Suzanne Enoch - Regency Romance Author
Suzanne Enoch - Regency Romance Author

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The Legend of Nimway Hall
1818: Isabel

March 29, 2018

New York Times bestselling author Suzanne Enoch spins a Regency-era tale at Nimway Hall, in a book series centered on a house where love and magic entwine to bring romance to all who dwell there.

A passionate, determined young lady trying to prove herself worthy of a timeless, magic-touched legacy and a steadfast gentleman looking for his own place in the world join forces to restore an abandoned estate to its former glory.


The moment Isabel de Rossi turns eighteen, she insists on taking charge of Nimway Hall, which has stood empty for the past ten years. Well-aware that all her female forebears found true love at Nimway, she can’t wait to discover her own destined match. Instead she’s faced with Adam Driscoll, the infuriatingly practical estate manager whose presence is a constant, insulting reminder that her own grandmother thinks she has no idea what she’s doing.

Adam thought the recent offer of a position at Nimway Hall a godsend. After spending six years managing his elderly uncle’s estate he is at a crossroads, facing either a dreary career in the army or the church. At Nimway he can continue working with his hands, his feet firmly on the ground and his mind on practical matters of crops, millstones, and irrigation. He revels in the chance to restore this estate to its former glory as the well-run marvel of Somerset—even though several mysterious setbacks have befallen his efforts.

The last complication he needs is a quirky, foreign-raised heiress intent on finding a magical orb and interfering with his well-laid plans; but practical Adam can’t help noticing that in her presence the repairs are suddenly going well, and that the pretty mistress of the Hall is clever, amusing, and genuinely interested improving her estate and the lives of her tenants.

Despite their conflicting sensibilities he finds it hard to resist their simmering attraction. At the same time Adam is keenly aware that the more he helps Isabel with the estate the closer he is to assisting himself out of his position – and away from her.

Despite herself, Isabel is reluctantly drawn to Adam’s quiet strength and dedication, but has begun to wonder if she somehow isn’t worthy of becoming the property’s guardian; though she searches everywhere for evidence of magic, the famous orb – the artifact reputedly responsible for every love match made at Nimway Hall, including her own parents’ – is nowhere to be found…until dreamy Lord Alton from the neighboring estate arrives and starts to pursue Isabel. The pesky orb suddenly appears, though it seems to have a preference for Adam’s room.

For a young lady in need of some polish, the choice between a charming viscount and an headstrong, interfering employee should be a simple one, but magic is a stubborn thing – and the heart is even more headstrong.


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Chapter One

Adam sent the chestnut along the southernmost pathway, the one that bordered the edge of Balesboro Wood. It would add an additional thirty minutes or so to reach Nimway Hall by this route, but he needed those moments to figure out where they’d erred with the pulley so it wouldn’t happen again. Purple and red splashed the western sky behind him, and a trio of does stepped into the meadow and then retreated again when they caught sight of him.

He’d enjoyed directing Franklin Park in a way he’d never expected. Given his circumstances, however, owning acreage of his own seemed supremely unlikely. He’d therefore thought it fortuitous that just as he’d found himself replaced at Franklin, the solicitor father of an old friend had written to inquire if he was available to take up a newly-vacated position at Nimway Hall.

Adam had barely paused long enough to pack a trunk. Now, however, he wasn’t so certain that “fortuitous” had been the correct word. In fact, despite his determination to succeed at something here, over the past few days he’d begun to wonder if resigning might be in the best interests of everyone involved. Tom Reynolds might have been badly injured today.

He shook himself. Coincidence. The offer of employment – a coincidence. A stewardship position coming available also happened to be very rare. A steward tended to serve until he was too old to do so, at which time a son would assume the position. It was almost a commoner’s version of a title inheritance. The one at Nimway Hall had been unusual both in the fact that the previous steward had conveniently expired in the village’s cemetery, and that he had no sons and hadn’t suggested anyone else to succeed him. Adam knew he wasn’t likely to run across another such opportunity.

And if the circumstances of his employment were coincidence, then so were the misfortunes that had plagued him since his arrival. The nonsense wasn’t anything he’d done, and it therefore had no reason to continue. All it would take was a bit more determination. And he had that in spades.

Just how long he might have remained pondering his future while the sky darkened around him he didn’t know, because as the path joined with the road that wound from the manor house and back through the wood, something caught his attention.

A lone owl hooted, and he shook himself back to the present. He’d best turn back to the manor before the staff could think he’d fled – giving him something else to explain. A second owl joined the first, and then a third, and a fourth.

Adam pulled up the gelding. In a moment the entire wood reverberated with “Hoo hoo”. The hairs on his neck lifted. What in the world would upset every owl in Somerset? A fire? He narrowed his eyes scanning the edge of the forest, but no light caught his eyes. He didn’t smell smoke, though the sky was too dark now for him to see it.

His mount sidestepped, blowing nervously. Tightening his hand on the reins, Adam reached down his free hand to pat the beast on the neck. “Easy now, boy.”

Then, light did catch his gaze. Firelight, but contained, floating and blinking, drifting toward him. Two lights, then four, bobbing as they approached. The owls stopped. The wood seemed to hold its breath, silent and still and waiting. No crickets, no frogs, broke the silence.

As he watched the lights continue closer, a light breeze touched his face. In the same moment a pair of crickets began chirping off to his left, and he realized what the lights must be. Carriage lamps. A coach, approaching through Balesboro Woods.

Of course it was a coach. What the devil else would it be? Blowing out his breath, he kneed the gelding off the worn road as the vehicle emerged from the wood. “Nimway Hall?” the black-clothed driver asked as they drew even.

“Follow this road, about half a mile on,” Adam responded. “Who comes?”

“The Hall’s mistress.”

Olivia Harrington? Adam wheeled the gelding to follow the coach. Behind him a lone owl hooted once more. He slowed, listening, but the sound echoed into silence without being repeated. The disturbance, whatever had unsettled the birds of prey, seemed to have ceased. Nevertheless, he kept glancing over his shoulder all the way back to the well-lit hall.

As the coach stopped before the front portico Adam dismounted, handing the reins to Toby as the lad ran up from the stables at the rear of the house. The boy gawped, wide-eyed, as the coach driver flipped down the steps and the plain black door swung open.

At the same moment the ancient butler, Simmons, appeared from somewhere to hold out his hand. Adam had known the man for a month, and had never seen him move that quickly. A yellow-gloved hand reached out from the coach’s cavernous darkness, fingers curling around the butler’s. Then a foot, sheathed in a dainty yellow walking slipper, emerged, and a yellow and green muslin walking dress patterned with tiny red flowers, then a massive yellow bonnet that obscured everything above the woman’s shoulders.

Both feet touched the ground, and Adam stepped forward. “Mrs. Harrington? I wasn’t expecting you. I’m—“

She lifted her head, and the words stopped in his throat. As far as he knew, Olivia Harrington was a grandmother, a woman of at least middle age. The deep gray eyes looking up at him didn’t belong to a grandmother. And neither did the deep brown curls of burnished mahogany which framed her temples. “Mrs. Harrington is my grandmother,” she said, in well-educated tones, her accent touched by…something he couldn’t quite put a name to. “I am Isabel de Rossi. And you would be Mr. Dingle?”

“Driscoll,” he corrected. Evidently neither of them had expected the other. “Adam Driscoll.”

“Ah, yes. Driscoll.” She sent her gaze down to his boots and back up again.

Abruptly he realized the sight he must look. “I must apologize,” he said, brushing at his coat. “As I said, I wasn’t expecting anyone.” He cleared his throat. “Simmons, she’ll be wanting the master bedchamber. And inform Mrs. Dall we’ll have two more for dinner.”

“Miss de Rossi,” Simmons intoned, bowing and nearly knocking Adam aside. “I knew your mother well. How fares Miss Charlotte?”

Isabel smiled, thankful for all the tales her mother used to tell of Nimway Hall and its residents, and for the moment to think about something other than the annoying man who was already giving orders on her behalf when she could speak quite well for herself. “Simmons. My mother speaks of you often. She and my father are both quite well, thank you.”

The butler’s cheeks colored beneath his shock of white hair. “I’m honored that she remembers me. A fine young lady, she was.” Abruptly he snapped back to attention. “Will, see that the mistress’s things are brought up to the master bedchamber. And have the room opened. We cannot have her sleeping on furniture coverings and dust.”

A younger man, one of the footmen, she presumed, flashed by to begin untying her substantial luggage from the rear of the coach. Behind her Jane stepped down to the ground, as well. “We might have stopped for the night in East Pennard or Balesborough,” Isabel commented, reminding herself that this moment would serve as the servants’ first impression of her, “but I was very eager to reach the Hall. And I don’t mind a bit of dust.”

And as badly as she wanted to gaze up at the building, to run inside and explore and find…something that could explain the breathless excitement she felt, the reason she’d decided they would drive all night if necessary to reach Nimway Hall without another stop, she couldn’t very well behave like a flighty girl. She was the mistress of this property, now.

The rather tall Mr. Driscoll continued to stand between her and the front door. She didn’t know precisely who she’d expected, but certainly not someone as…fit as he appeared. She’d met a steward or two, and they’d been older, experienced men, selected for their ability to maintain the running of an estate while its master was elsewhere. They served as the owner’s surrogate. They didn’t have straw sticking up from their dark, disheveled hair or patches of dust on their sleeves. For heaven’s sake, he looked more like a farmer than a steward.

A handsome farmer, to be sure, black-haired and green eyed with a lean hardness to his body and his face. A man who worked with his hands, from the look of his attire, and one who no doubt thought he knew everything about Nimway Hall and how best to run it. Well, she would see about that. She might not know precisely what Nimway needed – yet – but she would figure it out. Because this was where she belonged.

Isabel took a deep breath and stepped around Adam Driscoll. Tonight she wanted to see Nimway Hall. She could sack the steward tomorrow.

 

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