Tuesday, February 3, 2015

The Sugar Rose by Susan Carroll Excerpt


Barnes and Noble

A RITA award winning Regency romance by Susan Carroll. . .

Aurelia Sinclair felt as though she had been waiting forever for the proposal of marriage from her childhood sweetheart, Justin. If Lord Spencer was less than ardent, well, what could a plump dowdy creature such as herself expect from such a handsome buck of the ton? No matter what she might long for, she had to be content with what Justin offered, friendship and a marriage of convenience.

Or so Aurelia thought until Everard Ramsey took matters into his hands. Rusticating in the country, the handsome London dandy was intrigued by Aurelia’s humor and intelligence. His sympathy for Aurelia’s plight led him to make an outrageous suggestion. If she would but place her trust in him, Everard vowed to transform her into next Season’s belle. Though Aurelia was highly skeptical of his proposition, what did she have to lose? Nothing. . . only her heart.


“Miss Sinclair." Everard Ramsey paused as if weighing each word with care. "About Justin. Sometimes he can be such a heedless fellow. You ought to write and give him a good set-down for his blackguard behavior or he will never learn to treat you with the respect you deserve. And it will make you feel much better than if you simply smile and tolerate his thoughtlessness."
Aurelia stiffened at Ramsey's blunt criticism of her betrothed. That he should presume to tell her how to deal with Justin, she, who had known Lord Spencer far longer than Ramsey ever had. "Justin has a perfect right to do as he likes," she said, "without being made to feel guilty."
"The right to trample roughshod over your feelings? Tell me, Miss Sinclair, do you never get angry with Justin? Do you always feel obliged to conceal your emotions, even from the man you love?"
Aurelia drew her arms in closer to her bosom, feeling as exposed as if Everard had undone the ribbons of her chemise. Attempting to hide her embarrassment, she examined the lace cuff of her gown and said tartly, "How odd. I don't recall having worn my heart upon my sleeve tonight."
"You never do. I read the inscription in that book that fell out of your workbasket."
"Have you never heard of the word privacy, Mr. Ramsey?”
Completely unperturbed by her rebuke, Ramsey said. "I don't mean to offer advice where it may not be wanted, but you intrigue me, Miss Sinclair. You have from the first. If you could get past the point of letting Justin treat you with less consideration than he shows his horse, I believe you are exactly the sort of woman he needs."
"I can't begin to tell you how much your opinion means to me, sir." Aurelia glowered, spanning her fingers along her waistline. "Such a nice, sensible, solid sort of woman, is that your estimation?"
"No," he retorted. "Such a lovely, intelligent woman who, for some strange reason, is at pains to hide her beauty behind a silken monstrosity that resembles a rose garden run amok."
"For your information, sir, this happens to be my best gown. I fear my appearance will never measure up to your exacting standards, Mr. Ramsey. What with the shortage of magic wands of late, I shall never be transformed into the belle of the ton."
"You could be, if that is what you desire. All you need is the right tutor. Place yourself under my direction, and Justin would not be the only man you would dazzle with your charms.”
For a brief moment Aurelia was entranced by the picture Ramsey's words conjured. How oft had she dreamed of promenading into a ballroom upon Justin's arm, her lithe figure swirled in a gossamer gown that was the envy of all the ladies, Justin darting jealous glances at the men, daring them to approach her.
But reason quickly intruded, in the sharp memory of her mother's voice echoing through her mind. Lady Sinclair had thrown up her hands as she watched Aurelia being garbed for her coming-out party, the corset strings not quite managing to pull tight enough. “God knows I've tried, Aurelia, but you will never be a beauty. You take after your father's side of the family, every one of them hopelessly stout. The most we can hope for is that you will learn not to be so awkward.”
Aurelia gave her head a brief shake, dispelling the painful recollection of her mother, along with the rosy haze of her dreams.

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