Sneak Peak Chapter 1: Silhouette of a Spinster and Other Seductions

Silhouette of a Spinster and Other Seductions continues the Bromley Brother saga with Lord Andrew Bromley and his secretary Amelia Dart. This scene was a delight to write because Lord Andrew is such a composed and controlled man, and when a change occurs in his world, it registers more like an earthquake for him. Read on to see how pink can ruin a man’s composure and tie him up things he thought he never cared for…

Chapter One

October 1822

She wasn’t wearing gray. Of all the things Lord Andrew Bromley had lost control of since his arrival at his childhood home, this proved the most unexpected. Mrs. Amelia Dart. In pink.

Impossible. In the five years he’d known Mrs. Dart, she’d never worn colors other than gray. Occasionally black. Or white. But mostly gray. Never pink. Of all the things he’d lost control of since his arrival, this one seemed the most annoying.

Likely because Mrs. Dart had always seemed so controlled herself, so steadfast, so capable and reliable. One thing he could always rely on her not to do—wear pink.

Until now, sitting squashed on the chapel pew between his mother and his sister-in-law Fiona. They were responsible for the pink, no doubt, likely thought it more fitting for a wedding than gray. Mrs. Dart would never. Not even for a wedding. The spike of surety on that point gave him a bit of comfort, soothed the chaos of his pulse, and gentled the clench of his fist. Mrs. Dart had not worn pink of her own volition.

Once his brother’s wedding was over, he’d send her back to her room to change. She’d thank him for it. And the world, his life, could go on as it had since he’d taken sole responsibility for it a decade ago.

He had no time for unexpected pinks. Life contained more pressing matters, after all. He had six letters waiting him in his room. Six clients needing placement, needing refuge, needing a means toward independence. He’d finished his letter to a family in need of a governess for their twin daughters, and even though it would make him late, at least Miss Howhampton was closer to finding a position and a regular meal earned through her own skill.

How much longer would this wedding take? The clergyman, it seemed, would never stop his droning. He’d not even missed a word when Drew had snuck in late to stand near the back. The chapel was bursting with wedding guests, most of whom he had never met before, all here to see Lord Theodore Bromley and Lady Cordelia Hampton bound by holy matrimony.

He sighed and caught sight of Mrs. Dart once more, her corkscrew curls bound high atop her head, making her easy to spot. His secretary in pink? The woman who’d helped him run his agency for the last five years? Absurd. His fist clenched, and his breathing quickened. His cravat became a noose he tugged at. 

God, he hated surprises, and her gown had exploded in his face. He couldn’t control what she wore. Of course he couldn’t. But things would be better if he could. 

At the front of the church, Theo and his bride repeated the clergyman’s words, signed the register, then turned and left the chapel to a roar of cheers. Theo smiled. Actually smiled. Like he meant it. When he hadn’t smiled in years—not at least, that Drew could remember. Of course, he had reason to smile now. Theo’s new wife was stunning—a Titian dream with generous curves. But like any Titian painting Drew had ever seen, he felt nothing looking on her. He smiled and nodded as they passed by but slipped toward the back of the crowd.

Watching a pink gown pass by. Had Mrs. Dart’s cheeks turned pink, too? No. A gown could not change a woman’s countenance.

An arm, heavy and large, settled around his shoulders. “Glad you could join us.” His brother Atlas grinned down at him. Drew was a tall man, as were all his brothers, but Atlas stood taller than them all. Broader, too. And though they’d all experienced their share of disappointment, Atlas’s blue-eyed gaze held far more shadows. The man had seen war, and his body and soul wore the wounds of it.

“I wasn’t going to miss Theo’s wedding,” Drew said.

“Only most of it.” A laugh lilted through his brother’s rich baritone.

Drew shrugged. Watching his brother marry achieved nothing. “I need to spend a few days in London before returning to Manchester. We must leave tomorrow.” He and Mrs. Dart. And she would not be wearing pink.

“So soon? Come now, brother. There’s been talk of a house party. A small one, mind you, and just until the harvest celebration is passed. Raph is grumbling and saying no, but I think we can convince him to be a tiny bit irresponsible, what with the sale of the townhouse.”

“Why would I want to stay for a house party? I’ve business to attend to.” More than business. Expansion. The word sent a thrill through him as brushstrokes never could.

“Do you never stop working?”

“Not if I can help it.” Work was the only remedy for anything, control the only meaningful progression for man.

Atlas patted his brother’s back with a gentleness most would not expect from a man with such large hands.

Where had Mrs. Dart gone? Drew looked about. Like a rogue glove, he seemed to have misplaced her. Despite the explosive color of her gown. He turned to walk back to the house, but Atlas’s hand tightened on his shoulder. 

“Not that way. The wedding breakfast is to be held in town, at the pub.”

“I’m aware.”

“Join us? Please. We so rarely see you.”

Drew sighed and fell into step with his brother. “Damnably odd to have the breakfast in the pub.”

“We do everything odd here, remember? Or have you been so often gone from Briarcliff you’ve forgotten?”

Briarcliff held little for him. He found it too mercurial. Nothing stable to hang onto in its ever-shifting sands. He hated sand. He preferred London. Or Manchester, where his agency was located.

“Besides,” Atlas continued, “Raph insists on benefiting the village whenever possible.”

“He can afford such philanthropic extravagances these days?” Or was he becoming like their father—his heart too big for his coffers?

Atlas made a humming sound. “We’ve more work to do. But every day brings improvement. We’ve sold four of the paintings. And the London townhouse. And Matilda rents out her little Cumbrian cottage. And once I’m finished with the dower house, we’ll do the same with that. My songs sell, too.” Said with a shake of the head like he couldn’t quite believe it.

“War songs or—”

“Love songs.”

Drew snorted. “Drivel.”

“Yes. But people love them. And it’s good for us, too. I’ve been able to almost complete renovations of the dower house with the funds from my music.

“How do you write it, though? Been in love before? Are you pining?”

“No. And no. Writing about love is easy. I think about pudding.”

Drew almost stumbled but caught himself, resulting in only the slightest hitch of his step. “Pardon me? Pudding?”

“Or Bess.”

“A barmaid?”

“A cow.” Atlas tugged at his cravat.

“You’re in love with a cow?

“No! But she’s a fine animal. And she deserves some appreciation. And I was rather low on inspiration that week.”

“You write love songs about pudding and cows?”

“And sunsets and a good cold ale, among other things.” Atlas ripped off his jacket, a too-big affair meant more for comfort than fashion. “All lovely things.”

Drew straightened the cuffs of his perfectly tailored coat. “And no one notices?”

“The one about Bess fetched a pretty penny. Zander used to help me write, but when he can’t I have to do what I can.”

“I’m fascinated.” Quite despite himself. In all his two and thirty years, he’d never shared an interest, that he knew of, with his older brother. He wouldn’t call it interest now. More like … curiosity. “Give me a lyric.”


“I want to hear one.”


“I’ll be in London tomorrow, and I’ll just find the sheet music and—”

“Fine.” Atlas cleared his throat and sang in the rich baritone that had cast a spell since their childhood. “A glow in her cheek, the dew in her eye; my heart’s never steady, when my sweet lady cries.”

“What’s that about?”

“Sunset,” Atlas mumbled. “Just change sky to cheek and leaf to eye, then mention a lady and—” He shrugged.

“Why the crying?”

“A storm rolled through.”

“Ah. I think you might be a genius, Atlas.”

Another shrug. “The people seem to like it.”

“Tell me the one you wrote about the cow.”

“What if, instead, I ask Bessy to kick you in the—”

“Very well, then.” Drew held up his hands as if to stop Bessy’s hooves. “No more music for the moment.”

They walked the rest of the way in cheerful silence, and when they reached the pub, Mrs. Dart still was nowhere to be seen. No gentle pink below dark, corkscrew curls. Drew scowled as he sat with his brothers.

Raph, the eldest of them, clapped a hand on his back. “Why so dour, Drew?” His dark hair waved back from his forehead, and his blue eyes sparkled. He had a square jaw and a nose bumped with an old break gifted from a flying fist. Drew’s hand clenched, flexed open. He shook the memories out of it.

“You’ve no right to be dour.” Theo, the happy groom, slumped in his chair. “I do, though. They’ve taken my bride. Who knows where.”

Zander slammed mugs of ale on the table and pushed one before each brother. The five of them were similar in height and features, most of them having taken after their father with dark hair and eyes somewhere between blue and gray. Theo’s brown hair lightened in the summer to a dirty blond, a single concession to their mother’s lighter coloring.

“What are we discussing?” Zander asked. “Whose face is most displeasing? Very well then. Though I must admit it’s a difficult choice between young Theodore and the imposing Andrew, I must choose—ow!”

Theo raised a brow as Zander rubbed his upper arm and warily eyed Theo’s fist.

“Shall we take this outside?” Zander asked, all amicability.

Theo flexed his fist, then sipped his ale. “Tomorrow. If Cordelia finds out I’ve been brawling on our wedding day, she’ll become seriously displeased. And I prefer to keep her entirely pleased.” He grinned, took another sip. “Where they hell they’d take her?”

His brothers chatted, and Drew drank his ale slowly, letting it warm him. It had been some time since he’d sat with them like this. Since the night before their father’s funeral over a year and a half ago. That had been a much more somber event, though the ale had flowed freely and had been followed by a bottle of wine. Then one of whisky. Drew had supplied the whisky. He’d been the only one of them with his own consistent income.

So much had changed in a year, and he’d been away from it all, busy in Manchester instead of by Raph’s and Atlas’s sides at Briarcliff or in London with Zander and Theo. He’d met his brothers’ new wives but had not come to know them as sisters.

Better that way. Impossible to control the actions of others. Best to remain as isolated as possible. He didn’t even let Mrs. Dart close. Any closer than he had to, at least, for her to help him run the agency, for her to be its public face.

“Where the hell is Mrs. Dart?” he mumbled, a finger tapping on the tabletop.

“Speaking of Mrs. Dart.” Raph’s voice cut through the banter and laughter, and the brothers took long sips of their ale. “What is she to you?”

“My secretary,” Drew answered. “The face of my agency.” The screen he hid behind so the titled families he sent governesses and tutors to did not realize he actually worked instead of simply owning. A silly distinction. A silly game he had to play. But necessary to keep his reputation clean from the whiff of work, labor. His clients required it, and those he helped find positions relied on it.

“She lives in the same house as you.” Raph leaned back in his chair and crossed his arms. Not amused. Clearly.

“I have two townhouses side by side with entirely separate entrances. One for my male employees to stay in when necessary and the other for the women. I sleep in the townhouse for the men, and Mrs. Dart occupies the one for women. It is entirely incorrect to say she lives with me.”

“You have brought her to three weddings in the last year.” Zander raised his hand to catch a barmaid’s attention. “Another round.”

Drew held Raph’s gaze. “Where I go, my secretary goes.” His business did not go on holiday, so neither did his secretary.

“It’s not quite right,” Raph said. “We all know she’s not really a widow. Others have likely guessed as well. Surely you can find a fellow to do what she does so she may do … something else. There must be talk about you two.”

Everyone looked to Theo.

Theo shrugged. “I’ve heard nothing of interest. And I would.” Theo’s satirical prints had been published in Ackermann’s and other well-read publications, and they always featured gossip of one sort or another. Usually the kind to ruin powerful men’s careers.

Hiring an unmarried woman as his secretary had been a bit of an unconventional move, but it had so far proved a smart one. She did the job better than anyone else could, kept his files and schedule in perfect order, as well as imbuing anyone who met her with a sense of confidence and trust. If Mrs. Dart said she’d find you the perfect governess, you believed it. Was he supposed to give that up because there might be rumors? 

Drew looked to the rough beams of the ceiling overhead. “I understand your worry, Raph. I do. But she is a woman grown, and she can find another position if she so desires. She does not so desire. Besides, I couldn’t possibly replace her at the moment. I’m expanding.”

“Expanding?” Atlas asked.

The maid returned with five cold mugs and placed them before the brothers.

Drew took a long swallow before answering. “I’m opening a London agency. Manchester is an excellent location for newly wealthy families looking for elite educational resources.” He’d opened his agency there for just that reason. “They need tutors and governesses from the best houses in England, and I can provide that. But it is not London.” London would be more expensive, though not by much these days. And it would be bigger. His clientele list would grow as would his reputation.

He looked to his brothers. They leaned back in their chairs, hands wrapped loosely around cups. All looked at him. Then at Raph. Then back at him.

Raph leaned forward, set his elbows on the table. “Do you have the funds to do this?”

“Of course I do.” Or he would soon.

“Because your inheritance—”

“I don’t want it.”

Zander whistled, Theo chuckled, and Atlas downed half his ale.

“It’s yours,” Raph said. “No ridiculous will stipulations necessary. Mother has decided to forgo all the nonsense Father insisted on in his will.”

The infamous will, donating most of his father’s massive art collection—the only thing of value left in the family—to the Royal Academy, leaving his children and his widow with nothing but debts, a crumbling house, failing estate, and six priceless paintings. One painting willed to each child with the stipulation they must first earn it. Through the creation of a work of art.

Bloody ridiculous. And just like his father.

Drew pulled the wrists of his gloves up tight, as if they weren’t already perfectly formed to his fingers, and he straightened his already straight glasses. The glass glinted in the firelight, reminding him of the necessary barrier between him and the world. 

He remained behind it as he spoke to no one in particular. “Not that any of you have skipped past the will’s demands. You’ve all done just as it asked, as Father asked.” Drew had seen his brothers’ art. Most of it. The canvas splashed with blobs of paint—Zander’s—and Theo’s satirical cartoon. Only Raph’s artistic contribution was missing because he’d drawn it on his wife’s arm. Raph’s own damn heart curling from Matilda’s palm to her elbow, alive like vines climbing a trellis, according to his mother who liked to describe it whenever the chance arose. 

His married brothers had done what his father’s will had demanded of them in order to earn their inheritances. They’d each produced a work of art deemed valuable by their mother, and they’d each been bestowed a painting worth more money than they’d possessed in their adult lives. The paintings had been sold, the funds put toward rebuilding the estate and wealth their father had wasted while still alive or toward building new lives for themselves.

Only Drew had built his life before his father’s death. 

“I don’t need the money.” Not necessarily true. He needed money. Just not that money. He had a plan.

Raph turned his hands on the table palms up. “Just sell the damn painting, Drew, and be done with it. I tell the same to Atlas, but—”

“I want to fulfill Father’s last request.” Atlas heaved a sigh. “Not sure how yet.”

“Songs about cows not winning Mother over?” Drew asked.

Atlas erupted into laughter, a deep sound that boomed throughout the pub. “Not a bit. Afraid she’s become spoiled. Thinks what she really gets is a daughter-in-law, not a work of art, and I’m not producing one of those for her fawn over anytime soon.” He scratched his jaw. “Wish I had the funds, though. The dower house needs it. I’m almost done, but it’s not ready to rent out yet. There’s some fine work that needs a more artistic touch than I have. Some old furniture that needs new life.”

The brothers groaned, Atlas included.

“We don’t have to bring an artist to the house, do we?” Raph asked.

They’d been raised with artists of all kinds, their father’s friends and students, protegees who took the money he gave them even when he had no money to give.

“A cabinetmaker,” Atlas said.

“Hire him, then.” Raph lifted his glass to his brother.

“Can we afford it?” Zander asked.

“Not really.” Raph sighed. “But if we wish to rent out the dower house, we must find a way to make it happen.” He stretched his mug toward Theo. “You’ve just opened that school for artists. Surely you or your bride know of someone who can help. Someone with much talent and little experience. We’ll pay them in food and lodging and help them gain the experience they need to land other commissions.

“Not a terrible idea,” Drew admitted.

“Very well.” Theo finished the rest of his ale and stretched his neck to look about the room. “I’ll ask Cordelia. She’ll know someone. She knows everyone.” His roaming gaze stopped, and he slapped his hands to his thighs as he stood. “Speaking of my beautiful wife, there she is. You brutes won’t mind if I exchange your company for hers.” He did not wait to hear their answers.

And Drew would not give one because he’d finally spotted the pink gown beneath dark corkscrew curls. 

“Mrs. Dart.” His muscles clenched to stand, to join her, to ask her about the horrid gown. But he found himself frozen to the chair. Intimidated by pink? It seemed so. An unacceptable turn of events, and one he’d have to conquer. Because they had work to do before they left for London on the morrow. And while he couldn’t control, apparently, the clothes Mrs. Dart wore, he could control preparations for conquering London before week’s end. 

But … the pink taunted him from the corner of his eye, drawing his attention closer like the bony hand of fate. He didn’t believe in fate. He’d finish his ale first.

Silhouette of a Spinster and Other Seductions releases in April, and you can pre-order it now on Amazon!

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