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Gone with the Rogue

Gone with the Rogue, May 2020
First Comes Love #2
by Amelia Grey

St. Martin's Press
Featuring: Julia Fairbright; Garrett Stockton
ISBN: 1250218780
EAN: 9781250218780
Kindle: B07YRL2N1G
Mass Market Paperback / e-Book
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"A DASHING ROGUE MEETS HIS MATCH AND WOW! HAPPENS"

Fresh Fiction Review

Gone with the Rogue
Amelia Grey

Reviewed by Patricia Pascale
Posted May 7, 2020

Romance Historical

One bright sunny London afternoon, Lady Julia Fairbright, widow and mother of her three-year-old Chatwyn, were playing in St. James Park.  While trying to catch a butterfly, their net snags on a tree branch and Julia decide to climb the tree to retrieve it. She realizes she'll need scissors to cut it free and send her son and his nanny home to get them. Julia stays up in the tree, finally having a moment to herself. Her overbearing father in law, the Duke of Sprogsfield, is out of town because of his illness, and without him around she and Chatwyn have breathing room. The duke is always threatening to take her son away from her if she tries to remarry or does anything he deems untoward, and Julia wants nothing more than to live a quiet life with her son. It's while up in this tree thinking that Julia begins to devise a plan to get out from under the duke's harsh rule. . . but will it work? 

Garrett Stockton comes across a lovely young woman up in a tree. He mistakenly thinks she's in distress and decides to climb up and save her. While she assures him she's fine, Garrett is taken aback at how beautiful she is, and their immediate chemistry. As the owner of shipping company, Garrett is very wealthy but not at all boastful about it. He's even starting to think that is days at sea are over and he should settle down ashore. 

Julia opens up to Garrett about her living situation and the ways the duke misleads everyone in society. Garrett agrees to help Julia, but will their plan work? 

GONE WITH THE ROGUE is a delightful regency romance with all the trimmings.  Great locale, colorful characters, and an entertaining plot filled with excitement. Ths stunning rogue will steal your heart with his sweet, always thoughtful manners. And as Garrett and Julia fall deeper in love, the book does not shy away from a sexy, steamy encounter.  I loved it and you will too. I like the way Amelia Grey tells a story. Warmth, humor, intrigue, and best of all the happily ever after which to me, is the icing of the cake.

Learn more about Gone with the Rogue

SUMMARY

A powerful handsome rogue finally meets his match in Gone With the Rogue, the second book in the First Comes Love series from bestseller Amelia Grey.

She had an acceptable marriage of convenience. Now widowed, can this determined and beautiful mother find true and forever love?


The sinking of the Salty Dove took her husband’s life--but it didn’t drown Julia Fairbright’s courage to endure. She creates a proper life for herself and her young son. But now, the ton’s most notorious rogue is back in London, and how he makes Julia feel is anything but proper. She can’t deny the desires he awakens in her, even though she knows that the handsome devil will surely break her heart.

Garrett Stockton owns a successful shipping company and is rumored to have a woman on every continent and half-a-dozen in England. The truth, however, is that Garrett has but one mistress: the wide open sea. That is, until he meets Julia, whose spirit of independence matches his own. What begins as a flirtatious battle of wits turns far more passionate than either of them could have imagined. Suddenly, Garrett’s only desire is to sail into the sunset with Julia as his wife and young Chatwyn his son. But she won’t take his hand--how can he convince her that his love is real and his heart is hers?

Excerpt

Being stuck in a tree on a rather precarious and shaky limb wasn’t actually an unfortunate position to be in, at least not if you were a boy looking for an adventure. That the person was a female, a lady at that, more specifically Lady Kitson Fairbright, daughter-in-law to the elderly, high-nosed Duke of Sprogsfield and mother to his three-year-old grandson changed the equation, and put her in something of a pickle.

      Not that she didn’t seem to always be in one. According to the duke, Julia was constantly trampling on the strict rules Society dictated for a young widow. He was always itching for her impulsive ways to land her in trouble so he could make good on his promise to take her son and raise the boy himself.

      Which was why she never should have climbed the tree in St. James Park. And especially on her first day in London. But what was she to do? When they’d arrived earlier in the day, she couldn’t deny Chatwyn’s request to play in the park. He’d been traveling in a hot, very bumpy carriage for two and a half days. The long journey was torture for an active four-year old boy.

      Unfortunately, the fine webbing of Julia’s butterfly net had caught in a branch of the old elm just as she trapped the beautifully winged insect. No amount of pulling or yanking brought the net down. She couldn’t let the butterfly suffer an untimely demise in the rare late summer heat. With an extreme amount of mental fortitude and more physical strength than she thought possible, she had thrilled her son and appalled his governess by scaling the tree. Holding onto the limb above her head for balance, she’d sidestepped out as far as she dared, and reached over. Taking great care not to touch the delicate wings, she freed the butterfly from its prison but couldn’t dislodge the net.

      That she’d then discovered the tatted collar sewn onto her dress had become tangled in a cluster of small branches behind her and now held her hostage wasn’t what caused her moment of panic, an emotion that wasn’t common to Julia. She’d calmly removed her bonnet so it wouldn’t get caught and went about trying to free the lace at her nape with one hand while continuing to steady herself with the other. All she’d managed for her struggles was a damp neck from the exertion, raw palms and a pair of summer white gloves that would have to be thrown away.

      Yet, still remaining mostly unruffled, Julia had thought about her options and decided on the only sensible one. She’d sent her son and Miss Periwinkle home with instructions for the governess to return quickly with scissors so she could cut herself out of the knotted mess. She had much to do before the duke arrived in London.

      Three weeks ago, she’d overheard him talking with his solicitor about a company he owned—one of many that weren’t recorded in his name but he owned. Julia had to get her hands on the documents of one in particular. If she found it, she could prove he wasn’t the righteous standard-bearer for how one should obey rules of Society, conduct matters of business, treat their fellowman fairly--even generously.

      Julia looked at her widow’s dress. A small collar was all the trim the duke thought a proper widow should wear. He believed he knew better than anyone else what was right and what was wrong. What was acceptable and what must never be said or done. Society had cow-towed to him and agreed there was no other man more fair-minded or respectable of others than the revered Duke of Sprogsfield. Everyone in the ton believed he had never stepped a foot outside the straight line he drew for how one should conduct their life be it gambling, drinking or dallying with the opposite sex. The problem was that he didn’t expect Julia to either.

      The duke himself was a younger son and was never supposed to inherit the dukedom. He had been trained to be a clergyman and he’d never put aside his strict code of what he considered right and wrong after he became the duke. He made it easy for people to assume he was better than they were.

      While other widows were unregimented by such a pretender and could enjoy the somewhat relaxed freedoms their status availed them, Julia was not. And as soon as she was free from the tree, she would return to the duke’s house and begin her quest to find end his tyrannical ways.

The first thing she planned to do was start acquainting herself with the staff’s current habits. She’d overheard the duke telling his solicitor that all the papers concerning his secret companies were hidden in his London house. She must find them before he recovered from his illness and joined her in London.

      Julia would have to be careful and elude the servants. There was no reason she should be in the duke’s bedchamber, dressing chamber, or his private book room—the most likely places for him to hide the documents. It would definitely cause suspicions if she were seen in any of those rooms and she had no doubt that the housekeeper or the footman would make sure he was told if she were caught trespassing. They had worked for the duke for years. And she had no doubt the duke would drag himself from his sick bed to get to London if he should ever have an inkling about what she was up to.

      Yet, the thought of being successful and confronting him with her findings when he arrived in London heartened her. She desperately needed proof the duke wasn’t the pious and honorable man he portrayed himself to be but a charlatan, and in truth, an odious man.

      Julia closed her eyes and breathed in the pungent scent of drying bark and foliage. She heard a bee buzzing nearby and laughter from the children she’d seen in the distance. Ever since she heard the duke discussing the companies, she’d envisioned finding the proof of his lies and telling him if he didn’t allow her and Chatwyn to be free of him and his rigid ways, she would expose his secrets to all of Society.

      She opened her eyes and peered through the leaves to see if Miss Periwinkle was in sight. There was no sign of the governess, but she saw a gentleman walking his horse straight toward her as if he’d known she was ensconced among the branches. Her normal calm threatened to desert her. She hoped he would pass without a whiff of notice. Carefully, she drew her feet closer together, and lifted the hem of her dark plum-colored skirt to the tops of her walking boots to conceal herself further into the tree that thankfully was still in the full bloom of summer.

      Julia couldn’t see the man’s face from her vantage point with the brim of his hat riding low, plus the way he held his head down as if he were a determined man on a mission. He was powerful-looking with wide, straight shoulders and long, lean legs that were fitted into shiny black knee boots that had short leather tassels at the top. They seemed to wink at her with every step he took. There was no doubt he had the strong, confident stride of a man who knew his place in the world.

      To her surprise and annoyance, he didn’t pass by her but stopped at the base of the tree and patted the horse’s neck. The fine cut and fabric of his coat suggested he was a gentleman but she didn’t recognize him. Carefully watching him, she wondered why he tarried. She started imagining what he could be doing. Was he pausing to take a drink from his flask or a late afternoon nap in the last sun rays of the day? But then an entirely different idea crossed her mind. Maybe he waiting to have a tryst with a woman.

      Right beneath her!

      And that’s what caused Julia’s moment of panic and the loud gasp that gave away her position.

      The horse tossed its head and shuddered.

      The man looked up. 

      Julia froze. 

      “What the duce are you doing up there?” he asked incredulously, looking as startled as she was. 

      “Nothing,” she answered defensively, tamping down her horror at being caught, yet somehow managing not to be completely mortified by the unfortunate event.

      She was now sure she’d never seen the man before. And even more sure he was no gentleman. Gentlemen removed their hats—or at the very least—pushed them farther up their foreheads when meeting a lady. Even if said lady was in a tree. He did neither. 

      Focusing on his face, she took in his full, nicely-shaped brows, angular cheekbones and a slightly square chin that made him as handsome as any man she’d ever seen. She watched his gaze skim over her, too, just slowly enough to cause a curl of feminine interest to shimmy in her chest. At that, the heat of the afternoon swelled heavily around her, flaming her already flushed cheeks.

         Staring up at her with quizzical expression, he offered, “That’s a rather odd place to be standing around and doing nothing.”

        But true. She’d long since given up on finding the strength to break the durable tatting thread, tear the well-made fabric, or twist in two the branch that held her captive. She must have sworn a hundred times already that she’d never trap another butterfly in a net to give it closer inspection no matter how much her son pleaded.

      Realizing she still held the tail of her dress above her boots, she quickly released it and said, “Never mind about me, sir. I don’t know who you are and you should be on your way.”

      Sweeping his hat off his head, he tossed it on top of his saddle without taking his gaze from hers, and with a teasing glint in his eyes said, “Mr. Garrett Stockton at your service?”

      Julia almost gasped again. She knew the name and the man’s reputation as a rake. He was said to have a mistress on every continent and more than half a dozen in London alone. She could understand why. He was a handsome devil—just as she’d heard. Strangely their paths had never crossed when he was in London. He wasn’t the kind of man she’d forget meeting.

      There was a building in St. James that bore the name Stockton Shipping Company and it was his. She’d heard talk about the intriguing sea adventurer fighting pirates, and having the Spanish armada looking for his ships. Looking at him, she supposed it could be true. The gossip in Society seemed to be that whenever he was invited to parties every young lady there wanted him to take her out on the dance floor. Julia wondered why the gossip wasn’t that all the ladies wanted him to take them into the garden for a forbidden kiss. But now wasn’t the time to keep thinking about how attractive he was or peruse her memory for gossip about him.

      She needed him to go away and forget he ever saw her. 

      “I am Lady Kitson Fairbright, Mr. Stockton.”

      He gave her a bow, and said, “My lady,” but showed no sign he recognized her name as the daughter-in-law of the powerful Duke of Sprogsfield. He pushed both sides of his dark blue coat behind him, rested his gloved hands on decidedly slim hips and continued to stare.

        He was not making this easy. Did he think a lady wanted to be caught in a tree by a stranger—or by anyone? Usually Julia could control whatever situation she found herself. But this afternoon everything had gone wrong.

      She attempted to dismiss him again by saying, “Whatever it was you were going to do or whatever secret rendezvous you might have planned, you’ll have to move away and find another place.”

      With a slight, intriguing half smile, he said, “I’m in London because a friend of mine will be marrying soon. I’m in the park because trees are something I want to see after a long voyage. Now, that branch you’re on doesn’t look particularly sturdy. I don’t think it’s safe.”

      “I’m perfectly fine,” she responded confidently, even while there was no truth to her words. She was getting more worried by the moment in her cascade of greenery. Her arms were tired from holding onto the limb above her head first with one hand, and then the other to keep from losing her balance, falling off and hanging herself. But admitting she’d done something so outlandishly impulsive that she needed any help she could get right now, didn’t come easily to her nature.

      Instead, Julia resisted the cold hard truth of her peril again and continued to stare straight ahead as if studying something important and said, “I’m enjoying the view. In the distance I see at least three carriages rumbling along and a lady and a gentleman are walking with a dog—a spaniel I think. Another couple has three children with them and much further down way, I see a crowd gathering around a cart. Someone must be selling sweet cakes or perhaps there will be a puppet show.” Her arm trembled as she finished.

      Where in heaven’s name was Miss Periwinkle! It shouldn’t take her so long to get home and back to the park.

      A rustling noise caught her attention and she looked down. He was wrapping the reins over a bunch of low hanging leaves.

      Her heartbeat skipped with apprehension. “What are you doing?”

      “Securing the horse. I don’t know why you climbed up there, Lady Kitson, but it will be dusk soon. I’m not going to walk away and leave you standing up there.”

      Julia was hot, tired and exasperated. Why was it that sometimes things that appeared relatively simple in their inception frequently had a way of turning into ill-timed problems for her?

      She understood the wisdom of his words but stifling her very real fears about her predicament, she said, “My son’s governess was here with me she will be returning shortly.”

      “How is she going to help you to the ground? You must be up at least eight or nine feet.”

      “Oh, piffle,” she said as a pain of anxiety struck her stomach. She had to believe Miss Periwinkle was only a minute away. “I might as well tell you so you’ll leave me in peace. If you must know,” she began, recounting the misadventure that had her trapped, and ended with, “Thankfully the butterfly is now free.”

      She watched his eyes scan the tree and knew when his gaze lighted on the dangling net. “You must have been running and jumping to get it caught up that high. Climbing the tree was brave and kind-hearted.”

      “But foolish as well,” she suddenly admitted honestly, hating to reveal the seriousness of her situation to this man but grateful he seemed to understand the reason behind her jeopardy. Out of frustration, she reached to the back of her neck and tugged on her clothing again. “When Miss Periwinkle returns with scissors I will cut myself free and climb down. You must leave. The Duke of Sprogsfield is quite rigid when it comes to my following the accepted behavior of widowhood and I simply cannot be seen with a man helping me down from a tree. Now, please go?” 

      There was a firm set to his full lips and jaw. He placed his hands on his hips again and in a resolved manner asked, “Can you move?”

      Such a simple question. Her temples were beginning to pound from the oppressive heat, from exhaustion of holding first one hand and then the other over her head. “Very little without strangling myself,” she confessed. “My collar isn’t detachable but I will manage.” Somehow. Surely.

      “I’m not leaving you up there.”

      Grabbing the sides of the substantial trunk with his gloved hands and fine-leather booted feet as if steel spikes were attached to them, he started climbing up. One firm clutch at a time.

      “No, don’t do that, Mr. Stockton. Please. No.”

      It seemed only a second or two later he was standing on the widest point of the same wobbly limb with her but with his back and weight pressed tight against the trunk. She suddenly felt as if all the quivering leaves on the tree were in her stomach. He stood beside her tall, confident and decidedly male. What struck her even more than his handsomeness was that he had ignored her pleas to go away. He was determined to help her. How many times had she asked others to help her break free of the duke so she and Chatwyn could live on their own? Countless. Everyone had refused her. And now this man was helping her when she wasn’t even in need of it. Miss Periwinkle would return.

      Rays of late afternoon sunshine found a sliver of space between the bouquets of leaves and glistened off his golden-brown eyes and highlighted strands of his tawny-brown hair. She wanted to reach out and brush the wayward strands away from his forehead, but held back that feminine instinct and asked, “How did you do that so fast?”

      “I’ve climbed the mast of a ship many times.”

      Julia stilled. Her heartbeat slowed as long past memories rushed past. The mention of any ship always brought the sinking of the Salty Dove to mind. It had taken her husband’s life and well over one hundred others. She lowered her lashes over her eyes as she often did in a show of respect, honor, and memory of all who were affected that day by the passenger ship going down in a violent storm off the coast of Portugal.

      “I shouldn’t have said that,” he said, with a tone of regret in his voice. “It was careless of me to mention a ship and remind you of the tragedy and your loss.”

      So, he had recognized her name. He knew her story. “Please don’t worry yourself,” she said, lifting her gaze to his face. “No words are necessary.” She didn’t mind talking about the disaster that befell the Salty Dove, its passengers, and the crew four years ago. Lost friends and family should be remembered.

      When it happened, Julia had found herself in the unenviable position of being eight months with child. Perhaps some ladies would have taken to their beds in sorrow and grief facing the overwhelming burden of suddenly being a widow. Julia had never been one to allow situations to get the best of her. She accepted the blow fate issued and carried on. Besides, she had to be strong for the babe waiting to be born.

      Julia hadn’t been in love with her husband when she married him or when he died but she had always been grateful to him and respectful in all ways. Now that he was gone, she honored his memory and felt sadness that he hadn’t lived to see his delightful son.

      “My mourning is long past,” Julia said quietly. “Life goes on, Captain Stockton.”

      His eyes seemed to take in every detail of her face as if he were delicately searching for something before he nodded once in acknowledgment.

      “Not everyone who owns a ship is a captain, Lady Kitson.”

      “You own many ships.”

      He ignored her statement but not her. His gaze swept down her widow’s dress. Dark plum color, long sleeves, high neckline with the proper amount of cream-colored lace trimming it. She didn’t mind the sensual way his glance brushed over her. It was purposeful and filled with interest, causing tingles of awareness to tighten her stomach.

      “How did you manage to get up here?” he asked, testing the strength of the limb beneath his foot.

      “The same way you did, though I am willing to admit it wasn’t as easy for me as it was for you.”

      “And I will admit you are quite accomplished to have done so.”

      His compliment was like a gift of fresh air. Unexpected, but heartily welcomed since she was feeling weak from the heat and exertion of holding herself on the limb. She was certain his praise was sincere and not just flattery. She couldn’t let it pass without giving him a quick smile before saying, “Miss Periwinkle hasn’t returned as swiftly as I’d expected. I hope you can save me before I lose my balance and hang myself with this wretched collar.”

      “We can’t have that.”     

      “Then tell me, sir, how do you propose to get me out of this untenable situation?”

      “A man should never offer to rescue a lady if he doesn’t have the means to do so.” He slowly bent his knees and slid his hand down to the top of his boot and pulled out a leather handled knife. Flickering shadows and dancing sunlight glinted off the short blade.

      Relief came sweet and cooling as an October breeze. “Yes, Mr. Stockton,” she said softly. “That should do it, but will the thinner part of the limb hold the weight of us both?”

      His gaze fell to the branch. He was silent for a moment. That worried her.

      She held out her free hand toward him. “Why not give me the knife and let me do it?”

      “No, Lady Kitson,” he answered, taking off the glove on one hand and then stuffing it into the pocket of his coat. “You must trust me to do this.”

      She looked at his mouth, wide with well-defined lips and thought about his words. If the wood splintered and broke she would be—well—the possibility was too real and too horrible to think about. She stared into his warm golden-colored eyes again. Because he seemed so sure of himself, she said, “Very well. Since I have little choice in the matter and even less patience or strength left to argue, let’s get this done.”

      He reached up and grabbed hold of a different limb than she held and steadied himself, too. “Turn as far away from me as you can and then place both your hands on the branch above you. Rise to your toes and lift as much of your weight as possible with your arms and hold yourself up for as long as you can.”

      It wouldn’t be as simple as he made it sound. Already her arms trembled from the strain of the last half hour. Yet, she must do as he instructed. She couldn’t turn very far without tightening the collar across her neck, but she took in a deep breath and pulled up and onto her toes.

      The branch swayed down and creaked under his weight. She gripped the limb tighter and gasped, shutting her eyes tightly. The thought of dangling from the tree only by her collar, her feet kicking and never seeing Chatwyn again flashed through her mind. She thought she might scream, but then she heard a soft masculine whisper, “We’re fine.”

      His soothing words penetrated her fears. Julia’s lashes fluttered up.

      “It’s going to be all right. I’m not going to let you get hurt.”

      Mr. Stockton was looking at her calmly. She felt his faith that everything was going to be all right. He was going to save her. She sensed a sudden bond between them. She could trust him to get her down safely. She gave him a hint of a nod. Cautiously, he took another step, and another and then he was right in beside her.

      It had been a long time since she’d been so close to a man. The way his physical presence filled the small area and crowded her space between the branches was calming but was also wonderfully stimulating. She couldn’t help but notice how broad and strong-looking his shoulders were. She had to suppress her innate desire to grab onto him for safety and for the desire to feel his masculine strength beneath her hand.

      “I’m going to reach around you so don’t try to look at me or worry about what I’m doing,” he said in a low voice that she knew was meant to keep her calm.

      He gently placed the back of his ungloved hand on her chin and urged her to turn her head to one side. A faint, pleasant scent of a spice she couldn’t identify clung to his skin. She found the unfamiliar fragrance titillating. His touch was gentle, sure and undemanding so she complied without complaint.

         When he slipped his arm behind her, Julia’s heartbeat seemed to thrum in her ears. A tantalizing shiver washed over her.


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