A Pembroke Palace Novella
I want to thank you for being so patient while waiting for me to write Garrett's story. As many of you know, when I changed publishers and moved from Avon to St. Martin's Press in 2009, my Pembroke Palace series was left unfinished. After that I began my Highlander Trilogy for St. Martin's Press.
The Pembroke Palace series is about four brothers who must all marry by Christmas in order to thwart a family curse (or at least that's what their father, the duke, thinks...). If they do not all comply, they will lose their inheritances. Garrett is the youngest brother who has refused to return home and take a wife. ( He's been sailing around the Mediterranean all this time.) Finally, three weeks before Christmas when time is getting short, he surrenders to his father's demands, but on his own terms. At least that's how he hopes it will be...
Thank you again, cherished readers, for all your wonderful emails asking about Garrett's story. I'm thrilled to finally be able to publish it as an indie novella. Read on for more info and an excerpt from the opening chapters.
And here is a list of the first three books in the series. The links will take you to those individual book pages:
1. IN MY WILDEST FANTASIES
2. THE MISTRESS DIARIES
3. WHEN A STRANGER LOVES ME
Best wishes and happy reading!
"Absolutely delicious, MARRIED BY MIDNIGHT is a witty, passionate historical romance with a touch of the paranormal that I found nearly impossible to put down.... Brimming with humor, passion, a curse, ghosts, tragedy, love and a marriage of convenience, this story is a delight. I highly recommend MARRIED BY MIDNIGHT. Do not miss it!" - Dottie at RomanceJunkies.comWith MARRIED BY MIDNIGHT being my first journey into the world of Pembroke Place, I have to say I want more! I loved the romance, I loved the characters and simply enjoyed reading the whole story. Julianne MacLean has a gripping prose that takes you into the characters' lives and makes it impossible for you to want to leave. MARRIED BY MIDNIGHT is a spectacular historical romance! - Lisa Jo @ The Romance Reviews
Pembroke Palace Series Book Four
AN UNATTAINABLE ROGUE
For seven years, Lord Garrett Sinclair-- the ruggedly handsome illegitimate son of the Duke of Pembroke--has been traveling abroad with no intention of ever returning home to Pembroke Palace… until his father commands that he must marry by Christmas in order to thwart a family curse or lose his inheritance forever. Haunted by a tragic accident that has hardened his soul, Garrett entrusts his brothers to seek out a bride who will agree to a marriage in name only. Her reward? A sizable share of his inheritance--payable immediately after the wedding night….
Lady Anne Douglas has been ruined by scandal and disowned by her father. Facing a life of poverty and spinsterhood, she leaps at the generous terms of the marriage contract to ensure her independence. But the charade of a two-week engagement proves more of a challenge than either anticipated when they cannot resist the intoxicating lure of the marriage bed. Anne knows they will part ways after the wedding. Will she dare risk her heart for two weeks of pleasure in the arms of an irresistible rogue? Or will her surrender become her undoing after a most unexpected turn of events mere hours before the wedding?
Read an excerpt...
Pembroke Palace, England
Christmas Eve, 1874
It was an intimidating prospect--to make love on one’s wedding night with a husband one barely knew--but in a few short hours the deed would be done. After listening carefully to the terms of this curious marriage contract, Lady Anne Douglas had agreed to every demand. Today she would speak vows before God. She would promise to love, honor and obey her husband until death parted them, so there could be no turning back.
Not that she wanted to turn back. To the contrary—this was a first-rate offer and she was grateful to accept, for she was known far and wide, throughout the whole of England, as damaged goods. If she took part in this bizarre pretence of a marriage, she would be awarded a generous financial settlement that would guarantee her independence forever.
Which was why, in a few short hours, she would walk down the chapel aisle with her future husband and later allow him to enter her bedchamber to claim his husbandly rights.
Anne took a deep breath and let it out. Good God… Her heart was galloping like a frightened beast, and she feared she might suddenly change her mind and bolt.
Turning away from the snowy landscape outside the window, she paced around the room and labored to steady her nerves. She would not, under any circumstances, entertain the notion that this was a mistake, despite the fact that her betrothed wanted nothing to do with marriage in the traditional sense. All he wanted was his inheritance, so he could continue his life away from his family.
For that reason he would put a ring on her finger this afternoon, enter her bedchamber tonight, remove his clothing and make love to her. When that was done, he would rise in the morning, leave Pembroke Palace and never return.
How in the world would she ever survive this? Until a few days ago, she had been so sure she could manage it.
A knock sounded at the door just then, and her maid entered with her wedding gown.
Anne’s heart exploded with panic, and she wrestled with the most overwhelming urge to break free from this contract and flee into the raging snowstorm outside, because heaven help her, she had been very irresponsible these past two weeks.
She should never have allowed herself to fall in love with him.
Three weeks earlier
After the worst spring England had witnessed in over a century—marked by torrential rains, swelled rivers, and flooded fields that destroyed entire crops—the country was now frozen solid beneath a hostile blanket of crusty white snow.
It had been a harsh winter that began in early November and seemed to go on without end, for there had been no respite from the fierce, bitter winds and constant spray of sleet and snow--and it was not yet half over.
Sitting by the hearth in her uncle’s stone manor house in Yorkshire, shivering beneath her heavy woolen shawl, Lady Anne Douglas was beginning to wonder if England was cursed, for surely this not normal.
A sudden blast of ice pellets struck the windowpanes, and the dogs began to bark downstairs. Tugging her shawl about her shoulders, she rose from her chair and crossed to the window. She looked down and saw a large black coach pulling to a halt in front of the house. It was a striking image against the pure white landscape. Not to mention the fact that they’d had no visitors for a month—for who in their right mind would venture out into such abominable weather?
The dogs continued to bark like ferocious beasts in the front hall, while Anne watched two gentlemen in elegant black overcoats and top hats alight from the vehicle and hurry up the steps. One of them carried a black leather portfolio.
She leaned forward and touched her forehead to the frosty glass, but lost sight of the visitors as they reached the front entrance. There was some commotion below as the door opened and the dogs were put into a separate room, where they continued to bark and growl.
Who were these men, Anne wondered, and what did they want? It must be an extremely important matter of business to bring them all the way to the outer reaches of Yorkshire on such a bitter cold day.
* * *
A half hour later, Anne was summoned to the drawing room.
Her uncle stood before the fire while the two mysterious gentlemen callers sat in chairs with their backs to the door, facing the sofa. As soon as Anne was announced, they rose to their feet, turned and regarded her with interest.
She stared back at them with an equal measure of curiosity, mixed with a twinge of concern.
They were both exceedingly handsome with dark, chiseled facial features, muscular builds and striking blue eyes. Brothers surely, for not only were they similar in appearance, they wore the same expression of inquisitive intelligence.
“Well, don’t just stand there,” her uncle said, moving closer and dragging her into the room. “Come closer so our guests can get a look at you.” He shoved her onto the threadbare carpet. “She may not be pure, but I dare say she’s appealing to the eye.”
The gentleman on the left cleared his throat and gave her a look of apology as he bowed courteously. “Lady Anne, it is an honor to make your acquaintance.” He fired an irate glance at her uncle, who blinked at him in the muted gray light fighting its way in through the frosty window.
“What’s wrong?” her uncle Archibald asked. “Oh. I have not made the proper introductions, have I? Lord Hawthorne, allow me to present my niece, Lady Anne. Anne, this is Devon Sinclair, Marquess of Hawthorne, and his brother, Lord Blake, both of Pembroke Palace.”
A shiver of apprehension rippled up her spine. These were very auspicious guests indeed. Their father was the Duke of Pembroke, one of the highest-ranking peers in the realm. His palace, filled with priceless art and antiquities, was considered one of England’s greatest treasures. Some said the Italian Gardens were so beautiful they brought even the most cynical, hard-hearted men to tears.
But what were these illustrious gentlemen doing here at her uncle’s manor house three weeks before Christmas, so far from their home in the middle of a raging snowstorm?
She lowered her gaze and dipped into a curtsy. “Good afternoon.”
When she met the marquess’s cool blue eyes again, he inclined his head at her, as if studying her temperament.
“Your uncle speaks highly of you,” he said.
I doubt that.
She had the good sense, however, not to speak her mind.
Lord Hawthorne gestured toward the sofa. “Will you please join us?”
Her gaze darted back and forth between the two guests and her uncle. They were all staring at her as if she were some sort of odd novelty in a glass case.
“Please, Lady Anne,” the other one said, as if he recognized her reluctance and wished to set her at ease.
She studied Lord Blake for a moment, experienced an inexplicable whisper of calm, and took a seat.
“We understand you spent the past four years caring for your ailing grandmother,” Lord Hawthorne said. “A dutiful and selfless pursuit,” he added.
“It wasn’t duty,” she explained. “It was love.” Her late grandmother--God rest her dear, sweet soul--had been the one person who never judged Anne or mistreated her after her terrible fall from grace.
“We are sorry for your loss,” Lord Blake said.
“Lady Anne was an excellent nursemaid and companion,” her uncle added. “As I said before, she may not be pure, but she is loyal.”
Anne regarded the marquess steadily. “Do you wish me to be a companion to someone?”
A hush fell over the room. “No,” he replied. Then he turned his eyes to the baron. “May I request a moment alone with Lady Anne,” he asked, “so that we may discuss this proposition in detail?”
“There’s no need for any further discussion,” Archibald replied. “I have already accepted on her behalf. We need only make the arrangements, though I would like to have my solicitor involved.”
Anne frowned. “Your solicitor, Uncle? What sort of proposition did you agree to? If it concerns me, am I not to be consulted?”
Another tension-filled silence descended upon the room, this time heavy as lead.
Lord Hawthorne stood. “I must insist that you excuse us, sir. It is imperative that your niece understands the particulars. We will speak with her in private.”
At long last, her uncle rose from his chair. “If you insist, Lord Hawthorne, I must defer to your wishes. But rest assured that your proposal will not be refused. It will happen, whether she likes it or not.”
As soon as he left the room, Anne challenged the two men. “What, exactly, will happen?”
“Nothing, if you do not wish it,” Blake replied. “I assure you, Lady Anne, we are not tyrants, and we have other prospects if you refuse, which is your right, but we wish you to know that you are at the top of our list.”
“What list?” she asked, nearly horror-struck by the possibilities.
There was a quiet pause until at last, Hawthorne answered the question. “We require a practical young woman to marry our brother before Christmas,” he said.
“I beg your pardon?”
He took a moment to explain. “Our brother needs a wife, but he does not desire a love match, nor does he wish to enter the marriage mart and begin a complicated courtship. He simply wants a contractual arrangement with a woman who understands the situation and desires the same sort of freedom.”
“What sort of freedom are you referring to?” she asked. “I do not understand.”
“No, of course you do not,” Hawthorne replied. “I fear we have not explained ourselves adequately. Please allow me to tell you everything. This time I shall start at the beginning.”
* * *
“Did I hear you correctly?” Anne said. “Your father is going mad?”
She could not believe it. The Duke of Pembroke was one of the greatest aristocrats in England. The family had a celebrated history like no other. The Duchess of Pembroke enjoyed an intimate friendship with the queen.
“That is correct,” the marquess replied. “He believes all four of his sons must marry before Christmas in order to thwart a family curse.”
“What sort of curse?”
Appearing uncertain how best to explain, Hawthorne paused.
“In the spring,” he said, “our father believed we would all be washed away in a flood. Now we are in danger of freezing to death, and he expects the palace to shatter like glass if this weather continues. Under any other circumstances it would not matter, except that he has changed his will to disinherit us if we do not respect his wishes. Thankfully, Blake, Vincent, and I have already found matrimonial bliss earlier this year, but there is one more.”
“Another brother? What is his name?”
“Garrett. He is the youngest, and has been living abroad for a number of years. Until very recently, he refused to yield to our father’s demands, for he is not exactly… compliant. But we received a letter from him eight days ago. He has finally agreed to come home and fulfill his duty. He is ready to take a wife and secure all of our inheritances. There is also a substantial sum of money he will receive on his wedding day if he marries in time, so he is motivated.”
Anne could not help herself. She laughed out loud. “Why in God’s name have you chosen me? Surely the son of a duke could have any woman he wanted.”
“As I said before,” the marquess replied, “he has no interest in a love match. He wants a woman who will not need to be romanced--a practical woman who will agree to perform a charade, so to speak, and to leave Pembroke Palace when he returns to Greece, shortly after the wedding takes place.”
“We will live separate lives,” she said, to confirm her understanding.
“That is correct, but you, too, will have freedom. With the allowance Garrett receives as a wedding gift, and the inheritance due upon our father’s death, he will provide you with a lifetime annuity. You will be free to live wherever you please. You could purchase a house in London, for example. Or perhaps you would prefer the country. Either way, there will be funds for a very comfortable living with a house full of servants. For the rest of your life.”
Anne took a moment to consider all of this. It was not an unattractive offer. Quite to the contrary, she felt as if she had just discovered a buried treasure in the garden. It did not seem real.
“What about children?” she asked. “Would I be expected to bear him sons?”
“No. He is the youngest of four. I am the eldest and my wife and I are already expecting a child.”
“Thank you.” He paused.
“Will the marriage have to be consummated?”
“Yes,” he replied. “It must be legally binding to fulfil the terms of our father’s will.”
Anne swallowed uneasily. “What if I become pregnant?”
Lord Blake cleared his throat uneasily. “All of that is outlined in the contract. If a child is conceived, you may choose to raise him yourself, or relinquish him to the care of our family where he would be raised at Pembroke.”
Anne gazed toward the door and wondered if her uncle was outside, listening to these details.
“Do you require time to consider it, Lady Anne?” Lord Hawthorne asked. “Because if you wish to accept our proposition, we have the contracts already drawn up. If you are not inclined, however, we would prefer to know straightaway so that we may move on to the next candidate as quickly as possible.”
She glanced at Lord Blake, who tapped his finger on the leather portfolio that rested on the table beside him. “The contracts are right here, my lady, awaiting your perusal.”
“You don’t waste time, do you?”
“No,” he said. “Christmas is not long off. We have only three weeks to satisfy the terms of the will.”
She rolled the idea over in her mind. “Mmm…. I do see the basis for your impatience. If there is no wedding, you will all be cursed. Financially, that is.”
She folded her hands together on her lap. “What if your brother does not approve of me? Does he know about my sordid past? My shocking reputation?”
She had no illusions about her marriage prospects, for she had done the unthinkable four years ago when she ran off to elope with her handsome young tutor. Since then, she had given up all romantic fantasies about her future. Until this moment, she had been fully prepared to live out the rest of her days as a spinster.
“He has already indicated that any past scandals are not relevant,” Hawthorne replied.
“He cares only for the money,” she surmised. “And his freedom.”
“That is correct.”
“But why me? Why am I first choice?”
They hesitated. “Because we know our brother. He prefers women with dark features. He finds them… attractive.”
Anne scoffed. “I thought he didn’t want romance.”
“We simply don’t want to give him any reason to change his mind. That is all.”
She thought about it another moment and imagined herself remaining here with her uncle for the rest of her days.
“Money and freedom can have their uses.” She eyed that mysterious black portfolio with growing interest. “I do wish to take a look at your offer, Lord Hawthorne. Will there be any room for negotiation?”The marquess raised an eyebrow in surprise, while his brother quickly opened the leather case.
Married By Midnight