Authors: Judith Laik
By Judith Laik
Miss Elizabeth Bishop is a vicar’s
daughter with a mission: get evidence to prove that Lord Neil Colton is trying
to murder his nephew Trevor, the Marquis of Cauldreigh, so he can inherit the
title and riches. But not only is Lord Neil foiling her every attempt, he is
also a tempting distraction. Is her attraction to the sophisticated aristocrat
proof that, as her father always warned her, the devil wears a handsome face?
Lord Neil Colton has spent his life
cultivating sophisticated detachment, but his family means everything. He sets
a trap for his nephew’s nemesis, but his efforts are undermined by a stubborn
miss who manages to get in his way at every turn. He’s determined to protect
both Trevor and Miss Elizabeth Bishop—but is his heart in even more danger?
On The Lady Is Mine:
Ms. Laik’s use of language and
knowledge of the Regency era lend authenticity to the story without going
overboard. I also appreciated the fact the hero and heroine were not cookie
cutter people taken from a warehouse of stock Regency characters and plots.
There’s a very natural feel to Ms.
Laik’s writing which lends itself well to traditional Regencies. I will
definitely look for more of this author’s books.
On The Lady in Question:
Ms Laik creates sympathetic and well
drawn characters. The plot moves along and keeps the reader interested.
Overall, a great read!
I really enjoyed both the writing
style and the plot of this book immensely. I appreciated the LACK of cliched
characters and deliberate and unrealistic misunderstandings.
This was a great story that is held
together by its own plot and doesn’t need lots of deliberate misleads or
contrived misunderstandings to carry it through to the end. It was full of
unique characters and people who truly mean well and a villain that isn’t too
easy to guess early on in the story.
This is a very well written book and
the author has an open and fluid style that I would gladly recommend!
For all my critique partners and
groups over the years.
This has been a very long labor of
love. Lord Satan was my “teach myself to write” book, and it’s been gone over
and gone over far too many times to count. Along with that, every critique
group and individual critique partner I ever had down the years learned to run
the other way when they saw me coming, hands over head, screaming, “No, not
that book again!” Yes, that book again!
Despite my incompetence, I loved
Libbetty and Lord Neil too much to let them go. So, many years later, I have to
thank all those critique partners for their patience and their insights.
Whatever flaws Libbetty and Lord Neil still have are due to my
short-sightedness, not to my CPs or the characters themselves.
I do have to single out one person
among all the critique partners. Jacquie Rogers has been amazingly patient,
generous, and always available – even when she has too much of her own work to
do and should just tell me to go away! I may not always listen, but I always
respect what she has to say.
And, as always, for Rein
Satan had come to church.
Shocked whispers rippled through the congregation. Miss
Elizabeth Bishop, known to her family and close friends as “Libbetty,” stood to
look over the high-backed pew.
A pale April sun cast cool, pure rays through the clear
glass windows. As the two notorious Coltons passed through a band of sunlight,
Libbetty shivered at the contrast, the black-clad men haloed by light.
They slipped into their family pew, Lord Neil Colton
stepping aside to allow his nephew to precede him. Contrary to the gossip, the
young Marquess of Cauldreigh did not appear to be at death’s door, although
thin and pale, and walking with a limp.
His uncle soon lured Libbetty’s gaze. She caught her
breath. So this was what a living Prince of Darkness looked like. Tall, with
black hair, dark, mysterious eyes, and a lean, saturnine face that sneered at
the world. Yes, just like her vision of Satan. She could easily believe the
whispers she had heard of him.
Her brother Tom poked her in the side. “Father’s coming to
the pulpit.” She sat and faced forward with her hands in her lap, presenting
the dignified reverence due the Sabbath.
At the other end of the row, her youngest brothers, Henry
and Richard, engaged in a shoving match. Libbetty’s mother hushed them and
took the youngest on her lap, whereupon the usual quiet returned.
The Reverend Richard Bishop began devotions. Libbetty,
through her entire seventeen years’ familiarity with the ritual, spoke the
proper responses without hearing a single word, her mind occupied with the
Coltons’ return to Peasebotham. Nothing this exciting had happened in her
Her pulse raced with a need to see the newcomers up close.
Nobody’s eyes could really be as black as Lord Neil’s appeared.
The service ended, and as Libbetty filed out of church Wat
Perkins caught her eye. “Tomorrow?” he mouthed and she gave a small nod,
glancing to see whether her mother had noticed. Wat was the son of a prosperous
farmer and her secret betrothed. Her parents would not approve of her marriage
to someone beneath their social class, so she’d postponed telling them of her
Lord Cauldreigh and Lord Neil had already reached the
doors. They paused to speak to her father, then disappeared into the sunlight
outside. By the time Libbetty exited the church, their carriage had carried
them nearly out of sight.
Tom stood by Squire Hogwood and his son Francis, and she
joined them. Mrs. Hogwood and her daughter Edwina talked with a group of women
nearby, and snatches of their conversation reached Libbetty. “…He brought his
own servants from London and let the entire staff at The Castle go,” “…never
seen such rude behavior,” “…not a word for anyone but the vicar” were borne to
her from people all around.
“Wasn’t that an extraordinary display?” Francis said.
“What do you mean?” Libbetty wrinkled her brow.
“Cauldreigh and his uncle coming to church and leaving
without speaking to anyone, except your father, that is.”
Tom said, “It doesn’t seem so extraordinary to me. They
doubtless consider themselves above all the people ‘round here.”
Squire Hogwood frowned and stared at the ground, but as
usual said nothing. A thin, quiet man, he always appeared uncomfortable amidst
Francis, whose stocky build came from his mother, gripped
the lapels of his coat and rocked on his heels. “They have no right to act so
high and mighty. Everyone knows all the Coltons have shocking morals.”
Squire Hogwood shot a reproachful glare at his son, hmmphed,
and sidled off to join a cluster of farmers. Although he had not spoken, he plainly
was uncomfortable with the conversation, and Francis flushed.
Mrs. Hogwood trotted over to them, Edwina in tow. Edwina, a
small, pretty brunette, was eighteen, the same age as Tom and a year older than
Libbetty. Mrs. Hogwood glanced fondly at her daughter. “‘Tis too bad they
weren’t more accommodating. But it’s early days yet. He will be here for some
time. I am certain, once he is more in curl, he cannot fail to notice you.”
Edwina blushed, a delicate rose brightening her ivory
“Excuse me. There is someone I must talk to.” Tom walked
away. Libbetty knew he did not intend to talk to anyone. He had a tendre for
Edwina, but Mrs. Hogwood’s ambitions for her daughter reached much higher than
an impoverished vicar’s son.
Libbetty fell in with her mother and siblings on the walk
home. Somehow, she simply must approach closely enough to determine the color
of Lord Neil’s eyes. Eyes the black coal of Satan?
The Reverend Richard Bishop and his wife sat in his study.
Mrs. Bishop enjoyed their restful times together in the evenings, working on
their separate tasks in companionable silence. It usually took him several
such evenings to compose his sermon for the following Sunday, and she occupied
herself with needlework, often a charitable project. This evening, however,
some matter seemed to trouble her husband, for he several times picked up and
then laid aside his quill. She said nothing, knowing he would speak when he
had arranged his thoughts sufficiently.
At last he turned to her and said, “My dear, you must do
something about Elizabeth.”
“Why, whatever do you mean, my love?” Mrs. Bishop dropped
her sewing into her lap and rubbed her cramped fingers.
“She has been running about the countryside with her
brothers, with no check upon her, for too long. It was all very well when they
were all children, but she is a young lady now, and she must start conducting
herself like one. There are pitfalls for young women who roam about
unsupervised, and at the least she will find no one to husband her if she
continues to behave like a hoyden.”
Mrs. Bishop was silent for long moments, reflecting. When
they had first come to Peasebotham, she and her husband had both relished the
ability to allow the children free rein, unlike city life where dangers always
threatened them. Elizabeth and Thomas were inseparable as children and went
They had come to know the son of the local physician, Alonso
Hayes, and soon afterward, the twins joined in their wanderings and play. As
there had not been any suitable girls of Elizabeth’s age, Mrs. Bishop had not
attempted to separate her from the other children’s activities.
Miss Edwina Hogwood had at the time been attending an
exclusive girls’ boarding school. It was only since she had come home for good
in the past year that the girls had formed an association, one with which Mrs.
Bishop was not altogether happy. The Hogwood girl was shallow, under the thumb
of her ambitious mother, and not a suitable role model for Elizabeth, to Mrs.
The Bassett girls were several years older, Miss Sybille
Bassett already being eighteen and of marriageable age by the time the Bishops
had moved to Peasebotham. And, Miss Irene, although a dear, sweet girl, could
not be any sort of companion to Elizabeth.
Still, however the situation had come about, the fact
remained that Mr. Bishop was right. Elizabeth had grown up enjoying few
restraints beyond the Christian tenets that had been instilled, with varying
effectiveness. She was now fast approaching adulthood and still lacked the
feminine graces and had no knowledge of how to go on in society.
The timing could not be worse. Mrs. Bishop had always found
her time much taken up in assisting her husband with parish duties, and dealing
with the management of a large household on a small budget. However for the
first time a pregnancy was causing her an unwonted amount of illness and
fatigue, making an additional responsibility difficult to carry out.
“I’m sure you are correct, Mr. Bishop. I will take her in
hand to the best of my ability.” Perhaps her indisposition would offer the
opportunity to introduce Elizabeth to more responsibility, thereby serving a
Neil attended services without Trevor the following Sunday,
composing himself to endure the sermon on charity. He sat alone in the family
pew, avid eyes devouring him. He must resign himself to bearing even more
suspicions and innuendoes until he had succeeded in his purpose.
The church at Peasebotham presented no particular
distinction, in historic or architectural interest, built only some hundred and
fifty years earlier during the Commonwealth. It was simple in design, with
plain oaken pews, white plastered walls needing a coat of paint, unadorned high
pulpit, and leaded glass windows. Lord Neil frowned at the peeling walls. Mr.
Bishop had the pious look of a man who disregarded material things as trifles,
but the church needed maintaining. Once Trevor was well again, he would have to
have a talk with the vicar. His steward, xxx should have been informed of the
The Reverend Richard Bishop well matched his church. A
spare, forthright man in his forties, his somewhat pallid complexion and
receding hairline heightened the impression of piety that clung to him.
The service concluded, Mr. Bishop left the pulpit, stopping
at the doorway to receive the salutations of parishioners. Neil hurried to pay
his respects and make his escape before anyone could waylay him. This time as
he reached the door, however, a red-haired girl stood at the vicar’s side.
Greeting Neil, the vicar asked, “Your nephew did not attend
“No,” he replied, hesitating. He hated to lie to this man
of God. He chose words that were, on the whole, true but disguised the
situation. “Unfortunately, a fever he contracted in the Peninsula has put his
life and health at greater risk than his wound. He improves, only to suffer a
recurrence. It was in hopes the country air will aid his recovery that we
retired to The Castle.” As he finished, Neil directed a polite but distant
smile at the young woman next to the vicar.
Mr. Bishop glanced at her in surprise. Apparently he had
been unaware of her presence. Neil’s marked notice gave the vicar no choice
but to present her. A faint flush staining his pale cheeks, he said coolly,
“My eldest daughter, my lord.”
“How do you do, Miss Bishop?” Neil spoke in in the clear,
higher pitch employed in speech with a child.
She stiffened, her posture very like her father’s. “I am
well, Lord Neil,” a bite in her tone. Her bright blue eyes sparked with
outrage, to Neil’s amusement.
Apparently she had taken umbrage at his condescension. She
would have no favorable report when she spoke to her friends about this
meeting, which would serve his purpose well.
The wide, naive eyes and her schoolroom-white frock
proclaimed her youth. Yet, the directness of her gaze, the blossoming curves,
and her luxurious hair, almost a reddish-pink, hinted at a feminine power of which
she appeared yet unaware.
An unfamiliar warmth brightened his mood, but the lightness
evaporated as he left. The contrast between her fresh innocence and the dark
role he had chosen to play tasted bitter in his mouth.
Back at The Castle, he checked on Trevor, glowering at the
nurse he had hired for his nephew. She hastened from the room. Pleasure,
unworthy but satisfying, surged through him at the woman’s fear of him.
Trevor smiled feebly. “Splendid, Uncle Neil. I wish you’d
send her to the devil. She never leaves me alone for a moment. It’s damned
unpleasant when someone watches your every move.”
“I see you’re feeling better,” Neil observed. It still
wrenched him to see Trevor in a state so unlike his boisterous good spirits.
The boy would turn one-and-twenty in the coming summer, only some dozen years
younger than he. Neil expected never to have a son of his own, so Trevor came
close to filling that role.
“Oh yes, I’m better,” gritted the younger man. “But
whatever progress I make happens too slowly.” He waved his hand over the
newspapers on the bed beside him, drawing Neil’s attention.
“I gave orders for no newspapers to be brought to you.”
“You ordered, I countermanded. It is my house, after all.”
Neil flushed at this. “It was for your own good.”
“Uncle Neil,” Trevor appealed, “you have to understand that
it’s worse for me not to know. Reinforcements are planned for a new campaign
in Portugal. I’m needed there.”
“You’d do little good as you are now, and you know it.
Recover your health first, and then talk of returning.”
After a pause, Trevor said, “I know you are right, but it’s
dashed hard all the same. What about you? Does Rayfield have some purpose in
mind in calling on you here?”
“No doubt he does, but it was too late to discuss it when he
arrived last night. I shall tell him to find someone else. The government can
survive without me for a time, just as the army will have to survive without
you. I must talk to him now.”
“You said you would explain this sudden decision to bring
Trevor to the wilds of Worcestershire. I thought you were fixed in town for
his convalescence.” Hugh Brooks, Earl of Rayfield, stepped into the study and
closed the door behind him.
“I thought so, too. Something happened to change my mind.”
Neil stood before the crackling blaze in the fireplace. Glancing up, he
continued, “You may as well sit. This will take a little time.”
Neil moved to a table where a decanter of whisky and some
glasses sat. “Drink?”
“Not for me, thanks.” Rayfield took one of the heavy
armchairs positioned opposite the desk. He was one of those men whom others
would not notice, an advantage in his work. Average appearing in height and
coloring, and eerily adept at fading into any part he chose to play. His only
outstanding physical trait, his keen blue eyes, he could disguise when