My favorite scene from the book is the very first. It was great fun to write.
Nathaniel Gresham, Viscount Hightower, stirred in his sleep. His hands groped
for bedclothes, found nothing. Sensing wrongness, his consciousness rose through
layers of befuddlement and wisps of dreams. He opened his eyes to find a gaping
maw of three-inch fangs inches from his throat.
Nathaniel threw up his arms to shield his face and twisted to the side. The
convulsive movement brought him right to the edge of a large four-poster bed,
and he scrambled to avoid falling three feet to the floor. He twisted in the
opposite direction and struck out at the sharp, yellowed teeth. They did not
snap shut on his forearm or lunge into his face once more. Indeed, they did not
move at all, except sideways under his blow. There was no snarl or slaver, no
spark of rage in the shiny eye behind the fangs. Nathaniel shoved them farther
away and sat up.
He was stark naked, on a large bed stripped bare of linens, covered only by a
moth-eaten gray wolf skin. The wretched thingâ€™s head had been carefully placed
on his chest, to ensure the rude awakening. His hips still rested under its
hindquarters. Molting fur peppered the bed. The mere sight of the ancient pelt
made his skin itch. Revolted, he pushed it all the way off and moved to the foot
of the bed, struggling to get his bearings. This wasnâ€™t his bedchamber. The
blue-striped wallpaper was alien, the furnishings unfamiliar; the windows with
their slant of early morning light were in the wrong place. Then he remembered.
He was staying at the Earl of Moreleyâ€™s country house, because tomorrowâ€”no,
todayâ€”he was to marry the earlâ€™s daughter at their local parish
Nathaniel glared at the wolf skin, then rubbed his hands over his face. This was
what it meant to have five brothersâ€”five younger brothersâ€”on oneâ€™s wedding day.
Or rather, on oneâ€™s wedding eve, a night theyâ€™d insisted upon marking with bowls
of rack punch. Had it been three? Or had he lost count? No wonder theyâ€™d kept
filling his glass, if they had this prank planned. Where the devil had they
found a wolf skin in a strange house? And hadnâ€™t he told his father, when Robert
was born in his sixth year, that four sons were quite enough? Even for a duke,
six sons were excessive. At this particular moment, Nathaniel thought that his
parents might have been content with just one.
He rose, stretching stiff limbs and marveling that he had only a mild headache.
Revenge on his brothers would have to wait for another day. Today, he was
getting married. He was doing his duty to his name and his line, pledging
himself to a woman who would be an admirable duchess when their turn cameâ€”may it
be far in the future. The match was eminently suitable. All society acknowledged
its rightness. And despite Violetâ€™s irascible grandmother, the occasional bane
of his existence, he could have no complaints.
Indeed, why had the word even occurred to him? No one had rushed him into
marriage. He had enjoyed a plenitude of seasons in London and a number of
agreeable flirtations and liaisons with delightful females. Though they had
never spoken of it, he was aware that his parents had given him every
opportunity to fall in love. But the passion that had overtaken them in their
young days had not befallen him. He wasnâ€™t sure why, but once heâ€™d passed thirty
he concluded it never would. Heâ€™d had more than enough time to observe that such
a bond was rare in the circles of the haut ton.
Nathaniel stretched again, his bare limbs a bit chilly. This marriage was
certainly not a penance. He liked Violet very much. Theyâ€™d been acquainted for
years. He did not know whether sheâ€™d had other offers, but he supposed that she
too had waited for love to find her. They had that in common. They were also
well suited by background, had similar tastes, and enjoyed the same even
temperament. When heâ€™d decided that the time for marriage had come, heâ€™d simply
known that she was the proper candidate. He expected their union to be gracious,
harmonious, and ideal for the significant position they would someday be called
upon to fulfill. And now it was time to stop wool- gathering, put on his
dressing gown, and begin this momentous day.
Nathaniel walked over to the oaken wardrobe on the far wall and opened
It was empty. All his clothes had disappeared.
He stared at the bare hooks. This part of the prank would be Sebastianâ€™s doing,
he imagined. It had his next younger brotherâ€™s touch. Nathaniel met his own gaze
in the mirror set into the wardrobe door, and acknowledged the spark of amused
annoyance in his eyes. His brothers had a fiendish facility for complicated
The figure in the glass shook its head. All the sons of the Duke of Langford
were tall, handsome, broad-shouldered men with auburn hair and blue eyes.
Sebastian was the tallest. Robert the wittiest. Randolph was acknowledged as the
handsomest, James the most adventurous, and Alan the smartest. But he was the
eldest, and the heir.
For as long as he could remember, Nathaniel had felt the weight of his destiny.
The others said it was a burden to have everything done ahead of them, but heâ€™d
felt the onus of being the pattern, setting up the expectations, being the son
visitors scrutinized the most. He would be the next duke; he must show he was
worthy. Thus, he kept a tight rein on his wilder impulses. Instead, he was the
one who came to the rescue when one of his brothers went too far, kicking up a
And so now, he did not slam the empty wardrobe shut, but simply closed it. He
would leave it to his valet to straighten this out. He wanted hot water for
washing, and then clothes, and then breakfast. He went to ring for Cates, and
discovered that the bell rope had been removed. He could see the wire to which
it had been connected, near the ceiling, twelve feet up. It must have taken two
or three of his brothers to reach so high.
For a moment he just stood there, staring at it. This final touch would be
Robertâ€™s idea, no doubt. Heâ€™d always been the most ingenious, the brother who
added the crowning climax to a prank. Robert would be the one to set the others
guffawingâ€”describing their elder brother slinking through the corridors of the
Earl of Moreleyâ€™s house wrapped in a wolf skin, like some sort of demented
ancient Celt. Even Nathaniel had to smile at the picture. How would Violetâ€™s
fierce stickler of a grandmother like that? And all the other near and distant
relations visiting for the wedding? Heâ€™d barely met most of them. Perhaps heâ€™d
twine some ivy from outside the window in his hair and attempt a Gaelic war
Nathaniel laughed. Truth to tell, it was a splendid prank, unfolding like a
puzzle box upon its hapless victim. All that remained was for him to wiggle out
of the trap so cunningly set.
He eyed the windows and considered pulling down some of his
almost-mother-in-lawâ€™s elaborate draperies to wrap about himself. But one panel
would trail behind him like a coronation robe. The picture was little better
than the wolf skin. Perhaps he would just wait until Cates arrived on his own.
It couldnâ€™t be too much longer. In fact, judging by the sunlight, his valet
ought to have appeared well before now. Where the devil was
As if in answer to this thought, there was a knock at the
The voice was the last he expected. â€śViolet?â€ť
â€śAre you all right? James said you needed to speak to me most urgentâ€”â€ť The door
opened, and Nathanielâ€™s promised bride looked around the panels. â€śOh!â€ť Her mouth
Nathanielâ€”stark naked, next to a bed sporting only a rumpled wolf skinâ€”braced
for a shriek, a shocked retreat, babbled apologies. But Violet just looked at
him. Indeed, it seemed as if she couldnâ€™t tear her eyes away. He could almost
feel her gaze traveling along his skin, as if it left trails of warmth. He saw
something stir in those gray eyes, something heâ€™d never observed before, and his
body began to respond to the possibility of much more than heâ€™d expected from
his suitable marriage. Respond all too eagerly.
Nathaniel moved over behind the bed. â€śMy brothersâ€™ idea of a joke,â€ť he said with
a gesture toward the wolf skin.
Violet blinked. Color flooded her cheeks, and she looked away. â€śHow did
they...?â€ť Her voice was rather choked.
â€śThey are endlessly inventive. They stole my clothes as well. Would you have
someone send Cates to me? I would ring butâ€ťâ€”he pointed to the bell wireâ€”â€śthey
were quite thorough.â€ť
Violet glanced at the denuded wire, swallowed, and gave a quick nod. â€śOf
course.â€ť In the next instant, she was gone.
â€śWell, well,â€ť murmured Nathaniel to the wolf. â€śThat was
His days of being capable of interest long past, the wolf made no
Nathaniel has some very enterprising brothers, to be entered to win a copy of
HEIR TO THE DUKE tell us
the trick played on you, or if you're the "inventive" type, what you played on
Jane Ashford discovered Georgette Heyer in junior high
school and was captivated by the glittering world and witty language of Regency
England. That delight led her to study English literature and travel widely in
Britain and Europe. Her historical and contemporary romances have been published
in Sweden, Italy, England, Denmark, France, Russia, Latvia, Slovenia, and Spain,
as well as the U.S. Twenty-six of her new and backlist Regency romances are
being published by Sourcebooks. Jane has been nominated for a Career Achievement
Award by RT Book Reviews. She is currently rather nomadic.
From bestselling author Jane Ashford comes a brand new series of
sparkling Regency Romance
Life is predictable for a Dukeâ€™s first son
As eldest son of the Duke of Langford, Nathaniel Gresham sees his arranged
marriage to Lady Violet Devere as just another obligation to fulfillâ€”highly
suitable, if unexciting. But as Violet sets out to transform herself from dowdy
wallflower to dazzling young duchess-to-be, proper Nathaniel sets out to prove
heâ€™s a match for his new brideâ€™s vivacity and daring.
Or so he once thoughtâ€¦
Oppressed by her family all her life, Lady Violet canâ€™t wait to enjoy the
freedom of being a married woman. But then Violet learns her familyâ€™s sordid
secret, and sheâ€™s faced with an impossible choiceâ€”does she tell Nathaniel and
risk losing him, or does she hide it and live a lie?
My kids and also my grandkids tell me something and I believe them. They say I am "so easy" to tease. One example is I have embroidered a set of dishtowels for a college granddaughter and she said I spelled one month wrong and I believed her; it was fine. Her mother is the youngest of my 5 kids; she has 4 brothers and some stories. I bet you had fun writing this part of the book. Thanks for the great start to the morning. Leona (Leona Olson 10:27am January 20, 2016)
I'm always playing prank the most fond memory and prank however is before my brother wedding I hid his shoes and he had to pay me money to get it back haha (Natasha Persaud 11:26am January 20, 2016)
Wish I was inventive but I'm afraid I'm not! I do, however, look forward to reading this book. I love all your books!!! (Bonnie Capuano 11:58am January 20, 2016)
This is a delightful giveaway and excerpt. Thanks. (Sharon Berger 12:07pm January 20, 2016)
I am not a prankster, but as a kid, I remember telling stories that the others would believe... funny to think back on... (Colleen Conklin 12:16pm January 20, 2016)
I can't remember any pranks being played on me, though I'm sure some mild ones were in my younger days. I'm not a prankster, at all. (Janie McGaugh 4:05pm January 20, 2016)
Doing a simple prank maybe ok, but some people get carried away and some pranks can be hurtful (Diane McMahon 6:04pm January 20, 2016)
This sounds like a great book and I look forward to reading it. (Linda Harrison 8:17pm January 20, 2016)
I cannot think of a good prank played on me or that I have played on someone else. Hmmmm.... Thoroughly enjoyed the excerpt. (G. Bisbjerg 12:20pm January 21, 2016)
I'm not that inventive. I'd really like to know what kind of responding pranks Nathaniel dreamed up for his brothers. Thanks for the excerpt and giveaway. (G S Moch 4:07pm January 21, 2016)
I can't think of a prank that was played on me nor can I think of one that I invented . This book is a must read , it sounds so exciting and fun . Several weeks ago I read your book " The Bargain " and it was a very good read with the three brothers . This one sounds like another all-nighter . Thanks for this chance to win . Love your books . (Joan Thrasher 6:56pm January 21, 2016)
I guess I am kind of "inventive" like Nathanial's brothers albeit crueler...Once, my friend was sleeping over. I waited for her to fall asleep. After duct-taping her to the floor, I screamed that the house was on fire and watched her panic. I am so meeeean XD (Hylla Jackson 9:17pm January 21, 2016)
i really haven;t pranked anyone i am 60 and if i had my grandkids i am sure we would of done alot.When i was young and in the fosterhome there was alot of that going on one put a snake down my pants and now i hate snakes and things like that.. (Peggy Clayton 12:58pm January 22, 2016)
I'm very good at sneaking up and scaring people. I learned from professionals at Knott's Scary Farm. (Cecilia Rodriguez 1:34pm January 22, 2016)
I'm great at scaring my mom, but unfortunately only her so I probably don't have that much skill! Lol (Lily Shah 6:57pm January 22, 2016)
My kids are great at telling me they see a spider which inevitably sends me running and screaming in the other direction. I fall for it every.single.time!!! (Vicki Hancock 7:40pm January 22, 2016)
I worked as custodian in our local library. Lots of stories there. Anyway, after some pranks were played on me, as I clean their desks or areas of work, I put things back in different places. Normally I was very careful to put things back where they had them. It had them guessing why were they put where they had been. (Nancy Luebke 12:02pm January 23, 2016)
when i was a kid putting shaving creme in a sleeping friends' hand (Dianne McVetty 12:14pm January 23, 2016)
Had a very realistic furry fake mouse. Would put it in a sleeping friend's hand or on their neck. Amusing when they woke up. (Irene Menge 7:26am January 23, 2016)
I'm not very inventive so I'm afraid anyone can pull the wool over my eyes at any time. HA (Bonnie Capuano 9:10am January 23, 2016)
I don't remember ever pranking anyone intentionally. But, my brother did put sugar in the salt shaker, which ruined my fried pork chops. However, when I let our kindergarten-aged daughter take her pet snake to show and tell (which I decided to attend in case anyone was uncomfortable with her pet,) the kids loved the snake and the teacher quickly withdrew to the wall and asked me to take the snake home when our daughter finished sharing. (Betsy Pauzauskie 1:04pm January 23, 2016)
Some I'm not sure I can retell...lol (Gwenn Ostman 1:04pm January 23, 2016)
my brothers bought me tape and a laundry basket for Christmas because of how much i liked to carry my stuffed animals around. the tape was for when i made things at home and didn't want to use glue. (Cindy Schilling 5:45pm January 23, 2016)
Looking forward to reading the book. (Cathy Garner 11:12pm January 23, 2016)
I had plenty of tricks played on me but I'm not that smart to do it to them. Not even on April Fools Day!!! (Bonnie Capuano 8:28am January 24, 2016)
I don't play tricks on friends and neighbors, but enjoy reading about people who do. (Anna Speed 1:09pm January 24, 2016)
at work, there was this guy who kept playing tricks on me. I made it so that he couldn't log in to his computer one day. Funny how he stopped playing tricks on me after that! (Joanne Schultz 2:20pm January 24, 2016)
I had some joke gift boxes that I used one Christmas - they were for things like feather boa pink ear muffs - but there were good gifts inside! (Diane Sallans 6:12pm January 24, 2016)
That was a great scene, and i loved the book! I'm not much of a practical jokester myself. (Karin Ahmed 8:11pm January 24, 2016)