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The Garden Girls Super Bundle

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Grumpy/Sunshine meets Boss/Employee Romance

Show off your love of historical romance with a "Proud Historical Romance Reader" t-shirt while reading your next swoon worthy book series!

The Garden Girls Super Bundle Includes:

  • Your color/size choice of a "Proud Historical Romance Reader" tee
  • Charming Dr. Forrester (E-book & Audiobook)
  • All Rogues Lead to Ruin (E-book & Audiobook)
  • An Earl Like Any Other (E-book & Audiobook)
  • The Scoundrel Seeks a Wife (E-book & Audiobook)
  • A Gentleman Never Surrenders (E-book & Audiobook)

Read Sample

From Charming Dr. Forrester

CHAPTER ONE

1868 Manchester, England

A shiver traveled down Dr. Robert Forrester’s spine at the realization that he was truly alone.

Watching Harry’s coffin lower into a muddy grave, Robert thought it fitting that the typical Manchester rain hadn’t ceased for his best friend’s funeral. Grey drizzle seeped into his wool overcoat, while a chill settled over him, as if the ghost of his dead friend lingered nearby. It wouldn’t surprise him if Harry decided to haunt him. Honestly, it’d be par for the course.

“We, therefore, commit his body to the ground…” The pastor droned on, as Robert wondered how his life had gone downhill so fast. Only six months earlier, he’d been preparing to resign as an army physician and partner with Harry with their own private practice. Then his mother had died unexpectedly while he was still overseas, and now his best friend was gone, as well.

Clenching clammy fists, he focused dark eyes on the mounds of dirt being shoveled over the casket...on the drops of water sliding down his neck...counting until he reached one hundred and started over. The repetitive practice helped to calm his roiling emotions. Seventy-two, seventy-three, seventy-four… The numbers rang through his head, a single thread as thin as a spider’s web grounding him to the present moment.

Harry had taught him the coping tactic—the trick helping him deal with his sporadic fits of madness. Night terrors, heart palpitations, flashes of memories from the war. Fits that, if found out, would surely result in him being shipped off to an asylum. I can control this; that won’t happen.

A sob sounded to his left, overshadowing the pastor’s calm, monotone voice. Harry’s parents stood huddled together under an umbrella. His mother, a kindly woman with silver hair, held a handkerchief to her nose as tears trailed down her face, her shoulders shaking with spasms of grief. Mr. Rosing kept a stoic countenance, though the trembling at his mouth denoted a certain restrained emotion.

Robert regretted that this would be the last moment they had with their son as he remembered their happy send-off a week prior, when Harry and he had left for Manchester.

But only a few days later, Harry was struck by a runaway carriage. The shock of his sudden death had sent Robert into a spiral, wondering if he could’ve saved Harry if he’d been present. If he could’ve pulled him to safety or used his skills to revive him. A steady loop of scenarios tortured him as he sank deeper into despair and trying to drink the pain away only led to a terrible headache the next morning. Trying to reconcile his feelings of powerlessness left him drained; something that didn’t help his already ragged state of mind.

After all, there would be no rescuing Harry.

Robert blinked away a blur of tears as his throat thickened, making it difficult to swallow. They’d formed a bond as close as brothers during the Crimean War. For twelve years, they’d worked together; two doctors providing medical attention to their assigned regiment.

Reaching one hundred in his mind, Robert decided there was nothing more for him to do. It was time he took his leave of this dreary weather—if only it was so easy to leave the grief behind.

Straightening, he approached the Rosings and offered his hand, “My condolences; Harry was a fine man; I know we’ll all miss him.”

Mrs. Rosing pulled his hand to her chest with a tight squeeze, “Oh, Robert, we’re thankful he had your friendship to rely upon. I slept easier knowing he had you at his back all these years—especially during the war. To think, our Harry survived on the battlefield only to be taken from us now.” Her voice cracked on the last word as her husband pulled her closer. Fearing his own breaking composure, he bade them farewell.

As he descended the hill where the small cemetery lay, his mind raced to figure out what to do with his career, his life. Without Harry’s support, he couldn’t afford to finance his own practice. Nor did he have any other ties to this town.

Not for the first time, he selfishly lamented the early death of his father.

Dr. Laurence Forrester came from three generations of physicians in Kettle Cross. A small village just south of the Scottish border, it had kept his father busy with the usual births and ailing elderly. The sleepy hamlet had suited Robert fine as he grew up, imagining one day taking over his father’s practice and marrying a sweet village girl who would help him as his mother assisted his father.

Unfortunately, that dream came to an end after the senior Dr. Forrester suffered a stroke when Robert was fifteen. Too young to continue the family tradition, a new doctor was brought in to care for the village people, and he was left with no choice but to become a military doctor when he came of age: the only viable option for someone with his lack of funds and connections.

It turned out to be a timely occurrence, though, since Britain decided to go to war the same year he’d graduated from the Royal College of Surgeons in London. Joining became the patriotic and practical thing to do, and Robert didn’t regret his decision, despite the issues it created within him.

While he reminisced, glows of light fought through the rain to reveal the front of the St. James Hotel. Only a few years old, the brick building boasted five stories of luxurious suites and first-class amenities. The owner, Mr. William Porter, previously from London, had decided to expand to Manchester, bringing the capital city’s glamour to the industrial town.

Taking the marble steps leading to the front entrance two at a time, he ducked his head in a brief acknowledgement of the doorman before hustling to his suite upstairs. Plush carpet lined the hallways as sconces lit the way, the smell of fresh construction still hanging in the air.

Within the walls of his private rooms, he removed his coat and hat before stripping down to his trousers. He needed more than counting to calm his roiling emotions. Free of constricting clothing, he placed bare feet against the floor as he lay down and began doing sit-ups—the repetitive movement easing his mind.

Time passed slowly, the lone testament to the waning hour, a nub of a candle he’d lit upon entry. Laying flat, staring up at the ceiling, salty sweat burned his eyes as it dripped down his face. Better than tears, he thought.

A pleasant buzz settled over him as his heavy breaths filled the room. For a moment, his grief became shrouded by a numbing fog that kept the pain at bay. Closing his eyes, Robert drifted to a happier time, imagining his childhood home: the comforting smells of baking bread mingling with the stench of wet dog. He always came back to this day when Max, his dog, had saved him after he’d fallen into the lake. Not knowing how to swim yet, he’d panicked when the brackish water covered his head. Max had jumped in after him and pulled him to safety.

Once on solid ground, he’d run back home to his mother, crying on her shoulder about the terrifying incident. He remembered her comforting arms wrapping around him, squeezing him as his cries settled into hiccups and her warmth sank into his cold skin, the familiar scent of his mother surrounding him. This memory kept him sane—through the war and in the years since, whenever his thoughts threatened to overwhelm him. Which he feared would happen more frequently, now that he no longer had his mother and Harry. They’d always kept him grounded with a surplus of understanding and love. How would he cope now without their support?

Shaking his head, Robert sat up, determined to put aside such maudlin thoughts. They wouldn’t want him dwelling in such a sad state. Ringing for a late dinner, he tried again to decide his next move, what path to take. To leave Manchester? Return to the military, to a post on the Continent?

He still had the funds intended to open the private practice, but it wouldn’t be enough without Harry’s share. Recalling his scheduled visit to see an old army acquaintance, Dr. Lane, he wondered if the man might be able to aid him in his decision. If you can hold yourself together until then, and learn to control these episodes.

Scrubbing a hand down his face, he prayed for a peace he doubted would ever come—after all, what did he have left in this world?

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