Love Price

Love's Price

The #1 Amazon Romance Bestseller!

Amazon

Booksellers Best Award Finalist
Best Historical Romance of 2013!

NRCA

CHERYL HOLT dazzles readers once again with another tale of soaring romance and breathtaking drama as she delivers the second novel in her critically-acclaimed ‘Lord Trent’ trilogy.

Helen Stewart never understood why—as a tiny girl—she and her twin sister Harriet were sent away to boarding school and never allowed home for holidays. At age sixteen, they were shocked to discover that they are the illegitimate daughters of the notorious rogue, Charles Sinclair. Cast out by their relatives, they moved to London, and Helen has made a life for herself as a lady’s companion. In her line of employment, she must maintain a stellar reputation, but she’s exhausted by the fussy whims of the debutantes she’s forced to chaperone. She’d give anything to change her fate.

James Harcourt, Earl of Westwood, is in a bind. After his father died, he learned that his estates were bankrupt. He gambles to replenish his coffers so he’s living a dissolute bachelor’s life. When his female ward arrives unexpectedly for an extended visit, he must protect her from scandal by hiring a lady’s companion. When pretty, alluring Helen interviews for the position, he’s instantly smitten. She possesses the qualifications to fill a much more intimate role.

He shocks her by suggesting she become his mistress, and when his offer is rebuffed, he begins a cunning seduction, aimed at wearing her down. Helen can’t resist the temptation he offers, but she doesn’t have the sophistication to survive in his world. And as James immerses them in a dangerous spiral of pleasure and excitement, he proves that he is determined to have her at any cost…

“Cheryl Holt is pure perfection…”
Romantic Crush Junkies

“…a master of the genre…”
Romantic Times Magazine

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“Vengeful lies, greedy cousins, spitefully conniving wards, intriguing pirates, and high sea adventures combine to make LOVE’S PRICE an exciting and adventurous read. Thrills, levity, nasty villains, poetic justice, and vibrant occasionally over the top characters, hallmarks of Ms. Holt, are magically infused in LOVE’S PRICE creating an amazingly fun escapist read. It’s always wondrous when a book manages to sweep me away to another time and place, allowing me to vicariously become someone else and experience adventures impossible in my everyday world. LOVE’S PRICE accomplishes that handily. Ms. Holt has penned a delightfully diverting escape from reality with LOVE’S PRICE.” — Manic Readers.com

“I read LOVE’S PROMISE on Saturday & LOVE’S PRICE yesterday on my Kindle. I can hardly wait for July for LOVE’S PERIL. Cheryl, please keep the books coming.” — Madge

“I read somewhere that Harriet Stewart is your all-time favorite character of all the ones you created. I couldn’t agree more. Hilarious! LOVED HER!” — Mary

“Fantastic! Can you extend the series?” — Nina

“I LOVE these characters! PLEASE tell me you are considering making it more than just a trilogy!” — Felicia

“Write more in this series please!” >— Mendi

PROLOGUE

Farnborough, England, 1810…

“What are you saying, exactly?”

On hearing the question, Miss Peabody stared across her desk at twin students, Helen and Harriet Stewart.  The two sisters had attended her school since they were small girls, so she supposed she ought to have felt some sympathy over what she was about to do, but she had a profitable business to run.

The facility wasn’t an aid society for paupers.

She was a tad anxious about the information she had to impart, but she kept her expression carefully blank.  It was the aspect of her position that she most loathed, dealing with the family dramas that clouded the lives of her pupils.

As headmistress, she had a duty to break bad news from home, and there was no easy way to convey catastrophe.  A clean, brisk airing of the facts was always best.

“I’m saying,” Miss Peabody replied, “that you won’t be able to continue your education here.”

Helen frowned, gaping at Miss Peabody as if she’d spoken in a foreign language.

“Why?”

“Because neither your tuition nor your room and board has been paid in over a year.  As I’ve often explained, we don’t accept charity cases.  You’re aware of the rules.”

“Grandfather would have paid,” Helen loyally declared, “if he hadn’t been so sick all those months before he passed away.  He probably didn’t realize the money was owed.”

“Perhaps,” Miss Peabody allowed, “but he didn’t pay, so the issue is moot.”

“You know that we’re waiting for Grandfather’s will to be read and probated.  The bank draft should arrive any day.”

“The will has been read,” Miss Peabody tersely announced.

“And…?”

“You have no inheritance.”

Harriet gasped.  “Grandfather didn’t provide for us?”

“No.”

“He swore he would.  Last time I talked to him, he swore it to me.”

“Apparently”—Miss Peabody shrugged—“he forgot to make the necessary changes to the document.”

“But our Uncle Richard will be happy to—“

“I have corresponded with your uncle.  He declines to cover the fees for the coming term, much less the arrears.”

“Why would he do that to us?”

“I’m not a clairvoyant, Miss Stewart.  I couldn’t begin to guess.”

While she pretended lack of knowledge, Miss Peabody knew the reason.  She wasn’t surprised by Richard Stewart’s decision, but it irked that she had to be dragged to the precipice of a conversation she was determined not to have.

For pity’s sake, Helen and Harriet were sixteen years old.  Their mother had died when they were babies, and at the earliest opportunity, they’d been shipped off to Miss Peabody’s school.  They’d never been invited home for Christmas or summer holidays, had never received familial visitors but for the annual trek made by their grandfather.

Surely, they understood why their relatives had always ignored them.  Why their kin had forsaken them.  Why should it be Miss Peabody’s job to shatter their illusions?

“Are we to go to Brookhaven then?” Helen asked.  Brookhaven was the Stewart estate.

“I don’t believe so.”

“What are we to do?”  Harriet queried.  “What has our uncle instructed?”

“He has written you a letter.”

Miss Peabody had peeked at it, and she’d been disturbed by its cold tone.  Though she could be ruthless herself when the situation called for it, the content was unduly harsh.

She retrieved the letter and handed it to Helen, watching silently as Helen perused it.  Soon, Helen scowled, evidence that she hadn’t had a clue as to the truth.

“What does he say?”  Harriet leaned toward her sister, trying to read over Helen’s shoulder.

“He says we’re not welcome at Brookhaven.”

“Not welcome?”  Harriet was aghast.  “But why?”

“He suggests that we travel to London and throw ourselves on the mercy of the…the…Earl of Trent?”

“Why would we do that?”

“He claims Lord Trent is our father.”

“That’s preposterous,” Harriet protested.  “Our father was a gentleman farmer.”

“Uncle Richard insists not, and he maintains that it’s time for Lord Trent to support us—rather than the Stewarts.”

So, Miss Peabody mused, they didn’t know.  No one had ever told them.

Both girls turned to Miss Peabody, their identical gazes dismayed and perplexed.  With their striking emerald eyes, and their golden blond hair—hair that was the color of ripened wheat—they were very beautiful, and purportedly, the spitting image of their aristocratic sire.

And, of course, they possessed the birthmark, just above their left wrists, that was in the shape of a figure eight.  It was referred to as the Mark of Trent and cited as proof of paternity by his cast-off children.

Lord Trent was England’s most notorious roué, and it was impossible to count how many women he had seduced.

As a young debutante, the twins’ long-deceased mother had succumbed to his charms, and now—all these years later—her sins were coming home to roost.  Helen and Harriet would bear the brunt of her folly.

“Since we can’t go to Brookhaven,” Helen said, “may we stay here?”

“No.”

“Where are we to go?”

“You should follow your uncle’s advice,” Miss Peabody responded, “and contact Lord Trent.  What other option do you have?”

“Are you mad?” Harriet rudely snapped.  “Can you actually expect us to tot off to London and knock on the door of a strange nobleman we’ve never met?”

“Don’t take that attitude with me, Harriet.”

“You never liked us,” Harriet charged, leaping to her feet and pointing an accusing finger.  “You’re being deliberately cruel.”

“Sit down.  We will discuss this calmly, or we won’t discuss it, at all.”

Harriet appeared eager to quarrel, but Helen grabbed her arm and tugged her to her seat.  Harriet was hot-headed, volatile and prone to trouble.  Helen was the peacemaker of the two, the pragmatic sister, the sensible sister.

“Is my uncle’s revelation true?” Helen asked.  “Is Lord Trent our father?”

“It has been the rumor,” Miss Peabody said.

“Why didn’t you tell us?”

“It was hardly up to me to inform you.”

“No, I suppose not.”

Helen peered at her lap, thinking and pondering, while Harriet fidgeted.

“What would you recommend?” Helen ultimately inquired.  “If you were in our shoes, what would you do?”

“I’d probably go to Lord Trent.”

“And if we don’t wish to?  What then?”

“You might stop at the rectory and talk to the vicar.  He might help you to locate a position.”

“A…a…position!” Harriet sputtered.  “Doing what?”

Helen shushed her and pressed, “If we don’t want to do that either?”

“Then…I haven’t the foggiest idea what will become of you.”

“May we remain here briefly—to plan and regroup?”

“I’m afraid not.  While we were chatting, your bags were packed.  They’re in the front foyer.  I’d appreciate it if you’d leave before the other students return from their walk.  I won’t have a big fuss made over your departure.”

The callous comment set a spark to Harriet’s temper.  She jumped up again.  “You old witch!  You’ve never—“

“That’s enough!” Miss Peabody seethed.  “I’ve been more than patient, but your tenure at my school is ended.  I bid you good day.”

For a moment, Helen stared and fumed, then she stood and took her sister’s hand.

“Come, Harriet, let’s go.”

“Helen, don’t let her get away with this.  There must be something we can do.”

Helen glanced over, searching Miss Peabody’s gaze, finding naught but firm resolve.

“No,” Helen said, “there’s nothing we can do.  Let’s go!”

Without another word, and no murmur of farewell, Helen spun and led her furious sister from the room.

 

+ Reviews

“Vengeful lies, greedy cousins, spitefully conniving wards, intriguing pirates, and high sea adventures combine to make LOVE’S PRICE an exciting and adventurous read. Thrills, levity, nasty villains, poetic justice, and vibrant occasionally over the top characters, hallmarks of Ms. Holt, are magically infused in LOVE’S PRICE creating an amazingly fun escapist read. It’s always wondrous when a book manages to sweep me away to another time and place, allowing me to vicariously become someone else and experience adventures impossible in my everyday world. LOVE’S PRICE accomplishes that handily. Ms. Holt has penned a delightfully diverting escape from reality with LOVE’S PRICE.” — Manic Readers.com

+ Fan Reviews

“I read LOVE’S PROMISE on Saturday & LOVE’S PRICE yesterday on my Kindle. I can hardly wait for July for LOVE’S PERIL. Cheryl, please keep the books coming.” — Madge

“I read somewhere that Harriet Stewart is your all-time favorite character of all the ones you created. I couldn’t agree more. Hilarious! LOVED HER!” — Mary

“Fantastic! Can you extend the series?” — Nina

“I LOVE these characters! PLEASE tell me you are considering making it more than just a trilogy!” — Felicia

“Write more in this series please!” >— Mendi

+ Chapter Sample

PROLOGUE

Farnborough, England, 1810…

“What are you saying, exactly?”

On hearing the question, Miss Peabody stared across her desk at twin students, Helen and Harriet Stewart.  The two sisters had attended her school since they were small girls, so she supposed she ought to have felt some sympathy over what she was about to do, but she had a profitable business to run.

The facility wasn’t an aid society for paupers.

She was a tad anxious about the information she had to impart, but she kept her expression carefully blank.  It was the aspect of her position that she most loathed, dealing with the family dramas that clouded the lives of her pupils.

As headmistress, she had a duty to break bad news from home, and there was no easy way to convey catastrophe.  A clean, brisk airing of the facts was always best.

“I’m saying,” Miss Peabody replied, “that you won’t be able to continue your education here.”

Helen frowned, gaping at Miss Peabody as if she’d spoken in a foreign language.

“Why?”

“Because neither your tuition nor your room and board has been paid in over a year.  As I’ve often explained, we don’t accept charity cases.  You’re aware of the rules.”

“Grandfather would have paid,” Helen loyally declared, “if he hadn’t been so sick all those months before he passed away.  He probably didn’t realize the money was owed.”

“Perhaps,” Miss Peabody allowed, “but he didn’t pay, so the issue is moot.”

“You know that we’re waiting for Grandfather’s will to be read and probated.  The bank draft should arrive any day.”

“The will has been read,” Miss Peabody tersely announced.

“And…?”

“You have no inheritance.”

Harriet gasped.  “Grandfather didn’t provide for us?”

“No.”

“He swore he would.  Last time I talked to him, he swore it to me.”

“Apparently”—Miss Peabody shrugged—“he forgot to make the necessary changes to the document.”

“But our Uncle Richard will be happy to—“

“I have corresponded with your uncle.  He declines to cover the fees for the coming term, much less the arrears.”

“Why would he do that to us?”

“I’m not a clairvoyant, Miss Stewart.  I couldn’t begin to guess.”

While she pretended lack of knowledge, Miss Peabody knew the reason.  She wasn’t surprised by Richard Stewart’s decision, but it irked that she had to be dragged to the precipice of a conversation she was determined not to have.

For pity’s sake, Helen and Harriet were sixteen years old.  Their mother had died when they were babies, and at the earliest opportunity, they’d been shipped off to Miss Peabody’s school.  They’d never been invited home for Christmas or summer holidays, had never received familial visitors but for the annual trek made by their grandfather.

Surely, they understood why their relatives had always ignored them.  Why their kin had forsaken them.  Why should it be Miss Peabody’s job to shatter their illusions?

“Are we to go to Brookhaven then?” Helen asked.  Brookhaven was the Stewart estate.

“I don’t believe so.”

“What are we to do?”  Harriet queried.  “What has our uncle instructed?”

“He has written you a letter.”

Miss Peabody had peeked at it, and she’d been disturbed by its cold tone.  Though she could be ruthless herself when the situation called for it, the content was unduly harsh.

She retrieved the letter and handed it to Helen, watching silently as Helen perused it.  Soon, Helen scowled, evidence that she hadn’t had a clue as to the truth.

“What does he say?”  Harriet leaned toward her sister, trying to read over Helen’s shoulder.

“He says we’re not welcome at Brookhaven.”

“Not welcome?”  Harriet was aghast.  “But why?”

“He suggests that we travel to London and throw ourselves on the mercy of the…the…Earl of Trent?”

“Why would we do that?”

“He claims Lord Trent is our father.”

“That’s preposterous,” Harriet protested.  “Our father was a gentleman farmer.”

“Uncle Richard insists not, and he maintains that it’s time for Lord Trent to support us—rather than the Stewarts.”

So, Miss Peabody mused, they didn’t know.  No one had ever told them.

Both girls turned to Miss Peabody, their identical gazes dismayed and perplexed.  With their striking emerald eyes, and their golden blond hair—hair that was the color of ripened wheat—they were very beautiful, and purportedly, the spitting image of their aristocratic sire.

And, of course, they possessed the birthmark, just above their left wrists, that was in the shape of a figure eight.  It was referred to as the Mark of Trent and cited as proof of paternity by his cast-off children.

Lord Trent was England’s most notorious roué, and it was impossible to count how many women he had seduced.

As a young debutante, the twins’ long-deceased mother had succumbed to his charms, and now—all these years later—her sins were coming home to roost.  Helen and Harriet would bear the brunt of her folly.

“Since we can’t go to Brookhaven,” Helen said, “may we stay here?”

“No.”

“Where are we to go?”

“You should follow your uncle’s advice,” Miss Peabody responded, “and contact Lord Trent.  What other option do you have?”

“Are you mad?” Harriet rudely snapped.  “Can you actually expect us to tot off to London and knock on the door of a strange nobleman we’ve never met?”

“Don’t take that attitude with me, Harriet.”

“You never liked us,” Harriet charged, leaping to her feet and pointing an accusing finger.  “You’re being deliberately cruel.”

“Sit down.  We will discuss this calmly, or we won’t discuss it, at all.”

Harriet appeared eager to quarrel, but Helen grabbed her arm and tugged her to her seat.  Harriet was hot-headed, volatile and prone to trouble.  Helen was the peacemaker of the two, the pragmatic sister, the sensible sister.

“Is my uncle’s revelation true?” Helen asked.  “Is Lord Trent our father?”

“It has been the rumor,” Miss Peabody said.

“Why didn’t you tell us?”

“It was hardly up to me to inform you.”

“No, I suppose not.”

Helen peered at her lap, thinking and pondering, while Harriet fidgeted.

“What would you recommend?” Helen ultimately inquired.  “If you were in our shoes, what would you do?”

“I’d probably go to Lord Trent.”

“And if we don’t wish to?  What then?”

“You might stop at the rectory and talk to the vicar.  He might help you to locate a position.”

“A…a…position!” Harriet sputtered.  “Doing what?”

Helen shushed her and pressed, “If we don’t want to do that either?”

“Then…I haven’t the foggiest idea what will become of you.”

“May we remain here briefly—to plan and regroup?”

“I’m afraid not.  While we were chatting, your bags were packed.  They’re in the front foyer.  I’d appreciate it if you’d leave before the other students return from their walk.  I won’t have a big fuss made over your departure.”

The callous comment set a spark to Harriet’s temper.  She jumped up again.  “You old witch!  You’ve never—“

“That’s enough!” Miss Peabody seethed.  “I’ve been more than patient, but your tenure at my school is ended.  I bid you good day.”

For a moment, Helen stared and fumed, then she stood and took her sister’s hand.

“Come, Harriet, let’s go.”

“Helen, don’t let her get away with this.  There must be something we can do.”

Helen glanced over, searching Miss Peabody’s gaze, finding naught but firm resolve.

“No,” Helen said, “there’s nothing we can do.  Let’s go!”

Without another word, and no murmur of farewell, Helen spun and led her furious sister from the room.