His One and Only Lady
Daughters of Desire (Scandalous Ladies) Series, #4
Love comes easily to some. Others have to fight for it…
Purity Mayfield doesn’t entertain romantic notions. She knows marriage isn’t a possibility and has accepted her lot in life is that of a governess. She’s good at her job, too. So, when she sees a little girl being mistreated by her so-called caretaker, Purity doesn’t hesitate to step in and help. Unfortunately, the girl’s cynical and entirely too attractive father is neither grateful nor impressed by her intervention…
Theran Rutland had—and lost—one great love. He has no intention of seeking another. So, romance is the last thing on his mind when the beautiful Purity accuses his sister-in-law of abusing his daughter. But when her allegations prove true, Theran offers Purity a governess position. Imagine his surprise when he starts to develop actual feelings for her…
When all is said and done, Purity and Theran might have a shot at happily ever after. But only if a jealous, vengeful rival and a shocking revelation about Purity’s past don’t ruin everything first…
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See what readers are saying!
“If you’re looking for a heartfelt historical romance, pick up His One and Only Lady. Another masterfully written romance from Collette Cameron. Highly recommend!” ★★★★★ ~ N. N. Light
“It’s truly amazing how much depth of the characters you can have in such a short read when written by a good author.” ★★★★★ ~ Margare
“I loved everything about this book from Purity finding Bernadine crying to the lovely epilogue. The characters were well portrayed & had depth, the pace is good & I was drawn in from page one & left smiling a few hours later when I read the last sentence. I read this engrossing romance in a sitting. I loved the humour & the emotions I felt – yes I had to reach for a hankie a couple of times. I adored Bernadine who was utterly gorgeous & also the chemistry that built between Theran & Purity. Another well written captivating read, which I highly recommend.” ★★★★★ ~ Janet
“This was a delightful romance with engaging main characters and a sweet little girl.” ★★★★★ ~ Cheryl
“With wonderful characters from governess Purity Mayfield and Mister Theran Rutland to the precious Bernadine and the pets, a great setting for a story, Ms Cameron weaves a beautifully written, sweet love story.” ★★★★★ ~ Mia
“This story will keep you involved so make sure you read it when you can read it all. You will not want to put it down.” ★★★★★ ~ Sherry Tritt Holt
“This is a lovely story that pulled me in from the beginning. There are secrets and scandals, but there is also heartwarming romance that will charm you and put a smile on your face.” ★★★★★ ~ Sahar’s Honest Reviews
“Whether you are new to Collette Cameron’s books or a regular reader, you are in for a treat! I highly recommend this book to anyone looking for a relaxing and fun read. This is definitely worth a read!” ★★★★★ ~ Terrie
“This is a lovely story with more absolutely wonderful characters than you can count (a few not-so-wonderful ones as well). I happily recommend it (and a visit to a secret garden).” ★★★★★ ~ PeggyC51
“Such a heartwarming story to read. There are so many wonderful characters in the story as well as a couple that aren’t which helps to balance it.” ★★★★★ ~ Sherron
“Lovely, sweet story of governess Purity Mayfield and Mister Theran Rutland, widower and father of Bernadine… loved these characters, enjoyed the letters written between friends and family and was enchanted by little Bernadine.” ~ Lisa C.
“This was a sweet love-at-first sight trope.” ~ Kristi Hudecek-Ashwill
“This is a beautifully sweet story of trusting in the Almighty’s plan.” ~ Ghazal
“…sweet love story.” ~ Rosemary
“This book is engaging, intriguing and romantic.” ★★★★★ ~ Sandee
Chapter One Excerpt
That man is an ogre! What an impossible predicament you find yourself in, Faith. I know how much you anticipated your new position as an amanuensis for Lord Kellinggrave. He only retained you because he lost a wager, you say? I do believe his lordship is a despicable knave for misleading you. For what it is worth, I applaud your intrepidness and gumption. Do not let the scapegrace chase you away. I know you, Faith, and you shall make an excellent scrivener. His lordship shall learn as much if he puts aside his masculine prejudices. I hope to visit you and Chasity, Joy, Mercy, and Faith soon. My tenure with the Ceddes family is ending as Pomeroy is off to Harrow and the girls to boarding school this autumn—the poor dears. After eight years, I’ve grown very fond of the children and shall miss them dreadfully. But alas, time ticks relentlessly onward, and I must search for a new position even while I’m at the Mumfords’ house party. I shall pray I never have an employer as impossible as your Lord Kellinggrave.
~ Miss Purity Mayfield, in a letter written en route to the Mumfords’ to Miss Faith Roth
Mottford Hall, Essex, England
Home of the Earl and Countess of Mumford
22 August 1818 — Mid-Morning
Bliss. Pure, sublime bliss.
Purity Mayfield tilted her face into the sun’s soothing rays and gave a contented sigh. Humming the ballad she’d sung to her wards that morning, she relaxed into the comfortable, cushioned chaise lounge—one of several in the cozy garden. Apparently, none of the other houseguests who’d arrived over the past couple of days had discovered this magical retreat yet.
To be honest, she wasn’t exactly one of the elite haut ton guests. Nevertheless, she felt as privileged as one at that moment. Glancing around the isolated enclosure, Purity smiled
Her cherished privacy might be partially due to the ten-foot-tall beech hedge surrounding the charming square and its distance from the manor house. She’d accidentally come upon the hedgerow’s arched opening while walking the greens farthest from the opulent mansion.
A few feet from her, across the verdant grass paralleled by rust-colored brick pavers lay a square pond. An angel wearing a strategically placed loincloth for modesty’s sake topped a two-tiered burbling fountain.
For the moment, this enchanted haven was all hers to enjoy. No quieting energetic children, wiping noses, gently but firmly reminding her charges to mind their manners, or doing the often unreasonable bidding of her employers.
For a few coveted minutes, it was just Purity, the fish, a few bees, and a mild August morning sun.
She eyed the entrance with a mixture of trepidation and expectation.
Surely this heaven was too perfect to last.
The reluctance of the upper ten thousand to part with their plush mattresses before noon also likely explained why no others had joined her in this picturesque retreat.
That was perfectly fine with Purity.
More than fine, in truth.
In general, the upper class had little use for servants except how the menials made their elite lives more comfortable and convenient. Respect, consideration, and basic politeness were reserved for those of the same social standing as members of le beau monde—not the lower orders.
As a governess, Purity fell somewhere between the servants and the family she worked for. She wasn’t included in either, and it made for a rather lonely existence—apart from her time with the children in her charge.
As accomplished as she was at appearing subservient and compliant, there were moments she had to bite the inside of her cheek to keep her ungracious opinions to herself or stifle a disrespectful, if honest, retort.
Her current employers, the Viscount and Viscountess Ceddes, were challenging on the best day and intolerable on a bad one. She’d long since learned to recite in her head, “a soft answer turneth away wrath,” over and over.
Never mind how much she might fume after a disagreeable encounter. Her position, and thus her future, depended on an acquiescent and submissive demeanor.
Neither trait came naturally to her.
She’d often wondered if either of her parents—she had no idea who they might be—had possessed a tenacious nature too. Or which she’d inherited her riot of curly hair from.
Shading her eyes with her hand, Purity spied a squirrel cautiously creeping across the grass. Sitting on its haunches, it darted its black-eyed gaze here and there, its tiny little nose twitching all the while. The darling thing would advance a couple of feet, flick its fluffy red tail, and repeat its anxious perusal.
Perhaps it drank from the fountain daily.
Purity lowered her hand, and the squirrel dashed into the hedge. A second later, it poked its head out and scolded her for her audacity.
She chuckled. “I’ll be gone soon, my little friend. Let me enjoy these few stolen moments in paradise before my world returns to normal.”
Drumming her fingertips on the chaise’s arms, Purity permitted her mind to return to her earlier reflections. To be fair, disagreeable interactions with Lord and Lady Ceddes had been infrequent since they seldom deemed it necessary to visit their offspring.
Attending this house party was an unofficial send-off for Pomeroy, Merrilee, and Amaris Bardslay. It was also the longest expanse of time the couple had spent with their children since they’d hired Purity. Neither parent demonstrated paternal inclinations. Ten minutes with their offspring stretched the bounds of their benevolence.
In just over four short weeks, Purity’s charges would be off to boarding schools, and she would be unemployed for the first time since leaving Haven House and Academy for the Enrichment of Young Women—the foundling home and school where she’d been raised and educated
Hopefully, she’d manage a visit with a few of her closest friends, also raised at Haven House and Academy for the Enrichment of Young Women, before she started her new job.
A job she’d yet to acquire, as she had no letter of reference yet.
She’d waited for months—growing increasingly impatient—for her employers to offer to write her a recommendation or even mention that, very shortly, her services would no longer be required. They’d remained frustratingly obtuse and disobliging in that regard. Now, she found herself in the discomfiting position of having to ask for a reference while in attendance at this house party.
She made a dismissive sound in her throat.
Enough of this unfruitful, melancholy musing.
With deliberate intent, Purity turned her thoughts in a more pleasant direction: this glorious, unforeseen reprieve from responsibilities. She’d been given an unexpected gift, and she meant to enjoy every splendid second.
After breakfast, Lady Ceddes had actually collected her children for a morning outing with several other families and didn’t require Purity’s services for a few hours.
Would wonders never cease?
There was a first time for everything.
Purity gave a slight shake of her head, and a curl flopped loose from her chignon.
An unremarkable light brown, her hair had vexed her since girlhood when she’d been required to wrestle the unruly mass into a neat knot by Hester Shepherd, the headmistress at Haven House and Academy for the Enrichment of Young Women.
Once Purity had captured the strand fluttering about her face in the fragrant honeysuckle and rose-scented breeze, she confined the wayward curl with a pin. Giving her hair a satisfied pat to ensure no more intrepid tresses were about to spring loose, she settled into the luxurious chaise lounge once more.
She determined nothing would stir her from her current contentment.
When was the last time she’d had an entire morning to herself?
At Petherwick Court, the Ceddes primary estate in Somerset, a myriad of tasks always needed attending to if the children were engaged elsewhere. Governesses of three energetic children seldom were permitted such a luxury. Governesses to self-centered aristocrats such as her employers, who seldom saw their offspring, even less so.
And yet here she was. Unfettered by her three charges and without a single duty to perform. In all of her eight years employed by the Ceddes, this was a first. A most pleasant and welcome first, indeed.
Crossing her ankles, Purity grinned, feeling very much a pampered lady of leisure.
The sensation was both disconcerting and delightful.
She wiggled her toes in her practical black half boots and furrowed her brow at the frayed hem of her slate blue gown. Now wasn’t the time to add to her scant wardrobe. Best to wait until she found a new position and then acquire an appropriate new gown or two.
Drowsy from the sun’s warmth, the comforting buzz of engorged gold and ebony bees zipping from fat blossom to even fatter blossom, and the sweet warbles of songbirds, she permitted her eyelids to drift shut.
Awaking with a start, she snapped her gaping mouth closed and touched a fingertip to the side of her mouth to catch the unladylike dribble of drool perched there. Goodness, she’d been far more tired than she’d realized. Thank the Lord there hadn’t been anyone about to see her lack of decorum.
Furrowing her brow, she glanced around.
What had awakened her?
She’d heard something. Something—no, someone—in distress.
Head cocked, she listened keenly past the sounds of the frothing fountain, humming bees, and chirping birds.
A faint sniffle and a muffled sob.
Rising, Purity perused the square enclosure.
Another pitiful sob cut through the garden’s tranquility.
The thread of sound came from near the entrance.
Did someone hide in one of the nooks created by the zealously tended beeches on either side of the tapered arc? Purity had been so entranced with this oasis that she’d scarcely paid the weathered stone benches nestled there any mind when she’d stumbled upon the secret garden.
Swiftly making her way across the expanse, her shoes and skirts swishing against the short grass as she went, she approached the opening. As she neared the entrance, Purity slowed her pace when she spied a little girl’s tousled red hair.
At the dejected little form huddled there, Purity’s heart wrenched, and she pressed a hand to her bosom.
Dear Lord. The poor darling.