As a young woman must marry and become engaged in proper duties, art can only be an accomplishment and a recreation.
Despite opposition at every turn, Charity Baxendale dreams of becoming a renowned portrait painter. She is heartened to receive two significant commissions from esteemed family members, and when a rakish Scottish baron commissions her to do his portrait, she dares hope she is one step closer.
When Robin, Lord Stanberry, with whom Charity has had a long friendship, asks her to marry him, she must choose between marriage and her career. Robin is heir to a dukedom, and Charity fears that not only would she be unsuited to life as a duchess, but also that her burgeoning career might end before it begins. And besides, Robin has made no mention of love.
After his uncle and heir die, Robin becomes the Duke of Harwood. Never having expected such an event, he feels himself unfitted for such a position. He was perfectly content living as a viscount in Tunbridge Wells, writing a manuscript on ornithology. Now he must leave all that he loves. He’d hoped to have Charity at his side by the time he took his place at Harwood Castle, for her pragmatic nature and strength of character would be of enormous help to him. Should he have thrown himself at her feet and declared an undying love? Charity would have seen through it, for that was not the sort of friendship they enjoyed. But her refusal has brought him lower than he’d thought possible. Can he change her mind, despite the distance that now lay between them?
InD’Tale Magazine Review
Maggie Andersen has created an enjoyable group of characters in The Seduction of Lady Charity. The story of a young woman who wants a career as a painter more than anything—even marriage—or so she thought. A slow journey from friendship to love provides a sweet and touching romance story. Charity struggles with her own choices but never gives up hope that life will turn out exactly the way she imagined. I enjoy a book with a nice balance of dialogue and narrative, and where this one was a tad heavy on the dialogue, with some of it a little strained at times, it did make for a quick pace. Although somewhat predictable, The Seduction of Lady Charity is a nice, easy way to spend a few hours. Readers are sure to enjoy Lady Charity’s charm and Lord Stanberry’s persistence.
Although book four in the series, the story stood fairly well on its own. As a side note, the covers in the series are all very lovely and I thought this one was well-suited to the story.
Ms. Andersen has created a wonderfully intriguing cast of characters. THE SEDUCTION OF LADY CHARITY can stand alone but readers might find themselves returning to the first book of the series just to see what they might have missed from Ms Andersen’s original stories.
This is the fourth story of the Baxendale sisters and I have loved all of the books so far.
Summer, Highland Manor, Tunbridge Wells, 1824
Charity opened the window to disperse the smell of paint and turpentine. The still gardens slumbered in the summer heat. The house was too quiet now that her sisters, Hope, Faith and Honor had married and her younger sister, Mercy, was away visiting relatives with her mother.
She cleaned oil paint from her hands with a cloth and hung her smock on the hook behind the studio door. Her mother had relinquished her sewing room to her with nary a murmur, after news came of Faith’s pregnancy. The room was cramped, but south facing with excellent natural light.
In the corridor, Charity almost stepped on their dog, Wolf, who lay with his head resting on his paws. “What is it fellow? Do you miss Mercy?” Wolf managed to look mournful and gave a faint thump of his shaggy tail.
She entered the empty parlor. As usual, Father was closeted in his study. He would emerge at dinner to glare at her, because she had resolutely refused a London Season. It would be a frightful waste of his money and her time. She’d no intention of marrying. Father’s opposition to her plan to become an artist had lost some of its potency of late, however, as his railway shares and finances prospered. Mama, too, was in good humor, absorbed with the prospect of more grandchildren.
Graves appeared at the parlor door. “Lord Stanberry has called, milady.”
“Robin? Ask him to come in, Graves.” Charity smoothed the skirts of her peach-colored morning gown, averting her gaze from the spot of blue paint near the hem and tucked an untidy strand of her fair hair into the bun at her neck.
Their friendship had begun last year, when Robin was a guest at the Marquess of Brandreth’s dinner party. The family dined often at Brandreth Park, the huge estate which bordered theirs, as two of her sisters had married into the family.
Robin ducked his head as he entered the room, the habit of a tall man who lived in a low- ceilinged Tudor house. Removing his hat disordered his curly, dark-brown hair. He brushed a lock from his broad brow, looking younger than his twenty-six years. His grey eyes warmed and he bowed. “Good afternoon, Lady Charity.”
“Robin, how nice to see you. As you see, I am alone but for Father. Mother and Mercy are in Ham visiting Hope and Daniel.”
“I gather Lady Sophie sent that from in Egypt?” He pointed to an exotic statue of an ancient Egyptian god that stared coldly at them from the mantelpiece. “Makes you shudder doesn’t it?”
“It does rather.”
Charity spared a thought for Hope’s husband, Daniel, whose sister, Lady Sophie had married an archaeologist. Her letters to Hope were filled with news of exciting finds for the museum.
“I wonder if I might snatch you away from your work for a drive, to take the air. With Lady Baxendale absent, I doubt you’ll venture outdoors without my encouragement.”
Charity laughed. She welcomed his company, especially as he shared her interest in art. She must fix the sky on the landscape perched on her easel. It lacked nuance. It would have to wait. “A delightful idea. Thank you for thinking of me.”
“I’m afraid we can’t fit your maid into my phaeton. Shall I seek your father’s permission?”
“I’ll send the footman to tell him. As it’s you, I doubt he’ll protest.”
He smiled. “Does Lord Baxendale have energy left to protest? His daughters must have run him ragged. And you, my lady, are no exception.”
She wrinkled her nose at him. “Poor Father, I doubt he does. But there is so much to concern us in this country of ours, the poverty, the crime, the need for reform, so that whether or not I choose to ride without my maid seems entirely insignificant. I won’t keep you waiting while I change my gown. I’ll fetch my shawl.”
“Excellent. I confess to an ulterior motive.”
She raised her eyebrows. “Oh?”
“Which I shall save for when you are a captive audience.”
“Should I be worried?” Charity turned and left the room.
Robin drove his horse phaeton through the gates and out into the narrow lane. “It’s a nice day,” Charity said in some surprise. A fresh breeze swirled around her ankles and ruffled the feathers on her hat. She drew her shawl over her shoulders.
“I gather you haven’t ventured out earlier to discover it.” His gaze rested on her before turning back to the road.
“I did plan to take my sketch book and walk along the river, but became distracted,” she confessed.
He watched the road as the phaeton negotiated a sharp corner. “No need to thank me for taking care of your health.”
“My health is excellent, thank you.”
He glanced at her. “You’re pale, and there are dark circles under your eyes.”
She raised her brows. “My, what a charming compliment!”
“You’ve been painting by candlelight again.”
“You’re becoming a nag, sir. I have a mother for such things.” She studied his attractive profile, his straight nose and strong chin. “Now what is the reason for this outing, apart from a concern for my health?”
He gazed at her with sorrowful eyes. “Bad news, I’m afraid. My uncle lies gravely ill with no hope of recovery. As his son died recently from this virulent bout of influenza, I am to inherit.”
“I am sorry to hear about your uncle. That is indeed sad. I daresay you soon will be departing from our little corner of the world. We shall miss you.”
He paused, concentrating on his driving. “I had hoped to choose an appropriate moment, but I suppose now is as good a time as any.” Robin pulled the phaeton onto the grass verge, and secured the reins. His eyes held a sheen of purpose as he took her hands. “I think we should marry before I leave.”
Startled she pulled away. “Surely you jest?”
“I’m entirely serious. I have need of a wife and I rather think we’d suit.”
Charity breathed deeply. It went against everything she’d planned for herself. A wife was always at the beck and call of her husband, not to mention the demands society would make upon her. Her career would be at an end. “Shouldn’t love come into the equation?”
“Do we need it? We share many interests, art, for example, and a similar sense of humor.”
“Why me? You will have your pick of beautiful debutantes and be rushed off your feet at Almacks.”
His grey eyes swept over her. “You sell yourself short, Charity. You’re an earl’s daughter. Intelligent and good company. Not such a poor choice in my opinion.”
His mouth swooped down to claim hers. She was curious, and didn’t resist, breathing in his masculine smell. His lips were more persuasive than she cared to admit.
Raising his mouth from hers, his smoky grey eyes searched hers. “Can you give the matter some consideration? I feel such a marriage would suit both of us.”
Her first kiss. The intimacy of his mouth moving over hers, and the pleasurable sensations it brought, flustered her. She felt unlike herself and feared she was in danger of losing her sense and purpose. “Robin, I told you more than a year ago, that I would never marry.” She edged away as far as the narrow seat would allow, in an effort to regain her composure.
He frowned. “My sister used to say the same. Who takes notice of the capricious ramblings of a green girl?”
She firmed her mouth and glared at him. “I don’t believe I’ve ever been capricious. And I never ramble.”
“He removed his hat and ran his hand through his hair. “I’m sorry, that was unforgivable. You hate the idea of embarking on a London Season, but you’re almost eighteen, I thought you’d come to change your mind about marriage. And I suppose I hoped you’d begun to like having me around.”
“I do like your company. Of course I do.”
She fiddled with a button on her cream spencer, her cheeks hot, and managed to meet his steady gaze. He had a perfect right to ask her. And she hadn’t minded the kiss, quite the contrary in fact. But he didn’t love her. Nor did he say he was overwhelmed by her beauty. Well he wouldn’t, because she was too tall to be beautiful. What people called a ‘long Meg’. At least the cool manner in which he’d proposed made it easy for her to refuse him. She sighed and a shaft of sadness made her swallow. Their friendship would now be at an end. She would miss him.
“I’m sorry. I can’t marry you.”
Robin released the reins and guided the horse back to the road. “You may wake up one morning and discover you want more from life than art.” He tightened his jaw. “And I hope you’re not in your dotage when that happens.”
“My goodness, Robin. I never suspected you had a yen for melodrama,” she said, hoping to return to the light-hearted banter they usually enjoyed. “Where are we going?”
“I had planned to take you for tea at the Walks,” he said. “Although it wouldn’t do to provoke gossip now, would it? And I find I require something stronger.”
“I’m sure Father has a good supply of spirits.” Charity eyed him anxiously. She hoped she hadn’t hurt him too much. If her father heard she’d refused a duke, he’d suffer the apoplexy.
A knock sounded at the library door.
Robin’s butler entered. “A footman has brought news from Harwood Castle, my lord.”
Rising slowly from the chair where he’d been studying a book of sketches, Robin took the letter. At his desk, he sliced it open with a paperknife and scanned it. He moaned softly under his breath.
“My Uncle has passed away, Franklin.”
Franklin bowed low. “I am indeed sorry, Your Grace.”
Your Grace! Robin returned to the chair, as his legs were in danger of giving way. Uncle Robert and his son, Charles, gone without issue. What a dashed sad business. They’d never been close, but he still felt hollow. Well that was that. He was now the Duke of Harwood, something he’d never wished for. He hated pomp and circumstance. He would be expected to marry in St Margaret’s Westminster, and mix with royalty. Not to mention having to sit in the House of Lords, and the responsibilities of a huge estate and a multitude of investments. His father, the 5th Viscount Stanberry, had lived his life quietly and modestly in this manor house. There’d been no question of Robin inheriting after Charles married. He hadn’t been raised to take on such an exalted position. He sighed. He’d hoped to have married Charity before this. Her pragmatic nature and her strength of character would have been of enormous help to him. Not to mention the rest of her attractions. Could he have done a better job of persuading her? Thrown himself at her feet and declared an undying love? She would have seen through the ruse immediately. He wished he could forget the kiss though. Well he’d have to. She didn’t want him.
“There’s much to do, Franklin. I shall depart for Northumberland tomorrow. I’ll return after the funeral and the reading of the will. Tell my valet to pack enough clothes for several weeks.”
Robin considered Harwood Castle. So far as he remembered, it was a confusing maze of stone passages and barnlike rooms with cavernous fireplaces, but he’d been ten years old when he’d visited it. His fondest memory of the place was salmon fishing in the river.