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Isn't she beautiful? She doesn't look like she could tell a white lie much less live one - keeping the biggest secret from the man she loves most.
Not that poor, lovely Lady Leeson always loved the kind and honourable Tristan who nurtured her during her darkest hours and married her three years before, thinking her 'lie' to be quite a different one.
Yesterday my first advance copies of The Maid of Milan jetted their way from the freezing UK to sizzling Gisborne in Victoria, Australia. It'll be available as an e-book from Feb 2 and is a pre-order for the paperback here.
Here's the blurb:
After five years of marriage, Adelaide has fallen in love with the handsome, honourable husband who nurtured her through her darkest hours.
Now Adelaide’s former lover, the passionate poet from whose arms she was torn by her family during their illicit liaison in Milan six years previously has returned, a celebrity due to the success of his book The Maid of Milan.
High society is as desperate to discover the identity of his ‘muse’ as Adelaide is to protect her newfound love and her husband’s political career.
If only the men had not been childhood friends.
Published by Choc Lit
And here's an extract which takes place when Adelaide is with her mother who tells her she can't possibly be around when Tristan's boyhood friend, James, comes to visit.
Again, her mother's eyes roamed over the room's lavish appointments.
– if he so much as suspects the weakness and depravity of
your character. You have ever been a disappointment but
you are all I have and I am all you can rely upon. I thought
I’d trained you well, that you were of my mould. How
wrong I was.’
Familiar though this litany was, Adelaide once again
fought the familiar shame which threatened to swamp
her, though she refused to succumb to the tears that had
sprung so readily to her eyes in the early days. In the six
months after she and James had been parted and she’d been
dragged from Milan back to Vienna before being shipped
off to England, all she’d done was cry.
‘Nevertheless, as your mother, I have stood by you
and I remain determined that you shall not squander this
God-given opportunity. Tristan’s continued high regard
is our only salvation, Adelaide. Remember that. Now
come.’ Draining her tea cup, Mrs Henley rose. ‘Let us go
downstairs and find Tristan so we can tell him of Aunt
With helpless frustration Adelaide trailed after her
mother. Once again Mrs Henley had taken charge and
Adelaide’s ideas of independence seemed suddenly hopeless,
for if they ran counter to her mother’s she knew who held
At the moment, it wasn’t Adelaide.
Mrs Henley knocked and they entered as Tristan rose,his forced smile replaced by one of pleasure when he saw
Adelaide. He took a step forward, extending his hand
for hers, the flare in his eyes as intense as the day she
consented to be his wife, and Adelaide felt an unexpected
jolt somewhere in the region of her heart, her determination
bolstered to bridge the distance between them, despite the
oppressive presence of her mother, always a footfall away,
She stopped, pulling back as a warm, fragrant breeze
stirred the papers on his desk.
The French doors from the garden had been thrown
open, and the heavy tread of Hessian boots upon the
wooden floor pulled their attention towards the muslin
curtains which swirled in eddies, silhouetting the shape of
a man: a slender man of middle height – the only ordinary
thing about him – dressed in a black cutaway coat and
buff breeches, who materialised before them like a young
demigod, smouldering with an enthusiasm he did nothing
to inhibit, for good manners were always in abeyance to the
passion that ruled James’s life.
‘Tristan!’ Tossing his low-crowned beaver upon the
ottoman, James strode forward, arms outstretched, his
voice taut with emotion.
Nearly four years, it had been, and from first impressions
it was as if nothing had changed. Inky curls framed his
delicately boned face and his eyes were like coals burning
the fire within. No, nothing had changed, she could see,
for James was still like a coiled spring, eager for love,
eager for life, as ready to give as he was to take … without
Adelaide froze with nowhere to go, tense with
premonition while shafts of sensation, painful and familiar,
tore through her.
Could this really be happening? Unwillingly, her gaze
was fixed upon James’s profile, dusted with dark stubble,
tapering up to angular cheekbones delineated with the
slivers of sideburns sported by the fashionable Corinthians
of the day.
In four years he could not be so unchanged whereas
She touched her face, her heart. She was a mere husk of
what she’d once been. Tristan knew nothing of the passions
that burned within her when her heart was engaged – and
she didn’t know if he ever would, for suddenly she felt
reduced to nothingness by the force of James’s personality.
She’d been his equal once – a woman of fire and vitality
– and she’d loved him with a savagery that her mother
claimed bordered on insanity. She’d been a child, thrust into
adulthood by this charismatic older man. Married older
man. But as she looked between the two men before her it
was Tristan who made her heart beat faster, as much with
longing as with fear of what he would think of her if he
knew the truth.
James had not seen her; his gaze was focused entirely
upon Tristan, and Adelaide was astonished to see a different
kind of pleasure light up Tristan’s face as he was enveloped
in a welcoming embrace far less restrained than her husband
was used to.
‘Forgive me for coming early, Tristan. I had no choice.’
‘Nonsense!’ The pleasure in Tristan’s voice was like
nothing Adelaide had ever heard. ‘You’d be welcome if
you climbed through the window at midnight for no better
reason than you needed a bed. So good to see you, James.
It’s been far too long.’
She had been forgotten. Rooted to the spot, Adelaide
could only wait to be acknowledged, but how she wished
she could melt between the floorboards.
‘When I heard the weather promised rain and worse,
tomorrow, I admit I acted with my usual thoughtless
James halted, perhaps alerted by movement just beyond
his peripheral vision, and Adelaide caught her breath,
wiping her sweating palms nervously on her skirts as he
turned his head to peer into the gloomy recesses beyond
And as her glance met the familiar grey eyes of the one
skeleton in her closet she’d hoped to consign forever to her
past life, she felt the thread of happiness she’d found with
Tristan pull dangerously taut.
The fire in James’s eyes changed to something different
at the sight of her; the telling stillness of his normally
active, healthy body indicated that his senses were fully
alerted, and Adelaide felt hers answer with a sensation akin
to having her steady world ripped from beneath her feet,
leaving her to spiral into orbit until her mother’s icy tones
ripped through the silence.
‘James, I trust you are well.’
‘Mrs Henley. I did not see you.’
They greeted each other with courtesy, concealing the
brittle antipathy Adelaide knew lay just below the surface.
Her mother took a step as if to shield Adelaide from
his dangerous influence. ‘We had not expected to see you,
either, James, as you were due tomorrow and Adelaide and
I’—she feigned regret—‘have been summoned on an urgent
visit to my aunt in Lincolnshire.’
Tristan swung round to face Adelaide who dropped her
gaze and blushed. Leave the explanation to her mother. How
she wished she could be incinerated to a little pile of ashes
with no more of the worries and charades that were her lot.
Instead, she had to remain stoic, keep steady, pull taut that
wayward trembling mouth and corroborate her mother’slie.
‘So lovely to see you again, James. Unfortunately, yes,
Mama and I must leave immediately.’
‘Tristan loves you, Adelaide, but he will not – I promise you
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