Reluctant Deception - Cambria Smyth

Harte’s Desire


Cambria Smyth


This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, public or private institutions, corporations, towns, and non-historical incidents are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, or persons living or dead, is coincidental.

2015 by Cambria Smyth

Cover design and 2015 by South Dennis Heritage Arts

To my other mother

Who loves romance novels as much as I do


Borden's Landing, New Jersey

July 1880

No one would ever tear it down, would they?

Amanda Harte quickly dismissed the troubling thought as she gazed with pride at the magnificent three-and-a-half story mansion she and her husband, Chester, built over several long years of construction.

It would stand for generations, wouldn’t it?

Heavens, Amanda muttered to herself. Is this all pregnant women do? Worry about the future?

She strolled along the moss-covered brick path leading to the gardens behind the house. The mansion’s eighty-acre setting, with its breathtaking view of the Delaware River and Pennsylvania beyond, still took her breath away.

Both of their families, like many from Philadelphia, had spent countless summers in Borden's Landing, escaping the hot, sultry city to the tranquility of this small riverside town in New Jersey just thirty miles to the north. Chester was a talented entrepreneur who found success in every business venture he undertook and, as his wealth grew, he and Amanda decided to settle in New Jersey year round and build a home there.

Naturally, Chester hired one of the best Philadelphia architects to design the mansion. Amanda found its fashionable style a bit too ostentatious for her tastes, but Chester loved it, and that's all that mattered to her. Actually, she'd enjoyed filling its twenty-five rooms with elegant and costly furnishings, adopting the cluttered, overstuffed look of the day for her own.

She loved to tease Chester about the mansion’s fifteen bedrooms, saying it was going to take lots of making babies to fill them up. She doubted, though, they'd need more than a couple of them because she'd had such a hard time conceiving this, their first child, after ten long years of trying. However, they enjoyed entertaining and had plenty of overnight guests, including family, during the summer months. Still, it was a lot of rooms to fill.

Amanda strolled among the hundreds of rose bushes she'd planted after they moved in two years ago. Their heady fragrance, mingled with the fresh breezes coming off the Delaware River at the foot of their property, never failed to enrapture her. She'd created a spectacular terraced garden behind the house, taking advantage of the site's natural slope down to the river and its exposure to the afternoon sun on which her roses thrived.

Every now and then, she stopped to pluck a faded flower here or a dead leaf there. The rose garden was her pride and joy, and her passion for the sweetly-scented blooms was surpassed only by her love for Chester.

She delighted in helping the gardener maintain the dozens of varieties she'd chosen after much studying. In fact, she was an avid horticulturist, albeit an amateur one, and hoped to enter some of her best specimens in a flower show the following summer. The bushes needed another year to mature and settle in to their fairly new surroundings. The focal point of the garden was an octagonal, wrought iron gazebo, an anniversary present this year from her husband made in a fanciful design of ivy and roses.

The gathering afternoon heat sent rivulets of perspiration down Amanda's chest and back, staining the bodice of her full length, taffeta day dress. She hurried over to the gazebo, scooted under its protective canopy, and savored the cool, inviting shadows there. Earlier in the day, she and Chester had posed in front of it for Theodore Baxter, a local photographer. Chester insisted their anniversary be documented for posterity and what better way than to capture the moment by camera?

She plopped down unceremoniously on an iron bench under the eight-sided roof, opened a small fan hanging from the chatelaine around her waist, and waved it vigorously. Since conceiving, she felt drained and fatigued every day at this hour, and the summer heat only made it worse.

Leaning back, she stared with unrestrained pride at the palatial mansion. It had been Chester's idea to name it Harte's Desire. She chided him for being so vain, but was quick to forgive him when he insisted it was she he truly desired.

Surely Harte’s Desire would survive for centuries.

Amanda sighed. With a child on the way, perhaps it was natural