eBook Details


The English Heiress

Series: Heiress , Book 1.0
By: Roberta Gellis | Other books by Roberta Gellis
Published By: Ellora's Cave Publishing Inc.
Published: Feb 12, 2009
ISBN # 9781419920899
Word Count: 147,411
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Categories: Romance>Historical Other Historical Fiction


The English Heiress (Heiress) by Roberta Gellis - Romance>Historical Other eBook

Blush: This is a sensual romance (may have explicit love scenes, but not erotic level).
First in the Heiress series.
Leonie de Conyers’ life had been destroyed by the French Revolution. Her mother and brother died in the prison where she had been raped and starved for no greater crime than her father’s title. And her father died in an escape engineered by a stranger who claimed he had come to bring her to England where she would inherit the property and wealth of an uncle. Did Leonie dare to believe in such altruism?
Roger St. Eyre’s life had been destroyed by the girl he fell passionately in love with. Solange did not love him, she was selfish and vicious and extravagant. By the time she died, Roger felt dead himself. Perhaps he was hoping for the peace death brings when he set out to wrest his old friend Henry de Conyers from the murderous grip of the French Revolution.
Instead, Roger and Leonie found love and reasons to live—if they could escape exposure to the revolutionary fanatics and their favorite toy, the guillotine.
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Copyright © ROBERTA GELLIS, 1979, 2009

All Rights Reserved, Ellora's Cave Publishing, Inc.

Sir Joseph St. Eyre’s hoarse roar penetrated the half-open doors of his study into the breakfast parlor, making his wife’s blue eyes open wide and his youngest son’s expressive brows rise. His grandson jumped. Philip was the only member of the third generation of a large and lively set of descendants, a credit to the old man’s virility, who was currently resident in the large manor house of Stonar Magna. He was not accustomed to displays of temper from his grandsire. Over seven decades of life, encompassing three wives, a numerous and abundantly energetic family, and many joys and sorrows, Sir Joseph had developed an equable disposition.

“Grand-mère,” the boy exclaimed, “qu’est-ce que c’est que—”

“Speak English, Philip,” Roger St. Eyre interrupted.

There was no particular expression in his voice, but his stepmother, Lady Margaret, glanced briefly in his direction before she turned her attention to Philip, who was obligingly repeating in English his question about what had disturbed his grandfather.

“I have no idea,” Lady Margaret replied placidly, and then widened her eyes again as a renewed blast of expletives curdled the air. “But I really think your papa had better go and see what is wrong before your ears are further sullied with objectionable phrases.”

That made Philip giggle happily. Grand-mère was so different from Maman. She said many of the same things, but Grand-mère was only “doing the proper”, and her eyes laughed. She knew that Philip was no longer a baby and didn’t wish him to be one, nor to be like a perfect image of a boy in a silly novel. It was nicer here, nicer without Maman’s shrill, sharp complaining and bitter words. The giggle cut off suddenly and Philip bowed his head. Those were bad thoughts. He had had them many times before, but that was different. Now Maman was dead.

Lady Margaret did not notice Philip’s gesture of guilt, because Roger had thrown down his napkin and was sliding his chair back to rise. He smiled warmly at his stepmother, and she returned his smile thinking that Roger was looking much better. In the months since Solange had died, many of the lines of bitterness and worry had smoothed away from Roger’s dark face. His expression had always been saturnine because of the way his brows arched in a circumflex above his eyes and because of the length and firmness in his jaw. However, as a boy the look in Roger’s eyes—brightly, almost shockingly blue against his dark skin—had been gentle and kind when it did not sparkle with mischief.

Manhood had not changed that expression, until Roger had met Solange on his Grand Tour. He had courted her, loved her, sworn to be true. Unlike other young men, Roger had not forgotten her or his promises. With characteristic tenacity of purpose he had discussed the matter with his father, sensibly presenting facts and figures about his love’s family background and financial expectations rather than the color of her eyes or the shape of her face. Sir Joseph could see no objections, beyond the fact that Solange was French. He pointed out to his son that the lifestyles of the two nations were very different and that a French girl from a family tied to the French court might not be happy in England. To this Roger had replied that he had discussed the matter with Solange and she understood.

Although Sir Joseph did not believe this, he did not argue the point. He was quite sure Roger had explained everything with great care and clarity. What he did not believe was that a fifteen-year-old girl understood him. Besides, there was sufficient likelihood that Solange’s parents would not choose to ally their daughter to the son of a simple baronet or that they would not wish to send her so far from home. On the other hand, the girl was very young. If she loved Roger, she would adjust.

These sanguine hopes were not fulfilled. Solange’s parents were only too pleased to be rid of one of their superfluity of daughters, and to be rid or her so cheaply. Roger’s settlement would keep her quite well, Solange’s debt-ridden father said with satisfaction and dropped into the wastepaper basket the letter suggesting that he pay his daughter’s promised dowry. Roger was concerned about her father’s position, but he wanted Solange, and the marriage went off without any other hitch. Unfortunately neither youth nor love, if she felt any, enabled Solange to adjust to her adopted nation. She could not understand the relationships among the classes of society or the predilection of Englishmen for living in the country with only brief visits to London. Most of all she could not understand her husband’s refusal to live beyond his means.

Roger had a handsome if not lavish, private income from an estate settled upon him by his father. In addition, he was reading law and could expect to enlarge his private income substantially from his earnings once he was called to the bar. This latter activity revolted his wife almost as much as his bourgeois insistence on avoiding debt. All noblemen, Solange asserted passionately, lived above their means. It was crude, vulgar and ungenteel to count the cost of anything. It was even more vulgar for a nobleman to take the “long robe”.

In the beginning Roger exhorted, reasoned and pleaded, explaining again and again that English customs were different. He had restricted his own pleasure to pay for Solange’s. But it was useless. The more she had, the more extravagant she became and the more her husband did for her, the greater her contempt for him grew. Philip’s birth, three years after their marriage, brought Roger and Solange to a final parting of the ways. She hated the disfigurement of pregnancy. She hated the pain and indignity of childbirth. She hated the squalling, red-faced creature that was produced. When she recovered from her lying-in, Solange refused all sexual congress with her husband. She did not make excuses. She told Roger outright that she had done her duty as a wife and provided him with an heir. Now she was through with an act she had always found repulsive.

This was more a relief than a punishment to Roger, who had struggled fruitlessly for years to overcome his wife’s frigidity. He had used every form of foreplay a considerate nature and an active imagination could devise, only to be told he was disgusting. He had confined himself to the simplest form of intercourse, prolonging the act until it was agony for him, hoping to bring her to climax—only to be told he was deliberately torturing his wife. The inescapable conclusion was that Solange found him so repulsive that she could not respond no matter what technique he tried.

The effect of such a conclusion on a man of passionate temperament was not happy, but it was mitigated by the fact that Solange’s behavior, out of bed as well as in it, had long since killed Roger’s love and even destroyed any affection he had had for her. However, his nightmare was not over. Roger could not simply separate himself from his wife as so many husbands did. He could not set her up in a house, furnish her with a liberal allowance, and let her live her own life. He could not even allow her to return to Paris and live there. Roger knew that Solange’s living costs would outstrip any allowance, no matter how generous, that she would borrow on his credit and he would be ruined. To threaten that he would not pay her debts would be ridiculous. Solange knew he would never permit her to be thrown into debtor’s prison—and Roger knew she knew. They had to live together so that Roger could control her.

Grimly, he set the bounds and kept Solange within them. It was not pleasant. It was a long nightmare that wakened Roger in the night, cold and sweating. He was forced to create a major scandal by removing Solange physically from the gambling tables of a public room, returning jewelry purchased without his permission and going personally to inform the major modistes that he would not pay his wife’s bills.

In revenge, Solange made public scenes that left her husband sick and shaking, and when she found this was turning more people against her than arousing their sympathy, she tried to make Philip hate and despise his father. This effort failed because Solange was unable to provide for the child’s emotional needs. In one thing alone she succeeded. Philip was more French than English in speech and manner. All Philip’s servants were French, from his wet nurse to his current valet. French was his first language, and he spoke English, although fluently, with the slight accent and the intonation of the foreign-born.

The English Heiress

By: Roberta Gellis