This week I extend a warm welcome to romance author Margaret Locke, who’s celebrating the release of The Demon Duke. This is the first in her new series – a series with the best title ever – Put Up Your Dukes. Read on to find out more, and for a chance to win an autographed copy of her new book!
A man tormented by a painful secret meets the bookish miss who just might save him from himself…
Behind every good man is a great secret.
Banished to Yorkshire as a boy for faults his father failed to beat out of him, Damon Blackbourne has no use for English society and had vowed never to return to his family’s estate at Thorne Hill, much less London. However, when his father and brother die in a freak carriage accident, it falls on Damon to take up the mantle of the Malford dukedom, and to introduce his sisters to London Society-his worst nightmare come to life.
He never planned on Lady Grace Mattersley. The beautiful debutante stirs him body and soul with her deep chocolate eyes and hesitant smiles. Until she stumbles across his dark secret.
Bookish Grace much prefers solitude and reading to social just-about-anything. Her family may be pressuring her to take on the London Season to find herself a husband, but she has other ideas. Such as writing a novel of her own. But she has no idea how to deal with the Duke of Malford.
Will she betray him to the world? Or will she be his saving Grace?
Blackwood Abbey, Yorkshire, England
Late October, 1813
Please come home. Your father and brother are dead. Carriage accident. You are Duke now. We need you. Come quickly, Damon.
Damon Blackbourne, youngest son of Silas Blackbourne, Duke of Malford, stared at the note without seeing it. He didn’t need to; he’d read it a hundred times already. He balled up the paper and threw it to the floor.
“Home?” he snarled out loud, although the room, as usual, was empty. “Home, Mama?”
He had no home. None other than Blackwood Abbey, at least—the cavernous abode to which he’d been banished seventeen years ago. Seventeen years. More than half of his lifetime—nearly two-thirds, seeing as he was now twenty-seven.
He paced the room, a library brimming with books, a place he’d long claimed as his own. Not that he’d had competition, given his only company was a few servants.
And Hobbes. Thank God for Hobbes.
A fire crackled merrily in the fireplace, its warmth soothing him. It had turned unseasonably cold for October, a cold that now seeped into his bones, freezing his soul from the inside out.
He stopped in front of the flames, their flickering captivating him. What should he do? He hadn’t been to Thorne Hill, hadn’t seen his family since that awful day; the day he’d turned ten and his father turned him out.
“No son of mine shall exhibit such evil behaviors,” Silas had roared. “You are possessed by the devil. I cast you out. Do not show your face to me again. You are not my son.”
Not even the sound of his mother’s weeping had turned Damon around as he’d climbed alone into the carriage, numbness enveloping him. It was a welcomed state, the lack of feeling. It had dulled the pain of his back, which bore witness to the intense lashings his father had laid upon him, a desperate attempt to exorcise the demons Damon knew only too well.
His sisters had been mere babes in arms. They hadn’t even been present. But Damon would never forget the look on his beloved older brother’s face. It was the look of a boy torn—no, a man, perhaps, considering his brother at fourteen no longer had had the body of a child. Moisture had filled Adam’s eyes as their father had raged, but he’d raised no voice in Damon’s defense, made no attempt to stop the man. Adam had always been too dutiful for that.
Damon sighed. Should he go? Did he owe his mother—or anyone—that?
He’d never gone south, even though he’d come of age years ago. What would have been the point? And what would he have faced? More ridicule? Possibly Bedlam? His father never would have countenanced his return. Damon had been dead to Silas, dead to everyone, as far as he knew.
Except Adam and his mother, Felicity. She penned letters as often as she could, Adam less often, though both without his father’s knowledge. Silas certainly had never written. But Mama told the mundane details of life at Thorne Hill, of how his brother had fared with the estate’s management, how his sisters loathed practicing the pianoforte and hated their dance tutor.
He’d never had such things. A tutor came for a while—at whose bidding, he didn’t know—but Mr. Jensen had long since left, disturbed not only by Damon’s defiant manner but also by his rages.
For Damon had long struggled with his temper. It sometimes superseded even his odd body movements and frequently got him into trouble, which was one of the reasons he avoided company.
“Not like being exiled to Hell would assuage anyone’s anger,” he muttered as he reached for the glass of brandy he’d set on the side table.
Then it sank in. He was now the Duke of Malford. Unless his father had disinherited him. Was that possible? If so, his uncle, Fillmore Blackbourne, would be Duke.
And yet, his mother had written to him. Why?
Even if he were the legal heir, why would she want him back? Did she not fear he would be worse than before? Though he’d written her once, years ago, of how he’d mastered his demons, the physical ones, at least, in hopes of being called home. Had that been enough to convince her he could manage in polite society?
But he’d wanted the summons then. Not now.
He walked over to the window, staring out at the craggy moors glistening with snow. He knew in his heart what he had to do. For his mama, who’d done the best she could, he supposed, in circumstances beyond her control. For his sisters, whom he only remembered as tiny tykes who loved to pull his black hair. And for himself. To prove once and for all he was no devil. None beyond his own making, at least.
“Hobbes,” he bellowed.
A short man with thinning brown hair entered the room. Stiff-backed and with his nose in the air, he was the quintessential butler, who served also as Damon’s valet. Though his main role over the years had become that of friend. Despite the difference in age and status, they’d bonded, two lonely people bumbling about in this monstrous abbey, each with no family to call his own.
Still, the man loved to put on airs, to remind Damon both of his status as a ducal family’s servant—and Damon’s status as Lord. “Yes, my lord?”
“For Pete’s sake, Hobbes. It’s Damon. Damon.” Or rather now, Your Grace.
“I know.” The grin that cracked Hobbes’s cheeks softened his expression. “It merely amuses me to bait you.”
Damon smirked. “Ready the horses and coach.”
Hobbes’s eyebrows reached skyward. Damon nearly laughed out loud, which would have been quite the rarity, at the comical expression on the butler-come-valet’s face.
“We’re going to Thorne Hill.”
At that, Hobbes’s jaw literally dropped. He looked out at the snow-blanketed expanse of the abbey’s grounds. “In this weather?”
“Why not? If I’m going back home, it’s only fitting that Hell has frozen over.”
Grab your copy of The Demon Duke today!
Want to win an autographed paperback of The Demon Duke?
Just drop Margaret a line at AuthorMargaretLocke@gmail.com (please mention Renee Reynold’s blog so I know how you found me!) and you’re entered to win. Contest closes June 29th, 2017; winner announced on my Facebook page and contacted via email by July 1st, 2017.
As a teen, Margaret pledged to write romances when she was older. Once an adult, however, she figured she ought to be doing grownup things, not penning stories. Thank goodness turning forty cured her of that silly notion.
Now happily ensconced again in the clutches of her first crush (romance novels!), Margaret is never happier than when sharing her passion for a grand Happy Ever After. Because love matters.
Margaret lives in the beautiful Shenandoah Valley in Virginia with her fantastic husband, two fabulous kids, and three fat cats. You can usually find her in front of some sort of screen (electronic or window); she’s come to terms with the fact she’s not an outdoors person.
She’s also been known to pin a thing or three over on Pinterest!