Spellbound by a Dazzling Beauty (Preview)


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Chapter One

The huge ballroom of Lord and Lady Faulkner’s mansion was loud and boisterous, which came as no surprise, given the number of guests in attendance. As rather avid socialites, the Faulkners threw many functions throughout the year, and yet, through their relentless charity work, many who were not ordinarily invited to such functions were always present. Lady Faulkner simply could not tolerate snobbery, even though she and her husband owned acres of land. It was a contrast that amused many.

The music struggled to compete with the chatter and laughter, though as Lady Mary Goldfield observed, some of it presented as false and pretentious. Yet, that was not the thing that Mary disliked the most. It was difficult enough, choosing who one would associate with when surrounded by many who could be seen to be judgemental and conceited, but when one’s own family behaved in the same way, Mary felt quite alone and a little odd, as though her own decent behaviour were seen as something to be looked down upon.

She could hardly call those she was in company with, her family, though, for they were not related at all. A fact she ought to have been grateful for if only her circumstances were not so dire. She could not change her situation, however, and in that way, had learned to tolerate that which she had no control over. Stood beside her were her stepmother, Lady Rachel Goldfield, and her stepsister, Lady Charlotte Bolton. They had, up to this point, spent most of their time since their arrival commenting upon others they had observed and not in any pleasant or positive way. Having little choice but to listen to their judgements of other lords and ladies in attendance, Mary had remained silent. She would never involve herself in such lowly gossip, yet she could do nothing to stop them from disgorging their derogatory commentary.

‘I can hardly believe they were invited to this ball at all,’ her stepmother said, nodding in the direction of a well-dressed gentleman and his wife. ‘Mr Denton has relatives in trade and hardly makes more than £2,000 a year himself. How he managed to weasel his way into such an event with that petulant wife of his, I will never know.’

Lady Rachel Goldfield was a tall and thin woman of thirty-eight years who took much time on her appearance. Taking little to eat at mealtimes to maintain her trim figure, she also spent many hours in front of her dressing room table, assisted by her maid in applying many powders and pastes. Unfortunately, all the time in the world would not change the coldness of her person, and the lack of softness in her features betrayed the soul inside her. Mary had never been able to warm to her, which came as no surprise, for the woman had shown little interest in her well-being since marrying Mary’s father. Her own daughter, Lady Charlotte, was the only person she truly concerned herself with, for it was her daughter she determined to marry off to the best prospect they could find.

Lady Charlotte Bolton was not unlike her mother with her cold and judgemental ways, and yet, Mary had always believed that her characteristics and the way she behaved had been mostly her mother’s fault. Her mother’s comportment had been the only model Charlotte had to follow, and heartbroken as she was at the death of her first husband, her stepmother had taught Charlotte to look at marriage as more of a transaction. In that way, her heart would never be broken if she lost someone that she dearly loved, which had apparently happened when her husband died. It was clear that her stepmother had married her father out of necessity only, and it showed clearly in their day-to-day lives, for there had never been any affection between them.

These days, the household felt emotionless and hugely lacking in warmth of any kind, for her stepmother had shown little to her since her arrival. Her father, Lord Henry Goldfield, had appeared to change drastically, for instead of the loving and caring father she had been raised with, he had taken a complete step back from any parenting responsibilities since his second marriage. He was more involved in running his estate and hunting than spending any time with his own family, and while all interactions were of the most civil kind, it hardly felt like it was a family at all. The truth of the matter was, it was an arrangement that suited all involved. All but one, for it did not suit Mary, and she often found herself longing for the ways things had been before.

When her mother had died just over three years ago, Mary had only just turned fourteen years of age. After the loss of his wife, her father had spiralled into despair, and quite losing himself, had struggled greatly to care for both himself and his daughter. A part of him died with her mother, and no matter how hard she had tried, for she had battled with her own grief, she could not lift her father to his former self. Still, it had come as a great shock to Mary when he had told her he was to marry again.

They had not long finished their evening meal in an oppressive silence, as most of their meals had been for many months, and before Mary had excused herself from the table, he had asked her to stay, for he had something of importance that he wished to discuss with her. Mary had acquiesced, though by his tone, had been a little concerned, for he sounded more sombre than usual, and his expression appeared weighted with troubles.

‘I have made a decision, Mary. It has not been an easy one, yet I feel as though I have had little choice. You remember meeting Lady Bolton at the tea rooms last month, do you not?’

‘Yes, Papa. I remember.’

‘Good. Well, Lady Bolton and I share something in common. We have both been left with responsibilities due to our spouses’ death. In discussion, it has become apparent that we can assist each other, and we have decided to marry to ease each other’s plight.’

Unable to speak for several moments, Mary had glared at her father in utter shock. Of all the things she might have expected to hear fall from his lips, that statement had not come anywhere close. They had been struggling, she could not deny that, and her father had his own cross to bear with his deep-set grief, yet to marry again so suddenly made little sense to Mary at that moment.

‘I understand that this is hard for you to hear, Mary.’

‘Yes, it is, Papa,’ Mary had cried. ‘Mother has hardly been gone a year. I can still smell her perfume on the cushions in the drawing room. This is not right, Papa. I do not understand how you can marry so quickly when you, yourself, are still grieving.’

‘I must think of more than just myself, Mary,’ he had replied. ‘You, too, need more than I can give you, and it is a heavy burden upon my shoulders alone. While I can provide for you physically, I cannot give you the things that a young woman needs.’

‘There is no one that can give me the assistance that mother gave me, and I do not wish anyone to replace her. I can take care of myself, Papa. I have done for this last year.’

‘Which is exactly my point.’ Her father had sighed. ‘You ought not to be looking after yourself, Mary. You are yet young, and you have much to learn. Things that I can hardly teach you as a man. You need another woman in the household to help you, and Lady Bolton and I have agreed to make the best of it.’

‘I have Miss Bryant, Papa. She is doing well in teaching me all I need to know.’

‘Miss Bryant is your governess, Mary. It is not the same. Lady Bolton has a daughter close to your own age, which is why I trust that she will be good for you. She is already a mother, and therefore, knows what a daughter needs. Besides, another young girl in the household will give you some company.’

‘I do not want any company, Papa,’ Mary had cried. She did not want another mother or a new sister. She wanted her own mother back, and if that could not happen, she could do without any substitutes.

‘Mary, I do know that this is not the perfect solution. I understand, also, that change is frightening. Yet, there is no point arguing further. I have made my decision, and I will not change it. Please, I have struggled enough over this year. I simply do not have the energy or inclination to fight with you.’

He had dropped his head into his hands with a heavy sigh, and while Mary had wanted to push further, by his expression and the slump of his shoulders, she had not been able to bring herself to do it. Yet, nor could she rid herself of the overwhelming feeling of powerlessness. She had not been consulted on his decision, and whether she agreed with it or not, she was to have a new mother and a new sister. After the shock had finally left her, she had allowed herself to consider that it might possibly turn out to be a good thing. Time, however, had proven that her consideration was far from correct.

The wedding had been a small and discreet affair in their local chapel, with hardly any attending apart from those necessary, and just like that, the household had two new members. As time passed, it became clear that her stepmother may have made promises to her father that she had no intention of keeping, for far from taking care of and guiding Mary, she had been oppressive and demanding. Of course, she did not treat her own daughter so harshly, yet what could Mary do about the unfairness? Her father was no longer interested in hearing of such things, though Mary was certain that he was more than a little disappointed in how things had worked out, but at least, he had been able to hand over the mantle, had he not?

Over the last three years, she and her father had grown more distant than ever, and Mary had now simply become accustomed to his absence. Absent in person, even as he sat across the table from her at mealtimes. It was as though she shared a house with three strangers, for apart from her governess, Miss Anne Bryant, a kind and caring woman, Mary truly felt alone. She could not even confide in her stepsister, for they had never bonded. It was no surprise, given that Charlotte and Mary were as opposite in every way that people could be, for even in their appearance, the stark contrast was obvious.

At eighteen years old, Charlotte had rich brown hair, green eyes, and a curvy figure. Mary, on the other hand, being a year younger than her stepsister, was slender and petite with blonde hair and eyes of blue. It was clear to anyone who could see that they were not related, for they near resembled the keys of a pianoforte when stood together.

Being as they were so different in their personalities, they had found nothing in common at all, for Mary enjoyed reading and learning, and Charlotte was far more interested in balls and finding a husband, pushed no doubt, by her mother’s desire. Her father’s words all those years ago had only been imaginings, for Charlotte had been neither a comfort nor confidant once their parents had wed.

‘Oh look, Mother,’ Charlotte whispered with a sneer as she nodded across the ballroom. ‘There is Lady Bradbury.’

‘Oh, yes,’ her mother replied coldly. ‘She must have left the child with a nanny, though it will hardly stop people talking of the very short period that the baby arrived after their rather rushed wedding. Completely scandalous and an absolute disgrace, in my opinion. Did they really think that people would not notice? Neither of you is to speak to her, do you understand? I will not have my girls seen to be associating with such a person.’

‘Yes, Mother.’ Charlotte agreed eagerly.

Mary said nothing, for her voice was hardly heard anyway. Yet her silence was not just that she would have been ignored. Mary simply could not reconcile such contempt for another’s actions. Of what business was it of theirs, what others did in their lives? It was not right that her stepmother made such judgements, nor was it very ladylike. In fact, Mary found her stepmother’s views and opinions rather ironic, given that she acted in some way piously above those she judged. Surely, judging others made her no better than those she herself, condemned.

Mary could not recall her mother ever speaking so maliciously about another, but then, her mother was a kind and rather gentle soul. Affectionate in all her dealings both with herself and those she knew, her mother had a reputation of philanthropy and generosity. She could not be more opposite to her stepmother, and it was on these occasions that Mary wished her compassionate mother was still with her.

Gazing across the large ballroom, Mary caught sight of her dear friend, Sarah Lambton, and felt a sudden rush of relief. Knowing each other from small children, Sarah was like the sister Mary had never had, and as close as family, they confided in each other as though they were related. Sarah came from a family of girls, for she was one of six sisters, and given that she was several years older than Mary, she had already experienced a few seasons. Sarah was also realistic in her expectations, for their family was not wealthy, and she had resigned herself to the fact that she would likely become a spinster.

Mary had argued the fact many times that she ought not to make such deductions, yet even Mary could understand why Sarah would say such things.

‘Father does not have much dowry to give, Mary,’ Sarah had told her only a year ago. ‘I am hardly the prettiest of my sisters and because of such, I have resigned myself to the reality of my situation. Yet, it matters not. I will find fulfilment in my work, for no doubt I will gain employment as a governess in a well- reputed household. Until that time, I can concentrate on assisting you in finding a husband, for it is clear you will not get such assistance from your stepmother.’

Sarah had been right of course, and Mary could not be more grateful for the friendship and support of her closest friend. While she felt sorry for her, for it was hardly fair that she would have to spend the rest of her life alone, and she could not imagine what her future as a spinster would be like, she was also grateful for her advice and mentorship.

At least now, Mary could move away from the toxic words of her stepmother and stepsister and find solace in a more giving and caring soul at the ball.

‘I must excuse myself, for I have just noticed that Miss Sarah Lambton is here,’ Mary said to her stepmother and Charlotte. ‘I will find you both again later.’

‘Be assured you stay away from Lady Bradbury, Mary. I will not tolerate you speaking to her.’

‘Yes, My Lady,’ Mary said, turning away before her stepmother could see her roll her eyes in dismay.

Chapter Two

Harry had convinced him to leave the comfort of his home and accompany him to the ball, yet now they had arrived, Lord William Kerr felt a deep regret in allowing his cousin to persuade him. The heavy bustle of people and noise disconcerted him, and clearly, he was to be forced to associate with those in attendance. He had, of course, considered that before departing from the manor, yet he had not realised just how large the crowd of attendees was going to be. He ought to have known better, given that Lord and Lady Faulkner were throwing such an event, for they never did things by half measures. Perhaps Harry had also purposely forgotten to remind him of that, and perhaps William had allowed himself to ignore what might have been ahead.

His closest companion and older relative by two years he may be, yet Lord Harry Bickerstaffe and William differed in many ways. To begin with, Harry loved these social events, and with his happy and cheery disposition, it came as no surprise. The ease with which he managed to interact with others had often caused William envy, and no matter how many times Harry had tried to teach him how to do it, nothing really ever seemed to work. William was well aware that he had always struggled to hold a conversation. It had been the same for him since childhood, and while it had been thought by Harry’s parents, his aunt and uncle, that he would gain a little more confidence with age, that had not occurred.

‘The fact of the matter, William,’ Harry had told him some years ago, ‘is that you simply do not like people.’ Harry had grinned teasingly.

He had arrived at the manor for a weekly visit and having enjoyed a light luncheon, William had taken him to the library to show him the latest novel he had purchased. Reading was his solace, for, in his books and novels, he found a world that entertained him without him having to interact with a single soul.

‘It is not that I do not like people,’ William had replied, as he had browsed through the pages of a book he had chosen from his library shelf. ‘It is only that I do not know what to say nor how to act when I meet a person. I know you have made the effort to impart words of wisdom to me, Harry, yet I cannot seem to grasp the concept of conversation. The entire situation makes me uncomfortable.’

‘Well, that is not entirely true, my dear cousin. You have no issue talking to the men who work upon your land.’

William could not argue with that point, for Harry was not wrong. William did indeed enjoy the company of the workers. In fact, he nearly preferred their association over other nobles, for they were easy-going men who did not display the pretentiousness that William found in some of the lords and gentry he was acquainted with.

When he finally took on the full responsibility of his father’s vast estate, for he had been young when his parents had died, the tenants of his land had been more than a little surprised at his presence beside them in the fields. It did not take long for them to become used to him, and William had delighted at the stories told of his father from some of the older men. Even though they always treated him with the utmost respect and called him by his title, William still treated them as friends. They were not his equals, of course, yet there were times when William wished that they indeed were.

Nowadays, he spent a fair amount of his time working alongside them and was physically fit within himself due to the often heavy labour. While the work could be long and hard, William could not deny that he enjoyed it, for when he was not reading a great book or on a hunt or ride, it gave some sort of purpose to his day amongst people that made him feel at ease. From what he had heard from the tenants, his father had always been a decent man in their governance, and while he had not shared his time with them in the same way as William did, he had always treated them fairly and with respect.

‘Do tell me, William,’ Harry said as he stood beside him in the ballroom. ‘Why is your face so long?’

‘I ought never to have allowed you to convince me to come here, Harry,’ Willian replied, glancing at his cousin. ‘That is why I look so perturbed. There are far too many people, and I can hardly hear my own thoughts with the noise of all the chatter.’

‘You are not meant to hear your own thoughts, William. You are meant to leave your intellectual mind back at the manor and enjoy your evening. Why does everything you do, have to be so calculated?’

‘In that way, I feel as though I have some semblance of control.’ William shrugged in reply. ‘I cannot explain it; only I do not feel comfortable with uncertainty.’

William could indeed explain it; he had just never disclosed such to Harry for fear of sounding ridiculous to his cousin. Having read several books on the human psyche, William had surmised that his behaviour likely came from losing his parents at such a young age. He had not been able to control their leaving him in this world alone, and he had struggled with needing to control circumstances ever since.

Harry shook his head with a slight smile and a condescending gaze. ‘You cannot control everything, my dear cousin. I do not know how you do it, for I could not live in such a way. It sounds exhausting, to begin with, but further from that, there is no excitement in knowing what will happen all the time.’

‘Perhaps I do not particularly enjoy excitement, Harry.’

‘I do not think there is any doubt in that statement, William. You are well known for your solemn and calm approach to nearly all things that you involve yourself with. That should not halt you from enjoying life and having fun, though. You are only twenty-eight years of age, my dear cousin. Soon, you will be an old man and no longer have the energy to enjoy life.’ Harry smirked. ‘Come now; you must try and find some delight in this circumstance.’

‘Why do you press me to change the person I am, Harry? You know well that I dislike these large social functions. They are a breeding ground for malicious rumour and conjecture, for if you are not being judged on your wealth or appearance, there is always some noble wanting to know your particular political view on one point or another.’

‘I do hear what you are saying, yet you cannot say that they are all the same, William. My advice would be to ignore those nobles who attempt to gain such an opinion from you. Half of them change their minds on a whim anyway. If a political ideal is raised, you can simply say you have not had time to consider their point but will, at a future time, speak to them about it. As for your appearance and wealth, well. There is hardly anything that one could judge you on in either of those regards.’

William near rolled his eyes, and yet he could hardly disagree with Harry. He was indeed one of the wealthiest lords in the room, even though he did not brag about such things, for he did not deem it either appropriate or necessary. Those who bragged were clearly desperate for attention, something William did not desire at all, and besides, his input was hardly necessary, for there were few that did not know about his circumstances.

Even those who had never met him knew of his fortune once they heard his title, for, in such a small area as Surrey, news of such things travelled quickly. As for his appearance – well, he could only thank his parents for that. He had inherited his father’s bone structure and his mother’s jet-black hair. His blue eyes came from them both. As he now thought about it, it only saddened him that they were no longer here to see how he had progressed in his life.

“Spellbound by a Dazzling Beauty” is an Amazon Best-Selling novel, check it out here!

Lady Mary Goldfield is nothing short of brilliant, caring, and charming. Behind closed doors, however, everything is not as rosy as it seems. Being constantly mistreated by her stepmother, who’ll do anything to benefit her own daughter, Mary feels condemned to a life of misery. Fate smiles on her though when she meets a true gentleman, whose presence will make her heart skip a bit…

Could her unexpected encounter with the dashing stranger be the catalyst that propels her one step closer to freedom?

Lord William Kerr always shies away from large crowds, seeking solitude instead. To his dismay, a friend convinces him to attend a ball where he is tricked into dancing with a beautiful lady. Little did he know that what started out as annoyance would soon change his life forever… Even though he had never considered the possibility of love before, his mind suddenly cannot seem to escape her captivating gaze.

If only they knew that love is no child’s play…

Destiny makes Mary and William grow closer with each passing day, but Mary’s stepmother has evil intentions… Determined to sabotage their romance, she will craft a lie that will threaten to irreversibly tear them apart. In the end, can their love withstand the storm and keep their hearts warm? Or will their happy ending be shattered due to the stepmother’s manipulations?

“Spellbound by a Dazzling Beauty” is a historical romance novel of approximately 80,000 words. No cheating, no cliffhangers, and a guaranteed happily ever after.

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Grab my new series, "Regency Hearts Entwined", and get 2 FREE novels as a gift! Have a look here!

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