Can she ever trust again?
Amy Miller is struggling to come to terms with her new life as a mother, while being a reluctant guest in a rigid gentry household. A victim of abuse, she is determined to never trust a man again.
Henry Russell has loved Amy for as long as he can remember, but his family want nothing to do with her. A chance encounter with Amy rekindles a friendship which might save them both.
The discovery of a secret which holds the key to Amy’s past will change them forever, and jeopardise any chance they have for happiness. Can Henry show Amy that true love will give her everything she could ever need?
Note, although this is a 'sweet' read, there is some subject matter that may offend sensitive readers, including mention of a rape and very mild violence and coarse language.
A word from the author
I hope readers enjoy the second book in the “Hearts of Amberley” series. GLOVED HEART can be read as a standalone but if you’ve read THE VAGABOND VICAR you’ll enjoy seeing your favourite characters again.
As a mother of a young baby, I was able to pour my heart into this story of a new mother, Amy Miller, adjusting to her life in less than ideal circumstances. She has sworn off men for good, but she comes to rely on the friendship of Henry Russell. She resists her growing feelings for him, building walls around her heart. Just as she begins to trust, the revelation of a secret will ruin everything.
This is also a book about strong women and the relationships between them. It’s really the women who drive the story and I loved exploring their unique bonds despite their different stations in life. The men provide the sparks and also the problems, just like in real life!
Read an excerpt
Amy was glad of the ride back to Briarwood. She was so weary she thought her legs might give way. Her emotions were close to the surface, threatening to brim over. Henry had touched on more than one nerve with his innocent line of questioning just now. He was right to wonder why a respectable couple such as the Fortescues, who she had hardly said a word to in her life, would stoop so low as to house an unwed mother when no one else wanted her. She had asked herself that question many times; it was reasonable for him to wonder too.
She wanted to believe his assertions that they wanted to make her more like them so she would belong. But she couldn’t bring herself to foster such a happy illusion; she was no more an innocent young girl who would see the best in people first. She knew most people were hiding something, and their actions were not always a good indicator of their motivations or intentions. In fact, sometimes they acted to deliberately deceive. She couldn’t believe the Fortescues would intentionally hurt her, as there was undeniably an altruistic motive for most of their actions. But their efforts to re-make her in the image of a lady were an affront to her very identity.
Amy turned to see Henry waiting for her on the cart. She laughed at him. “Come now, Henry, don’t address me as if you were my chauffeur. It’s only Amy, and it always has been.”
She stepped towards the box and he automatically offered his hand to help her up. She stared at it, dismayed.
It was perfectly natural for him to help her up into her seat, but despite her recent familiarity with him, she still could not stand to let their hands touch. She tried to fight the irrational terror which overtook her. Nothing bad would happen, it would be over in a matter of seconds and Henry was not going to abuse the situation, was he? But she could not bring herself to put her hands in his.
“I’m sorry,” she said.
He shook his head as if to dismiss her apology. “It’s nothing, just put your foot here, and hold on here, and you can pull yourself up.”
She nodded, did as he instructed, and managed to hoist herself up onto the seat.
Henry took up the reins. “Are you comfortable?”
She met his eyes and nodded again, startled by how close his face was to hers. “Thank you.” Her voice came out as a squeak and she immediately felt herself colouring. She focussed on the lane ahead as Henry brought the cart around and steered the mare down towards the road.
He sat as far as he could to the right of her while still maintaining control of the cart, but the seat was not very wide, so their thighs were still only inches apart. She could see his muscles flexing within his buckskin trousers. Suddenly she was unbearably warm.
Comfortable? Perhaps too comfortable.
She could not resist taking sly glances at him as they bounced along towards her home. The freckles across his nose had multiplied, giving him a boyish charm. His shock of fiery hair was tossed about in unruly waves like a turbulent sea. He caught him looking at her, and threw her a bashful smile, which she couldn’t help returning before forcing her eyes to her lap. She caught a whiff of his scent; he smelled of the grasses and earth and a rich, masculine aroma.
The motion of his hands guiding the reins caught her attention as they rounded a corner, and she took in his strong, toned forearms. He’d rolled his shirt up above his elbows, and even beneath all that fabric his upper arms bulged. His chest strained against his waistcoat. He was a robust working man, of course he would be… strapping. It was just that she’d never had such leisure to observe all this before. Or perhaps she had just never taken notice, never appreciated him in his masculinity. She’d been a slip of a girl when she’d last spent any length of time with him, without any notions of forming attachments. Now, she was all too aware of him, and the nearness of him. She began to feel a little light-headed, and her heart seemed to be pulsing through her entire body.
She hadn’t felt like this since… her breath quickened as a painful pang hit her heart. She’d rather not remember the last time.
“Amy? Are you all right?”
Henry was looking at her seriously as he guided the cart through the gates that led to Briarwood.
She tried to slow her breathing, but the rising panic could not be quelled.
The last time she had felt this way, it had nearly destroyed her. It had made her giddy, blind, defenceless. She’d been a gullible fool, and she had paid the price for her infatuation with her innocence.
Fear closed over her heart in a vice-like grip, and she clutched the sides of the seat with white knuckles. She could not explain to him, could not summon any words lest she begin to cry.
The cart came to a stop outside the house, and she leapt to the ground, nearly falling over.
“Amy!” Henry cried, dismounting in a flash and coming around to her side. “What on earth is the matter?”
She darted away from him, wishing she hadn’t let her fancies get the better of her, that she could go back to the simplicity of their recent friendship. Perhaps she still could if not tempted in such a way.
“Goodbye, Henry,” she called as she began walking away from him. “Thank you.”
Then she turned and took quick steps up to the front door, banging until she was granted admittance. Once inside, the house felt like a safe place for the first time. She was in no danger of being overcome by treacherous feelings here. She went to her room and closed the door, leaning back against it. She would have no reason to see Henry again, and it was just as well. She could not risk putting her heart in danger again.
About the Author
Charlotte Brentwood developed serious crushes on a series of men from age fifteen: Darcy, Knightley, Wentworth and Brandon. A bookworm and scribbler for as long as she can remember, Charlotte always dreamed of sharing her stories with the world.
Earning a degree in communication studies, she was seduced by the emerging digital world and has since worked with the web and in marketing. She is a member of the Auckland chapter of RWNZ.
Now mother to an adorable human tornado, Charlotte is trying to find the time for reading, seaside walks, warbling at the piano and quaffing far too many hot chocolates.
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