Anthony Carrington, Earl of Ravensbrook, returns from war to marry his commanding officer’s daughter. A man of fiery passion and strict self-control, Anthony expects a biddable bride who obeys him without question. But Caroline Montague is no simpering miss; she rides a war stallion named Hercules, fights with a blade, and can best most men with both bow and rifle. It’s a duel of wit and wills in this charming first book of a new series.
From the Author
I had the best time writing this version of The Taming of the Shrew. Of course, Caroline Montague is no shrew, and she is nowhere near tame. Here’s an excerpt from the book, when Caroline and Anthony first meet:
Caroline strode into her sitting room, slamming the door behind her. The sound gave her a small measure of satisfaction. The long evening, with its endless dinner and its games of charades felt interminable. Her suitors had not come alone but had brought their sisters and mothers with them. All London women wanted to talk about was fashion and one another. She hoped her father chose a match for her soon so she could get a moment’s peace.
After years of living in a society of fewer than twenty families, the influx of London nobility into her world was more exhausting than she would have believed possible. Southerners, with their superior ways and nasal accents, grated on her nerves. How could they talk so much without really saying anything? And yet she was honor bound to marry one of them. Why her father could not find her a decent man from Yorkshire, she could not imagine.
She stopped fuming then, for in the shadows of her bedroom, she found a man sitting in her favorite armchair.
“Good evening, Caroline.”
She opened her mouth to scream, but reminded herself she was not a fool, nor was she a swooning female like those in the novels she read. She closed her mouth again, the voice of her mother rising from her memory, telling her that open mouths catch only flies
“Who are you?” she asked, working to keep her voice even and calm.
“A friend of your father’s.”
“I’ve never met you before. If you were Papa’s friend, he would have presented you along with the rest of my suitors.”
The man laughed, his chestnut eyes running over her body. His black hair brushed his collar and was tossed back from his face to reveal a strong jaw. Dressed in a linen shirt and dark trousers, he had cast off his coat, and it lay beside him on the arm of the chair. His green-and-gold waistcoat gleamed in the candlelight, his cravat loosely tied.
. His large body was too big for her delicate Louis XVI furniture, but he sat with one ankle casually crossed over the other knee, as comfortable as he might have been in his own drawing room.
“I am your friend, too, Caroline.”
“You are no friend of mine.”
He was the most beautiful man she had ever seen. She thought it foolish to call a man beautiful, but she could not deny it. And clearly, he agreed with her.
In spite of his arrogance, this man was worth ten of every fool she had spoken to that day. There was no doubt in her mind that if he had entered the archery contest that morning, she would not have beaten him.
There was a latent power in his gaze, in the stillness of his posture that made her think of a lion set to devour her. Instead of frightening her, the thought gave her a moment’s pleasure. She had never before met a man who seemed to be as strong-willed as she was. She wondered for the first time in her life if this dark-eyed man might be her equal.
She dismissed that thought as folly. No matter how beautiful, whether he was her equal or not, a man alone in her room could be there for no good reason. The heat in his chestnut eyes warmed her skin, but she forced herself to ignore that, too. She would be ruined if anyone even suspected she had spoken with a man alone in her room. He might be there to kidnap her for the ransom her father would pay.
As if to echo her thoughts, the stranger spoke. His words were like cold water on her skin, waking her from the madness of her attraction for him.
“I’ve come to claim you, Caroline.”
She did not look at him again but reached into her reticule. No man would claim her. She would be damned if her father’s work, and her own, would come to nothing. Not this man, or any other, would touch her that night.
She took a deep, calming breath. Her father’s men had trained her for just such a moment, when she would be alone and threatened. Now that the moment had come, she was ready.
“You’ll ‘claim’ me only when you pull the last weapon from my cold, dead hand.”
She drew her knife from her reticule and threw it at him.
Her aim was ill-timed, for the man moved with sudden grace and speed, slipping like an eel out of the way of her missile. Her dagger was sharp, and its tip embedded deep in the cushion of her favorite chair. Caroline swore and turned to flee.
She did not get far, for he caught her arm before she reached the door. She moved to strike him, but he dodged her blow with ease. He caught her wrist in one hand, wrapping his other arm around her waist. “Settle, Caroline, settle. I mean you no harm.”
“Then let me go.”
“I will release you if you promise to stay and speak with me.”
His scent surrounded her, spicy and sweet together. She took in the smell of leather, the scent that made her think of freedom, and of her stallion, Hercules. The stranger held her but not too close, his hands gentle now that she had stopped trying to kill him.
“I have nothing to say to you,” she said.
“I have something to say to you. Give me just five minutes, and then I will go.”
She nodded once. He released her, stepping away carefully as if she were a wild mare he hoped to tame. She stood suspended in the center of his gaze, his unswerving regard surrounding her like a soft trap. There was something in the way he moved, in the heat of his hand on her arm that was distracting.
She forced herself to forget his touch and the sweet scent of him. She kept a careful distance between them, moving with unstudied grace to light the lamp on the table by the door. As her match caught, the lamp cast a buttery light, bringing the room out of shadow. She infused her voice with a confidence she did not feel. “Speak your piece, then go.”
“You are used to giving orders, it seems, Miss Montague. You will find I am not accustomed to taking them.”
She drew her breath up from the depths of her stomach and used all the power her father had taught her, giving added strength to her voice. This man claimed he wanted to talk, though he did nothing but plague her. Caroline stared him down, as she had been taught to stare down unruly servants until they bent to her will.
“Give me your name or get out.”
The man laughed. He stepped back toward her favorite chair, drawing her blade from the cushion, leaving a few downy feathers to trail the air in its wake. Those bits of down settled on the carpet, and Caroline cursed again. Her mother was always telling her not to throw daggers in the house, that they ruined the furniture.
“My name is for my friends,” he said.
His fingers caressed the edge of the blade as he contemplated her, a half smile on his face. Her eyes narrowed. She could not begin to guess why he was so familiar with her. She had met many men that day, but he was not one of them. She would have remembered him.
She kept her voice even, in spite of her rising temper, in spite of her nerves. She did not move to the bellpull to ring for assistance. She could not allow word of his presence in her room to get out to the guests at large. Her reputation would be lost, along with her father’s plans to pay his debts from the profit of her marriage.
“My friendship must be earned,” she said.
“And yet, I seem to have your enmity, though I have not earned it.”
“You’re here, aren’t you? After I have asked you repeatedly to go? I say again, leave this room, or next time my blade will not miss you.”
About the Author
After years of acting in Shakespeare’s plays, Christy English is excited to bring the Bard to Regency England. When she isn’t acting, roller skating, or chasing the Muse, Christy writes historical novels (The Queen’s Pawn and To Be Queen) from her home in North Carolina. Please visit her at ChristyEnglish.com