Today we are celebrating the release of The Lady and the Barrister by USA Today Bestselling Author Ruth A. Casie. This is the first novel in the Return to the Ladies of Sommer By the Sea. Come check out an excerpt of this historical Regency romance and enter the giveaway before grabbing your copy!
The Lady and the Barrister
Return to the Ladies of Sommer By the Sea #1
Two men vie for Lady Anna, but who will she choose? The smooth politician or the down-to-earth barrister turned duke?
Lady Anna Ravencroft shines brightly as a much-admired organizer and hostess. In her mind it is the one thing at which she succeeds. Inwardly she is shy, retiring… a wallflower. With two failed seasons that ended in disaster she has accepted marriage might not be in her future.
Lord Fraser Castleton, a London barrister is shocked when he inherits a title and estate from his mother’s great aunt and becomes the 8th Duke of Willbury. He returns to Sommer-by-the-Sea to take up permanent residence. He crosses paths with his longtime friend, Lady Anna. He confides that he is the target of every mother with an unmarried daughter. She commiserates with him. Every eligible gentleman sees the Ravencroft purse rather than her. Together they decide to find a mate for each other. Anna presents him with a list of several eligible women. Castleton is receptive, but not enthusiastic. He gives her the same reaction with the subsequent two lists. Will she realize he has already found his match?
Reginald Younge, who doesn’t always play by the rules, wants to be the next Member of Parliament for his borough. His political backer will support him if Younge can finance the campaign himself. He suggests Younge find a wealthy wife to support his political plans. Marrying a Ravencroft would all but guarantee not only his backer’s continued support but provide the steady stream of money needed to claim his place amongst the gentry. He calls on Lady Anna for assistance with a campaign event and has an ulterior motive.
Return to the Ladies of Sommer By the Sea
- The Lady and the Barrister – on sale & in Kindle Unlimited
- The Lady and the Earl – pre-order now Release June 6, 2023
- The Lady and the Rogue- August 9, 2023
Read an Excerpt
The last time Lady Marianna Ravencroft sat with Captain Fraser Castleton, Retd, for any length of time, was the summer of 1809, five years ago when he joined her for tea. They sat in her garden at Raven Hall and talked for hours.
Well, he talked. She listened. They knew each other growing up and enjoyed each other’s company. It didn’t take long before they once again teased each other, sliding back into that comfortable place.
Anna, a soft smile on her lips, couldn’t keep from looking at him. Not to stare, but to make sure he was really there. His natural open presence was welcoming. There was still a hint of his wild warrior ways. Life’s design had taught him to harness that energy to transform him into a secure, confident, compassionate man. He was ruggedly handsome. Perhaps that was the lasting effect of his wild days. She chuckled to herself.
She took a deeper look and relented. He was physically handsome with his dark wavy hair just a bit too long, his well-trimmed beard, his blue green eyes just a bit too bright, and a devastating smile that always curled her toes. She let out a breath and tried to relax said toes.
Their time together was more than pleasant, although she did notice there was one part of his life he would not divulge. He skirted around the horrors he experienced during his five years in the service until finally he seemed to run out of words. The only ones left were about the war. About his brother, Lucian.
The silence went on for several agonizing minutes. Mrs. Cutler, Ravencroft’s housekeeper, brought a plate of tarts and ginger biscuits along with a pot of tea. Still, he said nothing. Anna poured his tea and fortified it with a splash of her father’s brandy. His chest heaved, and he let the air out slowly. His face turned into a mask of pain, hurt, anger, and acceptance all rolled into one.
“I’ve buried Lucian’s death deep. Every time I think I can talk about it…” He stared at his shaking hands then at her.
“When you want to talk, I’m here to listen.” Anna covered his hands with her own, a surprising warmth spread through her.
His breathing was ragged as he struggled for control.
“You have no idea. Imagine the worst thing you can think of. That is not half as bad as what I observed.” He paused. “What I had to do. Things I want to tell you but cannot.” His voice was barely a whisper.
Oh, but she did have some insight. He wasn’t aware that she and her friend Lady Harriet Manning had helped soldiers who returned from the war. Hattie was a beautiful person inside and out. On the outside, she had a trim frame, fine features, and expressive amber eyes. Her hair, when not neatly gathered in a knot at the base of her neck, was long and thick. It was the most interesting shade of a reddish brown, the color of fine burgundy.
On the inside, Hattie was a compassionate caregiver. Medically trained by her father, the Earl of Manning and a renowned physician, Hattie in turn taught Anna what to do. Together, they nursed men physically and mentally. Each man was a survivor, a hero, not a victim of Napoleon and his war.
For now, she remained quiet. Castleton needed to talk.
“The brutality. What one man is capable of doing to another. A man you never met. A man just as scared as you.” Castleton said nothing for a few minutes. “That was four years ago, and to me, it was yesterday.”
What went on in his head? From his grimace, she suspected he continued to fight an internal battle. She wanted to put her arms around him and give him her strength, but that would do more harm than good. Instead, she waited and listened.
“Lucian and I served together. We were never far from each other. Barrington sent us to assist Vice-Admiral Nelson.” He closed his eyes.
Anna schooled herself not to react, but dear God, he was back in the thick of it all, on the HMS Victory.
“Captain Hardy, Lucian, and I were on Victory’s deck with the Vice-Admiral as he paced the quarterdeck with the battle waging around us. A multitude of ordnance exploded in quick succession, creating an echo so painful it felt as if your head was about to burst.
“With each explosion came the sound of splintering wood, the crash of debris into the water or onto the deck. But worse were the screams and groans of the wounded men. We strained to hear our orders over the din.”
Anna sat numb. For her, he painted vivid, terrible pictures. They were more horrendous for Castleton. Now, months later, he was back in the middle of it, seeing the explosions, smelling the gunpowder, and hearing the screams. Reliving it again, as if once wasn’t enough.
“In the tumult, no one heard the blast of a single rifle, but a single shot it was. Fired from the mizzen of the French ship Redoubtable. The shot hit Nelson in his left shoulder. He collapsed at my feet. I went to his aid, but he wouldn’t let me carry him. Instead, I helped him to his feet and gave him my shoulder.
“Before I went below deck, I saw Lucian run to the gunwale with his rifle raised. He got his shot off. The assassin did as well. I watched the man fall from the mizzen. Hardy urged me to take Nelson below. I didn’t know the assassin’s shot had been true, that he shot Lucian in his chest.”
The pain in his eyes tore at her, but she couldn’t do or say anything to comfort him. Let him talk.
“While I helped Nelson, my brother, my twin brother lay dying above me.” He stared into the garden. “I didn’t sit with him. Help him. Ease his way. I didn’t… say good-bye.” His words trailed off. Silent for several minutes, at last he took a deep breath. “When I found him, I cradled him in my arms, and I vowed with all my heart that I would finish his mission and care for those he held dear.” He stared at her with watery eyes. “And cried.”
Anna couldn’t sit still a moment longer. She knelt next to his chair, put her arm around him, and held him close.
They sat without speaking, her throat knotted and hot with grief. She couldn’t say anything if she wanted to. And if she did speak, what would she say? She was sorry for his loss? She understood how he felt? All empty words that held little meaning and meant less.
Anna gently placed her hand over his.
Castleton turned over his hand and intertwined his fingers with hers. After what seemed like hours, he gazed at her. Raw hurt glittered in his eyes. He gently squeezed her hand before he released her.
She went back to her seat.
“What will you do now?” She might as well finish what she started even though his answer was not what she wanted to hear. She removed the last tart from the serving dish and put it on his plate.
Mrs. Cutler brought in a fresh pot of tea and heated Castleton’s cup.
“Thank you, Mrs. Cutler.” One corner of his mouth pulled into a smile. “I missed your tarts.”
“At least now you’re not pilfering them and running from my kitchen. I’m too old to run after you with my rolling pin.” The housekeeper shook her head.
There was a faint gleam of humor in his eyes, and his mouth curved into an unconscious smile. Anna found his smile catching.
“You’re a wonderful and generous woman.” Castleton’s sincerity took the woman by surprise.
“It was all a hoax. I can tell you now. I made extra tarts for you and your friends.”
“But you waved your rolling pin—” His voice rose in feigned surprise.
“And laughed as you grabbed the tarts and ran away. My own lads did the same. I remember the day one of the boys from the village pushed your brother, and he dropped his prize into the pond. You gave him yours and metered out justice, making the unruly boys work off their debt. It was no surprise to me that you became a barrister.”
“Ah, that was why a lone tart remained on the cooling rack when I came by the kitchen. You nodded toward the tart and turned your back.” A faraway, amused look filled his eyes as he licked his lips.
“I think that was the most delicious tart I ever ate.”
“I wouldn’t let you go hungry.” Mrs. Cutler nodded and withdrew. The misty look on the woman’s face caught Anna by surprise.
“I understand now. You’re here for Mrs. Cutler’s tarts.” Anna teased him as she did when they were younger.
“I missed you too, Anna. Unfortunately, I won’t be here long. I return to London in the morning. I’ve decided I must pick up where I left off at the Inns of Court.”
She settled back in her chair, disappointed.
“We must write, and you have to plan to visit when you’re in London.”
“If you are leaving so soon, then I had best give you your present.” Anna nodded to the footman who stood by the door.
“Present? What for?” There may have been a trace of denial in his voice, but the childlike expectation of a gift lit up his face.
A furry brown and black ball with a splash of white snorted and happily bounded toward her. The pup made a stop at Castleton’s feet, then sat at attention, her eyes bright and her tongue out.
“Fraser Castleton, let me introduce you to Kaiah. She’s from a unique breed of herding dogs. She can keep you company on your walks, even in London. You will be the talk of Hyde Park.”
Kaiah nuzzled his hand.
“I’ve tried to teach her proper manners, but she shamelessly craves attention.”
He ruffled Kaiah’s silky coat.
“Does she play fetch?” He was still stroking her coat.
Anna nodded to Kaiah. The dog trotted off to the garden and brought back a stick. She sat in front of Castleton, put down the toy, and eagerly waited.
They spent the next several minutes with the pup racing in the garden.
Castleton’s smile set her at ease. If only she could make him smile that way.
“I’ve decided to devote myself to my profession.” He kept tossing a stick for Kaiah to retrieve.
“That’s an admirable goal.”
“Aunt Adelaide would have me believe that a well-established profession is followed by a well-established family. I hate to disappoint her, but I see no family in my future.”
“No family?” Everyone wanted a family. Family was loving and supporting one another. She couldn’t imagine life without her family, and she looked forward to having one of her own. Where was the man who moments ago teased, challenged, and laughed? She had always known there was something special about him, something special between them.
“Every one of us dies. I will never put anyone I love through that hell.” There was a finality in his words, in his stance, in his face. He silently pleaded with her to understand.
She didn’t have an answer for him.
He stood in the garden playing with Kaiah, but to Anna, he was already gone, and there was nothing she could do to change his mind or bring him back.
He and Kaiah departed the next day. He did come back to Sommer-by-the-Sea to see his Aunt Adelaide, the Duchess of Willbury every so often, but their paths went in different directions.
Copyright © 2023 Timeless Scribes Publishing LLC
About the Author
RUTH A. CASIE is a USA Today bestselling author of historical swashbuckling action-adventures and contemporary romance with enough action to keep you turning pages. Her stories feature strong women and the men who deserve them, endearing flaws and all. She lives in New Jersey with her hero, three empty bedrooms and a growing number of incomplete counted cross-stitch projects. Before she found her voice, she was a speech therapist (pun intended), client liaison for a corrugated manufacturer, and vice president at an international bank where she was a product/marketing manager, but her favorite job is the one she’s doing now-writing romance. She hopes her stories become your favorite adventures.
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