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Authors: Allison Chase

Most Eagerly Yours

BOOK: Most Eagerly Yours
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Table of Contents
 
 
Praise for the Novels of Allison Chase
Most Eagerly Yours
 
“I thoroughly enjoyed
Most Eagerly Yours
. Allison Chase is a masterful storyteller. Her plots are intriguing, her talent for crafting a mystery unparalleled, and her love stories are touching as well as sensual. I am now a fan! She is a writer who delivers a book that delights me in every way, interlacing sensuality and romance with stunning detail, gripping mystery and intrigue, plus fabulous characters who steal into my heart and keep me turning the pages. If you yearn for a story that engages all your senses and makes you sigh with satisfaction at the end, I highly recommend an Allison Chase book.”

New York Times
bestselling author Catherine Anderson
 
Dark Temptation
Winner of the
Romantic Times
Award
for Best Historical Romantic Gothic
 
“The windswept, forbidding coastline is the ideal location for Chase’s second Blackheath Moor gothic, where fear, deception, and passion dwell together. She sends chills down your spine as she heats up the pages with passionate love scenes and frightening incidents. Chase’s name is fast becoming synonymous with delicious, heart-stopping thrillers.”

Romantic Times
(Top Pick)
 
“An enthralling adventure. Sophie is a spirited, witty heroine and Chad is a tortured hero who truly has some heavy crimes on his conscience. . . . Allison Chase takes the classic gothic romance style of Victoria Holt or Daphne du Maurier and brings it into the twenty- first century with her addition of some spicy love scenes . . . makes an enthralling read.”
—Romance Junkies
 
“In
Dark Temptation
, the reader will want to go all the way to the end. . . . An interesting read for both mystery and romance fans. Get cozy and prepare to have an adventure.”
—Romance Reviews Today
 
Dark Obsession
 
“This wonderfully moody and atmospheric tale, with its brooding hero, troubled young child, unquiet spirits, and unfriendly housekeeper, has many of the accoutrements of the classic gothic of the sixties. In fact, except for the ramped-up sensuality . . . it is reminiscent of Victoria Holt. . . . The solid writing, riveting opening, and clever plot twists recommend this worthy debut.”

Library Journal
(Starred Review)
 
“Allison Chase’s
Dark Obsession
dishes up a wonderful story in a charming, romantic tradition, complete with a handsome and tortured hero, real conflict, and a touch of mystery! Anyone who loves . . . a well-written historical romance will relish this tale.”

New York Times
bestselling author Heather Graham
 
“Following in the footsteps of Daphne du Maurier, Victoria Holt, and Phyllis Whitney, Chase delivers a classic gothic complete with a haunted house, an intrepid heroine, dark secrets, and grand passion that will enthrall readers.”

Romantic Times
 
“A compelling and exquisitely written love story that raises such dark questions along the way, you’ve no choice but to keep turning the pages to its stunning conclusion. Allison Chase is a master at touching your heart.”—Jennifer St. Giles, author of
Bride of the Wolf
 
“Intriguing! A beguiling tale. Moody and atmospheric.”
—Eve Silver, author of
Seduced by a Stranger
Also by Allison Chase
The Blackheath Moor Series
Dark Obsession
Dark Temptation
SIGNET ECLIPSE
Published by New American Library, a division of
Penguin Group (USA) Inc., 375 Hudson Street,
New York, New York 10014, USA
Penguin Group (Canada), 90 Eglinton Avenue East, Suite 700, Toronto,
Ontario M4P 2Y3, Canada (a division of Pearson Penguin Canada Inc.)
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Penguin Books Ltd., Registered Offices:
80 Strand, London WC2R 0RL, England
First published by Signet Eclipse, an imprint of New American Library,
a division of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.
First Printing, March 2010
Copyright © Lisa Manuel, 2010
All rights reserved
SIGNET ECLIPSE and logo are trademarks of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.
eISBN : 978-1-101-18547-6
PUBLISHER’S NOTE
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 responsibility for author or third-party Web sites or their content.
The scanning, uploading, and distribution of this book via the Internet or via any other means without the permission of the publisher is illegal and punishable by law. Please purchase only authorized electronic editions, and do not participate in or encourage electronic piracy of copyrighted materials. Your support of the author’s rights is appreciated.

http://us.penguingroup.com

To Joan Hammond,
a dear friend and a true champion of historical romance.
ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
Many thanks again to Ellen Edwards and Becky Vinter for continuing to encourage me to achieve my best work, and for keeping their faith in me; and to Evan Marshall for his professionalism, and for being that calm voice on the other end of the line.
Special thanks to my good friend Benay Unger, who is always eager to talk books and history, and is willing to drop everything at a moment’s notice to help me hunt down a historical fact or dig up some invaluable research materials . . . and doesn’t seem to mind when I don’t return them for a really long time.
And my thanks and love to Paul, who never fails to be there when I need him.
Prologue
June 1830 From the Diary of Miss Laurel Sutherland
 
G
uests came to Thorn Grove today, and with them came the knowledge that the close little world I have shared with my three sisters these past eleven years will change, change for always.
Only rarely do we receive visitors on the small Surrey estate we have called home since the death of our parents. So young were we when we came to be in our uncle Edward’s care that I cannot now discern what I recall of my early life and what my imagination has conjured. I do know I have been happy here, and that I never suspected how readily the larger world might intrude upon our quiet borders and upset our peaceful existence.
Princess Victoria arrived this morning with her mother, her uncle Leopold, and the small host of servants who habitually travel with them. Her beloved King Charles spaniel, Dash, accompanied her, too, bounding from the open coach door like a windy shadow to scamper about our skirt hems and convey his enthusiastic if rather wet salutations.
Our ties to Victoria’s family stretch back to before I was born. Under the command of Victoria’s father, the Duke of Kent, Uncle Edward and my father served as officers in the Seventh Royal Fusiliers in Canada. They attended the duke again some years later, during his governorship of Gibraltar. I am told my family used to visit with the Duke and Duchess of Kent at their seaside cottage in Sidmouth, but I retain no memories of those occasions.
Today, as soon as the watchful eyes of the adults seemed sufficiently distracted with tea and conversation, the princess caught my hands and with urgent whispers drew my three sisters and I down the terrace steps. Dash followed, his nose working furiously as he darted into the edges of the flower beds and back again to tangle in our feet. With a backward glance at her mother and uncle, Victoria led us into the rose-edged yard of what was once the estate’s dovecote.
Surrounded by a fragrant stillness broken only by buzzing bees and the spaniel’s playful whimpers, Victoria turned as somber as I have ever seen her. My sisters and I sat on the stone bench, but as she remained standing before us, a chill of foreboding grazed my nape. Silently I waited as she drew a fortifying breath that squared her shoulders and imparted definition to the soft curve of her chin.
She had passed her eleventh birthday but a month ago, and I pondered what could possibly etch such gravity upon those childish features and cause her to seem so much older, older even than I, though at seventeen I am six years her elder.
“I am not who I was last time we met.” Her statement took us aback, but waiting for more, we said nothing. “I may continue to call you Laurel, Ivy, Holly, and Willow as I have always done. But you may no longer call me Victoria. At least not . . .” Here she faltered, her lower lip trembling. Tears magnified her eyes and reminded me once more of her tender age. “At least, you must not within the hearing of others. For you see, I have but two days ago come to an astonishing realization.”
My heart stood still as she spoke her next words: “I will one day be your queen.”
My queen. The Queen of England.
I suppose had I ever paused to consider the origins of my little friend, I would have reached this obvious conclusion long ago. But the workings of the monarchy were so far removed from our safe little haven at Thorn Grove.
The truth was that Victoria, with her large solemn eyes, sweet smile, and tiny stature, would someday assume the weight of an empire, because neither the recently deceased George IV nor his brother, the newly ascended King William, had produced a legitimate heir. Victoria’s own father, who might have one day succeeded William, had died many years ago, quite soon after my own parents passed away.
Dash, grown weary of chasing insects, came to stand with his forepaws propped on my knee. Absently I petted him behind his drooping ears as my sisters and I stared dumbfounded at Victoria. My throat closed around everything I might have said, for good or ill. Reassurances, warnings, and a deep, sorrowful lament stormed through my mind as I remembered the tales of intrigue and rivalry, along with the excesses and downright corruption of the Hanover family.
Would Victoria be spared all that? King William was elderly. What if he passed away a mere year from now? Or a week? What then for the little girl standing so bravely before us?
BOOK: Most Eagerly Yours
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