Title: The Beaumont Betrothal
Author: Leigh D’Ansey
Genre: Regency Romance
With her family facing ruin, Sophia Cranston reluctantly enters an arrangement to marry Freddy Beaumont, the heir to ancient earldom. But when a stranger arrives in their midst and claims he is the firstborn son and legitimate heir, Sophia’s world is sent spinning.
Born on an island and raised in the Americas, Bruno Cavanaugh is astounded to discover he is the son of Jonathan Beaumont, the fifth Earl of Enderby. When he meets Sophia, he is instantly captivated, but his delight is short-lived when he finds she is betrothed to his half-brother.
Will loyalty to their families keep Sophia and Bruno apart, or will desire drive them together?
When she reached the arched bridge over the brook, Sophia turned to lean her forearms onto the rough stone wall. Staring downwards, her thoughts tumbled over themselves like the frothing water below. A shaft of sunlight glanced through the clouds and she lifted her face instinctively towards the feeble warmth.
“Careful. You’ll get freckles,” came a deep voice from behind her.
Startled, she spun around to see a wide-shouldered long-legged gentleman with a thick crop of peat-colored hair roughed-up by the same breeze that played with her own. His high-bridged nose bisected a pair of bold, alert eyes and she was struck by an odd sense of familiarity. At the same time, she knew she’d never met this man before. She would not have forgotten that dark, flashing glance.
A thrill flickered inside her. Despite the blustery draught, the air around her shimmered. She brought a hand to her throat and drew in a quick breath but did not look away, imbued with an unexpected recklessness.
“I rather like freckles.” She lifted her chin, aware of the wind loosening the length of colored cloth she’d tied about her head earlier in the day.
He smiled. His teeth were very white, their color echoed in the thin, gleaming scar that tracked across the lean plane of his right cheek. Perhaps it was this injury, tugging at the muscles beneath his bronzed skin that resulted in an indent near the corner of his long upper lip and softened the hard line of his mouth.
“I do too,” he said, eyeing her in a way that brought warmth to her face. His rich baritone was dangerously attractive, and his drawling enunciation told Sophia he was not a native-born Englishman.
Conversing with a gentleman when she was unchaperoned and to whom she had not been introduced breached all the rules of etiquette, but she did not care. For she held an unhappy awareness that this could be her last chance to venture beyond the bounds of behavior society, and she herself, would demand of her should she be compelled to marry Freddy.
She found herself returning his smile. “I do not know you, Sir,” she said. “And I have been cautioned throughout my life against the perils of speaking to strangers.”
His mouth quirked. “I am not particularly strange,” he said. “But that’s certainly a valid warning for a young lady. It’s one I’d issue myself.”
She dimpled, unable to resist provoking further conversation. “Then perhaps I should bid you goodbye.” But she made no move to step away, intrigued by this new turn of events and excited by the presence of a man unlike any she had encountered before.
Despite the weather his dress was faultless; his white cravat precisely tied, his caped surtout tailored to emphasize his wide shoulders and narrow waist. Perhaps he had unbuttoned it when the rain stopped for it lay open, displaying a cream-on-cream waistcoat beneath a charcoal jacket. Tight-fitting buckskins encased long, muscled legs and his hessian boots gleamed where they were not splashed with mud. He carried himself with an easy, masculine grace and wore his garments without pretention.
Beyond him and to the right, a bay mare cropped at the grass beside the brook. Sophia was surprised her unhappy thoughts had so engrossed her that both horse and rider had been able to approach without her knowing.
After a moment or two he angled his face and said: “What were you searching for?”
Sophia tilted her head.
“When I first saw you, you were gazing so intently into the water. I wondered what held your interest.”
Sophia caught her lower lip between her teeth. What could she say? She was watching for mating trout? She turned her face into the cooling breeze.
“Fish,” she said truthfully, though with less eloquence than she would have liked.
He nodded interestedly, the corner of his mouth lifting. “To… fish for… or to eat?”
Sophia shook her head. “To watch. They are quite beautiful.” She found herself staring at his mouth, waiting for that captivating indent to appear. When it did, her heart gave a little lurch.
His eyes flashed with humor. “I don’t recall ever encountering a woman who considered fish beautiful.”
“Oh, but they are! Only last week I saw a buck directly under this bridge with the most astonishing coloring, flashes of dark red dappled with gold.” She was aware of her expression dimming. “But I should not like to catch one, for when they are out of their own environment their colors fade to dullness.” Like hers would, once she was married to Freddy, she thought unhappily.
“Do you eat them?”
“I’m sorry to say I do, but if I was to rely on myself to hook them, I do not think I could bear it.”
Bruno was captivated, and glad of the opportunity for diversion. He’d faced and overcome many challenges in his life, but he still felt edgy about fulfilling the mission he’d embarked upon some weeks before. He’d dismounted by this freshet of the Wye River to gather himself before his audience with Jonathan Digby Beaumont, fifth Earl of Enderby and numerous other titles too intricate to unravel. Although he’d come well prepared and was eager to make the connection, he couldn’t help but feel some unease as to how he would be received.
Female entanglements had repelled him in recent months but stumbling upon this extraordinary creature with her clear gray eyes and generous mouth stirred him intensely. Along with a vivid scarf tying back her hair, she wore what looked like a working man’s coat, its color akin to the hide of a sorrel horse, its skirts caked with muck. But the garment clung to her waist and flared out over her hips and Bruno felt a jolt of arousal at his root. Her shining gaze, wind-tossed hair and eccentric dress lent her an unaffected sensuality that was somehow out of kilter with her otherwise genteel bearing.
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Why is your featured book a must-read?
The Beaumont Betrothal combines classic Regency Romance with hot overtones to suit 21st Century readers. The issues of family, love, and loss resonate with us all, and the novel’s sweep from Britain to the Caribbean and the Americas offers a fabulous global flavour.
As for most of us, family is central to the lives of artist Sophia, and Bruno, an adventurer and investor, born in the Caribbean and raised in Philadelphia. It is family that brings them together and it is family that keeps them apart—each driven by the need to nurture family members; each burdened by remorse and seeking atonement for past actions that damaged the people they love. Who among us has no regrets? Who among us yearns for that one soul who will complete the circle of our life?
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Reading and writing have always been central to my life. Along with romance, I've written children's literature, short stories, and articles, and I established and published my own magazine, which I subsequently sold to a larger publisher. Some of my work has been recognized at a national level, and I'm proud to be a member of Romance Writers NZ, a superb organization for writers at all levels. Like most of us, I've experienced sorrow and loss, joy and excitement. Marriage and divorce, the excitement of falling in love, the joy of childbirth and the sorrow of losing two dear parents are life events that shift your mindset and alter your world view in both subtle and profound ways. My career path has been a long and winding road. I spent a short time as a very bad waitress; I've been a market stallholder, a B&B host, and a self-employed administrator. I've picked berries, driven tractors, mowed lawns and worked for a global humanitarian agency. I'm deeply connected to the natural landscape of my home in New Zealand/Aotearoa, a land rich in cultural history with picture-postcard scenery around every corner. Family is the beating heart of my life. I have two children and three gorgeous (naturally!) grandchildren. I share my home with my life-partner, also a writer, and Hutch, a black and white dog of uncertain pedigree. I love food, flowers, trees, storms, the sea, solitude and the sound of rain on the roof. Although I'm not keen on creepy-crawlies, I believe we all have a place in this world. What do I do in my spare time? Waste most of it! When I'm in productive mode I potter in the garden, cook and fool around with art-making. I spend too much time playing Spider Solitaire, googling almost anything and chatting on Facebook... but don't tell anyone!
If you've enjoyed one of my books, I'd love to hear from you! Please visit my website, www.leighdanseyauthor.com, or catch up with me on Facebook, BookBub, GoodReads or Twitter at the links provided. If you've enjoyed my work, I'd be delighted if you leave a review on Amazon and/or Goodreads. If you'd like to join my ARC team or receive my newsletter (I promise not to bombard you), please email me at email@example.com. Thank you so much!
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