Today on First Kiss Friday, I’m welcoming another author friend of mine from my local chapter of Romance Writers of America. Please help me welcome Kate Moore who will be sharing an excerpt from her novel The Husband Hunter’s Guide to London. Kate is also offering a giveaway of an eBook! Leave her a comment and she’ll choose a random comment as the winner. Happy reading and enjoy!
Contrary to what the Husband Hunter might expect this guide to suggest, she must not fall in love. It is no more advantageous to “fall” in love, than to fall from a horse or a bridge or down a flight of steps. The uncontrolled path of a falling object and the inevitable end of a fall in a broken head or broken limbs is no apt metaphor for the onset of deep and lasting affection. Love does not happen to us as a result of chance or a misstep. It is not induced by Cupid’s arrows, nor by the juices of rare flowers applied to one’s eyelids. We may discover that love has begun, or that we are in the midst of love with another person, but not because we have fallen but because, in a fertile garden carefully planted and tended, love has bloomed in its season and place when perhaps we were not looking.
——The Husband Hunter’s Guide to London
Hazelwood handed Jane into the carriage and climbed in after her without speaking. He settled a rug over their legs and feet. The carriage lamps cast a faint light into the cold interior.
“Are you sure you want to leave? We could make a push to get your uncle’s painting. Cut it out of the frame, roll it up.”
“You already created a sufficient stir this evening, you know.”
“Did I?” He knocked against the forward panel for the coachman to start the horses and leaned back against the leather upholstery. The dim light revealed his profile, the straight line of his brow above the deep-set eyes, the plain thrust of his nose, and the faint pull of a smile on his lips. In profile he looked almost ordinary, almost like the sort of man her guide would recommend, a sensible man of good character and respectable reputation. She reminded herself that he was no such thing. . . .
“Must you play the hero all on your own?”
“The situation called for action. That’s what I do. I act. Are you going to tell me what you discovered about the painting?” There was a touch of irritation in his tone.
“After you have confessed to a habit of independent action more likely to harm you than anyone else?”
“. . . No damage done. You can see for yourself.” He took her gloved hand in his, slipped it inside his greatcoat, and pressed it against his chest, his warm, hard chest. Through soft wool and silk and linen she could feel the strong beat of his heart. The sudden intimacy altered the smooth rhythm of her pulse.
The carriage rattled along over the stones, and under the rug her knee bumped against his thigh. Hazelwood’s other hand slid around the back of her neck and pulled her closer. The wool scarf over her head slipped back.
“We didn’t finish our conversation about how to behave alone with a gentleman in the dark.”
She swallowed. “I decided never to be alone with a gentleman in the dark.”
“Yet here you are.” His low voice had that break in it that turned her insides to jelly and made the inches apart seem like too much. His mouth was near but not near enough. It was like the end of a desert journey, when the donkeys stumbled on their feet, and it was dangerous to even think of water.
He took her other hand in his and lifted it to his face. “Eversley’s not the man for you, you know.”
“He is exactly the sort of man my guide recommends.”
He shook his head. “Let me show you why your guide is wrong.”
“You mean tell me.”
“Eversley’s touch doesn’t move you, and what’s more, you know it.”
She could not deny the truth of it. Though she had no experience by which to judge, some instinct of which she had been previously unaware told her as much. She had barely tolerated Clive’s patting her hand, yet Hazelwood’s tying her bonnet or tugging at her ribbons drew her whole person to him, like a wave sucked back to the sea.
She should lean away from him, but her body refused to move. “You know, I have had suitors before.” She was not as green as he supposed.
“Have you?” He pulled the wool garment from around her throat.
“Once, the woodcutter’s son asked my father what price he would accept for me. And another time the neighborhood widower who raised pigeons on his roof told my father that the sight of me in our courtyard had inspired him to think of marriage again.”
“How is a fellow to impress a woman of such vast experience, I wonder?” She could hear the laughter in his voice. And felt the change in him when the laughter died.
He lowered his head and leaned forward across the narrow space where their breath already mingled in the frigid air. Then he kissed her.
At first it was a lazy, teasing kiss, lips meeting in a touch as light and airy as words and wit. It coaxed her along, floating lightly on the tide of their wordless exchange, until she was far out from shore, not anchored any more to the bench of a rocking carriage rolling through London. A deeper current of feeling welled up and knocked her off balance. She clung to him more. He was solid and real.
His mouth took firm and unyielding possession of hers. The kiss became a question about who she truly was, the husband hunter she claimed to be, or a daring woman who would put her trust in a stranger who was still a mystery to her yet who seemed to understand her as no one ever had. The dark, rocking coach seemed made for their encounter. He slid so that his body angled down and made a hard slope against which she lay, held in place by his arm around the small of her back and his mouth on hers.
As long as she kept the little book secure, and as long as no one else discovered the map, her actions would not endanger her father. As soon as the thought occurred, she broke away, her breath warm and ragged, her body vibrating with sensation. “Thank you for the lesson. It was most instructive. I will know how to avoid being alone with any government protocol officer trying to persuade me to steal a painting from one of his majesty’s subjects.”
Their carriage halted. They had reached the hotel. She scrambled back on to the seat, rearranging her disordered skirts. It was time to break free of the hold he had on her, to remember that she had only one purpose in London, and it was not to find a husband but a father.
In this new Regency charmer from the beloved, award-winning author Kate Moore, the clues to solving one of life’s greatest mysteries may be found in a slim blue volume of advice for husband-seeking debutantes. But two people engaged in a clever game of cat and mouse just might rewrite the book . . .
The daughter of a British intelligence agent, Jane Fawkener has spent most of her life in exotic lands abroad, not flirting her way to matrimony among the ton. So when her father disappears and is presumed dead, she’s perplexed as to why he’s arranged for her to receive a copy of The Husband Hunter’s Guide to London. Convinced he has hidden a covert message for her within its pages, Jane embarks on a “husband hunt” with an altogether different aim. But can she fool the government escort who’s following her every move—a dangerously seductive man for whom rules are clearly meant to be broken . . .
A native Californian, Kate studied English Lit and taught generations of high school students, who are now her Facebook friends, while she not-so-secretly penned Romances. In Kate’s stories honorable, edgy loners meet warm, practical women who draw them into a circle of love whether in Regency London or contemporary California. A Golden Heart, Golden Crown, Book Buyer’s Best winner and three-time RITA finalist, Kate lives north of San Francisco with her surfer husband, their yellow Lab, a Pack ‘n Play for visiting grandbabies, and miles of crowded bookshelves.