Lord Esterleigh’s Daughter (Book 1)
As a child, Anne Fairfield dreams of the father she never knew, the hero who died fighting the French and their Indian allies in a land across the sea. Her mother’s stories, and fantasies of her own devising, sustain and nurture her through a poor and lonely existence. Until one winter night, a strange man comes to call, and the life she has known comes crashing down like shattered glass.
Forced to confront sordid truths, secrets and lies, the headstrong young woman begins to learn that, like generations of women ruled by their hearts, she is destined to follow in their footsteps.
Set against the backdrop of 18th century England, Lord Esterleigh’s Daughter is the first book in “The Serpent’s Tooth” trilogy, which follows Anne from the rural countryside, to London society and into the center of the American Revolution.
“Are you hurt?” He bent toward her.
She flinched away. “No thanks to you, I think I’ve escaped permanent injury.” She turned her eyes on him, a glowering look that held a trace of fear.
The look took him aback. “Forgive me, I was afraid that you—”
Her eyes softened, a rush of color surged in her cheeks. She turned away, as if embarrassed. “Is it your custom to go around sneaking up on people?” She rose gingerly, flexing her left ankle.
“To be quite truthful, it’s not.” He smiled sheepishly and scrambled to his feet. “Is it your custom to go climbing over walls?” He found her shoes in the grass and deferentially offered them to her. “Sensible people would use the gate.”
“Perhaps I’m not sensible!” Without a word of gratitude, she snatched the offering from him and winced as she slipped her left foot into the boot. “Now if you’ll excuse me, I must go.”
She hurried off, but soon moderated her pace to a hobbling limp. He followed with caution.
“Stealing off to see the old witch, are you?” Relief coursed through him that she had not seriously injured herself.
She stopped and half-looked up at him, a flickering smile spreading over her full, ripe mouth. “Hetty Powell is not a witch!”
“I wouldn’t be so sure of that,” he teased. “And I wouldn’t make it a habit of calling upon her without an escort. Old witches have a special fondness for saucy young maids. Feed ’em lots of tea and biscuits, they do…soften ’em up, make ’em sweet and tender!”
She looked up at him fully. “Are you offering me your protection?”
The candor expressed in her voice and those clear, violet eyes left him momentarily speechless. “I wish only to accompany you.”
“You are an ill-mannered young man!”
“And you’re an impetuous young woman. You’ll not go far on that ankle.”
“That remains to be seen!” She turned from him and walked lamely away.
“I can’t help feeling responsible,” he called out and hurriedly overtook her.
“You are responsible!”
“What possessed you to climb that wall?”
“It’s none of your concern.”
“An impressive display of skill and daring, I must say.”
“Indeed! Not to mention agility and—”
Anne stopped suddenly and gazed hard at his face. A shiver of apprehension vibrated up her spine. For all his seeming sincerity, he was not to be trusted. Surely he would find a way to return her to the hall and inform her father of her attempted flight. “What do you want? Why must you pester me so?”
His gaze turned searching, steady. His voice was almost pleading. “Allow me to walk with you and I’ll promise not to speak another word.”
An uncomfortable heat rose in her face. She glanced away. “Then I might as well walk alone,” she said softly.
Date Published: 8/31/2012
Courting the Devil (BOOK #2 May contain spoilers)
Four years after a near fatal blunder uproots her from her home and inheritance, Anne Darvey, daughter of the Marquess of Esterleigh, finds herself an indentured servant on a farm near Fort Edward in New York, as the British army advances toward Albany. Driven by guilt over the pain she has caused her father and grief over her lover’s death, she sets out to deliver a message. The consequences lead to the discovery that all is not as it seems, and sets in motion events that lead to love and danger.
Set against the backdrop of the American Revolution, Courting the Devil is the second book in “The Serpent’s Tooth” trilogy, which follows Anne from her childhood in the rural English countryside, to London society, and into the center of the American Revolution.
His memory had not failed him. Summer nights were infinitely cooler by the pond near the creek. Brighter as well, with milky flashes of light reflecting off its smooth surface and a riot of fireflies darting among the reeds, twinkling over the water like so many stars. Had there been a moon, it would have floated on the water, sending glimmers of light up to the treetops.
He would have seen her then by moonlight.
Rather it was the dull light of the ill-smelling flame of his lamp that revealed her there at the edge of the pond in the tall grass, sitting in nothing but her damp shift, her back against the trunk of a sycamore, as she applied a towel to her hair. Had he’d arrived moments earlier, he might have seen her emerge, dripping from the creek like some water nymph. He paused where he stood and watched for a moment, then he cleared his throat and continued closer.
The brush crackled under his feet. He slowed his steps when she turned, a startled look on her face, her fingers frozen in the wild tangle of thick, dark hair tumbling over her shoulders and down the length of her back. At the sight of him, she quickly covered her chest with crossed arms.
Harris hesitated, holding up the lamp so that its light revealed his face, causing her to blink into the brightness. “No reason for alarm,” he reassured, and hung the lamp on a bough just above her head. “I didn’t mean to frighten you.”
She turned away and on her knees quickly gathered up the objects spread out on a towel in the grass. He leaned on his hand against the tree, and regarded her with interest. In the light of the swinging lamp, drops of water shimmered on her bare arms. The smell of milled soap with a hint of lavender emanated from her hair, mingling with her own sweet, warm scent on the heavy air. Though coarsely made, her damp chemise clung to her like second skin, revealing the soft, round contours of a supple body. He imagined his hands holding her close, the feel of her, lithe and wet, against him, and fought back the stirring in his groin.
He licked his lips. “I didn’t expect to find anyone here at this hour of the night. Forgive the intrusion, I–”
She glanced up at him, a look of uncertainty in her eyes, along with the flashing sky. “No need for apologies, sir. I was just about to leave.” She rolled her hairbrush and a small, well-used sliver of soap in its original paper wrapper into the frayed huckaback towel. After slipping into her shoes, she snatched the coarse-woven skirt and linen bodice from the low bough from which she had hung them. Having wrapped everything in the skirt, she rose with the grace of a goddess and turned toward the path back to the house, the bundle clasped to her breast.
He stepped away from the tree and blocked her escape. She halted just short of him, but did not avert her eyes from the ground before her. “I wish you wouldn’t go,” Harris said through the dryness in his mouth.
Maintaining her focus on the dark path beyond the circle of light cast by his Betty lamp, she drew in a slow breath. In spite of the heat, she shivered. “There is nothing to keep me, sir.”
He laughed softly. “I hope that was not meant to be a gibe at my vanity?”
She shook back the mane of dark, wet hair that had fallen over her face, but kept her eyes averted. “It was not my intention to appear so bold.”
“Then I’m very much relieved!” His gaze wandered over her wet, scantily clad form, at the soft rise of her breasts before they disappeared under the cover of her infringing bundle. “But I forget myself. It is your modesty and virtue that–”
“Excuse me, Mr. Harris. It’s been a long day, and I’m tired.”
“It’s too hot to sleep. I thought I would—”
“You needn’t explain yourself. Not to me, sir. Now, if you will kindly let me pass …”
“You don’t like me, do you?”
At that she raised her eyes fully upon his face with a slow and deliberate stare, as if the impulse to look at him had been spontaneous and she resisted its appeal with all the self-control at her disposal. “My feelings are of no consequence, Mr. Harris,” she said in a soft voice, devoid of expression.
“But you do have them. Are you dismissing them as insignificant, or is it that you have no desire to discuss things of a personal nature?” Her soft, full lips were enticing. Even in the sweltering night air, the heat emanating from her body wrapped around him like a caress.
“If you really must know, sir, I have no time for such diversions.”
“Nor anything else, I dare say.” Fighting the urge to clasp her to him and taste her mouth, he stepped aside to let her pass. “You push yourself far too hard. It’s a sure sign.”
Just beyond the spill of light from the hanging lamp, Annie stopped and raised her head. For a long while she stood in silence, as if waiting for him to speak.
He sensed he had struck a nerve. “A sure sign of what, you might ask. Then again, I would be presuming to know your mind, which, I assure I do not… All right then, I’ll tell you. I notice things about people who labor for a living, Miss Annie.” He stepped toward her, outside the circle of dingy light. “Those who work for their own subsistence tend to perform their duties with an honorable sense of purpose. For when successfully accomplished, the task at hand yields its own reward. From my own observations, I’ve also noted that those who are obligated to toil in the service of others tend to do only that which is expected of them. No more, no less.” He paused. Again the sky flickered, revealing her standing with her back to him, head lowered. “Where rewards are few, there is nothing to be gained by working one’s self to an early grave. That would leave one unable to savor the freedom earned by such senseless toil.”
She turned slowly and swept his face with her gaze. “Do you not work for your living, Mr. Harris?” In her soft voice, he detected a note of challenge.
“I am a schoolmaster, Miss Annie.” And then he vacillated, his mouth twitching into a smile. “I was a schoolmaster…until I lost all my students! For the life of me I can’t fathom why…” She did not appear moved by his attempted levity. “But, no, I never had a reason to earn a living. My father was…well-connected.”
Her eyes shimmered in the darkness. “It is said, Mr. Harris, that the Devil finds work for idle hands.”
He laughed softly. “It is also said, Miss Annie, that to speak of the Devil is to court his presence.”
She lowered her face until shadows once more enveloped her features, her hands tightening around the bundle. “If that is so, then I hope he finds me busy. Good night, Mr. Harris.” She vanished quietly into the darkness.
Date Published: 2/6/2013
The Partisan’s Wife (BOOK #3 May contain spoilers)
Faced with an impossible choice, Anne Marlowe is torn between her husband’s love and the hope of her father’s forgiveness. As American forces follow up on their tide-turning victories over the British at Freeman’s Farm and Bemis Heights, Peter is drawn deeper into the shady network of espionage that could cost them both their lives.
Is his commitment to “the Cause” stronger than his hard-won love for Anne? Will her sacrifice tear them apart again…this time forever? Or will they find the peace and happiness they both seek in a new beginning?
The Partisan’s Wife follows Anne and Peter through the war torn landscape of Revolutionary War America, from the Battle of Saratoga to British-occupied New York and Philadelphia, and beyond.
At last, she stopped pacing and leaned against the wall, arms crossed over her breast. “My God, Peter! How could you?”
He forced a sheepish smile but made no attempt to answer.
“You lied to me! Shipping trade indeed!”
“I swear I never lied.”
“Half-truths, then!” She pushed away from the wall. “‘I’m finished here. I’m done with that!’ Why didn’t I see?”
“LeClair will find a way out of this.”
She looked at him in challenge. The candle flame shone in the mirror of her eyes. “You seem so assured.”
“I have the utmost confidence in LeClair. When he returns, we’ll ferry across the river into Paulus Hook. We’ll be safe in New Jersey.”
He stood and regarded her, his mouth a taut line. “Didn’t you say in no uncertain terms that you wished to go to Philadelphia?”
“I never said I wished to go. I said I had to go.”
He paused for a long moment. “You know I can’t go with you.”
“You can’t come with me…?” she said with astonishing composure. “Or, more precisely, you won’t come.”
“I can’t.” He reached for her hand; she yanked it away. “I can’t go with you.”
“Why? So that you may continue to play at your little game of masquerade and intrigue, exposing yourself to danger? For what purpose? Have you no concern for my—”
“You are not the only one blessed with a cause!” He glared at her. “It would appear that we are each compelled to do as our conscience dictates.”
Steadily she met his gaze through the candle light. “And if you could come with me…?”
Her wide-eyed face betrayed her apprehension, as though she already knew his answer yet hoped against hope for the response she longed to hear. It could have been so simple to play along and accommodate her wishes and, for her sake, make promises he could never keep. For his own sake, he chose not to respond.