Will Radcliffe is the perfect English lord. He's handsome and honourable, but a stickler for convention. And he's just inherited Elmhurst Hall...
Josie has never followed the rules. Rebelling against her stuffy, controlled upbringing, she's like a breath of fresh air through the corridors of the grand stately home... But her new boss, Will, thinks she's trouble!
Then one moonlit night Will and Josie share a kiss which, for a moment, makes them feel not so very different after all...
Shortlisted for the RNA's Romance Prize
"Warm, witty and feel-good, contemporary romance does not get any better than this!"
"I took one look and thought, "Count me in." Happily, the book was every bit as good as the title suggested…it's cute as can be. English Lord, Ordinary Lady is a nearly ideal book to read on a dreary winter evening."
All About Romance
"Fiona Harper's English Lord, Ordinary Lady has a credible plot and conflict, as well as great characters. More than that, it's warm and funny."
Romantic Times (4 stars)
I'm really excited to have a book released in 2008, because it's a special year for Mills & Boon. This year the company celebrates its centenary - 100 years of producing great books that are loved around the world.
Of course, things have changed a lot in the last hundred years, especially for women. And the heroines in Mills & Boon romances reflect the times we live in now - strong, feisty women who know how to bring their alpha heroes to their knees.
Josie in 'English Lord, Ordinary Lady' is definitely one of these modern heroines. She lives life to the full, from the roots of her bright pink hair to the tips of her bejewelled toes, and plays by her own rules. That is, until stuffy, conventional Will arrives on the scene. Suddenly, not only is the future of her home and her job in jeopardy, but the freedom she's fought so hard to maintain.
Writing Will and Josie's story was an absolute blast! Josie was so naughty sometimes that I found myself giggling as I typed. And then there was Will. Good, solid, dependable Will. He didn't stand a chance! I loved watching him lose his starchiness as Josie got under his skin.
English Lord, Ordinary Lady is all about learning to embrace history at the same time as planning for a bright, fresh and exciting future. Quite fitting for Mills & Boon's centenary! I'm really proud to be following in the footsteps of so many well loved and respected authors but, at the same time, being able to write stories with my own fresh take on boy meets girl. Let's face it, a good romance is never going to go out of fashion!
The tearoom had been open for almost a whole day now. Will had valiantly resisted the urge to hover. Up until now, that was.
He glanced through the glass-panelled door. It was three o'clock and there were more customers than the usual stragglers found here about this time. Half the tables were full with people consuming cream teas as if they were going out of fashion.
If the new surroundings made this much difference, think how much better they'd do when Josie had the new menu up and running. His thoughts drifted to the stack of files sitting on the desk back in Harry's old study.
The tearoom could double its productivity and it still wouldn't make much difference to the debts. If the hall were on an even keel already, it would certainly help, but with money disappearing as though there was a leak in the estate finances, it was time to take more drastic measures.
He picked his mobile out of his pocket and phoned his estate agent. He knew one sure-fire way to raise some cash. His London flat would sell quickly and he should make a decent profit.
When the call was finished, he peered through the glass door again. The only way to get an accurate prediction on how the tearoom had done today was to talk to Josie, but he didn't want to interrupt her if it was still busy.
The door opened and he stood aside to let a large party through the doors. Once they were gone, it was easier to see that things had quietened down and that Josie might have a minute to spare.
He stepped inside and squinted, trying to catch a glimpse of her in the low light. She had definitely been right about those curtains.
Over in the far corner a flash of light caught his eye, something sparkly. And when his brain had registered what he was seeing, his mouth did the only sensible thing it could and dropped open.
What should have been a demure grey dress was…was…
No, it was no good. He couldn't produce any words to describe it. His best shot would be that if someone stuck a punk and a waitress form a 1950s diner in a blender together, this would be the result.
Sequins across her shoulders spelled out the words Pink Lady. And where on earth had the skirt gone? There were fishnets. There were legs—really great legs, actually. He tipped his head on one side and took a better look.
Then he mentally slapped himself on the wrist. This was no time to get distracted. And certainly not by this pink-haired pixie—his employee and the complete polar opposite of the kind of woman he needed by his side to make Elmhurst Hall a success.
She finished pouring a refill of coffee for one of the remaining customers and turned to walk back towards the kitchen. The front of the outfit was just as bad. OK, there was an apron—pink, of course. The silly frilly kind that was more for decoration than coverage, but there was also….uh-oh…cleavage.
His pulse broke into a trot. He did, however, make a valiant effort to keep his gaze north of her jaw from that point on.
Just as she was about to round the counter she spotted him. She didn't even have the decency to look embarrassed. In fact, she raised an eyebrow and smirked. Actually smirked!
Now his pulse was pounding for an entirely different reason. He hadn't lost his temper with an employee—ever—but he was coming perilously close. Long steps brought him close to her in a matter of seconds. 'What the hell do you think you're playing at?'
An elderly couple eating a cream tea froze, scones raised halfway to their mouths. Josie glanced nervously at them. He knew he should lower his voice, but he seemed to have lost the volume control. There was something about this woman that made him do crazy things.
She looked back at him and that chin—he'd known from the day he'd first met her that chin spelled trouble—raised an inch.
'I'm wearing my uniform. As instructed.'
'That is not the uniform I gave you!'
'Technically, it is. I just made a few improvements.'
A loud snort came out of his mouth and took him completely by surprise.
'The customers like it. It's been a talking point all day.'
He was sure it had been. But not for the right reasons. If they didn't watch out, Elmhurst was going to get a very different reputation from the one he'd envisioned for it.
The elderly couple had managed to take a nibble out of their scones, but were looking clearly uncomfortable. Will grabbed Josie by the elbow and propelled her into the kitchen.
She yanked her arm out of his grip and rubbed it. The fire boiling in his head must have been showing all over his face, because when she looked back at him she shut her mouth and swallowed.
His voice was low and quiet when it came out. 'I'm going to say something, and I'm only going to say this once, so listen up.'
Josie's eyes widened a fraction of an inch.
'I never want to see you wearing this…this…' Even now he couldn't find a definition. '…again. There are spare uniforms in the locker over there, aren't there?'
'I want you to take that off and put a proper one on right now!'
The body language she'd been displaying had, up until that moment, indicated she was crystal-clear about what he was expecting of her, but suddenly there was a spark of fire in her eyes.
'This very second?'
Was he not talking English? 'Yes, this very second.'
She kept her eyes locked on his and her fingers wandered to her top button. He was determined not to look down and, for that very reason, it wasn't until she'd started on the third button that he worked out where this was going.
'Not…right now!' he said, grabbing the front of her dress and holding the two pieces together.
'Only following orders,' she replied sweetly.
It was at that point that Alice, the part-time waitress, burst through the swing door that led in from the tearoom. She took one look at Will and Josie and backed out again.
Somehow, he became transfixed by the motion of the door as its arc of movement got ever smaller and it came to a rest.
Slowly, he became aware of soft warmth under his fingers, the feel of lace. He dropped her dress as if it had stung him and took two very large steps backwards.
'Thank you, Lord Radcliffe.' There was a hard, sarcastic tone in her voice.
'I don't know what kind of game you are playing, but it has got to stop.'
She fumbled with the buttons and did her dress up again. Then her hands went to her hips. 'You waltz in here acting all high and mighty, telling people what to do. It's not on!'
He blew out a breath. 'It's not personal, Josie; you can dress however you like in your own time. I'm thinking of the hall, its reputation.'
'And you think having me around could damage that, do you?'
In a word, yes.
'It could, if you don't learn to be a team player.'
She ran her fingers through her fringe. 'We were doing just fine until you showed up. Elmhurst's reputation is just fine.'
'The place was falling down around your ears and you know it!'
'Harry's dead, Josie.' Hard words. He hadn't meant to be as blunt as that, but something about this woman just pressed all his buttons at once.
The brown eyes shimmered. A second later a grey trail ran down her face. Her voice was horribly quiet when she answered him. 'I know that.'
'I haven't got a money orchard stashed away somewhere, you know. And all the repairs and renovations don't come cheap. If we don't turn this place around within the next twelve months we might all be homeless.'
'I knew it was bad,' she said in a low voice. 'I didn't know it was as bad as all that.'
He stuffed his hands in the pockets of his new corduroy trousers. Country wear, just as she'd suggested. Now, why couldn't the process flow in both directions?
'We haven't got time to fight about all this.' He nodded towards the apron. And the cleavage, heaven help him. 'If Elmhurst Hall is going to have a future, we are going to have to work together. All of us.'
She nodded. 'I'll get changed right away.'
He leant back against the stainless-steel counter and felt another long breath leave his body. 'Thank you.'
Josie disappeared into the Ladies' with a plastic-wrapped package.
Despite her odd appearance and spitfire tendencies, he liked her. She grabbed life with both hands and lived it. But if she pulled another stunt like this, she would have to go.
A few minutes later, she returned in one of the un-messed-around-with uniforms. It looked hideous. In it, Josie looked grey and flat.
'If you really don't like that uniform, we'll find something else.' Her eyes brightened and she opened her mouth to speak. 'Something suitable,' he quickly added. 'But something we both can live with.'
Compromise. That was what was needed. He was asking it of her and good leaders practised what they preached. He ran his business on those principles and he shouldn't treat this project any differently.
She held out a hand. 'Deal.'
He took it. Her fingers seemed tiny against his as they shook on it. How could something as small and delicate-looking as Josie Harrington-Jones cause so much chaos?
He let his hand slide from hers slowly.
'So,' he said, gesturing at his check shirt and trousers with both hands. 'What do you think of my wardrobe additions?'
She cocked her head slightly and looked him up and down.
'Will, you look like the country-clothing catalogue threw up on you.'
From "ENGLISH LORD, ORDINARY LADY" by Fiona HarperFor more romance information surf to: http://www.eharlequin.com/
Mills & Boon Romance December 2007
ISBN: 978-0-263-19743-3 Copyright: © 2007 by Harlequin Books S.A.
This excerpt is posted by arrangement with Harlequin Books S.A.