Fiction Fest: A nibble of Carla Kelly’s ‘Reforming Lord Ragsdale’

Reforming-Lord-RagsdaleRomance author Carla Kelly is one of our bestselling authors, so we figure you’re anxious for her next novel. Her latest, “Reforming Lord Ragsdale,” drops tomorrow, March 11, and will be available in bookstores and from online retailers.

About the book:
Emma Costello owes a debt of honor to one of the most dishonorable lords in the realm. The infamous Lord Ragsdale is as sinful as he is rich and as heartless as he is handsome. But after he saves Emma from a life of indentured servitude and shame, she decides it is her personal duty to save him from his reckless ways . . . without his permission.

EXCERPT:

Setup: By his own admission, John Stokes, Lord Ragsdale, is a rake, a roué, and the worst kind of fellow. Since the shocking death of his father and his own loss of an eye at the hands of rebellious Irish some years ago, he has been drowning his sorrows in alcohol and fast living. He exerts himself for no one, and he hates the Irish. Now he has been forced to make some effort by two American cousins from Virginia and their indenturde servant, Emma Costello, as Irish as can be. On a trip to Bath with them to visit his grandmother, Lord Ragsdale discovers that his cousin Robert Claridge is a reckless gambler. As this scene opens, Lord Ragsdale awakes to find his money gone and his cousin probably belowstairs, gambling.  The landlord at the inn tells him something awful is about to happen in the card room.

 

This is going to be a nasty scene, he thought as he shoved his nightshirt into his trousers and pulled on his boots. He didn’t stop to look for his eyepatch as he ran his fingers through his hair and wrenched open the door.

To Lord Ragsdale’s surprise, the innkeeper stood before him on the landing, breathing hard as though he had taken the flight of stairs two or three at a time.

“What on earth is the matter?” Lord Ragsdale said, wincing as the landlord took one look at his ruined eye and gasped.

“My lord, you had better come downstairs at once. I don’t think you’ll like what’s going on. I know I don’t, but it’s not something I can prevent.”

“What can you be so lathered about? Lord Ragsdale said as he followed the man down the stairs. “I think my young cousin is spending my money, but that’s my business. I intend to give him quite a scold, rest assured.”

If anything, the taproom was more crowded than before, even though it was hours after midnight. The same group of gamesters sat at the table, with the addition of Robert and the waiting woman.

Lord Ragsdale barely noticed his cousin, who waved him a greeting and moved to pull up another chair. His eye went immediately to Emma Costello, who stood in her nightdress behind his cousin’s chair. She was as pale as her flannel shift, her auburn hair flaming around her face, her eyes burning like coals into his own. She swallowed once, and he thought she would speak, but she said nothing and did nothing but stare at the opposite wall. Her face was wiped clean of any hope, or of any expression at all.

He wrenched his glance away from her and stared hard at the gaming table. There was a document on it, with a seal and ribbons, and folded in half as though it had just come out of the leather case upstairs. He looked at Emma again and back at the document, and he was filled with more anger than he would have thought possible, considering that this whole affair was probably none of his business.

He was so angry that he could not speak. The man sitting next to Robert nudged him. “Your draw, laddie,” he said, and then grinned at Emma and smacked his lips.

“Touch that card, Robert, and I will thrash you until your backbone breaks through your skin.”

Did I really say that? Lord Ragsdale thought as he crossed the room in two steps and stood leaning over his cousin’s chair.

To his further amazement, Robert merely looked at him and shrugged his shoulders. “Cousin, I am in debt and nothing else will do but Emma. I have her papers here, and I can do as I like. It’s legal. Everyone’s agreed.”

He turned back to the table and reached for the card. Lord Ragsdale slammed his fist down on his cousin’s hand, shoved him out of the chair, and sat down in Robert’s place, his face inches from his opponent. “I’ll make you a better deal,” he said, each word distinct in the suddenly silent room.