The friendship of four young ladies has created an indestructible bond to protect one another from the perils of love and marriage . . .
After the demise of her friend’s disastrous marriage, Mercedes Parsons isn’t about to let the widowed Wallflower of West Lane, Lady Aurora Radcliff, undertake another perilous trip to the altar. At least, not before the bridegroom-to-be is thoroughly investigated. If only Mercy could stop her uncharacteristic daydreaming about Wesley Renshaw’s charm, his intellect, his dashing good looks. After all, the earl has already set his sights on her best friend! She must keep her wits about her and avoid giving into temptation.
Wesley is both irritated and intrigued by the machinations of Mercy—He cannot let her cleverness and beauty distract him. He needs to marry her friend, Aurora, so he can reclaim his family’s ancestral home. A wrong he has hoped to right his entire life. Besides, who is penniless spinster Mercedes Parsons to decide whom he can and cannot marry? Yet while he admires her unwavering loyalty to her friends, he decides it’s high time the misguided woman had a dose of her own medicine. Two can play at this spying game. But they are both embarked on a dangerous charade. And it won’t be merely Mercy’s reputation at risk—or her heart on the line—as Wesley comes to the inescapable conclusion that he has found the right woman at exactly the wrong time.
“A pair of lovers must decide whether to listen to their heads or to their hearts in Fenichel’s delightful third Wallflowers of West Lane Regency romance (after The Earl Not Taken). Mercy Heath is an untitled orphan living in a West Lane townhouse with her friend Lady Aurora Radcliff, a young widow. As such, she’s surprised when Wesley Renshaw, Earl of Castlewick, asks her to dance at a ball. Though Wesley is attracted to Mercy, he feels a familial obligation to persuade Aurora to marry him as she owns Whickette Park, a property that once belonged to Wesley’s grandfather and that the Renshaws wish to regain. Aurora has no desire to marry again, but her mother insists that she allow Wesley to court her. His pursuit of Aurora leads him to spend much time with Mercy as well, marveling at her sweetness and musical talent. As the relationship between Mercy and Wesley evolves from platonic friendship into romance, Wesley must decide whether his sense of duty outweighs his desire for happiness. Fenichel makes the high stakes of Regency era marriage apparent, adding intensity to the forbidden love story between Wesley and Mercy. Fans of historical romance will be enchanted.”
Mercedes Heath shook her head. She must have heard him wrong. After all, why would Wesley Renshaw, the Earl of Castlewick, want to dance with her?
The ballroom was loud and awash with activity. The Duke ofBreckenridge lived in one of the largest townhouses in London, but it was still enough of a crush that she might have misunderstood the charming earl.
“Miss Heath?” Wesley’slight brown eyes sparkled with some amusement only he understood.
“I beg your pardon, my lord?” Mercy tried to be polite, but it came out sharper than she’d planned.
Mercy was tall for a woman, but the earl was still a few inches taller, with the broadest shoulders she’d ever encountered. She had a fleeting thought about what he must do to stay so muscular,but brushed the wayward notion aside. His dark blond curls fell over the golden tanof his forehead, but his bright eyes glinted with browns and golds, or at least she imagined they did. Mercy spent so much time admiring him, that once again, she had missed what he said.
Her aunt Phyllis had urged her to put her spectacles in her reticule and stop hiding her pretty face. She had done so to appease her only living blood relative, but found herself out of sorts with her vision blurred.
However, she saw well enough to note his offered arm, indicating he did indeed wish to dance with her.
As she had missed the opportunity to give some random excuse for why she couldn’t possibly dance with him, she placed her hand on his arm and they joined the other dancers.
The conductor tapped his wand and a waltz began. Mercy tried not to notice the missed notes and out of tune second violin, but the sound grated on her nerves.
Wesley placed a hand at the small of her back a bit more firmly than was strictly necessary.
Turning her attention to him, she asked. “Have I been rude?”
His smile sent a shot of attraction from Mercy’s head to her toes and it stopped in a few interesting places along the way. “Not at all. You are seemingly distracted. Is the music not to your liking?”
It would be more polite to say nothing or deny any issues with the orchestra, but Mercy didn’t care about such customs and she had no reason to attempt small talk with this earl. He was nothing to her.She looked from the ornate arch ceiling with its frescoes to her aunt Phyllis, who watched from the furthest corner of the ballroom before settling her attention back on the handsome man whirling her around the room. “The second violin is out of tune, the pianoforte is being played by a complete oaf, and the flutist has missed no less than two notes of every eight.”
“I see.”He grinned as if perhaps he did actually understand, but perhaps he was just amused by her in general. That could explain his desire to dance with a girl of no means and few relations.
“I realize I am likely the only one to notice such things and that the duke and his sister have hired one of the most popular orchestras in London.” Mercy shrugged as she also knew no one cared what she thought of the music.
A robust couple bounded across the dance floor laughing and smiling as if they were part of a circus. Neither seemed capable of waltzing but neither did they care as they pushed several couples out of their way and headed directly for Mercy.
In one graceful move, Wesley lifted Mercy from her feet and out of harm’s way. Her body crushed to his with an embrace that felt almost tender before he released her and in the same instant fell back into the perfectly balanced steps of the waltz. “You are a musician then.”
She laughed and it surprised even herself. She rarelylaughed in the company of strangers. Girls of her kind were not supposed to show outward enjoyment in public. It was grotesque, in Aunt Phyllis’s opinion. But the way he dismissed saving her from a pummeling as if it never happened and took up the conversation without a hitch amused her. “I would not call myself as such, but I do play.”
“Yet you hear every nuance. I think you might be being modest.” His firm hand on her back guided them easily around the room and sent heat through her in way no other man ever had.
Mercy had no response. If she said she was an accomplished musician, she would be a braggart, and if she denied it, a liar. Remaining silent was her only choice.
“I would like to hear you play some time, Miss Heath.” He cocked his strong chin to one side. “I think I would enjoy that very much.”
The music ended. “Perhaps you will, my lord.”
She turned to walk away, but he touched her elbow. “Will you not stay for the Boulanger?”
It was common for partners to stand up for two consecutive dances. Mercy just assumed he would have had enough dancing with a girl of no consequence and politely let her find her way back to some quiet corner or to her friends. “If you wish, my lord.”
He offered his hand and they joined a circle of dancers.
The Boulanger left little time for chatting, but it did give her time to observe Wesley and how he interacted with others. He smiled politely at every woman he partnered, though never so wide as to give someone the wrong impression. When they were once again hand in hand, his eyes sparkled with something tender.
Mercy assumed she was imagining things. With her blurred vision, she could easily imagine anything in the place of the truth. He couldn’t care about someone like her. If he showed special regard it was only because he wanted something. In most cases what men wanted from her she was not willing to give. Her wicked body responded to the earl without regard for the fact that he was unattainable. Heat flushed up her neck and face, while parts lower suddenly came alive with desire.
Quashing the thought, she focused on the music, noting every mistake and even a few nicely handled stanzas.
It was rare that Mercy got to dance. Without a title, lands, or a large dowry, she had nothing to offer a young gentleman besides her body and that was not a prize she was eager to give.
A.S. Fenichel gave up a successful IT career in New York City to follow her husband to Texas and pursue her lifelong dream of being a professional writer. She’s never looked back.
A.S. adores writing stories filled with love, passion, desire, magic and maybe a little mayhem tossed in for good measure. Books have always been her perfect escape and she still relishes diving into one and staying up all night to finish a good story.
Originally from New York, she grew up in New Jersey, and now lives in Missouri with her real life hero, her wonderful husband. When not reading or writing she enjoys cooking, travel, history, and puttering in her garden.
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