An emotional Regency reunion story
One passionate night
A seven-year-old secret…
Widowed Lady Eliza Varden must endure one more ball before she can politely return to the country. Only her last dance brings her face-to-face with Nathaniel, the new Marquess of Hale. It’s been years since their steamy encounter, but the spark between them is as alive as ever. Yet Eliza knows it’s not just their mutual attraction that binds them now… But is she ready to risk her independence with the truth?
From Harlequin Historical: Your romantic escape to the past.
Coming October 2022
Henry smiled when Eliza approached. She floated towards him, her heart pounding, the filmy fabric of her morning dress wafting around her, clinging to her body, transparent enough to reveal every curve, the rose red of her nipples, the flush of excitement tinging her skin. She came closer, not speaking, but reaching for him.
A look of horror crossed his face and he pushed her away. She flew backwards into a dark tunnel, but the face receding before her was not Henry’s, but the captain’s.
She jolted awake.
So this was to haunt her nights as well as her days? The memory of Henry’s rejection? The humiliation of her pushing herself so aggressively on him? To make love to her. To fulfill the promise of the marriage bed.
She’d thought Henry merely shy, merely having difficulty transitioning from friends to husband and wife. She’d thought perhaps she’d not been alluring enough, so she’d dressed to seduce him. No undergarments. As near as naked could be while covered with cloth. He could not mistake her for his childhood friend then, could he?
Had this been what fueled her anger? What made her flee? By not confiding in her about his nature, his attachment to his friend Ryland, he’d led her to this humiliation.
She winced at the memory. She’d fled to her bedchamber through the connecting door to his. He’d followed her. She’d curled up on her bed, covering her body and her shame, as he explained why he did not wish to bed her. He loved another, pledged fidelity to another, the man he’d known since they were both at school together, then university.
Like the captain had said. Happens sometimes.
Henry had insisted he loved her. As his dear friend and he’d gladly saved her from the old widower her father wanted her to marry; he’d gladly paid her family’s debts and would gladly take care of her family as if it were his own.
She’d screamed at him to leave her alone, for the whole household to leave her alone. He retreated. And she ran.
Eliza sat up in the cot and hugged her knees, just as she’d done in her bed chamber. She ached inside for that young wife so eager to experience all that marriage could offer. She ached for what she would never know. No man would ever hold her, gaze upon her body. No man would ever warm her bed and show her what transpired between husband and wife. She’d heard of its pleasures, shockingly from some of the maids, but also surmised the pleasure because her parents seemed to seek it out in one affair after another.
She wanted nothing to do with that sort of loving, though. She’d wanted a husband to love her, to want to bed her, to give her children. She’d wanted a true marriage.
She rocked, back and forth.
“Eliza?” The captain’s voice came from his dark corner.
She heard him rise and move towards her until he was close enough she felt his warmth. His steadiness.
He brushed her tangled hair from her cheek. “You are awake.”
She lifted her face. “I had a bad dream. Of my husband’s face when I tried to seduce him. He will never bed me. Never give me children. I tried. I repulse him.”
He sat next to her and put his arm around her as he’d done before. “I am sorry for it, Eliza. It is so much less than what you deserve.” He touched her hair again. “A woman so beautiful—”
She pulled away to look at him. “You think I am beautiful?”
He averted his gaze before meeting hers again. “Quite.” He no longer touched her, though.
She looked into his eyes. “No one ever told me that before.”
A warmth spread like honey inside her. It jarred her.
It was because she could confide in him, she told herself. Even about her humiliation. It was safe. He was safe.
“The thing is,” she went on. “I will never know that pleasure between man and woman.”
His hand dropped. “You—you could take a lover—”
She shook her head. “Never! My parents—well—they have lover after lover. I will not do that.” So much drama. Lovers angry and threatening. Her mother wailing if one left her before she could leave him. Her father pushing away women whom he once happily bedded. “So I’ll never know.”
He gathered her in his arms again, letting her feel his warmth, his strength. She placed a hand against his strong chest and felt the beating of his heart. He stroked her hair, like her nurse once did when she fell or skinned a knee, but it did not feel at all like that. Desire rushed through her. She became acutely aware that the cloth of Nate’s shirt was the only thing between her hand and his bare skin.
Would he? Would he?
She brought her lips close to his ear. “Nate,” she whispered. “Would you show me? Show me how it is between a man and a woman? Just this once?”
Gaston (Lord Grantwell’s Christmas Wish, 2021) puts her own deftly crafted spin on the popular secret-baby trope in her latest cleverly conceived Regency historical, and her insightful way with characterization will win over readers who like their romances served up with a generous measure of historical realism.
— John Charles, Booklist
Five Stars! In her latest historical romance, Diane Gaston lets doubts and schemes repeatedly cause heartache for a woman and man who only want to be loved….. SECRETLY BOUND TO THE MARQUESS is packed with believable situations, very interesting characters, and a noteworthy storyline filled with colorful descriptions.
— Amelia Richards, Goodreads
Four Stars! Diane Gaston, much to the delight of her readers, knows scandal. Once again, this wicked author has written a tale that kept me glued to the pages, wondering how the main characters would save face. (Reputation means everything in the Ton.) The story was worth losing sleep for. A lovely tale, villains to enjoy hating, a child to lighten moods and give you an occasional smile, and an unending love. What more could you ask for in a romance? And all of it unfolds in such a way that only Diane Gaston can tell. Excellent!
— Detra Fitch, Huntress Reviews
Gaston writes terrific romances full of heart and well researched regency era history.
— Diana Tixier Herald
Five Stars! Diane Gaston writes incredible stories that are unique in so many ways. Both Nathaniel and Eliza are strong individuals determined to do what is right and to protect their loved ones. They met under unusual circumstances and their meeting once again all those years later was unforeseen. So much was going on with individuals trying to manipulate both Nathaniel and Eliza into doing what they wanted. You could not help but wish these two would get a happily ever after. They go through so much. Diane Gaston is truly gifted with her stories. She gives us everything we want in a historical romance and adds in a bit more to our satisfaction.
— Debra Guyette, Goodreads
I belong to an authors’ group called Regency Fiction Writers (formerly The Beau Monde) whose members offer educational workshops on various topics about the Regency era. In 2020 my friend Louisa Cornell gave a workshop called Gay in Regency England that was worthy of an accredited college course. Secretly Bound to the Marquess was inspired by this course.
Although this book is a completely heterosexual reunion and secret baby romance between my hero and heroine, Nate and Eliza, I also wanted to give the reader a glimpse into what it might have been like to be a gay man during that era. Thanks to Louisa, I’ve been able to make that piece of the story as historically accurate as possible.
Homosexuality was not only considered a sin during the Regency; it also was a crime punishable by hanging. As a result men needed to hide their true natures or risk death to themselves and ruin to their families. Some men did this by marrying and even having children and, by so doing, living a life against their true nature. Some, of course, remained bachelors.
It can be presumed that some men were able to maintain a loving relationship with another man, but they had to be extremely private to do so. For the others there were outlets to express their sexuality. Known meeting places for one night stands or gathering places.
These cruising grounds might be places where large numbers of people mill about so someone looking for a partner might not be noticed, places like piazzas or public parks, or covered arcades like the arcades at Covent Garden mentioned in the book. There were also coffee houses or inns or private homes where gay men could gather to simply be with other men like themselves. Where they could be themselves.
In the 1700s there really was a Society for the Reformation of Manners, as Lord Crafton in the book plans to resurrect. The Society was dedicated to rid the country of vice, especially the vice of homosexuality. During this period attacks on cruising grounds and molly houses (places where gay men gathered) were pursued zealously which did not eliminate the gay subculture, but merely drove it deeper underground.
One can see how homosexuality was a ripe reason for blackmail. Before his suicide, a paranoid and delusional Lord Castlereigh told a friend he was being blackmailed for an alleged homosexual assignation. Whether this was true or not, it shows the threat of ruin of what even an accusation of homosexuality could be.
In Secretly Bound for the Marquess, Nate displays a great deal more tolerance for homosexuality than I’ve described above. We now know not all people thought the same about this during the Regency. The recently discovered 1810 diary of a Yorkshire farmer described his surprisingly modern views on the subject. One can assume he was not alone in his opinion.
Ironically, gay women were less at risk. It seems the Regency folk could not imagine how two women could be sexual with each other. The ladies of Llangollen, now presumed to be a gay couple, were actually objects of fascination at the time and were visited by distinguished guests such as Shelley, Byron, Wellington and Wordsworth. Wordsworth even wrote a sonnet about them.