Catch up with Maggie online at her website, facebook, twitter and goodreads.
Thanks so much for having me back to talk about Captain Durant’s Countess! The captain has been hired for a most unusual job, something even he with his naughty reputation is reluctant to do. And his countess has never been naughty in her life, except once, and how difficult it’s been for her to live with the guilt. These two have enough differences between them to span an ocean, but somehow love conquers all!
As someone who’s previously been published in trade paperback, I am thrilled that this full-length novel is an affordable e-book only addition to my London List series. I mind my pennies like everyone else, and am a big bargain shopper, very unlike the heroine of CDC, Lady Maris Kelby.
Fortune is not the issue with Maris, but time and interest. A bluestocking, she’s been buried in the country with her elderly husband helping him with his manuscript on Etruscan civilization, and it doesn’t matter what she looks like. But along comes Captain Reynold Durant to give her a bit of a Cinderella moment. In the scene below, they meet on the street and Reyn guides her to a fashionable modiste. Here’s an exclusive excerpt:
“Come into my private parlor, my lady. Yvonne! Some tea and biscuits for our special customers,” Madame Bernard called to her assistant.
Damn. That was another witness to her folly. But soon people at Kelby Hall would see her with Captain Durant. Maris would pray that if he was successful, her servants, and more important, David, couldn’t count.
“That’s not necessary, Madame Bernard. I’m not at all hungry.”
“C’est rien. Choosing clothes is hard work, Lady Kelby. One must be fortified. Captain Durant, will tea be sufficient, or shall I have Yvonne fetch some brandy?” The dressmaker pronounced his name in the French manner. Maris imagined from his dark coloring he had Norman or Celtic blood. Henry had both. Was that why Durant had been chosen? Or had none of the men Henry interviewed been desperate enough to undertake this particular mission?
No, that wasn’t right. Henry had not explained the nature of his need to the other two. He told her he’d been taken with Captain Reynold Durant from the instant he spied him riding up the drive.
“You do think ill of me to offer me brandy at this hour, Madame. It’s not yet dusk. In fact the sun is shining.”
“It is dusk somewhere, Captain, and you are not known to follow the conventions.”
Captain Durant gave a husky laugh, which to Maris’s ears seemed quite wicked. “No, I am not. But I’m giving up my ramshackle ways. The countess’s husband has consented to employ me for a few months, and I’m on my best behavior.”
“If that is the case,” Madame Bernard said archly, “then I invite you to leave my shop at once. Thank you for bringing her to me, but you will not wish to compromise the lady’s reputation and anger her husband. You might lose this desirable position.”
Maris suppressed her grin at Captain Durant’s obvious dismay. He had been most effectively routed. He was not her lover—yet—and had no right to sit and watch her shimmy into dresses.
“But of course. What was I thinking? Ah! I never think things through, Madame. Lady Kelby, forgive me for being so presumptuous. Betsy, I commend the countess’s care into your capable hands. Oh! And just one more thing. You will be pleased to know, Lady Kelby, that the appointment you arranged for me was a smashing success. I visited with the gentleman just this morning. There will be no impediments whatsoever to my performing successfully in my new occupation. I am clean as a whistle. What can that mean, anyway? One would think whistles would be most unhygienic. All that spittle. A bientot.” He tipped an imaginary hat and left.
Some of the air in the room went with him. Maris put a gloved hand on a display case to steady herself. The captain’s casual confession that he was not syphilitic was welcome, of course, but to announce it in such a way was preposterous.
He was so very improper. Impulsive. Indiscreet. Maris had never met anyone like him.
“Good riddance, oui? Right this way, my lady. The captain, he is full of so boyish charm. Tres charmant. One could forgive a woman for losing her virtue to him. You must forgive me for coming to an entirely incorrect conclusion earlier. I should have recognized at once that you are not his type at all.”
The pendulum had swung in an equally insulting direction. First, Madame Bernard had thought her a lightskirt; now she was too unattractive to capture the captain’s attention as his lover.
Maris regretted she had ever sought to improve her wardrobe. She was tempted to leave in a justifiable huff, but somehow was swept into the private room and seated in a plush velvet chair.
“Now tell me what you have in mind, my lady.”
“I don’t really have time for all this,” Maris said, waving her arm at the squares of fabric and pattern books that were artfully stacked on a large drum table. “I was hoping to find something ready-made. My husband is expecting me home tomorrow. And I don’t like to… to fuss over my clothing. I like simple things.”
“Ah. I see you are a practical woman, but you do have a lovely figure.” Madame Bernard stepped back in contemplation, a finger on her chin. “I may have one or two dresses in the back that might suit you. But you would be much happier—and more à la mode—if I took some measurements and made a new wardrobe just for you.”
“Oh, no, that won’t be necessary.” Maris didn’t need an entire new wardrobe, just a few things so she wouldn’t be such a dowd. Not that she cared one jot what Captain Durant thought of her. He would soon be taking those dresses off her, anyhow.
Do you wish for a Madame Bernard to play fairy godmother and spiff up your wardrobe? Have you ever had a makeover? What’s your favorite fashion magazine? (I just broke down and got a subscription to Vogue, although I can’t fit into or afford anything in it, LOL). One commenter will get the first book in the London List series, Lord Gray’s List (4 and 1/2 stars from the Romance Dish!), or any other book from my backlist.