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A Return to Hawthorne House

Book 0.75

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Hawthorne House

Always a Lady

Despite the fact that her daughter is not cooperating, Caroline, Duchess of Riverton is determined to ensure every one of her children marries someone they love as much as she loved their late father. William, the widowered Earl of Blackstone, is delighted to have his days of escorting daughters approaching an end. The last thing he expects is to find himself drawn to a woman who is just starting such a journey. Are they each too set in their ways to grasp this chance to have a second love?


The Lady’s Maid

When Lydia Smith began her career as a parlor maid, she knew love and marriage wasn’t likely in her future. Dreaming about the boy next door as she dusted seemed harmless until he started working as the new valet under the same roof. When Finch needs her help with a special project, will it give them a chance to defy expectations and find love or ruin their happiness forever?


BONUS - PRINT ONLY - A Lady of Esteem

 

Read an Excerpt

London, England, 1811


“A lady never refuses a dance unless she wishes to cause a great scandal or make a definitive statement, Mother.”


The words were merely a parroting of instructions Caroline, Duchess of Riverton had frequently imparted upon her eldest daughter Miranda, but their familiarity, and their truth, didn’t knock Caroline from the trance she’d stumbled into. She continued to stare at the man’s gloved hand as if it were a wriggling fish that had been plopped before her at the dining table. When was the last time she’d danced with a man other than her sons?


Probably fifteen years ago, at the last ball she’d attended with the duke before his unexpected passing.


“Mother.” Miranda accompanied this whisper with a nudge of her elbow into Caroline’s ribs, causing her to stumble half a step forward.

Instinctively, Caroline reached out to salvage her balance and jabbed her fingers right into the outstretched palm of the man who had asked her to dance. His hand closed gently but firmly around hers before he turned and repositioned the hold so he could escort her properly to the floor.


She blinked at the stark contrast of her white glove against his dark sleeve, then snapped her gaze up to look Lord Blackstone in the eye. Polite habits had her returning the earl’s small smile while her wits gathered themselves back into some semblance of order.


Not until they’d reached the center of the dance floor did control of her tongue return. “You honor me with your attentions, my lord.”


“The honor is mine, your grace.” Lord Blackstone smiled as he grasped her fingers in one hand and placed the other across her back.


The music swelled as Caroline stared once more at their joined hands. Dash it all, this was a waltz! Not that she need worry about her reputation. She was a titled widow, after all, not some fresh-faced debutante. Nor was she concerned for her ability. She and the late duke had enjoyed waltzing long before it became at all socially acceptable, and she’d maintained those skills by circling many a ballroom with her adult sons.


Still, unease gripped her middle, threatening to spread from her throat to her toes.


Moments ago, before Lord Blackstone’s appearance, Caroline had been guiding Miranda into the perfect position to catch the eye of Lord Rickford when he returned his previous dancing partner to her mother. Yet somehow it was Caroline swirling her way across the floor instead of her eligible daughter.


She tilted her head so she could see around Lord Blackstone’s shoulder and searched for Miranda’s face or a flash of her white velvet gown. Perhaps someone had asked her to dance after Caroline walked away?


No, there Miranda was, standing behind the row of hopeful young faces, beaming at her mother as if she’d orchestrated this entire business.


The whole reason they’d stayed in London for the winter had been to allow Miranda an opportunity to circulate more than she could during the regular busier Season when every eligible young man seemed to have two dozen women vying for his attention. Now the girl had given up positional advantage and aligned herself with the spinsters, chaperons, and mothers.


Hadn’t two full Seasons in London taught her that a lady had to make herself available in order to find a match? She couldn’t hope to just run into the perfect gentleman while wandering about her own home.


“I do believe Lady Miranda can suffer your absence for one dance.” Lord Blackstone pressed against Caroline’s side, forcing her to turn with the dance and lose view of her daughter.


The tips of Caroline’s ears burned as she pulled her head back to an appropriate position. “Of course.”


She allowed her face to settle into a polite smile as she sorted through possible topics of conversation. The way things were going, Miranda would enter her third Season without a serious prospect in sight. Rumors of a mother so unsociable as to dance an entire waltz without talking to her partner wouldn’t help the situation any.


Fortunately, Caroline was a well-bred lady of London’s aristocratic elite, and she was more than capable of providing amiable conversation while still devoting her true attention to the needs of her daughter.


“Are you in London for the entirety of the winter, my lord?” she asked while subtly searching through the dancing couples to see whom Lord Rickford had brought to the floor instead of Miranda.


Lord Blackstone glanced to the left before giving Caroline a returning smile. “My plans are not yet decided.”