Grace by Contract by Author Rachel Rossano

  Rachel Rossano is a happily married mother of three children. She spends her days teaching, mothering, and keeping the chaos at bay. After the little ones are in bed, she immerses herself in the fantasy worlds of her books. Tales of romance, adventure, and virtue set in a medieval fantasy world are her preference, but she also writes speculative fantasy and a bit of science fiction.

After her father uproots the family to the northern duchy of Brackenhurst, Grace Eldon and her four younger sisters struggle with a new life of hardship. Desperate to keep a roof over their heads amid mounting debts, she and her youngest sister seek employment in the Duke of Brackenhurst’s household despite fearsome rumors.

Scarred and maimed from a terrible fire Silas Isling, Duke of Brackenhurst, buries himself in his work to avoid the stares of pity and fear. When one of the new maids shows no fear at his appearance, he is intrigued. That is until his meddling steward gives her the task of cleaning Silas’ bookroom. It is a most unwelcome disruption since he prefers to be alone.

While a thief plagues his castle, an old nemesis reappears, and enemies invade in the guise of guests. Amidst the distractions and chaos, Grace brings some unexpected order. Once convinced his scars had stolen all hope for love, Silas finds his life forever changed by the quiet maid. Could she love a scarred Duke?




The rain slowed and then stopped as we trekked over the first rise beyond the village.

β€œWait until I tell Amity.” Beauty jostled my shoulder as she gripped my hand with both of hers.

I pulled the sack with our purchases out from between us, praying that she hadn’t squished the bread. We hurried along the muddy path, sidestepping the deepest puddles and avoiding the soaked knee-high grasses as best we could.

β€œLord Brackenhurst is a giant.” Beauty hissed the word in my ear like a child, marveling with equal parts wonder and horror. β€œHe stands at least four hands taller than Father.”

β€œHe is tall,” I admitted, hoping that would be the end of it. I didn’t want to dwell on our difficult conversation with our new lord and master. Our new home, the tenant-holding my mother grew up on, lay beyond the next hill and about an hour’s walk from the village. Our middle sisters would have dinner prepared and the table set by the time we arrived home. If we hurried, there might still be enough to blunt the sharp emptiness of my stomach.

β€œIs he taller than any man you have met?” Beauty shoved at my shoulder so hard that I stumbled to the side of the path in my effort to keep my balance and avoid a particularly deep puddle. The bread and the apothecary’s small pouch of herbs for grandmother bounced against my hip.

β€œAye. Please don’t jostle me so.”

β€œAnd his hands!” She sucked in a great breath in awe. β€œThe one we saw was the size of my head!”

β€œYou have a small head.”

β€œNo smaller than yours.” She dragged at my arm so that my joints ached. β€œCome and admit it, Grace. He was a sight to behold.”

I wasn’t willing to admit anything. I just wanted to go home, back to Braulyn and the great port of Mayfair. I longed to breathe the tangy scent of the sea air and feel the sand beneath my toes. Not even the impressive, hulking sight of our new master could overcome that longing.

β€œMy, was he ugly! Those scars! I have never beheld such a mangled visage—”

β€œCease!” I yanked my hand free of Beauty’s viselike grip. β€œLeave the poor wretch alone.” I took three steps further along the rutted path before I realized Beauty no longer walked with me.

Stopping in the center of the path, I turned back to find her crouched in the grass with her arms about her knees.

β€œOh, do stop pouting.” I crossed my own arms. We had more important things to discuss, like whether or not we mentioned the contract to our father. The strangely intense bailiff and the far-too-watchful eye of his master had made the terms clear enough. Still, part of me rebelled at signing away half a decade of my life. Not that it changed reality. Father would happily bargain Beauty’s and my freedom for such a prize as a regular income for which he didn’t have to work. He would see it as a chance to turn his fortunes around.

Beauty lifted a prettily damp face to stick her bottom lip out at me. β€œI only spoke the truth.”

β€œHurtful truth,” I pointed out. β€œA person’s character isn’t based on their exterior. Neither of us knows the measure of Duke Brackenhurst’s character. He is to be our new master, and we need to show respect.”

β€œI would prefer a handsome husband.”

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