Heart of Decadence, Book 5 of the Handful of Hearts series is now live on Amazon! I’m so thrilled at the response to this novella because it has one of my favorite heroes in it and I want everyone to meet him!
Miss Amelia Burrowes was the scandal of the ton in her first Season, when her fiancée died and she was declared a ruined woman by Society. Ten years later, she’s back in London to make an arranged marriage that will hopefully allow her sisters to be received by the ton. But when Nathan, Lord Ainsley, the man she’d really had a tendre for all those years ago, renews their acquaintance, the flame between them rekindles and Amelia must convince him that a woman with a past deserves a future.
And here’s an excerpt from later in the book (You can read all of Chapter 1 by clicking on the tab labeled above) where Nathan is finding out about Miss Burrowes’ scandalous reputation. The gentleman who speaks first is Nathan’s good friend Lord Haversham.
“Ah, the truth comes out. You wish me to be leg-shackled to your sister in order to keep you company.” Haversham grinned, likely enjoying turning the tables on him.
“I have no idea of marrying the woman.” Then why had he thought about her since last night like a moon-struck calf? “I met her briefly last evening, although we met initially over ten years ago, just before I took my Grand Tour.”
“She’s a widow?”
“No, although she was once betrothed it seems. A Miss Amelia Burrowes.”
Haversham sat bolt upright, spewing whisky over himself and Nathan’s best Italian leather chair. “Miss Burrowes?”
“What the devil’s the matter with you?” Grabbing his handkerchief from his pocket, Nathan attempted to save his favorite seat.
Haversham mopped his face and clothing with his own linen. “You did say Miss Burrowes, didn’t you?”
“I did. You say her name as though the lady was an ogre of some sort. I can assure you she is not.”
“Ogre, no. Outcast, yes.” The earl tossed the sopping handkerchief onto the table and set his glass next to it. “I am amazed she’s back in Society, even after all this time.”
“We cannot be talking about the same lady.” Nathan finished scrubbing the leather cushion and stood. “This is Miss Amelia Burrowes. A sweet but rather spirited lady even when I first met her.”
“I was acquainted with her when she first came out. You’d made such startling remarks about her beauty I wanted to see her for myself and scraped an introduction.” He peered down at his cravat, baptized with dark stains. “Gads, Ainsley. I shall have to hurry home and change my linen before heading to the club. I’m not fit to be seen.”
“Tidy yourself later. What about Miss Burrowes?”
“Well, you were, of course, right about her beauty. So it’s no surprise that, not long after you left, she was snapped up by Lord Carrington.” Settling back in the chair once more, Haversham took up his drink again. “The most fashionable couple of the Season. They seemed very happy together…and very affectionate. Until Carrington suddenly fell gravely ill.”
“Deucedly bad luck.” Nathan couldn’t help but think how Miss Burrowes must’ve been mad with worry. He remembered her as being very tenderhearted.
“In more ways than one.” A pinched expression came over Haversham’s face. “Lord Carrington lingered for some weeks so that eventually Miss Burrowes and her family requested that the marriage go forward despite the gentleman’s infirmity. To ensure, they said, that the lady would be provided for. And had they married, she would, even now, be the wealthy widow of an earl. But Carrington died before the nuptials could be arranged, and so she remained Miss Burrowes.”
An unexceptional story, so far. Certainly not one that would produce a scandal of the magnitude Haversham alluded to. Something else must have caused Miss Burrowes to become a pariah in Society. He wished very badly that he’d known of her unmarried state when he’d returned from his tour. A renewal of their acquaintance then might’ve led to a continuance of their courtship.
Frowning, Nathan poured another tot of spirits into his glass. “I do not see the point, Haversham. She was betrothed and the man died. If she was not suspected of poisoning him, I do not see how scandal came into it.”
Swirling his libation slowly, Haversham kept his gaze on his glass. “That came afterward, Ainsley. Miss Burrowes was prostrate with grief at Carrington’s death. She and her family retired to their estate in Dorset where she fell ill herself for a time.”
“I still see no hint of scandal here, Haversham. A woman’s grief is no reason for her to be disgraced.” Was this a storm in a cream pot after all?
Casting a look of disbelief at Nathan, his friend sat forward in his chair. “Perhaps none of your family or friends has become betrothed in the last ten or so years?”
Nathan shook his head. What was Haversham getting at?
“Are you not aware then that from almost the moment couples agree to marry, they feel it is permitted to anticipate the wedding night?”
“Well, yes, of course I know that.” Then with dawning realization… “So the ton believed that Miss Burrowes and Lord Carrington…?”
“Exactly. It would explain her family’s frantic desire to have them marry before he died. And her illness afterward.”
Haversham paused. “The on-dit at the time put it about that she had either birthed or lost a child.”
“Good God.” As though a rug had been pulled from beneath his feet, Nathan’s world shifted. The Miss Burrowes he had known would never have done such a thing.
His traitorous memory, however, suggested otherwise.
He was back under the cherry tree, in Lady Hamilton’s garden, moonlight streaming around him and the lady with a thousand stars shining down on them. They’d danced a spirited reel and afterward he’d suggested that some fresh air on the veranda would revive them both. She’d agreed, although they’d both understood it could be dangerous to her reputation.
They’d been introduced at Lady Somerville’s ball the week before where Nathan had been immediately struck by Miss Burrowes’s grace and beauty. Her witty conversation had been an unexpected boon when he’d asked for and been granted the privilege of the supper dance. Every night that week he’d partnered her, at every chance had taken her for a carriage ride or called upon her. In that very short week, he’d come to have very affectionate feelings for the lady, and at Lady Hamilton’s, he’d suddenly craved more.
The soft breeze had made her ballgown billow out over the new grass as they stood behind the trunk of the largest cherry tree, hopefully hidden from sight. He’d gently stroked her cheek with the backs of his fingers, the smooth skin inciting a riot of desire throughout him. She’d tipped her head back, her eyelids half closed, her lips poised in a perfect bow. Passion had raged in him as he sank his mouth onto hers, her lips warm and welcoming as he pressed himself to her and sought to deepen the kiss. To his surprise, she opened like the petals of a flower, and he plunged in, delirious with the taste and feel of her.
When at last he’d broken the kiss, they stood together in the glorious night air, a whole new world within his grasp. “I will speak to your father,” he’d told her, and she’d smiled and taken his arm as they returned to the house.
Heart of Decadence is available now on Amazon! And the first four books of the series are on sale for .99 thru today! Grab yours now!
Books in the Handful of Hearts series