Independent heiress Louisa Stratton is going home to Rosemont for the holidays, and at the family’s request, she’s bringing her new husband—Maximillian Norwich, art connoisseur and artful lover, the man she’s written of so glowingly. There’s one hitch—he doesn’t exist. Louisa needs a fake husband, and fast, to make the proper impression.
Charles Cooper, captain of the Boer War and far from silver spoons or gilded cages, is so hard up that even this crazy scheme appeals to him. It’s only thirty days, not till death do them part. What’s so difficult about impersonating a husband, even if he doesn’t know a Rembrandt from a Rousseau?
The true difficulty is keeping his hands off Louisa once there’s nobody around to see their ruse. And then there’s the small problem of someone at Rosemont trying to kill him. Keeping his wits about him and protecting Louisa brings out the honor he thought he’d left on the battlefield. But when Louisa tries to protect him, Charles knows he’s found a way to face his future—in the arms of his heiress.
Thanks so much to Fatin and company for having me back! Today’s release day for In the Arms of the Heiress. It’s the first book in the Ladies Unlaced series, which is set in Edwardian England at the turn of the twentieth century. I’ve gone from carriages to cars, letters to marconigrams!
There’s still plenty of romance tinged with a bit of ragtime. NYT best-selling author Tessa Dare says: “Downton Abbey fans will fall in love with Maggie Robinson’s Ladies Unlaced series. Sexy intrigue, sharp wit, tender romance…In the Arms of the Heiress delivers them all, and in grand style. A must-read!”
True confession: I own the first season of Downton Abbey (which I loved, if only for the clothes and Maggie Smith), but have not watched all of the shows from Seasons 2 and 3. I was in London last fall when they broadcast the Sybil episode, and that was it for me—could not watch Season 3 when it was aired here. (No spoilers, I promise.) I’m eagerly looking forward to the Gilded Age program that’s to be set in the United States, though.
I’ve visited some of those “cottages” in Newport, and worked in a historical society museum which had a treasure trove of items from the rich and famous in Islesboro’s summer colony. The famed artist Charles Dana Gibson lived there, and his Gibson Girl was firmly in my mind when I created independent heiress Louisa Stratton.
Louisa has run away from her past, and invented an imaginary husband to keep her company. But when she’s forced to come home, she hires ex-soldier Charles Cooper through the Evensong Agency to trick her interfering family.
Louisa likes to drive, not that she’s especially good at it. Driving was darned hard for anyone, and early automobiles were extremely unreliable…like Louisa’s, which blows up!
Here’s a snippet when Charles first encounters Louisa:
Suddenly the old building shook from an explosion below on the street. Without thinking, Charles tackled his landlady and rolled onto the floor with her, shielding her scrawny body with his.
“Get your paws off me, you looby,” Mrs. Jarvis shrieked, struggling under him. His response had been instinctive. Mortars. Grenades. But there could not be shells falling in the middle of the old neighborhood, could there?
“It may not be safe. What was that noise?”
“Who knows or cares? Get off me now!”
Charles could not remember the last time a woman lay beneath him. Mrs. Jarvis was certainly not a candidate of choice, and her screams rang in his ears until he thought they might bleed. Charles put his hand over Mrs. Jarvis’s open mouth, only to be rewarded with a vicious nip.
“Shh. I hear someone coming.” The stairs creaked ominously and Charles tucked the woman between his body and the wall. He’d keep the damn harpy safe even if she didn’t appreciate it.
“Hullo? Captain Cooper, are you in there?”
“I don’t like the looks of this place, miss. It smells dreadful.”
“Hush, Kathleen. You’re such a snob. I’m sure those who are less fortunate are delighted to have a sound roof over their heads. Sir? Are you decent? May I come in?”
Holy mother of God. Charles unclamped Mrs. Jarvis’s mouth and braced himself for her bloodcurdling yelp. He did not have long to wait.
“Help me! He’s gone mad!”
Charles leaped to his feet just as his door pushed open. Mrs. Jarvis remained on the floor, frantically pulling her skirts down. The women’s eyes widened in shock as they took in Charles’s little blunder.
He brushed the dust from his new coat and tried to fix a smile on his face that would not frighten the young ladies. If they’d join Mrs. Jarvis by screaming along with her, he’d be deaf as well as blind for sure.
“C-Captain Cooper?” The blonde was extraordinarily pretty, although she was as white as her ermine coat and matching muff that covered her hands. Charles wished there was a little pistol hidden inside it with which she could shoot him to put him out of his misery.
“Miss Stratton, I presume.”
“Oh, Miss Louisa. He can’t be the one. How can Mrs. Evensong have made such a mistake? She’s supposed to be infallible,” the little redhead said.
“Hush again, Kathleen. I’m sure there’s an explanation. Isn’t there?” Her eyes were bright and golden brown and focused on his lips, waiting for him to explain. As if he could. She was a golden girl from tip to toe. Miss Louisa Stratton looked like money, honey, and double cream. Charles had never seen anyone like her.
Charles doesn’t make a good first impression, but eventually opposites attract. :)
Have you ever been mistaken about someone when you first met them? One commenter will get a copy of In the Arms of the Heiress!