Patricia Grasso is the author of eighteen historical romances including the Douglas Series which follows the love stories of the amazing Douglas sisters (Angelica, Samantha and Victoria) in Regency London and the Lords of Stratford Series, Regency historical romances with a fairy-tale twist about the aristocratic families in Stratford-on-Avon.
Book 1 ~ Lords of Stratford Series
She doesn’t want a guardian . . .
Lady Isabelle Montgomery wants to be left alone to play her flute and talk to Giselle, the guardian angel only she can see. Because Isabelle manages her brother’s estate finances, her greedy stepmother and selfish stepsisters continually harass her for fancy clothes and a season in London. For reasons she refuses to share, Isabelle has no desire to go to London. Unexpectedly, the Duke of Avon announces that he is her temporary guardian while her brother, the Earl of Stratford, has gone abroad. This complication annoys Isabelle who thinks the duke is thoroughly irritating. So why can’t she stop thinking about him? And why does Giselle keep telling her about a dark prince?
He doesn’t want a ward . . .
John Saint-Germain, the Duke of Avon, wants nothing to do with wards or stepfamilies. The duke suffered a moment’s weakness and promised the earl that he would watch over his sister, including sponsoring Isabelle and her stepsisters into society. And then John meets his stubborn, outspoken, thoroughly irritating ward. Her fiery beauty and independent spirit attract him. Is he falling in love? If only she’d stop talking to that imaginary friend.
Their enemies want to destroy them . . .
Both John and Isabelle have enemies who join forces to plot against them. John will brave any danger to protect Isabelle and his family. Even if it means seeing with his heart and believing in the impossible.
As she walked into the garden, Isabelle spied a solitary figure sitting on a stone bench. She smiled, recognizing her old friend, and then advanced on her.
“Are you here too?” Isabelle said by way of a greeting.
“No, I’m a figment of your imagination.”
“Shall we play?”
Isabelle nodded and sat on the bench beside her. She lifted her flute to her lips and poured all of her feelings into the instrument.
They played a song of infinite beauty, the notes first eerie and lilting, then haunting and reflective. The melody was a soothing bath of sound, reminiscent of a moonlit stroll, rustling leaves, echoing owls calling to each other in the night.
“I’ll see you inside.” Giselle vanished in an instant.
“Mistress Montgomery?” the Duke of Avon called. “Is that you?”
“Yes, Your Grace.” Was she forbidden a few moments of privacy? When the duke stood in front of her, Isabelle tilted her head back to gaze up the long length of him.
“You play divinely,” John said. “It sounded as if two people were playing.”
Had he heard Giselle’s flute? How could that be? No one but she had ever heard the old woman.
“How did you make it sound like a duo?”
John nodded, accepting her explanation. “May I join you on the bench?”
“Suit yourself, Your Grace.” Isabelle slid over to make room for him.
He sat down beside her, so close his thigh teased the side of her cloak. Glancing down at the close proximity of their bodies, Isabelle felt her cheeks heat with embarrassment and sent up a silent prayer of thanks that the night hid her discomfort.
“I thought I saw someone sitting with you,” John said, slanting a sidelong glance at her.
Isabelle stared at him in surprise. Had he seen Giselle? Only she had ever seen the old woman. What did this mean?
“I assure you that I am alone. Who would be sitting with me?”
“A friend, perhaps?”
“I have no friends.”
“Not even an invisible friend?”
“If you saw her,” Isabelle countered, “then she wouldn’t be invisible.”
“It’s a woman, then?”
“Really, Your Grace, this conversation is ridiculous,” Isabelle said, trying to steer him away from the subject.
“You are correct.” He stared straight ahead.
A heavy silence descended upon them. Isabelle decided the silence between them was even more uncomfortable than his probing questions.
“You need not have defended me against Lobelia and Rue,” she told him. “My stepsisters are henwits.”
“Even henwits can create problems in society,” John warned, turning his head to look at her, which made her even more uncomfortable than enduring the silence. “Henwits are the worst purveyors of gossip.
“You could be correct about that.” Isabelle tore her gaze away from his. Lord, but those midnight-black eyes seemed to see to the very depths of her insecure soul.
“I mean no insult,” John continued, drawing her attention, “but when you come to London, you must refrain from thinking out loud, or you will never catch a husband.”
“If I want to catch something, I’ll go fishing,” Isabelle shot back. “I have no need of a husband.”
“Every woman needs a man to care for her,” John said in a quiet voice. “Any woman who believes otherwise possesses the intelligence of an oyster.”
“I didn’t mean that I would never marry,” Isabelle said. “When Miles returns, I will have my come-out and choose a husband.”
“You will have your come-out this spring with or without your brother’s presence,” John corrected her. “My mother never raised a daughter and is looking forward to introducing you into society. Of course, before that happens, you will need to learn certain rules of propriety.”
“I don’t give a rat’s arse about propriety.”