A most unlikely governess...
...with a shocking secret
Lady Rebecca Pierce escapes her forced betrothal when the ship she's on wrecks. Assuming the identity of a governess she believes has drowned, she enters the employ of brooding Lord Brookmore, who's selflessly caring for his orphaned nieces. Inconveniently, she's extremely attracted to the viscount, with her only chance of happiness tied to the biggest risk: revealing the truth about who she really is…
The Governess Swap Series, Book 1
Garret Brookmore approached the bed and gazed down in surprise. He’d expected an elderly woman like the previous governess. Miss Tilson hardly looked old enough to be out of the schoolroom herself. Her skin was smooth and flawless; her features strong, not delicate. Her hair, the color of kentish cobnuts, fell loose over the white pillow. Would her face fulfill the promise of character shown in her repose? He was intrigued.
He looked over at the innkeeper. “I do need a room.”
“Yes, sir, I can accommodate you,” the man answered. “Would you like to come with me now? I will show you to the room.”
Now that he’d found Miss Tilson, he was reluctant to leave her. “I will stay until she wakes up. So she knows I am here.”
She was bound to experience distress, waking in a strange place, after nearly drowning.
The innkeeper reached for Garret’s valise. “I’ll take this to the room and come back with your key, if you like.”
Garret nodded his thanks.
The maid spoke up. “May I leave, sir? I am very hungry. May I get food?”
The innkeeper glanced towards Garret.
“I have no objection.” Far be it from Garret to deny a hungry girl, so he wound up alone, seated at the bedside of a beauty he did not know, but for whom he was now responsible.
An hour passed, an hour spent with swirling thoughts of all he must remember to do, of all he he’d learned needed his attention at the estate and even more demands in London and how much he wished he were simply marching with his men on some foreign road bound for the next battle. He missed his men. Worried about how they were faring. The war was over. Napoleon was on St. Helena. Regiments were disbanding.
What was the use of wishing for what could not be? Even if his brother had not died, his army life would have changed drastically.
He had to admit he’d traveled to Holyhead the governess mostly to give himself time away from these duties and regrets. Time to think. He could have easily sent a servant to escort her to the estate.
He rose when the innkeeper brought his key. As he settled back in the chair next to the bed, Miss Tilson's eyes—unexpectedly hazel—fluttered open.
“Where?” she managed, her voice cracking.
He poured her a glass of water from a pitcher on the bed table. “You are safe, Miss Tilson,” he told her. “You are at an inn in Moelfre.”
Her brow creased as if she were puzzled. “Miss Tilson,” she whispered. “Claire.”
He helped her to sit and held the glass as she drank. “I am Lord Brookmore.” It still sounded strange on his tongue. In his mind Brookmore was still his brother. “Your employer.”
She stared at him a long time and it seemed as if he could see a range of emotions flit through her eyes. Puzzlement, horror, grief, and finally understanding.
Rebecca’s heart pounded in her chest. This was not another fever-filled vision, but a real man touching her, helping her drink. Once she quenched her considerable thirst, she became acutely aware that she wore only a thin nightdress. From where? From whom? Had even the clothes she’d worn—Claire Tilson’s clothes—been lost? Her throat tightened again, but this time from grief. Claire. Nolan. All those poor people.
She shrank away from the man and he sat back in his chair, placing the glass on the side table.
He was Claire’s new employer, he’d said, and he thought she was the poor governess who’d been swept away by that killing wave. He did not look like a man who would hire a governess. His rugged face and muscular frame made him look untamed. His piercing blue eyes seemed a thin shield against painful remembrances. Dark hair, longer than fashionable, was as windswept as a man who’d galloped over fields on a wild stallion. The shadow of a beard covering a strong jaw, gave him a rakish air.
Her eyes darted around the room. Why was such a man alone with her? She certainly had never before been alone with a man in her bedchamber, in her night clothes.
“Why—” Her throat closed again and she swallowed. “Why are you here?”
His blue eyes fixed on her. “I waited at Holyhead. News came of the shipwreck so I rode here to see if you…survived.”
The shipwreck. Again she watched the wave consume Claire. Again she felt the rowing boat smash against rocks and plunge her into the water.
She shivered with the memory and he rose again, this time to wrap a blanket around her shoulders. Her skin heated at his touch.
She looked up into his face. “How many? How many survived?”
“Eleven, the innkeeper said,” he replied.
Only ten others? What about the woman and her two children? Were they swept out to sea like Claire and the seaman with her? Her eyes stung with tears.
“My God.” She dropped her face into her hands and sobbed.
She could feel him staring at her, even though he was still and silent. How humiliating to become so discomposed in front of this stranger. It was so unlike her.
She wrested some control, finally lifting her head and taking deep breaths.
Without speaking, he pulled a handkerchief from his breast pocket and handed it to her. She wiped her tear-soaked face.
The handkerchief was still warm from his body.
“Thank you.” She took another deep breath and started to return the now soaked handkerchief. She pulled it back, laughing dryly. “I—I will have it laundered.”
What a silly thing to say. She had no means of getting it laundered. She had no money. No clothes. Nothing.
She, of course, could identify herself. Send word to London of her predicament. To Lord Stonecroft. Who else was there to help her in London? But why would she want ask for his help when she wanted to escape him? Being his brood mare seemed even worse than drowning.
Lord Brookmore sat back in his chair again his face averted.
She should tell him she wasn’t Claire Tilson, that she saw Claire washed overboard.
Oh, why had Claire drowned and not her? Claire had independence. She had work for which she earned her own money, and she also had the hope of finding a man to love her someday. Claire would have fared so much better than Rebecca, who had nothing to look forward to but a prison of a marriage. Why could fate not have let them trade places in death as easily as they’d worn each other’s clothes?
She stole another glance at Lord Brookmore and her heart quickened.
He thought she was Claire. Perhaps she was the only one who knew she was really Lady Rebecca Pierce, doomed to marry Lord Stonecroft.
She could not die in the watery depths instead of Claire. She’d have been willing to do so. But she could trade places with Claire now. She could live Claire’s life for her.
Escape her own life.
Lord Stonecroft would not mourn her; he’d merely be annoyed that he must search for another brood mare to marry. Her brother would not mourn her. He’d get to keep her dowry. She could not sacrifice her life instead of Claire’s, but she could become Claire.
Guilt pricked at her. She’d be deceiving this very handsome man. What a way to repay his kindness.
He did need a governess, though, did he not? She could be a governess. How hard could that be? It would help him, would it not?
“I—I had a fever, I think,” she said. “I don’t remember much except—“ Except plunging into churning, cold water and thinking she would die. “Except the wreck.”
His eyes fixed on her again. “I know nothing more than you were saved and you were ill.”
“Am I still to be your nieces’ governess?” Will he accept her as Claire? she meant.
“If you feel up to the task, yes.”
Gaston once again maintains her exceptionally high literary standards by offering up another impeccably crafted Regency historical, whose skillfully etched characters and excellent sense of place (in this case, a refreshingly different Lake District setting) are certain to reel readers into the story from the very start. Gaston’s romances are all about a perfectly calibrated balance between character and plot, and with A Lady Becomes a Governess, she succeeds brilliantly.
— John Charles, Reader to Reader Reviews
4 Stars! ...The author has included romance, intrigue, a bit of danger, and villain that readers love to hate. It all blends together to create a wonderful story that will keep your attention from the first page until the last. This series is a gem in the making! I can hardly wait for Claire’s story to be published.
— Detra Fitch, Huntress Reviews
4 Stars! There is a clever concept to the Governess Swap series, where futures are forever changed. Diane Gaston has a tragic incident altering the lives of two women, where a spur-of-the-moment decision puts them a path neither could ever have imagined happening. A LADY BECOMES A GOVERNESS is filled with exciting adventures, engaging characters, and lots of emotional situations.
— Amelia Richard, Alwaysreviewing.com
4 1/2 Stars! You will find yourself enchanted by a story filled with unexpected danger, deceit, betrayal and finally happiness and love.
—Debra Guyette, Dragons Read Too
5 Stars! Absolutely brilliant read, adore this book very much, the story woven, our leading lady and our hero, a
true pleasure to read...a
fantastic story with a fairytale quality or two that is truly awesome. We have adventure, tragedy, Forbidden love and foes to contend with, all brilliantly crafted into this beautiful
— Gwessie, Goodreads Review
Finalist! A Lady Becomes a Governess was a finalist for Best Book by a Virginia Author in the 2019 Holt Medallion Contest.