I am happy to have the lovely Maggie Robinson join Ex Libris' blogoversary celebrations and tell you about Maggie's latest release, Captain Durant’s Countess, the second book in her London List trilogy, a novel steamy historical romance series. So take a seat and get to meet the hero and heroine of this exciting story (and you could even win your book of choice of Maggie's backlist)!
Captain Durant’s Countess, the second book in the London List trilogy, equipped with a whip when we first meet him. He’ll be gentle, I promise, because he’s stumbled into the Reining Monarchs Society on a whim. Reyn is at a crossroads in his life—he’d bored, at loose ends and ripe for trouble. Enter Maris, Countess of Kelby, to supply the trouble and his salvation.
Captain Reynold Durant
Physical description: Tall, dark and handsome
Education: Thrown out of too many schools to count. Reyn suffers from dyslexia and ADD, two conditions that weren’t diagnosed in the Regency.
Occupation: retired army captain
Goal: To provide for his sick sister Ginny
Hobbies: Horses, women, gambling, pushing the envelope
“Don’t talk to me of duty, madam. I’ve done my share and have the scars to prove it.”
Maris, Countess of Kelby
Physical description: Tall, brown-haired and handsome
Education: Privately educated with tutors and her best friend Lady Jane Kelby. Brilliant bluestocking
Occupation: Second wife of the Earl of Kelby and assistant in his Etruscan explorations
Goal: To provide her elderly husband with an heir
Hobbies: History, antiquities, writing, propriety
“Everyone has their price, Captain Durant.”
So, we definitely have two opposites, and attract they do through difficult circumstances. Maris is a virtuous wife who loves her elderly husband. Reyn may be a daredevil, but what she asks of him is too risky even for him. Here’s a scene where they first meet and Maris tries to persuade him to honor his obligation:
“I—I am begging you, Captain Durant. You know of our difficulties. I understand Henry confided in you completely, so he must have trusted you. I confess I don’t see why,” Maris said, unable to forgive the man his casual effrontery. “My husband’s nephew is the worst sort of villain. He’s sworn to destroy the scholarly work of my husband’s lifetime. All the books in the library—he’ll damage every one. Crumple every paper. And—and he’s a libertine. He’ll turn Kelby Hall into a—a place just as vile as this one.”
Captain Durant raised a thick black brow as he buttoned a cuff. Maris was delighted to see that he continued to dress as she stared over his head at a painting that featured several bodies writhing in presumed ecstasy. Or indigestion—it was impossible to tell which from their facial expressions.
“Is this supposed to persuade me? I have no time for reading, Lady Kelby. It doesn’t matter to me what becomes of Kelby Hall’s library.”
Maris wanted to scream, but losing her temper wouldn’t help. “It matters to my husband. By the terms of the entail, every single thing housed at Kelby Hall must remain on the property to be passed on to the next earl, but it doesn’t specify the condition.” The Kelby earls had been an eccentric lot, and hoarders too. It was dangerous to navigate the attics for the jumbled collection of boxed antiquities amassed by generations of globe-trotting aristocrats. Henry’s dream was to turn part of the house into a museum, with Maris as its curator. His work would be its centerpiece, but many other centuries’ detritus would be on view as well.
“So smuggle out some papers.”
“It’s not just papers. There are priceless artifacts. By law, Henry’s nephew can’t sell them, but he’s threatened to simply drop them into the lake. They’d still be on the property, wouldn’t they?” she asked bitterly. “David knows just how to hurt Henry. My husband spent years in Tuscany at excavation sites. He is the foremost expert on Etruscan civilization in England.”
“A worthy endeavor, I’m sure, Lady Kelby. But the Etruscans, like the Romans and the Greeks, are dead, thank the gods. As a schoolboy, I always found classical studies to be quite gruesome. Rape and swans and swallowing one’s wife. Daughters bursting out of one’s head. Rubbish, really. Why should I—or anyone else living—care?”
The Kelby Collection had been of paramount importance Maris’s whole life. Her father had been the earl’s secretary and general factotum. She’d accompanied the two men on their digs as soon as she was old enough to be useful, and was now herself an expert on Etruria. Since her husband’s eyesight was failing, it was she who did the translating, she who prepared the papers for his lectures and publications.
What she’d been unable to do was provide him with a son.
It was probably too late anyway. She was thirty-four, and had pulled out a wiry white hair from her dull brown curls just this morning.
“Look, it seems to me you can box up whatever’s so valuable and hide it somewhere. How’s this nephew to know? He’s no expert, is he?”
“David knows everything. And—it’s more than what I’ve just said.” Maris hadn’t planned on revealing the worst of it—and she wouldn’t. Even Henry did not know what she had done five years ago. She had been a fool for all her pride and intelligence, and paid with her guilt every single day when she looked into her husband’s proud wrinkled face.
But she could see she wasn’t firing Durant up intellectually. He’d even bragged that he was virtually illiterate.
Why was Henry so set on Durant? Henry was a brilliant man, if a bit single-minded. He’d be risking turning Kelby Hall over to a son of this ignorant rakehell.
Though any child conceived might not even be a son. Henry’s longed-for heir with his first wife had been a daughter. Poor Jane. Poor dead Jane.
“My husband believes his nephew David was responsible for the death of his daughter.”
Ah, that stopped the man from thrusting an arm into the ghastly waistcoat.
“Why hasn’t he told the authorities?”
“It’s complicated.” The truth was that Jane took her own life, but David might as well have stitched the stones into her hem himself. Jane had been his victim as much as she had, but at least Maris still lived.
“You begin to interest me, Lady Kelby. So what you are saying is this mad scheme is really a noble cause. I’m meant to prevent a murderer from inheriting.”
“Why don’t you just hire someone to murder the murderer? Not me, mind you. I’m done with killing for a living. A proper assassin. Surely there’s some other male Kelby waiting to be unearthed somewhere like one of those Etruscan artifacts you’re so keen on.”
“My husband’s family seemed to collect things rather than children. There is no one but David. The title and estate would revert to the Crown.”
“Would that be so awful? Surely some provision has been made for you.”
“I’m not worried about myself.”
Oh, untrue. David was ever edging into the perimeter of her life. Maris was not entirely certain she could protect herself from him should anything happen to Henry. She wouldn’t be safe in the dower house alone, that was for sure. She’d not been safe from his attentions at Kelby Hall five years ago.
Maris had lived in the enormous Elizabethan house since she was a little girl. She would miss it, but she would have to go someplace farther away than the dower house when David was earl.
Unless she had a baby to care for. But what if she and the child still were not safe?
“You look pale, Lady Kelby. Why don’t you sit down?”
She could hardly sit on the bed after what had just transpired on it, and his jacket and neckcloth were still folded on the only chair in the room. She lifted her chin in false bravado. “I am perfectly well, Captain Durant.”
“You don’t look it.” He swept his clothes to the floor and pushed the chair at her. “Here. Sit.”
“I am not one of your recruits to be ordered about.” Nevertheless, she sank gratefully into the chair. This day was proving to be too much.
Or not enough.
Maris is slightly older than Reyn. How do you feel about age gaps between the h/h? How much is too much? I’ll give away the first book of the London List series, Lord Gray’s List (or any other book from my backlist) to one commenter!
Book #2 in the London List series
Tucked amid the pages of The London List, a newspaper that touts the city’s scandals, is a vaguely-worded ad for an intriguing job—one that requires a most wickedly uncommon candidate…
Maris has always been grateful that her marriage to the aging Earl of Kelby saved her from spinsterhood. Though their union has been more peaceful than passionate, she and the earl have spent ten happy years together. But his health is quickly failing, and unless Maris produces an heir, Kelby’s conniving nephew will inherit his estate. And if the earl can’t get the job done himself, he’ll find another man who can…
Captain Reynold Durant is known for both his loyalty to the Crown and an infamous record of ribaldry. Yet despite a financial worry of his own, even he is reluctant to accept Kelby’s lascivious assignment—until he meets the beautiful, beguiling Maris. Incited by duty and desire, the captain may be just the man they are looking for. But while he skillfully takes Maris to the heights of ecstasy she has longed for, she teaches him something even more valuable and unexpected…
You can reach Maggie on her website, blog, Twitter, Facebook and Goodreads.
Maggie has generously offered a copy of Lord Gray’s List (or any other book from her backlist) to one lucky commenter!
a Rafflecopter giveaway