Tight Laced (Dragon Duchess #1)
By Roxy Soulé
Genre: Historical (Victorian) Romance
Age category: Adult
Release Date: August 11, 2015
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A Victorian take on Cinderella – with a touch of spice!
In TIGHT LACED, the first of the Dragon Duchess series, Lady Lacilia Bloomsbury (Lacy) is bereft after her beloved father, the Earl of Highcastle, dies, leaving her with a spiteful, conniving stepmother – the Countess Bloomsbury – and a less-than brilliant half-sister, Sarah Jane.
When dashing Duke Darlington Moore of Blantyre Highmeadow arrives to pay his respects, Lacy’s stepmother blackmails him into marrying the highly undesirable Sarah Jane. After all, Blantyre has just suffered a horrible mining disaster, the duke’s estate is in jeopardy, and the countess holds a note that the duke is not able to repay.
Darlington has no choice but to agree to the betrothal.
After happenstance finds them alone in an inn one night, Lacy and Darlington uncover a burning desire for one another. When the countess discovers the tryst, Lacy is called out as a “sexual deviant” and sent off to an asylum.
Darlington must make a choice. Keep his family solvent and marry a woman he does not love, or risk everything to clear Lacy, and save her from torturous “cures” where she will never feel pleasure again. With a little help from the late earl’s valet, Darlington sets off on a daring rescue.
TIGHT LACED, out August 11th, is the first in a series of three Dragon Duchess novelettes, with TIGHT LIPPED coming in September, and TIGHT FISTED following in October, finishing off with SKIN TIGHT in mid-November, and the whole collection bundled (in eBook AND paperback) in time for the holidays.
You can find Tight Laced on Goodreads
Lady Lacilia turned the mourning locket over in her hands. Her father had given it to her years earlier, when her mother passed, and now he was gone as well. She brought her lips to the clasp, and then gazed up at the ceiling – though she really didn’t think that the idea of heaven as something above the world made any sense at all. Heaven, if there was such a place, dwelt in one’s heart.
She whispered into the stilted quiet of the room, “I didn’t even have a chance to say good-bye, Papa.”
Lacy had drained herself of tears, but the shock of her father dying so suddenly, and the entire manor switching from normalcy to grief, now sat upon her heart like a chunk of marble.
Out in the hall, she heard sharp footsteps. Those of her stepmother, no doubt.
All of Highcastle was in high mourning; she, Lady Bloomsbury, and Lady Sarah Jane had been outfitted in appropriate attire from Jay’s of Regent Street. Paramatta silk and stiff, black crepe – and so it was to be for months to come. The dress Lacy wore matched her spirit: sorrowful and bleak. And angry, too, truth be told.
She’d adored her father, though the earl had been nearly fifty when she was born. Her mother, too, had not been young. The original Lady Bloomsbury had been a spinster, having lost many suitors to disease and accident, and it was a miracle, Lord Bloomsbury always told her, that Lacy had been born at all.
Now, her parents both lay in the ground. Her mother, long dead of consumption in one plot of earth, her father in another. He’d remarried straight away, giving Lacy, in short order, a new mother and baby sister before she could even tie her own boots.
Her stepmother had been a thorn in Lacilia’s side since day one.
Upon returning from the funeral weeks earlier, Sarah Jane had broken out in a rash that still had not healed. Lacy supposed that her half-sister had reacted to the spray of lilies on the coffin. Sarah Jane, poor dear, was highly allergic to anything living: dogs, grass, flowers.
It pained Lacy that there were never any animals or fresh-cut blooms inside the main house, but, of course, she understood. After all, it must be quite dreadful to be so sensitive to all that was beautiful.
And poor, dear Sarah Jane was anything but beautiful.
Whereas Lacilia was fair, Sarah Jane was pale. Lacy enjoyed a thick head of honey-colored hair, and her half-sister’s thin, dried wheat-colored tresses barely covered her pate.
Spring and autumn assaulted the younger Bloomsbury girl each year causing fits of wheezing, sneezing and hives. The elder daughter came alive in those same seasons, rushing headlong into the meadows surrounding their estate (which bordered the beautiful town of Rosehaven), feeling fresh sun on her face and breathing in all the joyous scents: heather, daphne, ripe acorns and chestnuts.
She had been named well: Lacilia Bloomsbury. Strong of constitution and stunning to the eye, but with a delicate side. The legs of a filly, fawn-like eyes. Her neck was long and graceful.
At least that’s what people told her.
She preferred the willowy flowers: delphinium, columbine, and would spend hours in the meadow in summer, gathering nosegays that she’d have to leave on the grass, or in the stable where only the ponies could enjoy them.
But now that her dear papa was rejoined with the earth, it seemed utterly cruel that there be a dearth of flowers at Highcastle. Lord Bloomsbury, an avid orchid collector in his younger days, would have eschewed all of the darkness of mourning. Had he a say in the post-death goings on, he would have demanded they behave as always. He so loved color about him. Black attire, he’d often complained, is acceptable for opera and nothing more.
Dark. Drab. Dead.
It was awful. If Lacy had her way, mourning would look quite differently. Emotion – yes, but the artifice of creating an environment much like the inside of a coffin? The earl would not have agreed to it.
Lady Bloomsbury demanded the drapes be drawn, and every clock in the manor stopped at the time of the earl’s death: ten past midnight. Though Lord Bloomsbury had been transferred from the home almost immediately, Lady Bloomsbury had insisted that the mirrors in the common rooms be shrouded until after the holidays.
The footsteps out in the hall clattered into the parlor. The shush-shush of stiff skirt. And now, a clap of hands.
“Get up!” ordered the countess upon spying Lacy on her knees near the fireplace. “You look a fright, I dare say. Like a beggar. We have company expected.”
Lacy raised her eyes and beseeched those of her stepmother. The elder woman’s harsh face, pinched lips and furrowed, penciled brow gave the younger a start. At the gravesite just a few weeks earlier, her stepmother had behaved so lovingly. She’d leaned her head upon Lacy’s shoulder and wept. Her veil shuddering with every sob. The guests had all marveled at how lucky Lady Lacilia was to be saved from the label of “orphan” with a stepmother so warm.
Oh, if only they all knew the truth. Everything the countess did was a calculated performance.
“You heard me!” repeated the widow, the crepe in her dress crinkling as loudly as the knots in the firewood which burned brightly before them.
The woman’s eyes narrowed and lighted on Lacy’s hand. “What is that you are fondling?” She thrust out her palm.
Lacy closed her hand around the locket. It contained a wisp of her mother’s blond hair, and she was not about to give it up.
Just then Kent entered the room. Clearing his throat, he bid, “M’lady, Duke Darlington Moore of Blantyre Highmeadow has arrived.”
Lady Bloomsbury pivoted round. “Oh goodness! The problem with stopped time is that it catches one unawares. We are not ready to receive him properly. Stall him in the library, Kent. And fetch my maid immediately.”
Kent, Lord Bloomsbury’s long time valet, clearly in mourning himself, managed a weak, “Yes, m’lady.”
“What? I did not hear you!”
“Yes, m’lady,” Kent offered, more forcefully this time.
The poor man, thought Lacy. Even though he was a servant, she was certain Kent had been her father’s best friend and confidante for decades. It was he who’d discovered his master in his quarters after the fatal attack of apoplexy. It was he who’d rung the death bell, while having to conceal his own trauma.
“And you!” barked the countess, snapping her fingers near Lacy’s ear, “there will be no weeping and wailing in front of the duke. In fact, you may take supper in your quarters lest we risk upsetting the man who has come all this way to pay his respects.”
Lacilia rose. She would not make a scene in front of Kent, but, duke or no duke, she was not going to pretend to be jolly and bury her grief, either. “We are in mourning,” she offered, forcing calm up her throat. “Nobody would expect dry eyes so soon.”
“Proper grief is one thing, Lala. Sobbing like an infant without any thought to decorum is quite another. At any rate, I have business with the duke. Business that is none of your business.”
Lacy recoiled at the name Lala – her stepmother knew she hated that. Sarah Jane couldn’t pronounce her name for some years, so Lala became a familiar refrain. Only her father had respected her request to correct Sarah Jane. Lady Bloomsbury, of course, indulged her only true daughter. Despite covering up of mirrors, she seemed to have no trouble conducting business. “Why, you buried your husband less than one month ago. Have you no heart?”
This, Lacilia knew, was quite out of line, so she was not surprised when her stepmother struck her hard on the cheek.
“M’lady!” gasped Kent, his footsteps quick across the room to intercede.
“It’s alright, Kent,” Lacy managed, her cheek stinging with the slap. “We are not ourselves.”
The countess turned to face the valet, the backs of her hands motioning for him to take his leave. “Do not keep our good guest waiting.”
About the Author:
Roxy Soulé writes novels and novelettes that explore the edges of sexy, sensual, spirited humanity. Whether set long ago, in a fantasy world, or in today’s brave frontier, she is drawn to the tales of strong-willed heroines and rakish-yet-sexy man boys through their conquests. She is a published author (as Suzy Vitello), known for her contemporary and fantasy YA. Tight Laced is her first work as Roxy!
You can find and contact Roxy here: