The Courtship Dance (Matchmakers Series)

( 63 )

Overview

Lady Francesca Haughston had given up on romance for herself, finding passion instead in making desirable matches for others. So it seemed only fair, when she learned she had been deceived into breaking her own long-ago engagement to Sinclair, Duke of Rochford, that she now help him find the perfect wife.

Of course, Francesca was certain any spark of passion between them had long since died—her own treatment of him had seen to that. The way Sinclair gazed at her or swept her ...

See more details below
Paperback (Mass Market Paperback)
$7.35
BN.com price
(Save 8%)$7.99 List Price
Other sellers (Paperback)
  • All (20) from $1.99   
  • New (6) from $4.84   
  • Used (14) from $1.99   

Overview

Lady Francesca Haughston had given up on romance for herself, finding passion instead in making desirable matches for others. So it seemed only fair, when she learned she had been deceived into breaking her own long-ago engagement to Sinclair, Duke of Rochford, that she now help him find the perfect wife.

Of course, Francesca was certain any spark of passion between them had long since died—her own treatment of him had seen to that. The way Sinclair gazed at her or swept her suddenly into his arms…well, that was merely practice for when a younger, more suitable woman caught his eye. But soon Francesca found his lessons in love scandalously irresistible—and a temptation that could endanger them both.

Read More Show Less

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780373775644
  • Publisher: Harlequin
  • Publication date: 6/1/2010
  • Series: Matchmakers Series
  • Format: Mass Market Paperback
  • Pages: 377
  • Sales rank: 504,877
  • Product dimensions: 4.10 (w) x 6.80 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author

Candace Camp is a New York Times bestselling author of over sixty novels of contemporary and historical romance, including the bestselling Regency romances Treasured, The Marrying Season, and A Summer Seduction. She grew up in Texas in a newspaper family, which explains her love of writing, but she earned a law degree and practiced law before making the decision to write full time. She has received several writing awards, including the RT Book Reviews Lifetime Achievement Award for Western Romances. Visit her at Candace-Camp.com.

Read More Show Less

Read an Excerpt

No one would have guessed from the way Lady Fran-cesca Haughston moved through the Whittington ballroom that she was making the opening moves of her campaign. She strolled along in her usual manner, pausing to compliment a dress here or flirt with one of her many admirers there. She smiled and talked and plied her fan deftly, a vision in ice-blue silk, her blond hair falling in a cascade of curls from an upswept knot. But all the while, her dark blue eyes were looking for her prey.

It had been almost a month since she had vowed to herself to find a wife for the Duke of Rochford, and tonight she intended to set her plan in motion. She had made all her preparations. She had studied the young unmarried women of the ton, and through careful research and observation, she had managed to whittle the number down to just three whom she felt suitable for Sinclair.

All three of the young ladies would be here this evening, she was certain. The Whittington ball was one of the highlights of the Season, and, short of dire illness, any marriageable young lady would attend. Moreover, the odds were that the duke would be there, as well, which meant that Francesca could set her scheme in motion. It was time she began, she knew—past time. She had not really needed three weeks to sort out the possible brides for Rochford. There was only a rather small number of girls who could qualify to become his duchess.

But for some reason, ever since Callie's wedding, Francesca had been beset by ennui, curiously reluctant to pay calls or attend parties or the theater. Even her good friend Sir Lucien had commented on her sudden preference for staying at home. She was not sure of the reason for it; everything just suddenly seemed dull and scarcely worth the effort. She had felt, in fact, a trifle blue-deviled—a result, she had decided, of the fact that Callie, who had been living with Francesca while they sorted out a husband for her, was now married and gone. Without Callie's cheerful voice and fetching smile, Francesca's house was too empty.

Still, she reminded herself, she had vowed to make up for the wrong she had done to Callie's brother, Sinclair, fifteen long years ago. It was impossible to right matters, of course, but she could at least do the duke the favor of finding him a suitable bride. It was, after all, the thing at which she was most skilled. So she had come to this party tonight determined to begin the long dance of courtship on his behalf.

She strolled along the perimeter of the grand ballroom, a huge affair painted all in white and gold, floored with oak planks the color of honey, and lit by three glittering cascades of crystal chandeliers. Several gold stands of thick white beeswax candles provided more light, as did the gold-and-white sconces along the walls. All this brilliance was softened by the huge bouquets of crimson roses and peonies standing in vases against the walls, and twining in garlands up the banister of the magnificent staircase to the second floor. It was an elegant room, worthy of a palace, and it was rumored that only the formal ballroom made Lady Whittington willing to remain in this enormous and antiquated old mansion situated unfashionably outside Mayfair.

Francesca threaded through the crowd to the staircase, intending to use the vantage point of the second-floor railing to locate the young women she was seeking in the massive ballroom below. It was fitting, she thought, as she began to climb the curving stairs, that she should begin her campaign at the Whittingtons' ball. It had been here, after all, that she had ended things with the Duke of Rochford fifteen years ago. It had been here that her world had come crashing down.

The flowers had all been white that night, she remembered, masses of roses, peonies, camellias and sweet-scented gardenias, accented by glossy greenery trailing from the high vases. It had been a night of heady triumph for Francesca—she had made her debut only weeks before, and she was the undisputed Beauty of the Season. Men had flocked around her, flirting and begging for a dance, making extravagant declarations of love and paying flowery compliments. And all the while she had hugged her secret to herself, giddy with love and excitement—until the footman had slipped a note into her hand.

Now Francesca reached the second floor and took her place at the railing, where she could gaze down at the swirling dancers below. Things were much the same, she thought, as they had been that night so long ago. The dresses had been different, of course, the colors of the walls and the decorations changed. But the glamour, the excitement, the hopes and intrigues, had not altered. Francesca gazed out at the crowd without really seeing them, remembering instead the past.

"Is the party so grim?" a light, familiar voice said at her side.

Francesca turned and smiled at the blond woman. "Irene. How good to see you."

Lady Irene Radbourne was a striking woman with thick, curling blond hair and unusual golden eyes. At twenty-seven years old, she had been a spinster—and determined to remain one—until last autumn, when Francesca, searching for a suitable spouse for the Earl of Radbourne, had realized that Irene was the perfect match for him. The two women had spent their lives in much the same circle, so she had known the blunt, opinionated Lady Irene for years, but the two of them had not been friends until they had spent two weeks together at the Radbourne estate as Francesca sought to match the rough Lord Gideon to a well-bred wife. Now Francesca counted Irene as one of her closest friends.

Irene looked out over the multicolored crowd of dancers. "Is the new crop of marriageable young ladies so dismal?"

Francesca shrugged. Though she and Irene had maintained a genteel silence regarding the matter, Francesca suspected Irene had guessed that her matchmaking efforts were more a question of survival than amusement.

"Indeed, I have not really given them much attention. I have been quite lazy since Callie's wedding, I fear."

Irene regarded her shrewdly. "You are distressed, are you not? Is there aught that I can do?"

Francesca shook her head. "'Tis nothing, really. I am just remembering…a time long past. Another party here." She forced a smile, the charming dimple in her cheek appearing. "Where is Lord Gideon?"

In the six months the couple had been married, it was rare to see Irene without Gideon by her side. The pair had suited each other even better than Francesca had guessed; it seemed as if their love grew with each passing day.

Irene let out a little giggle. "He was waylaid by his great-aunt as we came in."

"Lady Odelia?" Francesca asked, appalled. "Good Gad, is she here?" She glanced around apprehensively.

"We are safe here," Irene assured her. "I do not think she will climb the stairs. That is why I fled to the balcony as soon as I stepped out of the cloakroom and saw that she had cornered Gideon."

"And left him there?" Francesca asked, chuckling. "For shame, Lady Radbourne. What about your vows?"

"My wedding vows made no mention of Great-Aunt Odelia, I assure you," Irene retorted, grinning. "I did feel a twinge of guilt, but I reminded myself that Gideon is a strong man, feared by many."

"Even the bravest quail before Lady Odelia, however. I remember once when Rochford himself sneaked out the back door and went 'round to the stables when he saw her carriage out front, leaving my mother and me with his grandmother to face her."

Irene let out a burst of laughter. "I should like to have seen that. I shall have to tease him about that the next time we meet."

"How is the duke?" Francesca asked casually, not looking at Irene. "Have you seen him lately?"

Irene glanced at her. "A week or so ago. We went to the theater together. He and Gideon are now friends, as well as cousins. But surely you have seen Rochford, as well."

Francesca shrugged. "Only rarely since Callie's wedding. It was his sister who was my friend, really, not Rochford."

The truth was that Francesca had been avoiding the duke since his sister's wedding. The guilty knowledge of how she had wronged him had weighed on her, and every time she had run into him, she had been pierced with guilt anew. She knew that she should tell him what she had found out, that she should apologize for her actions. It was craven of her not to.

Yet she could not do it; her insides chilled whenever she thought of confessing and begging his pardon. They had at least achieved a kind of peace with each other after all these years. Not friendship, exactly, but something close to it. What if she told him and it brought back his anger? She deserved that anger, she supposed, but her stomach twisted at the idea. So she had taken to avoiding Rochford whenever possible, staying away from a party if she thought he would attend it, and when she did see him, taking care not to go near him. If they came face-to-face, as had happened once or twice, she had been stiff and awkward, escaping as soon as possible.

Of course, that must end if she was to have any success finding a wife for the man. She could scarcely bring him together with one of his prospective brides if she continued to avoid him.

"Callie told me that Rochford had been unfair to you," Irene began carefully.

"Unfair?" Francesca glanced at her, startled. "No. How was he unfair?"

"I know not," Irene admitted. "Something to do with Lord Bromwell courting Callie, I gathered."

"Oh, that." Francesca dismissed the idea with a flick of her hand. "The duke had reason to be concerned. Brom's sister had certainly poisoned him against Rochford, but…" She shrugged expressively. "There was little I could do once they fell in love, in any case, and Rochford realized it afterwards. I am not so tender a female as to wither under a rebuke."

Francesca glanced out again over the crowd, and Irene followed her gaze.

"Who do you seek?" Irene asked after a moment.

"What? Oh. No one."

Irene's eyebrows lifted. "You are most diligent in looking for no one."

Francesca had difficulty dissembling with Irene. Something about Irene's forthright manner seemed to call forth an equal candor in her. She hesitated now, then admitted, "I was hoping to see Lady Althea Robart."

"Althea?" Irene repeated in surprise. "Whatever for?"

Francesca could not help but chuckle. "You dislike the woman?"

Irene shrugged. "Dislike is too strong a word. She simply is not company I would choose to keep. Too high in the instep for me."

Francesca nodded. The lady did seem a bit stiff. But she was not sure that pride would necessarily be a detriment to a future duchess. "I do not know her well."

"Nor I," Irene agreed.

"What about Damaris Burke?"

"The daughter of Lord Burke?" Irene asked. "The diplomat?"

Francesca nodded. "Exactly."

Irene thought for a moment, then shrugged. "I cannot say, really. I have never moved in government circles."

"She seems quite pleasant."

"Smooth," Irene agreed. "What one would expect, I suppose, from a woman who holds diplomatic parties." She glanced at her friend curiously. "Why are you asking? Do not tell me they have asked your help in seeking a husband."

"No," Francesca told her quickly. "They have not. I was just… considering them."

"Ah, then it is a gentleman who has sought your help?" Irene guessed.

"Not really. I have been thinking. On my own, as it were."

"Now you have completely aroused my curiosity. You are matchmaking for someone who has not even asked you? Is this another wager with the duke?"

Francesca blushed. "Oh. No, nothing like that. I had thought—well, there was someone I wronged once, and I had been looking to make it up to him."

"By finding him a wife?" Irene asked. "There are a number of men who would not thank you for that favor. Who is the man?"

Francesca studied the woman next to her. Of all her friends, Irene knew the most about her. Though Francesca had never confided in her about her own past, Irene's father had been a friend of Francesca's late husband, so no doubt Irene suspected how little happiness Francesca had found in her marriage, and Fran-cesca had never felt it necessary to maintain a pretense to Irene that she had missed Andrew in the five years since his death. She had never told anyone about what had happened between her and Rochford so long ago, but she suddenly found herself wanting to confide in Irene.

"Is he the reason for your melancholy?" Irene persisted.

"I think that is caused by the rapid approach of my birthday," Francesca replied lightly, but then she sighed and said, "And a little by having hurt him when he did not deserve it. I am very sorry for what I did."

Irene frowned. "I cannot imagine that you could have done anything so terrible."

"I think he might differ with you," Francesca responded. She looked into her friend's eyes, warm with sympathy. "No one must know this—not even Lord Gideon, for he knows the man."

Irene's brows went up, and Francesca saw understanding dawn in the other woman's clear golden eyes. "The duke? You are talking about Rochford?"

Francesca sighed. "I should have known that you would guess. Yes, it is Rochford, but you must promise me that you will not tell anyone."

Read More Show Less

Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 63 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(42)

4 Star

(12)

3 Star

(4)

2 Star

(2)

1 Star

(3)

Your Rating:

Your Name: Create a Pen Name or

Barnes & Noble.com Review Rules

Our reader reviews allow you to share your comments on titles you liked, or didn't, with others. By submitting an online review, you are representing to Barnes & Noble.com that all information contained in your review is original and accurate in all respects, and that the submission of such content by you and the posting of such content by Barnes & Noble.com does not and will not violate the rights of any third party. Please follow the rules below to help ensure that your review can be posted.

Reviews by Our Customers Under the Age of 13

We highly value and respect everyone's opinion concerning the titles we offer. However, we cannot allow persons under the age of 13 to have accounts at BN.com or to post customer reviews. Please see our Terms of Use for more details.

What to exclude from your review:

Please do not write about reviews, commentary, or information posted on the product page. If you see any errors in the information on the product page, please send us an email.

Reviews should not contain any of the following:

  • - HTML tags, profanity, obscenities, vulgarities, or comments that defame anyone
  • - Time-sensitive information such as tour dates, signings, lectures, etc.
  • - Single-word reviews. Other people will read your review to discover why you liked or didn't like the title. Be descriptive.
  • - Comments focusing on the author or that may ruin the ending for others
  • - Phone numbers, addresses, URLs
  • - Pricing and availability information or alternative ordering information
  • - Advertisements or commercial solicitation

Reminder:

  • - By submitting a review, you grant to Barnes & Noble.com and its sublicensees the royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable right and license to use the review in accordance with the Barnes & Noble.com Terms of Use.
  • - Barnes & Noble.com reserves the right not to post any review -- particularly those that do not follow the terms and conditions of these Rules. Barnes & Noble.com also reserves the right to remove any review at any time without notice.
  • - See Terms of Use for other conditions and disclaimers.
Search for Products You'd Like to Recommend

Recommend other products that relate to your review. Just search for them below and share!

Create a Pen Name

Your Pen Name is your unique identity on BN.com. It will appear on the reviews you write and other website activities. Your Pen Name cannot be edited, changed or deleted once submitted.

 
Your Pen Name can be any combination of alphanumeric characters (plus - and _), and must be at least two characters long.

Continue Anonymously
See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 63 Customer Reviews
  • Posted December 25, 2008

    more from this reviewer

    a super Regency tale

    Fifteen years ago, then eighteen years old Lady Francesca Haughtson and the Duke of Rochford were engaged though they told no one as he insisted she enjoy her first season. However, she ended their relationship when she learned the truth about her fiancé with Lady Daphne Swithington; she married someone else. All these years Sinclair has never met anyone else he wanted to marry; besides he does not trust women as he tried to explain to his beloved, but she refused to listen. <BR/><BR/>A widow for five years after an unhappy marriage, Francesca is filled with remorse and guilt because she knows the truth that she was duped with lies when she dumped her beloved Rochford. She wants to rectify her error and though it will hurt use her matchmaking skills to find him a proper wife who will believe his word. However, to find him a suitable wife means being with him. Francesca knows at first look she still loves him; Sinclair has never stopped living her. Although he wants her he knows he can never trust she will stay with him if another misunderstanding surfaces.<BR/><BR/>The fourth delightful Matchmaker Regency romance (see THE WEDDING CHALLENGE, THE MARRIAGE WAGER and THE BRIDAL QUEST) is a superb tale as this time Francesca¿s efforts are much more personalized as she owes Rochfort for doubting him. The engaging story line is driven by her and Rochford as she wants to make amends and he wants her; the days of reckoning between them that Candace Camp¿s fans have waited for have finally occurred.<BR/><BR/>Harriet Klausner

    4 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted June 24, 2014

    Formatting is AWFUL!!  Everything underlined, chapters listed ob

    Formatting is AWFUL!!  Everything underlined, chapters listed obscurely, poor editing.  Any author deserves better...candace camp is consistently good enough to demand better!  Ugh.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted February 18, 2014

    Kayla

    breaths heavy. Harder! She says

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted February 16, 2014

    Tim

    Walks in

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted February 18, 2014

    Carter

    I do it harder

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted February 16, 2014

    Kayla(POST.)

    Moans softly

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted February 16, 2014

    Giselle

    I kiss you back taking off your pants(POST!!!)

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted February 15, 2014

    Revin A.

    Walks over to cody

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted February 15, 2014

    Emily

    Walks around*

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted February 15, 2014

    Ashton

    He sighs against her kisses. He leans down his neck, running his hands down her back. He pushes er close into him

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted February 15, 2014

    Bailey post please

    Hey guys

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted February 15, 2014

    Emilee (post already!!!)

    Hey ashton she says wearing a white mini skirt and hot pink belly shirt her shoulder length hair curled

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted February 16, 2014

    Cody [ post ]

    She walked in wearing a turqoise off the shoulder mini dress that stopped high on her thigh exposing her long tan legs that ended in matching peep toe heels. Her dress hugged her curves pushing her large breasts up and out. Her waist long brown hair was curled and her blue eyes sparkled happilt. She walked over to the corner sitting down and crossing her legs. [ post ]

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted February 15, 2014

    There's a girl waiting in the 6th res.

    Who ever rps the guy

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted February 15, 2014

    Allison

    A tall, tan girl walks in. "Hello."

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted February 18, 2014

    Carter

    I hum.p you

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted February 15, 2014

    Brit

    Lays down pulling him ontop of me still kissin him (please post )

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted February 16, 2014

    Mackall (Post!)

    She weaves in and out of trees deep in the woods

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted September 1, 2012

    Outstanding!!

    Fabulous read. Great characters that you cared about. Some novels are exciting, funny, or heartwarming. This was all three.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted July 12, 2012

    Beautiful

    Just beautiful!

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 63 Customer Reviews

If you find inappropriate content, please report it to Barnes & Noble
Why is this product inappropriate?
Comments (optional)