The Shadow Earl, Excerpt by Stella Riley

At the end of his Grand Tour, somewhere between Athens and Constantinople, Christian Selwyn, the young Earl of Hazelmere, vanished – seemingly without a trace.

Time passes.  In London, his uncle and cousin move into his home … while his unofficial fiancée, Sophia, is left desolate and in limbo.  Finally, his friends – loyal and close as brothers – set out to search in person. 

Christian’s startling re-appearance at a grand ball takes society by storm and fuels endless speculation. Where has he been during these three missing years? What happened to him? 

And more importantly, how did it happen? 

Only one thing is clear.  The earl who left England five years ago, has returned a changed man.  A man with secrets.

Excerpt: Kit sends bailiffs to evict his uncle & cousin from Berkeley Square

The message from Mr Sandhurst which was delivered while Benedict and Christian were taking breakfast did not bring cheering news.

‘Well?’ asked Benedict.

Wordlessly, Christian handed him the note. 

They are showing every sign of taking root.  What do you want me to do? Gerald.

Benedict handed it back.  ‘What do you want him to do?’

‘Bluff – but be prepared to make it real if necessary.’

Christian walked to the writing desk and scribbled a few lines.

Remind them  that they have until noon – but have the bailiffs standing by from eleven where Eustace can’t fail to see them. Keep me informed.  I’ll be here in Dover Street all morning.

In Berkeley Square, at fifteen minutes before midday, Mr Sandhurst read Christian’s note and handed it to Mr Selwyn along with the one addressed to him, saying, ‘If you force Lord Hazelmere to do this, then he will.  It’s entirely up to you whether you want to make yourself a laughing stock or not … but you had better decide quickly, sir.’

Eustace read both messages, then crumpled them in his hand, saying, ‘My nephew’s experiences abroad have obviously unhinged him.’

‘I disagree.  And at this precise moment, his reasons are immaterial. You still have a choice to make.  Half the residents of the square are waiting to see what it will be.’

That won him a glare before Eustace strode to look through the window.  Outside, maids were polishing door-knockers and footmen were sweeping steps; there were faces at windows and Viscount Fleming’s son and his friends were leaning against the railings to the garden, laughing.  The four bailiff’s men still lounged idly across the street.

Behind him, Basil entered the room and said unevenly, ‘He’s bluffing, isn’t he?’ 

‘No.’ It was Gerald who answered.  ‘He isn’t.  His lordship would prefer – as I imagine you would – that the gentlemen waiting outside will not be needed. But that is up to you and your father.  My instructions are to admit them if you are still here on the stroke of noon – which is now ten minutes away.’

Something shifted in Eustace’s expression but before he could speak, Basil said belligerently, ‘You’re not going to let the bailiffs in.  Fallon won’t have it.’ 

‘Mr Fallon will follow Lord Hazelmere’s orders,’ returned Gerald, already walking away. ‘As will I.’

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Meet Stella Riley

Winner of four gold medals for historical romance (Readers’ Favourite in 2019, Book Excellence Awards in 2020, Global Book Awards in 2022 and Book Excellence Award in 2023) and fifteen B.R.A.G. Medallions, Stella Riley lives in the beautiful medieval town of Sandwich in Kent.

She is fascinated by the English Civil Wars and has written six books set in that period. These, like the 7 book Rockliffe series (recommended in The Times newspaper!) and the Brandon Brothers trilogy, are all available in audio, narrated by Alex Wyndham.

Stella enjoys travel, reading, theatre, Baroque music and playing the harpsichord.  She also has a fondness for men with long hair – hence her 17th and 18th century heroes.

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