‘The Irish Duchess’ by Patricia Rice

 Neville Perceval, the bankrupt Duke of Anglesey, has been burdened since youth with more responsibility than one man should handle. He has finally accepted that he needs to marry a wealthy, gracious lady who will ease his burdens and smooth his political path.

Fiona MacDermot, the rebellious, untamed cousin of an Irish earl, has the freedom and independence Neville has never known. Like the duke, she needs cash to help starving villagers and orphans. Unfortunately, she’d rather earn a living than have anything to do with useless men, and the politicians she knows all belong at the wrong end of a rope.

But when the duke is nearly beaten to death, and Fiona’s looms are lost to a murdering thief, their lives are entangled in ways that threaten their futures. Lust shouldn’t factor into their destinies, but it does, and now they have to find their dreams together, or die trying

EXCERPT:

“Finished with the news sheets, His Grace, Neville Perceval, the Duke of Anglesey drained his brandy glass, picked up his walking stick and high-crowned hat, and set out for home. He had a stack of estate papers on his desk that needed his attention. And his  cousin Blanche had yet another mad scheme for improving the Manchester mills that he must discourage in some manner.

He couldn’t believe he was placed in the position of acting as a bloody tradesman just to keep his wretched cousin from sinking all her coins into improbable schemes for benefiting the welfare of mankind. Mankind was scarce worth the effort.

Neville allowed instinct to guide him home while he lost himself in thought. The Anglesey townhouse occupied a rather large chunk of real estate in one of the older sections of town, one where gaslights had not yet been installed. Accustomed to the dark shadows of trees from the park, Neville gave his surroundings little notice. Even the clammy fog obscuring the pavement did not deter him. He could find his way home blindfolded if needed.

Only the sound of a footstep where there shouldn’t be one finally dragged him from his reverie. One too many violent incidents in these past years of political chaos had taught him caution. Had someone followed him from the club? Why?

One of the things he had learned from Michael, Blanche’s new husband, was how to act quickly and defend himself. Over the years, his lessons with Gentleman Jackson had given him a much needed outlet for frustration. Neville needed no more than the snap of a twig to jump from absentminded thought to full alert.

The scoundrel crashing through the shrubbery caught the full force of the gold-plated knob of Neville’s walking stick. The second scoundrel suffered the brunt of Neville’s fist plowing into his face at such an angle that his jaw fell slack. Neville cursed as still a third leapt from the bushes, and footsteps behind him indicated he’d attracted a crowd.

Giving up any pretense of politeness, he flicked open the sword in his stick, slashed at the man advancing from his side, kicked at the one rising from the street, and heard the sweet sound of a groan as he connected with his soft target. Any triumph he might have felt dissipated the moment a cudgel cracked across the back of his skull.

With a growl of fury, Neville swung and slashed at his opponent, but he’d already realized the futility. There were just too many of them.

As someone grabbed his sword and twisted it from his hand, Neville plowed his fist into still another jaw and had the satisfaction of hearing it crack before the club came down on his skull again.

This time, the Duke of Anglesey crumpled to the street, swearing as the blackness of unconsciousness threatened. He had no heir. He couldn’t die.”

FEATURED AUTHOR: Patricia Rice

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‘The English Heiress’ finally makes it by Patricia Rice

Melanie, thank you for inviting me to stop by to tell the story of how my new historical romance, THE ENGLISH HEIRESS, finally made it into production. Your review tells the book’s story so beautifully that I thought I would simply recite the tale of the book that wouldn’t die.

As I’ve mentioned elsewhere, THE HEIRESS is a sequel to THE MARQUESS, the second in a series of Regency romances I wrote in the late 90’s. We’re talking about an era when I was  working with Word 6.0 and Internet Explorer version 1. Yahoo had just formed. I probably backed up to floppy disks.

So over a dozen years ago, when the imprint that bought THE HEIRESS closed down and sent back the next two books in the series, I was probably dealing with one paper copy (scribbled on because that’s how I edited) and a half dozen floppy disks that I may have copied over to 3.5” disks before I shoved them in a drawer. I had several other contracts at the time and resurrecting books that were already several years old just wasn’t happening.

Fast forward to 2011. Since I had a physical book to scan, I reissued THE MARQUESS as an e-book, and it started selling extremely well in this new format. But I had no physical book for the next two in the series. The ancient disks had deteriorated, and over the years, I’d tinkered with Michael’s book, so there was no one version, even in manuscript format. The pieces I had were written in an earlier Regency style of excess verbiage and circumlocutions that are the very devil to weed out, and I’d apparently given up on several versions over the years.

But everyone wanted Michael’s story. Readers have been demanding to know what happened to Michael since he first appeared in a Signet Regency in the 80s. I owed readers that story. And now e-books were possible, I didn’t need to find publishers interested in an old book, and I’d run out of excuses not to attempt to bring Michael back to life.

Over this past year I’ve been painstakingly digging old chapters off the disks that weren’t corrupted, scanning  chapters from yellowing pages for disks that were no longer usable, and piecing all the bits together with the files I’d copied into all my computers over the last dozen years. And once I had a full, coherent manuscript again, I edited. And edited some more. Then when my brain was about to explode, I sent the whole thing to the editors at Book View Café, who trimmed THE ENGLISH HEIRESS to its new fast-paced self. After all this, I think I could officially hire myself out as an editor.

“Cut” materials in almost any of my books are dictated by me. I’m a “fly into the mist” kind of writer and sometimes when I’m not entirely certain where I’m going, I do a lot of circling. It may be good material, snappy dialogue, whatever, but if it doesn’t keep the story line moving forward, it gets whacked.

And in the case of THE MARQUESS and THE ENGLISH HEIRESS, I was writing in an older Regency style that required a lot of circumlocutions, which required a lot of repetition, and the verbiage simply stacked up. Adding to that haystack was the fact that I was writing on an old DOS computer with limited capacity, so I wrote and edited everything by hand. (The ghosts in my attic kept crashing my machine and I was terrified of losing text.) And I didn’t have the time or equipment to go back and hack unnecessary scenery.

Since THE MARQUESS made it into print and has been reissued frequently, I’ve edited it several times over the years and no longer have any excerpts at hand. Michael’s book, however, is another story. Scattered over corrupted Word 6 disks and in various versions and hard copy in my basement, I have umpteen versions and edited scenes scattered all over, and trying to remember which version contained what would be a major headache. Even after I pieced the story back together and edited out huge chunks, my fantastic editor at Book View Café, Sherwood Smith, cut nearly 20,000 words of repetitive text. I could probably fill another book with cut material.  Here’s just one small example of text removed from the book.

Even after I pieced the story back together and edited out huge chunks, my fantastic editor at Book View Café, Sherwood Smith, cut nearly 20,000 words of repetitive text. I could probably fill another book with cut material.  I’ll copy the first small excised text I found below. As you can tell, there’s nothing wrong with it. It just doesn’t say anything that hasn’t already been said.

That Blanche’s breath caught when his muscles rippled beneath his coat didn’t mean anything. She admired fine horse-flesh too. Sunny days and the laughter of children made her heart sing with joy. What she felt for Michael was little more.

But it wasn’t the return of a horse or a sunny day she awaited now.

She wanted Michael, the one man in her world she couldn’t have.

I spent so much time putting Michael back together again, I didn’t think I’d ever have the time or patience to bother re-creating the IRISH DUCHESS. But readers have been so wonderfully supportive of THE ENGLISH HEIRESS that I’ve bitten the bullet, made a copy of those old pages, and sent the DUCHESS in for scanning. I may have mountains more of text littering the cutting room floor in the months to come, but I’m finally back in my Regency world and loving it!

~~~~~~~~~~ * * * ~~~~~~~~~~

Melanie here! I just loved The English Heiress, and thought to let you read an excerpt that made me laugh-out-loud. Patricia will be giving away one ebook copy to one lucky commenter that tells us what was protruding from Benington’s back? Are you ready for a clue? Read the excerpt to find out…

While the butler helped Blanche with her bonnet and cloak, Michael generously offered their visitors help with their accouterments. When Michael took Allendale’s hat, an extremely large feather appeared behind the gentleman’s ear. Blanche choked back a cry and covered her laugh as a drooping nosegay of half dead roses peered out of the young lord’s vest pocket after he handed over his cane.

Somehow, Allendale’s coat pockets became lining side out and his cravat fell unfastened. His elaborately ornate pocket watch disappeared from the chain across his vest and came to rest—Blanche blinked in astonishment as she discovered the watch dangling from the belt on the back of Benington’s coat.

Benington fared little better. With his back toward the others so Blanche’s maid could divest him of his great coat, he hadn’t yet noticed Allendale’s newly rearranged attire. Aside from the pocket watch dangling from his back and the knob of a walking stick protruding from his coat neck, he didn’t appear seriously harmed until he turned around.

This time, Blanche couldn’t bite back a gasp of laughter at the lady’s red sash replacing his usually pristine white cravat. How in the world had Michael come across that sash?

She’d thought it safely in her wardrobe with the gown to which it belonged. She didn’t have much time to muffle her giggles before Allendale and Benington came face to face and stared at one another in incredulity. ‘What the devil are you wearing on your neck, Bennie?’ Allendale asked peevishly.Benington snatched at the back of his neck, seeking the object prodding him between his shoulder blades.

Grabbing the knob and pulling, he gave Allendale a stare of disbelief. ‘My neck! What is that dangling from your collar? An ostrich feather? And what do you mean coming into a lady’s presence with your cravat like that? I swear…’

Blanche’s peal of laughter swiveled both men in her direction. She couldn’t help it. Her eyes watered, and she nearly bent double in her attempt to contain her chortles. If Michael had hoped to assuage her grief while telling her suitors they were unwanted, he’d succeeded. The ostrich feather swayed over Allendale’s eye, and the ostentatious pocket watch chose that moment to play its merry chimes. Even Blanche’s maid bit back a grin, and the butler covered his mouth, hiding his mirth.

Allendale and Benington looked at each other again as if questioning the sanity of the house’s inhabitants. ‘Ummm, that nosegay looks a little wilted, Allendale,’ Benington observed a trifle doubtfully. ‘What nosegay? I…’ Glancing down, his lordship pulled the wilted roses from his pocket, then frantically searched for the watch that he could hear but which didn’t rest in its place of honor. ‘My watch! Where’s my watch?’ When the giggling maid pointed at Benington’s back, he swung the other man around and cried out loud.

‘My watch! What the devil…?’ Both men caught on at once, swinging around to glare at Michael. Blanche erupted in another gale of giggles when she realized Michael, naturally, was nowhere in the vicinity. ‘Oh, please. Oh, please…’ She couldn’t get the words out through her laughter. ‘There’s a mirror in the parlor, so you may straighten yourselves out. Please forgive him. He thought I needed a jester today.’

She pointed at the room on her left, covering her mouth again as a soft tenor singing an Irish ballad drifted from the hallways above. Michael hadn’t left then, just conveniently misplaced himself. She was going to kill him, if she didn’t die laughing first.

‘The Marquess’ by Patricia Rice

STORY: Scarred in a duel over a feckless woman, Gavin Lawrence leaves America to take up his new duty as Marquess of Effingham, vowing never to care about others again. But lurking in the secret passages of his crumbling manor house is a courageous and exceedingly annoying young woman in terrible danger.

The self-sufficient daughter of a soldier, Dillian Whitnell guards her injured cousin in isolated Arinmede manor after an attempt on both their lives. Dillian hadn’t expected the new marquess to notice her, but his stubborn refusal to believe she’s a ghost turns into a hide-and-seek game that leads to increasingly close encounters. A game where irritation turns to intrigue, and intrigue to a forbidden passion as the real villain emerges from the past.

REVIEW: This story was such a pleasure to read. Patricia Rice gives us her version of the beauty and the beast, and I really liked her take on it.

Gavin Lawrence, recently titled Marquess of Effingham, a badly scarred man, has finally arrived in England to claim his title and properties, including an old and run down castle with hardly any servants. His brother Michael accompanies him for this adventure, and as younger brothers go, Michael is ever so obliging in throwing Gavin for a loop, and the latest one is particularly troubling to this impoverished newly minted aristocrat.

Dillian Whitnell has lived with her young cousin Lady Blanche Perceval for a while now, and to many in the society, she’s known as Miss Reynolds, Blanche’s companion. The pretence is deliberate even though the name is legitimate. The women have become very close confidants and mostly rely on each other, and not on Lady Blanches cousin, young Neville, Duke of Anglesey who neither of them trust and are suspecting of trying to kill Blanche.

The two main characters were very likable once you got to know them better and understand their backgrounds. Trust never came easy to them and trusting each other took some time. Once Gavin finds out who Dillian really is and learns of her childhood, he can’t help but admire the woman she’s become. The same goes for Dillian, although it was much harder for her to get to know the man behind the scars.

What I also appreciated in this story is the realness brought to the love scenes between the two. There was no coyness in them and the chemistry was purely sexual in the beginning. Both individuals knew what they wanted from each other, and frankly neither wanted nor could offer more, at the time. I liked that.

Even though the story starts off a bit slow, I understood the reasons behind it. The author chose that course in order for me to get familiar with the cast of characters as well as the setting of the plot, and I for one appreciate that she did. It helped me to understand the dynamic between the main and secondary characters, and the relationship between the hero and the heroine. As the story develops, so does the plot and the pace is picked up. Ms. Rice knows her craft and there were no loopholes left in this well written, very solid and highly entertaining mystery filled romance.

As beauty and the beast stories go, this one’s one of the best I’ve read so far. I also read the sequel to it, The English Heiress, which is Michael and Blanches story, and recommend it highly as well.