Emily Greenwood worked for a number of years as a writer, crafting newsletters and fundraising brochures, but she far prefers writing playful love stories set in Regency England, and she thinks romance novels are the chocolate of literature. A Golden Heart finalist, she lives in Maryland with her husband and two daughters.
A Scandal in Need of Redemption
Regency romance fans love a scandal! (Okay, considering the popularity of the TV show Scandal, I guess I should say everybody loves a scandal!) But the Regency era and scandal do seem to go together, and that’s partly thanks to the Prince of Wales (often called “Prinny”), whose outsize appetites helped set a tone of decadence—and scandal— among the elite in England.
But can I tell you a secret? I used to find Prinny annoying, which is surely heresy for a writer of Regency era stories. Though I wasn’t alone—the general population of England at the time thought he was pretty annoying too. After all, by 1811, when he began ruling in place of his father, who was considered mad, the prince already had massive personal debts amounting to 552,000 pounds and had illegally married an unsuitable (Catholic) woman, Maria Fitzherbert, and lived with her even though their marriage was invalid.
So sure, he was scandalous. But if a man’s going to be scandalous, shouldn’t he also be irresistible? To my mind, he wasn’t. Not in his favor: he spent money like it was going out of style, holding wastefully lavish dinners (a dinner where 127 different dishes were served met with his enthusiastic approval), and buying mountains of jewels, clothes, and apparently, cosmetics. Also, though he reportedly loved Maria Fitzherbert, he had numerous affairs, never mind his unfaithfulness to his wife, Caroline of Brunswick.
In his favor: he supported artists and architects, creating a number of beautiful monuments to the era, including the Brighton Pavilion and Regents Park. Also, he was intelligent and said to be charming. But he wasn’t known to be terribly loyal to his friends, and by the end of his life, all that dissipation had left him bloated and plump.
The overall feeling I had about him was, meh. But then I discovered that, like so many royals before him—and so many heroes of romance novels!—he’d had an unhappy childhood. He was one of thirteen children of parents who valued plain living and self-control, and they were disgusted by his tastes and his indulgent ways. Too, he wasn’t allowed to do military service but was kept at home with his sisters, with little to do but be admired and spoiled. Is it any wonder he could be selfish?
Now I’ve decided that what he sounds like is a man in need of redemption, and maybe even a fit subject for a romance novel. He’ll just need to work on his abs first. =)
A PICTURE SAYS A THOUSAND WORDS…
The ton is buzzing about The Beautiful One, a striking figure in a scandalous book of nude sketches. Only two men know the true identity of The Beautiful One, and they are scouring the countryside, determined to find her.
BUT NOT THE MOST IMPORTANT ONES
The unlikely center of the scandal, Anna Black is forced to flee home as disaster looms. Her tomboy’s heart and impertinent tongue serve her well when she meets the most brooding viscount ever to darken a drawing room. Will Halifax, Viscount Grandville, has his reasons for pushing people away, and when his tempestuous teenaged ward arrives on his doorstep, he presses Anna to take on her care. As Anna begins to melt the Viscount’s frozen heart, she knows the more she loves, the more she has to lose. For although Will cares nothing for what makes Society titter, he has yet to see The Beautiful One.
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Rounding the edge of the wood at the back of Stillwell, he was startled to see his ward standing about. She was looking up at a tree in which, from the movement of its leaves and branches, some large creature seemed to be thrashing. A crow?
As he drew nearer to the oblivious Lizzie, he was almost certain he heard a woman’s voice coming from among the leaves. Lizzie stepped closer to the tree and lifted her hands upward, and he saw that on a thick branch perhaps six feet off the ground were perched two feet in past-their-prime dark ankle boots, and above them he was treated to a view of trim calves he could not regret. The surrounding leaves and branches mostly obscured the rest of his recently hired governess. In the instant before Lizzie became aware of Will, he saw that she held in her cupped hands a fluffy white ball.
Lizzie turned and saw him, her mouth forming into an “O” as a voice called from above, “Lizzie? I’m ready for the owlet.”
“Er,” said Lizzie, looking at him. In the clear afternoon light he noticed that her eyes were a different color blue than Ginger’s had been. But the shape was Ginger’s, as were the eyebrows. Not her fault, but he couldn’t go the route of compassion. It would only muddy what had to be. He looked past her and lifted a hand to rub his eyes.
“Miss Black,” he said, knowing he could not avoid asking, “what on earth are you doing?”
There was a pause as she absorbed his arrival and a shifting of the feet on the branch near his forehead as they drew together, perhaps in an attempt at modesty.
“Ah, my lord,” she said from above him. “Good afternoon. Lizzie and I are engaged in returning a fallen owlet to its nest. It was her idea. She is very caring toward animals.”
He could feel Lizzie’s big blue eyes on him though his own were still covered by his hand. He had no doubt as to whose idea it had been to climb the tree. He hadn’t truly expected Anna Black to be a typical sort of governess, had he?
“Come down at once.”
“If you will wait just a moment, my lord,” she said breezily, “I shall be down directly. Lizzie, the owlet.”
Lizzie cleared her throat. “Here.”
He tapped her on the shoulder before she could lift her arms farther. “Give me that creature, please.”
She looked uncertain, but she clearly didn’t want to displease him, and she handed over the motionless owl. He took it carefully from her and did not return her tentative smile. He could feel her eagerness for him to acknowledge her, but he let it flow past him.
The leaves and branches above them shook as Anna Black crouched down and extended her hand for the animal. Her bonnet, the same horrible blue one, had fallen on its strings around her neck again, and her hair, apparently loosened by her climb, curled crazily about her face as if she were some unkempt urchin, accentuating her pert nose and reminding him of her jack-in-the-box appearance from the coach.
Her pink lips pressed outward at the sight of him; doubtless she was annoyed by his arrival, but her expression didn’t draw an answering wave of annoyance from him. Instead, her lips were making him wonder, unaccountably, what it might feel like to be kissed all over by pink butterflies.
“The owlet, please,” she fairly ordered him.
“Don’t be ridiculous. Get down this instant before you fall. I will return the owlet.”
“I am already positioned to do so. If you will just give it to me, I can put it back and then receive your displeasure properly on the ground.”
He grunted. Why did he keep finding himself in out-of-his-control conversations with this maddening woman?
In his palm the owlet’s heart beat with a rapid, stressed flutter. He reached up his hand, and she gently took the animal and disappeared into the foliage.
From above came a few rustling noises, then the angry screech of what had to be an adult owl and a yelp. Fearing Miss Black would fall, he stepped forward to catch her, but at that same moment she jumped neatly down, so that she landed right in front of him.
He grabbed her arms, a reflex to steady her. She didn’t need his help, but their eyes locked, and for a moment he read vulnerability there before it was replaced with the hard glint of independence. She smelled like sunshine and crushed leaves, and he felt the slim softness of her arms and his body’s yearning to hug her close.
She stepped away from him. It had all happened in the space of a few moments.
But as he watched her brush some leaves from her skirts with her head down, that vulnerability he’d glimpsed tugged at him. Who was this woman? Where had she come from? She was clearly educated and intelligent, and though she was too forthright and she dressed terribly, she was not rough, merely unusual.
That life-on-the-edge-of-propriety quality he’d observed in her the night before had suggested that she’d known some hardship, or that she had some burden she might trade for money. And yet today, in the company of his ward, she looked at ease, even if her eyes seemed to be hiding something.
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