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Engaging the Enemy (Wild Randalls series #1)

Engaging the Enemy (Wild Randalls series #1)

Every great family has secrets. The wild Randalls of Hampshire excel at them.

Despite having little reason to trust each other, a desperate duchess and the heir to her son’s estate must join forces to help each other out of their own private dilemmas. When Leopold discovers their lives are forever entwined, he’s no choice but to protect her innocent son.

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Main Tropes

  • Single Mum Duchess
  • Secret Baby
  • Second Chance


A lady should be the image of elegance and calm, but those words have never applied to Mercy, Duchess of Romsey. A widow and mother, Mercy is lonely and floundering to keep the estate afloat. When she discovers the existence of Leopold Randall, her husband’s estranged cousin, Mercy immediately offers to help him locate his missing siblings if he helps her return the estate to order.

Leopold has returned to Hampshire for only one purpose—to learn the fate of his missing siblings. Unfortunately, the current duchess is clueless and out of her depth. Her struggle tugs at Leopold’s sense of duty and her bold nature tempts him unbearably. When Leopold discovers their lives are forever entwined, he vows to protect Mercy and her innocent son.

Intro to Chapter One

No matter how much time had passed since his last visit to Hampshire, Leopold Randall, heir to the young Duke of Romsey’s title, would rather return to exile in India than beg help from Romsey Abbey. If not for his quest to be reunited with his family, two brothers and sister, Leopold would never have desired to set foot on Romsey soil again.

He stared across the mist-shrouded valley to where Romsey Abbey, a sprawling mishmash of architectural foolishness, slowly revealed itself in the early morning light, and the place filled Leopold with a growing sense of foreboding. All his life, he had gazed at the place that had been the home of his ancestors and wished he might have been born into another family.

The stench of betrayal lie thick upon Romsey Abbey. Even when the duke in question was too young to understand the power he would one day wield, his existence was far from innocent, steeped in lies. Born and bound in deceit. The Romsey dukes crushed those who stood in their way without a passing thought for the pain they would inflict. Leopold’s side of the family had suffered such a fate, scattered them to the four corners.

Leopold had been denied any return to England in the past five years. His existence considered both a threat and a commodity for the old duke’s schemes. The last time he had been summoned into His Grace’s presence, Leopold had made a bargain with the old devil to keep his brother’s and sister safe. Even if he’d not had any choice in the matter, the memory of that night still haunted his dreams and robbed him of any peace.

Behind him, in humble whitewashed cottages, the sleepy village came to life. They were happy, secure in their lives, confident in the benevolence of the Duke of Romsey, and the continuation of years of endless tradition, pomp and ceremony. Going about their days with no idea of the ugly, calculating power of the family he was sadly a part of.

Leopold slipped a pistol into his hand, finding reassurance in the familiar weight, and then let it go in disgust. Three months ago he’d been sweltering in Surat on the banks of the Tapti River, unaware of the changes at Romsey, going about the old duke’s business with no idea he was free. The news he had died a year and a half ago had pleased him. But it was only by chance that he’d heard the duke’s only son, his cousin Edwin Randall, had also died six months after acceding to the title. To say he was shocked was an understatement. 

Now, only a child stood between him and gaining the title of the Duke of Romsey.

Somewhere in the depths of hell, the old Duke of Romsey must be writhing in agony.

Many men might covet such a situation, but Leopold was free and, if he lived a quiet life, now he’d returned to England, he might never have to bow to the current duke’s demands again. The idea had been gratifying—intensely so. He could go wherever he chose without having to account for his actions. 

Freedom after a decade of servitude was sweet. It had taken him a very short amount of time to wrap up his affairs, set aside his mistress, and return home on the first available ship. Not even a run-in with a marauding American privateer had dimmed his enthusiasm.

His heady sense of excitement had lasted until his feet touched English cobblestones in Portsmouth. Hearing so many English voices at once had overwhelmed him momentarily, but a single voice—clear and insistent—had turned him about in his tracks. A girl, calling out to a young lad named Toby. 

His missing brothers name was Tobias.

It hadn’t been his brother; just a street scamp dodging his pursuers. But at that moment, he’d reaffirmed his purpose in coming home. Come hell or high water, he would put his missing family back together. He would search the globe if necessary to find out what the old Duke of Romsey had done with Oliver, Rosemary, and Tobias. His younger brothers and sister had been moved and hidden from him for years. Only Leopold had been granted a limited liberty, forced to dance to the old duke’s tune in order to keep them safe.

Unfortunately, information was hard to uncover. He had spent weeks in London, engaging a private investigator to discreetly question staff at the ducal mansion and the duke’s man of business with the hopes of hearing of their fate. 

He was informed the London mansion had been closed since the old duke’s death a year and a half ago. The current duchess, his cousin’s wife, widowed a year ago, was mired in the country with her son and had no plans to come to Town that anyone knew of. 

The man of business was new and clueless about the past, or Leopold’s side of the Randall family. Aside from striking up a careful friendship with Viscount Carrington in London, a man an old friend had vouched for but with too many problems of his own to be of help, he’d had no choice but to grudgingly return home to Hampshire and beg for information himself.

Now, he had no idea what future lay before him, but his audience today would set the wheels in motion for the rest of his life. He would get his answers and be done with Romsey once and for all.

“Your breakfast is ready, Mr. Randall,” the innkeeper called. “Same room as last night.”

“Thank you, Brown.” Leopold turned from the view and graced the innkeeper with a smile reminiscent of one he’d worn in his former life before his exile. The man need not have any reason to question his motives for returning. He need not see how bitter Leopold had become. “How is your daughter faring these days?”

“Very well, sir. She’s got three young ones now and another on the way. Her husband comes home irregular from sea and refills her belly at each visit.”

Leopold smiled but made no further comment. He’d only asked to be polite. The former Fanny Brown had been the local tart. Tenderhearted, but a tart just the same.

“If you don’t mind me saying so, sir, it sure is good to see another Randall in the district. The place has been far too quiet since your family left.” Brown touched his cap and hurried away. “The Duchess of Romsey will be pleased to see you,” he called.

Anger swirled through Leopold like a rising tide, and he hesitated to follow. He had to work hard to force his bitterness away. 

Left? His family had not left of their own volition. His parents had likely been killed on the duke’s order, his siblings abducted certainly. But until he had proof of their whereabouts, he’d keep his eyes open and his opinions to himself. Until he’d met the current Duchess of Romsey and determined how big a threat she was to his family’s survival, he’d do well to distrust anything and anybody.

With one last glance at the distant abbey, he turned toward the inn and the warmth of his breakfast. The private dining chamber was so familiar, so unchanged during his absence, that he expected to hear his family laughing around the battered table over a meal. He shook off the memory—it did no good to dwell on happier times—and wearily sank into a chair.

Leopold spooned food into his mouth mechanically, offering a smile to the shy innkeeper’s wife as she added fresh rolls to the table. But his mind was on the frustrating question of where his family had been taken and, more importantly, what kind of life they were living, now that the old duke was dead. Despite his promises, there was always the danger that Romsey had lied from the start and disposed of them ten years ago. 

He shook his head. He could not think too much about that possibility. That way led to the same panic he’d experienced a decade ago when he’d discovered Oliver had disappeared overnight from his lodgings.

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Praise for Engaging the Enemy...

★ ★ ★ ★ ★ "Lovely book, gripping read and "wow" ending." ~ Long and Short Reviewer

★ ★ ★ ★ ★ "Leopold and Mercy are a perfect couple in this swoon worthy story. What a hero (sigh). Great story with lots of action, mystery and intrigue. I enjoyed it so much, had to purchase book 2." ~ I. Kohn,

★ ★ ★ ★ ★ "Loved the story the three times I read it. Well done!" ~ Janie_tx, reviewer

★ ★ ★ ★ ★ "A great love story and a great mystery and many more adventures to follow with this first beginning of a very complicated family." ~ customer

★ ★ ★ ★ ★ "Oh, I cannot wait to read the next book in the series!" ~ Lili, reviewer

★ ★ ★ ★ ★ "Mystery. Thriller. Suspense. Romance. It had it all. The characters were strong and perfectly suited for the story and each other." ~ Lady8ug9, reviewer

★ ★ ★ ★ ★ "Well written smooth reading characters were wonderful I couldn't put the book down." ~ reviewer

★ ★ ★ ★ ★ "Brilliant story line. Interest, intrigue, love, betrayal all wrapped up in a story which one wants to read to the end." ~ lubel, reviewer

Wild Randalls Series

Every great family has a few secrets best left unspoken. The wild Randalls of Hampshire excel at them.