by Julia Donner
GENRE: Regency Romance
Society’s beloved wastrel, Sir Harry Collyns, pushes his popularity past the point of acceptability when he poses for a statue that creates a social uproar. People line up for blocks to see Handsome Harry in the nude, sculpted by a female artist! Bored with the fuss and scandal, Harry hitches up his fastest team, heads for the country, and a near fatal curricle accident. When the bandages are removed from his head days later, he discovers the angel-voiced widow who’d cared for him is neither elderly nor as mild as her tone, but a straight-laced do-gooder unimpressed with his flamboyant past and dashing good looks. Head-battered and heading for a broken heart, he falls into love with Widow Olivia St. Clair, who might be the one woman in England that Harry can’t charm into loving him back.
Dawn came and so did Fanny with poached eggs and toast, which didn’t do much to fill the gaping hole from eating so little for days. It did silence the constant growl in his stomach.
“Fanny, would it be possible to have more toast? Perhaps some jam. And coffee instead of tea?”
“My, sir, you must be feeling more the thing if you can keep down that much food.”
Another voice, one that sent a shiver down his arms, said, “Perhaps after we’ve removed the bandages. Mrs. Hoskins has started a mutton pottage. First, we must see how your stitches are coming along.”
Sounding hopeful, Fanny asked, “Do you need me to stay and help, Mrs. Olivia?”
“Thank you, no. It’s only a few strips of linen, Fanny. Please take away the tray.”
Harry sat up straighter in bed. Finally, he’d feel air on his face, see the sunlight and the world, the green fields and pastures. Most of all, he’d look on the owner of the low, slow voice—the lady who cared for him against everyone’s wishes.
He flinched when she touched his shoulder. “Please, Sir Harry, stay absolutely still for a moment. I purposely made the bandage knot too tight to unwind and these shears were recently sharpened.”
A few snipping sounds, then came the clunk of metal being set on a side table. It sounded heavy enough to be a pair of sheep shears.
Layer by layer, she unwound the linen strips, leaning close, surrounding him with the scent of roses. The folded pads over his eyes finally tumbled to his lap. Air brushed over his face, and he opened his eyes to a dim room where no lights had been lit for days. He’d never smelled wax, tallow or oil burning.
He scraped his fingernails over his scalp and finger-combed his hair, while Mrs. St. Clair’s shadow went to the window, saying, “You might want to have a care for your eyes. It’s a sunny day.”
He squinted to see her as she pulled back the draperies and opened the squeaky latch. Fresh air rushed into the room. He blinked to adjust to sunlight. His eyesight finally cleared. He watched Mrs. St. Clair return to the bedside, then couldn’t remember how to breathe.
Not elderly, certainly not with a figure that hovered at the edge of plump, the sort of body that made him want to cuddle, sink into all that comfort and—
“Sir Harry, is your eyesight unimpaired?”
A burning sensation seared across his chest and spread down his arms when he encountered chocolate-brown eyes. Mrs. St. Clair had the level regard of someone without guile, someone who knew herself and her place in the world. He supposed the world would consider her ordinary, but he only saw a gentle loveliness and a haunting familiarity. He recalled his cynical laugh when his brother confessed that he’d fallen for Lizzie from her expression on a miniature.
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AUTHOR Bio and Links:
Julia Donner (aka M.L.Rigdon) grew up in historic Galena, IL, USA, and spent most of her time in the museum of her aunt, who encouraged her interest in history and understood the need to cherish a dream. She started writing in secret in her teens and never stopped, merging it with her mother's encouragement to study theater and music, which led to performing in the Midwest, California and as far away as Austria.
Donner never forgot what it was like to write alone as a girl and is a happy member of Summit City Scribes. Concern for the failing educational system led her to develop Your Futures in Ink, a panel of local and regional authors, who go into to schools to encourage students and answer questions about writing.
THE TIGRESSE AND THE RAVEN, first book in the regency Friendship Series, is an RWA contest finalist. The ninth book in the series, A ROGUE FOR MISS PRIM and the tenth, AN AMERICAN FOR AGNES, are available now. A LAIRD’S PROMISE will be released by Spring 2018.
M.L Rigdon (aka Julia Donner)
Follow on Twitter @RigdonML
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