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The Paradox: The Soldier and the Mystic (MF)

Daughters of the Empire 1

Siren-BookStrand, Inc.

Heat Rating: SENSUAL
Word Count: 134,263
Available Formats
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[BookStrand Historical Romance, HEA]

A closet Victorian psychic’s powers destroy her dreams and outcast her from society.

The Captain of the Princess Royals’ 7th Dragoon Guards’ life is in grave danger when, on the day of Miss Alita Stanton’s presentation to society at the Queen’s Ball, a vision of the Black Panther overtakes her.

The captain kills an Egyptian friend in the Battle of Tel-El-Kebir, winning Egypt and the Suez Canal for Britain, creating two orphans in the process, and placing his life in the balance.

Outcast and ruined from recounting her vision, Alita must travel to a fashionable venue to save her societal standing. Once in Egypt, she meets the last person she wants to see—the Black Panther of her vision—and the man of her dreams. But the academic earl of Ravensdale and Princess Royals’ captain will not marry a quack or a soothsayer. Alita must choose between her happiness—and his.

A BookStrand Mainstream Romance

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Professional Reviews

4 CUPS: "Alita Stanton, granddaughter of a Duke, just wants an unnoticeable life where she is happily married with kids. Unlike that of her parents, an unconventional but famous nurse and political activist mother, and an inventor father. But to her despair she possesses the ‘sight’. Carefully hiding this ability from everyone except her mother, her ‘sight’ pulls her in a vision of a black panther on the most important night of her life; her presentation to the society in a Queen’s ball. Valerius Huntington, the 5th Earl of Ravensdale, is a man of many talents, which he feels are obsolete in present times. Therefore he is fighting as a soldier in Egypt to retain his family honor while awaiting his own death. During one battle, when a man he considers a friend is slain by his hand, orphaning his two kids, he wallows further in despair, no longer wanting to live nor afraid of anything. Alita, now ruined and outcast in the society, feels it is now her job to find the black panther and direct him to his destiny that she saw in the vision. She travels to Egypt and finds Val Huntington, her black panther. Convincing him about his destiny and her visions is very difficult. Falling in love with him only complicates things more as Alita does not see herself in Val’s future. Val though skeptical about Alita and thinking that she is a little insane, still cannot help himself from being inexplicably attracted to her. Will these opposites; an academic soldier and a mystic finally come together or will Alita have to make the difficult choice of his happiness over hers? This is a very fascinating novel. All the characters are very vibrant and come to life while reading them. Alita is a mystic who only knows to obey and rarely asserts her opinions but on rare occasions when she does, there is no changing her mind. I found her confusing at times, but I can relate to that since I tend to be like that without any mystic powers. Val is written so beautifully by the author that this reader cannot help but fall in love with him. He is a complete man who comes to life with the author’s words and the sort of man we need in the world in present times. Ms. Hollingsworth has dared venture into the realm of politics and religion and I believe she has beautifully written everything without offending anyone. This reader also fully agrees with how Val believes people of other nations should be respected and treated equally rather than having others opinions forced upon them. There are two more books in this series; each a daughter of the previous couple. From the start of this series, they also sound very promising. This reader will keep an eye out for them." -- Mav, Coffee Time Romance & More

Excerpt

STORY EXCERPT

 

The Earl of Ravensdale considered that the girl expressed some anxiety, but nothing approaching shock. She appeared to be healthy and unharmed. Her hands shook but her eyes were bright—shimmering, in fact—and her skin…well, it was glowing. She smiled up at him, her lips trembling…

What am I doing? He was supposed to be determining if she were in harm’s way or not. Even as he confirmed that she was able to stand on her own, he thought upon closer inspection that she was one of the most beautiful women he had ever beheld. Her eyes were a sparkling jeweled green and her skin was the color of peaches and cream. She was slim and dainty in appearance, and she wore a peach silk gown trimmed in ivory lace with a matching hat perched provocatively atop her creamy beige curls.

And she interests me not at all. She was exceedingly becoming, true. And altogether too young for his taste. She had a shyness and sweetness of manner which he found both dull and contrived. A beautiful, protected child who had seen and experienced nothing of the world and who no doubt lived in her fairy-tale world awaiting her Prince Charming.

Not this fellow, not on your life. In his early manhood he had attended the balls and soirées of the London season meeting youthful beauties, and he had never been so bored in his life.

But her smile positively sparkled. And those eyes…like emeralds in a setting of pearls. He had to admit that she was precisely that which most young men liked to encounter—pure, innocent, hopeful.

Uninformed, delusional, vapid.

“Miss, what is the source of your distress?” he asked stiffly without feigning concern. He resolved to quickly exhibit the minimum civilities required so that he might be on his way and about his business. He had better things to do than to conjure imaginary foes with theatrical females. “I don’t recall ever having seen a woman wave quite so frantically,” he voiced without smiling, despite not caring one way or the other.

“I was simply so frightened that I would lose you,” she replied as she gasped for air, running her hands along her slim waist.

Val raised his eyebrows in surprise, and she took a step back involuntarily. She glanced up at him with a look so open and yet so demure that he was quite taken aback by the overall effect of her unexpected words.

He frankly felt some amazement at her arts. The Earl of Ravensdale was not one to experience surprise, outside of discoveries he might find in ancient texts, but this charming, young beauty had almost dropped out of the sky. For just a moment, he forgot that he was in Egypt and twenty-eight years old and felt himself to be young and eager for the games to begin.

Have I abandoned all reason? I have work to do. Sir Evelyn required several reports. There was important information which only he could gather on the other side of Cairo. As much as he hated the idea of British occupation, he had to admit that Sir Evelyn was doing an excellent job of running Egypt, of lowering taxes while at the same time managing the finances, of initiating technological advances, and of reducing poverty. And Sir Evelyn was successful in large part by keeping his finger on the pulse of the population—which was the job entrusted to him.

And with the conclusion of his duties, he looked forward to pursuing his one true love—translating ancient text.

“If you should require nothing further, Miss, I shall be about my business.” He forced himself to address her politely though he fully communicated in his tone of voice that he would brook no nonsense. He looked about and saw her maid some five feet away, watching quietly. There was nothing here which warranted his presence.

“Indeed I do. Please do not leave…” She turned and nodded to her maid, who retreated several more feet, ensuring that her words were not overheard. Returning her eyes to his, her lips parted as she appeared dismayed and unable to find words. Val found himself studying those apricot lips as they opened and closed, offsetting the gold and green in her eyes to perfection.

“Where are you from, Miss? And what brings you to Egypt?” he asked, forgetting himself. In an instant, Val wished he had kept his mouth shut. It surprised him that he had not.

“I live in London.” Her expression was delicate, but flustered, almost frightened. She gazed up at him through long eyelashes. She hesitated, as if this were a difficult question to answer. A wave of something approaching pain washed across her face. Suddenly she appeared resolute. “And I came…I came…to find you, sir.”

Lord Ravensdale stepped back on his heels. He could not believe his eyes and ears, a beautiful angel uttering advances in a manner that would do any Bird of Paradise proud.

“This is a line usually reserved for the gentlemen, Miss, but I admit your delivery is far more effective.”

“Oh, it is not a line, sir, I assure you,” she exclaimed, seeming to find her voice while giving an excellent performance of a young innocent in extreme discomfiture. Her countenance was direct, but her voice soft and shy, her wide eyes filled with awe and admiration. “I did come from England to find you. It has been an obsession these many months.”

His eyes must have revealed his interest because she started to stammer.

“Oh…I didn’t m–mean…” Suddenly a look of comprehension washed across her face and she blushed unmercifully. “It isn’t that…I came for your benefit, not mine.”

“Very good of you, Miss,” he murmured languidly. How did she manage the blush? He smiled with appreciation. He was beginning to enjoy the show immensely. Being both handsome and titled, he had had many a trap set for him. He had to admit that he found the direct approach, accompanied with blushes and coy looks, by far the more enticing.

Val searched his memory in vain for even one other woman who had expressed her intent so sincerely. He glanced around and saw her maid now standing some eight feet away, her eyes to the ground. No hatchet-faced maid for this worldly miss, no, but a retiring, docile child.

The Earl of Ravensdale brought out his full arsenal, purposely producing a slow, lazy smile which ordinarily would have made young maidens wobbly at the knees, he knew from experience. But she stood firm, her immodest methods and determination in some contrast to her shy mannerisms but evident nonetheless.

If she wanted to get serious, so could he.

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