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What can I say about this book? I never planned it, but it has become one of my favorites in the Realm series. Originally, I planned four books.. The other three gentlemen of the Realm would possibly have their own novellas. However, as I added more depth to those minor characters, soon I had a full-fledge series.
The hero of A Touch of Honor is Lord Swenton (John Swenton), a baron living in Yorkshire. He joined the Realm after his father’s passing, under circumstances which become clearer as the novel progresses. He is the strong, quiet type who rarely smiles, so if one engenders the turning up of his lips, one has received a great gift. His mother deserted him and the previous baron. The former Lady Swenton lives on the Continent, where she is well known for her flamboyant ways and her love of art and artists. Swenton managed to reconnect with her when he became part of the Realm, but he never speaks of this woman he visits often as being his mother. Many think she could be his lover.
The book opens with Swenton planning to bring his mother’s body home to the family estate. He uses the opportunity to visit with Miss Satiné Aldridge, who he has assisted in the past. Swenton was among those who recovered the Misses Satiné and Cashémere Aldridge from a collapsed glass cone in book 3 of the series. Satiné had been kidnapped by a spurned courter of Cashémere. As the women are identical twins, the man did not realize he had taken the wrong girl. When he learns of his mistake, he attempts to rape Satiné as revenge on Cashémere. Satiné’s reputation is ruined, and so her uncle, Baron Ashton, escorts her to the Continent. He travels with her and sees Satiné settled in Italy before returning to England. We learn from Ashton how Satiné considers herself a “fallen” woman, so she acts as such.
During the recovery mission, Swenton takes a liking to the girl. In reality, he is fooling himself, for all his former comrades have chosen to marry and find happiness, and he thinks it will be easy to give his heart to the the emotionally wounded Satiné, for he himself has known great sorrow in his life. He assumes she will accept his overtures and all will be well. [For those of you who have followed the series, you will recall I originally planned for Satiné to marry Aidan Kimbolt, Viscount Lexford, back in book 4. However, I found I did not much care for her character and did not feel she deserved one of my heroes.]
In Italy, Swenton calls upon Satiné’s residence, where he encounters Miss Isolde Neville. This is the woman his solicitor has hired as Miss Satiné’s companion. John has made it his business to know something of Satiné’s life and to keep a connection to the woman he admires. Although they do not know each other personally, Miss Neville regularly corresponds with him regarding Satiné’s household. He thinks of offering Miss Aldridge his hand, but Satiné’s does not immediately receive him upon his arrival. She claims to be ill, but, in truth, she is recovering from a pregnancy. She fell in love with a prince, who wooed her, seduced her, and left her. John agrees to assist her. He says he will claim the child as his, but he arrived too late for the child to be his legitimate heir. They will marry, and he will provide for Satiné and the child.
Satiné reluctantly agrees, but she is not satisfied with what appears to be her only choice in life. Her sisters have married a duke and an earl. Being a baroness would place her below them. Being a princess would establish her superiority. Secretly, she contacts the prince with news of the boy’s birth while setting sail with John for England. She arranges a “fake” wedding before they leave, and she postpones the consummation of their vows, over and over again. Obsessed with her beauty and her figure, Satiné starves herself to remain thin. She consumes more laudanum than she should to ease the pain of her starvation.
Meanwhile, John’s true attraction to Miss Neville grows. Isolde Neville is the only daughter of an Irish baron, who is part of the men attempting to bring the Elgin Marbles to England, Her father’s ship went down in a storm, and Isolde is on the Continent in hopes of finding leads to his survival of the disaster. She has taken the position as Miss Aldridge’s companion for enough money to continue her search.
Like John, Isolde proves true and loyal and honorable—a woman with scruples. She teaches John how to care for and how to tend the ailing Satiné. They become quite a force together until she learns of her father’s presence in a hospital in an English port. Only the need to see her father well can force this pair apart. [Just as a side note, I adored John and Isolde so much that they make a return visit in book 2 of my Twins’ Trilogy, The Earl Claims His Comfort, as Comfort Neville, the heroine of the tale, is Isolde’s cousin.]
Although his feelings for Isolde grow stronger each day, John is above all things, a man of honor. Even after learning something of Satiné’s treachery, he remains by Miss Aldridge’s side, for the world thinks them married. When the prince arrives on John’s doorstep to claim his child, the charade John has played begins to crumble. There are more twists and turns in this story than any of the others, and you will not be disappointed.
And do not forget the Realm’s enemies. Murhad Jamoot is determined to find the emerald he believes one of the Realm has stolen. He has been thwarted at each turn, but as Swenton is the only member of the group left, Jamoot’s attempts become more desperate and more devious.
A Touch of Honor: Book 7 of the Realm Series
For two years, BARON JOHN SWENTON has thought of little else other than making Satiné Aldridge his wife; so when he discovers her reputation in tatters, Swenton acts honorably: He puts forward a marriage of convenience that will save her from ruination and provide him the one woman he believes will bring joy to his life. However, the moment he utters his proposal, Swenton’s instincts scream he has made a mistake: Unfortunately, a man of honor makes the best of even the most terrible of situations.
MISS SATINE ALDRIDGE has fallen for a man she can never possess and has accepted a man she finds only mildly tolerable. What will she do to extricate herself from Baron Swenton’s life and claim the elusive Prince Henrí? Obviously, more than anyone would ever expect.
MISS ISOLDE NEVILLE has been hired to serve as Satiné Aldridge’s companion, but her loyalty rests purely with the lady’s husband. With regret, she watches the baron struggle against the impossible situation in which Miss Aldridge has placed him, while her heart desires to claim the man as her own. Yet, Isolde is as honorable as the baron. She means to see him happy, even if that requires her to aid him in his quest to earn Miss Satiné’s affections.
The first fully original series from Austen pastiche author Jeffers is a knockout. – Publishers Weekly
Sacrifice and honor, betrayal and redemption, all make for an exceptionally satisfying romance. A Touch of Honor is a mesmerizing story of extraordinary love realized against impossible odds. – Collette Cameron, Award-Winning Author
Enjoy an Excerpt from Chapter 16…
The sound of a ruckus below interrupted her thoughts. Isolde rushed from her rooms to encounter the man over whom she had spent too many hours in daydreams. Lord Swenton carried his wife toward the lady’s quarters. Lady Swenton’s limp form announced the baroness had discovered a new supply of laudanum.
“My Goodness!” she rasped and then raced ahead of the baron to open the connecting doors. She jerked the counterpane free of the bed to permit him to deposit Lady Swenton upon the mattress. “What happened?” Isolde asked as she undressed her mistress.
“Did you know?” the baron asked in accusatory tones. He stood beside his wife’s bed, his hands fisting and unfisting, arms akimbo.
Isolde’s fingers released the clasp of the baroness’s necklace and turned her mistress to her stomach so she could unlace Lady Swenton’s gown. Out of breath, she asked testily, “Did I know what?”
Lord Swenton’s voice had turned cold. “When you convinced me to escort my mother’s remains to York, did you know Lady Swenton meant to remain in London to meet her lover? Or was it your purpose for me to encounter Prince Henrí tonight? You did say this evening would be a monumental event.”
Isolde’s fingers froze in their task. “Have you taken leave of your senses?” Her hands wildly brushed away his allegations. “I have been nothing but loyal to you. Other than Lord Morse, I am ignorant of a potential lover, and I have never heard of Prince Henrí.”
“What of a heated spat between your mistress and Lady Fiona?” he accused.
“Nothing!” Isolde said defiantly. “When I came to Miss Aldridge’s service, the baroness was some four months with child. She withdrew from her social engagements shortly after my taking the position. I never held the pleasure of an acquaintance with the former baroness.” With a huff of exasperation, Isolde returned to Lady Swenton’s unconscious state. “If you will pardon me, I must attend to your wife.” Despite her best efforts, a soft sob escaped. He had never spoken to her harshly.
Within a heartbeat, the baron had circled the bed and had caught her to him. He drove Isolde backward until her spine was pressed against the interior door and his hard body plastered her front. “Forgive me,” he whispered roughly against her temple. “I never meant to harm you. Please Isolde, I have acted a fool.”
Some dark, inexplicable passion rushed through her, and Isolde instinctively pressed her center to his manhood. The white fire of need ripped the breath from her chest, and she buried her face into the crook of his neck. “We should not…”
“Should not what?” His voice sounded as breathy as did hers. “Should not claim one moment of happiness?”
Isolde could not dismiss how aware she was of this man’s masculinity. “One moment would never be enough.” She could taste the salt upon his skin, and Isolde ran her tongue along the crease of his neck. A groan of desire rewarded her efforts.
A rush of silence followed before Lord Swenton placed his hands against the wall on either side of her head and lifted his body from hers. Immediately, she experienced the bleakness of his withdrawal. “Some way,” he rasped as he gently cuffed her cheek. “I mean to finish this. For now, please assist me with Lady Swenton. I cannot fathom what the future holds, but please know somehow my soul will find its way to you.”
After they had undressed Satiné, they tucked his baroness into her bed to sleep away the effects of the medicinal. Then by silent consent, he escorted Miss Neville into his sitting room to discuss what had happened earlier.
“Evidently, my wife has discovered someone within my household to keep her confidences,” he disclosed when he had seated Miss Neville across from him and had poured a small sherry for her and for him a well-deserved brandy.
“No doubt Sally,” she asserted. “The girl has ambitions, but has not yet learned subtlety.”
Deep in thought, John nodded his agreement. “I will return the girl to Thornhill tomorrow. The duke has sent Mrs. Tailor and the boy ahead to Marwood Manor. I will see Sally returned to him.”
Miss Neville sat straighter. “Might you inform me of what occurred this evening?”
John closed his eyes to the shame racing to his heart. He dealt better with chaos when he could keep busy; this “rush” to wait endlessly vexed him greatly. “Lady Swenton could barely speak or move. If not for Lady Worthing’s assistance, the prince and much of the ton would have learned of Satiné’s dependency on laudanum. The only saving grace was my wife will likely not recall the appearance of Prince Henrí.”
“Is this prince Rupert’s father?” she asked quietly.
“In appearance, it would seem so. The boy has the countenance of the Prince of Rintoul. However, Prince Henrí claimed no previous knowledge of Rupert until he received an anonymous note announcing the child’s birth. He accused Lady Swenton of keeping secrets.” John recalled the familiar way the prince had spoken to Satiné, and fury rushed to his mind again.
“What does the prince mean to do?”
John attempted to place the tumult of his soul aside. “I have convinced Prince Henrí to call upon my household in a week. I did not think it wise for him to be seen entering Swenton Hall, but the prince made it clear he means to claim Rupert.”
“What will you do?” she whispered into the familiar silence that rested between them. John required these moments or he would run mad into the streets. The lady held no idea how important she had become to his sanity.
“What will I do?” he repeated. Every emotion within John rushed into the dark void of helplessness. “The question is what will my baroness do when her former lover and the father of her child makes an appearance on my threshold?”