The Confessions of a Duchess

The Dowager Duchess and her scandalous younger lover…

Laura, Dowager Duchess of Cole, has sworn never to marry again. But the arrival of Dexter Anstruther, the man with whom she once shared one forbidden night of passion, throws her plans and her heart into turmoil. Laura knows that the secret she is keeping from Dexter would destroy any chance of a future together. But can she keep her secrets and keep Dexter at arm’s length when he is so determined to rekindle their passion?

“(A) riotous regency romance with its tantalizing twists, intelligent plot, and delightful banter. An intriguing and spirited romance that you won't want to miss!”

— Fresh Fiction

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Excerpted from Chapter Three

He heard a knock and a step  in the doorway and turned to find Laura there, her arms full of clothes. She  was staring at his naked torso and a deep pink colour stained her cheeks.  There was confusion and shock in her eyes. The clothes slipped from her  hands and she made a grab for them even whilst her gaze was still riveted on  him.

“I’ve brought… Um… Did you…”

Dexter was surprised that  she was acting like a startled virgin when she was an experienced woman, a  widow with a child. Surely there was no need for any pretence between them  after all that had happened? And surely she did not possess an ounce of  modesty? In bed with him four years previously she had been open and  generous, warm and wanton. Her sweet, seductive shamelessness had been one  of the reasons that he had fallen so disastrously in love with her. It had  seemed so honest and unguarded at the time.

But she had put him right  quickly enough on that score. She had no use for him and his devotion, so  she had said. And when she had had him in her bed once it seemed that she  had no further use for him in that respect either.

“It would be best for you  to leave now,” she had said in the morning, with a cool, aristocratic  disdain that had made him feel utterly insignificant. “I would not wish  the servants to find you here…”

Yet now it seemed that she  had forgotten her indifference to him, since she was staring like a woman  who had never seen a half-naked man before and looking flustered and more  than a little intrigued. Her glance stirred something sensual in Dexter,  reviving the fire he had only just managed to damp down.

Somewhere at the back of his  mind a voice was cautioning him that to take this any further would be  dangerous and irresponsible. He ignored it. He wanted to know if what he had  experienced before with Laura had been no more than vivid imagining. He needed to know. Once he had exorcised the power she had over him, once  he had proved that there was nothing special about Laura at all, he would be  free of the past and this curious hold she seemed to have over him. And this  time he could control his feelings. This was not like the time four years  before when he had been an inexperienced youth. He was at no risk of falling  in love with Laura Cole all over again.

Very deliberately he  bent down and eased off his boots. When he straightened up Laura was still  staring. With calculated intent he started to unfasten his trousers.

“Did you want me to take  these off as well?” His voice had a rough edge to it.

Laura’s eyes met his and  there was a confused and heated expression in them that made the lust slam  through him, tightening its grip on him even as he cautioned himself not to  lose control.

“Stop! No!” Laura seemed to  wake from a trance. She thrust the pile of clothes down on the table and  glared at him. “What are youdoing?”

“I am removing my  wet clothes,” Dexter said. He allowed his gaze to drift over her  appraisingly. “You should do the same, your grace. You look,” his voice  dropped, “most dishevelled.”

He saw Laura swallow hard.  Her hazel eyes darkened further and the unconscious desire in them sent  another jolt of lust through him. The warmth of the room, the intimacy of  the small space, the heady scent of lavender and his semi-nakedness were a  powerful blend. Dexter took a step towards her.

He had not intended this  when first they had met. He had certainly not meant to provoke Laura or  tease her or make love to her. Such a course of action was completely  irrational. But she was standing there with her hair tumbled about her  shoulders and the damned gown still clinging to every curve and he wanted  her. He wanted her with all the raw longing he had known four years before.  And he wanted to prove that he could master that longing and take one kiss  and that it would mean absolutely nothing.

He took another step towards  Laura. She took a step back so that she was trapped between his body and the  warming room door. She was clutching the pile of garments to her breast now  like armour.

“Mr Anstruther,” Laura’s  voice was a thread of sound, “this is most improper.”

“You were swift enough to  help me out of my clothes the last time we met,” Dexter said, “and you know  that your concessions to propriety are only for outward show.”

 

End of Excerpt

The Confessions of a Duchess

is available in the following formats:
North American Edition
UK Edition

June 5, 2009 · Harlequin · ISBN 13: 978-0373773770 · ISBN 10: 0373773773

Behind the Book

The spark for the whole Brides of Fortune trilogy idea came from an article I read in a national newspaper. A businessman had bought the title of Lord of the Manor of a village in Kent. Once installed, he discovered that there were various ancient rights and privileges associated with the title. He decided to revive these and put forward the idea, amongst other things, that people should pay to walk their dogs on the village green and to park in front of the village shop. Not surprisingly there was an outcry from the villagers, who objected to this high-handed behaviour on the part of their new “lord”!

This gave me the idea for the “Dames’ Tax” whereby all unmarried women in the village of Fortune’s Folly are obliged to give half of their wealth to the lord of the manor if they do not marry within six months of him coming into the title. Whilst I freely admit that the Dames’ Tax was pure invention on my part, I did research various other real taxes existing at the time. These included the tax on dogs, which was in force until 1882, the tax on male servants, abolished 1852, and the tax on racehorses, which only ceased in 1874. These were all taxes paid on a national basis.

Ruined Abbey
The ruined abbey in The Confessions of a Duchess

Most local taxes, known as “scots” were abolished in England after the Restoration of the Monarchy in 1660, so in order for Sir Montague Fortune’s revival of local taxes to have any historical authenticity I had to find a way in which his village might be exempt. One way that presented itself was for Fortune’s Folly to have been a church enclave where the abolition did not apply. Thus the series starts with Sir Montague discovering to his glee that the abbey church in Fortune’s Folly had exemption from the 1660 abolition.

Many of the medieval taxes were paid to the church and naturally many others were weighted heavily in favour of the lord. However the Fortune’s Folly villagers, to get their own back for Sir Montague’s greed, in turn revive those taxes that give them the advantage: Pontage, by which they charge a fee to cross the bridge in the village, pannage, the right to let their pigs roam in the lord’s woods, and foldage, sending their sheep to manure Sir Montague’s beautiful rose gardens! Laura Cole, the heroine of The Confessions of a Duchess, leads the fight back!

It fascinated me that some of the ancient laws and taxes are still legal in the UK today. Mostly these are laws such as wood penny, which is still applicable where I live: for the payment of a nominal penny a year to the local landowner we have the right to take his wood for our fire. Other laws and taxes serve as great inspiration for story ideas but I would not want to see them revived…

Acclaim

Reviews for The Confessions of a Duchess

“(A) riotous regency romance with its tantalizing twists, intelligent plot, and delightful banter. An intriguing and spirited romance that you won't want to miss!”

“Captures reader’s hearts and minds from the very first page. I can’t wait for the next books in this delightful series.”

4 Stars!

“A well-written, entertaining scorcher of a Regency set historical romance... be sure to crank up the AC while reading this engaging page-turner! The sexual tension between Dexter and Laura is palpable and superbly written.”

Confessions of a Duchess is... edged with a cunning witticism, sharp intrigue, and the eroticism of an uber-passionate dream. Nicola Cornick gives stellar 'pen' with the first instalment of her Brides of Fortune series.”

“An emotionally charged story that tells how a love lost and then found can heal a wounded heart.”

“(A) wonderfully original, sinfully amusing and sexy Regency historical by the always entertaining Cornick.”

Booklist

“A moving and amusing novel and an intriguing start to a new series, The Confessions of a Duchess has a well-crafted plot with many threads and lots of interesting characters. You'll be doing yourself a big favor if you get and read the character rich The Confessions of a Duchess.”

The Confessions of a Duchess is an intelligent Regency romance starring a strong secondary cast and two likable lead protagonists. The story line is fast-paced and amusing.”

“A captivating tale of forbidden passions, shocking secrets and searing emotions.”

“This series shows real promise. A very lovely read.”

Rakehell

“This book is a wonderful trip through romance and a little mystery. Great read and I look forward to the next one in this series.”