Welcome to the Hart Inn, a lucky house where love always seems to blossom, whatever the obstacles . . .
Unmarriageable? Or simply unusual?
There can only be one reason for the proud Duke of Alvan’s proposed visit to Audley Park. He means to offer for Lord Overton’s beautiful daughter, Thomasina, thus saving the family’s waning fortune. In the midst of the hectic preparations for his arrival, Overton’s least marriageable daughter Charlotte remembers to collect her young brothers from school for the holidays.
When fog forces them to spend the night at the Hart Inn, they are astonished to find the house deserted, save for one other enigmatic traveller who deals most capably with armed intruders. Drawn to their unconventional new friend, Charlotte enlists his help to solve the mystery.
Amidst the upheaval of the duke’s visit, to say nothing of the chaos caused by Charlotte’s unmanageable pet terrier, the Hart becomes the focus of nefarious doings, kidnappings and romantic entanglements. For Charlotte is unwise enough to fall hopelessly in love with her sister’s intended husband, and the duke hides too many secrets of his own.
Will they find their happily ever after with each other?
In the author's words . . .
I've had a great time recently writing fun, light-hearted Regency romances, including this first book in a new series about people who are not considered marriageable by their own society. In THE DESERTED HEART, I really enjoyed writing about a heroine who is not quite physically perfect, and a hero with mental issues that weren't understood at the time. It was such fun to have them overcome their perceived disadvantages and reveal their beauty. :)
Enjoy a sneak peek from The Deserted Heat
by Mary Lancaster
At the foot of the stairs, she crept toward the taproom and pressed herself into the wall beside the open door, listening. All she could hear was her own quickened breath. Taking her courage in both hands, she inched closer to the doorway until she could peer around and see the source of the light—a solitary candle standing on a table by the opaque window. But there was no one near it.
With difficulty, she held her breath and counted to three. Then, she gripped the candlestick above her head and slipped around the wall into the room.
Fingers snapped around her wrist like manacles pinning her to the wall. Above a poised, threatening fist, glared the face of Mr. Alexander.
For an instant, they stared at each other, panting. His grip was like steel on her wrist and she could feel her fingers opening to release the weapon she’d so nearly struck him with. His body, covered only by a loosened shirt and skin-tight pantaloons, seemed suddenly much larger than she remembered, and curiously overwhelming, while in the gloom, his eyes gleamed like frost. And then quite suddenly, they lightened, along with his grip, and his breath rushed out, almost like laughter.
“Miss Charlie, you will be the death of one of us,” he remarked, releasing her and stepping back. “Were you really planning on hitting me with that? You could have caved my skull in.”
“Well, I won’t now I can see it’s you,” she said generously. “Did you just come downstairs about five minutes ago?”
“Yes. Did I wake you, or have you never been asleep?”
“Something woke me, but it might have been Nurse. She snores quite horrendously these days, though you mustn’t tell her I said so.”
“I wouldn’t dream of it,” he assured her.
“And then I heard footsteps and was afraid it was the boys. But they seem to be safely locked in. Then, I was afraid it might be our friends from earlier this evening.”
“And you planned to face pistols with a candlestick? For future reference that isn’t an even contest.”
“I thought you disarmed him,” Charlotte retorted.
“I took one pistol. He still has another. I don’t know about his friend.”
She narrowed her eyes. “Are you calling me stupid, Mr. Alexander?”
“No, I’m calling you brave,” he replied unexpectedly, although he prevented her preening by adding, “to the point of foolhardy.”
“Hmm.” She walked past him to peer out the dark window and see if the mist had lifted. It was impossible to tell. “Why did you come down in any case? Did you hear something?”
“No.” He lifted a glass from beside the candle on the table. “I came for the brandy which is, contrary to expectation, quite drinkable.”
“It’s probably smuggled.”
“Undoubtedly.” He indicated the chair nearest her. “I daresay, you won’t drink brandy with me. I could try and find you some wine or sherry.”
Perhaps it was the relief of discovering she didn’t have to confront armed intruders, but she gave in to the little thrill of danger that shook her. He was different like this, at once more approachable and more…disturbing.
“I will have some brandy,” she said boldly. “To be honest, I rather like it. But only a tiny one,” she warned, “for more than a sip goes straight to my head.”
He reached behind the counter for another glass and brought it with the bottle to the table. “You do know that’s a dangerous thing to admit to a stranger plying you with alcohol.”
“That part got left out of my etiquette lessons.”
He poured a dash into the glass and pushed it toward her before sitting down opposite. “It’s not so much etiquette as common sense.”
“I am generally held to have a great deal of common sense,” she said with dignity. “And I am, besides, a good judge of character.”
“So, you judge me to be a good man? Or merely harmless?”
“You have been good to us,” she said, and frowned as he raised his glass and she glimpsed the red, grazed state of his knuckles. “But I doubt you are harmless.”
End of Excerpt
Copyright © by Mary Lancaster
Learn more by visiting the author's website. THE DESERTED HEAT released December 2018.
Meet the Author
Mary Lancaster lives in Scotland with her husband, three mostly grown-up kids, and a small, crazy dog.
Her first literary love was historical fiction, a genre which she relishes mixing up with romance and adventure in her own writing. Several of her novels feature actual historical characters as diverse as Hungarian revolutionaries, medieval English outlaws, and a family of eternally rebellious royal Scots. To say nothing of Vlad the Impaler.
Her most recent books are light fun Regency romances written for Dragonblade Publishing.
The Deserted Heat by Mary Lancaster
Genre: Historical Romance
Heat Level: 4
Language Level: 2
Violence Level: 2
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