The Marchioness’ Alluring Touch (Preview)

Chapter One

Scarlett sat down on the sofa after greeting her friends. As soon as she sat, she hunched her shoulders a little. It was something she had learned to do as a child, for she was taller than most girls. At least this way, her height appeared to be less than it really was.

She knew that she had to act on her best self so she smiled at her guests and greeted them with as much civility as she could conquer. There was no doubt in her mind that the topic of today’s gathering would shift to the upcoming London Season.

For Scarlett, it was a subject that she heartily wished to avoid, much to the dismay of her mother, who smiled at her knowingly.

“How are you, Lady Weston? I heard you caught a cold last week. I called on you once, but the butler told me you were resting, and I did not want to disturb you.” Scarlett addressed her guest.

“Oh dear, yes, I was informed later that day. It was very kind of you, I must say.” Lady Weston replied with a smile. “Dear Scarlett, are you excited about the Season?”, she added with meaning in her voice.

The maid served them with tea while Scarlett considered how to reply. She was a girl of one and twenty, with two failed Seasons behind her, and there was not a worse comment that could be made to her.

Her guest was the widower of the late Lord Weston. The family in question was a friend of the Peytons’ for many years now and calling at each other houses was to be expected once every week. However, it was always more Lady Weston who visited them.

And Scarlett was now prepared for her remark. After her failures — which she could only blame her tall figure for them— she knew that this was bound to happen eventually. Lady Weston was one of the many women who were more than eager to pass on such comments.

Lady Weston lived a few miles away from the Peridgedale Manor, and she was a close friend to Lady Peyton. The friendship between the two families dated back to when Lord Weston and Lord Peyton had both been bachelors. With each one having a respective marriage, they decided to buy the nearest estates, in hopes that their children would form an engagement in the future.

This, however, could not be achieved, much to the dismay of Lord Weston for his wife could not bear him any son —and only a few years after his marriage, when Scarlett had been only ten, he fell sick to an uncurable disease.

Lady Weston only had one daughter, who was already engaged to a fine man, as the gossips were saying these days. So, it was usual of hers to visit them quite often, sometimes even more than once a week. She was often lonely in her own home and quite enjoyed the company of Scarlett and her mother.

There was no relation between them except for them being neighbors, and it was a fact that Lady Weston exploited most.

Scarlett was not troubled by the statement. It was understandable, but her mother Letitia Peyton was, and it showed in how her demeanor stiffened. The Countess of Peridgeralde, who until this very moment was more than happy to attend to her guests for the evening, was beginning to lose her countenance, and Scarlett could sense the uneasiness in her mother. It was for this reason, perhaps, that the mother chose to answer for her daughter.

“Yes, my dear Scarlett is more than excited, and we have every reason to believe her to be successful this Season. We have our Lord Peyton’s old acquaintances coming to London. You might have heard of the Mountbatten’s, I presume?” And the whole conversation took to the direction of the family, the connections and scandals, if any of them have actually occurred.

The women went on and on, and soon the whole attention, which was previously on Scarlett, was now diverted. She was, in that moment, very thankful to her mother because decorum dictated that she should always remain polite and kind to her guests, and Scarlett wished only to tell them what she really had in mind.

The truth, which would not be taken very likely and in the best of light, because Scarlett Peyton was not in the least interested in the upcoming Season and was waiting for the right moment to tell her parents of her plan.

Being the only child and, too, a daughter to the Earl and Countess of Peridgeralde should have been in her favor. All her life, Scarlett had been blessed with the best that money could buy and was in the light of many of the most accomplished ladies in all of London — of her age.

Scarlett had been unfortunate as her two prior Seasons were fruitless. She had not been able to procure any match or form any courtship by any of the fine gentlemen who were more than eager to find their future wives. Scarlett knew that she was pretty — yes, she was not one of the most beautiful ladies of her acquaintance but was still considered a beauty. She had sharp features and a kind face. Her disposition was also gentle. But was in her favour the most was that she had a large fortune in her name. However, her height hindered her and her potential matrimonial matches.

In each ball that she had made an appearance, Scarlett was taller than her partners, and it served as the most awkward moment of the evening. To save themselves the embarrassment, the gentleman began to stop asking her for the dances, and Scarlett was usually left alone for most of the evening.

Her parents knew this and understood the situation, but they were always trying to appear supportive and hopeful. It was their strongest desire to have their only daughter marry a suitable gentleman belonging to a powerful family. After all, it was what society demanded of them, and that’s why Scarlett was trying to abide by her parents’ wishes.

The conversation in the room was beginning to take the turn of the much-awaited ball of Lady Mabelle when Letitia turned to her daughter and asked for her to play them all a piece on the pianoforte.

Scarlett obliged and went in the direction of the instrument. A part of her wished that her mother would stop boasting her skills so much, for she didn’t really like playing in front of large audiences. She knew that people who listened tended to always find something fault in her.

Taking a deep breath to calm her nerves, she began to play her favorite piece, the Moonlight Sonata, and soon she was lost in the melody. For Scarlett, this piece held a lot of importance because it gave her a sense of liberty, which she would not feel otherwise.

Or perhaps it had to do with the fact that she knew the composition by heart and was confident in her performance. It gave her a sense of power, one that indicated that she could win the hearts of others.

Once she finished playing, she looked up and saw her mother clapping for her with tears in her eyes. The others, too, clapped, and Scarlett, feeling always shy around people, blushed, and thanked them all. It was then Lady Weston’s niece’s turn to play, and Scarlett stayed on the bench, assisting her.

Lady Weston’s niece was certainly a lucky woman, for she had found what it seemed the love of her life in her very first Season and was now awaiting the days for her married life to begin. From the other side, Scarlett was condemned. She knew that their acquaintances and most of the ton would be waiting to scrutinize her and her parents about the failure of their daughter.

It was soon afterward that the women left, and Scarlett excused herself, wanting to be alone. She took to the gardens and strolled down the path, knowing that her mother was watching her from a distance.

It was not that Scarlett pitied herself, for she had learned that her height would be of a certain disadvantage to her at an early age. She also did not care much about what people thought of her.

But her parents, as parents are often like, wanted nothing more than for their daughter to be happy.

It was her parents’ anxiousness that troubled Scarlett and it was because of their desire that she wished to marry. But she knew that the upcoming Season would be a disaster once again. She had no doubt about it.

In order to save herself and her parents from the embarrassment of another failed Season, Scarlett had decided to avoid it altogether. She was planning to go to the prestigious ladies’ seminary school in Bath for the term of the Season. She would only return when all the fine gentlemen went to the countryside to enjoy the hunting period.

This had been her plan for some time now, but she was looking for the right moment to announce her upcoming travel to her parents. If only her mother had been able to bear more children so that she wouldn’t carry alone the burden of making her family proud.

Scarlett knew that they would not deny her this wish of going to Bath and study, but in their hearts, they just wanted to see their daughter settled.

As much as she tried to be approachable at balls, no suitors had shown their interest to her. Many of the gentlemen had not even asked her for a dance because they did not favor her appearance. These kinds of events hurt Scarlett, but not as much as she knew they hurt her parents.

Scarlett only wished to find a gentleman who would love her for who she was, but with each passing day, her hope was diminishing, and she feared she just might end up alone forever.

Chapter Two

Trent Mountbatten sat down with his mother in the parlor, wondering how to approach the topic. His father knew he liked to spend this time of the year in the countryside with his mother, but the Duke of Molenwood had sent his son a letter requesting his return.

It was no secret to anyone that the great Duke and Duchess of Molenwood no longer lived together. The cover-up was simple — the Duchess preferred the countryside while the Duke desired to employ his time in his London estate. The matters were resolved, and Trent began to spend his time with both his parents equally.

His initial plan had been to stay with his mother for the Season, while he wished to avoid to be a subject of the lingering eyes of mothers who wanted nothing more than to tie their daughters to him. He hated it when daughters smiled fake at him and gushed when he looked in their direction.

It was tiresome for Trent, and it was increasing to get more worrisome with each passing year. He had told both his parents of his wish: Trent Mountbatten did not wish to marry anyone. He had no desire to be subject to conjugal relations at any point in his life, and his decision was firm. Yet still, it seemed to always fall onto deaf ears.

Trent was six and twenty, and he knew the essence of his age. Many women had often told him that he had handsome features and that any lady of merit would be happy to marry him. But more than that, being the Marquess of Maleswood required that he marry soon. As it was often said, a single man with a large fortune must be in want of a wife — but he was not, even if it was his duty to wed and continue his line.

“What are you thinking about so intently, Trent dear?” Johanne Mountbatten, the once Duchess of Molenwood, asked her son as she settled herself on the sofa, looking at him worriedly.

“Mother, I must go to London and see Father. His letter requested immediate arrival, and I fear something must be amiss for him to ask for me at this time of the year.” Trent said with a tone of urgency in his voice.

“Did he not disclose the affairs he wished to discuss?” His mother flapped her linen napkin as she somehow managed to dance a jig while sitting in her chair.

“No, I’m afraid not, Mother, and this is what worries me the most. You know I would not wish to go and leave you alone, but I feel the matter might be grave indeed. I must go. I will make haste and come back once I know better on the subject for which Father has called me to London.”

Trent set his teacup on the saucer with an air of somber resignation. Guilt shrouded him like a ghostly fog reminding him of his mother’s existing unhappiness at his refusal to marry. Now, he would have to leave her alone and this didn’t sit well with him either.

The Duchess rose from the table. “I know. You must leave soon if you intend to make it before day’s end.”

He stared at his mother and thought of her resolve at the life she was living. “Yes, mother.” He rose and kissed his mother’ hand.

He summoned his valet, Crawley, the most trusted servant he had, and instructed him of the change in his plan. How Trent wished he could escape the London Season, which was soon to begin. In recent years and so, Trent had been coming up with ways to avoid London at this time of the year.

It was not that Trent thought anything bad at the idea of marriage. No, he respected the wishes of those who wanted to follow the etiquette and make themselves happy. He even wished them the best and all the happiness their circumstances could bring — but his case was different.

Like most young men of large fortunes, he knew it was his duty to marry, but after seeing his parents’ failed marriage, he could not bring himself to follow the same path. The idea of a matrimonial union scared him. Trent’s personal views on the wedding matter were cautious, and he believed that something as sacred as marriage should be upheld for a lifetime. But he did not know if he could trust someone enough to devote himself forever to them.

There was not a woman in all of England he wished to marry and, therefore, would stay away from the course. Yes, there were the questions of his inheritance and the responsibility of procuring an heir to strengthen the family legacy. Still, Trent was confident in his self to be able to find a legitimate solution.

“Everything is ready, my lord. Her Grace has ordered for and requested that you take the carriage,” Crawley announced Crawley and broke Trent out of his reverie.

Trent nodded his head, knowing it was futile to argue with his mother at such a time and walked out of the manor.

He took long steps, which were still of great confidence for a man of his average height and sat into the carriage. He would have protested his mother’s wishes on a typical day and chose his horse instead of a carriage ride, but he had not the energy to fight her now.

As plush as a coach was, the road was very bumpy. Trent, with all gentlemanly solicitousness, settled himself for the rough patch ahead.

It was one of his greatest surmises to have to divide his time between both of his parents. When Trent was of age, and his father told him of the unfortunate event that had befallen them, he — as any son should — had excused himself and explained that he would refrain from choosing either one of his parents and would try to spend time with both. This situation had brought him in the greatest discomfort.

He chose to divert his course of thought, for his parents’ failed marriage always brought him unhappy memories. Instead, he employed his time thinking of the reason his father had asked for his attendance to London.

His father knew of the importance of spending time with his mother and had never before made such a request. This had to be a significant matter, Trent knew.

He was lost in his thoughts when the sudden halt of the coach threw him out of his stance. Before Trent had a chance to inquire on the matter, he heard a gunshot. Pulling out his own gun, Trent stepped out of the coach and was struck with horror.

Crawley, his most loyal servant, was lying on the ground with blood surrounding him. The impact of the shot had killed him instantly. Trent stood there looking at the man, feeling a surge of emotions.

He felt an aching pain in his chest for the loss of his most trusted man. His heart felt like it would explode, and he knew he needed to bring justice to the men responsible for such a heinous crime. Trent bent at his knees and, with his right hand, closed Crawley’s eyes. It was all that he could do given that the threat was still there, and he would not do Crawley any good by wasting his life as well.

It was then he heard something.

Trent stood up and looked at the source of what had caused a commotion.  “What in God’s name!?” He shouted and pulled out his pistol, only to see a highwayman pointing his gun at Trent’s head.

The road was deserted with no one but the two of them, and Trent was beyond angry at the circumstances. Crawley had worked for Trent for many years and was the only person, except his parents, that he could trust.

“Put your gun down if you know what is good for you.” Trent said to the man pointing the gun at him.

“I ain’t scared of the lot of you. You filthy noblemen.” The man spoke but could not say another word, for Trent tackled him to the ground. The two men fought on the dirt, and Trent felt the hard fist of the man hitting him just below his left eye.

He knew this would cause undoubtedly a bruise.

The other man pinned Trent to the ground and held his gun at him. At that moment, Trent’s entire life flashed before his eyes, and he was at a loss. There was no hope for him, and the only thing that worried him was the knowledge that his very father was awaiting his arrival any minute.

He closed his eyes, praying his last wish. He heard the gun firing and waited to feel that pain. He expected the impact of the gun on him, but he never felt anything. Trent opened his eyes and saw the man holding the gun at him to the ground.

In his stead now stood another man. “Are you okay, sir?”

Trent took in a breath, unable to utter a word. This afternoon had been worse than he had imagined. First, his valet was shot dead, and now he had seen his own death so close. He nodded his head but stayed on the ground. The crippling fear of death was consuming him, and Trent needed a shot of brandy.

Slowly, he stood with shaking legs. In all his life, he had seen men killed before his eyes, but never something as close to feeling it himself. He brushed the dirt off his coat and thanked the man who had saved his life. His eyes went to the lying corpse of Crawley. He was still angry, more so than he had ever.

He looked around and saw the man who had saved him. He tried to compose himself and stand from the ground.

“Thank you. How can I repay the favor, Sir?” Trent asked still shocked.

“Tis was a pleasure that I could be of your service. I require nothing else, Sir.” The stranger said.

“There must be something, lad. What is your name?”, Trent could not believe his luck. He knew he had to return the favor to the man somehow.

“Gerard Fitzroy at your service, Sir.” The young man replied with confidence.

“What is your employment, Gerard?” Trent was curious to learn how he ended up there at the right time.

“Nay, Sir. I was on my way to London to find me some work.” Gerard said with sincerity in his eyes.

Sudden gratitude hit Trent, as well as an idea. “Well, Gerard, I must urge you to come with me. I am sure I can find you some work.”

“Thank you, Sir.” He said with gratitude.

“Nonsense, it is the least I can do for you for saving my life, pal.” Trent knew it was true and that he owed a lot more to him.

He sent Gerard to summon the constable to take account of the events that had happened. He wanted to make sure that Crawley’s death would be looked into. He had been a loyal servant and a good friend, and he had always provided Trent with good advice when asked.

The constable took Gerard and Trent’s statement, and once done, the two men continued on their journey to London. All throughout the way, all that Trent could think was why those men would kill Crawley? It seemed too much to be an accident. Could it be that it was planned —but why?

With uncertainty clouding his thoughts, Trent promised to get to the bottom of the matter.


If you liked the preview, you can get the whole book here

  • I enjoyed these two chapters, but noticed an error close to the end of chapter 1. Scarlett finishes playing, then two paragraphs later Scarlett finishes playing. Did she play two songs? I’m 🤔 confused. Other than that, I can’t wait to read the rest!

  • The female guest in chapter 1.
    Is a widow – not a widower !
    In chapter 1 every other word seems to be she or her – very annoying !

    In chapter 2
    He drew his gun twice !
    The highwayman
    Holding the gun at him to the ground ?

    There is need of a proper correction of these two chapters – first chapter would have put me off – only carried on because there was only one more to go


  • “Her guest was the widower of late, Mr. Weston.”
    It should be ‘widow’ for she is female. A widower is male.

    “The women went on and on, and soon the whole attention, which was previously on Scarlett, was not diverted. She was, at that moment, very thankful to her mother for decorum dictated that she be polite and kind to her guest, and Scarlett wished only to tell them the truth.”
    Should it be “… NOW diverted.”?

    Scarlett knew that she was handsome — yes, she was not one of the prettiest ladies of her acquaintance but was still considered being beautiful.”
    Well, is she pretty, handsome, beautiful or not? This sentence really doesn’t make any sense.

    “All her life, Scarlett had been blessed with the best that money could buy and was in the light of many of the most accomplished ladies l in all of London — of her age.”
    What does this sentence mean?

    “He rose and kissed his mother on hand.”
    Should it be “… on THE hand.”?

    “It was one of his greatest surmises to have to divide his time between both of his parents.”
    I think ‘surmises’ is the incorrect word for this sentence. It makes no sense. ‘Surmise’ means to “suppose that something is true without having evidence to confirm it.
    “he surmised that something must be wrong”

    “Are you okay, sir?”
    No. Just, no. “Okay” was NOT ever at any time used during the Regency era. Needs to go. Maybe ‘unhurt’ or ‘are you well’. Never ‘okay’.

    “Nonsense, it is the least I can do for you for saving my life, pal.”
    What?? Did we suddenly move to ’40’s America? ‘Pal’ does not fit with the speech Trent would use. Also, it doesn’t fit with the writing. They both used ‘sir’ several times and then Trent suddenly switches to ‘pal’. No continuity.

    What year is this supposed to be? Scarlett played ‘Moonlight Sonata’. This piece was published in 1801. Scarlett is twenty-one. Is she a prodigy? Is this early Regency or later Regency?

    To me, there is quite a bit of repetition of exposition that could be cut or made to work a little better. The reader really doesn’t have to be told the same things several times in one chapter.

    I hope these are good critiques for you! The story promises to be a good one with some corrections!

    • Thank you so much for your helpful feedback, dear Tracy! I will take your comments into consideration and I hope you will overall enjoy the rest of my story! 🙂

  • The main characters vulnerabilities were clearly set out. Their family responsibilities and personal reluctance to engage with the Season was understandable. The addition of a ‘murder’ mystery will add a welcome focus for potential joint work and the opportunity for H&H to communicate and develop trust in one another.

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