Mistress of Merrivale
by Shelley Munro
a Historical romance
from Samhain Publishing
A marriage of convenience…full of inconvenient secrets.
Jocelyn Townsend’s life as a courtesan bears no resemblance to the life she envisioned in girlish dreams. But it allows her and her eccentric mother to live in relative security—until her protector marries and no longer requires her services.Desperate to find a new benefactor, one kind enough to accept her mother’s increasingly mad flights of fancy, Jocelyn is nearly overwhelmed with uncertainty when a lifeline comes from an unexpected source.
Leo Sherbourne’s requirements for a wife are few. She must mother his young daughter, run his household, and warm his bed. All in a calm, dignified manner with a full measure of common sense. After his late wife’s histrionics and infidelity, he craves a simpler, quieter life.
As they embark on their arrangement, Leo and Jocelyn discover an attraction that heats their bedroom and a mutual admiration that warms their days. But it isn’t long before gossip regarding the fate of Leo’s first wife, and his frequent, unexplained absences, make Jocelyn wonder if the secrets of Merrivale Manor are rooted in murder…
Warning: Contains mysterious incidents, a mad mother who screeches without provocation, scheming relatives, and a captivating husband who blows scorching hot and suspiciously cold. All is not as it seems…and isn’t that delicious?
Fans of Shelley Munro will love this latest novel. Everything you love about a Munro romance is there. The big city girl goes to a rural hamlet, finding not only love, but a man who treats her as an equal partner in the marriage. Characters that make you smile, wishing they could be your friends. Intimate moments that reveal tender and reverent feelings between the two. A mystery that must be resolved.
In Mistress of Merrivale, a widower takes on a courtesan for his wife, hoping to avoid the mistakes of his first marriage. When he becomes the suspect for a string of local murders, Jocelyn must decide how to proceed. Unlike most damsels in distress, her life has given her an inner strength that allows her to face the world. And when her past resurfaces, it is his turn to show her his support. Set in the moors, Bronte fans will love the Gothic tone, complete with shrieking woman, ghostlike figures, foggy bogs, faces in windows, creaky castles, and mysterious rituals. The author also uses the color contrasts of dark vs. light quite effectively, allowing our flame headed heroine to exist as the other within this tight-knit community.
“M-married?” Jocelyn Townsend clamped her hands in her lap and frantically sought the right words for the occasion. “Congratulations.”
Tobias Sherbourne, the Earl of Melburn, beamed. Happiness lit his craggy face, taking it from ordinary to compelling. His eyes sparkled, the bright blue emphasized by his snowy white wig. “I’ve offered for the Neville girl.”
“I wish you happy, Melburn.” Jocelyn’s spine pressed against the back of the damask sofa, the squeeze of her stays grounding her again. Gossip and rumors had circulated for months now. Yes, she’d known Melburn’s declaration would come, but hearing it still hurled her into panic. She wanted to vent her frustration for everyone to witness, but of course, she didn’t. Her mother was the only person who shrieked in this household.
She picked up the teapot. “Tea? Or would you prefer something stronger?”
“Brandy, please.” Melburn straightened from his casual lean against the mantle.
A raucous feminine screech pierced the air and tea sloshed from the spout. Jocelyn sighed inwardly, forcing her smile to remain intact while she set the china pot down. Not again.
“Perhaps we would both benefit from something stronger.”
She rose and maneuvered her skirts around her mahogany table and a square-backed chair to ring for a maid. The high-pitch scream repeated, louder and closer to the parlor. Jocelyn flinched, shooting a pained look at the closed door.
On her return, Melburn took possession of the seat opposite her, his large frame dwarfing the delicate furniture. “How is your mother?”
One would think the ear-piercing shrieks were nothing out of the ordinary, given his calm demeanor but, after two years as her protector, her mother’s peculiarities no longer disturbed him.
A maid appeared, and Jocelyn relayed her request for a bottle of brandy and two glasses. It mightn’t be the thing for a woman to drink strong spirits, yet if ever there was a time for her to imbibe, it was tonight. The maid’s face blanked, although she curtseyed in acquiescence and hurried off to complete her errand.
“My mother is having a bad turn. She insists someone is watching the house and spying on us.” It was a relief to share the latest drama with Melburn.
“Have you investigated to allay her concerns?”
Jocelyn resisted the urge to roll her eyes. “We have been more vigilant than usual. I haven’t noticed anyone suspicious and neither has Woodley or Tilly, but Mother is steadfast in her charges.”
Her butler and her mother’s nurse were equally adamant no one lurked in the alley outside their Cork Street house. While it wasn’t the best location in London, a night watchman patrolled the surrounding streets, and lamps chased away most of the gloomy shadows once evening fell.
The maid returned with a tray bearing the requested brandy.
“Would you like to adjourn to the bedroom, Melburn?”
“No, Jocelyn. I—”
Jocelyn leaned closer and covered his hand with hers, halting his refusal. “It’s a love match. I understand.” His bergamot and spice scent washed over her, familiar and comforting. He was a good man and a spurt of envy chased through her. Silently, she acknowledged her loss and the difficulties she’d experience in finding another protector of his caliber—someone she could trust not to abuse her.
“Ashleigh is a wonderful woman. I wouldn’t see her hurt by spiteful gossip.”
“I’d expect nothing less from you. It was a lucky day for me when you won me from Boynton.” And even better he’d become a friend as well as her lover.
Melburn’s eyes narrowed. “The man is a brute. The minute I saw the bruise on your cheek, my course of action was clear. Besides”—the tension in his upper body eased—“I like your red hair.” He reached over to tug on an unfashionable red ringlet, grinning at her like an errant boy.
“Thank you.” Her words acknowledged far more than the compliment. He’d rescued her from a bad situation and, for that, she’d always be grateful. She poured a measure of brandy and handed it to him before taking a smaller portion for herself. An abrupt ear-piercing shriek right outside the parlor made her wince. “Perhaps I should attend to my mother.”
Melburn set his glass on the mahogany table. “Let me. I’ll take a lantern and check outside in the alley. Help set her mind to rest.”
Reality crashed over Jocelyn as she watched him stride from the parlor and disappear into the hall, the door shutting behind him. This really was the end of their relationship.
About the Author:
Shelley Munro is tall and curvaceous with blue eyes and a smile that turns masculine heads everywhere she goes. She’s a university tutor and an explorer/treasure hunter during her vacations. Skilled with weapons and combat, she is currently in talks with a producer about a television series based on her world adventures.
Shelley is also a writer blessed with a VERY vivid imagination and lives with her own hero in New Zealand. She writes mainly erotic romance in the contemporary, paranormal and historical genres for publishers Carina Press, Ellora’s Cave and Samhain Publishing. You can learn more about Shelley and her books at http://www.shelleymunro.com.
GooDREADS: http://www.goodreads.com/ShelleyMunroPINTEREST: http://www.pinterest.com/ShelleyMunro
AMAZON AUTHOR PAGE: http://www.amazon.com/Shelley-Munro/e/B001JOWGNK
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