(A reissue of Rules of Conduct)
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Viola, so named by her benefactor, Hugh, Duke of Vale, has lost her memory, along with her respectability, after being found unconscious near his estate dressed in a male servant’s clothes. She is a mystery unto herself, with her knowledge of books and Latin, and her skill at the pianoforte.
Thanks to the duke’s kindness, Viola has found a temporary home with his nanny in a cottage on his estate, while danger lurks in the shadows and darkens her dreams. She must leave beautiful Vale Park before Hugh marries Lady Felicity Beresford, the neighbor’s daughter; their marriage arranged when they were children. And before Viola and Hugh succumb to an impossible passion.
As the announcement of Hugh’s engagement draws near, he tries to accept the inevitable, he must marry a woman he doesn’t love. He is intrigued by Viola. Who is she and what has driven her to such an act? As the Bow Street Runners work to find the answers, Hugh grows more deeply and dangerous drawn to the mysterious lady.
Review of the original book:
"This is one of those stories that you just can't help but like...The characters were memorable and the plot solid. I totally enjoyed every page and found the ending well worth the journey. It was one that I can see re-reading many times before /if I get tired of it.
Ms Andersen has done a great job in creating a wonderful tale that kept me interested and involved. I look forward to reading more from this author." Seriously Reviewed.
Viola opened her eyes and wriggled her toes, luxuriating in the comfort and warmth of the feather bed. Dawn light filtered through the lace curtain of the attic window. For a brief moment, she felt cocooned, safe from the world, but then the worry of her lost memory niggled at her. It was as if a veil had been draped over her mind, hiding the past from view, and she was helpless to do anything but wait for it to lift. She tensed, was something portentous hiding beneath the veil? When it did lift what would she discover?
She couldn’t bear lying there worrying about it. The cock crowed in the home farm. It was still very early. The faint voices of the farm hands reached her, herding the cows in for milking.
Curious to see more of her temporary home, she climbed from the bed and poured icy water into a bowl from the pitcher on the table. She splashed her face and shuddered. Wide-awake now, she quickly dressed. Opening her door, she hesitated. Was it wise to walk about the grounds alone? She pushed commonsense aside, eager to see more of Vale Park. Ignoring the inadequacy of her house slippers and the thin gown, she wrapped the shawl Nanny had given her around her shoulders, crept down the stairs, and out into the brisk air.
She followed a meandering path that led around the cottage down through a meadow of bright yellow buttercups, to a river. The wide stretch of water flowed swiftly away through the meadows, its far side rimmed by forest.
Flocks of birds swooped overhead. The peace and beauty of her surroundings revived her and she bent to pick a wild rose. The pink flower had a delicate perfume, a surprise in such a hardy, prickly plant. She stood, pressing its petals to her nose, the scent a wistful hint from her past that unsettled her. Somewhere, she had seen these flowers before. Her attempts to remember brought such anguish, she almost cried out.
She swung round at the sound of hoof beats, as a horse galloped around a copse of trees. The rider pulled on the reins and cursed as the horse reared. Viola stepped back off the path and lost her footing, falling hard onto her bottom in a patch of dewy grass. Two hounds bolted out of the bushes. One was upon her in an instant, nuzzling and licking her face.
“Oh, don’t,” she cried with a laugh, attempting to push it away.
“Down, Henry!” His Grace growled from atop the tall bay, and the dog returned to his master’s side.
“What the devil are you doing out so early?” The duke leapt down. “Are you hurt?”
“Only my dignity, I’m afraid.”
He grasped her arm and pulled her to her feet as if she weighed no more than the fluffy head of a dandelion. His hands lingered on her back as if to steady her, but it seemed to have the reverse affect and she almost stumbled. Aware her face was probably as pink as the rose Viola held, she threw the flower away and tried to brush down her skirt.
The duke’s gaze took in her sodden slippers and shabby dress with the damp patch where she’d fallen onto the ground. He brought with him the bitter truth of her predicament, leaving her feeling grubby and foolish, her brief delight in the morning ruined.
“I apologize for startling you. I never meet a soul on this path. What are you doing wandering around so early?”
“I thought it lovely, with the sleeping world awaking to a new day.” How lame her words sounded.
“Have you remembered anything?”
“No, nothing.” No doubt, he thought her foolish; perhaps he hoped this madwoman would disappear back to where she came from. Viola wrapped the shawl around herself more closely.
“Come, I’ll walk back with you.” He led his horse along the lane and in a short while, the cottage appeared through the trees. “I assume you’re feeling better?”
“Yes, thank you. Nanny’s been wonderful. She is well versed in herbs. Nanny gave me something that made me sleep like a baby!”
“Ah, yes. I well remember her potions. I’ll never forget some of the foul brews I was made to swallow as a child.”
He looked down at her with a devastating grin. “I’m sorry you had to endure them.”
Viola couldn’t help responding to that grin. “You don’t look at all sorry, Your Grace.”
The duke laughed. “I’m sure they are beneficial.” He turned back to the path. “We must make you well quickly, Miss Viola. There may be a family which is worried about you.”
His words tumbled her back into reality. She trembled with frustration. If only she could remember. How long would it be before she outlived her welcome?
They arrived at the cottage gate.
“I’ll leave you to Nanny.” Mounting his horse, he raised his hat. “Do take care of yourself. You don’t want to be laid up too long with Nanny in attendance.”
Viola certainly did not. He rode off with his dogs running behind him, and she turned to walk along the garden path where roses, delphiniums, and hollyhocks waved tall heads above the rhubarb and the cabbages. Her feet were so cold that she could hardly feel her toes.