The Duchess of Earl
By J.L. Salter
This is not a Regency… but she thinks it is. What if you woke from a traumatic experience and believed you were in 1813 England?
A young woman suddenly awakens after a terrible vehicle accident, convinced she’s betrothed to a lesser British baron 200 years ago. But instead of a baron, she encounters a man named Earl… and this low-key, 2013 Tennessee farm isn’t anywhere near England.
For several reasons, the lonely, isolated, handsome Dusty Earl wants to help the delusional woman (whom he calls the “duchess”) he rescued from the burning car, but she sees everything around her through a lens that’s two centuries old.
Though beginning with fear and mistrust, in their following days together, they develop a truce. But can their truce become a relationship?
Meanwhile, Dusty’s desperate enemy intends to use the confused, attractive patient to his own multiple advantages — and Dathan always fights dirty. How far will Verdeville’s bad boy go to get what he wants?
How long will the woman (who thinks her name is Georgette Heyer) continue to believe she’s living in Regency times?
The Duchess of Earl is a hybrid of contemporary, suspense, and action (with components of comedy). It’s also an affectionate wink at Regencies and Regency readers.
She heard voices before she tried to open her eyes again. Evidently considerable time had passed since the heat from that massive fire. Her fingers gripped sheets, partly damp from her own perspiration. For some reason the people lowered their volume as they neared. Neither of her eyes would open yet, but maybe she could pry up one eyelid. No. Not certain why. Perhaps a compress covered her face.
“Are you okay?” This voice to her right was female, mature. Something about that word “okay” seemed familiar, but it didn’t quite make sense.
A male’s rough, wrinkled hand clutched her left wrist and, after perhaps a minute, he pronounced a number. Could not focus on that number and did not know what it meant. His voice sounded older. He must be addressing the female on the other side of the bed.
The female again: “What’s your name, honey?”
Strange how those word components did not match. She tried to answer anyway, but it came out as a croak.
“Give her some water,” instructed the male.
On the damp sheet of the very soft bed, she tried to reach for the female, but that person must have departed for the water.
“Easy now, young lady,” said the male voice, “take it slow.”
Their wording was strange, yet it was English. Unusual accents, however. Possibly from a province. At least they recognized she was a lady. She tried to reach down to her garment to be certain nobody had taken any liberties. It was not her own crinoline. This felt like a common cotton shift.
[Slightly later, after the male has identified himself as a physician]
“What’s your name, young lady?” asked the physician.
The sightless patient had to search her brain for an answer to a question she fully realized she should know as automatically as taking a breath. “Georgette… Heyer,” she replied, satisfied that she’d finally retrieved something proper.
“Well, Georgette, how do you feel now?” This woman was a bit familiar, using her Christian name.
“Why can I not see?” Georgette’s hands reached for her face to uncover her eyes, but the man’s wrinkled hand intercepted hers. “Not just yet, young lady. We’ll take those bandages off tomorrow. You have some cuts and abrasions.”
Abrasions? “Is that a disease?” Georgette’s heart raced.
The physician chuckled. “I’ll have to remember that one.”