"Her writing sparkles with
wit and humor."
USA Today bestselling author
"A delightful debut!"
New York Times bestselling author
"...clever, frothy and funny—
an enthralling read!
New York Times bestselling author
"Rules of Engagement is a light hearted, witty and frothy romance. Kathryn Caskie has penned a delightful uplifting and fulfilling summer read. Proving once again that laughter, love and schemes gone awry are indeed the best anecdote for a long lazy summer afternoon. Don't miss this enjoyable romp through London Society."
The Writer's Room Magazine
"What I like about this story is how Ms Caskie actually gives Eliza a sensible reason for her stand against marriage. Eliza's parents were happy together, but Eliza believes that marriage never allowed her mother to pursue her dreams... The premise and cast of characters will be familiar to readers of the Regency subgenre, but Ms Caskie manages to make them sparkle with buoyant charm... I find Rules of Engagement an entertaining romp... The author seems to be having a great time writing this book, her characters come off as also having a ball in the story, and I find it very easy to be struck by the infectious sense of fun that permeates the pages of this book."
awarding Rules Of Engagement a whopping 88 out of 100
~ read the whole review
4 1/2 STARS! "Fresh, exciting, charming and utterly captivating, Rules of Engagement is a dynamite debut by a talent you won't want to miss. Caskie perfectly balances humor, history and sensuality in a smart and sparkling romance that quite simply captivates. Make room on the keeper shelves!"
Romantic Times BOOKclub Magazine
A PERFECT TEN!
"To say this is a delightful book is an enormous understatement. Rules of Engagement is without a doubt next to perfect... With each turn of the page, readers can easily envision the elaborately adorned ballrooms, hear the delightful strains of the music and see each nuance of the characters' personalities and their humorous antics unfold. Eliza is enormously entertaining... Magnus is honorable, determined, passionate and ever so sexy. But it is his deep and abiding love for Eliza that makes him the kind of man a woman can only dream about. The secondary characters are enormously entertaining...
"With this as her debut novel, there is no doubt in this reviewer’s mind that Ms. Caskie will enjoy a long and brilliant career as a romance writer. Rules of Engagement is brilliant, humorous, and a perfect addition to any library. I eagerly await the next book and the story of the younger Merriweather sister, Meredith."
for Romance Reviews Today ~ read the whole review
"[Rules of Engagement is a] delightful, uplifting and fulfilling summer read."
--The Writers Room Online Magazine ~ read the whole review
The Romance Reader gives Rules of Engagement its top rating, 5 hearts, saying the debut "is full of life, love and various antics."
--The Romance Reader ~ read the whole review
~ "Rules of Engagement is a delightful book rife with wit and humor... Eliza and Magnus make the perfect couple even though they both knew their alliance was doomed from the beginning. You could feel the attraction pulling them to each other. Kathryn Caskie has taken a serious storyline of the day and added a wealth of comedy that makes this book a real page turner."
--Blue Ribbon reviews
~ for romancejunkies.com
of Engagement in
Oui, oui! Rules
Kathryn's award winning debut novel, has been translated
into five foreign languages, including the latest
to hit the shelves Eliza
L'impétueuse, the retitled French language
edition (with a sizzlingly sexy French cover shown
at right). (posted
~ SPANISH EDITION! The Spanish translation for Kathryn's debut novel Rules of Engagement hits the shelves. Except they tweaked the title a little bit...now it's Las Reglas de la Seduccion. (posted 4.03.06)
~ POLISH NEWS! World Spanish rights have been purchased by a publisher in Spain. Rules of Engagement was released in Poland in November 2005! (Polish Edition shown left). ~ And Warsaw has it, and they're calling it:
~ DOUBLE FINALIST! Romance Writers of America 2005 RITA Award, BOTH Short Historical and Best First Book Categories. The RITA is Romance Writers of America's most sought after award in romance publishing. The winners of the 13 RITA awards were revealed on July 30, 2005 at the RWA National Conference in Reno, Nevada. While Rules of Engagement remained a bridesmaid (there will be other years hopefully), good times were had by all, including Kathryn and her dear friend Sophia Nash who celebrated Sophia's winning statuette with a midnight bowling game.
»» Kathryn's debut novel, Rules of Engagement, won the Romantic Times BOOKclub Reviewer’s Choice Award for Best First Historical Romance! Check out photographs of Kathryn accepting her award, and other fun pics from the RT BookLovers Convention in St. Louis, Missouri. (posted 5.05.05)
~ FINALIST! 2005 Booksellers' Best Award for Best Short Historical.
~ WINNER! Romantic Times BOOKclub Reviewer’s Choice Award for Best First Historical Romance. Photo at right. See more photos from the event. (posted 5.05.05)
~ WINNER! Romance Writers of America 2002 Golden Heart Contest, Long Historical Category. Get more info. (photo below)
Kathryn wins the Golden Heart in July 2002 (above). Pictured with friend and fellow author Kathleen Kirkwood, 1989 Golden Heart winner, just after the awards ceremony (below).
~WINNER! Smokey Mountain Romance Writers 2002 Laurie Contest Long Historical Category.
Summer, 2004 -- Charlotte Bronte, Jane Austen... & Kathryn
of Engagement are required reading for
university English students this fall!
its true, Rules
of Engagement is required reading for an English
course at Denmark's famed Aarhus Universitite entitled:
Romance and Melodrama: History and Popular Fiction for Women!
The course charts the rise, development and function of popular fiction
written for and by women... In the 20th century, the contemporary Regency
setting of novels by Jane Austen and the plots of the Brontë sisters
were adapted by new generations of female writers to fuel a bestselling
genre of popular literature for modern women, but set in what would appear
antiquated social settings.
...In addition to resources available on the internet for study, a compendium
of primary and secondary texts will be produced for purchase and students
are also asked to acquire and read the following:
Jane Austen: Persuasion + Northanger
Charlotte Brontë: Jane Eyre + The
Kathryn Caskie: Rules of Engagement (2004)
Jane Feather: The Bachelor List (2004)
Says Kathryn, "Wow. Kids have it great
these days, don't they? I remember having to read Waiting for
the undersigned, confined to spinsterhood through no fault
of our own, hereby declare to guide our beloved niece Miss
Eliza Merriweather through the upcoming season and secure
for her one, if not several, offers of marriage. For guidance,
we have armed ourselves with the General’s trusty handbook Rules of Engagement and vow to follow its strategies to the
Our mission will be difficult, for Eliza
is a very independent-minded young woman and a worthy adversary.
Already she has hatched a scheme of her own and persuaded
a Scottish earl, Magnus MacKinnon, possessor of mesmerizing
silver eyes and a shockingly sexy brogue, to play the role
of attentive suitor. But with our help, it is only a matter
of time before their “pretend” affections blossom
into something far more binding.
And so we pledge to remain steadfast
and to accept nothing less than complete victory: our dearest
Eliza walking hand in hand down the aisle with Magnus MacKinnon.
With true hearts and strong
The Ladies Letitia and Viola Featherton
watched her sister pace the floor of their great aunts' Hanover Square
town house with such unforgiving force that she was compelled to examine
the Turkish carpet for damage.
"If your aim is
to wear a hole through to the wood, Grace, you've not succeeded. Best
pick up your gait." Eliza grinned through the tendrils of steam rising
from her teacup and relaxed back against the blissfully plump settee.
an exasperated sigh, Grace halted. "I shall wait as long as it takes,
Eliza. I will have
set the blue and cream teacup on the table and crossed her arms over
her chest. "I
told you I would behave. What more would you ask of me?"
refrain from making a spectacle of yourself at every turn, else I shall
never find a husband and this entire season will be for naught!"
how you go on. Do relax, Grace, else before you know it, strawberries
will be erupting all over your pretty face."
With a little gasp
of horror, Grace's gaze sought out the ancient looking glass on the wall
and she frantically patted her cheeks, as if probing for any indication
you know I desire your happiness beyond my own, but I do not know how
much pomp I can endure."
Grace turned her head back to Eliza, a frustrated groan slipped out
through her clenched teeth. "If you will not step into formation for my sake, then consider
our aunts. Can you not do as they ask, at least for the season? You owe
them that much--and more."
one is more grateful than I for their generosity. Heavens, they took
us in. I have not forgotten."
"They did much
more than that, Eliza." Grace sat down beside her. "They saw our sister
into Mrs. Bellbury's School for Young Ladies. Even if our parents still
lived, we never could have afforded Meredith's fees and tuition."
"I realize that,
aunts have agreed to sponsor a season for us both. The least you could
do is smile through a few balls."
blew a dark wisp of hair from her face. "Yes, I could manage to survive
a few. But why? I have no intention of marrying. None."
mind is set. Once this infernal season is through, I am off to Italy.
I will not be dissuaded from studying painting. I won't. So I ask you,
why should Aunt Letitia and Aunt Viola waste their money on gowns and
adornments for me?"
exhaled through her nostrils, drawing Eliza's attention back to her. "I
do not understand what you hold against marriage. I, myself, cannot
think of a more honorable state for a woman."
hold nothing against wedded bliss." If such a thing exists. In all her life,
Eliza had never seen evidence of it. And most certainly not at home.
Rising, Eliza moved
toward the window where a half-finished painting perched on a wooden
easel, awaiting her return. With great care, she lifted it in her hands.
Breathing in the
welcoming scent of the oils, she tilted the canvas slightly toward the
window, allowing the afternoon light to illuminate the sun-dappled landscape
"I am an artist,
Grace." Still clutching the canvas, Eliza turned. "But unlike Mother,
I will not allow the gift God has given me to wither and die simply because
a husband demands my full attention. My art means too much to me."
shook her hands in the air. "La, Eliza. Not all men are like Father. Many husbands
encourage leisure pursuits."
But with marriage comes children." She raised a sardonic brow. "There
go your leisure hours. Then there will always be parties and balls to
attend. And of course the staff and household must also be managed--"
"Stop." Grace clapped
her hands over her ears momentarily. "Yes, a married woman has many responsibilities.
But that is no reason to detest marriage so."
"I do not
detest marriage," Eliza said, setting the painting against the easel
back once more. "I just do not choose it for myself. After all, I see
nothing wrong with following my heart instead of society's dictates."
crossed the room and plopped down next to Grace. "Besides, not everyone excels at
domestic and social pursuits so well as you, my dear." She hugged her
sister close, smiling as Grace's soft golden curls tickled her cheek.
Grace nudged her
away, trying very hard not to grin.
to her feet, Eliza moved before the waning fire. "My, but there is
a chill in the air. What do you say we ask Mrs. Penny to brew a bit
"I will not give
in so easily," Grace replied. "I will have your promise. You know what
this season means to me. I cannot have you spoiling it. Swear it."
"All right." Eliza
placed her hand over her heart. "I swear I will do as our aunts say.
But once the season has concluded, I have other plans." Eliza
widened her eyes. "Sufficient?"
will have to do, I suppose."
Eliza laughed as
she extended a hand and drew Grace to her feet. Arms linked, they passed
the bell pull and instead headed into the passageway for the cozy warmth
of the kitchen.
In the late General's
well-stocked library, Viola Featherton returned a marble-papered book
to its low shelf and straightened her aching back, feeling every one
of her 74 years.
"The gels' season
must begin on proper footing," she said, turning to face her plump twin. "What
will we do if we cannot find the book, Sister?"
We'll find it. Just keep looking," Letitia chided. "I tell you, it's
Viola was doubtful.
Already scores of books had been removed from the shelves and stacked
on the desk and in piles on the floor.
funny and very romantic... I will definitely read it again."
~ for the
her slight weight against her ebony cane, Viola fought back a grimace
as she watched Letitia scour the eye-level library shelves. The division
of labor hardly seemed fair, for if she was not mistaken, Letitia had
not bent for a book even once, while she, herself, had spent the last
hour upon her knees. Still, Viola knew she shouldn't begrudge Letitia.
After all, her sister was the eldest, by three minutes anyway, and
therefore less able to stoop than Viola. At least, so Letitia had claimed.
Mr. Edgar, their
frosty-haired manservant, was perched near the top rung of a wheeled
library ladder. He glanced down nervously, then squeezed his eyes closed.
set her hands on her ample hips and looked up at him. "Do open your
eyes, Edgar. We shall never locate the book if you insist on such nonsense."
opened one eye, then the other, and hurriedly scanned the books on
the top shelf. "I
am sorry, my lady. I do not see the volume up here. May I come down now?"
"Might I suggest
trying the shelves behind the glass doors next?" Viola asked, smiling
sweetly at Edgar as she gestured with her cane to a bookcase several
bit his lip and eased his foot down a rung.
Before he could
fully descend, Letitia impatiently grasped the ladder and tried to push
it toward the next set of shelves.
for the shelf to steady himself, but instead, three oversized volumes
came away in his hands.
Eyes wide, he fell
to the carpet with a thud. Two wavering towers of books teetered and
then toppled over him.
caned her way across the carpet to him. "Are you injured?"
winced, but shook his head.
"You should be
more careful, Letitia," Viola scolded, as she pulled a thick crimson
tome off Edgar's chest and handed it to her sister. "You might have injured
it seemed Letitia paid Viola no mind. Something about the book seemed
to snare her interest. She slid her thick spectacles onto her nose,
then turned the volume over in her hands. Her rheumy eyes brightened. "Viola,
I believe Edgar has done it."
a pile of books from the library table, Letitia placed the volume on
its polished surface. Her pudgy finger raced across the first two pages.
She looked up at Viola. "Yes! He's located Papa's book of Rules."
As Edgar climbed
out from beneath the hillock of books and began the arduous task of replacing
the volumes on the shelves, Viola steadied herself against her cane and
joined her sister.
Her hand trembled
with anticipation as she drew her lorgnette from the drawer, then held
the glasses to her eyes. Squinting, she tilted her head until her poor
eyes could make out the title page's bold heading.
"Why, you're right,
Sister. This is it!" She gazed up at Letitia, feeling a pleased smile
warm her lips. "We should begin tonight, don't you think?"
away, in fact." Letitia whirled around. "Edgar, have our grandnieces
meet us in the parlor--immediately."
and Grace were seated in the parlor when the click of walking sticks
in the passageway heralded their aunts' arrival.
With great solemnity,
Aunt Letitia and Aunt Viola took their places before the Pembroke table
and stood as though an announcement of great import was to be made.
Viola cleared her long throat and began. "Years ago, Letitia and I were about to enter
our first season when our mother died. Even for some years after the
mourning period, in deference to our father's deep despair, we did not
partake in the Season's festivities. We were not courted. We received
no offers despite the General's esteemed standing in society." A forlorn
sigh escaped her. Then, quite suddenly, Aunt Viola eyelids fluttered
and she gasped a quick warning. "Spell..."
Viola's chin hit
her chest and she wavered to and fro as her eyelids fell shut.
With nary a trace
of worry on her round face, Aunt Letitia guided Viola back into a seat
a second before her sister's knees buckled beneath her.
Then, seeming confident
Viola was not about to tumble from her chair, Aunt Letitia turned once
more to face Eliza and Grace.
"Now, where did
she leave off?" she asked.
no offers," Eliza offered helpfully as she glanced at Viola, who showed
no sign yet of waking from her spell. Her aunt's sudden sleeping spells
were a regular occurrence in the household, and though the suddenness
of them always startled Eliza, she knew she needn't be concerned. Aunt
Viola would awaken soon enough, fit as a filly on a spring day.
you are," Aunt Letitia replied. "When the Papa died some years later,
we reentered Society. But we were past the marrying age and were put
on a shelf as spinsters." She reached for her sleeping sister's
hand and squeezed it. "You cannot imagine the half-life of a spinster.
Never quite belonging. Never truly loved or appreciated–"
"But Auntie," Eliza
cut in, "you are free to make your own choices. You are independent.
No one tells you what you can and cannot do with your life--"
"And no one shares
my bed at night. No children come to visit me. I have no grandchildren
to spoil. Do you not understand, Eliza? A spinster's course is a lonely
one." Tears glittered like starlight in Aunt Letitia's lashes.
in her aunt's voice prickled the backs of Eliza's eyes. It would be different
for her, she told herself. She had her art, after all.
Engagement is a wonderfully witty, charming and
highly entertaining romance..."
~ for Historical
Viola's hand jerked, bringing a smile to Aunt Letitia's lips. "Good, good. Sister
is returning to us now," she said, settling Viola's hand back atop her
own knobby knee.
looked at Eliza, then at Grace. "The point of all this is that we do not intend to allow
the same fate to befall either of you." With a precise nod, she signaled
to Edgar, who crossed the room and placed a thick, red book before the
stared at the dusty tome and puzzled over its significance. Rising,
she moved to the Pembroke table and ran her finger across the book's
faded, gilt title. "Rules
of Engagement," Eliza read aloud. She looked up at her aunts for
further explanation, but they only smiled back with delighted expectation.
Opening the heavy
book to its middle, Eliza quickly scanned its pages and saw it was filled
with military ruses and stratagem. This was even more perplexing.
were her aunts planning to do with a book on strategies for war? Eliza
snapped her head upright. "I do not understand."
Viola raised her head slowly, then snorted and grinned. She took Letitia's
proffered arm, and, finding her balance, moved to the table and closed
the book. She tapped a nail on the fading cover. "Read the title, dear. Rules
of Engagement. It's a primer, you see, on how to get engaged."
Letitia clapped her hands. "With this book, we have all the strategies necessary to see
both you and Grace engaged by season's end. 'Twill be like the season
we never had."
trying to make sense of what she'd heard. But there was no sense in this.
Her aunts had mistaken
a military strategy text, Rules of Engagement, for an instruction
manual for getting engaged!
no, no. She had to stop the confusion. Had to stop it now. "Auntie, this book is--"
clasped Eliza's hand and pulled her back to the settee. "Remember your
"But Grace, you
do not understand, this book--"
do not need to
understand. Can you not see what this means to them?" her sister whispered.
Eliza looked at
Aunt Viola, who was now cradling the precious rule book in her hands.
She turned to Aunt Letitia, whose eyes were alight with hope.
her lids closed. Oh, for mercy's sake. She couldn't do it. Couldn't tell
them the truth. Not without breaking their hearts.
her eyes, Eliza forced a smile. "This book is exactly what we
need. How lucky for us that you remembered it."
her pent breath.
the table, Aunt Letitia pressed a kiss to Eliza's cheek. "We knew you
both would be pleased. We shall begin at once. Edgar, bring the sherry.
This is a celebration!"
Eliza and Grace
joined their aunts around the table as Edgar served the libation.
giggle of excitement worked its way from Aunt Viola's middle as she
set the book down again and opened it. She positioned her lorgnette
and focused on the large, dark heading at the top of the page--no doubt all her aging eyes could
make out. "Rule One," Aunt Viola read. "Those whose ranks are united
in purpose will be victorious."
"We have achieved
our first objective," Aunt Letitia announced. "From this moment onward,
we are one in our purpose--to see you both engaged by the end of the season."
"Hear! Hear!!!! " Grace
cheered, looking toward Eliza.
"Hear, hear," Eliza
murmured, staring with shock at the crimson book between them.
What sort of madness
had she just agreed to?
Take action before he can discern your
With a muffled
cry, Eliza burst from the Presence Chamber at the Court of St. James's
and and yanked from her hair the wretched white plumes that had caused
her disgrace. Even now, standing in the gilded drawing room amid the
shocked stares of London's ton, she could not believe what she
This tops it all." Grace pushed through the crowd at the door and trailed
not two steps behind. "You sneezed on her. You spewed saliva in Queen
Charlotte's face. Three times, no less!"
please. Is not my own humiliation enough?"
Pressing her way
through the undulating surge of courtiers, Eliza spied the grand staircase
and made for it at once. In just a few moments, she'd be safely inside
her aunts' carriage, putting as much distance as possible between herself
and the damnable palace.
As Eliza's slipper
touched the first step, Grace snatched her wrist and jerked her aside.
us all," her sister rebuked. "We will never live this down. Never."
"I hardly think
all the blame can be placed on my shoulders," Eliza replied. Looking
past Grace, she noticed a circlet of London's first set watching them
lifted her chin. She didn't care in the least what the ton thought of her.
Though the season had only just begun, they'd already written her off
as...what was it now? Oh, yes. A hopeless hoyden. After today's sneezing
incident, no doubt this snide assessment would make its way through the
whole of fashionable London before nightfall. Yes, the entire incident
was mortifying, but Eliza had to own that even this nightmare suited
her purposes perfectly well.
"Caskie has written a debut novel that is full of life, love and various
-- awarding RULES top rating
~ The Romance Reader
When Grace, too,
realized the onlookers' scrutiny, she drew closer to Eliza. A look of
warning flashed plainly in her eyes.
Eliza sighed. "Surely
you do not think I sneezed on purpose."
Grace merely stared
back at her, clearly waiting for an explanation.
is not as though I asked to wear these vile plumes." Pinching the frothy feathers
between her thumb and index finger, she held them at arm's length, as
if they were crawling with vermin. "You know how feathers affect me.
My eyes are watering so badly I can scarcely see."
Eliza's statement entirely, Grace snapped open her pierce-work fan
and flapped it before her delicate face. "What must the queen think
of us, or the ton for
that matter? Word will travel, you know. We will be blocked from every
respectable drawing room in London, I am quite sure of it."
"Oh, calm yourself,
Grace. I'm certain the queen has all but forgotten the episode by now." Eliza
raised the offending plumes eye-level, turning them thoughtfully through
her fingers. "Besides, since all debutantes wear these absurd white feathers
during presentation, I truly doubt I am the first to spew, as
you so daintily put it, on the queen."
"I fear, Lizzy,
you are mistaken," a plaintive voice said.
Eliza turned to
see her elderly great-aunts, the Featherton sisters. Her sponsor, the
plump Lady Letitia, and willowy Lady Viola, were bearing down on them,
in identical gowns of lavender satin and blond lace.
Letitia fretfully wrung her handkerchief as she wedged her turnip-shaped
form between the two young women. "I have it on good authority that
you are the
"Really? The very
first?" Eliza looked from one aunt to the other. As humiliating as her
presentation had been, she was not about to take a simple sneeze, or
three, so gravely. And neither, she decided, should they. "Then I must
make it my solemn mission to ensure this tragedy never befalls another
debutante. I shall petition the queen, at once, to ban all ostrich feathers
"Oh, dear," Aunt
Viola gasped, frantically looking to Aunt Letitia for help. "We cannot
allow her to do it, Sister."
"Now, now, Eliza
will do nothing of the sort," Aunt Letitia answered. "Will you, gel?
You've caused quite enough stir for one day, don't you agree?" She punctuated
her statement by jabbing the point of her index finger into Eliza's back
and starting her down the staircase. "The queen has finally retired,
so to the carriage, my loves. Quickly now."
they waited in the noisy, bustling entry hall for their conveyance
to draw up through the crowded line, Aunt Viola grasped Eliza's hand
and squeezed it reassuringly. "Do
not fret, Eliza. It's all over now," she said softly. "You have been
presented. And, as you know, dear, presentation is the first step in
making a good match."
Engagement is an absolutely fabulous Regency historical...
Everything about this book sparkles..."
~ for Regency
that sort of thing matters to you," she muttered.
Letitia clucked her disapproval. "Did I hear you right? If that
sort of thing matters?"
withdrew her hand from Aunt Viola's gentle grasp and faced Letitia's
formidable countenance. "Please do not misunderstand me, Auntie. I
do appreciate your efforts, for Grace, that is. But I am not inclined
to find a husband. You know that."
Letitia swatted down Eliza's comment as though it were a winged insect
headed for her nose. "Nonsense, Child. Now that the season is under
way, you will have the time of your life."
she survives this disgrace," Grace added.
ignored her sister's comment. Instead, she gave her aunt a noncommittal
nod. "I am sure you are right. But since I possess few of the traits
desirable in a wife, I seriously doubt any offers shall be made for my
"Pish posh," Aunt
Letitia said. "You are fair and clever. The gentlemen will be queuing
up to call upon you. You will see, Lizzy." She gave a sidelong glance
toward Viola. "For we have a plan, do we not?"
Viola's ancient eyes sparkled with excitement. "We do indeed, Sister."
A plan? Oh,
no, they mean to use the rule book, don't they? Eliza shuddered
at the thought. To her dismay, that slight movement made her nose itch.
She was about to... Oh God, not again. Not here. "A-achew--"
the wet blast, Aunt Letitia looked Eliza full in the face, her eyes
suddenly narrowed. "Oh,
for heaven's sake. Give me the feathers." Snatching the white plumes
away, Aunt Letitia shoved them at Viola, then pressed her own handkerchief
into Eliza's empty hand. "Do see to your nose, Lizzy. It's as wet as
A moment later,
their footman, liveried in pale Featherton lavender, stepped into the
hall to signal the arrival of their carriage.
great exuberance, Aunt Letitia waved her arms to shoo the young women
through the burgeoning crowd as though they were a pair of particularly
Eager to leave
the scene of her blunder, Eliza started for the door, when she noticed
Aunt Letitia's handkerchief was missing. Whirling around, she spotted
the crumpled bit of lace on the floor and dashed back, stooping to retrieve
"Eliza, do hurry," Grace
called out from the doorway.
straightened, then turned on her heel for the door, only to slam into
a blue wall of some sort. Pain shot through her face.
Oh, what now?
Opening her watering eyes, Eliza found her nose flattened against what
appeared to be a brass button. She tried to see whom she'd run into,
but was too close. Teetering on her heels, she pitched backward.
Firm hands seized
her shoulders, steadying her on her feet.
Eliza inched her
head upward. The button was attached to a silk, gold-shot waistcoat,
and the waistcoat to a very large man. Her gaze climbed higher still,
until at last, she found herself looking straight into the gentleman's
face. She gulped.
Pale eyes, glinting
like quicksilver, stared down at Eliza. As she marveled at their sterling
color, she saw in them the faint reflection of her own heart-shaped face
and wide sherry-hued eyes. Criminy. It was like looking into two
Thick waves of
ebony hair, drawn back in an unfashionable queue, set off the man's strong
Her gaze slid down
along his jawbone, over the blue beginnings of beard just beneath the
surface of his faintly bronzed skin.
curious, she thought. Though here he stood at court, testament of his
impeccable lineage, the sun had etched small creases at the outer edges
of his eyes. He'd obviously spent a goodly amount of time out-of-doors.
His body, too, was well defined, suggesting years of physical activity.
And he was tall,
standing fully a head above any other gentleman in the hall. Eliza wondered
how she'd missed seeing him earlier.
She took a half-step
backward. Like her, this man did not belong at the palace. Oh, he was
polished enough. His tailor had done well by him, supplying formal garb
of the first quality. But somehow, his well-muscled form seemed ill-at-ease
within its perfect seams.
Nay, this was no
refined gentleman who stood before her. There was a ruggedness about
this man, a maleness she could very nearly taste.
beg yer pardon, miss. Are ye all right?"
The low burr of
his voice, hinting of highland heather and distant moonlit moors, hummed
through the whole of Eliza's being, thrilling her so fully that she was
He eased his palms
from her shoulders, trailing them down the length of her arms to her
gloved hands, where his fingers entwined her own for a scant moment before
A pleasurable tingling
swept up her fingertips, heightening her senses to the very roots of
light hand touched her elbow, causing her to start.
She turned her
head and found Grace at her side. The thick scent of lavender assailed
her senses, and Eliza realized her aunts had also returned and now stood
at her right.
"We lost you in
the crowd at the door. Are you well, gel?" Aunt Letitia asked.
Aunt Viola's bony
elbow nudged her sister's plump side, drawing Letitia's attention to
the handsome gentleman.
of Engagement is a scintillating romantic comedy,
a top-notch traditional regency..."
~ for reader
"Oh, my," chuckled
Aunt Letitia. "I'd say so."
rushed into Eliza's cheeks, but somehow, through her embarrassment,
she found her voice. "I am fine."
gentleman smiled. "Glad
to hear it."
heart throbbed in her ears. "I..." Dash it all. Compose yourself, Eliza. Suddenly,
her hand seemed to lift of its own accord and, with her aunt's handkerchief,
she polished the gentleman's waistcoat button. Say something. "I
do apologize. I hope I haven't tarnished your button."
Oh, that was
He reached out
and stilled her hand, sending a wild jolt racing up her arm.
just a wee scrap of metal, miss."
flutter of nervousness took hold of Eliza. She lowered the handkerchief
and looked up at him through her lashes, offering a shy smile.
my niece, kind sir." Aunt Letitia leaned close to the gentleman, dropping
her voice to a confidential tone. "You see, she has only just been presented
and I fear she is still somewhat shaken by the experience."
gentleman arched a brow. "Aye, I seem to recall her rather memorable entrée.
Miss Elizabeth Merriweather, I believe."
flamed hotter still. Without knowing what else to do, she dipped into
a deep curtsey. Egads, she was acting like...well, like one of
those plumed, jingle-brains milling around the palace! What was wrong
my impertinence," the gentleman said. "Allow me to introduce myself.
I am Magnus MacKinnon." Then he winced and struggled to correct himself
in the next breath. "Or rather...Lord Somerton." He bowed low before
course you are. The fifth Earl of Somerton, to be exact," Aunt
Viola chimed in.
Letitia sidled closer. "What Sister meant to say, Lord Somerton, is
that we were briefly introduced at Harper musicale last week."
earl smiled. "I
am honored ye remembered me."
Letitia snapped open her fan and swished it through the air. "How could
we ever fail to remember you, my lord." She glanced around him
with a hawkish eye and, likely seeing no female relation nearby, promptly
introduced Eliza and Grace.
winced inwardly. A titled nobleman. He might as well have dangled a
sparkling betrothal ring before her matchmaking aunts. Her only hope
now was that he was already attached to another, else there would be
no restraining Letitia and Viola.
thought had just broached Eliza's mind when Grace shoved a flaxen curl
behind her ear and charged forward. "My lord, is your wife also at
court this day?"
earl lifted his brows at Grace's none too subtle inquiry. "I am not married."
are here with your betrothed?" Eliza blurted before she could stop herself.
corner of Lord Somerton's mouth lifted in amusement. "I am quite unattached,
if that is what ye are seeking to ascertain, Miss Merriweather."
Humiliated at her
gaff, Eliza averted her gaze.
not a moment, Grace lifted her hem from the floor and inserted herself
between them. "Unfortunately,
your marital status matters not a bit to my sister. For you see, Eliza
has no interest in marriage," her sister confided. "I, on the other hand..."
At her sister's
brazen remark, Eliza choked. Her gaze sought out the palace doors, and
if Aunt Letitia had not snared her arm at the very instant, she would
have bolted for the carriage.
wrenched her arm from Aunt Letitia's grip, but she was hardly free. Her
aunts' fervent whispers told her they were already hard at work plotting
to ring her finger.
"A debutante uninterested
in marriage?" Lord Somerton's light eyes fixed on Eliza's.
"My sister has
grander plans for life, you see," Grace said, not bothering to veil her
sarcasm. "She plans to become a great artist."
"Pay no attention,
Lord Somerton. Eliza's painting is merely a silly diversion," Aunt Letitia
"Much more than
a diversion." Aunt Viola's thin brows shirred at her sister's statement. "Our
Eliza is quite a skilled portraiturist."
not interested in marriage." The earl shook his head slowly. "I am greatly
saddened by this news, Miss Merriweather."
For ye see, 'tis my firm hope to find a wife this season." An all-too-apparent
twinkle appeared in his eyes.
a bit of fun are we?
"And, I must
confess, from the moment I first saw ye, my heart was sworn to yer service." His
grin broadened as he lifted Eliza's hand and pressed it to his broad
whimsical delight... An enjoyable Regency romance
that engages the reader with a solid cast..."
~ for The
corner of Eliza's lips pulled upward. "Is that so?"
"Och, aye." The
earl turned to her aunts as if to await their reaction to his game.
As Aunt Viola and
Aunt Letitia's gazes locked, their eyebrows waggled mischievously and
their over-rouged cheeks rounded with perceptive smiles. Prime quarry.
Oh, dear, Eliza
thought. He's gone too far with his folly. And now the matchmakers were
at the ready. She had to say something, do something, find some way to
shift the conversation.
Somerton." Like a sugar sweet, Eliza savored his name on her tongue. "We
have not met before, I am sure of it, though your title is not altogether
unfamiliar to me."
At her words, the
earl dropped her hand. For a scant second, his eyes darkened. It was
unlikely anyone else had noticed, but she'd seen the subtle change.
bore the title before me," he said. All warmth had retreated from his
voice, despite his attempt to even his tone. "He oft visited London.
Perhaps ye made his acquaintance."
by his curt reply, Eliza fabricated a soothing smile hoping to mollify
am sorry, my lord. I...cannot say. But then, I have met so many people
during my short time in London."
"I see," Lord
Somerton replied, his voice softening in the span of a breath.
A sudden commotion
outside, followed by howls of complaint about the position of the Featherton
town carriage, cut the uneasy conversation short.
"Lord Somerton," Aunt
Letitia twittered. "We are ever so pleased to have met once more." She
extended her hand to the earl, and he politely took it.
"The pleasure has
been all mine," he said, bending low. Aunt Letitia colored profusely,
and a petite giggle
between her vibrant, painted-on red lips.
forward by her sister, Aunt Viola slipped her fragile hand before the
earl as well. "Mayhap
we shall see you again," she giggled.
"I would say 'tis
almost a certainty," Lord Somerton replied. He nodded to Grace, then,
turning away from the others, took Eliza's hand in his.
The earl bowed
low over her glove, then, as he rose up, shot her a wink. A wink! And
at court, no less.
Eliza arched a
chastising brow, but he only grinned, then turned back to her elderly
ladies," he said, ever so politely, as if nothing had happened. But,
of course, as far as her sister or aunts knew, nothing had.
"Good day, Lord
Somerton," her aunts chirped merrily, a sentiment echoed by Grace as
they departed for their carriage.
their conveyance, Eliza leaned toward the cab window and idly watched
as Lord Somerton climbed into his own town carriage and disappeared from
But as she settled
back in her seat, Eliza realized her mistake. Her aunts had been watching
her, and now sat, pleased as can be, with amused, knowing grins curving
am not interested
in Lord Somerton," she told them.
"Whatever you say,
Eliza," Aunt Letitia replied. Then both her aunts cupped gloved hands
over their mouths and giggled.
Eliza rolled her
eyes. Oh, dash it all. It was all too clear. Her aunts' matchmaking
campaign had begun, and Lord Somerton, heaven help him, had been marked
their primary target.