A Rogue’s Most Sinful Disguise (Preview)

Chapter One

Brunlow, Oxfordshire 1810

“Be quiet, Rupert, or we will be discovered,” Violette whispered to the Jack Russell at her side and urged him to follow her. The dog immediately abided by her order, quieting down, and hurrying after her as they ran across the garden.

The Snowspring estate had a garden that Violette loved to escape to. With the yew bushes growing high, forming wiggly walls of dark green leaves and berries in the winter, it was the perfect place to hide from the house. Now in the height of summer, between the bushes there were tall sunflowers, with bright yellow petals sitting like crowns around each flower head. Violette ran between these flowers, heading further into the garden.

“Violette? You must come back at once! What will your father think?” Violette’s mother’s voice echoed round the garden. Hearing it was much closer than she had first anticipated, she bobbed down, crouching behind one of the yew bushes and tucking Rupert under her arm, urging him to be still on the ground beside her. “You must come greet our visitors, Violette.”

“What will father think?” Violette muttered so quietly under her breath that her mother wouldn’t hear her on the other side of the yew bushes. “I could not care less.”

Rupert made a tiny little bark as though in agreement with her.

“Shh!” Violette said to him quickly. Atop his white body, the pale brown tail wagged happily, not understanding he’d done a thing wrong. Fearing her mother had heard the bark, Violette stood straight and ran the other way past the yew bushes, heading further into the centre of the garden, with Rupert happily following at her heels, presuming it was another of their usual games.

Once they were free of the yew bushes, she made her way into the centre of the walled garden section. In the middle was a pond, where she and Victor used to make paper boats and float them on the surface. These days, the pond was full of lily pads and fish swimming back and forth. Just as Rupert moved to the edge of the pond, peering at the smooth surface in curiosity, Violette did too at his side.

Staring back at her was her reflection, with the eyes that were a mixture of hazel and green on the pond surface, bold in her face. Her copper-brown hair was messy, falling out of its updo with curls hanging almost everywhere. She had given up long ago trying to tame it, not that she minded its unruly nature too much. From a young age, she had seen how as soon as she stepped outside into the garden in the morning, it would fall out of its restraints, wild and flowing in the breeze.

“Violette?” her mother’s voice was getting nearer. She turned away from looking in the pond to stare at the gate in the walled garden. There was a chance that she might just be able to hide out here a little longer, until their guests left, so that she wouldn’t be forced into their company. 

“Shh, Rupert,” Violette urged again to the Jack Russel as she sat on the low wall around the pond. The dog moved to her feet, snuffling around her shoes in its keenness to be stroked by her. 

“How do you expect to conduct yourself after your debut if you are constantly hiding in the garden?” The words were much closer than she had expected them to be. Violette turned a little on the wall, looking to the opposite side of the walled garden, surprised to see her mother had come in through a different gate entirely.

Her mother was standing there with her hands on her hips and those same hazel-green eyes staring back at Violette, though the face and hair were aging. 

“I still hope to delay my debut,” Violette said truthfully as she hung her head a little.

“Do not be silly, child.” Lady Rowena Brunlow dismissed her objection with a wave of her hand as she walked forward.

“See? You call me a child. Am I not too young to make my debut so soon?”

“It is customary for one so young to have their debut. I had mine when I was a year younger than you, not a day over eighteen,” she said as she walked around the pond toward Violette. “Now, your father has requested your presence, so you must come.”

“Must I?” Violette asked. She released her hold on Rupert and reached out to a lily pad leaf, pulling it free of the pond in order to play with it and fold it into a new shape. 

“Your father insists on it.”

“Does that mean we must all follow his orders?”

“Violette,” her mother’s stern voice made Violette’s shoulders slump as she bent over the lily pad. “You know we must.”

“I do not see why we must,” Violette muttered, uncertain if her mother had really heard her at all. It was always the way, for as long as Violette could remember. Whatever her father asked her mother would meekly agree to. She half wondered sometimes if Rowena were capable of having a mind and an opinion of her own. 

“I am not having this discussion with you again,” Rowena said, reaching down and pulling at Rupert’s collar. “Come along, in you both come.” Rupert barked so loudly that Rowena stood straight and released his collar, placing a hand to her chest in surprise.

“Mother, he does not like that,” Violette explained as she patted Rupert’s head in comfort.

“He should follow an order.”

“Like the rest of us?” Violette scoffed, earning a narrowed glare accentuated by her mother’s dark eyebrows. 

“Leave Rupert then and come inside alone,” Rowena said softly. “Why you prefer to spend your time with dogs and horses over people anyway baffles me.”

“Yes, I know,” Violette sighed as she released Rupert and went back to folding up the lily pad. It was slowly forming a small boat shape, one that she placed on the pond behind her. The leaf did not work well to hold its shape. For the brief second it remained, Violette imagined Victor on a similar boat, somewhere in the ocean near the Continent, on his Grand Tour. Then the leaf unfolded and fell flat on the pond’s surface once again. 

“Have you heard from Victor?” she asked.

“Not since you asked two days ago,” Rowena said, stepping forward. “Your brother will be busy with his travels.”

“I suppose…” Violette paused, knowing the answer to her question anyway but desiring to ask it again, for she wanted it so. “It is not something you would ever allow me to do?”

“Ladies do not travel and go on Grand Tours, dear,” Rowena said tartly, reaching down for Violette’s arm. She took hold of her under her elbow and dragged her to her feet. “Now, you must come and meet our guests, or your father will be most upset at us both.” Violette made no other objection, for Rupert seemed to be doing enough for the both of them, barking madly at Violette’s feet as he ran behind her. “You really are going to have to get control of that animal.”

“He’s protecting me, that is all,” Violette said softly, making a cooing sound down at Rupert, who wagged his tail all the more for the attention.

“I thought the days I found you hiding in the garden with Victor and the dogs were long gone.” Rowena sighed as she walked toward the house. “After your debut, you will not be able to do this anymore.”

Violette said nothing, for she fully intended to continue doing it. The garden and estate of Snowspring were her true home. There was not a day where she wasn’t in them, either admiring the gardens themselves, or playing with the dogs, riding horses, anything to be out of the house!

“Mother, you can release my arm a little,” Violette said, breaking the silence as they drew nearer to the house.

“So that you can run off again? I think not!”

Violette thought wryly of how surprisingly strong Rowena was for a woman who was so weak in nature that she always bent to her husband’s will. 

Ahead of them, the house appeared through the yew bushes. Made of bright white brick in the Palladian style with pillars out in the front, a terrace on the back, and so many windows that it was difficult to count them. It was a fine house indeed, yet Violette was not fond of it. The beautiful white building stood more like a prison to her, set to incarcerate her in a world where ladies were supposed to be demure and accomplished. She was neither of those things!

“Our poor guests will think you do not welcome them to our house,” Rowena said as they walked up the steps of the terrace toward the back entrance of the manor.

“I am sure they do not care too much, Mother,” Violette said quietly. 

The moment they stepped inside, Rowena released her arm and closed the door tightly behind them, clearly showing she had no intention of letting Violette outside again. Angered, Violette looked down to Rupert, who whimpered and sat back on his haunches.

“We’re stuck, Rupert,” she said softly, to which Rupert whimpered again in sympathy.

“Drawing room, now,” Rowena said, flicking her fingers to point down the corridor and toward the drawing room at the far side. They moved halfway down the corridor together before Rowena pulled her to a stop and started fussing, adjusting the wildness of her hair as much as possible and even rearranging the way her sleeves sat upon her shoulders.

“Mother, I am a woman, not an ornament,” Violette complained. “Nobody expects me to look perfect.”

Rowena said nothing in reply, but she lifted her eyebrows as though to ask, ‘do they not?’ Sighing and abandoning the endeavour to tame Violette’s hair that would not be tamed, they turned to the drawing room door and stepped inside.

Violette carried herself well into the room, though she was aware she fidgeted constantly with her hands, nervous about whoever their guests were. She kept looking down to Rupert by her feet too, whose presence she took comfort in. The Jack Russel seemed to sense it, for he brushed along her ankles, through the hem of her dress, offering that small comfort.

“Ah, here they are.” Her father’s voice called her attention, and she looked up.

Lord Gideon Brunlow stood from his armchair and walked across the room toward her to introduce her. His tall figure was striking, and the copper hair on his head familiar, for she had seen it every day in her own mirror. With a false smile on his cheeks, he turned to her, showing approval of her that she knew he did not really feel.

“Allow me to introduce my daughter, Lady Violette Blay,” he said, gesturing to her. Violette curtsied before lifting her eyes to see their guests. “Violette, this is Marcus Catling, the Earl of Northrive, and his brother, Lord Walter Catling.”

As the men bowed, Violette’s eyes settled on the taller one of the two, the Earl of Northrive. To her surprise, her palms felt instantly clammy as she stared at him. He was a classically handsome figure, with the kind of bearing in his features she’d find in artwork gracing the halls of Somerset House Gallery in London. 

His dark hair was short but wavy and tousled around his forehead, inviting someone to touch those loose locks. With a straight nose and strong features, he had a noble countenance and deep brown eyes, the colour of cloves. She tried desperately to keep her eyes on his face, yet they slid down to his figure of their own accord, where she saw an athletic torso straining against the confines of the tailcoat and waistcoat, lithe in build. 

“Lady Violette,” the Earl said as he bowed before lifting his eyes to her.

“Lady Violette.” The greeting was repeated by his brother. Violette darted her eyes to the younger brother to see he had similar features to his older brother, though not quite so handsome a bearing and definitely not so athletic of figure. She offered them both a smile before returning her eyes to the Earl, deciding she could spend many happy moments staring at his features. When she felt a sharp, subtle elbow in her side delivered by her father, she knew she had to stop staring and say something.

“It is a pleasure to meet you both.” Her words were met with nods of politeness. She must have stared at the Earl for too long, for he looked to his brother, holding something of a mischievous glint in his eyes. That glint lit up his features, making the sternness that had been there before soften, and somehow make him even more handsome than before.

“Violette, perhaps you could play the pianoforte for us?” Gideon said hurriedly. She turned her eyes on her father, seeing that he was simply finding an excuse now to stop her from staring so openly at someone.

“The pianoforte?” she repeated in horror. “Oh, no, Father. Do you wish to punish our guests for something? For it would surely be a punishment to listen to my poor playing.”

“Surely your skills are not so poor,” the Earl said. His voice was deep, deeper than she had expected. It prompted her to turn her head back to him, seeing that glint was still in his eyes. 

“Oh, Lord Northrive, I assure you they are. You would rather listen to Rupert here play the piano over me, I am sure,” she said, gesturing down to the Jack Russel at her heels. 

“Nonsense, you are a fine player!” Rowena said, taking her arm and dragging her across the room before she could put up another objection. 

“Do you wish to embarrass me further, Mother?” Violette asked under her breath, so only her mother could hear her.

“You have been practising, dear.”

“Not enough!”

“Then practice now.” Rowena pushed her down into the piano stool before she could make another objection. Violette tried to swallow past her nerves, wringing her hands a few times, as she looked across the room. Her father was trying to engage Lord Northrive in conversation, but he was now much more interested in petting Rupert, who was hovering at that end of the room to greet him.

“Mother,” Violette said, looking up to Rowena as she placed some sheet music on the piano. “This is a disaster in the making, and you know it.”

“Dear, your father is keen for you to improve and be accomplished,” Rowena said quietly, turning one of the pages so that she was ready to begin.

“The only thing I am accomplished in is horse riding!” she whispered hurriedly.

“What good will that do you for your debut?” Rowena said with raised eyebrows. 

“Not much, I cannot argue with that.” Violette sighed and turned her attention to the sheet music, feeling the glare of her father from across the room. She had no choice but to play, even though she had about as much skill with the piano as Rupert had swimming in deep water.

She slowly placed her fingers to the piano, attempting the piece by Johan Sebastian Bach. She barely reached two bars into the piece before she played wrong notes. She hesitated, pausing and scrunching her nose up as she stared at the sheet music, trying to figure out what she had done wrong. There was so much she had already done wrong! Including starting in the wrong key.

“Violette,” Gideon said from across the room, urging her to look up from the piano keys. “Go to your room. You sound like you are attacking the piano rather than playing it.”

Chapter 2

Marcus was quite certain his jaw was hanging open in surprise. The rudeness of what had just happened was unbelievable! Not only for Lord Brunlow to force his daughter into playing when she clearly had not wanted to, but to then admonish her so for her inept playing.

Lady Violette looked up from the piano keys, her cheeks turning a rather pleasant shade of pink in embarrassment. Any other time Marcus would have admired the blush on her beautiful face. Instead, he was focusing far too much on the words that had caused her pain.

“Violette,” Lord Brunlow said her name again and gestured to the door. “You should practice more for when we have guests. Now, go. Peace would be preferable to that sound.”

She said nothing in reply, but she rather shakily got to her feet and closed the lid over the piano keys once again. In truth, Marcus had been enjoying her rather clumsy playing, for it reminded him so much of his own poor attempts at playing the piano. As she walked across the room, Marcus stopped petting the dog and spoke up, keen to not let her leave so soon.

“Lady Violette?” he called to her, moving to the edge of his seat on the chesterfield settee. She halted ahead of the door, looking back to him, with that blush still in place. “My own inept playing would have been much worse, believe me. I believe my father once described it as being more like cats screeching than music.” He was pleased to see his words made her smile a little, breaking through her embarrassment. 

“I am pleased I am not the only one who cannot play,” she said quietly. “I am afraid I infinitely prefer the outdoors to such accomplishments as these.” She gestured toward the piano with her words.

“Forgive my daughter, my lord,” Lord Brunlow said. The words and the way he dismissed his daughter inexplicably riled Marcus. It made him sit forward even more in his chair, seconds away from standing up and having a proper argument with Lord Brunlow at his side. “She likes to be something of a wildling. I am sure when her debut comes around, we will train that out of her.”

Marcus’ jaw fell slack once again. Lord Brunlow was talking about Lady Violette as though she were a dog to be trained up, like the Jack Russel at his feet. Marcus stroked the dog kindly once again as the Jack Russel barked, then it hurried off toward Lady Violette, standing by her feet as though it intended to guard her from any more of Lord Brunlow’s words. 

“Violette,” Lord Brunlow said her name sharply and pointed to the door, showing it was time for her to go. Marcus stood to his feet, desperate to make her stay, but it was too late. The door was open, and she was out, with the Jack Russel at her feet. She hovered only long enough to look back at him. He offered a smile, hoping to communicate without words how sorry he was that she was going, but the smile was not returned, and she was gone.

“I pray you will forgive my daughter,” Lord Brunlow said, laughing her off. The laugh itself made Marcus’ blood curdle and turn a glare on the lord, but he didn’t seem to notice. “How about some tea?”

“Yes, that would be lovely, thank you,” Walter said at Marcus’ side, taking up the thread of conversation when Marcus could not. As Lord and Lady Brunlow set about calling for their butler to arrange for tea, Marcus felt Walter take his arm and drag him back down to sitting on the settee. “Remember why we are here, Marcus,” Walter whispered to him so that no one else could hear them. “This is business.”

“Walter, did you not just see what took place?” Marcus asked in bewilderment, shaking his head. “The lady did nothing wrong and was ousted from the room like a misbehaving dog!”

“I saw it, but this is not our family. It is not our place to intrude.”

“I know, I know,” Marcus said, holding up a hand in surrender. His eyes flicked to the doorway through which Lady Violette had just slipped through. “Did you not think her an interesting young lady?”

“Interesting?” Walter asked. “Well, she was certainly very beautiful, in a handsome sort of way with those bold features and cheekbones.”

“More than that,” Marcus said hurriedly. “Most ladies I have met are obsessed with their accomplishments, practising the piano and their manners from dawn until dusk.”

“Yes, Lady Violette was rather different.” When Walter said no more, Marcus spent some happy minutes of his time thinking on the impression Lady Violette had left him with. He was rather struck by her, much more than he could confess to. Most ladies presented themselves with high chins and false flowery words, as though they were actresses on a stage, yet Lady Violette seemed altogether more…human. 

As Lord Brunlow returned to sit beside him, he cleared his throat, hoping to clear his thoughts of Lady Violette as well. As Walter had said, they were there for a reason, for business, and it was now Marcus’ responsibility to ensure that business was done, even if he had no liking for such business.

“Now, returning to the matter at hand,” Marcus said, sitting back in the settee. “We wished to discuss the small parcel of land on the edge of your estate. Lacey’s Acres.”

“Small parcel?” Lord Brunlow chuckled. “It is a rather large parcel indeed.”

“It borders one of my father’s estates. We are keen to increase the farming land for one of our tenants.” Marcus came to a stop, realising he did not have the full facts of the situation. He turned his head to Walter, looking out to him with hope. “Walter, you remember the details, do you not?”

“Yes, of course.” Walter offered him a comforting smile with the words, knowing how wet around the ears Marcus was when it came to matters like this. “We understand from old tenancy documents that the land has been in dispute for some time.”

“I remember very well,” Lord Brunlow said, just as a maid walked in and presented them with tea that she laid on a coffee table in front of them.

“The current ownership we do not wish to dispute,” Walter said reassuringly. “However, the land would help us to ensure the future of our tenants and the farmland. We wish to offer you money for the land. It would also put the past disputes of ownership to rest.”

“I cannot deny that it would be nice to no longer have the dispute in place,” Lord Brunlow said, resting his chin in his hands and looking toward the two of them. “I remember having a similar conversation with your older brother, my lord,” he addressed Marcus. At the mention of James, both Marcus and Walter shifted uncomfortably in their seats. “I see no reason to object to the solution you have presented, if the money offered for the land was a fair price, of course.”

“We have discussed that in advance,” Marcus said and turned his head to Walter again. His brother pulled out a piece of parchment from his breast pocket of his tailcoat and held it across for Lord Brunlow to take. On the parchment was a figure that they were prepared to pay for the land. Lord Brunlow smiled as he looked at the number.

“Yes, I think that should be a fair price.”

“Wonderful,” Marcus said with a smile. “Then we can draw up a contract for the sale. My brother will be handling the matter with the solicitors.” Marcus gestured to Walter who smiled in response once again.

“Let me fetch my solicitor’s details now,” Lord Brunlow said and stood to his feet, walking out of the room. He left through the same door that Lady Violette had gone through. The move made Marcus’ thoughts slip back to Lady Violette.

He knew well enough he would have to marry soon, his father kept saying the same thing, repeatedly! Yet he didn’t doubt Lady Violette was not the kind of young lady he had in mind. Marcus would have to put that attraction he felt for the lady out of his head for good.

***

“Rupert, c-come in.” Violette held open the chamber door and stammered out the words for the Jack Russel to follow her. He did as she asked, before she closed the door behind him and let the tears come. 

It seemed she would always be an embarrassment to her father, no matter what she did. It hadn’t mattered that she didn’t want to play or had even forewarned him that her skills were just as shocking as he remembered. He embarrassed her still and then humiliated her by sending her from the room.

“Oh, why can I not be far away from here with Victor!” she wailed as she stepped further into the room. As she clambered onto her bed, flinging herself back in anger, Rupert jumped up onto the bed too and rested on his haunches, watching her. She closed her eyes, blocking out the view of the dog as she thought back to what had just happened. In her mind’s eye, she could see the drawing room again. What startled her was the thought of the Earl of Northrive and the way he had attempted to comfort her. It had shown kindness, despite her ineptitude.

There was a sound nearby that prompted her to open her eyes. Rupert had jumped off the bed again and had something in his mouth.

“Rupert? Rupert?” she called to him. He lifted his head, with those wide innocent eyes turned up to her, as though he were doing nothing wrong. “What is that in your mouth?” she asked, hanging off the bed. The dog whimpered before she held out her hand to him and he dutifully dropped some paper into her hand. “Ergh,” she groaned, “did you have to get your slobber all over it?” He barked once in answer to her. She chuckled, loving him despite it, petting his head one more time before she laid back on the bed and turned her attention to the paper.

It was a letter, sealed with red wax, the handwriting that spelt her name across the top unmistakably belonged to Victor. It seemed one of the maids had dropped the letter into Violette’s room that morning.

She tore open the letter, eagerly turning to her brother’s words.

Dear sister,

I am uncertain how to begin this letter. I rather feel that I should go on at length about how travel is never what we thought it would be, that the sailing takes far too long and the sights to see are not as beautiful as the books suggest. I know that hearing such things would probably soothe your heart a little, but it would be telling you lies to say such things.

Violette, I think I am in the happiest place in this world! I have already seen Paris and Monaco. This weekend, I am scheduled to cross into Spain too. What a world this is! The beauties are many, and each day brings something new and exciting. My only wish is that you could be here too. I know it would make you smile to see what I have seen.

In my next letter, I intend to send you some drawings of what I have seen. Maybe these will bring you some comfort and something to gaze at longingly like you do the paintings on your chamber walls.

Violette broke off from the letter just long enough to look up at the walls around her. There was a painting of Venice and the Bridge of Sighs, along with a second painting of the Piazza Duomo in Florence. 

For now, I enclose just one drawing to whet your appetite a little. 

In the meantime, tell me more of life back home. How goes your training for your debut? Have you upset Mrs Anderson enough yet to make her leave? When I last saw you walking across the drawing room with a book on your head, her words were so harsh, I would not have blamed you for snatching that book off your head and throwing it at her in despair! I do not know how you managed to keep your temper cool.

I can only imagine how Father’s insistence that you must marry has upset you. I do hope that when your debut comes, you find a gentleman whose company you can bear, as well as a man who will love you for who you are, rather than the façade Mrs Anderson wishes you to wear. My only regret is that I will not be there to escort you to all the balls and assemblies, to make sure that any gentleman who gives you attention is worthy of your notice.

Write back to me soon. I have enclosed the next address of the lodgings where I will be in Spain.

Your loving brother, 

Victor Blay

 

 Violette lowered the letter to the bed and pulled out the second slip of parchment. It was a rather scruffy drawing that Victor had made of Paris. She chuckled as she looked at his poor skills, with the sketch labelled ‘view from my lodging windows’. Despite the poor skills, she could perfectly see the beauty of the view, with the aging buildings across the city and interspersed with trees. She clambered off the bed, aware that Rupert followed her toward the edge of the room as she tacked it to her wall, beneath the paintings of Venice and Florence, adding to the view. Something inside her twanged with envy, wishing she could be in Victor’s place rather than her own.

There was a rather urgent tap at the door, imploring her to turn her head toward it and hurry to dry the tears upon her cheeks.

“Who is it?” she called.

“Violette, dear, it’s me,” her mother answered.



“A Rogue’s Most Sinful Disguise” is an Amazon Best-Selling novel, check it out here!

The ravishing Lady Violette is tired of being forced at home, all because she is a woman. When she decides to take her future into her own hands, she dresses as a man and flees to London to start an enthralling new life. Yet, when she bumps into the seductive Lord Northrive, the only man to ever incite her sinful instincts, she realises there are greater challenges to being a man. Can Violette find a way out of her scandalous disguise in order to tell Marcus who she really is?

If only restrictions placed on ladies and gentlemen were all the same…

Lord Marcus Northrive is now the Marquess of Whithead, though it is a role he never wanted. During this time, there is only one person he can trust: his close friend, Mr Victor Blake. Yet, he is constantly frustrated about Victor’s likeness to a captivating woman he met long ago that left her mark on him, Lady Violette… While Violette is at his side as a man and his confidant, will he have to marry a woman he does not desire? Or will he realise that all he ever wanted is right next to him?

Will they end up trapped forever in this pretending friendship?

As Marcus and Violette dance around one another, the attraction between them burns hot and fierce and they are both desperate to break free from their limitations. However, there is another man who lurks in the shadows ready to cause a scandal… Can they realise that what they want may be within their grasp? Or will they be doomed to their fates; Marcus in an unhappy marriage and Violette forced to live like a man?

“A Rogue’s Most Sinful Disguise” is a historical romance novel of approximately 80,000 words. No cheating, no cliffhangers, and a guaranteed happily ever after.

Get your copy from Amazon!

4 thoughts on “A Rogue’s Most Sinful Disguise (Preview)”

  1. How do you come up with such wonderful books time after time This is another five star book.
    But as I read the preview,I was once again reminded of the fact
    about how restrictive the life of women of this time period.
    To be rush into your father’s presence to meet and preform on the pianoforte for strange men would be very dreadful.
    Especially when your skill was very restrictive.
    Eagerly waiting for this book.

    1. Thank you so much for your kind words and support, dear Shirley. I truly appreciate it!

      So glad you enjoyed the preview! Make sure to stay tuned because I have more coming!

      Thank you again and have a lovely day!

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