Heart of Delight by Jenna Jaxon

Hi everybody,

today the spotlight is right on the third book in the Handful of Hearts series.

Meet Gabriella and Hal.

He’ll do anything to be her heart’s delight—except tell the truth.

Gabriella d’Adventure is on a mission. She has come to England as a lady’s maid in pursuit of the Duke of Rother. When she meets Horace Carpenter, valet to a marquess, she is delighted to enlist his aid in gaining her heart’s desire: a meeting with the duke. But will her growing feelings for the handsome valet interfere with her plans for the duke?

The eccentric Marquess of Halford, Hal to his friends, is tired of the demands of Society, especially his father’s decree that he marry this Season. When a breathtaking young woman intrudes on his solitude, he is captivated and introduces himself as his valet in hopes of learning more about her. Despite his fear about the true motive behind Gabriella’s quest to meet the Duke of Rother, Hal agrees to help her gain an audience with him, all the while praying his deception won’t ruin his chances of winning her love.

 

Jenna gave me an exclusive, 1000 words excerpt for you.

Her whole body like a lit match, realizing too that he had called her Gabriella, she jumped up and stumbled away from the bench. “I do not think that is wise, Monsieur Carpenter.”

“Horace,” he said firmly, following her.

“And how am I to meet the duke?” She turned to him, infusing her words with determination, willing him to allow them to continue as they had before.

“How am I to meet the duke…Horace?” His grin assumed her defeat.

Wretched man to leave her no choice. “Horace.” Having said the name, she grew warm again, from the inside out.

He took her hand, tucked it in the crook of his elbow, and led her back to the bench. “My master has a distant relation, Lady Celinda Graham, who also happens to be the duke’s goddaughter. I once did her a kindness, and she has agreed to introduce you to the Duke of Rother.”

Ah, that explained it. She had wondered how a valet had managed such a thing.

He sat, not relinquishing her hand, and patted the seat beside him. “Sit. I promise not to bite.”

“I am fine to stand, merci.” She tugged and, reluctantly, he let her go. Lord, so difficult to remain true to her goal. More than anything, she would have loved to sit beside Horace, to feel his lips on hers once more. Non, she must not allow herself to be distracted. “When will Lady Celinda arrange the meeting?” She scowled. “It will not be easy to steal away from madame.”

“I will speak with her shortly and tell her when you can meet her.” He cocked his head. “Is there some impediment?”

Gabriella bit her lip. This might be the most difficult part yet. Lady Chalgrove led such an active social life, she might call upon Gabriella almost any time of the day or night to assist her. Her afternoon off moved at her mistress’s whim. Unfortunately, if she asked for a particular day off, madame might ask why. Or simply refuse. She sighed. “My time is seldom my own.”

“What day is your lady at home?” Horace rose to stand beside her.

“Thursdays, the same as Lady Hamilton.”

“We could perhaps ensure that Lady Chalgrove would be well occupied with visitors for several hours when you would not be needed.”

Gabriella smiled up at him, so tall and handsome that her heart beat fast whenever she looked at him. He would have made an excellent footman with his dark good looks and magnificent physique, although he seemed too intelligent for a servant, even a valet. She would not be surprised to hear sometime that the Marquess of Halford was in need of a new gentleman’s gentleman. “You may have hit upon an idea, Horace. If enough callers arrive at, say, fifteen minute intervals, madame will be well occupied and with no need of me until at least three o’clock.” She quirked an eyebrow at him. “You can arrange these callers, of course?”

“Lady Celinda can. I will ask her to arrange the meeting with the duke at one-thirty in the afternoon on Thursday, while her friends and relations flock to Lady Hamilton’s for the latest on-dits and tea.” His hand lay warm on her arm. “I will arrange for you to be taken to Lady Celinda’s home. She will have made plans for the duke to receive you there.”

“Will you be there?” Now that her plan was coming to fruition at last, her confidence had begun to wane. She needed a friendly face to help her through the ordeal.

Horace shook his head, his face once more in shadow. “That may not be possible. I will introduce you to Lady Celinda. She will chaperone you and make the introduction. You can trust her as you would me.” He rubbed the back of his neck. “You are simply meeting the duke to fulfill your lifelong dream, true? He thrust his head forward, peering at her so intently that she looked away.

“Why would it not be true? For a poor girl like me to meet such a great man should be the dream of a lifetime, n’est-ce pas?” His close presence distracted her thoughts. When his arms slid around her, she stiffened, fighting the longing she couldn’t deny, then gave in and relaxed against him. She had dreamed of him last night and awakened to find her pillow damp with tears of longing. Why would she feel so about a valet when nothing could come of it? After she spoke to the duke, she could no longer dally with this man. “Horace, we should not—”

“Shhh.” He turned her in his arms. “Why not? You are a very beautiful woman, Gabriella, more beautiful than any woman I have ever seen.” He smoothed a strand of hair back behind her ear, and she shivered with desire.

Merci, mon ami.” She cupped his face, so handsome and strong. Why would fate tempt her with him at this moment? “Vous êtes très beau, et très cher.” She swept her lips across his, a fleeting kiss that thrilled even as it tortured. “I must go, mon cher. I dare not stay here longer.” She broke through his grip, though his touch still lingered.

“You but trifle with me.” The bitterness in his voice smote her heart. “If I were instead my master, the marquess, you would not run from me.”

Oui, non, oh sacrebleu. You cannot understand,” she wailed then dropped her voice. They must not be discovered.

He grabbed her hand. “Then tell me.” He twined his fingers with hers, and her willpower failed. “I thought you felt something for me beyond your little flirting smiles. When we kissed, there was something wonderful between us, I will swear to it.” He pulled her back down onto the bench. “Do you deny it?”

“I…I…” Mon Dieu, but she wanted, non, needed to deny it, to tell him instead she flirted only, and felt nothing.

He gazed at her, his sharply shadowed face yearning toward her. “Gabriella, please.”

Madness seized her. She grasped his face and pressed her mouth to his, tingling from the top of her head to the tips of her toes. Before she knew it, she had her arms around him, pulling him closer, never wanting to let him go.

You can buy this fantastic story on Amazon,

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8 Comments

  1. Maybe this sounds silly but it reminds me of why I like Shakespeare’s comedy’s, the desception of assumed identities and letting someone know one’s deepest desires about them. This sounds delightful.

    Like

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