When they meet as adolescents at Drayton Manor, the well-to-do Cassandra Drayton and the manor’s stable boy, Crispin St. John, seem destined for very different futures. Yet, the two strike up a secret and forbidden friendship. Once discovered, they are forced apart, with Cassandra staying locked in her father’s world and Crispin traveling to India to make his own way.

Years later, when Cassandra’s high-society London lifestyle is shattered by her father’s spectacular fall from grace, she is surprised to reunite with her childhood friend, no longer a penniless boy but an enterprising young man who has risen through the ranks of the Indian cotton trade. As they navigate changing circumstances, fickle friendships, and social upheaval, Cassandra and Crispin find that the bond they developed as children is a lasting one.

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The Last Season
By Jenny Judson & Danielle Mahfood

Excerpt: The Last Season

Set in Victorian England, THE LAST SEASON by Jenny Judson & Danielle Mahfood, is a story of social upheaval, changing fortunes, and an unlikely romance that develops between a well-to-do heiress and a stable boy.

I’m thrilled to share a sneak peek from this historical romance, out this week!

From Chapter 13

“Well at long last we meet each other Miss Drayton! I have waited too many Seasons for this moment. But now, here you stand before me the picture of elegance. And quite grown up I see.” He stepped back, grinning. Cassandra hoped he didn’t notice her flushed cheeks. Bedford clasped her gloved hand, bringing it to his lips. She could feel his breath through the lambskin. His eyes were trained on hers, and they stood that way for many seconds. “May I have this waltz?”

Cassandra’s dance card was not yet full, so she had no excuse to check his boldness. He led her to the dance floor and walked a wide arc around her before bowing deeply in the old fashion style. Determined not to let him unnerve her, Cassandra returned a Regency curtsy.

They stood without speaking in a flirtatious standoff, waiting for the music to begin. As soon as it did, he moved with jaunty grace, leading her around the floor, smiling teasingly each time he caught Cassandra’s eye.

“I wanted to dance with you because I hear you have become quite saucy.” Lord Bedford raised his eyebrows.

“From whom?”

“Oh, I don’t know. Archie, I suppose.”

“Impossible. His sister and I are very good friends. I am always on my best behavior when he’s around.”

“Really?” he replied incredulously. They made two or three turns in amiable silence. “Well, actually, I made that up to see your reaction.”

“You like to test people, then?”

“And you?” He answered the question with one of his own.

“Me? Never.” Cassandra blinked a few too many times to be believed, and Bedford threw back his head and laughed.

“You’ve changed a great deal since you were a little girl. Being out in society agrees with you.”

“Once upon a time, you paid me no attention.”

“Oh, it has been a few years now that I have had my eye on you….”

Cassandra could scarcely believe him and struggled to contain her excitement.

The music began to slow, but she felt no desire to stop dancing. His palm was solid and warm on the small of her back, as they sashayed between the column of gentleman and ladies on either side of them. From across the room Bedford smiled at Cassandra, one corner of his mouth a little higher than the other, an idiosyncratic feature that only made him more attractive.

The music stopped, and May rushed toward Cassandra, asking what she thought of Lord Bedford, who likewise was encircled by his own group of friends the moment the dance ended.

“Archie says he’s a bit of cad,” she cautioned. “Careless with money and the reputations of others. And from Archie, that is saying something.”

“I wouldn’t doubt it,” Cassandra confirmed. “But he is more fun than some of the bores here. His father and mine are old school chums. I’ve known him since I was young.”

“It’s true that he’s from a very old family, but as I’m sure you know the Bedford fortune is dwindling fast. At least that is what I’ve heard, so be cautious Cassie. You smiled a bit too much.”

Cassandra felt her cheeks flush. May was right of course. It was widely known that the dashing Duke of Westmoor’s pockets were very light. Generations of his predecessor’s reckless gambling and wanton spending had resulted in the near depletion of the once-grand Bedford fortune. The Duke, or his son, needed an heiress—and fast. Still, the warm crush of girlish infatuation was starting to creep through Cassandra’s blood.

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