This is a wonderful, delightful, awesome, very good day for me because the second book in The Duke’s Obsession Trilogy heads for the shelves. “The Soldier” is the story of not one but three wounded and weary hearts who find their way to a happily ever after, and of all the manuscripts I’ve completed, this is one of the ones I’ve enjoyed writing the most.
Devlin St. Just is the first born illegitimate son of the Duke of Moreland, tossed into his father’s household at a young age in order that he might have “every advantage.” What he ended up with was a bewildering adjustment and nine younger half siblings, toward whom he adopted a role closer to bodyguard than brother.
With the Napoleonic wars finally at an end, Devlin musters out of the cavalry and drags himself home to find his enterprising family has prevailed on the Regent to dump an impoverished Yorkshire earldom in his lap—and the estate comes complete with the former owner’s very young child loose upon the premises without much in the way of supervision.
Winnie does, however, have a cousin named Emmaline Farnum who is making some effort to civilize her. St. Just proposes that Emmie serve as a temporary governess for Winnie while the adults involved attempt to sort the situation out.
Emmie and St. Just sort themselves out only after a lot of stumbling and falling (into each others’ arms) and gathering their courage and risking their hearts. This book includes supporting appearances by Douglas, Lord Amery, whom we met in the first book, “The Heir,” and by Lord Valentine Windham, St. Just’s youngest brother (and hero of the next book, “The Virtuoso,” to be launched on a wonderful, delightful, awesome, very good day in November).
An excerpt, wherein we find Our Hero pontificating to Our Heroine:
“I do not comprehend yet all the local nuances of manners and etiquette, Miss Farnum, but I am not about to let a young lady walk home alone in the dark.” The earl angled his free elbow out to her and gestured toward the door held open by the footman.
Barbarian. Emmie wanted to stomp her foot hard—on his—and march off into the darkness. She’d capitulated—albeit grudgingly and perhaps only temporarily—to his idea of sharing responsibility for Bronwyn. She’d put up with his sniping and probing and serving her tea. She’d agreed to move her business activities to his kitchens, but she would not be bullied.
“I know the way, my lord,” she said, glaring at him. “There is no need for this display.”
“You are going to be responsible for Winnie’s first efforts to acquire a sense of decorum and reserve, Miss Farnum.” He picked up her hand and deposited it back on his forearm, then led her down the steps. “You must begin as you intend to go on and set a sincere example for the child. She’ll spot fraud at fifty paces, and even my authority won’t be able to salvage your efforts then. A lady graciously accepts appropriate escort.”
“Is this how you trained recruits when you were soldiering?” She stomped along beside him, ignoring the beauty of the full moon and the fragrances of the summer night. “You box them in, reason with them, tease, argue, taunt, and twist until you get what you want?”
“You are upset. If I have given offense, I apologize.” His voice was even, not the snippy, non-apology of a man humoring a woman’s snit. She hauled him through the darkness for another twenty yards or so before she stopped and heaved a sigh.
“I am sorry,” Emmie said, dropping his arm. “I suppose I am jealous.”
He made no move to recapture her hand but put his own on the small of her back and guided her steps forward again. “You are jealous of what?”
“Of your ease with Bronwyn. Of the wealth allowing you to provide so easily for her. Of your connections, enabling you to present her a much better future than I could. Of your ability to wave a hand and order all as you wish it.”
“Are we being pursued by bandits, Miss Farnum?” the earl asked, his voice a velvety baritone in the soft, summery darkness.
“We are not.”
“Then perhaps we could proceed at less than forced march? It is a beautiful night, the air is lovely, and I’ve always found darkness soothing when I took the time to appreciate it.”
“And from what would the Earl of Rosecroft need soothing?”
Oh, if dear Emmie only knew now what she learns about St. Just’s troubles in the ensuing 300 pages… I hope you enjoy reading this book as much I enjoyed writing it.