The Future Mrs. Winter (MF)
[BookStrand Romantic Suspense, HEA]
Quirky young teacher Carey Ashmore agrees to pretend to be her friend Jake's fiancée in return for a week's holiday in Cornwall. Once there, she meets his brooding, but devastatingly handsome, half brother Max Winter. When a sultry redhead called Rebecca turns up to complicate matters, Carey begins to wonder if she's fallen into the Daphne du Maurier novel she's been teaching her students.
In a family torn apart by secrets and intrigue, nothing is quite as it seems. Carey would settle for people remembering her name. Max does, and is nothing like the ogre that Jake made him out to be, but with Rebecca's bloodred talons holding him firmly back, Carey wonders if she'll ever find the uncomplicated love that she seeks. When Carey's possessive ex-boyfriend turns up to claim her, it seems that she and Max will never be able to ride off into the sunset together.
A BookStrand Mainstream Romance
5 STARS: "When Carey Ashmore arrived at Manishi, the imposing residence of the Winter family, she could have been forgiven for thinking that she'd just stepped into the pages of a Daphne Du Maurier novel. The family head was called Max Winter and his girlfriend was a flirtatious, sarcastic woman by the name of Rebecca. It all reminded Carey of a certain classic romantic suspense novel she'd just been teaching in her adult education evening class. Carey had been recently upset by a difficult break up with her overpowering ex-boyfriend and had needed to get away from it all. So when her trusted friend and colleague Jake had suggested she pose as his fiancee and attend a family wedding with him in exchange for a holiday in Cornwall, she'd agreed. Jake had explained that the deception was necessary in order to pressurie his domineering elder brother to allow him access to his share of the family fortunes. When a dowager aunt (after a couple of gins!) lets it slip that elder brother Max is not a tightwad, but is in fact supporting a bunch of freeloading relatives, Carey knows that something is not quite right. There's also the fact that the prospective in laws are extremely hostile towards each other for no apparent reason. Not to mention the fact that Jake keeps on disappearing with Max's lady, Rebecca. Carey can't understand that woman cheating on Max! He's gorgeous and Carey is having trouble keeping up the deception of being Jake's fiancee because she finds Max so attractive. Then a certain surprise guest joins the party! A fine piece of romantic suspense from Sally Quilford. It has enough mystery to send a few delicious chills up your spine. It has enough humour to make you smile. And it has enough romance to make you sigh. I couldn't get enough of the dialogue, it was absolutely sparkling. A little gem of a book. You won't go wrong to add this to your summer reading list." -- Maria, Contemporary Romance Reviews
4 STARS: "Sally Quilford’s The Future Mrs. Winter is a sweet, traditional-style romance that immediately brought to mind the category romances I devoured by the score many years ago. This is an entertaining, quick and easy read, and I found reading it to be a great way to spend a day’s commute. The plot of this book can be classified as light suspense, and I had fun watching the intrigue roll out in front of me. I also enjoyed the myriad little references that Carey makes to Daphne de Maurier’s Rebecca. She runs the situation she finds herself in through a filter of this classic book, and that paints everything in a somewhat sinister tone. When the truth is finally exposed, the effect is quite humorous, because it is not what we expect. The characters that Ms. Quilford gives us in this book are a blend of stereotypical and quirky. Max fits the physical mold of tall, dark, and brooding, but his personality is surprisingly giving. Jake and Rebecca are pleasingly obnoxious in their almost-antagonist roles, and Aunt Jane finds both wisdom and foolishness at the bottom of the gin bottle. And Carey is likeable with her offbeat humor and Rebecca-on-the-brain. What reminded me the most about category romances about this book is the first kiss between the hero and the heroine, which is almost punitive in character. And while you might groan now and think “that’s so 1980s!” this actually works for the heroine in this book, because Carey is so hung up on Rebecca that she needs this somewhat overblown romantic gesture. Max seems to recognize her need for storybook romance, and I had to love him for pandering to it. Overall, The Future Mrs. Winter is a light and appealing story. I enjoyed it on the whole and thought it was fun if not especially memorable. I believe that it will appeal to lovers of traditional-style romance with a bonus to those familiar with du Maurier’s Rebecca." -- Bobby, BookWenches
“Carey?” Almost as if thinking of him had summoned him up, she heard Max’s voice behind her. She turned to look at him and saw that he’d taken his tie off. Standing on the beach with his shirt open to reveal a few fine chest hairs, and his hands in his pockets, he looked like the model from an advert for expensive aftershave. She didn’t realize until then that men with such latent masculinity and sex appeal existed in real life. Even in the pretty dress he’d bought her, she looked down and found herself wanting.
“What? Yes, fine. Just enjoying the view. You’re very lucky to have this beach all to yourself. It’s lovely, isn’t it? Like a bit of paradise.”
“I don’t exactly have it to myself. It’s for the guests.”
“Yes, of course.”
“Are you thinking you’d rather have stayed at the hotel?”
“Oh no, no, not at all. I’m grateful to you for putting up with us. I mean putting us up. I mean…” She didn’t know what she meant, only that she was waffling like an idiot, just in case he could see right into her mind and know exactly what she was thinking about him at that moment. What she was really thinking was how much she would like to rip his shirt off and cover his muscular chest in kisses.
“Did you and Jake have a row?”
“You could say that. I’m going home tomorrow.”
“We’re supposed to be going horse riding in the morning. Remember?”
“Oh, yes. Perhaps some other time.”
“Is there going to be another time, Carey? I can’t help thinking that if I let you walk out of here now, I’m never going to see you again.”
“That’ll be a relief for you, then.”
She heard him hiss through his teeth. “Now why would you think that?”
“I don’t. I mean…oh, ignore me. I don’t know what I mean.”
“Is it over between you and Jake?”
She didn’t know how to answer that. Part of her still felt some loyalty to Jake’s original scheme, even if she felt just as guilty about deceiving Max. “Who knows? We probably rushed things a bit.”
“I’m inclined to agree with that. Except…”
“It’s none of my business, but you hardly seem like a couple at all.”
“Well, like I said, we’re not exactly love’s young dream.”
“You’re not love’s young anything,” Max said, sounding annoyed. “I don’t like being lied to, Carey.”
She stood up, overwhelmed by guilt. It came out as anger. “Well perhaps if you didn’t spend your life trying to control people, they wouldn’t feel the need to lie to you.”
“What the hell is that supposed to mean?”
“I know you only bought me this dress because you didn’t think what I was wearing was good enough. Rebecca told Jake.”
“What does Rebecca know about it? I’m sorry I dared to do something nice for you, Carey. I won’t be making that mistake again. Not when you consider every act of kindness as a means of enslaving you.”
“I’m sorry. I didn’t mean...”
“Yeah, yeah, you don’t know what you mean. That’s pretty much your get-out clause for everything, isn’t it? Well, when you finally work it out, let me know. Because I know for a fact something is going on here, and if you’re a party to it all then you’re not the person I think you are.”
“What are you talking about? Party to what?” Carey felt her cheeks redden. Why she should be surprised he’d worked out Jake’s plot, she didn’t know. She’d felt all along it was a lame idea, and Max was a clever man.
“So you are in on it. Don’t deny it, Carey. I can see it in your face.” He looked at her with disgust then turned away and stormed up the beach. Controlled fury emanated from him in the line of his shoulders and the way he held his head. Suddenly he turned and came back to her, spitting out angry words. “I knew it was all fake. It was a lousy performance, by the way. You’re not lovers. You don’t behave like lovers. Damn it, you don’t even kiss like lovers.”
Carey put her hands on her hips. “Oh, and how, exactly, are lovers supposed to kiss?” She knew she shouldn’t have asked the question the moment she said it.
With one swift movement, Max’s arms were around her, and he’d covered her mouth with his, taking complete possession of her. Instead of pushing him away, which was what she should have done, she found herself returning the kiss with enthusiasm. She’d never been kissed like it and probably never would be again. A small devil within her decided to enjoy the moment, even though she knew he was only making a point. The kiss meant nothing to him, whilst it excited her beyond all rational thought, allowing the imp in her to take over and wind her arms around his neck, curling his hair around her fingers. He thrust his tongue between her parted lips, sending a bolt of electricity through her body.
He held her away from him, angrily, his hands burning into the bare skin of her shoulders.
“That’s how lovers kiss.”
Then he turned and walked away.