Scandal. Fans of Regency-era stories often find that word featured somewhere in the books they love. Anna Black, the heroine of my new release, THE BEAUTIFUL ONE, is pulled into a scandal when a book of nude drawings of her (made without her knowledge) begins making the rounds of society—and threatening to ruin her life.
Romantic stories of scandal can be delicious when everything works out, but of course, in reality scandalous behavior could have heavy costs –especially for women. Consider Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire.
Born Georgiana Spencer in 1757 (into the same Spencer family in which Diana, Princess of Wales, was later born), she had looks, charm, and wit enough to make her a dazzling prize, and at seventeen, she was married to the much-older Duke of Devonshire. Though the Duke didn’t love her and was already involved with a long-term mistress, he nonetheless required an heir. Years passed, though, without Georgiana being able to conceive.
A lively woman who received little attention from her reserved and unloving husband, Georgiana threw herself into social events and was known for her exquisite and dramatic taste in fashion. A passionate supporter of the Whig party, she was said to have traded kisses for votes during one election, scandalizing many. She held lavish parties and spent money like water, and she was deeply addicted to gambling, losing astonishing sums.
Finally, when she was nearing thirty, she gave birth to her first child, a girl, and subsequently to two more children with the duke, including a son and heir. But by this time she’d met the love of her life, a Whig politician named Charles Grey. When Georgiana discovered she was pregnant with Grey’s child, her husband told her that if she didn’t give up the baby, she would never see her other three children again. (This despite the fact that Georgiana had welcomed the duke’s own illegitimate daughter into their household.)
Horribly torn by the impossible choice forced on her by the husband she didn’t love, she went abroad to deliver her baby, named Eliza, then gave the girl to Grey’s parents to raise. She was never allowed to acknowledge being Eliza’s mother.
After a two-year absence, Georgiana was allowed to return to England and her three children, and she did eventually resume her place in society. But one can only imagine how she must have felt, married to the man who’d forced her to abandon her child.
About The Beautiful One
A PICTURE SAYS A THOUSAND WORDS…
The ton is buzzing about The Beautiful One, a striking figure in a scandalous book of nude sketches. Only two men know the true identity of The Beautiful One, and they are scouring the countryside, determined to find her.
BUT NOT THE MOST IMPORTANT ONES
The unlikely center of the scandal, Anna Black is forced to flee home as disaster looms. Her tomboy’s heart and impertinent tongue serve her well when she meets the most brooding viscount ever to darken a drawing room. Will Halifax, Viscount Grandville, has his reasons for pushing people away, and when his tempestuous teenaged ward arrives on his doorstep, he presses Anna to take on her care. As Anna begins to melt the Viscount’s frozen heart, she knows the more she loves, the more she has to lose. For although Will cares nothing for what makes Society titter, he has yet to see The Beautiful One.
Excerpt from THE BEAUTIFUL ONE
Rounding the edge of the wood at the back of Stillwell, he was startled to see his ward standing about. She was looking up at a tree in which, from the movement of its leaves and branches, some large creature seemed to be thrashing. A crow?
As he drew nearer to the oblivious Lizzie, he was almost certain he heard a woman’s voice coming from among the leaves. Lizzie stepped closer to the tree and lifted her hands upward, and he saw that on a thick branch perhaps six feet off the ground were perched two feet in past-their-prime dark ankle boots, and above them he was treated to a view of trim calves he could not regret. The surrounding leaves and branches mostly obscured the rest of his recently hired governess. In the instant before Lizzie became aware of Will, he saw that she held in her cupped hands a fluffy white ball.
Lizzie turned and saw him, her mouth forming into an “O” as a voice called from above, “Lizzie? I’m ready for the owlet.”
“Er,” said Lizzie, looking at him. In the clear afternoon light he noticed that her eyes were a different color blue than Ginger’s had been. But the shape was Ginger’s, as were the eyebrows. Not her fault, but he couldn’t go the route of compassion. It would only muddy what had to be. He looked past her and lifted a hand to rub his eyes.
“Miss Black,” he said, knowing he could not avoid asking, “what on earth are you doing?”
There was a pause as she absorbed his arrival and a shifting of the feet on the branch near his forehead as they drew together, perhaps in an attempt at modesty.
“Ah, my lord,” she said from above him. “Good afternoon. Lizzie and I are engaged in returning a fallen owlet to its nest. It was her idea. She is very caring toward animals.”
He could feel Lizzie’s big blue eyes on him though his own were still covered by his hand. He had no doubt as to whose idea it had been to climb the tree. He hadn’t truly expected Anna Black to be a typical sort of governess, had he?
“Come down at once.”
“If you will wait just a moment, my lord,” she said breezily, “I shall be down directly. Lizzie, the owlet.”
Lizzie cleared her throat. “Here.”
He tapped her on the shoulder before she could lift her arms farther. “Give me that creature, please.”
She looked uncertain, but she clearly didn’t want to displease him, and she handed over the motionless owl. He took it carefully from her and did not return her tentative smile. He could feel her eagerness for him to acknowledge her, but he let it flow past him.
The leaves and branches above them shook as Anna Black crouched down and extended her hand for the animal. Her bonnet, the same horrible blue one, had fallen on its strings around her neck again, and her hair, apparently loosened by her climb, curled crazily about her face as if she were some unkempt urchin, accentuating her pert nose and reminding him of her jack-in-the-box appearance from the coach.
Her pink lips pressed outward at the sight of him; doubtless she was annoyed by his arrival, but her expression didn’t draw an answering wave of annoyance from him. Instead, her lips were making him wonder, unaccountably, what it might feel like to be kissed all over by pink butterflies.
“The owlet, please,” she fairly ordered him.
“Don’t be ridiculous. Get down this instant before you fall. I will return the owlet.”
“I am already positioned to do so. If you will just give it to me, I can put it back and then receive your displeasure properly on the ground.”
He grunted. Why did he keep finding himself in out-of-his-control conversations with this maddening woman?
In his palm the owlet’s heart beat with a rapid, stressed flutter. He reached up his hand, and she gently took the animal and disappeared into the foliage.
From above came a few rustling noises, then the angry screech of what had to be an adult owl and a yelp. Fearing Miss Black would fall, he stepped forward to catch her, but at that same moment she jumped neatly down, so that she landed right in front of him.
He grabbed her arms, a reflex to steady her. She didn’t need his help, but their eyes locked, and for a moment he read vulnerability there before it was replaced with the hard glint of independence. She smelled like sunshine and crushed leaves, and he felt the slim softness of her arms and his body’s yearning to hug her close.
She stepped away from him. It had all happened in the space of a few moments.
But as he watched her brush some leaves from her skirts with her head down, that vulnerability he’d glimpsed tugged at him. Who was this woman? Where had she come from? She was clearly educated and intelligent, and though she was too forthright and she dressed terribly, she was not rough, merely unusual.
That life-on-the-edge-of-propriety quality he’d observed in her the night before had suggested that she’d known some hardship, or that she had some burden she might trade for money. And yet today, in the company of his ward, she looked at ease, even if her eyes seemed to be hiding something.
About Emily Greenwood
Emily Greenwood worked for a number of years as a writer, crafting newsletters and fundraising brochures, but she far prefers writing playful love stories set in Regency England, and she thinks romance novels are the chocolate of literature. A Golden Heart finalist, she lives in Maryland with her husband and two daughters.