My special guest, Nicole Clarkston, chose More Agreeably Engaged to share the cover reveal for her new release, Tempted. Oh my, you are going to love the book! We both hope you will love the cover too. Before we get to the cover, here's Nicole to tell you a little about her story.
Tempted is a book that truly frightened me. I have confessed this before, and there are SO many reasons why, but today I will be sharing one of them: Elizabeth is no country squire’s daughter. She’s not even gently brought up.
To explain a little more about her, first I will touch on the back story of Tempted. The time, as you have noticed, is moved up about 90 years. That timeline gave me several new opportunities, and I don’t even have time to list all the historical details I tried to take advantage of, but one of them is the Boer War. The British Empire fought the Boers, or otherwise known as Dutch Afrikaners, to gain control of the region for trade. That is the ugliest and simplest version of the history possible, and, as we all know, the real history is much bigger and more kaleidoscopic than that. However, as a side effect of the war, the British Army was in constant need of horses for the cavalry. Horse buyers went to Australia and the United States trying to buy up as many remounts as they could, a venture financed in some part by British investors.
That is where Colonel Fitzwilliam comes in. Some of these horse buying stations were in Wyoming, and I created a fictional town around one for my purposes. This humble little cow town, the focus of the British Cavalry’s interests, is where our Elizabeth hails from. The Bennet family’s ranch has failed and been sold, and now Mr Bennet works with the Army.
Circumstances conspire to thrust Elizabeth from her home and into Darcy’s world, but she is still very much a wild child. She does not sit still well. She does not understand why titles and influence are so gosh darn important. And she has no clue how a “lady” is supposed to act in “quality” drawing-rooms.
Oh, and she really doesn’t understand why she finds this Darcy character so… um… fascinating.
That is not to say that our Elizabeth is irreverent and obstreperous. Well, not most of the time. Okay, once in a while she is respectful and modest. It’s just that her ideas of how things should work don’t really fit in this new world, and she’s just stubborn enough that she doesn’t mind saying so.
I do hope you enjoy Tempted! Here is one of the excerpts that had me so terrified!
From what Nicole said, what do you think about this Lizzy? It's interesting that she hails from the United States and is not a gentleman's daughter. Hmmm, I wonder what that can mean for Darcy when they eventually meet, but wait, I'm getting ahead of myself. Let's read the blurb and see if more information is brought to light.
Running from her past, Stumbling into the unknown,
and Drawn to a future she cannot have.
Elizabeth Bennet left all she loved behind when she accepted Colonel Fitzwilliam's hand.
Dragging her sister Jane, her cousin Billy Collins, and a horrible secret along with her, she leaves her home and family in the United States and sets sail for England..., and safety. Expecting to meet her new husband when he returns from the Boer front, she is shocked to learn that not only does his family not believe her, but Richard has gone missing.
Fitzwilliam Darcy is only doing his duty. Trying to learn the truth of what happened to his
cousin, while sheltering the woman who claims to be Richard Fitzwilliam's wife, he encounters
more than he bargained for. She is ill prepared for life in this world, and her independent ways
threaten to defeat her before she has even begun. Unfortunately, she is close to defeating him,
as well. Pledged to marry another, but honour-bound to do all he can for Fitzwilliam's wife,
his equanimity and fortitude are tested whenever she is near.
When news of Fitzwilliam finally comes, it brings both grief and complications. Surprises,
possibilities, and agonising choices... Will Darcy and Elizabeth find a path to love? Or will new
revelations and the shadows of the past tear them apart before they are even together?
From the author of These Dreams and Nefarious, Tempted is a deliciously nuanced tale
of longing and trust. With good people in impossible places, close-knit families, and secrets
working in the dark, Darcy and Elizabeth have to fight every step for their future.
Are you ready to see the cover? Let's take a look.
What do you think? Do you love these colors? I do! They are so soft and romantic. Does this scene depict the dawn of a new day and a beginning, or the end of day and the close of a chapter? Hmm, I wonder! I also wonder why Darcy and Lizzy are turned away from each other? There are so many questions that need answering.
I have two other reasons for "loving" this cover! My grandson and granddaughter are the models for Darcy and Lizzy. Some of you may remember Chayseland from one of Nicole's other covers, London Holiday. This is his fourth time as Darcy. Emily makes her first appearance on a cover. We had fun doing her hair for the photo session... well, sort of fun. It took me about two hours to fix it. She has so much hair and it is long. I didn't know what to do with all of it! lol I may have given out in the process, but she stayed calm and patient.
Do you want to see the back cover or full wrapper? Let's take a look.
What is the girl(Lizzy) riding toward or away from? Do you notice the soldier vaguely in the upper left side of the back? From the blurb, we can make an assumption of whom that might be.
We hope you like the cover and are intrigued by the blurb. If you want more enticement, there's an excerpt! YAY!
Darcy found himself at sixes and sevens. The officers at Whitehall had provided almost nothing new of import for Reginald’s questions. He had been able to dispatch another letter to Richard’s fellow officers, but it would be weeks, at best, before any reply could be had. And so, the most prudent thing to do seemed to be to withdraw again to Pemberley, at least until travel to Africa was favourable.
A groom had brought his horse to the train station at Derby, and Darcy set out at a brisk trot for home. After the stifling air and cobblestones of London, the springy green of the turf beneath his horse’s hooves was invigorating. An hour’s ride—long enough to clear the cobwebs from his body after so much sedentary waiting. Why had he stayed in London so long?
Richard’s wife must be relegated to her proper place in his mind and in his home. That was what he must do. She would take her meals with the family as a guest naturally should, but he would avoid her during his hours of work and study. She must not interfere with his daily activities, with his plans and routines, for she was but one more woman in a house full of them. And as soon as Reginald joined his wife at Matlock, Darcy would pressure his cousin to do his proper duty and receive the whole party as he should have done before—the dowager and her sensibilities be hanged. That would secure him peace of mind on all fronts, and that was the only logical and proper thing to do.
By the time he crested the knoll overlooking his home, he was filled with a renewed sense of purpose and decisiveness. This enigma of a woman would know her place, and he would no longer permit her presence to cloud his judgment. What was she but a small nuisance? The real problems—Richard, his business interests, Georgiana’s future, and the management of his home—these must be first in his mind.
Only a few moments after he had settled this with himself, he was tested. He had ridden the shorter route, round the fields of grazing livestock, when a distressed lowing caught his attention. Not far off, one of his shorthorns was down, and she looked to be bringing a calf. It was late even for an Autumn calf—most of the other calves were already fat and sleek—but this appeared to be one of the younger heifers. If she had no help…
But what was that? A horse stood nearby. Whoever had come to the cow’s aid was already hunched behind her. Darcy jogged near, expecting it to be one of his herdsmen. “How is she?”
There was a surprised squeak, and a bare, curly head popped up above the cow’s hip. “Oh, thank goodness it is you, Mr Darcy! Can you help?”
“What the devil… Mrs Fitzwilliam!” Darcy swung down from his mount and was at her side in an instant. “What are you doing out here?”
She cocked an annoyed look up to him as he towered over her. “Trying to save your cow, which is more than you are doing. Come, lend me a hand. I don’t have any rope.”
“Mrs Fitzwilliam, my men will look after the cow. I insist you come away at once!”
“Your men are at least twenty minutes away, and unprepared besides. It will be nearly an hour before they make it back here if we go to fetch them. Do you really intend to let your cow die rather than permitting me a little blood on my hands?”
“You cannot know what you are doing!”
But, in fact, she did seem to know. He watched in horrified amazement as she did the unspeakable—reaching inside the cow to search for the calf’s front hooves. She grimaced, her dark eyes looking in his direction but not focused upon him. “Mr Darcy, I can feel it, but my hand is not large enough to grasp. Can you try?”
Revulsion shuddered through him, but his pride would not suffer for a woman and a guest to best him at such an endeavour. He stripped off his coat and tossed it over his saddle, then rolled up his shirt sleeves to kneel beside her.
The rest passed in something of a daze for Darcy. Above the gritty brutality of the scene, a piercing awareness left him reeling. Her shoulders were pressed into his chest as she tried to turn the calf, then they were pulling together. His mind must have closed itself down to everything it found repulsive, for the only senses he was aware of was the touch of her hand beside his, the warm life stirring beneath his fingertips, and the fresh, clean fragrance of her hair when the calf lurched at last, and she fell into him. She was laughing, her weight toppling him backwards. Though he still held his soiled hands apart, his arms unconsciously closed around her body until the soft flesh of her neck bumped his chin.
She wriggled, trying to sit upright again and accidentally delivering a few rather sharp blows to his ribs in the process. “A bull! It is a bull calf, sir! I—” She stopped mid-sentence as she turned to him and found his face only inches away. She cleared her throat, blinked, then looked down at her hands. “I suppose I need some water.”
He lurched unsteadily to his feet and offered his hand to help her up, then considered withdrawing it when he saw the filth covering his palm. “Uhm…”
But before he could step back, she grasped his hand, and a moment later they stood facing one another—both the worse for their labours. “I…” He stared stupidly at their hands, their clothes, and still could not help but admire the sweat-streaked tendrils of hair that had worked loose from her bun.
She was still holding his hand, but with a few rapid blinks and a gasp, dropped it suddenly. “Mr Darcy, sir, I beg you would forgive me for asking that of you.”
“Asking what? That I would care for my own animals? Who should have done it but I? You were quite right, for both would have died if we had tried to send for help.”
“But to direct you to do as I did… to order you to… you must have found it offensive. I expect now you know me to be far less a lady than I had managed to convince you before.”
He laughed quietly. “I had already settled it with myself that you were no proper lady. That was no surprise to me, but do you always fling yourself headlong into trial and danger?”
“Frequently, I am afraid.”
“Indeed! Perhaps I am beginning to understand why my cousin carried you off, after all.”
Her expression at once took on a haunted, broken look, and she stepped back. Idiot, Darcy scolded himself. What a foolish thing to say to a woman mourning the absence of her husband!
She was looking uncomfortably around, avoiding his face. Darcy gestured beyond her, fumbling for some way of helping her forget his careless words. “There is a stream just there. We can wash a little, and I will escort you through the secret passageways into the house.”
Mrs Fitzwilliam tilted her head, those eyes twinkling in curiosity. “Secret passageways? Why?”
“I… thought it might go better for you if you were not seen… that is, before you dressed.”
“Oh. Miss Darcy would find it vulgar. Of course, you are right. I had not thought of that.”
Darcy pinched his lips together and turned about, rather than meeting her gaze. The young cow was already standing and cleaning her calf, her mortal peril now entirely forgotten. The calf, too, thrashed lustily and then struggled to his feet. Mrs Fitzwilliam was beaming proudly as they watched the youngster, then turned as if to share her infectious joy but she sobered instantly when she met his eyes. He tipped his head in the direction of the stream, trickling only a few yards away, and began to walk. She followed, then they knelt together on the marshy bank.
Darcy’s eyes strayed from his own hands to the delicate lines of hers as the cool water sparkled over them. Her hands were formed… differently than he was accustomed to. Her fingers were not long and tapered like most ladies he knew, but rather short, and not entirely straight. The flexor muscles at the base of her thumb were well-defined and curved almost voluptuously down to delicate wrists. Her forearms were sculpted, shapely and lean, and a fine network of veins crossed their inner surface… no. No, they were not veins, but a light web of scars.
He looked curiously to her face, but she had apparently sensed his notice. Her mouth was set grimly, and she even seemed to be turning faintly away as she finished the task of cleaning her hands. Darcy settled back to his own concerns, briskly scrubbing his forearms, and then shaking the cold droplets from his skin. He returned to the horses before she did, and retrieved both of their hats from the ground, dusting hers off before offering it again to her. She accepted it as if uncertain what to do with it, turning it over with a furrowed brow before she settled it on her head, the veil slightly askew.
“Mrs Fitzwilliam, if I may?” He gently turned the hat on her head, and enjoyed her embarrassed giggle more than he cared to admit. He then offered his hand to assist her into the saddle. Her face softened, and she looked for a moment as if she would accept with pleasure, but then her features seemed to cool.
“Thank you, Mr Darcy, but it is not necessary. I can manage.” She gave the horse a cue, and Darcy watched in astonishment as his own mare—a champion polo pony purchased for her fire and quickness—gave a low groan and dropped herself down on the grass for her rider to mount. Mrs Fitzwilliam settled herself in the saddle, and even spread her skirts with little trouble, and then she gave the horse another signal to stand up.
She grinned proudly back at Darcy. “I have grown quite fond of your horse, sir.”
He coughed. “Yes, well… not many can manage a horse of her sensitivity, but I see you are getting on with her well enough.”
She laughed and patted the mare’s neck, but when she took up the reins, she looked all abashed, then started twisting in the saddle and looking at the ground. “Drat!”
“I, ah… I believe I have lost my gloves again. I forgot all about them—not used to them, you see. I think it is the third pair I have lost.”
“And I am certain they will not be the last. Come, I believe we can manage to find another pair for you.”
She tightened her lips into an apologetic smile. “I am afraid I am quite the nuisance with my wardrobe. I understand I have already ruined four petticoats beyond any hope of proper restoration.”
“Five, after today. I shall be certain to send my cousin the launderer’s bill... the earl, that is,” he clarified when her brow creased faintly. “Truly, I am in jest, Mrs Fitzwilliam.”
“I should hope so,” was her tart response, “for I expect you will earn such an earful from your valet that my transgressions will pale in comparison.”
Darcy glanced down at his trousers, then allowed a boyish grin as he looked back to her. “Do you know, it was worth it.”
She answered him with a look of warmth, then turned quickly away, wetting her lips. “I expect we should hurry.” She stiffened her spine, and a moment later, her horse was galloping away from him.
Darcy had thought at first to walk sedately back, enjoying the leisurely amble to the house with one whose company was becoming a greater pleasure than he dared confess, but… perhaps it was better this way. Her still-crooked veil flapped in the breeze, and her figure was bent forward, hands light on the reins as her mount ripped up the sod before him. A curious thrill spiralled through his chest—a free-spirited whim, a playful fancy. Surely, it could do no harm.
He hissed to his horse and gave chase.
After reading the excerpt, do you want to purchase the book now? You can. Just click on the link to get your copy and start reading today.