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Authors: Julia Quinn

Tags: #Romance, #Historical, #Humor, #Adult, #Chick-Lit, #Regency

The Viscount Who Loved Me

BOOK: The Viscount Who Loved Me
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About the Author

New York Times
-bestselling author Julia Quinn has written twelve Avon romance novels, and is best known for the Bridgerton Series:
The Duke and I, The Viscount Who Loved Me, An Offer from a Gentleman, Romancing Mr. Bridgerton
, and
To Sir Phillip, With Love
. She is a graduate of Harvard and Radcliffe Colleges and lives with her family in the Pacific Northwest. Please visit her at www.juliaquinn.com.

About the Publisher

Australia

HarperCollins Publishers (Australia) Pty. Ltd.

25 Ryde Road (PO Box 321)

Pymble, NSW 2073, Australia

http://www.harpercollinsebooks.com.au

Canada

HarperCollins Publishers Ltd.

55 Avenue Road, Suite 2900

Toronto, ON, M5R, 3L2, Canada

http://www.harpercollinsebooks.ca

New Zealand

HarperCollins Publishers (New Zealand) Limited

P.O. Box 1

Auckland, New Zealand

http://www.harpercollinsebooks.co.nz

United Kingdom

HarperCollins Publishers Ltd.

77-85 Fulham Palace Road

London, W6 8JB, UK

http://www.harpercollinsebooks.co.uk

United States

HarperCollins Publishers Inc.

10 East 53rd Street

New York, NY 10022

http://www.harpercollinsebooks.com

Author’s Note

A
nthony’s reaction to his father’s untimely death is a very common one, especially among men. (To a much lesser degree, women whose mothers die young react in a similar fashion.) Men whose fathers die at a very young age are very often gripped by a certainty that they, too, will suffer the same fate. Such men usually know their fears are irrational, but it is nearly impossible to get past these fears until one has reached (and passed) the age of one’s father’s death.

Since my readers are almost exclusively women, and Anthony’s issue is such (to use a very modern phrase) a “guy thing,” I worried that you might not be able to relate to his problem. As a writer of romance, I constantly find myself walking a fine line between making my heroes utterly and completely heroic, and making them real. With Anthony, I hope I struck a balance. It’s easy to scowl at a book and grumble, “Get over it already!” but the truth is, for most men, it’s not so easy to “get over” the sudden and premature loss of a beloved father.

Sharp-eyed readers will note that the bee sting that killed Edmund Bridgerton was actually the second sting he’d received in his life. This is medically accurate; bee sting allergies generally don’t manifest themselves until the second sting. Since Anthony has only been stung once in his life, it’s impossible to know whether or not he’s
allergic. As the author of this book, however, I’d like to think I have a certain creative control over the medical conditions of my characters, so I’ve decided that Anthony has no allergies of any kind, and furthermore will live to the ripe old age of 92.

My very best wishes,

Avon Books by
Julia Quinn

Brighter Than the Sun

Dancing At Midnight

Everything and the Moon

How to Marry a Marquis

Minx

Splendid

To Catch an Heiress

The Bridgerton Series

The Duke and I

The Viscount Who Loved Me

An Offer from A Gentleman

Romancing Mr. Bridgerton

To Sir Phillip, With Love

When He Was Wicked (coming Summer 2004)

Anthologies

The Further Observations of Lady Whistledown

(with Suzanne Enoch, Karen Hawkins, and Mia Ryan)

Where’s My Hero

(with Lisa Kleypas and Kinley MacGregor

Chapter 1

The topic of rakes has, of course, been previously discussed in this column, and This Author has come to the conclusion that there are rakes, and there are Rakes.

Anthony Bridgerton is a Rake.

A rake (lower-case) is youthful and immature. He flaunts his exploits, behaves with utmost idiocy, and thinks himself dangerous to women.

A Rake (upper-case)
knows
he is dangerous to women.

He doesn’t flaunt his exploits because he doesn’t need to. He knows he will be whispered about by men and women alike, and in fact, he’d rather they didn’t whisper about him at all. He knows who he is and what he has done; further recountings are, to him, redundant.

He doesn’t behave like an idiot for the simple reason that he isn’t an idiot (any moreso than must be expected among all members of the male gender). He has little patience for the foibles of society, and quite frankly, most of the time This Author cannot say she blames him.

And if that doesn’t describe Viscount Bridgerton—surely this season’s most eligible bachelor—to perfection, This Author shall retire Her quill immediately. The only question is: Will 1814 be the season he finally succumbs to the exquisite bliss of matrimony?

This Author Thinks…

Not.

L
ADY
W
HISTLEDOWN’S
S
OCIETY
P
APERS
, 20 A
PRIL
1814

“P
lease don’t tell me,” Kate Sheffield said to the room at large, “that she is writing about Viscount Bridgerton again.”

Her half-sister Edwina, younger by almost four years, looked up from behind the single-sheet newspaper. “How could you tell?”

“You’re giggling like a madwoman.”

Edwina giggled, shaking the blue damask sofa on which they both sat.

“See?” Kate said, giving her a little poke in the arm. “You always giggle when she writes about some reprehensible rogue.” But Kate grinned. There was little she liked better than teasing her sister. In a good-natured manner, of course.

Mary Sheffield, Edwina’s mother, and Kate’s stepmother for nearly eighteen years, glanced up from her embroidery and pushed her spectacles farther up the bridge of her nose. “What are you two laughing about?”

“Kate’s in a snit because Lady Whistledown is writing about that rakish viscount again,” Edwina explained.

“I’m not in a snit,” Kate said, even though no one was listening.

“Bridgerton?” Mary asked absently.

Edwina nodded. “Yes.”

“She always writes about him.”

“I think she just likes writing about rakes,” Edwina commented.

“Of course she likes writing about rakes,” Kate retorted. “If she wrote about boring people, no one would buy her newspaper.”

“That’s not true,” Edwina replied. “Just last week she
wrote about us, and heaven knows we’re not the most interesting people in London.”

Kate smiled at her sister’s naïveté. Kate and Mary might not be the most interesting people in London, but Edwina, with her buttery-colored hair and startlingly pale blue eyes, had already been named the Incomparable of 1814. Kate, on the other hand, with her plain brown hair and eyes, was usually referred to as “the Incomparable’s older sister.”

She supposed there were worse monikers. At least no one had yet begun to call her “the Incomparable’s spinster sister.” Which was a great deal closer to the truth than any of the Sheffields cared to admit. At twenty (nearly twenty-one, if one was going to be scrupulously honest about it), Kate was a bit long in the tooth to be enjoying her first season in London.

But there hadn’t really been any other choice. The Sheffields hadn’t been wealthy even when Kate’s father had been alive, and since he’d passed on five years earlier, they’d been forced to economize even further. They certainly weren’t ready for the poorhouse, but they had to mind every penny and watch every pound.

With their straitened finances, the Sheffields could manage the funds for only one trip to London. Renting a house—and a carriage—and hiring the bare minimum of servants for the season cost money. More money than they could afford to spend twice. As it was, they’d had to save for five solid years to be able to afford this trip to London. And if the girls weren’t successful on the Marriage Mart…well, no one was going to clap them into debtor’s prison, but they would have to look forward to a quiet life of genteel poverty at some charmingly small cottage in Somerset.

And so the two girls were forced to make their debuts in the same year. It had been decided that the most logical time would be when Edwina was just seventeen and Kate almost twenty-one. Mary would have liked to have waited
until Edwina was eighteen, and a bit more mature, but that would have made Kate nearly twenty-two, and heavens, but who would marry her then?

Kate smiled wryly. She hadn’t even wanted a season. She’d known from the outset that she wasn’t the sort who would capture the attention of the
ton
. She wasn’t pretty enough to overcome her lack of dowry, and she’d never learned to simper and mince and walk delicately, and do all those things other girls seemed to know how to do in the cradle. Even Edwina, who didn’t have a devious bone in her body, somehow knew how to stand and walk and sigh so that men came to blows just for the honor of helping her cross the street.

Kate, on the other hand, always stood with her shoulders straight and tall, couldn’t sit still if her life depended upon it, and walked as if she were in a race—and why not? she always wondered. If one was going somewhere, what could possibly be the point in not getting there quickly?

As for her current season in London, she didn’t even like the city very much. Oh, she was having a good enough time, and she’d met quite a few nice people, but a London season seemed a horrible waste of money to a girl who would have been perfectly content to remain in the country and find some sensible man to marry there.

But Mary would have none of that. “When I married your father,” she’d said, “I vowed to love you and bring you up with all the care and affection I’d give to a child of my own blood.”

Kate had managed to get in a single, “But—” before Mary carried on with, “I have a responsibility to your poor mother, God rest her soul, and part of that responsibility is to see you married off happily and securely.”

“I could be happy and secure in the country,” Kate had replied.

Mary had countered, “There are more men from which to choose in London.”

After which Edwina had joined in, insisting that she
would be utterly miserable without her, and since Kate never could bear to see her sister unhappy, her fate had been sealed.

And so here she was—sitting in a somewhat faded drawing room in a rented house in a section of London that was almost fashionable, and…

She looked about mischievously.

…and she was about to snatch a newspaper from her sister’s grasp.

“Kate!” Edwina squealed, her eyes bugging out at the tiny triangle of newsprint that remained between her right thumb and forefinger. “I wasn’t done yet!”

“You’ve been reading it forever,” Kate said with a cheeky grin. “Besides, I want to see what she has to say about Viscount Bridgerton today.”

Edwina’s eyes, which were usually compared to peaceful Scottish lochs, glinted devilishly. “You’re
awfully
interested in the viscount, Kate. Is there something you’re not telling us?”

“Don’t be silly. I don’t even know the man. And if I did, I would probably run in the opposite direction. He is exactly the sort of man the two of us should avoid at all costs. He could probably seduce an iceberg.”

“Kate!” Mary exclaimed.

Kate grimaced. She’d forgotten her stepmother was listening. “Well, it’s true,” she added. “I’ve heard he’s had more mistresses than I’ve had birthdays.”

Mary looked at her for a few seconds, as if trying to decide whether or not she wanted to respond, and then finally she said, “Not that this is an appropriate topic for your ears, but many men have.”

“Oh.” Kate flushed. There was little less appealing than being decisively contradicted while one was trying to make a grand point. “Well, then, he’s had twice as many. Whatever the case, he’s far more promiscuous than most men, and not the sort Edwina ought to allow to court her.”


You
are enjoying a season as well,” Mary reminded her.

Kate shot Mary the most sarcastic of glances. They all knew that if the viscount chose to court a Sheffield, it would not be Kate.

“I don’t think there is anything in there that’s going to alter your opinion,” Edwina said with a shrug as she leaned toward Kate to get a better view of the newspaper. “She doesn’t say very much about
him,
actually. It’s more of a treatise on the topic of rakes.”

Kate’s eyes swept over the typeset words. “Hmmph,” she said, her favorite expression of disdain. “I’ll wager she’s correct. He probably won’t come up to scratch this year.”

“You always think Lady Whistledown is correct,” Mary murmured with a smile.

“She usually is,” Kate replied. “You must admit, for a gossip columnist, she displays remarkable good sense. She has certainly been correct in her assessment of all the people I have met thus far in London.”

“You should make your own judgments, Kate,” Mary said lightly. “It is beneath you to base your opinions on a gossip column.”

Kate knew her stepmother was right, but she didn’t want to admit it, and so she just let out another “Hmmph” and turned back to the paper in her hands.

Whistledown
was, without a doubt, the most interesting reading material in all London. Kate wasn’t entirely certain when the gossip column had begun—sometime the previous year, she’d heard—but one thing was certain. Whoever Lady Whistledown was (and no one
really
knew who she was), she was a well-connected member of the
ton
. She had to be. No interloper could ever uncover all the gossip she printed in her columns every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.

Lady Whistledown always had all the latest
on-dits
, and unlike other columnists, she wasn’t hesitant about using people’s full names. Having decided last week, for example, that Kate didn’t look good in yellow, she wrote, clear
as day: “The color yellow makes the dark-haired Miss Katharine Sheffield look like a singed daffodil.”

Kate hadn’t minded the insult. She’d heard it said on more than one occasion that one could not consider oneself “arrived” until one had been insulted by Lady Whistledown. Even Edwina, who was a huge social success by anyone’s measure, had been jealous that Kate had been singled out for an insult.

And even though Kate didn’t particularly want to be in London for a season, she figured that if she had to participate in the social whirl, she might as well not be a complete and utter failure. If getting insulted in a gossip column was to be her only sign of success, well then, so be it. Kate would take her triumphs where she may.

Now when Penelope Featherington bragged about being likened to an overripe citrus fruit in her tangerine satin, Kate could wave her arm and sigh with great drama, “Yes, well, I am a singed daffodil.”

“Someday,” Mary announced out of the blue, giving her spectacles yet another push with her index finger, “someone is going to discover that woman’s true identity, and then she’s going to be in trouble.”

Edwina looked at her mother with interest. “Do you really think someone will ferret her out? She has managed to keep her secret for over a year now.”

“Nothing that big can stay a secret forever,” Mary replied. She jabbed her embroidery with her needle, pulling a long strand of yellow thread through the fabric. “Mark my words. It’s all going to come out sooner or later, and when it does, a scandal the likes of which you have never seen is going to erupt all over town.”

“Well, if I knew who she was,” Kate announced, flipping the single-sheet newspaper over to page two, “I’d probably make her my best friend. She’s fiendishly entertaining. And no matter what anyone says, she’s almost always right.”

Just then, Newton, Kate’s somewhat overweight corgi, trotted into the room.

“Isn’t that dog supposed to stay outside?” Mary asked. Then she yelped, “Kate!” as the dog angled over to her feet and panted as if waiting for a kiss.

“Newton, come here this minute,” Kate ordered.

The dog gazed longingly at Mary, then waddled over to Kate, hopped up onto the sofa, and laid his front paws across her lap.

“He’s covering you with fur,” Edwina said.

Kate shrugged as she stroked his thick, caramel-colored coat. “I don’t mind.”

Edwina sighed, but she reached out and gave Newton a quick pat, anyway. “What else does she say?” she asked, leaning forward with interest. “I never did get to see page two.”

Kate smiled at her sister’s sarcasm. “Not much. A little something about the Duke and Duchess of Hastings, who apparently arrived in town earlier this week, a list of the food at Lady Danbury’s ball, which she proclaimed ‘surprisingly delicious,’ and a rather unfortunate description of Mrs. Featherington’s gown Monday last.”

Edwina frowned. “She does seem to pick on the Featheringtons quite a bit.”

“And no wonder,” Mary said, setting down her embroidery as she stood up. “That woman wouldn’t know how to pick out a dress color for her girls if a rainbow wrapped itself right around her neck.”

“Mother!” Edwina exclaimed.

Kate clapped a hand over her mouth, trying not to laugh. Mary rarely made such opinionated pronouncements, but when she did, they were always marvelous.

“Well, it’s true. She keeps dressing her youngest in tangerine. Anyone can see that poor girl needs a blue or a mint green.”

“You dressed me in yellow,” Kate reminded her.

“And I’m sorry I did. That will teach me to listen to a shopgirl. I should never have doubted my own judgment. We’ll simply have to have that one cut down for Edwina.”

Since Edwina was a full head shorter than Kate, and several shades more delicate, this would not be a problem.

BOOK: The Viscount Who Loved Me
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