Amid the sumptuous backdrop of the London Season in 1905, headstrong Katherine Sinclair must join the ranks of debutantes vying for suitors. Unfortunately for Katherine, she cannot imagine anything more loathsome – or dangerous. Through her late mother’s enchanted journal, Katherine receives warning to keep hidden her otherworldly ability to perform Arcana, a magic fueled by the power of the sun. The machinations of the fashionably elite are a constant threat, but worse still are those who covet Katherine’s Arcana, seeking the power of her birthright. They could be hiding behind the façade of every suitor, even the darkly handsome Earl of Thornewood. With so much danger and suspicion, can she give her heart to the one who captivates her, or is he just another after her power?
The conversation drops off abruptly, and I look up from my glass. Lady Spencer, one of the wealthiest and most influential ladies of Society, joins our group. Even Eliza is struck mute.
Despite her heavier size, Lady Spencer is intimidatingly elegant in a violet satin gown and more diamonds at her throat and wrists than even royalty can boast. She greets each of us by name as if she studied every member of the peerage. We manage to return her greeting, all except for Lord Thornewood, who looks as uninterested as he did the first night I met him.
“Lord Thornewood,” Lady Spencer says, “I was surprised to see you here. I know you have looked down on dances in the past. Perhaps this fine ball has changed your mind?”
“Actually,” the earl drawls, “I find this very dull.”
Lady Spencer sucks in her breath in outrage.
“Perhaps if the dancing was livelier—the tango is taking hold in Paris, I understand.”
Her eyes, already so close in appearance to a frog’s, bulge. The tango is viewed as quite scandalous, even sinful, having come from the brothels of Argentina. No doubt Lord Thornewood knows this and is simply antagonizing her.
I glare at him. I can’t help it. My debut is supposedly tied to his good opinion, but what good is his opinion if all he does is insult everyone? Especially one of the most well-known ladies of the peerage.
While Lady Spencer’s mouth opens and closes like a fish, he turns to me. “Care to dance?”
He takes the glass from my hand, sets it down on a nearby table, and pulls me toward the dance floor before I can think of an excuse.
“My lord,” I say through clenched teeth as I tug my hand free, “I didn’t say yes.”
“You didn’t say no, either,” he says and takes his position beside me.
Leaving him on the dance floor, though satisfying, would only cause a bigger scene. I sigh as I go through the steps of the waltz.
After a few minutes he says, “Your constant sighing is bothering me.”
I narrow my eyes at him instead.
“I can’t imagine what I did to deserve such censure,” he says as he twirls me effortlessly.
“Can you not? Perhaps it has something to do with your rudeness.”
He shrugs. “I see it more as candor.”
The constant pauses in our conversation make me clench my teeth in frustration. “Lady Spencer will ask you to leave.”
I hesitate during one of the steps, and I bump into Lord Thornewood. He steadies me with his hand on my elbow for a moment, and my skin burns, even through the white satin of my gloves. He gives me a wry grin.
“I suppose your patronage of my debut was too much to ask for,” I say.
“What a dramatic, overly emotional response,” he says, still wearing his irritating grin. “And here I thought I’d found the perfect woman.”
I ignore the way my heart beats faster when he calls me perfect and focus on the negative instead. “It may be dramatic to you, but your entire family 86
isn’t relying on your successful debut.” My voice snaps like a whip, but he merely tilts his head to the side.
“How mad you are. You wear anger beautifully though. I’ve never seen a prettier flush.”
I groan in frustration—both at my own body’s joyful response at his words and the lack of appropriate response from him.
He leans closer to me on the next turn, and I feel my flush deepen. “Perhaps you would not be so annoyed if you could see Lady Spencer’s face.”
I glance up to find her watching us alongside Lady Villier, another influential dowager. Both have matching smiles as if they could not be more delighted to see us together.
“Why are they smiling?” I ask.
“Because I have intrigued them,” he says. “They’re not used to being treated in such a rude manner, and have decided I—and by extension, you—am the most interesting person this season.”
“My lord, I—”
“What you don’t realize about Society, Miss Sinclair, is it craves entertainment above everything else. Entertain them,” he says with a dark smile, “and you can just about get away with murder.”
We join hands for the finale, and as the skin of my palm burns from his touch, I turn his words over in my mind and wonder if maybe I shouldn’t be so quick to judge the earl after all.
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I’m a stay-at-home mom of three beautiful children (two toddlers and a newborn, in fact, so I think you can begin to see why my blog may be a bit neglected) and author of Arcana: A Novel (Skyhorse/Talos, November 4, 2014), my debut historical fantasy with a heavy dose of romance. I have a particular obsession with blending different genres, but almost everything I write has an element of fantasy and romance. I’ve been in love with historical England ever since my first literary crush: Mr. Darcy (I can’t even count the number of times I watched Pride & Prejudice–the A&E version, of course!!) I’m represented by the fabulous Brianne Johnson of Writers House, and I live in Greenville, SC.Before I was a writer, I worked as a psychotherapist. I spent several years working at a psychiatric hospital in Birmingham, AL, but after my husband graduated as a pharmacist, we moved back to Greenville. I claim Greenville as my hometown now since I spent most of my childhood here, and I’m a proud alumna of St. Joseph’s Catholic School and Winthrop University.
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