RITA Award-Winning Romance Author

October 1, 2011

The Liberation of Miss Finch

Did you wonder what happened to young Claude Mableau, Emmaline Mableau’s son who witnessed his father’s death at Badajoz? Claude becomes the catalyst of events in Valiant Soldier, Beautiful Enemy, seeking to revenge his father’s death. But he deserved his own happy ending.

In The Liberation of Miss Finch, Claude returns to England after ten years’ absence to reconcile with his mother and her husband. He again encounters Miss Louisa Finch, the aristocratic young lady whom he once accompanied on countless rides over the countryside and who became his secret friend. Louisa is all woman now and she asks Claude to give her one last adventure… before she must marry a man she does not love.

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The Liberation of Miss Finch

Lancashire, England, 1828

…Claude’s insides wrenched, because he knew she would also soon share her husband’s bed.

He could not form another comment. Instead he stared out at the pristine beauty of the stream tumbling over rocks.

Finally she spoke. “When are the races at Ascot?”

“In a week’s time.”

He ought to have known that his time with her would be achingly brief. They’d always been fated to part from each other.

She released a long sigh and glanced toward the dipping sun. “I suppose I should go back.”

Claude stood and reached out a hand to help her up. As he pulled her to her feet she put her arms around him and held him tight. Her body was flush with his and every curve made his senses flare. He hungered for more of her, a taste of her lips, the feel of his fingers on her warm skin. He held her close, controlling his desires, trying to accept that merely holding her was more than he had a right to expect.

“I am so glad you returned here, Claude. I will have much to remember now.” Finally she loosened her embrace and glanced up at him. Her face was pale, and her warm brown eyes searched his face as if she were memorizing every feature.

They returned to the horses and rode slowly back to Rappard Hall, while his very soul ached with the fear that this would be their final goodbye. They did not speak until reaching the ridge where they would have to part. Dismounting, she embraced Claude once more.

But this time he sensed a change in her, a growing strength, an intensifying determination.

She pulled away abruptly and looked him directly in the eye. “Will you do something for me, Claude?” Her expression was unflinching. “If I ask you, will you do something for me?”

“Of course,” he rasped. “Anything.”

Her voice turned low and resolute. “Give me one last adventure. Take me with you to Ascot.”


End of Excerpt

The Liberation of Miss Finch is currently available in digital format only:

North America Harlequin

ISBN 13: 9781459209992

October 1, 2011

Behind the Book

The Liberation of Miss Finch

Horse Racing in Nineteenth Century Tennessee

You might wonder why I sent Claude to America after he left England at the end of Valiant Soldier, Beautiful Enemy, especially because he’d been so proud of being French. And why to Tennessee, of all places?

Post-Napoleonic war France would have held little appeal to Claude, who clung to his father’s belief in the tenets of the French Revolution, liberté, égalité, fraternité. King Louis XVIII was restored to the throne and again the power in the country went to the wealthy, the landowners. If this were not enough, the depressed economy of France didn’t lend itself to developing a racing industry.

Even more than France, Claude loved horses, so he went to where the horses were. And that was Tennessee. The cocky Americans were bent on breeding a better racehorse than the English, an idea that certainly resonated with Leo.

The first official horse race in Tennessee took place in Gallatin. Andrew Jackson ran his horse, Indian Queen, in those races. Jackson was a leading Tennessee horse breeder and racer, even purchasing an interest in another racetrack at Clover Bottom. By 1807 Clover Bottom, Gallatin, and another course at Nashville each had a Jockey Club. By 1839 there were at least ten race tracks and twenty Jockey Clubs. (Look for the names Gallatin and Clover in Claude’s story.) Tennessee was a hotbed of thoroughbred racing.

It stood to reason there would be stud farms in Tennessee where Claude could find employment. His love of horses led to him gaining extensive experience in horse breeding and training.

But Claude was also attracted to America because America’s Revolution had been successful, when, in his eyes, France’s had not. America was a place where a man could advance on merit alone, he idealistically thought, and his skill with horses would allow him to advance to the very pinnacle of his profession.

The horse-breeding country of Tennessee in the early 1800s was not quite the land of equality that Claude expected, however. He painfully learned there were still class differences, especially between landowner and stable employee. Even worse, slavery gave some men and women no freedom at all, merely due to the color of their skin. Men owning men was appalling to Claude.

So it was a disillusioned Claude who left America and sailed across the ocean to Lancashire, England for a long overdue reconciliation with his mother.

Little did he know he would also find love.