Jessica Hart

Newlyweds of Convenience

Release Date: 2008

Finalist 2009 Booksellers’ Best Award

For Better? Corporate wife Mallory McIver has promised her new husband a businesslike marriage, with no messy emotions involved.

For Worse? Then Torr announces he’s moving to the Highlands of Scotland to restore the derelict castle he’s inherited. And he expects Mallory to accompany him …

Forever! As Torr swaps his suits for jeans, Mallory is bewildered. She married a sophisticated city type but in the country he’s rugged, capable and altogether gorgeous … Soon Mallory realises she’s breaking the terms of their arrangement – by falling for her own husband!


"old-school romance at its finest, with a lovely modern edge and sizzle" - ★★★★ 1/2 - Romantic Times

"a heart-touching, charming read full of humor and heat"  Blue Ribbon Rating: ★★★★★ - Romance Junkies

A Little Bit Extra

This is another book that was inspired by a film. I can vividly remember sitting in the cinema, watching a trailer for The Painted Veil and leaning over to whisper to the friend I was with ‘a woman falling in love with her own husband … now, that’s romantic!’ In fact, the Somerset Maugham story the film was based on isn’t about that at all, but it was enough to start me thinking … Of course, I’ve written lots of ‘marriage of convenience’ stories, but this one was different in that Mallory and Torr have been married for several months before the story opens, and Mallory really isn’t attracted to Torr at first. It’s only when they are both taken out of their normal environment and are isolated in really quite difficult conditions (as in The Painted Veil) that they start to change. I sent them up to the Highlands, partly because I needed them to be somewhere very remote, and partly because I think the Highlands are incredibly beautiful and romantic, but also very intimidating for a city girl like Mallory.

This picture is of Eilean Donan, which is a wonderful castle and nothing like the ruined Kincaillie, but I did have its spectacular setting in mind when I was writing.


THE car had been bumping slowly along a rough and pot-holed track for what seemed like hours. Angry gusts of wind buffeted the car, and the windscreen wipers swept frantically backwards and forwards against the sleeting rain that blurred the powerful beam of the headlights. They had been driving for over eleven hours, the last few through utter darkness, unbroken by lights or any sign of human habitation, and Mallory was so tired that it took her some time to register that they had actually stopped at last.

Peering through the horizontal rain, Mallory could just make out a massive stone doorway.

The wind screamed round them, shaking the car like a terrier with a rat, and Torr had to raise his voice above the noise.

‘Welcome to Kincaillie,’ he said.

Mallory didn’t answer. Her hand crept to the diamond around her neck, and she squeezed her eyes shut, pretending that this was just a nightmare, and that when she opened them she would find herself lying next to Steve, warm and loved and happy, with the sun pouring golden over the bed.

But when she forced herself to open her eyes again, it was to the sickening realisation that this was all too real. The rain was still splattering against the windscreen, the wind was still raging and howling. The blackness and emptiness was still pressing frighteningly around them, the way it had done since they left the nearest village behind some twenty miles before, and instead of Steve, there was only Torr, who had been silent and grim-faced the whole way.

At her feet, Charlie stirred and whimpered. The car was packed so tightly that he had had to spend the entire journey in the cramped seat well. Mallory rested her hand on his bristly head, unsure whether she was giving reassurance or drawing it from the warm comfort of his presence.

Torr turned off the engine and reached into the back for a torch. ‘I’ll show you inside first, and then we’ll unpack.’

Mallory couldn’t move. Pinned into her seat by a combination of exhaustion and fear, she clutched at her diamond once more, but it was as if the sunny, happy world she had lived in with Steve had vanished completely and now there was only darkness and cold and loneliness.

And Torr.

Her husband. A stranger.

He switched off the headlights, plunging them into pitch darkness, and Mallory was unable to prevent a gasp of fright before he clicked on the torch.

‘Come on,’ he said, and then when Mallory still didn’t move, ‘unless you want to sit here all night?’

No, she didn’t want that, but she didn’t want to get out into the wild night either. Mallory hesitated, but when Torr opened his door, she reached for the handle. There was no way she was staying here alone. If she could have a hot bath, a stiff drink and a comfortable bed to fall into and sleep for a week, she could start putting this hellish journey behind her, but it was clear that she wasn’t going to get any of them in the car.

Which meant she would have to get out too.

The wind was so strong that she had to force open the door until it was wide enough to get out and then stand braced against it while Charlie leapt down, delighted to stretch his legs at last. Oblivious to the cold and wet, he ran around in circles, sniffing vigorously.

Mallory wished she could ignore the conditions that easily. The wind tore at her hair and the sleet stung her eyes and cheeks as she toiled after Torr, and stood shivering and clutching her jacket around her while he reached for the door.

‘This is the point where you realise that you’ve lost your key and we have to drive all the way home,’ she shouted over noise of the wind, not sure if she were joking or wishing that it was true.

Joking, she decided. After eleven hours, there was no way she was getting back into that car for a while, even if it did mean heading back to civilization.

Illuminated by the headlights, Torr turned the great handle and shouldered open the door with a creak that would have won an Oscar for best sound effect in a horror movie.

‘This is home,’ he pointed out sardonically. ‘And there aren’t any keys.’

As soon as she stepped inside, Mallory could see why security wasn’t a major issue. Although ‘inside’ was a generous description, she realised with dismay as Torr played the torch around a cavernous hall. It wasn’t only the creaks that belonged in a film.

The whole place could have been a set for a House of Horror. Weeds were growing through the flagstones, and there didn’t appear to be a roof, judging by the icy rain that continued to drip down her neck. They were sheltered from the worst of the wind, but that was about as inside as it got. Who needed a key, anyway, when there was nothing to steal?

Aghast, Mallory followed the powerful beam of the torch as it touched on gaping rafters, a massive fireplace filled with soot and rubble, a magnificent but rotting staircase, birds’ nests tucked into strange nooks and crannies, piles of unidentifiable debris and - yes! - that really was a coat of armour, propped in one corner and liberally festooned with cobwebs. All that was needed was for a corpse to pop open the visor or for a swarm of bats to swoop down on them, and the scene would be complete.

Mallory had the nasty feeling that she was teetering on the edge of hysteria. She was so tired and so cold and so miserable, and this awful place was so much worse than she had even imagined that she didn’t know whether she was going to burst into tears or manic laughter.

But she hadn’t cried at all since Steve had left, and now was not the time to start.

‘This is cosy,’ she said as she huddled into her jacket and the wind and rain swirled down through the hole in the roof.

‘I’m glad you like it.’ Rather to her surprise, Mallory detected an undercurrent of amusement in Torr’s voice. It was too dark to read his expression, but he sounded as if he appreciated her sarcasm. But then, she thought bitterly, he might just have been enjoying how appalled she was by the conditions.

‘The kitchen is in rather better condition,’ he promised.

Mallory sighed. ‘I can’t wait.’

‘It’s down here.’ Torr set off towards a doorway in the far corner of the hall, and Mallory whistled nervously for Charlie. This was no time to get separated.

Charlie came bounding in to join them, and followed, happily sniffing, as Torr led the way down a dank passageway with a low, vaulted ceiling and all sorts of turns and unexpected steps that made Mallory stumble, although Torr never did.

He strode on for what seemed like miles, bending his head occasionally when the ceiling dipped but otherwise apparently oblivious to the potential horrors that might lurk around every twist in the passage.

Mallory’s earlier bravado had disappeared the moment Torr headed into the passageway, and her heart was thumping. Charlie was unperturbed by the darkness or fear of the unknown, and she wished passionately that she had his lack of imagination. As it was, she had to hurry to keep up with Torr, and when he paused briefly at a fork in the passageway, she threw pride to the winds and took hold of his jacket.

Torr glanced down at her. ‘Frightened?’

‘Of course I’m frightened!’ she snapped. ‘I’m stuck in a haunted castle in the pitch dark miles from anywhere, and the way my luck is going at the moment I’m heading straight for the dungeons!’

‘No, the dungeons are the other way,’ said Torr, but to Mallory’s secret relief he took her hand. ‘We’re almost there,’ he told her. ‘It just seems further in the dark when you don’t know where you’re going.’

His clasp was warm and firm and extraordinarily reassuring. Mallory immediately felt better, and tried not to clutch at him, although there was no way she was letting his hand go. ‘There aren’t really dungeons, are there?’ she said nervously.

‘I wouldn’t be surprised. This is a medieval castle, after all.’

‘Great. They’re probably full of skeletons, too.’ Mallory shuddered. ‘This whole place is probably choc-a-bloc with ghosts!’

Torr tsked. ‘There’s no such thing as ghosts.’

‘That’s what they always say at the beginning of a horror movie when they start exploring a ruined castle in the middle of nowhere!’

‘I always thought you were a sensible woman,’ said Torr disapprovingly. ‘Certainly not the kind to believe in that kind of nonsense.’

‘I didn’t used to be, but that was before I started hearing the sound of chains being rattled in the darkness!’

‘You won’t hear ghosts from the dungeons here, Mallory. This wing is modern.’

She stared at him. ‘Modern? In which century?’

‘The nineteenth,’ he conceded. ‘Long past the age of dungeons, anyway.’

‘Pity it wasn’t in the age of electricity!’

‘Electricity we have,’ Torr announced. ‘If you just give me a minute … Ah, here we are! Hold this a moment,’ he said, handing Mallory the torch.

Pushing open a door, he felt round for a switch inside and a couple of naked light bulbs wavered into life. The light they offered was pretty feeble, but after the pitch blackness of the passage, Mallory blinked as if dazzled by searchlights.

‘This is the kitchen,’ he said.

She looked around the huge, stone-flagged room. At least this one had a ceiling that appeared to be intact, and at first glance there were no weeds or suits of armour, but otherwise it was dank and dirty and depressing.

‘Is that better?’ Torr asked her.

A little puzzled by his tone, Mallory glanced at him only to see that he was looking down to where she was still clutching his hand. She dropped it as if scalded, appalled to feel a faint blush stealing up her cheeks.

‘I thought you said the dungeons were the other way,’ she said to cover her confusion, and Torr clicked his tongue.

‘You’ve got everything you need,’ he said, waving in the direction of an array of old fashioned ranges. ‘Somewhere to cook. A sink. Even a fridge and freezer,’ he added, pointing at a grimy model of the kind she had once seen in a museum of everyday living. ‘All the mod cons.’

Mallory sighed. ‘I’ll have to get used to the fact that when you use the word “modern” you’re talking about a hundred and fifty years ago! Personally, I’ve never seen any cons less mod!’

‘Oh, come on. It’s not that bad. You’ve got electricity - and masses of storage space,’ Torr added with a comprehensive sweep of his arm.

She couldn’t argue with that. There were not one but two huge pine dressers, an enormous kitchen table, worn from years of use, and old-fashioned cupboards running almost the length of the long room, and that was before she even started opening various doors to find larders and the like.

‘Shame that we haven’t got anything to store then, isn’t it?’ she said to him a little tartly.

Almost everything had gone into storage and they had only brought with them what could fit in the car and its tarpaulin-covered trailer. ‘We won’t need much to begin with,’ Torr had said. ‘Just bring the essentials.’

The ‘essentials’ would fill one cupboard if they were lucky.

‘Better to have too much space than too little,’ he pointed out.

There was certainly space. The ground floor of Mallory’s house in Ellsborough would have fit easily into the room. At one end there was an enormous fireplace, with a couple of cracked and battered leather armchairs in front of it which made a separate living area.

‘My great-uncle pretty much lived in this room on his own for the last few years before his son moved him to a nursing home,’ Torr said when Mallory commented on it. ‘He couldn’t afford to keep up the castle, but he refused to leave until he was in his nineties and they couldn’t find anyone prepared to come in and care for him here.’

‘I can’t imagine why,’ Mallory murmured with an ironic glance around the kitchen.

‘They put a bathroom in one of the old sculleries for him.’ Torr opened a couple of doors. ‘Yes, here it is.’

He stood back to let Mallory peer in. There was a rudimentary bath, half filled with droppings, dust and cobwebs, a grimy sink and an absolutely disgusting lavatory. So much for her fantasy of a hot bath before falling into bed.

Charlie, who had been sniffing interestedly round the kitchen, put his paws on the loo seat and began slurping noisily at the water, obviously feeling right at home.

Look on the bright side, Mallory told herself. It can’t get any worse than this. ‘Where did your great-uncle sleep?’ she asked wearily.

‘I’ll show you.’

There was a short passage leading out of the kitchen and Torr threw open another door. ‘I think this used to be a sitting room for the upper servants,’ he told Mallory, who had finally managed to drag Charlie out of the bathroom. ‘But as you can see, it makes a perfectly adequate bedroom.’

That was a matter of opinion, thought Mallory.

‘It’s got a ceiling, I’ll give it that,’ she conceded.

‘And a bed,’ Torr pointed out, indicating a rusty iron bedstead complete with lumpy mattress. ‘And a wardrobe and a chest of drawers. What more do you want?’

Mallory thought of her comfortable bedroom back in Ellsborough, with its dressing table and the pretty little sofa. The curtains were swagged and trimmed, the colour and pattern of the fabric picking up the tones in the bedspread and upholstery perfectly so that the whole effect was one of freshness and tranquillity.

She sighed. ‘I wouldn’t know where to start,’ she said. 

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