Richard Berkeley's Bride
Historical Romance, @300 pages
Turquoise Morning Press
Will his ambitions and her fears imperil their future?
In Charlestowne, South Carolina Colony, 1769, a ship docks containing a treasure beyond most men's dreams--Lord Edward's lovely daughter, Alexandra--destined for one fortunate man, Richard Berkeley.
Although he's the scion of a wealthy prominent family, the arranged marriage unlocks the door to far greater wealth and power than Richard ever hoped to achieve. He soon learns his lordship's offer to instate him as his sole heir isn't the only treasure worth risking his life for. Alexandra is the true prize.
Intrigued by the proud, wealthy beauty soon to become his wife, Richard sets aside his mistress. But Eliza Perrineau had long schemed to become Richard's fiancÃ©e and is furious when he cast her off. Her plans for revenge quickly swell wildly and threaten to destroy Richard. Her cousin, Lord Thomas Graham plans to ensure his untimely demise and has him charged with murder. Unless Richard can prove his innocence fast, he'll swing for a crime he didn't commit.
Alexandra has her own secrets--including deep-seated fears that imperil their chance for happiness. But Richard discovers Alexandra's love is a prize worth protecting--if only he can help her overcome her fears and past struggles to create a marriage truly worthy of their love.
Charlestowne, South Carolina Colony, March 1768
Richard Berkeley broke the wax seal on his fatherâs message and read, â14th March. Lord Edwardâs house, Meeting Street. Supper, eight oâclock. We have an offer to tender.
Postscript: Itâs time you married, boy. We want heirs.
Richardâs eyes widened and one eyebrow ratcheted up several notches. What in hell does this mean? Marriageâ¦heirs? What the devil are my father and Lord Edward up to now?
Heâd once considered ways he hated starting his day and this note just shot to the top of his list.
It occurred to him one of two possibilities existed. Either a life-changing opportunity knocked or he should run the other wayâfast. The latter option was undoubtedly the best.
âCome in, my son, come in.â Thomas Berkeley boomed, clapping Richardâs shoulder. âWeâve been waiting for you.â
He turned and indicated a winged armchair across from Lord Edward. His fatherâs hearty good humor deepened Richardâs wariness.
A worm of suspicion wriggled into Richardâs core. The glee contained in his fatherâs words triggered his conjecture that his elder barely restrained himself from rubbing his hands together in eagerness.
Richard sat, and crossed an ankle over his knee. He contained an urge to drum his fingers on the chairâs arm and gripped it instead, while brooding, not for the first time that day, over what game these two schemers played. So he smolderedânot a little irritated over their intrusion into his well-deserved freedomâand gripped the chair so hard he left a deep imprint in the chairâs well-padded arm.
âGood evening, my boy. Busy day?â
Lord Edward Campbell passed Richard a shimmering tumbler half-full of whisky. More than
a little smug, his lordshipâs piercing, blue-eyed stare pinned Richard against the chairâs back. Richard had always admired Lord Edwardâs ability to miss not a single detail during complex negotiations. Yet his admiration did nothing to decrease his mounting uneasiness.
Flickering candles alight in eight-branched candelabras, set on tables near them, chased deep dusk from the room and sparkled in the panes of tall, satin-draped windows.
Richardâs quick glance slid toward first one man, then the other, still pondering what these two wanted of him. What did their earlier comment regarding his conjugal condition have to do with anything? And heirs? Wide smirks plastered the older menâs features.
âPardon me, sirs, but you leave me with the grim notion that you havenât merely invited me to eat supperâbut to be the main course.â
Chuckling at Richardâs quip, Lord Edward leaned forward. âThomas and I wish to propose a betrothal.â
Richardâs head snapped up. A pinâs drop, falling onto the Persian carpet beneath his feet, would have echoed throughout the room. Well, now I know.
âA betrothal, my lord? May I ask to whom?â
Richard took a modest sip of the excellent whisky to cover his sudden urge to gulp. Itâs a damned good thing my mouth wasnât full of this when he made that pronouncement or his lordship might have worn the evidence of my surprise. It was the single thing heâd found to smile aboutâ¦if only a smile could be mustered. His father and Lord Edward grinned enough for all three of them, like two aging cats that had gotten into a canaryâs cage with satisfactory results.
His lordshipâs meticulous scrutiny left Richard feeling as though he were a naturalistâs specimen.
âYes, Richard. My daughter, Alexandra, is now of age and soon to have her London season. Afterward, she will return home and then you both may marry. My father assures me she resembles her mother in every way.â
Richardâs glance skipped toward a portrait of Lady Georgiana, hanging above the fireplace. He knew the painting well, having seen it many times, and admired the ladyâs extraordinary beauty. Lord Edwardâs daughter might be the mirror image of her mother, yet he wasnât ready to surrender the freedom his bachelor life afforded, nor ready to change his connubial status.
At twenty-six, he deemed himself entitled to independence. After years spent pursuing his studies, first at Eton, then Christ Church, Oxford and, afterward, Londonâs Middle Temple, heâd worked hard to gain credentials anyone would find impressive for a man his age. Hard upon his return to Charlestowne, Lord Edward, his old mentor, lured him into his far-flung shipping venture and other financial schemes.
âIâm pleased youâd consider me worthy of your daughter, My Lord. I recall her, of course, but she was just a small child when I left for England. I know little of her except her name.â
âHm-m. Yes, that is a difficulty, my boy.â His Lordship stared at him, and steepled his fingers. âOf course, she will be home next year and then you may meet her.â
Richard cleared his throat. âIf I may, sir, I sail to London next month on business. May I propose meeting her then? Afterward, Iâll reply to your proposal.â
One of Lord Edwardâs elegant brows lifted. âShe leaves London for Inveraray Castle, my fatherâs home in Scotland, before your arrival in London, Richard.â He stirred in his chair and crossed one leg over the other. âIf you wish, I will send a letter of introduction to my father with you. After our affairs in London are concluded you may travel to Argyllshire to meet her.â
âIâm flattered, sir. I will, of course, be happy to make your daughterâs acquaintance. May I ask why I was chosen?â Richard was careful to remain blasÃ©.
âI have intended you for her since you were but a young lad.â His lordshipâs smug grin was that of a man satisfied all his plans had come to fruition.
âThomas permitted me a share in your rearing, Richard. You have grown to be a fine man whom I admire and trust. I flatter myself I played a small role in the outcome. Indeed, I could not be prouder of you if you were my own son.â
âEdward and I spoke of this possibility when you and his daughter were both but youngsters, my son. Itâs our hope youâll concede to our proposal.â
Two pairs of shrewd eyes in the faces of his elders stabbed him. âYour marriage to my daughter will unite two excellent names and fortunes into a mighty alliance. I will, of course, make you my heir.
It was the coup Ä grÃ¢ce. Richard strove but failed to restrain the outward sign of the piercing pleasure that speared him.
Thoughts cascaded through his head. Well, Iâd hoped to create a name and fortune in Charlestowne. Here it isâ¦offered up for the taking.
Possessed of a prominent and ancient name in the city, Richardâs family was amongst the colonyâs most affluent. The eldest son of the eldest son, heâd inherit it all.
âThe question is,â he thought, âam I willing to surrender my independence for a girl I hardly remember? Well, Richard old man, thereâs only one way to know.â And, if he was right, she just might be the wife he soughtâthe one worth far more than his forfeited bachelorhood.
Lord Edward snapped the seal on the message and scanned the few words, allowing a slow triumphant smile to slide onto his face.
Thursday, 20th October 1768
I have been introduced to your daughter. Miss Campbell is everything you described, yet far more. Consider me the willing fly caught in your web, my lord. I accept your proposal. I am
Your obedient servant &c
I am a writer of historical romances. As a member of Romance Writers of America, Celtic Hearts Romance Writers and Celtic Rose Writers, I'm write historical romance. Iâve been an avid reader all my life and began writing seriously eight years ago. In my day job, I am a registered nurse. It has been my privilege to practice Pediatric nursing during my entire career. Iâm also the wife of a retired U.S. Navy Officer. I've lived and travelled with him for the twenty-six years of his career. With him I've visited England, Canada, Mexico and all but four of the United States. Thanks to him, I've dipped my toes in every body of water that washes Americaâs shores, including the Gulfs of Mexico and California and even the Arctic Ocean (br-r). Iâve travelled over, under and on both the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. After many journeys across this great nation and back again, I now live, love and write among the foothills of the Smoky Mountains in lovely Northeast Tennessee.
As it happens, I was born on a Tuesday. I'm convinced my mother made a mistake, though. I believe she meant to give birth to me the previous Thursday. According to the old Mother Goose tale, which says Thursday's Child has far to go, my life would have been far better defined. Also, I would have been born under the sign of the lion, which would have reflected my redheaded temperament much, much better. It's true. What could my mother have been thinking??? (I really had red hair once upon a time. I was born with it and had it all my life--until not long ago...but thatâs another story. That's true, too.)
According to that dear old Mother Goose tale, I should have been born full of grace. So very sad, but nobody ever, ever attributed me with this particular virtue. After only one college class in dance I was convinced of the unfortunate truth. I canât sing. True. Nobody would ever ask me to do more than add volume to a chorus. I canât paint or even draw a picture using more than shoddy stick figures. My mother was an artist. Dear Mom didnât pass along a single shred of her skill. So what does a girl do whose soul demands expression? She becomes a writer to fulfill its burning need. Thatâs also true.
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