Bite Me, Your Grace

Scandals With Bite: Book 1

Book Cover: Bite Me, Your Grace
London’s Lord Vampire Has Problems
Dr. John Polidori’s tale “The Vampyre” burst upon the Regency scene along with Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein after that notorious weekend spent writing ghost stories with Lord Byron. A vampire craze broke out instantly in the haut ton.
Now Ian Ashton, the Lord Vampire of London, has to attend tedious balls, linger in front of mirrors, and eat lots of garlic in an attempt to quell the gossip. If that weren’t annoying enough, his neighbor, Angelica Winthrop, has literary aspirations of her own and is sneaking into his house at night just to see what she can find.
Hungry, tired, and fed up, Ian is in no mood to humor his beautiful intruder…
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London 1821

“Ruined.” Angelica Winthrop tasted the word on her tongue and found it to be delicious. “Ruined,” she whispered once more and allowed a smile to creep to her lips despite her choking bitterness. “Placed on the shelf; rendered unmarriageable for the rest of one’s days.”

Her smile faded and the stony lump in her throat returned as she looked at the remains of her favorite book in the fireplace. All that was left were a corner of the cover and a few charred pages that would crumble at a touch. This time her mother had gone too far. She’d come into Angelina’s room, snatched the book from her grasp, taken one look at the title, and emitted a strangled gasp of outrage.

“I cannot have you reading such trash,” Margaret Winthrop had said when she threw A Vindication of the Rights of Woman by Mary Wollstonecraft into the fireplace.

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“How can you call it trash?” Angelica had demanded, fighting back tears. “It’s a logical treatise on the subject of our sex being capable of rational thought. As a woman, how can you not be aware of that?”

Margaret snorted indelicately. “The author bore an illegitimate child then married an anarchist! I’ll not have that book in my house.” Her face was nearly as red as her curls. “It is bad enough that you are a veritable bluestocking. But if anyone knew you were a radical, your reputation would be blackened beyond redemption, with all hope of an advantageous marriage turned to refuse.”

The sight of the book being burned thrust like a rapier through Angelica’s heart. Her mother might well have ripped away her spirit and cast it into the flames.

“Maybe I want my reputation to be ruined, Mother,” Angelica had said, unable to hold back her ire… or her elation with the concept, once uttered. “Maybe I don’t want to be a broodmare for some inane boor while he spends my dowry on his mistresses and… Ouch!” She gasped when her mother pinched her.

Lady Margaret hissed, “If we were not going to the Wentworth ball tonight I would slap you. A lady does not speak of such things.” Her eyes narrowed. “Now stop these hysterics immediately! I suggest you compose yourself while I fetch Liza to bring your gown and fix your hair.”

After her mother left, Angelica rubbed her burning eyes, meagerly proud that she had managed not to give her mother the satisfaction of tears. Needing reassurance on the state of the rest of her collection, she peeked under her bed. At least her copy of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein: Or, The Modern Prometheus was safe. Mary Shelley, daughter of Mary Wollstonecraft, was Angelica’s personal hero. If Margaret had burned Frankenstein, Angelica would have screamed.

She frowned at the growing pile of books languishing in the dark recesses. A better hiding place for them was in order, but she didn’t dare move them now. This is completely unfair! Angelica quivered in outrage and despair. Literature was a precious gift. One shouldn’t have to hide it from others. The written word should be revered and shared by all, no matter their sex or station in life. Her gaze strayed back to the fireplace, rage curling in her belly at the destruction of a precious book.

“I will do it,” Angelica vowed to the ashes. “I will ruin my reputation and gain my freedom.” Her voice quavered and she felt like she could taste the smoldering paper.

She turned from the scene of the crime and approached her writing desk, stopping for a moment to caress the polished mahogany surface, resisting the urge to open the secret compartment and look upon her other hidden and oppressed rebellion… the pages of her ghost stories.

Ever since she could pick up a quill, Angelica had loved to write. The falsehoods of fiction were much preferable to those of society. Her father encouraged her talent, but her mother, naturally, despised her writing and her father’s support of a habit that she deigned “for the lower classes.”

“You inherited such common traits from him!” she complained constantly. “I swear I shall always regret marrying a mere mister instead of a title. Perhaps then I would not have had such an unnatural daughter.”

A confusing combination of anger and pity for her mother always struck Angelica at those words. When Margaret married a common banker, the Earl of Pendlebur had been infuriated. He had cut off his daughter’s money and promised to withhold the funds until Angelica made a proper marriage.

Now Margaret was determined to arrange the match of the season between her daughter and some indolent lord. Whether she intended the marriage to mend fences with Grandfather or if it was only for the money, Angelica didn’t know. Either way, the pressure for a titled husband, a wealthy one if possible, was upon her tenfold more than the average debutante. The concept was sickening. One’s merit should be separate from one’s parentage.

She lifted her chin melodramatically and quoted, “‘What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.’” Shakespeare had a valid point. Of course, that was as far as she could identify with his heroine. After all, Juliet actually wanted to get married.

The concept of marriage and being a proper society matron was anathema to Angelica. She longed for adventures such as Mary Shelley had embarked on when she was Angelica’s age. Her imagination spun as she read of the author’s journeys across the continent, taking her from Paris to Italy, even to Switzerland. It was in the evocative setting of Lake Geneva, during an exhilarating thunderstorm, that Mary had penned her gothic masterpiece, Frankenstein.

Amidst the company of such masterful writers as Lord Byron, John Polidori, and Percy Shelley, Mary had been completely free to be herself and write what she wished. Angelica longed for such freedom. She knew her work would thrive if she were away from the stifling sphere of the haut ton, the hypocritical pinnacle of England’s nobility and their stringent idea of marriage.

She heaved a sigh and sagged against the wall. Even Mary Shelley had given in to convention when she married Percy. And apparently marriage had suffocated even her bold spirit. After Frankenstein, Mary had quit writing. Wedlock and motherhood seemed to make every woman as miserable as Angelica’s mother.

A noise outside interrupted her reverie. Angelica rushed to the window and caught sight of a carriage stopping in front of the mansion across the street behind her house. Her heart leaped in excitement. The duke was back in London! Now, here was good fodder for her stories. Along with his predecessors, the Duke of Burnrath had always been the biggest mystery in high society. He rarely deigned to mix with the beau monde, only attending White’s or the occasional ball before departing once again to places unknown.

Though His Grace was ever an object of specula¬tion, he preyed on Angelica’s thoughts only half as often as his home, the true center of her fascination. The imposing Elizabethan manor had belonged to the dukes of Burnrath for more than a hundred years. She believed Burnrath House was haunted. Angelica was unable to count the times she had seen movement or heard noises coming from the place when it was supposed to be vacant. Delicious fantasies whispered through her mind as to what sorts of ghoulish specters lurked, or perhaps floated, in its dark recesses. Many of her stories were inspired by Burnrath House, but imagination could only carry her so far.

She gazed at the ancient mansion, shivering in her thin shift. The upper floors thrust up from the heavy evening fog, the ornately columned chimneys resem¬bling dark sentinels. Angelica knew if she managed to get inside, she could create a masterpiece of gothic horror to match Mrs. Shelley’s. Dedicated research was the source of all great stories, after all. Mentally, she added entry into Burnrath House to her goals.

COLLAPSE
Reviews:Kari on From the TBR Pile wrote:

Bite Me, your Grace is the debut offering from Brooklyn Ann. As you can guess from the title, the book is a paranormal romance involving vampires. The book was a very quick read and very engaging. I liked the world that the author is building with this series. What I especially enjoyed was the way the author wove in historical literary figures into the book.

Ian and Angelica were a great match. I loved Angelica and her willingness to be her own person, despite the rules of society. The more I read about that time, the less I think I could survive it. It seems stifling. The love story was nice. I have to admit that I was glad the "falling out" between the lovers was not dragged out for too long. Having the H & H be at odds for too long can get tedious.

Bite Me, Your Grace is a good and well-written first book. The ending acts as a set up for the next book. I look forward to reading more about this world in One Bite Per Night


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