They call her the porcelain princess...
With her fragile beauty and regal bearing, the Duchess of Warneham knows how to keep her admirers at a distance. Twice wed and twice widowed, Antonia has vowed never again to marry; never again to surrender her freedom. But when her husband's death is deemed suspicious, and his long-lost heir returns to seize control of the dukedom, she finds that fate has placed her future in yet another man's hands -- but not just any man.
They call him a cold-hearted bastard...
Deep in London's docklands, Gareth Lloyd runs Neville Shipping with an iron fist. Unrecognizable as the starving orphan who was abandoned by his family and sent an ocean away from home, Gareth has put his troubled past behind him. That is, until the Duke of Warneham is murdered, and Gareth turns out to be the dynasty's last living heir. Wrenched from his solitude, Gareth neither wants nor needs the honors and obligations of nobility -- especially the Duke's all-too-tempting widow.... Or does he?
Carlyle's second Neville family novel (after Never Lie to a Lady) revisits the wounded hero story line and adds a touch of mystery. Through a twist of fate, Gareth Lloyd, part owner of Neville Shipping, discovers that the title of duke of Warneham has now fallen to him. It's a bitter inheritance for Gareth, who as a child was sentenced by the old duke to a hardscrabble life aboard ship. Reluctantly, Gareth visits his new country estate, Selsdon Court, only to discover the duke's beautiful widow, Antonia, still in residence. Passion flares between the emotionally damaged pair as Antonia reveals her grief over the death of a young daughter, and Gareth faces anti-Jewish sentiment among the upper class (an atypical touch that works well). The author's natural, concise writing style, attention to historical detail and fully formed characters make her world spring to life, and her plot never flags; Carlyle even finds room for a dose of mystery, as Gareth's friend, Kemble, investigates the poisoning death of the previous duke. As usual, Carlyle doesn't disappoint. (Aug.)
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July 22, 2007
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Excerpt from Never Deceive a Duke by Liz Carlyle
The sun beamed down, warming the fragrant grass of Finsbury Circus. Gabriel played with his wooden animals, queuing them up across his blanket. Papa bent down, his thin, brown hand plucking one from the queue. "Gabe, what is this one called?"
Gabriel moved his tiger into the empty space. "Frederick," he said simply.
His father laughed. "No, what kind of animal is it?"
Gabriel though it a silly question. "Frederick is an elephant. You sent him to me from India."
"Yes, that's right," said Papa.
His mother laughed lightly. "Gabriel had memorized the entire animal kingdom, I think, by the time he was three, Charles. I rather doubt there is much you can teach him now."
With a sigh, Papa leaned back on the bench. "I have missed so much, Ruth," he said, taking her hand in his. "Too much -- and I am to miss a great deal more, I fear."
Mamma's face fell. "Oh, Charles, I did not mean -- " Abruptly, she drew a handkerchief from her pocket and delicately coughed into it. "Oh! I beg your pardon. I sound frightful, do I not?"
Papa frowned. "You must see to that cough as soon as I am gone, my love," he chided. "Gabriel, can you help Mamma to remember? She is to see Dr. Cohen tomorrow -- and not a moment later."
"Yes, sir." Gabriel plucked one of the monkeys from his queue and handed it to his father.
Papa balanced the monkey in his palm. "This is for me?"
"It's Henry," said Gabriel. "He will go back to India with you. For company."
Papa tucked the monkey into his regimental jacket, then ruffled Gabriel's hair. "Thank you, Gabe," he said. "I shall miss you terribly. Are you all right here, you and Mamma, with Zayde and Bubbe?"
Gabriel nodded. His mother set her hand on Papa's knee. "It is better we continue on this way, Charles, until things settle down for us," she said softly. "Truly, it is. Do you mind terribly?"
Papa laid his hand over hers. "The only thing I would mind, my love, would be your unhappiness."
The offices of Neville Shipping along Wapping Wall were a beehive of activity, with clerks rushing up and down the stairs carrying last-minute contracts, bills of lading, insurance policies, and the occasional cup of tea. London's muggy August heat did little to calm the fervor, though every window had been thrown open to the morning breeze, which was just strong enough to carry in the stench of the Thames, and very little else.
Standing over her desk, Miss Xanthia Neville scarcely noticed the smell of putrid mud and fermenting sewage. Nor did she hear the rattle of the cooperage's carts, or the lightermen bellowing at one another along the water below. After less than a year in Wapping, she was inured to it all. But this blasted accounting -- ah, that was another matter! Exasperated, Miss Neville threw down her pencil, and raked the hair back off her face.
"Gareth?" She glanced up at a passing clerk. "Siddons, where is Gareth Lloyd? I need him at once."