Title: Lord Shallow
Author: Eileen Putman
Genre: Regency Romance, Historical Romance
To all of London, Sebastian Traherne is a pretentious fop who prizes his tailor over his dukedom. In truth, he’s an obsessively rational fellow protecting a secret marriage. When a prickly Welsh miss arrives at his crumbling castle one gloomy night, she upends his world—and every principle he holds dear. Worse, she believes in a silly fairy tale known as True Love.
Gwynna Owen might be the last true Princess of Wales, but she needs this very English duke to claim her legacy and vanquish a tyrant. When Sebastian quickly sees through her boy’s disguise, she must plead her case with only a rusty dagger—and sapphire eyes that conjure what he most wishes to avoid.
Maitland's Rogues series features daring English lords who risk all for their country. Hardened and deadly, they have no use for love—until it ensnares them…
Gwynna had prepared herself to face an old man who might have lingering feelings for her mother and who might wish to set things right in the twilight of his years.
Instead, she had this aloof aristocrat.
That tousled hair was probably the height of fashion in London. Candlelight didn’t reveal the precise color of his eyes, but they seemed a mix of green and bronze.
The Duke of Claremont was as handsome a man as Gwynna had seen.
Measuring him with her Welshwoman’s eye, which could judge at a glance whether there was meal in the larder to last the month, Gwynna decided he was nearly half a foot taller than any man she knew.
But his figure was lean and elegant, not coarse. Ladies must swoon when he entered a room. Yet his eyes held a cool intelligence. He was no one’s fool.
Despair swept her. She might have faced down an old man preparing to meet his Maker, but she’d never persuade this too-perceptive aristocrat that she was a member of his family.
Still, she was an Owen. He was but an Englishman. Welsh did not give way to English.
“I am the daughter of Megan Glendower Owen of Anglesey,” Gwynna said. “It’s an island off North Wales. It’s there William and my mother met. They fell in love.”
The duke looked down that patrician nose at her. “You Welsh are storytellers, are you not? Doubtless you felt compelled to put a lovely bow on something sordid—”
“It was love,” Gwynna insisted. “I believe they married.”
“There’s no reason to believe a word of your tale, especially since you’ve been engaged in pretense from the first.”
“I pretended to be a boy because I couldn’t travel alone as a woman,” she protested.
“Those ruffians were on the verge of unmasking you,” he pointed out.
“I would have prevailed. Owen was with me.”
The duke frowned. “The only person I saw at your side was your terrified friend. Owen, whoever he may be, was nowhere —”
“Owen is Prince of Wales.”
He blinked. “If I recall correctly, England already has a Prince of Wales. Just the one, mind you, and his name isn’t Owen. Moreover, he would be the last person to rush to any woman’s defense.”
“You refer to the Regent—English royalty,” Gwynna said. “I do not regard him. Owen was the last true Prince of Wales. I am his blood descendant.”
“Ah. He would be dead, then?”
Gwynna was not used to verbal jousting. She’d grown up in a house where questions went unanswered and argument wasn’t permitted. “His death was never recorded.”
“Perhaps it is the word ‘dead’ that you have difficulty with. Let’s make it less harsh—‘deceased,’ perhaps. As in: Your deceased royal relative Owen was nowhere in evidence on the moor tonight.”
“You see only with English eyes,” Gwynna said. “That is delusion.”
“Why would my cousin and your mother have wed in secret?” he asked.
“Her parents—my grandparents—had no use for English. Perhaps she needed time to accustom them to the marriage. It is the only explanation.”
“I can think of others,” he said softly. “William would not be the first man to enjoy a woman’s charms, then tire of her.”
Gwynna felt her face flush. “My mother would not have succumbed to falseness.”
He reached for the brandy and refilled his glass. To her surprise, he also refilled hers.
“Miss Owen,” he said, not unkindly, “you don’t know the truth of any of this.”
The brandy burned her throat, so she drank it quickly. “I’ve found no marriage documents,” she conceded. “I had hoped William kept them here.”
“Illogical and unlikely.”
“Perhaps he wasn’t ruled by logic,” Gwynna persisted. “A man with your lofty self-regard cannot possibly fathom how passion can sweep all else aside.”
He stiffened. “You know nothing of me.”
A frisson of uneasiness swept her. They were all but alone in this dreadful castle.
Something must have shown on her face, for the duke appeared taken aback. “Do not look at me like that. I will not harm you.”
As if to underscore the point, he retreated to the far side of the desk.
“I cannot pretend your presence is welcome,” he said. “Regardless, you are safe here. Unless the castle falls down on us—which, regrettably, seems entirely possible. We’ll continue this tomorrow.”
She rose unsteadily.
“I regret there is no maid to attend you.” That hard gaze again. “But if you have any intention of turning this to your advantage, think again.”
“Advantage?” Her brain felt thick.
He cleared his throat. “You are a young woman sleeping under my roof—such as it is—without benefit of a chaperone. It is not…respectable.”
“I am not accustomed to respectable.”
He eyed her sternly. “If, in order to press a connection to my family, you try to assert that I compromised you, it will not wash. I…cannot be trapped into marriage.”
“I’ll have what I’m due by rights, Englishman, not trickery.” Gwynna moved toward the study door. “And while I am certain every woman in England finds you a catch, my tastes are plainer. I have no use for puffed-up peacocks.”
Dear Lord. Had she actually spoken those words aloud? She hadn’t eaten in hours, and the brandy had loosened her tongue. She had to leave before disgracing herself further.
Flinging the door open, she stepped into the corridor—only to find it dark and disorienting. Just as she feared she might fall, a strong hand under her elbow steadied her.
“That was a grand exit,” the duke murmured.
A note from the author:
This book grew bigger and more sweeping than I planned! An early surprise may be a dealbreaker for some romance fans. If you’re looking for a classic Regency historical that fits a formula, Lord Shallow may not be your cup of tea. Yet character will out. Here you’ll find a man who is so much more than he seems and a woman who’s finding her voice after years of having it suppressed. Their struggle as they make their way to one another is this story’s truth.
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