The gilded envelope with the regal wax seal lay on the chestnut table before Eleanor Holmes, and each time her eyes fell across it, the dread building in her stomach increased. She had sat down at the table with the intention of opening it, as she’d been avoiding doing so all day. She’d somehow managed to find enough tasks to keep her mind off the letter’s contents all day.
She’d started off writing the next chapter in her novel as she’d sat tucked in the alcove of the window, watching the rain pelting down on the glass. She was finally getting to a point in her book that excited her, and that made writing far easier than it had been the days previous. Eleanor often found that when she herself wasn’t excited by a plot point that she wasn’t encouraged to write. But she knew there were always going to be parts of her books that she wasn’t thrilled with, but they needed to be written so that she could get to the more exciting parts.
After that, she’d assisted her companion, Amelia, in mending the holes that Eleanor’s dog, Verity, had torn in the quilt when she’d been terrified by the thunder the night before. Eleanor never asked her companion to assist her with household tasks, but Amelia enjoyed doing them, and so her employer often assisted her to assuage her guilt.
Amelia had been Eleanor’s companion ever since she’d left her parent’s home. She was an older woman whose dear husband had died of a fever ten years before. After his passing, she never desired to make another romantic match, and so she decided to become a companion. Although Amelia and Eleanor were about ten years apart in age, they were quite good friends.
When that was done, Eleanor and her maid, Annie Rikesby, discussed what was to be done regarding the leak that had appeared in the roof. Eleanor’s home was well-appointed but small, and so she only really needed Annie to assist her with the household duties. The two women decided together that Eleanor should call on someone to come and fix it sooner rather than later, as it was looking as though it was going to be a rainy spring.
No matter how many tasks Eleanor busied herself with, however, the letter still taunted her every time she walked by it. She finally gave in to her conscience that was telling her to just get it over with and open it. She leaned forwards, grabbed the high-quality envelope, and slit the top open.
The letter was from the Crown Prince. Eleanor found him to be utterly insufferable; he was pompous, outspoken, and the tone of his voice always set her teeth on edge. She had been introduced to him when she was a little girl, as Eleanor’s father was an influential judge who the King was dear friends with.
After their introduction, Eleanor had not seen him for many years. She’d begun writing when she was quite young, but she only managed to get a few pieces published before they were reintroduced. At her father’s insistence, Eleanor had passed one of her stories along to the Crown Prince, and he had absolutely loved it. Since then, she had been enjoying all of the privileges that came along with being an author in the Prince’s favour. The court, nobles, and the pretenders who aspired to join their ranks, all devoured her books, and so Eleanor was able to make a handsome income.
This did not, however, mean that Eleanor had to like the Crown Prince. When she started reading his letter, she expected there to be something disagreeable about it, and she was absolutely right.
Dear Miss Holmes
How goes your latest novel? I had thought you said it would be out by February, but here we are in April and I still haven’t read a word of it. Are you falling behind? Do you need some external motivation to get it done, as if my favour and patronage isn’t enough?
Besides that, I am writing to you today to introduce you to Lord Alexander Corbyn, Duke of Stafford. He wishes to…
Eleanor, however, got no further in the letter. She had heard of the Duke of Stafford, of course, but by reputation only. That reputation was not good.
She thought back to about a month ago when she and Amelia had been sitting in the small drawing room after dinner. Amelia had been in her favourite high-backed teal chair, knitting an elegant pair of gloves for Eleanor. Eleanor had had her writing desk on her lap, but she hadn’t been doing very much writing. The two women had chatted back and forth about idle things, until Amelia shared with her a rumour that she had heard that day in town.
“I ran into Lady Harksham at the butcher’s shop, and you know what a gossip she is,” Amelia had told her as she finished a row of delicate stitches. “I discouraged her from spreading her usual lies and falsities at first, but when she told me what she was about to share was something that she could personally attest to being true, I couldn’t help but listen.”
“Do tell, do tell,” had Eleanor encouraged her, putting her writing desk onto the side table and leaning in towards her companion.
“Apparently, the Duke of Stafford, Lord Alexander Corbyn, has been up to his old tricks once again,” Amelia had begun, her knitting becoming tighter as she became more excited by the story. “When she was at the Williams’ ball the other night, she saw him and Lady Pennywhistle dashing off together to a bedroom in the house, and when they came out, their clothing was askew, and Lady Pennywhistle’s dress was on inside out!”
Eleanor’s eyes had widened. “Certainly not!”
Amelia had nodded emphatically. “I am telling you exactly as it was told to me. I am not surprised myself. The Duke of Stafford has long been a scandal waiting to happen. He’s gone off with more women than I can count on my hands and has not married a single one of them.”
“Then why is he still an acceptable member of society?” Eleanor had asked. “He surely cannot be well-liked if he goes around taking young women when he wants them and then abandoning them when he becomes bored of them?”
Amelia had shaken her head. “That is what I thought. But according to Lady Harksham, Lord Corbyn can charm the pants or the skirt off of just about anyone. That is how he remains in good favour.”
Amelia’s words floated back into Eleanor’s memory as she looked again at the name in the letter. Now she was dreading what was to come out of the rest of this message even more, but she knew that she had to read on.
He wishes to record the memoirs of himself and his family. He was originally going to seek out a historian like a proper noble, but when I mentioned your name and your penchant for writing fantastical stories, he became very intrigued. Wasn’t that kind of me? Even though you have not finished a book that was meant to be published two months previous, I still went ahead and recommended you. I am constantly astounded by my own kindness, and I believe you should be, too.
Eleanor rolled her eyes. Not only had the Crown Prince been wrong about when she was supposed to submit her new novel (it was due in May, not February), but he had also recommended her to a position that was being offered by a man she had no desire to see. Her conscience was telling her that she should be grateful to have such an auspicious job offer, but her heart told her that she wanted nothing to do with this Duke and his bad reputation.
After the Duke was initially intrigued, I was able to easily persuade him to take you on. I said that I believed a novelist could do his family’s memoirs better justice, and he very much liked the sound of that. I have included a note from him explaining his wishes for these memoirs.
I am expecting that you will take on this task, if you know what is good for your literary reputation. I know that memoir-writing is not typically a task you partake in, but I told the Duke that you would make an exception for him. Which you shall.
The Crown Prince had then signed the letter, and Eleanor saw another letter that had been included. She quickly tossed away the Crown Prince’s letter in anger, as she felt that he was blackmailing her into taking this position. She knew that she should still be grateful to the Prince, as he was finding her employment, but he was doing so in a very rotten manner that made her feel sick to her stomach.
She also did not need to take this position, as she had the book that she was currently working on, as well as another book coming up that she still had to write. The problem was, however, if she did not take on Lord Corbyn’s memoirs, she was certain that her next book would not be published. The Crown Prince had a great deal of influence over which books were published and which ones were popular, and Eleanor knew she had to obey him if she wanted to maintain her good reputation.
She clenched her teeth together as she opened the second letter, expecting the Duke to write in the same terrible manner that the Prince did. Instead, she found his penmanship to be quite pleasing, and at least he began his letter with some pleasantries.
Dear Miss Eleanor Holmes,
I have heard a great deal about you and your literary talent from the Crown Prince, and so I am hoping to employ you for a task that might suit you well.
I am looking to hire someone to scribe my family’s memoirs. This would be a rather lengthy process, however, and so if you were to take up this task, I would ask you to come and stay at my estate for the duration of the spring and summer. I was not made aware of what your living situation was, but I can assure you that my estate is far better appointed than your humble abode.
It had all been going well up until that point. Eleanor sighed.
I would, of course, pay you handsomely for the task, so long as you completed the work in the timeframe that I set, and in the manner that I request. If you do not, then I am afraid I will not be able to work with you.
If this should please you, I will await your arrival on Sunday the fifth of April by eleven o’clock.
Lord Alexander Corbyn, Duke of Stafford.
Eleanor re-read the letter a few times to make sure that she hadn’t missed anything, and then set it down, disappointed. She knew that she now had to go to the Duke’s estate, no matter what reservations she had about it. The Prince would not take no for an answer if she wished to stay in his good favour, and so she knew she just had to accept it. She was going to be spending her spring and summer writing nothing but boring family history and being in the company of a Duke that she did not wish to be associated with. She quickly wrote a response to the Crown Prince and mailed it as quickly as she could. April fifth was a mere five days away, and the journey took at least two, so Eleanor needed to act speedily.
Eleanor spent the next two days tying up loose ends before she was to leave, as well as packing up all her things. Everything was going quite smoothly until she walked in on Annie scrubbing the kitchen floor one evening. Guilt hit the bottom of Eleanor’s stomach like a rock. She knew that she had to let Annie go, as she would not be able to employ her for the next five months, but she did not want to. Eleanor knew that Annie’s family was struggling to make ends meet as it was, and so as she stood there watching her, she came up with an idea.
“Annie,” she said quietly, not wanting to startle the girl.
“Yes, Miss Holmes?” Annie stopped scrubbing and wiped her hands on her apron.
“As you know, I am leaving for a new position tomorrow that will take me away from here for five to six months.”
“Oh yes, and I’m very excited for you to begin your new adventure!” Annie replied excitedly. She was an impressionable young woman who was always so positive that Eleanor often found herself unable to match her positivity.
“Well thank you very much for your enthusiasm, but I realized that I had failed to ask you if you would care to accompany Amelia and I on our travels?” Eleanor responded.
Annie’s look of excitement was swept off her face immediately and replaced by shock. “I… I’m sorry?”
“When I am at the Duke’s estate, I shall require a lady’s maid as I will need to dress more formally than I do when I am just sitting around at home writing. I was wondering if you would like to be that lady’s maid, so that I might have someone else in my company who I know and like?” Eleanor continued.
Annie’s eyes remained wide and had her jaw not been as well connected to the rest of her head, Eleanor thought that it might have fallen right to the floor. “Well yes, yes I would just love that!”
“Good, I am very glad to hear that. Then you may take the rest of the evening off with pay so that you might go and pack your own items necessary for our journey,” Eleanor finished in a dignified manner.
Annie, however, did not have as much control over her feelings as Eleanor did, and without warning, she flew at Eleanor and flung her arms around her in an embrace. “Oh, thank you, thank you Miss Holmes! I know this is ever so improper, but I needed to express my gratitude and excitement thoroughly. I promise that I shall be on my very best behaviour the whole time, and I will do you proud.”
The excitable young maid stepped back from Eleanor and allowed her to breathe once again.
Eleanor straightened her dress and her hair after her literal run-in with Annie, and then responded, “You already do that, so I have no doubt that will continue when we are in the Duke’s household. Now, go and pack, and Amelia and I shall meet you here bright and early tomorrow morning.”
“Thank you, Miss,” Annie said one last time before abandoning her floor scrubbing duties, grabbing her walking cloak, and running out the front door. Eleanor chuckled to herself and picked up the brush and bucket that were still on the floor where Annie had left them. She returned them to where they belonged, and then proceeded to finish up her last-minute tasks before departing.
The next morning, Annie arrived right on time, and the three women set out on their long journey to the Duke of Stafford’s estate. Eleanor and Amelia were well-seasoned travel companions, and Annie was surprisingly quiet and well-behaved for the entirety of the first day’s journey. They had reached the halfway point of the trip by nightfall, and so they stopped at an inn to rest. They set out again the following morning, and by the next evening, they were only a few towns away from the estate. Amelia had arranged another quaint inn for them to sleep in, and when Eleanor entered her room, she flopped upon the bed. Travelling exhausted her, and she was very happy to be nearly done with this journey.
As she lay in bed that night, however, Eleanor couldn’t sleep. She tossed and turned for a time, trying to keep all thoughts of the Crown Prince and the Duke out of her head, but she eventually realized that this was useless.
I hope that he isn’t insufferable. Perhaps he will be charming, as he is in public, and that will make our time together easier. I hope that he isn’t an ill-behaved gentleman, for there is little else I despise more than bad behaviour. I shall endeavour to keep things between him and me very professional, and I will not inquire about any rumours that I may have heard. We can keep our relationship polite, and I am sure that everything will be fine…won’t it?
Eleanor finally fell asleep about two hours before she was meant to wake up, and so when Amelia knocked gently on her door the next morning, she wasn’t even remotely ready.
“My goodness, we’d better get you dressed as quickly as we can. Come along, Annie,” Amelia said brusquely, and then she and the young maid flew about Eleanor’s room like two birds collecting items for a nest. They had Eleanor dressed and her hair done in about ten minutes flat, and then the three women rushed to the carriage.
“Thank goodness for the two of you!” Eleanor cried as she sat down. “If you hadn’t assisted me this morning and woke me up, I’m certain I would have missed my eleven o’clock meeting with the Duke entirely.”
“Oh, I’m sure you would have made it one way or another,” Amelia said kindly. “You’re a clever woman, I’m sure you would have figured out some way to make it there on time.”
The carriage took off in the direction of the Duke’s estate, and when they finally reached the gates of the property, all three women found themselves staring out the window.
“My goodness,” Annie whispered. “I haven’t ever seen a house this large in my life. What does he do with all of this space? He must have many visitors come all the time.”
Eleanor chuckled. “From what I hear, the Duke doesn’t actually spend very much time here. He spends a great deal of time travelling all about the countryside, and so to have him here for this long stretch is quite something.”
The carriage rolled along the winding drive until it eventually pulled up out in front of the main doors. Eleanor, Amelia and Annie descended from the steps and looked up at the massive estate together.
“Well,” Amelia said, “I’m sure that the Duke must do something to ensure that this space doesn’t go to waste, as this is one of the best kept homes I’ve ever seen.”
Just then, three servants came rushing out of the front door. Eleanor was happy that the Duke had sent people to greet them, and so she smiled politely when they arrived in front of the party. The servants, however, did not look pleased.
“The party is not set to begin until four o’clock, may we ask why you have arrived so early?” one of the servants said, their voice laced with annoyance.
Eleanor’s brow furrowed. “Party? No, I’m Miss Eleanor Holmes, and I have come…”
“It does not matter who you are or what you have come here to do before the party, we have been given strict instructions not to allow anyone in the house until it is closer to the start time,” another servant barked.
“Excuse me,” Eleanor responded in a firmer voice. “I am Miss Eleanor Holmes, and I am here to scribe the memoirs of the Duke of Stafford. I have a meeting set with him for eleven this morning, and I will not be spoken to in such a rude manner.”
The three servant’s eyes widened.
“You’re…you’re Eleanor Holmes. As in…the authoress?” the third servant, who hadn’t spoken yet, asked.
“Yes,” Eleanor said through clenched teeth. “And I demand that we be given entrance to the estate so that I might attend my meeting with the Duke.”
The servants looked at each other, suddenly panicked.
Finally, the one who had first spoken said, “We are terribly, terribly sorry for the manner in which we spoke to you, Miss. The household has just experienced far too many uninvited guests showing up far too early for gatherings, and then they ruin all of the hard work that we’ve done. We are happy to grant you access to the estate, but I’m afraid that the Duke is not here right now, and he did not make us aware of your arrival.”
Eleanor looked to Amelia and the two women shared a confused look. “Perhaps he did not receive my letter in time?”
Amelia shook her head. “That cannot be possible. I ensured that your letter was posted as soon as you handed it off to me. It should have reached here two days ago.”
The smallest servant spoke up again. “I did see a letter with your name on it arrive at the house, Miss, but I do not believe the Duke ever opened it. I saw it lying on his desk still sealed when I went into his study yesterday to dust.”
This was getting stranger and stranger. Why hadn’t the Duke opened her letter? Why was he out of the house when he and Eleanor were meant to be having a meeting? Why was he hosting a party on the very day that they were supposed to begin writing his memoir?
“Do come inside, Miss Holmes,” the first servant said, ushering them through the door, “as it appears it might rain any moment.”
The three women came inside the estate and were not surprised to discover that the interior of the home was just as beautiful as the exterior. The front entryway alone was enough to make any person (including Eleanor) of a lower class jealous. It had a high, domed ceiling with a golden chandelier that was roughly the size of a horse hanging from the ceiling and it was filled with elegant candles. There were fresh flowers overflowing on all of the tables nearby, and the wallpaper was so delicate and elaborate that Eleanor was baffled as to how anyone would have adhered it to the walls.
“I will fetch the housekeeper, and she will show you to your rooms,” one of the servants said, and then they disappeared.
A few minutes later, Eleanor was walking into the room that would be hers for the next five to six months. It was a huge, sprawling space, and yet the way that it had been furnished made it feel cozy. There was a small fire crackling in the fireplace that was encased by a marble mantle. A four-poster bed with heavenly blue bedding lay on the opposite side of the room, and an intricate rug covered most of the floor. The windows on the west wall were bigger than all the windows in Eleanor’s home put together. She walked over and saw that she had a beautiful view of the gardens down below, as well as the very edge of the forest to her right.
“Thank you ever so much for your kindness,” she said to the housekeeper, Mrs. Irvine.
“Do let me know if there is anything else that you require, and feel free to wander about the house to get yourself acquainted with your surroundings,” Mrs. Irvine said warmly before departing the room.
As soon as the housekeeper left, a wave of exhaustion hit Eleanor. She did her best to overcome it by trying to unpack some of her things, but it was no use. She took off her dress and snuggled in under the covers to take a quick nap to try and recover from her poor sleep the night before.
“Memoirs of a Lustful Duke” is an Amazon Best-Selling novel, check it out here!
Eleanor Holmes is an accomplished, confident author who has poured her heart and soul into her books. She has never had any interest in writing about or pursuing romantic relationships, as they are of little value to her. However, when a Duke looks to have his memoirs written, Eleanor’s patron, the Crown Prince, recommends her for the position. The absolute power that the Prince holds for Eleanor’s career, leaves her no choice but to venture to Lord Corbyn’s estate right away. She soon finds herself yielding to the Duke’s skillfully erotic seduction, but Eleanor is determined not to let his childish manner distract her from her task. Will she manage to tame the passion that flares between them and stay true to her word?
Alexander Corbyn, the Duke of Stafford, has had more romantic trysts than he can remember and has acquired a reputation for being a heartbreaker. When he decides his life is worth sharing, his good friend the Crown Prince, introduces him to the tempting Eleanor. The moment they meet, the Duke is immediately fascinated by her. She is not like any other woman he has met before; she has absolutely no interest in him and she is far too serious and rule-abiding for his liking. Realising that it will be hard to conquer her heart, he makes it his mission to tease her with the stories of his ‘conquests’, thinking that he’ll enjoy watching her squirm. However, when sparks fly, will he surrender to his burning desire and seduce her untamed heart?
Neither of them expects what will happen next…ending up captivated both physically and mentally. As they work alongside more and more, Eleanor and Alexander begin to realise that every thrilling kiss sparks hotter desire and soon their love will be unable to endure this temptation. However, will Eleanor be able to overlook the Duke’s scandalous past to be with him? Will Alexander be open to being with someone so “comme il faut”? After all, can they turn this promising passion into everlasting love?
“Memoirs of a Lustful Duke” is a historical romance novel of approximately 80,000 words. No cheating, no cliffhangers, and a guaranteed happily ever after.