BY: DIVA JEFFERSON

She is left with an offer she cannot refuse…

Upon his death in 1823, English nobleman, Lord Peyton leaves his daughter Lady Aveline with two choices—stay single and inherit only a small farm in Ireland, where she might just be able to eke out a living, or get married and live in luxury, inheriting all his wealth and property. Fiercely independent, Aveline heads for Ireland only to run afoul of her father’s farm manager, the devastatingly handsome Ciaran O’’Devlin. Alone in a strange country, Aveline yearns for love and friendship, but Ciaran offers only criticism and disdain. Confused and angered by strange visions and her growing attraction to Ciaran, Aveline is determined to make the farm prosper—despite the insufferable Irishman.

He has a secret he cannot reveal…

Ciaran mistrusts Aveline’s intentions and refuses to admit that a willful, English woman now owns the farm that should have been his. Although he insists Aveline should go back to England, he cannot deny their budding passion. Yet, he knows—even if she doesn’t—that nothing will come of it. Not only can’t a poor Irishman marry an English noblewoman, but when Aveline learns of his past, she’ll want nothing more to do with him. Ciaran has always known that each decision carries a consequence, but it’s only when he stands to lose Aveline that he realizes what a heavy price his past decisions may have.

TAYLOR JONES SAYS: To Love an Irishman by Diva Jefferson is a classic historical romance. Set in both England and Irelandin 1823, the story revolves around an English aristocrat, Lady Aveline Peyton, and a poor Irish farmer, Ciaran O’Devlin, who is the manager of the small Irish farm belonging to Lord Peyton, Aveline’s father. When Lord Peyton dies, he gives Aveline quite a shock. Although she expected him to die, being as he was ill, she hadn’t expected him to try to force her into marriage through the terms of his will. According to that will, if Aveline gets married, she inherits everything. However, if she stays single, she inherits only a small farm in Ireland, where she just might be able to survive—if she’s lucky. Deciding she would rather starve than give up her dreams of becoming a published author, Aveline travels to the farm in Ireland, determined to make a go of it. Upon arriving, she encounters Ciaran, the man who cares for the farm while Aveline’s father was in England. Ciaran is flummoxed to see Aveline. Not only is the poor man flabbergasted that a well-bred English woman thinks she can run a farm, Ciaran had fully expected that when Lord Peyton died, the farm would be left to him. He reacts, of course, by blaming Aveline and telling her she has no business trying to run a farm and that she should just go back to England.

Despite what Aveline calls “the insufferable Irishman,” she stays on the farm, determined to make it pay for her. She ignores Ciaran whenever possible—which given the hunk he is, isn’t easy to do—and when she can’t ignore him, she tolerates him. Being a spunky heroine—my fav—she learns to farm and do all the things a farm girl does. She also falls head over heels for Ciaran, who gradually and grudgingly, comes to respect her spirit and determination. As the two fall more deeply in love, Ciaran struggles with the unwritten rules of his society: a poor Irish farmer has no right to court an English noblewoman. The plot of To Love an Irishman has a few surprises along the way, including a charming little ghost and a kidnapping—things that kept my interest keen. So grab a hot cup of tea, settle down by the fire, and enjoy!

REGAN MURPHY SAYS: As Taylor says, To Love an Irishman by Diva Jefferson is a classic historical romance. But classic doesn’t mean boring. Not in the least. If fact, Jefferson soups up her story with a touch of the paranormal—a vision of a child to come—some danger in the form of a villain who wants revenge on Ciaran and takes it out on Aveline, and some sweet and frustrating romance. The book has the flavor of Ireland as well as a feeling of authenticity, heightened by Jefferson’s use of a number of Gaelic words, which might be intimidating if she hadn’t also included a glossary. Which I thought was a brilliant touch. I was totally able to relate to Aveline and imagine what a struggle it must have been for her to go from living the privileged life of the daughter of a peer in 1823 England to being a farm girl eking out a meager existence in Ireland, especially when she’d never done a day’s farm work before in her life. And though there were times when I was as frustrated with Ciaran as Aveline was, I could sort of relate to where he was coming from as well. After all, he had expected that when Lord Peyton died, the farm would be left to him. I never quite figured out why that was, but that’s what he expected. So while he had to accept that Aveline was now the rightful owner, he didn’t have to like it.

Combined with his old school ideas of society’s norms and how wrong it was to court someone above his station, it is understandable that he might be insufferable from time to time. Most hunks are after all. The storyline is strong, and the plot had some nice surprises. And though I wasn’t all that impressed with Ciaran’s deadly secret when it was finally revealed, the rest of the story was more than interesting enough to compensate for it. And of course, that may well just be me. When someone says that they have a terrible secret, I expect the secret to horrify me. Maybe I’m just too much of a cynic. All in all, I quite enjoyed To Love an Irishman.

CHAPTER 1

County Cumbria, England, 1823:

Aveline hoped her father didn’t notice her eavesdropping. Through a crack in the door, she watched him tell the solicitor everything he wished to have written into his will. Silver-blue satin curtains surrounded the bed and were swept open to allow light from a single window to shine upon his ashen face. Unfortunately, the sun’s hopeful rays could not prevent the rainstorm churning inside her.

The voices were unintelligible from where she stood, and all she could discern from the ramblings was her name. Surely, she was not going deaf? Maybe he lowered his voice on purpose to prevent her hearing. Of course, her father knew how much she liked to nose round. Perhaps he thought the only way to keep her from listening was to whisper.

No. He’d never keep important information from her. He loved her. His current actions must be a precaution in case she napped in the adjoining bedchamber.

She wondered why he’d asked her to leave his room in the first place. Why did he feel the need to spend even fifteen minutes without her when so little time was left?

Before she could answer the question, her father signed the paper on a wooden, bedside table with a shaky hand. He gave the solicitor a smug smile, and Aveline could now hear every word he said. “Please make sure she arrives there, where she will be happy. Tell her I love her.”

I will be happy to live in another place? Fifteen minutes is long enough to go mad after all.

“I love you too, papa,” she whispered as her eyes welled with tears.

Aveline could not believe the words were her father’s final wishes.

The wiry solicitor took the sheet as he lowered his spectacles, “I will return to the manse on the morrow to relay the will to Lady Aveline. A small memorial will be given in your name four days hence. I will not forget the words. May you forever rest in peace after death, my friend. Good day to you, Sir.” He rose and headed for the door.

She rushed into her bedroom, and softly shut the door with a trembling hand before the man saw her.

Her father had said he’d fetch her after he’d talked to the solicitor. Why hadn’t he done so yet? Unable to come to terms with the circumstances, she crossed to the bed, laying sideways atop the feathered coverlet, and cried.

Sleep came with great difficulty.

***

The child was beautiful.

Her mother was proud. Her father was proud. They sat together on the field watching her. She ran upon heather without a care in the world. A smile played on her lips, one curved to the right of her mouth. She beckoned for her parents to follow. They shook their heads, pointing toward the sun. The time had come for supper and they needed to return home for the night.

The little girl’s dress was white, and swayed in the breeze. She was tangible enough to touch.

She was almost real.

***

A small knock awoke Aveline from the dream. How long had she been asleep?

Her maid never waited to relay news. “Lady Aveline, it’s your father…”

Aveline ran into her father’s room to find him already gone. Tears filled her eyes and flowed down her cheeks in rivulets. Her father had wanted to die alone, but at least he had been happy at the end. The last expression on his face was a smile. She kissed his forehead and closed his eyelids. His head was turned toward the window and she wondered if the last image he had seen was the green expanse of land surrounding the manse.

She sat next to his bed with her head in her hands. Three hours later, men removed the body, feet first.

In the morning, the solicitor, who introduced himself as Mr. Stowe, notified the local rector, and arranged for a casket to be fashioned. Her mother had been buried in a small graveyard located within the estate grounds and so her father would lie there, too.

***

Aveline spent the next two days in solitude. She refused to eat or drink and remained in her room. She was a score and one years old, with no husband or family still alive. There was no male heir to pass her father’s title to, which meant the earldom would become extinct.

She’d lead a writer’s life, a life of spinsterhood, but her future could be fruitful. At least, she certainly hoped so. She fought the tears flowing down her cheeks. She needed to remain strong in order to take hold of her future and make her own way in a world where marriage was considered the only way for a woman to live comfortably.

Her father must have left her a nice sum in his will. She’d get one of her books published with the money. Of course, now that she was an heiress, she could imagine all the suitors would be flocking to her doorstep for the chance at the riches that came with marriage to her. That thought scared her more than anything else. She had always considered herself desirable. Handsome suitors requested dances with her all the time because she was the daughter of an earl.

Now that her father was gone, there would no longer be an Earl of Kendal in her family. The sobs came and she couldn’t prevent the flood. A single handkerchief wouldn’t protect her clothing from the stream. Her father had always been her protector. Without him around, she didn’t know what to do.

Then she remembered about Mills Publishing. Her father had mentioned the place one day and suggested she sell her first novel to them. Well, there was nothing to stop her from becoming a writer and having her novels published now.

Then another thought struck her.

What if her father had entirely different plans for her life that she was not privy to? She groaned. Did my father encourage me to reject a suitor all those times because he had set me into an arranged marriage with a French viscount or a Spanish prince? I did not hear where he wanted the solicitor to send me, but there is most certainly not here. Oh no, her inner voice declared, this will not do, I do not wish to move from England at all.

***

After the memorial, Aveline sat upon a settee in the drawing room. The solicitor, Mr. Stowe, a thin man with a head of salt and pepper hair, did not speak much, nor did he waste time fumbling around in his satchel. The papers and an ink pen were already in his hand. She watched as he applied his rounded spectacles to his nose. Then taking up the folded document with her father’s familiar signature, he read the contents of the will in a clear voice.

She felt her breath cease altogether as she heard her fortune relayed to her in her father’s words. The thought of him had her eyes welling with tears once again.

She suddenly jerked upright in her sofa as she focused on what the solicitor was saying.

“…second, after the payment of my debts, and funeral expenses, the rest of the money shall be kept by my daughter Aveline Peyton for her use the rest of her life, as well as her heirs thereafter…”

She sighed.

“…fourth, I give to my daughter Lady Aveline Peyton the family estate, as well as the land around…”

Those words were exactly what she wished to hear.

He took a deep breath,”…to receive the funds and the property in England on the day of her marriage and not one hour before. Until then, the estate will be kept in trust for her.”

What? She’d nowhere to live? She couldn’t have heard correctly.

The solicitor faltered. “The…the land owned by me in Altmore, County Tyrone, Ireland is the sole property of Lady Aveline Peyton with or without a marriage union…also she must not—under any circumstances—be accompanied to her destination.”

Aveline jumped to her feet. “This is insufferable! I will not be shipped off alone to some—some farm in Ireland.”

Is this what he meant when he said I would be happy over there? He wants me to go to Ireland?

The solicitor stared at her.

She slumped back into the chair, wishing he would be done with the will. “Carry on,” she growled. “I have a desire to hear what else my father refrained from telling me when he was alive.”

Mr. Stowe took off his spectacles and watched her reaction. “That is all of it, my lady.”

Aveline knew her mother had been Irish and had met her father when he had visited that country for business purposes, as he often did.

What was she going to do? She was not entitled to any of the funds from the estate until she married. There would hardly be any money left over from her father’s bills and funeral expenses. Certainly not enough for her to live comfortably.

No. She refused to believe this. She’d never wanted to marry before, due to the fact she had felt she would be courted for her money. But in order to have the money to get her books published, she might have to do so.

She tried to assess the situation more to her advantage. “Well, it seems the only choice I have left is to leave the country.”

Although, she knew any sensible woman would immediately seek a husband and live happily in luxury, she had no choice but to agree with the terms of her father’s will. She needed a more fulfilling life that contained less loneliness, one more rich with friendship and ambient laughter, than an arranged marriage would likely give her. She dreamed of becoming a published author, not some man’s wife.

“Your father stated the servants shall remain on the estate while it is in trust. They will be paid their regular wages until you return either married or able to afford a year’s worth of payment. Do you have any ideas in that regard?” he asked.

Feeling as if she were in a very bad dream, she wrung the black gloves in her hands and tried to prevent another flow of tears from clouding her vision. “Why do you ask? I appear to have no choice in the matter as it is. The farm is the only means of a living for me until I marry. If I am ever to marry at all.”

“Perhaps you might change your mind someday. Very well, Lady Aveline, then pack your things and make ready to leave.” Mr. Stowe started toward the door, but turned in mid-step. “Oh, beg pardon, but I forgot to mention your father wanted me to tell you he loved you.”

Aveline refused to look at him. “Yes, I know he did.”

He cleared his throat. “A travel carriage will arrive at half past seven tomorrow morning. From here, you will travel to Ravenglass Harbor where the packet ship Cromwell is docked. The vessel will take you to Ireland. I would not advise a late arrival, because no more departures are scheduled until next week.” He hesitated as if waiting for her to respond, but she had no desire to speak.” He cleared his throat again. “Good day to you, then.”

Aveline rose, gave him a slight curtsy, and nodded as he walked through the doorway. She watched through the window as he entered the waiting carriage and drove out of sight.

“Damn it all!” she muttered, since no one remained to berate her for her language.

From what she knew of the Irish, they were haughty and stubborn, not to mention thieves and beggars of the worst kind. Or so she learned from Miss McCork, the governess her father had brought into the house. When Aveline would ask her about the people there, the woman told her only of the men. “They are like drunken mules that are unable to stand without ale ravaging their systems.” She was judgmental and condescending toward her people, but around Aveline’s father she behaved like a true matron of kindness. Aveline had come to the conclusion the woman was only interested in her father for his money.

Now Aveline owned a farm in Ireland. Why a farm? The place must be in the middle of nowhere, which meant no friends or suitors for her to entertain. Surely, the farmers could not have the luxuries she took for granted at her father’s estate. Endless amounts of paper and ink—and a fine desk for writing.

Although she had found some humor in the governess’s prejudices, Aveline knew even though Miss McCork wanted her to look at all the bad, there was probably some good in Ireland, too. After all, her father was not dim-witted. He had written her fate onto a sheet of paper before he passed away. Would he have done so without taking at least some of her needs and desires into consideration?

She ran up the wooden staircase of the manse to pack a trunk of clothes and other necessary items to take with her. They would have to last her a while, to be sure. She spent her last night on English soil, packing for a new life in a place she’d never known, wishing her father was more than just a memory in her heart.