A Duke’s Musical Romance (Preview)


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Edith bit her lip, trying not to let her teeth chatter in the cold wind. It was bitter outside, and she drew her cloak about her, wishing she, her mother, and her sisters had worn something more appropriate for the weather. It was autumn, but the rain had fallen suddenly, and it was close to freezing on the streets near their home.

She looked around. London was always packed with people, the pavement crowded, and the street teeming with carriages. She wove her way around a crowd outside the theatre, taking her sister Judith’s hand. It was like ice.

“I’m so cold,” Judith wailed. “I might die if we don’t find warmth soon.”

Edith tried to smile. “You won’t die, sweetling,” she said to Judith kindly. Her little sister was just sixteen and tended to be preoccupied with her own worries. She was sweet and charming, but their father had simultaneously indulged and neglected her and left her with a permanent fearfulness.

“The rain!” their mother, Lady Christine, wailed. “Oh, it’s disgraceful. And my dress will be ruined! How can I afford it if we all get sick and chilled!”

Edith felt her patience fray. It was all very well complaining, she thought. But they were all freezing and wet, not just her. With a sigh, she took off her own scarf, passing it to Judith, who was crying now, her fingers tight on Edith’s cold hand.

“Here, Judith. Put this on.”

“Edith,” Tabby, her middle sister, whispered, blinking blue eyes at her, “you can’t do that. You’ll freeze. You know how much heat one loses at one’s neck, and you need to keep your throat warm.”

“I know,” Edith said softly, trying to smile. “But we’re almost home now. And I’m sure a bit of cold won’t do me any harm.”

“Sister,” Tabby began carefully, but the warning she was about to sensibly give was drowned out by a man stepping back out of a door and almost into them, rage apparent in his words.

“I quit!” he yelled. “You cannot make me stay a moment longer with that she-devil. I shan’t.”

Tabby froze, and Edith shut her green eyes against the noise, barely able to believe her ears.

“You can’t quit,” a man’s voice said reasonably. Edith realized it was coming from the door. She looked up to see a man standing there with blue eyes that were cold and hard. “You have a contract for a year. You have to stay.”

“I cannot!” the man shouted. “You cannot oblige me to stay a moment longer. I am a music teacher, not a lion-tamer, Your Grace.”

“You will be careful of how you speak of Lady Lydia,” the man said coldly. “And if you leave, you are obliged to find another music tutor to teach instead.”

“There is nothing to oblige me, Your Grace! My contract stated only that I would work for a year, not a word about a replacement! I have stated my intent, and you cannot persuade me.”

“I am not trying to persuade anybody,” the man said reasonably. It was such a cold, calculating comment that Edith almost giggled. Whoever he was, he seemed quite clever, if ruthless. She looked up, and she caught a glimpse of his blue eyes, which stared at her frostily before he shut the door on the world.

She heard his voice from inside the door, talking to another audience. By now, her mother was hailing a carriage, and Judith was running after her, but Edith felt almost obliged to remain, listening.

“I apologize,” a young lady said. Edith thought she sounded like a girl, probably about thirteen or fourteen, she guessed, no older. “I really know it was wrong. But I couldn’t help it. He’s horrid, and I shan’t have any other teachers from now.” Her tone was defiant.

“Lydia,” the voice said, and she could hear he was angry, “what you did was wrong, and you can’t keep changing teachers. You should show some respect.”

She didn’t stay to hear more, though she would have liked to – she couldn’t help feeling concerned for the young girl, presumably his daughter. But she could feel Tabby gripping her hand, and the carriage was waiting for them, and she needed to hurry.

An idea was starting to grow in her mind, making her hesitate. A music teacher! The man was looking for a music teacher for the girl.

She herself was skilled at music – everyone agreed she had the best voice they had heard, and her playing on the pianoforte was accomplished, everyone said so. She had no instruction in teaching, but it was a possibility she had not thought of.

“Mind off the path!” somebody shouted behind them. Edith turned, startled, and found herself looking at a postal-delivery man, dressed in smart livery. She stepped aside, and he grinned, grateful to her.

Tabby had her hand and was about to hurry off, but Edith hesitated, thinking she had to take the opportunity this house presented for them.

“Excuse me,” she murmured as the postal-delivery man hurried back. He’d left his cart with letters and was hurrying to fetch it. “But whose house is that?” She pointed at the tall, stone-dressed walls.

“Everybody knows, miss! The Duke of Albridge.”

“Thank you.”

Edith stayed where she was, rooted to the spot.

“Come on, Edith!” Tabby called urgently. Edith saw they were getting into the carriage, and she hurried to join them.

“Oh! It’s so cold! Look at my hair,” their mother groaned as she leaned back against the cushioned interior. Edith said nothing, looking at her mother’s dark chestnut hair, which was barely damp. They were all equally wet, and Judith was crying.

“Come here,” she said gently to her little sister, who blinked bewildered eyes up at her. “If you huddle up like this, you’ll get warm.”

“I don’t want to be here,” Judith wailed. “Why can’t we use our carriage, like we used to?”

Edith held her breath. She hadn’t told Judith that their father, Sir Henry, had not left them a penny to their accounts. How could she tell Judith that, when her father had been the biggest figure in her world, the person who mattered most to her, who she thought the most of?

“We just have to use the hire-carriages, sweetling,” she said.

She leaned back, shutting her green eyes. She was shivering from the cold! She thought about how Sir Henry had run an extravagant house, entertaining visitors, constantly attending parties. He had been rich – a wine merchant who had gained the favour of the Royal House. He had been knighted by King George years ago. Without the royal favour, she and her sisters would have lived a different life. They had rubbed shoulders with the gentry and even the nobility, attended salons and parties they would only dream of without his wealthy clients. And, in some ways, she thought, that made it even harder to live like this.

She saw the house as the carriage slowed – Pavone House, her uncle’s townhouse. Their uncle had taken them in following their father’s death, and they had all lived here for a year – during which his generous nature had been severely tried, at least according to him.

“Here we are,” she said, trying to be cheerful. “I’ll help you down, Judith.”

“I want to go to bed!” Judith said insistently.

Edith took her hand, trying to be comforting. Their mother got down next, and then Tabby last. As they paid the coachman and walked to the house, Tabby looked at her questioningly.

“What made you ask that, Edith?” she said solemnly.

“Ask what?” Edith asked, flushing despite the cold.

“About the address,” Tabby insisted.

Edith sighed. “I could work teaching singing.”

Tabby looked at her fondly, worry in her eyes. “You don’t have to do this, Edith,” she said caringly. “We can find other ways. Our uncle still supports us. You don’t need to get a job. Especially not there! That man is terrifying.”

Edith giggled, but after a moment became serious again. “I do need to, Tabby.” She walked in through the front door, taking her shoes off in the hallway. She could already hear her mother complaining in the parlour, telling everybody how close to expiring she was from the cold. “I have to help everyone. And Judith needs a Season too.”

Tabby looked at her. “You don’t need to help everyone, Edith. Everyone deserves to blossom. You need a Season, too.”

Edith shook her head. “No, Tabby,” she said in a soft tone. “I can’t do that. It’s my job to help everyone.”

It was what her father had laid on her, and the one thing she knew she could do that was good. She had to make things right for her family.

She walked into the parlour with Tabby to get warm. As she settled by the fire, her fingers aching as the warmth crept back in, she found her thoughts returning to that scene in the street.

She was going to teach music to the daughter of the cold-eyed duke.

Chapter One

Thomas looked at his sister, feeling anger flood through him. He loved her dearly, with her blonde ringlets and cheeky grin. But sometimes, she went too far.

“Lydia, no,” he said. “I cannot let you continue like this. That is the third music teacher you have scared away in four months. You can’t keep doing this.”

“I didn’t scare him, brother. That’s not fair.” She looked like she might cry. He drew in a deep breath. She was fifteen years old, but he could be excused for thinking she was much younger. He himself was twice that age, and he could barely remember being a child – he hadn’t been a child for long, not since his parents had died when he was just eighteen.

“Lydia, I cannot accept behaviour like this.”

“You never do! You don’t accept me at all. You don’t want me. I don’t know why I don’t run away to Ireland and seek shelter there.”

Thomas let out a sigh. “Stop being silly,” he said. Her words twisted his heart. She was crying, and he couldn’t bear it. He always managed to bring the conversation to a point where he made her cry. She never listened to him, never paid heed. She always seemed to take what he said as something she had to defy, not something to listen to.

“I mean it!” Lydia sobbed. “You’re so horrid, brother. You’re so unfair. You just hate me, and I don’t know why.”

Thomas drew in a breath. He couldn’t think straight. He didn’t know what to do or say, but the only thing he could think of – the only thing he knew how to do – was to lose his temper. Perhaps she would listen to him if he became angry.

“You are behaving foolishly. I will give you one last chance – you will have a music teacher, or you will be sent off to school like other young ladies of the gentry.” It was an empty threat – a duke’s sister would never attend school. But she might be scared enough to listen.

“You can’t do that!” Lydia said. She sounded horrified. She was crying earnestly now. “You only say that because you don’t want me. Because you don’t care about me. I might as well just leave because you hate me, and I can never do the right thing.” She whirled around and ran from the room, heading for the stairs.

Thomas let out a breath. He was exhausted. Confrontations with Lydia always exhausted him. He was about to slump into a chair, but footsteps in the doorway made him turn around.

“Sorry, Thomas,” Fenton said. He was standing in the hallway, and Thomas realized he must have just arrived. He hadn’t heard someone answer the door over the argument. “I couldn’t help hearing the last bit. Is she alright?”

Thomas ran a hand through his thick, dark hair. “I think so,” he said. “I don’t know what I’m doing, Fenton,” he said wearily. His friend, who had a gentle, soft-eyed face, grinned.

“How can we? We’re not parents, Thomas. And that’s what you’ve needed to be.”

Thomas sighed. “I know,” he said. He thought about Lydia. “And I’ve made a real mess of everything.”

“She’ll be all right, Thomas,” Fenton said, flopping down in a chair. “She needs love, that’s all.”

Thomas sat down opposite, smiling at Fenton. His friend saw things so clearly sometimes, and that was just what he needed right now. Fenton never judged, never told people off, and yet he could see to the heart of a situation and offer gentle guidance when needed.

“I suppose you’re right, Fenton. But I’m her guardian. I need to have a firm hand with her.”

Fenton raised a brow. “A firm hand will only crush her wings, Thomas. Yes, she needs solidity and certainty. But to have those things, she needs to trust you.”

“You think she doesn’t trust me?” Thomas felt a prickle of offence. Why wouldn’t she trust him? He was her big brother! Surely that should be automatic. He was the one who made decisions for her, who put a roof over her head, who threatened to send her off to a school and demote her to the same level as a merchant’s daughter … He sighed.

“I can’t say, Thomas,” Fenton said in a caring tone. “But I didn’t come here to lecture you.”

Thomas chuckled. “Really?”

Fenton shot him a look, then laughed. “No. I didn’t. I actually came here seeking warmth. And tea. And some company. If I came at the wrong time, I am sorry.”

Thomas ran his hand through his hair, frustrated. “Sorry, Fenton. I don’t seem to be able to get anything right.” He stood and rang the bell, summoning the butler. “I would love to have tea. I just seem to be so grumpy today.” He looked around, feeling annoyed.

He was here in London, and it was raining, and he hated the town. He would much rather have been in Albridge, his holdings in the countryside, but he’d promised Fenton he’d come here for a Season, and Lydia – though she was too young to attend a ball – had insisted on coming. She wanted to shop to prepare for her debut.

“I understand, Thomas,” Fenton said kindly. “You’ve only just got here. I know you hate London – be fair to yourself. You’ll feel better tomorrow.”

Thomas sighed. Again, he had to admit Fenton was right. He had only arrived two days ago, was still tired from the journey, and the rain was mind-numbing. He would feel better tomorrow.

The butler came in, bringing a tray with a plain tea-set on it – a simple white-and-gold one that Thomas favoured. He had never been one for fancy, eye-catching things. He liked plain, beautiful things. He poured out some tea for Fenton, passing him a cup.

“Thank you, Thomas,” Fenton said politely. “Would you fancy a walk tomorrow? It might lift your spirits if we take a turn around Hyde Park.”

“Mayhap,” Thomas said darkly. He didn’t feel as though it would cheer him, though he knew Fenton was right. Being outdoors would do him good. “You know what? You would make a grand parson.” He meant it. Fenton had confessed once that he would love to take orders and be a parson or a vicar in a village somewhere. It suited his character – he was so gentle, kind, and wise.

Fenton sighed. “I would love to be, Thomas,” he said in a soft tone. “And I thank you for that. But I really don’t know if I’ll ever have the chance to study. You know what Alexandra thinks about that.” He made a face.

Thomas nodded. Alexandra was Fenton’s sister. They were the children of the Duke of Listford, and Thomas had been designated as Alexandra’s partner since he was born. He sometimes wished he could forget that – he had never felt particularly close to her, and he knew Alexandra was not in love with him. She simply insisted on it because it was her right to be the duchess one day, and she didn’t see why she shouldn’t be, even though there was not the slightest hint of affection between the two.

“You know, it is a pity. So many people would benefit from your wisdom, Fenton,” Thomas said carefully.

“And so many would benefit from yours if you let it out occasionally.”

Thomas made a face. “Not sure what I think of that, old chap.”

Fenton laughed. “You know what I mean, old fellow,” he said gently.

They sat together, drinking tea. Thomas wished he could think of how to bridge the gulf growing between himself and his sister. He could see Fenton was right – he’d pushed her away with his threats and his constant need to make sure she was doing the right thing. But he didn’t know how else to be. He had to be cold and emotionless. That was what his tutor had said when he became duke. He had told him his own feelings didn’t matter.

Duty was what mattered.

“A Duke’s Musical Romance” is an Amazon Best-Selling novel, check it out here!

In the wake of her father’s death, the kind Edith Oldham struggles with the burden of caring for her mother and sisters. As if that wasn’t enough, when her beloved sister falls seriously ill, raising funds becomes vital. However, fortune unexpectedly smiles on her, when she is hired as a piano tutor for a Duke’s sister. Little did she know though that she would soon feel unable to stop daydreaming about the Duke’s sparkling, yet seemingly cold, gaze…

With her heart beating fast whenever they are together, could this be the beginning of a magical love, or will heartbreak follow?

Thomas Newbury, the Duke of Albridge, is a man who has turned away from his own heart. In the aftermath of his parents’ loss, his life takes a very tragic turn and he progressively isolates himself. When he first hires Edith though, he finds himself drawn to her ethereal beauty. Nevertheless, he fears that romance could be a distraction for him, since the focus of his life is raising his sister.

Despite thinking that love was never on the cards for him, could the charming tutor be Thomas’ ultimate destiny?

Even though Edith and Thomas come from different worlds, a sweet romance will start flourishing between them. Nevertheless, the class chasm and their heavy duties are challenges they need to overcome in order to unite their two worlds. In the end, will love triumph over duty for Edith and Thomas? Or will they be doomed to become victims of their hurdles?

“A Duke’s Musical Romance” 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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