Wednesday, June 18, 2014

The Wooing of Miss Masters by Susan Carroll

The Wooing of Miss Masters by Susan Carroll

A Regency romance by the award winning author of Brighton Road:

Every eligible maiden in the entire shire declared that it was like something out of a fairy tale. The Duke of Raeburn - whose formidable scowl was as legendary as his fortune - was hosting a ball to choose a duchess.

But never was there a woman less suited to play the role of Cinderella than Miss Audra Leigh Masters. Financially independent, Audra was content with her books, her dogs and her horses. She had no interest in acquiring a husband, especially not a man as arrogant as the Scowling Duke.

But from their first tempestuous encounter, the Duke is intrigued by Audra and determines he will have no other for his bride. But how does a man go about wooing such a stubborn woman and convince her that theirs is a match destined to be happy ever after?


As Audra waited in the reception line, she tried to ignore the fact that her dancing slippers had already begun to pinch her feet. Her heavy chestnut locks done up in a chignon seemed to have a dozen hairpins impaled in her scalp. To take her mind from these discomforts, she amused herself by trying to guess which of these women Raeburn might be likely to choose for his duchess.
As the line inched forward, Audra soon caught a glimpse of Raeburn himself at the head of the stairs. He towered above most of his guests, the powerful frame of his square shoulders encased in a black evening coat. The glow of candlelight that picked out the flecks of silver in his glossy dark hair did little to soften the harsh cast of his countenance. Audra sensed he was trying to appear affable as he greeted so many chattering females, but it was difficult. His scowl seemed to come so much more naturally.
Still, he looked magnificent, as blazingly fierce as any conqueror of old, very much the duke and the lord of his castle. It occurred to Audra that she had felt much more on an equal footing when she had just blundered into him out by the moat. He seemed much more formidable looming at the top of the stairs, and her heart gave a flutter of trepidation.
When his attention shifted in her direction, she dropped a stiff curtsy.
His eyes skated over her, and he started as though in sudden recognition. He then subjected her to a more thorough and, Audra thought, more critical inspection. His gaze locked with hers at last, and her chin came up. She felt like a duelist about to raise her pistol, but she managed to say civilly enough, "Good evening, Your Grace."
"Miss Masters. I almost did not know you. What have you done to your hair? I liked it better down."
"I did not fix it with any thought of pleasing you."
"Indeed?" Raeburn bent, making an elaborate show of examining the knees of his breeches. Audra was certain she would be sorry for asking, but she couldn't help herself.
"What, pray, are you doing?"
"Checking for smudge marks." His eyes danced wickedly. "I don't recall getting down on my knees, but I suppose I must have done so. After all, you did say something about being reluctant—"
"I said I would not come if you begged, and I'm beginning to wonder why I did." Audra glared at him. "I only accepted the invitation, Your Grace, because I believed you would behave like a gentleman."
"No! What did I ever do to give you such a foolish idea as that?"
The thunderstruck expression he feigned coaxed a reluctant smile from her.
"That's better," he approved. "Put up your sword, madam, and I shall do the same. What do you say? Shall we call a truce?"
Audra merely arched both brows.

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