School Library Journal
Widowed on her wedding night, Georgiana, Marchioness Ellesmere and daughter of the estate steward, becomes the object of such family discord that she refuses to accept the title and, unknown to many, continues to manage the estate as her father succumbs to disease. However, Quinn Fortesque, her husband's widowed brother, arrives home to sort things out and, in the process, finds himself more drawn to the independent Georgiana than he cares to admit. Engrossing, lively, and delightfully entertaining, this is the latest in Nash's widows club series. RITA Award winner Nash (A Dangerous Beauty) lives in Maryland.
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“Sophia Nash’s latest Regency is a dazzling combination of subtly complex characters, simmering sensuality and writing that gleams with sharp wit.”
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Twelve months later . . .
"Thank goodness you're returned, Quinn," the dowager marchioness said, rushing toward the thirteenth Marquis of Ellesmere. "I'd despaired of ever seeing you again. Why, my daughters and I were certain those pagan tribesmen would kill you off and then where would we all be?"
Quinn Fortesque resisted the urge to tell his aunt that if he were dead he probably wouldn't care a whit. He also knew any attempt to educate her on the civility of the Portuguese was futile. Instead, he slowly rose from the mandarinstyle desk lodged in the library of Ellesmere House, Number Sixteen Portman Square, in the most important city in the world, and ruthlessly held in check his pagan desire to cut short the false welcome. "I hope I find you in good health, madam? And my cousins?"
"Henrietta and Margaret are well enough, but I fear my nerves will never recover." She sighed as if onstage and coyly offered her hand to him.
He took care to brush his lips on her fingers instead of kissing the air above as he was sure so many other gentlemen did. It brought a blush to the former beauty, just as he had known it would. Those who had had exquisite form only to watch it depart on aged feet were the ladies who appreciated attention more so than those who had never had any beauty to begin with. He offered this kiss, this laurel branch of peace, to the woman who hadn't spared him a thought until the moment of her son's death.
Lady Ellesmere sighed and sank into the low-slung Egyptian settee near the massive fireplace.
Quinn's aunt and uncle had always had a penchant for surroundingthemselves with the most exotic, and most expensive furnishings. Upon his arrival two hours prior, Quinn had taken in the Italian silk draperies, the Chineseinfluenced wall hangings, and the Grecian-themed carpeting. Why, the mansion was a veritable model for harmonious international diplomacy . . . among furniture merchants. Well, the Fortesque fortune could withstand the outrageous expense, and it was no doubt due to the machinations of the family's triumvirate comprised of a ham-handed solicitor, a stoic banker and a deceptively polite London steward.
His aunt tittered to break his prolonged silence. "Margaret and Hen are scouring the shops on Bond Street in preparation for the little season. If we'd known your ship was to arrive today, you can be sure they would've been here to greet you. We've so much to discuss." The marchioness withdrew an exquisitely embroidered handkerchief from her pocket and pressed the square of fine linen to her dry eyes. "To think the last time we were all together we were so blissfully happy and didn't even know it."
He raised one brow a fraction of an inch. Blissfully happy was not exactly the way he would have described his sentiments all those years ago when he had been lectured, whipped, and packed off to school on the back of his uncle's dogcart one cold, dark morning before the cock crowed. "I'm sorry you've been forced to suffer so, madam," he said quietly.
"Oh, you always—well, for the most part at least—behaved properly. Not that you shouldn't have, you understand. Nephews are always supposed to have impeccable manners."
Especially nephews who were penniless orphans.
"And I must thank you again for not getting yourself killed. I only wish you had come sooner to see to the marauder who has the audacity to call herself—"
"Madam, perhaps you didn't hear there was a minor problem of the colonies declaring war just after our diplomatic corps finished regrouping following the French withdrawal."
"Yes, yes, but you must remove that horrid gel from Penrose. I insist upon it. Why, she is running it to rack and ruin. The expenses are outrageous. Within a day of running us off the estate she shoved my dear, dear Anthony into a cold grave without telling us and then re-thatched the cottages of every petty laborer and tenant on the estate."
He would not interrupt her again. It would end all the sooner if he allowed her to have her say. Once.
"And she has the audacity to pass herself off as the new marchioness," she moaned. "As if someone who is intimately familiar with the barnyard has the right to sleep in my bed! The horror of it. Quinn, you must force the inquiry. It's moving much too slowly. The marriage wasn't valid. I'm certain of it. No one believes that half-cocked story she told of my dear Anthony choking during a late supper. And one of the maids hinted that the bed linens . . . well, I am too delicate to tell you more. You must question her yourself and you must see our solicitor and go before the House of Lords, and you must go to Penrose and toss that ungrateful Georgiana Wilde and her scheming family out of my room and off our land. I'll not set one foot there until every last trace of that family is removed from my home, ahem, our home." She finally paused for breath.
For a moment Quinn had feared she might expire from lack of air. He looked at her silently for a long moment until she finally recollected something.
"Quinn, you do have my deepest condolences. We were dreadfully sorry to hear about Cynthia a year and a half ago." Her expression changed. "I remember hearing how beautiful she was on your wedding day. I'm sorry I wasn't there to see it, your uncle was perhaps a bit unrelenting in your case—well . . . the columns said Cynthia wore a lovely pale blue gown with Valenciennes bobbin lace ruffles. I understand she was almost as pretty as your cousin Henrietta . . ." She had the good sense to stop when she glanced at him.
Quinn relaxed the features on his face to encourage her to prose on. It was always better to know the enemy's plans than to be caught unawares at a later date. The Kiss. Copyright © by Sophia Nash. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.