Unforgivable is due for release on 15th January 2013 from Samhain
Gil Truman has eyes only for the beautiful Tilly—until he is forced to marry plain, sickly Rose Davenport to reclaim the lands his father foolishly gambled away. After a disastrous wedding night tainted with his bitterness, he deposits Rose at his remote Northumbrian estate, soothing his guilt with the thought that she need never lay eyes on him again.
Five years after the mortifying wedding night that destroyed all her romantic fantasies, Rose is fed up with hearing second- and third-hand reports of Gil’s philandering ways. She is no longer the shy, homely girl he left behind, but a strong, confident woman who knows how to run an estate. And knows what she wants—her husband, back in their marriage bed.
Gil doesn’t recognize the bold, flirtatious woman he meets at a ball, with or without her mask. Yet he is bewitched and besotted, and their night together is the most passionate he has ever known.
But when he confesses his sins to the beautiful stranger, the truth rips open the old wounds of their blighted history. Threatening any hope of a future together.
My debut novel The Lady’s Secret, is a Regency-set historical romance - excerpt below.
“I absolutely loved it! The Lady’s Secret is an emotionally intimate, masterful romance. I love books with cross-dressing heroines, and this is one of the best I’ve ever read.”Courtney Milan
Former actress Georgiana Knight always believed she and her brother were illegitimate–until they learn their parents were married, making them heirs to a great estate. To prove their claim, Georgy needs to find evidence of their union by infiltrating a ton house party as valet to Lord Nathaniel Harland . Though masquerading as a boy is a challenge, it pales in comparison to sharing such intimate quarters with the handsome, beguiling nobleman.
Nathan is also unsettled by Georgy’s presence. First intrigued by his unusual valet, he’s even more captivated when he discovers Georgy’s charade. The desire the marriage-shy earl feels for his enigmatic employee has him hoping for much more than a master-servant relationship…
But will Nathan still want Georgy when he learns who she truly is? Or will their future be destroyed by someone who would do anything to prevent Georgy from uncovering the truth?
Here’s an excerpt:
Half past nine in the morning.
Georgy leaned one shoulder against the wall outside Harland’s bedchamber, waiting for the maid to arrive with his breakfast tray. As was his habit, Harland had left precise instructions for her on his return to the house in the early hours. The dashed off note, handed to the night footman, was waiting at her place at breakfast this morning. It read “Breakfast in my bedchamber at half past nine. Coddled eggs. Coffee. Riding clothes.”
During the two hours between eating her own breakfast and taking Harland’s to him, Georgy had pressed the wrinkles from a pile of coats and waistcoats. It was a hot, sweaty task and she was red-faced and sticky when she finished. She just had time to run to her own chamber to wash her face and tidy her hair before making her to way to her master’s apartments to wait for the maid.
She’d been waiting at Harland’s bedchamber door for several minutes by the time the maid arrived—Rosie, a plump, silent girl from the kitchens who Tom the footman insisted was “sweet on George.”
“Morning, Rosie,” Georgy said.
Rosie blushed beetroot red—she always did when Georgy spoke to her. The china on the tray rattled as she handed it over. She mumbled a greeting and scurried away.
Georgy put the tray on the occasional table that stood outside Harland’s door and quickly checked the contents. It was all there: his morning newspaper, the pot of coffee, the neat plate of eggs huddling under the silver dome, the buttered toast and the sliced orange. Harland was terribly partial to oranges. He hadn’t said in his note that he wanted one, but he had one every morning, always sliced into eight pieces.
Georgy’s mouth watered. She adored oranges too. It felt like forever since she’d had one. The juicy, glistening flesh looked so appealing in the little crystal bowl Mrs. Simms had sliced it into. She wondered briefly if Harland would notice if she stole one little piece. But of course he would. There were always precisely eight pieces and it would be just like him to notice if there were only seven.
She lifted a hand and rapped on the door. She counted to ten before she opened the door, and even then only a fraction.
Harland’s voice—his early morning voice, still husky from sleep—was the final key to her entry. Georgy lifted the tray and entered backwards, using her back to swing the door open. When she turned around, Harland was in the process of sitting up. He wore nothing, as usual. His dark hair was mussed, his eyes half-closed and sleepy as he passed a weary hand over his face. Three o’clock this morning he’d come in, Jed had said. If she were Harland, she would have slept till lunch.
She stared at his torso while he fiddled with his pillows. It was a habit she had formed. Safer to look there while she stood waiting with the breakfast tray than at his face. Harland was lean but his shoulders were broad. Naked, he was fascinating to her, his chest taut with muscle and smattered with dark hair that whorled around his flat nipples and then down, arrowing in a line towards his groin, where it flared again. She had caught a glimpse of his groin a few times when he got out of bed or when he was putting on his drawers. She always looked away quickly, hoping he wouldn’t notice her strange interest in him.
When Harland was sitting up comfortably, his back resting against the pillows, she stepped forward. She fiddled with the clever little legs folded under the tray that enabled it to bridge Harland’s thighs. It was a well-made thing. Polished cherry wood, inlaid with mother of pearl. And a simple bit of ingenuity in those folding legs. That was typical of Harland, who loved well-made things and had a passion for curios, whether it was a tray with folding legs, a rapier concealed inside a gold-tipped cane, or even a snuff box with a pornographic engraving inside the lid.
Georgy lifted the coffee pot and poured a cup of darkly fragrant brew. Harland closed his eyes and inhaled appreciatively. Georgy replaced the pot and lifted the silver cover on the coddled eggs.
“Thank you, Fellowes,” Harland said. It was not so much an expression of gratitude as a dismissal and Georgy took it in the spirit it was given.
“Very good, my lord,” she murmured. She placed the silver cover and napkin neatly on a side table and withdrew to the neighbouring dressing room to get his riding clothes ready.
From the wardrobe she drew a green velvet riding coat and ran a brush over it to make the nap lie correctly. Buckskin breeches. Clean linen—drawers, a shirt, a cravat. All of it pristine white, and the cravat starched to perfect straightness. Silk hose. A tall, black curly-brimmed hat that she turned over and over in her hands, enjoying its craftsmanship, the pleasing lines of it, its dense, velvety blackness. She brought out his riding boots, cleaned just yesterday, even the soles. They were so polished they looked as though they’d never been worn. Even so, she fished out a soft cloth and gave them one final burnish. As she worked, the tinkle of cutlery, the rattle of china and the rustle of paper reminded her that Harland was breakfasting a few yards away.
At ten o’clock precisely, there was a quiet knock on the bedchamber door. Georgy left the dressing room and walked back to the bedchamber to answer. Harland had put the tray to one side, having consumed its contents, and was immersed in his paper.
Rosie again. This time she bore a kettle of boiling water, a wadded cloth protecting her hand from heat of the handle. She and Georgy managed an awkward transfer, fingers and thumbs crossing so as not to touch it.
“Wait a moment and I’ll bring you the tray.”
“Yes, Mr. Fellowes.” More blushing.
Oh god, was it true what Tom said? Georgy hoped not. She didn’t relish the idea of any of the other servants watching her too closely.
She took the kettle through to the dressing room, then retraced her steps, picking up the tray on the way. She opened the door and Rosie stepped forward to take the tray from her, her fingers brushing Georgy’s as she did so. Georgy recoiled slightly at the touch. Her movement almost sent the tray tumbling and caused a god-awful clatter as the dishes knocked over and rolled around on the tray.
“Oh dear. I’m sorry, Mr. Fellowes!” Rosie cried.
“Don’t apologise. My fault entirely,” Georgy said as she righted the dishes.
She felt the heat of her flushed face as she closed the door on the maid. She felt so stupid. Above anything else, she needed not to be noticed in this household. She took care to speak little and to avoid company. But just now, wound up by Tom’s teasing, she’d acted as though Rosie was about to ravish her and made a spectacle of herself. It was the sort of mistake she couldn’t afford.
When she turned around it was to find, as she’d expected, that Harland had lowered his paper and was looking at her. His eyes focused upon her—a rare occurrence, and unsettling. She shifted uncomfortably under his gaze.
“Everything all right, Fellowes?” He hated noise in the mornings and Georgy was not unaware of the subtle rebuke in his mild words.
“Yes, my lord. I’m sorry about the noise.”
He nodded and put his paper back up. “Go on through to the dressing room. I’ll come for my shave in five minutes.”
“Very good, my lord.”
Georgy went back to the dressing room and her preparations. She poured half the kettle into a basin that stood beside the chair Harland liked to be shaved in, and added a few drops of scented oil to it. It was Harland’s own blend and it smelled of cloves and cinnamon, a spicy and clean smell that was absolutely him. In a separate bowl, she whipped up a thick lather with a stiff shaving brush. The razor itself she liberally stropped before testing the edge and finding it to her satisfaction.
When she had first begun work as Harland’s valet, shaving him had been the most unnerving task she’d had to do. She’d practiced on Max and Will before she’d arrived, but having left them nicked and bleeding, she had realised she wasn’t going to able to bluff it. And so she’d explained to Harland on her first day that her previous master had sported a beard he’d tidied himself. “George” hadn’t been called upon to shave anyone else before.
Harland had merely shrugged. “You’ve got to learn sometime,” was all he’d said. That first time, she’d nicked him twice and taken three times as long as she did now. He had been surprisingly forbearing about it. And she had learned quickly. She got plenty of practice, often shaving him twice a day, once in the morning and once before he left for whatever ball or dinner he was attending that evening.
In the evenings, he preferred to be shaved while he took his bath. He liked baths. Tom and Jed cursed his fastidiousness, since they had to carry the water upstairs. Jed swore it was unhealthy to bathe so much. Georgy sympathised with their complaints, but secretly she thought she would bathe every day too, if she were an earl. Bathe every day and eat oranges and purchase hats and boots of such extraordinary magnificence that no one, even a woman, could help but covet them.
She was thinking of him lounging in his bath, his long limbs languid, when the man himself strolled into the dressing room, loosely garbed in a dark red robe, and made for the chair. He sat down, saying nothing. Merely leaned his head back and closed his eyes. Georgy took a towel and draped it about his neck and shoulders. She slung another over her own shoulder to wipe the blade upon.
Silence. This was his way. Most mornings, he would say little more than “Good morning” and “Thank you.” Georgy took her cue from him, speaking only when spoken to, and then keeping her comments brief. Nor did Harland much look at her. While she buzzed around him—shaving him, helping him on with his coat and boots, tying his cravat, brushing away each and every speck of lint—his eyes simply drifted past her, uninterested, as though she were invisible.
She couldn’t help but be faintly peeved. She knew it was ridiculous; she should be glad he barely noticed her. Her mission was to stay in this household, undetected, and then infiltrate Dunsmore’s house. Harland’s indifference could only be helpful. Yet at times, it irked her.
Even now, he sat in his chair with perfect unconcern for the fact that his robe was unbelted. Oh, he was loosely covered, but she could see a swathe of bare chest and another of thigh. His state of undress didn’t even give him pause—well, why should it?
It gave her pause though. And more besides. While she outwardly presented the same collected mask she’d adopted from her first interview with Harland, inwardly she seethed, bubbling with a strange mix of fascination and resentment. And lust. God yes, lust. Lust had her paralysed in her bed at night as she thought of him.
She had been brought up short by his beauty in that first interview, but she could never have imagined what it would be like to be with him, day in and day out. In his dishabille, mussed from sleep, half-dressed or even not dressed at all. In his bath, in his bed, draped loosely in silk, or more restrictively in tailored finery—she was seeing him as women rarely saw men other than their husbands. She was seeing the warm, living flesh beneath the pristine clothes. Warm flesh, lean muscle, smooth skin, dark hair. Eyes like the night.