A month after it’s first scheduled release, I am very pleased and proud to announce that
ALMOST A COUNTESS
has released on Amazon. It will release on Smashwords Barnes & Noble, Kobo, and Apple on September 7.
Exiled to a lonely estate in north Yorkshire, Dora Harper finds life satisfying, if appallingly routine—until an escaped Scottish prisoner begs for her help. Despite her misgivings, Dora takes him in, feeds and clothes him, and is amazed at his transformation into a very handsome, virile gentleman, who claims he is an earl. No matter who he really is, his very presence in her house could ruin her reputation for good. Trouble is, Dora might not mind that at all.
Phineas “Finn” MacDonald, the Earl of Aberfoyle, is on the run from a troop of soldiers bent on charging him with treason. Dora’s miraculous appearance is a godsend for him, in more ways than one. The pretty young English woman is kind, compassionate, and willing to help him in his attempt to seek justice and evade the troop that is quickly closing in on him.
With their close proximity over several days, Finn’s desire to escape wanes, even as thoughts of Dora fill his mind. So when a unique opportunity presents itself, Finn claims to be Dora’s husband to save her reputation and throw the soldiers off his trail. Now all Finn needs to do is persuade Dora to make the ruse a reality—before the soldiers can find him and carry out the grim penalty for his alleged crime.
She jerked her hand away. There must be something she could do to rouse him. Putting her altruistic instincts aside, she would require the stranger’s help if she wanted to remount Gretchen and save herself a long walk home on a day she needed to travel swiftly. As she thrust the sodden handkerchief into the pocket of her habit, her hand brushed something hard and cold.
Her smelling salts. She grasped the vial, blue glass covered in silver filigree, took a breath, then popped the top and thrust the bottle under the man’s nose.
With a gasp, he sat up and grabbed her wrist, pushing the vial away from his face. “Are ye trying tae kill me with that stink?” He gazed around, shook his head. “Who are ye? Where did ye come from?”.
Startled beyond belief, Dora opened her mouth but was unable to form a single word.
His eyes, as sky blue as her riding habit, narrowed. “Cat got yer tongue, lass?”
“N…no.” She managed to get that out. “You startled me, is all.”
“Aye, well I’m sorry for that. Ye’re a bit o’ a surprise tae me too.”
He released her wrist, and she staggered back to put some space between them.
She replaced the stopper on the vial—it took her three tries she was shaking so badly from his abrupt awakening—and slid it back into her pocket, then stood gawking at him. Trying to make sense of the fact there was an escaped prisoner not three feet from her.
He frowned, his gaze narrowing. “I ken ye understand who I am, dae ye no’?”
Heart in her throat, Dora managed a short nod.
“Ye seem tae be a compassionate person, so I’ll dare tae ask ye tae help me, lass.” The menacing look had disappeared, replaced by anguish. “I canna let them take me again. They mean tae dae me grave harm before they take me tae the authorities. If they take me.”
“What did you do?” Dora backed up another step. Was he dangerous? It made a big difference if the man was a murderer or merely a thief. She glanced toward her horse. How quickly could she reach Gretchen, who stood quietly cropping grass nearby? Though how she planned to get up on the horse, should she reach her first, she had no idea. Perhaps she should simply make a run for it. If his leg was truly injured, she should be able to outdistance him quickly.
“No’ what they accuse me o’. I did a foolish thing, no’ a treasonable one. But the lieutenant disna see it that way and wants tae make me pay for something I dinna dae.”
It sounded reasonable, but wouldn’t all prisoners say such things? This was the thanks she got for trying to do a good deed. Dora sighed. She needed to find out how serious a threat this man was to her. “What did you do?”
“I wore this glaikit kilt is what I did.” His anger seemed pointed at himself, not her. “And in their thirst for my blood, they dinna care that I hold a title, or that my father fought for the bloody British.”
“They arrested you for wearing a piece of clothing?” Surely he was having her on. “I hardly think—”
“Lass, I dinna think it wise tae bandy words here when Lieutenant Scarlet and his men could ride up on us at any moment. If ye’ve no’ met the lieutenant, I suggest ye no’ dae it alone in a field with an escaped prisoner at yer side. I guarantee the man will no’ be pleased with ye, and ye’ll feel his displeasure keenly.” He touched the cut on his forehead. “Ye can trust me in that if nothing else.”
Suddenly more afraid of the soldiers than the prisoner, Dora scanned the fields for any movement. Thank God all was still. Returning her gaze to the man before her, she took in his appearance once more. On closer inspection, his shirt, though torn, was of excellent quality, as was the fabric of his bright kilt. And his boots, though muddy, were expensive. He’d claimed to have a title. Was he indeed a gentleman? Could she trust him? Overwhelmed with the decision she needed to make, Dora simply stared at the man before her, not knowing what to do.
A look of resignation came over his face. “I canna blame ye, lass, if ye dinna wish tae trust me.” He pointed to Gretchen. “If ye’ll call yer wee beastie, I’ll give ye a leg up. I dinna wish yer blood on my hands should Scarlet and his men find us here.”
The earnest concern in his face said he told the truth—he’d allow her to leave him here to the mercies of the soldiers. And she’d have his blood on her hands if she did. How exasperating. “Are you too hurt to sit a horse?”
“I’m no’ hurt sae bad I canna ride,” he said cautiously.
There seemed no other way around it. He must go with her. Dora sighed, hoping she was doing the right thing. “Come on, then.”
Almost a Countess is available on Amazon for the pre-order price of $2.99 for a few more days before it reverts to its final price of $3.99.
As part of the release celebration, I’ve put A Countess of Convenience, book 1 of the Captivating Countesses series, on sale for .99.
If you want to read the beginning of both Dora’s and Judith’s stories, they first appear in Only A Mistress Will Do, part of the House of Pleasure series.
And if you’d like a chance to win a signed copy of Almost a Countess, please comment on this post telling me the first romance novel you remember reading. If you can’t remember it, tell me your absolute favorite romance novel. One random commenter will receive a signed paperback copy of Almost a Countess.