FOREVER YOUR EARL
The Wicked Quills of London Book One
Released Sept 29th, 2015
Eleanor Hawke loves a good scandal. And readers of her successful gossip rag live for the exploits of her favorite subject: Daniel Balfour, the notorious Earl of Ashford. So when the earl himself marches into her office one day and invites her to experience his illicit pursuits firsthand, Eleanor is stunned. Gambling hells, phaeton races, masquerades…What more could a scandal writer want than a secret look into the life of this devilishly handsome rake?
Daniel has secrets and if The Hawk’s Eye gets wind of them, a man’s life could be at stake. And what better way to distract a gossip than by feeding her the scandal she desperately craves? But Daniel never expected the sharp mind and biting wit of the beautiful writer, and their desire for each other threatens even his best laid plans.
But when Eleanor learns the truth of his deception, Daniel will do anything to prove a romance between a commoner and an earl could really last forever.
“Though London presents itself to the world as the apotheosis of all that is moral and upstanding, it might shock our readers to learn that the appearance of virtue can be a very clever disguise. It is the opinion of this humble periodical that wickedness and deception are far more common than our readers may apprehend. Thus the necessity of this most respectful scrap of writing—that we may, through the revelation of the scandalous activities of our Town, provide necessary guidance. But leading a life of probity may be difficult, especially when presented with temptation…”
—from The Hawk’s Eye, May 2, 1816
A man rich in wealth and scandal walked into Eleanor Hawke's office.
Eleanor was no stranger to scandal. Anything immoral, disreputable, shocking, or titillating made its way into the pages of her newspaper—particularly if it involved the wealthy and elite of London Society. She detailed all of it for her thrice weekly publication, The Hawk's Eye. Nobody wanted to read about ordinary shopkeeper Mr. Jones who might or might not be spending time with the humdrum widow Mrs. Smith.
No, The Hawk's Eye sold strictly on the basis that it published the latest scandalous doings of Lord This and Lady That. All, of course, under the pretense of decrying the lack of morals in this fair city, and that these lurid activities ought to serve as object lessons to the young and impressionable.
And it was Eleanor's job as owner and publisher to see to the moral education of London.
Which was utter rubbish, naturally.
But scandal put bread on her table and kept the rain off her head, and she readily immersed herself in it—the spirit of free enterprise, and all that.
Still, when Daniel Balfour, the Earl of Ashford himself walked into the offices of The Hawk's Eye on a Wednesday afternoon, blocking the gray light as the door opened and closed, it was both shocking and inevitable that he should do so. Unsurprisingly, he clenched several copies of her paper in his hand.
Lord Ashford marched through the cramped warren of rooms, writers' heads lifting from where they bent over their desks to watch in open-mouthed amazement as he passed. Eleanor’s private office lay at the end of the corridor, giving her an ample view of the scene as it played out before her.
The earl stopped in front of Harry Welker's desk. The young writer stared up at the Lord Ashford, the men separated not just by the expanse of battered oak, but circumstance and birth.
“H…how might I help you, my lord?” Harry asked, his voice cracking.
“Tell me where Mister E. Hawke is.” Lord Ashford had a deep voice, rounded by generations of excellent breeding and noblesse oblige.
“Mister Hawke, my lord?” patent confusion in his voice.
Lord Ashford pointed to one of the papers he carried. “It says here that The Hawk's Eye is owned and published by one E. Hawke. Where will I find him?”
“Nowhere, my lord,” Harry answered. “There's no Mister Hawke here.”
The earl scowled, clearly not used to being denied. “This scurrilous rag cannot publish itself.”
“It doesn’t,” Eleanor announced, setting aside her quill and standing. “If you're looking for Miss Eleanor Hawke, I’m right over here.”
Lord Ashford looked directly at her, and for the first time, she had a sense of what a rabbit might feel like when sited by a wolf. But she wasn't the only one at a disadvantage. The earl couldn't hide the shock in his expression when he discovered that the publisher and owner of the paper was, in truth, a woman—which gave her a small measure of gratification.
He turned from Harry without another word and walked straight toward her. And she could only stand, pinned by his gaze, as he approached.
The closer he got, the more she realized how dangerous the earl was. Perhaps not in the traditional sense—though she'd heard and written about the duels in which he'd fought and won—but certainly in the realm of masculine allure. Her few times seeing him were from a distance: the theater, the races, at a public assembly. She knew him by sight, but he didn’t know her, and they’d never met. And in those instances her vision had been good enough to recognize that he was a fine specimen, well-formed, handsome—everything a rich and notorious nobleman should be.
SCANDAL TAKES THE STAGE
The Wicked Quills of London Book Two
Releasing Oct 27th, 2015
Successful playwright Maggie Delamere has no interest in the flirtations of noblemen like Cameron, Viscount Marwood. She once paid dearly for a moment of weakness… and vows to rebuff the wildly persistent-and irritatingly handsome-scoundrel at every turn. But when pressure to deliver a new play hampers her creativity, an invitation to use his country estate as a writer’s retreat is too tempting to resist...
For years, Cam has admired Maggie’s brilliant work and he can’t pass up the opportunity to discover if the beautiful, mysterious playwright is as passionate and clever as the words that flow from her quill. He’s never offered a lady his bed without being in it, but if it means loosening Maggie’s pen-and her inhibitions-he’ll do exactly that.
But soon Cam’s plans for seduction become a fight for Maggie’s heart. He’s more than the scandalous, carefree rake society believes him to be… and she’s the only woman who has ever
Not every work affected him as much. But for a reason he couldn’t quite articulate, Mrs. Delamere’s tragic burlettas stabbed him through as beautifully and cleanly as a jeweled knife. Her use of language, perhaps, was so much more articulate than other staged dramas. Or the relatable human longing and pain contained within in each work. Whatever caused it, Cam craved the next work from her the way a drunkard needed wine.
Still somewhat tipsy from the performance, he strode from the box. Almost at once, he ran into two young, red-faced lordlings, already listing from too much ale. A pretty courtesan snuggled between them.
“Marwood!” they exclaimed, practically tripping over themselves as they clumsily bowed.
“Gents,” Cam answered, a little coolly. He didn’t mind being a little disguised from drink, but it was a classic mistake of the young not to pace themselves.
“Come with us!” they cried. “We’re going to Vauxhall. Supposed to be quite a crush.”
For a moment, Cam contemplated it. The pleasure garden always promised a good time, and delivered. Its theatricality and lurid beauty never failed to entertain, and more than once, he’d taken a female companion to the Dark Walk for an al fresco amorous encounter. There was something thrilling about being outside when engaged in carnal pursuits—the fresh air, the possibility of being caught.
The courtesan accompanying the two young men gave him a not very discreet looking over. Judging by the way her eyes brightened, she liked what she saw. Maybe she would be agreeable—if not enthusiastic—about the prospect of a trip to Vauxhall’s Dark Walk.
However . . .
“Save me a slice of roast beef,” Cam said. “I’ll join you another time.”
The two bucks looked somewhat crestfallen, but, after a quick exchange of further pleasantries, they and their female friend moved on.
Leaving Cam free to head toward his destination: backstage. That’s where the real action took place. As he slowly ambled toward his goal, he passed more and more friends and acquaintances. All of them hailed him. Dozens of invitations were issued. Some to sanctioned Society events, others to more daring, exclusive gatherings. Tempting, every one. He wished he had more than one self, so that he might partake of everything presented to him. Galas, private assemblies, midnight horse races. There was no shortage of amusements, no limit on the pleasures he might experience. Bold widows and bored wives offered their own wordless invitations with their provocative glances and heated gazes.
How could he resist? More often than not, he didn’t.
Tonight, however, he had other plans. Specifically, the actress playing the ingénue.
After disentangling himself from another posse of aristocratic theater patrons, he headed down the stairs. Closer to his objective.
“What a perfectly dismal surprise,” someone behind him said wryly.
Cam’s heart rose. He knew that voice, almost as well as he knew his own. Now the night could truly begin! He turned to face the Earl of Ashford.
Standing beside Ashford was the earl’s new wife, a very pretty blonde, and some of Cam’s enthusiasm dampened. It wasn’t that he disliked Lady Ashford. Far from it. But ever since she’d come into the earl’s life, Cam’s own world had been in a state of upheaval. It wasn’t nearly as much fun running wild through the Town without Ashford.
“Now the evening’s truly ruined,” Cam answered.
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EVA LEIGH is the pen name of a RITA® Award-nominated romance author who writes novels chock-full of smart women and sexy men. She enjoys baking, Tweeting about boots, and listening to music from the ‘80s. Eva and her husband live in Central California.