The Earl and the Highwayman's Daughter
Released 1st September 2016.
Regency RomanceEugenia Hawthorne, daughter of a deceitful highwayman, saves the life of the Earl of Trentham after he’s deposited at her door suffering from a bullet wound. Outsmarting her father, the earl takes Eugenia to live in his beautiful country estate, Lilac Court. But what does he really want from her? It seems there’s a mystery attached to an emerald necklace, which he wishes her to wear at a London ball. Could Eugenia be the daughter of a powerful duke, but born on the wrong side of the blanket? Her mother refused to tell her.
As Brendan, Earl of Trentham, works to bring down a hated foe, he and his sister instruct Eugenia in the ways of the ton. She is beautiful and, despite the cloud over her birth, will be desired by many men. Why doesn’t that prospect make him happy?
A Reader's Opinion
"The Earl and the Highwayman's Daughter is indeed a Cinderella story with Eugenia as our young beauty and the Earl as her "prince." I was delighted to spend a few hours with the characters while they navigated their way through society's dos and don'ts, all in the name of hope and sweet romance."
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Eugenia Hawthorne is keen to impress her handsome new guardian with her riding skills.
The groom led out a short, solid grey horse. “This is Grey Dreamer, Miss Hawthorne.” He went to fetch the saddle.
Dismayed, Eugenia stared at the horse. “I’m to ride a pony?” She’d been patting a tall chestnut gelding who had thrust his handsome head over the door of the box. “She looks half asleep.”
His lordship threw back his head and laughed. “Then you shall wake her. Grey Dreamer is my stallion’s companion. Neal, please assist Miss Hawthorne to mount.”
Eugenia eyed the sidesaddle. It looked impossibly foolish. “Can I not use an ordinary saddle?”
His lordship shook his head. “That is unacceptable. And I’m losing patience.”
With the groom’s help, she clambered onto the saddle and arranged her leg around the pommel. She took up the reins and reached for the crop, and then as his lordship mounted his stallion, she walked the animal out onto the cobblestones in the stable yard.
Once out in the sunshine, Grey Dreamer appeared to droop. Eugenia nudged the animal in its round belly with the heel of her half boot. The grey came alive and took off down the carriage drive with his lordship yelling instructions behind her. The horse then lurched sideways onto the lawn, heading straight for the rose garden.
“Whoa,” Eugenia cried, tugging on the reins. Her face burned with distress. What would his lordship think if she trampled his garden? With one final violent tug, she managed to steer the stubborn horse away from the roses and pull her up. Grey Dreamer bent her head, and with delicate precision, picked up a fallen rose, and munched it, a serene expression in her big brown eyes. “You are a fraud, Grey Dreamer,” Eugenia said with disgust.
Lord Trentham joined her on his magnificent burnished gold stallion. “I’m glad you managed to stop the mare,” he said. “My head gardener would be livid if the horse attacked his prize roses.” He reached across and took the reins from her.
“I can manage her, my lord,” she said, her face hot.
“We shall not risk it, Eugenia. I don’t wish to face my sister’s wrath. And you might get hurt.”
“You said I required instruction,” she said, dismayed. “Better here, surely, then amid a group of seasoned riders who will make me look foolish. Can we ride just a little way along the bridle path?” She was determined to show him she could ride well.
He frowned. “It’s against my better judgment.”
“Please?” She eyed him carefully. “I may lose my confidence and not be able to face the riders in Rotten Row.”
He patted the neck of his horse, which had begun to nuzzle Grey Dreamer. “Oh very well,” he said at last. “I’ll lead your horse to the bridle path. I’m not about to put my gardens at further risk. I suspect Grey Dreamer has a fancy for roses.”
Reaching the path, his lordship handed the reins to her. “Keep the horse to a walk, Eugenia.”
Eugenia bit her lip. This was her chance. Walking along a path would prove nothing. A child could do it. She would be careful not to nudge the horse quite so hard this time. Grey Dreamer was foxing. The horse was far more awake than she made out. Perhaps she was not often ridden and wanted for exercise. A gentler tap with her crop had the mare in a trot. Lord Trentham fell behind her on the narrow path.
“That’s good. Well done,” he called.
The path ahead was a long, straight run. Planning to rein her in at the end, Eugenia leaned forward and urged the horse into a canter. Grey Dreamer needed little persuasion. She took off like an arrow.
“Eugenia!” Lord Trentham called behind her. “Rein her in at once!”
“What did you say, my lord?” Some minutes later, where the trail curved to the right, Grey Dreamer lunged left, perhaps spooked at the sight of a squirrel running along a bow overhead. They emerged onto a sunlit meadow bordered by a low fence. As the horse showed no inclination to slow, Eugenia hung on. Grey Dreamer aimed straight for the fence and jumped, landing hard on her stocky legs and juddering Eugenia’s chin. Then the horse slowed, ambled across to a small stream, and lowered her head to drink. Eugenia turned around to watch Lord Trentham’s beautiful stallion take the jump far more gracefully. He rode up to her. “You will be responsible for my relapse, Eugenia.” he said sounding cross.
“Oh no, please don’t say it.” Filled with anxious remorse, while determined not to admit she’d lost control of her mount again, Eugenia followed his lordship through a gate. They trotted the horses back to the stables.
Once in the stable yard, Lord Trentham dismounted and walked over to her. He held up his arms, and she leaned into him, breathing in his sandalwood soap. His grip tightened around her waist as he set her on her feet. “You heard me tell you to stop, did you not? You are a disobedient young woman, Eugenia,” he said, breathing heavily.
“I hope you haven’t reopened your wound, my lord.” Chewing her lip, she reached up to open his coat.
“Stop!” He grabbed her hand in his broad one. “Go and rid yourself of those outrageous clothes before my sister sees you,” he said in a stifled voice.
“Yes, Lord Trentham,” she said in a meek tone. She climbed the stairs to the groom’s room. At the top, she glanced down at his lordship. He’d removed his hat and was raking his fingers through his glossy dark brown hair.
“I am sorry,” she said again, when she came down dressed in her morning gown. “I do hope you’re all right. Perhaps you should not have cantered quite yet.”
Mr. Pollitt coughed and disappeared into the stable.
“I assure you, Eugenia, I’m perfectly capable of galloping and jumping a fence, should I wish to.” he said with a frown. “Come, let’s walk back to the house.”