Lucinda Cardington doesn’t care that she is close to being “on the shelf.” She has more serious pursuits in mind and is perfectly content to leave dreams of romance to silly young ladies like her sister. Yet when her sister places herself in a compromising situation with London’s most scandalous bachelor, the entire family’s reputation comes perilously close to ruin. Suddenly Lucinda is in the limelight . . . and in need of a husband.
James Simpson’s rakish ways have finally caught up with him. Snared in a scandal that for once is not his doing, he is forced to do the honorable thing and offer marriage to the lady. But her father won’t agree to a dowry unless James can also find a suitable husband for the lady’s elder sister-quiet, reserved Lucinda Cardington. As James gets to know the vibrant, charming, and passionate woman behind Lucinda’s shy exterior, he comes to the distressing realization that he doesn’t want her in anyone’s arms but his own…
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Lucinda entered the drawing room and found Emily and James seated next to one another on the sofa, sitting just far enough apart to qualify as proper. Emily was sipping tea with unnatural tranquility; Lucinda had never known her sister to be able to control her fidgeting. She smiled at Lucinda with the complacency of a cat who has just swallowed a canary.
James stood up immediately, as did her father, whose expression Lucinda would have described as closer to resignation than contentment. But at least the signs of anger were gone—a complete turnaround from this morning. James gave her a bow and a polite greeting that was entirely devoid of his usual ironic air.
Lucinda could only stand and stare. The whole atmosphere of the room was weirdly off-kilter. Had everyone gone mad?
Her father took her hand and drew her into the room. “We’ve been waiting for you, my dear.” He led her to a chair with an assiduous attention that was completely unlike him. She stared at her father in mute inquiry.
“Sit down, Lucinda,” Lady Cardington commanded imperiously. “We’ve important family business to discuss.” She set down her teacup and began to dust sandwich crumbs from her fingers with a napkin.
Here, at least, was something that had not changed. Lucinda seated herself and accepted the teacup proffered by Emily. She took a cautious sip; Emily always put too much sugar in her tea. But today it was exactly as Lucinda liked it. She threw a wary look at her sister. “Are you well, Emily?”
“Oh, perfectly!” Emily answered, her eyes shining. “We’ve been making such wonderful plans, and—”
“—And your father is going to tell you about it,” her mother broke in, peering significantly over her pince-nez at Emily.
“Yes, Mama,” Emily replied demurely.
Too demurely. Emily never failed to bristle whenever their mother interrupted or corrected her. Now Lucinda was sure something was very wrong indeed. As all eyes in the room settled on her, she had a sudden mind picture of a gazelle being separated from the herd for a kill. It would be better to have this out as soon as possible. “So are Emily and Mr. Simpson to be married, then?”
“We are!” Emily clasped James’s hand and gazed at him like a schoolgirl whose head is filled with romantic fantasies about love. James did not appear quite so ecstatic, but he returned Emily’s smile with a warmth that Lucinda deemed sincere.
“Well, I’m glad that’s settled,” Lucinda said truthfully. She dared not ask why her father had abandoned his foolish insistence that Lucinda get married first. Everyone here knew full well she had no beau, nor was she likely to get one. Not that she was in the market. She’d made up her mind on that score. “My felicitations to you both. When is the happy day to be?”
“A week after yours,” her father said.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
A history fan, travel lover, and outdoor enthusiast, Jennifer Delamere writes sweet romance with plenty of joy and sizzle. Her debut novel An Heiress at Heart was an RWA RITA® award finalist, and her follow-up, A Lady Most Lovely, earned a starred review from Publishers Weekly. Jennifer earned her B.A. in English from McGill University in Montreal, Canada, where she also gained fluency in French and developed an abiding passion for winter sports. An avid reader of both classic novels and historical fiction, she also enjoys biographies and histories, which she mines for the vivid details to bring to life the characters and places in her books. To find out more about Jennifer’s books, blog, and mailing list, visit www.jenniferdelamere.com.