The Mistress' House

Sourcebooks will publish The Mistress’ House by Gotham's Romance Writing instructor, Leigh Michaels, in February.

Leigh has published dozens of romance novels, but this is her first historical romance. It’s set in that most elegant of eras—the Regency period in England. The rakish Earl of Hawthorne purchases a house as a trysting place, but the house seems to entrance those who enter with true love. Few romance writers can tell such tales with Leigh’s wit and sophistication.

Here is the seductive opening:
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The Earl of Hawthorne looked wistfully past his man of business. At the far end of the library, a pair of long windows stood open to a glorious autumn day, and in the distance he could hear the bark of a hunting dog. It was a perfect day to take a gun and a dog and go for a long tramp across the parkland and into the woods of his Surrey estate. But here he was instead, sitting at his desk and listening to Perkins prose on for hours about the benefits of investing in a canal somewhere at the far end of England.

Except, now that Thorne actually pulled his attention back to the library, Perkins appeared to have finished with the canal and moved on to the benefits of buying a house in London.

“Perkins,” Thorne said gently. “I already have a house in London. A big house—right on Portman Square. You can’t have overlooked that.”

“No, my lord.”

“Surely you’re not suggesting I sell the house I already have and buy a different one?”

“No, my lord.”

“And surely you’re not suggesting that I need more space in London.”

“No, my lord.” With each repetition, Perkins’ voice grew more wooden.

“Then you’re suggesting I buy another house and lease it out?”

“Not exactly, my lord.”

“But if I’m neither going to live in it nor rent it, what on earth would I do with another house in…” Thorne paused. “Perkins, exactly where is this house?”

“At Number Five Upper Seymour Street, my lord. It’s…”

“I know where it is. Right around the corner from Portman Square.”

“The garden of Number Five backs on your own, my lord. It is not a large house—only six bedrooms, four main reception rooms, and all the usual arrangements for servants. But the location and the situation are quite salubrious. Unlike the other houses in the row, Number Five has windows all along one side, as well as in front and back, because it lies next to Berkeley Mews.”

“With horses coming and going all day,” Thorne observed. “Not every tenant would like that.” “Since they are mostly your own horses, my lord,” Perkins observed, “I felt it likely this would not disturb you. The location alongside the mews, plus the large number of windows and the consequently high window tax, does mean that the house isn’t in quite as much demand as it might otherwise be, and that has kept the price reasonable. And it is a very convenient situation, should my lord wish to come and go without being observed.”

Thorne leaned back in his chair, tapping his index finger against his jaw. “You make me sound like some kind of spy, Perkins,” he said dryly. “Surely you’re not laboring under the delusion that I’m part of an espionage ring.”

Perkins coughed. “Certainly not, my lord.”

Perkins’ tone, Thorne thought wryly, was unnecessarily acerbic. It wasn’t, after all, that Thorne didn’t have the right talents to be a spy. He’d just never been called upon to use them in that particular way.

“I merely meant,” Perkins went on, “that your lordship is a figure of interest in London society, and therefore your… actions… are noticed and often remarked on.”

Actions? Why, Perkins, you old dog. You’re actually volunteering to help me to keep my affaires under wraps? If I didn’t know better, I’d think you were blushing.”

Perkins shuffled his feet and looked down at the carpet.

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Reprinted by permission of Sourcebooks. For more information on Leigh and her book, visit www.leighmichaels.com. To buy it online from Amazon.