Sun
Nov 19 2017 12:22pm

Erin Kane Spock Excerpt: Courtly Pleasures

Erin Kane Spock

What’s a neglected wife to do when her husband doesn’t know she exists? Create a scandal, of course, in this delightful Elizabethan romp.

After ten years of marriage, Frances LeSieur has faded into her role as a lady wife and mother. She has no idea who she is as a woman. So Frances joins Queen Elizabeth’s glittering court and discovers a part of herself she never knew existed—and one she’s sure her neglectful husband would never notice.

Henry has always done his duty to family and crown despite his own desires. When Frances asks for a separation then transforms into a confident and vibrant courtier, he’s floored—and finds himself desperate to learn what makes her tick, both in and out of the bedroom. After years of silent alienation, can he woo her back, or will he lose this intoxicating woman to one of the rakes hell-bent on having her?

As Frances and Henry come to realize that living is not merely surviving, can they create a second chance at love before it’s too late?

Get a sneak peek at Erin Kane Spock's Courtly Pleasures (available Decebmer 4, 2017) with an exclusive excerpt of a selected scene.

Frances and Henry married ten years ago, an arranged match that, even as they grew into themselves, never matured into a relationship with any sort of affection or even mutual respect. Frances has sought Henry out in London to request a separation. She is tired of being used and ignored and wants a chance to find out who she is as woman, not as a wife.

Henry’s pride is stung and he decides to court her, never expecting to be truly intrigued by the woman he never really knew.

Frances had a little too much to drink at the masked ball last night and shared a passionate kiss with a stranger. She’s not entirely sure how to process the fact that the stranger was actually her husband.

“I trust this morning has found you well.” Frances feigned a casual tone that she did not feel.

His mouth quirked in a half smile and, still holding her gloved hand, he leaned against the arched gatepost in the guardhouse kitchen garden. “I do very well and thank you for asking.”

She heard the humor behind the banal pleasantry and wondered if he’d ever shown that trait before. “You are welcome,” she murmured the expected reply.

Silence stretched, heavy with the weight of everything unsaid. Uncomfortable with the pleasant mask in place once more, Frances held her head high and did not wring her hands. Nor did she honestly smile or, well, anything. Proper, always proper.

 “My lord husband,” Frances stiffened her spine and gathered her courage. Just like last night’s wine, it was better out than in. “How did I come to be in my room last night?”

“Were you truly that far in your cups? I didn’t know you had it in you.”

“Answer my question, please.” She held her ground, fists planted on the pleats springing from her hips. “And, yes,” she admitted, “I have never been drunk before, and it does not sit well with my constitution. I remember very little.”

A spark of an idea flared to life. Could she pretend she didn’t remember the kiss? Frances looked up to see him watching her.

“So, Frances,” why did her name sound so personal when he said it, “what do you think of court thus far?”

She watched his lips. “You shaved your beard.”

“You changed your hair.”

She raised a hand to her head and tucked a stray tendril behind her ear. She had known this man for ten years, laid with him, born his children—this should not be so painfully awkward. She turned away and walked to the bench at the far side of the garden, shooing a chicken out of her way so she could sit.

“Did you know it was me last night?” Henry’s words broke the silence once more.

“At the masque? No, I did not recognize you.” She resisted the urge to look back at him, to analyze the newly shaven curve of his chin for similarities to the husband she pictured.

“You flirted with me,” he continued, sitting beside her on the bench, crushing her skirts.

“I flirted with everyone. I’ve learned that is the way of the court. It would be strange if I didn’t.” She tugged on the fabric to no avail. “It means nothing.”

“You kissed me.”

She raised her chin and met his warm gaze. “No, you kissed me. I cooperated.”

His lips curved in a smile that hinted at a familiarity of years but seemed so new. “You liked it.”

She looked down at her lap and cleared her throat. “As you pointed out, I was in my cups. I did not know myself. It could have been anyone kissing me.” And that was the hard truth. She never saw, not really, the man she’d kissed. Given that, would anyone’s kiss have roused her the way it had?

“That does you little credit, wife.”

She snapped her eyes to his, his harsh tone snuffing out the building warmth in her belly. “Would it matter if I were to kiss another man? It was, after all, only a kiss. Those are traded about the court like sweetmeats.”

“It could have become more than a kiss very easily.”

“Really? You have me at a disadvantage in that, my lord husband. The first time I shared a kiss with you was on our wedding day. That kiss led only to breakfast. The other times were equally perfunctory, like we had a set of rules to follow. Kiss, couple, and good night. We never moved past the awkwardness of the wedding night. We were children then and never grew up. Not together.” And all of it, every experience wrapped up together, was nothing, nothing, like what she remembered from last night. The past kisses, past coupling, had been obligatory and unpleasant. Last night’s kiss was actually intimate.

Anger warred with wistful longing over what they could have had, at everything that their marriage was not. She wondered how the memories played out from his perspective. Had he been as nervous, as frightened, on their wedding night as she?

The only answer was the clucking of a hen as it worked its way around the garden at their feet.

“It matters.”

“What?” her voice came out embarrassingly breathless.

“Whom you kiss.”

Again that blighted warmth blossomed in her center at the idea that he cared. She swallowed against it. “Why? Does it matter whom you kiss?”

“Me?” He laughed, actually laughed. “I do not go about court kissing ladies.”

It was her turn to laugh, a bitter sound. “I agree on that point. Baroness Sheffield is no lady.”

He raised a brow, that hint of mirth sparkling in his eye. “While I do not disagree, I wonder what makes you think I shared a kiss with Baroness Sheffield.”

“Now that I think on it, it was not a kiss that she said you shared. My mistake.”

“Upon my honor, I have had no relations, kissing or anything more, with Baroness Sheffield.” His affront faded into a smile. “Frances, are you jealous?”

“Jealous? Me? That would be unseemly.” She fanned herself. “I think that it is you who are jealous of whom I might kiss.”

“But you kissed me.”

“I had little say in the matter.”

“You will not accuse me of forcing your hand. You kissed me back.”

She nodded, unable to pretend she had not been a willing participant. Whatever happened next, she would hold dear that memory of strong arms, soft lips, and heat. In that moment, she’d known she was wanted, and no matter how drunk she’d been or what an arse her husband may be, God’s teeth, even the thought made her chest tight and her mouth dry.

She looked up to find him staring at her. His lashes, too long to belong on a man, framed a gaze so dark she couldn’t help but stare. “What?” She ran a hand over her coiled hair and straightened the pleated collar of her partlet. “Is aught amiss, my lord husband?”

“Henry.”

Again, tingles ran across her skin at the sound of his voice. She couldn’t tell if it was fear or, what? Anticipation? He leaned closer, and she bit her lip.

“Please, Frances, I would have you call me Henry.”

“Henry,” she whispered, her gaze shifting from his eyes to his lips. Was he going to kiss her? He was! Oh goodness, should she let him? Her jaw tightened as she leaned away, back stiff and eyes wide. Wait, no—why not? With a worried grimace, she squeezed her eyes shut, puckered her lips, and waited.

And waited.

Frances opened one eye to find him with his head cocked, regarding her with raised brows.

“What?” she asked, running a self-conscious hand over her bodice, her cheeks.

He smiled and asked, “Did you wish for me to kiss you?”

She straightened. Of course Henry wouldn’t kiss her. That would be the behavior of a lover, not a husband. Damn his pride—hers stung more than ever. “I pray pardon, my lord husband. I forgot myself.”

“Frances…”

“No, my lord. We have never been familiar with each other, and I see no reason to change the nature of our relationship.” She stood and shook out her skirts. To think she’d wondered what he thought of her new gowns, her new role as a lady of the court. She would not care because he could not.

***

Copyright © 2017 by Erin Kane Spock.
***
Learn more about or order a copy of Courtly Pleasures by Erin Kane Spock, available December 4, 2017:

Buy at Amazon

Buy at B&N

 

 


Erin Kane Spock lives in Southern California with her husband, two daughters, and old-lady dog. She is a teacher and an active Irish dance mom. Find Erin Kane Spock at her blog at CourtlyRomance.blogspot.com, on Facebook at Facebook.com/Spockromance, and on Twitter at @kanespock.

Subscribe to this conversation (must be logged in):
0 comments
Post a comment