I’m excited to feature a new release by one of my favorite authors, Barbara Monajem. I’m looking forward to reading this one when it pops onto my Kindle tonight.
Return of the Scandalous Lady
Book 4 in the Perilous Secrets Series
Years ago, Frances Templestone left her husband and ran away to France with a lover. Now she’s back, widowed and more mature, but mostly unrepentant. A social pariah, she stays out of sight while her daughter Julia has her first London season.
Until Julia, who is as impetuous as her mother, sneaks out to a masquerade with an unsuitable man. Frances hastens to the rescue, and when she sees Julia about to get into a coach with a handsome stranger, she accuses him—very publicly—of being a rake who ruins innocent girls.
Soon she learns that Jasper, Lord Canterwell, is a respectable man. He wasn’t at the masquerade seeking an easy conquest. On the contrary—his daughter is missing, and he is searching for her everywhere. Aghast, Frances offers to help him. Rudely, he spurns her.
But Frances is determined and Jasper is desperate. Might a scandalous lady with a warm heart and a lively mind be just what a respectable gentleman needs?
When Frances, Lady Templestone, realizes her daughter Julia is not at home in bed, she knows where to find her – at a forbidden masquerade with an ineligible man. She hastens to the rescue…
At last, the hackney drew up at the masquerade, just behind a smart-looking curricle pulled by a pair of impatient greys.
And there was Julia, her abundant dark hair out of its pins, but she was masked, thank God. A tall, broad-shouldered man in a black domino guided her toward the curricle, his hand at the small of her back. Julia smiled up at him, chattering away without the slightest notion of what was about to befall her.
“Stop!” Frances cried. She jumped down without waiting for the steps. “Wait!” She picked up her skirts and ran.
Julia halted just at the door of the fellow’s coach. “Mama!”
The man murmured, “Discretion, remember?”
“Oops, but I’ll fix it.” Julia hurried forward and bobbed a curtsey at Frances. “Oh, my lady, please forgive me. I’m so terribly sorry. I’ll never do it again. Please, please don’t dismiss me.” Which was clever of her, but Frances was in no mood to applaud her daughter’s quick thinking.
“Foolish girl,” Frances said, out of breath. She’d forgotten to don the crimson mask, but it hardly mattered, since she needn’t go indoors. She grabbed Julia’s hand. “Have you no sense at all?” She turned her glare on the man, who was unmasked. “As for you, sir, you should be ashamed of yourself, cozening an innocent maiden to her ruin.”
She tugged Julia toward the hackney, but the girl held back, protesting. “It wasn’t like that, Ma—my lady. He was protecting me!” Julia grimaced. “You were right. I shouldn’t have gone to the masquerade with Lieutenant Sands. Ugh!”
The man doffed his hat politely. “The fellow was forcing his attentions on your, er, maid,” he said in a low, pleasant voice in just the sort of caressing tone a seducer would use. In the light cast by the flambeaux, she saw his face clearly enough—a handsome countenance with a firm mouth and a warm gleam in his dark eyes.
Oh, Frances knew that sort all too well.
“This is Mr. Canterwell,” Julia said, “and he’s a very kind gentleman, but now that you are here, we need no longer trouble him.” She grinned at him. “Thank you, sir.”
“It was no trouble,” he said in that same caressing voice. “I am completely at leisure and was happy to help.”
“Ha!” Frances scoffed. “At leisure, were you? In other words, alone and seeking amusement.”
The man’s eyes had lost their gleam, but he said nothing, merely watching her in a calmly assessing way. He could have denied the accusation, could have tried to explain himself, but he didn’t—not that Frances would have believed a word.
“That’s unfair, Ma-my lady! He was about to take me home, so everything’s fine.” Julia turned as if to offer her hand to the fellow. Clever she might be, but she hadn’t the faintest notion how to behave like a servant.
Frances yanked her wayward daughter away. “That’s just the sort of thing a rake would say. About to take advantage of you, more like.”
Julia burst into tears. “That’s not true!” she sobbed, but Frances pulled her inexorably toward the hackney. As Julia climbed in, weeping, Frances turned to see the tall gentleman still standing there. A number of other people—she hadn’t noticed them earlier—stood about. How much had they heard? Or guessed?
Frances didn’t care. In fact, it was her duty to make sure others knew what sort of monster prowled at the masquerade. She raised her voice. “You, sir, may go back to the devil where you belong!”
Find another excerpt here: http://www.barbaramonajem.com/return-of-the-scandalous-lady.html
About the Author:
USA Today bestselling author Barbara Monajem is the author of more than thirty novels and novellas. She wrote her first story at eight years old about apple tree gnomes. After publishing a middle-grade fantasy, she settled on historical mysteries and romances with intrepid heroines and long-suffering heroes (or vice versa). Sometimes there’s a 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.