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The Reluctant Countess
by Karen Woods

In 1811, with the US and Britain on the brink of war, Theodousia (Dousia) Crawford Langley left her Virginia home to bring her young half-brother, her ward, William to England. William, following the murder of their father, is the heir to the Ducal title held by their uncle Jonathan. It was her father's wish that William be raised to fulfill his duties.

The last thing that the young widow expected on the last leg of the too exciting journey was to be compromised by Justin, Earl of Rivington and to be constrained by honor to marry him.

Justin had expected to meet a woman who might become his town mistress, the meeting having been brokered by a third party.

So, when he arrives at the Inn and goes to the bedroom which is always supposed to be kept ready for him, and he discovers Lady Dousia there, he assumes she is the woman he is supposed to be meeting.

The only thing that changes Justin's mind about her is the pistol she points at his chest to hold him off.

But, neither of them can reasonably anticipate the strength of the adverse reactions of several people to the prospect of Justin and Dousia's marriage.

Dangers to life, limb, and reputation abound, orchestrated for reasons of their own by people close to both Justin and Dousia. Nearly no one is exactly who they seem to be, and nothing is straightforward.

Can Dousia and Justin survive? Can they learn to love and trust one another? If they survive, will Dousia spend her life as the Reluctant Countess?

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Karen Woods
Twenty years ago, if anyone had told me that I would be making my living as a fiction writer, I would have told him that he had the wrong woman. Oh, I had stories and characters dancing in my head, clamoring to get out. Writing, however, was something I did strictly for my own amusement, as I had done since I had written my first short story at the age of five. I simply had plans for my life other than writing. I was quite happy teaching undergraduates. Hey, I had to use my Master's degree in Math/Computer Science for something, didn't I? I do quite enjoy teaching. But, it dawned on me that I could and did write tales that were as good or better than the ones I read in my leisure time.

As for me at this stage of my life, I tease that I live a quiet life. Well, maybe it's quiet in comparison to a Category Four hurricane. I've been married to my best friend since 1979. Often, my house is filled with the sounds of young people, friends of my youngest child. I spend a good deal of my time being Mom's Taxi Service hauling the youngest to sports, scouts, 4-H, and other activities. My firstborn is a college student, no longer a child, and not quite an adult. I'm exceptionally proud of both of my children.

It's fun to make a living at what I'd do for amusement, anyway.


Reviews

"There are many plots and subplots skillfully woven together in the fabric of this novel. Between Justinís scheming selfish mother and Theodousiaís greedy cousin, the reader is taken on a delightful ride of suspense and tension as the level of treachery increases through out the story. This is one novel you wonít put down until you read it to its conclusion. Great job!!" Reviewed by Elise Lynn of eCataRomance, 4 STARS

"Karen Woods' plot is quite intricate and many of the secondary characters lives and loves are woven through the main storyline. A dangerous element is exposed upon Dousia and Williamís arrival in England, and seemingly resolved, but the shadow still looms in the background. The final chapters are quite dramatic, leaving a happy ending with a bittersweet twist. I have thoroughly enjoyed this historical tale and will be keeping a watch on this author." Reviewed by Naomi of Fallen Angel Reviews.


Excerpt

She sighed and wiped the tears from her eyes. It did no good for anyone for her to cry over the past. Dousia gently laid the book down on the night table.

A well modulated, cultured, deep bass voice said firmly, "Kemper said that you were very beautiful. I see that he, for once, was quite accurate."

Dousia turned her head quickly to see a tall, well dressed, blond, bearded man with a long scar on the left side of his face, standing there looking at her with undisguised desire written clearly on his face. He was a quite handsome man except for that scar. But the scar told her that he had seen violence and had survived it. She fought back the fear she felt. This was definitely not the time for hysterics.

She hadn't heard anyone come in. Besides, she was certain that Eva had left the door locked when she had left the room. So, this man had to have a key. If so, there was definitely a problem. Screaming for help would not be necessarily productive. If he had a key that meant that he was in collusion with the innkeeper. Dousia had dealt with fortune hunters in their attempts to compromise her into marriage before. This could be one extremely elaborate attempt to get control of her funds. Or it could be something more sinister. But screaming for help might only play into his hands and make this situation worse. She would have to deal with it herself, quietly.

"How did you get in here?" she demanded quietly, but firmly.

The man smiled and said indulgently, "How else does one enter a locked room? With a key, of course."

"If you've come to rob me, I'm afraid that you've picked the wrong room. I haven't more than a very few pounds in gold. The bit of jewelry in the case has more sentimental value than actual worth," she replied tightly, trying not to let her fear show. "It would be far better for you if you simply put the key down on the bureau and left the room," she added calmly.

"Kemper said that you were a beautiful woman. I'm glad this time to see that he wasn't selling me a bill of goods. I shall be most happy to fulfill my end of our agreement. You will like the little house on Lisle Street. During pleasure, lass, you will lack nothing."

"Get out of here!" she ordered fiercely, her fear of the man growing by each passing moment. "This is my room. What do you think that you are doing here? Get out!" Angrily she picked up her book and hurled it at him.

He easily caught the book. "Shame on you. Books make very poor projectiles. If you were going to throw something, you should have chosen something harder. I see I shall have to teach you more respect for property, especially if it is my property."

"Go away!"

The man only laughed, as though he thought this was a game. "I like a woman with spirit," he said strongly. He looked at her for a long moment, his face taking on the look of a man who greatly desires a particular woman. It had been years since she had seen that look on the face of a man in her bedchamber.

"Leave my chamber at once, sir!" she demanded.

"I'm afraid that I can't oblige you in that, lass," he drawled. "These are my rooms."