Early July, Crowhurst Castle, Cornwall. The exasperation of a man driven to the limits of frustration colored his face, tone and every long-legged stride. The broken fences, the damaged boats, the mix-up with the grain, the unexplained ringing of the church bells at midnight? Gervase knew better.
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Early July, Crowhurst Castle, Cornwall. The exasperation of a man driven to the limits of frustration colored his face, tone and every long-legged stride. The broken fences, the damaged boats, the mix-up with the grain, the unexplained ringing of the church bells at midnight?
Gervase knew better. Sybil was wondering how to answer. He narrowed his eyes even further. Of course they were. The "they" he and she were discussing were her daughters - his three halfsisters - currently featuring as the bane of his life.
Belinda, Annabel, and Jane took after their father, as did he, which was why Sybil, mild, sweet Sybil, fair-haired and gentle, was entirely unable to control them. Or comprehend them; all three were more intelligent, clever and quick than she.
They were also more vigorous, bold and outgoing, altogether more confident. He, on the other hand, shared with the three the affinity of character. Or at least operating on some form of Tregarth logic he could understand. Gervase tried to recall the Hardesty girls, but drew a blank. Everyone thought Melissa and Katherine would be presented this past Season, and with Robert marrying…well, we all imagined that the new Lady Hardesty - a young widow said to have been a London beauty - would, naturally, take the girls under her wing.
It seemed his new wife wanted time to settle into her new life without the distraction of having to deal with the girls. Meanwhile, Lady Hardesty spent the Season in London, then returned to the Grange a week ago with a bevy of London friends in tow. Then he blinked. The parallels are rather obvious. Subsequently, it had been discovered that the mill was no longer functional. In the wake of the string of strange accidents that had plagued the estate for the past six months, Gervase and Gregson had set up a secret watch.
Belinda, the eldest, led the small procession. But if the expression on her heart-shaped face was any guide, any man would have his hands full with her.
Defiant determination oozed from every pore and flashed in her hazel eyes. She lifted her chin as she halted behind the chaise, facing Gervase, meeting his hard gaze with her own Tregarth stubbornness. Annabel, fairer in coloring, with almost blond hair and blue eyes, ranged alongside Belinda.
There was less than a year between them, and barely an inch; while Belinda had started to wear her hair up, Annabel was content to let her long pale tresses ripple over her shoulders in a romantic veil. Increasingly wary, he shifted his gaze to the third and youngest of the three, lowering it to her sweet, delicate face, still very much that of a child.
Jane was barely ten, and had always been devoted to him. Meeting those usually innocent orbs, Gervase was faintly stunned to encounter unwavering, resolute determination - further accentuated by the set of her little chin. Keeping his own expression impassive, he glanced again at the other two, mentally at sea. What on earth had changed them? Why…why had they lost faith in him? He had to go carefully. Where to start? He let the silence stretch, but while Sybil fidgeted, her daughters were made of sterner stuff.
They just waited for him to speak, their gazes locked on him. The mill is still out of action, and John Miller is in danger of losing what little hair he has left. So we had to think of something else. He was starting to feel a little disoriented.
The other two looked at her, deferring to her. Eventually she met his eyes. We suspected - well, everyone in the neighborhood knew - that you were going there to find a wife.
So we had to find some other way of stopping you. It was, indeed, as Sybil had guessed. Compressing his lips, he battled to shore up a patience that six months of mayhem - let alone all the futile racing back and forth - had worn wafer-thin. Yes, they did. The idea that he needed to was irritation enough. Any lady worth the title knows that gentlemen, once hooked, can be led by the nose if the lady is so minded.
Her eyes narrowed on Gervase. Trying to assimilate their unexpected and peculiarly female point of view was making Gervase giddy. He held up a hand. Just stop. No help there. You understand that I have to marry? She thanked him with a serious little nod. Gervase looked into her eyes, hoping to see that she was joking, or to at least detect some comprehension that she was overextrapolating, some indication that she understood that he had no need of their protection, especially in such an arena.
Instead, all he saw was that same, dogged, unbending purpose. One glance at the other two confirmed that they, too, saw her words as a simple statement of fact. One part of his mind was convinced he must be dreaming. His expression set like stone.
He should have said not one more word and stalked from the room. Should have realized from what had already passed that in the last ten years his sisters had grown even more like him - until he was no match for the three of them together. They could talk rings around a philosophy professor. It was more a matter of being able to twist arguments, of having the sort of mind that could see possibilities and frame connections in such a way that they seemed plausible, causal and direct.
Even when they were in no way linked. He was an expert in persuasion, in the art of framing the reasonable suggestion. Yet every point he made, his sisters attacked. From three sides. At once. He was driven back, step by step. Onto a slippery slope that he suddenly realized led straight to abject surrender.
But this was his life. His wife. And he was so tired of the mounting frustration of not being able to even start his search for her. All, it now seemed, because of his sisters. His temper, already tried beyond bearing, quietly slipped its leash. All three girls straightened.
In return, you three will accept that lady without question. Do you accept it? He pressed his advantage. You should be prepared to accept my bargain. Belinda spoke. He glanced at Sybil, a silent observer throughout, and curtly nodded. He had to get out - somewhere he could stride so he could let the coiled tension, the inevitable outcome of suppressing his fury, free. By the time he reached the drawing room door, manifesting temper had infected his movements. Jerking the door open, he swung into the corridor - and nearly ran down Sitwell, his butler.
A paragon of his calling, Sitwell stepped back quickly to avoid a collision. Gervase inwardly sighed. Closing the door, he arched a brow in query. He was going to have to swallow his ire. Which meant that for him finding a wife was postponed until the ton returned to the capital in late September.
Indeed, the entire subject of his wife - or more specifically his lack of same - had become a sore point, a mental bruise that throbbed every time he thought of it. Let alone spoke of it. He inwardly grimaced. No doubt Madeline had come to ask about the mill. The daughter of the previous Viscount Gascoigne, only child of his first marriage, she was the older halfsister of the current viscount, Harold, known to all as Harry, still very much a minor at fifteen.
The Gascoignes held the estate of Treleaver Park, situated above Black Head, the eastern headland of the same wide bay on which the castle stood overlooking the western cove.
Shelves: romance , regency-era , historical , series-longer , paperback 3. The anticipation is big for that one. I will get it out of the way early in this review and mention again how much I like Dalziel ; He played a nice-sized part in this story, and I enjoyed seeing how he worked alongside Gervase and Christian, and Charles too. Those two also aided in the mystery solving 3.