Welcome to The Extra Shot where you’ll find an EXCLUSIVE excerpt from The Appeal of an Elusive Viscount by USA Today Bestselling Author of Western and Highlander Romance, Author Hildie McQueen.
This book releases Tuesday, November 20th so be sure to pre-order your copy now while it’s on SALE. One-click your copy now and get ready for a great new historical romance book adventure!
The Humphries estate was situated just a couple blocks from Brooks’. Normally, it would be a pleasant walk. However, today, she was without an escort. If she were discovered by her parents, she’d be severely reprimanded. Clara bent her head and scurried down the side of a building hoping to reach the back gate to the gardens of her home and slip inside.
“Clara.” Her father’s unmistakable voice boomed out. “Stop at once.”
From across the street, her father, Albert Humphries, glared at her. “What in the bloody…why are you out unescorted?” He rushed over to her, his arms pumping rather comically.
“Most troublesome as always.” Her cousin, Todd, walked up to stand beside her father to form a united front of disapproval.
Straightening her shoulders, Clara prepared to perform. As if blinking away tears, she sniffed loudly. “I was out with Mrs. Tattersworth, but became distracted. And when I turned around, she was gone.” She made a mental note to seek out the cook and ask her to corroborate her story.
“You’re wearing a maid’s outfit,” her father stated flatly. “Did you also become distracted when dressing?”
Crumpets, she’d forgotten about that.
Taking her arm none too gently, her father brought her to walk beside him. “We will deal with this situation at home. Your mother will be quite cross with you.”
The walk suddenly seemed much shorter. The prospect of facing her mother, after being caught out in servant’s clothing and unescorted, meant hours of lectures, lessons and being forced to remain indoors.
“Father. I promise not to do this again. Please, don’t tell Mother. I planned to attend the Lady’s Society lecture on a newly-discovered species of butterflies. It’s Friday afternoon.”
The lack of a response meant he would not be flexible. So she turned her attention to Todd. Her cousin was not only her father’s apprentice, but also almost an exact duplicate. Tall, handsome and a bit boring. She supposed actuaries had to lacking in personality to be so taken by numbers.
“Dear cousin, convince Father how important it is for young people like us to have certain freedoms.”
Todd shrugged. “You have more freedom than most. Why didn’t you get one of the servants, perhaps the one you borrowed clothes from, to accompany you?”
She had considered it. However, it would have been difficult to sneak in with a second person. Besides, Molly would hate hiding in the closet while she listened to a philosophy lecture.
They continued on, her father never once releasing her arm until they arrived at the front door. A uniformed butler, whose eyes rounded upon spotting her, greeted them. The butler, Gerard, had been with the family for decades. Although he normally coddled her, today, his disapproving gaze moved from her outfit to where her father held her arm.
“Good afternoon. Mrs. Humphries is in the tea parlor with Miss Vivian and Miss Penelope.”
“Thank you Gerard, we will join them,” her father replied, tugging her as Clara did her best to dig her heels into the floor. Unfortunately, she’d not considered exchanging her soft slippers for Molly’s more sturdy footwear. And so she glided across the polished floor as if on wheels.
“Come along, Clara. Best to get this over with.” Her father was too strong. So, seconds later, they entered the tea parlor to meet the astounded looks of her mother and sisters.
Penelope, the youngest, coughed to cover up a giggle. Vivian, the eldest, gaped, her eyes bulging.
“What is the meaning of this?” her mother gasped, jumping to her feet. “Explain at once.”
In times like these, it was best to allow someone else to speak first, so Clara looked to her father. He seemed just as terrified as she felt.
“I found Clara out near Hyde Park, unescorted and dressed in this…this…manner.”
The explanation only seemed to infuriate her mother further.
“You’ve upset Mother,” Clara informed him. “I was not unescorted. I was left behind accidentally.”
By this time, her mother was close enough to pinch her. “Why are you dressed in those rags?”
The comment was rude. “Mother, you shouldn’t be so judgmental. If Molly overheard you, she’d be hurt.”
Sarah Humphries took a deep breath and closed her eyes. Taking advantage of that opportunity, her father dropped her arm and, along with Todd, made a quick exit.
“You will go upstairs immediately. Take a bath, put on a nightgown and go to bed. I cannot remain calm and continue to speak to you right now.”
If that was to be it, her only punishment, Clara had to fight hard not to smile. “Yes, Mother.” She dipped her head to seem meek and turned to leave.
“I am not finished.” Her mother’s words stopped her midstride. A contradiction. Her mother had just stated she was too angry to speak. “You will remain in your room until Friday evening. We have agreed to attend the dinner party at Lady Barrow’s home. Remain in your room until then. You will attend and be on your best behavior.”
At the sentence, she gasped and looked past her mother to her sisters. Surely one of them would plead for leniency. Both sat with rounded eyes and mouths open.
It was only Monday. Their mother rarely punished Clara for longer than two days.
“Mother, it is impossible to remain in my room for four long days. Whatever shall I do?”
Her mother closed the distance until their noses were but an inch apart. “Not be abducted. Not be ruined in the eyes of society and also casting your shadow of ruin over your sisters. This is Vivian’s year. I will not allow you to ruin it.”
“I thought you said all three of us would be seeking husbands,” Penelope interjected, her hand shooting up as if asking for permission to speak after the fact.
Her mother whirled and Penelope shrank back, her eyes rounded. “I mean…of course Vivian should receive all the attention. She is, after all, the eldest and soon will be considered a spinster.”
“Penelope!” Vivian cried out. “I have at least another season before that could happen. I am only twenty-one.”
Her mother placed two fingers on both temples. “Enough girls. We will adjourn to Clara’s room after tea and discuss the season.” She looked to Clara. “Go to your room now.”
“About Friday…” Clara started.
“I could change it to Saturday. You’d go straight to your room after Lady Barrow’s party.”
USA Today Bestselling author Hildie McQueen loves unusual situations and getting into interesting adventures, which is what her characters do as well. She writes romance because she is in love with love! Author of Romance in Highland historical, Western Historical and contemporary, she writes something every reader can enjoy.
Most days she can be found in her pajamas hiding from deliverymen while drinking tea from her David Gandy coffee mug. In the afternoons she browses the Internet for semi-nude men to post on Facebook.
Hildie’s favorite past-times are romance conventions, traveling, shopping and reading.
She resides in beautiful small town Georgia with her super-hero husband Kurt and three doggies.
Visit her website at www.hildiemcqueen.com
Stay connected with Rae Latte and Books I Love A Latte for Book Reviews, Excerpts, Teasers, Coffee With (Interviews), Giveaways, Authors Dish, Book Sales, and other Tasty Tidbits.