The Summer of You
Lady Jane Cummings is certain that her summer is ruined when she is forced to reside at isolated Merrymere Lake with her reckless brother and ailing father. Her fast-paced London society is replaced with a small town grapevine. But one bit of gossip catches Jane’s attention – rumors that the lake’s brooding new resident is also an elusive highwayman.
Jane must face the much discussed mysterioso after he saves her brother from a pub brawl. She immediately recognizes him from London: Byrne Worth, war hero and apparent hermit – who she finds strangely charming. The two build a fast friendship, and soon nothing can keep this Lady away from Merrymere’s most wanted. Convinced of his innocence, Jane is determined to clear Byrne’s name – and maybe have a little fun this summer after all…
ISBN-10: 0425240193 • ISBN-13: 978-0425240199
» A major plot point to The Summer of You is a heat wave hits England. However, this book takes place in 1816, which is historically known as The Year Without Summer. (A volcanic explosion in Indonesia affected global temperatures, turning the weather uncharacteristically cold.) As this book directly follows the previous novel, Revealed, I could not alter the timeline, and therefore was forced to take some liberties with the weather.
» The very first scene of this book is an extension of the very last scene of Revealed.
» When walking through the village of Reston, Lady Jane opines that she can think of no reason to purchase something at the cooperage. A cooperage is a maker of barrels, and while Jane desired to solicit every shop in the village, there are admittedly few reasons for a lady to purchase a barrel.
» Perhaps the most famous Regency era residents of the Lake District (where I have placed the fictional Merrymere and village of Reston) are the romantic poets William Wordsworth and Samuel Taylor Coleridge. Wordsworth’s Daffodils (1804) is an ode to the Lake District’s natural beauty. In The Summer of You, Nevill and Charles Quincy-Frosham bemoan the fact that the poets are not currently in residence in the District, so Nevill can express his distaste for Wordsworth’s long poem, The Excursion (1814).
» Learn more about how Kate’s books are connected via this handy guide.
The Summer of You was named one of Kirkus Reviews best romances of 2010.
(posted December, 2010)
“The Summer of You is vivid and touching, like a thank you note or socially correct gesture that steps beyond mere formality, outside the boring, expected language, and instead communicates something new, something real, something genuine, something special and alive. It is worth savoring and appreciating.”
- Smart Bitches, Trashy Books (posted March, 2010)
“How many romances really, and I mean really, stir the heart? This one did. Byrne and Jane are magic.”
- All About Romance (posted April, 2010)
“Jane and Byrne grow on you, slowly and surely, and at the end, you can’t doubt that these two are meant for each other.”
- Dear Author (posted April, 2010)
“The Summer of You is beautiful and tremendously romantic. Another winner from Kate Noble who should be on every historical romance reader’s keeper shelf.”
- The Book Smugglers (posted April, 2010)
“Sharp, clever and adorable come to mind when I think of a Kate Noble romance. Those who are big fans of Julia Quinn, Laura Kinsale and Tessa Dare will want to pick this one up.”
- Babbling About Books (posted April, 201o)
“Kate Noble writes absolutely adorable books. There is something about the way she writes that draws me in and I find it utterly romantic.”
- Smexybooks (posted April, 2010)
“Mr.… Mr. Worth!” Jane exclaimed, turning a most uncharacteristic scarlet before maidenly modesty won out over maidenly curiosity, and she averted her eyes. But the image was already burned into her brain.
Byrne Worth stood in waist high water, clothing nowhere in sight. Jane’s experience with the male form was limited to swimming with her brother as children, and the Greek statuary populating the British Museum, and Mr. Worth’s torso was far more reminiscent of the latter. The summer sun beat down on his shoulders, reflecting the light like a god. Pale as marble, he obviously hadn’t spent a great deal of time in the sun, but planes and hollows and molded flesh bespoke of a lifetime of health and hard work. Some of that health had escaped him, she knew – they had met before, in London, and he had looked weaker then. But it seemed that in the intervening weeks, some muscle had been added to his frame.
Heavens, she had to stop thinking about this. Maybe it was time to venture her voice again.
“Mr. Worth – I don’t know if you remember me… Lady Jane Cummings, I’m, ah – a friend of Phillippa Benning.” She paused, waiting. Then, “We met last month in London?”
“I remember you, my lady,” Byrne’s voice grunted, and much closer to her than she had anticipated. She chanced a peak out of the corner of her eye – he was standing on shore now, thankfully wearing dark breeches, wet through and clinging to his legs. She watched as he picked up a silver handled cane on the shore, rested his weight against it. “But I did not think you and Mrs. Benning particularly friendly.”
“Hmm?” Jane responded, distracted, averting her eyes once again. “Oh. Ah, we – Phillippa and I, well… perhaps we’re learning to be friends again. And it’s Mrs. Worth. She is your brother’s wife now, I’m sure you know.”
“Hmm,” was the only reply. She could hear his stuttered gait crunch on the grass as he approached her.
Then, his voice came again, this time from directly behind her, making her jump. “You may turn around now, Lady Jane. I promise your modesty will remain intact.”
That did cause Jane to turn, rise to the challenge of his words. She looked him straight in the eye, her voice cool and impassive. “Perhaps I was being considerate of your modesty,” she smiled, but did note thankfully that he was fumbling with the buttons of a thin lawn shirt.
“How could I forget such wit?” Mr. Worth replied, done with the buttons. He leaned heavily on his cane as he edged his way past her and toward the small house that edged the lake. “Why would you think I should not remember you?” he called over his shoulder.
She took that as the cue to follow, and did so. “We met under rather extraordinary circumstances, if you recall.”
Extraordinary, indeed. They had been thrown into each other’s company when Byrne Worth had accompanied his brother Marcus on the chase for a (now thankfully deceased) enemy of the crown. Lady Jane had come into the picture at the Hampshire Racing Party, when Byrne’s brother Marcus had taken a bullet to the shoulder, and Marcus’s now-wife Phillippa had reluctantly turned to Lady Jane for help. It had been the most shocking and exciting thing to happen to Lady Jane… ever. And it was the beginning of repairing Jane and Phillippa’s friendship. And of course – there had been Byrne…
“Extraordinary?” Byrne asked as he approached the little house’s door. Turning, he leaned against the doorframe. “Is that your word for it?”
“I realize that gun fights and intrigue may be quite common for you, but it was out of place for me.”
He acknowledged that with a shrug. A very small one. But then he returned to his standoffish demeanor. “Doesn’t explain why you are on my lake, however.”
Jane cocked her head to the side, confused. “But I am not on your lake.”
A black wing of an eyebrow lifted. “My front lawn, then. Did Marcus and Phillippa send you? Checking up on me, are they? You can tell them I am fine. Well, even. Superb!”
Jane wrinkled her nose in annoyance. Dry wit was one thing – sarcasm quite another.
As he turned his back (roped with muscle through the thin shirt, she noted) to her, swinging open the door to Widow Lowe’s little house, Jane crossed her arms over her chest, and repeated, “I am not on your lake, Mr. Worth,” she continued archly, “nor your front lawn. In fact, you are on mine.”
He turned. And if Jane had not been subjected to his terseness for the whole of this remarkably awkward (for her, at least) conversation, she would have mistaken the lilt that came into his voice for amusement.
“Indeed, Lady Jane? I’m fairly certain it was I who inherited this house from my great-aunt Lowe, not you. Truly, I saw the deed myself.”
“Obviously you did not read it fully,” she countered. Turning she pointed to the west, where down the lake’s shoreline sat the Cottage, proud and warm in the late morning sun. “I live down there – at the Cottage – and my family owns all of the land on this side of Merrymere. Your house used to be a playhouse for my great-grandmother when she was a little girl.”
He looked at her curiously. “I’m living in your great-grandmother’s playhouse?” At her nod, he leaned forward, just a hair. “Then how did it come into Aunt Lowe’s possession?”
“Apparently – ah –” Jane could feel her ears pink, “your Aunt Lowe was – in her youth – a, er, friend of my grandfather.”
Mr. Worth looked at her for a short moment, his ice blue eyes piercing at her skin, causing more than just her ears to pink. Then, holding her gaze, he exhaled a laugh. “Aunt Lowe – I would have never guessed the old broad had it in her.”
“Indeed,” Jane smiled… for the first time that day, she realized. Possibly for the first time since arriving at the lake. “Ah – in any case, he gifted the house to the Widow Lowe. But he couldn’t gift the land it sat upon – can’t break up the family property, or some such thing. So, if you looked at the deed to the house, you would see that the house itself is all you own,” she shrugged. “The rest is ours.”
“So, every time I leave my house, I’m trespassing on your land,” he concluded.
“Only until you come to the Mill Road,” she replied pertly. “And my family is more than willing to overlook some trespassing to allow you to move more freely. Especially considering your kindness to my brother last night.”
If she expected him to acknowledge having taken care of her inebriated brother the previous evening – to acknowledge having even met Jason, Jane was to be disappointed. Instead, Byrne moved his gaze from her eyes, down her body, to her hand.
“Is that for me?” he asked.
Oh goodness! The basket she’d had made – she had forgotten she was even holding it. “Yes!” she replied, and quickly held it out to him. “A small token of thanks, for my brother, even though he was too pained in the head this morning to think of it.” He just kept looking at her, and so she continued talking. “And also a way of saying welcome to the neighborhood, since even though I have just arrived, I’ve been here far longer, really. We used to spend every summer here. My mother loved it, but she died recently – however she would have insisted on a basket…” Jane stopped there – just shy, she was sure, of fully rambling.
“I’ve received welcome baskets like that, Lady Jane.” Byrne replied, finally turning from her and crossing the threshold into his house. “They usually contain more probing questions than they do jams and jellies.”
Jane had to acknowledge his astute assessment of the village’s curiosity. But neither did she want him thinking that such curiosity would be applied to her. No matter how curious she actually was.
“Yes – I myself have just recently arrived, and endured such a welcoming. At least you receive a stock of jams and jellies in the bargain,” said, into the house, careful to keep herself just this side of the threshold. But that didn’t mean she couldn’t peek in.
She remembered the Widow Lowe’s house as being fascinating when she was young. She would run over here, her knees of her dress muddy, her hands sticky from tree sap, and come up to Widow Lowe and beg for sweets. Widow Lowe would let her only onto the porch until she had wiped her hands of the sap – everything in the house was to be maintained pristinely. Oh, Widow Lowe would act put out by her visits – such a dirty child! How could she be the Duchess’s daughter? – but Jane knew, she secretly enjoyed her presence. The older woman had a suspicious supply of lemon cakes with tea, which was Jane’s favorite.
Only when she passed Widow Lowe’s standard of cleanliness, she was admitted to the house proper. It was filled with bric-a-brac, tiny figurines, enamel flower candlesticks… all silly, cheap, beloved. And nothing like what was found in any of the Duke of Rayne’s homes. Jane had been young here, and fascinated.
But some of those things – the limestone carved fish that sat on the end table, the lace runners across the end tables – were strangely missing.
“Would have thought you’d relish the attention,” Byrne grumbled, breaking into her thoughts.
Her eyes narrowed. What an unearned presumption! He thought her knew her? Jane shot him an icy look, suddenly letting go of any politeness, since apparently, he had done the same. “Tell me,” she said in her coolest tones, “If I were as recalcitrant as you, do you think I could avoid the onslaught of human curiosity?”
Byrne paused in his movements. “I suppose not,” he said, contrition in his voice. Jane continued to watch him, a slightly disapproving frown on her face, as he took a cloth from a nearby chair and began rubbing the excess lake water from his hair. It was longer than the fashion, she noted. It curled about his ears in a way that suggested his valet was remiss in keeping it trim. When he was done, he threw the towel about his neck and over his shoulders. Catching her eyes on him, Byrne gave a quick lift of a brow.
“Should we try again?” he asked. At her nod, continuing, “Lady Jane, what a marvelous surprise. Lovely to see you.”
“And you as well,” she played along with a curtsey. Jane shook her head to suppress a laugh. This was certainly one of the oddest conversations she had ever taken part in. “I came to thank you for your kindness to my brother.”
“It was nothing, my lady. Your brother is an idiot, I’m sure it happens all the time.”
Jane had no response for that.
Byrne, for his part, obviously felt the awkwardness of his last comment as well, because he looked about him for a moment, hoping his eyes would fall on something that could remedy the situation, before turning abruptly to the far back of the house, to the kitchens, basket in one had, cane in the other.
“Er…” Jane fighting to fill the void, “what happened to the stone fish?”
He shot a look back at her. “What stone fish?” he called out, using his cane to bang something – a tin – down from a high shelf.
“The one that used to sit on the sideboard. And the lace runners on the table? And the shepherd figurines?” She still stayed outside the door to the house, very careful to keep nonchalance in her voice.
Byrne frowned very slightly, as he pried open the tin. “Ah. Those are gone.”
“Why? They were willed to someone else, I suppose?” Jane asked idly. Her eyes fell on the far table and smiled slightly. “But you still have the enamel flower candlesticks.” Before he could answer though, a hot breeze rustled through the open window of the kitchen, pushed its way through the small rooms to the door. “Is that –” Jane took a deep breath, “is that the jasmine tea?”
“Yes,” Byrne replied, surprised. “Part of the inheritance. Aunt Lowe has a surprising collection of –”
“Oh I know! She collected teas. From far and away, and she would dole them out on special occasions. She used to allow me the jasmine on my birthday. No one in the county has teas like hers.”
“Well, in that case, would you join me for a cup?” Byrne asked.
Jane’s eyes flew to his face. “Join you?”
“I’m trying to drink it all before it goes bad. The Darjeeling was past use I’m afraid, but the gunpowder tea and the jasmine have survived thus far.” He shrugged, and answering her unasked question. “And yes, I can prepare a pot of tea. Come inside.” He swung the kettle out over the fire. “I promise I won’t charge you with trespassing.”
She really shouldn’t. No matter how much time she had passed in this little house in its former life, it was now the dwelling of a bachelor. A shirtless bachelor gentleman.
But this was the first conversation she’d had since arriving at Merrymere that didn’t include either her issuing a death sentence for her brother or the time when she was five and chased that dog naked through the village square. It may be strange, speaking more than plainly with a half-naked and wet man, but it was also strangely comforting. Someone who didn’t know her as a child, only the person she is now.
Oh, she should say no. She should excuse herself, thank him for assisting Jason again, and be on her way. Run into him in Reston and smile and chat politely. Hold herself aloft – encouraging his friendship would surely set tongues wagging, and the last thing she wanted was to invite speculation onto her house. No matter how much he seemed to make an effort for that friendship.
But the old Jane would have done it. The Jane before the Duchess’s death, and the Duke’s illness, would have been happy to flirt her way into a gentleman’s front parlor. She would have laughed and smiled, and hang anyone who spoke against her. And as much as Jane now looked back and saw that version of herself as foolish, there was a part of her that wished she could be that careless and happy again.
She would say no. It was decided. She had the politely refusing smile set on her face, the posture of the repentant. But then…
The breeze came again, a hint of jasmine tea leaves floating in the air. And suddenly, Jane was homesick for something she had forgotten. For a time before she knew how to flirt, and her face and figure set men afire. Back when she was scrawny, and awkward, and muddy, and sticky, and freckled, and filled with the joy of being young and at Widow Lowe’s door, hoping for lemon cakes with her jasmine tea.
She saw him smile as she raised her foot to cross the threshold. Watched him start and turn as the kettle he had set on the kitchen fire began to whistle.
Tea. It was hot as blazes, and she was going to sit in the Widow Lowe’s parlor and take tea. With, of all the people in all the world, Mr. Byrne Worth.
“My Lady!” A voice came from behind her. Turning, Jane saw a young lad – one of the gardener’s assistants, she recognized – tumble out the wooded path, and head for her.
“My Lady,” the boy said, after a few quick breaths, “I was sent to fetch you – your father… the Marquis said –”
Jane could feel the blood run from her face. Something must have happened with her father. Another episode? Please nothing serious. Please.
She glanced over her shoulder, into the house. And met his eyes.
He was resting his weight against the kitchen doorframe, arms crossed nonchalantly over his chest. He held her gaze, those strange bright blue eyes, razor sharp in their assessment. But there was something else she saw there, other that intelligence and stone.
He nodded once, simply. And that’s all she needed.
With the young lad in her wake, she sped into the wooded path, and back to the Cottage. Back to her life.
And away from him.
Byrne took the whistling water off the heat, placing it to the side, allowing it to cool, allowing the silence to engulf him. He was alone again. As he had designed, and desired.
He was not good for people. He had long since recognized that fact, and his self destructive ways were only worse when allowed full reign in the masses. It was the reason he moved all the way up here from London, when he inherited.
That was almost a year ago. Initially, he came up here, intending to allow himself to go the devil. He knew he couldn’t do it in front of his family, his brothers. They loved him, so much it began to hurt. So he would allow himself to fade into his vices, his demons, away from anyone who knew of or about him.
But he hadn’t been able to – not entirely. Some little part of his mind resisted, insisting that he come back to the fore.
That same part of his mind won over his body – but that body still resisted being around people. He didn’t trust himself with them.
But that little part of his mind whispered now. How nice it had been to see a familiar face.
She’s not that familiar, Byrne countered.
But at least she knew you – not like the others in town, who have only the worst opinion of you and stay away.
“They have the worst opinion of me because that’s what I gave them,” Byrne argued, somewhat surprisingly, out loud. “And they stay away because that’s what I wanted.”
Do you still want it?
Byrne looked around his little cottage. Its rooms still pristinely his Aunt’s – minus a few ornaments and lace, but her crochet work lined the arms of the sofa, her watercolor paintings hanging on the walls. But for a moment, when the red-haired inquisition came, flushed scarlet at his wet figure and still proceeded to follow him to the house, defiant of decorum… the still little house had felt alive, woken from its long winter. And it had felt warm.
It was nice to have someone to talk to, other than Dobbs.
And Byrne had to acknowledge that was true. They had talked surprisingly pleasantly. He hadn’t growled or swiped at her. He hadn’t wanted to.
But even if he found it pleasant, even if he was struck, more than ever by the stillness of his life, he knew the minute he allowed himself to enter into the world again, the minute he went back to London, the minute he let anyone in, he would only end up destroying whatever little pieces of himself he had managed to rebuild.
He poured out the hot water into the pot of tea. Waited for it to steep. He didn’t even want it now. His body was invigorated by the swim, and chilled by the air. His leg throbbed, the dull ache that was now his constant companion. He looked out the window, through the overgrown vines at the window frames, to the water beyond.
It was going to be a lovely day. The kind of day that invited brisk afternoon rides and meeting friends for picnics on the water.
And, as always Byrne would spend it here, in this little house. Alone.
End of Excerpt. Like it? Order it!