Title: An Exotic Heir
Author: Meredith Bond
Genre: Regency Romance
Weaving a web of revenge can be satisfying, but dangerous to your heart.
London society is shallow and cruel—sending Cassandra Renwick running to her parents’ home in Calcutta, the exotic seat of the British Raj. It’s an interesting place filled with fascinating people—including the dark and mysterious Julian Ritchie. But she never expected that with the magic of this alien land would also come heartbreak.
Julian has always been discriminated against for being only half-English. Embittered, he plots an intricate plan for vengeance with the innocent and lovely Cassandra as his pawn. But he soon finds that payback can be painful for the avenger as well. The threads of revenge unwittingly turn into the silken bonds of love.
Calcutta, November 1810
Julian Ritchie entered the ballroom with his usual self-confident swagger. This night was going to be different, he told himself.
He didn’t know what it was that made him think so. Indeed, he had entered many a ballroom before thinking the very same thing, only to be severely disappointed.
But tonight there was something in the air—something magical. It was going to be a good night.
He stopped for a moment just inside the door and took in the ballroom. The brilliant colors of the ladies’ dresses and the officers’ uniforms warred with the vibrant colors of the flowers which were everywhere overflowing from sconces on the walls and in vases on every surface. The smell filled the room. It made for a very nice change from the street smell of spices and animals that always seemed to hang in the air.
And then there were the people themselves. All of Calcutta’s English society was here. Everyone who was anyone had been invited to Miss Renwick’s coming-out ball. He could even see a few prominent, wealthy Indian gentlemen present.
Julian took a deep breath and headed for the first group of people who were standing and chatting nearest the door.
“How do you do, Mrs. Hurst, Miss Hurst,” Julian said, bowing to the two ladies.
Adelaide Hurst turned around, gave an imperious sniff and then turned her back on him once again. Her daughter, Anne, did little better, managing a small nod in his direction before turning back to her conversation.
Julian did not let their reactions bother him. He moved on, slowly strolling about the room and nodding to people who deigned to notice his existence.
He turned toward the dance floor. The dancers hopped and skipped about as they executed the complicated steps of an English country dance. But his gaze was held captive by the young woman at the head of the line. She was dressed in white and staring directly at him.
Julian couldn’t help himself. He stared right back.
She was beautiful.
There was an odd sensation in his stomach. As if a fire had been lit somewhere inside of him. Heat began to rush through him as he watched her.
She was like a porcelain doll. Her creamy complexion set off by just a little flush of color on her cheeks from the exertion of the dance. Her eyes were the color of the sky and her hair the color of the sun.
If her mouth was a little too wide, or her nose a little too small, he could not say. To him, she was perfect.
But why was she looking at him, of all people?
Cassandra could not imagine why her eyes kept straying toward the man in the old-fashioned blue coat. That he was unusually handsome and stood out from the other gentlemen present did not weigh with her. She was not interested in men. Not anymore. Not after what Lord Felbridge had done to her.
And yet her eyes kept finding their way to him.
Cassandra studied the man. What was it about him that made him stand out so? Yes, he was tall and his high cheek bones and strong jaw were exceptionally pleasing to the eye.
His eyes were the most amazing color. They were not quite green and yet not quite blue, but something in between–turquoise, she supposed.
Although the cut of his coat was out of date, it was well-cut and it was easy to see that he had a fine physique. He looked like he had been out in the sun too long, his skin was so brown–clearly he did something that involved some work outdoors. Perhaps some sport, since he was clearly a gentleman?
But there was more to him than merely his physical attractiveness. He had something that made everyone else in the room seem insignificant.
That was bad.
She was supposed to be paying attention to Major Vernon, her dance partner for the third time this evening. But she simply could not garner up any enthusiasm for the ruddy-cheeked major, who, with his fulsome attentions, was reminding her of all the other cads she had met since that fateful day in Vauxhall.
Cassandra’s eyes wandered over to the gentleman in the blue coat. She nearly gasped out loud–had Miss Stroughton just given him the cut direct?
Cassandra had to fight the urge to run to his side. She wished she could do something to stop this horrific behavior! How could people behave this way?
Unexpectedly, she felt tears sting her eyes.
“You are still looking very upset, Miss Renwick,” Major Vernon’s voice reclaimed her attention.
She turned to him, this time completely unable to muster up even a smile. “I’m sorry, Major. I was just wondering if you knew that man over there. I believe he has just been given the cut direct, and I’ve noticed that very few people seem to be speaking to him. Has he done something horribly gauche?”
The Major looked over his shoulder. When he turned back to her, his eyebrows were drawn down and he looked very displeased. “You too should have nothing to do with that man. He is a nobody.”
Cassandra drew a sharp breath, and fought to keep herself from slapping Major Vernon’s smiling, superior-looking face. Lord Felbridge’s words echoed in her head.
He had called her a nobody as well.
“That’s a horrible thing to say! How dare you? Everybody is somebody. And I’d like to know who that man is,” she said unable to contain her anger.
“I am terribly sorry if I have hurt your delicate sensibilities, Miss Renwick. It is very good of you to think that way, but truly, you should have nothing to do with him. I am surprised he was even invited. He has no place among us.”
He tightened his grip on Cassandra’s hand. “If I were you, Miss Renwick, I would stay away from Julian Ritchie.”
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Why is your featured book a must-read?
This first book of the Merry Men Series introduces three of the four friends featured in this quartet. We explore Regency Calcutta, a fascinating, exotic city, and travel from there back to London to experience the angst of betrayal and the thrill of revenge.
Enter to win a book bundle of all 35 books featured in the Book Series Starter Event:
Runs January 13 – 23, 2020.
Winner will be drawn on January 24, 2020.
Meredith Bond's books straddle that beautiful line between historical romance and fantasy. An award-winning author, she writes fun traditional Regency romances, medieval Arthurian romances, and Regency romances with a touch of magic. Known for her characters “who slip readily into one’s heart,” Meredith loves to take her readers on a journey they won't soon forget.
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