The Wayward Miss Wainwright
An Authentic Regency Romance
When Helena Wainwright accompanies her two young nieces and her nephew to stay at Rotherham Park with their new guardian who is their uncle, the Duke of Rotherham, she agrees to remain for six months to help the children adjust to their new life. She finds the handsome, charming Duke of Rotherham to be the most insufferable, self-opinionated, domineering and arrogant man she has ever met. Unhappily, the duke also holds an unflattering opinion of Helena. “Wayward was the only word to describe such a determined, contrary, and obstinate young woman who defied him at every turn regarding the upbringing of his wards. He would be very glad to see her go.” The Duke of Rotherham is contemplating making Miss Emily Fanshawe, a beautiful, and (everyone thinks) well-bred young woman an offer of marriage. However, Emily has terrible secrets to hide, besides having a clandestine lover. Helena discovers Emily’s secrets and does not know which way to turn. If she reveals the truth to protect the duke’s social standing, she will betray Emily, with dire consequences. Besides, the duke seems determined to marry Emily, simply to prove a point, even though his godmother, Lady Mildred Ormsby has suspicions the Fanshawes are not who they say they are! Emily’s mother is hell-bent on marrying her daughter off to a rich, preferably titled, man. She will let nothing stand in her way, even stooping to abduction and possibly murder. Can Helena win in the face of heavy odds and the machinations of a wicked schemer? And will she want the Duke of Rotherham for herself when hidden elements of his romantic past come to light?
— scroll down to read book sample —
“This frothy romance is the kind of story where you want to knock the hero and heroine’s heads together to make them see sense, because you know from the outset that they will inevitably end up together. However, the tale would be too straightforward and boring if the path to true love wasn’t littered with obstacles and pitfalls.” —★★★★★ Reader Review
“Good story. Happy ending!” —★★★★★ Reader Review
“…the story is very well written and the female character is strong and likeable. i definitely recommend it.” —★★★★★ Reader Review
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Arabella Sheraton grew up on a diet of Jane Austen, the Bronte sisters, and many other writers of that period. From Jane Austen to Georgette Heyer, Arabella has found both enjoyment and inspiration in sparkling, witty Regency novels. She also loves history and generally finds the past more fascinating than the future. Arabella wrote her first Regency romance to entertain her aged mom who loved the genre. Arabella is honoured to share the adventures of her heroes and heroines with readers.
SAMPLE FROM THE WAYWARD MISS WAINWRIGHT
With a faint sigh of annoyance, Helena Wainwright laid down the torn breeches she was busy mending to find her brother-in-law glaring at her. Vernon Sylvester Gillespie Wroxby, the Duke of Rotherham, stalked across the room, his jaw clenched in an expression she recognised as the prelude to a scolding. Her heart sank.
“What is the meaning of this?”
By this, Helena could only assume he meant the bedraggled figure that flounced into the small salon after him. Miss Emily Fanshawe, at just twenty, was blessed with a heart-shaped face, dimples, china blue eyes, and a kittenish expression that had taken both London and His Grace by storm. In the past month, she had visited Rotherham Park on several occasions, each leading to even more speculation that a proposal of marriage might be forthcoming from the eligible and apparently besotted duke.
In a significant departure from her usual elegance, today Miss Fanshawe presented a startling appearance. Her hair, recently described as “spun gold wrought by fairy hands” by an aspiring London poet, was covered in what could only be labelled as lumpy brown porridge. The mixture trickled down the sides of Miss Fanshawe’s cherubic face and plopped onto the front of her stylish peach-coloured walking dress. A charming chip straw hat, trimmed with flowers and peach ribbons, dangled from her slim fingers. Miss Fanshawe struggled to compose herself and gasped several times as if speechless.
Helena smoothed the front of her serviceable blue morning gown and wished she had less height and more fragility.
“I asked you, Miss Wainwright, what is the meaning of this fiasco?” the duke pressed again.
His face was a dusky red, a familiar signal that Rotherham was nearing the end of his tether. She could quite understand it. Taking on the unexpected guardianship of three children without any apparent liking for or understanding of the workings of young minds was a difficult task.
“I see Miss Fanshawe has met with a horrible accident,” said Helena, approaching the victim with outstretched hands. “Please let me assist you.”
Miss Fanshawe pushed Helena’s hands away as she sank onto a sofa. Rotherham rang the bell for the housekeeper, gave Helena another glare, and then sat down beside his daintily sobbing guest.
“There, there, my dear,” he said in soothing tones, all the while dabbing at the noxious mixture with a handkerchief. “We’ll get to the bottom of this mishap.”
“They hate me, Vernon.” Miss Fanshawe hiccupped and looked up in a piteous, tear-drenched plea. She had clearly mastered the art of crying and could achieve this without her complexion turning blotchy or her nose becoming red. If it were possible, her eyes appeared bigger and more luminous, and her long eyelashes fringed the effect in a most becoming way. When Helena cried, the effect was unpleasant to the degree it was best she cried alone. “Your children hate me.”
The lady’s wiles were so transparent that Helena wanted to shake her and tell her to stop her hysterics at once, but the duke seemed to enjoy murmuring soft words of encouragement to his guest. He even patted her small, delicate hands.
“Of course they don’t hate you, my dear, and I shall deal very firmly with them.” He motioned for Helena to approach the sofa. “Find those rascals at once and bring them to me!”
The children appeared in the doorway with Mrs. Glossop, the housekeeper. The duke rose to his full, impressive height, and they quailed before him. Mrs. Glossop inclined her head in acknowledgement, unperturbed by the chaotic scene.
“Ah, Mrs. Glossop, just in time. Please take Miss Fanshawe to her room and attend to her right away. She has met with an unfortunate accident.” Rotherham turned to the three children, who by now had made their way to stand behind Helena.
Marcus, aged eight, slipped his hand into Helena’s. On the other side, his twin Felicity did the same. Victoria, aged twelve, heaved a dramatic sigh and muttered, “Can’t Uncle Vernon see she’s just acting?”
“Hush!” whispered Helena. “You three have been so naughty.”
Rotherham retrieved his guest’s frivolous hat, which had fallen to the floor. Then he escorted Miss Fanshawe to the door where she begged him not to beat the children. He replied solemnly that he would indeed stay his hand, but only for her sake. She then bade him adieu with a melting glance, before the capable Mrs. Glossop whisked her away. Mrs. Glossop, a no-nonsense Yorkshire-bred woman, shot an expressive glance over Miss Fanshawe’s head to Helena, indicating her low opinion of hysterical young women.
Helena hid a smile. The Duke of Rotherham had never lifted a finger to his wards, and he was not likely to do so. He often remarked that a gentleman did not beat animals, women, or children, and that any man who lifted a hand to a weaker creature was a disgrace to society. His Grace ruled with an iron will, and the severity of his frown was often enough to bring even the rebellious Victoria to heel.
Once Miss Fanshawe exited the room, the duke turned back to the three culprits. His face darkened as his tender smile for Miss Fanshawe changed into a harsh expression.
“Please explain to me, Victoria—for I can only surmise you are the architect of this nonsensical plot—how—”
“It’s not nonsensical,” Victoria interrupted, her dark curls dancing and her cheeks flushed. “It was a scientific experiment, and Miss Fanshawe is so silly she—”
“I beg your pardon, Miss Victoria Wroxby,” the duke said. He advanced upon the quartet. “Is this the way a well-bred young lady of noble birth, bearing the name of Wroxby, addresses her elders? How dare you interrupt me in such an impudent manner?”
Victoria paled and shrank further against Helena for protection. “I am sorry,” she stammered. “What happened to Miss Fanshawe was an accident.”
“It was science, Uncle Vernon,” whispered Felicity in terrified tones. “We were experimenting, like the man who watched the apple fall out of the tree.”
“Yes, it was to prove gravity,” said Marcus, his lips trembling.
“Perhaps they might explain themselves,” said Helena. The duke’s face softened as the twins offered their version of events.
Rotherham sat down on the sofa and held out his arms to the twins, who dashed into his embrace. Once Felicity settled on his knee, and Marcus was ensconced as close as possible, he offered his hand to Victoria. She approached with reluctance, a defiant gleam in her eyes.
“Come, Victoria, you are a young lady now, not a brawling tomboy. I am angry because the three of you managed to embarrass my guest. We cannot quarrel all the time because that will not do. Tell me who started this obsession with Sir Isaac Newton?”
“Mr. Pincus, the schoolmaster,” Victoria announced. “He comes twice a week. He was supposed to only teach Marcus, but he said it would be a sad waste of two minds if Felicity and I did not attend his class as well.”
“He’s been teaching us about gravity,” Marcus interjected.
“Thank you, Marcus. I am not so old as to forget what was just said.”
“I’m only reminding you,” said Marcus solemnly, “in case you didn’t remember because you’re so cross about Miss Fanshawe.”
Helena nearly burst out laughing at her nephew’s logic. The duke schooled his features admirably and looked to his eldest niece for an explanation.
Victoria continued, “So we decided to conduct an experiment using three hard boiled eggs as solid matter and an egg mixture as liquid matter. You have to drop them at the same time to see which one hits the ground first.”
The duke suppressed a smile. “My goodness, Victoria, do I detect a bluestocking in the making?”
“Of course not, Uncle Vernon,” said Victoria, with the dismissive attitude of the young. “Those ladies are ugly. They only read intellectual books because they haven’t a chance of marrying anyone clever and handsome. When I marry—after I have completed my explorations of the world—he’ll be rich and handsome and clever, like you.”
“You see, Uncle Vernon,” said Marcus in a serious tone, “we had to drop the things out of the window because we couldn’t do it in the house. Mrs. Glossop would be so angry with us for making a mess. So we went up the stairs and to the window above the front door because that was the best place to do it. Felicity counted to three, and then I dropped the eggs and Victoria dropped the mixture.”
“But the experiment didn’t work because when we dropped the eggs and stuff out the window, it hit Miss Fanshawe as she came out the door. Now we’ll never know…” Felicity’s voice trailed away. She heaved a sigh and pulled at a button on her dress. “Miss Fanshawe should have put her hat on before going outside. Then it wouldn’t have fallen on her hair.”
Rotherham smiled and Helena was astounded, as always, by the transformation of his stern features, a little weathered perhaps by his forty-five years, but handsome nonetheless. Victoria squeezed onto the sofa next to her brother. The family likeness was clear in all their features. Victoria was dark-haired and dark-eyed like her uncle, and the twins had their mother’s chestnut hair and hazel eyes.
He tumbled his young relatives off the sofa and waved them towards the door. “I think, in future, the three of you should confine your scientific investigations to the stables and then Parsons can scold you. Off you go, children. I wish to speak to Miss Wainwright.”
Felicity said smugly, “Parsons only pretends to scold us but he doesn’t really mean it, even when he calls us ‘young sweeps.’”
Marcus stood his ground, his mouth almost in a pout. “Are you angry with Aunt Helena?”
Rotherham glanced down at his nephew’s mutinous expression. “Now, why should I be angry with Miss Wainwright? She did not mix up a revolting batter with which to pelt an important guest.”
Marcus reddened. “Then why do you only call her ‘Miss Wainwright’ when you’re angry? You always call her ‘Cousin Helena’ the rest of the time.”
The duke frowned. “Perhaps I am being polite by calling her by her proper name, unlike some children whom I have heard calling people by very rude names.”
Felicity and Marcus exchanged guilty glances. Victoria grabbed her siblings’ hands.
“Goodbye, Uncle Vernon. We’re sorry about Miss Fanshawe, and we’ll write her a letter of apology right this minute.”
“That’s a good—” Rotherham began, but the children rushed away before he completed the sentence. He walked over to the window and gazed out at the rolling lawns of Rotherham Park. “I am not sure, Miss Wainwright, if our arrangement is working.”
Helena did not answer. Even from behind, Rotherham cut an imposing figure. Although indifferent to matters of dress, he carried himself with an aristocratic air that came with centuries of breeding. His valet, Liversedge, guarded his master’s wardrobe jealously and made sure that whatever the duke wore was stylish. He looked at home in his country attire of well-cut tan coat, fawn buckskin breeches, and top boots. His physique made it easier for him to appear to advantage, and his broad shoulders and muscled body did not even require any padding in his coats. He was taller than average, but his height did not intimidate Helena. She easily reached his shoulders and, by meeting his gaze whenever he put on his famous glare, found that she could outstare him.
Helena sat down and picked up her mending, mentally chastising Master Marcus for managing to tear his breeches twice in one week. As her needle slipped deftly in and out of the fabric, he addressed her again.
“Did you hear me, Miss Wainwright?”
Helena continued with her darning, but she did not look up. She could feel his dark eyes boring into the back of her head. “I did hear you, Your Grace.”
“Well, do you think our arrangement is working or not?” He sounded impatient.
She laid down her mending and turned her head towards him. He flushed under her steady gaze.
“Your Grace, I came to look after my nieces and nephew at your specific request. I could have stayed in Oxford, surrounded by my friends and activities. However, I thought it best for the sake of the children to help them ease into their new life with you.”
He made an exasperated noise. “Miss Wainwright, when we discussed the matter, I was under the fond and clearly mistaken impression that you would assist with making a young lady out of Victoria and with teaching the twins their letters. Yet I find they spend most of their time outdoors, and Victoria seems more at ease on horseback than in the drawing room. The twins read well for their age, and I am impressed with Marcus’s mathematical skills, but as for Victoria telling everyone she wants to explore the world…where on earth did she get such ideas?”
“From the globe in the library and some of your books, I gather,” said Helena tartly. Usually, she could put up with his little lectures on her lack of skills raising the children, but today her patience was wearing thin. “They have bright and inquiring minds, especially Victoria. It would be a sad shame, indeed, if you found them to be slow-witted at their lessons.”
“I appreciate your concern for their education, but perhaps the time has come for a change. A necessary change.” He paced in front of the window, his hands clasped behind his back. “I grant that the children are devoted to you, and it would be a severe wrench if—when—you leave, but I think six months has been more than adequate for the children to become accustomed to life at Rotherham Park, and especially for Marcus to learn the duties associated with being my heir.”
“He is only eight,” she protested. “He is still a little boy.”
Rotherham swung around to face her. “The same age I was when my father died and I became the next Duke of Rotherham. My brother, Henry, was just a baby, not even a year old, when I assumed my father’s title.” He squared his shoulders and stared out the window again. “I had my Uncle Wroxby to guide me, and he hired tutors to educate me until I was ready for school. I will do the same for Marcus. He is a fine lad, although too pampered, and he’ll make a splendid heir.”
Helena thought of little Marcus, whose sweet and endearing nature had quite stolen her heart. The children’s lives in Oxford had been so different with her sister, Elizabeth, an adoring mother and married to Henry Wroxby. How could such a quiet, studious, and mild-mannered man be brother to someone as domineering and irascible as the current Duke of Rotherham? They were as alike as chalk and cheese. If Rotherham intended for Marcus to be his heir, his decision might not sit well with Miss Fanshawe, who would surely want children of her own.
He seemed to have trouble expressing his thoughts. He actually tugged at his neckcloth. Liversedge would have wrung his hands at the sight of his employer ruining his latest masterpiece, named in London circles as the Rotherham Fall. He cleared his throat.
“One of the reasons I have decided to make these changes is that there might be an alteration in my personal circumstances in the near future.”
She remained silent. He meant to become engaged and married to Miss Fanshawe. She felt an odd sadness, a sense of loss, although why she could not say. After all, she disliked the arrogant, insufferable man immensely. She would be glad to leave. Helena picked up her needle.
Rotherham coughed again. “Of course, I have not made a final decision.”
Helena held the needle poised and waited.
“I must give the matter more thought. One cannot rush into decisions without looking at things from every angle.”
She noticed a strange expression in his eyes, as if he wanted her to say something. Determined not to give him the satisfaction of a reaction from her, she folded her mending, placed it in her workbasket, and stood up.
“I shall look in on the children and see how far they are with their letter of apology to Miss Fanshawe.”
“There’s no hurry,” he said abruptly.
“I think the sooner Miss Fanshawe receives an apology, the better.”
“No, I meant your leaving. It’s not been decided.”
Helena raised her chin. Annoyance bubbled inside her. The conceit of the man to assume she would wait about while he made up his mind. How dare he behave as if she didn’t have her own home with friends waiting for her in Oxford?
“I am sorry to inconvenience Your Grace, but it would suit me to leave as soon as possible. I agree with you; my time here is up. The children need to learn they are Wroxbys and to embrace the responsibilities of their heritage.”
Rotherham’s mouth should have fallen open from shock except he clenched his jaw. “Do as you like,” he said in a rough tone.
“I shall do exactly that, Your Grace,” she said tartly as she walked to the door.
“By the way,” he demanded, “who suggested Charles Pincus to teach them science, of all things?”
Helena could not resist the moment. She turned in the doorway and flung him a haughty glance. “You did. After all, Mr. Pincus taught Your Grace science and mathematics, and I believe you were one of his best students.”