A Perfect Rose
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by Diane Greenwood
Category: Romance/Historical Fiction
Description: Torie was raised to be a lady. But circumstances change and earning a living not easy when you are as cursed as she is. She takes posts that are genteel and as a governess educates others children. Little does she know two scamps and their father will capture her heart and make her future a whirlwind of love, heartbreak and discovery.
eBook Publisher: Awe-Struck E-Books, 2005
eBookwise Release Date: November 2005
18 Reader Ratings:
Available eBook Formats: OEBFF Format (IMP) [259 KB]
Reading time: 176-247 min.
"Diane Greenwood's A Perfect Rose is a humorous look at the ridiculous way we tend to think of people when we base our opinions on looks alone. Torie may be a wonderful person, but because of her rare beauty, being accepted by her peers proves to be impossible until she befriends Lord Lairdscroft's children. I adored the relationship between Torie, Justin, and Brodie. The attachment they formed almost immediately is heart-touching all by itself. Watching Torie and Rhionne do their best to avoid admitting to their feelings for each other kept me enchanted. Rhionne's attitude actually reminds me of what I'd expect of a small child. A Perfect Rose is a charming tale that I enjoyed reading."--Chrissy Dionne, Romance Junkies Reviews
"I love the way Diana Greenwood started her story. Torie was not identified by name until quite a ways in. It lent an air of mystery that made the reading more enjoyable. She also did an excellent job of giving us a view of stereotypical responses to people based on their appearance. With Torie taking the brunt of these responses, it was any wonder she survived as she did. Lord Lairdscroft realistically fought his interest in her because he did not think she was of his station. The ending was entertaining and satisfying. This is one novel you will definitely enjoy."--Elise Lyn, eCataRomance Revews
If he thought to impress Torie by the title, he was to be frustrated for she only nodded her head, acknowledging his introduction. But he was too enthralled to worry about if she found him half as attractive as he found her. He offered his arm and she took it without reserve. He couldn't take his eyes off her and had to remind himself to blink. She would think him an idiot! "You are the governess?"
"Yes. I am Victoria Beauclaire."
He guided her toward the opened veranda. "Forgive me. But I find it hard to believe someone as exquisite as yourself should be tucked away as a governess. His lordship is a lucky man."
Torie did not understand. "It is a rewarding job and the children are priceless treasures."
"Of course." He smiled as if sharing a private joke.
They reached the entrance to the cavernous room. Torie stopped short. It was one thing for a single Duke to have seen her, but now a roomful of guests stood before her and her debut would be a shock when her identity was revealed. It was useless to think no one would notice. Torie had stuck out like a sore thumb all her life and it had gotten her into nothing but trouble. Lost positions, jealous wives and lascivious husbands. Respectable employers who fretted Torie would bring ruin down on their lives. All of them had driven her to hide behind a cloak and hood, and even in cases ... darkness. Well, not tonight. She was coming out of the dark and into a brightly lit ballroom!
The Duke of Gaunlin was at her elbow. "Shall we dance?"
Torie smiled. Why not? It was her night. No doubt her last at Lairdscroft. She could continue her fantasy of Belle of the Ball. She had a new dress, a handsome man for a dance partner, and before the night was over she would have champagne, she vowed. Why not, indeed?
She allowed the Duke to lead her into the middle of the room and sweep her in a circle with a flourish. Her skirt billowed behind her, like some willow-wisp, shimmering to catch up. She had only one satin slip beneath and did not possess the expensive silk undergarments or hosiery, usually worn with such a dress. Likewise, she had not bothered with her coarse woolen dailies, reveling in the softness of the new gown against her bare skin.
Therefore, with every whirl, her skirt flashed and swayed, displaying an immoderate amount of creamy ankle. Quizzing glasses were raised and monocle's fell from their precarious perches as their possessors muttered among themselves, "Egad! Who is she? Who is she?" When their eyes traveled upward admiring the slender form, the generous curves of non-powdered bosom, then reached the face, their mouths followed the suit of their monocles and dropped. The men's with admiration and the women's in undisguised envy.
That face! That unarranged hair! Who was she? Who the devil was she? A wave of whispering took to the air, floating and tossed about from one mouth to the other. Some words were immensely flattering and a sort of worship took place, even by some of the women. But some were harsh, reflecting disgust of such careless 'dishabille' at a public gathering. These comments were all by women. The men only muttered exclamations such as, "Egad! By God!" or, "What a fine filly!" A few, the bravest, mostly the mature ganders spoke brazen words. "I must have a dance with the creature!"
Some wives smiled benignly, but simmered beneath at their husband's words. Others rapped their mates painfully on the knuckles with elaborately painted folded fans and pulled at them to leave the vicinity. None would. The other dancers halted as Torie and her Duke swept by.
When the music stopped at the end of its song there was a large throng of whispering bodies gathered that parted regimentally to allow the Duke to lead Torie off the floor. Torie smiled and nodded politely to the crowd. Her knees felt wobbly, but whether from the rapid, intricate steps of the dance, or from nerves, she could not say. Certainly, the eyes of the lords and ladies about her were varied. Some shone bright; taking in every inch of her while others narrowed and stared.
Torie began having misgivings of her bold declaration. She turned to excuse herself from the Duke. Her good sense told her to walk sedately from the room, while her heart said, 'Run! Flee up to your room!'
But the decision was made for her as the crowd parted once more to allow Lord Lairdscroft to approach. His black satin knee breeches molded to his lean form, while the matching frock coat parted to show an amber-hued waistcoat that lent devilish glints to his dark blue eyes. "Everett! My dear young Duke, who is this enchanting creature?" His lordship's gaze traveled over the girl glibly as if she were a statue to be appraised, rather than a breathing human being.
'Quite astonishing beauty', he deigned to acknowledge silently, then gave his attention to the matter at hand, which was crediting the Duke with his impeccable taste in women. The sooner the girl was introduced around, the sooner the evening could continue. It was the Winter Ball after all, and the night was still relatively young.
The Duke was all for a lark and good-naturedly winked. "Rhionne, she claims she is your governess."
The crowd tittered at the absurdity. Lord Lairdscroft frowned. What was this nonsense? "Nay, not my governess. My governess is pockmarked. Who are you, young woman? Be quick about it or I'll be forced to take steps. Vagrancy is not to be rewarded."
Torie was shocked by his uncaring demeanor. This was one man who lacked compassion and could not be swayed by beauty. He did not care a whit about her plight and was more concerned with the interruption to his ball!
The Duke was looking perplexed. He naturally assumed his lordship would go along with the governess lark. After all, he could not publicly acknowledge the girl as his mistress. But what else could she be? She obviously knew her way about the house. Unless ... Dear God ... Could it be Rhionne McLairdin really did not know her? This was most perplexing!
It was fortunate that at this time two figures came running up, the smallest grasping the hem of Torie's skirt, while the older grasped her hand as if to give her courage. "Torie!" Brodie squealed. "You came to the ball!"
It was Rhionne McLairdin's turn to look perplexed. "Children, you know this young woman?"
Justin seriously replied, "Yes father. May I present Miss Victoria Beauclaire; our governess."
His lordship looked to be impatient. "But, she is not marked!"
Brodie looked up adoringly into Torie's face. "No father. She is beautiful!"
His lordship scanned Torie's person, as if seeing her for the first time. His eyes caught the bandage on her hand, then flew to her eyes. Those luminous green eyes! Could it be?
The Duke broke the tension by bowing to Torie stiffly. "I apologize for my indiscretion. I naturally assumed you and his lordship were on a first name basis. If I had known he was not aware of your obvious presence I would have handled the introduction better. I was under the impression you and he were ... well..."
If all were not horribly awkward, this was the icing on the cake, as Torie's eyes flew open at the implication of his words. She was aware that all eyes were on her. Two hundred pair as it were. But she would not run like a scared rabbit! With great dignity she took Brodie by one hand and Justin lightly by her bandaged one, nodding to his lordship. "With your permission, I will put the children to bed. It is time." She scarcely waited for his barely perceptible nod, before sweeping from the room.
Once on the stairway the children both began to chatter, but one look from Torie's taut face hushed them both. She avoided talk as she helped the boys into their night clothes, before ducking into her own room and without bothering to change from her dress, fell exhausted on her bed, muffling her sobs as best she could in her pillow. There was plenty of time to pack tomorrow.