July 5, 2023

HTP Spring Reads Blog Tour (Romance Edition) Promo Post: A Rogue at Stonecliffe by Candace Camp

at 7/05/2023 11:07:00 AM

New York Times bestselling author Candace Camp invites you back to Stonecliffe for a second adventure! Action and romance ensue on this adventurous trip through the beautiful English countryside.

When the love of her life left without any explanation, Annabeth Winfield moved on despairingly, knowing she'd never have a love as thrilling as her first ever again. Sloane Rutherford was roguish and daring, but as Annabeth grew up, she realized that their reckless romance was just a passing adventure, never meant for stability. Twelve years later, Annabeth is engaged to someone new, ready to start her life with a dependable man.

That's when Sloane returns. And he brings with him a serious warning: Annabeth is in trouble.

After spending the last dozen years working as a spy, Sloane thought he'd left espionage behind him. But now a dangerous blackmailer is after Annabeth. Sloane offers to hide his former lover at Stonecliffe, the Rutherford estate, but stubborn Annabeth demands to be part of the investigation. As the two embark on a dangerous and exciting journey, memories of their past romance resurface. Sloane and Annabeth aren't the wide-eyed children they used to be, but knowing they're wrong for each other makes a nostalgic affair seem very right...

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Sloane Rutherford was not a man who hesitated. He made his decisions, for good or ill, and he lived with them. But today he sat slouched at the breakfast table, food untouched, turning a note round and round in his hand, unable to make up his mind. Should he go to the wedding or not?

Actually there was no question whether he should do it; clearly he should not. The question was whether he would. The event itself didn’t figure into his thoughts. While he was surprised and faintly pleased by the fact that Noelle had invited him, he held most of his own family in disregard…and they looked on him with even less liking. Estranged wasn’t the word for his relationship with the Rutherfords. Shunned would be more like it.

So, no, he had no interest in the wedding itself, no reason to go, and normally he would have tossed the invitation in the ash can. But what drew him almost painfully to attend was precisely the thing that set up an equal ache of reluctance inside his chest: she would be there.

“Annabeth?” Marcus said from the doorway.

Sloane glanced up, startled, and scowled at his father.

“So you’re reading minds now? One would think you would have done better at the card tables.”

“Yes, wouldn’t one?” Marcus replied amicably, and strolled across the room. “Sadly, it didn’t seem to work that way. And your problem didn’t take much intuition. It’s written all over your face.”

Marcus settled into a chair across from Sloane. Clad in his dressing gown and soft slippers, Marcus looked every inch the indolent aristocrat that he was—his luxurious white mane of hair combed back stylishly, his jaw smooth from his valet’s shaving, and his dressing gown made of the richest brocade and cut to fit perfectly. Even if he looked somewhat more worn than his age from years of reckless living, he was still a handsome man.

Sloane wondered if his father might catch the eye of some wealthy widow who would take the man off his hands…but no, Marcus was equally banned from the ton—more because of Sloane’s history than his own numerous vices.

“What are you doing up so early?” Sloane asked, ignoring Marcus’s comments. “You usually don’t stir from your room until ten or eleven.”

“Unfortunately the only appointment Harriman had available was at the ungodly time of nine. It’s quite difficult to get in to see him on such short notice.”

“Ah, your tailor. That would be enough to pull you out of bed.” Sloane’s mouth quirked up. Marcus was still a peacock at his age. No doubt the bill the tailor sent Sloane would be enormous, but Sloane didn’t mind. He’d far rather spend his money on his father’s fashion than on some of Marcus’s other habits.

“But I won’t complain. I was lucky he was able to make room to see me.”

“I expect he’s grateful that I pay your bills on time, unlike most of his aristocratic clients,” Sloane said dryly.

“And I’ll have the entire afternoon to enjoy the prospect of the wedding,” Marcus went on.

“A wedding?” Sloane asked skeptically. “You look forward to weddings?”

“Not everyone is as much of a hermit as you are. Some of us find social occasions agreeable.”

“I’m not a hermit.”

“Mmm, yes. No doubt that’s why you spend so much time alone, brooding. Cornwall suits you perfectly.” Marcus picked up the cup of tea the footman had just set before him and took a sip, his blue eyes twinkling with amusement. “But this wedding, I must admit, offers rather more entertainment than the usual one.”

Sloane made no response. The last topic he wanted to discuss was this wedding.

But his father needed no reply. He went on, “For one thing, there is Noelle, the lovely bride herself, and the potential of gossip over her scandalous past.”

“I can’t see how running from Thorne is any scandal,” Sloane interjected. “Anyone with sense would do so. I find it far stranger that she stopped.”

Marcus chuckled. “Yes, he is a dull one, isn’t he? But I suspect Noelle livens him up. Still, the wedding offers more excitement than that. Lady Lockwood can always be counted on to cause some sort of contretemps…though hopefully she will not bring her dog. Of course Lord Edgerton will be there. I believe he annoys her ladyship even more than her first son-in-law—who knows what barbs she will cast his way?” He paused, then added, “And just imagine the stir if you show up.”

Sloane grunted and slid back from the table, standing. “Which is precisely why I am not going to the wedding.”

“Of course not. That’s why you haven’t tossed out that invitation. Why you were sitting there mooning over it when I came in.”

“I wasn’t mooning over anything. I was just…” He trailed off his sentence with a grimace.

“You were just contemplating whether facing down your relatives outweighed the prospect of seeing Annabeth Winfield.”

“I don’t give a tinker’s damn about facing my relatives.”

“Ah…then it’s whether seeing Annabeth is worth the pain.”

“Don’t be absurd.” Sloane’s voice held little conviction, and he turned away, walking over to the window. He crossed his arms and gazed out at the street below. A moment passed, and he said in a quiet voice, “It would be foolish to see her.”

“No doubt.” Marcus let out a sigh. “The foolish things are always the ones you most desire.”

“I’ve done well enough not seeing her for eleven years.” Being out of the country most of that time had helped. But even since he returned to England, Sloane had avoided Annabeth—well, maybe there was that one time when he first returned and he’d stood outside Lady Lockwood’s house in the dark to get a glimpse of Annabeth coming down the front steps and getting into a carriage. With Nathan. Sloane’s lips tightened at the thought.

It had come as something of a shock to see her at Stonecliffe two months ago. He had not realized that she and Lady Lockwood were visiting or he wouldn’t have gone there.

But as he had stood in the entryway with Noelle and the others, a door had opened down the hall, and there she had been: her soft brown hair in a little disarray, her face faintly flushed from activity, carrying a basket full of flowers. And in the moment, he couldn’t speak, couldn’t move, could only stare. She was as lovely as ever. And he was as dumbstruck as ever.

He’d turned and left like someone had shot at him. He wasn’t sure whether he even tossed a goodbye to Noelle and Carlisle. And bloody Nathan—of course he’d been there. That moment had disrupted Sloane’s carefully nurtured indifference, and even after his heart stopped beating like a madman’s and he’d reminded himself that he’d gotten over her years ago, he had not been able to keep his mind from going back to Annabeth time after time. Like a tongue returning to a bad tooth.

Behind him his father said, “Why do you continue like this? Why don’t you go to see her, tell her how you feel?”

Sloane snorted. “I’d have to fight my way through the butler and probably Lady Lockwood, too, to talk to her.”

“I’ve never known you to avoid a fight.”

“Maybe not. But I can’t fight Annabeth. And she’s the one who hates me.”

“How do you know that?” Marcus persisted. “She’s never married in all this time. She has no money, of course, but a sweet, pretty girl like that? She’s bound to have had plenty of offers.”

“No doubt.” Sloane’s jaw tightened. “But that doesn’t mean she’s been pining after me. I broke her heart. I knew I was breaking her heart. And the fact that I broke mine as well wouldn’t have made her feel any better or despise me any less.”

“Why don’t you tell her the truth?” His father’s voice turned sharp, his usual affability gone. “Explain what you did. Why you did it. Tell her that bastard Asquith blackmailed you into it.”

Sloane whirled, his eyes flashing. “I can’t tell her that. The truth would cause her just as much pain now as it would have then. I knew when I did it that I was sacrificing her love for a lifetime. I just thought my lifetime wouldn’t last very long.”

Letting out a disgusted noise, Sloane started out of the room. Before he’d taken two steps, there was a furious pounding at the front door. Frowning, he turned toward it. The pounding continued, along with someone shouting his name. Sloane reached the entry hall just as the footman opened the door and began an indignant dressing-down of the boy before him.

But the boy on the doorstep paid no attention and shoved his way past the footman, calling again. “Mr. Rutherford!”

“Timmy.” Sloane strode toward the door, alarm rising in him. “What is it? What the devil are—”

“It’s the docks, sir. Mr. Haskell sent me. You’ve got to come quick. The new warehouse is on fire.”

Excerpted from A Rogue at Stonecliffe by Candance Camp. Copyright © 2023 by Candace Camp and Anastasia Camp Hopcus. Published by arrangement with Harlequin Books S.A.

About the Author

Photo Credit: Anastasia Hopcus

Candace Camp is a New York Times bestselling author of over sixty novels of contemporary and historical romance. She grew up in Texas in a newspaper family, which explains her love of writing, but she earned a law degree and practiced law before making the decision to write full-time. She has received several writing awards, including the RT Book Reviews Lifetime Achievement Award for Western Romances. Visit her at www.candace-camp.com.

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