The Reluctant Bride
by Beverley Eikli
Winner of the Choc-Lit Australian Star competition!
Emily Micklen is proud, passionate – and left with no option after the death of her loving fiancé, Jack, but to marry the scarred, taciturn, soldier who needs to secure a well-connected wife.
Major Angus McCartney hopes that marriage to the unobtainable beauty whose confident gaze about the ballroom once failed to register his presence will offer both of them a chance to put the past to rest.
Emily’s determination to be faithful to Jack’s memory is matched only by Angus’s desire to win her with honour and action. Sent to France on a mission of national security, Angus discovers how deeply Emily has been duped, but the secrets he uncovers lead them both into danger. Can Angus and Emily unmask the real conspirators before they lose everything?
Read an excerpt:
Angus and Emily, newly married, have just been visited unexpectedly by Angus’s brother and his unsuitable consort. Emily, embarrassed by her highly pregnant state and knowing it will cause gossip amongst Angus’s family, reacts in this scene to her husband’s apologies for the situation Emily has just confronted.
With deliberate care Emily set down the plates once more and turned to look at her husband through narrowed eyes.
‘For contaminating me with a lady of dubious repute? But Angus, how much worse a contaminant would I have been had you not married me?’ She patted her swollen belly. ‘You’d be apologising to your brother. A fallen woman—’
‘Don’t speak like that.’ His wide-set eyes burned with undeserved defence of her. ‘Men’s impulses can be ungovernable, but ladies do not suffer such … urges … Youwere … taken advantage of.’
Emily stared at him. She sucked in a long, quavering breath as her simmering anger came finally to the boil. Is that what he believed? That she was insensible to passion? And that was a good thing?
‘What would you say if I told you that my impulses were every bit as ungovernable as Jack’s?’ She could barely control her anger sufficiently to speak. For days she had forced her feelings into the background, using the same emotional device against her unwanted husband as she had when her father insulted her, shutting out the hurt by erecting a barrier as impenetrable as steel.
Now, feeling surged through her, blackening her vision and causing her to sway. She put her hand on the back of the sofa to steady herself.
Angus stood awkwardly by the door, as if unsure whether to move closer to support her, or beat a tactful retreat.
Emily glared at him. ‘What if I told you that I was so consumed by passion in Jack’s arms I would not have heeded the Blessed Virgin Mary cautioning me against the temptations of the flesh?’ She tried to regulate her breathing, but the rage was clawing its way further up her body, threatening to make her its puppet. She, who never lost her temper. ‘I loved Jack. I was his slave in passion, every bit as culpable as he. If you are so concerned for virtue, spare your condemnation of innocent Miss Galway. You need only cast your eyes upon your wife to be singed by my sin. There! I have confessed my true nature. Whatever you thought of me before, you cannot but think worse of me now.’ She registered the horror in his eyes and was glad for it. Much better that she banish any pretence between them.
She’d never expressed anger as poisonous as this. At first it frightened her, then it sent exhilaration pulsing through her. Her love for Jack had been cut off at the root. Now hatred filled her veins, making her feel alive again. ‘And so you know, I care nothing for your opinion,’ she added.
She managed to remain upright, though her vision came in waves. She could feel her strength leaving her, but she had to spit out the truth so he’d have no illusions as to the kind of woman he’d married. A woman no good man deserved.
‘You married me because you needed a wife. I married you so I could keep my child. We made a contract. My body is yours to do with as you please, but that is all you will ever have. My thoughts, my feelings, my love will be forever out of bounds to you.’
AUTHOR Bio and Links:
Beverley Eikli is the author of eight historical romances published by Pan Macmillan Momentum, Robert Hale, Ellora's Cave and Total-e-Bound. Recently she won UK Women's Fiction publisher Choc-Lit's Search for an Australian Star competition with her suspenseful, spy-based Regency Romance The Reluctant Bride.
She's been shortlisted twice for a Romance Readers of Australia Award in the Favourite Historical category — in 2011 for A Little Deception, and in 2012 for her racy Regency Romp, Rake's Honour, written under her Beverley Oakley pseudonym.
Beverley wrote her first romance when she was seventeen. However, drowning the heroine on the last page was, she discovered, not in the spirit of the genre so her romance-writing career ground to a halt and she became a journalist.
After throwing in her job on South Australia's metropolitan daily The Advertiser to manage a luxury safari lodge in the Okavango Delta, in Botswana, Beverley discovered a new world of romance and adventure in a thatched cottage in the middle of a mopane forest with the handsome Norwegian bush pilot she met around a camp fire.
Eighteen years later, after exploring the world in the back of Cessna 404s and CASA 212s as an airborne geophysical survey operator during low-level sorties over the French Guyanese jungle and Greenland's ice cap, Beverley is back in Australia teaching in the Department of Professional Writing & Editing at Victoria University, as well as teaching Short Courses for the Centre of Adult Education and Macedon Ranges Further Education.
She writes Regency Historical Intrigue as Beverley Eikli and erotic historicals as Beverley Oakley.
Beverley won the Choc Lit Search for an Australian Star competition with The Reluctant Bride.
Shortlisted for the 2012 Australian Romance Readers Award for her novel Rake's Honour
Finalist in the 2011 Australian Romance Readers Awards for her novel A Little Deception.