Another of my AbsoluteWrite forum friends has a new book out! Give it up for P.J. Perryman!
During a drinking bout with a bridal party, Lord Robert Esher makes a foolish bet to marry the inn-keepers daughter. His companion, a mischievous friend from his childhood, ensures the bargain is kept.
When Esher rises the next morning, he finds he is married to Chastity, a comely wench, her virtue sold for a few guineas by her father. Despite asking the church and King George for an annulment, Esher can’t undo what has been done before God.
But his ever jealous friends are insulted by the association with such a low-born woman. In an act of spite, one woman plants a brooch in Chastity’s chamber, hoping to ruin her reputation. When Chastity is accused of stealing, Esher puts her aside, so she flees to Hastings to start a new life. But chance is unkind, and her new place is discovered by another enemy, who would steal her virtue and disgrace her forever.
Regretting his decision to abandon her, Esher rushes to find Chastity and make amends. But his change of heart may have come too late to save her from total ruin.
A Bride for Lord Esher is a dark historical romance complete at 37,000-words.
Lord Ashworth had drunk more ale than was good for him. He sat, slumped and near unconsciousness, a pewter tankard still looped in his fingers as the contents sloshed on the innkeeper’s finest table. “I’ll take another.”
The passing barmaid refilled his tankard, knowing he could no more drink another drop than copulate. Still, money was money and she was paid to serve.
His companion, Lord Esher, was considerably less inebriated. He grabbed the wench by the waist and pulled her down onto his lap. “You can earn an extra shilling if you take me upstairs, my lovely.” His eager hands groped freely at her comely frame, and he nuzzled into her neck, expecting his attentions be received with gratitude. He did not expect the sharp slap he received in reply, and recoiled at the unexpectedness of it.
“Get your hands off me,” said the barmaid. “I ain’t no common whore. I serve drinks here and that’s all I do, don’t you gentlemen forget it.”
Lord Esher’s hand flew to his face and covered the spot where she had slapped him. He didn’t look amused. His third companion, a Mr. Tom Warren spat his own ale out with laughter. He sat chuckling for a moment, during which time the barmaid scuttled off out of harm’s way. When he was at last able to compose himself, the young man set his tankard on the table and waited till the young woman disappeared around the corner.
“That’s the first time I’ve ever seen a wench turn you down,” said Tom. And it was true, Lord Robert Esher was perhaps the most strikingly handsome man he had ever known. The two men had been friends since childhood, and Tom recognized Esher had a certain commanding air about him that drew both women of fortune and poverty alike. One lone scar cut across Esher’s chin. It marred his features, but even that gave him a rugged, dangerous look which had an appeal of its own.
“That one’s got a bit of spittle in her belly,” said Tom.
“She’ll have more than a little spittle there before the night is through, I’ll wager.” Robert laughed. Not one to hold a grudge, his good humor was quickly restored. “In the meantime, what are we going to do about our dear friend Lord Ashworth, here? He’s positively pickled.”
Tom nodded thoughtfully. “Yes, quite the mess, he’s had more drink than is good for a man on the eve of his wedding. I’m afraid your sister won’t thank us for returning him in this state.”
“Ah, she’s a woman, she’ll be thankful enough when he says I do.”
From the corner of his eye, Lord Robert Esher kept a close watch on the wench as she meandered through the tavern tables, serving the other customers politely, and treating all roaming hands with the same disdain. She was not typical of her class, for he found most would hoist their skirts for the price of a dinner. In truth, she intrigued him.
“You like that one, don’t you,” noted his friend, Tom. “Perhaps you should talk to the inn-keeper, find out how many coins will lift her petticoats. I’ll wager it will not be much.”
Like many of his set, Robert liked nothing more than a good bet. He leaned forward, practically climbing over his prostrate companion. His lacy sleeve dangled on Ashworth’s inebriated back as he pondered the question. Lord Ashworth felt nothing, and continued to snore away.
“Very well then,” he answered. “Five shillings says she’ll have me, and if she does, you pay the price of my pleasure.”
“And if she does not?”
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