A Scottish sweetheart. One who was handsome and honorable and devoted to her, but conveniently never around. Maddie poured her heart into writing the imaginary Captain MacKenzie letter after letter … and by pretending to be devastated when he was (not really) killed in battle, she managed to avoid the pressures of London society entirely.
Until years later, when this kilted Highland lover of her imaginings shows up in the flesh. The real Captain Logan MacKenzie arrives on her doorstep—handsome as anything, but not entirely honorable. He’s wounded, jaded, in possession of her letters… and ready to make good on every promise Maddie never expected to keep.
Dear Captain Logan MacKenzie,
There is but one consolation in writing this absurd letter. And that is that you, my dear delusion, do not exist to read it.
But I run ahead of myself. Introductions first.
I am Madeline Eloise Gracechurch. The great- est ninny to ever draw breath in England. This will come as a shock, I fear, but you fell deeply in love with me when we did not cross paths in Brighton. And now we are engaged.
Maddie could not remember the first time she’d held a drawing pencil. She only knew she could not recall a time she’d been without one.
In fact, she usually carried two or three. She kept them tucked in her apron pockets and speared in her upswept dark hair, and sometimes—when she needed all her limbs for climbing a tree or vaulting a fence rail—clenched in her teeth.
And she wore them down to nubs. She sketched songbirds when she was supposed to be minding her lessons, and she sketched church mice when she was meant to be at prayer. When she had time to ramble out of doors, anything in Nature was fair game—from the shoots of clover between her toes to any cloud that meandered overhead.
She loved to draw anything.
Well, almost anything.
She hated drawing attention to herself.
And thus, at sixteen years old, she found herself
staring down her first London season with approxi- mately as much joy as one might anticipate a dose of purgative.
After many years as a widower, Papa had taken a new wife. One a mere eight years older than Maddie herself. Anne was cheerful, elegant, lively. Every- thing her new stepdaughter was not.
Oh, to be Cinderella in all her soot-smeared, rag-clad misery. Maddie would have been thrilled
Figuratively, of course.
At best, Maddie was expected to fetch a third son with aspirations to the Church, or perhaps an insol- vent baronet.
At worst . . .
Maddie didn’t do well in crowds. More to the point, she didn’t do anything in crowds. In any large gathering—be it a market, a theater, a ballroom— she had a tendency to freeze, almost literally. An arctic sense of terror took hold of her, and the crush of bodies rendered her solid and stupid as a block of ice.
The mere thought of a London season made her shudder.
And yet, she had no choice.
While Papa and Anne (she could not bring her- self to address a twenty-four-year-old as Mama) en- joyed their honeymoon, Maddie was sent to a ladies’ rooming house in Brighton. The sea air and society were meant to coax her out of her shell before her season commenced.
It didn’t quite work that way.
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