The moment her father died, Minerva knew trouble awaited the Allen family.
As she’s left responsible for her two younger sisters, Minerva makes the hardest decision of her life: she keeps her father’s death a secret and shuts herself off in the manor. But when the mysterious—and cold—Duke suspects something is wrong, she knows this could be her end.
Simon Comeford is a cold and shut-off man. After he lost his parents, he cares about nothing and no one. When he’s forced to attend a ball by his dear friend, he is given a mission: find out what happened to the Allen family. But when he travels to the Allen estate, he never expected to meet Minerva, the unapologetic, attractive spinster who manages to steal his heart.
Two weeks. That is precisely how long Simon will remain in the Allen estate; just enough until their father arrives. But as the time nears, a deep, dark secret soon comes after him… and the woman he has fallen in love with.
Lady Minerva Allen and her sisters Lady Eloise and Grace are left with a secret when their father dies. They can’t tell anyone he’s dead or they will lose their home. That’s the promise their butler Joseph will guard with his life. Unfortunately fate is going to send everything into a tailspin.
Simon Comeford the Duke of Barington is throwing an elaborate ball in London when two things happen. The first, Lord Alfred George, Duke of Greenmantle, in a conversation that implies he knows of Simon’s difficulties, requests he check in on the Earl of Drakeford’s wellbeing. This would work out fine for Simon as he would like the Earl’s financial support. The second is far more ominous an Italian named Scarlioni shows up in the kitchen threatening not only Simon but his family as well.
Now things are even more urgent, he needs to pay off this debt quickly to protect his sisters. When Simon realizes the Italians are following him he sneaks out of the Inn and rides frantically to Drakeford Manor. Although it is late the reception he receives is not what he’d expected.
It’s Joseph’s night off and the women are alone in the manor. Minerva takes it upon herself to deal with the armed stranger, with a strike to the back of his head.
This is a favorite scene.
Eloise came back into the room, Marta, the cook, following with a length of rope, a steaming basin, and some clean linen, which was draped over her arm.
“Set the basin and towels in the sitting room please and give me the rope,” Minerva instructed. “And then both of you, get to Grace and all of you go upstairs.”
“Do it, Marta. I want you and my sisters safe.”
“Come, Marta,” Eloise said, tugging at Marta’s arm. “Neva can take care of herself. We must see to Grace.”
She turned from the women and back to their intruder. His eyes were starting to flutter open. She worked quickly, not really knowing how to tie an effective knot, but presuming it was much the same as tying the laces of shoes or a corset.
There was some resistance from the man as she pulled his arms around behind him, but he was still weak and dazed and she overcame him easily. Her breath came quickly at what she was doing. From his dress and well-kept appearance, he seemed to be a gentleman, not some common ruffian or highwayman.
“You should not have come here, Sir,” she said as she pulled the knots as tight as she could. She spoke more to fill the silence than anything else. She couldn’t forget the feel of his taut, powerful muscles beneath her hands. Would the rope even hold him?
She took the pistol and sword from him, opening the door to the sitting room and quickly concealing both beneath the chaise. Returning to her prisoner, she took a seat next to him. He lay on the tiled marble floor of the hall, and she sat on one of the chairs placed next to the entrance where guests waited to be received.
She folded her hands in her lap and eyed the interloper, determined to not take her eyes off of him as he awoke.
Oof. Perhaps I should think about easing off on the drinking.
That was the thought that crossed Simon’s mind as he awoke to a pounding head. He started to roll over in his bed, and then remembered that he wasn’t in bed. He opened his eyes and immediately closed them again, the blinding light only intensifying the pain in his head. He struggled to gather his wits about him, to remember where he was.
“Who are you?” a female voice demanded.
He instinctively tried to reach to his belt for his pistol and sword, but couldn’t move his hands. They were tied! Alarm flooded him, dispelling some of his grogginess. He tried to open his eyes again, but could not tolerate the light yet. It must have been a lantern shining in his face.
As sense returned, he became aware that he was lying on a cold, hard surface on his side. His left cheek and most of the left side of his body were numb. His hands tingled from the cruel knots that held him.
“I mean you no harm,” he said, voice tight with the pain in his head.
“I asked you a question.”
The voice was hard, but it wasn’t Italian. And they were very patriarchal, he remembered. Unlikely to recruit women into their organization. So, his imprisonment wasn’t the work of Scarlioni.
“I heard the question. I do not answer questions under duress,” he retorted, exerting more effort against his bonds, feeling the smallest give in the knots as he strained his well-developed arms.
“The Constables have been summoned. They will be here soon. You may have thought a Manor of women to be easy prey. As you now know, we are not.”
Simon was able to open his eyes a crack. As light flooded into his head, he opened them wider. He could see a tapping foot, stockinged but not shod. The stockings were silk, and he was treated to a view of a shapely ankle and calf before the feet moved, perhaps realizing that his eyes were now open.
He shifted his position, craning his neck to look up. The woman who stood over him was holding a lantern. Fiery red hair fell in wild curls around a heart-shaped face. Green eyes glared at him fiercely, as intent as an eagle. Her lips were full and pouting, even when she drew them together tightly in anger, as she now did.
The sight of the beautiful face, combined with the intimate view he had just received of her ankles, made his heart skip a beat. He told himself it was pure foolishness. This woman had him at her mercy, but his body responded independently of his mind. She wore a long, flowing nightgown of pure white, a silk dressing gown over it. He noticed her full bosom. Her cheeks colored to a deep red, and he realized he must have been staring.
She moved around him, out of his sight, folding her arms tightly about herself.
“Will you tell me who you are? If I tell the Constables you assaulted me, they will probably dispense with the Magistrate altogether and hang you from one of the trees out there. We are well thought of in the county.”
Simon almost laughed in relief as he remembered a description of the Earl of Drakeford. The man was known for his fiery red hair, a trait passed onto his daughters. So, this Amazon was a Drakeford. Not a Casa Nostra assassin.
“You find something amusing?” the woman challenged. “Must I fetch a servant to thrash you?”
An experience he had once indulged in as a youth came to mind unexpectedly at those words. An image came to mind unbidden of this fierce woman holding a riding crop, he helpless before her. He shook his head, the pain of the sudden movement dispelling the lurid fantasy. He needed to keep his wits.
“I am His Grace, Duke Simon Comeford of Barington Hall,” he said with as much dignity as he could summon.
He rolled over so that he could look up at her again. But she swiftly moved to keep out of his sight.
“Anyone could claim that,” she said, but there was an edge of uncertainty in her voice.
“I, too, am known in this county. My family seat is here. Your father is an acquaintance of mine. Summon him. I’m sure he will vouch for me.”
It wasn’t strictly true. He didn’t think he had ever met Drakeford, not since he was in the late years of his childhood, anyway. But his father had known him, and Simon had been told that his resemblance to the late Duke Barington was striking.
“This is a private home, not a public place of business. You were not invited in,” the woman said evasively.
“Fetch the Earl. You don’t look like a servant. I presume you are Minerva, his eldest daughter. You have his coloring. Fetch your father, I insist!”
“You are in no position to insist on anything,” Minerva said, a measure of calm returning to her voice. “You broke into this Manor in violation of custom and common law.”
“I did not break in. The door was unlocked!” Simon tried his bonds again, feeling another, more significant shift in the ropes.
“I would assume that if no one answered the door, that I was unwelcome,” she countered. “Is this not still considered common decency?”
There was a self-assurance in her voice that Simon was not accustomed to in a woman. So many of the females he had chosen to associate with were society women, keen to impress and secure him as a husband. They were usually frothy and vapid, lacking substance beyond their surface beauty. There was something to this lady, though. Even in what must be stressful circumstances, she was unflustered. Had she been the one to incapacitate him?
“You talk of common decency? Someone hit me over the head! Was it you or a man servant? Well?”
He put fury into his voice, seeking to intimidate her.
“Hush,” she told him with a snap. “I would have answers from you now or I will paint an unpleasant picture of this situation to the Constables.”
Simon breathed deep, realizing that this harridan would not be intimidated. He felt a sense of outrage at his predicament, though it was tempered with the knowledge that he had, in fact, entered into the Manor in the early evening bearing arms. The fact that he had been afraid for his life was neither here nor there. After all, he had no proof of being followed.
“I beg your pardon, My Lady. I do apologize for the intrusion. May I at least move to a more comfortable position before you interrogate me further? I promise I shall give you all the information you require.”
Osborne, Scarlett. The Duke of Danger: A Steamy Historical Regency Romance Novel. Kindle Locations (549-620). Scarlett Osborne. Kindle Edition.
From this moment things get more complicated as the Duke is unfit to ride with his head injury. Having no choice Minerva puts him up in one of the guest rooms.
The feelings Simon awaken in Minerva only serve to cause some scintillating dreams. Yet there is far more going on and trouble begins the next day.
Her sister Grace sees men skulking around the edges of the woods form her window, and immediately the Duke takes charge with Joseph. Fortunately it isn’t the Italians but the man that approaches the Manor is one Captain Peregrine St John, aka Perry. He’s in the employ of Easting Private Companies a Militia put together by Baron Oliver Easting.
They’ve had word of Italians in the area and are providing extra security.
Perry will play an important role as well, since he sort of meets Lady Eloise.
Plenty of action, suspense and intrigue, as secrets begin to come out. There is also lots of simmering tension between Simon and Minerva, that will become more sizzling as you turn the pages.
I truly love these strong independent women who are so not the norm for this era.
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!