Donna Hatch is the author of the best-selling “Rogue Hearts Series,” and a winner of writing awards such as The Golden Quill and the International Digital Award.
A hopeless romantic and adventurer at heart, she discovered her writing passion at the tender age of 8 and has been listening to those voices ever since. She has become a sought-after workshop presenter, and also juggles freelance editing, multiple volunteer positions, and most of all, her six children (seven, counting her husband).
A native of Arizona who recently transplanted to the Pacific Northwest, she and her husband of over twenty years are living proof that there really is a happily ever after.
The last thing Hannah Palmer wants to do is flirt with men in a crowded ballroom, but when her sister, the Countess of Tarrington, throws a Masquerade Ball, Hannah can’t say no to the invitation.
Taking comfort behind her disguise, she dances with a charming masked gentleman, matching him wit for wit. When the glorious evening culminates in a kiss, and the two remove their masks, Hannah is horrified to discover the man she’s been flirting with all night is her most despised neighbor, the Duke of Suttenberg.
No matter how charming the duke was at the ball, and how wonderful the kiss, he is the last man she could ever love.
Alicia twisted around in bed and fixed her amber gaze on Hannah. “I’m so happy that you’re finally letting me throw a ball in your honor.”
Hannah winced. “Yes, I just adore big parties filled with rooms of people I don’t know.”
“I know how you feel about it, dearest,” Alicia said soothingly. “But this will be a good practice for you before you go to London this Season. When I’m finished with you, society will toast you as the New Incomparable.”
“I’ll be a clumsy, tongue-tied idiot, just like always.”
“You’re only clumsy when you’re nervous. More practice at social events will help you not to be nervous.”
Not be nervous in public? Hardly likely.
Alicia tapped her on the nose. “You are a beautiful and accomplished daughter of a respected gentleman, and the sister of a countess. No need to fear.”
“I hear blondes aren’t fashionable this year.”
“The only ones who say blond hair isn’t in fashion are those who are jealous. Just keep your head high and smile as if you know an embarrassing secret about everyone.”
Hannah stared into the flames writhing in the hearth. “It’s not that simple.”
“It is that simple.” Alicia squeezed her. “If you say next to nothing, everyone will think you are mysterious and will be all the more fascinated with you. Besides, you’ll wear a mask tonight. Surely anonymity will lend you courage.”
“I hope you’re right.”
Spending the evening alone with Alicia and her charming husband, Cole, would be preferable to a room full of strangers. But perhaps Alicia was right; a costume and mask might help Hannah find some courage buried deep inside.