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?
“Freddy Tyne’s gone and done it, by damn . . . Took him donkey’s years, but his sticky fingers’ll be lightening my purse from now till lilies bloom in hell” (1).
Playboy Valentine North is horrified when his cousin–who has spent his married life in the wilds of Canada–dies, leaving Val two little savages as wards. There’s no way that he’s going let the little monsters upset his comfortable life, and there is no way he’s going to let some sneaky governess trap him into the Parson’s Mousetrap! So, he concocts an outrageous plan: he’ll disguise himself as his own man of business, hire a house and a governess, and wash his hands of the brats. When his band of comrades wager that Val will be incapable of managing the affair and will end up married within a year, he is even more determined to carry out his plan.
Her parents always thought she was a Changeling. Her godmother, recognizing her otherworldliness, dubbed her “Elfa” during her christening. Throughout her childhood, she communed with the woods and buried herself in books. But when she learns that her father intends to force her older sister to wed their neighbor in exchange for a disputed forest, Elfa knows she must act. After all, Caroline is in love with another man. The only sensible solution is for the quirky seventeen-year-old to convince the Duke of Lynchester to marry her instead.
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.
When Lord Northover arrives unexpected at one of his newly inherited (and sadly run-down) properties, he is shocked to discover that his house is already occupied. The elderly butler has permitted the former owners to stay a few nights on their way to London. Newly arrived from New Orleans, the American Leyland family is determined to establish themselves in the Ton. To rescue her family’s fortune and secure her brother, Bayard’s, future, Lydia Leyland plans to use her wit and beauty to marry a man with fortune and title. Love is not required. Fascinated by Lydia’s directness and take-charge attitude, Lord Northover decides to sit back and enjoy the show.
Lady Diana Farren is practically alone as she continues her grand tour around Europe. Because her sister married in secret in France, Diana is left to savor the art, history, and culture of Rome with only her governess, Miss Wood, for company. Unlike Mary, Diana has no interest in any of those things. She likes men–and that is why she was shipped off to Europe in the first place. Now, she is pursued by a fortune hunter on one hand, and an Italian rake on the other…
The Marquis of Troon has been chafing ever since he returned from fighting on the Continent. Nothing satisfies his lust for action and and the thrill of the fight. To distract himself, he has thrown himself into affairs, pranks, gambling, and high-stakes racing. Now, he realizes that he has to safe-guard his family seat from his radical younger brother. That means marriage and an heir. As one last fling before proposing to his notorious mistress, the Marquis arranges an ultra-dangerous midnight steeplechase with cash prizes. When he jokes that his contenders should make wills, he doesn’t expect anyone to take it seriously. Then, after his runner-up dies from a heart attack, Serle discovers that the man had drawn up a legal document–making the Marquis his daughter’s guardian! Continue reading “Love Climbs In”
When a group of old friends liven up their card game by putting unusual stakes on the table–distasteful duties and worthless old things that they would like to get rid of–it’s all in good fun. That is, until their drunken guest, the young Vicomte Duvalier, offers up his old maiden aunt in exchange for a worthless Irish bog! Disgusted by the wager but constrained by honor to play his hand, the Earl of Rotherham plays to lose. But the woman who shows up on his doorstep is not the dowdy old spinster that he’d been led to expect.
Years ago, the Duke of Darlington (aka “The Dasher”) found his cousin brutally beating his thirteen-year-old, half-starved daughter. Outraged, the Duke disowned her father and carried the injured girl to safety. Now, the Duke has learned that the tearful, bleeding child he left in the charge of a French convent five years earlier has turned eighteen. She’s also inherited an immense fortune that’s made her the target of fortune hunters. Immediately, the Duke sets off to Paris to retrieve her and do his duty, launching her in Society and securing a suitable husband. However, the young woman he finds is nothing like he expected: first, Fiona is stunning; second, she worships him as her savior; third, she is absolutely terrified of men.