New Year’s Eve is hot and sultry—in more ways than one, when the tall, handsome Prince of Lochac fixes the newest lady in his court with his magnetic gaze, and crosses the hall to bow to her.
Who can say No to a prince? Especially a charmer like Will Bradshaw? Caitlin has to wonder, when people mention his reputation.
Will is wondering too. It’s been seven years since his divorce. Has he found the woman he can place on a pedestal, high above the hurts of the past?
There’s a couple of problems. What if the one ill-judged mistake of Caitlin’s past happens to be the one fault he can’t accept? Can he overcome his emotional conflict, and can Caitlin deal with her lack of trust, surging up as jealousy and fear that she’s about to lose the love of her life?
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Biographical note: Margaret is a New Zealand author who lives in Australia. She has written modern and historical fiction, a book for children and several short story collections.Her earlier novels and short stories have won several major prizes including a New Zealand Scholarship in Letters and two Australia Council awards. Her latest books are warm-hearted romances with dogs expressing their personalities in the stories. Margaret’s website is at www.margaretsutherland.com
EXCERPT FROM VALENTINE MASQUERADE
Lifting the hem of her skirt above the summer dust, Caitlin followed Heather and the girls toward the entrance of an unimpressive hall. The paint was flaking and the building looked like the site of a scout meeting or country dance.
Inside, she drew an involuntary gasp. The change was miraculous. Candles sent fluttering shadows through the twilight, burnishing the metallic shields and suits of armor of two attendants who waited to receive new arrivals. Silken banners embroidered in fantastic designs swayed in the gentle breeze blowing through open windows. Men and women in gorgeous-hued dress stood in groups or glided among tables set with platters, goblets, old-fashioned spoons and large forks.
Tonight she could easily believe in time travel. Strolling players wove among the groups, making music with recorders, flutes and other instruments she was unfamiliar with; perhaps lutes or viola da gamba. She was greeted and introduced with courtly bows and gracious phrases of welcome that somehow inspired similar responses to trip from her tongue as though she’d been groomed for just such occasions. The atmosphere seemed to mask something significant; some important event that was about to touch and even change her. Alert, she sat quietly next to Heather on the wooden bench and drew her two nieces to sit on either side of her like small golden shields.
“Stay with me for a little while?”
The girls were content to sit and stare at the activity, as members set up a mock throne and unfurled a roll of ruby carpet. Apparently the coronation was about to begin.
“Which one is going to be crowned?” she whispered, and her nieces stared around.
“That’s the prince!” Jackie sounded awestruck. She was pointing to a tall figure, resplendent in royal purple cape, who had just entered from a side door. Looking every inch a man who could carry a crown, he stood quietly, scanning the room. Draped cuffs fell gracefully over long hands as he gestured to various friends. Masculine boots set off muscular legs, confirming his strength and regal appearance.
“That’s Will Bradshaw,” murmured Heather. “I think he’s seen the new lady in his court.”
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