Lord Radcliffe’s Best Friend by @reginajeffers is a Fall Into These Great Reads pick #romance #win
Title: Lord Radcliffe’s Best Friend
Author: Regina Jeffers
Genre: Regency romance; friends to lovers romance; historical fiction, clean romance
Hendrake Barrymore, Lord Radcliffe, is a typical male, a bit daff when it comes to the ways of women, especially the ways of one particular woman, Miss Adelaide Shaw, his childhood companion, a girl who plays a part in every pleasant memory Drake holds. Yet, since he failed to deliver Addy’s first kiss on her fifteenth birthday, his former “friend” has struck him from her life just at a time when Radcliffe has come to the conclusion Adelaide is the one woman who best suits him. This tale is more than a familiar story of friends to lovers for it presents the old maxim an unusual twist.
“I am going to kill him!” Hendrake Barrymore, Lord Radcliffe, growled as he looked down upon where his neighbor’s stallion was doing his best to bring another of Drake’s prized mares to foal.
“Dost ye mean to kill the horse or its owner?” Jack McGuyer asked with a grin.
Drake required no prompting from his steward to bring forth an image of Lord Bernard Shaw nor of the baron’s daughter, Adelaide. Drake had never understood his attraction to the woman. As an earl, he could have his pick of the crop of beauties making their Come Outs for the Season, but none of them could hold a candle to Adelaide. She had inherited the best of both her maternal and paternal ancestors. Her hair was a chestnut brown, rich with hints of gold, and her eyes were a coppery-brown, sparking with fire. She was tall enough not to appear petite when standing beside him, which she rarely did these days unless they both exited the Sunday services at the same time. Then she would acknowledge him before excusing herself to speak to anyone but him.
There had been a time when they were inseparable, roaming the hills and valleys making up their fathers’ estates. Then he had been sent off to school and had returned home full of himself—too concerned with arrogance at being the future earl to find time to spend with the one person he had always considered as important to his self-worth as were his parents. Later, he suspected he did not seek her out because he did not want to hear what she would say regarding the road he had been traveling, and Drake held no doubts, Adelaide Shaw would have had an opinion—she always did, and it would be one he did not want to hear.
Yet, soon, everything changed for both of them. It had been her fifteenth birthday. He, or rather, he should say, his mother, had presented Adelaide with two song birds in a cage, a gift from his family, and Addy had seemed so pleased. She kept giving him looks, which, at the time, he did not understand, but would be thrilled to receive today. Then he had made a colossal error. Drake could remember the moment as if it had occurred yesterday. His friends Lord Randolph French and Mr. Charles Scott had accompanied him to Cliffe House, and, unlike his previous holidays at the manor, he had ignored Adelaide completely until the evening of her celebration.
His friends had teased him, egging Drake on until he maneuvered one of Lord Shaw’s maids into what he thought was an empty room so he might steal a kiss. He had never treated a servant of his father’s house or Shaw’s as such, but French and Scott kept saying it was all a “lark” and quite expected of young lords. As the maid quickly agreed, Drake had foolishly thought them correct. Stealing a kiss from a female servant was part of proving one was a man.
Unfortunately, Addy was in the room he had chosen. It was not until days later he had wondered why she had been lurking in the shadows of her family’s library. Had she planned an assignation of her own? The idea bothered him more than he would care to admit, but not enough to consider his pursuit of the maid as being any more than proof he could seduce a willing miss. He meant to demonstrate to his friends his “way” with willing women.
He had just tugged the maid into the room behind him and closed the door, positioning the girl along the wall, when Adelaide showed herself. “What do you think you are doing?” she demanded in sharp tones, which she had rarely used with him.
He had searched for an explanation, but none came to him readily enough to satisfy Adelaide. Angry, she had struck him then—not a simple slap, but rather a solid punch to his side. If the blow had not made him wince, Drake would have known pride: He had taught her how to punch so as to deliver a powerful blow while not breaking her thumb. “You derelict!” she charged. “I thought you above such manipulations, but you are no better than those two coxcombs who accompanied you to my father’s house this evening!”
“Now, Addy,” he began, finally finding his voice.
She punched him a second time, this one landing against his bicep. “Do not ‘Addy’ me, Hendrake Barrymore! I am ‘Miss Shaw’ to you, as you are ‘Lord Chadwick’ to me.” She turned her venomous tone on the maid. “If I were you, Iris, I would return to my ‘assigned’ duties and pray my mistress has a poor memory.” The girl curtseyed and scampered quickly from the room.
He and Adelaide stood in silence for a few brief moments, eyeing each other in a manner he had never thought to consider. When had Adelaide Shaw become such a fetching female? She stood there, chest heaving in anger, and he felt his manhood come to life. Regrettably, Addy did not appear to know the same awareness of him as he had experienced. “You do not mean to offer me an excuse for your behavior?” she demanded.
Although Drake was not proud of his intentions, he was not about to admit himself in the wrong, especially to Adelaide. She was not his parent. It was not necessary for him to answer to her. “It was only to be a simple kiss, Miss Shaw,” he said with a hint of authority, after all, he was the son of the Earl of Radcliffe.
“For you, perhaps, it was a simple kiss,” Adelaide had countered. “However, your actions have likely cost Iris her position in my father’s house. Her regrets will fall on my mother’s deaf ears, for the baroness does not tolerate such foolishness from her household staff. It will be considered by both Lady Shaw and Iris as more than a simple kiss before this evening knows an end.”
Drake had not considered the ramifications of his actions in those terms; he had only thought of proving himself to his friends. “What do you wish of me, Adelaide? I have apologized. If you wish me to speak to your mother in Iris’s behalf, I will. I do not wish Iris to lose her position because of me.”
“What do I wish from you?” she repeated in what sounded of frustration.
“Yes,” he answered in equal dismay.
“I shall tell you what I want, my lord,” she accented each of her words by poking him in the chest with her index finger. “I want the return of my friend—the young man who was good and kind and thoughtful. I want that man to return to his sensibilities. I do not much care for the man you are becoming. I fear the earldom is doomed if this is the type of man you have designed for yourself.”
What’s your favorite thing about the fall season:
As I live in North Carolina, the summer’s heat is more than a bit “oppressive,” at times. We often say we have “air we can wear.” However, the colors of the trees in autumn are truly something wonderful to behold. It is as if God’s finger trailed a line of red down one slope of the mountains, a line of yellow/gold on another, and a final line of orange for a third. More importantly, the color change works its way down the mountains, beginning usually in the first weeks of October and moves on to the lower elevations at the beginning of November. It is an ongoing show of nature at its best.
What inspired you to write this story:
A group of us were challenged to write a tale where the hero and heroine find themselves unexpectedly trapped together. Most chose to write about strangers being trapped, but I chose two people whose worlds once overlapped, but where one foolish mistake has torn them apart. The heroine has been the hero’s best friend since childhood – but he has only just realized he wants her to be more. It is a pity then she has decided to erase him from her life. As it would take a true “disaster” to bring them back into each other’s arms, such is what I wrote.
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With 50+ books to her credit, Regina Jeffers is an award-winning author of historical cozy mysteries, Austenesque sequels and retellings, as well as Regency era-based romantic suspense and historical romances. A teacher for thirty-nine years, Jeffers often serves as a consultant for Language Arts and Media Literacy programs. With multiple degrees, Regina has been a Time Warner Star Teacher, Columbus (OH) Teacher of the Year, and a Martha Holden Jennings Scholar, as well as a Smithsonian presenter. Her stories have been acknowledged by the Daphne du Maurier Award for Excellence in Mystery/Suspense, the Frank Yerby Award for Fiction, the coveted Derby Award for Fiction, the International Digital Awards, and the Chanticleer International Book Award, among her many accolades.
Social Media Links:
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