Meet Katherine

Here’s a snippet from my next book, The Bride Takes a Groom — in which my heroine, Miss Katherine Brooke, is introduced. It takes place in June 1805, at a boarding school in Coventry, England, called the Basingstoke Select Academy for Young Ladies. Please enjoy. :)

A summer evening.

Overhead, a full, golden moon.

A soft masculine voice murmuring in her ear, “Ma chérie, je veux te toucher.”

A hand, drawn across her bosom.

Pleasure. Refuge. Connection.

She pressed herself closer, and as she did so, to her drifted the faintest scent of lavender, carried gently on the breeze that rustled leaves, caressed flowers, stirred the light muslin hem of her gown.

The cover for The Bride Takes a Groom, Book 3 of the Penhallow Dynasty series by Lisa Berne (Avon Books)Lavender, and . . . witch hazel?

A sudden, urgent warning sounded deep in Katherine Brooke’s brain, but it was too late.

“Miss Brooke! Monsieur de la Motte! What is the meaning of this?” came the outraged voice of Miss Wolfe, headmistress of the very exclusive and even more expensive boarding school at which Katherine had been immured for two long, miserable years.

Germaine — Monsieur de la Motte — gave an audible gasp of horror, and before Katherine’s equally horrified gaze the dashing music instructor who had been so bold, so eloquent, seemed abruptly to become a rather large pile of blancmange. He released her and pulled away as if he had just been holding in his arms a repulsive, bad-smelling troll he’d found lurking under a bridge somewhere, and gibbered:

“Oh, Mademoiselle Wolfe, forgive me — it was nothing — without significance — a brotherly embrace to comfort only — the poor demoiselle so lonely and far from home — and but this one time, I do assure you — it was that I felt so very sorry for her —”

“You lie, you — you weasel,” interrupted Katherine hotly. If she’d had her wits about her, she might have gone along with his inane little story and maybe, just maybe, mitigated this rapidly unfolding disaster, but there was something about the way he was babbling on, as if she was nothing, as if she was without significance, that made a crimson mist of rage rise up in front of her eyes like a vengeful wraith. What had happened to all those bewitchingly romantic words of passion?

She wrenched herself around to face Miss Wolfe. “It’s not the first time, we’ve been meeting in the garden for weeks, and he’s been kissing me!”

Germaine de la Motte, no doubt aware that his days at the Basingstoke Academy for Young Ladies had drawn to an immediate close, and that within mere minutes he would be booted out onto the street with nothing but his hastily packed valise in hand, gave Katherine a look of undisguised malice. “But recall, mademoiselle, how ardently you sought me out.”

Oh, splendid, now the cat was well and truly let out of the bag, thus making things instantly go from bad to worse. Katherine could feel her fury dissolving with almost ludicrous speed and giving way to soul-shattering embarrassment and shame. “I — I thought you liked me,” she faltered.

He smiled thinly and lifted his shoulders in a Gallic gesture of dismissal. “Ma pauvre chérie.”

His words came at her like a slap in the face, cruel, patronizing, stinging. It had all been a lie. A malign and hard-hearted deception. So much for those embraces, the kisses, the furtive touches here and there, the exciting feel of a man’s body against her own. How wrong and awful she’d been, how stupid, how bad —

And here, to emphasize just how bad, was Miss Wolfe again, very nearly sputtering in her fury:

“I can hardly believe my ears! That a pupil of mine would stoop so low! To solicit such a thing! To sneak about, like a sordid criminal! And you but barely turned fifteen, Miss Brooke! Be sure that I shall inform your parents by express first thing tomorrow.”

Katherine hung her head. She was a low, sneaking, sordid, criminal sort of girl. Hadn’t she known, underneath it all, that she was behaving dreadfully? “Yes, Miss Wolfe,” she muttered, aware, to her further horror, that tears were gathering in her eyes, had begun to roll in heavy, wet, revealing drops down her cheeks. More ashamed of herself than ever, with a kind of desperation she scrubbed at the tears with her bare hands. Oh, she hated this place. If she was lucky, her parents would have her removed at once.

But as it turned out, she would stay on for four more long, miserable years at the Basingstoke Academy, Mother and Father agreeing with Miss Wolfe’s expert (and, ultimately, costly) assessment that Katherine — so gauche, so inattentive — would need them in order to acquire even the most fundamental degree of polish, that essential and elusive je ne sais quoi, which would enable her to someday, one hoped, comport herself without committing further, dreadful gaffes.

Releasing this April (soon!), The Bride Takes a Groom is the third book in my Penhallow Dynasty series, and was recently named by Publishers Weekly in its spring 2018 announcements as one of the “big titles of spring.” Would you like to preorder? Click here. To save it on Goodreads, click here.

 

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