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About the Author
#1 New York Times bestselling author Stephanie Laurens began writing as an escape from the dry world of professional science, a hobby that quickly became a career. Her novels set in Regency England have captivated readers around the globe, making her one of the romance world's most beloved and popular authors.
New York Times bestselling author CHRISTINA DODD builds worlds filled with suspense, romance, and adventure, and creates the most distinctive characters in fiction today. Her fifty novels have been translated into twenty-five languages, featured by Doubleday Book Club, recorded on Books on Tape for the Blind, won Romance Writers of America’s Golden Heart and RITA Awards, and been called the year's best by Library Journal. Dodd herself has been a clue in the Los Angeles Times crossword puzzle.
Elizabeth Boyle has always loved romance and now lives it each and every day by writing adventurous and passionate stories that readers from all around the world have described as “page-turners.” Since her first book was published, she’s seen her romances become New York Times and USA Today bestsellers and has won the RWA RITA® and the Romantic Times Reviewer’s Choice Awards. She resides in Seattle with her family, her garden, and her always-growing collection of yarn. Readers can visit her at www.elizabethboyle.com, or follow her own adventures on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. www.avonromance.com www.facebook.com/avonromance
Read an Excerpt
Hero, Come Back
By Stephanie Laurens
HarperCollins Publishers, Inc.Copyright © 2005 Stephanie Laurens
All right reserved.
They were twits -- foolish, fashionable, and frivolous.
Reggie Carmarthen stood in Hyde Park beyond the end of Rotten Row, and studied the tonnish females currently gathered about the Avenue with a distinctly jaundiced eye. Especially the younger ladies, those desirous of finding a husband.
Their shrill laughter reached him. The ton was drifting back to the capital for the September and October round of balls and parties. In and about their mamas' coaches lined up along the carriageway, the unmarried young ladies chatted avidly, exchanging the latest news, every one of them hoping, soon, to feature in the latest story. Sun glanced off artfully arranged curls or was deflected by fringed parasols. The breeze flirted with full skirts, teasing the myriad ruffles currently in vogue.
Fashions had changed over the last ten years, but little else had -- he felt not the slightest wish to marry any one of the young things parading in the morning sunshine.
With an inward humph, he swung away and determinedly strolled west across the lawns, leaving the fashionable horde behind.
Despite his antipathy, he had to think of marrying. He was thirty-two. His mother had dropped hints, increasingly pointed ones, over the past decade, but she knew she could push him only so far -- after a few failed attempts, she'd refrained from pressing specific young ladies on him. This morning, however, the dam of her patience had broken, ruptured by the news of his great-uncle's failing health.
His great-uncle was the Earl of Carlisle; his father, Herbert Carmarthen, presently Viscount Northcote, was the earl's heir. Which meant he, Reggie, would, on his uncle's death and his father's accession to the earldom, step up to his father's present title.
Those facts were widely known, yet waking one morning to find himself Northcote was guaranteed, as his mother had waspishly informed him that morning, to focus the attention of every last matchmaking mama on him.
He could either exercise his prerogative and select a wife forthwith, or be inundated with candidates.
Reaching the carriageway that separated Hyde Park from Kensington Gardens, he paused. The looming threat filled his mind. Crossing the gravel, he walked into the heavily shaded walks of the gardens; in the less fashionable area there were only a few nursemaids and matrons quietly strolling.
The idea of marriage had gradually been gaining ground in his conscious mind. Visits, summer and winter, to old friends like the Fulbridges and the Ashfords were largely to blame -- impossible not to notice the satisfaction, the stability, the strength that successful marriage wrought. The Cynster twins, now Amanda Fulbridge and Amelia Ashford, had been his closest friends from childhood and had remained so through the years; the Cynster family in all its various branches numbered among his parents's closest acquaintances. If ever there was a case to be made for marriage, the Cynsters as a group exemplified all that was best, all that could be achieved in that sphere.
Other friends, too, had succumbed; most were quite contented now, even if that had not been their initial expectation. A few male friends remained bachelors, yet the companionship and activites they shared no longer satisfied as once they had.
His mother was right -- it was time he took the plunge. And far better to make the choice himself rather than have it thrust upon him.
He was naturally inclined to laissez-faire -- to leaving well enough alone -- yet in this case letting matters slide was not an option; to simply stand waiting and let the matchmaking mamas have at him would be the action of a lunatic.
He had to make up his mind and act swiftly.
So whom should he marry? In which direction should he look?
What he had to offer was easily catalogued -- a family ranked within the haut ton, sufficient wealth to make actual amounts of no account, and ultimately the earldom and all that meant. He possessed an even temperament, was not given to excess in any sphere, was experienced and assured in all tonnish matters, and was handsome enough -- admittedly not the sort who drew eyes or stood out in a crowd, yet the ladies with whom he'd shared liaisons over the years had never complained.
His lips twisted wryly. He suspected his quiet, unassuming handsomeness was viewed as less threatening by many ladies, in some cases as less in competition with their own beauty. Regardless, he was content with his appearance, confident in it.
So what of the lady he would wed? An infi- nitely more difficult question. He hadn't met her, or any like her, yet. He felt not the slightest connection -- physical, intellectual, or emotional -- with the young things paraded by their mamas through the ballrooms, the silly, giggling horde from which society would expect him to make his choice.
He wanted . . . someone different. Not, as some might suppose, a lady like Amanda or Amelia. Some of their traits he appreciated, like their honesty and courage, their intelligence, their understanding of their world; others, like their wildness, their willfulness, underpinned by their inherent Cynster strength, he could do without -- such traits were too powerfully disruptive.
He wanted . . . a lady with whom he could converse sensibly, who shared his views and his lik-ing for a peaceful existence, a lady with whom he could share a pleasant life . . .
Voices reached him. A gentleman's, tones harsh, denying; a lady's, soft and urgent.
The sounds jerked him back to the here and now; he realized his feet had led him down one of the garden's winding paths. The voices came from just ahead, the speakers screened by the next bend.
His first impulse was to retreat undetected, but then the lady spoke again. Memory pricked -- instinct came to the fore.
Apparently nonchalantly, he strolled on.
Excerpted from Hero, Come Back by Stephanie Laurens Copyright © 2005 by Stephanie Laurens. Excerpted by permission.
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