Society often makes strange bedfellowsand even more surprising betrothals...
IS IT A REASON FOR ROMANCE?
In Why Earls Fall in Love by Manda Collins, young widowed Georgina Mowbray is settling into her role as Lady Russell's companion quite welluntil the lady's nephew Dominic, the Earl of Coniston, arrives in Bath for a visit. Georgie's always found him shallow and too smooth, and trusts him as much as she trusts most men…which is to say, not at all. But Con turns out to be more intriguing than she remembersand completely irresistible...
OR A PROMISE OF PASSION?
Pretty, practical Georgie is nothing like the women Con usually woosespecially since she seems blind to his charms. But his elderly aunt is so fond of her that Con is determined at least to be sociable…with the occasional flirtation thrown in just for fun. But things take a serious turn when a dangerous figure from Georgie's unhappy past appears and threatens to bring her harm. Con will do whatever it takes to keep Georgie safe. And if he can show her that all men are not menaces, he might be able to keep her in his arms and never let go… "Absolutely delightful…an emotion-packed, passionate historical romance."Romance Junkies, five stars (on How to Romance a Rake)
About the Author
Manda Collins spent her teen years wishing she'd been born a couple of centuries earlier, preferably in the English countryside. Time travel being what it is, she resigned herself to life with electricity and indoor plumbing, and read lots of books. When she's not writing, she's helping other people use books, as an academic librarian. Her books include Why Dukes Say I Do and Why Lords Lose Their Hearts.
Read an Excerpt
Why Earls Fall in Love
By Manda Collins
St. Martin's PressCopyright © 2013 Manda Collins
All rights reserved.
"It's extraordinarily ugly, isn't it?" Mrs. Georgina Mowbray asked her friend, and fellow army widow, Mrs. Lettice Stowe, as they stood before the latest painting to have taken Bath by storm in the fashionable Messrs. Oliver and McHenry Art Gallery in Clarges Street. "I do see that the artist has talent, but look at the expression on poor Cleopatra's face! She looks more like she's suffering from dyspepsia than the poisonous bite of an asp."
Lettice, who was rather less interested in art than Georgina, studied the painting, wrinkling her upturned nose in concentration. "I don't know," she said frowning, "I rather like it. It's so dramatic, the way she's draping herself across the chaise, her bosom exposed as the asp sinks its fangs into her. And who's to say that the bite of an asp doesn't feel like an attack of dyspepsia. You remember old Mrs. Lafferty whose husband was with the 23rd, who swore she was only suffering a bit of the ague when in fact she was having an apoplexy."
Georgina had to concede the point to her friend, though she was fairly certain Mrs. Lafferty had been suffering from both the ague and apoplexy. But she didn't wish to quibble. Lettice was, after all, her only friend in Bath aside from her employer, Lady Russell, to whom Georgie served as lady's companion.
It had only been a few months since she'd come to the spa town and she missed her friends in London dreadfully. But unlike Isabella and Perdita, who were both the widows of noblemen, Georgie was the widow of a military officer who had been just as terrible at managing his finances as he had been at being a husband. And as a result, she needed to work to earn her keep.
Today, her employer was taking tea with her niece while Georgie enjoyed her afternoon off. She would never have expected that the life of a paid companion would be so fulfilling, but it was. Georgie appreciated order and her life following the army had taught her to appreciate the well-managed life. Especially when her relationship with her husband had been anything but reliable.
"Perhaps," Georgie allowed. "Though I do still think it's a remarkably ugly painting."
Shuddering, she asked, "Does it say who the artist is?"
"I'm afraid that would be me," said a male voice from behind them. A male voice she recognized. "And I agree, it's a dreadful painting."
Georgina stifled a very unladylike curse before turning to greet the newcomer. Just as she'd known he would be, the Earl of Coniston stood behind them, one supercilious brow raised in amusement.
He had been betrothed to her friend Perdita for a few short weeks earlier in the year, and during that time, Georgie had been forced to endure his company despite her dislike of him. He'd been good enough to Perdita — had even agreed to her dissolution of the betrothal without a fuss when she realized she wasn't ready to marry again so soon after her husband's death — but from what Georgie could tell, he was the very sort of dissolute, devil-may-care nobleman that she'd come to dislike during her time following the army. Especially given that the officers had often been handed their positions by dint of money and birth while the enlisted men under them were forced to do the real work.
And, perhaps sensing her dislike, Coniston, or Con as he was called by his friends, had found great delight in teasing her whenever they were in company together.
It was just Georgie's luck that he was her employer's favorite nephew, and would therefore be underfoot for her near future at the very least.
"Lord Coniston," she said, masking her dismay with a smile, "what a surprise to find you here."
"Not so surprising, surely, Mrs. Mowbray," her nemesis said with a grin. "After all, you must have penned the invitations for my aunt for her house party this week."
"I meant," she said, maintaining her poise, "this gallery, of course, not the city of Bath." It was just like him to deliberately misunderstand her.
Unchastened, he raised his brows. "Do you mean you think me such a cultureless fribble that I could not possibly have business in such a place? For shame, Mrs. Mowbray. Surely, I have made a better impression upon you than that."
"As a matter of fact," Georgie began, before she was interrupted by Lettice. To her shame, Georgie had forgotten her friend was even there, such was the power of Coniston to overwhelm her good sense.
"Do introduce me to your friend, Georgina," Lettice said, her eyes alight with interest as she took in Coniston's good looks and Georgie's discomfort in his presence.
Reluctantly, Georgie said, "Lord Coniston, this is my friend Mrs. Lettice Stowe. We followed the drum together." Turning to Lettice, whose grin alerted Georgie to her amusement at the situation, she said, "Lettice, this is Lord Coniston, the nephew of my employer, Lady Russell."
She would have liked to find fault in Coniston's reception of her friend, but Georgie was forced to admit that his bow and expression of pleasure at making the acquaintance were all that was proper.
"What is it you dislike about this painting, my lord?" Lettice asked, returning them to their surroundings. "I should be interested to hear your opinion of it."
A dark curl brushed his brow, giving the earl a boyish air. "Where to begin, Mrs. Stowe?" he said gravely. "There are so many things wrong with it that I don't quite know which to condemn first. I will say, however, that it is obviously one of the artist's earlier works and doubtless he would prefer it to never be seen in public again.
"I have told the owners of the gallery to remove it many a time," he continued. "But they ignore my pleas to spare the good people of Bath from the horror of it."
Suddenly, a memory of her employer saying something about her nephew winkled its way into Georgie's consciousness. Closing her eyes, she bit her lip in frustration. Of course.
"It is yours, isn't it?" she asked the earl in a flat tone. He'd overheard her criticizing his work. He'd never let her hear the end of it.
To his credit, Coniston did not attempt to capitalize on her embarrassment. "It is indeed, I am sorry to say," he admitted. "I gave it to a friend as a joke years ago, and the beastly fellow sold it to this gallery. Every time I come to Bath I attempt to buy it back from the owners but they refuse, claiming it's one of their most popular display pieces."
Georgie couldn't help but sympathize with him. "How unfortunate," she said, looking once more at the hideous face of Cleopatra. "You have become a much better artist since you painted this," she added, thinking how mortified she would be if one of her sewing samplers, which were truly awful, were to be hung up next to someone else's neat and tiny stitching. "The landscape in your aunt's sitting room is particularly fine."
Coniston gave her a puzzled look, as if he weren't quite sure what to think of her when she was being generous with him. Georgie felt a tug of shame. Had she really been so difficult with him? she wondered.
"It's not so bad as all that," Lettice said, again reminding Georgie of her presence. "I was just telling Georgie that —"
But before she could finish, they were interrupted by another gentleman.
"There you are, old boy," the newcomer said, slightly out of breath. "The others are waiting. Let's get out of this mausoleum."
It was clear from the man's glance at Georgie and Lettice, and his quick dismissal, that he did not consider them worth his notice. Coniston, to his credit, looked embarrassed at his friend's bad manners.
"Ladies," he said, bowing to them, "I hope you find some more pleasing works of art to occupy the rest of your time here. I recommend the very fine Tintoretto in the corner."
And with a grin, he followed his friend from the anteroom of the gallery where Georgina and Lettice stood looking after him.
As soon as he was out of earshot, Lettice unfurled her fan and briskly plied it before her face. "Lord, Georgie, have you ever seen such a handsome man in your life? Why did you not tell me you were friends with him?"
"He's hardly a friend, Lettice," she responded with a laugh. "He is my employer's nephew. We met in London at the home of a mutual friend, but to be honest we are not on the best of terms."
"What do you mean?" Lettice demanded. "You seemed easy enough just now."
Georgie was silent for a moment as she tried to put into words her complicated feelings about Lord Coniston. He was friendly enough and had been kind to Perdita. But she found it difficult to admire a man who seemed to concern himself with nothing beyond the latest on-dit or the outcome of some much-talked-about prizefight. For better or for worse, she could not admire a man who was so lacking in seriousness.
"You were in the war, Lettice," Georgie tried to explain. "You saw how some of the aristocratic officers behaved."
At her friend's nod, she continued, "Lord Coniston reminds me of them. As if he has nothing more to concern himself with than the betting book or which opera dancer he's going to bed."
"And what," Lettice asked, with a frown, "is wrong with that? Goodness, Georgina, you behave as if the war is still going on. So what if Lord Coniston enjoys himself. Wouldn't you love to have enough funds to live as you pleased? It's not as if he's leading men into battle and compromising their safety."
It was nothing more than she'd told herself any number of times, and Georgie knew that Lettice was right on some level. "True enough," she said with a shrug. "I'm not sure why I am so hard on him. Perhaps I am a bit jealous of his freedom to do as he wishes."
"If you ask me," Lettice said with a sly look, "you need to loosen your stays a bit, so to speak. Let yourself have a bit of fun. You're no longer following the drum, keeping everything neat and tidy for that brute of a husband to come back to from the fighting. And it's time you remembered it."
It was an old argument, and one that Georgie did not wish to rehash again. One of the ways in which she'd learned to cope with the unpredictabilty of her husband's temper was to keep everything else in her life as predictable as possible. She lived her life by the ticking of the small heart-shaped watch pinned to the breast of her gown. And the one freedom she did appreciate was the one that allowed her to do so without reproach.
Looking down at her watch, she gasped. "Goodness, it's gone three! I promised Lady Russell I'd be back in time for tea."
"I thought it was your day off?" Lettice pouted, looking like a thwarted five-year-old.
Since Georgie didn't wish to explain again that she'd agreed to giving up a bit of her off day under no duress and that she, in fact, had offered to do it, she remained silent.
"I shall have to get back to Henrietta Street," she said, giving her friend a quick hug. "I'll see you at the Pump Room, tomorrow, all right?"
To Georgie's great relief, her friend didn't raise a fuss. But before they parted ways on the street outside the art gallery, the other woman said, "Just remember that your employer is not your friend, Georgina. She is your employer. It's just not possible for folks of their station and ours to be friends. Not true friends like we are."
It was an old argument, and rather than go into it for the umpteenth time, Georgie merely nodded and gave her friend another quick hug before hurrying down the street toward Lady Russell's town house.
She knew there was some sense in what Lettice said. But she'd learned from her friendship with Isabella and Perdita that not all members of the ton were supercilious and cutting. And if truth be told, Georgie trusted the sisters more than Lettice in some instances, because though Lettice was a good enough person, she had a tendency to look for the cloud in every silver lining. And if Georgie needed anything it was to be around people with a sunny outlook on life, given her own tendency toward seriousness.
No sooner had the thought crossed her mind, however, than she remembered the letter in her reticule. She had reason for her worries, she reminded herself.
The first had arrived a month or so ago. And knowing the hell Isabella had gone through after she'd received similar missives, Georgie was prepared for something terrible to befall her now that the second and third warning letters had arrived.
I know what you did last season.
The notes were unsigned. And she was quite sure if she compared her own letters with Isabella's that the handwriting would be identical.
Someone, she knew, was out to avenge the late Duke of Ormond's death. No matter how much of a brute he'd been. No matter that his death had been a matter of preventing him from murdering Perdita before their very eyes.
Whoever was behind the threatening letters, Georgie knew that they weren't interested in fairness or logic or justice. They wanted only revenge.
On that thought, her hand slipped down to feel the reassuring shape of the small pistol resting next to the notes in her reticule.
Let this person continue to threaten, she thought grimly. When they began their campaign to frighten her, Georgie decided, she'd be ready for them.
* * *
"Why are you here, Con?"
The Earl of Coniston turned with a sense of resignation to see his cousin, Mr. Philip Callow, bounding toward the door of their aunt, Lady Russell's, Henrietta Street town house. He was fond enough of his cousin, but Philip had never been much in the brains department.
"I should imagine," he said, tapping his riding crop against his boot, "for the same reason you are here, Philip. To celebrate Aunt Russell's birthday."
Indeed, if what his sister had told him was true, Aunt Russell had invited all of her nieces and nephews to Bath for a week for her birthday celebration. Of course the spa town was not nearly as fashionable as it once was, having been superseded in the ton's affections by Brighton with its seaside bathing and lavish entertainments. There had been a bit of grumbling about the dullness of the locale, but as Aunt Russell was turning seventy and, moreover, had promised them all a sizable portion of her fortune upon her death, they each made the sojourn to Henrietta Street.
"I suppose that's right." Philip sighed. "I was hoping she'd decided to cut the rest of you out and leave the whole lot to me." He picked an invisible bit of fluff from his sleeve. "Weston is cutting up rough over my bill again."
Con was not surprised to hear it. It was unfashionable to pay one's bills in a timely manner, and if Philip was anything it was fashionable.
"Sorry to disappoint you," he said just as the door was opened by his aunt's ancient butler, Rigsby, who ushered them both into the narrow house and instructed a footman to see to the valets and bags.
"The others are gathered in the drawing room," Rigsby said with a stiff bow, indicating that the two men should precede him.
But Con waved him off. "We'll find our own way, Rigsby. We don't stand on ceremony with family, after all."
In the absence of his parents, who were more involved with one another than their only son, he'd spent most of his holidays from school in Aunt Russell's house and was intimately acquainted with its layout. Even the secret passages that had been built into it by his long dead Uncle Russell's father.
"Wonderful," his aunt said as they entered the room, which seemed filled to the rafters with his cousins and their spouses. After a general round of greetings, knowing their duty, both men made their way to their aunt.
Lady Russell was ensconced in a comfortable wing chair near the fire, and Con was troubled to see that her foot was propped up on a stool. "Come and let me have a look at the two of you," she said brightly, inviting her hand to be kissed, a silent order with which both Con and Philip complied.
Con knew that to any outside observer, he and Philip were obviously related. Both of them bore the dark hair and blue eyes of the Callows, but there the resemblance ended. Whereas Con had grown into his frame some years ago, and bore his height and breadth of shoulder with confidence, Philip was rather more like the family name, that is, callow. Even so, standing side by side, they were a handsome pair and more than one set of female observers in the ton had remarked upon it.
"Philip, I believe you've grown," their aunt said, surveying the twenty-three-year-old with a keen eye.
To Con's amusement, the young man's ears reddened. "Aunt Russell," he said with an adolescent whine. "You shouldn't remark upon such things."
"But it's the truth, Phil," their cousin, Mr. Geoffrey Callow, chortled from his position at the mantel. "Have you got lifts in your shoes? I thought —" He broke off as his wife, none too gently, poked him in the ribs.
Excerpted from Why Earls Fall in Love by Manda Collins. Copyright © 2013 Manda Collins. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Isabella, Perdita and Georgina were all in the room when Perdita's hubby, the cruel and evil Duke of Ormond, was shot and stabbed to death and, now over a year later, a evil unknown nemesis wants REVENGE for the Duke's untimely death! Mrs. Georgina, Georgie, Mowbray married an Army man and, like her mother, followed her hubby from post to post. But unlike her mother, her hubby used cruel words, huge fists, belt, boots or anything handy, to abuse her with. Now that he is dead, she is a paid companion because he, like in a they married life, left her to make her own way, with a small widow's pension. Georgie is likely to have her dear friends, Perdita and Isabella, and to have a warm and caring Lady Russell as an employer. Now if only she could figure out who is threatening her with the notes, she could enjoy her time in Bath with Lady Russell on her B-day house party! Dominic, or Con to his many friends, is the Earl of Coniston and beloved nephew of Lady Russell. She practically raised him, after his parents death. Since the day he entered his Aunt's home, as a child, she treated him like her own child. He learned about honor from his Aunt's inner strength and about love from her big warm heart. Perdita just broke thier unannounced betrothal and Con thinks she is secretly in love with Lord Archer, so Con is on his way to his dear Aunt Russell B-day bash in Bath. The Callows clan converge to Bath because of Aunt Russell's B-day bash, but really they want her to remember them in her will. Only Con is there because of his dear love and respect for the old girl. Georgie has never been comfy with Lords, Ladies, Earls and the other gentry, except her two Duchesses friends. She knows Lord Coniston because he was courting Perdita, but she tries to stay away because he is to yummy. Con doesn't understand why the beautiful Georgina wears such hideous gowns and makes herself uncomfortable with the ugly hairstyles. With a B-day bash there is young and old, so there is boredom for the younger people. Con and Georgie are volunteered to be the chaperones for a day at the famous ruins for the next day. Later that night, as Georgie is up in her room, she looks down in the garden and sees her DEAD hubby and SCREAMS! Con doesn't believe that strong Georgie would scream about a mouse and plus she can't lie at all. The next morning she tries to get Lady Russell to let her stay, but she strikes out. At the ruins, Con and her climb to the top of it and as they are up there, Georgie confesses about her dead hubby in the garden. Con believes her and when they both look down there is the same man, again. They take off after him, but when the go down all the stairs, he is gone. So now there is trouble afoot and the unknown nemesis is going after her, but Con will do all he can to protect the blonde, luscious and beautiful Georgina. Con keeps kisses her until her toes curl and she keeps going back, until his arms, for more. Of course, when you have BFF like Perdita, she shows up to help and with her comes Lord Archer, who is Con friend and soundboard, and all 4 band together to find the unseen foe. This house parties is a laugh a minute with picnics with a dead hubby, several old Army friends of Georgie, Lord Archer loving following Perdita, Perdita fighting to NOT notice Archer, Georgie's delicious lips and kisses, a murderer lurking about, a lending library, Con's soft caresses, family mischief, greed and jealous aplenty and not mention the new Duke and Duchess of Ormond popping in for a chat! Will Con show Georgie that his love can heal? Can Georgie raise above her own fear, and embracing his love? Will Con and Georgina's love protected them both? How will the unseen foe strike next? When will Lord Archer, man up, grab Perdita and kiss her toes off? This the 2nd book of the Wicked Widows series and I enjoyed more than the first one. Manda Collins didn't just write a fabulous romance, she threw a HOUSE PARTY people, with kooky, original and bickering family members, because what would a house party be without it. When I say PITA, I mean "Pain In The A$$" and there was a house full of them with too young and spoiled Lydia, Tina with her horse's tales, greedy Clara and Lady Russell who rocked, with her warn heart, made this story different, from page to page. Ms. Collins tackled a huge issue again with abuse, which ties these 3 ladies together and made them BFFs. Georgie was different because she was abused, but she was an Army wife, and unless you personal been one, then all the decisions and problems are ALWAYS on her shoulders, while he hubby was away fighting. She has independence, but he slapped, punched and kicked it away, when DID come home. Con was a breath of fresh air for a hero, not a rake or rogue, but a man with fierce honor, that is ingrained in him. When he did make love to Georgina, he worshipped her from the tip of her toes to the top of her head. I believe that he washed away her evil abuser from her, with each caress and kiss. Ms. Collins created Con to heal Georgie with love, and show her that not all men are cruel and I FELL IN LOVED with him! Ms. Collins made me cry, and people I cry UGLY and then scare my furry reading buddy, Simba, and he has CLAWS, so blood and tears! She also had me on the edge of my couch, with the mysterious and STILL unseen nemesis and left me with a CLIFFHANGER! So to recap, y'all will smile, giggle, kick and sometimes slap Con's clan members, laugh, try to figure out a mystery, feel hot and bothered and fall in love this the Bath B-day Bash. I must give Ms. Collins my top score of 5 fingers up and 10 toes. Don't be jealous, but I have ARC of Why Lords Loses Their Hearts, and I am opening it right NOW! But it will be release July 29, 2014 and that is only 24 days! This book brought to me via my LIBRARY!
This is a great story that includes both intrigue and romance. Both main characters, Con and Georgina, were very likable Honestly, I had a hard time putting the story down. Manda Collins is a wonderful author and I will definitely be reading her future books!
Why Earls Fall in Love is a mystery historical romance, I couldn't guess who was the villain until the end of the book. The story was engaging with romance, mystery and threat. I like the way Mrs. Collin tell the story even I have not read the first in this series I could follow the story about three friends with their secrets. I am looking forward to read the next in this series and find out who is the villain. Thank you Mrs. Collins
WHY EARLS FALL IN LOVE by Manda Collins is an exciting Regency Historical Romance. #2 in the "Wicked Widows" trilogy, but can be read as a stand alone. See, "Why Dukes Say I Do". Fast paced filled with deception, passion,danger and love. Meet Georgina Mowbray and Dominic, the Earl of Coniston, Lady Russell's nephew. Georgina is Lady Russell's companion as well as one of the Wicked Widow's. A delightful tale of finding love, trust,acceptance and the power of love. You must check out Manda Collins' latest release "Why Earls Fall in Love" you will not regret your choice. I can't wait for the next installment to find out who is determined to destroy Georgina, Isabella, and Perdita, the three wicked widows. Oh did I mention a little side story in the mix? Ms. Collins a wonderful storyteller, who draws the reader into her stories with her engaging, realistic, and believable characters and her intriguing and interesting storyline. All of the Wicked Widows have been abused by their late spouses and are looking for love and acceptance, but they also meet with a bit of danger along the way. For someone is not to destroy them all. Excellent, simply excellent!! A powerful as well as intriguing story. A must read!! Received for an honest review from the publisher and Net Galley. RATING: 4.5 HEAT RATING: MILD REVIEWED BY: AprilR, Courtesy of My Book Addiction and More