Read An Excerpt

by Jo Beverley

Genre: England, Historical Romance

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Claris wasn’t aware of having formed an image of Perriam Manor, but she certainly hadn’t expected to pass between monsters to get to it. There was no gate, but two stone pillars each held an odd creature.

“Gryphons,” her grandmother said. “Head and wings of an eagle and a lion’s body.”

“They’re probably part of the ridiculous feud over the house,” Claris said. “I suppose I can get rid of them.”

“Not always wise to get rid of well-established guardians.”

“Those creatures didn’t deflect a curse, nor the tragedies it brought.”

“So you believe in that now, do you?”

“I don’t know, but I could do without gryphons.” As the house came into sight, she inspected it for more monsters. “That ivy could hide an army of them.”

The carriage was drawing up in front of an ominous mass of dark green ivy, through which she could glimpse only small areas of brick and glints from latticed windows.

Claris made her first decision. “The ivy will have to go.”

“It’s said to protect against drunkenness,” her grandmother said.

“Moderation protects against drunkenness, though perhaps this place could drive a Puritan to drink.”

The carriage door opened and her husband came to hand her down. “Welcome to Perriam Manor,” he said, as if the place were heaven.

Claris climbed down. “You didn’t warn me about the ivy. Or the gryphons.”

“It wasn’t in my interests to warn you of anything, but I promise they’re the worst of it.”

He let go of her hand at the first possible moment and turned to assist Athena and Ellie. He’s as unwilling as you, Claris reminded herself. He’ll be off at any moment, riding on to London.

The twins were scrambling out of the other carriage, taking in everything. They ran over.

Tom said, “Did you see the gryphons, Claris? Tremendously grand! Are there more?”

“I sincerely hope not.” She could almost see the boys twitching with excitement. “You may explore if you wish, but be careful.”

Perriam arrived at her side. “If you go to the stables, don’t attempt to ride anything. Your word on it?”

They gave it but, inspired by the word “stables,” raced off.

“Wrong direction,” Perriam said, “but it won’t do them any harm to have a long run.”

“Thank you for forbidding them the horses. I’d not have thought that they might attempt to ride one.”

“I was a boy once. There are grooms who might have the sense to stop them, but your brothers are now the young masters of the house.”

“Oh, my heavens! That strikes terror into my heart.”

“Yours to deal with. You’ll also need to decide what to do about the horses. . . . Ah, I see the principal servants have come out to greet you. En avant.

Claris braced for the next challenge but was reassured by the way he spoke.

Yours to deal with.

He was keeping his promise.

Perriam Manor was hers.