Richard Berkeley’s Bride
By Cate Parke
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Will his ambitions and her fears imperil their future?
In Charlestowne, South Carolina Colony, 1769, a ship docks containing a treasure beyond most men’s dreams—Lord Edward’s lovely daughter, Alexandra—destined for one fortunate man, Richard Berkeley.
Although he’s the scion of a wealthy prominent family, the arranged marriage unlocks the door to far greater wealth and power than Richard ever hoped to achieve. He soon learns his lordship’s offer to instate him as his sole heir isn’t the only treasure worth risking his life for. Alexandra is the true prize.
Intrigued by the proud, wealthy beauty soon to become his wife, Richard sets aside his mistress. But Eliza Perrineau had long schemed to become Richard’s fiancée and is furious when he cast her off. Her plans for revenge quickly swell wildly and threaten to destroy Richard. Her cousin, Lord Thomas Graham plans to ensure his untimely demise and has him charged with murder. Unless Richard can prove his innocence fast, he’ll swing for a crime he didn’t commit.
Alexandra has her own secrets—including deep-seated fears that imperil their chance for happiness. But Richard discovers Aleandra’s love is a prize worth protecting—if only he can help her overcome her fears and past struggles to create a marriage truly worthy of their love.
Historical Romance, @300 pages
Turquoise Morning Press
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Charlestowne, South Carolina Colony, March 1768
Richard Berkeley broke the wax seal on his father’s message and read, “14th March. Lord Edward’s house, Meeting Street. Supper, eight o’clock. We have an offer to tender.
Postscript: It’s time you married, boy. We want heirs.
Richard’s eyes widened and one eyebrow ratcheted up several notches. What in hell does this mean? Marriage…heirs? What the devil are my father and Lord Edward up to now?
He’d once considered ways he hated starting his day and this note just shot to the top of his list.
It occurred to him one of two possibilities existed. Either a life-changing opportunity knocked or he should run the other way—fast. The latter option was undoubtedly the best.
“Come in, my son, come in.” Thomas Berkeley boomed, clapping Richard’s shoulder. “We’ve been waiting for you.”
He turned and indicated a winged armchair across from Lord Edward. His father’s hearty good humor deepened Richard’s wariness.
A worm of suspicion wriggled into Richard’s core. The glee contained in his father’s words triggered his conjecture that his elder barely restrained himself from rubbing his hands together in eagerness.
Richard sat, and crossed an ankle over his knee. He contained an urge to drum his fingers on the chair’s arm and gripped it instead, while brooding, not for the first time that day, over what game these two schemers played. So he smoldered—not a little irritated over their intrusion into his well-deserved freedom—and gripped the chair so hard he left a deep imprint in the chair’s well-padded arm.
“Good evening, my boy. Busy day?”
Lord Edward Campbell passed Richard a shimmering tumbler half-full of whisky. More than a little smug, his lordship’s piercing, blue-eyed stare pinned Richard against the chair’s back. Richard had always admired Lord Edward’s ability to miss not a single detail during complex negotiations. Yet his admiration did nothing to decrease his mounting uneasiness.
Flickering candles alight in eight-branched candelabras, set on tables near them, chased deep dusk from the room and sparkled in the panes of tall, satin-draped windows.
Richard’s quick glance slid toward first one man, then the other, still pondering what these two wanted of him. What did their earlier comment regarding his conjugal condition have to do with anything? And heirs? Wide smirks plastered the older men’s features.
“Pardon me, sirs, but you leave me with the grim notion that you haven’t merely invited me to eat supper—but to be the main course.”
Chuckling at Richard’s quip, Lord Edward leaned forward. “Thomas and I wish to propose a betrothal.”
Richard’s head snapped up. A pin’s drop, falling onto the Persian carpet beneath his feet, would have echoed throughout the room. Well, now I know.
“A betrothal, my lord? May I ask to whom?”
Richard took a modest sip of the excellent whisky to cover his sudden urge to gulp. It’s a damned good thing my mouth wasn’t full of this when he made that pronouncement or his lordship might have worn the evidence of my surprise. It was the single thing he’d found to smile about…if only a smile could be mustered. His father and Lord Edward grinned enough for all three of them, like two aging cats that had gotten into a canary’s cage with satisfactory results.
His lordship’s meticulous scrutiny left Richard feeling as though he were a naturalist’s specimen.
“Yes, Richard. My daughter, Alexandra, is now of age and soon to have her London season. Afterward, she will return home and then you both may marry. My father assures me she resembles her mother in every way.”
Richard’s glance skipped toward a portrait of Lady Georgiana, hanging above the fireplace. He knew the painting well, having seen it many times, and admired the lady’s extraordinary beauty. Lord Edward’s daughter might be the mirror image of her mother, yet he wasn’t ready to surrender the freedom his bachelor life afforded, nor ready to change his connubial status.
At twenty-six, he deemed himself entitled to independence. After years spent pursuing his studies, first at Eton, then Christ Church, Oxford and, afterward, London’s Middle Temple, he’d worked hard to gain credentials anyone would find impressive for a man his age. Hard upon his return to Charlestowne, Lord Edward, his old mentor, lured him into his far-flung shipping venture and other financial schemes.
“I’m pleased you’d consider me worthy of your daughter, My Lord. I recall her, of course, but she was just a small child when I left for England. I know little of her except her name.”
“Hm-m. Yes, that is a difficulty, my boy.” His Lordship stared at him, and steepled his fingers. “Of course, she will be home next year and then you may meet her.”
Richard cleared his throat. “If I may, sir, I sail to London next month on business. May I propose meeting her then? Afterward, I’ll reply to your proposal.”
One of Lord Edward’s elegant brows lifted. “She leaves London for Inveraray Castle, my father’s home in Scotland, before your arrival in London, Richard.” He stirred in his chair and crossed one leg over the other. “If you wish, I will send a letter of introduction to my father with you. After our affairs in London are concluded you may travel to Argyllshire to meet her.”
“I’m flattered, sir. I will, of course, be happy to make your daughter’s acquaintance. May I ask why I was chosen?” Richard was careful to remain blasé.
“I have intended you for her since you were but a young lad.” His lordship’s smug grin was that of a man satisfied all his plans had come to fruition.
“Thomas permitted me a share in your rearing, Richard. You have grown to be a fine man whom I admire and trust. I flatter myself I played a small role in the outcome. Indeed, I could not be prouder of you if you were my own son.”
“Edward and I spoke of this possibility when you and his daughter were both but youngsters, my son. It’s our hope you’ll concede to our proposal.”
Two pairs of shrewd eyes in the faces of his elders stabbed him. “Your marriage to my daughter will unite two excellent names and fortunes into a mighty alliance. I will, of course, make you my heir.
It was the coup ď grâce. Richard strove but failed to restrain the outward sign of the piercing pleasure that speared him.
Thoughts cascaded through his head. Well, I’d hoped to create a name and fortune in Charlestowne. Here it is…offered up for the taking.
Possessed of a prominent and ancient name in the city, Richard’s family was amongst the colony’s most affluent. The eldest son of the eldest son, he’d inherit it all.
“The question is,” he thought, “am I willing to surrender my independence for a girl I hardly remember? Well, Richard old man, there’s only one way to know.” And, if he was right, she just might be the wife he sought—the one worth far more than his forfeited bachelorhood.
Lord Edward snapped the seal on the message and scanned the few words, allowing a slow triumphant smile to slide onto his face.
Thursday, 20th October 1768
I have been introduced to your daughter. Miss Campbell is everything you described, yet far more. Consider me the willing fly caught in your web, my lord. I accept your proposal. I am
Your obedient servant &c
I am a writer of historical romances. As a member of Romance Writers of America, Celtic Hearts Romance Writers and Celtic Rose Writers, I'm write historical romance. I’ve been an avid reader all my life and began writing seriously eight years ago. In my day job, I am a registered nurse. It has been my privilege to practice Pediatric nursing during my entire career. I’m also the wife of a retired U.S. Navy Officer. I've lived and travelled with him for the twenty-six years of his career. With him I've visited England, Canada, Mexico and all but four of the United States. Thanks to him, I've dipped my toes in every body of water that washes America’s shores, including the Gulfs of Mexico and California and even the Arctic Ocean (br-r). I’ve travelled over, under and on both the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. After many journeys across this great nation and back again, I now live, love and write among the foothills of the Smoky Mountains in lovely Northeast Tennessee.
As it happens, I was born on a Tuesday. I'm convinced my mother made a mistake, though. I believe she meant to give birth to me the previous Thursday. According to the old Mother Goose tale, which says Thursday's Child has far to go, my life would have been far better defined. Also, I would have been born under the sign of the lion, which would have reflected my redheaded temperament much, much better. It's true. What could my mother have been thinking??? (I really had red hair once upon a time. I was born with it and had it all my life--until not long ago...but that’s another story. That's true, too.)
According to that dear old Mother Goose tale, I should have been born full of grace. So very sad, but nobody ever, ever attributed me with this particular virtue. After only one college class in dance I was convinced of the unfortunate truth. I can’t sing. True. Nobody would ever ask me to do more than add volume to a chorus. I can’t paint or even draw a picture using more than shoddy stick figures. My mother was an artist. Dear Mom didn’t pass along a single shred of her skill. So what does a girl do whose soul demands expression? She becomes a writer to fulfill its burning need. That’s also true.
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