| This is another version of the historical trope with an unexpected inheritance of a title. The Earl as he becomes, was not expecting to inherit but instead to work for a living, but a death up the line – his father in fact, thrust him into the role. It turns out his mother had been lying to him all his life about who is was… |
And the horror of this lack of knowledge had meant that he had paid the price in his youth for not marrying the girl he loved, as he thought himself too lowly in society for her. And of course, she then went on to marry someone else.
But now she was a widow and he had the chance to gain her back. So the trope begins. But Kitty was not the girl he remembered. In her marriage she had grown up to be a woman of strength and ideas, and marrying again was not one of these ideas. So a courtship begins. And ends as we all expect with a marriage.
Nicely written with the nice initial plot twist layering onto the trope.
So we are back in Cressmouth aka Christmas where we have a horse ranch that that we have we have heard about before as they supply the horses that pulled the sledges up the very steep High Street; and of course Prinnie, the Prince Regent, wanted to buy Duke the amazing stallion who doesn’t like anyone to ride him – apart from one person – that is the person who nursed him through his foal- hood, who bottle fed him and who trained him. Our heroine in other words.
However as we know, in Regency times we have come across this problem before – women cannot inherit or own property – they need a man, and so it’s necessary for our heroine to find a man. Also her father thought she should be married so that she could then own the horse farm through him, or at least that’s what he told her.
He had long ago had a major argument with his partner which had led to the horse business being split into 2; one part in Christmas and the other part in London. He now contacted his ex-London partner to facilitate a rapprochement, and suggested that his son might marry our heroine and this is where the Story starts. There is one problem however with the London son – he’s a botanist doesn’t really like horses. He is concerned with a major avenue of research – finding a herbal remedy for when the placenta is retained in childbirth – as this leads to the mother bleeding out – as his own mother had. Of course, this does not please his father, but he continues, and is in need of money to hire the necessary scientists for his project. He thus agrees to woo the heroine in =exchange for funding from his father.
I’ve looked into some of the plants that are mentioned here in the book to see which ones do have some medicinal impact and some of them certainly do, others are really just decorative. The first one mentioned is nelumbo nucifera also known as the sacred Lotus or Indian Lotus. It is completely edible in all its parts and may be an antidepressant or anti diabetic; the second plant mentioned is olea sylvestris which is in fact the wild olive and as we know olives are very edible indeed. There is a mention of the grass that the horses have in their pasture – phleum pratense, this is a perennial grass and actually isn’t all that good for horses to eat when it is still green. It is sometimes called cats tail and is especially good when added to hay as it produces fibre and is good for the horses teeth as it is rather tough.
One of the things being researched into are plants that can induce Labour. Sometimes midwives will recommend castor oil or raspberry tea, or blue cohosh tea. However, there are no reliable studies to support that any of them actually work.
There are two orchids that are also mentioned, a Costa Rican orchid also called the Easter orchid –
– and an epiphytic orchid from the Asian Sub Continent which is miniature and very floriferous called vanda ampullacea.
This series is fun and the Dukes in question are often unexpected. In this particular book, the Duke is a horse. I always enjoy this writer and is interesting to see that she has brought into the story plants from the part of the world in which she lives – Costa Rica. Which is a wonderful plant friendly part of the world!
WHY WAS LEO here? Rebecca had followed his pursuits in the newspapers. He never came to Langmere. Ever.
She pushed her back against the wall of the stables. A little brick dust rained down upon her. She wrinkled her nose and held her breath. The lamplight only offered her a hint of his features as he ducked into the building that was shrouded in darkness by the late hour.
He still made her heart skip. Even after all these years. It shouldn’t have surprised her that it did. He always did that to her, and the years had been kind to him, hardening his jaw and filling out his shoulders.
He wore a shirt, slightly untucked and rolled up at the sleeves, revealing muscular forearms dusted with hair. He murmured something to the horse, and her stomach did a tumble. If she closed her eyes, she would be six and ten again, listening to him speak to his horses whilst perched on a milking stool and watching him with such admiration. Their love of animals had brought them together but that had swiftly turned into something else.
Sometimes, she suspected Leonard Moncrieff would be the only man she ever loved.
However, just because he was still kind to animals did not mean he was the same man. It pained her to read every column devoted to him and his dalliances, yet she could not help herself. They had not spoken in nearly ten years and she could not help but want to know every element to his life, even while it stabbed at her heart to read of the rake he had become.
He stilled and turned, the golden light dappling over his face. She sucked in a breath. No wonder women swarmed to him. The attractive young man she had known had grown into the most handsome man she had ever seen.
She clapped a hand over her mouth when his brow furrowed. He lifted the lamp and peered at the shadows. She waited, her heart pounding against her chest so loudly that she feared he would hear it.
Then he shook his head, returned the lamp to the plinth and turned back to the horse, smoothing strong hands down the animal’s flanks.
Rebecca inhaled a shaky breath through her nostrils. And regretted it. Instantly. The brick dust and hay combined made her nose tickle and her eyes water. She pressed a finger under her nose but to no avail. A sneeze burst from her, cracking through the stillness.
She jolted away from the wall with the intention of escaping but too late. Leo descended upon her and grabbed her arm. “Who are you?” he demanded.
She tried to wriggle free of his strong grip, but he grabbed her other arm. When she went to push past him, he shoved back, and she lost her footing and tumbled onto a pile of hay. He fell with her, the sudden tumble dragging him down. The breath left her lungs at the impact of his body atop hers, his strength and height utterly apparent.
“Get off me,” she grunted, struggling against his hold.
“What are you doing here, boy?”
She stilled at the word. He hadn’t recognized her. She supposed the shadows were too dark. And that meant her disguise had worked. With any luck, she could make her excuses, leave, and he would be none the wiser of her presence here.
“Just seeking shelter,” she murmured, keeping her voice low.
He kept her pinned, fingers curled around both wrists. The awareness of his hard body atop hers sizzled through her despite herself. She squirmed once more and he cocked his head, releasing her arms suddenly. “You’re no boy.”
“You do not have to stay,” she murmured between forkfuls of lukewarm but beautifully spiced duck.
“I told Alexander I was taking a stroll about the parkland.” He lingered by the window, his hands clasped behind his back, despite there being nothing for him to view from such a position.
She sighed and gestured to the chair opposite. “You had better sit then. It feels mightily odd eating with you towering over me.”
He lowered himself onto the chair, his frame seeming too big for a piece of furniture that had likely been designed for a woman.
She forced her attention to the food. Tomorrow she had intended to hunt down a woman with whom her father had been connected, and it would likely involve walking into Grasmere so she would need her strength.
“How are your brothers?” she finally asked when the silence stretched too long.
Not that it was uncomfortable, at least not in the traditional manner. It left her feeling oddly achy and desperate for the days when they had been able to talk and touch freely.
“Well enough, though I cannot say they would confide in me were they not.”
She frowned, gesturing with her fork. “But you used to be so close, especially to Adam.”
“We are all busy these days.” He lifted both shoulders. “Alexander is forever hunting out his next adventure, probably determined to kill himself so he does not have to worry about siring an heir, and Adam still enjoys cards.”
“And you, what do you do?”
“I thought you knew all about me.” He smirked. “You have read all about me in the gossip columns after all.”
“Well, yes.” Warmth spread into her face, and she eyed the glossy table top until she could get the heat under control. “But only briefly,” she lied.
Leo leaned back and laced his hands behind his head. “Then I am sure you know it all.”
“The horses,” she blurted, motioning so fast with her fork that a few remnants of meat flung off it and splattered against the curtains. She grimaced and gently lowered the fork.
His lips curved but he said nothing of her disastrous manners.
“What I was trying to say was there are so many horses. Are they yours?”
He nodded. “We are so seldom here that Alexander does not mind me using the park land for the horses.”
“No. They are too old. I purchase those who are at the end of their racing or working careers and they live out their retirement here.”
“Of course you do.”
Rebecca should not have been surprised really, but she almost wished there was some selfish reason. It would make it all the easier to ignore this pull toward him as though he had lassoed a rope around her and was slowly hauling her in with his every word and action.
He lifted both brows. “You sound almost disappointed.”
“Well, it does rather ruin your image as the seductive rake.”
“And that disappoints you?” His gaze clashed with hers, making her chest feel tight.
“No, it is just—”
“You want to know why I bedded all those women over the years?”
“Because of you, Rebecca.” His jaw twitched. “To forget you.” He shoved a hand through his hair, leaving it in disarray. “I needed to get you out from under my skin, but I’ll be damned if I succeeded.”
She inhaled a sharp breath that seemed to sear her lungs. It all could be a lie, she supposed, but she did not think so. His confession had the loop tightening, drawing her closer still until she could fight him no longer.
Perhaps, just for now, she did not want to fight him.
“I never forgot you either,” she confessed.
The words escaped without thought and she should have regretted them, but when his gaze darkened and she knew precisely what his next move would be, she could not bring herself to.
She held herself still and waited.
USA Today Bestselling author Samantha Holt lives in a small village in England with her twin girls and a dachshund called Duke. If you’re not sure where to start why not try…
▶ Amelia and the Viscount (Bluestocking Brides #1) for a fun, slightly hot shorter length read. Meet the Chadwick sisters and follow their adventures in each of their standalone stories.
▶ You’re the Rogue That I Want (Rogues of Redmere #1) is a longer read with heat, witty dialogue, a feisty heroine and adventure. All books in the series are standalone.
▶ Sinful Confessions is the first in the Cynfell Brothers Series. These are all novella length and standalone–ideal for a quick dip into the world of the sexy Cynfell brothers.
▶ Wake Me With a Kiss is a sweet, fairytale romance. Twists on Beauty and the Beast and Cinderella are also available if you love a clean, fun read.
▶ To Steal a Highlander’s Heart is a full length dive into the world of sexy highlanders. For those who love braw Scots, some steamy scenes, and medieval romance, this series is a perfect escape.
So here we are again in Christmas village – and we meet the partner – the wordsmith – and financier (part) of our wonderful tailor. The Clawhammer coat, breeches and waistcoat of the gentleman who wants to look like a Duke but only has a working man’s salary.
Jonathan is peripatetic. He sees his job as to promote the various endeavours he has financed from ormulu weaving to tailoring to many other crafts and activities, small and large. And of course, he takes a small percentage of the income in return for lending the start-up funding. It turns out that he is illegitimate and has a trust fund from his father – but his own income is more than sufficient – except for this new concept of the ready-made outfit for men. He is also a great story-teller about his adventures.
He accidentally meets a jeweller. She has her own issues as although she learnt her trade from her father, he didn’t think women should run their own businesses, and then it turns out she is also part African, descended from a freed slave.
There have been Black people living in the UK since Roman times at the very least, and it is thought that we had a Black queen – Queen Charlotte born 1761. By the late 1700s there were around 15,000 Black people known to live in the UK – many were servants and domestic workers, but some were also tradesmen. The abolition of slavery in the British Empire in 1833 meant that there was no further immigration to boost numbers. Most lived in large ports and centres of population. Unfortunately, race was not commonly recorded in Parish Registers or Censuses, so it is difficult to be accurate about numbers or occupations.
What we do know is that lockets with small portraits and locks of hair were commonly worn and that many were intricately jewelled and decorated.
This is a delightful series of short novels with a mention of a Duke at some point in the storyline, and all set amongst characters we have met in previous stories about this imaginary village.
Answer: Yes, about some things at least. and can get away with it.
So the time of Beau Brummell has just past but his influence lingers – especially his encouragement to bathe every day. Not everyone agrees, but enough do, to make soap for those bathing a profitable concern. If you can manufacture in sufficient quantity and quality as well as economically enough to make a profit. During the 19th century soap manufacture was a very fragmented activity. Many old plans of towns all over the country provide evidence of small local soap works, and some housewives in rural areas would still make their own soap in the home.
Interesting that the author has ‘thrown in’ people of colour owning businesses and being entrepreneurs not just servants. And women knowing enough to run businesses and invest sensibly too. I’m sure there were more them there is commonly acknowledged too.
I liked the story line and writing style, even though I thought there could have been social and political background to round out the commercial discussions.
English Heritage tells us about black workers in the 18th century the following:
“Waged and enslaved servants formed the largest group of black workers. A black servant, often a young page or handmaid, was a status symbol, adorning the houses of the well-to-do. Their experiences and legal statuses varied enormously. Some, like John Rippon, lived comfortably. Others were displayed as walking, talking objets d’art, wearing silver and brass collars on which was engraved the name and address of whoever had bought their lives.
A small number rose from servitude (often with the help of their former masters) to enjoy independent lives. Prominent among this class were the Westminster shopkeeper, lettrist and composer Ignatius Sancho, the coal merchant and property owner Cesar Picton in Kingston-upon-Thames and the Nottingham-based George Africanus, who ran a servants’ register in the city.
Estimates are that in the late 18th century at least 10,000 black workers or servants lived in London, with a further 5,000 + throughout the country. In terms of the most common businesses owned were Public houses owned by black men which could be found across the country, and here is Pablo Fanque, who was born as William Darby in Norwich, and who rose to become the proprietor of one of Britain’s most successful Victorian circuses. There were also several well known musicians and many served in the army and navy – not always voluntarily.
The main difficulty being that black people were frequently not identified as such in the registers and documented history of the time, race and colour was not considered important to record except when the person was special in some way
I liked the story about Egypt, antiquities and fakes! I wonder how many items in people’s special collection are good fakes? More than they care to admit I’m sure. This was the time when the rich made collections of the strange and wonderful from plants to china to mummies to… and is the reason we find Roman leaded sarcophagi being used as plant troughs in many Ducal gardens now. And Italianate looking buildings and ‘ruins’ dotting their gardens – and a systematic looting of ancient monuments was undertaken by the young men undertaking their Grand Tours post the Wars.
Wikipedia says “Egyptomania was the renewed interest of Europeans in ancient Egypt during the nineteenth century as a result of Napoleon‘s Egyptian Campaign (1798–1801) and, in particular, as a result of the extensive scientific study of ancient Egyptian remains and culture inspired by this campaign. In addition to its aesthetic impact on literature, art, and architecture,”
Now as for John Soan’s house – it is real – a Museum now and I have visited. Really a strange place with collections of all sorts. Interesting but not so easy to visit (when I went) as a disabled person – too many stairs…Egypt was all the rage after the Napoleanic Wars and the great victories of Nelson at the Battle of the Nile, and Abercromby at the Battle of Alexandria. And as for Cleopatra’s Needle this was donated to London in 1819 (slightly out of timeline for this book) in commemoration of the battles. I liked the writing style and the use of the ‘real’ English language without being too prissy as so many novels about this era are. They are inclined to pretend that everyone spoke in such proper style without using any cuss words. Which we all know would not have been the real case… .