Thursday, November 19, 2015

'The Last Earl' by Lara Blunte


Willful, vain and intelligent, Lady Catherine Lytton believes she is in full control of her destiny when she inherits a large fortune from her uncle.

The return of a distant kinsman, Adrian Stowe, the Earl of Halford, is a welcome relief from the monotony of the English countryside.

Adrian is handsome, enigmatic and, some say, mad. But then, what man would escape the grisly murder of mother, father and brother unscathed? He is also the last of his line, and yet seems to have no interest in his title or his wealth -- and no inclination to find a wife.

In fact, he doesn't seem to do anything that is expected of him; yet, in her pride, Catherine hardly thinks that the Earl will inspire an uncontrollable passion in her. Above all, she cannot imagine that it will be unrequited.

As she follows him to Constantinople, trying to unveil the mystery that surrounds him, she will learn the meaning of love, even as she seems about to lose everything that is precious.

Read an excerpt:

No one spoke of anything but her that evening, though in their English way they did it sotto voce, behind fans and gloved hands. The women joined in a universal attack against her among themselves.
The men, patently, did not agree, and instead crowded around Catherine, staring at her in fascination. "They must be trying to get a closer look at my tiara," she told her mother cynically. One of her favorite theories those days was that she was pursued not for love, or even for her beauty, but for her money.
She ruled over the evening, and only a sharp observer would have noticed that she gripped her fan too tightly, and that her eyes were too bright.
When Adrian arrived and came to greet her she was curt with him, going immediately back to her conversation with Hugh Kirkpatrick. Adrian moved away, but kept observing her with a frown. The knowledge that his eyes were on her made her act even more extravagantly: she danced several waltzes, and drank a great deal of champagne.
He must not suppose that she was weak or thinking of him.
Yet, exhaustion suddenly overtook her, and she moved away from the crowd to stand near a window, her head swimming. Adrian approached her and said forcefully, "You aren't well. I am taking you and Aunt Helen home."
"Don't be absurd," she laughed. "There is nothing wrong with me that a great deal of dancing won't cure. Here is Mr. Dalton. I promised him this waltz."
As she waltzed she felt dizzy, and did not demur when Jack led her to the summerhouse outside. Jack sat her down and fanned her, and meant to be extremely respectful until she raised her hand to her head. He stared at her arm and was not able to help himself, but grabbing it firmly, planted a desperate kiss on it. She was going to protest but he suddenly stopped. Catherine lifted her eyes, and found herself looking at Adrian.
Jack began stammering, "I-I-I was-"
"I could see what you were doing," Adrian said icily.
Jack stood up, shifted on his feet and began to sweat profusely, for he saw he might not escape a good thrashing. But Adrian made no move towards him, and instead looked at Catherine, who had turned her head away. Jack inched forward, walked around Adrian as if he were a chained beast, and disappeared into the house. Adrian still looked at Catherine for a moment, then said, "What's the matter with you? Jack Dalton! I'd be less surprised to see you kissing a cockroach!"
He raised her from the seat and looked into her face. Her eyes stared back into his and she let her body fall forward as her head fell back and reached for his neck with one hand to steady herself. His hand came round her small waist. He shook his head at her, "You don't know what you are doing, Catherine. You don't understand what you are feeling."
"I do know!" she cried.
"No, you don't understand that there is a moment when neither you nor I can turn back anymore."
"I don't want to turn back!"
Her eyes shone with tears. She saw that for a second he still struggled with himself, but then he suddenly brought her body to his in an embrace and kissed her. She had never been kissed, and had only expected to feel the pressure of his lips, a pleasant, dreamlike sensation and nothing more.
Instead, almost as soon as their lips touched he parted hers with his. As his tongue found hers she felt as if her blood had been sent rushing through her all veins and arteries; it was almost like physical pain.
He held her fast as he kissed her, his hand behind her head. She couldn't open her eyes and knew that she was moaning, as her heart beat in her throat.
Then, just as suddenly, he let her go and said, "Go inside now."
She swayed a little where she stood, staring at him wide-eyed, realizing that she had begun to shake. If he had meant to teach her a lesson, he had. She hadn't known that she could feel like that. Her skin was humming from head to foot.
Catherine didn't want to go in, she wanted more of him, more of that feeling. But he was standing in the dark, his eyes gleaming, as he threatened, "Go in or I will drag you in."
She realized that he would, and she had just enough sense left to turn and walk towards the house. It was the hardest thing she had ever had to do, to leave him behind and enter the ballroom where people seemed to be giving her quizzical looks.
A mirror told her that her hair was tidy and that there was no trace of his kiss, though she could still feel his lips and his tongue; there was no trace of the madness she felt from wanting him in her face.
She put on a blind smile and went to find her mother.

About the author:

I have always liked history, which was my minor at Georgetown University, and I decided to write books set at different times, providing information of what I know about each period.

As I travel a lot for my job, I always enjoy adding the sights and sounds of places where I have lived or been, even if the places that draw me might be considered "exotic": Istanbul, Kampala, Phnom Penh, Cuernavaca.

Apart from writing, I am a voracious reader, and I love film and television as well.

In my novels, I like to create multi-dimensional characters with flaws that lead them to difficult situations, from which they will emerge changed. The course of true love never did run smooth, so I believe that a certain darkness in tales of passion is always a good addition. I also like to add a dose of humor.

The romances I have loved are by authors such as Jane Austen, the Br├Ântes, Leo Tolstoy Thomas Hardy and George Eliot, among others -- though I don't presume to write as well as they did.

I try to stay true to different eras, while not alienating the reader by being too inflexible with the language and situations.

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