Her One and Only Knight (Preview)


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

Chapter One

The sound of cannons – roaring, explosive, terrifying – filled the air. Tom shuddered and swept a tuft of blond hair out of one eye, feeling under his fingertips the gritty dust that stuck to his skin. He was in the second line, firing at the oncoming soldiers. He felt blessed that the cannons were not facing their line but to their left. He reached for a bullet, fingers shaking as he paused to reload.

“Fire!” the lieutenant screamed.

Tom, who had been recently made sergeant, reached for the metal stick he used to tamp down the powder, the whole procedure of reloading taking him a few tens of seconds. He stood up, ducked down to reload, took aim, and fired.

“They’re still advancing,” the man beside him said. He was not speaking loudly, so Tom only caught the words by chance as he ducked down again.

“I know,” Tom said the words through a tight throat. A man would be mad if he weren’t terrified on the battlefield, and Tom was very sane. He had been in enough battles not to lose his wits at the sound of cannons firing, but he hated it, no matter how often he’d heard it. He’d been in Portugal for two years now and had become used to the sight of guns and cannons and the stench of battle, but not yet to that sound – the roar and the awful whistle of the balls as they shot past. The only other thing he had yet to become comfortable with, the only thing he never would, he believed, was the weather.

He stood again, the hair that fell into his green eyes annoying him. He brushed the sweat-slicked strands out of his face and gave himself a second to aim.

As his companion, Luke pointed out, the French troops were advancing.

Tom had to load his gun again, and he paused, contemplating whether that made sense or not. The French advancing rapidly under the cannon fire that battered their flank to keep them back, so closely that he could see the sweat on their brows. In the few seconds it would take them to close the distance, he would have no time to reload.

“Fix bayonets!” he yelled.

His men – those who hadn’t already had the sense to do so – hastily did as he instructed. The lieutenant was too far down the line to address, but close enough to see, awarded him a hard stare.

The lieutenant disliked Tom, who was from a mercantile family, and he also resented his competence and his ability to lead the men and gain respect for it. The lieutenant – the son of a baron – resented anyone who dared to come from an ignoble background and have the temerity to be better at something than he was.

Tom was used to the man’s attitude. They had recently fought over his own promotion from the ranks, which Lieutenant Blundell had backed, but Lieutenant Scrope, who hated Tom for his humble origins, had strongly opposed. Tom ignored the look and continued instructing his group, who fixed bayonets just in time. As the French charged the line, Tom lost track of what was happening, focusing only on the immediate battle needs.

Beside him, he heard someone shout, and he was distracted for a second, but then his instincts took over, and he stabbed at a man who ran at him, sidestepped a blow directed at his legs with a musket barrel – they were too close for either side to risk a shot without hitting their own men – and kicked at another man’s shin as he grappled him.

In a moment of respite, Tom breathed in, the sulphurous smell of the cannons almost choking him as the wind blew the smoke towards them. He had fought to the edge of the group, and he had a second – just one – to look out over the field.

On his left, a knot of men had formed. The outer ring, the uniforms of the French; the inner, the scarlet British troops.

“Lieutenant Blundell!”

Tom, loudly, shouted the name, alarm filling him. The one man who had always supported and sponsored him was trapped, his few men fighting in a tight circle about him and the youth who bore the standard of their regiment. Tom briefly saw the lieutenant, and then the group of French closed about him. The standard was going to fall.

“Men! This way!” Tom screamed.

If the standard fell, the morale of the troop went with it. The French would parade it, mocking them, and they would lose heart. He could not allow it.

He gestured for his men to follow him. He looked around to see one of them, Alfred, dragging another – he thought it was Luke – towards him. He couldn’t spare another second to see if any of them had fought their way out, and, with the two others behind him, he ran at the knot of battling men, the French troops standing with their backs turned to their position.

“Fire!” he shouted to his men. Luke had a bullet in the barrel, and he shot, and Tom had no time to see if he had hit a target because he was desperately trying to reload.

“Lieutenant Blundell!” he shouted as he and the men he brought hammered into the French troops. There were not many of them, and Tom had a second to wonder how it was that Blundell had got himself surrounded and cut off from the rest of their army, but then, he didn’t have any time to think as more of his men heeded his shout and came running over, hammering into the French.

Tom stabbed wildly with his bayonet, jumped aside as someone stabbed up at him, twisted out of the way of a man who had given up with the gun and tried to wrestle him to the ground.

He glanced sideways, seeing Luke was on his feet and fighting fiercely and that Alfred was waving and shouting to attract more of their men, but that it wasn’t necessary.

The men had already heard him.

“Lieutenant!” Tom called again as he fought into the middle of the group. A bullet whizzed past his ear, rendering him abruptly deaf.

He reached the lieutenant, becoming dimly aware that the knot of Frenchmen was dispersing, and then, just as he reached out a hand, something hit him hard on the back of the head, and he fell forward.

He didn’t lose consciousness, but he fell, badly winded. The next thing he knew was pain like fire in his hand, men all around him shouting, and the sound of guns firing. He could not think of anything else – his entire mind was focused on the pain in his hand, which was so intense and powerful that it took up all the space in his thoughts.

His eyes closed, and he lay where he was, curled up, knees to his chest, not sure if he would live through the battle because the crush around him was too thick for him to stand. He couldn’t think, couldn’t move. All that consumed him was pain.

The sounds around him changed. The sound of gunfire grew softer and then, slowly, stopped, replaced with panting, shouting and the clash of metal and then a dull silence.

The sunshine blazed down. Tom blinked.

He heard voices.

If they find me, I’m dead.

The French soldiers combing the battlefield would kill him for the clothes he wore. The pain in his hand became a minor concern for a moment, replaced by the fact that he might soon die. His mind wandered, thoughts filling suddenly with the many things of earth that mattered and the reasons he very badly wanted to live.

His parents’ faces flashed before his eyes, his elder brother Orton and then, from behind the biggest barriers of his heart – the ones he had put up to keep himself sane – Mary’s face.

I must live. I have to go back and see her.

Her gentle, blue-grey eyes were huge as she looked at him in his mind’s eye, a slight, puzzled frown creasing her brow. He remembered her as a girl, just sixteen. He reckoned quickly. She would be twenty-four. Two years his junior. He focused on her face, filling his mind with the image of her pale, soft cheeks and small chin.

I love you.

He was still thinking it when the men came and bent down beside him. He winced, fear washing through him as someone touched his leg.

“This one’s alive,” a voice said.

It was a Portuguese man if he judged by the accent. But he spoke English.

The Portuguese troops were their allies. Tom tried to move, croaking through a tight throat. He scrambled with his good hand, wincing as he tried to move the other.

“I’m alive,” he said.

“Well, look at that,” an English voice said. It was smiling. Tom heard the lilt in his voice though his eyes were shut, and he couldn’t see him because of the sunshine that blazed down. “Sergeant…. Let’s get this one to the field hospital. Can you walk?”

“Perhaps,” Tom said. He tried to smile, but his mouth was cracked and bloody with heat.

“Sergeant De Felipe, get him up, will you?”

Tom winced as someone – presumably, the man who had first spoken – reached out and grabbed his wrist. Luckily, it was the undamaged hand, or he would have screamed outright. He did when it bumped on something.

“Hell, sergeant,” the English voice said. “That hand’s a mess.”

“It feels like it,” Tom replied. He realized the man must have read his rank from the epaulettes on his uniform since he certainly didn’t know him. He started to recall what had happened. “The battle…what happened?”

“We won,” the Englishman told him as the Portuguese officer hauled him to his feet and helped him balance tentatively. “We didn’t lose the standard, though we almost did. That would have turned the tide in the crapauds’ favour.”

“Yes,” Tom replied, aware of the English nickname for the French.

“Well, sergeant, you need a rest. You also need someone to bandage that hand. If it can be saved, which I pray it can,” he added kindly.

“Thank you,” Tom said sincerely.

He leaned on the sergeant, who helped him back toward the field hospital. Tom hadn’t risked a glance at his broken hand, but he knew that most of the bones were broken, and he doubted the field hospital could fix it. His only thoughts were that the men had been saved and that if he could no longer fight, he would be going home, and home was where Mary would be.


Chapter Two

Mary looked up from where she had been focused on the tapestry pattern on her knee. It rested on the soft muslin of her dress – an elegant white gown printed with sage traceries of greenery. Around her, the comfortable drawing room at Chatfield house stretched out. The brown velvet drapes matched the divan’s rich velvet and the paler brown silk of the Oriental rugs at the hearth. It was warm, the windows open to admit a soft breeze, and the morning sunshine didn’t quite reach her corner yet. She had been pleased to focus on the pattern because it gave her respite from the maelstrom of happenings in the room around her.

“And the porcelain needs cleaning, and Amelia’s slipper has a tear in it! Why is there so much to do…?” Mama said.

“Mama,” Christiana said from her seat by the fireplace, tucking a dark curl out of her face, “there isn’t so much to do. Mrs Hansford is doing the cleaning, the slipper can be fixed with a stitch or two, and the flower arrangements won’t take ten minutes. Just sit down.”

Mary glanced at her sister, wanting to giggle. Christiana was two and a half years older than Mary, and she was the one of her four siblings who never let their mother’s words trouble her. She would have smiled, but Christiana didn’t have much of a sense of humour either. Her stoic ability to resist all Mama’s fussing was part of a continuum of not really being troubled with anybody’s problems.

“Mama,” Cameron said, coming into the room. “Have you seen my tiepin?”

“Oh, Cameron! That thing is an heirloom! You haven’t lost it, have you?” their mother demanded. Cameron, the eldest in the family and old enough to resist his mother’s anger, shook his head.

“Mama, it’s in the house somewhere,” he said. “Mary, you haven’t seen it? Christiana?”

“Try the desk in your room,” Christiana said, not looking up from her book.

Mary shook her head, seeing Cameron shoot a look of annoyance at their sister. “I haven’t seen it, brother,” she said gently.

“Thank you,” Cameron said. He gave her a fond look and then hurried out again.

“Your father will be here in ten minutes! We must get ready. Mary! Stop that fussing and go to your room. You haven’t got your jewellery on yet. Must you always dawdle about?”

Mary looked up, feeling hurt. Why was she being singled out? She hadn’t done anything! Perhaps ten years ago, she would have cried; but now, she simply felt tired and drained. She had never understood why her mother always targeted her for her carping cruelties.

“Mary, no need to rush,” Christiana said, still not looking up. “You still have half an hour at least to put on your jewellery. Amelia’s not ready yet, and we can’t leave without her. It would be a silly mess if we all turned up before her.”

Mary giggled. She went to join Christiana while their mother sighed and went to the door.

“I have such trials in this house!” their mother declared. “It’s all so difficult! Why must you all be so dramatic?”

Mary looked at Christiana, but her sister was turning a page and not looking up. She wished she could share her amusement, but the only one of her siblings who would really appreciate the comment was Davie, her brother. Just a year older than her, Davie was her closest companion in the family.

The quiet in the room was brief as Mrs Hansford arrived with two maids to clean the porcelain, and then Amelia’s friend, Julianne, came in with the roses to begin the flower arrangements.

“How is Amelia?” Christiana asked.

“She’s ready,” Julianne said, reaching for some white flowers, which she tucked into the vase. “That slipped stitch in her slipper was a bother, but her maid fixed it in a jiffy. She’ll be down any moment, which gives me just ten minutes to do these flowers…” she trailed off, focusing on the vase and the pile of roses, ferns and small white flowers piled together on a cloth on the table.

“I’ll help,” Mary offered.

We’ll help,” Christiana agreed. She stood and went to the table, where three vases still needed filling. Julianne lifted a rose and placed it carefully, looking down at her hands as she did so. She was wearing a short-sleeved gown, as were her sister and Julianne. It was summertime and pleasantly warm in the drawing room. She glanced out of the window, wishing she could somehow escape the house.

Amelia and the Duke of Lanceley were on their way to the church. That would make Mary the only one of her sisters still unmarried. She knew her mother would say something – her mother always said something. The only reason she had not been hard on Amelia, who was eight and twenty, was because she had been courted by the duke, and their mother was so overjoyed that she was willing to wait for the fellow to have time off from his duties at the House of Lords to join the family.

“It’s not so bad,” Christiana whispered as Julianne went into the next room. “The whole family isn’t coming up, so we won’t have to hear Uncle Alfred tell his stories for the twenty–fourth time.”

Mary tried to smile because she knew her sister wanted to better her mood. “I just don’t know if I can face Mama’s…” she trailed off, not knowing what to say. Her mother would, and had already been, pressuring her about her age and how she had to set about going to London so she could speedily wed.

“Mary, you know Mama talks nonsense,” Christiana said briskly. “You’re a wonderful girl. Just One Season in London, and you could be whisked off as a baroness, duchess, or Heaven knows what. You know it’s not because of anything else besides your own choosiness.”

“I know,” Mary murmured. She hesitated to say anything. Choosiness was the least of it, but she didn’t want to tell Christiana the details right now. 

“Sister!” a voice called from the door. Mary looked round to see her brother enter the room. Not Cameron – he must be talking to Papa in the hallway if he had managed to get fully dressed. It was Davie. Older than her by a year and the youngest son, Davie was named after their father, David. He had been studying at Cambridge until two years ago, and after that, he’d moved into one of the family’s many hunting lodges, gifted to him when he married last year.

“Good morning, Davie,” she greeted. She saw his smile tilt into a frown.

“Are you feeling all right?” he asked her. He slipped beside her at the table, where she was still occupied. Across the table, Christiana was too focused on arranging flowers to listen to what they said.

“I am,” she whispered.

“Good.” Davie looked at her warmly. He was the only one of them to inherit their mother’s colouring, having blonde hair and hazel eyes. He had a thin, humorous face, and she felt her spirits lift, seeing him.

“You look fine.”

He sounded amused. “This suit is almost as expensive as my tuition was.” He shook his head. “Heaven knows why Mama insists on it. I suppose we must look fashionable. It’s nice, though. Can’t complain.”

Mary replied with fondness and amusement. “Oh, brother.”

He grinned, a thin-lipped smile that made her heart lift. “You look beautiful, sister.”

Mary swallowed. She hadn’t realized until that moment how awful her mother’s criticism and anger had made her feel. She was left feeling as though she wasn’t good enough, as though some terrible flaw in her made her the butt of her mother’s ill will and constant tempers.

“Thank you,” she said.

“Green suits you. That is green, is it not?” he added, gesturing to the dress.

“I think so.” Mary could hear the warmth and amusement in her own voice. “Mrs Heathfield, the seamstress, said it was sage. I suppose that would be green.”

“Is sage green?”

Mary felt her lip lift fondly. “It’s good to see you, Davie,” she said.

They stood there silently, Mary arranged flowers, and Christiana lifted hers and went to the door.

“I’m going to find out where we’re supposed to put these,” she said, gesturing to the vase full of red roses. “I’ll tell you in a moment.”

“Thank you,” Mary said. She glanced over at Davie, who examined the elaborate glass vases on the mantelpiece.

“Chinese porcelain,” Davie commented. “Odd, isn’t it, to think of how far away that is.”

“China?” Mary asked.

“Mm.” Davie’s eyes were bright. Mary knew her brother was fascinated by distant nations. He’d wanted permission to get involved in relations with foreign lands, but his parents disapproved. His mother said it sounded too much like trade, especially with the East India Company dominating ties with India. People might think he was trading tea, and she wouldn’t have the Cavendish family associated with such nonsense.

“Davie?” Mary said softly. “I’m not ugly, am I?”

“Mary!” Davie took her hand and held it. “Sister! How can you say that? Why you’re the loveliest young lady in the dukedom, and I’ll swallow my silk cravat if that’s not true.”

“Davie!” Mary let out a small laugh. She knew he was trying to lift her mood, and she loved him for it. She looked into his eyes, and he looked back crossly.

“You know that’s nonsense,” he said. “You really are beautiful. Surely you know that, Mary?” His expression changed to one of worry, and Mary nodded.

“I suppose,” she said. She cleared her throat, which was stiff. “But I feel like it sometimes.”

“I’m sure,” Davie said. “Let’s go upstairs, shall we? That must be enough fern fronds now. And Christiana can do the rest. You need some rest.”

“Thank you, Davie,” Mary said. She took his hand, and they went out into the hallway.

“Better?” Davie asked her gently.

“Mm,” Mary said. She felt as though she was just five again, and Davie six, and he was hiding that she had stained her dress when they played in the tree outside. He had always been her best friend, taking care of her in a house that sometimes seemed so strict and unkind.

“Let’s go upstairs, then,” Davie said. “I need to knot my cravat again anyway. It’s itching like Perdition.”

Mary was amused – Davie was always jesting, trying to amuse one if one was sad. Upstairs, she went straight, where her room was opposite the stairs. Davie went up to the right, where his bedchamber was beside Cameron’s and close to the wing where guests could be housed. The manor was a big, sprawling house, and they often hosted large parties for many days. The grounds were beautiful, as was the extensive art collection that filled up the upstairs floor.


Mary shut the door of her bedroom, looking around. Her maid had left her shawl on the chair – an elegant lace that was the exact cream of the gown she wore with its sage patterns. She checked the jewellery set out for her – a pearl necklace and a slide for her hair. She usually wore it braided, but today her maid had arranged it in a bun, and the hair adornment was supposed to be placed on the right side. She looked around, wondering if her maid, Harriet, would come and help or if she’d risk doing it herself.

She was about to ring the bell when she heard someone in the hallway. A knock at the door made her call out in surprise.

“Who is it?”

“It’s me, my lady,” Harriet said. “And Mrs Conwell wanted to come in too.”

“Oh?” Mary answered. “Show her in,” she agreed.

Mrs Conwell had been her nursemaid. She’d been the nursemaid to her, Christiana, Davie, and all the younger children. The only two who hadn’t been nursed by her were Amelia and Cameron. Now, Mrs Conwell worked cleaning and maintaining the linen and clothing.

Mary looked up, pleased and a little flustered, as Mrs Conwell came in. They had always been close and seeing her soft, lined face made her heart lift.

“Morning, Mrs Conwell,” she greeted caringly.

“Morning, my lady.”

While her maid arranged her hair and helped fasten the necklace about her slim neck, Mary was aware of Mrs Conwell waiting in the background. She wanted to know what her old friend had to say. As soon as Harriet had arranged her hair, she curtseyed and went to the door.

“I’ll wait for you at the door, my lady.”

“Thank you, Harriet,” Mary said fondly.

As soon as she was alone with Mrs Conwell, she turned to her, heart thudding.

“My dear,” Mrs Conwell said. “You look lovely.”

“Thank you, Mrs Conwell,” Mary said respectfully. She wanted to ask her what she had to tell her, but before she found words, Mrs Conwell replied.

“I have a message, my lady,” she said. “It’s from my nephew. Tom’s back in the town.”

“Her One and Only Knight” is an Amazon Best-Selling novel, check it out here!

Lady Mary Cavendish, the youngest daughter of the Duke of Chatfield, was raised to be gentle, refined and dutiful. She has, however, a secret that can never be revealed, for the man who has her heart, is far beneath her rank. Her childhood friendship with Tom grew into an abiding love as they blossomed into adulthood. With her socially conscious mother and stern older brother forbidding this courtship, how far is Mary willing to go for true love?

A beautiful lady, a proud family and a man who is torn between love and honour…

Tom Conwell, a milliner’s son, has devoted his heart to Mary since he was a child. Witnessing his mother’s illness made him sensitive and attentive to others, and his own trials in the Peninsular War have made him aware of duty and honour. He is in many ways the ideal gentleman: in all ways, except status. This is why to pursue the love of his life, Lady Mary, he has been trying to attain a knighthood and prove his worth.

A love that must flourish against all odds…

Mary’s mother is determined to betroth her well, having her eyes on a particular suitor, but Mary knows the truth of her heart. On the other hand, Tom wants only what is best for Mary, even if that means he will never be with her; he secretly wishes that he manages to be the one to give her what she deserves though. When there seems to be so little time to achieve all they wish, will Mary and Tom’s love triumph with the help of their friends, or will they be eternally separated?

“Her One and Only Knight” is a historical romance novel of approximately 80,000 words. No cheating, no cliffhangers, and a guaranteed happily ever after.

Get your copy from Amazon!


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

One thought on “Her One and Only Knight (Preview)”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *