“Wanting him was never part of my plan.
But he woke a fire of desire inside me…”
Forced to travel to the Far East to escape the mistakes of his teenagehood, Charles Dowding, Earl of Wintervale, is ready to reclaim his old life back. A plan that backfires when he stumbles across the one part of his past he still hasn’t come to terms with: Lady Lydia and her devilish ways.
The biggest scandal of the Season was the last place Lady Lydia Agar ever wanted to find herself in the middle of. With her marriage options dwindling, she is forced to accept a most unlikely courtship: a man she loves and hates in equal measure.
Forced together out of pure misfortune, a fire they thought extinguished is reignited from its ashes. A flame that threatens to burn them and everything they have worked for when Lydia goes missing, leaving behind nothing but a letter. For the lion does not apologize to the sheep for being at the top of the food chain. They accept their role and have a feast.
Charles Dowding, Earl of Wintervale has finally returned from the far east. He had been sent there by his father to grow up and to take responsibility seriously. He’s attending a ball at Whitehall manor when he runs into his childhood friend Lady Lydia Agar, the daughter of the Duke of Tidewell. He is delighted and dismayed when he finds she has been promised to someone she has no desire to wed.
In a rather amusing turn of events, a fall places Charles and Lydia in a compromising position that is discovered almost immediately. To save both their reputations and hopefully cheer Lydia he declares he will marry her. He still loves her and would be most pleased to have her as his bride. That is until a friend gives him a missive written by Lydia regarding her upcoming nuptial’s.
Lydia on the other hand worries that Charles is only marrying her to save their reputations. She loves him but doesn’t want him forced into marriage. Her worries amplify as she joins him at the alter. He seems distant and a bit cold.
Charles makes reference to the letter without saying anything of where he gets these impressions. Lydia is more than a little confused and confronts him asking for the truth.
This is a favorite scene.
“You find me intolerable. Your eyes tell the tale.”
“I just despair of you. What would make you think such a silly thing?” she said, growing impatient.
“Hmmm,” he mumbled.
“Fine. Play your games. I will not meet you upon this imaginary chess board,” Lydia teased, trying to milk the fun from the conversation and avoid it turning sour.
“You really mean to deny it?”
“Humbug! That wouldn’t be the first time you’ve said that and not meant it.”
“Pardon? Charles, I am at a loss. Please just tell me what you mean. You can be honest with me. Are we not childhood friends?” Lydia shook her head, clearly aghast by his unexplainable change in demeanor.
“Fine…” Charles agreed in a huff and arose from the settee, making his way out of the sitting room door with haste.
“You mean to abandon me once again?” Lydia shouted at him. He walked back into the room, seeming most offended. His brow was deeply furrowed and his broad shoulders seemed tense as they met the curled tips of his brown hair that stopped short of his shoulders.
“You think I abandoned you by choice?” he asked, drawing close and looking deeply into her eyes with an intensity that she had not seen before; he was so close that she could feel his warm breath against her face. His lips parted slightly as he waited for her answer. They looked so kissable that Lydia stuttered.
“N… No… Charles,” she whispered, looking up into his dark, earthy eyes that were only inches away from hers as he loomed over her like a dark spell. Lydia could smell the most bewitching scent coming from him; he smelt of sweet, earthy spices and perfume that she had never smelt before. “You smell amazing,” she said with a chuckle.
“Oh… It is a perfume I fell in love with from the East,” he replied with surprise. “I will be back in a moment.” His deep, serious voice returned as he reminded himself of his objective and left the room. She could hear his boots as he trotted up the stairs.
Lydia sighed and stared into the amber glow of the hearth, feeling irked by his cryptic displays and unsure about what or whom he was going to retrieve. He had always been so honest and upfront as a youth, but now was behaving like a child. It infuriated her.
As she waited for Charles to cease with his strangeness, she gazed around the prettily decorated sitting room that boasted many fine and alien ornaments and books. She was as charmed as ever by the house that reminded her of the good old days of childhood frivolity and carelessness, but Charles still vexed her with his uneven ways. It was as though he had something to say but refused to speak.
Charles’s face suddenly returned under the doorway; he looked weighed down with a regretful mourning and clutched a piece of familiar-looking parchment.
“What is that?” Lydia enquired calmly, feeling intrigued and slightly apprehensive about the strange item.
“I am ashamed to discuss it, but I should be fully honest with you,” Charles replied with a dark earnest that set Lydia’s teeth on edge. His mysterious eyes studying the parchment that lay in his palm. Lydia’s heart sank; she was suddenly burdened by a deep and unsure sense of foreboding that made her stomach churn under her tight corset.
“You must…” she started, addressing him with wide and waiting eyes as the sheepish Earl returned to his seat.
“I was given this letter. It is by your own hand, discussing how beastly you think me, how terrible it would be to marry me. It confused me and upset me, for I thought I was doing the right thing by marrying you. I did not suspect that I was making things worse and ‘breaking’ you, as you state here.” He pointed to the inky words.
“Well, Charles… That ink is certainly by my hand,” Lydia went on.
“So, that is how you feel… Admit it, to my face.”
“It is not. That letter does not contain a discussion of you, but of Lord Bainbridge. You have made a mistake and jumped too quickly to your conclusions. If you read further up the letter you will see his name.”
“I have only a section of it, there is nothing before it, and of course, I would have seen that,” Charles replied, feeling slightly embarrassed and turning a little flushed in the cheeks as he slicked his hair back with his right hand.
“You mean to tell me that somebody has given you a portion of a letter, that addresses nobody by name, and you have assumed that it discusses you? How egoistical and self-indulgent, Charles!”
“He told–” Charles stopped mid-sentence.
“Who told you what?” Lydia frowned. “Clearly someone is trying to turn you against me, and you lapped it up like a foolish imp!” Lydia said with a cheeky half smile; she was serious, yet approachable.
“I…. Erm… Yes, it would seem so.” With difficulty he swallowed the hefty lump that was his pride and reached frantically into his breast pocket for a much-needed cigar.
“That will kill you,” Lydia said tauntingly, her blues eyes glinting like lively sapphires; they enticed Charles.
“You will kill me,” he laughed, and was shortly joined by Lydia in hearty laughter that soon turned to a joint guffaw, reducing the pair once again to their former selves.
The pair gradually recovered from their fit of gaiety and found the room once again warmed by each other’s company.
Scarlett Osborne. His Minx of a Countess: A Steamy Regency Romance (Kindle Locations 1215-1260). Scarlett Osborne.
Once that mystery is resolved Lydia reveals her sense of unease and been watched. An ominous sort of feeling.
While they are walking in the gardens Charles sees the mysterious figure, and goes on a mission of sorts to solve who is torturing them in such a way.
A very enjoyable read with many twists and turns, suspense and the love between Charles and Lydia that is both enduring and sizzling.
5 Contented Purrs for Scarlett!
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Born in the Sunshine State of Florida, but of both British and Nordic descent, Scarlett Osborne grew up reading historical romances from the land of her ancestors. Fascinated with the British society of the 1800s and armed with a wild imagination, she obtained a degree in Creative Writing and immediately started her career as a Regency romance author.
A daydreamer extraordinaire, Scarlett likes to jump in the shoes of her heroines, immersing herself in her own stories, living the adventures that she wished she had experienced as a child. An avid reader and fan of the outdoors, Scarlett spends her free time either reading or going on long horseback rides along with her two sons.
Get lost in a land of enchantment, where adventure and love await around every corner…Scarlett hopes that through her heroes, you too will get to live a whirlwind romance in the Regency era, when fairytales were real and all dreams possible!