A marriage of convenience…full of inconvenient secrets.
Jocelyn Townsend’s life as a courtesan bears no resemblance to the life she envisioned in girlish dreams. But it allows her and her eccentric mother to live in relative security—until her protector marries and no longer requires her services.
Desperate to find a new benefactor, one kind enough to accept her mother’s increasingly mad flights of fancy, Jocelyn is nearly overwhelmed with uncertainty when a lifeline comes from an unexpected source.
Leo Sherbourne’s requirements for a wife are few. She must mother his young daughter, run his household, and warm his bed. All in a calm, dignified manner with a full measure of common sense. After his late wife’s histrionics and infidelity, he craves a simpler, quieter life.
As they embark on their arrangement, Leo and Jocelyn discover an attraction that heats their bedroom and a mutual admiration that warms their days. But it isn’t long before gossip regarding the fate of Leo’s first wife, and his frequent, unexplained absences, make Jocelyn wonder if the secrets of Merrivale Manor are rooted in murder…
Warning: Contains mysterious incidents, a mad mother who screeches without provocation, scheming relatives, and a captivating husband who blows scorching hot and suspiciously cold. All is not as it seems…and isn’t that delicious?
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The library door burst open. “Leo?”
Leo stepped into the light cast by the fire and the single candlestick sitting on the corner of a rosewood desk. “Did you see her? Did she agree?”
“I told you she’d have questions. She wants to see you tomorrow at eleven.” Melburn tossed his cocked hat and cane aside and strode to an oak sideboard to pour two brandies. He handed one to Leo.
Leo cupped the crystal goblet in his hand and stared into golden liquid. “What sort of questions?”
“Foremost, she’s worried about her mother, but she wants to know why you’re willing to marry her when you know she’s a courtesan. I think she’s wondering why you’d want to marry your cousin’s cast off, although she didn’t put it into words.”
Leo’s answer was simple, though not one he intended to broadcast.
He wanted to send a clear message to Hannah. Despite her assumptions, he had no intention of chaining himself to his first wife’s sister. He wished he could tell her bluntly, but given the circumstances…
Leo swirled his glass, watching eddies in the brandy with close attention. “You said she’s trustworthy, and I know you said she’s plain, but she doesn’t need to be a beauty. I don’t care about that. Her character is more important than her physical appearance.”
After his debacle of a marriage, he wanted a woman he could easily control. Yes, this was the best way. He’d walk into a second marriage with a woman beholden to him—one who understood her place.
“Jocelyn is above all things sensible. I’ve known her for two years, and she’s never done anything to draw attention to herself or our agreement. She’s discreet, and I doubt many people know of our connection. The only time we ever met outside her house was at masquerade balls, and we always left before it was time to unmask. I believe she promised her two older sisters she’d keep a low profile, and she adheres to her pledge. From the little she’s said, her sisters both married minor titles and don’t wish to recall their merchant roots.”
Leo dropped onto a chair in front of the fireplace and yanked off the cravat he’d disordered hours ago. “Most women in her position would use your alliance for their benefit.”
“Jocelyn’s not like that. From what I understand, her two older sisters refused to take in their mother when her behavior became erratic. Their father died leaving debts, and they lost their home. Jocelyn was desperate and fell into life as a courtesan. It was the only way she could keep her mother safe and a roof over their heads.” Melburn took possession of the neighboring chair and stared into the flickering flames. “You won’t find fault with her. I told you she’s tall and possesses a pleasing shape. She has bright red hair and lots of freckles, while her eyes are an unusual light blue. If you’re determined to go through with your plan, Jocelyn is the perfect candidate.”
“You think I’m wrong to want to provide a mother for my daughter? A wife to bring peace to my household?”
“Of course not,” Melburn said. “It’s what we men want.”
“The important thing is she has nothing in common with Ursula.” A flicker of distaste swept Leo, the same one that struck whenever anyone mentioned his dead wife.
“You’ll find Jocelyn is exactly what you search for.” Silence fell, a companionable quiet. Melburn rose to refresh their drinks. “Jocelyn Townsend is a practical woman. As long as you word your proposition carefully, I think she’ll agree to wed you.”
Leo snorted. “Practical? I’ve yet to meet a woman who isn’t ruled by her emotions.”
“Not all women are like Ursula.”
“The ones I’ve met to date are high-strung and anything but peaceful, although I’m sure your betrothed is the exception.” Leo said all that was right to reassure his cousin, but he didn’t believe Melburn. Ursula had been a traitorous bitch, and she’d cuckolded him whenever the opportunity presented itself. Hell, he was pretty sure Cassandra wasn’t his daughter. His first wife had sucked him dry of emotion, and he wouldn’t make the same mistake again. A mutual marriage of convenience with Melburn’s mistress would give him leverage. He’d forever have the upper hand, and that was exactly what he needed to keep peace in his household.
About Shelley Munro
Shelley Munro is tall and curvaceous with blue eyes and a smile that turns masculine heads everywhere she goes. She’s a university tutor and an explorer/treasure hunter during her vacations. Skilled with weapons and combat, she is currently in talks with a producer about a television series based on her world adventures.
Shelley is also a writer blessed with a VERY vivid imagination and lives with her own hero in New Zealand. She writes mainly erotic romance in the contemporary, paranormal and historical genres for publishers Carina Press, Ellora’s Cave and Samhain Publishing. You can learn more about Shelley and her books at her website and you might even find her lurking at Facebook or Twitter.
AMAZON AUTHOR PAGE: http://www.amazon.com/Shelley-Munro/e/B001JOWGNK
Also by Shelley Munro
The Spurned Viscountess, Carina Press
Unforgettable, Ellora’s Cave
Lynx to the Pharaoh, Ellora’s Cave
A Discreet Affair, Liquid Silver Books
Interview with Holly Hewson
HH: Shelley, thank you for talking with us at The Romance Studio. Your featured book is Mistress of Merrivale. Where did you get the idea for this elegantly-written romance?
SM: Thanks for having me to visit. I enjoy a touch of gothic and a mystery in my historicals along with the romance. Since the majority of historical romances are set in London, I decided to do something a little different. I searched for a spooky, mysterious setting which took our heroine out of her comfort zone, and decided on Dartmoor with its myths and legends. The actual plot came easily once I’d decided on my characters and setting, and Mistress of Merrivale was born. I’m looking forward to learning what readers think of my upcoming release.
HH: What do you like best about Jocelyn and why will readers like her?
SM: I like the way Jocelyn cares for her mother, even though her mother is a difficult woman who doesn’t appreciate Jocelyn’s sacrifices in order for them to survive. I think this plus Jocelyn’s kindness and consideration of others will endear her to readers.
HH: What do you like best about Leo and why will readers love him?
SM: Leo comes across as a bit of a mystery and at times a little cool, but he has his reasons. He’s certainly handsome and sexy, and he provides Jocelyn with the chance of a new life. Readers might wonder about Leo at first, although I think they’ll warm to him as the story progresses.
HH: What makes this work different from your other stories?
SM: This is a historical romance. I’ve written historicals before, it’s been a while. Neither of the main characters possess a title, and although the story starts in London, most of the action takes place at Merrivale in Dartmoor.
HH: What else do you have in store for lucky readers?
SM: At the moment I’m working on a five book sci-fi series for Ellora’s Cave. It’s a spinoff from my Middlemarch Mates series and features feline shifters. Cats in space!
At the same time I’m planning a historical series set in London. My husband and I are spending a few days in London later on in the year, and I hope to do a little research and take lots of photos to help with my planning.
HH: What do you enjoy most about being an author?
SM: I like being my own boss. If I make a bad decision, it’s all on me, and I don’t have to spend time fixing everyone else’s mistakes. I had to fix mistakes all the time when I worked in an office, and it drove me crazy. It’s also fun getting paid for making things up!
HH: What experience or experiences in your writing career have defined you to this point?
SM: When I started writing, I spent six years learning my craft, entering contests and submitting manuscripts to different publishers. I collected an entire folder of rejections during my journey from aspiring to published writer. I think the rejections served to make me determined to succeed. Writers receive rejections all the time for lots of different reasons, and some hurt more than others, but I keep going because the thought of giving up or stopping writing hurts more than the rejections.
HH: What goals have you set for yourself at this point in your career?
SM: Basically my goal is to continue writing and to be happy while doing it. I don’t want to become so busy with writing that life passes me by. There is more to life than work.
HH: What do you enjoy reading?
SM: Reading and my love of romance is what started me on the path to becoming a writer. I’m still a huge reader and read both romances and mysteries. I tend to go through genre bursts. At the moment I’m reading a lot of sci-fi romances and also new adult romances. Next week that could change to historicals and steampunk or contemporary romances and non-fiction for research. Bottom line I’m happy if I have a book in hand.
HH: Where can readers find you online?
SM: Readers can find me at my website http://www.shelleymunro.com or blog http://www.shelleymunro.com/blog and I also hang out at Facebook http://www.facebook.com/ShelleyMunroAuthor or Twitter http://www.twitter.com/ShelleyMunro when I have time.