Blackwater House, Surrey, 1816
“It really has been too long,” said Ruth beside Hamish, “since last we received a blessing in this house. The landscaper is unrivaled, or so says the baroness. Already, he had the trust of Christine. I suppose she told you of his previous visits. Yes, he will know how best to preserve the work that has already been done. I am sure of it.”
Hamish stood motionless beside his mother, watching the empty Blackwater drive for the arrival of their visitor. His body swayed with the breeze, having slept no more than three hours the night before. Such things had become ritual since he had been left to sleep alone. Wincing up at the sky, he felt his face grow hot under the blazing influence of the sun. Light, company, noise, food—all these things, and more, made him long for its absence.
His mother was growing impatient, he could tell, shifting her weight from one foot to the other as the silence dragged on between them. Ruth gave a sigh and turned to her son, searching for a gaze that was not hers to find.
“I could receive Mr. Fletcher on my own,” she assured him. “If you are not inclined to walk the gardens with him, tell me only your designs for the grounds, and I shall relay them to him in utmost fidelity.”
“No account of yours could be faithful enough,” Hamish replied, injecting into his tone all the respect that she was due to her. Through thick and thin, his mother had been by his side. “I alone know what must be done before the height of summer.”
“You mean the rose garden.”
“Yes,” Hamish replied, his voice catching in his throat. He was grateful when the sound of an approaching carriage cut them off, directing their attention toward the end of the drive.
The coach was too fine a contraption for a mere gardener, propelled forward by two thoroughbred horses and glinting jet black in the sun. Mr. Fletcher was an older gentleman, Hamish had been told, better connected to the ton through his work than most lords in London through their politicking. The baroness, an acquaintance of his mother’s, was said to hold Mr. Fletcher in the highest of esteem.
So high, Hamish thought, that she has sent him over to us in her own carriage. Not that it matters to me. The sooner we are done here, the better.
Patting his jacket, Hamish searched for the plans he had drafted, wanting to waste no time in getting Mr. Fletcher to work. He groaned as he came up empty, searching his breast pocket in vain.
“Drat,” he hissed, glancing back toward the manor.
“Have you forgotten something?” Ruth asked.
“I have, in the study.” Hamish groaned and turned his back to the courtyard. “Take Mr. Fletcher into the gardens and begin the tour without me. I will return anon with my plans.”
If his mother protested, Hamish was gone too quickly to hear it. Upon entering his study, he found the plans where he had left them the evening prior, sitting atop his drafting table by the window, pinned in place by a jade paperweight. Pushing it aside, he piled his sketches and rolled them up neatly, taking them back in hand as he exited the room. It was exceptionally warm that morning, and Hamish was struggling beneath the weight of his jacket. Weighing decorum against his comfort, he shrugged off his outer jacket and cast it over the banister in the entrance hall, throwing his thanks over his shoulder as a nearby maid, carrying a coal scuttle, stopped it from slipping to the floor.
By the time he arrived back in the courtyard, their visitor had alighted from the carriage and, along with his mother, had disappeared from sight. Hamish pressed his feet hard into the ground as he circled the manor, anchoring himself to the present moment as he took up his search. The gardens behind Blackwater House were abuzz that morning, glowing dizzyingly green in the sunlight, alive with a hundred sounds, causing Hamish to falter.
He had spent every morning of his widowhood watching the grounds from the windows of the manor. He had not dared, not even upon his mother’s tactful urging, to revisit the areas over which his wife had labored: the rose garden, the hothouses, the bower leading to the orchards—all of which were inhabited by the ghost of her. Hamish might have contented himself with letting nature take its course, had his mother not commented, a week prior, on the failing health of the garden.
“Christine’s memory lives among her roses,” his mother had said. “If you loved her, you would not let it fade away with the passing of summer. I know of a gentleman upon whom you might call, who could help you restore what once was there.”
Now turning an ear for voices, Hamish took the steps down from the terrace and entered the formal garden. A wild collection of shrubs rose halfway across the green, walling off the lawn from the stream that cut through the grounds. The waterway was ten feet wide, deep enough to fish in. From there, the gardens extended further, a veritable maze for Hamish to navigate.
“If I were my mother, where would I be…?” he mused aloud.
Crossing the small bridge over the stream, he arrived in the formal gardens. Christine’s rose beds lay on the path to his right; to his left was a classic landscape garden, designed to preserve the natural English beauty already present within Blackwater. He doubted his mother would lead Mr. Fletcher into the heart of the family’s pain, so with that in mind, Hamish steeled himself and took off down the left-hand side instead.
The landscape garden was an entanglement of paths. Square flowerbeds hosted a variety of plants. They had been left to grow wildly, in a marriage of wildflowers and curated blooms. Dogwood and oak trees rose proudly all around, sweet-smelling and familiar. At last, Hamish heard the sound of a voice—a little female laugh. It had sounded from his left, where a rotunda stood, centuries old. He thought the spot was a curious choice for his mother, who so rarely ventured from the more manicured corners of the grounds. But the rotunda was Hamish’s favorite childhood haunt, having spent summers beyond number reading in the shade it provided.
Approaching the ruins, he felt his heart leap into his throat. The rotunda was occupied, but not by his mother, nor by any old gentleman. A young woman was standing in the center of the building, looking up toward its domed roof, as a hand drifted lazily across one of the stone columns. Hamish squinted his eyes, dithering at the bottom of the path, wondering at first whether she was an errant member of his staff. But from what he could see of her attire, she was a gentlewoman, and young, sporting a soft white day dress. A bonnet was hanging limply from one of her hands, with clean, white ribbons to match her dress. Her hair was dark red, the color of rust, and her skin was alabaster white. He could barely see her countenance, but from the way she held herself, she could have been no less than ten years his junior.
He blinked, half expecting the vision of her to disappear. When he opened his eyes again, she had turned to look at him.
“Oh,” was all she said. That little gasp was near indecipherable, ringing with surprise and amusement and perhaps some shame as well. She smiled to confuse him further, averting her gaze to the ground.
The silence she offered next gave him pause and a chance to escape if he had dared to take it. Instead, Hamish found himself walking the path up to the rotunda, watching her watch him, thinking of nothing but the mystery of her, and her most curious intrusion.
“Who are you?” he heard himself ask, having reached the bottom of the steps. The woman had folded back into the building, but she was close enough for him to see just how beautiful she was. “What are you doing here?”
“Forgive me.” She shook her head, a little alarmed, perhaps. “I know I should not be wandering—”
“You should not be, no.” Hamish took a half-step up toward her, then lost his nerve. “That does not answer either of my questions.”
“I’m sorry.” Her face colored, and Hamish wondered whether he had spoken too harshly. He debated an apology, but her expression twisted, and she spoke again. “I am come with Mr. Fletcher. He is, at present, visiting the masters of this house. I suppose I wondered off…”
“You suppose, do you?” Hamish had corrected his tone, trying to reassure her. He forced a smile—perhaps it wasn’t forced—and realized at once that she had no idea who he was. He had certainly neglected his appearance in the months since his wife’s death, but he had not expected, despite his outgrown hair and beard, to have fallen so far from the image of a gentleman. “And who do you suppose I am?”
“I suppose you are…very cross with me.” She grinned, granting him the sort of smile one miscreant granted another in times of trouble. “I assume you are employed at this house, sir. If that is the case, I should greatly appreciate you keeping my abscondence a secret. Mr. Fletcher asked that I stay with the carriage, but I felt I must harken to the call of the wild.”
“You are his daughter, then,” Hamish surmised. “Or his niece.”
“Why not his assistant?” The woman crossed the rotunda slowly, crossing her arms over her chest. “Or something else of more consequence?”
“You are dressed too finely to lead a life of work,” Hamish countered, rather enjoying their little banter. “And you are too rebellious.”
“Then I shall leave you with your previous guesses and say nothing more of it,” she said, shrugging in a teasing manner. “What is your name, sir?”
“Why should I tell you mine if you will not tell me yours?” He took another step up toward her. She did not back away. “It is enough to say that, yes, I work at this manor.”
Her eyes sparkled at his admission, and she smiled from ear to ear. Taking in a deep breath, she cast a glance around her. Hamish, meanwhile, completed his ascent of the stairs. It was entirely inappropriate for them to be alone, but he felt shielded by their game. How good it felt to be unknown by her—unknown but seen.
“You are so lucky,” the woman said in awe. “This house is marvelous. When Mr. Fletcher said that he was traveling to Surrey to investigate an old manor, I never imagined a house like this. It beggars belief that its master should need to employ Mr. Fletcher to advise him in the matters of his landscaping. It is true, Mr. Fletcher has arguably the best eye for design in all of England. But I cannot imagine a garden more perfect than this, not even at the hands of Mr. Fletcher.”
“Well, Lord Montleigh feels that the gardens could be better.”
Hamish followed her to the side of the rotunda, where she was leaning over the stone railing. She stood upright, gazing across the lawn, while he lowered himself onto his elbows.
“There are some areas that are untamed, but I rather like that,” the woman argued, tucking a stray auburn ringlet behind her ear. She pointed toward the path leading back to the main garden. “The hawthorn by the entrance should be trimmed back so as not to overwhelm the rest of the space, but otherwise, this section is unimpeachable. I ran briefly through the rose garden, and I suppose, if there is anything to critique, it might be that.”
Hamish felt himself tense at the mention of Christine’s roses. To his mind, she had designed the area perfectly. His throat constricted as he tried to question the woman’s criticism, granting him enough time to bridle his feelings of vexation.
“What is wrong with the rose garden?” he asked in earnest.
“It simply does not appear…” She tapped her finger against her mouth. “It does not seem as polished as the other parts of the garden, as though it is unfinished.”
“It is unfinished,” Hamish replied.
“Then Lord Montleigh might look to begin there if he wishes the gardens improved.” She seemed to notice Hamish’s change in mood, looking down at him with a small furrow on her brow. “It was an innocent observation.”
“I had not argued otherwise,” Hamish said.
“Yes, but you seem rather offended.” Her neck worked. “Perhaps I should have kept my opinion to myself.”
“No.” Hamish shook his head. “I would never discourage a woman from speaking her mind. Your criticism is fair. That is precisely why I hired your…uncle.”
“Or my father,” she joked, and the mood lightened.
“Or your father,” Hamish concurred.
He felt the woman shift beside him, and he chanced a look up at her. She was considering him carefully, squinting her eyes as though to get a better look at him. Hamish felt himself receding beneath her gaze, unaccustomed to such attention. He wanted to ask what she was looking for, or which lie had given him away.
She was gracious enough to say nothing, nodding almost imperceptibly to herself before affixing her bonnet.
“I have already pushed my luck quite enough for one day,” she said, taking a step away. “I will need to return to the carriage before Mr. Fletcher notices that I am gone. I was not to be seen by Lord Montleigh on this day. So if you would, sir, keep our chance meeting to yourself, you would save me a great deal of trouble.”
“Consider this moment a dream, then.”
“Thank you,” the woman said, walking toward the steps under Hamish’s gaze. She paused just before descending to glance back at him. “It shall be a dream between us, indeed.”
“It’s no use,” Lucy exclaimed. “This entire endeavor is fruitless. The sun is too bright, and the day is too warm, and the way you are breathing, Hyacinth, is enough to drive any woman mad.”
“I shall task to…breathe less,” Hyacinth said in mischief.
“Thank you. That is all I asked. Now, let me return to my work in peace.”
Hyacinth laughed under her breath. As far as she was concerned, the day was as perfect as it could be. Spring was slowly shifting into summer, gently easing the gardens of her London home to life. The lawns had been manicured to perfection, and the back face of the manor hosted a waterfall of perfect ivy. The rising heat would soon be calling for a ton exodus, leaving Hyacinth to enjoy the town exactly as she liked it, without the distractions of others.
She hummed as she admired the leaf of her fern, raising it to the sun in an act of childlike curiosity. The sunlight streamed through the canopy of the frond so strongly that it appeared to glow—a palm of green against the stalwart blue of the clear June sky. Hyacinth had never seen a fern of its kind before, with vibrant green leaves shaped like spades, feathering out in a delicate curling manner. She had come across it on her walk with Lucy that morning, having taken the less-traveled path between Richmond Park and their homes in East Twickenham, just before midday.
Hyacinth cast a glance at her friend, who was warring with her own cutting, positioning it to her liking atop the rug upon which they were sitting. Contrary to blissful Hyacinth, Lucy was, as always, finding more than enough to complain about, mumbling about pencil shavings as she adjusted the sketchbook on her lap, lamenting their task so quietly that Hyacinth wondered whether or not she was supposed to hear.
“If you tried not to agonize over every little pen stroke,” Hyacinth was saying, twirling the fern around between her thumb and forefinger, “you would find the labor of the sketch much more enjoyable, I think.”
“The labor of the sketch…” Lucy grumbled sardonically beside her. Wrinkling her nose, she sighed and stared up at the sky, tucking a wayward ringlet of blond hair behind her ear. “We’ve no need for philosophy between us, especially when there is no glory in this task. Heaven and earth, would you look at this?” she said, smacking the pad with the back of her hand. “A child could draw a more convincing plant with her hands bound together.”
Hyacinth turned to inspect Lucy’s sketch, glancing over her friend’s shoulder. “I think the imperfection of the drawing adds to its charm,” she said. Lucy had a natural talent for art and an even greater talent for putting herself down.
“Is that supposed to soothe me? Because it has not worked at all. Botanical illustrations are meant to be accurate, not charming.” Lucy groaned, shaking her head back and forth. “You should know. You are, after all, the expert on such matters. This is really all your fault, Miss Winslow, for dragging me out this morning at the mercy of your passion.”
“The pleasure is all mine, Miss Bellamy,” Hyacinth said through a smile, knowing that Lucy loved her really, even though she was averse to saying it.
They had been the fiercest of allies since their joint entrance into society, two years gone. Their fathers were both in possession of viscounties, and it was their shared rank that had drawn their daughters together initially. While they boasted a strange friendship—Lucy was always doing something, and Hyacinth led a quieter life—their different temperaments were complimentary, or so Lucy liked to say when she was not bemoaning her lot as Hyacinth’s companion.
“Yes, if you had any talent for sketching, I would not be forced to humiliate myself,” Lucy put in again. Despite her string of barbs, her gaze was tender and full of mirth. “For fear of sounding like your mother, could I not interest you in taking up a more tantalizing habit? One that is less likely to depress my spirits and stain the heel of my hand black with granite?”
“If you can name something that you think might entertain me so much as botany while we are yet in London,” Hyacinth replied devilishly, “I should like to hear it.”
“Oh, I can think of many more entertaining things to be found in town, certainly. Whether or not you can bring yourself to accept them is another matter entirely.” Lucy arched a brow, closing her sketchbook. She shifted into a kneel and turned to Hyacinth eagerly. “The end of the Season is upon us, and you know what that means, Hyacinth. You must.”
Hyacinth was not sure that she did, so she said nothing in return. An expression of delight washed over Lucy’s face, immediately providing her an answer. There was only one thing in the world that made Lucy grin like that, and which made Hyacinth, in turn, want to burst into flames.
“The diamonds have all been scooped up, leaving the rest of us a chance, at least, at brokering some measure of acquaintance with the remaining gentlemen,” Lucy explained. “My father says that the height of the Season is a mere trap—a theatre of desperation, he calls it, which leaves behind only the most worthy of happiness. Now is the time for us to strike, in these golden days, when all the heiresses and jewels are gone,” she gestured maniacally, continuing in a dramatic tone, “before we are forced back into the country, and the cycle begins again next year. It is the hour of the wallflower, Hyacinth. Carpe diem, while we can!”
“It is no wonder you find the natural sciences lacking, with an imagination of that strength,” Hyacinth replied. She laughed nervously at Lucy’s woebegone expression and pulled her into a side hug. “Thank you for looking out for me.”
“But…?” Lucy moaned, picking up on her tone.
“But husband-hunting does not sound particularly exciting to me and never has. I know you mean well, Lucy, but I will find my way on my own.”
Hyacinth released her friend and took up her fern again, fidgeting with its stem in the proceeding silence. Her words had been spoken in vain, though she hadn’t needed to voice as much for Lucy to understand. Hyacinth had spent the social season in suffering, sometimes silently, other times not. While most women saw marriage as the key to their independence, Hyacinth saw it only as a prison cell. She was not blind to the necessity of marriage….
But it does not mean that I have to like it. If I had my way, I would live with Aunt Penelope and Uncle Victor for all of time, whittling away my days in Wiltshire until I am to be returned to the earth for good. That is assuredly the sweetest life for me, watching Mr. Fletcher work the grounds, helping where I can. What a shame that Mother and Father will never allow it, wanting me instead to go where I do not belong—into the arms of a husband.
As if on cue, a carriage pulled into the courtyard, and the hissing sound of the wheels carried over the roof of the manor as they ground against the pebbled drive. Hyacinth felt her eyes widen as she returned her attention to Lucy, who was shrugging in a breezy fashion and packing up her sketching supplies.
“If you will not be persuaded to have some fun with me while you can,” Lucy said, taking the leaf from Hyacinth and booping her on the nose with it, “will you consider at least etching some time out for us this summer? I know your diary will be impossibly full once you return to Chisbury, what with all your…bucolic fancies…but I feel I am owed a visit of my own as well, at some point.”
“We could arrange such a thing. Dorset is not so terrible,” Hyacinth teased, making reference to the Bellamy seat. She rolled up Lucy’s pencil holder and handed it to her. “A house party with you would be a dream. When you are not being quite so disagreeable, we have such a fun time.”
The Winslow visitor was much quicker into the house than Hyacinth and Lucy. Having handed Lucy’s effects to one of the housemaids, they proceeded into the entrance hall, where voices could be heard floating across from their primary receiving room. There was an argument underway, or something like it, and Hyacinth had no doubt as to who had arrived from the high energy of the bickering.
Her aunt’s voice rose to a near cry as Hyacinth appeared in the doorway with Lucy. Aunt Penelope immediately pressed her lips together, staunching whatever fight had erupted, visibly relaxing as she crossed the room to greet her niece. As always, her aunt, Lady Penelope Chamberlain, was dressed exceedingly well in a purple visiting gown and matching hat, bringing out the red in her hair. She painted her face in the old style, influenced by her lengthy tour of France in her youth. Her natural beauty shone through regardless, and in those piercing hazel eyes, Hyacinth saw a reflection of herself.
Her mother, the viscountess, Melinda Winslow, was a pure English rose by comparison. Her looks had not faded with her youth, and her cupid-like face still inspired envy amongst other peerage ladies. Her coloring was light and faded, like a summer storm. Her blond hair was speckled with grey and so different from Hyacinth’s dark ginger tresses, always pinned back severely to iron out the lines on her rounded face.
The two women so rarely got along, Ladies Winslow and Chamberlain. Hyacinth could not recall a time when her mother and aunt had seen eye to eye, especially on the matter of her education. Their differing views expressed themselves in all aspects of their lives. Where her mother had married the epitome of an English gentleman, urbane to a fault, Aunt Penelope had chosen a different life for herself, marrying a man who was so unlike her own brother, Hyacinth’s father, that it was almost impossible to believe that they were of the same species.
“You have arrived at last,” Aunt Penelope was saying now, pressing a kiss on each of Hyacinth’s cheeks and doing the same for Lucy. “For a moment, I worried Lady Winslow had locked you up and thrown away the key.”
“Lady Winslow has not,” her mother bit back, clearly displeased by Penelope’s mocking formality. Lady Chamberlain was possessed of many qualities, but she was sinfully envious. She did not like that the former Miss Melinda Cox, the daughter of a mere knight, had married up while she had degraded herself by marrying a baron for love. “Just this morning, Hyacinth and Miss Bellamy were gone to Richmond Park on a promenade.”
“So you do allow her out-of-doors,” Aunt Penelope exclaimed. “Goodness me…One would not think it to look at her.” She pinched Hyacinth’s cheeks. “I suppose it should be encouraged to stay in the shade for your fair countenance, but I hear that a gentle flush is not so unusual these days. What were the two of you doing there? Eyeing the leftover merchandise before I steal you back to the country for the summer?”
“Hardly, my lady,” Lucy said, forcing a smile. “Your niece will not be convinced to eye much of anything other than trees, it seems.”
“And what of yourself, Lucinda?” Aunt Penelope asked, turning to select an armchair for herself. “Does that horse-mad father of yours not have a plan for you?”
“No other plan than being rid of me as soon as possible,” Lucy joked. She threaded her arm through Hyacinth’s elbow and led her over to a sofa. “He is eyeing a gentleman from Newmarket for me. One can only imagine why…”
“My father is not so eager to see the back of me,” Hyacinth murmured in protest. She looked at her mother for reassurance, but the viscountess seemed more preoccupied with trying to bore holes in the back of Aunt Penelope’s skull with her eyes. “Unless he has said something to either of you about my future, that is.”
Her aunt dropped her gaze, letting Hyacinth understand that something was afoot. Aunt Penelope sucked in a deep breath as one maid arrived with a new service of tea, and another followed in with sablés biscuits for them. Her aunt’s attire clashed horribly with the bright red wallpaper that had been chosen for the room, and as she leaned forward to take a biscuit from the serving platter, Hyacinth wondered whether she had done so on purpose.
You are certainly protesting something with your garish outfit and your argument with my mother. What do you know about that I do not, Aunt Penelope?
Before Hyacinth could formulate a tactful enough way to ask, her aunt leaned back in her seat and took a bite of her biscuit, not bothering to swallow before she took up again. “You are undoubtedly wondering why I have condescended to come and visit,” she said, spitting crumbs over her lap.
“That had crossed my mind,” the viscountess said sarcastically. She crossed her arms over her chest. “Perhaps the young ladies should leave us while we discuss your indelicate condescension, then.”
“Perhaps not,” Aunt Penelope countered. “As you well know, Lady Winslow, my reasons for visiting concern our dear Hyacinth directly. Despite your attempts at keeping her from me, she is here now, and she should listen to what I have to say.”
Hyacinth felt her heart flutter at the insinuation, wondering whether her aunt had come to take her away to the country a month early. Her mother had always protested Hyacinth’s summer sojourns in Wiltshire, much preferring her to stay close at hand instead at their summer seat in Brighton.
Aunt Penelope was a fierce negotiator who always knew how to get her own way. And Hyacinth’s mother, who was devoted to her reputation above all else, knew her only protestations must be silent for fear of vexing the woman, and in turn, vexing her many friends of the ton.
“Have it your way,” her mother said, “but you will be the one to inform the viscount of your little meddling.”
“Inform the viscount of what meddling, exactly?” Hyacinth asked, leaning forward as her heart continued to race in her chest. “I’m afraid I am at a loss.”
“Pray, bridle that anxiety of yours, Hyacinth. My visit would be of no consequence at all if it were not for the absurd government of your socialization.” Aunt Penelope scoffed when her mother tried to interject. “Your little uncle will be celebrating the three hundredth anniversary of his little Clement Hall in the month to come. A house party and ball will be held on the grounds, and I have merely come to extend to you, in person, the invitation which would otherwise have arrived by mail in a matter of days. That is all.”
What she meant to say, Hyacinth gathered, was that she had desired to deliver the invitation in such a way that could not be intercepted, nor denied, by Hyacinth’s mother.
Hyacinth was not sure whether her aunt’s call had been a blessing or a curse. While she was gladdened for a chance to return to the country as soon as possible, Hyacinth dreaded what a party of such magnitude might entail. Her aunt was hardly known for doing things by half measures, and while she allowed Hyacinth to roam the estate unimpeded under usual circumstances, Lady Chamberlain had forever considered herself a natural matchmaker, and Hyacinth was of perfect marrying age.
No doubt, Hyacinth thought, my dear aunt would love to matchmake for me before either my mother or father can and hold her good deed over their heads for all of time.
Before she could utter a reply, Hyacinth felt Lucy stir beside her. When she glanced over, her friend’s eyes were twinkling with excitement. “A ball at Clement Hall?” Lucy said with a little awe. “I can only imagine what sort of luxury a woman of your caliber could deliver, my lady.”
“Come now, Miss Bellamy. Put away that fishing rod of yours,” Aunt Penelope protested. “Your invitation is, most naturally, with the post. As if I would dream of not inviting you!” With a pointed look at Hyacinth, she added fiercely, “I shall need all the help I can get, shepherding Miss Winslow into order.”
“You have plans for me then?” Hyacinth said, somewhat in jest.
“Important plans, yes,” her aunt replied, quite seriously indeed.
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Miss Hyacinth Winslow, far from being the adored belle of the ton, carries the weight of being the daughter of London’s most fearsome lord, a formidable man with great expectations of her. A forced match with the elusive Earl of Felton offers her little solace, until an unexpected encounter with a captivating widower awakens feelings she never anticipated.
Can this spark of attraction evolve into a genuine connection and change the course of her heart?
The Marquess of Montleigh, Hamish Montrose, despite once being a notorious rake, he now mourns his lost love as a secluded widower. A hesitant step back into society leads him to a countryside gathering, where he finds himself captivated by a gentle soul who reignites his long-suppressed passions.
Can the reformed Marquess of Montleigh conquer his haunting past and open his heart to a second chance at love?
Drawn together by destiny, Hyacinth and Hamish forge an unexpected connection, rooted in their shared love for the natural world. Yet, in a battle against societal norms, they must summon the strength to defy expectations and secure a future where their love can thrive against all odds. Can their delicate bond withstand the turmoil of society’s relentless matchmaking, as they uncover hidden secrets that threaten to tear them apart?
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