HQN Books (NA)
Book 3 in the Brides of Fortune Series
When her childhood friend Nathaniel, the Earl of Waterhouse, betroths himself to a pea-brained heiress, Lady Elizabeth Scarlet decides to save him from making a big mistake by kidnapping him on the night before his wedding. But when unexpected passion flares between herself and Nat, Lizzie is seduced and ruined. With Nat insisting on marriage to save her reputation, can the fiery beauty win her husband's love - after their marriage?
Excerpted from Chapter One
It was a beautiful night for an abduction.
The moon sailed high and bright in a starlit sky. The warm breeze sighed in the treetops, stirring the scents of pine and hot grass. Deep in the heart of the wood an owl called, a long, throaty hoot that hung on the night air.
Lady Elizabeth Scarlet sat by the window, watching for the shadow, waiting to hear the step on the path outside. She knew Nat Waterhouse would come. He always came when she called. He would be annoyed of course – what man would not be irritated to be called away from his carousing on the night before his wedding – but he would still be there. He was so responsible; he would not ignore her cry for help. She knew exactly how he would respond. She knew him so well.
Her fingertips beat an impatient tattoo on the stone window ledge. She checked the watch she had purloined earlier from her brother. It felt as though she had been waiting for hours but she was surprised to see that it was only eight minutes since she had last looked. She felt nervous, which surprised her. She knew Nat would be angry but she was acting for his own good. The wedding had to be stopped. He would thank her for it one day.
From across the fields came the faint chime of the church bell. Midnight. There was the crunch of footsteps on the path. He was precisely on time. Of course he would be.
She sat still as a mouse as he opened the door of the folly. She had left the hallway in darkness but there was a candle burning in the room above. If she had calculated correctly he would go up the spiral stair and into the chamber, giving her time to lock the outer door behind him and hide the key. There was no other way out. Her half-brother, Sir Montague Fortune, had had the folly built to the design of a miniature fort with arrow slits and windows too small to allow a man to pass. He had thought it a great joke to build a folly in a village called Fortune's Folly. That, Lizzie thought, was Monty's idea of amusement, that and dreaming up new taxes with which to torment the populace.
She jumped. Nat was right outside the door of the guardroom. He sounded impatient. She held her breath.
"Lizzie? Where are you?"
He took the spiral stair two steps at a time and she slid like a wraith out of the tiny guardroom to turn the key in the heavy oaken door. Her fingers were shaking and slipped on the cold iron. She knew what her friend Alice Vickery would say if she were here now:
"Not another of your hare-brained schemes, Lizzie! Stop now, before it is too late!"
But it was already too late. She could not allow herself time to think about this or she would lose her nerve. She ran back into the guardroom and stole a hand through one of the arrow slits. There was a nail on the wall outside. The key clinked softly against the stone. There. Nat could not escape until she willed it. She smiled to herself, well pleased. She had known there was no need to involve anyone else in the plan. She could handle an abduction unaided. It was easy.
She went out into the hall. Nat was standing at the top of the stairs, the candle in his hand. The flickering light threw a tall shadow. He looked huge, menacing and angry.
Actually, Lizzie thought, he was huge, menacing and angry, but he would never hurt her. Nat would never, ever hurt her. She knew exactly how he would behave. She knew him like a brother.
"Lizzie? What the hell's going on?"
He was drunk as well, Lizzie thought. Not drunk enough to be even remotely incapacitated but drunk enough to swear in front of a lady, which was something that Nat would normally never do. But then, if she were marrying Miss Flora Minchin the next morning, she would be swearing too. And she would have drunk herself into a stupor. Which brought her back to the point. For Nat would not be marrying Miss Minchin. Not in the morning. Not ever. She was here to make sure of it. She was here to save him.
End of Excerpt. Like It? Order It!
"I really enjoyed this book. It's one of my favorites by Nicola Cornick. The dynamic between Lizzie and Nat sizzles between the pages and you truly root for both of them."
—Raunch Dilettante Reviews
"The spectacular culmination to the Brides of Fortune series. A book worthy of the highest acclaim."
"Superb in every way."
"Witty banter, lively action, and sizzling passion."
— Library Journal
"This story is a complete and total delight on every page. Nat and Lizzie light up the night with their passion."
"The writing is, as always, stunning. Cornick's voice is smooth and highly readable, and Lizzie is a fascinating character."
The character of Lady Elizabeth Scarlet was for me the driving force behind The Undoing of a Lady. Right from the start Lizzie, with her wild and wilful ways, fascinated me. I've been asked more than once if there is anything of my character in Lizzie and the truth is that Lizzie's reckless side is the part of me that is always overridden by the sensible side! Sometimes I'd love to behave as badly as she does but at the last minute commonsense kicks in!
But in other ways Lizzie is most definitely me. Like Lizzie I am an only child, though with half and step siblings, accustomed to my own company, accustomed even to loneliness. Lizzie learned at an early age that she could only rely on herself. I can identify with that. So Lizzie's feelings of abandonment and isolation are most definitely an extension of my character and that was something that was both difficult and interesting to explore.
Some of Lizzie's wilder exploits are based on real life events, most notably the scene where she rides like Lady Godiva into the hotel where Nat is attending dinner and jumps her horse from the first floor balcony. A couple of years ago I visited Leamington Spa, another town like Harrogate with a history as a Georgian and Regency spa. Bedford's Hotel in Leamington opened in 1811 and was famous for hosting the exclusive Oyster Club where gentlemen met to eat oysters and drink port from pint-sized glasses. A local squire, John Mytton, achieved fame by jumping his horse from the first floor balcony onto The Parade below. Both horse and rider survived the leap. And I thought that if John Mytton had achieved that in the early 19th century there was absolutely no reason why Lizzie Scarlet could not do that too!