New York Times and USA Today Bestselling Author

of Contemporary Women's Fiction, Romantic Comedies, and Historical Romances

 

Home || My Books || Connected Books || What's Next || JacquieD Recommends || Email Me || Join My Mailing List || Buy My Books Online

You can find me on Facebook, Twitter, and blogging with the Whine Sisters -- stop by and say hi!        

 

 

She dreamed of roses...

Orphaned and abandoned by her fiancé, Hayley Albright is determined to care for her younger siblings even if it means having to give up her own dreams. She doesn't expect to ever find love or get married...until one moonlit night when she saves the life of a mysterious stranger.

....And he wants only to make her dreams come true

Lord Stephen Barrett woke up gazing at the face of an angel. He was alive. And safe, for now, from the killer stalking his every move. Allowing Hayley to believe he is just a tutor of modest means, Stephen stays on for reasons of his own, never anticipating the passions Hayley would stir in his cold, wary heart. Her innocence is pure seduction. Her touch is sweet temptation. And suddenly the man who has everything is willing to risk it all--for a woman who has nothing to

give...but all her heart.... 

 

Top of Page

Excerpt

Chapter One

Reviews

Reader Comments

Awards


Excerpt

 

I hope you enjoy this sample reading! But First you need to imagine yourself in Regency England!
 

    His gaze wandered slowly downward until it settled on the flower tucked in her buttonhole. Reaching out, he touched a petal with one finger. "What flower did you say this was?"
    "A pansy."
    "And what do pansies stand for?"
    "They mean 'you occupy my thoughts'."
    " 'You occupy my thoughts…' " he repeated. Seemingly of their own volition, his feet moved, drawing him a step closer to her, and then another, until only several inches separated them. He'd half expected her to retreat, but she didn't move; only stared at him with wide eyes.
    The tips of her breasts brushed his shirt every time she inhaled. An image of her crushed against his length flashed through his mind, and his entire body quickened in response. He needed to step away from her. Immediately.
    Instead, he gently brushed a wayward curl from her cheek and discovered that his fingers were not quite steady. "You're occupying my thoughts right now," he said, his voice coming out in a husky rasp.
    "I…I am?"
    "Yes." Stephen's gaze probed hers. He wanted very much to kiss her, but to his utter amazement he was experiencing an unprecedented battle with his conscience, an inner voice he'd thought long dead. You'll be gone from here in a fortnight. Don't risk hurting a woman who has shown you nothing but kindness. She's an innocent country girl who doesn't know how to play the sophisticated games of love you're used to. Leave her alone!
    Stephen was just about to perform an incredible, not to mention previously unheard of, noble gesture and move away from her, when her gaze drifted down to his mouth. He could practically feel the soft caress against his lips. Stifling a groan, he mentally buried his conscience in a deep grave and leaned forward...

 

Top of Page

Excerpt

Chapter One

Reviews

Reader Comments

Awards

 

Chapter One

 

Outside London, 1820

    Someone was following him.
    Dread curled down Stephen's back and settled like a brick in his gut. He reined Pericles to an abrupt halt and scanned the area around him, straining to pick up any sound or movement.
    It was so dark he could barely discern the outline of the forest surrounding him on both sides of the deserted road. A pine-scented breeze cooled the July air. A chorus of crickets hummed nearby. Nothing seemed amiss.
    But he was in danger.
    He knew it.
    An icy chill of foreboding shivered through his body. Someone was there. Watching him. Waiting for him.
    How the hell did they find me out here? I was certain I slipped out of London unnoticed. His lips twisted. So much for spending a few peaceful days at his private lodge. Stephen's thoughts were halted by the rustle of dry leaves. Whispered voices reached his ears. A flash of white broke the enveloping darkness. The loud report of a pistol cut the air.
    Searing agony crashed into his upper arm. He groaned and dug in his heels, making Pericles shoot into the forest. They raced between the trees, their pursuers close behind. In spite of Stephen's best efforts, the thrashing sounds grew ever closer.
    He clenched his teeth against the pain spearing his shoulder, and pushed Pericles harder. Damn it, I am not going to die here. Whoever these bastards are, they will not win. They have tried before and failed. They will not succeed tonight.
    Racing through the forest, Stephen thanked God he had refused Justin's offer to accompany him on this trip. Stephen had needed solitude, and his small lodge was private and unstaffed. A rustic haven free of duties, people, and responsibilities. He prayed he would get there. Alive. But if he did not, at least his best friend would not die also.
    "There 'e is! Just ahead!"
    The rough voice came from directly behind him. A slick film of perspiration broke out over Stephen's body. He smelled the metallic stench of blood--his blood--and his stomach turned over. It flowed, warm and sticky, soaking his shirt and jacket. He felt himself growing lightheaded and he gritted his teeth against the weakness.
    God damn it! I refuse to die like this!
    But even as he made the mental vow, Stephen realized his grave peril. He was miles from help. No one, save Justin, knew where he was, and Justin would not expect to hear from him for at least a week. How long before anyone realized he was dead? A fortnight? A month? Longer? Would he ever be found here in the forest? No. My only hope is to lose these bastards.
    But the bastards were nearly upon him.
    Another shot rang out. The stinging impact jolted Stephen from the saddle. He cried out and fell heavily to the ground, rolling over and over down a steep incline. Jagged rocks tore at his skin. Thorny bushes scraped him unmercifully.
    Images flashed in his mind. His father's frigid, unforgiving gaze. His mother's vapid laugh. A drunk Gregory--who would now inherit the title, and Gregory's timid, mousy wife Melissa. His sister Victoria's radiant smile when she married Justin. So many regrets. So many wounds unhealed.
    His downward plunge ended with a bone-jarring splash when he landed in a stream of icy water. White-hot pain sizzled through him. Blackness engulfed him. Cannot move. Hurts so much. Jesus. What a bloody, stupid way to die.

* * * * * * *

    Hayley Albright drove her gig at a steady pace and tried her best to ignore her growing discomfort. Squashed between her two servants on a seat intended for only two, she could barely draw a breath into her compressed lungs. Tired and cramped, she longed for a hot bath and a soft bed. Instead I have a long bumpy ride and a hard seat.
    She tried to move her shoulders, but they remained firmly wedged between Winston and Grimsley. A resigned sigh escaped her. They were hours late getting home. Everyone must be terribly worried about them. And if Winston and Grimsley didn't stop arguing, she'd have to strangle them with her bare hands--if she could manage to pry her arms loose. As it was, she had to drive the gig in order to separate them.
    A flash of white in the darkness caught Hayley's attention, turning her thoughts from murder and mayhem. She peered ahead but saw nothing.
    Except a large shadow lurking near a copse of trees.
    Her mouth dried up with fear. Forcibly wriggling her shoulders free, she pulled back on Samson's reins, grinding the gig to a squeaking halt. She pointed a shaky finger and whispered, "What is that?"
    Grimsley squinted into the darkness. "Heh? I don't see a thing, Miss Hayley."
    "That's because yer blasted spectacles are perched on yer bald head instead of yer long nose," Winston muttered, his gravelly voice filled with disgust. "Put 'em where they belong and you'll see fine, ya scurvy old coot."
    Grimsley drew himself up as straight as his creaking bones would allow. "Who are you calling an old coot?"
    "You. And I called ya a scurvy old coot. Must be a scurvy deaf old coot."
    "Well, a body can hardly be expected to hear above the cacophony from that wheel you supposedly fixed," Grimsley replied with a haughty sniff.
    "At least I fixed it," Winston shot back. "And a damned bloody good job I did, too. Didn't I, Miz Hayley?"
    Hayley bit the inside of her cheek. For the three years her father's first mate had lived with the Albrights, Hayley had attempted to clean up the former sailor's salty tongue--though not always successfully.
    "Your repair job was excellent, Winston, but look over there." She pointed again to the shadow moving near the trees. A shiver of fear rippled down her spine. "What is that? Dear God, I pray we're not about to be set upon by thieves!"
    She surreptitiously patted her skirt to insure her reticule was securely fastened and hidden in the folds of material. Good heavens! When I think of the risks I've taken--the lies I've told to get this money, I have no intention of handing it over to highwaymen.
    A wave of guilt washed over her. No one, including Grimsley and Winston, had any idea of the true nature of today's excursion to London, and she intended to keep it that way. As much as she hated lying, secrets led to falsehoods. Her family needed this money and she was solely responsible for their security.
    Fighting to calm her mounting fear, Hayley looked around. Nothing seemed amiss. The warm summer breeze played with her hair, and she impatiently pushed back several unruly curls. The pungent scent of pine tickled her nose. Crickets chirped their throaty song. She inhaled a calming breath, and nearly choked. The large shadow detached itself from the copse of trees and moved towards them.
    Hayley froze. Her mind whispered do not panic, but her body refused to obey. Dear God, what would become of her family if she died on this dark, lonely road? Aunt Olivia could barely take care of herself, let alone four children. Callie was only six! And Nathan and Andrew needed her. Pamela, too.
    The shadow moved closer and her entire body went liquid with relief. A horse, she realized. It was merely a horse.
    Winston laid a callused hand on her shoulder. "Don't you worry none, Miz Hayley. If there's somethin' evil afoot here, I'll not let any harm come to ya. I promised yer Pa, God rest his soul, that I'd protect ya and protect ya I will." He puffed out his massive chest. "If there's a bandit about, I'll break his scrawny neck. I'll yank out his gizzards with me bare hands and tie the blighter up with his own innards. I'll--"
    Hayley cut off the grisly diatribe with a dry cough. "Thank you, Winston, but I don't think that will be necessary. In fact, it appears our 'bandit' is nothing more than a riderless horse."
    Grimsley scratched the top of his head and discovered his glasses perched on his bald pate. Adjusting the spectacles on the bridge of his nose, he peered once again into the darkness.
    "Why look at that. A horse. Standing in the middle of the road. Imagine that."
    "Miz Hayley just said that, ya cretin," Winston grumbled. "Although I'm surprised ya managed to see the beast before it bit yer bony arse."
    Almost giddy with relief, Hayley smothered a chuckle and chose to ignore Winston's language. Before either servant could assist her, she jumped down from her seat and approached the animal with caution. He was huge, but she had yet to meet the horse she couldn't charm. When she reached his side, she grabbed the reins trailing over his saddle. "How beautiful you are," she crooned, reaching out to stroke the stallion's velvety nose. "The finest horse I've ever seen, and I've seen and cared for many. Why are you out here all alone? Who do you belong to?"
    The animal nuzzled her palm and nickered. She stroked the magnificent beast's glossy black mane, allowing him to get used to her scent.
    When the horse's breathing slowed, she called softly, "Grimsley, bring a lantern, if you please. And Winston, hold the reins while I look the animal over."
    "Look here," she said moments later, crouching down. "His right foreleg is bleeding." Hayley touched the injury with gentle fingers. The stallion jerked his head up and down and tried to step away, but Winston held him fast.
    "Is it bad?" Grimsley asked, peeking over Hayley's shoulder.
    "No, thank goodness. He needs treatment, but his leg is not broken." She straightened and took the lantern from Grimsley. A series of scratches ran along the horse's left flank, and his tail was full of leaves and twigs.
    "It looks as if he ran pell-mell through a thicket," Hayley mused. "He's a beautiful animal, and obviously well cared for. These scratches are fresh. As there are no homes for miles around, and he is saddled, his rider must have been thrown." She turned toward the woods. Peering into the inky darkness, she pressed a hand to her knotted stomach and forced back her apprehension. "We must search for this fellow. He could be seriously injured."
    Grimsley's eyes widened behind his spectacles. He swallowed audibly. "A search? Here? Now?"
    "No, ya moldy old coot," Winston said with a snort. "Next week."
    Grimsley ignored him. "But it's so dark, Miss Hayley, and we're already hours late getting home because we had to fix the gig's wheel. Everyone's probably worried--"
    "So another quarter hour will not matter," Hayley broke in, her tone crisp. God knew she wanted nothing more than to get home, but how could she leave, knowing someone might need aid? She couldn't. Her conscience would eat her alive.
    Filled with resolve, she asked, "How can we possibly leave without checking? The fact that such a fine animal is wandering about, scratched and bleeding and riderless, is a sure indication that something is amiss. Someone may be in desperate need of help."
    "But what if the horse belongs to a murderer or robber?" Grimsley asked in a weak, quivering voice.
    Hayley patted the old man's hand. "Not to worry, Grimsley. Murderers and robbers rarely possess such fine horses. And who would they hope to murder or rob on this deserted stretch of road?"
    Grimsley cleared his throat. "Us?"
    "Well, if he is hurt, he cannot do much damage, and if he is unharmed, we shall simply return his horse to him and be on our merry way." She leveled a meaningful, penetrating look on her companions. "Besides, after what happened to Mama and Papa, you two know better than anyone that I could never forgive myself if I left someone who is sick or injured."
    Winston and Grimsley both fell silent and nodded. Turning her attention back to the stallion, Hayley ran her hand down the animal's sweating neck.
    "Is your rider here? Is he hurt?" she asked softly. The stallion pawed the ground and whinnied, his nostrils flaring. She glanced at Winston and Grimsley. "Horses have very good homing instincts. Let's see if he leads us anywhere."
    Before either man could stop her, Hayley hitched up her skirt, placed her booted foot into the stirrup, and swung into the saddle. It was a good thing she was taller than most men as the horse was the largest she'd ever encountered.
    "Please fetch the supply bag from the gig, Winston. We need to be prepared. Grimsley, you carry the lantern."
    With the ease of an accomplished rider, Hayley touched her heels to the horse's flanks. The animal seemed to have a definite destination in mind and showed no hesitancy. They traveled parallel to the road for approximately half a mile, then turned and moved deeper into the dark woods. Holding the reins loosely, Hayley surveyed the area with sharp eyes while Winston and Grimsley followed behind, arguing all the while.
    "Fling me on the poop deck and strip me to my skivvies," Winston growled. "Step up the pace, ya old bag 'o bones. I won't be stoppin' to haul yer wheezin' arse along. I'll be leavin' ya here to rot."
    "I can keep up just fine," Grimsley puffed. "I am simply minding my new footwear."
    "Don't want no scratches on yer prissy shoes, do ya?" Winston sneered. "God save me from fussy old butlers. Worse than bleedin' babies."
    "I was Captain Albright's personal valet--"
    "Yeah, yeah. And I was 'is right hand, God rest 'is soul. You tell me which is more important."
    "A valet, of course." He sniffed loudly. "And at least I don't smell."
    A chuckle escaped Winston. "You do now, old Grimmy. Best mind yer shoes a bit better when yer walkin' behind a horse!"
    Their voices droned on, but Hayley ignored them and concentrated on her surroundings. The forest was darker than the inside of a cloak. Leaves crunched beneath the horses hooves. An owl hooted nearby, nearly stopping her heart. Surely she must be mad to have embarked on this excursion. But what choice did she have? She closed her eyes and imagined Nathan or Andrew, hurt and alone. God knows she'd want someone to aid her brothers. She couldn't leave until she knew if anyone needed her help--even if the effort scared her witless.
    Several minutes later the horse stopped. Nickering softly, he pawed the ground and laid his ears back. Hayley dismounted, took the lamp from Grimsley and held it aloft, bathing the surrounding area with a soft, golden glow. They stood on some sort of precipice. Walking to the edge, she peered down, her gaze traveling the length of a steep rocky slope. The gentle gurgle of a stream rose from below.
    Grimsley peered over her shoulder and gingerly wiped his shoe on a patch of grass. "Do you see anything, Miss Hayley?"
    "No. There's a steep bank and I hear a stream..." Her voice trailed off as a low groan drifted up to them.
    "Wh. . . what was that?" Grimsley whispered in a shaky voice.
    "It's just the wind, ya crusty old coot," Winston said, his voice laced with disgust.
    Hayley pressed her hand to her stomach and shook her head. "No. Listen."
    Another groan, barely audible but still unmistakable, floated up from the darkness below.
    "There's someone down there," Hayley said, her voice grim. She looked down and saw a flash of white. Without a thought to herself, she started down the steep slope. Halfway down she lifted the lantern, arcing a beam of light toward the stream.
    And she saw him.
    Lying face-down, the lower half of his body submerged in the water, was a man. A cry of alarm escaped her. Hayley half ran, half slid down the slope, ignoring the sharp rocks and twigs tearing at her clothing and skin.
    "Miss Hayley! Are you all right?" Grimsley's frightened voice drifted down.
    "Yes, I am fine. But there is an injured man down here."
    She reached him seconds later. Unmindful of the icy creek water and her now-ruined shoes, she dropped to her knees and gently turned him over.
    His face was filthy and covered with scratches. Blood oozed from a nasty gash on his forehead. Mud, leaves, and grass clung to his torn clothing. His dark jacket was flung open, revealing a blood-stained shirt.
    Hayley pressed her fingers to the side of his neck. To her profound relief she felt a pulse--a weak, thready pulse--but at least he was alive. She squeezed her eyes shut for a brief moment, her mind flashing to her parents. She'd been unable to save either of them. Perhaps she could rescue this poor soul.
    "Is 'e dead?" Winston's voice called out of the darkness.
    "No, but he's badly injured. Quick! Bring down the supply bag." She ran light, probing fingers over the man's head, searching for additional wounds. When she touched an egg-sized lump on the back of his skull, he groaned slightly.
    The sickly sweet odor of blood filled Hayley's nostrils and she fought back the urge to panic. She needed to clean his wounds and dared not waste the precious minutes it would take Winston and Grimsley to reach her. Jumping to her feet, she reached under her skirt and yanked down her petticoat. She stepped out of the garment, tore off a long strip, and dampened the fabric in the cold stream.
    With gentle strokes, she bathed the mud and blood from the man's face. In spite of the poor light and the filth covering him, she could see he was striking. He certainly didn't look like a robber.
    "Can you hear me, sir?" she asked, re-wetting the material. He remained completely motionless, deathly pale under the grime.
    "How is 'e?" Winston asked when he and Grimsley arrived with the supply bag.
    "His head is bleeding. So is his upper arm. Badly." She leaned down and sniffed at his torn jacket. "Gunpowder. He must have been shot."
    Grimsley's eyes widened. "Shot?" He glanced quickly about as if expecting pistol-toting highwaymen to materialize.
    Hayley nodded. "Yes. Luckily it appears to be only a flesh wound. Help me pull him out of the water. Be careful. I don't want to hurt him any more than necessary." Grimsley held the lantern while Hayley and Winston grabbed the man under his arms and dragged him from the stream.
    Opening the supply bag, Hayley pulled out a knife and cut his jacket and shirt away from the wound. With Grimsley clutching the lantern, she examined his upper arm. Blood oozed from a nasty gash. Flecks of dirt dotted his skin as did numerous scratches. Gritting her teeth, she pressed her fingers to the injury and nearly swooned with relief.
    "It's only a flesh wound. Bleeding, but no lead ball evident," she reported after a short, tense silence. Knowing they would need more bandages than the emergency few contained in the bag, she indicated her discarded petticoat with a jerk of her head.
    "Tear that into strips, Grimsley."
    Grimsley squinted at the garment and gasped. "But that's your petticoat, Miss Hayley!"
    Hayley took a deep breath and mentally counted to five. "These are dire circumstances, Grimsley. We cannot stand on ceremony. I am sure Papa would do the same thing were he here."
    Winston's eyes bugged out. "Captain Albright never wore no petticoat! Why 'is crew would have flogged him! Tossed 'im to the sharks!"
    Once again Hayley mentally counted--this time to ten. "I meant Papa would not have stood on ceremony. He would have done whatever was necessary to help this man." God, give me patience. Do not force me to cosh these two dear, infuriating men.
    Without further discussion, Grimsley tore the petticoat into bandages and passed them to Winston. He in turn wet them and handed them to Hayley. She bathed the wound as best she could, then applied pressure to it using clean bandages from her bag. Her eyes constantly flitted back to the man's face. She feared that every breath he drew might well be his last. Don't die on me. Please. Let me save you. When the bleeding finally slowed to a trickle, she bandaged his arm.
    She then turned her attention to the nasty gash on his head. The bleeding had nearly stopped. She bandaged it as well, first bathing the dirt away. After that, she gently touched his body looking for further injuries. A low groan passed his lips when she pressed his torso.
    "Broken or cracked ribs," she remarked. "Just like Papa suffered back in '11 when he fell from the porch railing." Winston and Grimsley nodded in silence. She continued her examination down his long frame, her hands gentle but firm.
    "Anything else, Miss Hayley?" Grimsley asked.
    "I don't believe so, but there's always the chance that he is bleeding inside. If so, he will not live through the night."
    Grimsley surveyed the surrounding desolate area and shook his head. "What are we going to do with him?"
    "Bring him home with us and take care of him," Hayley answered without hesitation.
    Grimsley's wrinkled face paled visibly. "But Miss Hayley! What if he's a lunatic of some sort? What if--"
    "His clothes--what's left of them--are fine quality. He is no doubt a gentleman, or employed by one." When Grimsley opened his mouth to speak again, Hayley held up her hand to silence him. "If he turns out to be a murdering lunatic, we will cosh him on the head with a skillet, fling him out the door and send for the magistrate. In the meantime, we are bringing him home. Now. Before he dies as we speak."
    Grimsley sighed and his gaze traveled upward to where the stallion stood. "I somehow knew you were going to say that. But how are we going to get him up the hill?"
    "We're gonna carry 'im, ya wheezin' old fossil," Winston hollered close to Grimsley's ear, causing the older man to wince. "I'm strong as an ox, I am. I could lug this bloke twenty miles if I 'ad to." He turned to Hayley. "You can count on me, Miz Hayley. I'm no wispy bag 'o bones--not like some people we know." He shot Grimsley a narrowed-eyed glare.
    "Thank you. Both of you. Grimsley, you lead the way with the lantern."
    "I'll carry his feet, Miss Hayley," Grimsley said with dignity. "You carry the lantern."
    A weary smile tugged at Hayley's lips and her earlier annoyance at the elderly man vanished. "Thank you, Grimsley, but I am already dirty and you are much more skilled at navigation with a lantern than I." Hayley saw that Winston was about to make a remark and she sent him a killing glare. Winston rolled his eyes heavenward and snapped his lips together.
    "Now," Hayley continued, "we must hurry and get him back to the house and into a warm bed as soon as possible."
    Winston grabbed the man under his arms, while Hayley struggled with his feet. Dear God, the man weighed more than Andrew and Nathan combined, and her brothers were no flimsy wisps. She may have spared Grimsley's feelings, but her back would hurt for it tomorrow. For the first time in her life, she gave thanks for her unfeminine height and strength. Perhaps she towered over most men's heads and couldn't dance with any amount of grace, but by God, she could lug her share of a heavy man up a hill.
    They slipped twice on their way up, and both times Hayley's heart ached when the man groaned, hating that they were hurting him, but unable to avoid it. The ground was treacherous with mud and rocks. Her clothes were beyond ruined, and her knees scraped raw from the sharp stones, but she never considered giving up. In fact, her discomfort only made her more determined. If she was suffering, the man was suffering more. And that hurt her worst of all.
    "Blimey, this bloke's heavier than 'e looks," Winston panted when they finally reached the top. After resting for a brief moment to catch their breaths, they carried the man back to the gig with Grimsley leading the stallion by the reins. The man groaned several more times, and Hayley's heart clenched. The going was slow, but at least Winston and Grimsley had ceased bickering.
    When they arrived at their vehicle, Hayley instructed, "Let's lay him down across the seat. Make him as comfortable as possible." That accomplished, she breathed a huge sigh of relief. He was still alive. "Grimsley, you watch over the man. Winston, drive the gig. I shall ride the stallion."
    The journey home would take another two hours. Sitting astride the huge horse, Hayley pressed her heels to the animal's flanks and offered up a silent, fervent prayer the man would survive that long.

* * * * * * * *

    In a dark alley near the London waterfront, a plain hired hack drew to a stop. The sole occupant of the coach watched through a slit in the curtain as two men approached.
    "Is he dead?" the occupant asked in a low whisper.
    Willie, the taller of the two men curled his lips back. "'Course 'e's dead. We told ye we'd get rid of the toff and we did." His beady eyes flickered with menace.
    "Where is the body?"
    "Face down in a stream 'bout an hour's ride from Town," Willie said, then gave exact directions to the location.
    "Excellent."
    Willie leaned forward and breathed foul breath through the parted curtain. "The job's done, so we'd be likin' our blunt now."
    A hand swathed in a black leather glove reached out the window and dropped a bag into Willie's outstretched hand. Without another word, the curtain closed. A signal was given to the driver, and the carriage disappeared into the night.
    A satisfied smile curved the lips of the occupant of the hack.
    He was dead.
    Stephen Alexander Barrett, eighth Marquess of Glenfield was finally, finally dead.

I hope that whets your appetite!

Top of Page

Excerpt

Chapter One

Reviews

Reader Comments

Awards

 

Reviews

 

Review by Cathy Sova 
for The Romance Reader
 www.theromancereader.com
 
Red Roses Mean Love is the first novel by Jacquie D'Alessandro, and as I closed the cover (in the wee hours of the morning, I might add) my reaction could be summed up in one word.

Wow.

What a stunning debut this is. Funny, lush, sensuous, intriguing - hang whatever kudos you want on it, it's an outstanding read, and historical romance readers absolutely will not want to miss it.

Stephen Barrett, Marquess of Glenfield and heir to a dukedom, is riding to his country lodge when he's attacked and shot from his horse. Left for dead, Stephen is rescued by Hayley Albright and her two servants. She takes Stephen to her family home, Albright Cottage, and cares for him until he awakens. Stephen is sure that someone is out to murder him. He decides to pass himself off as "Stephen Barrettson", tutor, until he can recover his strength and make his way back to London surreptitiously. His friend and brother-in-law, Justin Mallory, will begin investigating. Stephen's own brother is a prime suspect.

Hayley is nothing like any woman Stephen has ever known. Six feet tall, but with a lovely face, she cheerfully cares for her younger brothers and sisters and one deaf auntie, managing the household left in her care after her father's death. Captain Tripp Albright was renowned for his seamanship. The tales he told of his adventures have afforded Hayley an income, although from secret means. The children are rambunctious enough, but added to the mix are three servants from her father's ship: Grimsley, the valet, Winston, a sea dog with salty language, and Pierre, a temperamental French cook. Throw in three huge dogs named Winky, Pinky, and Stinky, and it's a household totally unlike anything Stephen has ever experienced. This isn't proper.

Proper or not, it's not long before the family begins breaking through Stephen's carefully-constructed walls. In the Albrights Stephen sees all the warmth and love missing from his own upbringing. But he's a dissolute marquess with a string of mistresses behind him, plus he's lied to Hayley from the start. What will happen if he allows her to love him? Eventually he'll have to leave. And there's still someone out to kill him.

What lifts this book above the ordinary is the humor flowing throughout the story. Small scenes here and there will have readers laughing out loud. Stephen forced into a tea party with six-year-old Callie, and finding he can't get out of the small chair he's stuffed himself into. Stephen admonishing Hayley for her sibling's behavior, and getting the dressing-down of his life. Winston and Grimsley, whose constant bickering disguises a great friendship.

And yet, the climax is as heart-tugging as any reader could wish. The sexual tension sizzles between Stephen and Hayley, and there is one scene in the library that is nothing short of breathtaking in its simplicity and emotional punch. It's obvious the author cared deeply about these characters, and readers will, too.

Nothing about Red Roses Mean Love suggests it's a first novel. Witty, stylish, and endearing, it's one of the best books I've read this year.

Let's hope Ms. D'Alessandro has many more up her sleeve.


Review by Kathe Robin 
for Romantic Times Magazine
 www.romantictimes.com
 
While riding through the forest, Lord Stephen Barrett is attacked and severely wounded. Fortunately, he is found by Hayley Albright, a lively, loving and kind young woman who takes him home.  Stephen claims he's a tutor who would be happy to teach Hayley's siblings while solving the mystery of the attack.  The eclectic members of the household soon take to Stephen and he quickly becomes part of the family.  But Stephen is overwhelmed by his strong attraction to Hayley, the bright ray of sunshine who maintains her home and lovingly cares for everyone with a free-spirited good nature. He leaves Hayley, firm in his belief that it is for the best. But is it?

How these endearing lovers are brought together makes for a romance filled with warmth, charm and a wonderful freshnesss that is sure to captivate readers. Ms. D'Alessandro brings new verve to the genre.


Review by Nan H. Doporto 
for Affaire de Coeur
http://www.affairedecoeur.com

Stephen Alexander Barrett, Marquess of Glenfield, was shot and left for dead beside a byway outside of London.  He conceals his identity when he is found and taken by Hayley Albright to her home.  There she nurses him back to health.  During his recovery he is introduced to a different world.  Hayley's family welcomes him into their midst.  He learns the language of flowers and the language of the heart.  He learns Hayley's secret, while hiding his own.  He must leave his heart and this delightful family to find his enemy, the man who wants to kill him.

Jacquie D'Alessandro has taken a simple tale, embellished it and turned it into something special.  She took the normal and ordinary and made it special.  A young aristocrat who had never shaved himself finds that he must learn that and other common tasks while living with an impoverished but loving family of a deceased sea captain.  Full of charm and love and laughter, Red Roses Mean Love is a delightful read.


Review by Kathee S. Card 
for Reader to Reader
http://www.newandusedbooks.com

London and Kent Countryside, England - 1820

Someone wants Stephen Barrett, the eighth Marquess of Glenfield dead, and almost succeeds with a bullet that topples him from his horse, plunging him down a steep hill to lie unconscious, half-submerged in the icy waters of a stream. Returning from market Hayley Albright notices a riderless horse and goes to investigate. With the help of two cantankerous family retainers she manages to bring Stephen home to Albright Cottage. The death of her parents left her with little money and the responsibility to rear two sisters and two brothers, but her unconventional methods and warm acceptance of life’s foibles brings warmth and light into every situation, including the near death of a man who keeps his identity a secret.

Stephen has no intentions of endangering the lives of those who generously opened home and heart to him in his time of need, but in all of his days he never expected to have so much fun recuperating. Everyday brings new adventures, orchestrated by his own personal "angel," Hayley Albright, opening a world of feelings and love that are as new to him as the morning sun. Stephen knows he should not, can not, fall in love, but no matter how hard he tries it is to no avail. Hayley steals his heart, leaving him no recourse but to flee the Kent countryside and return to London in an attempt to discover the person that seeks his death.

RED ROSES MEAN LOVE is the kind of book you want to hug! I adored the entire family of Albrights with their eccentricities, joi-de-vive, comic antics, and family loyalties. Watching Stephen blossom under the growing bonds of familial acceptance warms the heart and brings a tear to the eye. Hayley is a heroine to emulate, with qualities that we all wish we possessed in the same abundance as she. More a slice-of-life then a plot, we follow day-to-day experiences until Stephen leaves abruptly for London. Once again the mystery arises and carries our hero and heroine into danger and finally back into each other’s arms. A truly delightful story that ends far too soon, since we want to keep sharing all the silly mishaps of this delicious group.  Very Highly Recommended


Review by Rendezvous Magazine 

Stephen Barrett, Marquess of Glenfield, races his horse through the forest, desperate to evade the men chasing him.  He is shot. He tumbles from his horse and down a steep embankment into a stream.  Hayley Albright and two members of her household find him.  As he is nursed back to health by Hayley, he realizes that he can't tell her who he really is for fear of putting her and her family in jeopardy from the men who tried to kill him.  He tells them he is a tutor who was beset by highwaymen.  As he recovers, he comes to realize what a bizarre family he has come upon.  Bizarre, yet wonderfully special.

Ms. D'Alessandro has written one of the most humorous, heartwarming, loving books that it has been my pleasure to read. Every minute spent with this family is enjoyable. Well written characters and excellent plotting. Thus marks Ms. D'Alessandro's writing debut. Her first outing is a triumph!


 Review by Harriet Klausner 
for Reader to Reader
http://www.newandusedbooks.com

In 1820, Lord Stephen Barrett flees London to escape the assailants trying to kill him. By the time he reaches the suburbs, he figures he and his few loved ones are safe. However, to his amazement, the hired goons catch up to him and shoot him. The hoodlums, watching Stephen plunge into the nearby freezing water, leave thinking their victim is dead.

While driving her gig, Hayley Albright notices an unconscious person. With the help of a servant, she brings home the injured individual to help him heal from his wounds. As he recuperates, Stephen pretends to be a tutor. However, the open display of love and caring amidst the Albright household including servants stuns Stephen. He wants the same for his own family. Even more shocking, Stephen begins to care for the precocious Albright children. He also falls in love with his Hayley, who runs the loving lunatic farm that he wants to join. However, Stephen concludes he is not worthy and leaves when he feels Hayley is beginning to return his love. Stephen knows he must first deal with an unknown assailant before anyone he loves becomes a victim of a killer.

Regency romance fans will simply love RED ROSES MEAN LOVE because the jocular story line smoothly blends an entertaining mystery within a warm romance. The characters are an enjoyable lot.  As a new sub-genre force, Jacquie D’Alessandro provides the audience with tidbits that bring the period to life. The myriad of wonderful often wacky relationships will remind the audience of a regency version of YOU CAN’T TAKE IT WITH YOU. Readers will ardently want Ms. D’Alessandro to provide sequels starring secondary characters who make this book an enjoyable reading experience.

A prediction: In the years to come Jacquie D’Alessandro will become a household name for lovers of the romance genre.


Review by Détra Fitch 
Huntress Book Reviews
 

Someone had hired thugs to assassinate Lord Stephen Barrett. The second attempt almost succeeded. Hayley Albright finds Stephen close to dead in the woods and takes him to her home to recover. Stephen pretends to be a tutor. With the help of his brother-in-law, Stephen decides to lay low at the Albright house for awhile and recover in hopes the culprit can be found. Hayley's parents were years dead. Her father had died without leaving the family with much funds. Hayley, being the oldest, took control. She had to take care of five siblings and a staff. As Stephen recovered, Hayley had unknowingly shown him all that was missing in his life. Hayley's love of her family showed in everything she did. The entire family treated Stephen as one of them, instead of as a stranger. But soon, Stephen would have to return to his own world and face a killer. Hayley had her own secret: how she paid the bills.

***Everyone simply HAS to read this one! I chuckled all the way through it! I laughed out loud several times and twice had to stop to wipe the tears out of my eyes from laughing so hard! This is Jacquie D'Alessandro's debut novel. Dell Publishing was wise enough to quickly snatch up the rights to this author's second novel. With this one book, she has hit my tiny list of authors which I automatically purchase without reading the back first. If it has the name Jacquie D'Alessandro on it, it's guaranteed to please!***


Review by Charlene Hess 
for Old Book Barn Gazette

Stephen Barrettson, out of work tutor, has a secret.  Actually, he has several.  He isn't Stephen Barrettson, he isn't a tutor and he's never worked a day in his life.  In truth, he's Lord Stephen Barrett, the eight marquess of Glenfield...and someone would very much like to see him dead.  Just who that someone is, Stephen doesn't know.  He is certain, however, that the killer isn't Miss Hayley Albright.  Hayley is the self-sufficient country woman who saves his life and nurses him back to health.  Unbeknownst to her, she also offers the perfect hideout from the killer.  But, day after day, life with Hayley and her colorful kin is a complete and drastic change from the strict, lonely upbringing Stephen has known all his life.  The entire household is askew from his idea of what "normal" should be, and Hayley just doesn't behave the way Stephen expects an 1820's Englishwoman to act.  This leaves him all the more vulnerable to the romance of love.  Stephen has a hard time trusting the natural loving this colorful household openly shows him.  Before he realizes it, he's helplessly in love with Hayley and her lively family.  And they fall in love with him...almost too easily to his way of thinking.  There's also the matter of the killer waiting for a perfect chance to complete the task of murdering him.  How can Stephen confess his lies without hurting those he loves and possibly placing them in deadly danger as well?

This tender romance read very well.  The antics of Hayley's colorful, hodgepodge family adds a lighthearted touch to a clever plot full of romance and fun.  This new author offers a very pleasing read.


 Review by Writers Club Romance Group 

Hayley Albright is not your average woman -- (but after all, what respectable romance heroine is?).  With the death of her famous sea captain father a few years ago, Hayley has been the head of her motley crew -- which includes four younger siblings; handyman Winston and the "butler," Grimsley, two salty sea dogs formerly in her father's employ; Aunt Olivia; and a temperamental French chef, Pierre (also late of her father's employ).  [On a] return trip from London (with Winston and Grimsley in tow), [Hayley] happens across Stephen Barrett, the Marquess of Glenfield and heir to a dukedom, lying face down in a ravine, bleeding from a gun shot wound.  Stephen knows that the person who has been trying to kill him these past few months has indeed come very close to the deed this time, and if knowledge of his recovering health were made known, that person might finish the job the next time.  While recuperating under the care of the Albright family, Stephen decides to go incognito -- presenting himself as a tutor with no family.  Unfortunately, Stephen did not bargain that his nursing angel is fluent in Latin, as she finds time to tutor the children regularly, among her endless list of chores.  Although engaged at one time, Hayley, at twenty-three now is obviously on the shelf, even if she didn't have her menagerie to care for.  Besides, who would want a plain-faced woman who stands six feet tale in her stockings, rides astride, and is known to wear britches from time to time!  As Stephen is drawn deeper under Hayley's beguiling spell of innocence and goodness, he knows that the day will soon come when he must again take up his place in society -- a place that could not include this band of misfits, no matter how congenial they were.  Not to mention, there is a killer lurking somewhere waiting for him when he returns to London.

You will definitely enjoy this incredibly romantic tale, which starts off with pansies (friendship) and ends with a gift of a bouquet -- tulips for consuming love, camellias for loveliness perfected, and red roses for love.

 

Top of Page

Excerpt

Chapter One

Reviews

Reader Comments

Awards

 

Reader Comments

 

I ABSOLUTELY LOVED THIS BOOK!!!! - I just finished it and am planning my re-read for a week or two (hoping my short term memory will do its usually poor job and I'll have forgotten alot) - Seriously, I bought the  book on a whim because I received an e-mail from you (I think that's how I heard about it - that memory problem you know) and I am sooooo glad that I did.  I hated putting it down so much that I decided not to!  Hayley was so different from most "heroines"  she was so open and trusting and Stephen - well he was just perfect wasn't he?  The tea parties were precious, Aunt Olivia and company were a hoot and not to be pushy but I'm thinking maybe Gregory needs a book - what do you think?  LOL - Anyway, just had to tell you how much I liked the book (can you tell?) and I'm looking forward to the next one

I finished reading your wonderful book Red Roses late last night, and I just want to tell you how much you made me happy by writing that wonderful book. I ordered the book from Amazon.com, because I was interested by the subject, and wow! I haven't enjoyed reading a book so much as yours recently. I cried several times, laughed a lot, and when I closed the book I was very happy and little sad because I had to say goodbye to Hayley and Stephen, and other wonderful characters. I live a hectic life in Tokyo, not much time at all for a romance, but your book made me very happy through Hayley's life. Thank you again Jacquie, please remember you have given one Japanese girl (26 yrs old, same age as beloved Hayley) few wonderful hours and made her very happy. I liked Hayley a lot, and I like you too.


I just finished reading Red Roses Mean Love and I had to write to tell you how much I enjoyed it. The hero/heroine were wonderful, and the secondary characters were absolutely delightful! I
must admit, by the latter part of the book I was trying to guess for myself just how many more ways there were to say Popple-whatever! It's a real 'feel good' book and one I thoroughly enjoyed. For a first book, you really did it right, and it appears that with a start like this you will have a very long and successful writing career. I look forward to reading more of your stories!


I just finished reading "Red Roses Mean Love" and my only complaint is that I couldn't go to sleep until I finished it.  It was a 5 star read and one I will definitely read again and again.  Please let your readers know what's up next.  Thank you for sharing your talent with us.


I bought the book a few days before it was supposed to be out officially (gosh I love the speed with which some local bookstores stock their shelves) and I LOVED it!!!  It was wonderful; please please please write more.  My best friend is living in Poland for two years and I am going to get her a copy of her own (I supply her with books) because mine is on my keeper shelf.


I really enjoyed your new book. It was like a breath of fresh air. You remind me of early Julie Garwood, and Judith McNaught combined. Great combo. One of my favorite parts of your story was Hayley in her garden for quiet time. I have four children from 3- 13, and I also have my quiet time late at night reading or writing so I could relate to her feelings.  It is wonderful to read of all the family and friends to support your career. Good luck. Write fast.


I just finished your wonderful book.  I thoroughly enjoyed it!  I always enjoy a book that adds humor to the story line.  I took "roses" with me on vacation and couldn't put it down.  I can't wait for your next one! Thank you for an enjoyable adventure.


Konnichiwa!  I just finished reading your book about 5 minutes ago and I think it's one of the best historical romance books that I've read in a long time.  I thought I'd let you know that.   I also had to look up your website and check out if you had more books coming out soon. Keep up the good work and I'm looking forward to reading more of your books in the near future.


I should have been working today, as a matter of fact had some work my boss was waiting for. . .but NOOOOOOOOOO, did I work?  Instead I spent the day (except for the time I had to go food shopping) reading your book. Finished it as a matter of fact. And let me tell you. . . . it reminded me of reading Judith McNaught's earlier historicals. The way you coaxed the emotions out of Stephen was fantastic. Congratulations Jacquie on this book. I look forward to many more,
historicals and contemporaries.


I just finished your book and absolutely loved it!  Hayley is such a real person.  You know, someone I can relate to, with her problems and responsibilities.


I got to the sex scene, then couldn't put it down. I ended up reading right through to the end! Completely messed up my morning and it's all Stephen and Hayley's fault! BTW, I loved how he proposed.


I just finish with you book Red Roses Mean Love, I found it was a very enjoyable book. I love the romance and the comedy in it. I laugh out loud trying to image all those big men having a tea party at a little table. I look forward to your next book.


For a first book I was very impressed.  Your characters had character.  Your decriptions of them had me comparing them to people I know. I really enjoyed this book.  But reading it made me believe that you had written a book about Justin and Victoria that I had missed.  They really are the best type of married friends to have. (the ones that know when to leave you alone and when to interfere). Again, congratulations for a book well done, and for giving me a few hours of entertainment.


I just this minute got finished reading your new book Red Roses Mean Love and I found it just delightful and witty, I started it last night and found that I could not put it down and read into the night, and just finished it a minute ago.


I absolutely Love Red Roses Mean Love. It is one of the most refreshing new Romances I have read in a Long time. Keep up the good work and please don't ever fall into the writing 'Trends' that are so popular with (authors/publishers) today. Dare to be different! I love it


I wrote before to say how much I emjoyed your first book Red Roses Mean Love and inspite of myself I will repeat it again, IT WAS A GREAT BOOK, and KEEP THE GOOD STORIES COMING.


Your book 'Read Roses Mean Love' was great!!!! It's a five star and even more. Can't wait to read your next book.


I've just read it and completely loved it. Great Hero and Heroine and darling secondary characters. Loved Callie. What a great first book. Thank you and congratulations!


The book was wonderful. I enjoyed it very much. The characters were great. You're a marvelous writer.


I just finished reading your first and hopefully not last, book. I truly enjoyed it. I noticed that you have a contemporary novel coming out next. I hope that this was not you last regency. You did a wonderful job bringing the characters to life. I look forward to reading future novels by you.


I just finished reading this wonderful romance - and it's going immediately to my keeper shelves!  What a wonderful hero and heroine; they were both so believable and will be remembered long after the last page was turned.  I laughed aloud at several situations during the book.  Thank you every so much!


I just finished Red Roses Mean Love.  It is a wonderful story masterfully told.  Please write
faster, ala Barbara Cartland.  I just know you'll be one of my favorite authors for years to come.


WONDERFUL BOOK...RIVETING AND DELIGHTFUL TO READ...EVERYTHING KATHY SAID ABOUT IT AND MORE...CANNOT WAIT FOR YOUR NEXT ONE.


I Just finished reading your new debut book.  It was great! Can't wait until the next one comes out.


Well I read the book in one day and then reread it the next. Now let me tell you I have no time since I am finishing my Masters and work full time. I dropped everything to read it.  You are simply marvelous. It made me laugh, it made me smile. You are going to be a great success. I will spread the word.


Well, I just finished it.  I wanted so much to like it, after all I won a very pretty T-shirt and I never win anything on the web.  Well, I didn't like it I loved your book.  I laughed out loud and cried right along with your Hayley.  With Hayley, you have created one of the most memorable romance characters.  I myself am the oldest of a very large and unusual  family and your  writing certainly captured all the love and  essence of a family.   I look forward to any book you will write in the future.  Thanks again for many hours of pleasure and of course a book that will find a spot on my keeper shelf.


I read it from cover to cover and loved it. It's a book that I can read over and over many times because it's so good. I congratulate you on a book well-written and hope you will have success on writing many others.


I just finished Red Roses Mean Love this morning and I loved everything about it except one thing....it read much too fast and I know I have to wait until spring to read Kiss the Cook.  I loved your unique characters and hated to say good-bye to them.  I have no fewer than 14 new paperbacks on my shelf, but had to run to the bookstore last week to get yours.  I fully intended on saving it for an upcoming trip this next week, but I guess I have as much self control as Stephen!!  Any thoughts on continuing the story of Hayley and Stephen.  I am so attached to the menagerie of characters in their story!  Congratulations!


I just finished Red Roses and it was Wonderful.  I enjoyed it from the beginning to the end.


Just a brief note to let you know how very much I enjoyed your premier book. Will anxiously await your new work. Thank you for the hours of enjoyment.


Just wanted to let you know that I bought your book over the weekend in a Waldenbooks (aisle end display) and am just past the first kiss. I-love- it! Your heroine is wonderful, but it's Stephen that really gets me. And what a perfect setting for such a cynical man. I can hardly wait to see what happens next!


Just wanted to let you know that I thoroughly enjoyed Red Roses Means Love. I hope you are planning on writing more historicals, for my sake, since those are the only ones I read.

 

Top of Page

Excerpt

Chapter One

Reviews

Reader Comments

Awards


Awards

 

Top 100 Favorite Books of All Time - RBL Romantica Website (RBL). 

Amazon.com Best Selling Romance of September 1999 

Amazon.com Sensational Sleeper of 1999 

The Rising Star Award for Best First Book - First Place, sponsored by the Sooner Area Romance Authors chapter of RWA.  

The Orange Rose Award for Best Historical Romance of 1999- First Place, sponsored by the Orange County Chapter of RWA.  

Daphne du Maurier Award for Excellence in Mystery / Suspense - Third Place, sponsored by the Kiss of Death Chapter of RWA.  

Booksellers' Best Award - Finalist, sponsored by the Greater Detroit Chapter of RWA.  

The Desert Rose 2000 Golden Quill Award - First Place, sponsored by the Desert Rose Chpater of RWA.  

The Barclay Gold Award - First Place, sponsored by Lake Country Romance Writers Chapter of RWA.  

The Blue Boa Award - Honorable Mention - sponsored by the Penisula Chapter of RWA.  

The 2000 Laurel Wreath Award - Third Place, sponsored by the Volusia County Romance Writers Chapter of RWA.  

Favorite Overall Romance of 1999 - First Place, awarded by Addicted2RomanceBooks website.  

Hughie Award for Best English Historical Romance - awarded by RBL Romantica website (RBL).  

Hughie Award for Best New-To-You Author - awarded by RBL.  

Hughie Award for Favorite Heroine - awarded by RBL.  

Hughie Award for Most Touching Scene - awarded by RBL.

 

Top of Page

Excerpt

Chapter One

Reviews

Reader Comments

Awards

You can find me on Facebook, Twitter, and blogging with the Whine Sisters -- stop by and say hi!

         

Home || My Books || Connected Books || What's Next || JacquieD Recommends || Printable Book List || Around The Globe || Email Me || Buy My Books Online

 

Email Address:
I want to receive mailings from Jacquie D'Alessandro