I adored this story. It was cute, and I liked the characters a lot. I like when relationships progress through letters, and I love the conversations they had. My favorite was the one in the London garden, and the lamb scene was sweet. Charlotte has a shy personality and hides behind fans, but she is a very kind and talented person.
Luke has lost all his family and his friends are married leaving him to feel alone. When Luke and Charlotte meet, they are both hiding their identities, and they agree at exchange letters to learn more about their future spouse. They were so cute together. While this arranged marriage was pushed for in the first place, it ended up being just what they both needed. This story had what I believe to be what I think of the most with a wallflower. They just feel more comfortable in smaller groups and with people they know.
My favorite scenes were the painted fan scene and the talking with the horse scenes. I loved this sweet story, and I also loved the dedication.
Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Colleen. I enjoyed the concept of a wallflower finding love. Like Like. You are commenting using your WordPress. You are commenting using your Twitter account. You are commenting using your Facebook account. Notify me of new comments via email. Notify me of new posts via email. Share this: Twitter Facebook. Like this: Like Loading Leave a Reply Cancel reply Enter your comment here Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:.
Email required Address never made public. Name required. Follow Following. Timeless Novels. Sign me up. Already have a WordPress. Log in now. Loading Comments Email Required Name Required Website. I should think you'd like to find out as much as you can about your future bride.
The baby was dark haired and brown eyed like both her parents, with rosy cheeks and grasping little hands. After tugging off one of his waistcoat buttons with a determined yank, the baby attempted to put it in her mouth.
But you might choke on that, love, and then your mother would have me shanghaied to China. Mommy won't let mean old Uncle Rafe bother you any longer. Marriage and motherhood became Lillian, Rafe thought. His sister had always been a headstrong creature, but now she seemed calmer and happier than he had ever seen her before. He could only credit Westcliff for that, although how such a proper and autocratic man could accomplish such a change in Lillian was a mystery.
One would have thought the pair would have killed each other within the first month of marriage. After the baby had quieted and Lillian had given her to a nurserymaid to take upstairs, Annabelle and Evie arrived. Rising to his feet, Rafe bowed to the ladies as introductions were made.
Annabelle Hunt, wife to the railroad entrepreneur Simon Hunt, was said to be one of the great beauties of England. It was difficult to imagine that any woman could eclipse her.
She was the perfect English Rose, with honeyblond hair and blue eyes, and a pure, fair complexion. Not only would her figure have driven a saint to sin but her expression was so lively and beguiling that it instantly put him at ease. Evie, Lady St. Vincent, was not nearly so approachable. However, Lillian had already warned Rafe that Evie's shyness was often mistaken for reserve. She was unconventionally lovely, her skin lightly freckled, her hair rampantly red. Her blue eyes contained a cautious friendliness and vulnerability that touched Rafe.
Bowman," Annabelle said with an engaging laugh, "I should have known you anywhere, even without an introduction. You and Lillian share a distinct resemblance. Are all the Bowmans so tall and dark haired? I want to see the little scamp, and hear from her own lips that she married Matthew Swift willingly, and not because Father bludgeoned her into it.
Swift," Evie said earnestly. At the sound of her stammer, which was something else Lillian had warned him about, Rafe gave her a reassuring smile. I've had enough of the old man's damned short fuse for a lifetime.
The only reason I'm willing to put up with it now is because I want joint proprietorship of the company's European expansion. So by all means, let's dispense with discretion and move on to the interesting subjects.
Tell me about them. When you are introduced to a proper English girl, she will keep her gaze fixed on the ground, and she won't chatter and gush on as we Americans do. English girls are far more sheltered, and not at all used to the company of men. So don't even think about discussing business or political affairs, or anything of the sort.
Now he was beginning to understand why Lillian and her friends were trying to find out more about Lady Natalie and her character. Apparently it wasn't going to come from Lady Natalie herself. Looking from Lillian's face to those of Annabelle and Evie, Rafe said slowly, "I appreciate your help, ladies. It occurs to me that I may need it more than I thought.
One hopes. Lillian went to greet her while a servant collected her coat and bonnet. Rafe supposed he should be grateful to the old biddy for coming to visit, but all he could think of was how quickly they might be able to obtain the necessary information and be rid of her.
He watched without interest as she came into the parlor. She wore a dull blue gown of the practical and well-made sort seen on retainers and the higher caliber of servants.
His gaze traveled up to the neat shape of her waist, the gentle curves of her breasts, and then to her face. He felt a little stab of surprise as he saw that she was young, no more than Daisy's age. From her expression, one could deduce that she wasn't any happier to be there than Rafe.
But there was a suggestion of tenderness and humor in the soft shape of her mouth, and delicate strength in the lines of her nose and chin.
Her beauty was not cool and pristine, but warm and slightly disheveled. Her brown hair, shiny as ribbons, seemed to have been pinned up in a hurry. As she removed her gloves with a neat tug at each fingertip, she glanced at Rafe with ocean-green eyes. That look left no doubt that Miss Appleton neither liked nor trusted him. Nor should she, Rafe thought with a flash of amusement. He was not exactly known for his honorable intentions where women were concerned.
She approached him in a composed manner that annoyed Rafe for some reason. She made him want to. The young woman hesitated, her pale fingers making a slight flutter beside her skirts. It is usually regarded here as a lower-class practice, and a rather personal matter, especially when done without gloves. He took her slim hand in his much larger one, surprised by the needling sensation in his abdomen, the shot of acute awareness. Her cheeks had turned pink.
The pressure of that small, confiding hand was affecting him more than his last mistress's most lascivious caress. Letting go of her, he dragged his gaze away and struggled to moderate his breathing. Lillian and Annabelle exchanged a perplexed glance in the charged silence. Shall I pour? For the next few minutes the rituals of tea were observed. Plates of toast and crumpets were passed around.
Rafe couldn't seem to stop staring at Miss Appleton, who sat straight-backed in her chair, sipping carefully at her tea. He wanted to pull the pins from her hair and wrap it around his fingers.
He wanted to tumble her to the floor. She looked so proper, so good, sitting there with her skirts precisely arranged. She made him want to be very, very bad. Chapter Three Hannah had never been so uncomfortable in her life. The man sitting next to her was a beast. He stared at her as if she were some carnival curiosity. And he had already confirmed much of what she had heard about American men. Everything about him advertised a brand of excessive masculinity that she found distasteful. The slouchy, informal way he occupied his chair made her want to kick his shins.
His New York accent, the flattened vowels and lax consonants, was foreign and annoying. However, she had to admit that the voice itself. And his eyes were extraordinary, dark as pitch yet gleaming with audacious fire. He had the sun-browned complexion of a man who spent a great deal of time out of doors, and his close-shaven jaw showed the grain of a heavy beard. He was an excessively, uncompromisingly masculine creature. Not at all a match for Natalie in any regard. He was not appropriate for the drawing room, or the parlor, or any other civilized surroundings.
Bowman addressed her with a directness that seemed nothing short of subversive. And do you receive wages for it? Swallowing back her indignation, Hannah replied, "It is a paid position. I do not receive wages, but rather an allowance. And what is it you do in return for your allowance?
I also do light sewing, and I do small things that make Lady Natalie's life more comfortable, such as bring her tea or go on errands. I also watch for people who are being idiotic with their investments. And then I encourage them to go at it full-tilt, until I'm left with a profit while they're standing in a pile of smoking rubble.
Bowman flashed an insolent grin. I rest easy in the knowledge that I'm doing my victims a service. I hear far too much of that at home. Miss Appleton, I have heard such lovely things about Lady Natalie. How long have you been her companion? She was slightly older than her cousin, two years to be exact, and she had watched as Natalie had blossomed into the poised and dazzling girl that she was now. Her disposition is amiable and affectionate, and she has every grace of character one could wish for.
A more intelligent and charming girl could not be found. But when you meet them, there's always a flaw. She met his keen, dark gaze and asked, "What are yours, Mr. What are yours? No man had ever spoken to her in such a manner. Another woman might have withered at the derision in his voice.
But something in her would not be cowed. I am often impulsive. And I'm dreadful at small talk. I tend to become carried away in conversation, and I go on for far too long.
Hannah could not seem to look away from him. She felt her palms turning moist and hot, and she knew her color was high. I did not mean to give any impression of insolence. He had been testing her, needling her deliberately to see what she would do. Like a cat playing with a mouse. Hannah felt a warm sensation bristling down her spine as she stared into the heathen depths of his eyes. Bowman, if you are anything less than gentlemanly. And Bowman smiled as if he could read her thoughts. The conversation returned to the topic of Natalie, and Hannah provided answers to such questions as her preferred flowers, her favorite books and music, her likes and dislikes.
It had crossed Hannah's mind to be untruthful, to put Mr. Bowman at a disadvantage with Natalie. But it was not in her nature to lie, nor was she very good at it.
And then there was Lord Blandford's request. If he truly believed it would be to Natalie's advantage to marry into the Bowman family, it was not Hannah's right to stand in the way. The Blandfords had been kind to her, and they did not deserve an ill turn. She found it a bit peculiar that Bowman asked very little about Natalie.
Instead he seemed content to let the other women question her, while he drank his tea and stared at her with a coolly assessing gaze. Of the three women, Hannah liked Annabelle the most. She had a knack for keeping the conversation entertaining, and she was amusing and well versed in many subjects.
In fact, Annabelle was an example of what Natalie might become in a few years. Were it not for Mr. Bowman's disturbing presence, Hannah would have been sorry for teatime to end. But it was with relief that she received the news that Lord Blandford's carriage had arrived to convey her back home. She didn't think she could abide much more of Bowman's unsettling stare. With their spicy brown eyes and gleaming sable hair, there was no doubting their family resemblance.
Except that Lillian was far nicer. I do hope we haven't behaved too badly. It would last more than a fortnight, during which time Mr. Bowman and Natalie would have ample opportunity to discover whether they suited. Or not. And Lord Westcliff has promised that we will have an absolutely towering Christmas tree. Oh, it's magical when all the candles are lit.
Christmas trees are quite the fashion in New York, where I was brought up. It started as a German tradition, and it's catching on rapidly in America, though it's not common in England.
And I've heard that Prince Albert has continued the tradition after the manner of his German heritage. He was very tall, his presence so forceful and vital that she felt a shock of awareness as he moved closer to her.
As she glanced up at Bowman's handsome, arrogant face, all she could think of was how much she disliked him. And yet dislike had never made her mouth go dry like this. Dislike had never sent her pulse into a swift, tripping beat, nor had it knotted in the pit of her stomach. Hannah nodded to him in the approximation of a bow. Bowman smiled, his teeth very white in his sun-browned face. Such audacity. She didn't want to touch him again, and he knew it.
Her chest felt very tight, compressing until she was forced to take an extra breath. But at the same time she felt a wry, irrepressible smile curve her lips.
He was a scoundrel indeed. Natalie would discover that soon enough. A quiver went through her frame as she felt his fingers close around hers. It was a powerful hand, capable of crushing her delicate bones with ease, but his hold was gentle. And hot. Hannah sent him a bewildered glance and tugged free, while her heart pounded heavily. She wished he would stop staring at herï¿½she could actually feel his gaze on her downbent head. Reaching out for the infant, she cuddled and soothed her.
Miss Appleton, if you'll wait a momentï¿½" "I'll see myself out," Hannah said, smiling. Feeling a pang of nerves in her stomach, Hannah left the parlor with Rafe Bowman. Before he reached for the bell pull, she murmured, "If you have no objection, I would like to speak with you privately for a moment.
His fingers slid around her elbow as he drew her with him to the shadow beneath the stairs. Bowman," Hannah whispered with desperate earnestness, "I have neither the right nor the desire to correct your manners, but. It's simply not done here. And as vexing and annoying as you are, I still don't wish you to be slighted.
When he replied, his tone was infused with quiet gravity. Her breath came in anxious little gusts. I just said you were vexing and annoying. You've made no effort to be polite. And the deeper underlying fragrance of male skin, fresh and spiced with bergamot shaving soap. Bowman watched her with the same intensity, very nearly fascination, that he had shown in the parlor.
It made her nervous, being stared at in such a way. Hannah squared her shoulders. I do not believe that you and Lady Natalie will suit in any way. There is not one atom of likeness between you.
No common ground. I think it would be a disaster. And it is my duty to share this opinion with Lady Natalie. In fact, I will do whatever is necessary to stand in the way of your betrothal.
And though you may not believe this, it is for your own good as well as Lady Natalie's. Before she comprehended what was happening, one powerful arm had brought her against the animal heat of his hard masculine body.
With his other hand, he grasped the nape of her neck, and tilted her head backward. And his mouth took hers. Hannah went rigid in his arms, straining backward, but he followed and secured her more firmly against him. He let her feel how much bigger he was, how much stronger, and as she gasped and tried to speak, he took swift advantage of her parted lips.
A wild jolt went through her, and she reached up to push his head away. His mouth was experienced and unexpectedly soft, possessing hers with seductive skill. She had never thought a kiss could have a taste, an intimate flavor. She had never dreamed that her body would welcome something her mind utterly rejected. But as Bowman forced her to accept the deep, drugging kiss, she felt herself going limp, her senses overrun. Her traitorous fingers curled into the thick raven locks of his hair, the strands as heavy as raw silk.
And instead of rebuffing him, she found herself holding him closer. Her mouth trembled and opened beneath his expert persuasion as liquid fire raced through her veins.
Slowly Bowman took his lips from hers and guided her head to his chest, which moved beneath her cheek with strong, uneven breaths. A mischievous whisper tickled her ear. We grab them and kiss them. And if they don't like it, we do it again, harder and longer, until they surrender. It saves us hours of witty repartee. I'll deny it. You're a cad. She made a choked sound, hitting his chest with her fist.
But he was impervious to the blow, his hand coming up and engulfing her entire fist. And he consumed her with a deeply voluptuous kiss, stroking inside her, doing things she had never suspected people did while kissing. She was shocked by the searing invasion, and even more by the pleasure it gave her, all her senses opening to receive more.
She wanted him to stop, but more than that, she wanted him to go on forever. Hannah felt his breath rush fast and hot against her cheek, his chest rising and falling with unsteady force. He let go of her hand, and she leaned weakly against him, gripping his shoulders for balance. The urgent pressure of his mouth forced her head back.
She surrendered with a soft moan, needing something she had no name for, some way to soothe the anxious rhythm of her pulse. It seemed that if she could just pull him closer, tighter, it might ease the sensual agitation that filled every part of her. Drawing back reluctantly, Bowman finished the kiss with a teasing nudge of his lips, and cradled the side of her face in his hand. The amusement had faded from his eyes, replaced by a dangerous smolder.
At her silence, he dragged his mouth lightly over hers. His thumb caressed the scarlet surface of her cheek. When Hannah's cloak and hat were brought, he took them from the maid.
She knew her face was terribly red. Without doubt, she had never been so mortified and confused in her life. She waited in dazed silence as he deftly draped the cloak around her and fastened it at her throat. The tip of his forefinger touched her chin. He placed the hat on her head, carefully adjusting the brim. Glaring at him, she lifted her chin another notch. Her voice shook only a little.
But I am neither frightened nor intimidated. For both our sakes. Aroused and bemused, he pondered his unexpected loss of control. He had only meant to give the young woman a peck, just enough to fluster and disconcert her. But the kiss had flared into something so urgent, so fiercely pleasurable, that he hadn't been able to stop himself from taking far more than he should have. He would have liked to kiss that innocent mouth for hours.
He wanted to demolish every one of her inhibitions until she was wrapped around him, naked and crying for him to take her. Thinking of how difficult it would be to seduce her, and how much damned fun it would be to get under her skirts, he felt himself turning uncomfortably hard.
A slow, wry smile crossed his face as he reflected that if this was what he could expect from Englishwomen, he was going to take up permanent residence in London. Hearing footsteps, Rafe lifted his gaze. Lillian had come into the entrance hall. She regarded him with fond exasperation. Why are you still out here? She was beautiful in a bold, clean-featured way, as spirited and raffish as a female pirate.
She and Rafe had always understood each other, perhaps because neither of them had been able to tolerate the stringent rules set by their parents. Because if you wish to win Lady Natalie, you'll have to display far more courtesy and polish than you did in that parlor. What do you think Miss Appleton is going to tell her employers about you? But let me remind you that Lady Natalie wants to marry a gentleman. Will you come back to the parlor? Still cooling.
Going back into the parlor, Lillian stood in the doorway and regarded her friends. Annabelle sat with Merritt resting placidly in her arms, while Evie was pouring a last cup of tea. Lillian rolled her eyes. Have you ever seen such instant animosity between two people for no apparent reason? Lillian frowned. Chapter Four To Hannah's astonishment, Natalie was not only not shocked by her account of the visit with Rafe Bowman, she was highly entertained.
By the time Hannah had finished the account of the kiss beneath the stairs, Natalie had collapsed on the bed in a fit of giggles. He's a barbarian. A brute. A clod.
He knew you would tell me what he had done, and that I would be intrigued. And when I see him in Hampshire, he'll act the perfect gentleman in the hopes of setting me off balance.
You mustn't take everything so seriously. It was at moments like this that she understood the differences between herself and her younger cousin. Natalie seemed to have a more thorough understanding of social maneuvering, of the process of pursuit and capture, than Hannah ever would. We must guard our hearts and hide our feelings carefully, Hannah. It's the only way to win. If you want to bring a man up to scratch, never reveal your heart to him. At least not early on. Men only value something when they have to put some effort into getting it.
I shall have to come up with a good counterstrategy. She had never minded tidying up after Natalie. Hannah had met other lady's companions whose charges had made their lives a misery, treating them with contempt and subjecting them to all kinds of small cruelties.
Natalie, on the other hand, was kind and affectionate, and although she could be a trifle selfabsorbed on occasion, it was nothing that time and maturity wouldn't cure. Placing the personal articles in a dresser drawer, Hannah turned to face Natalie, who was still ruminating.
Natalie was a pretty sight, tumbled on the white ruffled bed, her hair falling in golden curls. Her blue-eyed sunny appeal had stolen many a gentleman's heart during her first season. And her delicately regretful rejections of her suitors had done nothing to dampen their ardor. Long after the season had ended, towering arrangements of flowers were delivered to the Blandford mansion, and calling cards piled up on the silver tray in the entrance hall.
Absently Natalie wound a lock of shimmering hair around her finger. Bowman is betting on the fact that since I went through an entire season without settling on someone, I must have tired of all these bland, respectable lords of leisure. And since it's been months since the season ended, he also assumes that I am bored and eager for a challenge. Clarkï¿½" "No. If you have spent that much time with him, and he has never once kissed you, I'd say that is proof of the fact that his passion for his work will eclipse all else.
Even a wife. We must find someone else for you. Clark's work," Hannah said earnestly. He will do so much good for othersï¿½" "Great men don't necessarily make good husbands. And you're too dear and lovely to be wasted on him. Hannah let out a sigh of relief. You often become so absorbed in conversation that you forget to keep an eye on me. It's one of the reasons I adore you so. Much le s s several. Believe me, Hannah, I know how to manage men. Bring my hairbrush, please.
She was, or would be, the ideal bride for any man. She gave the silver-backed brush to Natalie and watched her draw it through a flurry of rich blond curls. He was a sober, quiet gentleman, careful in appearance and bearing. Although his countenance did not lend itself to outright handsomeness, his features were strong and regular. He did not seem dazzled by Natalie, and yet he paid a close and respectful attention to her whenever she was present. And he was rich and titled, which, along with his other qualities, made him an excellent catch.
The mention of Travers drew a frown from Natalie. I chalk it up to his age. Bowman is your man. Now, Hannah, tell Mama and Papa that Mr. Bowman was exquisitely well behaved. No, they won't believe that, he's American.
Tell them he was quite presentable. And not one mention of the kiss under the stairs. Invitations to Lord West-cliff's famed country estate were not easy to obtain. Located in the southern county of Hampshire, Stony Cross Park was reputed to have some of the finest acreage in England. The variety of flowering fields, fertile wet meadows, bogs and ancient forests made it a beautiful and sought-after place to visit. Generations of the same families had been invited to the same annual events and parties.
To be excluded from the guest list would have resulted in the most inconsolable outrage. Bowman as your husband," Hannah said dryly. Although she had not told Lord and Lady Blandford about the stolen kiss, she had made it clear that she did not believe Bowman would be a suitable partner for Natalie.
The Blandfords, however, had counseled her to reserve judgment until they all became better acquainted with him. Lady Blandford, as blond and lovely and ebullient as her daughter, caught her breath as Stony Cross Manor loomed in the distance. The house was European in design, built of honey-colored stone with four graceful towers so tall they seemed about to pierce holes in the early evening sky, which was washed with an orange and lavender sunset. Set on a bluff by the Itchen River, Stony Cross Manor was fantastically landscaped with gardens and orchards, riding courses, and magnificent walking paths that led through massive tracts of forest and parkland.
Owing to Hampshire's felicitous southern location, the climate was milder than the rest of England. And as a Bowman, you could have your own country manor, and a London house, and a villa on the Continent, not to mention your own carriage and team of four, and the most beautiful gowns and jewels.
Bowman inherit the majority of the family business? Bowman the elder has indicated that upon your betrothal to his son, there will be rich rewards for both of you. It was a fact that some doors would be open to a peer's wife that would never be open to the wife of an American manufacturer. As the carriage stopped before the manor entrance, Hannah noticed that the estate was laid out in the French manner, with the stables located at the front of the house instead of being concealed to the side or behind it.
The stables were housed in a building with huge arched doorways, forming one side of a stone-flagged entrance courtyard. Footmen helped them from the carriage, and Westcliff's stablemen came to help with the horses. More servants hurried to collect the trunks and valises.
An elderly butler admitted them into the massive entrance hall, where regiments were going back and forth; housemaids with baskets of linens, footmen with crates and boxes, and others engaged in cleaning, polishing, and sweeping. With her brilliant smile and relaxed friendliness, she was so engaging that Hannah understood why the famously dignified earl of Westcliff had married her.
Lillian bowed to them, and they responded in kind. Please excuse the clamor and bustle, we're desperately trying to prepare for the hordes of guests who will pour in tomorrow. After you refresh yourselves, you must come to the main parlor. My parents are there, and of course my brother, andï¿½" She broke off as she saw Natalie. We will do everything possible to make certain you have a lovely holiday. But we have extending ladders and many tall footmen, so we will prevail.
A pleasure to see you again. Bemusedly Hannah reached out to take it, and gave her a quizzical glance. The countess winked at her, and Hannah realized she was being teased. She burst out laughing at the private joke, and returned the warm pressure of Lillian's fingers. The room was beautifully appointed with flowered paper on the walls and mahogany furniture, and a bed with a lace canopy. While Natalie washed her hands and face, Hannah found a clean day dress for her and shook it out.
The dress was a becoming shade of blue, with a dropped shoulder line filled in with lace, and long slim-fitting sleeves. Smiling in anticipation of meeting the Bowmans, Natalie sat before the vanity mirror while Hannah brushed and repinned her coiffure.
After making certain that Natalie's appearance was perfect, her nose lightly dusted with powder, her lips smoothed with rosewater salve, Hannah went to her own valise and began to rummage through it. Lady Blandford appeared in the doorway, looking refreshed and poised. No one will notice. Her traveling clothes were dusty, and her hair was threatening to fall from its pins. She did not want to face the Bowmans and the Westcliffs in this condition.
You must come as you are, Hannah, and try to be unassuming. Water spots made little dark patches on her traveling gown. Groaning inwardly, she followed Natalie and Lady Blandford from the room. Lady Blandford is rightï¿½no one will notice me. Tables were loaded with candles and arrangements of everlasting flowers such as chrysanthemums and Christmas roses and camellias. And someone, slyly, had adorned several doorways with kissing balls hung with evergreen ropes.
Glancing at the bunches of mistletoe, Hannah felt a stab of nervousness as she thought of Rafe Bowman. Calm yourself, she thought with a self-deprecating grin, glancing down at her disheveled dress. He certainly won't try to kiss you now, not even beneath a cartload of mistletoe.
They entered the main parlor, a large and comfortably furnished room with a game table, and piles of books and periodicals, a pianoforte, a standing sewing hoop, and a small secretary desk. The first person Hannah noticed was Marcus, Lord Westcliff, a man with an imposing and powerful presence that was unusual for a man still only in his thirties.
As he stood to meet them, Hannah saw that the earl was only of medium height, but he was superbly fit and self-assured. Westcliff carried himself with the ease of a man who was entirely comfortable with his own authority. While Lillian made the introductions, Hannah shrank back into the corner of the room, observing the scene.
She stared discreetly at the Bowmans as they met the Blandfords. Thomas Bowman was stout, short, and ruddy, his mouth overhung with a large walruslike mustache. And his shining head was adorned with a toupee that seemed ready to jump off his scalp and flee the room. His wife Mercedes, on the other hand, was whippet-thin and brittle, with hard eyes and a smile that fractured her face like cracks in a frozen pond.
The only thing the pair seemed to have in common was a sense of dissatisfaction with life and each other, as if it were a blanket they both huddled under. The Bowman children resembled each other far more than either parent, both of them tall and irreverent and relaxed. It seemed they had been formed by some magical combination of just the right features from both parents.
Hannah watched covertly as Lillian introduced Rafe Bowman to Natalie. She could not see Natalie's expression, but she had an excellent view of Bowman. His strapping form was clad in a perfectly fitted dark coat, and gray trousers, and a crisp white shirt with a neatly knotted black cravat.
He bowed to Natalie and murmured something that elicited a breathless laugh. There was no denying itï¿½with his unvarnished masculinity and bold dark eyes, Rafe Bowman was, to put it in a popular slang term, a stunner.
Hannah wondered what he thought of her cousin. Bowman's face was unreadable, but she was certain that he could find no fault with Natalie. As everyone in the room made small talk, Hannah inched toward the door. If at all possible, she was going to slip from the room unnoticed. The open threshold beckoned invitingly, promising freedom. Oh, it would be lovely to escape to her room, and change into clean clothes and brush out her hair in privacy.
But just as she reached the doorway, she heard Rafe Bowman's deep voice. Surely you won't deprive us of your charming company. She longed to glare at Bowman. No, she longed to kill him. Instead, she adopted a neutral expression and murmured, "Good afternoon, Mr. I want to introduce you to my husband. His features were dark and austere, perhaps a bit forbidding. But as his gaze rested on her face, she saw that his eyes were kind. He spoke in a gravel-in-velvet voice that fell pleasantly on her ears.
Lillian spoke to her husband with breezy casualness, as if he were a mere mortal man instead of England's most distinguished peer. Samuel Clark. Clark," Hannah said hastily, "but rather for him, in a secretarial capacity. Clark, my lord. Clark working on now? It was clear, however, that they had already dismissed Hannah as a person of no consequence.
Bowman smiled at them both. She softened her tone. In the warm parlor light, his eyes held glints of gold and cinnamonbrown. Bowman," she replied tartly, and he grinned. The hour was late, and the long journey from London, followed by a lengthy repast, had left both girls exhausted. They had retired to their room while the company downstairs lingered over tea and port. Although the menu had been exquisite, featuring dishes such as roasted capon stuffed with truffles, and herbcrusted standing ribs of beef, supper had been an uncomfortable affair for Hannah.
She was well aware of her own disheveled appearance, having found barely enough time to wash and change into a fresh gown before she'd had to dash to the dining hall. To her dismay, Lord Westcliff had persisted in asking her questions about Samuel Clark's work, which had drawn more unwanted attention to her.
And all the while Rafe Bowman had kept glancing at her with a kind of audacious, unsettling interest that she could only interpret as mockery. Forcing her thoughts back to the present, Hannah watched as Natalie sat before the vanity and pulled the combs and pins from her hair. Bowman could be considered attractive," Hannah said reluctantly. Natalie laughed. Bowman is one of the most splendidly formed men I have ever encountered.
What flaw could you possibly find in his appearance? They all slouch. The weight of their wallets drags them over. A full head of hair. That's far better than being a nobody. Bowman will ever be poor," Hannah said.
He is a successful man, though I fear not an honorable one. Tensing, Hannah met her cousin's gaze in the mirror. Has he said or done anything inappropriate? But he has a sort of perpetual irreverence. You'll have to work on that, dear. When you're genuine, there's no mystery. And above all men like mystery in a woman.
I'm off to bed now. After a moment, she heard Natalie murmur, "Good night, dear," and the lamp was extinguished. Tucking one arm beneath her pillow, Hannah lay on her side and pondered Natalie's words. There was no doubt that Natalie was rightï¿½Hannah had nothing close to an air of mystery. She also had no noble blood, no dowry, no great beauty, no skill or abilities that might distinguish her.
And aside from the Blandfords, she had no notable connections. But she had a warm heart and a good mind, and decent looks. And she had dreams, attainable ones, of having a home and family of her own someday. It had not escaped Hannah that in Natalie's privileged world, people expected to find happiness and love outside of marriage. But her fondest wish for Natalie was that she would end up with a husband with whom she could share some likeness of mind and heart.
And at this point, it was still highly questionable as to whether Rafe Bowman even had a heart. Chapter Six While Westcliff shared cigars with Lord Blandford, Rafe went with his father to have a private conversation. They proceeded to the library, a large and handsome room that was two stories high, with mahogany bookshelves housing over ten thousand volumes.
A sideboard had been built into a niche to make it flush with the bookshelves. Rafe was thankful to see that a collection of bottles and decanters had been arranged on the sideboard's marble top.
Feeling the need for something stronger than port, he found the whisky decanter. Rafe had always hated talking with his father. Thomas Bowman was the kind of man who determined other people's minds for them, believing that he knew them better than they knew themselves. Since early childhood Rafe had endured being told what his thoughts and motivations were, and then being punished for them.
It hardly seemed to matter whether he had done something good or bad. It had only mattered what light his father had decided to cast his actions in. And always, Thomas had held the threat of disinheritance over his head. Finally Rafe had told him to cut him off entirely and be damned. And he had gone out to make his own fortune, starting with practically nothing. Now when he met with his father, it was on his own terms. Oh, Rafe wanted the European proprietorship of Bowman's, but he wasn't going to sell his soul for it.
He handed a whisky to his father and took a swallow, letting the creamy, sweet flavor of ester roll over his tongue. Thomas went to sit in a leather chair before the fire. Frowning, he reached up to check the position of the toupee on his head. It had been slipping all evening. Leaning an arm against the mantel, Rafe regarded his father with a faint smile. That's all you can say? Although she doesn't interest me in the least.
With a wife like Lady Natalie, there would be no surprises. It would be a calm, frictionless marriage, leaving him ample time for his work and his personal pursuits. All he would have to do would be to supply her with generous bank drafts, and she would manage the household and produce children. Lady Natalie was pleasant and beautiful, her hair blond and sleek, her manner remarkably self-assured.
If Rafe ever took her to New York, she would acquit herself splendidly with the Knickerbocker crowd. Her poise, breeding, and confidence would make her much admired.
An hour in her company, and one knew virtually everything there was to know about her. Whereas Hannah Appleton was fresh and fascinating, and at supper he hadn't been able to take his gaze off her. She did not possess Natalie's meticulously manicured beauty. Instead, there was a haphazard, cheerful bloom about her, like a fistful of wild-flowers.
Her hair, springing in little locks around her face, drove him mad with the urge to reach out and play with the shiny loose strands. She had a kind of delicious vitality he had never run up against before, and he instinctively wanted to be inside it, inside her. The feeling had intensified as Rafe had witnessed Hannah conversing earnestly with Westcliff. She had been animated and adorable as she had described Samuel Clark's work concerning the development of the human mind.
In fact, she had become so absorbed in the subject that she had forgotten to eat, and then she'd glanced wistfully at her still-full soup bowl while a footman had removed it. Rafe stared at him without expression. Am I supposed to get a ring, or have you already picked one out? Would you like to propose to her for me, and come fetch me when she's given her answer?
And I shouldn't have to marry Lady Natalie to do it. Why should you be exempt from paying a price? Why shouldn't you try to please me? Things always came too easily to you and your siblingsï¿½spoiled, lazy creatures all of you, who never wanted to do anything.
Do you know what happens when you call a clever person stupid, or a hardworking man lazy? It makes him realize there's no damn point in trying to get your approval. When the glow had faded from his throat, he gave his father a cool, steady look.
I was always going to end up with someone like her. But you can keep your damned approval. All I want is a share of Bowman's. Trunks, valises, and parcels were brought into the manor in an unending parade. Other families would stay at neighboring estates or at the tavern in the village, coming and going to the various events that would take place at the manor.
Once Hannah was awakened by the muffled, busy sounds beyond the room, she couldn't go back to sleep. Taking care not to wake Natalie, she rose and took care of her morning ablutions, finishing by braiding her hair and pinning it in a knot at the base of her neck. She dressed in a graygreen wool gown trimmed with kilt pleating and closed in front with gleaming black buttons. Intending to go for a walk out of doors, she donned a pair of low-heeled boots and picked up a heavy plaid shawl.
Stony Cross Manor was a labyrinth of hallways and clustered rooms. Carefully Hannah made her way through the bustling house, pausing now and again to ask directions from one of the passing servants. She eventually found the morning room, which was stuffy and crowded with people she didn't know. A large breakfast buffet had been set out, featuring fish, a flitch of fried bacon, breads, poached eggs, salads, muffins, and several varieties of cheese.
She poured a cup of tea, folded a bit of bacon in some bread, and slipped past a set of French doors that led to an outside terrace. The weather was bright and dry, the chilled air fomenting her breath into white mist. Gardens and orchards spread before her, all delicately frosted and clean. Children played across the terrace, giggling as they raced back and forth. Hannah chuckled, watching them stream across the flagstones like a gaggle of goslings.
They were playing a game of blow-the-feather, which involved two teams trying to keep a feather aloft by turns. Standing to the side, Hannah consumed her bread and tea. The children's antics grew ever wilder as they hopped and blew at the feather in noisy gusts and puffs.
The feather drifted to her, descending lazily. The little girls screamed in encouragement. It's girls against boys!
With her trademark charm, sensuality, and unforgettable characters, there's no one like Lisa Kleypas to make you believe in the magic of Christmas. The Wallflowers are four young ladies in London who banded together in their wild and wickedly wonderful searches for true love. Now happily married, they join together once again to help one of the world's most notorious rogues realize that happiness might be right under the mistletoe It's Christmastime in London and Rafe Bowman has arrived from America for his arranged meeting with Natalie Blandford, the very proper and beautiful daughter of Lady and Lord Blandford.
His chiseled good looks and imposing physique are sure to impress the lady in waiting and, if it weren't for his shocking American ways and wild reputation, her hand would already be guaranteed. Before the courtship can begin, Rafe realizes he must learn the rules of London society. But when four former Wallflowers try their hand at matchmaking, no one knows what will happen.
And winning a bride turns out to be more complicated than Rafe Bowman anticipated, especially for a man accustomed to getting anything he wants. However, Christmas works in the most unexpected ways, changing a cynic to a romantic and inspiring passion in the most timid of hearts. Books Survey. A Wallflower Christmas. And the moments between St. Vincent and Evie were sigh-worthy. I just adore this couple! I love how their private relationship is so rich and their own, but anyone can see that St.
Vincent more than meets Evie's needs and gives her a deep quiet contentment and happiness. And, on top of that, we were treated a brand new, beautiful romance.
Rafe was such a bad boy! I couldn't get over how outrageous he was, kissing Hannah practically right after he met her! And what a kiss. The chemistry between them was simply outstanding! I really liked Hannah. She was practical, intelligent, kind, loving, loyal, passionate, and perceptive. I could see why Rafe fell for her, and I definitely saw Rafe's appeal. He was simmering hot! I was glad he did right by Hannah.
He had the power to break her heart into tiny, little pieces; but despite his low opinion of himself, and his reputation, he wasn't a callous man. He was capable of intense, enduring love. I was so glad that Hannah and Rafe got their happy ending. As usual, Ms. Kleypas's writing shines brightly. She does the historical Victorian period so well, so beautiful but authentic. She has such wonderful humorous moments in her books. This was a great book to read on Christmas Eve.
I buzzed through, and ended it with a happy sigh! Thanks for the Christmas gift, Ms. My gawd, what was Kleypas thinking with this one? Nice for updates on the Wallflowers but the love story between Rafe and Hannah was terrible.
The hero was so unlikeable and does not require consent before frequently grabbing and kissing the heroine despite her protests. This is assault, yikes. This book needs trigger warnings. Heartwarming, lovely romance with hero Rafe Bowman planning on marrying one girl Natalie but falling in love with another Hannah Appleton.
I thoroughly enjoyed this book! I loved Rafe, he was sexy, handsome, and charming. He was Lillian and Daisy's brother from America. The Bowman's made their fortune from a soap-manufacturing business and it is being arranged by their families that Rafe marry Natalie Rafe's father is really pushing the marriage.
Hannah was a wonderful heroine, sweet and outspoken at times. She was also very warmhearted. I liked when she read "A Christmas Carol" to the children in the library. This was a short and sweet romance with a cute epilogue. Another winner by Lisa Kleypas! This was so fun! I really loved seeing the wallflowers again and highly recommend picking this up only after reading the Wallflower series.
You'll be able to appreciate seeing them all married so much more! I love their friendship and relationships with their significant others and they end up helping the heroine in her own romance, which was absolutely adorable. This romance was a lot of fun and I loved how the hero was adamantly into our heroine. He was supposed to court Natalie, but instead he finds himself drawn to her companion.
This was so cute and I loved how Hannah wanted nothing to do with Rafe, but she also couldn't stop herself from wanting to be around him. Rafe definitely acts like an alpha hero, so know that going in. This was such a fun and short Christmas romance and I definitely recommend picking it up!
Author 10 books followers. I loved Hannah from the get go, so sassy, she always stood her ground. The more both I and Rafe got to know her you see how sweet and thoughtful she is. Rafe was your equivocal rake, the man got around in New York with no plans to change.
I mean until you meet the cow of your dreams and his evolution as he fell in love with the wrong girl totally made me swoon. To see them so in love and still getting down is the best. This also made me want to go back and read the rest of The Wallflower books, especially Lillian and Marcus, they sound freaking hot! Overall a wonderful little holiday historic romance. Reminded me why I love this trope and that I need to go back to it.
She heard the door open again. But the voice that answered wasn't the maid's. However, Lady Natalie's paid companion and cousin, Hannah, catches the eye of the handsome rake and he falls in love with her. When Rafe attempts to write a love letter an incredible love letter that provokes emotion I might add! I didn't care for Hannah very much at first, but it didn't take long for me to warm up to her. She was very sweet and endearing whereas Natalie was spoiled and too educated in worldly ways.
Hannah protected her cousin and cared for her even when she knew that the arranged marriage between Natalie and Rafe was to be announced.
The forbidden romance between Rafe and Natalie was sweet, heart-warming and heated - an incredible combination written in true Kleypas style. The dialogue between the Wallflowers is entertaining and the few glimpses we are given into their marriages are satisfying. I really enjoyed this book and highly recommend it if you have read the previous Wallflower books.
But still, Rafe wants to meet her, get to know her and then decide if the marriage is to his advantage. Lady Natalie Blanford is charming and beautiful and highly sought after. One of my favorite things about this story is that we get to revisit the original 4 Wallflowers who have now been married for awhile.
It was a joy to watch them with their husbands and see how their relationships have progressed and how their love continues to flourish. As always, Ms. Kleypas has given us characters to love and to cheer for.
Her ability to bring the characters to life, making them real people, is what makes her one of my favorite authors. A Wallflower Christmas is a story filled with humor, hope and love. These are men and women who have stayed with me over the months since I first met them, and I know will stay with me for years to come. Lacey laceybooklovers. This was such a wonderful ending to the Wallflowers series! The romance is really sweet but the highlight of this novella for me was definitely the Wallflowers.
I loved being back with the 4 of them, seeing them all happy and in love with THE most devoted husbands. I just didn't want this series to ever end. I really hope Lisa Kleypas revisits these beloved characters again someday. Un broche bonito para acabar la serie de los floreros pero no memorable. Me ha gustado volver a saber de las protagonistas anteriores y, sobre todo, de sus maridos!
Pero la historia de amor principal me ha parecido muy apresurada y hasta esa erotica carta, no me estaba convenciendo nada el personaje de Rafe. Crystal Cook. I loved him! Marisa Sauco. Dulce, ingeniosa y divertida. Perfecta para cerrar la serie "Wallflowers". Me despido de estas historias preciosas y de estos personajes adorables con una gran sonrisa. God, I love Lisa Kleypas! Revisiting all the wallflowers was just perfect.
I loved this series and was utterly pleased with Rafe's story. He was a sexy and smoldering beast of a man who hid behind his debauchery and I loved it! I loved Hannah as well, she was such a strong and soothing presence for Rafe and I was so glad that the girl behind the scenes stole his heart rather than that intended for him.
As with all of LK's work, she writes with passion and intelligence, humor and precision. Giving us Rafe's story but somehow reacquainting us with the couples of the other books was done seamlessly.
I loved seeing Westcliff and Lillian, Evie and St. Vincent, Daisy and Matthew and of course Annabelle and Simon. My favorite couples and their accompanying books were in Devil in Winter and Scandal in Spring. The scene with Evie and St. Vincent moved me, I missed them so much! Him and Matthew, damn those men! Another scene that had me was between Lillian and Westcliff, in a stable no less! The letter Rafe wrote for Hannah brought tears to my eyes, it was so powerful and so desperate with want.
I can't say enough about LK! She writes so beautifully, so eloquently, so evocatively that I miss her words as soon as I'm done. And the way she writes her male characters? It's impressive to say the least. They're testosterone-filled, sexy men. She captures the male characterization like no other author and that goes for her contemporary romance as well.
This was a bittersweet farewell to a series that made me cry, swoon, laugh and sigh. I literally can't wait for the expected last book in the Travises series and her anticipated HR with Avon books. Goodbye Wallflowers! A Christmas love story isn't usually this heavy. And again Lillian and her issues ruined it almost completely. I liked Rafe Bowman a lot, but Hannah took her sweet time to show why I should like her.
Still, it would have been a lovely story if Lillian's insecurity regarding her husband hadn't reared its ugly head. There wasn't a single reason why that should be in a story like this. The moment that happened, even if it does not actually play any role whatsoever to be fair , I lost my interest and just read through to get to the end. The best part of the story is Rafe's letter.
If you are interested in snippets of Lillian, Daisy, Annabelle and Evie and their husbands, read this. Otherwise, you won't miss much if you skip it. Author 8 books followers. This was my first regency romance by Lisa Klepas and I really enjoyed it! A group of four charming friends who all have roadblocks to finding a suitable match in society have banded together. This was a charming novella and I loved how FUNNY it was also steamy in places with some hot scenes between Hannah and Rafe, so hang on to your knickers!
Grecia Robles. Hasta pronto mis queridas Wallflowers!! I think this is one of the fastest books I've ever read! It was a good story overall, nice to see the Wallflowers again, but I'd have liked to have seen more of them. Each Wallflower has about two pages or so just for her and her hubby and you get that warm nostalgic feel for the previous books in the series. It would have been better if there was more tension between him and Hannah, but what little there was was well-done.
The book is unfortunately too short and some important things seemed rushed, but it was still a good read overall. Yomi M. What a lovely read, I do wish the epilogue were longer since it seems this is the last book in the series. I'm still intrigued by Lillian and Daisy's other brothers, I wish we had met them.
Antonella M. A furia di sedere una accanto all'altra, sera dopo sera, le quattro zitelle iniziarono a chiacchierare tra loro. Quando inizi un nuovo romanzo e ti senti immediatamente a casa, significa che hai scelto il libro giusto. Sicuramente la presenza delle zitelle, e relativi consorti, Oh! Come sempre una combinazione perfetta di romanticismo e passione, ma anche ironia!
Chiedimelo tra un mese. Tra un anno, tra dieci anni, tra una vita intera. Duchess Nicole. For a short er story, this felt complete. Not only do we get to know the eldest Bowman brother, but we get a lot of insight into the rest of the wallflowers and their husbands. Not just tiny snippets, either.
They each get a significant shout out, and because I've come to know them all so well, this was just wonderful. I kept getting lumps in my throat. Sooo glad Ms. Kleypas decided to dig a little deeper with them! Aside from that, Rafe and Hannah's story also felt like a full novel though it wasn't. Rafe comes to England because Mr.
Bowman, once again, decides to match make. Only this time, he's matched the wrong people. Rafe's eye is soon caught by his almost intended's companion, Hannah.
After a short time, this American rake is ga ga over this disapproving English miss, and he doesn't know how to handle himself. He writes her a letter that had me saying, "Oooooh!
My favorite line from the story is from Hannah's cousin, speaking of Rafe: "But he has a sort of perpetual irreverance I love historical romance!
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