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Authors: Victoria Alexander

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Love With the Proper Husband

BOOK: Love With the Proper Husband
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VICTORIA

ALEXANDER

Love

with the

Proper Husband

This book is dedicated with gratitude and affection to Chuck and the boys: Terry, Joe, Tom, Jim,
Dan, and Marcus, who inspire me and make me laugh and give me the tiniest glimpse into the
totally incomprehensible minds of men. Thanks, guys!

Contents

Prologue

“And so, ladies, I propose we do something beyond simply…

Chapter 1

No good ever came of a summons from a solicitor.

Chapter 2

“Don’t know why you didn’t have the blasted man come…

Chapter 3

“Lord Pennington?”

Chapter 4

It was exceedingly odd to stand in the grand parlor…

Chapter 5

“What you need is a plan of action,” Reggie said…

Chapter 6

“It sounds so…inconvenient and awkward,” Gwen said under her…

Chapter 7

“You look lovely, my dear.” Lady Pennington beamed at her…

Chapter 8

“What am I supposed to do now, Reggie?” Marcus’s low…

Chapter 9

Gwen wasn’t entirely sure what she should be doing at…

Chapter 10

“You did that very well.” Gwen rested her chin on…

Chapter 11

Gwen gazed at her reflection in the tall pier mirror…

Chapter 12

“So, what am I to do?” Gwen nervously prowled the…

Chapter 13

“You can see most of the estate from here.” Marcus…

Chapter 14

“You learned something in London, didn’t you? About Gwen and…

Chapter 15

There really isn’t anything to worry about.

Chapter 16

“We wish to speak to you.”

Chapter 17

Happiness was certainly not at all overrated.

Chapter 18

“Godfrey!”

Chapter 19

“I still don’t understand why you insist on leaving tonight.”

Epilogue

“Odd time of year to have a party, don’t you…

About the Author

Avon Romances by Victoria Alexander

Copyright

About the Publisher

Prologue

Spring 1820

The delight in male children is strictly in fulfilling one’s responsibility and having them in the first
place because, unfortunately, at some point they become men.

The Duchess of Roxborough

“And so, ladies, I propose we do something beyond simply complaining and hoping for the best.” The Duchess of Roxborough cast her brightest smile around the gathering of ladies in the parlor at Effington House.

Helena, the Countess of Pennington, sipped thoughtfully at her tea and glanced around the fashionably decorated parlor to see the reaction of the dozen or so other women present. They were all friends, or at least acquaintances. Indeed, she’d known most since her come-out season, which happened far too many years ago now to note without a visible shudder of dismay. Beyond that, each and every lady there had a son or daughter of marriageable age. And at one point or another, Helena had heard each and every one despair of ever getting said child to agree to a suitable match.

“I’m a bit confused, Your Grace.” Marian, Viscountess Berkley, drew her brows together. Marian had been a bit confused for as long as anyone had known her but was so delightfully pleasant, no one particularly minded. In truth, when she was very young and very blond and very flirtatious, Helena quite suspected Marian had actively perfected her state of innocent confusion to the level of art.

“Your son and daughter are both married,” Marian said. “I don’t quite understand why you should propose this—what did you call it again?”

“The Ladies’ Society for the Betterment of the Future of Britain.” The duchess’s voice rang in the room, and Helena was certain she saw Her Grace’s chest visibly swell with pride. A murmur of approval washed through the crowd. And why not? It was indeed a grand name. And far better than anything with the words
meddling
or
interfering
or, heaven forbid,
matchmaking
in it.

“And I propose this, Lady Berkley, precisely because I no longer have to worry about my children making suitable matches, but I am, as we all should be, concerned about future generations. Indeed, it could well be considered our patriotic duty. Besides, there are a number of young people throughout my family who are making no particular effort to marry. I find it quite distressing. In addition”

—she flashed a wicked grin—“I think it will be great fun.”

The ladies laughed and nodded their approval.

“I am simply suggesting we take our children’s destinies in hand and do all within our power, with the help of one another, to find suitable matches for them, whether they wish it or not.”

“It’s past time my son wed,” a lady somewhere behind Helena murmured. Lady Heaton pursed her lips. “One more season and my daughter will be firmly on the shelf. And I shall be stuck with her forever.”

“Probably because she greatly resembles her mother,” Marian said under her breath to Helena.

“Shhh,” Helena whispered, stifling a grin and her agreement.

“We are a clever lot,” the duchess continued, “and we certainly have the skills among us to assist one another, should it be necessary, with various and assorted ideas—”

“Plots, schemes—” someone said.

“Plans, tactics—” another added.

Voices raised with excitement. “Strategies, intrigues!”

“Exactly.” The duchess beamed. “It may be that, in certain cases—I think of them as projects—

members of the society need do little more than lend moral support to one another. In other, more complicated projects, it might be necessary to actively take matters in hand to assist each other.”

“Surely you’re not suggesting those of us with daughters trap some gentleman into a situation by which the only honorable solution is marriage?” Lady Dawson said with a note of horror in her voice.

“Of course not, although I for one would at least consider such a suggestion under the appropriate circumstances.” The duchess paused thoughtfully. “And how old is your daughter now?”

“Nearly two and twenty, Your Grace.” Lady Dawson smiled weakly.

“As old as that,” the duchess murmured.

On one hand, the duchess’s proposal was outrageous: turning their children into the projects of a society determined to see them wed. Still, Helena knew full well the marriages of a fair number of the women present had been arranged by their families, and most of those had turned out well. Indeed, it was rather a pity that such things had fallen out of favor. In some respects the duchess’s society would simply be arranging matters in a tried-and-true method. Upholding a time-honored tradition, as it were. Honoring the heritage of their country. Why, who could possibly argue with that?

“I needn’t mention, should we decide to go forward with this, secrecy is of the utmost importance.” Her Grace’s tone was firm. “This simply will not work if any of the children become aware they are the target of an organized effort.” She shook her head. “They can be quite stubborn when they suspect interference on the part of a mother. I believe they get it from their fathers.”

There was a general murmur of agreement.

Helena already had an idea of sorts that would serve well to get her son to at last accept his familial obligations and marry. It had begun as an odd, chance thought but had dwelt in the back of her mind, becoming more solid each time she turned her attention to it. She simply hadn’t the courage to carry it through. Now, however, with, at the very least, the moral encouragement of the society behind her…

“Your Grace.” Helena rose to her feet. “I think the Ladies’ Society for the Betterment of the Future of Britain is an outstanding proposal, and I should like to do my part.” She squared her shoulders.

“Therefore, I am more than willing to offer my son as the society’s first project.”

“Excellent, Lady Pennington.” The duchess favored her with a brilliant smile. “I daresay you won’t be sorry. Now, do you have any prospects in mind for him?”

“I not only have prospects.” Helena grinned. “I have a plan.”

Chapter One

Men are untrustworthy, disloyal swine who care for nothing save their own pleasures and the
perpetuation of their line.

Gwendolyn Townsend

No good ever came of a summons from a solicitor.

Gwendolyn Townsend stiffened her already ramrod straight posture and ignored the urge to pick at the worn cuff of her pelisse. She was the daughter of a viscount, and regardless of her current circumstances, she would not be intimidated by a mere solicitor. Furthermore, she was not at all pleased to be kept waiting. She ignored as well the fact that, in spite of her lineage, she was nothing more than a governess at the moment and an unsuccessful one at that.

No good ever came of a summons from a solicitor.

It was harder to ignore the long-forgotten warning that had surfaced in her mind with a vengeance and refused to let her be. It had echoed in the back of her thoughts ever since the letter from her late father’s man of affairs, Mr. Whiting, had at long last reached her in New York. And why shouldn’t it?

She’d heard the servants at Madame Chaussan’s Academy for Young Ladies say it often enough through most of the first sixteen years of her life, and indeed, hadn’t it always proved true?

The last time Gwen had had anything whatsoever to do with a solicitor had been five years ago when Mr. Whiting’s nephew, taking up his uncle’s business, had informed her she was penniless. She still recalled that moment—the discomfort of the young man, a scant few years older than she, at his announcement, and the sympathy in his brown eyes. She remembered the look in his eyes as clearly as she remembered his words.

“Miss Townsend, forgive me for keeping you waiting.” A gentleman of distinguished appearance stepped into the room and crossed to her chair. Gwen knew his name, but they’d never had occasion to meet before now. He extended his hand, and she accepted it cautiously. “Your appearance is something of a surprise. I did not expect you for several days yet.”

BOOK: Love With the Proper Husband
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