The one who loves him can't have him. The one who has him can't love him.
In 1799 London, Leopold Singer is any woman's perfect match - a man of action, handsome and rich. Lady Delia wants him for his fortune, and Susan Gray wants him for his intellect, but his heart belongs to Marta Schonreden, the sweet and beautiful girl from his village in Austria.
Susan has the power to destroy Leopold's happiness as he destroyed hers, but she'd have to risk everything she loves. Delia has no such restrictions. Out of pure spite, she puts Marta in the path of notorious rake Sir Carey Asher. The consequences of one night in London shake Marta to her foundations, and she must fight for the love she once took for granted.
This old-fashioned family saga spans 1776 to 1832, from Austria to Massachusetts and London to Jamaica.
Approximately 475 pages in print.
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LK Rigel lives in California with her television-watching cat, Coleridge. (His favorite show is Castle, but he was enthralled by Game of Thrones.) Rigel wrote songs for the 90's band The Elements, scored the independent science fantasy karate movie Lucid Dreams, and was a reporter for the Sacramento Rock 'N Roll News. Her work has appeared in Literary Mama and Tattoo Highway.
Rigel writes the postapocapunk "Apocalypto" series about the end of the world and the new reality in which the gods return to save humanity from itself - and end up fighting with each other.
Her short story "Slurp" about an author with muse problems on Halloween is included in DEADLY TREATS, Anne Frasier's Halloween anthology published by Nodin Press.
Her latest book, GIVE ME, is an adult fairy tale about possession.
Leopold didn’t forget Susan Gray. She’d awakened him to love’s sweetness. But his eagerness now was for Marta Schonreden, and as soon as it was proper he went to see her brother. He had to have Marta for his wife, or he would rather follow his parents to his own grave.
He felt no great longing for Marta. He didn’t swoon or sigh when he thought of her. He fancied himself no Dante amazed by his Beatrice. His need was more profound, like his need for water or air. He didn’t long for water or air. He simply had to have them in order to live.
She had captured his fancy years ago, one day on the street when he’d stopped some boys fighting. What man could miss such beauty? Then Susan Gray had taught him what a woman was, and he’d known immediately that he must be with Marta Schonreden. She wasn’t to be wished for; she was to live with or to die without.
He found her in the parlor arranging winter greenery on a table. Their worlds had changed in the same way, the great Rocks of their lives crumbled and gone forever. But his loss had had the opposite effect to hers. He now had autonomy and means, the two necessary underpinnings of real freedom.
“Miss Schonreden, your brother has given me permission to speak to you.”
“Yes?” Her throat flushed a deep pink.
“Is something the matter?”
“No.” She indicated he should sit. “Just for a moment, you reminded me of von Beethoven.”
“You have seen the composer?” He ignored the chair she’d gestured toward and sat beside her on the sofa.
“When I was in Vienna with my aunt and uncle. He is a horrid man.”
Leopold laughed. “How so?”
“I was with a group of students at a salon to hear him play. He pinched my chin and stole a kiss in front of everyone.”
“What insolence. How horrible for you.”
“Yes, it was.” She lifted her lovely eyelashes and seemed pleased by his understanding. “Later, my teacher commended my tolerance. In truth I felt more violated by that sentiment than I had by the kiss.”
“Your beauty, I think, stuns a man’s reason.”
“Mm?” She blushed again.
He brought her fingers to his lips. “And do you think I am a horrid man, like Beethoven?”
“Miss Schonreden. Marta. I have thought of you often this last year with much affection. With more than affection. What I mean to say is, would you to do me the great honor of becoming my wife?”
“You are too kind.”
“I come into my majority in May, when I will have full authority over my estate.” He recited the speech he’d composed in his head on the road from Salzburg. “If you grant me the honor, I’d like to be married then. You will be well cared for.”
Just barely, she pulled her fingers away from his kisses. A less perceptive man wouldn’t notice, but Leopold felt a momentary physical rejection like an unexpected blow. Then she yielded and the dark instant passed.
“You will be loved, Marta. You are loved.” All was well. He felt her acquiesce into the Marta he knew, lovely, compliant, and his perfect complement.
Marta could barely believe this was happening. Prospects are funny things, Vati had said, and so they were. Hers had improved because he had looked out for them. Because he’d sent her to Vienna, she’d always know he had loved her though Fate had left her to Wolfram’s negligent care.
Now she again felt revived by Leopold Singer’s vital force. She wanted to touch his cheek, to rest her head on his chest and listen to his heartbeat. With her father’s death had come the great shock of her utter powerlessness. Dependent on her brother’s good will, she faced a sobering and self-diminishing reality. In that world, no one was her champion. A new kind of necessity colored her feelings. As much as she wanted Leopold Singer, she needed him more.
She had never spoken of Beethoven’s kiss, yet it was easy to tell him about it. He was sympathetic, where Wolfram would have ridiculed her. She remembered Oktav’s kiss, and how she had imagined Leopold in his place. She could still imagine it. She wanted Leopold’s kiss. She wanted him for her husband and for her lover.
And he was here, making love to her, kissing her fingers. The thrill of his touch surged through her body. For the mere fraction of a moment she’d thought, maybe I am as bad as Eve after all. In that instant of self-doubt, a chasm had opened between them, and it was terrifying.
“I will marry you,” she said. He brought her into his strength and kissed her full on the mouth. The chasm closed. She did not feel evil. The world felt exactly right.