By masquerading as a man, Elaine has turned her artistic genius into a lucrative career. But now she faces ruin, for the rakish Earl of Bridgeport (who she left standing at the altar) has tracked her down. His pride demands revenge for her insult, but his plot could unmask her secret identity, destroying her ability to support herself. To her surprise, their battle of wits reveals that his public persona is a mask hiding several secret identities, one of which could draw censure onto his head. Can their mutually assured destruction lead to mutual trust? Only unlocking her frozen heart, and his, will provide the answer.
From the RITA-award-winning team of Regency novelists, Lynn Kerstan and Alicia Rasley
A Pair of Classic Regency Novella- Allegra’s Song and The Rake and the Spinster
This is a boxed set of the first two stories of The Drewe Sisters series, “Allegra’s Song” by Alicia Rasley and “The Rake and the Spinster” by Lynn Kerstan. Two sisters travel to a house party, expecting nothing but diversion. But one finds excitement and passion in the arms of a man she ought to despise, and the other is led back to the love of a man she thought she’d lost.
“Outstandingly unique in the world of Regency Romance comes this collection…. An emotionally satisfying read!” Literary Times
An Excerpt from The Drewe Sisters Novellas in Boxed Set by Kerstan and Rasley
A Rake’s Abduction… and Seduction
“Truly, I admire you, sweet Maggie, but your sisters are grown now. Allegra is married, Yvette soon will be, and then what will you have?”
“Satisfaction, and a quiet life. What right have you to ruin that for me?”
“In two weeks, unless you take the bit between your teeth and do something rash, you will return to Falconthorpe with the Merpole sisters and no one will suspect you have been elsewhere than in their company. I would never do harm to you, or to your sisters, although I know you don’t believe that. I simply want to give you something, and have taken care that you have no choice but to accept. If any shame comes to your family, it will be your doing.”
“I’d sooner die than shame my sisters,” she declared. There were a few beats of silence. “Give me what?”
He nodded approvingly. “And now we are to the heart of it. I will give you an adventure, Maggie. A real one, with real experiences, not fantasies. I must apologize that the enterprise cannot be all you would like. You long to travel, and I considered a trip to the Continent, but we must balance your dreams with the necessity of preserving your reputation. Many things can go wrong in a foreign country and someone might see us together. Here at Sanderling we shall not be remarked upon.” He leaned forward. “Think of it. Two weeks in which your every whim will be indulged. A time out of time, to do nothing but enjoy yourself and experience as much as you can without collapsing from exhaustion.”
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From the RITA-award-winning and bestselling novelist, Alicia Rasley
A Classic Regency Novella- Allegra’s Song
The warrior returns… but he never really comes home. Allegra has longed for the return of her soldier husband. But when the war ends, he is more distant than ever. After months of trying to reach him, she leaves to chaperone her husband-hunting younger sister at a duchess’s house party. Only then does Nicholas know that to win her, he must leave the war behind and truly come home to her for good.
An Excerpt from Allegra’s Song by Alicia Rasley
“I never imagined that, not in all those years away from you. I couldn’t, of course, couldn’t think of it, or I wouldn’t have been able to go on. But to hear it said, by two men not fit to—” Nicholas shook his head and didn’t finish.
“And you believed them?” she cried. “Gossip overheard in a taproom? Accusing me of—” She couldn’t say the words betraying you.
“No. They weren’t describing, only predicting, and in some detail.” With a savage, smooth motion, he pulled out his sword. Instinctively she stepped back from the rush of wind as the blade slashed an inch from her leg. She heard a splash of water, and saw the tip of the sword flash silver, deftly beheading a waterscorpion at the lip of the fountain.
The two pieces held together for an improbable moment, then Nicholas swung up his sword and they fell separately into the water. Allegra gasped as drops splashed on her skirt, and shrank back from the tainted pool.
Automatically, Nicholas wiped the blade of his sword on his breeches and sheathed it. As if nothing had happened, he said, “So tell me, wife, tell me. Where were they wrong? What shouldn’t I believe? That you left your home to come to London to see him? That you sent your son away? That Keverne was a frequent visitor to our house—our house—in London? That he got you invited here, and your sisters too as some sort of blind? That the other men at the party are wagering on the night of your succumbing?”
She gazed down at the dead thing in the water and couldn’t speak. His recital was such a knot of half-truths she couldn’t begin to undo it anyway. Finally she whispered fiercely, “If you won’t believe me, I have nothing more to say.”
“I don’t know what to believe.” For just a moment, the anguish rang clear in his voice, then he got control of it. “If you haven’t betrayed me—if he isn’t your lover, then why are you here? Why are you with him? No.” With a sharp gesture, he cut off her protest. “Don’t tell me you aren’t with him. I have seen you with him, twice now. Oh, nothing compromising, no. But Allegra—”
He put his hand beside her, palm against the wall, his full white sleeve caressing her bare arm. He leaned closer, speaking softly, so that his words brushed her temple. “Tell me. If you knew there was talk of your connection to him, if you knew I would object—and you knew that, don’t tell me you didn’t, I saw it in your eyes tonight—then why did you persist? Why dance with him tonight, when you knew it would be the talk of the evening, you with that half-dressed rake?”
She didn’t look up at him, instead watching the rise and fall of his chest under the white shirt as he took a breath and held it and let it go. “I will not let gossip determine who will be my friend.”
“Your friend? He wants to bed you, if he hasn’t—” He cut that off. “What does he do that makes you disregard all that? Make you forget you have a child at home, and a husband too?”
The pain in his voice was so raw she was moved to speak with equal honesty, though she knew it was a mistake. “He makes me laugh, that is all.”
“Makes you laugh?” Nicholas sounded stunned. He drew back, and she was able to slip away from his imprisoning arm, and edge down the wall toward the opening. “Makes you laugh? Allegra, he’s useless. What’s he done in his life but seduce women and switch tailors? Laughter! How can you—you are carving me up, all I have been, all I have done, with his laughter!”
There was no use defending Simon; he didn’t need it, and it would do no good. She had nothing but the truth, and that would not be enough. “You had better believe this, Nicholas, because I shan’t say it again. I have done nothing to betray you.”
“Nothing yet, perhaps.” He pushed away from the wall and walked restlessly across the little grotto. He stopped where her mask lay, abandoned on the ground, and nudged it with his boot. “But then he might make you laugh again.” He looked up at her. “I will believe you if you come with me now. Come away from here, and from him. Now. Tonight.”
“You will believe me then? Only then?” Her fingers were hurting, clenched tight like that, and she forced them to relax, to open, to lie gentle against her chest. “That isn’t belief, Nicholas, if I must prove it to you. And I won’t try. If you trust me, you will say no more.”
He bent and picked up the mask, brushing the dirt off the white feather, studying it as if there was something written there. Now his voice was cool, all the pain stripped from it. “Come tonight, Allegra. Or don’t come at all.”
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He stood directly in front of her, a nightmare come to life, lips curved in an irreverent smile. “Artemis, I believe,” he said with a bow. “Virgin Huntress, Guardian of her Sister Nymphs, Goddess of the Moon.”
Unwilling to meet his eyes, Maggie gaped at a broad chest dusted with tawny hair. Distantly, she heard him greet the Merpoles. They exchanged pleasantries, and he complimented them on their excellent costumes while she wondered why his skin was so brown.
“Who are you?” she asked unwittingly.
“Do you not know me?” He whipped off his mask and hung it on his bow. “I am the god of oblivion, abandonment, and excess. I bring wine and madness, should you care to drink.”
“Dionysos,” she said peevishly. “Very much in the flesh.”
“None other, fellow divinity. I am come from Olympus to lead you into the dance. Only listen. The sacred melodious pipe calls Artemis to waltz with me.”
“It does no such thing!” Her gaze lifted to his joltingly blue eyes and swiftly lowered again.
“Fear you the Bacchanal?” he teased. “Where is your spirit?”
“You are a silly man and no god at all. Besides, virgin goddesses never cavort with licentious satyrs.”
“Ah, but Dionysus compels no woman to be chaste, or to relinquish her chastity. She who is naturally virtuous may partake of the rites without forfeit.” He held out his hand. “Come, Artemis. It is only a ballroom, after all, and merely a waltz.”
A firm hand pushed at her back—Beatrice’s, she suspected—and suddenly she was on her feet. “I won’t dance with you, Keverne!” Her voice was shrill with anger. “You are presumptuous, offensive, and unwanted. If that is not clear enough, hear this. Go away and leave me alone.”
He regarded her with uncharacteristic seriousness. “But you are too much alone, Moonbeam.”
“That is my choice.” She tried to sit down again, but his fingers gripped her shoulders.
“Only consider the consequences. Dionysos must dance, and if you will not join him, he must entice another maiden into the revels. Athena, perhaps?”
“That is purely blackmail.” She jabbed a finger at his chest. “Yvette is young and innocent, not some bit of muslin to be trifled with. Stay away from her, you… you goat!”
He contrived to look offended. “How you wound me, Artemis. And while you fight the inevitable, this waltz is half played out. I shall require what is left of it, and the next dance as well, before I agree to leave untouched the lovely Athena. What will it be, sweet nymph? Have you the courage to quit this dim corner for the sake of your unfledged sister? Such a trifling sacrifice, after all.”
“Infamous!” She was practically sputtering. “You are an overdecorated, underdressed coxcomb. I’ll have no part of you.”
He touched the tip of her nose with his finger, “Recollect what became of Pentheus, who refused to acknowledge Dionysios as a god. We deities have our pride, you know.” His smile was unutterably provoking. “Even you, glacial Artemis, for did you not transform Actaion into a stag for the crime of seeing you unclothed?”
“This is preposterous. I’ll not bandy Greek myths with you, Keverne.”
Her insults had no effect on the scoundrel. He continued to stand too close, his bare hand extended, a look of expectation on his face. Short of plucking an arrow from her quiver and driving it into his chest, she could think of no way to get rid of him. How it galled her to be manipulated like this.
“Very well,” she said between her teeth. “What remains of this dance, and the next, so long as you keep yourself thirty yards from both my sisters tonight.” Heat rose to her cheeks. “Mind you, I don’t dance very well.”
“You will,” he assured her complacently, “in my arms.”
From the RITA-award-winning and bestselling novelist, Alicia Rasley
A Classic Regency- Charity Begins at Home
Competent, compassionate, cautious Charity, the mainstay of her Kentish village: She would make the perfect wife. Everyone says so, including the men who propose marriage to her. But Charity wants to be more than the perfect wife. She wants to be beloved.
So when she meets the passionate half-Italian artist Tristan Hale, Lord Braden, she thinks she’s found the man who can transform her life into one of brilliance and excitement. But then she finds out that all he wants is what every man wants, that competent Charity, the perfect wife.
Against the backdrop of a village fete, Tristan must prove to her that he desires her as much as he esteems her, and to win her, he first has to defeat an evil playwright, paint a voracious whale, and seduce her by the midsummer moon.
An Excerpt from Charity Begins at Home by Alicia Rasley
The Competent Charity Calder
This long speech had the effect of diverting him from whatever assessing comment he meant to make. Instead, Braden smiled ruefully and shook his head. “Very nice, Miss Calder. I suppose you think susceptibility to flattery is a family trait? But having observed your technique with my sister, I am wise to your ways. You will not persuade me that my sister’s well-being depends more on my finishing a painting than straightening out her finances. No, no!” He raised his hand, laughing. “Don’t volunteer to do it for me. We have presumed on you enough already.”
Was he implying that she took too much on herself, pushed to help where she wasn’t needed? Her aid had never been turned down before. In fact, most recipients were all too happy to take advantage of her talents. But Lord Braden was probably used to minding his own affairs and expected others to mind theirs. His reluctance to join her little lunch, his challenging comment about her number of suitors—perhaps he felt pursued and was warning her off.
In the moment or two it took to reach this supposition, Charity had climbed nimbly in beside Jem. She just wanted to be gone from this difficult man who regarded her so coolly out of those burning eyes, who suspected motives she didn’t quite have, who let her have only tantalizing glimpses of his thoughts. Even as she welcomed her own painful disorientation—surely it indicated intense emotion!—she felt cheated. She had always known that falling in love would hurt. But she had not reckoned that it would be humiliating, too.
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