Authors: Catherine Hemmerling
Tags: #romance, #romance series, #Entangled Scandalous, #Catherine Hemmerling, #Entangled Publishing
Romancing His English Rose
A Lady Lancaster Garden Society Mystery
Also by Catherine Hemmerling
Taming Her Forbidden Earl
This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, or persons, living or dead, is coincidental.
2013 by Catherine Hemmerling
. All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce, distribute, or transmit in any form or by any means. For information regarding subsidiary rights, please contact the Publisher.
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Ebook ISBN 978-1-62266-247-0
Manufactured in the United States of America
To Dave and the girls, for all the unconditional support
and love I could ever want or dream of…
The ability to detect poison as a possible mode of murder was not possible with any success until the early 1800s. Therefore, murder by poison flourished among the French and British aristocracy as a highly successful means to an end, as many of the murderers used it as a way to inherit coveted titles.
Arsenic was a particular favorite among nobility. It became so common that the French nicknamed the metallic poison “poudre de succession,” or the “inheritance powder.”
This story is based on the new discoveries on the detection of poisons and specifically a treatise published on the subject in late 1813 by Dr. Mathieu Orfila.
While I have used the chemist’s real name and scientific findings, and reference one of his publications within this book, the setting and story surrounding this scientist are entirely fictional.
And for the record, while both Dr. Mathieu Orfila and Dr. Charles Bell could have been in London in the year 1814 (I can only say for certain that Dr. Bell, an actual surgeon and teacher, was residing there), there is no evidence of their having ever met, in London or otherwise.
Sometimes the only thing more dangerous than the question is the answer.
—The Duke of Lancaster
During the summer of his tenth year, Simon Trumbull found himself walking into the craziness of the Holderness House. Five years prior, Lord and Lady Holderness had had a child—a rather sweet little girl with strawberry-colored hair and bright hazel eyes. They named her Rose.
Simon was not especially impressed with them for having had a daughter. He supposed he would have been a bit more excited had they had, say, a son. At least a boy would perhaps grow up to be a playmate of sorts, though at five years younger, even that seemed unlikely.
But Rose was apparently quite taken with Simon and she had come into the habit of calling him “Mine” whenever he was around. The parents (all four of them) thought that it was an amusing little nickname and did not discourage it. Nor did they discourage the way the child followed him around incessantly.
Simon found the whole thing positively annoying, and that year he had finally had enough.
At some point during that particular visit to the Holderness House, Rose had managed to find him underneath a large baroque desk that was covered on all sides by other pieces of furniture, the least of which included the eight matching chairs. He had had to move one of the heavy chairs out of the way to get under the table and thought by scooting it back into place he would be hidden sufficiently from little Rose.
He supposed the word little should have been taken into consideration, as the tiny girl in question was easily able to squeeze under the chair without any problem.
Once in his not-so-secret lair, she crawled endearingly into his lap, looked up at him with her big, lash-fringed eyes, and said, “Mine.”
Rolling his eyes in an emphatic way that could only be achieved by a boy of ten, Simon pushed her out of his lap and said, “Why do you keep calling me that?”
Simon honestly had not expected an answer. To tell the truth, while he was fairly certain that he had been able to speak in relatively full sentences when he was five years old, he had not yet heard Rose utter anything other than that single word in all his experience with her. So when she did speak, he was astonished.
“Mama and Papa told me. You are mine.” She looked at him as if that were all that needed to be said, and then she made as if to move into his lap again.
This time he was none too gentle in his efforts to keep her out of his lap, and Rose fell back on her bum with a thump. Simon watched somewhat guiltily as her eyes filled with tears.
With a sulky sniff, she crawled back out from under the cover of the table, but before she stood, she turned around and said, as stubbornly as only a five-year-old girl can say, “I don’t want to marry you no more…don’t care what Mama and Papa say.” And with that, she got to her feet and stomped off in a huff.
Simon sat there with his mouth hanging open. Surely Rose was just an imaginative child who had gotten it into her head that she wanted to marry him. There was no way he would believe that her parents had actually told her that she would marry him someday. Right?
He made his way quickly out from under the heavy table and into the parlor where his parents could usually be found during their visits. Rose had beaten him there, of course, and he could see that Lady Holderness was trying to soothe the poor girl, who was quite beside herself.
It was there that Simon was told of the marriage contract signed by the two families when Rose was born—the contract that would tie him to the sniveling five-year-old for the rest of his life.
Needless to say, that moment directed the rest of his life. There was forever this “thing” hanging over his head…and her name was Rose Warren.
Nothing has the power to broaden the mind more than simply observing one’s surroundings.
—The Duke of Lancaster
Rose Warren entered the Sunderland ballroom eager to find someone—anyone—from the Garden Society with whom to talk.
The Dowager Duchess of Lancaster was the hostess of the Young Ladies’ Garden Society, of which Rose was a member. The duchess was an impressive, imposing, and impossible to ignore leader of the ton. Typically she would be addressed as “Her Grace,” as befitting her title, but as the address brought to mind her predecessor (the mother of her late husband), the dowager had made it known early on that she would be addressed as “lady” and nothing else. An anomalous request to be sure, but no one dared argue. The Duke and Duchess of Lancaster were considered to be both wildly intelligent and unusually odd, but always above reproach.
The Garden Society met once a week and behind the façade of well-bred young ladies getting together for tea, Lady Lancaster’s girls (as she called them) were actually helping the less fortunate and those in need of special assistance. While certainly this meant donating food and time to the homeless, orphaned, and impoverished, it also went a little further than that.
Rose and her friends helped solve mysteries, intrigues, and villainous plots throughout London as reported to Lady Lancaster by a variety of sources.
Hope and Sarah were members of the Society and two of Rose’s closest friends. Her other friends, Hannah and Emily, made up the rest of the group and rounded out her small circle of confidantes. However, with Hannah on a mission and Emily being the Diamond of the season, Rose rather thought she would have a better chance locating Hope or Sarah.
Rose looked around the ballroom. It was modestly sized by most ton standards, though beautifully adorned with flowing swags of crimson material hung on the walls and covering the tables and chairs placed carefully in little niches built into the room expressly for that purpose.
Even with many people enjoying the fresh night air on the balconies, the ballroom remained quite crowded, making the search for any one person a positively massive undertaking. However, somewhere in the mad crush of people, Rose hoped to find a familiar and friendly face.
Just then Rose spotted Hope standing with Lord Pembroke and Lord Lichfield.
Interesting, Rose thought. Michael Ashmore, the Viscount Lichfield, was the man for whom Hope had set her cap…not that the Viscount was aware of that fact yet. But Rose rather thought Hope would be changing her subtle tactics to something a bit more drastic if the man didn’t begin to get the message soon.
Still, Hope didn’t look to be talking much and what she was saying seemed to be directed to Lord Pembroke rather than Lord Lichfield, so Rose decided her friend wouldn’t be too upset if she were to draw her attention.
Mind made up, Rose began to frantically wave her arms in an effort to catch Hope’s notice. She was relieved when she saw her friend look her way and acknowledge her. Rose really did want to tell someone about her discovery.
She had spent the earlier part of the day in her family library busily sorting and cataloging the various tomes her father had ordered. Rose’s father, the Viscount Holderness, was a somewhat silly man with an even sillier wife. Lord Holderness was not a big reader and, in fact, rarely entered the library except when searching out his daughter for some reason or another. However, he believed a gentleman always kept a well-stocked library, if for no other reason than for appearances. And to the Viscount and Viscountess, appearances were everything.
Keeping up appearances was a fairly easy task for Lady Holderness, Rose’s mother, as she enjoyed nothing better than shopping—primarily for clothing, but almost anything would do—and therefore was almost always aware of the latest in fashion.
Rose loved her parents, for all of their silly, ridiculous ways. And she was happy to say that they loved her in return, even if they did not quite understand how such a child could have been born of them.
Rose was neither foolish nor impractical. She was intelligent and observant, and believed she was even quite pretty if one truly looked at her. However, she was painfully shy and quiet around those she was not familiar with and that, paired with a rather unfashionable need to wear spectacles, meant that Rose found herself somewhat dismissed by much of the ton.
However, despite this, she was quite often helpful to the Garden Society. She was a voracious reader and had the ability to remember everything she read—or saw, or heard. And a book she’d found today—a treatise on poisons called the Traité des poisons published some time last year—promised to be extremely interesting to the group. Its contents were listed as a vast mine of experimental observations on the symptoms of poisoning of all kinds, on the effect poisons have in the body, on their physiological action, and the means of detecting them.
Rose couldn’t wait to tell someone about it.
“What on earth was that all about?” Hope demanded, after she had reached Rose’s side.
“Nothing in particular,” Rose hedged. “I just wanted to enjoy a bit of your company.”
Hope rolled her eyes. “Why didn’t you just come over and politely ask me to join you?”
“You know very well why,” Rose hissed through a wide smile. It wouldn’t do to appear any more unladylike than she already had, now that she had achieved her goal of attracting Hope’s attention.
Sighing, Hope replied, “We really must do something about your shyness, Rose, otherwise you may resort to waving your arms around like a lunatic every time you want an audience with someone in a crowded ballroom.”
Shrugging, Rose said sagely, “Better to be a lunatic from afar than a bumbling idiot up close.”
“You are not an idiot, bumbling or otherwise,” Hope assured her with apparent sincerity.
Waving off Hope’s reassurances, Rose changed the subject to one infinitely more interesting—at least in her estimation. “You won’t believe what I was reading today.”
Like most of Rose’s close acquaintances, Hope’s eyes seemed to gloss over whenever Rose began to talk of the books she had read and new discoveries she had made from those readings. But unfortunately for Hope, Rose was really intent on telling someone what she found today. Therefore, the moment Hope appeared resigned to listen, Rose began to talk. And as she spoke, her voice became louder and louder with excitement. Soon Rose had gathered quite a crowd, including her mentor, Lady Lancaster.
Simon Trumbull was wandering through the Sunderland ballroom looking for something of interest to distract him. Normally he would be involved in a card game with the other gentlemen at the party, but for some reason he couldn’t seem to concentrate.
The truth was, he was anxious.
The last couple of days, he had been working rather closely with his cousin Caleb on a little project. Generally Simon tried to avoid Caleb—he may have been his relative, but that didn’t mean he had to like the man—but somehow Caleb had become aware of a smuggling scheme he and some friends were involved in and now he was coercing Simon into selling him the smuggled goods.
Simon supposed that Caleb could be helping him with this sticky situation out of the kindness of his heart but, as far as he was aware, Caleb didn’t have a heart, kind or otherwise. And while Simon had not been made privy to why Caleb wanted the smuggled brandy, he was quite sure it was for nothing good.
As children, Caleb was famous for breaking, stealing, or hiding a person’s prized belongings and then accusing someone else of the deed…usually Simon. As he grew older, Simon learned to avoid his cousin, because as certainly as Simon grew up and onto bigger things than children’s toys and games, surely Caleb’s tricks had grown to have more adult consequences as well.
And, really, who needs that in one’s life? Simon thought matter-of-factly.
Therefore, realizing that he may be unknowingly participating in some nefarious Caleb plot, Simon couldn’t seem to relax. It seemed that any day now he would find out what evil thing Caleb was up to and whatever it was would undoubtedly condemn Simon to hell, too.
Simon was not necessarily known for such deep, dark thoughts. Society saw him for what he portrayed himself to be: a happy-go-lucky, extremely charming, good for a good time but not much else kind of man. And that was the way Simon liked it.
It all started the year he turned ten. When he learned the truth.
It was there, in the most God-awful room Simon could ever remember seeing then and now (purple and yellow were the colors of that season and Lady Holderness apparently thought much of the combination), that Simon was told of his contractual marriage to the then five-year-old Rose Warren.
Now Simon knew well enough that Rose would not remain a five-year-old forever, but she might as well have as far as he was concerned, for even as they grew older, she was always to him the burden he must carry—the burden he must marry—and he did not want to marry her.
Therefore, from the age of ten, Simon ceased being the amenable, intelligent, well-mannered boy he had once been. Instead he became unruly, irreverent, disrespectful, and generally a disappointment to his parents in every way.
He made it through Eton (barely) only because he realized during the last term that all of his friends were going on to university and if he expected to join them, he would have to complete his lower educational requirements first. As a credit to his intelligence, Simon went from failing every course to passing every course within the space of four months.
However, once in university, all his efforts once again waned. It was only his association with David Rochester and Alexander Bredon that prompted him to give his studies some attention. His two friends were a year behind him but in the same classes, and their ribbing and teasing as to his intellectual capabilities goaded him into proving them wrong.
It was during this time that Simon determined his new role in life—a charming, drinking, gambling womanizer without a care in the world. And it was also then that he discovered his ability to make a lady swoon with just one of his endearingly crooked smiles. He had a reputation for always having a good time, never being cross, and never ever being serious.
His parents despaired of him ever amounting to anything, ever living up to his responsibilities, or ever settling down and providing them with a much-desired grandchild—in particular, a grandson.
Simon snorted at the thought…his parents and the Warrens may have come up with this ridiculous scheme, but that did not mean he had to follow through with it…at least not right away.
Simon turned to go back the way he had come, when he heard someone call his name. “Mr. Trumbull…oh Mr. Trumbull, sir.”
Damn! Looking surreptitiously behind him, Simon could see Lady Lancaster looking at him expectantly, standing with none other than Rose Warren. Insufferable woman, Simon thought churlishly. Almost any other person in that ballroom could be ignored and be apologized to later, but no one dared slight Lady Lancaster if it could be avoided.
Simon wasn’t quite sure what it was about the woman that struck fear into the hearts of even the highest of society, but fear was struck and therefore respect was to be given, even by—or perhaps especially by—one such as Mister Simon Trumbull.
With a beleaguered sigh, Simon turned back around and continued on his original path through the crowd, toward Rose and the indomitable Lady Lancaster. And what a crowd there was. But that suited Simon’s purpose just fine. He was in no hurry to reach the pair. Well, maybe he wouldn’t mind chatting with Rose, but Lady Lancaster? He would just as soon avoid her indefinitely.
Frankly, he should feel more reluctant to greet his betrothed than he did. Certainly he had gone out of his way to avoid her lately. But now that he had no choice, he was surprised to find himself curious as to how she was.
Deep down he knew he would eventually marry Rose. As much as he may act as if he didn’t care, he would never dishonor his parents so much as to break a legally binding contract. And though he would never admit it aloud, there was actually something about Rose that intrigued him.
He had heard from friends who had tried to talk with her (there was something to be said for trying out a line or two on a girl everyone knew was spoken for—and therefore “safe”) that she was a shy, timid, blundering thing. Simon had never seen that side of Rose, however. He wasn’t sure if it was because they had grown up together, or the fact that they were engaged already, but Rose always seemed very eloquent with him. Shy, yes; tendency to blush and avoid direct eye contact, yes; but unable to speak coherently, no.
This fact made Simon feel a bit special, actually, and honestly, so very little in his life did these days. But he wasn’t ready to marry yet and he doubted very much that he would be ready any time soon.
He supposed that was why it was getting harder and harder to spend time with Rose. While she had never actually said so, he assumed she was getting a little anxious about his lack of commitment thus far.
He was going to have to talk with her about it before long, though. They needed to set up some ground rules. They may have to get married, but he truly hoped she wouldn’t expect their marriage to be a traditional one.
They would do what they had to do to provide their parents with an heir, but then he fully expected them to go their own ways. The last thing he wanted to be was tied down by some girl…some obligation…that wasn’t even of his choosing.
This was not a love match, and the sooner they both recognized that, the better off they would be.
By the time she heard Lady Lancaster summon Simon, Rose had lost most of her voice and much of her audience. Not surprisingly, Hope had fled as soon as Lady Lancaster had arrived. Clearly she had not grasped the significance of what Rose was saying the way the others had.
Grabbing a glass of lemonade off of a tray being carried past her, Lady Lancaster remarked, “Well, my dear. You certainly are popular tonight.”
Clearing her throat in an entirely useless attempt to relieve her hoarseness, Rose said, “Yes, I had no idea everyone would be so fascinated.”