Title: If the Earl Only Knew
Series: The Daring Marriages, #1
Author: Amanda Forester
Pubdate: July 5th, 2016
The chase is on in award-winning author Amanda Forester’s brand-new Regency romance series!
A sizzling scandal just waiting to happen…
Orphaned at a young age, Lady Katherine Ashton and her brother have spent most of their lives on the high seas, seeking to restore their family fortune through somewhat dubious means. After that kind of adventure, Kate knows she won’t ever be accepted as a proper society lady.
To the annoyingly clever, temptingly handsome, and altogether troublesome Earl of Wynbrook, society ladies are a dead bore. Kate, on the other hand, is scandalous, alluring, and altogether fascinating. And Kate can’t decide which she relishes more, the thrill of chasing fearsome pirates, or having Wynbrook chase after her…
“Are you ready for this?” asked her brother, pulling on his worn wool greatcoat.
“Quite.” Lady Kate chose to misinterpret his meaning. “I have prepared an accounting for each one of our investors, providing details of their original investment and return.”
Robert Ashton, Earl of Darington, took the large ledgers from her hands. “Not what I meant.”
“I shall never be ready. But let us do it anyway,” she said crisply. She had developed a keen accounting for each one of their investors, but such a meeting brought the prospect of seeing one particular investor. A man she never wanted to see again.
Would he be there? Would he dare come?
Lady Katherine has no beauty, no fashion, no conversation, and no accomplishments save being the sister to an earl, and an impoverished one at that. Years later, his voice still rang in her head.
It had begun innocently enough. While at university, Robert had become acquainted with Tristan Arlington, the second son of the Earl of Wynbrook, who had invited them to spend the Christmas holidays with his family. Tristan’s mother had been particularly kind, and for a brief moment Kate had thought she had finally been accepted. But it was not to last.
Kate closed her eyes and remembered her fateful visit. She had heard voices coming from the open library door and stopped. She knew she ought not to eavesdrop, but she could not help pausing outside the door and listening to the conversation between Tristan and his elder brother.
“Darington might not be so bad—one can forgive lack of conversation in a gentleman—but you must admit the sister is poor company indeed,” drawled Tristan’s elder brother.
“Dash it, John! What a gudgeon you are,” exclaimed Tristan. “Kate’s not had the advantages of feminine company is all. Their mother died bringing them into the world.”
“Perhaps, but is that any reason for Mother to sponsor her coming out with Jane this spring?”
“Why should Mother not bring out Kate with our sister?” cried Tristan. “Quite kind of her.”
“Because it may prove an embarrassment to Mother. I do not mean to offend, but your friend’s earldom was only recently created. Darington’s father must have done something quite heroic in his naval career to rise from a baronet to an earl. You know how society disdains social climbers.”
Six years later, the words still ground like grit in her teeth. How she had hated him!
They came to a stop with a jolt and Kate opened her eyes to the intimidating sight of rising colonnades of the Bank of London. Her pulse pounded in her temples as they were led to a sitting room designed for meetings of the rich and the even richer. Dark mahogany paneling lined the hall, and all the furnishings from the curtains to the chairs were resplendent in rich jewel tones. Everything around her spoke of wealth and power.
Surely he would not be here. He would send his solicitor, not come in person. There was no need. She had almost convinced herself of his certain absence when they entered the room.
He was there.
The bastion of society stood warming himself by the fire, dressed impeccably in a dark blue, double-breasted suit that was tailored to perfection. She could not help but drink in his form. His broad, square shoulders revealed a powerful build, yet he had a trim waist and muscular thighs that were on the edge of indecent in his skintight buckskin breeches. With his chestnut hair, green eyes, and square jaw he was the very definition of a handsome man.
It was him.
John Arlington, the Earl of Wynbrook.
The only man she had ever kissed.
Katherine (Kate) Ashton and her twin brother, Robert, Earl Darington, were greatly wronged when they were just twelve years old. Their father died, their estate was robbed of all valuables, and they were thrown into debtors’ prison when they were unable to prove their identities. In the intervening years, Robert became a privateer, while Kate managed and invested his earnings, substantially increasing their fortune. These events have taken a toll on the siblings, though, leaving them wary, reticent, and reluctant to take their places in society.
On a trip to London, with the purpose of paying profits to their investors, Kate and Robert are cornered into attending the wedding of the sister of one of the investors. They have an acquaintance with John Arlington, Earl Wynbrook, and his family, and feel obligated to accept the hospitality of his home until the wedding takes place. Kate and John share an awkward history, which consists of her overhearing his berating her, then a shared torrid embrace.
Kate is a complicated and contrary individual. Initially she appears distant, self sufficient, and aloof. Underneath, though, she’s woman enough to appreciate John’s charms, and she’s torn between wanting to flee John’s presence and to kiss him senseless. John is puzzled by his own reaction to Kate, as she’s totally unlike the society ladies he’s accustomed to, yet he’s fascinated.
Kate and Robert’s unknown enemy is getting desperate and ramps up his attacks. As the action in the story picks up, so does the attraction Kate and John are feeling. Here is where Kate begins to thaw a little and shows glimpses of a teasing and fun loving woman. John is charmed, and when a compromising situation dictates that he propose marriage to Kate, he finds that it’s something that he truly desires. Yet, Kate refuses because she is hiding another secret about her past, one that would make her unmarriageable in the eyes of society and John.
IF THE EARL ONLY KNEW has a different feel to it than a typical historical romance. There is plenty of action, suspense, romance, and family relationships. I really like John, who proved that beneath the polished charm is a man of honor, strength, and action. I admire Kate’s strength, and I loved watching her change and blossom. I enjoyed the secondary characters and romances and very much look forward to future installments in this series, Daring Marriages, from Amanda Forester.
Amanda Forester holds a PhD in psychology and worked many years in academia before discovering that writing historical romance was way more fun. A Publishers Weekly Top Ten author, her books have been given starred reviews from Booklist, Publishers Weekly, and a Top Pick from RT Book Reviews. Whether in the rugged Highlands of medieval Scotland or the decadent ballrooms of Regency England, her novels offer fast-paced adventures filled with wit, intrigue, and romance. You can visit her at http://www.amandaforester.com.
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