Madeleine Atherton is no typical American heiress, sent to England to marry an English lord. A brilliant college graduate who secretly dreams of becoming a published author, she wants to marry for love. After receiving a proposal from a future duke, Madeleine flees the London Season for Cornwall to seek her sister’s advice, never expecting her decision to be complicated by a charming, handsome earl she’s certain she dislikes—even though his every touch sets her blood on fire.
Charles Grayson, the Earl of Saunders, has secrets and ambitions of his own. Although under pressure from his mother and gravely ill father to marry his cousin, Charles cannot find the words to propose. But this fascinating American visitor does not figure into his plans, either.
Thrown together unexpectedly at Trevelyan Manor, Madeleine and Charles struggle to rise above their intense attraction. But as things heat up between them over a summer that becomes increasingly scandalous, Madeleine and Charles will both be forced to make a difficult choice. Can two dreamers dare to defy convention and find their own happily ever after?
About the Book
Summer of Scandal
by Syrie James
Dare to Defy Series
*Each novel is a standalone story.
September 11, 2018
Bolton, Cornwall, England
June 21, 1889
The brisk wind bit Madeleine Atherton’s cheeks as she stepped down from the train. Cornwall might be known for its temperate climate, but it felt more like November than June. At least the rain had stopped—for the moment.
The rural station at Bolton was much smaller than Madeleine had remembered. Just a redbrick building that resembled a cottage, with a single wooden bench facing the tracks. The platform was empty. Beyond the station stretched a single street lined with small houses and shops. Beyond that, wide green meadows were bisected by a narrow road as far as the eye could see. There was no sign of an approaching carriage.
Where was Alexandra?
Madeleine had spent the entire seven-hour train ride from London thinking about this moment, how wonderful it would be to see her sister again, and how happy Alexandra would be that Madeleine had dared to come. But no one was here to meet her.
Madeline pulled her velvet cloak more closely about her, worried. She had sent a wire yesterday to inform her sister of her plans. I’m stealing away, she had written, just like you did last year. Well, stealing wasn’t exactly the right word. She had simply left a note, packed a trunk, donned her best green traveling suit, and slipped out of Brown’s Hotel early that morning while her mother was sleeping.
As the second of three daughters of one of the richest men in the United States, Madeleine understood that she was expected to make an exceptional match. The quest for a titled husband might be her mother’s ambition, to further the family’s standing in New York society, but Madeleine had agreed to give it a try. It had worked out so well for her sister, after all. Alexandra had fallen madly in love with Thomas Carlyle, the seventh Earl of Longford, and was now happily married and a countess.
Madeleine wasn’t actually opposed to the man her mother was urging her to marry. In fact, she rather liked him. The problem was, unlike most of the girls unleashed on the London Season, Madeleine wasn’t a wide-eyed, immature debutante. She was twenty-four years old. She was a college graduate. This was her second Season in London, taking into account last year’s half Season, when she’d hastily crossed the Atlantic to take part after Alexandra’s impromptu exit.
And Madeleine had specific goals in mind.
Like her sister, Madeleine wanted love to figure into the equation in any match she made. And not just any love. Madeleine wanted a man who adored and respected her, but who also understood her and would be supportive of her dreams.
Was Lord Oakley that man? She wasn’t certain.
Her abrupt departure from town would no doubt enrage her mother, but Madeleine desperately needed a few weeks away to clear her head. She had a life-altering decision to make. And she needed her sister’s advice.
“Is this everything, then?” The query from a mustachioed porter broke into her thoughts. He and another man had deposited Madeleine’s trunk and two bags onto the platform.
“Yes, thank you so much.” Madeleine tipped both men, who touched their caps in thanks.
She was trying to decide what to do, when she caught sight of an approaching carriage on the horizon. Thank goodness. Alexandra was coming at last!
Just then, from another car further along the train, a tall, well-dressed gentleman descended, carrying a leather satchel. Madeleine’s breath caught in her throat.
It was Charles Grayson, the Earl of Saunders. The best friend of her sister’s husband.
A man she had no desire to see, much less speak to.
But he had already spotted her. His eyes widened in surprise as he closed the distance between them, then greeted her with a bow. “Miss Atherton!”
Madeleine gave him a terse smile and a dutiful curtsy. “Lord Saunders.”
“I had no idea you were on this train.” His voice was just as deep as she’d remembered, just as cultured and refined. He regarded her with calm detachment and a hint of something like curiosity, as if unsure where he stood with her or what to make of her. “I spotted you last month at the Fitzhughs’ ball,” he added, “and another time at the races. But each time I sought you out, you seemed to disappear.”
“Did I? I’m sorry,” Madeleine replied noncommittally. There was a good reason he hadn’t connected with her on either of those occasions. She’d gone out of her way to avoid him.
Looking around, he asked, “Did you travel alone?”
“Yes.” She knew it wasn’t the “done thing” for a woman to travel by train unaccompanied, but she’d had little choice in the matter. She and her mother were sharing the same lady’s maid while in England, and Madeleine couldn’t very well have robbed her mother of her only servant. She silently dared Lord Saunders to reprove her. But he only said:
“So did I. My man Evans came up yesterday with most of my things. But why have you left the Season? I pray you are in good health?”
“I’m fine, thank you.”
A cloud of steam emanated from beneath the great locomotive, and the smokestack belched a dark, filthy blast.
“I hope you are not here to see your sister?” he further prodded.
His expression and tone sparked another dash of worry within her. “Why do you say that?”
“Because I received a wire from Longford yesterday morning. He and his wife and sisters are away at Bath.”
“Oh!” Madeleine’s spirits sank. “Then Alexandra never received my telegram.” What a fool she’d been to leave London on such short notice, without waiting for a reply! But it had never occurred to her that her sister wouldn’t be home. Alexandra was seven months pregnant, and had said she intended to remain at home until her child was born.
A new thought worried her. “People go to Bath for their health, don’t they? Do you know if my sister’s all right?”
“I haven’t heard otherwise. Bath is also a popular holiday destination.”
Madeleine wished she felt more reassured. The train whistle blew, a bell clanged, and the huge wheels began to turn. With a rhythmic chug-chug-chug, the locomotive moved out of the station. Leaving Madeleine alone on the platform with Lord Saunders.
Tour Wide Giveaway
To celebrate the release of SUMMER OF SCANDAL by Syrie James, we’re giving away one paperback copy of Runaway Heiress!
GIVEAWAY TERMS & CONDITIONS: Open to US shipping addresses only. One winner will receive a paperback copy of Runaway Heiress by Syrie James. This giveaway is administered by Pure Textuality PR on behalf of Avon Romance. Giveaway ends 9/24/2018 @ 11:59pm EST. Avon Romance will send the winning copies out to the winner directly. Limit one entry per reader and mailing address. Duplicates will be deleted. CLICK HERE TO ENTER!
About the Author
SYRIE JAMES is the bestselling author of the critically acclaimed Nocturne; Dracula, My Love; The Secret Diaries of Charlotte Bronte (Great Group Read, Women’s National Book Association; Audie Romance Award, 2011), and the international bestseller The Lost Memoirs of Jane Austen (Best First Novel 2008, Library Journal.) An admitted Anglophile, Syrie loves paranormal romance and all things 19th century. She lives in Los Angeles and is a member of the Writer’s Guild of America.