The Midnight Hour:
All Hallows’ Brides:
A Gothic Regency Romance
Available now everywhere!
When doors creak and ghostly whispers are heard in the midnight hour, this stunning collection of Gothic Regency Historical Romance novellas are sure to leave you breathless with Poe-inspired, romantic dreams…
Welcome to the All-Hallows’ Brides collection. Seven of your favorite Historical Romance authors have come together for a collection of never-before published stories that will give you a chill, a thrill, and have you reading them again and again. Inspired by the works of Edgar Allan Poe, you’ve never seen a collection like this by some of the biggest names in Historical Romance.
The title of each story is named for their ‘Bride’:
Emma by Kathryn Le Veque
Aislin by Meara Platt
Sarah by Scarlett Scott
Madeleine by Mary Lancaster
Beth by Maggi Andersen
Hyacinth by Chasity Bowlin
Eleanor by Sydney Jane Baily
Raven by Violetta Rand
So, grab your candle and lock your door, and settle down to read this smashing collection of darkly-tinged romantic tales with unforgettable heroes and magnificent ladies. Romance has never been so daring… or so Gothic.
And if you hear a knock on your door… don’t answer it.Here’s a peek at Mary Lancaster’s contribution: Madeleine.
Inspired by Poe’s The Fall of the House of Usher and possibly his most tortured character, who is the hero of Madeleine.
Cursed or damaged?
As soon as Madeleine encounters Roderick Usher and his isolated Scottish castle, she is mesmerized. A soldier wounded in mind and body, he has the soul of an artist and the hands of a musician. She falls in love and marries in haste…but will she live to repent?
She descended from the coach in wonder, and turned a complete circle with her face turned up to the rain, taking in the dark buildings surrounding her and the overwhelming atmosphere of age…or was it agelessness?
She had just begun to think the house deserted, when, in her second full turn, she caught movement at an upstairs window. A man’s face, pale and handsome and ghostly.
Something shrieked in her ear, flapping against her hair. With a startled cry, she fell back.
“Bats,” Daniel said in disgust.
The face at the window had gone. Had she imagined it?
“There’s no one here, Madeleine,” Daniel said. “It’s all a hum. Let’s—”
Before he could finish, the front door opened wide with a satisfyingly loud creak. The Castle of Otranto, Madeleine thought with some glee and a mere hint of nervousness.
A manservant stepped out. At least Madeleine supposed he was a servant, for he wasn’t dressed as a gentleman. However, neither did he look like a butler.
“Ah!” Daniel strode toward him. “Mr. Usher at home? Mr. Roderick Usher?”
“Give him my card,” Daniel instructed, holding one out to the servant. “He should be expecting us.”
The servant hesitated. For a moment, Madeleine thought he would make them all wait in the rain. His gaze flickering over her, Sonya Kosara, and Mercer the maid, then on to John Coachman and the carriage horses.
“Come in out of the rain,” he said abruptly and pointed John wordlessly to the right, presumably to the stables. Turning, he then marched into the house and everyone else scuttled after him.
“Still want to stay?” Daniel murmured in Madeleine’s ear as they found themselves in a dark hall.
No fire burned in the hearth, and the rugs on the floor were well worn. A suit of armor stood in the far corner, crossed swords above the doorways leading off. A stone staircase with a carved, wooden bannister rose up from the middle, disappearing into the dusk.
“This way, if you please.” The servant led them to the left, toward the tower end of the building,
Madeleine guessed, and into a surprisingly cozy room with beautiful wood-paneled walls and a polished wooden floor ornamented with a large, Turkish carpet.
As she entered, Madeleine glanced back over her shoulder across the entrance hall. A man stood on the stairs, unmoving in the shadows. Their host? She thought not, for she had an impression only of untidiness and white shirt sleeves before Sonya Kosara dragged her fully into the room.
Here, she was delighted to see a lit fire and hurried up to its warmth, her hands spread out. The servant left again, presumably sweeping Mercer up in the hallway and sending her to the kitchen.
Madeleine turned her back to the fire and gazed around her. The curtains had not been drawn, and the rain trickled relentlessly down the windows, adding to her pleasure at being indoors.
If one was strictly honest, the room was more cluttered than cozy. A pianoforte sat in the large window embrasure with music strewn over it and on the floor around it. Three painting easels stood haphazardly around the room, draped with multi-colored painted rags. There were splashes of paint on the portions of floor not covered by the carpet. A man’s coat, a waistcoat, and several books were strewn across the heavy old chairs and sofa.
Madeleine met her brother’s gaze. “I like it,” she said defiantly.
He laughed. “You are contrary. I believe you think it’s like those novels you’re always reading. Well, Verne said he was eccentric.”
“Hush,” Madeleine said. “I thought he was your friend?”
“Apparently he is, though I didn’t know we were on such terms until I got that very odd letter at the Hart.”
“You never said it was odd.”
Daniel shrugged. “Well, we were coming to Scotland anyhow. We have time to say a hail and farewell at least.”
“Yes, but they don’t appear to be expecting us,” Madeleine observed. “You did write back to him, didn’t you?”
“Can’t quite recall,” Daniel said vaguely.
Of course he couldn’t. For some reason, his mind was focused on this duke he was desperate for Madeleine to meet. So much so, that one day when Madame Kosara wasn’t present, she had said bluntly, “I gather his grace is rich and powerful, but I hope you are not set on trying to make a match between us because I couldn’t marry anyone for such reasons.”
Daniel’s lip had curled. “Oh, I have already gathered that after the society of emperors and princes, mere dukes do not impress you.”
She hadn’t been talking of rank but of love. However, since he would only say her head was full of trashy novels, she had not argued.
A quick footfall sounded, crossing the stone hallway. Madeleine and everyone else turned expectant gazes to the door. The handle turned, and a man strode in, fastening his coat with one hand. He paused, glancing into the room almost warily.
For no reason she understood, Madeleine’s heart lurched. He was tall and very lean with a shock of barely combed raven-black hair that was too long for fashion. Was he the man she had glimpsed at the window? She couldn’t tell now if this man was handsome, for he looked ill. His skin was too pale and drawn around his eyes and mouth. A frown marred his high brow, though it seemed to be unconscious—perhaps it was permanent.
As he came closer, she thought his dark eyes were almost black, the whites slightly blood-shot. He walked with quick movements that might have been nervous or simply restless.
“Deare,” he said in a deep, curt voice. “What a pleasant surprise.” There was no way to know if he meant it, but at least he thrust out his hand in welcome.
Madeleine’s gaze clung to that hand, so long and thin, its veins standing out like ridges. As Daniel put his into it, the tapered fingers closed, and she actually held her breath, as though it was her own hand he held.