Authors: Jessie Bennett
Tags: #Historical, #Romance, #Fiction, #Forever Love, #Inspirational, #Clean & Wholesome, #19th Century, #Bachelor, #Single Woman, #Series, #Faces of Love, #Duke's Heart, #Courtship, #Childhood Friends
2016 by JESSIE BENNETT & CREATIVE CLEAN HISTORICAL ROMANCE FICTION PUBLISHING HOUSE LLC.
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This book is a work of fiction. Any similarities to real or dead people, places, or events are not intentional and are the result of coincidence. The characters, places, and events are the product of the author’s imagination and are used fictitiously. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without prior written permission from the author/publisher. The publisher does not have any control over and does not assume any responsibility for author or third-party websites or their content.
bout The Author
Jessie Bennett is an obsessed romantic freak. She loves historical romance stories. Recently, she discovered another interest within the historical romance, which is Regency Romance stories. She wants to use her ideas, knowledge and interest of the regency era to spin out characters that readers wants to read. She aspires to be the next Jane Austen that combine grace, love, and simplicity to delight readers to find their happy endings.
She lives in Norfolk county, England most of the her time. When she's not writing, you will find her walking down the countryside with her husband and her beloved dog.
imagination is very rapid; it jumps from admiration to love, from love to matrimony in a moment”~
(December 16, 1775 - July 18, 1817)
ady Mary Withington
is twenty years old, nearly a spinster by her mother’s standards, and feeling the pressure to marry. Her family is in need of a good match for her and her sisters, and Lady Mary knows that she must put forth some effort to garner a beau this season out or risk spending her life as a lonely unmarried woman. However, she desperately wants to find true love instead of simply finding someone whose fortune can be shared with her family in their hour of need.
Deciding to take matters into her own hands, Lady Withington plans to host a ball for the coming out celebration of her two youngest daughters coming out to the ton. When she hears that a handsome young Marquess will attend, she is overjoyed and pressures Lady Mary to ensnare the wealthy man. She could not have known that instead of a match to the Marquess, Lady Mary would instead make the acquaintance of his dark and handsome best friend, the secretive and aloof Duke of Gaffton.
He brushed a stray lock that had fallen, and tipped my chin to look at him again. “I only meant that I am the last person in the world for you. I am incapable of love. I have lost all faith in it. You know this…”
I simply nodded my head in understanding. He was being kinder than I deserved.
“Just because there is no love doesn’t mean you can’t find happiness, contentment, with,” he paused for a moment. “With another man…”
Jacob Fitzroy, Duke of Gaffton, is a lifelong self-proclaimed bachelor, very adamantly proclaiming his distrust in the fairer sex. His heart is walled off and cold, untouchable by even the fairest of ladies, and he dedicates himself to protecting his friend, the Marquess of Dunlop, from experiencing a bad match as he seeks a wife. When the Marquess finds such a woman, Gaffton chaperones them coolly, although in the process he finds a less-than-enthusiastic friend in Lady Elisabeth’s escort.
The Duke of Gaffton is definitely not interested in finding a wife, nor is he tolerant of Lady Mary’s exploration into the world of books—especially when he discovers her belief that true love is possible. His heart holds dark secrets, tragic remembrances of the past when he was a different man in a different place. One fateful dinner affair may change his outlook on life, but only if Lady Mary can find a way to thaw his frozen heart.
Will the Duke of Gaffton find room in his heart for beautiful Lady Withington, and will he be able to voice his intentions before she is sent away when his attempts to prove that love and attraction are the same that nearly create disasters for her entire family?
hat a good girl you are
,” Gaffton cooed as he scratched and petted her all over. “Though you are quite an ugly thing. I suppose you are the reason breeds shouldn’t be mixed. You look to have gotten the worst of both parents. A huge head and short fat legs. It is kind of charming in a way, though.”…
ou will never guess
what I’ve just heard,” my mother exclaimed as she came into the drawing room. …
’ve ruined them all
,” I cried. “And you, I’ve taken away your life. I’ve chained you to me. I’m so sorry, Your Grace.”…
hey will be fine
,” he continued to coo. “You could do worse than being married to a Duke,” he added with a smile….
A Season To Remember
* * *
he house was
abuzz with the preparations for departure. Servants were rushing to and fro, packing trunks and simultaneously closing up the house. I did my best to stay out of their way. My own maid, Josie, had finished packing my belongings earlier this morning before helping me dress for breakfast.
I had settled on a casual tan traveling dress, and had my hair simply placed in a bun pallet. I knew Mother would give me grief for it not being the most fashionable or newest of outfits, in all honesty, the hem had frayed just a tad in the back, but it was comfortable. Since we would be spending the next six hours riding in a carriage, my desire to exude some form of comfort outweighed the discomfort of my mother’s impending nagging.
I padded down the stairs quietly and made my way to the dining room. I could already hear the clank of dishes, telling me that I wasn’t the first to arrive. I could hear the large pads of my ever-present companion behind me, Clarisse. She was a mixed breed dog, something between a bulldog and a pug. The mating had been quite accidentally done with one of Lady Merritt’s prize pugs and one of her husband’s hunting dogs. She had determined that they were absolutely hideous. She had three little plump short puppies with huge paws and a wrinkled face to match their sire. She had agreed to sell me the runt as a Christmas present a few months ago.
Clarisse was now four months old, and just about the cutest pup I had ever seen in my entire life. Not only did her short stubby legs and large paws never quite grow to match her fat wrinkled body, but she also snorted whenever she exerted herself or slept. This was all thanks to the short nose squished behind rolls of fur. She was not as athletic as one might have thought with a sporting breed for a sire, but she rather enjoyed laying next to me in the library or garden while I read. It made her a perfect companion for me.
I stopped just outside the dining room doors. I could hear my mother’s voice, muffled as she spoke. I looked down at Clarisse, who immediately sat and stared back up at me. Mother had shared Lady Merritt’s opinion of my little pup. I gave her a loving pat on her black- and white-spotted head.
“Perhaps you should wait out here,” I said to Clarisse. She snuffed indignantly and gave me a small whine.
“Yes, I know you too enjoy the breakfast I sneak to you from under the table, but I think Mother is quite beside herself today with all the packing and such. It would be better for you to wait here.”
Clarisse gave me one last huff and slid down to lay on the floor. I had to step over her to make my way into the dining room.
“You know she can’t understand you,” a voice called from behind me.
I turned in time to see me sister Julia give Clarisse a pat on the head before stepping over her. Julia was my favorite of all my sisters, of which I had three to be exact, and by far the most beautiful of us all. She had inherited my father’s silken blonde hair and silver blue eyes. She was also the closest to me in age, I being only her senior by eighteen months.
She strolled up alongside me, linking her arm through mine as we made our way to the dining table. She had chosen to wear her blue light cotton dress. It was striped, with a small blue cornflower pattern down each stripe. It brought out the blue in her otherwise grey eyes.
We sat between my mother and father. We each greeted them in turn. Father simply turned down the corner of his paper and winked at us before returning to his reading. Mother, on the other hand, was in deep conversation with one of the servants. She was dissatisfied with our meal of porridge and toast.
I was quite happy to see the simple meal. With a full day of jostling in a carriage ahead of us, I would rather not have our normal rich breakfast of hotcakes and sausages.
“Mother, you can’t possibly expect them to make the normal meal when they are already busy doing so much else.”
Mother dismissed the servant before turning toward me.
“Mary, please do not question me when I am speaking to the help. I don't think I am being at all unreasonable in my request, don’t you agree, Lord Withington?”
My father had long since learned not to give his opinion in these situations. The question may have been asked, but an answer was by no means desired by my Lady mother.
In fact, she continued with scarcely a breath between sentences. “I simply ask that we be given a proper breakfast before our travels. Lady Merritt has never wanted for hunger as she makes her way to town for the season.”
“Lady Merritt also goes every year. I believe her household is more in practice.”
“Well, we would also go every year if your poor father’s health would allow it,” she said for the sake of her own ears. We all knew that my father was in perfect health, and that the only reason we didn’t go to town every season was our financial limitations.
My father may have been the Earl of Withington in land and title, but he had all but squandered what was left of this meager estate by gambling in his youth. Because of this, we rarely left our country home for town, much to my mother’s disappointment. Our last season in town had been three years ago, when Julia had come out at age sixteen. Mother was certain that she was going to snag a Lord that first season due to her great beauty. She didn’t even care that it was in fact my second season out.
I hadn’t minded, though. Neither Julia nor I had been much interested in finding a husband in our younger years. I suppose because Lady Withington had pushed the importance of marriage on us from birth, until it was old news to us by our coming out. Much to my mother’s frustration, Father had insisted that we take our time and pick a husband based on love if we so desired. He wanted to imprint on us that our misfortune should not be the cause for us to marry for money instead of happiness.
I am not sure if there ever was love between my parents. These days all we saw was disinterest and frustration between the two of them. It had made me determined that if I did marry, it would be to someone I could love, or at the least stand to be around, for the whole of our lives. It didn’t matter much to me if we had title or fortune. I suppose it was because of all those novels I’d read, as my mother often told me, that I had such fanciful ideas in my head.
The last to enter the dining hall was my youngest two sisters, Rebecca and Willamina. Apparently, Clarisse had waited outside long enough, because she came tromping in through Rebecca’s skirts as soon as she was able, nearly knocking Rebecca to the ground. Willamina was doing her best to stifle a giggle. She was still fourteen and very girlish even for that age. I loved her dearly for her still-intact innocence. Rebecca and I, on the other hand, had butted heads our entire life.
“Your mongrel nearly broke my ankle, Mary,” she said as she glared in my direction before smoothing her skirts and sauntering to the table as if she was a grand duchess.
“She just got excited is all,” I said as I patted Clarisse’s happy head. “It’s not as if you even fell or anything,” I added as I handed down my half-eaten toast to Clarisse.
“Really, Mary!” Mother chimed in exasperation. “A well-bred lady does not feed a dog, and certainly not from one’s own breakfast table.”
I mumbled an apology under my breath. Though both Rebecca and I matched my mother in looks, slim build, chestnut brown hair, and green eyes, I couldn’t be farther from their likeness as a queen from a servant. Rebecca and Mother, however, were two peas in a pod.
Rebecca immediately sat next to Her Ladyship and began chatting insistently regarding her first season out. Mother, of course, was all too happy finally to have a doting daughter who desired all of her tips, tricks, and knowledge of how to snag a husband in your first season.
“Julia may have the looks in the family,” my mother continued, “but you are certainly a beauty yourself. And since you are more willing to heed my counsel then your older sisters were,” she said this with a sharp bite in our direction. “I see no reason why you would not be married by the end of your first season. The second at the very longest.”
“Ah, yes,” Julia whispered with a giggle. “If we had only headed Mother’s counsel, we would have been Duchesses by now for sure.” She nudged me in encouragement.
“Yes, I believe her best advice was to drop our handkerchief before the militia officers to force an introduction. I am sure that doesn’t at all seem desperate for a match.”
“Really, girls, it was to
an introduction, not force it. Beauties or not, your father’s
condition is no secret. It will be hard enough to find you suitable matches. The fact that you go out of your way to deter such just to irritate me is very disrespectful.”
“Come, Mother, we are all family here. It is not Father’s health, but rather his small dowry for his four daughters that makes it hard for you to find a match for such as us. So what if we ask to have a match of our own choosing? You should be happy to have such a difficult mantle removed from your shoulders,” I stated flatly.
“A well-bred lady does not speak of financial matters, you know this, Mary. And the fact that we are in such a dire state should only encourage you two to find a match for the sake of the family. You are twenty years old!”
“Yes, I know, I have been told several times since my birthday,” I replied in irritation. I hated when she tried to guilt-trip me with age and financial burdens.
“Let us not argue this day,” my father’s deep voice lulled across the table. He set his paper to the side. “We have quite a long journey ahead of us. Let us make it in good nature.”
I loved my father deeply. I often had a hard time picturing him as the youth who’d squandered away his fortune. He was so quiet and reserved. I often found him doing kind things for all those around him, never asking for anything in return. I think it was his peacefulness that I loved most about him. He didn’t speak much, but when he did, it was with purpose.
Sadly, my mother took his setting aside his paper as an opening to berate him. She rattled on and on about how the townhouse he had secured was on a less fashionable side of Georgiana St. She whined that had he not waited so late to prepare, we could have been given a house much more suitable to his title. Then she began to ramble on about how it would affect our chances for suitors on our dance cards, if it were widely known what side of the street we were on, and whether there was any way to improve the situation. It took all I had to keep from voicing my opinion on the matter, and I only held my tongue out of respect for Father’s wishes. I couldn’t help but think that it would be a very long carriage ride into town.