A tale of romance, intrigue, and the true meaning of honor from the author of The Heart of a Duke
Thank you so much for hosting me! I loved the idea of sharing five favorite scenes and explaining why I love them. Those I have selected are favorites, but are also scenes I felt could be share without being plot spoilers…. ☺
I hope you enjoy Brett and Emily’s story as much as I enjoyed writing it.
Don’t forget to read THE DAUGHTER OF AN EARL to find your own favorites!
TOP FIVE FAVORITE SCENES
SCENE 1: This is the end of the first chapter. I love this scene, because it perfectly introduces Lady Emily Chandler and Brett Curtis and sets up their story. To pursue her goal, Emily will use any means available to her, such as tears, pleas, and artifice. While she has plans, Brett is always thwarting them. Admittedly, Emily’s plans are to find out if her late fiancé was murdered, so Brett has reasons to keep an eye on her….
It never failed to amaze her that the bravest of men were flummoxed at the sight of a distraught woman. She bit her lip to curb her triumphant smile, but could not resist tipping her head to the side to surreptitiously study [Brett] from beneath her lashes.
She straightened like a poker upon discovering he had crept up beside her. Too damn close. Worse, his arms were folded across his chest and a smile tugged at his lips. The dratted man was laughing at her!
“Well done. You are almost as good as my sisters.” He leaned so close that the teasing gleam in his eyes held her mesmerized. “But you forget, I am not as easily maneuvered as your family. I also am familiar with your talents with penning a clever note. I am sure your friend read exactly what you intended for him to read, which was your bait to lure him here.”
She silently cursed him to perdition and back.
His humor vanished, and his eyes narrowed. “I repeat, what is so important that you risked your reputation and your safety to meet this man alone?”
His heated gaze burned through her carefully composed veneer and saw all she fought to hide.
It was just as she feared. He was going to ruin everything.
SCENE 2: In this next scene, Brett once again, is making a last ditch effort to warn Emily about the dangers in pursing a murder investigation. It is a favorite because I love Emily’s cutting sarcasm and as the scene unfolds further, how they manage to speak more honestly and arrive at their unusual business arrangement.
“Do you think you will get anywhere without evidence? You cannot have possibly thought this through. I am only asking you to do so if you want my assistance.”
After a moment, her reply was delivered in a tone that dripped with honey sweetness, and her expression was a mocking portrait of wide-eyed innocence. “You mean I cannot simply bat my eyelashes and ask nicely for the answers I demand? What if I shed a pretty tear or two? Are you certain they would deny me then? The daughter of an earl? Even if I pleaded ever so politely?”
He narrowed his eyes. “Sarcasm does not become you.”
Her expression cleared, and she shrugged. “Then stop patronizing me. It does not become you and insults me.” She eyed him with scorn. “With three sisters, you should know that as much as men like to believe otherwise, women do have a brain in their heads, and we are quite capable of using it. I have had a year to consider this matter, and I do not take it lightly. I am well aware of the obstacles, and the….the dangers that I face.”
She lifted her chin. “But perhaps I have made a mistake. Not in continuing this discussion with you, but in initiating it in the first place, because I refuse to spend time with someone who condescends to me. More important, who believes I am a vacuous, feather-brained female. One who would confront the East India Company without a thought, a plan, or evidence to back up my accusations. I have given this matter serious consideration. It is has been all I have thought of over the last twelve months. Keeping me company when no one else would.” Her voice finished on a hitch, and she turned to gaze out the window and draw deep, even breaths.
He opened his mouth to protest, and then closed it. She had a point, and he had to concede it. He had been an arrogant arse, but it irritated him to be called on it. Sighing, he lightened his tone. “Feather-brained female? I was thinking more along the lines of obdurate, headstrong, and stiff-necked.” Athena, goddess of war—but he kept that to himself.
She turned to him and after a moment, she, too, relented. “Omit head-strong, replace obdurate with determined and stiff-necked with strong, and I accept your apology.”
“Obdurate. One who stubbornly refuses to change one’s opinion. Obdurate stands.”
She eyed him silently, and then shrugged. “It does not matter. Your opinion is of no consequence to me.”
He laughed. “You have made that clear. However, if I am going to assist you, you are going to have to be prepared to hear it. In business, the best alliances are forged when there is an equal exchange of ideas. When two people can express their opinions in a constructive manner that is beneficial to both parties.”
As the import of his words sunk in, a flash of hope blazed in her eyes. “You…You are considering assisting me?”
“If I cannot change your mind, you leave me no choice. Who else is going to make sure you do not get your beautiful, obdurate head lopped off?”
SCENE 3: In this next scene, to garner information to launch her murder investigation Emily is visiting her late fiancé’s brother, the Viscount Weston, who is an avid ornithologist. To Emily’s annoyance, Brett has insisted on accompanying her. Peeved at Brett’s over protectiveness, Emily’s explains Brett’s presence by introducing him to Weston as fellow bird lover –much to Brett’s horror. I loved this scene, because it shows Emily having fun at Brett’s expense, and of course, demonstrates that they both are quite capable of dealing with the other’s high handedness.
“Ornithology?” he hissed under his breath, and dropped into the chair adjacent to her. “He couldn’t natter on about fox hunting? Or be an avid horseman? Like most normal Englishmen?”
“Unfortunately, no,” she whispered back. “But you did insist on joining me.”
“My mistake,” he said. “I seem to be making a lot of them lately.”
“Now then,” Weston said, returning his attention to them. “I am delighted to
show you my collection of skins but it is not as extensive as Bryant’s. Some of his specimens are on display in the British Museum.”
“Yes.” Brett shifted on his seat. “They are ah…impressive. Distinct.”
A housemaid entered the room, bearing a platter of coffee and tea, which she set on the table before them. Emily slid forward to do the honors, both men accepting coffee.
“Distinct? Unusual phrasing. How so?” Weston said.
“Yes, how so?” Emily asked as she handed Brett his coffee, her lips twitching.
Brett paused, and then snatched his saucer so abruptly that the china cup rattled, spilling some of the coffee. “How careless of me. I did not burn you, did I?”
“No, I am quite all right.” She bit her lip to stifle her laughter.
Brett turned to Lord Weston. “Ah, what I meant is that they looked so real.” Weston laughed. “They do indeed. However, that is the purpose of skinning the birds rather than mounting them. It maintains their shape so much better. As an ornithologist you must recognize the difference.”
“Yes, do you not agree, Mr. Curtis?” she politely inquired, unable to resist. For some perverse reason, she found his aggravation appealing.
Brett’s eyes narrowed at her. “I do agree. However, perhaps we can discuss this further at another time. Lady Emily is not as eager an ornithologist, and so…”
“Oh, no, I find it fascinating. Is there a particular species that you are enamored of when you go bird watching?”
Before Brett could respond, the maid returned with a tray of tea sandwiches. She posed a question to Weston and while he was distracted, Brett hissed at Emily. “Tread carefully, lest you find your lovely hide mounted with the rest of his fine-feathered friends.”
She glanced at him with wide-eyed innocence. “We cannot very well dive straight into a discussion about Jason’s trunk. Civilities have to be exchanged first. It is proper etiquette. Or as I am sure you have learned in your business dealings, diplomatic.”
Incredulity crossed his features and Brett simply blinked at her, unable to respond as Weston’s attention returned to them.
In the two scenes below, Emily has decided that if she and Brett are going to spend so much time together pursuing a murder investigation, what harm can there be in sharing a few intimacies along the way? Brett is adamantly opposed to the idea, so Emily finds herself engaged in a silent battle to win him to her cause. Emily was previously engaged, and so she is older and not a shy virginal miss. I loved writing these scenes, because I found it liberating and really fun to have my heroine be the seducer rather than vice versa. And they made me laugh.
SCENE 4: In Scene 4, she is at breakfast with Brett and her brother, Jonathan, who has set up his toy soldiers beneath the table—oblivious to the battle going on over his head.
She glanced at [Brett’s] untouched plate. “You are not hungry?”
“I do not have much of an appetite.” He cursed the hoarse croak in his voice.
“Pity. Cook’s sausages are delicious.” Emily’s eyes never left his as she speared her fork into one, lifted the succulent meat to her mouth, and bit in.
Bloody hell. He gritted his teeth, swallowing his protest as she slowly chewed.
“Surrender or die!”
Jonathan’s bellow shattered his immobility. He jumped and dropped his knife. Enough. “Look, I surrendered, and it is time you did the same. You need to lay your weapons down, because if you are not careful, one is going to misfire and get both of us killed.”
“Weapons?” Jonathan’s tousled head poked up from beneath the table, and he scrambled to his feet. “Do you have weapons?” Disappointment clouded his features as he surveyed the table. “I do not see any.”
“Oh, they are here all right,” Brett said.
Jonathan looked perplexed. “Where?”
Emily intervened. “Nowhere. Mr. Curtis has an active imagination. In fact, maybe he will play war with you? Oh, my mistake, he prefers not to battle, is wary of engagements that involve an element of risk, even if the rewards of victory might be worth fighting for.” She aimed a challenging look at Brett.
Damn her. Was she questioning his bravery? Or his masculinity? He feared it was both. “My apologies, Jonathan. I am already engaged in a battle of a different sort with your sister, and it is not wise to engage in a war on two fronts at the same time.”
“What sort of battle?” Jonathan frowned. “She doesn’t have a sword.”
“But Mr. Curtis does,” Emily quipped, a spurt of laughter escaping her. At Jonathan’s blank look, she relented. “Mr. Curtis believes he is at war with me, but he is mistaken. I am not his enemy.”
“Then who is?’ Jonathan scratched his head.
“Himself.” Emily rose to her feet, forcing Brett to his. “Enough talk of war. We need to go change, because Mr. Curtis has offered to escort us for a brief sojourn to Hyde Park before his sisters awaken.”
“Can I bring my sword?” Jonathan asked.
“Of course,” Brett answered before Emily could respond. “I might have need of it. But do not attack anyone unless we give you permission.”
Emily steered Jonathan to the door, and Brett overhead Jonathan pose another question.
“Is Mr. Curtis bringing his sword?”
Emily glanced back at him, her eyes brimming with teasing lights, while his narrowed in silent warning.
Amused, she wrapped her arm around Jonathan’s shoulders and practically shoved him from the room. “We will see.”
SCENE 5: Later, Emily decides a little seduction might be necessary to once again win him to her cause.
“Do come in. Ignore all my warnings, and make yourself comfortable,” he said drily.
“Oh, please, it is not as if you have never had a woman in your room before. I am sure that I am not the first and—”
“But you will be the last if we are caught,” he snarled, but hastened to amend his words. “Not that I am admitting to entertaining any women in my room—” Swearing beneath his breath, he began again with strained patience. “We will not discuss this. Or rather, I refuse to discuss this.”
She simply laughed. He was adorable, rumpled haired and bad-tempered. A half filled glass with a decanter beside it caught her eye. She strolled over to the table on which they sat and picked up the crystal tumbler. “Why don’t you finish your drink? It might relax you. You know, it is usually the other way around, with the woman needing her nerves to be calmed.” When he refused to rise to her bait, she shrugged and took a sip. It was port. “There are other means to relax a man—”
“Devil take you!” He stalked over to her, grabbed her by the upper arms and yanked her close, his face but inches from hers. “You are a wolf in sheep’s clothing. But you forget, you are in a lion’s den now, and you’d best be careful or…” He released her as if her skin had burned and staggered back, his expression appalled.
“Or what?” Intrigued, she sidled closer to him, laughter bubbling up within her.
“Never mind,” he bit out between clenched teeth. He snatched the drink from her, drained it and then strode to the hearth—across the room from her. “If you have something to discuss, I suggest you do so before—”
“I know, I know. Before we are discovered and my father shoots you.” With a sigh, she slipped off the ridiculous mobcap, plopped into the large easy chair beside the table, and curled her legs beneath her.
This seduction business was proving more difficult than the murder investigation.
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Giveaway: Print copy of THE DAUGHTER OF AN EARL By Victoria Morgan
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An American businessman in England, Brett Curtis has little use for the haughty ton beyond seeing his sisters happily entertained in London. But when his cousin mysteriously disappears after inheriting the title of Duke, he sets out to locate him and drag him home.
Lady Emily Chandler plunged into deep despair when her fiancé died in India, and now she is determined to prove that he was murdered. The brash American Brett Curtis’s reputation may be less than sterling, but he’s just the man to help Emily on her quest–if she can convince him to accept her dangerous proposition.
While their alliance uncovers a web of scandalous secrets, their undeniable attraction threatens to reveal something even more dangerous: true love.
Meet the Author:
A lifelong New England resident, Victoria Morgan lives in a suburb of Boston. There she juggles (with differing degrees of priority) a part-time job, writing, watercolor classes, her husband, two college kids, and a mini-golden doodle with a Napoleon complex. A 2011 RWA® Golden Heart® Finalist and an insatiable reader, she loves to see the magic of a world taking shape through the words of a book or the beauty of a painted picture.