Read A Bride Unveiled Online

Authors: Jillian Hunter

A Bride Unveiled

Table of Contents
 
 
“We could all use a little more
Jillian Hunter in our lives.”

The Oakland Press
(MI)
 
Praise for The Bridal Pleasures Series
 
A Duke’s Temptation
 
“A sinfully sexy hero with a secret, a book-obsessed heroine in search of her own happy-ever-after ending, a delightfully clever plot that takes great fun in spoofing the literary world, and writing that sparkles with wicked wit and exquisite sensuality add up to an exceptionally entertaining read worthy of ‘Lord Anonymous’ himself.”

Booklist
(starred review)
“With humor and charm, sensuality and wickedness, Hunter delights.”

Romantic Times
“Ms. Hunter’s Boscastle series is one of the few historical romance series that I read. You’ll find lively characters, unusual plots, and an underlying sense of fun.”
—Fresh Fiction
“An unusual duke and a naive country gentlewoman sound like a typical historical romance, but Ms. Hunter makes it so much more. These characters turn the ordinary into something special and kept me glued to the book.”
—Night Owl Romance
“This is the first in what looks to be a very promising, and extremely seductive, new quartet. Most of the focus is on the main couple, Samuel and Lily. This is as it should be; however, a bit of danger and suspense makes enough surprise appearances to keep things intriguing. Few can resist a novel by Jillian Hunter!”
—Huntress Book Reviews
 
More Praise for the Novels of Jillian Hunter
 
“One of the funniest, most delightful romances I’ve had the pleasure to read.”
—Teresa Medeiros
“An absolutely delightful tale that’s impossible to put down.”

Booklist
“A sweet, romantic tale . . . full of humor, romance, and passion. Historical romance that is sure to please.”
—The Romance Readers Connection
“A lovely read.”
—Romance Reader at Heart
“Enchanting . . . a fabulous historical.”

Midwest Book Review
“[It] bespells, beguiles, and bewitches. If romance, magic, great plots, and wonderful characters add spice to your reading life, don’t allow this one to escape.”
—Crescent Blues
“Romantic and sexy. . . . Read it—you’ll love it!”

The Romance Reader
“Jillian Hunter’s ability to touch chords deep within readers’ hearts is what sets her apart and makes her and everything she writes a keeper.”

Romantic Times
“Ms. Hunter pens unique, fascinating stories that draw the reader right in. Impossible to put down.”

Rendezvous
“A master at wringing emotion from every page, Ms. Hunter explodes onto the scene with an extraordinary tale that combines brilliant writing with sizzling sexual tension.”
—The Speaking Tree
The Bridal Pleasures Series
 
A Duke’s Temptation
SIGNET SELECT
Published by New American Library, a division of
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Penguin Books Ltd., Registered Offices:
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First published by Signet, an imprint of New American Library,
a division of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.
 
First Printing, October 2011
 
Copyright © Maria Hoag, 2011
All rights reserved
ISBN : 978-1-101-55847-8
 
SIGNET SELECT and logo are trademarks of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.
 
 
Without limiting the rights under copyright reserved above, no part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in or introduced into a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form, or by any means (electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise), without the prior written permission of both the copyright owner and the above publisher of this book.
 
PUBLISHER’S NOTE
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
The publisher does not have any control over and does not assume any responsibility for author or third-party Web sites or their content.
 
 
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This book is dedicated to Susan Boyle
and to all the unsung heroines
she has inspired.
Chapter 1
Monk’s Huntley
England 1808
 
M
iss Violet Knowlton had suspected for years that something was wrong with her. It wasn’t until her thirteenth summer, however, that the hidden flaw in her nature came to light. Before then she had considered herself to be an obedient girl, a fortunate one, even though she had lost her parents so long ago she had no memories of them to mourn their loss.
Her aunt and uncle, Baron and Lady Ashfield, had cocooned her and raised her as their own. They had moved from bustling Falmouth to the obscure hamlet of Monk’s Huntley to shelter her from the wickedness that she had been warned waited outside the door to snatch up an unwary girl.
As Violet grew older she would stare out her bedchamber window and wonder what form this wicked threat would take. Would it be a man? A beast? She had lived under the impression that all girls were in danger of this unknown menace. If only her guardians had explained why they would sometimes stop talking when she entered a room unannounced. If only they had confessed that they meant to protect her from herself, she might have understood that she could never let down her guard.
It was a cause destined to fail.
It was two months before her thirteenth birthday when she looked from her window and first noticed the boy in the abandoned graveyard that lay between her uncle’s manor house and the woods. Twilight had fallen, and the boy seemed to be engaged in an energetic duel, although for the life of her, Violet could not see his opponent.
Three days went by before she spotted him again. This time it wasn’t quite dusk and she realized that he was fighting alone. After that she began to keep a vigil, propped on a stool, hoping for a glimpse of his intriguing figure.
She couldn’t have described him in any detail to anyone. He looked tall from her vantage point, furtive and full of energy. He wasn’t a ghost. She saw him once in the daylight, charging past the crypts with a sword over his head. He ran as if his life were something out of an adventure novel, as if he had dragons to slay or that meant to slay him.
Sometimes he appeared and disappeared like a wizard before her eyes. She wondered who he was and where he lived and why he was not afraid to play in the churchyard that everyone else in Monk’s Huntley knew to avoid. She spent hours wondering about him, because she was lonely and despaired of making friends with the other young ladies in the village. The girls who’d grown up in the parish refused to allow a newcomer like Violet into their circle. The harder she tried to impress them, the more they drew away from her, until she gave up trying.
Her closest female companion, in fact her only one, was Miss Winifred Higgins, the governess Violet’s uncle had hired at the spring fair. She was a comely redhead with a beguiling warmth, and just as Violet was starting to feel close to her, Miss Higgins revealed a startling confidence of her own—she had lied to Baron Ashfield about her credentials. She was not a twenty-year-old etiquette school graduate experienced in the moral guidance of young girls.
As it turned out, Miss Higgins had never attended school and had run away from home. While Violet sat on the garden wall sketching dragonflies, her governess was being led astray by the bricklayer’s son in the hedgerow. She swore to Violet that this was true love.
“How old are you really, Miss Higgins?”
She stared at Violet. “Nineteen.”
“Honestly?”
“I shouldn’t have told you anything,” Winifred said, her eyes scornful.
“I told you about the boy.”
“Don’t go near him,” Winifred warned her. “At least not by yourself.” She frowned. “I’m almost eighteen. I suppose you’re going to tell your uncle that I lied.”
“No.” Violet couldn’t imagine losing her only female friend. “Are you going to tell him about the boy?”
“I haven’t seen any boy yet.”
“But you do believe he exists?”
Miss Higgins shrugged. “Why not?”
There were advantages, Violet learned that summer, to having a governess who was not only negligent in her duty but in one’s debt. Soon Winifred granted Violet the small freedoms that had previously been forbidden her. She did not complain when Violet walked barefoot in the garden. She allowed her ward to wander farther from the manor grounds to sketch, until the day they walked to the slope that overlooked the church ruins.
They stood in silence, staring down at the rows of moss-stained graves that had looked oddly romantic from Violet’s window. They stood in the shade of the tall yew trees that by tradition guarded the deceased, and Winifred whispered, “Why would anyone choose to frequent a place like this?”
“To find buried treasure,” a cheerful voice answered from behind them.
Winifred gave a scream that was shrill enough to awaken an army of ghosts from their eternal slumber. She swayed in the ankle-high ferns that covered the slope. Violet caught her by the arm. She might have screamed herself had she not recognized the stout young gentleman standing behind her, a shovel balanced on the shoulder of his brass-buttoned coat.

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