No Lady For The Lord
Daughters of Desire (Scandalous Ladies) Series, #2
She was only supposed to care for his wards…not fall in love with him.
He was a carefree rogue…
Lord Ronan Brockman had a perfect life. Handsome, wealthy, and beholden to no one, he was charmed. But that was before he was unexpectedly named guardian to two young girls—and before he met their fascinating governess. Acting on his attraction to the witty beauty would be utter madness. Unfortunately, that doesn’t seem to be enough to dissuade him from pursuing her…
She can never let her guard down…
Mercy Feathers knows more about responsibility than a rogue like Ronan could ever fathom. But to her great consternation, despite his many flaws, she wants him with an all-consuming passion that’s as shocking as it is forbidden. It’s just her misfortune that there’s only one way a relationship with him could end—and it isn’t with happily ever after…
Is their love enough?
Can Ronan and Mercy overcome all that stands between them—including the ghosts of her past—and take a shot at true love? Only if they’re willing to open their hearts and break a few rules…
Secrets, scandals, and sigh-worthy romance.
This sweet, wholesome historical romance will have you cheering Ronan and Mercy on as you escape into the past to cheer them on to their much-deserved happily-ever-after.
If you enjoy reading lovable rogues, class difference, and opposites attract clean historical romances with a pinch of mystery and inspiration, a dash of humor, and soul-searing emotion, then you’ll adore the captivating DAUGHTERS OF DESIRE (SCANDALOUS LADIES) series. Settle into your favorite reading nook with your favorite beverage for a page-turning, entertaining Regency world adventure you can’t put down.
Release Date: May 12, 2021
I am so happy to learn of your marriage to Doctor Morrisette. My wholehearted and sincerest felicitations to you both.
Thank you for the invitation to tea. I should have adored seeing Purity, Trinity, and Faith once again. It has been so very long since we were all together at Haven House and Academy for the Enrichment of Young Women.
However, I regret that I shall have to beg off this time. The household is in mourning, and I cannot leave my orphaned charges.
~ Miss Mercy Feathers in a letter to Mrs. Joy Morrisette
Residence of the now-deceased Lieutenant Lewis Masterson
20 February 1818
A torrential sheet of plump raindrops pinged ruthlessly against the leaded-glass panes partially concealed by lace curtains and the heavy draperies festooning the mullioned windows. The floral brocade’s warm, comforting hues of jade, poppy, gold, pewter, and ivory complimented the cinnamon and saffron striped overstuffed chairs and divan situated near the fireplace.
Surrounded by tufted and tasseled brocade pillows and with a fat, extremely spoiled cat sprawled across her lap, Mercy Feathers and her devastated young charges cuddled on the sofa.
Angry wind gusts pummeled the swaying trees and thrashing shrubs outside but had little effect against the sturdy, seven-decades-old, four-story brick house—other than rendering an occasional jarring, hair-raising rattle to a glass pane.
More than once in the past hour, a particularly fierce blast had battered the house, startling Mercy. Naturally, she endeavored to conceal her discomfit but had quite seriously wondered if the windows could withstand the continued violent onslaught.
Behind a gold-scrolled screen, a robust blaze crackled and hissed merrily within the green-tiled fireplace. Gleaming from frequent polishing and the flickering flames, the carved black walnut mantel framing the hearth stood regal and proud as it had for years.
And yet—Mercy skated a furtive glance about the room—a cloying chill permeated the somber, well-appointed salon this afternoon. A chill the exuberantly snapping and sizzling blaze couldn’t altogether eliminate. A chill which, truthfully, had more to do with the room’s grief-stricken occupants than the petulant weather currently engaged in a toddler’s tantrum outdoors.
The pungent, almost sickening aroma of lilies in the many vases of conciliatory bouquets situated throughout the salon overwhelmed the comforting, familiar odors of beeswax, linseed oil, and burning maple logs.
Six weeks of smelling the blossoms’ pungent odor had become tiresome.
Just when Mercy believed she’d be granted a reprieve from the choking fragrance, more flowers arrived from another well-wisher, having only just learned of the lieutenant’s untimely death from lung fever.
So help her God, any further bouquets would be sent directly to the rubbish bin.
Unless they were carnations or peonies. Mercy would never tire of those blossoms’ subtler essences.
“Golden slumbers kiss your eyes,” she sang ever so softly to the girls huddled against her.
“Smiles await you when you rise.
“Sleep, pretty babies, do not cry,
“And I shall sing a lullaby.”
Exhausted, Mercy rested her head against the back of the divan and stared up at the intricately molded plasterwork. A single gossamer cobweb had escaped the diligent maids’ notice and dangled from the ceiling. The strand lazily rotated ’round and ’round as if taunting her, challenging her to rise from her comfortable seat and swipe it away.
A wry, nascent smile edged the corners of her mouth upward a jot.
That was not going to happen.
She was too blasted tired and too dashed comfortable to make the effort. Besides, she’d disturb her young charges.
With her gaze, she followed the twirling thread downward until her attention came to rest upon the fire’s soothing snapping once more. Rain lashed the windows, and the flames fluttered and sputtered against a blast of wind hurtling and howling down the chimney.
A shiver scuttling across her shoulders, Mercy glanced outside. The storm—the wickedest in her memory—showed no signs of abating.
That same slate-colored sky had opened and spilled its contents as Lieutenant Lewis Masterson’s glossy cherry-wood casket was gently lowered into the unsympathetic, cold black earth. The heavens had wept nonstop for four long days afterward, as had the sable-haired little girls now curled trustingly against Mercy.
They were much too young and innocent to experience such loss. Much too young to understand their lives would soon be subjected to more upheaval.
God, comfort these precious orphans. Give them peace and strength, Mercy prayed silently.
She wouldn’t mind a generous portion of both virtues as well.
In the month and a half since the serious but kindly former naval officer had shuffled off his mortal coil and been laid to rest, the rain had continued to relentlessly pelt Rochester several days a week. Miniature streams trickled across the already saturated greens, made muddy rivulets in the gardens, and wended, serpent-like, over the circular brick courtyard.
Sorrow, dread, anxiety, uncertainty, and no small amount of fear romped about Mercy’s insides, causing waves of nausea to ebb and flow. Churn and tumble.
Over and over and over.
Acrid bile billowed up her throat, and she swallowed—hard.
I think I’m going to be sick.
This same despair and unease had overcome her often of late.
Specifically, since the lieutenant had died and she’d been forced into the role of managing his household. Even to the point of using her small savings to keep food on the table and pay the faithful staff half wages. She couldn’t afford to pay them more.
So far, only two servants had departed.
Cammie Sumner, a surly chambermaid who dawdled about more than she actually worked, and Silas Bottoms, a shy stable hand, had lasted only a week without full wages. When offered a promotion to a groom’s position at a neighboring estate, Silas had bashfully approached Mercy and resigned his position.
She’d been sorry to see the sweet, bumbling Silas leave but understood. He was supporting an invalid mother and two younger brothers. Mercy had genuinely wished him well.
However, she had been less reluctant to see the back side of the disgruntled maid. Hired nine months before the lieutenant’s death, Cammie Sumner was lazy, gossiped incessantly, and resented working. Her parents owned one of the local inns, and she considered herself well above the lowly station of a mere chambermaid. Furthermore, her tart tongue and slatternly behavior were grounds for dismissal.
Mrs. Stanley, the cook and the closest thing the Mansfield House had to a housekeeper, had to regularly chastise Cammie about her sloppy work, her frequent woolgathering, and for making doe eyes at the lieutenant.
Thrice, Mercy had to remind Cammie that it was most improper for her to openly flirt with the man. To which the maid had snarled that Mercy was merely jealous because she wanted Lieutenant Masterson for herself.
The preposterous suggestion had never crossed Mercy’s mind, and to hear a maid vocalize such claptrap had raised her temper. She’d told Cammie Sumner exactly what she thought of her ludicrous accusation and that, if serving girl entertained such vile considerations, it would be best for her to tender her resignation.
Her hopes of becoming Lieutenant Masterson’s mistress dashed, Cammie had taken herself back to The Hair of the Hog’s Pub and Inn exactly seven days after his death.
Good riddance to bad rubbish.
Thank goodness the lieutenant had either been oblivious to Cammie’s simpering or a superb master at masking his emotions, for he’d never indicated he’d noticed her coy and less than subtle antics.
No more servants had complained at their reduced circumstances or left to find employment elsewhere. Yet. They would, though. What was more, none of the staff would be guaranteed their positions after the guardian barged into their tranquil tableau.
She closed her eyes for a long blink and marshaled her equanimity.
Now wasn’t the time to entertain feckless feminine weaknesses. Arabelle and Bellamy needed her to remain stoic. Calm. Focused. Mercy was their steadying rudder in this riotous sea of confusion and fright in which they’d been cast and had absolutely no control over and little understanding of either.
Regardless, Mercy was heartily sick of the rain. And dank. And gray.
Gray. Gray. Gray. Everywhere, rotted gray.
Shades of gray from pale dove to ominous charcoal cloaked the sky, the grounds, the horizon, and, yes, even the interior of the once cheery but now inarguably gloomy house.
Mirrors had been turned to face the walls, an ebony cloth hung over Lieutenant Masterson’s portrait, and black wreaths adorned several doors. To honor the deceased, fewer sconces and lamps flickered throughout the house, thereby filling the corridors with weird shadows and a tomb-like miasma. Fewer tapers were also an economizing necessity.
Even the crisp black gowns, stockings, shoes, and hair ribbons Mercy and the girls wore contributed to the dull, lifeless atmosphere and made their faces appear ashen and drawn. Such was commonplace in a household after the death of the master. However, this oppression was made much worse by the ambiguous futures of the sniffling orphans plastered to her sides.
Another contentious rumble of thunder shook the sturdy four-story brick manor. Unlike the bleating wind, those heavenly tremors did have the ability to jangle more than just the windows. Namely, Mercy’s nerves.
Gasping simultaneously, Arabelle and Bellamy burrowed closer to Mercy.
“Miss Mercy. I’m scared,” seven-year-old Arabelle sobbed, clutching Mercy’s arm while her trembling, almost nine-year-old sister huddled low on the divan, hands clasped over her ears.
“Shh, darlings,” Mercy pacified, drawing them nearer and running her hands in soothing sweeps over their quivering shoulders. She told them what Mrs. Hester Shepherd, the proprietress of Haven House and Academy for the Enrichment of Young Women, had always told the discarded girls in her care. “You’re quite safe, my dears. I promise. It’s just the Good Lord rearranging his furniture in heaven to make room for more souls.”
How many times had Mercy told them that nonsensical twaddle which had worked to calm her childhood fears?
She’d barely finished speaking before another deafening explosion clamored overhead, and vivid blue light flashed beyond the windows.
Even the cat, Fluffer-Muffer, flicked her long silvery tail and twitched her black-tipped ears, though she didn’t deign to bother opening her bottle-green eyes. It would take something much more catastrophic than thunder and lightning to stir her from her comfortable snooze.
Arabelle had wanted to name the cat—acquired four years ago as a fat, wriggling spitfire of a kitten—Fluffy. Bellamy, however, had insisted the feline should be named Muffin. Hence, after much discussion, a few unkind words, and more than one bout of frustrated tears, a compromise of Fluffer-Muffer had been reached.
As much as the pampered puss enjoyed the girls’ doting attention, the cat’s heart had belonged to the lieutenant. More often than was comfortable, some unfortunate vermin or bird—and, God forbid, the occasional snake—had been laid proudly at his booted feet as the feline blinked adoring green eyes up at him.
Whenever Lieutenant Masterson was away, a broken-hearted Fluffer-Muffer prowled the house yowling for him. Often, she could be found curled atop his bed, awaiting his return.
A half-smile edged the corner of Mercy’s mouth upward.
Countless times she had searched the house looking for the naughty puss so Mercy could deposit the cat in the nursery for the night.
Lieutenant Masterson had never been able to quite get the cat’s unusual—clever—name right—or so he repeatedly exclaimed. He’d lower his chin to his chest and deepen his voice to a theatrical rumble while reciting an assortment of ridiculous names.
Fluffingmuff? Flutter-Mitten? Mossy-Muffin? Moldy-Muffin?
Of course, he’d been jesting.
Nevertheless, his silly antics had sent his daughters into fits of giggles, as was his intent. He’d been a good father—patient, kind, and loving. And fun. That he’d picked a stranger, a man unknown to the girls, to act as their guardian came as a surprise to everyone.
In fairness, Mercy reasoned, what other option did the lieutenant have?
“Miss Mercy?” Bellamy’s muffled voice came from the vicinity of Mercy’s underarm. “Please keep singing,” she begged in a watery, quavering voice pitched higher than usual. “It’s not so awfully scary when you sing.”
“Of course, darling.” Mercy resumed singing the lullaby where she’d left off.
“Cares you know not, therefore sleep,
“While over you a watch I’ll keep,
“Sleep, pretty darlings, do not cry,
“And I shall sing a lullaby.”
Mercy had slightly altered the song to include both girls rather than a singular child as the serenade was written.
Storms had terrified the sisters before Mercy, at nineteen years of age, had become their governess five years ago and moved into the chamber next to the nursery. Many were the nights the girls had clambered uninvited into her bed. Then, as they did now, the three of them snuggled together, and Mercy sang lullabies and hymns while a tempest seethed outside.
This might very well be the last time she comforted Arabelle and Bellamy during a storm.
How can I bear it, God?