Benjamin Redbourn, Earl of Crofton, has no intention of giving up his beloved ancestral home without a fight. Faced with his mother’s gambling debts, forgery, and the possibility of foreclosure by the bank, Ben vows to make Crofton Hall pay for herself. But opening an Elizabethan manor house to the public isn’t a one man job. With time running out, Ben needs help—and fast.
Ashley Niven has experience managing events, and he also loves history. Being in charge of opening Crofton Hall is a dream come true. As he works with Ben to prepare the house as a venue for lavish weddings and receptions, Ashley finds himself drawn not just to the charm of the house but to the dashing Earl of Crofton. Even if Ashley can look past Ben’s playboy reputation, he fears an affair could prove too much of a distraction.
But Crofton Hall has many secrets, and something hidden for over four hundred years is about to change all their lives.
I loved this book. I loved watching Ben and Ashley dance around each other at the beginning. When they finally came to a head and Ashley fumbled it up I was wanted to shake the man! But he definitely redeemed himself afterwards by treating Ben extra special that evening. There were a handful of where Ashley had fantasies where he put Ben in the role of a Tudor era earl. Those were so fun. It brought back some of the magic of the historical Crofton books. The letters they found between Sebastian and Anthony made me want to go back and read those books again. The history of the Redbourn family Ben talks about is like hearing from friends. Some things we knew from reading the historical series. But there was more and I enjoyed it. There were some funny scenes in the book as well. My favorite was Ashley dealing with the women’s club elderly ladies. Priceless! You are not required to read the historical series to read and understand this one. But you should anyway because they were good books too. I can’t wait for more in this series.
She wouldn’t meet his eye.
“Just short of five million to the bank.”
Ben lost his balance and landed heavily on his arse in a nearby chair.
“How the hell did you manage that? I only agreed to borrow five hundred thousand, and that was for essential repairs, and the estate could easily repay the loan in ten years.”
“I approached the bank with a business case for a visitor attraction.
They were very enthusiastic.”
“What gave you the right?”
“Your father left us both in charge of Crofton Hall, Benjamin,” she said sharply.
He glowered at her and she deflated.
“I needed the money, and the only way I could get it was to tell the bank I wanted to open Crofton Hall to the public.”
“And they agreed to lend the money without my permission?” he asked carefully, hardly believing his mother’s audacity, but getting the feeling he knew what she was going to say next.
“They might have been under the impression that you’d agreed to it, and I was acting on both our behalves.”
“Really. And how would they have thought that?”
“Your signature isn’t exactly hard to copy.”
Ben covered his face with his hands, understanding what his mother had done.
“I know I shouldn’t have, not without your permission, but I was desperate. And the bank thought our business plan was excellent.”
He looked up at her. Elena’s eyes were red from crying, but there was still an edge of defiance in her face. “How much is left?”
She shrugged. “A few thousand, maybe.”
“And you used Crofton Hall as security?”
The anger flashed through him, burning through his usual amicable nature. “How could you have been so stupid? Were you even thinking past your own selfishness?”
Elena cowered in her seat.
“You’ve ruined us, destroyed this family!”
“I didn’t mean—”
Ben didn’t want to hear her feeble excuses. “Oh, that’s all right, then.
We’ll tell the bank, you didn’t mean it, and they’ll forget all about it.”
Ben reined in his anger. Taking deep, slow breaths, he clenched and unclenched his fists as he regained his calm. He watched Catlin pace up and down. Harry stood slumped against the fireplace, shell-shocked. Now was not the time to panic. He needed to know exactly how much trouble they were in and deal with it. “Get me the paperwork.”
Without argument, Elena jumped to her feet and scurried over to the writing bureau in the corner. From the folds of frills and ruffles of her blouse, she fished out a key on a chain and unlocked the bureau. She drew out a sheaf of paper. “It’s all here.”
“Right, let’s hope my economics degree wasn’t for nothing.” Ben snatched the papers. “I suggest you all keep your distance until I’ve finished reading.”
He sank into a chair by the unlit fireplace, blocking out the angry thoughts as he scanned sheet after sheet. The figures danced before his eyes, and he saw the terms and conditions his mother had agreed to. The interest, compound interest, and payback terms were listed and categorized in black and white with no way of denying the facts. They were in deep shit, the bank would be at the door within weeks, and Ben seethed internally at his mother’s gall.
The effort she’d put into defrauding the bank was amazing, the business case had been full of fine details and promised an excellent return, but little help would that do them now.
Ben stared around the sitting room; generations of Redbourns had sat in here. Men who’d fought at Blenheim, Waterloo, and El Alamein —they would never have given in and surrendered Crofton Hall in the face of adversity. And it wasn’t about to happen while Ben was Earl of Crofton either. As much as he wanted to rail against it, their only hope was to convince the bank they were following through with the idea of opening the house to the public.
“We can probably sell the London apartment. That’ll raise around two million. Our trust funds are protected, so we can’t release the equity from those. If we’ve any hope of holding on to her, Crofton Hall is going have to earn her keep.”
Rebecca Cohen is a Brit abroad. Having swapped the Thames for the Rhine, she has left London behind and now lives with her husband and baby son in Basel, Switzerland. She can often be found with a pen in one hand and a cup of Darjeeling in the other.
Where To Buy:
DSP eBook: http://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/store/product_info.php?products_id=5725
DSP Paperback: http://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/store/product_info.php?products_id=5726
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