Tuesday, January 16, 2024

Read an #Excerpt from The Lily of Ludgate Hill by Mimi Matthews

About the Book

The Lily of Ludgate Hill
Belles of London #3
by Mimi Matthews
432 pages, Paperback
First published January 16, 2024
Fortune favors the bold—but is a confirmed spinster daring enough to loosen the reins and accept a favor from the wicked gentleman who haunts her dreams?

Lady Anne Deveril doesn’t spook easily. A woman of lofty social standing known for her glacial beauty and starchy opinions, she’s the unofficial leader of her small group of equestriennes. Since her mother’s devastating plunge into mourning six years ago, Anne voluntarily renounced any fanciful notions of love and marriage. And yet, when fate puts Anne back into the entirely too enticing path of Mr. Felix Hartford, she’s tempted to run…right into his arms.

No one understands why Lady Anne withdrew into the shadows of society, Hart least of all. The youthful torch he once held for her has long since cooled. Or so he keeps telling himself. But now Anne needs a favor to help a friend. Hart will play along with her little ruse—on the condition that Anne attend a holiday house party at his grandfather’s country estate. No more mourning clothes. No more barriers. Only the two of them, unrequited feelings at last laid bare.

Finally free to gallop out on her own, Anne makes the tantalizing discovery that beneath the roguish exterior of her not-so-white knight is a man with hidden depths, scorching passions—and a tender heart.


The twin fragrances of pipe smoke and parchment met her nose. Lemon polish, too, though there was no sign that the maids had done any recent tidying up. The library was a place of spectacular clutter.
Bookcases lined three of the walls; leather-bound volumes on botany, agriculture, and natural history were pulled out at all angles as if an absent-minded researcher had wandered from shelf to shelf withdrawing tomes at random only to change his mind midway through extracting them.
The fourth wall was entirely covered in framed sketches of flowers and greenery. Some images were produced in pencil and others in delicately rendered watercolor. They were-along with the teetering stacks of botanical journals and drooping maps that spilled over the sides of the earl's carved mahogany desk-evidence of his prevailing passion.
Lord March's love of exotic plants was legendary. He'd spent much of his life traveling the globe, from the wilds of America to the highest peaks of the Himalayas, bringing back rare seeds to nurture into bloom.
A distracted fellow at the best of times, but a kind one, too, as far as Anne recalled. It had been a long time since she'd darkened his doorstep. A lifetime, it felt like.
She tugged restlessly at her black kid-leather gloves as she paced the worn carpet in front of the library's cavernous marble fireplace. She'd never excelled at waiting for unpleasantness to arrive.
Fortunately, she didn't have to wait long.
"Hello, old thing." A familiar deep voice sounded from the library door.
Anne spun around, her traitorous heart giving an involuntary leap in her breast.
Mr. Felix Hartford stood in the entryway, one shoulder propped against the doorframe. Lord only knew how long he'd been observing her.
She stiffened. After all these years, he still had the power to discompose her. Drat him. But she wouldn't permit her emotions to be thrown into chaos by his attractive face and figure. What cared she for his commanding height? His square-chiseled jaw? For the devilish glint in his sky-blue eyes?
And devil he was. The very one she'd come here to see.
"Hartford," she said. Her chin ticked up a notch in challenge. It was a reflex. There was no occasion on which they'd met during the course of the past several years that they hadn't engaged in verbal battle.
This time, however, he made no attempt to engage her.
He was dressed in plaid trousers and a loose-fitting black sack coat worn open to reveal the dark waistcoat beneath. A casual ensemble, made more so by the state of him. His clothes were vaguely rumpled, and so was his seal-brown hair. It fell over his brow, desperately in need of an application of pomade.
There was an air of arrested preoccupation about him, as if he'd just returned from somewhere or was on his way to somewhere. As if he hadn't realized she was in the library and had come upon her quite by chance.
An unnatural silence stretched between them, void of their typical barb-filled banter.
Greetings dispensed with, Anne found herself at an unaccountable loss. More surprising still, so did Hartford.
He remained frozen on the threshold, his usually humorous expression turned to stone on his handsome face.
At length, he managed a smile. "I knew one day you'd walk through my door again. It only took you"-withdrawing his pocket watch from his waistcoat, he cast it a brief glance, brows lifting as if in astonishment at the time-"seven years to do it."
She huffed. "It hasn't been seven years."
"Six and half, then."
Six years and five months, more like.
It had been early December of 1855, during the Earl of March's holiday party. She'd been just shy of seventeen; young and naive and not formally out yet. Hartford had kissed her under a sprig of mistletoe in the gaslit servants' hallway outside the kitchens.
And he'd proposed to her.
But Anne refused to think of the past. Never mind that, living in London, reminders of it were daily shoved under her nose. "You're not going to be difficult, are you?" she asked.
"That depends." He strolled into the room. "To what do I owe your visit?"
"Presumptuous, as always," she said. "For all you know, I'm here to see your grandfather."
Hartford was the only child of the Earl of March's second son-the late (and much lamented) moralist Everett Hartford. Anne well remembered the man. He'd been as straitlaced and starchy as a vicar. Rather ironic, really, given his son's reputation for recklessness and irreverence.
"My grandfather is in his greenhouse," Hartford said, "elbow deep in chicken manure. If it's him you've come to speak with, you're in for a long wait."
She suppressed a grimace. There was no need for him to be crass. "Really, Hartford."
"Really, my lady." He advanced into the room slowly, his genial expression doing little to mask the fact that he was a great towering male bearing down on her. "Why have you come?"
Anne held her ground. She wasn't afraid of him. "I've come to ask a favor of you."
His mouth curled up at one corner. "Better and better." He gestured to a stuffed settee upholstered in Gobelins tapestry. "Pray sit down."

Excerpted from The Lily of Ludgate Hill by Mimi Matthews Copyright © 2024 by Mimi Matthews. Excerpted by permission of Berkley. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

About the Author

USA Today bestselling author Mimi Matthews writes both historical nonfiction and award-winning Victorian romances. Her novels have received starred reviews in Publishers Weekly, Library Journal, Booklist, Kirkus, and Shelf Awareness, and her articles have been featured on the Victorian Web, the Journal of Victorian Culture, and in syndication at BUST Magazine. In her other life, Mimi is an attorney. She resides in California with her family, which includes a retired Andalusian dressage horse, a Sheltie, and two Siamese cats. Learn more online at www.mimimatthews.com.

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