Cover image for Very truly yours
Title:
Very truly yours
Author:
Beard, Julie.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
New York : Jove Books, [2001]

©2001
Physical Description:
341 pages ; 18 cm.
Language:
English
ISBN:
9780515130393
Format :
Book

Available:*

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Summary

Summary

Gentle Reader,I know I've committed an unpardonable act. I should never have read Miss Liza Cranshaw's letters. I assure you I never intended to wrong her. But now that I've learned of her desperate straits, how can I ignore her plight?Miss Cranshaw is the daughter of a wealthy merchant. She is being blackmailed into marriage by a wretched nobleman greedy for her dowry. Naturally, I cannot ignore a damsel in distress-especially one so lovely and so charming-and am determined to prevent this disastrous union for her sake, though I must admit she has stirred my soul in ways I had not thought possible.I am aware of my reputation as a rake, and one who has never had more than a passing acquaintance with constancy. And I admit I am a stone's throw away from debtor's prison-through no fault of my own, I hasten to add. Misfortune, however, is no impediment to heroism. I vow, Gentle Reader, that I will restore my fortune and rescue Miss Cranshaw-before I land in prison. Just, I beg of you, do not tell her about the letters!Very truly yours,Jack Fairchild, Esq.


Author Notes

Julie Beard is the award-winning, bestselling author of nine historical novels and novellas. She's also the author of a popular "how to" book entitled The Complete Idiot's Guide to Getting Your Romance Published . Julie has a master's degree from Northwestern University's prestigious Medill School of Journalism and worked for a decade as a television journalist at NBC and Fox affiliates before she had the pleasure of writing fiction full-time. She lives in the Midwest with her family and two incorrigible basenjis.


Reviews 2

Booklist Review

The class system is clearly delineated in this engaging Regency romance. Notorious rake Jack Fairchild leaves London for the quiet village of Middledale in order to escape creditors and take over a law practice, hoping to earn enough money to pay his late father's debts. Ironically, Jack devotes himself to helping the unfortunate souls in debtors prison while facing the same fate himself, although if his grandfather dies, he will have a title and thereby be immune from such a fate. On his first day in town, he runs into Liza Cranshaw, the daughter of a wealthy merchant, whom he met years ago at a ball. So smitten was she, she has refused all marriage proposals until a devious viscount blackmails her into accepting his offer. Jack learns of her plight, and in true hero fashion, decides to rescue the fair maiden, while she, in turn, rescues him from a loveless existence. These two charming characters make Beard's romance a true delight. --Patty Engelmann


Publisher's Weekly Review

Beard's latest (My Fair Lord) will hold few surprises for readers as it systematically trudges through the familiar formula of rake meets beautiful virgin and discovers true love. Notorious Jack Fairchild, soon to be Lord Tutley, and Liza Cranshaw initially met at a London soiree and shared a kiss that opened new horizons for Liza. Eight years later, Jack appears in her small country village of Middledale, throwing her future into disarray when he accidentally intercepts a letter written by Liza revealing her plans to marry the loathsome Lord Barrington. As Jack probes further, he learns that Barrington has blackmailed Liza in order to get his hands on her dowry, and Jack vows to do his best to keep the two from walking down the aisle. Harding, Jack's secretary, provides a few much-needed laughs, but the romance between Jack and Liza is less than compelling. The emphasis on Jack's "masculine beauty" and Liza's "evocative combination of worldliness and innocence" will tip off readers that though their looks may be extraordinary, their characters suffer from a predictability that bleaches away the kind of man-woman tension that makes for a good romance. Beard turns the occasional lyrical phrase, but readers seeking delightful originality should pass on this paint-by-numbers romance. (Apr. 3) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved


Excerpts

Excerpts

Chapter One A few days later, when Middledale was less than a mile away, Harding tried once more to dissuade his employer from country life. However, this time his arguments were punctuated by his own grunts and groans whenever the swaying carriage hit a bump in the road and jarred his gout-swollen feet.     "It's not too late, sir," Harding said. "We can spend the night and turn back on the morrow." He pressed a kerchief to his florid brow and watched his elegant employer for signs of weakness.     Jack merely turned the page of the book of poems he was reading.     "If all you need is money, Mr. Fairchild, you could--ouch!--go to a money lender." After hitting a pothole, the carriage pitched left, then right. Harding heaved to and fro, while Jack casually shifted his weight.     "Go to a money lender?" Jack replied without looking up. "And watch a three-thousand-pound debt multiply ten-fold before I could pay it back? No, thank you."     "Then plead with your grandfather."     "He would never lend me, much less give me, a single groat." Jack's jaw muscles ticked at the insult. Then he looked up, pinning Harding with his infamously beautiful eyes. "He loathes me because I am my father's son. And since that is a fact I will never change, I do not expect him to reverse course at this point in time. He can't deny me his title in due time, but he can damned well keep his fortune from me and so he shall."     "Then plead with your friends."     Jack grinned sardonically, finally giving up and closing his book. "You know very well my friends are all women. Their husbands wouldn't take kindly to giving charity to their wives' lover."     The secretary sighed forlornly at the truth. Jack Fairchild had wasted his talents and grace and good looks on impoverished men and the wives of powerful men, instead of cultivating the elite of the beau monde. For a sharpwitted man, he was impossibly oblivious to his own deficits and attributes, or how he might have used both for his own gains.     He did not, for example, fully appreciate or take advantage of his own beauty, as Harding surely would have had he been so blessed. Jack Fairchild cut the kind of riveting figure that even men could not help but notice. Given Jack's natural grace, his dashing mane of onyx hair, and his high, ruddy, lean-cut cheeks, his conquest of women was taken for granted. Expected even. And the extent to which this behavior did not inspire jealousy was owing to the fact that everyone, including the husbands of his lovers, sensed that Jack just couldn't help himself. A beautiful man had to have women, didn't he?     This unspoken contract required gentlemanly discretion, naturally. While he might ruin a woman's ability to love her husband by having an affair with her, Jack would never be so inconsiderate or selfish to even think of stealing her permanently. So he was always forgiven. After a fashion.     The one time Jack had been called out by a jealous husband, he'd quickly proven his skill with the pistol, lodging a bullet in the man's arm. Of course, the scandal had forced him to spend a year abroad, but his impudence had been forgiven by Society in due time, and ultimately only served to enhance his reputation as a rake.     Did Jack feel remorse for his indiscretions? Not as far as Harding could tell. He'd told his secretary on more than one occasion that he was doing womankind a favor. He had seen his own mother's misery in a loveless marriage. And Jack knew that the majority of women were similarly locked into unhappy political arrangements, as the rich were wont to be. He considered one night of passion the least a woman might expect from life.     "And what about the women?" Harding now asked with resignation. "Will you spend your time doting on them in Middledale, too, distracting you from the business at hand?"     "No, I'm a changed man. I've done with the fairer sex, I must work now. I will not let anything keep me from my efforts to restore my fortunes." Jack looked out the window. "Ah, here we are! We've arrived." He cast Harding a sardonic grin. "And just in time to spare me an interview with the Inquisition."     Jack and his reluctant secretary arrived in the perfectly charming town of Middledale on a perfectly radiant summer day. The village was tucked in and around the bends and curves of a great hillside, so that one couldn't see the entire length of the main street at a glance. One had to go exploring, shifting this way and that, rounding a milliner's shop in order to see the farrier, and rounding that to see the cobbler's shop, walking in the shadows of quaint stone buildings, enduring the curious stares of the locals.     Jack ordered the carriage to stop at one end of town, determined to walk the length of it to his new offices.     "Here we are!" he announced as he climbed down the carriage step. "What a lovely village, eh, Harding?"     "Charmed, I'm sure, sir," Harding grumbled. His legs, already burdened by his weight and a nasty case of gout, hit the hard cobblestone street with a wobble from days of disuse during the arduous coach ride from London.     "This is a cozy nest of humanity!" Jack enthused, his face alive with interest, his eyes taking in everything--the prettily weathered hand-painted signs over stores and taverns, the rainbow of fruit and flower stalls along the way, the simple-looking folk who did business here, the genteel ladies strolling down the thoroughfare with wide-brimmed bonnets and fringed parasols. "And the air is so fresh."     "Fresh?" Harding moaned. "Foul smelling if you ask me."     Jack let out a peal of joyful laughter, clapping him on the back. "Oh, Harding, you amuse me. You chafe at the smell of flowers on the breeze, loamy earth from the fields nearby, the smell of sunshine in your nose, and the pleasant aroma of horses? Good God, man, I suppose you miss the choking pall of fumes that hangs over London like a dreary shroud."     "Yes, sir, I do, rather," he said, holding a kerchief to his nose. "At least the stench of burning coal is familiar."     The empty coach drove on to their destination at the end of the thoroughfare, leaving Jack to stride and Harding to hobble after him through the scenic village.     Jack had fond, though distant, memories of Middledale from childhood. His mother used to take him here on shopping excursions from Tutley Castle and would buy him candied treats. She'd once bought him a pair of shoes here. They'd hurt like hell, but he'd been so proud of them. They'd smelled richly of leather, just as the shop did now when they passed by its open door.     Jack pulled a coin out of his pocket and tossed it to Harding. The secretary caught it between his perspiring palms just in time. "What's this, sir?"     "Buy yourself a new pair of shoes when we get settled, Harding. I owe you a favor or two. Besides, we need to at least look prosperous if we're to attract prosperous clients."     "You shouldn't be tossing money about, Mr. Fairchild," he said, but tucked the coin in his pocket nevertheless. "You've little to spare."     "My life is going to take a turn for the better, Harding. I have one last, small nest egg I've kept for such dire circumstances that not even you know about. Enough to allow me to keep my carriage, though I won't have more than a housekeeper. And I have a month to spend it. So for the next few weeks, we will live as we always have, at least until Lord Abbington catches up with me."     He winked conspiratorially at his secretary, then stopped abruptly when he rounded another corner and could see the length of the town for the first time. He was pleased to note it was larger than he'd remembered. Carriages passed with surprising frequency, the horses stepping highly. It had rained recently, and the men had to skirt rain puddles that swallowed up patches of red pavement, now and then tipping their hats to ladies and nodding to men who seemed marvelously unaware of them. Ah, sweet anonymity, he thought.     "I just might make a fine country gentleman, Harding. At last I'll be free of the lure of London's scheming ladies. I'll be a philosophical country squire, a man to be respected. Perhaps even a gentleman farmer with a sheep or two and boots to muck about with in the pastures."     At that very moment Harding nearly stepped in horse dung recently dropped by a passing four-in-hand. He skittered sideways, his nose crinkling at the lambasting smell. "Pastures, eh? Muck about in them if you please, sir. I'm not setting foot outside your firm's premises."    Jack scowled at him good-naturedly. "Harding, you're acting like a bloody dandy. Get hold of yourself, man. You once told me we needed a visit in the country."     "Yes, sir." The portly fellow wiped a kerchief over his reddened brow. "But I meant only a visit. And I didn't realize it would be so ... so clean here. The air is so fresh it hurts my lungs. And this village is so ... so puny."     "Only compared to London. Small is good, Harding. This is the sort of town where people get to know one another, who look after each other. Trust me. This will be a new start for us. Why, look at the women here."     He discreetly motioned to two ladies promenading their way down the other side of the street, chatting like magpies beneath their pastel-colored parasols. "Look how plain they are. Not a spot of rouge on their cheeks. I won't be in the least tempted, by Jove. I'll be free at last. Free from the wiles of women. Free from the desire to take them in my arms and entangle myself in sordid emotions. Free from--"     Splash! A spray of muddy rainwater spewed from beneath a carriage wheel into Jack's face, drenching him in an instant. The cold water spiked his cheeks, shutting him up immediately as not even Harding could do.     "Bloody hell," Jack muttered, looking down at his soiled coat in utter dismay as the water trickled down the back of his neck.     "Here you are, sir," Harding said matter-of-factly, handing him a kerchief, remarkably without so much as a twitch of a smile. "So much for country life."     Jack wiped his face. He was just about to laugh when he heard the squeak of a carriage coming to a halt. He looked up and to his astonishment saw the offending vehicle stop in the middle of the street, four gorgeous white horses clomping their hooves impatiently on the cobblestones, snorting in protest. Liveried footmen in white powdered wigs hung on the back of the barouche. They jumped down to open the door, but fell back when a woman with an enormous hat peeked out the window and waved them off. She stared at Jack with amethyst eyes, her face looking every bit like a perfect cameo.     Jack was speechless. Stunned. As much by her consideration as by her startling beauty. People in London would never stop a carriage to see whom they'd run over, much less splashed. He took a step forward, then froze.     "Good God, I've seen her before," he whispered to Harding.     "Not surprising, I daresay. Turn and run while you can, sir," his plump companion replied.     "Who the devil is she?"     "I believe she goes by the name of Trouble."     "Do you recognize her?"     "No, but all women are trouble where you're involved."     "Are you very well, sir?" she called out, her voice gentle and yet traveling the distance with confidence.     "I like her already," Jack murmured.     "It doesn't take much, sir," Harding replied sotto voce.     "Are you hurt?" she called again.     "If I said yes, would you linger to tend my wounds?" he called in reply.     "Oh, God!" Harding muttered, dropping his forehead in his hand. "Here we go again."     I daresay not," she shot back, her eyes sparkling. "But your companion seems ill. Perhaps he needs a ride."     Jack strolled forward, an unseen strand reeling him in like a hooked fish. "My companion is in perfect health, if you don't count his gout."     "Oh, please, sir," his mortified secretary beseeched.     The closer Jack drew, the better he was able to see the confection poised for the tasting. Her fresh, pale beauty beamed from beneath her cornucopia of black curls. Her lips were poutingly full, yet intriguingly wide. And most captivating of all, she seemed unaware of her own astonishing appearance. Her gaze cut the distance without interference from batting lashes or a fluttering fan or any other familiar female weapons. She simply regarded him steadily, lips slightly parted, thoughts churning in the priceless gems that were her eyes. She was clearly a woman with her own mission, though a hint of resignation in her countenance hinted it was not a happy one. She was the most evocative combination of worldliness and innocence he'd ever seen.     "I do appreciate your concern," he said when he drew close enough to speak in normal tones, then glanced down at his soiled garments with exaggerated dismay. "Though I am a bit wet."     "I am so very sorry," she said, sounding not in the least remorseful. Laughter bubbled from her before she managed to control it, pressing the fingers of her gloved hand to her lips. She frowned at the spots of mud on his cravat. "Did my carriage do that, sir? How dreadful. Please accept my apologies."     "If you insist, I will."     He grinned and strolled closer, realizing he really hadn't seen anything of Middledale until now. She was utterly fetching in a low-cut gown that constrained ample breasts. Her skin was as fresh as Devonshire cream, brushed lightly with the color of raspberries. When he caught her gaze and held it by sheer force of will, she reluctantly offered her hand, and he reached out for it with tingling anticipation. He was known in London for his clever ability to charm an introduction from a lady without ever warranting a direct cut. He bowed low, barely holding her fingertips, barely brushing his lips to her hand, and yet the contact sizzled.     "All is forgiven, I assure you, ma'am." He could not discern a ring beneath her kid glove. He righted himself, not letting her fingertips go until she started to frown in reproach. "Or is it miss?"     She cocked one delicately arched brow, but still did not look away. Slowly, her ravishing eyes focused on his nose, and he realized she wasn't going to let him force an introduction from her after all. She seemed to be fighting a smile as she gazed at his nose. Jack looked down at the tip and saw, to his chagrin, a dollop of mud. He sucked in his cheeks and gave her a simmering glare.     "Upon my word, Miss Whoever You Are, you should have told me."     Her laugh was as gay and bright as a cascade of silver bells. "Miss Whoever You Are! You mean you don't remember me?"     He frowned and wiped the mud from his nose, trying to recall the facile replies he always held in store for such occasions.     "Your beauty, my dear, would be impossible to for--"     "You don't!" she crowed triumphantly. "Then I have the advantage. Oh, this is famous!"     He smiled openly at her refreshing lack of false modesty and raised the quizzing glass dangling from his waistcoat, stealing only a quick glance at her full breasts before aiming it at her face. "Clearly, you have the advantage in every way that counts."     Her eyes narrowed on him consideringly. "What brings you here so far from London?"     He shrugged, stalling. Where the devil had they met? And precisely how much did she know about him? "I am making Middledale my home."     Her smile fell momentarily, and she frowned. Then, recovering her composure, she tilted her head coyly. "More is the pity for the ladies of London. Well, you must have much to contend with. I will steal no more of your precious time. I am glad, sir, that you suffered no injuries save for your pride."     Her eyes teased him, and he wanted to teach her a lesson with a long, slow kiss. By his estimation she needed one badly.     "Good day, sir."     "Good day." He still did not know whether she was a miss or a ma'am. As bold as she was, doubtless a ma'am. For only married women would flirt so audaciously without fearing the repercussions.     With that, she withdrew, leaving him uncharacteristically speechless. The coachman cracked his whip and the carriage lurched forward. Jack watched with a frown on his forehead and a grin on his lips.     As the carriage rounded a bend in the road and disappeared, he turned to his secretary. "By Jove, Harding, I've been bested."     "Indeed, sir. In every way that counts." Liza resisted the urge to look back to see his reaction. Instead, she pressed against the plush velvet seat and breathed hard until the pain searing beneath her breast subsided. It had taken every ounce of her inner strength to be so blithe when her heart was tearing in two. And yet, her body had taken on a life of its own and she'd felt the tempest a man like him could produce merely by his presence.     She squeezed her eyes shut, willing the image of Jack Fairchild from her mind. She could not feel. Heavens, no! Not now. Not when it was too late. Feelings were the last thing she needed now. God's teeth, why would a man like him come to tempt her just when she had resolved herself to an unfeeling marriage? Of course, he hadn't come for her at all. He didn't even remember her.     This was God's way of punishing her for being too much like Desiree. For wanting what a true lady should never have. Lord, it was all too ironic. She laughed incredulously. Her fair-haired younger sister sat beside her in wide-eyed wonder.     "Liza!" Celia hissed. "Are you well? You were flirting with him!"     Liza bit her lower lip and slanted her a jaded look. "What of it?"     "It was marvelous! Though you're not supposed to, you know. Mother would never approve. You're nearly engaged."     "Oh, fiddle. What does it matter? I'm going to marry the viscount. He doesn't care as long as he gets my money."     Celia pressed her hand. "I wish you wouldn't. You don't love him. Even I can tell that much."     Liza turned away.     "Who was that man? Did you really know him? You were splendid, sister dear. You had him all tied up in ribbons."     Liza smiled as tears inexplicably filled her eyes. "He is the only man in London I ever wanted. And I scarcely even knew him."     "Really? You met him in your Season?"     "Seasons," Liza amended dryly. She reached out and tucked a wayward curl back into her sister's pale green bonnet. Celia's eyes were a sweet, soft, cornflower blue. Her blond hair was a gleaming tumble of loose and charming curls. She was delicate and fresh, much sweeter than Liza could ever be, Liza thought with great affection. Then again, perhaps she, too, had been that innocent eight years ago. Liza had spent three Seasons in London, and two exiled in the country, before she'd succumbed to her merchant-father's benevolent plots to marry her off to a nobleman.     "What's his name?" Celia persisted.     "Jack Fairchild. He was a rake of the first stare. Though he's older now, age seems to have merely lent him more sophisticated grace. It's not fair. We had but one dance together, but it changed my life." Her raven-colored brows furrowed neatly. "Whatever could he be about, moving to the country?"     "A rake?" Celia said, her blue eyes widening further. "Perhaps he's been reformed. Did he steal your heart?"     Liza shrugged. "We danced only once." But once was enough to know she'd find heaven in his arms if given half a chance. It was then that she'd had a profound realization. She didn't want to marry. Her mother would never allow her to marry a rake. And if she couldn't have the sort of man she really wanted then she wouldn't have any at all. With a singular determination that astonished even herself, she'd steadfastly refused to succumb to Society's expectations that she marry for something less than bliss--companionship, land, or a title. The fact that one dance with Jack Fairchild had been powerful enough to inspire this conclusion did not bode well for her now. He'd unexpectedly thrust himself back into her life at the most inconvenient time. A time when she had, finally, agreed to marry. But not for any of the aforementioned reasons.     "He was out of the question for me and so I did not pursue him," she said nonchalantly.     "What a pity," Celia moaned.     "I doubt he would have been interested in any event. He only seemed captivated by married women."     "Oh, how scandalous!"     Liza turned her head, grinning at her sister's gasping exclamation. "Do you think so? I found it terribly romantic."     "Oh, Liza, think how much excitement he'll bring to Middledale!"     "That's what I am afraid of."     His reappearance in her life would be a test of her resolve. A test she would fail at the peril of her entire family. She could neither fail them, nor inform them. For not even her parents knew why she had at last agreed to marry. Nor could they ever know. Copyright © 2001 Julie Beard. All rights reserved.

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