"A doyen of humorous Regency-era romance writing."
Barbara Metzger's Romances
"Funny and touching-what a joy!"
"Lively, funny, and true to the Regency period… a fresh twist on a classic plot."
"Absolutely outstanding… lots of action, drama, tension… simply fantastic!"
"Metzger's gift for re-creating the flavor and ambience of the period shines here, and the antics of her dirty-dish villains, near-villains, and starry-eyed lovers are certain to entertain."
"The complexities of both story and character contribute much to its richness. Like life, this book is much more exciting when the layers are peeled back and savored."
"Remarkable… an original, laugh-out-loud, and charmingly romantic read."
"A true tour de force… Only an author with Metzger's deft skill could successfully mix a Regency tale of death, ruined reputations, and scandal with humor for a fine and ultimately satisfying broth… A very satisfying read."
"[Metzger] brings the Regency era vividly to life with deft humor, sparkling dialogue, and witty descriptions."
"Metzger has penned another winning Regency tale. Filled with her hallmark humor, distinctive wit, and entertaining style, this is one romance that will not fail to enchant."
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First published by Signet Eclipse, an imprint of New American Library,
a division of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.
First Printing, September 2007
Copyright © Barbara Metzger, 2007
All rights reserved
SIGNET ECLIPSE and logo are trademarks of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.
Printed in the United States of America
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
The publisher does not have any control over and does not assume any respon
For Valentino, my new best friend
"Why do people tell lies, Papa?"
Lord Royce wiped the blood from his little boy's nose. "Because they can, son. Just because they can."
"But you told me to tell the truth. Always."
The earl sighed. "And I am certain most fathers tell their sons the same thing. But children do not always listen. Is that what the fight was about?"
The child nodded. "Timmy Burdock said it was Cousin Daniel's dumb old idea to steal the apples from Widow Hood's orchard. I called Timmy a liar and he hit me, so I hit him back."
"Why didn't Daniel hit him?"
"Because Daniel is so much bigger. That wouldn't have been fair, would it?"
Lord Royce dipped his handkerchief in a basin of water his manservant brought, admiring the boys' code of honor, but wishing his slightly built son would not feel duty bound to defend his bigger cousin. Seeing blood drip from his precious child's nose tore at his heart, even if the cause was a boyish squabble. "So what happened then, and how did you get so wet?"
"Widow Flood threw a bucket of water on us. And she's going to tell the vicar." He shivered, but not with the chill of his damp clothes. "She says Vicar will cane all of us. Will he, Papa?" The six-year-old raised his blue eyes to the earl-the same black-rimmed, heavily lashed sapphire eyes all the Royce males possessed.
Lord Royce could not lie to the boy. He never had, and would not start now. "For lying and fighting, and for stealing the apples? He just might."
"Daniel, too? It wasn't his idea, and he didn't hit anyone."
If the notion to trespass on the crotchety old widow's property was not Timmy Burdock's, and not Daniel's, the earl had a good idea whose idea it might have been. "Perhaps if you confess, and offer to help stack Mrs. Flood's wood for her after lessons at the vicarage, then Daniel might get off with a scold, although he did eat some of the apples, I'd wager. No one should ever take anything from another-not his good name, not even a mere apple. Do you understand?"
Young Rex, as Jordan, Viscount Rexford, was called, hung his head. "Yes, Papa. But Timmy should not have lied, either."
For a moment the earl was afraid-But no, of course Rex knew who had plotted the orchard theft, since Rex himself was the culprit. Then his boy said, "But how did Widow Flood not know Timmy was lying?"
The handkerchief fell to the floor at the earl's side. "How should she know, son?" he asked, holding his breath for the answer he knew was coming, the one he'd been dreading for years, ever since the boy's birth.
Rex's dark brows knitted in confusion. "Can't everyone tell the difference between a lie and the truth?"
"Can you, Rex?"
The boy smiled, showing a gap where a tooth was missing. "That's silly. Of course I can."
The earl knelt to his son's level and stared into those eyes, so much like his own. "What if I said I bought you a real horse for your next birthday, not another pony?"
The child threw his arms around his father and kissed him noisily on the cheek. "Oh, Papa! That's capital! That's what Daniel says, you know."
Lord Royce slipped out of his son's enthusiastic embrace, sweet though it was, despite the dampness. He could feel beads of sweat breaking out on his own skin. "What if I said the mare's name is Cowslip?"
"Why, that's a danker, Papa. What is her name?"
Rex shook his head no, now smiling at the game.
The earl studied the boy's face for a sign that he was guessing. Rex looked as certain as if his father had said the sun would rise tomorrow. "Very well. Your new horse's name is Angel."
"No, it isn't."
Rex jumped up and down. "Oh, Papa, does that mean she is a black? That's just what I wanted, you know."
He knew. But how did Rex know that name was the correct one? The earl lifted his son to sit on his lap in the worn leather armchair, glad he could still cuddle with this boy he loved so much, and wanted so much to protect. His son would grow past kisses and confidences soon enough. Why, he was in long dresses just yesterday, it seemed. Now he wore short pants and skinned knees, bloodied noses instead of diapers. The earl sighed and said, "Tell me, Rex, can you always tell when someone is lying? Not just a guess, and not just when you know the truth?"
"Like when Cook says there are no more macaroons, because she is saving some for her own supper, or when Nanny says she is visiting her sister on her afternoons off?"
The earl vowed to find out exactly where the nursemaid was going on her free time, and why Cook would lie to the boy, but not now. "Like that. How do you know? How do you know I did not eat the rest of the macaroons, or that Nanny is not going where she says?"
Rex frowned and hunched his shoulders. "I just do. Don't you know, Papa?"
Lord Royce brushed back his son's dark curls and kissed his forehead. "Yes, I do. I was hoping you did not."
"I don't understand, Papa."
"No, I do not suppose you do. I will do my best to explain, but I fear I cannot understand all of it myself."
Rex nodded solemnly. "That's true."
"I always tell you the truth. Except when we are playing games, like before." When the boy just stared up at him expectantly, the earl cleared his throat and went on: "Not everyone can tell a lie from the truth. Only a lucky few."
"You mean I can tell Vicar that Timmy wanted to steal the apples, and Mr. Anselm will believe me?"
"No, that is not what I mean. Not at all. You must not lie, ever, not even if you will not be found out. You have a gift, and must treat it honorably."