Can they open their hearts to something much deeper and passionate? Will their marriage only ever be a comfortable alliance?
Six years ago, Helena Swift’s fiancé was fatally wounded at Waterloo. Locking away all dreams of the heart, she retreated to a safe family haven. On the shelf and happy to be there, Helena has perfected the art of deterring would-be suitors.
Will, Earl of Rastleigh, is the only son of an only son: marriage is his duty. One of the great prizes of the marriage market, he shies away from a cold, society union. While he doesn’t expect love, he seeks something more comfortable. But how to find the woman who will welcome him into her life and her bed, and be a good mother to their children?
When Will meets Helena, he is intrigued by her composure, her kindness and her intelligence. As their friendship develops, he realises he has found his ideal wife, if only he can overcome her well-known aversion to matrimony
Will succeeds in slipping past Helena’s guard. Tempted by the thought of children of her own, and encouraged by her mother to leave the shallows where she has lingered so long, she accepts his offer of a marriage based not on dangerous love but affectionate companionship and mutual respect.
But is this enough? As Will gets to know his wife better, and the secrets of her past unfold, he realises that they have settled for second-best. Can he change the basis of their marriage? Will Helena risk her heart and dare to love again?
Congratulations to Catherine Kullmann on the publication of her new Regency novel, A Comfortable Alliance. In it, her hero and heroine agree on a pragmatic marriage with benefits, only to find their comfortable alliance complicated by love.
In celebration, I’m delighted to be able to share with you this extract from A Comfortable Alliance.
London, 19 July 1821
The Earl of Rastleigh stepped back, raised his foil to salute his opponent and then went forward to shake his hand. “A good bout, Stephen.”
“Have you been taking extra lessons from Angelo, Will?” his lordship’s oldest friend, Stephen Graham MP enquired. “That last was a neat trick.”
“Not directly. A visiting French master called here last week. He demonstrated some new moves.”
“Which you are going to share with me, I trust?”
Will laughed. “Only one at a time. I’ll not sacrifice my advantage so easily.”
“But you can at least demonstrate that last one.”
His lordship obliged, slowly going through the movement and then engaging with his friend as he tried it out. He stretched. “I needed that after so much sitting yesterday. Now for a beefsteak and a tankard of ale.”
Settled at a quiet table in The Blue Posts in Cork Street, Mr Graham raised his tankard of Burton Ale to his friend. “My parents desire me to convey their compliments to you. I went home briefly after Parliament was prorogued and they—and my sisters—were eager to hear how you went on. Do you plan to be at the Castle this summer?”
“I don’t know. I must stay in town until next week’s levée at Carlton House, but then I’m committed to my aunt Walton in Wiltshire. Perhaps I can spend some days at Rastleigh before I go to Ireland. My visit to my mother is late anyway this year; another week or two should not matter.”
“You have a summer of dissipation ahead of you, I see,” Mr Graham said solemnly. He grinned at Rastleigh’s raised eyebrow. “It might be better for you if you did, Will. You know what they say about all work and no play. If you ask me, you need to shake off the old Earl. He still seems to whisper in your ear. You have been Rastleigh for almost five years. It is time you set your own mark on the Earldom.”
“And set up as a rakehell, you mean? How unfortunate that Byron has never returned. He would be an entertaining guide to the various circles of hell.”
“No need to go that far!” Mr Graham protested, laughing. “Why, you might be refused entrance to Almack’s.”
“You have convinced me, Stephen. Dissipation it shall be, if it spares me that evil nest of husband-hunting minxes and their even more predatory Mammas.”
“Not so fast. For every young miss who is warned to avoid you, you’ll have a Caro Lamb seeking your attentions in the most importunate way.”
“Ah, the sirens of the ton! I shall continue to cling to the mast of duty.”
“Not too tightly, I trust,” his friend replied knowingly. “Is pretty Mrs Blake still in town?”
“No, alas. But let’s be honest, Stephen. You know that these little affairs run their course and in the end are not very satisfying.”
“I agree. I never thought to hear myself say this, Will, but maybe ’tis time we considered matrimony.”
“Perhaps you’re right. But I confess that that is where my grandfather’s voice rings loudest in my ear. He was never tired of preaching that, as the only son of an only son, it was my duty to marry and sire heirs.”
“Whatever about the second, you would have no problem in achieving the first. I cannot imagine any house refusing to entertain an offer from Rastleigh.”
“And that is why I have held off so long. I have no wish for a grand alliance with a dutiful bride who will go her own way once she has presented me with a son or two. I want something more comfortable.”
“Comfortable! You don’t choose a wife the way you engage a mistress.”
Will grinned. “Perhaps there would be fewer unhappy marriages if you did. I would want to be sure I was welcome in my wife’s bed and in her life. But enough of that. What news of your family and of Rastleigh?”
“All is well with the family. My father thinks of retiring in favour of Paul, if you are agreeable. The living is in your gift, is it not?”
“Yes, and I should be happy to have your brother returned to us. Your parents would remain with us, I hope?”
“I think they would like to if a suitable house may be found. They cannot remain at the Rectory if Paul is to establish his authority.”
“I agree. I shall consult with your father when I am next at the Castle.”
“Better talk to my mother too, if ’tis about where she will live,” Mr Graham recommended. “She’s by far the more practical of the two. And that reminds me—she feels all is not well at the Castle. Couldn’t put her finger on it—just a feeling you know, but time you went down again, she says.”
Will sighed. “It has never really felt right to me, either, Stephen. It is my principal seat, I know, but not my home. However, I shall try and spend some weeks there once I return from Ireland. I rarely last longer than a fortnight except over the Christmas period, and even then, I leave as soon as I am able.”
©Catherine Kullmann 2021
If you would like to read more, you can buy a copy of A Comfortable Alliance here.
About the Author
Catherine Kullmann was born and educated in Dublin. Following a three-year courtship conducted mostly by letter, she moved to Germany where she lived for twenty-five years before returning to Ireland. She has worked in the Irish and New Zealand public services and in the private sector.
Catherine has always been interested in the extended Regency period, a time when the foundations of our modern world were laid. Her books are set against a background of the offstage, Napoleonic wars and consider in particular the situation of women trapped in a patriarchal society. She also blogs about historical facts and trivia related to this era.
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