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The Worst Woman in London
A defiant Victorian wife fights to escape a bad marriage, but her love for a forbidden man jeopardizes her chance of freedom.
Book 2 in the Harcastle Inheritance series.
A Duke who exposes charlatans for fun has seven days to expose the biggest fake of all in this enemies to lovers romance.
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“Sexy, smart, and almost unbearably intimate, this is the best historical romance I’ve read in years. Julia Bennet is an author to watch!” –Elizabeth Hoyt, NYT bestselling author.
Book 1 in the Harcastle Inheritance series.
A sane woman imprisoned in a madhouse plots to seduce her new doctor into helping her escape, but he falls in love instead.
Read chapter one below for free.
“What an exquisite story of torment — the torment of doing the right thing and the torment of being right and unable to do anything about it. I read about the struggles and victories of the people in Julia Bennet’s story, The Madness of Miss Grey, with an aching heart. The sensitivity and strength of purpose that Bennet brings to the tale is at once elegant and harrowing, and the ultimate achievement of the happily ever after feels just as much a triumph for the characters as for the reader.” -Frolic Media
“A unique work in our current Romancelandia landscape and one I think should be given attention.” -All About Romance.
“An intelligent and satisfying read.” -Soloni R., NetGalley
“Entertaining, gripping, and deliciously atmospheric, this book had me hooked from page one.” -Erika C., NetGalley
“WOW!! This was an amazing debut from this author and I was captivated by her writing. This was a well written romance it had plenty of mystery and intrigue. I loved the mystery to this story it kept me guessing and turning the pages.” -Maria D., Goodreads
“This story was full of dark secrets and it certainly pulls me into it and I was hooked into reading till the last page and the ending.” -Patricia L., Goodreads
Read on For an Extract From The Madness of Miss Grey…
A woman’s shriek pierced the silence.
William Carter spun toward the sound as a murder of carrion crows burst from the trees and filled the air with their ominous cries. He shivered in spite of his greatcoat and dug his hands deeper into the pockets.
Just down the lane, his mother’s cozy cottage waited, a warm fire crackling in the grate, but the scream had come from somewhere in the woods, and Hector was nowhere to be seen. Normally, Will couldn’t take more than a few steps without tripping over him.
“Where are you, Hector, you bastard?” Will muttered, his breath warm against his woolen muffler. He lowered the thick scarf half an inch and whistled—a single, long note ricocheting from tree to leafless tree, then fading into the empty sky.
No response, but Will had a shrewd idea what might have caused that scream a moment ago. Snow crunched underfoot as he followed what remained of the old track into the woods. The ground here was easier. Patches of green broke through the white like little oases in the icy desert.
He stopped again to listen. The crows cawed in the distance, but otherwise nothing, not so much as a rustle in the undergrowth. The skin on the back of his neck prickled
in reaction to the unnatural-seeming stillness.
“You filthy cur!” The woman’s voice again. Less shrill this time and no longer afraid. Her anger cut through the eerie calm. “Get off me, you foul brute.”
Will struck out through the trees, her outraged squeaks and groans his guide. Soon other sounds reached him—the trickle of water and a low, excited panting. The woods had changed since his youth. Where once there had been saplings, a wall of evergreens stood between him and the stream. He had to push through, emerging on the other side with snow caught in his collar and the scent of pine clinging to him.
The woman stood on the bank, her back flat against a gnarled oak, her nose wrinkled in disgust. A man’s coat, much like Will’s own, swallowed her, making it impossible to establish much more than the color of her hair (red), her height (tall), and her sex (female). Comely or plain, fat or thin, it was impossible to tell. Yet he knew exactly who she must be.
They were looking for her up at the house.
“Ugh! You fiend,” she cried.
The object of her derision, a large black dog—Will’s large black dog, actually—nudged her hand with his muzzle and licked her fingers with his huge, pink tongue.
Helen’s heart simply ceased working as she waited for the gigantic beast to tear her throat out with its massive fangs. She’d been heading for the path when that thing came bounding through the trees, black and terrible—a true hellhound. But then the dog ruined its dramatic entrance by barreling into her, tail wagging, hot, wet tongue lapping at her hands. Its slobber coated her chilled and sadly gloveless fingers, and disgust won out over fear. Shoving the creature off—or trying to, anyway—she launched into a stream of abuse.
“Here, Hector.” A man’s voice cut through the air like the crack of a whip.
She jerked her gaze to the right and saw him standing by the edge of the stream, a great bear of a man dressed in black.
Well, naturally. If the hellhound was here, Helen ought to have expected its master the devil to put in an appearance. But wasn’t Lucifer supposed to be beautiful? This man was plain, his features unremarkable, with no horns or tail in evidence, and his clothes—now that she’d had a good look—like those of a gentleman farmer, not the Prince of Darkness. On closer inspection, the master proved as underwhelming as the dog.
Even so, he had an air of authority. In the dog’s place, she’d obey, but though it had stopped its assault, the creature seemed loath to leave her side, looking up at her with wide eyes.
“Here, boy!” the man commanded again, and this time, miraculously, the dog—a Great Dane?—did as it was bidden. Padding forward, resentment plain in the set of its head and the droop of its tail, it parked its oversized rear on its master’s foot.
“That thing slobbered all over me,” she said, wiping her hands on her coat. No, not her coat, she reminded herself, but Dr. Sterling’s, purloined from the gunroom when no one was looking. If anyone deserved the spittle, it was him. A pity she hadn’t found gloves in the pockets, though.
“You ought to keep it chained up,” she said, giving the dog another good glare.
“My apologies, Miss Grey,” the man said, dislodging Hector as he stepped closer. “Are you all right?”
This stranger knew her. She opened her mouth to ask how then snapped it shut a second later. After all these years enduring prods and pokes, she ought to recognize a
doctor at twenty paces.
“You have the advantage of me. Your name would be…?”
“Carter. Dr. William Carter.”
The name suited him. She found it easy to imagine him, with his broad shoulders and strong limbs, hefting heavy loads onto a laborer’s cart. He had a simple, coarse-featured face, too. Only his voice didn’t fit the picture. He spoke beautifully, with no hint of a regional accent.
A couple of days ago she’d overheard some of the nurses gossiping about the new doctor who was set to arrive. A local lad, they’d said, the son of a former Blackwell employee, from back before the house became an insane asylum.
“Oh,” she said, “you’re the old housekeeper’s son.”
He didn’t blush; nothing so feminine. A muscle worked in his jaw, and a slight redness tipped his ears. She hadn’t meant her words as an insult, but it was good to know she possessed a weapon if she needed one.
“We heard you were coming,” she added.
“Miss Grey.” He offered his arm, all politeness. “I think you must be very cold. Won’t you walk back with me?”
She took a step away before she caught herself. She would not show fear. Not in front of a doctor. Not in front of anyone. “How gentlemanly. And yet you are no true
In truth she thought no worse of him for his lowly birth. How could she when her own was so irregular? If he chose, he might with justice say that she was no true lady herself. As it was, her rudeness had no visible impact. She’d taken him by surprise earlier, but since then he’d girded himself against further insult. Sensible man.
“Did you mean to run away?” he asked.
That’s it, Doctor. Put me in my place. But you can’t make me answer.
Even as she’d donned the stolen coat, she’d recognized the futility of her actions. With no money, she had no hope of escape, especially at this time of year. But she owed this man, this doctor, no explanation. He was nothing to her.
He sighed—a short, exasperated exhalation that irritated her. “What did you mean to do, stay out here until you froze?” He’d used past tense, and yet Sterling, indeed any of the other asylum staff, would have dragged her back to the house by now.
The dog crept forward and nuzzled her hand with its snout.
“For heaven’s sake, get off,” she snapped.
Dr. Carter flinched as if the words had been meant for him. “Here, Hector.”
The dog whimpered and obeyed. Its master placed his hand on its head and stroked absentmindedly. The gesture looked almost like sympathy.
“Are you in earnest?” he asked Helen.
Done with talk, she turned her back on the pair of them. Now he must do one of two things: grab her and carry her back to the house over his shoulder like an errant child or walk away. She hoped for the latter. If he left her here, even if he sent someone else to do his dirty work afterward, he’d reveal himself as a weakling and a coward. She’d dealt with those before. They were much easier to predict than the Dr. Sterlings of this world.
“I’m not sure I believe you.” His words sent a thrill of shock through her. The asylum staff bullied and cajoled her, but she couldn’t remember the last time anyone had confronted her like an equal.
“I beg your pardon?” She turned to face him again. “Do
The words wouldn’t come, even though she knew what she wanted to say. Not a problem with which she usually struggled.
She tried again. “Do you always insult your patients? Did they teach you that at the Royal College of Physicians?”
Frowning, he inclined his head. “You’d freeze more quickly without the coat.”
A grudging spark of respect flickered within her. Best to stamp it out at once. If he wasn’t going to take her seriously, she’d have to show him how wrong he was.
Her fingers, sluggish with cold, worked clumsily as she felt for the row of buttons. Undoing them took much longer than it should have, but at last the coat sagged open. She shrugged free of the heavy wool and let it fall in a heap at her feet.
“There,” she said, or actually, “Th—the—there.”
With the coat on, she’d been cold, but now, where the air rushed to meet her skin, she burned. Her thin white day dress was suitable attire for a warm summer’s afternoon but woefully inadequate for the snow and ice of a January twilight. Her limbs shook so violently, she feared Dr. Carter might take it for a fit. Teeth rattling, she wondered, not for the first time, if she was mad after all.
The doctor shoved his hands deep into his pockets, perhaps to keep from seizing hold of her. But he was difficult to read, and she couldn’t be sure of his motives on any score. Had he truly meant his words as a challenge, or was this all some colossal mistake?
Perhaps the latter, because Dr. Carter withdrew his hands again almost immediately and held one out to her. “Come back with me, Miss Grey.”
This wasn’t the almost formal gesture he’d made before. This time, his hand was open, palm up, almost as if he offered it in friendship. No weapon could hide in a hand held out so. It would feel warm even through his glove. She could put the coat back on, take that hand, and let him lead her back to heat and light. Instead, she stared stupidly, her mind slowing, seizing up.
If I go back, they’ll never let me go again. Impossible. Blackwell had been her prison for nearly a decade, and she couldn’t endure another moment there. Better to freeze out here in the snow.
“Won’t you let me help you?”
“You medical men,” she said, and even her own words came to her ears as if through a long tunnel. “Always ready to help, always eager to strap me down and manhandle me.”
But she barely knew what she was saying anymore. Before she had a chance to marshal her sluggish thoughts, her legs gave out—just crumpled out from under her. Fire kissed her skin as she sank into the snow.
“Drat,” she whispered as Dr. Carter rushed forward and gathered her into his arms.