Author: Susanna Craig
Genre/Age: Historical Romance/Adult
Series: Runaway Desires Series (Book Three)
Publisher: Lyrical Press
Synopsis: Desire waylays the plans of a man with a mysterious past and a woman with an uncertain future, in Susanna Craig’s unforgettable series set in Georgian England.
After her much older husband dies—leaving her his fortune—Charlotte Blakemore finds herself at the mercy of her stepson, who vows to contest the will and destroy her life. With nowhere to turn and no one to help her, she embarks on an elaborate ruse—only to find herself stranded on the way to London. . .
More than twenty years in the West Indies have hardened Edward Cary, but not enough to abandon a helpless woman at a roadside inn—especially one as disarmingly beautiful as Charlotte. He takes her with him to the Gloucestershire estate he is determined to restore, though he is suspicious of every word that falls from her distractingly lush lips.
As far as Charlotte knows, Edward is nothing more than a steward, and there’s no reason to reveal his noble birth until he can right his father’s wrongs. Acting as husband and wife will keep people in the village from asking questions that neither Charlotte nor Edward are willing to answer. But the game they’re each determined to play has rules that beg to broken, when the passion between them threatens to uncover the truth—for better or worse...
“But he wants no evidence of his crime hereabouts?”
The sofa creaked as one of the women shifted. “What would you have me say, Mrs. Henderson? I cannot speak ill of my husband.”
“No, of course not.” Mrs. Henderson managed to sound at once wry and sympathetic. “Isn’t there somewhere you could go?”
“How could I leave my son?”
“Do you fear for his safety, then?”
Mama laughed again, but the sound was suddenly strange to him. “I fear for his life, Mrs. Henderson.” The boy crouched lower in his hiding spot, careful not to disturb the orderly ranks and files of soldiers at his feet.
“Dear God in Heaven! Do you mean—?”
“I mean that if left to his own devices, my husband will raise his son in his image. So now, while I can, I intervene. His mother’s influence may be the only stay against a violent nature.”
A violent nature? Did Mama believe he was fated to turn out like Father? People seemed to delight in telling him how he took after the man. In looks, certainly—he was big for his age, and dark where his mother was fair. Mr. Cummings insisted that must be where his quickness came from, too. Neither Latin nor algebra required much effort. But what if—the boy glanced down at the soldier still clutched in his hand—what if that is not all I have inherited?
“When he’s sent to school, however,” Mama continued, “I will leave. A visit to my sister’s—an extended holiday, we shall say.” He had never heard his mother use that tone of voice. It was something more than angry, more than stubborn.
“Oh, my lady.” Mrs. Henderson clucked her tongue. “But in the meantime . . . ?”
The sofa protested once more as the vicar’s wife stood, and he heard her shuffle into a curtsy. “I am at your service, your ladyship.” They left, and the boy was alone again in the dusty silence. He rubbed his thumb back and forth over the figure he held, as if it were some sort of talisman. When the other boys had teased little Molly Keating about her freckles, Mr. Cummings had told him it was a gentle- man’s duty to protect a lady.
How he wished he were a pirate captain! What wouldn’t he do then to keep his mother safe? He would whisk her away across the seven seas, take her somewhere his father could not harm her again.
Alas, he had no ship, no cannon, not even a cutlass. He shoved angrily, impotently at the sewing basket, which plowed into the soldiers lining the shore, breaking their ranks. She could leave when he did, she had said. But he would not be going away to school for more than two years. Terrible things might happen in that time. If only it were in his power to leave now.
He studied the pirate’s painted face. Father was fond of saying that every Bristol merchant was a pirate at heart. And they had ships, the boy knew. He had seen them once when Mama had taken him to the harbor on an outing. If there were pirates so near as Bristol, he could run away and join them. He supposed Mama would worry about what had become of him. Mothers did worry, he knew. But she would forgive him if she were able to leave this place.
Away from his mother’s gentle guidance, he risked becoming more like his father. But what choice did he have?
His shoulders rounded under the weight of his decision, the boy began to pack up his soldiers. Perhaps his father had been right all along, for he suddenly felt far too old for such playthings. At the least, he would try very hard to be grown-up enough not to long for the day when he could come home.
A love affair with historical romances led Susanna Craig to a degree (okay, three degrees) in literature and a career as an English professor. When she’s not teaching or writing academic essays about Jane Austen and her contemporaries, she enjoys putting her fascination with words and knowledge of the period to better use: writing Regency-era romances she hopes readers will find both smart and sexy. She makes her home among the rolling hills of Kentucky horse country, along with her historian husband, their unstoppable little girl, and a genuinely grumpy cat.