Hello, everyone! I’m Theresa Romain, historical romance writer and coffee drinker. (The two are frequently related. Limecello, thanks for hosting me at ALBTALBS today to talk about my newest book, Scandalous Ever After.
Scandalous Ever After is the story of Evan Rhys, an antiquities expert, and Lady Kate Whelan, the friend he’s long loved. Kate is the widow of Evan’s best friend, and when the story begins, she and Evan meet up for the first time in the two years since her husband died. Evan is just as in love with Kate as ever—though she has no idea—and seizes the chance to travel with her from Cambridge to Newmarket for the fall horse races.
This exclusive excerpt is from a scene set on race day, when Kate’s horse-mad relatives are running Thoroughbreds and Kate is struggling with a whole pile of feelings–including a growing attraction to the man she’s thought of as a friend for thirteen years.
After years apart, old friends Lady Kate Whelan and Evan Rhys reunite at a race. They’ve been masking their feelings for each other for years, but when Evan must protect Kate from her late husband’s secrets, he may not be able to resist her any longer.
After being widowed by a steeplechase accident in Ireland, Lady Kate Whelan abandons the turf. But once her mourning is complete, her late husband’s debts drive her to seek help in Newmarket amidst the whirl of a race meet. There she encounters antiquities expert Evan Rhys, her late husband’s roguish friend—whom she hasn’t seen since the day of his lordship’s mysterious death.
Now that fate has reunited them, Evan seizes the chance to win over the woman he’s always loved. But once back within the old stone walls of Whelan House, long-held secrets come to light that shake up everything Kate thought she knew about her marriage. Now she wonders who she can trust with her heart—and Evan must decide between love and a truth that will separate him from all his heart desires.
It was minutes on end before the festivities of the first race were completed, the purse awarded, and the fillies walked from the course to cool down. Somewhere, Sir William was celebrating—but not too much, for there was always another race.
The judge’s stand would be drawn further along the track now, the starting line advanced. The second on the schedule was one of the stakes races, with a plump purse collected from the entry fees of the stables that entered horses. Kate recognized the names of many owners, and even those of some jockeys. Racing was a tradition for generations on end, passing from parents to children.
Clouds covered the sky in coolness, and a light mist speckled Kate’s face. “The jockeys won’t like this,” she observed.
“Probably not. But the horses won’t particularly care.”
The crowd had never seemed to quiet once the first race was finished, yet somehow, the noise grew again. The great wave of sound crashed, as sure a marker of the race’s beginning as the flick of the starter’s flag.
Kate was ready this time, watching the track with wide eyes. A minute’s gallop brought the race before her: browns and bays, a chestnut and a white. The silks of the straight-backed jockeys flowed past in a colorful river, as the horses’ long legs ate the ground with a quiet thunder of hooves. And they were past, then, and another race was safely gone, and—
No! As the last horse streaked by, he stumbled in the hollow of the course. The colt’s quick strides went ragged, a lunatic shuffle and buck to keep his footing.
The jockey fell heavily to earth. It was impossible to hear the thud of his form over the crowd, gasping as one, but Kate knew the sound it had made. She had heard it two years before, when Con fell to his death before her eyes.
She pressed a gloved fist to her mouth, strangling her startled cry. The jockey was clad in buff and blue, and he lay still on the turf.
Buff and blue, the colors Con always wore at a steeplechase. Buff breeches, blue coat. He had lain still too, kicked and surrounded by merciless galloping hooves.
It wasn’t supposed to happen here. It was supposed to be over, done, wept for, and left behind.
There was an arm around Kate’s shoulders, a quiet voice in her ear. It’s all right. He’s all right. See, he’s already getting up. The horse is all right too. Everything is fine. Everyone is fine.
Determined, she swallowed the tightness in her throat, thinking of now. Now. She was here, and Celeste had won, and most people who fell were fine, and she was fine too.
She trembled, lost between past and present, until the warmth of the voice melted the ice about her. On and on it spoke, and finally, she realized it was right. The jockey had been shaken, but he hoisted himself upright and waved to the crowd. Shouts of delight, whistles, catcalls, and lewd offers followed. A stew of sound, relieved and grateful, happier to see the man rise safely than if there had been no fall.
He was fine. He was a stranger to her. Kate’s life would not alter again, heaping burdens on worries on uncertainties. She must pull herself together.
“He was last,” she said in a voice that hardly shook. “No one ran him over. That surely saved his life.”
“This must be the only time a jockey was grateful to hold last place,” came the reply in that blessed warm voice, and she realized it was Evan’s. Steady beside her, he had taken her into the shelter of his arm and talked to her until she came back from Ireland.
A hand was rubbing her back. Evan’s, of course. He had dropped all of the race cards in a scatter about their feet, the better to comfort her.
The better to take her, almost, into his arms.
She ought to step back, to assure him that she was fine, but she could not manage it. The sky still wept a chill mist, and she shivered as though she would never stop.
“Do you want to leave?” Evan asked. He tipped her face up, searching her features with his dark eyes. “I will see you back to Chandler Hall at once.”
“No.” She drew in a deep breath. Lifting her hand to his, where he caught her beneath the chin, she laced her fingers with his. And by God, she kept her chin up. “No. I don’t want to leave.”
But something within her had been startled loose. Shaken free. It was something that would not let go of Evan’s hand now, something that wanted to press into his side more tightly, to take the comfort he offered.
To take something new, and damn propriety, because there were so many ways to fall. Who better to fall with than a friend, who had held her so tightly?
She didn’t want him to stop holding her.
She rose to her tiptoes, speaking into his ear in little more than a whisper. “Tonight…” Her lips were dry, so she moistened them. “Tonight, I want…”
Could she say it? Could she even imagine it?
She could, and she spoke the words with a leap of faith that left her heart pounding. “I would like you to come to my bedchamber.”
His whole body jerked. “For what purpose?”
She dropped to the flats of her feet. With their laced hands, she bumped him in the belly. “For God’s sake, Evan. I asked you to my bedchamber. What purpose could I possibly have in mind?”
He was still now, and quiet as he studied her. “You are most beautiful,” he said, “when you yell at me. While propositioning me. In the rain, with the feathers of your little hat hanging over your face.”
Her heart thumped. “So…what does that mean? You don’t like my hat, or you are interested?” She swallowed. “Or both?”
“I lack the proper interest in your hat. But in you, I am interested.” He drew her hand across his belly, wrapping it within his coat. “I am decidedly interested. I am so interested that I will pretend to watch the remaining races, but I will be thinking of your intriguing proposal. When you took my hand in yours. Where you might put your hand next. Where—were you saying something?”
“Uh,” she replied with incoherent anticipation. He enfolded her in his arms, in his coat, and she felt armored for anything that might come to pass.
“Right,” he answered. “Couldn’t have put the matter better myself. Now, since we’re to stay and watch the other races, who do you think will win the third?”
Hope you enjoyed the excerpt! This is only the beginning of Kate and Evan’s journey—one that leads them to Wales and Ireland, through difficult secrets and old wounds, and at last to happily-ever-after. You can read chapter 1 on my website, if you’d like more of the story.
You can also get Scandalous Ever After now from your favorite book retailer.
To thank you for stopping by my post today, I’d like to offer a giveaway. One random commenter on this post will win a print, Kindle, or Nook copy (winner’s choice) of my backlist historical romance A Gentleman’s Game. This giveaway is open internationally. Comment about whatever you like, but in honor of Kate and Evan seeing each other in a new way, I’d especially love to know something new you’ve tried lately.
How far will a man go
Talented but troubled, the Chandler family seems cursed by bad luck-and so Nathaniel Chandler has learned to trade on his charm. He can broker a deal with anyone from a turf-mad English noble to an Irish horse breeder. But Nathaniel’s skills are tested when his stable of trained Thoroughbreds become suspiciously ill just before the Epsom Derby, and he begins to suspect his father’s new secretary is not as innocent as she seems.
To win a woman’s secretive heart?
Nathaniel would be very surprised if he knew why Rosalind Agate was really helping his family in their quest for a Derby victory. But for the sake of both their livelihoods, Rosalind and Nathaniel must set aside their suspicions. As Derby Day draws near, her wit and his charm make for a successful investigative team…and light the fires of growing desire. But Rosalind’s life is built on secrets and Nathaniel’s on charisma, and neither defense will serve them once they lose their hearts…
Bio: Theresa Romain is the bestselling author of historical romances, including the Matchmaker trilogy, the Holiday Pleasures series, the Royal Rewards series, and the Romance of the Turf trilogy. Praised as “one of the rising stars of Regency historical romance” (Booklist), she has received starred reviews from Booklist and was a 2016 RITA® finalist. A member of Romance Writers of America® and its Regency specialty chapter The Beau Monde, Theresa is hard at work on her next novel from her home in the Midwest. Please visit her online at http://theresaromain.com, where you can sign up for her newsletter to learn about upcoming books.