Excerpt from Lady Clementine by Marie Benedict, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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Lady Clementine

by Marie Benedict

Lady Clementine by Marie Benedict X
Lady Clementine by Marie Benedict
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    Jan 2020, 336 pages

    Jul 2020, 416 pages


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"That would be marvelous. The grounds are breathtaking, Winston," I said with a squeeze of his arm. "And they are in remarkable shape given that they were created in the 1700s."

"Well," he said, clearing his throat, "you can credit Sunny with the restoration of the Blenheim grounds. They were in sorry shape until he got his hands upon them."

With Consuelo's money, I thought to myself. I'd heard rumors, of course, about the unraveling of Sunny's marriage to the American heiress Consuelo Vanderbilt, who'd married Sunny in 1895 at the insistence of her mother. Neither had particularly cared for the other, and by 1906, the demise of their bond was inevitable. But while the newspapers published catty reports about their separation, Sunny seemed an affable fellow to me, and Winston simply adored him.

We ambled down the path in comfortable silence. Winston pointed out an area of the lake where he'd caught his first fish with his beloved Nanny Everest helping him. Although Blenheim belonged to Sunny, not Winston, his attachment to the property was unmistakable. His personal history was intertwined with the estate. He had been born in the house, after all.

No house held such hold on me. From time to time, an aspect of one house or another might remind me of one of our London rentals or the townhouse in Dieppe we inhabited for nearly a year. But these were houses, not homes, temporary residences to be discarded when Mother wanted to sojourn. Or when a new relationship required a change of scenery.

A shock of fuchsia and crimson appeared as we rounded a bend in the path. I released my hand from Winston's arm and walked over to a rosebush robust with full blooms. Leaning down to inhale the powerful, fragrant scent, I felt Winston's arm slide around my corseted waist, and I shivered with pleasure. He had never touched me anywhere but my hand and arm, unless we were dancing. And then, of course, it was in full view of society.

Standing, I turned to face him. His cheeks were flushed, more so than when we were walking. "Clem, Clem—­" he stammered, a habit that surfaced when he was nervous.

Without warning, without even a shadow cast by darkening clouds, a crack of thunder sounded. We both looked up. A formidable black mass had formed to the north and was threatening to blanket the sky.

He grabbed my hand. "We best move quickly back to the house. These summer storms can be fierce."

Hand in hand, we started walking briskly toward Blenheim on the path we'd meandered down only moments before. What had Winston been about to say? He'd seemed on the brink of something momentous, judging from the flush of his cheeks and the stutter of my name. Was it possible that he'd planned on discussing his intention? Surely it is too soon for a proposal, I thought. We had only known each other for five months, a courtship of the written words of letters interspersed with several visits, always in the company of others and often interrupted by trips, mine to Germany and his to locations much farther afield, demanded by work.

The rain trickled down gently from the clouds at first and then became a torrent. We ran down the path until Winston tugged my hand and we veered toward a small structure. I realized that it was a little Greek temple, with four Ionic columns holding aloft a triangular pediment. There was a marble bench within, and Winston motioned for me to sit upon it.

"The Temple of Diana," he explained with a swooping hand gesture around the interior of the small structure, decorated with stone plaques depicting the goddess, as he sat down next to me. "I understand it was built as a folly in the late eighteenth century as a nod to the Roman goddess of the moon, the hunt, and, and"—his stammer took hold briefly before he blurted out—"chastity."

Winston handed me a handkerchief, and we giggled as we wiped our faces dry. The rain pelted the temple's roof, and we relaxed in the shelter of its walls. The temple afforded a fine view of the Great Lake through the trees, but rather than commenting, I stayed silent. I hoped Winston would return to his earlier, interrupted topic.

Excerpted from Lady Clementine by Marie Benedict. Copyright © 2020 by Marie Benedict. Excerpted by permission of Sourcebooks. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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