The Art of Loving a Viscount (Preview)


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The soft breeze caught at Catriona Stewart’s long and wavy red hair, and the swishing sound of the long swaying grass that surrounded her, reached up to her as she gazed with concentration across the hills. Dabbing her brush into the oil paint on her palette, she returned to the plain weave canvas on the easel before her, and with a soft movement of her wrist, added a darker shade of green against the shadow of the trees she had already created.

It was not a particularly warm day. There were few of those in Scotland at the best of times, though it did not help that she had climbed to the peak of a large hill not far from her home and perched herself there to capture the beautiful countryside that surrounded her. The breeze, whilst soft, was cold, yet she was well used to it. For as long as she could remember and since being a small child, she would find herself outdoors at every chance. As her interest in art and painting grew, though her mother had often stated that she had had a passion for it since she was small, her palette and canvas usually accompanied her, on her outdoor ramblings, keen to find the perfect landscape to capture in still form.

Well used to the cold and dampness of the country in which she had been raised, Catriona always dressed accordingly, which usually involved being encompassed in thick and warm shawls to cover her long frock. Sometimes, in her frustration, as they hindered her ability to paint, they would end up in a pile beside her until she could stand the chill no longer and reluctantly had to put them around herself once more.

Today was one of those days, for the shawls had been tossed in the grass only to be wrapped around her person once more, several times already. Whilst usually, she would brave the cold alone, her older brother Douglass, in need of some fresh air and to escape the constant indoors, had decided to accompany her and she could not say that she had not enjoyed his presence when he had stayed long enough to talk to her. Having explored the surrounding area whilst she painted and later, traipsing back through the long grass back to where she had positioned herself, he had dropped down not far from where she was and gazed out onto the scene she currently painted, fiddling with a blade of grass he had plucked from the earth.

At twenty-four, Douglass was not only older than her but also Catriona’s closest confidante and had been for as long as she could remember. From entertaining her as a baby to playing with her growing up, they had formed a strong bond, and as her older brother, he had always been protective of her. Being a family trait, he too sported red wavy hair and green eyes, just like hers, only he was also a rather strong character, both in personality and form, for he took his sports rather seriously and could often be found running around a field or engaging in a boxing match. Though he had the looks of their father, he did not carry his pride and instead, found it easy to make friends and was good with people. Catriona could not say the same about herself.

The trait had not really concerned her until the occurrence of recent events, for living in their large manor out in the country and far from the towns, she had always enjoyed her own company. Yet, it was the knowledge of these same events that had caused her to take advantage of the day to paint, for it was the last time she would get an opportunity before the whole family moved to London. A place where Douglass seemed quite convinced that Catriona would make new friends and have lots of fun.

Catriona had never left Scotland, so she did not have the insights of her brother, who had told her she should look upon the move as an adventure. Yet, Catriona had not spent time in England as Douglass had, for their father had sent him away to boarding school to ensure he received the best tuition and education possible. Catriona had hardly understood it, for there were fine schools in Scotland, but she had never queried her father, for as father’s go, he was hardly one to be questioned.

A hard but fair man, he had worked diligently and furthered himself from owning a small amount of property left to him by an uncle when he was only fifteen, to now a rather wealthy existence, for he had made some fortuitous connections and partnered with people who had been eager to invest their money. From the small amount of land he had once owned, he had not only expanded much further out across the countryside, now owning many acres on which he accrued rent and received expenses from farming, but in his early thirties, had put his hand to trade and export. For this reason, the family was now moving to London, for her father was determined to continue accumulating and growing his wealth and in doing so, wished to expand his business in London.

Of course, Catriona hated the idea, for she adored her beloved Scotland and the wonderful landscapes that gave her so many opportunities to capture its beauty on canvas, yet, at only twenty years old, her desires were hardly noted. The decision had been made without her consent and therefore, she must go, regardless.

‘Well, Douglass, what do you think?’ Catriona asked as she swiped a stray hair from her forehead with a paint encrusted finger.

Douglass turned and pushed himself to his feet with ease. Moving over to where she sat, he came up and stood behind her, taking a long look at her painting.

‘Once more, my dear wee sister, you have produced a masterpiece,’ he said with a grin.

Catriona rolled her eyes. ‘It is hardly a masterpiece, Douglass. I do not know if you would know one if you fell over it.’

‘It is a masterpiece to me. That should be enough for you. You know you have talent, Catriona, you should take a compliment when it is given. That is the ladylike thing to do.’

‘Well, I am not a lady, am I?’

Douglass laughed and shook his head. ‘There is no winning with you, is there? If I said it looked dreadful you would curse me, yet, when I tell you how good it is, you cannot accept that either.’

‘Perhaps it is just the mood I am in. You know well I do not want to go.’

‘London is not as bad as you think, Catriona. Honestly, I do think you will rather like it.’

‘You do not know what it is like for me, Douglass. It is well enough for you, for you do not care about art or how much a beautiful landscape soothes me and exhilarates me at the same time. Yet, I will hardly need green paint again once we move, for I know there will not be the landscapes in London that we have here. I cannot help but mourn the fact that I will miss Scotland dearly.’

‘I am not dismissing your feelings, Catriona. I do know you will miss Scotland. Yet how do you know about the landscapes or places that you could paint if you have never been?’ Douglass mocked.

‘I can read, you know.’

‘Then you are reading the wrong books, for there is plenty of greenery in London.’

‘You are only saying that to ease my mood and attempt to make me feel better, but I know it not to be true.’

‘Catriona, the life down in London is far different from here. There are things to do and wonderful people to meet, and sometimes, it is as though the town never sleeps. Truly, between the parties and all the social engagements you will be invited to, you will hardly have the time to paint anyway.’

Catriona turned and glared at Douglass, who suddenly looked regretful at his remark.

‘How could you say such a thing? That is like me telling you that you will never have time to go and watch your boxing exhibitions or engage in your sport! I have no interest in attending parties and making friends with people who are only interested in themselves, Douglass, and I will indeed make time for my painting.’

Douglass looked at her and shrugged. ‘It is your life, Catriona. At the end of the day, we are going to London whether you like it or not. I know you were not given a choice and that if it were up to you, you would stay here, but you do still have a choice when we move. It is up to you to make the best of it or spend your time there in misery.’

‘You know well my life is my painting. How can I not be miserable if I will be unable to paint?’

‘You do not want to believe me, but there are things worth painting in London, and perhaps, if you could not be so stubborn and look at the brighter side of this situation, you may indeed find them.’

Catriona did not answer, for she knew well that her brother did not mean her any harm. They were close and had been all their life, and he really only wanted her to be happy. She knew well what he meant, for whilst her father had made a decision that no one could deter him from, as the proud man that he was, she was going to have to decide how she would react to it. It did not feel as though there was much of a choice. Still, Douglass, in his wisdom was indeed right. It was up to her whether she was miserable in her new home or made an attempt to make the best of it.

Yet, as she gazed across the hills that rose and dipped before her, she thought of his last comment. Her painting was her life, and he could never truly understand how she felt when she lost herself in the colours and the creation of her art. Being raised in a land full of vibrant colour and greenery, Catriona struggled to understand how she would cope in a large and busy town, for how could anything in London ever compare to what she had had here for the entirety of her life so far?

Chapter One

James Knight sat back in his carriage as the wheels trundled along the streets of London. He was rather excited to be back in London for he loved the town with the vibrant energy of the people and everyone always seemingly busy attending to some business or other. He was even more excited to be meeting his very good friend, Douglass Stewart, whose family had not long moved down to London from Scotland.

Attending the same boarding school, they had become firm friends rather quickly, for in Douglass, James had found an honest and authentic man. Something that was not as common as it ought to be in the circles that he and his family spent time in. Along with his honesty was his great wit and humour, and though it took James some time to understand his thick brogue, he now, after many years of friendship, had no difficulty at all. Feeling as though Douglass was more like a brother than a friend, James had been eager to be able to come into London from their family’s home in West Sussex to see him.

Their London home was still large, but nowhere near the size of the manor in the country, and yet, none of that really bothered James. He had never really cared for the luxurious lifestyle he had been raised in and would much sooner take a ride on his horse in the countryside or take a fast ride in the barouche. Of course, his mother hardly approved, but he could not spend his entire life pleasing his mother, even as much as he loved her.

Determined that he marry up in the world as she had done, his mother spent far too much of her time worrying about climbing the social ladder, something that James cared little for. He knew well that his mother and father loved each other dearly, but James was determined, if he was to marry at all, he would marry for love, not for social status, which is one of the many reasons he endeavoured to avoid the social entwinements that she attempted to trap him into.

At least in London, he now had a friend with whom he could happily be himself and as the carriage pulled up outside of the magnificent house, he could feel the excitement of seeing him once more build deep within him. James was hardly out of the carriage before the large door of the house flew open, yet instead of some prim and proper butler welcoming him as he walked up the pathway, Douglass stood with a broad grin smeared across his face, his burly broad person near filling the doorway and his wild, red hair a tousled mess.

‘Well, if it is not the Earl of Midhurst himself!’ Douglass beamed, throwing a hand out, greeting James with a strong grip.

‘Not whilst my father is still alive it is not, my dear friend.’ James smirked back. ‘It is still only, Viscount of Montagu.’

‘Oh, I see,’ Douglass replied sarcastically. ‘Only Viscount of Montagu, aye?’

‘Indeed,’ James replied mockingly, ‘yet, I will allow you to address me as Lord.’

‘Well then.’ Douglass bent at his waist, rolling his arm in a welcoming motion as he bowed. ‘Please enter our humble home, Lord Montagu. I do hope you’ll find it satisfactory.’

The two men burst into laughter as Douglass brought himself upright once more and led James further into the house. As James followed his friend through the hallways, he could not help but gaze about him at the fine art that hung upon the walls and the ornamental vases and items that were placed on tables as he passed.

‘I am certain, my dear friend, that your home far surpasses satisfactory, for it is rather delightful.’

‘Well, we do try our best to impress you English,’ Douglass added as they made their way into the drawing room. ‘Come and sit, and I will pour us a drink. You can tell me what you have been up to since I saw you last.’

James sat at a dark table near the window that looked out onto the city and watched Douglass grab two glasses and a decanter of dark liquid from the top of the dresser. Glancing around the large drawing room, he was once more impressed by the items that surrounded him. James knew well the story of Mr Stewart’s humble beginnings and could not help but be impressed with how much the older man had expanded both his wealth and accomplishments, yet he was more grateful that those exploits had brought them down to London, giving James an opportunity to spend more time with Douglass.

They sat for some time, filling in the gaps of the pursuits they had both been involved with since seeing each other last, and recalling old school days. James told him of the progress of some of the other boys, who were now, of course, men, and Douglass listened intently, sometimes surprised at the paths their peers had taken.

‘He went into the army?’ Douglass glared at James. ‘Puny little Smithwick went into the army? I can hardly believe it!’

‘Well, you will be even more surprised to learn how well he is doing then, for he is rising through the ranks at rather a pace.’

‘My god! I would have seen him as a lawyer for certain, if he was to go into any employment at all.’

‘What about you, Douglass? How has London been treating you since you arrived?’

‘Och well, it is better now that you are here, my good friend. It is all so new, but with you, at least I have someone I can trust at my side. How long will you stay in London?’

‘Oh, I would imagine the family will stay for a while. It is too far of a journey to be going back much before a month.’

Suddenly, a loud crash and subsequent yelling above them caused James to jerk his head and glare at the ceiling. A second later, he brought his glare back to Douglass enquiringly.

‘Is everything all right up there? Are you not concerned? Perhaps there is a scuffle with some of the servants, for the noise was rather loud.’

‘The servants are fine, James.’ Douglass smiled knowingly. ‘And we are Scottish, everything we do is loud. Do not concern yourself. Besides, it is probably my little sister. She is still struggling to adjust to the new way of life and can get a little frustrated at times. It is nothing to worry about.’

James had forgotten about Douglass’s younger sister, for he had mentioned her only once or twice before. Though Douglass had never mentioned her age, James now imagined her to be quite young and perhaps, a little rough around the edges like her brother. If that noise upstairs was, indeed, her taking out her frustrations, then perhaps his imagination was not too far off from being correct. He wondered how difficult it might be for someone who had never left a place like Scotland, to adjust to such a different setting as London and pondered her being so young, that she may indeed find it difficult.

‘Do you have any plans for tomorrow evening, James?’ Douglass asked, downing the rest of his glass.

‘Not especially. Why? What did you have in mind?’

‘Well, I thought perhaps you might like to join me and my father at an exhibition match. It takes place in an old warehouse on the edge of town, and the fighters are of great talent.’

‘You go to these matches often, Douglass?’ James regarded him with an amused gaze.

‘Of course. You should see them fight, and besides, the energy in the crowd is rather exhilarating. You can put a good bet down on them too, which only makes it the more exciting.’

‘You can also lose a lot of money, I would imagine.’ James grinned.

‘Well yes, but only if you choose the wrong opponent.’ Douglass winked. ‘You should come with us, James. I do think you would enjoy it.’

‘Then I will accompany you and your father. It will indeed be an experience, for I have never attended one. Besides, it has to be better than attending another social engagement with the same fickle crowd of pompous society.’

‘You forget, you are part of the fickle crowd of pompous society, my dear James.’

‘Indeed, I am. Yet, I do not feel part of it. I never really have, for the arrogance of some of them would near put you sick to your stomach.’

‘Well, you are not the only one who feels that way. I have made rather good connections with people here in London of like mind, so perhaps, I can introduce you to them soon.’

James was hardly surprised at Douglass’s statement, for even when they had been at boarding school, neither of them had enjoyed much association with the likes of those who held themselves in higher regard than the others. A boarding school it may be, but just like in any other places in society, there was still a sense of hierarchy, and there were many groups and cliques who held themselves separate from each other.

For both James and Douglass, they had involved themselves more in the sports and those who enjoyed them, leaving those who looked down upon others and enjoyed bragging about their parents’ wealth and accumulated lands and houses to their own devices. Ironically, these were the likes who would never have to lift a finger their entire lives and just had to wait to have their fortunes handed down to them. In that way, James was always dumbfounded that they felt they had a right to brag at all, for it was nothing that they had done themselves to accomplish such fortune.

‘I would indeed enjoy that, Douglass, and truly, I am not surprised at all, for I know you can hardly tolerate the arrogance as much as I.’

‘For a certainty, my dear friend, and yet, we all have choices, do we not? It is up to us how we lead our lives and with whom we choose to associate, and in that way, we are free to surround ourselves with grounded people, no matter what their worth.’

“The Art of Loving a Viscount” is an Amazon Best-Selling novel, check it out here!

Miss Catriona Stewart always thought of her homeland in Scotland as the perfect inspiration to cover her canvas with the purple hues of heather and the greens of the rolling hills. When her father moves the family to London though, her stubborn pride rears its head. Miserable in her new surroundings, she refuses to see any goodness in the place, until she is challenged to do so by a dashing viscount. Drawing her attention from their very first encounter, he will offer to take Catriona to beautiful landscapes. What she didn’t expect though, was that the more time they spent together, the more irreversibly her heart would be captured by his charming smile. Will Catriona find a way to admit her deepest feelings to the handsome gentleman she fell hopelessly in love with?

James Knight has never been a typical viscount. Whilst many of his peers enjoy the indulgent life of London’s upper class scene, he much prefers to spend time in authentic places. When he first meets the beautiful Catriona, he understands her feelings towards London on one hand, but on the other, he wants to show her places that may change her mind. Taking her on outings and watching her beautifully transform as she paints will make him realise that this woman is nothing like any other he has met before. Day by day, he will find himself surrendering to a love more powerful than he could have ever imagined. If only this could change his painful awareness of how socially forbidden this love is… Will James find the strength to stand up for what he desires or will he suppress his feelings out of fear?

Catriona’s and James’ growing love might seem beyond doubt, but there are many challenges ahead that threaten to tear them apart. While their feelings develop, they must face not only the opposition of their social classes, but also the scheming of a woman who desires to marry James. In the midst of these obstacles, will they find a way to prove that they were always destined to be together? Will their flourishing love story conquer the division of their classes or will they allow others to plan their future for them?

“The Art of Loving a Viscount” 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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