Title: Dealing with the Viscount
Author: Clair Brett
Genre: Historical Romance
After making a wager of marriage to settle her father's gambling debts, Ella Bowen-Thorn Renwick escaped the husband she foolishly began to fall for and disappeared into the Scottish countryside carrying a secret. Four years later, and the owner of her own bakery, she is still not free of the demands of men when a violent and anonymous blackmailer threatens her, her livelihood...and her daughter. And then, there is him...
Viscount Renwick still mourns the wife he began to love before her untimely death--that is until he discovers her alive and well living in Scotland. Now, Devon's face to face with the wife he thought he'd buried and the daughter he never knew existed. He'd like nothing more than to welcome Ella back into his arms, but mysterious and troubling incidents and a history with an unloving father have Ella trusting no one.
But, if Renwick convinces his wife he's the husband she always dreamed of and the father their daughter deserves, will the scandalous secret the blackmailer is holding threaten their future together once more?
"Why, might I ask, am I sitting dripping wet in this cavern you call a library, when I should be back in London, rewriting my speech to Parliament about the tax on wheat?” Devon looked, he was sure, as bedraggled as he felt. He did not care to be in Scotland any time during the year, but when Parliament was in session was an especially poor time.
Glaring at his long-time friend, he waited for an answer. "Well?" he demanded. The note Devon, Lord Renwick, received, was cryptic at best, and he had expected to find his oldest friend on his deathbed.
"I was asking myself the same thing,” quipped Lord Breakerton. “I should think a proper guest would retire and make themselves more presentable before being availed to their host." God, he's enjoying this, thought Renwick. "As for being here instead of London, I sent you a note.” His friend waved a hand toward the desk in a haphazard manner.
"A proper guest would no doubt be pleased about being here all together, so let us just assume I am not a proper guest," Renwick bit out, dripping from the drenching rain of the Scottish night. Devon hated Scotland and all it took from him on a good day, not to mention the memories his trek into the hills conjured. Memories he thought buried. The fire burned, illuminating the hearth. Even in the warmer months, a Scottish castle was cold and drafty. Still in his greatcoat, he turned to warm his thighs and legs, which were as wet as everything else on his person. "Why am I here, and do not refer to the cryptic mess you called a note? It did nothing, but cause me to fear for your sanity."
Clive smiled. The library, if one could call it that, looked at one time to be the great hall. It now stood with shelves from floor to ceiling. Not all the shelves were full, giving it the feel of a work in progress. Overall, the atmosphere was comfortable which strangely enough, fit his libertine, rakehell friend.
"Why don't you take those wet things off? We need to talk."
Devon did as he was bid. All the while, a knot began to tie itself in his stomach. Clive, though perfectly able to have serious discord, avoided it whenever possible. Devon’s mind raced, listing all that could be wrong. First in his mind was illness, second, money. The latter was discarded immediately. Clive might play the ne’er-do-well, but Devon knew the head for business this man had, not to mention his feelings of responsibility. No, it must be illness.
Devon sat again, but this time in the opposite chair facing Clive. His friend looked grim as he made his way with a brandy for Devon. This was all Devon had left. This one man. Once he was gone, Devon would truly be alone. The only other one, Flick, he could not claim in society's circles.
"What do you know of your wife's death?” The question, abrupt as cannon fire, took Devon by surprise. A long, dormant pain tightened his chest. Damn, he hated Scotland.
"She died. What more do I need to know?" Devon's answer was clipped and bitter.
"How?" Clive pierced Devon with determined eyes.
"Highwaymen. Why are we having this discussion? You know I prefer--"
"Did you see her body?"
"No!" Devon spat out with disgust “I saw her father's body. Again, tell me why, before I leave the way I came.” Devon's voice had risen by degrees to match his anger. Swallowing what was left of his brandy, Devon stalked to the mantel. This fortnight had already been hell and he had no care to continue the descent. He didn't think of Ella at all, because if he did, it would remind him of how close he had come to falling into a trap from which his father never was freed. Devon also didn't care to relive the pain of knowing her light would never shine on the world. When she left, Devon had been furious, but just knowing she was still alive would have been a comfort. Finding out she was dead and there was no going back, well that was almost too much for him to bear at the time.
With a calm that grated on Devon's nerves, Clive went on, breaking the silence. "I was out of town when you finally got married, if you will. I never knew any of the particulars of the agreement the two of you struck, save for your first meeting. I was not even present at the ceremony, though I heard it was an elegant affair."
"Yes, it was," Devon agreed, but grudgingly. He tried every day not to think about the one lapse in his otherwise impeccable judgment. One slip and where did it get a man? One would think one would be allotted one mistake in a lifetime. "It was elegant and refined, just as the Ton expected. It looked like a love match.” Devon’s voice came out as hollow and emotionless. He spoke as though it were the most recent balloon ascension in the park. As if, he was speaking of leaving his mistress. A business deal done, finished. After all, that was what it was. “The agreement was as you knew. We would marry. I would take from her dowry, what her father owed me. Then after a determined amount of time, she would go to Scotland to visit relatives, and once there, she would send word of her death and be out of my life forever.” Now, four years later, the deal seemed very foolish. Fleetingly, Devon wondered if they might have made a go of it had she not left unexpectedly before their agreed upon date.
If money were no object, where would you go for a Spring Break vacation and why?
I would go to Great Britain. It is where all my stories take place, but like many of my readers I have to use my imagination when writing about it.
What’s your favorite thing about Spring and why?
I HATE winter, so any sign of the cold weather going away is great, but I love when the leaves just start to pop. They are the prettiest shade of green and it happens over night.
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Ex-Dragon keeper and historical romance author of two published novels, Clair Brett lives in NH with her hard working husband. Her office staff during the day consists of Cinta, a black cat and the matriarch of the fur babies, Mojo, a yellow kitten who spends his day holding Clair down in her seat to get her word count in, a boxer/beagle mix named Willow, who sleeps next to her chair to make it hard to do an Oreo run without doing a pee run as well, and our newest member a black lab mix who is on alert duty when anything comes into the neighborhood. As official empty-nesters the fur babies get a little spoiled.
A former middle and high school English teacher, Clair has had a lifetime love affair with reading. Once she read Pride and Prejudice as an extra read in high school, she was hooked. Clair began pursuit of publication when she was a new mother in need of a hobby. Her oldest daughter and mama to the bearded dragon grand pet is off to serve in the Air National Guard as a medic and no longer in the nest, so you do the math. Clair is a firm believer that a reader finds a piece of who they are or learns something about the world with every book they read. She wants her readers to be empowered and to have a refreshed belief in the goodness of people and the power of love after reading her work.
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