What is a neglected wife to do when her husband doesn't know she exists? Create a scandal, of course, in this delightful Elizabethan romp.
After ten years of marriage, Frances LeSieur has faded into her role as a lady wife and mother. She has no idea who she is as a woman. So Frances joins Queen Elizabeth's glittering court and discovers a part of herself she never knew existed - and one she's sure her neglectful husband would never notice.
Henry has always done his duty to family and crown despite his own desires. When Frances asks for a separation then transforms into a confident and vibrant courtier, he's floored - and finds himself desperate to learn what makes her tick, both in and out of the bedroom. After years of silent alienation, can he woo her back, or will he lose this intoxicating woman to one of the rakes hell-bent on having her?
As Frances and Henry come to realize that living is not merely surviving, can they create a second chance at love before it's too late?
"Pray pardon, madam, but are you requesting a divorce?" The shock stamped so beautifully on Henvy LeSieur's face probably should have worried Frances. He never reacted, never felt anything. Instead, the brief evidence of actual emotion made her smile.
When had she smiled last? Really smiled? Not merely lifted the corners of her lips to appear polite? She closed her eyes, unable to remember.
Schooling her features into the proper vacant, pleasant expression Frances wore so often she no longer thought of it as a mask, she shook her head slowly. "No, my lord huband, I would not wish for something so dishonorable. I was clear, I think, in my words, I should like," she looked down at the smooth parchment before her, "a separation based on the mutual agreement that both our duties have been fulfilled in regard to our marriage contract wherein you and I both acknowledge that no further conjugal relations would be required." She looked up again. "Divorce would make our children bastards and, I should think, you would find that abhorrent."
Frances waited, her gloved fingers absently tracing the beads of the rosary at her belt. It was up to him now. Yes, legally he could divorce her for denying him marital rights, but he wouldn't. Would he? In their ten years of marriage he had sired five children, three living. Given his obsession with duty, he should recognize the validity of her argument. His duty, and hers, was done. Both their parents had seen the match as advantageous. He came with property, and she came with connections of consequence. She had never expected anything different and made no argument. Neither had he. They were practically strangers then, and, thanks to his constant business in London, still were.
Whey would he possibly want to continue the realtionship any more than he had to? He'd never professed any affection, never spoken to her about anything other than household accounts and the like. There was no way she had broekn his heart. Why the hesitation?
Looking at the fierce blaze in his deep brown eyes, she had her answer.
Amid the revelry of Queen Elizabeth's court, scandal after scandal finds a spirited young woman who learns to defy society, own her actions, and fall in love.
Pleasure takes priority during the twelve days of Christmas in Queen Elizabeth's court, and newcomer Mary Montgomery jumps in with abandon. Unfortunately, such joie de vivre also leads to accusations that she has stabbed an earl, impersonated the Queen, and punched a countess in the face.
Despite the gossip swirling about her, Sir Charles, a knight and member of the Queen's Guard, is drawn to her vibrancy. After all, scandals are nothing new at Queen Elizabeth's court. Unfortunately, Mary does not have the wealth or rank to survive them unscathed and soon finds herself on the outside of society's good graces. And though his loyalty taints his own reputation, Charles continues to stand by Mary's side.
He knows his intentions and where his priorities lieâ€”he just isn't sure how she'll react when she finds out that the man who ruined her reputation is his half-brother. Indeed, before she can accept his affections, Mary must not only forgive herself for her past but realize she is worthy of love.
Mary's corset bit into her back and hip as Anne gripped her in a firm embrace.
Anne appeared unaware of Mary's discomfort. "Christmastide will be so wonderful this year!" She grabbed Mary's hands and threw herself into a reel, towing Mary with her. "I have you, my dearest friend, with me. It will be such a jolly time."
Mary smiled as Anne pulled her into another swift hug. She had not seen Anne for over a year when circumstances reunited them a few months past. Mary had been in service as a companion to young Anne. At two and twenty, with no appropriate marriage prospects, she'd been honored to join the Cecil housefold as a companion to the then twelve-year-old Anne. William Cecil, though highly esteemed at court, was merely a knighted landowner at that time, which put Mary and Anne at the same social standing even though Mary was paid to be there. Mary had left the Cecil household just before Anne had married the Earl of Oxford and become the countess and Sir William Cecil himself was named Baron Burghley.
Mary had never had high expectations for the marriage, but sh'd been horrified to see how sapped, how spiritless Anne had appeared upon their reunion at Hampton Court Palace three months ago. In spite of the fact that she had not heard once from Anne in the year they had been apart - until Anne invited her to stay on at court as her guest when Frances, Mary's current mistress, left - she felt like she had no choice but to accompany her to Whitehall Palace for the Christmas festivities. This time she was a guest of the countess, and though her own rank was now significantly lower than Anne's, she was here as a friend, not a servant. Frances LeSieur had found happiness and gone to celebrate the twelve days of Christmas at her home in the country. Frances would be just as well without Mary, but Anne needed someone who cared.
While Anne's smile seemed genuine, Mary could not believe that she actually intended on attending any of the twelve nights of Christmas revelry. Anne was much too concerned with what her father might think to actually enjoy a good party.
Mary did not have that particular problem.