Against Her Rules
Thriving business? Check.
Sexual exploits with a rock star? Check.
Complete independence? Check.
Elsie Walsh had it all. Or so she thought. Until Scottish hunk Campbell Scott showed up on the doorstep of her bed and breakfast. He’s making it pretty hard for her to stand by her one rule: No sleeping with the guests. She’s denied some of the world’s hottest actors, musicians, and even royals . . . but how can she keep Cam out of her bed, when he’s invaded her head and her heart?
Campbell Scott went to the wilds of Newfoundland with one thing on his mind: sketch some birds, and then get back to his playboy lifestyle in London. But one look at his sexy hostess and there’s a whole lot more in the air than seabirds. Rejection isn’t part of his vocabulary, and Cam sets out to not only convince Elsie that he belongs in her bed, but by her side at the Heart’s Ease Inn.
The one thing no one ever tells you about royalty, either of the Hollywood or aristocratic variety, is that they all leave a hell of a lot of mess behind them. Elsie Walsh had scoured the stained sheets of a prince, and had to use a full bottle of Javex on the jacuzzi of a certain female Oscar winner....Read More
The one thing no one ever tells you about royalty, either of the Hollywood or aristocratic variety, is that they all leave a hell of a lot of mess behind them. Elsie Walsh had scoured the stained sheets of a prince, and had to use a full bottle of Javex on the jacuzzi of a certain female Oscar winner. No, sometimes playing host to the rich and famous was not that glamorous. As she surveyed the room she admitted that it could, after all, be worse. The worst this room had was a mud stain on the rug, and with the constant wind and rain of a Newfoundland November, that was run-of-the-mill.
With a sigh, she began to strip the butter cream luxury sheets off the king-sized bed. She’d normally leave the room until later when one of her staff came in, but this particular guest had asked that no one other than his hostess see the room. It wasn’t that bad, but he had some major trust issues ever since a cleaning lady at an upscale New York hotel had bugged his room, which resulted in the dissolution of his marriage, and in confirming the long-swirling rumours of his homosexuality.
He, and many others, came to the small outport of Heart’s Ease, and its five-star bed and breakfast “Heart’s Ease Inn,” in no small part for the privacy it offered. At least that’s what brought them the first time. After that, their reasons for returning were varied. Some came back because they fell in love with the sheer old-world peace that only a community of 233 people spread over six kilometres of grass, rock, and barrens can offer. They found the idea of limited cellphone service and a grocery store that closed for lunch and supper charming. Others came back bringing friends for the surprising gourmet meals, and to marvel at the jelly bean–coloured houses nestled into the cliffs surrounding the harbour of the town. And a smaller number returned in the hopes of convincing the elf-like owner of the inn to fulfill their lustful fantasies.
To her credit, Elsie had broken her rule of keeping her relationships with her guests to a professional level of friendship only once in her six years of business. The problem was, she kept breaking it with him time and time again.
On Asher Corbin’s first visit to the inn he’d come with his then-girlfriend who was shooting a movie a few communities over. She won a Golden Globe for her performance. He won the rare prize of a night with Elsie. To this day she had no idea why she’d given in. Certainly, other, more famous guests had crossed her path, although he did have a fine heap of Grammys tossed in a closet in his townhouse in London. She’d stumbled on them when she’d agreed to spend a weekend with him. That ranked as number four on her list of “Big Mistakes Never to Make Again.” Nope. It wasn’t his fame. It wasn’t even his brooding, soulful looks, common in so many dreamy singer-songwriter types. Maybe it had something to do with the overindulgence in her father’s partridgeberry wine, but she didn’t think so. Deep down she knew it was her fault.
She didn’t feel lonely that often. It was hard to find the time to dwell on it, really. But there were times when she’d see a couple heading out for a walk hand-in-hand, or catch her mother making a playful swat at her father’s rear end as he walked by, and she’d feel a little pang of longing. It was hard to meet someone special when there were about ten single men combined in the three towns in her general area. Even harder when two of them were her cousins, and another four were too closely related for her own comfort, regardless of what her great-aunt Ida said.
Elsie kept reminding herself that it was her choice to stay in Heart’s Ease and turn the crumbling old manor into the home of her dreams. As a little girl she’d often hike up the hill to the house. It was always a magical place to her. Her child’s mind concocted grand stories to explain why such a majestic old mansion towered above the narrow saltbox two-storey houses that made up the small town below. It had stood vacant since long before her mother was born. Elsie’s imagination took the facts—an English merchant built the sweeping home for his family but they left after just a couple of years—and turned them into a tale of romance and heartbreak. Elsie’s version had tragic deaths, mad old relatives locked in the attic, and a wicked storm that sent them all back to the tame confines of England.
It wasn’t until she’d gone in search of the owner to buy the property that she’d learned the real story. It was 1887 and the merchant and his family hated the loneliness of Heart’s Ease. Instead, they moved to America and built a grander home in Cape Cod. They still got the salt air, and the sweeping views, but with neighbours of their own class, and a vibrant social scene.
Their loss, she figured.
Elsie’s initial plan had been to rent out the rooms so that she could pay off the loans on the house and then turn it into her own personal home. But she’d always had a knack for success, and so it was to no one’s surprise, other than her own, when the first famous face was spotted walking up to her door. Her loans were practically non-existent at this point, and yet she was happiest when the house was full of laughter, and music, and glamorous people mixing with the fishermen and storytellers of Heart’s Ease.
As she folded the towels and restocked the toiletries, she conceded that she had a pretty great life. One of the perks of being single and child-free was that she could accept tickets to a world premiere, or exclusive concert. The only thing that she was tied to was the inn. The only people who depended on her were her guests. And that was fine by her—most of the time.
“Elsie! Ellll-seeee!” The shrill call of her great-aunt shook her from her thoughts. “Where are ya, me ducky?”
“Don’t come up over the stairs, Aunt Ida,” she called. “I’ll be right down.”
The telltale thunk of the ninety-six-year-old woman’s cane on the wooden stairs told Elsie to hurry.
By the time Elsie got to the top of the stairs, the elderly woman had managed three steps. Her weathered face was red with the effort.
“Auntie. Stop. I’m coming. You know what happened last time you tried these stairs.” It was the reason she now needed to walk with a cane.
“Well, I thought that Hugh Grant was up there.”
“And if he was, I would have asked him to come say hello. Don’t I always bring your favourites around for tea?”
“Not all of them,” the old woman grumbled as Elsie helped her down the few steps.
“Oh, Auntie. How many times do I have to tell you? Not every famous person in the world comes here. If Hugh Grant or Brad Pitt or . . .”
“Channing Tatum, dear. He’s the newest most sexy man, according to People.”
Elsie rolled her eyes. “Or Channing Tatum ever come here, I’ll be sure you know about it. I promise.”
“I don’t know why you just don’t write them and tell them you have an old dying aunt and that you’ll offer them a room for free if they’ll come.”
“Aunt Ida,” Elsie scolded. “First of all, you’re nowhere near to death, and second of all, they can afford to pay for the room.”
“Just because they’re rich doesn’t mean they can afford what you charges. Sure no one around here can afford to even have a bite to eat in that fancy dining room. I read in the paper that one poor feller had to save up for months just to bring his wife. I’m tellin’ ya, Elsie, you don’t need no more money. Let good decent folks have a turn sleepin’ in those big beds. Although I suppose you needs a ladder just to get up into one of ’em.”
This was an ongoing complaint Elsie heard nearly daily from one person or another. They were happy to see money coming into the community, but still couldn’t wrap their minds around the cost to spend a night. The money the new oil industry was bringing to Newfoundland hadn’t been seen in Heart’s Ease, where most of the population collected their old-age pensions, and those that were still working made their living fishing.
Elsie had just learned to ignore it. She also made a point of ensuring everyone in the harbour was invited over for some sort of function every month. In reality, there were far more days when her guests were from the city, than from somewhere exotic. With the departure of this morning’s movie great, she had only three rooms out of twenty booked. Once today’s guest checked in there would be six ordinary, non-famous guests at the inn.
“Do you want a cup of tea, Auntie?” Elsie asked as she ushered the woman into a cozy, upholstered rocking chair by a huge bay window that overlooked the water.
“Your mother is getting me one,” Aunt Ida said, as she brushed a white curl away from her face. “Now sit down because I want to talk to you before she comes in.” She lowered her voice. “It’s personal.”
“What is it?” Elsie asked, settling into a red damask wingback chair.
“I wants a job.”
“A job? Here?”
This was not what Elsie had expected. The last personal conversation between them had involved her aunt trying to fix her up with a recently widowed sixty-four-year-old man. Apparently a thirty-three-year age difference was quite common when Ida was a young girl.
“Yes. Not for a long time, mind now. But I want to save up a bit of money. I’m thinking of taking a trip.”
Elsie opened her mouth but no words came out.
“Now don’t start. This is why I’m not telling your mother, or father.” Aunt Ida religiously permed her hair every six weeks, and the tight curls bounced as she shifted to face Elsie with conviction.
“I’m an old woman, Elsie. My parts are givin’ out on me. And I’ve never gone anywhere or done anything other than the scattered trip into St. John’s. I’ve never been on a plane. It was all right when I was younger. I didn’t know what I was missing. But everything I see on television, all those places and people and I can only see it on that box. I want to go to Scotland. My mother’s people came over from Scotland and I want to see it. Men in kilts, woolly cows, real heather. I want to see it all for real.” Rather than looking sad, the elderly woman’s eyes danced with excitement.
“Aunt Ida, if that’s what you want, I can take you on a holiday.”
“No, Elsie. I don’t want to be taken. I want to go.” She thumped her cane on the floor, narrowly missing Elsie’s toes. “I want to earn my own way, and do what I want to do. If you pay for it, then it’s your trip. I want my own trip. I want to plan it, and I want to go on my own.”
There was no way anyone in the Walsh family was letting the woman, who was nearly a centenarian, for Pete’s sake, go off to Scotland on her own. They wouldn’t even let her wander around the mall on her own when they took her to St. John’s. Still, Elsie couldn’t say no.
And so it was that Heart’s Ease Inn hired its very first concierge. Ida had done her research and figured that was the best job for her. She knew every nook and cranny around and was sure she could ensure guests got the inside scoop on everything they needed to know to enjoy their stay. Elsie just hoped she wouldn’t come to regret it.
"A delectable combination of spicy romance, scorching sex, charming characters, and witty dialogue makes this love story a worthy read!" InD'tale Magazine
Romance author Victoria Barbour is heading to Nova Scotia! She will be signing copies of Against Her Rules, Hard as Ice, Play Me, and 21st Century Rake from Friday, May 13, through Sunday, May 15 at the following times:
Victoria Barbour, author of Against Her Rules and Hard as Ice, and Jim Wellman, author of The Deadly Sea, will be reading from their respective works on Monday, February 22, at 7:00 pm at the Ross King Memorial Public Library (65 Olympic Drive, Mount Pearl) as part of the Michael J. McCarthy Memorial Reading Series. Everyone welcome!
Just in time for Valentine's Day, Victoria Barbour will be personalizing copies of Against Her Rules and Hard as Ice, the first two books in her Newfoundland romance series. Meet Elsie Walsh, proprietress of Heart's Ease Inn in Heart's Ease, Trinity Bay; hunky Campbell Scott, the inn's newest guest; Cam's ice queen sister Daphne Scott; and Elsie's cousin, hockey superstar Jack Walsh. Pick up a copy for you or your sweetheart at one of the following signings: Thursday, February 11, from 11:00 am - 2:00 pm at Costco Friday, February 12, from 5:00 pm - 7:00 pm at Costco Saturday, February 13, from 10:30 am - 12:30 pm at Chapters Saturday, February 13, from 2:00 pm - 4:00 pm at Costco Saturday, February 13, from 5:00 pm - 7:00 pm at Coles, Avalon Mall