About The Last Surprise by Blair Bancroft
Blush sensuality level: This is a sweet romance (kisses only, no sexual content).
Available as an ebook only
Not all surprises are good ones. In the midst of a glorious second season, Lady Christine Ashford’s life is wholly disrupted by tragedy. The death of her father, the Earl of Bainbridge, leaves herself and her younger sisters summarily exiled from the family estate, sent to distant relatives in Yorkshire to await the return of the elusive heir to her father’s title. There, life quickly becomes untenable.
The new earl’s return from the colonies gives Christine and her sisters a chance to escape their scheming Yorkshire relatives—but only through unexpected marriage to this unknown man who’s taken her father’s title and lands. As the year turns to Christmas, the season of new life and joy, Christine must decide if she can embrace the spirit of the season…and her new husband.
Review by Sophie Sansregret
4 out of 5 Stars
What a delightful and sweet read! Some days you just feel like reading a gentle and tender love story. This, I am happy to say, is one of those stories.
As a novella-length story, The Last Surprise is a quick read (I call them commuter reads, right-sized for the train or bus). Set in the Regency, although off the beaten path, for the most part, of the infamous ton and all their parties, this is the tale of the recently orphaned Lady Christina (and her sisters) being shuttled off to Yorkshire to await their fate at the hands of the unknown new Earl of Bainbridge who is more at home in rural and unsettled Upper Canada than he is at court.
As unchaperoned women, Christina and her sisters are at the mercy of the money-grubbing relations who fancy their odious son to be Christina’s new husband. Ms Bancroft handles this all-too-true issue deftly. One feels, most acutely, the injustice of it all.
Thankfully, the tall and mysterious new Earl, Harlan Ashford, arrives from Canada to act as guardian. He quickly assesses and determines a solution to all their problems: marriage to Christina. As the eldest sister, Christina takes her new duties almost too seriously, taking on a dour demeanor which keeps a very patient Harlan Ashford at bay. Over the fullness of time they come to trust each other although for Christina this is more difficult than for the new Earl. A nice tale of misunderstanding and walls being thrown up.
This tale is simply told and is a warm and fuzzy read. For those enjoying Regency, you will not be disappointed for despite its largely off-the-beaten-path setting, The Last Surprise is true to the era, and there is a bit of society for more urban readers. However you prefer your love stories, you say “awww” at the end.
My kind of book for a chilly day.
An Excerpt From: THE LAST SURPRISE
Copyright © BLAIR BANCROFT 2012
All Rights Reserved, Ellora’s Cave Publishing, Inc.
London, Spring 1817
Beneath the sparkling glow of a thousand candles, Lady Christine Ashworth waltzed with Jeremy, Lord Farnborough, spinning so fast in a turn at the far end of the Lady Jersey’s glittering ballroom that the gowns around them coalesced into a kaleidoscope of misty colors. Eyes shining, Christine absorbed the wonder of it all. Could this night possibly be more perfect?
The gown swirling about her ankles was her favorite, the peach satin skirt overlaid with a layer of fine netting adorned with myriad tiny white roses. And fixed on the left shoulder of her minuscule bodice was a single, much larger white silk rose, its petals adorned in pearl dewdrops and its leaves beaded in green. A necklace of perfectly matched pearls, a gift from her papa on her eighteenth birthday, warmed her neck. But not as much as Farnborough’s gloved hands, one pressed firmly against her back, the other tightly clasping her gloved fingers.
Christine flushed, mortified that the hot pink in her cheeks must be warring with the color of her gown. Not good ton. But just before the waltz had begun Farnborough had leaned close to her ear and whispered, “I’ll be speaking with your father in the morning.”
During her two seasons in London Papa had rejected six offers, two without consulting her and four suitors she had told him would not suit. Thank the good Lord she was blessed with a kindly father who had no desire to thrust her into the arms of the first man who came along. But Miss Emma Applegate, long-time governess and surrogate mother to the three Ashworth sisters, had informed her only days past that rejecting six offers placed her in jeopardy of being called a jilt. It was high time to consider her future with greater care.
Farnborough, Christine had to admit, was a definite possibility. He was handsome, charming, good-natured…though not as clever as she might have liked. Yet he dressed well, rode well; everyone liked him. And he would one day be Duke of Monkton. Christine did not like to admit that made a difference but…how could one discount the lure of being a duchess?
What to tell Papa? Miss Applegate was right. It was time for her to marry, and every day marriages were made between couples with far less attraction than she felt for Farnborough. Particularly in the ton, where breeding, land and wealth were all-important.
Lady Farnborough—she tested the sound of it. The Duchess of Monkton. Even better.
Years of Miss Applegate’s strict training washed over her. No! She was not a shallow little twit, indeed she wasn’t. Anyone would be bowled over by thought of becoming a duchess.
Jeremy, dear Jeremy, was giving her a most peculiar look, and Christine realized she was scowling. Scowling at this elegant sprig at the very pinnacle of the ton, the young gentleman who was about to offer for her.
“I beg your pardon,” she gasped as the final strains of the waltz slowed to a resounding finale. “I believe I may have torn my hem. Please excuse me.”
He squeezed her hand before letting her go. “Don’t forget I have the supper dance.” Gray eyes solemn, he leaned closer, adding, “And remember what I said about meeting with Bainbridge in the morning.”
Christine summoned her most winsome smile, proffered her best curtsey and fled to the ladies’ withdrawing room. She must think. Her whole future lay before her, with only a few scant hours to make a decision.
About Blair Bancroft
Blair Bancroft is an award-winning author, multi-published in several different romance genres. Her eclectic background includes a career in music, with forays into editing and costume design. She wrote her first novel only after it occurred to her that her mother being a successful author didn’t mean she couldn’t be one too. Blair has traveled most of the United States and as far away as Siberia and Machu Picchu, with emphasis on touring Great Britain and Ireland, and enjoys using bits of her travel experiences in her books.