Originally published in 1991, Improbable Eden ($14.95, 220 pages, ISBN: 978-1-60381-369-3), is a reprint of an early historical romance by bestselling author Mary Daheim. In 1695, during the reign of William of Orange, the illegitimate daughter of an earl is groomed to be the king’s mistress in order to clear her father’s name.
Camel Press has reprinted five of Mary Daheim’s seven historical romances so far: Reunion (original titled Pride’s Captive), The Royal Mile (originally Love’s Pirate), Gosford’s Daughter (originally Passion’s Triumph), Destiny’s Pawn, and King’s Ransom. Gypsy Baron will be released in February of 2017.
“Mary Daheim’s novels are a rare treat for the lovers of deeply detailed, highly historical love stories that bring history to vibrant life.”
The base-born daughter of an earl, nineteen-year-old Eden is torn from her foster family in Kent, whisked off to London, and groomed to follow in her courtesan mother’s footsteps. Her lessons in court etiquette, politics, and charm are overseen by Maximilian, a tall and striking Flemish prince fallen on hard times. Ever since the death of his wife, Max has grappled with his cousin, Count Rudolf—also his brother-in-law—who covets Max’s land. Rudolf is just one of the enemies seeking to brand Max and Eden’s father, the Earl of Marlborough, as Jacobites bent on killing William of Orange and restoring James to the throne. Eden is Max and the earl’s last hope. If she can convince King William to embrace her as his mistress, she can use her influence to clear Max’s name and free her father from the Tower of London.
Eden has inherited her mother’s beauty, but not her guile. Though she must not waver from her goal to seduce the king, she cannot deny her growing love for the Flemish prince. Max in turn is far from indifferent to the claret-curled, ebony-eyed siren who has pledged herself to him body and soul.
Says the author, “I’ve been intrigued by European history since I was in my early teens. When I began Improbable Eden, I gave her two real—and well-known—parents: John Churchill, Duke of Marlborough, and Barbara Palmer, Lady Castlemaine. Churchill had done his share of philandering in his youth and Barbara had given birth to several of King Charles II’s illegitimate children. Who’d notice one more thrown into the mix? The result is the unfolding tale of a seemingly ill-matched “orphan” and an exiled prince. Eden Berenger and Maximilian of Nassau-Dillenburg have both been cheated by Fate. How they manage to regain their rightful places in a turbulent world of schemers and dreamers makes for what I hope is an exciting and sometimes touching adventure in late Seventeenth Century England.”
Mary Richardson Daheim, a Seattle native, began her publishing career with the first of seven historical romances before switching to mysteries in 1991. Since then she has published at least 55 books. Click here to find Mary on the Web.
Keep reading for an excerpt:
Why couldn’t Eden understand the awkward position he’d been put in by her father’s arrest? Some men would have forsaken her from the start. Others would have taken advantage of her helplessness. But he was doing his best not to, despite the temptation to do otherwise. “If you’re angry because I went abroad, that couldn’t be prevented. It wasn’t just because of Craswell, but on orders of the King. I was destroying a French arsenal at Givet.”
Eden brushed aside his military adventures with a careless hand. “I’m not talking about what you do when you’re not here,” she cried, “but what you do when you are! You worry so about Harriet’s precious feelings and give not a dandiprat for mine! Or do you think because I’m a country bumpkin that I don’t have any?”
Max was torn between exasperation and repentance. She was right, in her way. He had behaved rather highhandedly. Fearing that she might cry, Max put an arm around her shoulders and gave her a little hug. “I’ve had many distractions,” he admitted, and was surprised when Eden made no attempt to pull away. “The war on the Continent, searching for Craswell, the charges against your father, some plaguing family quarrels over property—” He was speaking much more rapidly, and freely, than usual. Suddenly he stopped, his chin resting on the top of Eden’s head.
“You serve too many masters,” Eden interjected, allowing herself the luxury of leaning against Max’s chest. “I’ truth, I’m sorry you had to inherit my poor suit, as well.”
“But I don’t mind,” he protested, his voice dropping a notch as his hand slid down the heavy green silk that covered her back. “This house is a happier place with you in it.”
“Oh!” Eden gasped with astonishment and stared at Max. She could hardly believe he’d uttered such gratifying words.
Judging from the embarrassed look on Max’s face, neither could he. “It’s more like … ah, family,” he explained a bit clumsily, his hand straying to the curve of her waist. “Not that my relatives were a kindly lot. But then you’ve met Rudolf.”
Eden gazed up at Max and blinked in confusion. What she beheld in those hazel eyes startled her. She could have sworn that she saw more than sadness or anxiety. A yearning, perhaps, or some other need that she couldn’t recognize? She was still trying to solve the riddle when Max claimed her mouth in a tentative, exploratory kiss. Taken by surprise, Eden’s mind registered a protest, but her body melted pliantly into Max’s embrace. The kiss deepened, driven by that unleashed hunger she had unwittingly glimpsed.