(Book 3, My Notorious Aunt) A Humorous Traditional Regency Romance
Scarlet O’Hara Meets the Scarlet Pimpernel
Aunt Honore is up to her old tricks. This time she’s meddling in her mysterious nephew’s life…
Why does the powerfully built Lord St. Evert dress like an overdone Dandy? His outlandish wardrobe belies the hard unyielding lines of his face. Whoever he is, he’s ruining Elizabeth Hampton’s desperate scheme to secure a rich husband. It vexes her to arrive at the most fashionable Breakfast soiree of the Season wearing a perfectly stunning Chinese silk gown, only to discover Lord St. Evert is clad in unmentionables cut from identical cloth. Humiliating. Insufferable!
Why, the devil, must he show up in fabrics Elizabeth searched so diligently to procure? To say nothing of the long hours she spent secretly stitching her creations together. He must be stopped. She is determined to spy out his perplexing game, and put an end to his interference.
St. Evert despises pretension of any kind. He cannot abide the self-important airs put on by some members of the Ton and takes pleasure in making a mockery of Brummell’s fashion strictures. Arrogant frauds! Hadn’t his grandfather’s snobbery made his mother’s life a misery? All the more maddening to discover that the one woman who manages to capture his interest is the biggest pretender of all. He vows to teach Miss Elizabeth Hampton a lesson she won’t soon forget.
What critics are saying about Cut from the Same Cloth:
“…believable characters with realistic traits, humor, and a bit of danger to create a wondrous painting that will linger in your mind’s eye long after you finish the story. Terrific!” –Detra Fitch, Huntress Reviews
“…humorous and enchanting tale with intrigue and danger” –Romantic Times, 4 stars
“…charming book, with the lightness and freshness of a sunny day in the park.” –Yvonne Choi, Rakehell Reviews
For those who have already read the book and are looking for the Afterword (spoilers) here’s a link: Afterword – Cut from the Same Cloth Don’t read unless you’ve read the book. Instead read the following excerpt…
Weaving Dark and Light
Valen, Lord St. Evert, stood at the foot of his father’s bed, clutching one of the massive posts. The candle on the bed table illuminated only one side of his father’s face as he lay on his pillow, eyes closed, his skin pale as unbaked bread.
His aunt’s gown rustled as she rose from a chair and came to stand beside him. “He’s not well today, I’m afraid.”
“Well enough.” His father blinked against the candlelight and squinted up at Valen. “So, my errant son finally paid a visit, eh? That is you, isn’t it?”
“Yes.” Valen shifted uncomfortably.
“Come here, boy. I want another look at you before I leave this veil of tears.”
Valen moved hesitantly into the orb of flickering candlelight.
“Not up there. It’s like peering up at Goliath.” He coughed. “Sit down here, where I can see your face.”
Valen hesitantly complied.
His father nodded almost imperceptibly, smiled, as if satisfied in some deep part of his soul, and sighed. “You’ve the look of her. Fiery hair. Golden one minute. Red as embers the next.” He rested for a moment and then pursed his dry lips as he tugged at the course linen of Valen’s shirt. “But what’s this? Wandering about the country in your undress again?” Even in his sick bed, Valen’s punctilious parent wore a blue silk coat with a lace shirt underneath.
Valen glanced down at the cambric shirt with untied laces at the throat and flicked one of the dangling strings. “I’ve been riding. And hardly naked, my lord.”
“Ha.” His father snorted and settled back to study Valen through narrowed eyes. A moment later, he closed them but resumed speaking as if the combined labor was too much. “I’ve somewhat to say to you. Ought to have said it long ago. Didn’t. Then, you went haring off to that confounded war.” His eyes flew open. “I thought I’d lost you.”
“Hardly. It would take a great deal more than Napoleon to do me in.”
“Reckless,” he snapped. “A foolish risk.”
Valen didn’t answer. This wasn’t the time for old petty arguments.
“Title. Land. All lost if you had died.”
“You’ve other heirs.”
“Brothers, nephews.” He balled a feeble fist and struck the bed beside Valen’s leg. “The land is ours, boy. I see through this care-for-naught gambit of yours. Doesn’t fool me a bit. I know you love every gully, every stalk of grain . . . ” He gestured weakly at the drawn curtains. “Every flea-bitten sheep out there.”
There was nothing to say. It was the plain truth.
His father nodded and relaxed. “I’m glad you’re back. It fares better in your hands than ever it did in mine.”
“You’re still lord of Ransley Keep.”
His father closed his eyes and made a soundless chuckle, as if Valen had jested. The effort made him cough—a violent spasm racked his frail body so hard that Valen leapt up to help raise him from the pillow. The old fellow held a white silk handkerchief over his mouth. Impossible to miss the blood staining it after the coughing spell subsided. His father, fighting to regain his composure, fastidiously straightened the sleeves of his bed jacket.
Valen judged the interview had gone on too long. “You summoned me. I pray you, do not leave me quaking with curiosity any longer. I am your servant, my lord.” He inclined his head.
“Very prettily said. One might almost think you were not mocking me.”
For a tenuous moment, they sat in silence, gauging one another. His father inhaled deeply. “I’m about to stick my spoon in the wall. You—” He jabbed a finger in the air at Valen. “—will be alone. This time, I’m leaving. No one will be left for you to bedevil. If you run off on some foolhardy escapade, you won’t be punishing anyone but yourself.”
Valen didn’t like the direction the conversation appeared to be taking. “Now there’s a quandary. Perhaps, I shall be forced to take up bedeviling Aunt Honore.”
Honore thumped him on the shoulder. “Oh, do be serious.”
“I am always serious.”
“Ha. Hardly.” She arched her brow. “Impetuous, I would say, and obstinate. Rather like your grandfather.” His aunt knew how to fly straight down a man’s throat and claw out his liver.
Valen flexed his jaw before composing his answer. “If I knew precisely which pint of blood I owed to that pompous old goat, I would gladly open a vein and drain it out.”
“He was not an old goat.” She glared at Valen. “You never knew him.”
“I never wished to.”
“Stop!” His father wheezed.
Valen and Honore abandoned their quarrel.
Lord Ransley propped himself up on one shaky elbow, wagging his finger at his son. “That’s the point. It’s over. I suffered more than you will ever know for not standing up to him. And your mother . . . ” He collapsed back against the pillow and closed his eyes.
Valen studied his father’s hand as it lay flaccid against the bed sheets, bulging veins pulsing erratically under the translucent skin. He looked away, squinting up at the dark corners of the ceiling where death hovered.
Lord Ransley took a deep breath and threaded up more words. “Hear me out. I’ve only one request.” He paused, his chest rising and falling as if he had just run up three flights of stairs. Despite his struggle, he gazed steadily at Valen. “Find a wife. One you can love. Have children. Not just to carry on the wretched title, but to occupy that unruly cavernous heart of yours.”
Valen struggled to remain calm. “That, my lord, is more than one request. Indeed, it sounds as if it is a lifetime of requests.”
“Very well then, if you insist. I’ll take the milkmaid, shall I? Oh, but no, we know how that old story goes, don’t we? Rather sadly. What then? The London season? All the finest little peahens ready to strut past and lay down the goods for money and a title?” He stood and raked his fingers through his hair, scraping the wild mess back from his forehead. “I don’t know how you can possibly expect—”
“Nevertheless, I do expect it.” His father waved his hand, dismissing any arguments. “It is my dying wish.”
Valen tempered his voice. “You’re tired. We will discuss it tomorrow.” He turned to go, but Lord Ransley grabbed his arm with surprising strength.
“There may be no tomorrow.” He wheezed. “If God permits me into heaven, I shall hold your mother’s hand, and we’ll look down on you with joy. Try to understand. You’re the best part of our lives. Find a wife, son. Make a child who can fill your heart with hope.” He glanced up at Valen, let go, and fell back against his pillows. “And dread.”
In the silence Valen’s heart turned into a runaway canon ball, crashing into his lungs, thudding down on his stomach. “Damn,” he whispered, flexing his jaw. Too much. It was all too much. He’d come home. That should be enough.
He backed toward the door. “If this great peal you are ringing over my head is any indication of your health, I don’t expect to hang crepe this age. You should be resting instead of sermonizing me. I bid you goodnight, Father. I’ll come to you in the morning to see if you have any more grand requests to make before I ride out.”
He strode out of the room feeling like a great awkward giant. In the hallway, he thumped his forehead against the wall. His fists tightened into useless hammers. Every muscle in his body tried to pull itself inward. What good is it to have a man’s body, a man’s mind? And yet, crumple like a child. He cursed again.
Through the open door he overheard Aunt Honore’s voice. “Drink this.”
“Did you hear him?” His father’s breathy excitement whistled through his congested throat. “Did you?”
“I’m not deaf. I heard a great deal.”
“He forgot himself. Called me—” He chuckled softly, falling into another coughing spasm. “Father.”
Valen frowned. So, he had. And it had not been nearly as painful as he had anticipated.
* * *
One month later, Valen stood at the bottom of Lady Alameda’s, his Aunt Honore’s, marble staircase in Mayfair, waiting for her to descend. He relished her expression when, at last, she joined him in the entry hall.
The nearer she came, the wider her eyes opened. “Surely, you jest?”
Valen adjusted the lace at his sleeve. “I never jest.”
“Then check the mirror. You look a right buffoon.” Honore planted her hands on her hips. “A rather large buffoon, at that.”
“Really?” He glanced down in mock confusion at his trousers. “I was quite pleased with the effect.”
“Rubbish! I’ve never seen an ensemble more at odds with itself and its wearer. Ghastly. I vow, I never even noticed you had freckles before seeing you in this awful shade of—” She tweaked the sleeve of his coat. “What is it? Dull gold or dung green? And these lapels, Valen. They’re large enough a goose might use them to flap around with. It’s an atrocity. Where is that valet of yours? He ought to be drawn and quartered. I’ll sack him straightway.”
“Don’t have a valet.”
“You do. I distinctly remember hiring one.”
“Had to send the poor fellow packing. Kept crying like a babe every time I disagreed with his choice of coat. Or for that matter, the choosing of any garment. Stumbled across a fellow from my regiment the other day. Hired him as batman. He’ll be along tomorrow.”
“A soldier! Now see here, Valen. This is London, not some muddy battlefield. You need someone who—” She stopped and narrowed her eyes at him.
“Oh, I see. Having a bit of fun, are we? Poking your finger in society’s eye? Throwing down a challenge for Brummel and his ilk, eh? Silly me. Here I thought you were in London to find a wife.”
“So I am.” His voice held a sharper edge to it than he had intended.
She tilted her head. “Precisely what sort of gel did you intend to attract? A lisping little dodo bird?”
“Perhaps someone who is not blinded by ridiculous fashions.”
She sneered. “More likely, a young lady who is blind altogether?”
“You have your stratagems, Aunt. I have mine. Shall we arrive even later at Lady Sefton’s? Or would you care to be on our way?” He held out his arm.