Published: 18th July 2017 (Tule Publishing)
Welcome to Willoughby Close… a charming cluster of cozy cottages, each with a story to tell and a happy ending to deliver…
Alice James has been a drifter her whole life, working her way through several foster homes before ending up in Wychwood-on-Lea, feeling anchorless and invisible. When a chance encounter leads to Alice accepting a position as a caretaker and companion to Lady Stokeley, she starts to feel as if she might finally be able to put down some roots and live the way other people do.
Then, Lady Stokeley’s nephew, city banker Henry Trent, storms into Willoughby Manor, seeming to find fault with everything, including Alice. As the next in line to the manor and title, he threatens to upturn everything she’s started to build. But Henry is hiding his own secret fears and weaknesses, ones he’s desperate for no one to discover. A surprising and inconvenient attraction that simmers between them leaves Alice feeling more confused than ever, and Henry torn between duty and desire, fear and love.
When circumstances become even more difficult, both Alice and Henry must decide who they really are, and what they are willing to fight for. Could Alice possibly the next Lady of Willoughby Manor?
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Alice turned around slowly, one hand clutching the dusty banister, her heart thumping in her chest. A man stood in the front doorway, weak sunlight peeking from behind the gloomy clouds and illuminating his dark hair in a golden nimbus, almost as if he were an angel, which he most certainly was not.
“Well?” he demanded while she stared dumbly.
Her mind seemed to have frozen into one gear—panic. He stepped into the foyer, closing the door behind him, and in doing so losing the halo. He had sharp features—bright blue eyes, blade-like cheekbones, a straight nose, and thin lips. Or perhaps they simply looked thin because they were pursed in obvious disapproval and even disdain. And still Alice just stared and quaked like a rabbit caught in a snare. She needed to get a grip.
“You seem reluctant to identify yourself,” the man remarked in a clipped voice.
“I’m-I’m Alice James.” She’d actually stammered. Alice drew herself up, her fingers white-knuckled on the banister. “I’m here as companion to Lady Stokeley.”
The man—who Alice knew had to be Henry Trent—drew back as if she’d shocked him with that bit of information. “You’re Alice James?”
“But I was given to think—” He shook his head, his eyes narrowing, his lips going even thinner. “She conned me.” To Alice’s surprise there was a faint note of affection in his voice. Alice could guess what had happened—she might be intimidated, but she wasn’t thick. Lady Stokeley had indicated to her nephew that Alice was entirely suitable, and undoubtedly had implied she was some middle-aged matron with a bossy bedside manner, plenty of nursing experience, and a comfortable bosom, none of which Alice had.
“Very well.” He drew himself up with a nod. “I’m Henry Trent, nephew to Lady Stokeley and, as you can imagine, most concerned with her care.” Actually Alice couldn’t imagine that, since Ava seemed to think Henry Trent was counting down the days until he could move in as Lord Stokeley. “I was intending to meet you, and now is as good a time as any.” Was it? Alice wasn’t sure she agreed. “You have a CV?”
Kate Hewitt is the author of over 60 novels of romance and women’s fiction. An American ex-pat and former diehard New Yorker, she now lives in a market town in South Wales with her husband, five children, and overly affectionate Golden Retriever. To learn more about Kate, check out her website kate-hewitt.com, or join her Facebook Kate’s Reads.