From the desk of Laurel Ann Nattress:
Happy Spring dear readers! My daffodils are budding, and hope is in the air.
On that uplifting note, I am happy to introduce you to a new Regency romance novel whose heroine is not your typical shrinking Miss pushed into a London Season. Winning the Gentleman is a forthcoming release by the bestselling author Kristi Ann Hunter—and it will surprise and delight you.
I adore a feisty heroine who bucks the system. I have fond memories of Elizabeth Bennet in Pride and Prejudice with her “decided opinions” tramping across the countryside, and Sophy Stanton-Lacy in Georgette Heyer’s The Grand Sophy, the most beloved outgoing, independent, and unconventional heroine of the genre taking action and raising eyebrows. Hunter’s female protagonist, Sophia Fitzroy, rivals her predecessors. She is a horse trainer in a traveling circus with her own ideas of what a women’s life should be when she meets Aaron Whitworth, a gentleman in need of a racehorse jockey.
This unexpected concept for a historical romance novel is not only surprising but also refreshing. The setting in the Regency-era English countryside is enchanting, and their slow-burn romance captivating.
Kristi’s publisher has kindly shared an exclusive excerpt with our readers and offered a generous giveaway chance for a print copy of the book. Please see the details at the end of this post and leave a comment to enter.
Wishing you all happy reading.
Aaron Whitworth hasn’t had control over most aspects of his life, but he’s always taken pride in being an honorable businessman and better-than-average horseman. When both of those claims are threatened, he makes the desperate decision to hire the horse trainer of a traveling circus as a temporary jockey for his racehorses.
Sophia Fitzroy knows that most horsemen don’t take her seriously because she’s a woman, but she can’t pass up the opportunity to get away from the tumultuous world of travel and performing. As she fights for the right to do the work she was hired for, she learns the fight for Aaron’s guarded heart might be an even more worthwhile challenge.
As secrets come to light and past vulnerabilities are confronted, will Aaron and Sophia sacrifice their former dreams and forge a new one together–against all odds?
“What if I’m not a good jockey?”
Jonas sighed. “Sophia, you’re the best rider I know. Better than I was before the accident. Probably better than Father ever was.”
She winced. It seemed somewhat sacrilegious for Jonas to say such a thing about a dead man. “We don’t know what Father was like when he was young.”
“Maybe not, but I know what you’re like now. There isn’t a horse alive you can’t ride.”
“What I do— what Father taught us— those things aren’t anything like racing. What if my skills aren’t enough?” Now that the fear was out in the open, Sophia couldn’t seem to pull it back in.
With a laugh, Jonas reached over and shoved at her shoulder. “You stand on a galloping horse four times a day and now you’re worried about sitting on one?”
Sophia grunted a response, her breath coming easier the farther they got from Cambridge. “You’re right. I can do this. Once I win this challenge, he’ll be inclined to keep me on despite the circumstances.” She refused to say he’d been tricked, because then she’d have to say she’d been tricked too, and the very fact that she was thinking such thoughts meant she’d known what Margaret was doing from the beginning and gone along with it.
Maybe even encouraged it. . . .
Jonas wrapped his arm around her and pulled her into a tight hug before giving her one last nod and leaving the road to cut across the fields still wet with morning dew.
She would not cry. If she was going to claim this job, she had to be tough. Resilient. Mr. Whitworth wasn’t going to like that she was female. Others might not like it either. Some didn’t even care for a woman performing in the circus. Were racehorse owners likely to be more inclined to accept female riders?
She didn’t need anyone’s approval, though, only their money.
Wiping her hands against the rough fabric of her skirt, she shifted her bag so that it rode more easily on her shoulder and walked on. Fabric bunched around her legs as her loose trousers rubbed and clung to the fabric of the overlying skirt. It wasn’t an outfit made for walking, but she didn’t think there would be time or a place for her to change before the race. This outfit allowed her to ride astride with modesty. Riding sidesaddle at length wasn’t always comfortable. She doubted it was the best way to race, either.
She felt every wisp of breeze, heard every twitch and rustle in the grass. As she approached the Heath, a trembling worked from her knees upward, making her stumble as she left the road. The Heath was beautiful, but the small gathering coming into view held her attention and kept her from taking in the full expanse.
In the distance were several clusters of people. Some were standing, others were seated in open carriages. A scattering of men on horseback trickled toward her across the expanse and ended at a grouping of two horses and three men, one of whom held the reins of a sleek black horse with one hand and his pocket watch in the other. His clothing was crisp, though his hair bore the disarray that comes from spending a great deal of time without a hat on while atop a horse.
The coat was blue today instead of burgundy, but it was the same man who had been to the circus the day before. Sophia’s gut tightened. She’d been so focused on riding the horse and keeping the job that she’d forgotten about facing the man.
His glance flicked often toward the road and then to the distant spectators. Twice he passed over her. She could tell herself it was because he didn’t recognize her without a wig, but how many red-headed women were wandering about the Heath?
It was too late to back out now.
She strode forward, trying to pretend it was just like the circus show. Confidence wasn’t necessary, but the appearance of it was.
“Mr. Whitworth?” The words came out slightly raspy but strong, lightly touched with the Irish lilt of her childhood.
He frowned down at her. “Yes?”
“I am your new jockey.”
Chapter Four, pages 45-47
- “The romance was sweet. I enjoyed the couple’s slow-burn connection and how they grew to love each other despite their many differences. My heart went to them whenever they struggled for acceptance.”— Lu, Lu Reviews Books
- “…a wonderful story, one that I thoroughly enjoyed.”— Cara C. Putman, bestselling author
- “[A] captivating and thoroughly entertaining story…The signature lighthearted and beautifully skilled writing has made Kristi Ann Hunter one of my go-to authors for years.”— Randi Annie Framnes, Randi Loves 2 Read
Kristi Ann Hunter is the author of the Hawthorne House and Haven Manor series and a RITA Award winner and Christy Award finalist. Kristi graduated from Georgia Tech with a degree in computer science but always knew she wanted to write. She lives with her husband and three children in Georgia.
ADDITIONAL BOOKS BY KRISTI ANN HUNTER
- Winning the Gentleman: Hearts on the Heath (Book 2), by Kristi Ann Hunter
- Bethany House Publishers (April 20, 2021)
- Hardcover, trade paperback, eBook, & audiobook (352) pages
- ISBN: 978-0764235269
- Genre: Regency Romance, Inspirational Fiction
Austenprose is an Amazon affiliate. Cover image, book description, excerpt, & author bio compliments of Bethany House Publishers © 2021; text Laurel Ann Nattress © 2021, austenprose.com.