Lord Charles Avonlea has evaded marriage over the last year, but his mother is determined to find him a wife. Far from consenting to any of her choices, he sets his sights on the one woman unavailable to him, his best friend’s younger sister. With no regard for the law or her impending nuptials, he is determined to make Lady Emily Thompson his bride. The only trouble is, he’s stumbled upon dangerous information and hopes he can get to her before it’s too late.
Stunned and dismayed at discovering the arrangement between her mother and the Duke of Downsbury, Lady Emily Thompson searches for a way to break the marriage pact with the duke. She longs to be with the only man who indulges her curiosity, yet finds herself in the middle of a scandal that will crush her dreams forever.
Will she find a way out of marrying the duke, or will she find herself in the same predicament at the previous duchess? Which was dead.
“There are a handful of young ladies I have my eye on. Would you take care in paying attention? I will only mention their names once, and I will begin arranging for some informal meetings.”
Avonlea’s inards twisted and knarled with anxiety. Would fate be so cruel to make him go through this again? The painful memories were too much to even give thought to in the presence of his mother and aunt. At least the woman had suggestions. Though, he could not wait to hear what prizes she had to offer. “What if I had my own list of women I was considering?”
His mother scoffed. “Pray, amuse your ailing aunt and I, who is on this supposed list?”
Of course, she’d ask me for examples. “There is Lady Emily Thompson, the Marquess of Stoughton’s sister. I have also considered—”
She gasped loudly. Her bright blue eyes widened with visible shock. The look alone spoke volumes. He was in trouble. “You will not tarnish our family’s reputation by bringing in a Thompson. Scandal will only follow. Or did you happen to miss last season’s events?”
How could he? It was as if the devil had his hand in the unfortunate and untimely deaths of the Duke of Brimley and the Duchess of Downsbury. He could not have been happier that Nathaniel and his marchioness finally were together.
And then there was the marquess’ sister. Emily was an attractive girl. She had somehow managed to get under his skin. He had thought of her on occasion these last few months. He had even departed Madame Martine’s without finishing the evening’s festivities. There were moments whenever he saw a redheaded young lady, when he somehow wished it had been her.
Yet here was his mother exclaiming how much she disapproved, even though Emily had played no part in the scandal. “If that is your only objection to the girl…her familial relations cannot be helped. One cannot be at fault for who they have for a mother. Pity that. Though, you have piqued my curiosity. Pray tell, who do you think would be my match?”
“At the top of my list of recommendations is Lady Eloise Morton.”
“Was that not the chit Lord Thompson’s mother tried to pawn on him?”
“How eloquently put, you clod. More politely put, she was jilted. She’s nice, comes from a good family, and she’s pretty enough.”
“Pretty enough! What in damnation does that have to do with anything?”
“A pretty one is easier to take to bed than an unsightly one.”
While his mother spoke the truth, he was beguiled more by a woman who spoke her mind. He needed a companion who was sharp-witted, one who did not cower at the first sign of a challenge.
“La! Do not tell me you prefer slightly unconventional girls, Charles?”
“No. Though, a plain girl would not make many demands, nor have high expectations,” Avonlea chided while he tapped the edge of the table, waiting for his mama’s reaction. When she swatted him, he only laughed in response.
“My dear boy, I am simply considering our lineage. Think of the excellent structure you have. Were it not for the inheritance of my mother’s eyes, and your fathers very appealing… Nevermind that. Anyway, I have the most handsome of men for a son, who’s an Earl at that. So, begin to behave as one.”
Avonlea smacked his forehead. “Mother!”
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About The Author
Born and raised in Toronto, Ontario, Layna discovered her love of reading at an early age. When she isn’t devouring salacious romance novels or writing, she enjoys losing herself in researching ancient history and mythology, weaponry, and hiking. She lives in Northern Ontario, with her husband and two daughters.
Layna is a member of the Romance Writers of America, creator of the Romance Author at Large blog, and is a monthly contributor at 69 Shades of Smut. For updates on her upcoming releases, or to leave her a comment, you can find at:
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