Tangled Love
153 pages
English

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153 pages
English

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Tangled Love is the story of two great estates. The throne has been usurped by James II’s daughter and son-in-law, Mary and William of Orange. In 1693, loyal to his oath of allegiance, ten-year old Richelda’s father must follow James to France. Before her father leaves, he gives her a ruby ring she will treasure and wear on a chain round her neck. In return, Richelda swears an oath to try to regain their ancestral home, Field House. By the age of eighteen, Richelda’s beloved parents are dead. She believes her privileged life is over. At home in dilapidated Belmont House, her only companions are her mother’s old nurse and her devoted dog, Puck. Clad in old clothes, she dreams of elegant dresses, and trusts her childhood friend Dudley, a poor parson’s son, who promised to marry her, but he is not as he seems. Richelda’s wealthy aunt takes her to London and arranges her marriage to Viscount Chesney, the new owner of Field House. Richelda is torn between love for Dudley and her oath to regain Field House, where it is rumoured there is treasure. If she finds it, Richelda hopes to ease their lives. However, while searching for it, will her life be in danger?

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Publié par
Date de parution 01 mars 2014
Nombre de lectures 1
EAN13 9781773624457
Langue English

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Tangled Love By Rosemary Morris Digital ISBNs EPUB 978-1-77362-445-7 Aindle 978-1-77299-216-8 WEB 978-1-77362-446-4
Print ISBN 978-1-77299-215-1
Copyright 2014 Rosemary Morris Cover Ārt by Michelle Lee Āll rights reserved. Without limiting the rights un der copyright reserved above, no part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in or introduced into a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form, or by any mean s (electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise) without the prior written permission of both the copyright owner and the publisher of this book. Dedication For my late husband and mother who encouraged me to write.
Prologue –1693 Nine year-old Richelda Shaw sat on the floor in her nursery. She pulled a quilt over her head to block out the thunder pealing outside t he ancient manor house, while an even fiercer storm raged deep within. Eyes closed, she remained as motionless as a marble statue. Elsie, her mother’s personal maid, removed the quil t from her head. “Stand up child, there’s nothing to be frightened of. Come, your father’s waiting for you.” Richelda trembled. Until now Father’s short visits from France meant gifts and laughter. This one made Mother cry while servants s poke in hushed tones. Followed by Elsie, Richelda hurried down the broad oak stairs. For a moment, she paused to admire Lilies of the Valley in a Delft bo wl. Only yesterday, she had picked the flowers to welcome Father home, and then arranged t hem with tender care. Now, the bowl stood on a chest, beneath a pair of crossed broadswords hanging on the wall. Elsie opened the massive door of the great hall whe re Father waited at one side of an enormous hearth. Richelda hesitated. Her eyes se arched for her mother before she walked across the floor, spread her skirts wide, an d knelt before him. Father placed his right hand on her bent head. “Ble ss you, daughter; may God keep you safe.” He smiled. “Stand up, child. Upon my word, sweethea rt, your hair reminds me of a golden rose. How glad I am to see roses bloom in th ese troubled times.” Richelda stood but dared not speak, for she did not know him well. Putting an arm round her waist, he drew her to him. “Come, do not be nervous of your father, child. Tell me if you know King James II holds court in France while his daughter, Mary, and William, his son-in-law, rule, after seizing his throne?” “Yes, Mother told me we are well rid of King James and his Papist wife,” she piped up, proud of her knowledge. With a sigh, Father lifted her onto his knee. “Rich elda, I must follow His Majesty, for I swore an oath of allegiance to him. Tell me, chil d, while King James lives, how can I with honour swear allegiance to his disloyal daughter and her husband?” Unable to think of a reply, she lowered her head, b reathing in his spicy perfume. Father held her closer. “Your mother pleads with me to declare myself for William and Mary. She begs me not to return to France, but I am obliged to serve King James. Do you understand?” As she nodded, her cheek brushed against his velvet coat. “Yes, I understand, my tutor told me why many gentlemen will not serve the new king and queen.” “If you remain in England, you will be safe. Bellem ont is part of your mother’s dowry, so I doubt it will be confiscated.” If she remained in England! Startled, she stared at him. Smiling, he popped her onto her feet. “We shall rid e. I have something to show you.” * * *
Before long, they drew rein on the brow of a hill. Father pointed at a manor house in the valley. “Look at our ancestral home, Field House. The Round heads confiscated it soon after the first King Charles’ execution. Richelda, I promised my father to do all in my power to regain the property.” Grey-faced, he pressed his hand to his chest. “Alas , I have failed to keep my oath,” He wheezed. Richelda not only yearned to help him keep his prom ise to her grandfather, she also wanted to find the gold and jewels which legend sai d her buccaneer ancestor, Sir Nicholas, had hid. She waited for her father to breathe easy before sh e spoke. “If we found the treasure trove you could buy Field House.” “Ah, you believe Sir Nicholas did not give all his plunder to Good Queen Bess,” he teased. “Elsie told me legend says he hid some of his booty in Field House.” The thought of it excited her. “In his old age, when Sir Nicholas retired from seafaring, is it true that he put his ship’s figurehead, Lady Luck, in the great hall?” “Yes, for all I know she is still above a mighty fi replace carved with pomegranates, our family’s device.” “I would like to see it.” “One day, perhaps you will. Now, tell me if you kno w our family motto.” “Fortune favours the brave.” “Are you brave, my little lady? Will you swear on t he Bible to do all in your power to regain Field House?” To please him, and excited by the possibility of di scovering treasure, she nodded.
Chapter One Fothering Place, London, England ~ 1702 At ease in his lodgings, Alban, Viscount Chesney, e yed his friend, Jack, Duke of Hertfordshire, whose tall frame was clad in extrava gant silk and velvet. Gem-set rings, illuminated by brilliant candlelight, adorned his l ong fingers. Why did His Grace’s dark square face, with its clef t chin, look tense while he toyed with his periwig? His dark amber eyes keen, Jack spoke. “My bailiff t ells me you bought Field House. Chesney knew all about Jack’s insatiable hunger for land. In fact, Jack rarely missed a chance to add to his estates. “Yes, I did. He kept his tone smooth. Jack swallowed the last of his wine. “I would have bought it but for my fool of a bailiff who informed me too late of the sale. The viscount beckoned to Roberts, his servant. “Mor e wine for His Grace. He placed a hand over his glass when Roberts moved tow ard him Chesney glanced round his small but comfortable boo k-lined room. Although Jack was the most influential man and largest landowner in Hertfordshire, it had naught to do with their friendship. Jack stretched his legs out toward the fire. “Will you sell Field House to me? After all, both house and land have fallen into a sad sta te of neglect. “No, I look forward to restoring my estate. Do not argue with me; my mind is made up. Jack’s cheeks reddened. “Very well, but now you are my neighbour, you must visit me whenever you wish. He yawned. “The hour grows late. I will take my leave of you. Chesney stood. He bowed with mock formality. “I sha ll call on you with pleasure. They smiled at each other as Jack stood. Chesney looked at Roberts. “Fetch our cloaks. With an arm draped over Jack’s broad shoulders, Che sney stepped out of his lodgings. He glanced at the darkened street, bade g oodnight to Jack, and then hired a sedan chair to take him to his mistress’ lodgings. Once there, Chesney skirted a pile of noxious matte r, spilled from a leather bucket, put out for night-soil men to collect, before beati ng a tattoo on the door of her tall, narrow house. A pert maid, dressed in Madeleine’s cast-off finery , answered his summons. “Good day, Susie. She curtsied. “Welcome, my lord. Dimples deepened on either side of her mouth. “Madam told me she hoped for a visit from you, my l ord. “You look well, Susie. I trust your brother is still in good health. “Yes, my lord. Thank you, my lord. It’s more than k ind of you to ask. Chesney took off his hat. He tucked it under his ar m, careless of a dashing white plume curled round the black brim. “No need to anno unce me.
Susie did not protest when he marched up a short fl ight of stairs to Madeleine’s bedchamber. He lingered on the threshold, remembering when he f irst met sensuous Madeleine on the day her late husband, old Mister Purvey, cam e with a delegation to the French court. Chesney sighed. He knew she had hoped to mar ry him after Mister Purvey died in defence of her tarnished honour in a duel in Lei cester Fields, but he suspected he was not her only lover, so it would be out of the q uestion to marry her for fear she would cuckold him, and pass a bastard son off as his heir . Chesney rapped on the door, sure of his welcome. Without waiting for permission, he entered the small room, took a taper from the mantelpiece, and touched the lighted wick to the fire. He used the same flickering flame to light tall wax candles in wall sconces. Immediately thick rugs, tapestries, and brocade curtains were illuminated. Madeleine remained abed. “My lord. She brushed bac k her wavy brown hair before she extended her carefully tended hand to him. “Madam, by your leave. Instead of kissing her hand , he sat on a chair by the hearth. Maddy had aged since he first met her. Yet, with skin like polished ivory which invited his touch, lips and cheeks the colour of ap ple blossoms, and almond-shaped hazel eyes, he still appreciated her attractive fea tures. As for her long, elegant limbs and full breasts, he found no fault with them. She giggled while smoothing the lace-edged ruffles at the neck of her nightgown. “Such formality, sir? “Madeleine. He addressed her by her full name instead of by her sobriquet, Maddy. Her eyes widened. “How serious you look. Has someth ing untoward occurred? Poor Maddy, not only did she demand too much of his time, she also expected him to pay for too many luxuries. Though he feared her hysterics, he refused to be swayed. Coming to the point, despite his reluctance to caus e her pain—for throughout his life, it had never been his intention to hurt anyone either deliberately or accidentally—he spoke. “I am sorry to grieve you, my dear, but to q uote Shakespeare, ‘parting is such sweet sorrow.’ Thrusting the covers aside, Maddy sprang out of bed . With her tiny hands outstretched, she rushed toward him. “What do you m ean, Chesney? Why quote words from Romeo and Juliet? He held out his hands to ward her off. “We must part. “No! I love you. I cannot live without you. She sa nk to the floor. “I doubt you love me. He smoothed his face into an inscrutable mask. Maddy’s eyes filled with tears. “Chesney, since my husband died I have been waiting for you to propose marriage. If she had never taken any other lover, he would ha ve more sympathy with her, but Maddy had been unfaithful to her elderly husband si nce she first married. His nostrils flared. He doubted Maddy’s nature allowed her to re main faithful to any man. She jumped up and rushed across the room to fling h erself face down on her bed. “I am not yet done with you for I do love you. I do! I do! She sobbed, pounding a plump pillow with clenched fists.
He hesitated. Had he misjudged her feelings for him , by believing them to be shallow? Even if he had, he could not marry such a woman. “Have I not made you happy? Maddy twisted round to face him, hostility in her eyes. Chesney sought a way to help her accept his decisio n. “We enjoyed our bed sport, yet you never quickened with child. As you know, du ty requires me to father an heir. No more tears. You told me a score of times you cannot abide puking babes. What’s more, you always claimed thoughts of motherhood dismay yo u. If you are honest, you will admit you could not tolerate your body thickening s o I could never be brute enough to insist on fathering your child. Maddy stared at him, wide-eyed. “You are mistaken, I would be happy to bear your children. He bowed. Her words were as false as her modesty. “My dear, I cannot allow you to sacrifice yourself on the altar of reluctant motherhood. “Then you are a true nobleman to part with me, your love, out of consideration as well as duty. His lips twitched. A cough concealed his amusement. He knew Maddy thrived on playacting. In all likelihood, she would convince h erself she had set him free. He did not doubt that before long she would either wed an unfo rtunate cuckold or console herself with other lovers. He picked up his hat Cat-like, her eyes narrowed. “Chesney, give me a kiss to remember you by. Chesney kissed her cheek before he left the house. Should he leave town to prevent Maddy pestering him? * * * The following day, Chesney rapped his cane on the f ront door of Isobel Ware’s London mansion. Sister of his late father’s friend, he did not know her well. He wondered why she had summoned him. “Lord Chesney? Bennet, Lady Isobel’s middle-aged b utler, looked at him respectfully. Chesney inclined his head. “This way, my lord. You are expected. Bennet led h im up the stairs to a beautifully appointed parlour on the first floor where he annou nced him to Lady Isobel. Chesney raised his voice above the barks of six Kin g Charles Cavalier spaniels. “Your servant, Lady Isobel. Lady Isobel waved a hand at her little dogs. “Be qu iet. Her ladyship inclined her head to him. “My lord, I am pleased to see you. Full glass in his hand, Chesney sat. “My lord, I shall come straight to the point. I sum moned you to propose marriage to my niece, Richelda Shaw. In all honesty, I assure y ou it would be to your advantage. While she waited for his reply, the petite lady pat ted her silvery hair with one hand. With her other hand she fluttered her fan which she peeped over girlishly.
“You flatter me, Madam, he drawled. Lady Isobel’s dainty shrug released her cloying per fume of lavender mingled with roses and vanilla. She snapped her fan shut and the n tapped his arm with it. “You are mistaken. I do not flatter you. I offer you and my niece a solution. My late brother, the earl, and your father followed King James to France . You are gossiped about. People eye you as distrustfully as I think my niece will b e eyed when I bring her to London. “Are you not gossiped about, Lady Isobel? After all , your brother’s conversion to the Church of Rome must place you and your family under government scrutiny. For my part, I thank God my father remained true to The An glican Church. Lady Isobel shuddered. “Do not mention the matter, my lord. I vow I had no sympathy with my brother when he became a Papist. A ll I can do is thank God he was not tried as a traitor and his head is not displaye d at the Tower of London. Chesney shifted his position, smothering a yawn beh ind his hand before he made a cautious reply. “I am neither a Jacobite nor a Papi st. I apologise for mentioning the matter of your brother’s conversion. “Some more wine, Viscount? He shook his head, leaning back to deliberately pre sent a picture of a man completely at his ease. Lady Isobel arched her eyebrows. She sipped her win e. “All London knows I am a wealthy woman. She blinked the sheen of tears from her eyes. “My lord, ‘tis cruel not only to suffer widowhood thrice but to also lose my only child. Acknowledging her grief, he bowed his head. “My con dolences, Madam. “Thank you. She dabbed her eyes with a black handk erchief. “My poor daughter’s death is my niece’s gain. If Richelda is obedient, she will inherit all my property. Her ladyship rested her head against the back of he r chair. She opened her fan and plied it restlessly while she scrutinised him. “What do you think of my proposal, my lord? Chesney sat straighter. She had not minced her word s. He smiled with his usual forthrightness. “As yet I have neither put myself o n the matrimonial market nor made my fortune and title available to any lady who wishes to marry me. “I hear you purchased Field House. She tapped her fan on the arm of her chair. “Yes, I did, he replied in a neutral tone. “Well, sir, I shall speak bluntly. My niece’s lands are adjacent to yours. Through marriage, you would double your estate by acquiring my niece’s mansion, Bellemont House and all the land around it. As for my niece, she would become mistress of Field House, my childhood home. He inclined his head, curious now as to what the ol d lady’s motive was. Ah, did she want him to marry her niece because she had a senti mental attachment to his estate? Undeterred by his silence, Lady Isobel continued. “ I know your circumstances. Though you have no close relative, you are saddled with a clutch of distant relations who anticipate your help to advance in the world. Devil take it, she was correct. His family looked to him for pat ronage. They expected him to marry well and produce an heir. Con found it, not one of them had
regained their positions, lands, or fortunes after the first King Charles’s execution. His grandfather’s fortunate marriage to a French heires s had saved him from poverty. Her ladyship’s Roman nose twitched. Her thin lips c urved in a predatory smile. “You will consider the match? Reluctant to say anything she might interpret as hi s agreement to marry Lady Richelda, he nodded. “I will do no more than consid er it. “Good, I shall not press you further. She hesitate d with her fan mid-air, only to flutter it agitatedly. “I would prefer you not to t ell anyone my niece is my heiress. When she comes to town, I do not want a flock of fortune hunters to approach her. “On my honour, I will not mention it to anyone. By the way, when will Lady Richelda arrive? “This week. He stood. Each of the small dogs wagged their tails , stirred, and yapped for attention round his ankles. Deep in thought, he ign ored them. Although no thought of imminent marriage had entered his head when he arri ved, he might change his mind after meeting her ladyship’s niece. It was time he married, and if she proved pleasant enough, maybe— Lady Isobel clapped her hands. “My poppets like you , and believe me, my lord, they are good judges of character. Chesney restrained an incipient chuckle at his sudd en notion of her ladyship’s dogs tricked out in wigs and gowns to judge him. “I am c omplimented by their approval, my lady. He bowed and kissed her bejeweled hand. “As for your niece, only providence knows if she and I are suited. With a rustle of black silk, Lady Isobel rose. “I b elieve you and Lady Richelda are well matched.
ChapterTwo Chesney stepped from Lady Isobel’s spacious house i nto King Street and walked toward Whitehall. Although the proposal to marry La dy Richelda had taken him by surprise, he gave further thought to accepting it. Yet he would not wait for Lady Richelda to come to town where she would doubtless parade in the latest fashions, powder and patch. Where did she live? He searched h is memory. Ah, now he remembered. She lived at Bellemont which Lady Isobe l had mentioned lay close by his newly purchased property.Wothhy not hazard a journey there to cast an eye over b domains? His stride quickened to keep pace with his racing m ind. Was the young lady tall or short, plain or pretty, fair-haired or brunette, me ek or shrewish, illiterate or well educated? Cocksure, Chesney took her acceptance of his proposal for granted. After all, why should she refuse a well-educated, not ill -favoured viscount? He knew it was time to settle down and have a famil y. If she proved suitable, he would wed her. After all, he could not deny he woul d welcome her inheritance. For his part, he would try not to give her cause for compla int by ensuring she lacked naught. They would refurbish Field House, improve the estat e, and purchase a house in London. His inner voice nagged him. What of love? For most people of his rank, sentiment had little to do with marriage. In fact, some said no lady concerned herself with the vulgarity of love or passion. A wife’s happiness an d satisfaction should be derived through ensuring her husband’s comfort, good deeds, plying her needle, and raising children. He sighed. A man in his position must marry if only to father heirs. “Look, an Adonis! Who is he? A high-pitched female voice interrupted his thoughts. Chesney looked round at a powdered and patched lady with rouged cheeks who was staring at him. “I don’t know. I think he’s a newcomer to town, he r companion, a younger lady, said in an equally strident tone. Unaffected by their comments, he laughed. Since his youth, women commented on his height and his perfect proportions. He did not consider himself vain, but unlike some members of his gentlemen’s club, who took little ex ercise and overate, he fenced, hunted, rode, and walked to keep his body fit. The older lady inclined her head, the younger one w inked before they went about their business. Chesney whistled low. What would Lady Richelda thin k of him? He contemplated his future with pleasure. With a smile, he thought of London’s coffeehouses, theatres, parks, concerts, and pleasure gardens. Lady Richeld a’s inheritance, added to his more modest one, would ensure they could command the ele gancies of life. When he reached his lodgings, he summoned Roberts. “Pack, we leave for Field House tomorrow. Send a message to the stables. I re quire my coach at eight in the morning. Is there anything to eat?
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