozy cottage and the small income that came with it. And it wasn’t entirely a bachelor establishment; Jeremy, too kind and dutiful to ever be a true rake, had offered shelter to another female relative, an elderly cousin and her even older companion.
He stepped into clean trousers and held up his arms for Darby’s assistance, annoyance niggling at him. He needed a man to tend to his boots, keep his clothing in order, and button his left cuff. Otherwise, he preferred dressing himself, even, or especially, during his time in the army.
“I fear I won’t get the salt stains out of those—”
“Yes, yes,” Rudgwick said. “A fair day for sailing it was, though, Darby. Are you not glad we’re back from touring all the byways of Norfolk?” He’d left Darby behind while he and Jeremy rode hither and yon for the last few weeks, making do with help from inn servants. “Had we supplies on board today we would have made for Inverness.”
Jeremy’s new home had come with a yacht, a smallish one, in truth, too small for a comfortable journey to Scotland. An old school friend and former naval man, Jeffrey Musbury, had traveled up from his cottage on the River Ware to assess the craft, pronouncing it sound for short days of sailing, and inviting them to join him in summer on the two-master he’d been refurbishing.
Darby made a grumbling noise in his throat and fetched the letters. “A brandy, my lord?”
“Yes.” He sighed. There’d be another nagging missive from his fiancée’s grandfather, and a lamenting one from his steward.
Darby set a full glass before him. “Shall I break the seals for you, my lord?”
“Why not read them as well,” he snapped.
Darby blinked in that way that mother did before she straightened her shoulders and walked away from his churlishness. The valet was of an age with Mother, and, like high-born ladies, he’d learned patience and forbearance in the face of surly noblemen.
“Apologies, Darby.” It wasn’t Darby’s or Mother’s fault that a French mortar had blown off his hand at Waterloo. “That was uncalled for. Thank you. I shall manage.”
Darby dipped his head and left, carrying off the wet and soiled garments.
Rudgwick took a healthy swig of the drink. They’d found cases of spirits in the manor’s storeroom, good French brandy, and gin from the Lowlands. It seemed that the free trade reached even the west coast of Norfolk. As pillars of society, he and Jeremy would be expected to support the increased efforts against smuggling, but they had no qualms about availing themselves of Jeremy’s late aunt’s stores.
He closed his eyes and let the drink ease the phantom throb in the hand that was no longer there. Then he shuffled the letters one-handed.
One fat missive and one thin. Both had been sent to London, where he was supposed to be in residence, and forwarded on. He broke the seal on the thin one and read.
Sir Thomas Abernathy, a baronet attached to the Home Office, inquired about his health, and asked about his availability to assist with a matter of interest to the Crown. A reply at his earliest convenience would be appreciated.
His interest was piqued, but he couldn’t help wondering if Mother knew Sir Thomas and if she had put him up to it to orchestrate his return to town.
The second, heftier letter was addressed in a man’s scrawl and sent post-paid from Edinburgh.
He hastened to break the seal and flipped to the signature, laughing out loud when he saw who had signed it.
Colonel Finnley Macbeth, Baron of Calder, had written him. His wife, Greer Macbeth, corresponded with Mother, but the Colonel had never done more than send greetings via those letters.
That called for another dram of brandy.
And then he began to read. A lengthy passage reviewed the Colonel’s recovery (he was mending apace), reported on his cousin, Lord Menteith (still in France), and discussed the plans for the two boys Macbeth had taken charge of, his late cousin Banquo’s sons. That had all been a prelude for an important request.
Your lady mother informs me that you should be in London by now, and so if it would not be an inconvenience to you, I would be much obliged to ask a boon from you. There’s a solicitor by the name of Stephenson in the City who has knowledge of Banquo’s business matters. He’s failed to reply to several letters, and I can only assume he’s ignoring them. I’ve asked Lucie to pay a call on the man. Lady Fiona has offered help from her man of business, and I’ve sent Hyde along to London with Lucie.
Lucie. The name all but leapt from the page. Lucie was in London.
However, of late I’ve had misgivings and worries that, given Banquo’s criminal nature, this Stephenson may be a shifty character. Lucie being Lucie, she’s likely to find the danger an enticement and plunge ahead. Plus, I know that a title can often open doors that would otherwise remain closed. If you could see your way to offer her assistance, if your new bride has no objections, I would be most grateful.
He read through the letter again and then pulled the bell. As he returned to his seat the door opened.
“That was quick.” He turned and saw that it was not a servant, but his host.
Jeremy was a younger and handsomer version of his brother, the Duke of Northam. A handsomer version of Rudgwick as well, with the same height, dark hair, and gray eyes, though they were completely unrelated.
“At your service, my lord,” he joked. “The servants are busily preparing for dinner.”
“Will you pack my trunk, then?” Rudgwick teased. “Ah, there is Darby, poking his head in behind you. Darby, we are leaving for London in the morning.”
“We are?” Jeremy said.
“You may come as well if you wish. I’ve been summoned to go to the aid of the Crown.” And Lucie Macbeth.COLLAPSE
Claims of the Heart is a sweeping historical romance that'll take your breath away. From the very first page, I was hooked. I couldn't stop reading it until the very end. Alina K. Field is a research genius, and it's one of the reasons why she's one of my one-click authors. With Claims of the Heart, she took a historical time period with a familiar literary family and added a paranormal twist I thoroughly enjoyed. I particularly relished the added dimension of an injured hero and how he overcomes it. The plot moves at a terrific pace with plenty of suspense, romance, and intriguing plot twists to keep the reader invested. The characters, though, are what drive the plot. There's a full cast of characters and they left a lasting impression on me, especially Lucie. If you're a Regency reader, you'll love Claims of the Heart. If you're a fan of historical paranormal romance, you'll want to read this brilliant story. If you're a historical romance reader, you'll be swept away by Claims of the Heart. Highly recommend!