After years in Canada, Simon St. Bride is ready to return to England. But his plans are delayed by a duel and a young woman he feels honor bound to marry, knowing that his family is unlikely to welcome her. For despite her beauty and seeming innocence, Jane Otterburn is hesitant to speak of her past. But when treachery strikes their world, Simon and Jane must fight side by side and they discover a love beyond price and a passion beyond measure.
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March 07, 2006
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Excerpt from The Rogue's Return by Jo Beverley
York, Upper Canada, September 1816
When silence settles raggedly on a group of drinking men, it's wise to brace for trouble.
Simon St. Bride was playing whist in D'Arcy Boulton's house and had been as unaware of the noise of voices as of the smoke from clay pipes and cigarillos. As the last few careless voices stopped, however, he came alert. The back of his neck prickled especially when Boulton, his card partner, glanced sharply beyond him.
He was about to turn when he heard: "Damned peculiar if you ask me."
Simon could envision the Indian Affairs officer fleshy, high-colored, with abundant dark curls glossy with pomade and sharp dark eyes set a bit too close. His collar would be too high, his waistcoat too loud, his brass buttons too big, but he'd think himself the very picture of a man of fashion.
Simon wouldn't give a fig about that if the funds for McArthur's tasteless excesses weren't stolen. For years, the man had been using tricks and lies to embezzle money and goods sent to reward the Indian tribes for fighting for the British in the recent war.
Simon had lingered here in Upper Canada to dig out evidence that would bring the man down. He was ready to leave but had been warned only days ago that McArthur had caught wind of his work. Beneath the friendly warning, he'd heard another message.
Go back to aristocratic England, where you belong.
So now McArthur was openly stirring trouble. With what purpose, and how to react?
Most of the gentlemen in this room were casual friends, but most would also be in favor of anything that drove the Indians west into wilder lands, freeing up land for settlement and prosperity.
"My lead, I think," Simon said and put down the five of clubs. Captain Farleigh to his left played to it and the game went on. Conversation shook itself and revived, but half of Boulton's attention was still on matters behind Simon's back.
Simon knew McArthur would love to stick a knife into him, but he wouldn't. Not here, in a gentleman's house. Not even in the street on a dark night.
There were others attempting to redress wrongs, principally the Quakers, but they didn't have, as people put it, "the clout" back in England. He, however, did. He was a St. Bride of Brideswell, closely related to the Earl of Marlowe and distantly to nearly every titled family in Britain. He also had powerful friends, and in the cause had let names drop. The Earl of Charrington. Viscounts Amleigh and Middlethorpe. The Marquess of Arden, heir to the dukedom of Belcraven.