Tuesday, March 5, 2024

Book Blitz + #Giveaway: The Forger and the Duke by Misty Urban @XpressoTours

The Forger and the Duke
Misty Urban
(Ladies Least Likely, #2)
Publication date: March 5th 2024
Genres: Adult, Historical, Romance

In 1776 London, orphaned vicar’s daughter Amaranthe Illingworth supports her small household with her skills as a copyist, but her quiet routine is shattered the day three children show up at her door seeking aid from her brother, their tutor. Behind them storms in Malden Grey, would-be barrister and their erstwhile guardian, who accuses Amaranthe of kidnapping the young Duke of Hunsdon and his siblings.

The former duke’s illegitimate son, Malden Grey has learned to live by his wits, and he’s told he’ll advance to the bar if he takes a proper wife. As she helps him restore order at Hunsdon House, Amaranthe seems a likely candidate—if only Mal can unearth the truth behind the rumors that she’s been forging, and selling, priceless medieval manuscripts. Amaranthe, in the meantime, needs to stay on her guard lest the charming Malden Grey steal her heart at the same time she’s hoping to borrow from his library a priceless book that could make her fortune.

But when Mal’s foray into Amaranthe’s past yields a discovery that will change both of their destinies, they’ll have to fight together to clear their names and stake out a future together—if either has a future at all.

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She set the portrait gently in its place. Mal battled the impulse to take those cool, capable fingers and press them against his aching head.

“And where is your mother now?” Her steady, fathomless gaze rested on him.

“She died when I was young.” Dear Lord, he was becoming sentimental. He pushed the weakness aside. “You are coming to know a great deal about us, Miss Illingworth, and I know very little about you.”

Her eyes crinkled as she smiled widely, and Mal cast about for breath. “We have not even been properly introduced.”

“Malden Grey of Bristol, aspiring to the bar.” He held out his hand.

“Malden,” she said, and a silken quality in her voice made him shudder, as did the slide of her fingers as she placed them in his.

“You haven’t told me your name.” His voice roughed his chest.

“Miss Amaranthe Illingworth of St. Cleer, Cornwall. My father was very fond of classical antiquity, so he chose a Greek name for me.” She held the volume of housekeeper’s accounts close to her chest, like a shield.

He sat back. She appeared completely unconcerned to learn he was a bastard, the status he wore like a brand on his forehead, marking him as less than, as lacking.

She rose, and he scrambled to his feet. Very neatly she placed her glass on the shelf beneath the decanter. Her eyes traced the figurines above, all of them representing mythological half-women with breasts prominently displayed.

“They’re not mine,” Mal said.

That small, maddening smile quirked her lips again. “No, they are young Hunsdon’s now, I imagine. I’ve seen this and worse among some of the medieval marginalia I’ve copied, Mr. Grey. You wouldn’t believe some of the grotesques those monks could dream up. I suppose it comes from being locked away day after day with no company but other men.”

That was his problem as well, Mal decided. Too much time in the company of other men. That was why she riled his senses so potently.

He moved around the desk toward her as she stepped away. “I can drive you tomorrow. When you make inquiries about hiring servants. What time shall I bring the carriage round?”

She hesitated, and her face went studiously blank. A slither across the back of his neck told him this was the expression she assumed when she was withholding something. He was beginning to recognize it.

“Eyde made up a room for me here,” she said. “Do you mind?”

“Of course not. There are dozens of rooms.” Or so he thought. Hunsdon House was not his, as nothing about the Hunsdon estate was to be his—not even the family name—and so he’d never let much of it occupy his attention.

Mal wondered which room Miss Illingworth would select for her own. Did she see her silk-smooth skin as best set off by the draperies in the Blue Room? Would she choose the Oriental patterns of the Jade Room? Or would she, like an empress of old, demand the royal purple? He imagined her nearby in the house going about her nightly routine, taking down her hair, drawing off her prim robe, perhaps splashing water onto her face that would run down that softly stern neck to the collarbones hidden beneath her gown and—

He’d best stop imagining Miss Illingworth at her ablutions. He was about to embarrass himself.

“Till tomorrow then, Miss Illingworth.” Had she said he could call her Amaranthe? He wanted to roll the name over his tongue. It was exotic, yet robust. A name with command and presence, much like the woman.

Good Lord! That brandy had turned his wits. He was behaving like a moonstruck calf. No, worse.

“Till tomorrow,” she said softly, and her gaze held his. The flickering candlelight brought out violet shadows in her eyes, and all the air left Mal’s body. He wanted to be found worthy of that calm, assessing gaze.

There was no way she would ever find him worthy.

The door shut behind her, and Mal smacked a hand to his head to clear it. He’d best bring himself in order. They had business to conduct. Problems to solve.

She had secrets he wanted very much to discover.

He had gotten his first good look at Miss Amaranthe Illingworth. He wanted a second. And a third.

Author Bio:

Misty Urban is a medieval scholar, freelance editor, and college professor who likes to write stories about misbehaving women who find adventure and romance. She holds an MFA and Ph.D. from Cornell University and lives in the Midwest in a little town on a big river.

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