The Duke of Kingswood has two big problems: his younger cousin, Richard, who got engaged to a notorious courtesan then murdered her lover, and the lovely Benedicta Calvine. The latter, a tatter-worn daughter who’d been travelling with her preacher-father, is discovered in one of the Duke’s tenant’s barns after her father has had a stroke. Now, the Duke has two invalids in his household, plus an idealistic, young, and bright-eyed ingenue. What better plan could the Duke come up with (since he has no plan to marry, oh no, not ever) than to arrange for Benedicta and Richard to make a match of it? Nothing could be simpler. Right?
Natasha Phillips has been left alone too long. With most of her family deceased and her brother Peter fully committed in the war on the Peninsula, she’s been marooned in the country with an old aunt. Now that Napoleon has been defeated and Peter is facing deployment to the Americas, he must find a way for his sister to have her first Season. That’s where his friend Major Cameron Talbot comes in: he’s to keep an eye on Natasha, screen her suitors, and offer himself up as a chaperone. As a favor to his friend, Cam agrees–but with trepidation, because everything he hears about the outspoken, impulsive, educated Tasha clashes with his idea of the perfect woman.
The lovely, seventeen-year-old Miss Lili Martingale is out of place wherever she goes. Rescued from a convent by Cornelia and Beau Russell, she has been raised for the last four years on a farm. Now, it is clear that her beauty is turning too many heads and that she’s is not suited to farm life. On the double, Beau and Cornelia swoop in, take her back to their estate, and prepare her for an early come-out. Her age, extensive convent-education, her country ways, her ever-ready, thoughtless tongue, and her disregard for rank all stand in the way of her making a good match. Especially since the Russell’s neighbor, the Viscount Halpern, and his family suspect her to be an adventuress. The situation is made worse when vicious rumors about Lili’s parentage begin circulating around the ton.
Tess Norton is not looking for a Man To Do anymore–she’s looking for a Man To Marry. But when the handsome and wealthy Dash Black, for whom she tends plants in his office, invites him to be his date to a party where a wealthy financier will be…well, it’s just a party, right?
After almost falling prey to a fortune hunter during her first season, Lucy Percy flees to the country-side to escape the scandal. To secure her anonymity, she trades names with her aunt and companion. Now known as “Mrs. Percy,” who tragically lost her husband in the war, Lucy is ready for her peaceful, cottage retreat. Unfortunately, she attracts the ire of her neighbor, Lord Avedon. He suspects her of being a low-bred schemer bent on ensnaring his ward, a witless, wealthy young nephew and Lucy’s landlord. Thus begins a furious campaign: Avedon swears to evict Lucy Percy by any means necessary, and Lucy is equally determined to remain in her cottage and defy her tormentor.
It was not a fashionable night to be seen in the streets of London.
—The Duke’s Wager
Although not as striking as the opening lines of Jane Austin’s Northanger Abbey or Pride and Prejudice, with this sentence author Edith Layton introduces a side of the Ton to which we are rarely exposed. No, this is not White’s or Almack’s. This is London’s demi-monde, where aristocrats hunt for new courtesans and trade those they’ve tired of to less prestigious and attractive friends. It is also a side where innocents can get themselves into a great deal of trouble. Regina Berryman, who has just arrived from the country to live with her new guardian, is determined to spend a night at the Opera, even if her uncle is away on a business trip. Little does she know that she’s picked the wrong night–and caught the eyes of London’s two most profligate rakes.
Violet Tandy is a new author on a mission; all she wants is a white picket fence, a home of her own, tranquil and alone–so she wrote a memoir about being a high-priced prostitute. Which, uhm, you know, she really isn’t, but can’t seem to convince anyone of. She writes her fiction very, very well, you see–so much that Gavin Mason is sure she’s integrated him into one of her characters and ruined his reputation!
He had known her for just less than three weeks when he asked her to become his pillow-friend.
Paul Christos, wealthy Greek ship-owner and olive-grower, is used to getting what he wants–and he wants the young English tourist Tina for a mistress!
Trigger warning: Below the fold are spoilers, including suggestions and depictions of violent behavior.
Esmeralda Jones is a nurse, and has a bit of a crush on one of the residents; but there’s a problem, you see…she’s a cripple. So when the dashing Dutch surgeon, a friend of one of the local doctors, offers to fix her foot up–well, maybe Leslie will notice her then!
Lee Williams has flown to Curaçao to marry the man she met last fall. Rash? Perhaps, but she was so sure it was the right thing to do! But things are a mess now, since he’s nowhere to be found, and his cynical former boss, Max Van Breedan, has made a most improper offer: Marry him so he can inherit, and he’ll help her go back, after his father passes.