This Beast Holds a Title (Preview)

Chapter One

“Faith, Lady Alice, would you look at this spread?” Alice Adamson – or Lady Alice, to her maid Sarah – stood by the refreshment table and took in the feast before them. A delicious Wassail punch, marzipan, cakes, pies, chocolates, and even candied orange and lemon peels were among the offerings.

“My cousin spared no expense,” Alice replied while picking up another slice of candied orange peel. She sighed and glanced around the grand ballroom. Pierce Adamson, her first cousin, had inherited her father’s title four years ago, after Alice’s father’s tragic death, and since then, he’d made it a point of hosting an elaborate ball at the start of each Season.

To mark the occasion this year, he’d hired the most sought-after orchestra, served the best food, and employed London’s most talented painters to draw elaborate chalk paintings upon the shiny, but slippery hardwood floors of the ballroom.

Under normal circumstances, Alice would have done all she could to get out of having to attend a ball. Unfortunately, they were little more than marriage marts, no matter under what guise. And she was decidedly not in the market for a husband. Not that her mother, the Dowager Duchess of Avonwood would agree with her on the matter. If it were up to her mother, she’d be married off to the next available gentleman already.

Alice sighed and bit into the sweet. The sour taste of the orange made her grimace, but then, the sweetness of the sugar-coating hit her tastebuds, and she closed her eyes, momentarily overwhelmed by the lovely flavor.

“You ought to try a bite, Sarah. It’ll make you pucker your lips,” she giggled without covering her mouth, much to her lady’s maid’s mortification.

“A lady doesn’t laugh without covering her mouth, Lady Alice,” Sarah chided.

“And a lady’s maid doesn’t ordinarily go by her first name, or attend balls. Or shall I start calling you Mrs. Clarkson?”

Sarah tilted her head to the side. She’d been Alice’s lady’s maid ever since her debut, two years prior, and even before that, she’d served in their household. But, as only a few years separated the two in age, they’d never been as formal as a lady and her maid ought to be. Especially now that Alice had no desire to conform to what was expected of her.

“Lady Alice,” Sarah said slightly exasperatedly, but Alice waved a hand.

“Let us not quarrel. Let us instead enjoy my cousin’s offerings and then slip away before anyone notices us. There is much we must discuss. I’ve found a lovely estate near Portsmouth, with water views. I think you will adore it,” she beamed, but Sarah squinted at her.

“Lady Alice, are you quite sure it is a good idea to attempt to make such a purchase? Do not you think it better to marry? You’re a beautiful young lady. Any of these ladies here wishes she had lovely hair like yours, skin so pale and eyes so blue…” Sarah waved her hand at Alice, indicating her blonde, shoulder-length curls, currently confined in an elaborate pinned-up hairstyle that allowed for exactly one curl to fall into her face.

Alice rolled her eyes. She knew well that she was considered attractive among the high society ladies, but she cared little for such matters. What she cared for was finding a way out of this ball.

“I have no interest in marriage right now; you know this. But do not fear, just because your lady doesn’t wish to marry doesn’t mean you won’t. I shall help you. We will find you a fine naval officer in Portsmouth who will wish to court you, you shall see. It is just a few more days before I turn one-and-twenty and come into my inheritance. Then, we shall both be free of London and this folly,” she said and was about to launch into a speech about the frivolity of the ton when Sarah shook her head and pointed with her chin to something – or someone – behind them.

Alice’s stomach clenched as she turned, and her eyes settled on her mother, Octavia Adamson, Dowager Duchess of Avonwood. Or rather, her stomach clenched at the sight of the man beside her.

“Alice,” her mother cooed and waved her white feathered fan in her direction. “There you are, at the refreshment table, as always. Would you see whom I found wandering about the ballroom.” She turned and indicated toward the gentleman.

Alice forced a smile onto her lips and curtsied while the man bowed.

“Lord Morendale, a pleasure as always,” she said politely while the man smiled broadly at her.

The Earl of Morendale, Maxwell Blackmore, was an obnoxious fellow with tiny, beady, brown eyes. If the eyes were indeed the window to one’s soul, his had to be quite dark and unpleasant; for there was something cold and unsettling in them. Fine lines stretched like spider webs from his temple, around the eyebrows and the bridge of his nose. At eight-and-thirty, he would have been considered on the shelf – if he had the misfortune of being born a lady. As it was, most ladies considered him a catch due to his large estate and highly respected family.

Alice wasn’t one of them. Alas, judging by the way her mother smiled at him, she thought him a perfectly suitable match for Alice. She should have expected that her mother would encourage conversation between them at this ball. She’d spoken of Lord Morendale in more than a complimentary manner for some weeks now.

“Lady Alice,” he said and raised her hand toward his lips. Before she could protest, he placed his thin lips on the back of her hand and Alice said a small prayer of thanks to the person that invented gloves. For it was that beautiful garment that saved her skin from feeling Lord Morendale’s wet mouth on her hand at the moment.

“How lovely to see a friendly face in the crowd. Are you dancing tonight?”

Alice shook her head and was about to declare she didn’t dance. She didn’t like dancing, as she didn’t enjoy the civil whiskers required. Usually, she simply declared she wasn’t dancing at all at the start of a ball. It was the only way a lady could avoid having to dance and this had been her plan today. Alas, her mother had other ideas.

“Of course, she is,” her mother declared.

Alice was about to protest when her mother continued. “She danced with Lord Longbourn earlier this evening.” She winked at Alice, whose nostrils flared. She had danced with the elder Lord Longbourn at the behest of her cousin. She’d hoped since it was early in the evening and not a great many guests were in attendance, she might get away with it, but her eagle-eyed mother would not let that happen.

“Well, that is delightful,” Lord Morendale exclaimed. “The quadrille is about to begin.” He extended his hand to Alice, and she reluctantly took it and allowed him to lead her to the dancefloor, where they stood in line with the other dancers. Alice glanced over her shoulder at her mother, who placed a piece of marzipan in her mouth while watching them. Beside her, Sarah shook her head, aware of just how much Alice despised the idea of dancing with Lord Morendale – or any lord for that matter.

While her mother believed a lady’s only goal in life ought to be to find a husband, have a son, and indulge in the good life, Alice had never thought so. What she wanted wasn’t a husband. It was independence. She wanted to forge her own path in life. And thanks to an inheritance left to her by her father, she would. On her birthday, one week from today, she’d inherit a substantial sum. With it, she’d make her dream of buying a piece of land come true. She’d have a small house in which she, Sarah, and some of her most trusted servants would live while she would indulge in the things she liked to do most.

Ride, walk, play her music, and above all read. She’d read and re-read her favorite poetry while engaging in charity work. It would be an unconventional life, one that would highly offend her prim and proper mother, but it would be a life of her making – just like her father had always encouraged her to do.

She wondered, what would her father have said if he’d known this was what she planned to do with her inheritance. Would he be proud? Yes, Alice thought he would be. He’d raised her to think for herself, to listen to the voice within her own heart and mind, to do what she thought was right. He’d support her, she was convinced of it. If he’d lived, perhaps he might have even helped her choose an estate. One thing she knew beyond a shadow of a doubt was that he would not have wanted her to marry for the sake of fulfilling society’s demands the way her mother wanted her to.

As Lord Morendale chattered beside her about inconsequential things, she canvassed the line of dancers around them, waiting for the quadrille. From the outside, one saw nothing but a line of young lords and ladies in their finest attire, bright smiles upon their faces. However, Alice knew that most of the smiles were fake, the beautiful gowns and fine waistcoats donned only for one purpose – to attract a suitable mate.

Just as her parents had done, and just like her parents, most of those around her would wind up in loveless marriages, a life of misery ahead of them. Not Alice. Alice, thanks to her father, would escape it all.

“Lady Alice?” Lord Morendale called out beside her, a curious tone in his voice. She realized that the cotillion had ended and couples were flooding the dance floor when she looked up. She’d been lost in her thoughts, never realizing the line was moving, and it was their turn.

“I apologize, I was lost in thought,” she apologized and marched forth with him just as the music started.

“It is understandable. You must have a lot on your mind,” he replied with a grin and spun her around when his heavy foot landed on her dancing slipper.

“Oh!” she exclaimed and took a step back, bumping into another dancer behind her.

“I apologize,” he declared, mortification rife with every word. “I’m afraid I’m not an accomplished dancer. I shall take more care. But, please,” he held out his hand, and she quickly took it, not wishing to create a commotion.

She’d known Lord Morendale was a bit of a foozler, but that he was quite so terrible a dancer was news even to her. Determined to get this dance over with, she forced herself to smile.

“That is quite alright. The quadrille can be challenging. Now, you said my mind must be occupied. I’m afraid I do not know what you mean.”

The relief at the change of subject was evident when his shoulders relaxed. “I mean as it is your birthday coming up. One-and-twenty, you must be quite excited.”

This was an understatement. Alice was more than delighted at the prospect of her upcoming birthday, although not for the reasons her dance partner might believe. She cared little for the gifts, the dinner party her mother would undoubtedly plan, or anything else. She only cared about her inheritance and the freedom it would give her to live the life she always dreamed of.

“I am,” she admitted but said nothing further on the matter, not wanting to give away too much.

Naturally, her mother – and the rest of the ton – knew she’d inherited a portion of her father’s estate. What they didn’t know were the details of the inheritance. Those only she, her cousin, her mother, Sarah, and the solicitor were privy to – as far as she was aware. And nobody but Sarah knew just what she had in mind for her inheritance.

“My niece turned one-and-twenty just last year. We had the most fabulous celebration. We spared no expenses.” He grinned and leaned forward, and when he spoke again, a whiff of cinnamon comfit mixed with his terrible breath wafted into her face. Her stomach recoiled, and she wanted to press a hand in front of her mouth but refrained. “I had chocolates from France imported,” he whispered.

“Is that so? Isn’t there a ban on French products?” she asked, aware that he’d just confessed to a crime. A minor crime committed by a great many lords, but a crime, nonetheless.

He pulled his shoulders back, taken aback by her response. “Well, yes. But I have my ways. One of the many perks when one is of a station as well-positioned as mine.”

She opened her mouth, about to give a snappy reply, when he stepped on her foot again. But, this time, she said nothing and simply grimaced while his face grew as bright red as his waistcoat.

“I apologize,” he said sheepishly. “You must regret agreeing to dance with me.”

“Do not fret, Lord Morendale. We shall find out rhythm yet.” She doubted this. Indeed, she was of a mind to suggest that he use his well-positioned station to hire a dance teacher but knew better than to offend.

“You are very kind, Lady Alice. And if I may say so, you are truly a diamond of the first water.”
This time, it was her turn to color up. She didn’t take compliments well and often found them shallow, but how he delivered his made it clear he truly meant what he said.

And somehow, that made her even more uncomfortable. Lord Morendale had shown an interest in her even when she’d made her debut. However, she’d noticed that of late, he’d appeared in her circle more and more often. No matter where she went, the theater, the opera, even the royal menagerie – he was always there.

Always ready to pay a compliment or seek her company. Not that he was the only one. There were a great many young gentlemen interested in her. She was, after all, the daughter of a duke and the only cousin of the current titleholder. Naturally, anyone seeking to elevate their family would want to marry a duke’s daughter.

Although she couldn’t deny that Morendale appeared a little more motivated than the other gentlemen who’d sought her company.

“I thank you, Lord M….”

She winced as he stepped on her foot for the third time. At this rate, she’d find herself flat-footed by the end of the dance.

As he uttered another apology, she sucked in a gulp of the rose-scented air and carried on dancing, ignoring the pain in her toes.

Just a few more days. In a few days, she’d be a rich, single lady with a home of her own – and she’d no longer have to worry about Lord Morendale or anyone else. She’d be free. Finally, truly free. All she had to do was bide her time…



Alice’s head leaned against the side of the carriage as a yawn overcame her. Her mother turned and raised an eyebrow.

“Tired, dear? You must be, after all the dances.” Her mother patted her arm, and Alice forced a smile.

“Rather. And my feet hurt,” she added as she blinked at her mother. It was true. The accidental assault upon her toes by Lord Morendale continued to cause throbbing pain. Alas, her mother didn’t seem troubled by this and chuckled.

“He is a little flat-footed, is he not? Well, if he asks you to dance tomorrow, perhaps you can select a different dance. One with less complex steps?” Her mother shrugged while Alice gasped.

“Tomorrow? We are to go to another dance tomorrow?”

How in the world was she to get through another dance, she wondered. She hadn’t been able to decline this one as her cousin hosted it, but she had no intention of going to yet another ball.

“At Lady Solenshire’s. I told you. I have a gown ready for you, the lovely lavender colored one with the lace from Edinburgh. Surely you haven’t forgotten,” her mother gushed.
Alice groaned under her breath, for she had indeed quite forgotten. Lady Solenshire was one of her mother’s dearest friends, and as such, she would have to attend the ball.

“Very well, I shall go. But I shall not dance. My toes cannot take it, Mother,” she complained, but her mother instantly clicked her tongue.

“You will dance. How else will you make a good match, child? You are almost one-and-twenty; if you do not make a match this Season, you might find yourself a spinster, and we can’t have that.”

Alice pressed her lips together. She knew it would be improper to talk back to her mother. Furthermore, she had to remind herself that her mother did not yet know her plans. Octavia Adamson wasn’t the kind of lady who’d understand her daughter’s desire to remain unwed and would certainly suffer from a bout of apoplexy if she was to find out.

As such, Alice had planned to keep the entire scheme to herself. She’d come into her money, buy an estate, and arrange for her belongings to be moved before ever telling her mother. Surely, once she saw how well laid out Alice’s plan was, she’d come around. Besides, it wasn’t that Alice would never marry on principal. No. She would if she met the right sort of gentleman. However, if she didn’t, then she’d be perfectly contented on her own. Now wasn’t the right time to tell her mother this. She let out a small sigh as the carriage slowed.

“Perhaps Lord Morendale will not be at the ball tomorrow, and thus my feet can find some respite,” she said hopefully. Her mother let out a small puff of air and shook her head.

“He will. I already made sure to ask him. He looks forward to dancing with you again, dear,” she replied as the carriage came to a halt. She could not wait to get to her chamber and to bed; for tomorrow, she’d just learned, yet another ball awaited her.


Chapter Two

Savonsbury Manor

Silas stepped out of the carriage and glanced around. A lamplighter stopped at the end of Rose Street and lit the sole streetlight. The dim light from the lamp gave the street an eerie atmosphere, and a chill ran down Silas’s spine. He turned the collar of his greatcoat up and turned back to the carriage.


His sister looked up, her blue eyes still heavy with sleep. She got up and smoothed down her white round dress before taking his left hand as he handed her out. She gulped down the air and smiled.

“London, how I have missed you,” she said with a beaming smile, and guilt instantly filled Silas’s heart. They hadn’t been in the city since their father’s death eighteen months ago. Primarily because Silas couldn’t stand the thought of being in the same town where his father had lost his life – and where he’d received the horrific injuries that would scar him for the rest of his. He peered at his right hand, the burn scars hidden under a black glove. While he could hide this scar from the world, the ones on his face and neck were not so easily hidden.

While he had nothing but bad memories of London, for his sister the city meant dances, balls, dinners – and the opportunity to find a husband once she made her debut. Which she would, soon. The sole reason for their return to the capital was so that Christine could finally make her social debut and join the ranks of eligible young ladies in want of a husband.

Silas had pushed off his sister’s debut until a letter from their paternal aunt, Lady Savonsbury, requested their return to London so she could take charge of the affair. He couldn’t ignore her request, for she was quite right, Christine’s debut was overdue. Most ladies had theirs at six-and-ten, after all.

“Shall we?” He extended an arm to her, and she took it, her eyes wide as she looked around. The houses on Rose Street were magnificent, even in the fading light. Narrow but tall with crimson brick, these were stately homes, occupied by the richest and highest-ranking members of the ton – like their aunt, Blythe Slater, the dowager viscountess of Savonsbury. Christine craned her neck and looked up at the five-story tall building but then frowned.

“Why is it so many homes in London have windows bricked up?” she asked as they passed through the small iron gate and ascended the three stone steps to the front door.

“To avoid the window tax. Parliament passed a tax on windows some years ago. I hear there are efforts underway in the House of Lords to reverse it. Our fellow aristocrats like their natural light more than paying taxes, it seems,” he chuckled, and his sister nodded.

“Will you take your seat in the House of Lords this Season?” she asked as he raised his gloved right hand and knocked.

Silas rubbed his dry lips together. Would he? He knew it was his duty. As Baron Evenswood, he was a low-ranking member of the peerage, but he was a member and had duties to the realm all the same. One such duty was to take the seat vacated by his father upon his death. However, the thought of doing so caused his stomach to clench with dread. Ever since the accident, he’d avoided people as much as possible. Too intense were the stares, too unkind the remarks.

However, he knew he couldn’t keep himself – and his sister – hidden from society forever. Beside him, Christine drew her shoulders back and rose to her full height, her eyes cast at the door. Through the stained glass, they saw movement, and then, the heavy oak door swung open.

Instantly, the butler, an older fellow named Mr. Farnsworth, smiled.

“Lord Evenswood, Miss Christine, a pleasure to see you again,” he stepped aside. He indicated for them to enter while motioning for the coachman to take the carriage around the back to unload their copious amounts of luggage. “Lady Savonsbury will be down in a moment. Please, take a seat in the drawing-room.”

As they relieved themselves of their coats and entered the warm drawing-room, Silas’s eyes fell on a portrait above the fireplace in which orange and yellow flames danced around the embers with abandon. It showed his father and aunt together when they were young, and his grandparents, the late baron, and baroness. Silas hadn’t met his grandfather for he’d passed long before Silas’s birth. However, he’d been told he looked just like his grandfather many times over the years.

That they shared the same wiry frame, hazel-colored hair, and green eyes, and their flawless skin with its delicate freckles under the eyes — he scoffed as he thought of this, and his still gloved hand traveled to his face. He no longer shared that part with his late grandfather; that he knew. His skin, at least the right side of it, was now covered in scars that made him into a spectacle no matter where he went. Sometimes, when he was alone and peered at his ruined face, he could still feel the heat of the flames on his him, smell the terrible stench of the burning skin, and hear the gasps of his father as he died in Silas’s arms.

“Silas, Christine!” his aunt’s voice called out behind him and drew him from his thoughts. He spun around just as Christine flew into her aunt’s arms.

He marched across to his aunt, bowed, and smiled at her. However, when their eyes met, he saw her squirm at the sight of his face.

It was strange, he thought. He’d almost forgotten how much it hurt when people reacted that way. After suffering through the pitying looks, the curious glares, and the horrified gasps for weeks, he’d left for his country seat. And there, nobody looked at him that way, for everyone already knew the fate he’d suffered. At his estate, Stanmore Hall, the servants had gotten used to the thick, red scars that covered much of the right side of his face, neck, and upper body. He didn’t have to contend with the surprised reactions.

However, he hadn’t seen his Aunt Blythe in months, and it seemed she’d forgotten the extent of his disfigurement. To her credit, she pushed away from the shock and smiled at him.

“Silas.” She stepped forth and kissed the unscared side of his face, her blue eyes – the same sapphire shade as Christine’s – lit up with genuine affection. “It is good to see you both. Please, sit. Would you like some tea?”

When Christine nodded, their aunt rang the bell before sitting beside Silas. He noted that she chose to sit so that she faced his still pristine left side, but he couldn’t say he blamed her for the choice.

“Aunt Blythe, I am ever so glad you invited us to London,” Christine cooed, her hands folded in her lap. His sister was already eight-and-ten, but to Silas, she still looked like the child he’d known all his life, the same young girl he’d soothed through the grief of losing their mother to consumption ten years ago.

“Of course. I am so pleased you accepted. You know I always hoped to one day help you with your debut. I promised I would, and I am a lady who keeps her promises. I told your father four years ago that we ought to start planning, but I think if he’d had his way, you would stay a girl forever,” Aunt Blythe chuckled just as a maid carried in a tray of tea.

Silas sat back and crossed one leg over the other. He had to confess if to nobody but himself that he shared his father’s thoughts. He wished Christine could stay a girl forever and remain at home with him. For, once she was out in society she’d soon find a match and marry.

While she was only the daughter of a baron, their estate was large and their funds plentiful. After his father’s death, Silas had sold the shipping company – the location of the accident – and made a hefty sum from the sale. The place had brought a calamity down upon him, but at least it would make for a handsome dowry for Christine.

Silas’s eyes surveyed his sister. In addition to the dowry, she possessed a striking beauty that would surely attract a great many suitors. Her lovely eyes, dark hair, and red lips stood in contrast to her pale skin, just like their mother’s had. And their mother had once been called the most beautiful lady in the Kingdom by one of the scandal sheets. No, there was no doubt in his mind that his sister would be engaged by the end of the Season.

And he’d be alone. All alone.

His aunt’s voice once again drew his attention.

“I think there is no time like the present,” she said to Christine, who beamed. “I’ve made an appointment with Mrs. Ravensbury, the best modiste in all of London, for tomorrow morning. So we will have a great many gowns made for you. And for me, since I will be your chaperone.” His aunt smiled softly and as she did, Silas noticed the resemblance to their late father. She had the same dimples in her cheeks when she laughed as he had.

“Faith, Aunt Blythe, we shall have such fun together. I can hardly wait.” Christine shimmied her shoulders. The happiness on his sister’s face soothed Silas’s gloomy thoughts. At least one of them had a chance at happiness. Still, he thought.

“You won’t have to wait too long. Soon, you will be invited to all of these balls. But first, we must establish your brother in society before we can have your coming out ball. And to that end, I’ve secured an invitation to a ball at the home of Lady Solenshire tomorrow. Silas and I shall go and let society know Baron Evenswood is back in London. That will be the first them, and soon, your ball will follow,” his aunt declared while Silas’s heart sank.

“The two of us? I thought you would take charge of Christine’s coming out,” Silas exclaimed with more force than intended.

His aunt blinked and set down her tea with a clang.

“And I am. I understand you are reluctant to attend these types of soirees, but it is important for you, Silas. Or rather, for your sister. You are Baron Evenswood now, and we must establish you in society before Christine can come out. It will be easier for Christine if the gentlemen of society are familiar with the head of the family. I do not expect you to dance, but perhaps you can join in a game of cards or visit the smoking room.”

Silas swallowed and pushed himself into the soft back of the chaise lounge in which he sat. The idea of conversing with others, being seen in public, mortified him. And yet, as he raised his eyes and looked at his sister, he saw the longing for a happy future within them.

He knew he couldn’t stand in the way of her happiness. He had to be the kind of brother his father would expect him to be. The kind who’d stand up for her, support her, do all he had to, to ensure her future. He gulped down the lump that had formed in his throat and gave a nod.

“I suppose I can play a round of whist or smoke a cigar if it helps Christine,” he grumbled.

“Yes, thank you, Silas,” Christine enthused and clapped her hands together in childlike excitement.

His aunt placed a hand on his forearm. “You will see, Silas, it will not be half as bad as you imagine. I had a few suits made for you. They’re in your chamber. You’ll look quite smashing. Who knows, you might come away with a bride as well, and then we may have two weddings before the Season is out,” his aunt said with a smile.

Silas huffed, for he knew that no lady would look at him as a potential match, and certainly no lady would accept to marry him or have his children. As much as it pained him to admit, the line would die out with him, the title would revert to the crown, and their family legacy would be over.

He, Silas Everett, would be the last Baron Evenswood, for he knew one thing for certain: He would never, ever marry.

If you liked the preview, you can get the whole book here

If you want to be always up to date with my new releases, click and…

Follow me on BookBub

  • Intriguing chapters. The storyline holds your interest and tempts you to continue reading to see what happens next. Looking forward to the release date.

  • So far so good. I feel for poor Alice! Her poor toes, ouch. I liked the chapters I read, did not notice any spelling errors which is always a win for me. Looking forward to what you have in store for Alice and Silas.

  • Interesting story line so far! (And saw no misspellings or typos). I wonder how their meeting occurs and romance develops. I’m pretty sure it’s at the following night’s ball. Eagerly awaiting the remainder of the book.

    I have read MANY Victorian and Renaissance stories, but this is the first time I have come across the mention of a Window Tax. I researched its history on the web…very interesting!

    I have learned something new today. Thx! 🙂

    • Thank you for your comment, dear Laurie! I’m so glad you enjoyed this story so far, I hope you love the rest of the novel, too.

      Also, I’m very happy to know you learned something new today thanks to my story. It’s true, historical writers keep learning new things every day. It helps us bring our stories to life. I’m glad it’s exciting for our readers, too!

  • >