The Right Kind of Rogue

The Right Kind of Rogue
Publication Date: October 31 2017
St. Martin's Paperbacks
ISBN-10: 125012171X
ISBN-13: 978-1250121714
Genre: Historical Romance
Length: Novel

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The Unexpected Duchess

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Playful Brides, Book 8

Can two star-crossed lovers come together—until death do they part?

Viscount Hart Highgate has decided to put his rakish ways behind him and finally get married. He may adore a good brandy or a high-speed carriage race, but he takes his duties as heir to the earldom seriously. Now all he has to do is find the right kind of woman to be his bride—ideally, one who’s also well-connected and well-funded. . .

Meg Timmons has loved Hart, the brother of her best friend, ever since she was an awkward, blushing schoolgirl. If only she had a large dowry—or anything to her name at all. Instead, she’s from a family that’s been locked in a bitter feud with Hart’s for years. And now she’s approaching her third London season, Meg’s chances with him are slim to none. Unless a surprise encounter on a deep, dark night could be enough to spark a rebellious romance. . .for all time?

Read an Excerpt

CHAPTER ONE

London, May 1818

“I’m afraid I have some unhappy news for you, Meg.”

Meg Timmons’s head snapped up to face her friend Sarah, Lady Berkeley. “Unhappy? How unhappy?” Meg’s hand stilled on the swath of embroidered yellow taffeta she’d been inspecting. They were strolling through a shop on Bond Street. Unlike Sarah, Meg couldn’t afford any of the lovely trappings. Sarah’s husband was a wealthy viscount. Meg’s father was a destitute baron. The two ladies had come from vastly different monetary, if not social, situations, but they never allowed that to hinder their friendship. No. The only thing that served to make their friendship difficult to maintain was the fact that Sarah’s father, the Earl of Highfield, and Meg’s father, Baron Tifton, were sworn enemies. The two men had detested each other for years, which was why their daughters were forced to meet at shops and other public locales. Upon occasion, Meg was allowed to come to Sarah’s father’s town house, but rarely and always with the censure of Sarah’s highly disapproving parents.

Sarah winced and bit her lip, never a good sign.

“What?” Meg asked, her hand trembling against the fabric. “You’re not permanently moving to Northumbria, are you?” Her closest friend, her only friend, had married last year. Viscount Berkeley’s estate was far to the north. To date the couple had spent equal time in London and Northumbria, but Meg had worried all winter that Sarah wouldn’t return to help her navigate the dreadfully dull waters of her third London Season. If Sarah left town, Meg would have no one.

Sarah left off examining some luxurious green silk. She turned to her friend, her face solemn. “It’s Hart.”

Meg’s stomach dropped. Her fingers dug into the taffeta.

Sarah’s older brother, Hart, the heir to the earldom, a viscount in his own right, was clever, handsome, witty, and extremely eligible. He was also entirely off limits to Meg, but she had loved him for years.

Her heart in her throat, Meg scanned Sarah’s face, her fingers digging deeper into the innocent taffeta. “What’s the matter with Hart? He hasn’t been injured in another racing accident, has he?”

Hart was always drinking and carousing and doing things like challenging his friends to races on the moors outside London. Last autumn, during a particularly dangerous chase when he was particularly foxed, he’d flipped his phaeton and broken his leg.

“No.” Sarah shook her head. “It’s worse than that. Much worse.”

Meg’s stomach dropped straight into her slippers. She forced herself to release her death grip on the taffeta. She took a deep breath. “He’s getting married, isn’t he?” She swallowed hard and braced a gloved hand on the wall next to her.

Sarah leaned over and wrapped her arm around Meg’s shoulders. “There, there, dear. We both knew this day would come. I’m sorry, Meggie.”

Meg swallowed again. Her hand remained planted on the wall for support. The room spun around her, colors blurring. Nausea gripped her. It was true. She’d known this day would come. Hart obviously needed to take a wife and sire an heir to secure the earldom. Meg was penniless. Her father had gambled her dowry away. She owned two outdated ball gowns, one set of ever more shabby-looking slippers, a satin reticule that sported an unfortunate tea stain, and a pair of graying kid gloves that were near to disintegrating. She was only allowed in Society events due to her father’s dulled title and her friendship with the popular Lady Sarah. Every year at ton events, Meg sat on the sidelines, a perpetual wallflower, withering by the moment. At nearly one and twenty, she was a veritable spinster. But that didn’t matter. Even if she weren’t a wallflower, even if she owned gorgeous gowns and possessed a hefty dowry, Hart’s father and her own would never allow a match between them. And even if that weren’t a problem, there was the tiniest issue that Hart had never once indicated in any way that he might be interested in her. In fact, if anything, aside from one notable exception, he’d steadfastly ignored her over the years.

Yes. Meg had always known the day would come when Hart would have to take a wife. She simply hadn’t expected it to be so . . . soon.

“Who is she?” Meg closed her eyes to stiffen herself against the pain that hearing the name of Hart’s future countess would inevitably cause. She pulled her hand from the wall and pretended to calmly fold her gloved fingers together in front of her. “It’s Imogen Hamilton, isn’t it? No! It’s Lady Mary Asterton.” Both ladies were considered diamonds of the first water this Season.

“No.” Sarah shook her head again, still squeezing Meg’s shoulders. “It’s no one . . . yet. He’s merely declared his intent to choose a wife this Season.”

Meg exhaled. She could breathe a bit easier. She and Sarah both knew this was still a large step for Hart. After what he’d been through with one Lady Annabelle Cardiff, Hart had been steadfastly against so much as considering a wife in the past, despite his father’s constant nagging. This year, apparently, at the ripe old age of nine and twenty, Hart had changed his mind.

“He told Father he agrees. It’s time,” Sarah finished.

Meg nodded solemnly. “I see,” she murmured.

“Oh, Meg, don’t be sad,” Sarah said. “Allow me to purchase some of this silk for you and have it made into a beautiful new ball gown.” She pulled her arm away from Meg and held up a swath of the rich, soft material. “This green would be perfect with your golden hair. It will match your eyes. You’ll look wonderful at the first ball of the Season. It’s time you searched for a husband in earnest, too, you know.”

Meg pressed a knuckle against the center of her forehead, where an awful headache was beginning to form. “No thank you, Sarah.” Meg tucked a wayward curl beneath the brim of her bonnet. “We both know it’ll take more than one beautiful ball gown for me to find a husband.”

Sarah’s eyes filled with tears, and she blinked solemnly at Meg. Indeed, they both knew all the reasons why Meg and Hart could not be together. It wasn’t just because of their families and Meg’s lack of a dowry. Sarah had told Meg often enough that Hart was not the sort for Meg. “He’s a rogue, an unrepentant charmer,” Sarah liked to say. “I’ve never known him to pay more than a passing interest in any woman. He’d break your heart for certain, Meggie, and I couldn’t live with it if that happened. You’re such a dear, so sweet and kind and unassuming. You’d give your last shilling and the gown off your back to someone in need. Hart is devil-may-care, only looking for a good time from moment to moment. He’d hurt you. I know it. I love you both dearly, of course, but my brother simply isn’t the right man for you.”

Meg reached out to pat her friend’s hand where it still rested on the swath of emerald silk. “You’re kind to worry about me, Sarah, and I quite agree, it’s time I tried to find a husband of my own.” She did her best to muster a smile.

Sarah’s pretty face momentarily brightened. “Oh, Meg, I’m so happy to hear it.” Sarah had been exhorting her for years to give up her hopeless infatuation with Hart and look for a man with less at stake, perhaps a wealthy mister with no interest in a dowry, someone who would love her and treat her like a princess. “What’s made you change your mind?” Sarah continued.

Meg merely smiled a half smile. She wasn’t about to tell Sarah. It would only worry her friend. But she hadn’t changed her mind at all. In fact, in the few minutes they’d been speaking, Meg had firmly determined. Yes. It was time to try. Time to try to make Hart fall in love with her. She had a chance. A small one, to be certain, but a valid one all the same, for Meg knew something that Sarah did not. Meg knew what had happened between herself and Hart on the night before Sarah’s wedding.

 

Copyright © 2012-2017 Valerie Bowman. All Rights Reserved.
Website by Jennifer Wu

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