Monday, February 24, 2020

The Dazzle of Innocence by Liza 0'Connor


The Dazzle of Innocence
by
Liza O’Connor


Blurb

David Santiago has no interest in acquiring a wife. He came to England in a desperate attempt to save his sisters from being sold into white slavery.
Meriden Ford is searching for an interesting, educated, young husband who will recognize her superiority and become her decoy, while she runs the family fortune.
At their very first dance, they promise not to fall in love. However, their mutual admiration ensures a strong friendship. When bombarded with tribulations that would destroy most people, they survive by pulling strength from each other. Yet even as they realize their true feelings, others work to tear them apart forever.

A Victorian Romance thriller bringing the characters of A Tangled Affair and the Xavier Thorn series together for a delightful, nail-biting tale. A definite read!




EXCERPT
“Allow me to introduce you to the best student I ever encountered during my years at Cambridge. So much so, I have kept him as a dear friend since he graduated.”



While David had not expected the same greeting his friend had received, the chilly glare he received took him by surprise. His extended hand was ignored by Garrison, and Sara went so far as to turn away and speak to the woman beside Samuel Hawkens.

Jonas stepped in, trying to soften the tension in the air. “You might recall my mentioning the boy that I took home for a summer and gave him leave to enjoy my library.”

Oddly, it was Samuel Hawkens who replied. “I’ve heard that story second hand from Garrison. Not only did he read every book you owned, but he categorized and evaluated them, placing the most interesting, close at hand, if you ever got time to read them yourself.”

Jonas chuckled. “And once I retired, I discovered what a damn fine job he did.”
While Mr. Ford and his wife continued their chilly reception, Samuel took special effort to bring David into the conversation with him and his wife. Samuel somehow knew he had just come from Spain. Was it possible he had made inquiries after receiving David’s request for a visit?

Mr. Hawkens questioned him on the political upheaval in his homeland. He answered as honestly and openly as possible, including the ladies in the conversation as Jonas had advised. He was in the midst of supporting the reason he thought King Amadeus would abdicate his throne when Mrs. Ford’s hand gripped her husband’s hand. “Where is Meri? I cannot see her!” Fear contorted her lovely features.

Everyone’s eyes, including David’s, searched the dance floor. Upon seeing the girl, David’s focus returned to the excessively nervous mother.

Mr. Ford stroked his wife’s back and pulled her closer to him, kissing her temple. “I have my eye on her.” His eyes betrayed an unfashionable degree of love and affection for his wife. “Perhaps I should acquire you a chair so you may see over the heads of the crowd.” He then did the most shocking thing: he kissed her on her downturned lips.

“She is fine. The Queen could not have better protection. The boys have refused all suitors as of yet. At this rate, she’ll be unmarried and underfoot even in our dotage.” He chuckled, as if the idea pleased him.

Sara blushed and looked at David. “You must think us absurdly protective.”
David paused. In fact, he did think just that. However, his need of Samuel Hawken’s help to save his sisters required him to respond to her question with prudence. “While your daughter is clearly a cut above most young ladies, she must be quite extraordinary to claim such protectiveness from not only her mother, but from all who know and love her.”

“She is extraordinary,” Mrs. Ford assured him. “And I worry. This is the first time she has been introduced into society.”

David focused on their daughter, dancing with her cousin. He wondered why they felt the young lady’s introduction to society warranted greater concern than any other debutantes. God, if his problems were only this ridiculous.



As he watched the young lady in question glide about in an elegant waltz with one of her brothers, he had to concede there was nothing ‘ordinary’ about the girl. The other young ladies seemed stiff and self-conscious in comparison. While Miss Ford danced beautifully, she did so with little apparent attention to her steps. Her main focus appeared to be arguing with her brother, and by his pained expression, she was winning the battle. He suspected that she was warning him to stop scaring off her suitors.



“Well, she is doing most spectacularly. I’ve never seen a better waltz” Or arguer for that matter. He appreciated that she refused to accept what others wished to impose upon her. He only wished his mother and sisters had a touch of her fight within them. Then perhaps they would not be in their current danger.

David refocused on Mrs. Ford and smiled. “However, her brothers and cousin are going to eventually have to let her dance with some gentlemen or the poor girl will wonder why she had bothered to come to London.”
He hoped they would offer him the honor of dancing with their daughter, but his subtle suggestion was ignored in chilly silence.

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Monday, February 17, 2020

The Dazzle of Innocence by Liza 0'Connor

The Dazzle of Innocence
by
Liza O'Connor

England, 1898


Blurb

 David Santiago has no interest in acquiring a wife. He came to England in a desperate attempt to save his sisters from being sold into white slavery.

Meriden Ford is searching for an interesting, educated young husband who will recognize her superiority and become her decoy, while she runs the family fortune.

At their very first dance, they promise not to fall in love. However, their mutual admiration ensures a strong friendship. When bombarded with tribulations that would destroy most people, they survive by pulling strength from each other. Yet even as they realize their true feelings, others work to tear them apart forever.

A Victorian Romance thriller bringing the characters of A Tangled Affair and the Xavier Thorn series together for a delightful, nail-biting tale. A definite read!





Excerpt

The young lady captured David Santiago’s attention the moment she entered the ball. While a beauty, there were several others just as attractive. Yet this one radiated with such confidence, yet innocence and something else… glorious expectations perhaps.

He was not the only one to notice her. In fact, all eyes seemed to have turned to the elegant brunette. In less than a minute, she managed to bring the ball to a momentary stutter, something David had never seen occur before, neither in his home country of Spain, nor here in London.

The topic of everyone’s interest seemed completely comfortable with the effect she had on the crowd as if it were only natural everyone would find her intriguing. Oddly enough, he didn’t perceive an ounce of vanity in her assumption, only innocence, as if such notice was nothing uncommon.

Somehow, she dazzled so bright that everything else dimmed in comparison. 
Surrounding her were four similar-looking young men. They reminded him of a finely set of matched horses. He sensed their intent was to protect rather than court her.

“Has England acquired new royalty since I was last here?” David asked his friend, Jonas Quibb.

Jonas pulled out his spectacle and held it to his eye, squinting. A faint smile came to his lips. “If I am not mistaken to the identity of the young lady, I believe she is Meriden Ford. I deduce this solely by her surrounding guard. They are Garrison’s boys and his nephew. And while I am familiar with the boys, the young lady has never stepped foot into London before today.”

“She does not look like a young girl in her first introduction.” She had far too much confidence for a debutante.

His friend turned and faced him; his brow wrinkled in amusement. “And pray tell, what is the difference between the newly introduced young lady and those in their third year?”

“It’s the difference of terror fed by insecurities rather than determination fed by desperation.”

Jonas chuckled. “There is truth to that observation. However, Meriden is the grandchild of Samuel Hawkens, so you could hardly expect her to behave in a predictable fashion.”

“Samuel Hawkens…” David tensed in his own case of ‘determination fed by desperation.’ Only in his case, it was not marriage he sought, but the salvation of his four sisters. He had sent his card with a request for a meeting two weeks ago, but the request had been denied. Mr. Hawkens’ schedule did not allow for unsolicited visits.

“Ah, see the very lovely woman behind the girl, the one with the worried eyes? That is her mother, Sara Hawkens Ford. She hasn’t changed much since she was last in London seventeen years ago.”

“Seventeen years? What could she possibly do for society to ostracize her for seventeen years?

“I’m not certain whether society shunned her, or she shunned society. Even at her lowest point in life, the Hawkens name provided her and her sister invitations to all the balls. But after she married Ford, she never again stepped foot into London. And I can’t say I blame her.”

“But she is here tonight.”

“For her daughter. Nothing less would have brought her out.” He squinted into his eyepiece and smiled. “And there is the man, himself, Samuel Hawkens.”

David studied the wizened old man who entered through the doors and joined the group. He emanated power and strength as he took in the room, almost as if assessing a battle. The elderly but elegant woman who stood at his side must be his wife. The entire family had all come to protect their little princess, the dazzling Meriden Ford. “Any chance of an introduction?”

Jonas raised his right eyebrow in challenge. “As a suitor or investor?”

“Perhaps both.” He dared not leave any card un-played. He’d already been shot down once. He could not fail again. His sisters’ lives depended upon it.

“I am not well acquainted with Samuel Hawkens, but I can introduce you to Garrison and his wife, Sara. Garrison and I are good friends. But allow me to give you a bit of advice first. If you wish to get on with the family, then neither flirt nor ignore Sara Ford. You will be judged on how you treat Garrison’s wife.”

Never in his life had he received more ridiculous advice. “Why would I be anything but respectful?”

“Why indeed,” he agreed. “What happened was not her fault.”

“Perhaps you should tell me a bit of her past before my introductions?” While David would never intentionally slight a lady, clearly there was something in her past that left her open to insult.

“No, you are safer in ignorance.” Jonas straightened his white bow tie and started towards the couple. “Don’t ask for an introduction to the girl right off. And if you are discussing anything of intelligence with Garrison or Mr. Hawkens, include the women in your conversation. Chances are they’ll know more than you about whatever topic you’re discussing.”

David smiled at the warnings. He had not had half so many cautions when he had been introduced to the queen the prior day. In fact, the only advice he’d received was focused on the depth of his bow.



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Sunday, February 9, 2020

A Tangled Affair by Liza O'Connor


A Tangled Affair
By

Liza O’Connor
Historical Romance

Blurb

Garrison Ford needs a wife and son before his 35th birthday. He goes to London to find a bride and falls in love with a debutante’s elder sister, Sara. Unfortunately, Sara considers herself “ruined and unfit” to be his wife. Desperate to keep the woman he loves in his life, Garrison marries her younger sister, Dana. Returning home with both sisters, Dana, his untouched wife, and Sara, his beloved mistress, Garrison learns that a young lady in town is rumored to be carrying his child. As if this is not tangled enough, Garrison’s best friend is determined to free Dana from this tangled knot and take her as his bride.

.

 

Excerpt

Garrison sought out the darkest corner of the gardens, locating Carlton and the young lady. He was careful not to make his presence known. If the lady was willing, he didn’t want to create an embarrassing situation. However, he knew Carlton well enough to know that a woman would not have to consent for the scoundrel to take advantage.

Staying within the shadows, he edged around the hedge until he saw her. Her hands were pressed against a large oak tree. Carlton took her from behind, her dress pushed to her waist. Garrison knew he should leave, she was obviously willing, but his feet remained frozen to the spot. His stomach roiled as he watched. Why did she not fight him? Carlton was treating her like an animal. Why would she accept this? He remembered Lady Castel’s words. She had been rescued from a harem.

Is this all she thinks she deserves?

Garrison moved between two large boxwoods as Carlton pulled out and put his clothes to right. He watched the girl straighten up and settle her skirt.

Carlton yanked her face roughly to the light. “I told you no more crying.”

She pulled her face from his hands. “I am not crying.”

“I beg to differ. I cannot take you back in looking as you do.”

“You don’t have to. I know my way back.”

Carlton laughed. “I guess you know all the gardens of the gentry pretty well by now.”

When she didn’t respond, he shrugged and returned to the ball.

Garrison couldn’t move without giving away his presence. When the moonlight lit her face, her cheeks glistened from tears and her expression betrayed devastating misery. He knew for certain she had not wanted the man’s attention, but what he didn’t understand was why she allowed it to happen.

The young woman breathed in deep and brushed her skirts once more. Her shaking hands wiped away the telltale moisture from her cheeks and she chanted something beneath her breath. She had only taken one step towards the house when voices of young men rang in the distance. Panic filled her eyes as she scanned the garden. As the voices grew louder, she rushed between the boxwoods and ran directly into Garrison.

She gasped upon hitting his chest. His arms reached out to steady her. He had never seen such despair in such a beautiful face. His finger rose to his lips and he pushed her deeper into the shadows behind him, shielding her body from view. Convinced she was out of sight, Garrison stepped out and lit his pipe. When the three young men turned the corner, they came to a complete halt.

“May I help you, gentlemen?” he asked.

Their mouths opened in shocked unison, but none spoke.

Finally, the tallest of the young men, no more than seventeen with red, bushy hair, found his tongue.
“We were looking for a lady.”

The shortest fellow sniggered and the third fellow punched him into silence.

The red-haired boy arched his brow. “Have you seen her?”

Garrison puffed on his pipe and studied the boys. Why the hell would such children be a party to Sara’s torment?

“I’ve seen no less than a hundred of them in the house. You boys are headed in the wrong direction.” His response disappointed them, and his hard stare sent them on their way. He waited until they were inside before he turned to the woman and held out his hand. “It’s safe to come out now.”

When she did not take his hand, he wondered if she had escaped through the hedge. “I won’t hurt you,” he added.

Still nothing.

“Would you like an escort to the house? Those boys might still be about.”

His observation triggered some rustling and the young woman pushed her way out of the hedge, but still avoided his hand. “I would appreciate an escort.”

He nodded solemnly. “You may want to fix your hair.”

With her hands, she examined the state of her hair and the expression on her face told him what seemed terribly apparent upon consideration. Her hair could not be repaired in the garden. She would require brushes and pins.

“Perhaps we should go through the kitchen and up the servant stairs,” he suggested.

Pain creased her brow, but she followed him around the house without protest as he led her up the narrow stairs and into a bedroom.

He pointed out the vanity table. “You should be able to find whatever you need in there.”

Her eyes rounded in confusion as she faced him, making no effort to fix her hair.

He pressed his ear against the door. “Hurry. I wouldn’t want to compromise your reputation by someone discovering us in this room.”

Sara continued to stare at him, as if unable to understand his simple request.

“Hurry,” he said again with greater urgency.

Finally, she moved into action.

She rushed to the vanity and set about fixing her hair. When she was finished, she carefully removed the hairs from the brush. Upon twisting them in a small ring about her finger, she stood up and faced him.
He peeked outside and then motioned for her to follow. In the hallway, he pointed to the stairs. “Just follow those down to the party, I’ll go down the servants’ steps.”

She nodded and started downstairs.

Garrison watched her until she disappeared around the curve of the stairwell, then made his way down to the kitchen and entered through the garden. When he reentered the house, he searched for her and found her safely with her sister.

Lady Castel introduced him to several young women that evening, but he could not recall their names or anything about them. All he could remember was one young woman with beautiful, yet wounded eyes, rescued from white slavers, but treated no better by the young gentlemen of society. The more he thought of it, the angrier he became.

No matter what debutante he danced with during the remaining evening, he never lost track of Sara Hawkens.

***
The next day, Garrison made inquiries about Sara’s parents, and the general conclusion was that Samuel Hawkens was a good sort of man, but remarkably nonsensical for one so successful in business. They all gave the same example of foolishness: his determination to return his eldest daughter into society when she should be sent off to a country estate and hidden in shame.

In private, the men spoke more plainly. Sara was debauched and depraved beyond salvation. Her training in the harem had left her with an insatiable hunger for sex, the dirtier the better.

“She will do things a whore wouldn’t do,” one gentleman assured him. “I tell you from firsthand knowledge.”

Garrison struggled not to repay the man’s confidence with a fist in his arrogant face.


The first novel of a Two Book Series.


https://books2read.com/u/4AxDlo
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Available at the following sites: 
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