"A brilliant, creative and passionately written tale of romance."
Reviewed by Mandy Burns
Posted May 13, 2010
Olivia Weston's passion for books, especially romance
novels, has set her standards for the perfect husband high.
Until he comes along, reorganizing Haile Castle's library
and staying with her Aunt Kate will keep her occupied. This
is when she comes across Lord Sheldon's former wife's diary
mapping out her last days before a fatal accident took her
life. Olivia knows she must find a way to help ease the
pain of his past, so she decides to travel with her aunt to
Pembrokeshire, Wales, to spend Christmas with his family.
Olivia quickly realizes he needs her help more than she
originally thinks and sets out to help him move on from his
past while keeping her own secrets close to her heart.
The first priority of Jason Traherne, the current Marquess
of Sheldon, is to his son, Edward. Jason's focus is to be
the best single parent he can be to Edward without allowing
the past to disrupt the future. Jason keeps his life
orderly and strict, which makes keeping a staff nearly
impossible, and with company arriving soon, a bit
inconvenient. With his surly demeanor, Jason's preference
is to keep to himself and trust only a few people. Time
can't go fast enough dealing with all the Welsh traditions
during Christmas, until the beautiful and free-spirited
Olivia Weston sweeps into his home, charming his staff, his
brother-in-law and most importantly his son. Jason's own
feelings are unwanted and a surprise, since he's had no
interest in women after his wife's death.
This humorous and stimulating adventure, book two of the
Weston series is beyond brilliant, creative and written
with a passionate flare. This series is not to be missed!
The Weston family series continues with the tale of a
brooding widower and the lively young woman who tempts him
to believe in love again...
Olivia stood before the castle’s thick wooden
portal, inwardly bracing herself against what lay in wait
on the other side. Freezing rain had plastered her shabby
traveling gown to her body, and the biting wind whipped at
her sodden locks. She thought wistfully of her blue velvet
pelisse with the ermine trim, but she had left the garment—
and the elegant, easy life it represented—behind when she
had chosen to run away rather than marry the lecherous Duke
of Devonbridge. And now she was a lowly governess,
dependent on the kindness and goodwill of her employer. . .
and her new master was purported to have little of
A lone wolf howled somewhere out on the misty, moonlit
moors that stretched for miles around the isolated edifice.
She shivered with cold and fright, wondering if she might
not be safer with the wolves than inside the castle’s
walls. A different sort of beast lay within that
impenetrable stone fortress. A caged beast, confined not by
chains but by his own despair.
The villagers called him the Mad Marquess, for he had been
crazed with grief since the death of his wife some four
years past. He eschewed all company . . . not that there
were many eager to subject themselves to his foul humor. In
the past year alone no fewer than eleven maids had resigned
their posts at Castle Arlyss. She’d heard rumors, too, of a
centuries-old curse. . . .
Olivia raised her face to the heavens, searching for a
sign that this was indeed the path she was meant to travel—
that she was meant to save this tormented soul and show his
son a mother’s love. Lightning flashed and crackled through
the night sky, setting her hair on end. The angry rumble of
thunder followed close behind.
Stiffening her spine, Olivia raised her fist to knock.
Then, all of a sudden, a strong gust of the wind snatched
at her sleeve, as if trying to stop her. The air swirled
around her, rustling through the dead leaves underfoot.
It seemed to whisper a name.
Livvy, it murmured. Livvy . . .
* * *
A Carriage Bound for Castle
Olivia opened her eyes and stared
unseeing out the coach window. She blinked at the few rays
of sunlight that dared penetrate the winter gloom lingering
over the southwest of England. She shook her head. The
wild, stormy night had vanished, and she was back in her
aunt’s well-sprung carriage.
A wistful sigh escaped her. The dream had been so
real. . . . And now she was back to being ordinary Olivia
She turned her head to look at her young cousin,
Charlotte, who was tugging rather insistently at her
“What is it?” Livvy asked in as understanding a tone as
she could muster. The journey from Scotland to Wales had
already taken close to a fortnight, and though she loved
Charlotte dearly, the boundless energy of a five-year-old
was ill-suited to the close confines of a carriage. Not
that Olivia was any stranger to small children. As the
third of seven siblings, she knew all about them.
The little girl frowned, tugging at one of her glossy,
dark ringlets, then shrugged. “I forget.”
Livvy bit back a groan and stifled the urge to tear at
her hair, which, to her everlasting disappointment, was
neither curly nor dark. Neither was it blond and straight.
Olivia’s hair was a very ordinary, indeterminate shade of
brown, and it had just enough of a wave to always escape
its pins and make her look unkempt.
“I remembered. I had a secret to tell you.” Charlotte
crossed her arms over her chest and flopped back against
the plush squabs with a satisfied smile.
“And?” Olivia prompted. She waited for further
elucidation, but none was forthcoming. “Did you wish to
tell me this secret you remembered?”
Charlotte thought a moment before shaking her
head. “I’ll tell Queenie instead.”
Queen Anne, a doll in lavish court dress, was
Charlotte’s most prized possession, a distinction it had
held since being unwrapped a few weeks past. Yes, Livvy
thought, she had been replaced in her cousin’s affections
by an inanimate object. How distressing! She consoled
herself with the knowledge that her conversational skills
far surpassed those of Queenie. Then again, so did a
squirrel’s. As was her wont, she began composing a list in
Ways in Which I Am Superior to Queenie
1. I can read.
2. I can write.
3. My head is not made of wood.
4. I can breathe.
Hmm, perhaps that last should have been first on her
list; it seemed a fairly important distinction. Of course,
squirrels also breathed. Maybe she ought to list the ways
she was superior to squirrels instead. . . . She stopped
herself, wondering if it was possible to go mad from
Aunt Kate looked up from her book to address her
daughter. “Charlotte, I do believe Queenie looks a bit
peaked. Perhaps you should both try to rest for a time and
let your poor cousin alone.”
Charlotte was disgusted by this suggestion. “Mama,
Queenie is a doll. How can she rest when her eyes don’t
Aunt Kate sighed and peered out the window at the
passing scenery. “At least we are getting close to the end.
We should arrive tomorrow provided the weather doesn’t
change—” A choked laugh escaped her. “Dear heavens, that
child will be the death of me!”
Livvy glanced at Charlotte, who had apparently decided
to take her mother’s advice. She was curled into the corner
of the carriage, with her feet drawn up under her and her
head pillowed against one hand. Her eyes were closed, a
beatific smile on her face. Queenie lay in the crook of her
free arm— Olivia smothered a laugh as she realized the
reason for her aunt’s proclamation.
As the doll’s eyes did not, as Charlotte had pointed
out, close, her enterprising mistress had contrived other
means by which Queenie might rest. Raising Queenie’s gown
up over her head did shield her face from light, but this
also exposed the doll’s lower half. And while Queenie’s
ensemble boasted exquisitely detailed garters, stockings,
and shoes, it did not apparently run to petticoats.
Ha! Petticoats! There was another way in which
she was superior to Queenie and squirrels, too, for Livvy
had never encountered a petticoat-wearing squirrel and very
much doubted she ever would. The closest she was ever like
to come was the stable cat her younger sisters had caught
long enough to dress it in a bonnet and christening
Aunt Kate leaned forward and spoke quietly so as not to
disturb Charlotte. “I feel I ought to warn you about my
“Warn me?” Olivia’s cheeks grew warm. “I hardly think—
Her aunt waved a hand dismissively. “Heavens, child, I’m
not suggesting anything of that nature. No, I only meant to
caution you about the welcome we are like to receive.”
“You mentioned Lord Sheldon keeps to himself a great
deal of the time. I am not expecting to be met with a grand
parade. I wish to inconvenience the marquess as little as
That wasn’t precisely true.
If all went to plan, she would put the man to a great
deal of trouble. . . .
But that was her secret, one she didn’t dare share with
present company. Not with Aunt Kate, certainly not with
Charlotte, and not even with Queenie, who was by nature
most admirably closemouthed.
“Jason,” Aunt Kate began, then sighed. “I know I should
call him Sheldon, but I can’t seem to get my mind round it,
no matter that he’s held the title for five years now. I
suppose his Christian name is rather too familiar for
polite conversation, but he has always been Jason to
“Did he not have use of a courtesy title?”
“There is one,” her aunt admitted, “but most of the
heirs would rather do without it.” Her eyes sparkled with
laughter. “Most understandable, really. Would you like to
go through life being addressed as Bramblybum?”
“B-bramblybum?” Olivia burst out laughing. She caught
her aunt’s sharp glance at Charlotte and lowered her
voice. “Surely you are joking.”
Aunt Kate shook her head. “The marquisate was created
for the ninth Viscount Traherne, who was, I gather, a great
personal favorite with James I. The viscount’s son, who
went on to become the second Marquess of Sheldon, openly
disapproved of his sire’s, ah, special relationship with
the king. The Traherne men have never been ones to keep
their opinions to themselves, which perhaps accounts for
the dearth of ambassadors and politicians in the family.
“In any case, the young man’s outbursts angered
the king, and he might have met a very sorry end had not
his father intervened. The viscount begged the king to
disregard his son and joked how the boy had been born with
nettles stinging his backside. The king’s revenge was to
bestow a marquisate and an earldom upon the viscount. While
his father was alive, the second marquess was known by his
“The Earl of Bramblybum,” Livvy whispered, torn between
horror and hilarity.
“Earl Bramblybum, actually, but I wouldn’t suggest you
let that pass your lips once we reach Castle Arlyss. Jason
always gets fussed on hearing it. He certainly doesn’t use
the title for Edward. I have told you about Jason’s son,
Edward, haven’t I? He’s nearly seven now and such a dear,
Olivia nodded. She wasn’t sure if Aunt Kate had told her
about Edward, but she knew about him all the same. But that
was part of her secret.
Unconsciously, she bent forward and smoothed her hands
over her skirts, her fingers searching out the almost
imperceptible bump of the little fichu pin she wore affixed
to her garter. The dainty brooch featured a tiny silhouette
set in a gold frame surrounded by garnets. The portrait was
no bigger than her thumbnail, but the artist had rendered
the gentleman’s profile in great detail, from the slight
curl in the hair at his nape to the soft ruffles of his
shirt frills. An elegant man, but Livvy reserved final
judgment until she met him in the flesh, which, with any
luck, would be on the morrow. Finally, she thought, a
little sigh escaping her.
“I’ll stop nattering on and let you rest.” Aunt Kate’s
eyes twinkled. “You needn’t go take the same drastic
measures as poor Queenie and cast your skirts over your
“I wasn’t— I mean, you weren’t—,” Livvy stammered out a
“Calm yourself, my dear, I’m only teasing. I know I have
a tendency to ramble, especially when I don’t have to mind
my tongue.” She winked and nodded in Charlotte’s
A rush of pride swept over Olivia at her aunt’s words.
In the eyes of Society she was an adult and had been since
her eighteenth birthday close to a year earlier. Girls her
age, and even some younger, had already had their come-outs
this past Season. She should have come out then as well,
but her sojourn in Scotland with Aunt Kate, Charlotte, and
Livvy’s newly married (and freshly abandoned) older sister,
Isabella, had lasted longer than expected.
Nine months longer, give or take a little.
Olivia hadn’t minded putting off her come-out. She
wasn’t overly anxious to put herself on the Marriage Mart,
and besides, her sister had needed her. That last trumped
everything else as far as Livvy was concerned.
Aunt Kate reached forward and patted Olivia’s
knee. “I’ve grown accustomed to having you and Izzie
around. I was so pleased when you asked to come along with
us to Wales. I would have invited you had I known you were
so interested in this part of the country.”
“I must confess, some of my interest stemmed from
wanting to avoid traveling home with Mama, spending
countless hours trapped in a carriage listening her expound
on some Shakespearean heroine or other.”
For as long as Olivia could remember, her mother had
been writing a critical work about Shakespeare’s heroines.
Life in the Weston household was all Shakespeare, all the
time, at least when her mother was present. The rest of the
family bore it with equanimity—mostly because they tended
to ignore her—but over the years her mother’s obsession
increasingly grated on Livvy’s nerves.
She adored her mother, really she did, but she could
easily do without hearing, at least once a week, as she had
for her entire life: “Be not afraid of greatness: some are
born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness
thrust upon them.”
Lady Weston particularly enjoyed tailoring her
recitations so that each of her children would be familiar
with the plays from whence had come their names. Though
Olivia resented having Shakespeare’s greatness constantly
thrust upon her, not for the world would she have hurt her
mother’s feelings by telling her so. All in all, she felt
lucky to have been named for a character in Twelfth Night,
which, in her opinion, was one of Shakespeare’s more
tolerable works, and not only because it was relatively
Her younger sisters, identical twins Cordelia and
Imogen, were stuck with King Lear and Cymbeline, two plays
that were, in Olivia’s opinion, entirely too puffed up with
melodrama. The first words Richard, her precocious little
brother, babbled had sounded suspiciously like: “Now is the
winter of our discontent.” Portia, the baby of the family,
hadn’t got much past cooing and gurgling when Livvy had
left for Scotland. . . .
She realized with a slight pang that she had missed her
youngest sister’s first words, and a wave of homesickness
swept over her. These past months marked the longest time
she had ever been away from her younger siblings.
“What’s caused that long face?” Aunt Kate asked. “Have I
scared you off with this talk of my stepson? You mustn’t
let him upset you. He is very changed since Laura’s death,
and grief affects us all in different ways. Perhaps, given
time. . .” She trailed off, her hopes for the future
unspoken but entirely clear.
Olivia wanted to say she knew, or at least had an
inkling, of what the marquess had been like before his
wife’s death—but she could not. Instead she smiled brightly
and said, “Then we must do our best to bring some cheer to
both him and his son this holiday season. If you don’t
mind, Aunt Kate, I think I’ll read a bit while Char is
Her aunt laughed. “Yes, living with Charlotte one does
learn to seize those rare moments of peace. They certainly
don’t last long.”
Olivia nodded distractedly, already absorbed with her
book. Or rather, with the piece of paper hidden inside. In
bold, scrawling script were the words—the first clue—that
had led her to the brooch, thus prompting her seemingly
impromptu journey to Wales—words penned by none other than
the Mad Marquess of her dreams.
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