Amanda O'Connell is in a scrape. If she doesn't find a husband while she's in America, her father will marry her off against her will.
Then Christopher Claybourne--a dark, mysterious rogue sentenced to death--inspires a plan. She'll marry him secretly, and then return to England a widow.
Everything works perfectly, until Amanda meets her father's new racehorse trainer. He's gorgeous, he's a gentleman and he's...her husband! Christopher has escaped, determined to clear his name. Then he'll claim what is rightfully his--his title and his bride!
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May 31, 2007
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Excerpt from Rogue's Widow, Gentlemans Wife by Helen Dickson
Charleston, South Carolina--1880
A long column of sullen-looking convicts--black and white--moved slowly and painfully down the sun-baked street. Ragged and barefooted, they were fettered together like beasts of burden, their heavy iron ankle chains rubbing pitilessly against their skin, tearing and making it bleed. The men guarding them walked alongside, thick canes in their hands, urging them along with curses and threats. Others rode in front and behind, the harnesses jingling on their horses.
The traffic was heavy, the pavements swarming with people of all colours, passing through every shade of brown to black. Their clothes were gaily coloured, and the soft blur of the southern speech fell pleasantly on a stranger's ears.
Having become stuck in a mass of horses and traps and fine carriages of the well-to-do to let the convicts shuffle past, Amanda sat beside Nan, her maid. With the sun beating down on them the heat was intense, the humidity making it feel even hotter. Amos, Aunt Lucy's faithful old retainer, was sitting with an air of dignified authority, loosely holding the reins.
He was content to wait it out, but the horses shifted restlessly, eager to be on the move.
Beneath her pretty parasol, which shielded her from the harsh glare, Amanda, too, was restless and impatient to continue, her frustration and temper simmering in the increasing heat. She spared no thought to the wretched prisoners. Her whole focus was on her low spirits. What she did care about was the fact that she was to leave Charleston five days hence for her home in England.
Feeling uncomfortable in the heat, Nan swatted an irritating fly from her cheek. Tipping her bonnet back, she wiped her damp forehead. 'This heat is getting me down. God willing we won't have to endure it much longer and we'll soon be back in England. Never again will you hear me complain about the cold and rain."
"Trust you to say that, Nan," Amanda exclaimed impatiently. Coming to America had been a whole new experience for her, and, without her father's domineering presence, she had been enjoying herself far too much to think of leaving just yet. But circumstances had turned against her. 'Oh, why did Aunt Lucy have to die--just when life held such promise. It has all turned out so different from what I had planned. I have failed dismally, Nan."
Despite her own discomfort, Nan smiled across at her young mistress, thinking how pretty she looked, how cool and elegant in her sky-blue-gingham sprigged gown and a widebrimmed straw bonnet that hid much of her wealth of burgundy-coloured hair. And yet despite Amanda's sweet and charming look, she was, in reality, stubborn, touchy, intransigent and independent, rebellious of all discipline, truculent when denied her own way, and with passions that were easily stirred, like her father, with nothing of her cousin Charlotte's mild-tempered, forbearing nature. In Nan's opinion, who was ten years her mistress's senior, she called for firm handling. She had been indulged by an adoring father and allowed to go her own way for too long.
"It isn't your fault. You weren't to know your aunt would die and your father order you back home."
A touch of anger came to add to the bitterness of Amanda's disappointment. She knew, as she had always known, that her father, having made a fortune out of his various business enterprises, had wanted to move in higher circles of society, and that she was the key to help him attain this.
"Since I have failed to find a suitable husband, he will marry me off without delay the minute I get off the ship. He's eager for me to marry and give him an heir, and he's got someone in mind, I know it--some titled old man whose name and position will be Father's entry into the world of blue-blooded aristocrats."