And here’s the excerpt I promised:
What was it about this woman that made Rede want to spend time with her? She was, of course, delectable. But many women had faces and forms as lovely.
Since Marie-Josèphe died, he’d felt the stirrings of lust from time to time—and more than stirrings. Acting on those stirrings always felt like too much trouble, though.
In his private desires, as in all the rest of his life, he saw the world as if through a thick blanket that numbed feeling. He went through the motions of looking after his business interests and the Earldom, of acting appropriately in social occasions, of charming his tenants and his neighbours—but all the time, he was acting a part, as if he had been buried with his wife and children, and was reaching from the grave to operate his own body like a puppet.
Except when he woke each morning with his grief still raw. Except when he was planning how to make his enemies pay. Except when he read the reports David sent him every week.
And now, something beyond his vengeance was reaching through the blanket of unfeeling and bringing him back to life. Or, rather, someone.
He studied her for a moment, as he stood apart from the group. He couldn’t put his finger on what made her different. Perhaps it was that she talked to him, and not to his title or his wealth. He enjoyed her wit, her humour. He liked how she treated him with no more and no less deference than she did Will or the Squire or the innkeeper’s wife.
Today, she was dressed far more like a lady than a cottager, in a light-coloured dress in the modern style, modestly covering but shaping to her bosom, and dropping from there to a flounced hem. Yesterday’s apron had defined her slender waist, but the dress beneath it had hidden her shape entirely. Today’s dress left her waist a mystery, but clung to her hips and legs as she walked…
It would give the villagers confidence to see their lord working side by side with the other local leaders. Rede had run large teams of trappers, invested the money into multiple enterprises and made a not inconsiderable fortune by finding managers he could trust and inspiring them to give their all to serve him. He knew the value of showing his tenants and neighbours that he counted himself one of them.
His decision to help was for the village at large, not to impress the lovely Mrs Forsythe.
“And,” he admonished himself as he rode away, “if you believe that, I have a village built of pure gold in Upper Canada that I’d like to sell you.”