Years ago Lady Louisa Windham acted rashly on a dare from her brother, and that indiscretion is about to come to light. She knows her reputation will never survive exposure. Just as she’s nearly overwhelmed by her dilemma, Sir Joseph Carrington offers himself to her as a solution…
But Sir Joseph has secrets as well, and as he and Louisa become entangled with each other, their deceptions begin to close in on them both…
Lady Louisa Windham has come upon a neighbor from Kent, Sir Joseph Carrington, while out for a morning ride in Hyde Park. Sir Joseph is taciturn, honest, and much better company than the bachelors panting to get their hands on her marriage settlements…
“Louisa and Joseph reached the point on the bridle path where His Grace had separated from his daughters, and there was no sign of the duke. “Papa has gone off somewhere. If we can’t find him, I’ll simply make my own way home.”
“Not without an escort, Louisa Windham.”
Now Joseph used her given name, now when his tone was as stern and uncompromising as the duke’s when discussing the Regent’s financial excesses. “I did not mean to imply I’d go anywhere in Town without a proper escort. What do you know of Lord Lionel Honiton?”
She lobbed the question at him in retaliation for his peremptory tone, also because he’d give her an honest answer.
“I know he’s vain as a peacock, but other than that, probably no more given to vice than most of his confreres.” This was said with such studied detachment, Louisa’s curiosity was piqued.
“Many young men are vain. Lionel is an attractive man.”
“Perhaps, but you are equally attractive, Louisa Windham, more attractive because you neither drape yourself in jewels nor flaunt your attributes with cosmetics, and I don’t see you lording it over the ladies less endowed than you are.”
He was presuming to scold her, and yet Louisa couldn’t help feeling a backhanded sort of pleasure at the implied compliment. “Beauty fades,” Louisa said. “All beauty. If Lord Lionel is vain, time will see him disabused of his beauty soon enough.” Unbidden, the memory of Sir Joseph reciting Shakespeare came to Louisa’s mind: “That time of year thou mayst in me behold, when yellow leaves, or none, or few do hang on boughs which shake against the cold…”
“So it will.” Sir Joseph held back a branch for Louisa to pass. “While yours will never desert you.”
“Are you attempting flattery before breakfast, Sir Joseph?”
His lips quirked up at her question, a fleeting, blink-and-she’d-miss-it suggestion of humor. “I am constitutionally incapable of flattery. You are honest, Louisa Windham, loyal to your family, and possessed of sufficient courage to endure many more social Seasons than I’ve weathered. To a man who understands what matters most, those attributes grow not less attractive over time, but more. Will I see you out riding again some morning?”
Now he was changing the subject, after calling her brave, loyal, and honest. He’d told the truth, as well—he had no talent for flattery. None whatsoever.
“I take it you prefer to ride early in the day?”
“Of course. The fashionable hour provides no real opportunity for exercise, and the Sunday church parade is even worse. Then too, there’s something to be said for showing old Londontowne at her best, for seeing it when ‘all that mighty heart is lying still.’”
She cocked her head. “Is that Coleridge?”
“Wordsworth. ‘Composed on Westminster Bridge.’ It makes a pastoral study of even a dank and teeming metropolis, so great is the poet’s ability in that regard.”
A line of poetry for Louisa was like a shiny lure to a raven, even a line casually tossed off by Sir Joseph Carrington. Maybe especially a line from him. “I don’t think I know this poem, and I’m more than passingly familiar with Wordsworth.”
While Sir Joseph sat on his black horse, the leaves shifting quietly against the frozen earth, and sunlight glittering on the Serpentine, he recited for Louisa a sonnet. The poem he gave her described a fresh, sparkling morning in London as something beautiful and precious, even to a man in love with nature and the unspoiled countryside.
When Sir Joseph fell silent, Louisa felt as if the hush of a great city at dawn enveloped them, and in the ensuing beats of quiet, she realized three things.
First, Joseph Carrington’s voice was made for poetry. Like a violoncello switching from lowly scales and droning exercises to solo repertoire, when he put his voice to poetry, Sir Joseph spoke lyrically, even beautifully.
The second thing she noticed was an inconvenient and utterly stupid urge to cry. Not because the beauty of the spoken word moved her to tears—though occasionally it could—and not because the poem itself was so very lovely. It was a short, pretty sonnet about a single impression of the city gained on a clear autumn morning.
Louisa’s ill-timed lachrymose impulse was the result of the third realization: no man had ever recited an entire sonnet to her before, and likely no man ever would again.”
Throughout this book, Ms. Burrowes had some of her characters at one point or another quote poetry that would enhance the particular scene and here’s just one example of it.
At the end of the novel, in her Author’s Notes, Ms. Burrowes writes:
“Joseph recites the following poem by William Wordsworth to Louisa while they’re riding by the Serpentine in Hyde Park early one winter morning:
Composed upon Westminster Bridge, Sept. 3, 1802
Earth has not anything to show more fair: Dull would he be of soul who could pass by A sight so touching in its majesty:
This City now doth like a garment, wear The beauty of the morning; silent, bare, Ships, towers, domes, theatres, and temples lie Open unto the fields, and to the sky; All bright and glittering in the smokeless air.
Never did sun more beautifully steep in his first splendour, valley, rock, or hill: Ne’er saw I, never felt, such a calm so deep!
The river glideth at his own sweet will: Dear God! The very houses seem asleep; And all that mighty heart is lying still!”
WOW! After you read the book, you’ll come upon that scene and you’ll see how appropriate this poem was for that moment.
How do you feel about poetry in your romance novels, and poetry in general? Have some for us? Please feel free to share!
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