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Hélène de Bonnefoi’s spirit has been squashed by the ever-critical aunt and uncle who raised her. Serving as nanny and stand-in mother to her cousin’s child has saved her from the convent, especially after her cousin’s death. When suspicious accidents threaten the toddler, Hélène overcomes her near-blindness to seek the help of the child’s father, a colonel in Louis XIV’s army.
Jean-Louis, Colonel de Cantière, has spent his life proving his worth, integrity, and honor, first to his family and now in the army. When his daughter’s caretaker appears in his camp during a siege, claiming someone is trying to kill the girl, his loyalties are sorely tested.
Hélène must convince Jean-Louis the threat is real. But the true danger is to the heart of a shy young woman who has always loved her cousin’s husband from afar and to the colonel’s desire to resist complicated emotions.
Enjoy an excerpt:
His first view of Mademoiselle Hélène took his breath away. She was sitting in a beam of light, smiling, her hair glinting gold in the sunlight and her pink lips parting as she laughed.
“Mademoiselle Hélène, the Colonel de Cantière is here to see you,” said the woman.
Jean-Louis bowed deeply, then found his little girl staring at him, wide-eyed. Mademoiselle Hélène’s features blanked, erasing the sunshine he had just witnessed.
“Ondine, chérie,” she said to the girl who peered around her, “it is your papa, come to see us. Get up and curtsey, ma petite.”
The girl stood up on the bench and bobbed clumsily, clutching at Mlle Hélène for support.
Jean-Louis hadn’t seen his daughter since his wife’s funeral over a year before. He drank in the little round cheeks, the tangle of short curls—shouldn’t her hair have grown more?— her delicate skin, and the huge blue eyes wide in fear. Ondine likely had no memory of him, yet her mistrust cut him to the heart.
“Please, Monsieur, join us for breakfast,” said Mlle Hélène in that soft, shy voice that made him want to protect her.
He gritted his teeth. He was being ridiculous. There was no threat here. Leftover nerves from the battle. Lack of sleep. The argument with the Prince de Condé to get two days to solve the problem. The journey to the inn had sapped what was left of his strength.
He sat across the table from the lady and his daughter and waved Fourbier to a chair. The innkeeper’s wife bringing bread, jam, and sausage.
They ate in strained silence. It had been weeks since he had eaten properly, even though he ate better than his soldiers. “Well, Mademoiselle, I would like the rest of the story of how you came to bring my daughter to a war.”
About the Author: Philippa Lodge is author of the Châteaux and Shadows series of historical romance set in Seventeenth Century France.
Philippa Lodge has been an avid reader since she asked her mother to point out where it said “Ma” in Little House in the Big Woods. She read everything she could get her hands on until grad school in French Studies, at which time she lost her reading mojo.
Only through the twin discoveries of Harry Potter and romance has she gotten her groove back and gone back to the stuff she loved about seventeenth century France: kings, swords, opulence, and love.
She lives in the suburbs of Sacramento, CA with her husband, three children, two cats, and a head full of courtesans (Oo la la!). She edits the newsletter for her local chapter of the Romance Writers of America.