Cover photo © PeriodImages.com
Background photo © iStockPhoto.com
Cover design by KGee Designs
Paperback ISBN: 978-1-946271-09-9
Apple Books ISBN: 978-1-946271-08-2
See the February 2018 issue of Uncaged Book Reviews
When Lady Isabella witnesses the murder of her mother—by her father, the Earl of Craythorne—she rides off to London in search of the man her mother, Arabella, instructed she contact lest anything befall her.
Directions send Isabella to the doors of The Elegant Courtesan, a high-end brothel owned by David Fitzwillim, Earl of Norwick, to whom she relates her gruesome tale. Stunned and heartbroken at hearing the fate of Arabella, David vows to ensure Isabella's safety from Craythorne, and he enlists the aid of Octavius, Duke of Huntington, to provide protection and a home in the country, where she won't be found. He would do it himself, but he's due to marry the girl's aunt, Lady Clarinda, and has some courting to do— his twin brother seems determined to make her his own wife.
Still suffering from the loss of his wife in childbirth, Octavius has long since given up the joy he took in his race horses—choosing to ignore his stables and country estate and live in London, immersed in reading and attending sessions of Parliament.
Not particularly pleased with having a ward, Octavius soon discovers Isabella's passion for horses goes far beyond just riding them. With a new generation of racehorses in his stables, and his country estate suddenly in pristine condition, he may just experience some horse sense himself in The Dream of a Duchess.
Octavius continued to listen to the quiet in the front hall of Huntinghurst, wondering where the servants might be. He didn't bother trying to soften the sound of his boot heels as he finally made his way down the hall that led to the courtyard. Perhaps everyone was outside, or in the village. He nearly stopped in his tracks when he remembered it was market day. Allowing a rather loud sigh of annoyance, he decided to make his way to the stables. He was already out the door and on the crushed granite path before he realized there was someone in the parterre garden.
And something with her.
Pausing, he angled his head to one side and watched as Isabella walked through the paths between the boxwood hedges. Wearing an apple green muslin gown and short gloves, her hair gathered into a bun atop her head, she looked as if she could be any one of a dozen chits he might pass in Jermyn Street whilst shopping, except instead of holding onto the handles of a hat box or shopping bag, she held onto a rope that encircled the neck of a colt. Isabella had nearly reached the end of one row and was coaxing the colt to turn onto the next row in the pattern when she suddenly glanced in his direction.
Resuming his walk toward her, Octavius watched as Isabella had the colt turning onto a path that would allow her and the colt to exit the parterre and head in his direction. He met her just as the colt cleared the boxwood-lined path.
"Your Grace! What a pleasant surprise," Isabella gushed as she pulled the colt to stand alongside her. She dipped a curtsy and, instead of offering her gloved hand, she stepped forward, wrapped her free hand around the back of his neck, and bestowed a kiss on his cheek. Next to her, the timid colt finally overcame its initial fear of the duke and showed a bit of curiosity by sniffing at his pockets.
A bit surprised by her greeting, Octavius managed to capture her free hand as she stepped back. He brushed his lips over the back of it. "For me, as well," he replied, wondering at her affectionate greeting. Had she been taught a version of the French way to welcome an old friend? No one was about the grounds to see what she had done, though, so he decided not to admonish her. "Who do we have here?" he asked, rather stunned to see a colt so soon in the spring.
"This is Hermés. He's proving to be as ornery a colt as his older namesake was."
Octavius arched both eyebrows, rather surprised to hear the assessment given she had a lead around the colt's neck. And the colt had seemed to follow her through the garden without trampling the plantings. "Yet he seems to be behaving right now."
"It's early," she countered with a grin. "Pray tell, do you have something in your pocket?" she asked. "I'm afraid I'm all out of carrots, and he seems to think you have a treat," she added as she noted how the colt was nosing his topcoat.