The Reluctant Lady, a Regency Romance
Is there such a thing as Platonic friendship? The rakish Earl of Tressilian and virtuous Lady Killeaven are determined to prove it's true— a man and a woman can truly be just friends. In decadent Regency London, of course, their friendship proves more scandalous than any flaming affair.
And Tressilian, after years of "just friends," starts to wonder if that is, indeed, all he wants to be. More
A Scandalous Proposition:
"Don't you think you need reforming?"
"Not yet." Suddenly he was restless again, his elegant, eloquent hands stroking the reins, his fine shoulders rippling in a shrug. "Not yet. I'm too young yet. Later, perhaps, I'll settle down— when I'm thirty, I think." He said "thirty" as if it were some impossibly distant year, too lost in the mists of time to matter.
Then, as she laughed at his childishness, he grinned and took her hands and made her the most shocking proposition either of them had ever heard. "We shall be friends, shall we? You may try and reform me, and I shall try to corrupt you, and we'll be good for each other."
Never would she forget his lazy voice, the teasing light in his eyes, and her own paradoxical seriousness, as if she were acceding to something that would change her life. And never would she understand why she agreed, except that he had invaded her life as ruthlessly as he boarded enemy ships, tantalizing her with the vision of a life lived without limits. Perhaps, through friendship— safe, circumscribed friendship— with Tressilian, she could experience a little of that freedom without any of the risk.
But even as her heart raced at the prospect, Kristen instinctively reacted against her own desire and made excuses for her precipitous acceptance of his outrageous proposition.
After all, Tressilian's life begged for reformation, and Kristen had a Christian duty to help. As missionaries who made forays into the jungles of Africa had to adjust to their quarries' diverse habits, Kristen could not flinch from her chosen heathen's unchristian behavior. For if he were a saint, he would have no need of her reformation efforts.
Still, missionaries to Africa did not let themselves willingly become dinner for their cannibal parishioners, and Kristen similarly exercised self-defense. As they drove back through the sultry night, she remonstrated, "Now if we are to be friends, we needs must be friends. No scandalous propositions."
"Wouldn't dream of it!" he vowed, choirboy innocent.
"Not even your hand?'
Kristen sighed with exasperation and an inchoate longing. "Tressilian, your sort of handkissing should be outlawed. It is hazardous to the moral quality of the kingdom."
"If you say so." One shoulder rippled in a sullen shrug.
"And you mustn't call me your love." She considered his careless habit of addressing every woman he met with endearments, and decided banning them entirely might prove too difficult. So she allowed, "You may call me 'angel', however."
He kept his promise. Not once on the trip home did he make a threatening move. But he did startle her when, just as he was helping her down from the curricle, he said fiercely, "I knew you would stay true."
It was such a strange comment, and so intensely uttered, that she puzzled over it much of the night. Then finally, as the darkness was lifting, she gave it up. She did not know enough about men to understand a man like Tressilian.
Is there such a thing as Platonic friendship? The rakish Earl of Tressilian and virtuous Lady Killeaven are determined to prove it's true—a man and a woman can truly be just friends. In decadent Regency London, of course, their friendship proves more scandalous than any flaming affair.
And Tressilian, after years of "just friends," is starting to wonder if that is, indeed, all he wants to be. So this Royal Navy hero embarks on a campaign as dangerous and complex as any battle at sea, to win the heart and hand of the one woman who knows him too well to be seduced.
The Reluctant Lady is the second in the Regencies by Rasley series, and serves up the traditional Regency with an elegantly lush style and a dash of humor. 95K words, PG rated.