Being a romance hero or heroine is often a lonely profession. It certainly is for the characters in my newest historical romance, TO CHARM A NAUGHTY COUNTESS.
The heroine, Caroline, is a wealthy widow who cements her social power by being friendly to every woman and flirting with every man. This may not sound lonely, but sitting at the pinnacle of society means she can never relax or be less than perfect. All the regard she works so hard to earn is ornamental, since no one knows her true self.
Well—not quite all of the regard. The hero, Michael, has no use for false courtesies. A brilliant, impoverished, eccentric duke, he has just as few social skills as he does guineas. Rumored mad, he retreated from London years before to devote himself to administering his dukedom. When cold weather ruins his harvest and investments, though, the only solution is a quick marriage to a wealthy bride.
Rumors work against him, though, and no heiresses seem willing to trade their fortune for a title. It’s not in Michael’s nature to entrust his responsibilities to anyone else—but with the livelihood of his dukedom’s tenants on the line, he cannot fail. He needs the help of Caroline, the queen of society, who also happens to be Michael’s partner in the old scandal that kicked off rumors of his madness.
After a disastrous first attempt at identifying a bridal candidate, Michael and Caroline regroup. Point by point, she My-Fair-Ladys him through the windings of society, teaching him how to move smoothly through its ranks. Here’s a little snippet from the end of that first lesson:
“I dislike the conversation that must be made with people one does not know.” His voice was clipped off with every step he took.
“How can that be? You carried on at great length with the Weatherby women.”
His steady stride broke, and his gaze found hers. “You were with me.”
Her mouth dropped open; she slammed it shut. He had admitted something astounding: that he had needed her.
How precious, to be needed for something beyond the selection of a fabric, a pleasant afternoon call, a luscious night. For something far more valuable than all her wealth. For herself.
“You were with me” is the beginning of their romance. This is the point at which Michael–the duke who hates to give up any control–finally hints that he values her help. And it’s the moment when Caroline realizes how much she likes being seen, known, and appreciated for genuine reasons.
By the end of the story, Caroline and Michael have brought out the best in each other, and themselves, to earn their happily-ever after. And the turning point? It all started with those four little words.
Readers, it’s your turn: what four little words would win you over? Or three words, or five…feel free to fudge it a bit. One random commenter (US/Canada) will win a copy of TO CHARM A NAUGHTY COUNTESS.
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