April 12th see’s the release of DUKES BY THE DOZEN. What’s better than a dashing duke? A dozen of them! In this case, a baker’s dozen—thirteen of your favorite historical romance authors have come together to bring you more than a dozen tantalizing novellas, with one per month, for a year’s worth of never-before-released romances.
For the next 13 days I shall be sharing excerpts from each of the stories in this fabulous Boxed Set from the following amazing historical authors, Alyssa Alexander, Jennifer Ashley, Grace Burrowes, Gina Conkle, Eileen Dreyer, Elizabeth Essex, Bronwen Evans, Anna Harrington, Madeline Martin, May McGoldrick, Ella Quinn, Heather Snow, Sabrina York.
The Duke and the April Flowers
Henning, Duke of Clonmere is bound by a promise made by his late father. He must marry one of the Earl of Falmouth’s daughters, though only the oldest, Lady Iris, who considers herself on the shelf, interests Clonmere… In fact, she fascinates him.
“The waltz will start soon,” Iris said. “We should be going inside.”
His Grace of Clonmere remained on the bench beside her. “Might I confide a secret? I’m all waltzed out. I have no more waltzes, minuets, quadrilles, gavottes or Roger de Coverley’s in me. Not tonight. Your sisters have worn me to flinders.”
I want my waltz. And yet, Iris was also relieved. To twirl around in Clonmere’s arms, pretending to be merely amused, pretending to merely enjoy what Iris would instead be savoring and resenting and treasuring…. Clonmere’s demurral was in truth a reprieve.
“My sisters thrive on society’s entertainments. You will have a waltzing duchess, Your Grace. Best accommodate yourself to that reality now, even if it’s not precisely what you wish for.”
Clonmere plucked a flower from the urn beside the bench. “What do you wish for? If you had a fairy godmother, and she granted you a wish-come-true, what would it be, Lady Iris?”
Just as the duke was out of waltzes, Iris was out of witty rejoinders. The plain, honest truth begged to be spoken, if only this once, if only to a man making conversation to avoid the ballroom.
“A wish? My deepest, most secret wish?”
“The wish your heart whispers as you drift into dreams, that wish.”
To not end up with cat hair all over my life. To not be a burden on my family. To never… but those wishes were all in the negative. What did Iris wish for affirmatively? She had the sense Clonmere would wait for her answer until Michaelmas, though by then he’d be married to some sister or other.
“I wish that a worthy man would regard me, the true me, as the fulfillment of some of his dreams, Your Grace. Not all, of course, just as I wouldn’t expect him to be the sum total of my life either. I was raised to anticipate that I’d find a partner though, and I’m not ashamed to long for it. I wish that man would find me, and kiss me as if all the love in his heart had finally found a home, and as if all the love in my heart was his dearest treasure. Just once, I’d like to experience such a kiss.”
The admission surprised her, but also came as something of a relief. Twenty-six was not ancient, and longing for somebody to love was purely human.
“You are very brave,” Clonmere said, rising. “Very fierce.”
Now he was ready to return to the ballroom? “I am neither.”
He offered his hand—not his arm—and Iris rose. She’d confided much more than she’d intended, but the recitation had given her courage. She would not slink off to Surrey, she would not consign herself to the company of dyspeptic cats and literary spinsters.
“Where are we going?” she asked, for the duke was not taking her in the direction of the ballroom.
“What matters one more waltz, when I can make a lady’s wish come true?” He came to a halt toward the back of the garden. The sound of the ballroom faded to a distant roar, moonlight glinted on a trickle of water splashing from a fountain sculpted into the shape of a blooming rose.
“I must make my own wish come true,” Iris said.
Clonmere shifted his grip on Iris’s hand, linking their fingers. “On Saturday, I will choose which of Falmouth’s daughters to court. From that day forward, I will be devoted to her and only to her, if she’ll have me. I must make my choice in a manner that offers none of your sisters insult, or the woman I choose for my duchess will forever regret that she caused her siblings to suffer. Jealousy among siblings is the very devil, and I won’t be the cause of it in my wife’s family.”
He was trying to make some point, but Iris grasped only the first part of his declaration. “You have not yet made your choice. You aren’t devoted to anybody yet.”
“Precisely.” He took off his gloves, a curious thing to do when the supper was still a set of dances away. “I am free to behave as I please, and I please to make your one, honest wish come true—if I may?”
A peculiar sensation welled from Iris’s middle, part glee, part terror. “You’d like to kiss me?”
“That was your wish.”
Her wish had involved a particular kind of kiss, which Clonmere couldn’t possibly deliver.
He framed her face in the warmth of his hands. “Then… as you wish, my lady.”
Wishing you all HAPPY READING!