About the Book:
Life as a duchess…
Or something much more dangerous…?
Part of The King’s Elite. Constantly told her beauty and charm is all she has to offer, Lady Clarissa is intent on marrying a duke. And intriguing spy Sebastian Leatham will help her! Only first she’ll assist him with his new assignment—playing the part of confident aristocrat Lord Millcroft. Sebastian awakens a burning desire within Clarissa which leaves her questioning whether becoming a duchess is what she truly longs for…
Click on title below for direct Amazon buy link: The Mysterious Lord Millcroft (The King’s Elite)
Author Bio – Virginia Heath lives on the outskirts of London with her understanding husband and two, less understanding, teenagers. After spending years teaching history,she decided to follow her dream of writing for Harlequin. Now she spends her days happily writing regency romances, creating heroes that she falls in love with and heroines who inspire her. When she isn’t doing that, Virginia likes to travel to far off places, shop for things that she doesn’t need or read romances written by other people.
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Read an Excerpt:
Here’s an exclusive little extract of The Mysterious Lord Millcroft, the first book in my new King’s Elite series just for Roses Are Blue. My painfully shy hero has been through the wars at the start of the book. He’s been shot, nearly died as a result and now has to recuperate. Something he hates as he is not comfortable being beholden to others. He’s finally been allowed downstairs to sit in a chair for the first time since the shooting and is presented with a restorative broth from the doctor’s wife in an invalid’s sipping cup…
‘Can you at least stop serving it to me through a spout like an infant? I am sat upright in a chair. I could take it just as easily in a teacup as in that monstrosity.’
‘A fair point and one I shall certainly take on board at dinnertime—if you drink that one without…’ The rattling of carriage wheels on the gravel outside made her pause and frown. ‘I’m not expecting anyone… I wonder who that can be?’ She placed her forgotten tea on the table and disappeared to investigate, leaving Seb alone with his dented masculinity, the foul restorative broth and the invalid’s sipping cup. When she failed to materialise after five minutes, he snatched it up and searched for something close by to pour it into. He soon realised that was a forlorn hope and began to pour the tasteless, lukewarm contents quickly down his throat to get it over with.
‘I shall order more tea.’ At the sudden sound of Bella’s voice so close he nearly choked and spilled the last drops over his chin, just in time for the most beautiful woman he had ever seen to appear at her elbow. Bella grimaced apologetically as he swiped the mess away with the back of one hand while trying to hide the awful cup with the other. ‘We have a surprise visitor, Seb. My sister has abandoned the excitement of society to come to stay for a few days… Mr Sebastian Leatham—Lady Clarissa Beaumont.’
The vision, because there was no other word to describe the angelic perfection which had just walked in the room, momentarily appeared as surprised to see him as he was her. Her step faltered and he swore he saw a note of panic in her widened blue eyes before she caught herself. In fascination he watched her transform from startled and almost afraid to supremely confident. She tilted her golden head in acknowledgement, those beautiful eyes now amused at either his clumsiness or the freshly glowing red tips of his ears.
The voice matched the face. Lovely. Lingering over the vowels just enough to sound subtly seductive, although Seb hadn’t needed to hear it to be totally seduced—and mortified to be so. He was a clumsy oaf around most women, but in front of this goddess of perfection he stood no chance of behaving nonchalantly.
To compound his embarrassment, his errant tongue managed to completely slur the words, making him sound every inch the subservient farm labourer from rural Norfolk he truly was. Good manners dictated he stand, because that is what a real gentleman did in the presence of a real lady, and so Seb tried, winced and promptly collapsed back into the chair, winded.
‘No, please. Don’t get up on my account, you poor thing.’
‘I didn’t realise you had company, Bella.’ She turned to her sister and he saw it again. That crack in her composure. ‘Perhaps I picked a bad time to turn up unannounced?’
Bella threaded her arm through her sister’s and grinned. ‘Not at all. There’s room enough for both of you. Don’t you remember? I wrote to you about Seb.’
‘Yes… Yes, you did. How silly of me to have forgotten.’ The vision turned her perfect head and scrutinised him as if properly noticing him for the first time. No doubt she saw the same things he had in the mirror. The gaunt face. The ratty beard. The lack of both a coat and waistcoat because he didn’t have the strength to shrug them on. The distinct lack of good breeding which he always tried to deny to the world. The ugly, jagged scar he wore like a badge. ‘You must be the brave hero who threw himself in front of a scoundrel’s bullet to save the schoolmistress?’
To nod seemed arrogant, but he allowed his unsightly head to bob once rather than attempt to speak again, not that he had considered his actions particularly brave at the time. He was simply doing his job. Breaking cover and charging towards the gun had given his friend a chance at killing the aforementioned scoundrel and saving the girl. The selfless act had been instinctual. Necessary. To complete their mission and because his friend and an innocent woman had needed him. Only now, with the benefit of hindsight and in view of the fact he had very nearly died as a result, was he privately prepared to acknowledge it had been a ridiculously courageous thing to do. Stupid, too. After weeks to ponder his rash response Seb realised he could have simply shifted his camouflaged position in the bushes and shot the scoundrel himself instead. But then sometimes he did tend to over-complicate things when the simplest solution was staring him right in the face.
‘Bella said you are lucky to be alive, Mr Leatham.’
‘So they tell me.’ Now he sounded typically clipped and unfriendly, his eyebrows already aching with the force of his scowl while the weight of her expectant stare was making his toes curl inside his boots. At a loss as to how to salvage the situation, he stared down at his hands and willed the floor to open up and swallow him.
‘I see you are reticent to talk about it.’
‘Seb is a man of few words.’ He could hear the affectionate smile in Bella’s voice and risked glancing up, only to find his eyes immediately lock once again with Lady Clarissa’s. She must have seen the heat and longing hidden in their depths because the corners of her plump, pink mouth curved knowingly. He supposed a woman like her was used to being admired, but it still annoyed him to be so transparent, so he resolutely stared back at his coarse, callused hands with the most unfriendly expression he could muster. Why had he gazed winsomely at her? Society ladies weren’t for him any more than society was. What a fawning idiot.
‘Or Mr Leatham is merely being mysterious to pique my interest?’
Pique her interest! Now she was making fun of him. Seb lifted his eyes defiantly as he glared, his stubborn pride refusing to let him appear less than he wanted the world to see, or revealing his pitiful shyness. ‘There’s nothing much to tell, my lady. It all happened in a moment.’
‘A significant moment, though.’
‘Which rendered me blessedly unconscious.’ An outright lie as he had lain on the ground in agony in a pool of his own blood far too aware of his life ebbing away. ‘I have no memories of the event. Nothing to entertain you with.’ Splendid. He was barking again. Conscious of the vision’s eyes still on him, Seb sat silently and hoped she’d quickly lose interest, as ladies were often prone to do when confronted with his legendary charm and lack of real gentlemanly credentials.
Lady Clarissa Beaumont considers herself a fraud. The beautiful earl’s daughter is called an Incomparable and is much admired in society, yet hides the fact that she has serious problems reading and writing. Today we recognize those issues for the disorders they are, but back then, Clarissa would have been considered stupid and flawed if her secret was known. So, to compensate, Clarissa has decided to use the gifts she has, namely her beauty and charm, to marry as high as she can. For the past two seasons, she has set her sights on the Duke of Westbridge. While he has show that he favors her company, he has never come close to proposing. And now, a fresh new debutante has appeared to catch Westbridge’s interest, and his attentions are be split between the two women.
Sebastian Leatham is a member of the King’s Elite spying team, and is currently recovering from a gunshot wound that nearly took his life. Seb is good at what he does, and is itching to heal and get back to flushing out the leaders of a smuggling ring. When Lady Clarissa unexpectedly comes to visit her sister, whose home is where Seb is recuperating, Seb is awestruck by her beauty, and reverts to the shy, blushing man who is totally uncomfortable around women. An unexpected late night encounter between the two gives them an insight into each other’s true character, and a basis for a mild friendship.
When Seb finally heals, he is assigned the task of posing as Lord Millcroft, and infiltrating the smuggling ring. His alias is put in danger when he encounters Clarissa, who wisely makes no comment on his real identity. Seb ends up confiding his real purpose to Clarissa, who agrees to keep his secret, and actually aids him. There seems to be an added bonus, as the waffling Duke of Westbridge notices the time Seb and Clarissa spend together, and becomes more attentive to Clarissa.
Seb follows the trail, which leads to a house party, and the circumstances draw him even closer to Clarissa. He is falling hard, but is very aware that her sights are set on the toplofty duke. Little does he realize that Clarissa is going through a change herself. She slowly begins to see the flaws in Westbridge, and all the wonderful qualities in Seb. She finds his shyness endearing, and feels attraction for him personally that she never felt for the duke. Clarissa shows herself to be more than an empty headed beauty – she’s observant, intelligent, and finally stands up to waffling Westbridge. Seb is honest, honorable, and so confident of his ability as a spy, but so unsure of himself around women. I love this couple together, and their falling in love was slow building and pure joy to watch. The scene where they finally share their passion for each other was beautifully written and near tear inducing.
THEY MYSTERIOUS LORD MILLCROFT is another amazing read from Virginia Heath, and looks to be the start of a fabulous series. The spying part of the story was interesting without overwhelming the romance. Seb and Clarissa are stellar lead characters, who both made mistakes near the story’s end, showing they weren’t perfect, but redeemed themselves nicely. The pacing of this story was perfect, causing me to devour this sparkling romance in one sitting. The conclusion was genuinely sigh inducing and left me smiling, and in no doubt of Seb and Clarissa’s happy future together. ~Rose
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