Love Regency romance? I do too. The sixth novel in the Eardleys’ series is available — The Lady And The Devil: If You Knew Me.
By the way, all the novels in the series can be read as standalones; no need to start at the first one and read them in order.
Regency romance, novel 6 in The Eardleys of Gostwicke Hall
Originally, I’d imagined that Julia’s story would be the sixth novel, instead it’s now the seventh. (Julia’s an Eardley cousin.)
The Lady And The Devil: If You Knew Me is Cerise Fortier’s story; she isn’t related to the Eardleys, but Catherine adopts her, more or less.
(Excerpt) The Lady And The Devil: If You Knew Me
Grayhurst House, Grosvenor Square, March 1816
Grosvenor Square in London came alive at 10 o’clock at night, when carriages swept the fashionable to their evening’s entertainments. Those same carriages would return in the early hours, so the square’s servants retired to their attics, until few lights remained behind the windows.
One icy evening in March thundering hoofbeats shattered the midnight calm of the square. Four carriages, with two outriders, and Lady Wallace’s coat of arms on the door panels, rattled up to Grayhurst House.
Marcus Lovatt, Major Lord Grayhurst, lived at Grayhurst House alone, except for a large household staff. His grandmother resided year round at his lordship’s primary country residence, Bellegrave Priory. Lady Wallace rarely came to town, so this midnight arrival would give the square, and the ton, food for gossip.
The butler, Mr Hepburn, recognizing the hoofbeats of his lordship’s bloodstock, thought himself lucky that he hadn’t gone to bed. He tapped on the housekeeper’s door, then strode into the servants’ hall, and cuffed the boot boy awake.
By the time one of Lady Wallace’s heavy-coated footmen climbed the front steps of Grayhurst House, Hepburn had opened the double doors, and nodded the footman through. “Set the fires, first,” he ordered the man.
Bells rang in the servants’ quarters at the top of the house, and the household came to life.
“A cold night, Mr Hepburn,” another of her ladyship’s footmen said as he passed the butler on the steps.
“It is,” Hepburn agreed, while he waited for the tallest man, her ladyship’s first footman, to hand Lady Wallace from the traveling coach.
Her ladyship, a small woman swathed in furs, stepped from the coach and accepted Hepburn’s bow with a nod. “A late arrival, Mr Hepburn, but you’ll manage… Miss Philipps and I will warm ourselves in the breakfast room. Soup, with port and Stilton, as quickly as cook can manage.”
“Of course, my lady,” Hepburn bowed again as her ladyship, on the arm of her first footman, passed him. Then Hepburn rose to his full height and nodded to Miss Philipps, her ladyship’s companion, who followed her ladyship up the steps.
“Take this,” the lean woman with pursed lips and a red nose said, her tone curt. She handed Hepburn a fur throw and two hatboxes.
Miss Philips personified the attitude of her ladyship’s staff to Lord Grayhurst’s people, Hepburn thought. It would take three or four days for the two households to stop vying for supremacy. He narrowed his gaze on the woman’s back and took a deep breath to settle his temper.
Half an hour later, coming in from supervising the unpacking of the carriages, Hepburn caught the gaze of the housekeeper, Mrs Jones, and waved her over into the porter’s room.
They surveyed the chaos of the trunks and boxes scattered over the foyer. He bent to her ear and murmured. Should he inform his lordship that his grandmother had taken up residence?
She stared at him; her brown eyes narrowing. “Why? What do you mean?”
He waited for her to comprehend his meaning.
Suddenly she gasped. “Surely his lordship —” Her hand flew up to her mouth.
Hepburn nodded, his features impassive. As as if he’d spoken, his implacable demeanor told the housekeeper it wasn’t for her to question the carryings-on of the nobility. To his surprise, when Mrs Jones hurried away, he heard a stifled giggle.
He’d been hoping that the commotion would wake his lordship so he wouldn’t be required to speak. However, his lordship had been properly shot in the neck when he’d come home at ten. When Hepburn murmured to him that his guest, “a lady”, had arrived, Grayhurst groaned and cursed under his breath.
The butler had let the courtesan, her maid, and her manservant into the house via the back entrance in the late afternoon. The household servants were at their tea, so he’d closed the door to the servants’ hall.
Normally he’d have escorted the secret guests from the house the same way that they’d arrived. At four in the morning he would wake the coachman, then enter his lordship’s dressing room to wake his valet. Half an hour later, the group would leave — as quietly as possible — well before anyone else in the house rose.
Now he had a problem. With her ladyship in residence, two of her footman would occupy trundle beds in the alcove off the servants’ hall. The footmen had all been soldiers with his lordship, so the men slept lightly. They’d leap up with their swords and pistols in hand to confront both Hepburn and the courtesan.
The woman’s screams would wake the entire square, and he couldn’t allow that to happen. But what to do?
“You must inform Miss Philips,” Mrs Jones told him when she returned from speaking to the senior housemaid. “Let her tell her ladyship.” She shrugged. “Once you’ve told her, it’s out of your hands.”
Mrs Jones knew as well as Hepburn did that the Grayhurst House staff, and all the footmen, were loyal to his lordship, and wouldn’t say a word. But if her ladyship’s maid and other servants got wind of the little group upstairs, they’d gleefully gossip to the servants of every other house on the square.
Lady Wallace would be furious if she were the last to know, so she had to be told.
Hepburn nodded. His lordship would need to be informed too. He didn’t want to tell him. But he knew that Mr Dancer, lordship’s valet would never do it. Dancer always maintained that his sole concern his lordship’s person. The household was Hepburn’s responsibility.
At eleven next morning, Dancer presented his master with a silver salver on which lay a folded note.
Marcus immediately recognized the black ink from Jacques Herbin. He sat up with a groan. Grandmother. He’d purchased that ink for his her last Christmas, in the Rue des Fosses-Saint-Germain-l’Auxerrois in Paris.
He cleared his throat and inhaled deeply. All things being equal, he considered, he’d rather be back at Waterloo, facing a charge from the Dragons de la Garde Impériale, under Marshal Ney.
He limped to his dressing table and opened the note. Grandmother was polite, of course. Could she have a few minutes of his time, at his convenience?
No doubt about it, he was completely in the wrong. He released his breath in a long sigh. What had he been thinking of, to invite the woman into his home? Setting the note on his dressing table, he met Dancer’s gaze in the mirror. “My compliments to her ladyship. I’m at her service… I’ll be at my desk in half an hour.”
Dancer went to the door to whisper to the footman outside.
If he were a cynical man, Marcus decided, he’d lay odds that his grandmother knew. Her midnight arrival had been calculated to put him throughly in the wrong. A courtesan in the house… He winced. She wanted something… Whatever it was, he’d have to agree, and carry out her wishes with alacrity.
For the first time, Marcus felt sympathy for his father.
Read Cerise and Marcus’s story
The Lady And The Devil: If You Knew Me is available now.
Her sister Catherine believes that Elaine's hair tells you everything that you need to know about her. It's flame-red. When Sir Oliver Destry trifles with Elaine, she decides on revenge. Elaine soon discovers the truth of the old saying that if you want to make the gods laugh, just tell them your plans.More info →