My next Carina book, An Infamous Marriage, releases Monday, November 5. Here's my beautiful cover, as selected by attendees at the Carina spotlight at RWA earlier this summer:
My hero and heroine, Jack and Elizabeth Armstrong, marry for mutual convenience in 1810. She's the impoverished widow of his best friend, and he needs someone to care for his aging, ailing mother while he is far away in Canada with his regiment. Because of their shared grief for her first husband, they don't consummate the marriage right away, and their efforts at a long-distance post-marital courtship by correspondence falter when tales of his womanizing make it all the way across the Atlantic to Elizabeth's ears. She could forgive the adultery, in an unconsummated marriage. But the scandal and mockery are too much to be borne.
When Jack returns to England in 1815, Elizabeth informs him she's not willing to fall into his bed and give him the heir he wants until he earns her forgiveness--and she's by no means certain that day will ever come. He persuades her to give him a chance, and to let him come to her room every night, just to talk, and to forestall servant gossip about their estrangement. During their first night's conversation, he discovers how much she longs to travel and envies him for having seen more of the world than she has:
"There’s nothing to stop you from traveling wherever you like now.”
She blinked, then her eyes widened and her cheeks grew flushed. Elizabeth might not be a beauty in any conventional sense, but whenever her spirit animated her features she was lovely to look upon. But the moment passed quickly, and her eyes shuttered behind a frown. “Of course there is. You want me to bear you an heir.”
“If you can ever forgive me enough to allow me, indeed I do.” He rubbed furtively at his right leg, which was beginning to ache from his old injury. Should he tell her he would want her in his bed even if he had no line to continue and no land to pass on, or would that alarm her more at this stage?
“Well, then. You wouldn’t want your heir born in the Ionian Islands, instead of here at the Grange, would you?”
“Supposing good attendants and a capable accoucheur could be had there, and I don’t know if that’s the case. But we could learn. And I’m certain you and the baby could have even better care than you could get here in any number of places. London, to name the most obvious, but also Edinburgh, Dublin…Paris, Vienna, Rome, Brussels, Berlin…” He warmed to the theme as he began ticking the great cities of Europe off on his fingers. He’d hardly got the chance to fight in Europe as a soldier, how would it be to travel there in peacetime simply for the pleasure of it? He decided he wanted to find out. “We could go on a Grand Tour together.”
Her eyes narrowed. “So I can travel, then, but only if we consummate the marriage.”
Part of him wanted to drive such a bargain, if only it would work. But she might call his bluff. Even if she did not, did he really want a wife who only tolerated his presence in bed? Especially this wife, with her unexpected loveliness and prickly, defiant soul? “If we separate,” he said patiently, “then I won’t have any say in your comings and goings. You could certainly live on the Continent, if you chose. But I hope it won’t come to that. I’d like to see Paris with you.”
She frowned at him in utter bewilderment. “Why,” she said at last, “are you being reasonable?”
He raised an eyebrow. “Would you prefer me to be unreasonable?”
“Yes—no—I don’t know!” She shook her head and glared at him. “If we separate,” she said, “you have no heir for all this.” She indicated Westerby Grange and its lands with a wave of one hand. “I expected more rage at the very possibility.”
He hid a smile. Without a conscious plan, he’d hit on the right strategy, and now he would stick with it. If he didn’t rage back, surely her fury—her perfectly justified fury—would spend itself more quickly.
“Would it do my cause any good, given that I’ve no intention of throwing you onto that bed and asserting my rights against your will?”
Her jaw fell open, and she stared at the bed, then back at him. “No.”
“So I won’t do it.” He stood, shifting most of his weight to his good leg. “I want you. But unless you want me too, it’s no good.”
“You don’t want me. You want an heir.”
He smiled a little. “That’s what I would’ve said this morning. But now I’ve seen you. Good night, Elizabeth.”
Without waiting for a reply, he bowed to her and left her to seek his solitary bed.