THE REDEMPTION OF PHILIP THANE
by Lisa Berne
How many times can a rake get it wrong before he becomes Mr. Right?
What happens when a Regency rake finds himself living the same day over and over? Will he continue his scandalous ways—or choose a different path? Find out in Lisa Berne’s funny, sweepingly romantic THE REDEMPTION OF PHILIP THANE, coming your way December 28 from Avon Books.
Philip Thane—rogue, rake and scoundrel extraordinaire—hadn’t wanted to visit some dumpy provincial town to give a speech, but he’d struck a devil’s bargain with old Henrietta Penhallow, the imperious family matriarch. Nor did he expect that once he got there, he’d somehow be living the same day over and over again. It’s strange! It’s terrible!
On the other hand, it is giving him time to cozy up to the delectable, brainy Margaret Allen, in town to research the book she’s writing. Philip is sure she’ll fall starry-eyed into his arms, just as women always do.
But to his amazement Miss Allen stands firm against his wiles, day after day. How can she resist his seductive charm? Why won’t she change her mind? What must he do to win her heart?
Maybe—just maybe—it isn’t Margaret who needs to change, but rather a certain rogue, in love for the first time in his life …
Pre-order your copy today!
Lisa Berne: "One of the most exciting new historical authors in a long time.”
—BRIDGERTON author Julia Quinn
“… a Regency riff on the movie Groundhog Day ... brilliantly enhanced by a stellar cast of characters … and generous measures of the author’s wry wit and wondrous sense of whimsy.”
—John Charles, Booklist starred review
THE REDEMPTION OF PHILIP THANE
by Lisa Berne
Standing in the dilapidated courtyard of the equally dilapidated inn, her gloved hands akimbo at her waist, Margaret Allen stared grumpily at the stagecoach which lay all askew on the frozen hard-packed dirt, the iron shaft which connected the two front wheels having snapped a mile or two back, causing the body of the coach to crash onto the ground, the wheels to break, and the horses to rear in alarm.
Luckily neither horses nor passengers had been injured, but everyone had had to trudge in the bright sunshine of a bitterly cold morning to the little village of Brampton where, it seemed, the repair of the shaft would take a day or two, or maybe more, and nobody seemed to have any idea when replacement wheels could be secured. Furthermore, no other public conveyance was expected for several days.
Which meant, Margaret thought with annoyance, they were trapped here.
And she wasn’t looking forward to spending any time in the bedchamber assigned to her as she had seen for herself that the sheets were damp, dirty, and crawling with fleas; and that every surface was covered in a thick layer of dust. There was somewhere else she very much wanted to be, only a half-day’s journey from here.
Tantalizingly close, yet out of reach.
And time was of the essence.
Abruptly, to her ears came the sounds of horses’ hooves and jingling harness, and with eager strides she hurried out to the road. A large black barouche, pulled by a team of four big horses and its body glinting in the sun like an oversized jewel, was approaching—and heading in the right direction.
Now this was more like it.
Margaret waited until the barouche was within a stone’s throw, then she waved to the coachman who brought the horses to a halt and looked inquiringly down at her from his high perch on the box.
“May I be of assistance, ma’am?” he said, but before Margaret could answer the window was shoved up and a dark-haired man stuck his head out. His brown eyes met hers and then he smiled, a bold, appreciative, devil-may-care smile that transformed his features into something beyond ordinary good looks.
It was—the realization winged through her mind—pure, powerful, unadulterated charm that illuminated his face and made him strikingly attractive.
So attractive, in fact, that she felt a delicious tingle running through her.
It had been so long, so dreadfully long, since she had felt anything like this. Inside herself Margaret swept aside a pang of old grief and renewed loss, and was just about to smile back when his emboldened gaze raked over her from head to foot in a frankly piratical manner, and the warm exciting tingle was quenched in a heartbeat.
She didn’t mind the appreciative smile, but she certainly didn’t enjoy being ogled like that, in a way that made her glad she had on several layers of clothing impenetrable to the human eye.
Margaret crossed her arms over her chest.
Blast it all, wasn’t it just her bad luck that the first vehicle to pass her way contained an irksome libertine.
His smile widened, and in a smooth, deep, cultured voice (which nearly sent another tingle shimmering through her before she managed to suppress it) he said:
“Why, hullo there. Aren’t you a sight for sore eyes.”
If it weren’t for the fact that she was rather desperate, Margaret would have enjoyed giving vent to the tart retort hovering on her tongue. Instead she said, with as much civility as possible:
“Good morning, sir. Might I inquire as to where you’re heading?”
Margaret felt her heart bound with sudden hope. “That’s where I’m going as well, but I find myself stranded here due to an unfortunate mishap with the stage. I know this is a great and presumptuous favor to ask, sir, but have you any extra room inside?”
“Not only do I have extra room, dear lady, I’m the sole passenger. And the seats are . . . very capacious.”
At the silky innuendo in his too-charming voice, Margaret’s temper rose still higher and she almost abandoned her resolve to be civil. But then she realized how she might give him back his own, in a way that allowed her to maintain her dignity and would soon have her on the road again. Her little plan was devious, admittedly, but after all, turnabout was fair play.
So she smiled and sweetly said, “How kind, sir. Won’t you have your coach come the courtyard while I gather up my things?”
He returned her smile, looking not unlike a cat expecting to be served a delectable bowl of cream. “By all means.”
Margaret went back into the courtyard and whisked herself inside the dumpy, dusty inn, returning some five minutes later with her portmanteau and bandbox, Aunt Seraphina, and young Mr. Lawrence, a fellow passenger who had joined them in Watford and was also on his way to Whittlesey, and who kindly insisted on carrying Aunt Seraphina’s luggage along with his own.
Together they bade farewell to the disappointed proprietor whose eyes had brightened at the prospect of some paying guests, then emerged into the courtyard where the coach stood waiting with the door wide open and the steps let down. The dark-haired man, who was clad in a dashing many-caped greatcoat, Margaret could now see, and a tall stylish hat along with a pair of beautifully polished boots, was leaning against the gleaming black side-panel of the barouche with his legs crossed at the ankle in a very debonair manner.
She watched as his anticipatory smile faded and onto his face came a look of surprise and dismay.
Ha ha, she thought triumphantly, doing her best to keep her expression as bland as a baby’s, and as she and her companions came close, she said in a sweet, demure tone:
“Thank you so much, sir, for your generosity in allowing us to accompany you to Whittlesey. May I introduce you to my aunt, Miss Allen, and to Mr. Lawrence, a new acquaintance of ours?” She added, even more sweetly:
“And I am Miss Margaret Allen.”
So of course he had no choice but to reply, “I’m Philip Thane, at your service,” although his voice did lack a certain graciousness; after which he handed Aunt Seraphina and herself up into the barouche, while Mr. Lawrence helped the coachman secure their luggage behind and then climbed in, and finally Mr. Thane did also.
Margaret was pleased that Mr. Thane also had no choice but to sit opposite Aunt Seraphina, and she repressed a laugh as she watched the two of them sizing each other up, Aunt Seraphina with her brows beetled and Mr. Thane looking increasingly disgruntled.
The carriage began to roll and Margaret leaned back against the plush velvet squabs.
“My,” she remarked, in a satisfied, cheerful tone, “what comfortable seats. How wonderfully capacious they are.”
Mr. Thane shot her a look of annoyance and folded his arms across his chest.
“Thane,” said Aunt Seraphina, as if the word was foreign to her, and managing to sound both doubtful and haughty at the same time. “I don’t believe I know the name.”
Mr. Thane shot her a look of annoyance. “I’m a relation of the Penhallow family, and my step-grandparents are the Duke and Duchess of Egremont.” He paused, as if waiting for gasps of amazement or a burst of applause, and when none were forthcoming, he added, sounding just as haughty as Aunt Seraphina:
“You have heard of the Penhallows, I assume.”
“Who hasn’t?” interjected Mr. Lawrence. “Pretty much the first family of England, aren’t they? Came along with the Conqueror, chummy with royalty, plump in the pocket, immense seat in Somerset, and so on and so forth.”
“Draping yourself in a cloak of reflected glory, aren’t you?” said Aunt Seraphina to Mr. Thane. “Is this really your barouche?”
The temperature inside the coach seemed to drop about twenty degrees and so Margaret thought it prudent to reenter the conversation, such as it was. She said:
“What takes you to Whittlesey, sir? Is that where you live?”
He actually shuddered. “Good Lord, no. It will be my first and—I assure you—my only time there. I’m going to give a little speech at the Plough Day ceremony.” There was a complete and utter lack of enthusiasm in his voice.
“I say, sir, that’s splendid,” exclaimed Mr. Lawrence. “I’m a journalist for the Watford Bugle, and I’m writing an article about tomorrow’s events. Care to offer up any early tidbits?” He looked as if he were about to dive into his rucksack and produce a pencil and paper on the spot.
“No,” Mr. Thane responded, sarcasm creeping into his tone, “I prefer to leave you in suspense about my scintillating remarks, which will doubtless render my entire audience of rustics, provincials, hobnails, yokels, chawbacons, hicks, bumpkins, and loobies spellbound.”
“Good as a thesaurus, aren’t you?” said Aunt Seraphina, not very pleasantly. “You might want to include ‘hawbucks,’ ‘joskins,’ and ‘lumpkins’ while you’re busy denigrating the good citizens of Whittlesey.”
“If it comes to that, you’re quite the thesaurus yourself, ma’am,” returned Mr. Thane, also not very pleasantly.
“I ought to be, as I’m a lexicographer who’s published three of them, and am at present working on my fourth.”
“Indeed. How charming, marvelous, wonderful, captivating, glorious, delightful, and sublime.”
Aunt Seraphina, unmoved by Mr. Thane’s gibe, pulled some white lace tatting from her enormous reticule and began wielding her mother-of-pearl shuttle with ferocious speed and dexterity.
“If that’s truly your attitude, Mr. Thane,” said Margaret, “I can’t imagine your speech will go over particularly well.”
He shrugged. “For any normal human being, it’s difficult to get excited about an event called Plough Day.”
“Oh, I don’t know about that. I’m quite excited to witness it myself.”
“Why, for God’s sake?”
“Because I’m interested in folk-lore and old cultural traditions.”
He stared, then drawled, “Oh, like your esteemed aunt, you’re blue.”
“If by ‘blue,’ you mean we actually have brains, despite the ghastly misfortune of being women, then you’re correct. Plough Day is a custom dating back several centuries, possibly linked to the Nordic invasions of the eighth century, and I for one can hardly wait to see the Straw Bear.”
“I know there’s a Straw Bear cooperative, but please, please, don’t tell me there’s an actual bear draped in straw.”
“No, not an animal, but apparently somebody gets all covered over in sheaves of straw, and—”
“Surely not voluntarily.”
“It’s said to be a great honor,” Margaret went on, repressing a real urge to swing out her foot and kick him in the shin, “and the Straw Bear is meant to personify the winter season. His appearance on Plough Day symbolically represents the banishment of winter, so that crops can grow again and the people will flourish.”
“How childishly sweet.”
“Just because a custom springs from ancient beliefs very different from our own contemporary ones doesn’t mean they’re worthy of your scorn. Besides, even if it’s only a fable, it’s still a lovely one. It makes people feel hopeful and engaged in their community—a very meaningful sentiment in my opinion.”
“Rubbish. Fables are for children, not for adults. The people of Whittlesey need to grow up.”
“Your outlook on life,” said Margaret, “is inspiring.”
“I was being sarcastic.”
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Lisa Berne read her first Georgette Heyer novel at fourteen—it was the effervescent Lady of Quality—and was instantly captivated. Later, she was a graduate student, a grant writer, and a teacher—and now writes historical romance for Avon Books, with her stories set mostly in Regency-era Britain. She lives with her family in the Pacific Northwest.
Please visit Lisa on the web at www.LisaBerne.com
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