RITA award-winning BESTSELLER . . .
REVIEWS/AWARDS . . .
"Sophia Nash's latest is a dazzling combination of subtly complex characters, simmering sensuality and writing that gleams with sharp wit." ~ Chicago Tribune
4 ½ stars, (Top Pick) HOT
”In her second full-length historical, Nash fulfills her potential by creating a masterful, emotionally riveting story peopled with remarkably drawn characters. She understands the deep emotions and the great longings we all have and puts them on the page as only a grand mistress can. ”
~ Romantic Times BOOKreviews magazine
"From the very first page you are drawn into The Kiss with Ms. Nash quickly turning things around so that you’re off on an adventure you didn’t see coming. Through superb dialogue and prose we’re told a wonderful story of love lost and love found. This is not your add water, shake and stir romance novel. No, this is multi-layered story with relationships that are created, nurtured and come to life in three dimensions."
~ Maria Lokken, Romance Novel Television
A Desert Isle Keeper!
THE MUSE UNLEASHED . . .
I’ve always wanted to write a story about unrequited love since just about everyone on the planet has had to suffer through this condition at one point or another. And what if the character, courageous in every other aspect of her life, has always been too cowardly to declare this love? That is the premise of The Kiss.
I had so much fun adding the following fictional and factual elements to this story:
One of the most romantic pieces of jewelry of the Regency era and beyond were Lover’s Eyes. Comprised of miniature paintings of lover’s eyes set within brooches, this was how a lady or gentleman could keep a beloved person close to his or her heart while the lover remained a mystery. Oftimes these brooches were used as objects of mourning. One of my favorite authors, Candice Hern, has a spectacular collection of these intriguing pieces. Check it out here.
The story element of falconry was inspired by a visit to the beautiful Greenbrier resort in West Virginia. They have a tremendous collection of raptors in their private mews. While I was privileged to have the chance to work with the smaller peregrine falcons, the most impressive bird was a snowy great white owl with piercing gold/green flecked eyes and a head that could rotate more than 180 degrees! But falconry is not for the faint hearted, birds of prey are so powerful they have been known to kill animals as large as fawns.
The fictional glass-walled lake house in the story was inspired by the beautiful movie, Firelight. While Penrose and Loe Pool, an estuary that did indeed naturally close itself off from the sea many centuries ago, does exist in Cornwall today, the tiny island and octagonal glass house exists only in my imagination. Loe Pool today is a beautiful sanctuary for many birds and yes, even otters!
Sophia and favorite falcon A Lover's Eye The real Penrose House The inspiration for
at the Greenbriar brooch on Loe Pool, UK the glass house
ISBN 10: 0061231371
ISBN 13: 978-0061231377
Book II ~ The Widows Club series
Penrose, Cornwall ~ September 20th ~ To Do
~ invite the dowager duchess and the other ladies in the club to stay
~ prepare for Quinn’s arrival
~ pretend you haven’t loved him . . . forever
He had once been her cherished childhood companion, and then the man she had lusted after in secret, butGeorgiana Wilde hasn’t seen the recently widowedQuinn Fortesque since the day he married another woman and shattered her heart. Then fate intervenes and brings the man she dreams about each night back to her . . .
Returning to the estate on family business, Quinn would like nothing more than to turn the land over to Georgiana and leave the memories of his former life behind. But then the brooding marquis finds himself under the spell of the hidden beauty he once left behind. With her barely concealed passions, Georgiana melts his coolly guarded heart. Suddenly his well-ordered world is in danger of crashing down. And it all begins with just one
kiss. . .
EXCERPT . . .
July 27 – to do
~ oversee ricking of haycocks if sufficiently dry
~ invite Ata and the Widows Club to lunch tomorrow
~ resolve flooded field
~ check bees
~ check ledgers again in case he arrives . . .
~ check pigsty -- ugh
The last chore of the day coincided with the last rays of the day. Georgiana could easily have put it off. But then with her gown already muddied from examining the new drainage ditch on the northeast corner, and from bits of wax and honey from the apiary, when would she ever find a better time? And there was no possible way she could leave this for Father. It was getting harder and harder for him to do anything other than check the ledgers.
Georgiana’s shoulders sagged at the sight of the pigsty. They really were going to have to do something about that new man they’d hired. The reworked trough was an abomination. It was uneven, the bottom quite obviously had a gaping edge. Slops were piling under it and the pigs appeared underfed.
There was no use trying to find someone to help her. She had sent everyone home early as the wind was up, the barometer down, and an ugly storm brewed on the horizon.
There was nothing to do but manage it on her own. Wasn’t that the way it usually went anyway? She refused to acknowledge that was the way she preferred it.
Grabbing the heavy tool basket, she stepped into the deep muck of the pen, her skirt catching and tearing on a rusted nail. She muttered her annoyance and slogged past the jumble of sleeping pigs half-buried in the mud. The gown was for the ragman now, not even the lowest scullery maid would want it. She shrugged. Her gowns seemed to have shorter and shorter lives these days.
Carefully, Georgiana balanced the tools on the end of the trough and reached for the hammer. She eased out the bent and poorly placed nails in the rotting wood before one side of the trough fell heavily, awakening all the swine. She had but a minute or two to reposition the wood and hammer it correctly in place before squeals of piggish delight heralded a small stampede toward her.
Inquisitive wet snouts searched all about—beneath the fixed trough, the edge of a bucket, even under her pinned up skir—
Her last thought as she teetered and lost the battle to keep her balance was that even the ragman wouldn’t want her gown after this. She looked down to find that almost every inch of her was covered in the delightfully greenish brown sludge that smelled so strongly of porcine elements that it brought tears to her eyes.
And of course to add to the final humiliation, Gwendolyn—Georgiana hadn’t been able to resist giving her mother-in-law’s name to the largest and most intimidating sow—used her prodigious snout to tip over the tool basket, sending the heavy blunt end of an ax right onto Georgiana’s leg. Her bad knee.
“Ohhh,” she moaned, grabbing her limb. “Damn you, you, idiotic, pathetic excuse for a ham. I’m personally carving the bacon off your condemned sides today, Gwendolyn.” Georgiana finished her rant with a slew of blasphemy that had taken two decades to learn from the laborers on the estate. She was quite proud of her considerable skill at swearing a blue steak in private.
A sudden movement caught her attention. She looked up to find him standing right in front of her.
Quinn. Quinn Fortesque.
Good Lord. It was he. She opened her mouth to speak, but not a word came to her lips. She was sure he could see her heart pounding in her chest. She had typically acted like such an imbecile when he was about, and it seemed that fifteen years hadn’t changed that. In fact, it was going to be far worse for her now for he had fully grown into the impossibly handsome man she had known he would become.
He was looking as coolly collected, as handsome, as impeccably dressed as a Marquis of Ellesmere should look. Without a hair out of place he stood there, his shoulders ridiculously broad, his stance wide, his hands on his hips. He appeared as permanent and as ageless as the great oak on the front lawn of Penrose while he stood there taking in the full majesty of the mucky scene.
And yet there was something different about him. It was his eyes. . . or rather, his expression—the one thing about him she’d known she’d never be able to forget. Now there was none of the open warmth she remembered—instead there was shadow.
“Well,” he murmured, “that was an education. Although I’m not certain pigs can actually do what you suggested.”
His gaze never wavered from her own as a glimmer of amusement broke through his reserve at last.
“A person, a proper person at least, does not sneak up on a body,” she muttered, hating to sound so defensive. She tore her gaze away from his before she made an utter fool of herself. “I’m completely justified—”
“It’s good to see you, too, Georgiana,” he murmured.
She closed her eyes, the echo of his deep voice warming her insides despite the clammy mud. His voice reminded her of hot brandy on a cold night. At least that hadn’t changed.
Oh, this wasn’t going at all like she had planned. Would life ever unfold the way she envisioned? She made timetables, she outlined, she planned and it never, ever went the way it should. Just one time—
“Let’s see. I think a plank will work, if you’ll just wait one moment,” he said, turning to a nearby pile of lumber.
She began to mutter to herself, a life-long habit she had never been able to conquer. “I’m fine, really. I don’t need any help, unless you want to fetch a nice long sharp knife for that”—she almost said a most unladylike word—“vile, horrid piece of pork.”
“Such language.” He seesawed one board away from the rest of the pile. “Didn’t your father always say, ‘you can take the swine out of the barnyard but you can’t take the barnyard out of the swine?’”
“That’s not at all how the saying goes,” she sputtered. “Did you just call me a pig?”
“Not at all. I was referring to that poor sow over there. You did just call her by my dear aunt’s name, didn’t you?”
And then he finally relaxed his face fully and laughed that huge deep, warm laugh that had always affected her breathing. Quinn withdrew his midnight blue coat and began rolling the sleeves of his fine lawn shirt.
“No,” she protested. “I won’t be the cause of another ruined article of clothing.” Georgiana rolled her hip to ease herself up, using her less injured leg.
She had to stop staring at him. Yet it was impossibly difficult to look away. It had been far too long and she wished time would stand still so she could drink in the sight of him. Instead she forced herself to glance down and blow at a strand of hair caught in her mouth. No woman on earth could be less appealing than she at this moment. Thank goodness there were two undisturbed buckets of water near and she quickly doused her arms, face and torso.
If she could just keep up the vaguely insulting banter the way good friends always did, he would never guess how much seeing him affected her. She had prayed so hard and for so long to be able to forget him, that the mesmerizing power he held over her would evaporate. Well, quite obviously the angels were having a good laugh right now.
She took a step toward the fence and forgot to do it with care. Her knee buckled and she grabbed onto the trough to avoid sliding back into the morass of slippery mud. She groaned before she could stifle the sound and closed her eyes against the pain radiating from her limb.
Suddenly, she was hauled up by strong arms and she knew if she opened her eyes it would be Quinn. And she knew she would make a complete fool of herself if she allowed herself to drown in the depths of his gaze, his left eye slightly darker than his right which had a wider band of mossy green surrounding the amber center. Oh, she had to collect herself, had to fortify herself against this. He had only ever held her once before and then she had been almost unconscious from the pain and he—
“You smell—” he began.
“I know, I’m sorry,” she interrupted, her head down, eyes firmly screwed shut.
“I was about to say you that you smell wonderful. Rather like home,” he said, breathing in the scent of her hair. “I’d forgotten Penrose’s sage and honey. Of course the muck and delicate slop aroma ruins the effect, but then one can’t be too particular when returning home.”
His strength and deep voice lulled her and she forgot to keep her eyes shut—his unbearably handsome face was now inches away. The perfect symmetry was more starkly evident now, his innocent boyishness had given way to the thirty-one year old man he had become. The flesh of youth had disappeared, leaving prominent cheekbones and a jaw which served to emphasize the hollows of his beard-darkened cheeks. Fine lines radiated from the corners of his eyes, as if they had seen too much. Mysterious masculinity made him even more remote than he had been before. She longed to touch his brown hair which was cropped shorter than the last time she had seen him.
Oh, the feelings he evoked were worse than she remembered. Far, far worse. She couldn’t have said another word while he held her if her life had depended upon it.
Oh God. It was Quinn. And he was home after fifteen long years. And he was carrying her in his arms.
Before she could stop, her hands acted on their own volition, creeping up and around his neck while she rested her cheek on the crest of his shoulder. A shoulder that was so much larger than it had been when he had been a boy and she had been a young girl. She almost trembled as the warm essence of him wound its way past the mud and the linen between them.
She couldn’t stop from burying her nose in his shoulder and inhaling the warm cedar and rosemary essence that was impossible to smell unless she was against him like this. She had pined for this scent, always searching the village shops for a hint of it. She became lightheaded when her body flushed from the remembrance of the aroma.
He gripped her more closely and awkwardly swung his leg above a fence line. “How bad is it?”
“It’s just fine, really. Barely hurts at all. Set me down. I can walk now that we’re on firm ground.”
“But the ax fell on the same leg as before.”
“Oh, I’d forgotten.” Right. As if he of all people would believe that. The entire situation released a flood of bad memories.
“If it’s all the same, I think I’ll carry you up to the house, Lady Ellesmere.”
Her breath caught. “Don’t call me that,” she whispered.
He raised his brows.
Gusts of wind wrestled with leaves in the nearby trees, changing direction as a few fat raindrops landed on them.
Within moments an avalanche of rain poured forth from the gray rumbling clouds above. There was no point in hurrying the pace, they would be drenched to the bone by the time they reached the great house.
And suddenly it was too much—the banter, his closed expression and demeanor so unlike before, and yet all the while his poignant scent invading her senses. Worse, his arms about her meant nothing to him and everything to her.
“Put me down. I can continue on my own. I’m far too heavy. And I know why you’re here. And you really didn’t need to bother.” She had to almost shout to be heard above the rain shower. “I don’t want a portion from the Fortesque coffers. I married Anthony because I loved him.”
He paid no heed to her, only tightened his grip despite her squirming. His lips thinned yet he kept his thoughts to himself.
Georgiana finally managed to wrench herself from his grip and stumbled to the ground in front of the folly on the hill. A flash of lightning illuminated the dark sky and Quinn nearly fell trying to hold on to her.
Georgiana took the last few steps to the domed gray marble structure surrounded by ionic columns, trying as hard as she could not to limp and failing abysmally. She swung about awkwardly and faced him.
Rain coursed down the harsh contours of his face, pausing at the hint of a cleft in his chin. His expression was murderously calm. He raked his fingers through his rain slicked hair to comb it out of his eyes. “Look Georgiana, you’re hurt and this is neither the time nor the place to discuss anything of importance.”
“Actually, now that I think about it, perhaps this is the perfect time to discuss why you’re here.”
“Never let it be said that I would refuse a lady,” he replied without a hint of ire. It was as if nothing could irritate him. “Why don’t you tell me why I’m here since you’re certain you know.”
“Lady Gwendolyn Ellesmere has sent you to toss the presumptuous marauder and her family of low connections from Penrose’s hallowed grounds so that her ladyship can reassume her throne here.”
She had to hand it to him. Not a muscle in his face twitched.
“No, no, Georgiana, you have it all wrong. I’m to kick you and your upstart family all the way to Wiltshire and have you tarred and feathered if at all possible. Yes, I do believe I will be given the honor of my dearest cousin Henrietta’s hand in marriage if I manage it.” As if to punctuate the ridiculous remark, the barn owl who had taken up residence in a nearby hollowed out tree hooted its displeasure at the storm.
Her throat ached with a horrid combination of hurt and hollow humor. It was so unfair that he could almost make her laugh when she wanted to be annoyed. Henrietta was not only seven years Quinn’s senior but she was also the most mannish female alive and had the added attraction of being mean as well, which was ideal as it relieved everyone of having to like her.
“Well, since I seem to have lost the ability to make you laugh, shall I tell you the main reason I’ve come?”
He looked at her and tilted his head in that way Anthony had also used to do and it made the ache in her throat triple in intensity. She nodded mutely.
“Mr. Tilden, I think you know the steward in London?” He continued without waiting for an answer. “During the course of reviewing all of the Fortesque holdings, he showed me the correspondence from Penrose for the last year. And—”
“And there is a considerable increase in the expenditures. I know, and I can explain—” She halted in mid-defense. There was something so calm in his expression, so patient and soothing—as if he could bear the weight of the world.
He had always been like that, so unlike everyone else in that regard.
He said not a word, just looked at her, thinking obviously of something, of what she had not a clue. She never could figure out what he was thinking . . . he had always been alone with his thoughts, letting others make fools of themselves by flapping their lips.
Oh, and all she could see was how deeply green the edges of his irises were in the sudden mist left by the rain. When had the rain ceased? “You were saying?” she said, trying to hold on to her shrinking dignity.
He cleared his throat. “I came here first and foremost to find out why the handwriting has changed on the reports from Penrose.”
Her throat locked up.
“Why it became wobbly a year ago and then changed altogether to someone else’s hand several months ago. Is your father well, Georgiana? And now that I’m here, I’d like to know why the apparent newest Marchioness of Ellesmere is fixing a trough in the pigsty.”
She had wondered when he would bring that up. As usual he had lulled her into hoping he wouldn’t ask. She sniffed, trying to draw up her form in the haughtiest pose a girl could assume given the amount of swine, mud, and rain on her person which precluded anything truly impressive. “Why, I like pigs. I hate to see them hungry.”
“Georgiana. . .” He sighed heavily. “Look, I’m cold, and more tired than I can say, and you’re in pain and freezing as well, although a pack of wild dogs probably couldn’t drag a complaint from you. But eventually—in the next twenty four hours to be precise—I shall be paying a visit to your father.”
She looked away.
He sighed. “You were correct on the other point. Before I leave next week to continue my tour of the family’s properties to the north, we have another issue to discuss. That of your marriage to . . . my cousin. And, the matter of a settlement. I shall leave it to you to pick the time and the place.”
The reference to Anthony, and his odd pause that made her ill at ease. “There’s remarkably little to discuss.”
“We both know the validity of the marriage is in question. But we’ll resolve this before I leave. And by the by”—he glanced away—“contrary to popular opinion, I was glad to hear you’d married him. The two of you had a very special bond. You always were inseparable.”
“It wasn’t just Anthony and I who were best friends. It was the three of us who were—”
He ruthlessly ignored her. “You were the only chance he had to turn himself around.” He took a step closer. “If there was anyone who could have changed the direction he was taking himself, it was you. You usually had good sense. Why there’s not a silly, romantic notion in your body.”
“I’m so glad you noticed,” she said dryly, regaining her senses. “Everyone always underestimates the advantages of marrying a managing female.”
His expression never wavered.
She had thought he would laugh. For the ten thousandth time she wondered what his wife had been like. He had supposedly fallen in love and married a lady whose beautiful face and elegant grace had been the fodder of every gossip column she had chanced to see all those years ago. The news of his marriage had broken her pathetic heart irrevocably. Old dreams formed in youth were the hardest to die.
“You always did have a mind of your own, Georgiana. But, I appreciate an organized mind. Well, I shall hope we can discuss this more rationally, in future. You have no reason to fear me. I, for one, am very willing to start anew. I never think of the past. Enough . . .” he looked up at the still gray sky and squinted. “It’s starting to rain again. I can’t force you to let me carry you. But if you move a muscle from this spot before I send someone with a cart I’ll—”
“Why do you never think of the past?” she whispered. “I think about it all the time.”
He stared at her, and a drop of rain worked its way down his cropped hair to drip on his broad shoulder. He turned and walked away, refusing to say another word.
“Oh!” Georgiana started. “Don’t walk away from me. Oh, what is wrong with you? You’ve changed. You never used to walk away. Come back. Oh, I’ll tell you what you want to know.” She stopped when she realized he had strode away so quickly that there was no possible way he could hear her over the sudden surge of the returning rain.
“Damn you, Quinn Fortesque,” she whispered into the wind.
And the wicked wind carried it to his ears and he smiled despite himself. He’d forgotten what a hellion little
Georgiana Wilde could be when she set her mind to it.