Over the years, Melanie Merton has used every trick and ruse to repel overeager gentlemen callers without ever revealing the real reason she won’t say yes to an offer of marriage. When neighbor Walter George jumps to her defense against slurs cast by suitor number twelve, he also pries into her past—uncovering the circumstances around a tragic loss in her childhood and her aversion to being touched by anyone. But even protective Walter must be kept at a distance for his own good, because despite a growing attraction between them, Melanie must deny him too.
Unlike other men his age in Brighton, Walter George hadn’t considered Melanie Merton for a wife because he was convinced he’d never have a chance to impress his haughty neighbor. But that was before he understood her better, before he uncovered why she kept friends and suitors alike at bay. The right husband could restore the woman he sees into some semblance of the fun-loving child of his memory, but would Walter stand a chance or become just another unlucky suitor?
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Melanie Merton hated her life. She hated the clothes she wore. The house she lived in that was no longer hers to manage. The smiles she had to bestow upon her brother’s friends while overlooking their scowls. Even without the responsibilities she’d always enjoyed, and the hours on her own, she never had a moment’s peace. She just wanted a quiet morning, and that never seemed to happen lately unless she confined herself to her bedchamber.
Today, she was entertaining Mr. Linus Radley until his sister, Julia, her new sister-in-law, came down that morning. The forms of proper behavior that had been drilled into her head since she was a young girl made it impossible for her to say what was really on her mind, even when she wanted to. She was too polite to ask Mr. Radley to go away until a more reasonable hour of the day, and had ordered tea and cake to fill the endless minutes until Julia relieved her of this duty.
“It looks to be a lovely day for a stroll,” Mr. Radley said suddenly. “Might I entice you to venture out with me to look upon the sea? With your maid, of course.”
Melanie sighed with what she hoped sounded like regret and not irritation. She would not go out walking with Linus Radley, with or without a suitable chaperone. She had seen enough of him in the past weeks not to want anything more to do with him than she absolutely had to. He was a bully. “Unfortunately, I am otherwise engaged today.”
Dear God, the man wants particulars.
|The Royal Pavilion in Brighton|
Image by Peter Greenhalgh (link)