Family Guardian

Family Guardian
Laurie Alice Eakes
Publisher: Avalon
ISBN: 0-8034-9797-0

Surrounded by the most beautiful scents and potions in the world, The Honorable Miss Clarissant Behn toils away, unconcerned with romance. She doesn’t spend her days planning a wardrobe for the Season or wonder who she will marry. Against all conventions and Society’s rules, Miss Behn spends her days engaged in trade.

If anyone learns that her perfume business is the source of her family’s prosperity, the scandal will ruin both her business and her chances of marriage. Years ago she loved her sister’s forbidden betrothed, Tristan Apking. But he disappeared five years ago and is presumed dead.

But when Tristan returns to England, alive and mysteriously prosperous, keeping secrets could cost Clarissant his love and possibly their lives. Overcoming his deep sense of loss at her sister’s heart seems to be an impossible feat. Juggling everything for everyone else, Clarissant tries to keep the balance while finding love and happiness for herself.

In July, 2007, Family Guardian, won the National Readers Choice Award for Best Regency of 2006.

Excerpt – Family Guardian

ISBN# 0-8034-9797-0
Avalon Books, August 2006, 192 pp
Historical Romance-English Traditional Regency

Tristan’s feet carried him unerringly to the one oak tree in the park that remained as he remembered it. The tallest tree in the two square miles of parkland, it spread its branches studded with budding leaves over the rustic bench that surrounded the yard-thick trunk. His head resting on the rough bark, he gazed through the criss-crossed canopy to a sky so blue it made his throat ache.

His heart ached for other reasons.

Rowena was married. He knew he shouldn’t have expected a lady as beautiful and sweet-natured as she was to go without a host of suitors, but she’d promised to wait for him. The fact that she had no dowry or even the funds from her family for a London season made that all the more likely. Obviously the Behns had found a source of income after all.

His eyes watering from staring into the bright morning light, he lowered his head, and saw Clarissant strolling across the grass like Demeter herself. A lavender-and-white-striped Spencer hugged her arms and the bodice of her lavender muslin gown. The collar stood up in back to form a frame for her neck and face.

What a neck and face!

Tristan straightened, blinking. He’d always thought Clarie a pretty child, though nothing that would ever hold a candle to her elder sister, but she’d grown up somewhat better than commonplace pretty. Even with out the distorting swelling on her right temple, her eyes formed a definite almond shape, large eyes so bright they looked blue, though he knew they were nearly black. The tight Spenser and flowing skirt of the gown showed she’d left childhood behind. She smiled at him from across the intervening gap of flower-stretched lawn. He managed a smile back.

“What happened to the rest of the oaks?”

She paused and glanced around her. “We sold them to pay taxes and…debts.” She continued beneath the canopy of the oak. “I wouldn’t let them take them all.”

“I’m glad you didn’t.” Tristan looked at a branch as thick as his arm, protruding from the trunk ten feet above his head. “Isn’t this the tree you fell out of?”

“How ungentlemanly of you to remember that.” Grinning, she seated herself on the bench far enough away that he could see only the side of her face not swollen from the bee sting. “I’m truly sorry you had to learn the news like that. We didn’t think to warn Dunstan.”

“You were laughing all the way to the ground,” Tristan said. “Then you hit the ground and lay there so still and silent I thought you were dead.”

We thought you were dead.”

“But you were just stunned.”

“She was already twenty. How long could you expect her to wait?”

“You waited there like a rock, while I ran for help, never complaining, even with that broken arm.”

Clarissant grabbed his wrist. “I’ll twist your arm if you won’t listen to me.”

He looked down at her hand, slim and long-fingered in white kid gloves. “I’ve listened to all I need to know. Rowena didn’t wait for me.”

“Because she thought you were dead,” Clarissant cried. “How many times do I have to tell you that?”

Tristan’s jaw hardened. “Repeating it doesn’t make it true.”

“Obviously it’s not, but when we never received any letters, what were we to believe?”

“Why did you believe in my death?”

“We heard you sailed on the merchantman Eastern Knight, and that the French captured it in the Bay of Biscay.”

Tristan stared at her, but she didn’t look at him, one thing about her that had changed. Clarissant was always direct. He narrowed his eyes. “Being captured does not mean the same thing as being dead.”

“No, but–” She surged to her feet and began to pace in front of him, her hands clasped at her waist. Her head bent, she seemed intent on moving without stepping on tiny white wildflowers in the grass.

His lips in a grim line, he watched her, willing his hurt to turn into the anger of betrayal.

Clarissant stopped walking and faced him, her countenance as tight as his felt. “Tristan, the war’s been over for two years. Three, if you consider that it was over the first time in fourteen, and most of the prisoners returned. In all that time, not one word from you.”