No Marriage of Convenienceby Elizabeth Boyle
Mason St. Clair, the new Earl of Ashlin, has inherited a title for which there is no longer a fortune, thanks to his elder brother. Steeped in debt, with three ungainly nieces to marry off, Mason is desperate for relief. Only he doesn't expect it in the form of Madame Fontaine, a woman of questionable reputation. She arrives on his doorstep with partial payment on… See more details below
Mason St. Clair, the new Earl of Ashlin, has inherited a title for which there is no longer a fortune, thanks to his elder brother. Steeped in debt, with three ungainly nieces to marry off, Mason is desperate for relief. Only he doesn't expect it in the form of Madame Fontaine, a woman of questionable reputation. She arrives on his doorstep with partial payment on a debt owed to the former earl. When Mason demands full payment, she is at a loss. It's wacky Cousin Felicity who suggests that this woman, whom men cannot resist, can work off the rest of her debt by teaching the three wards how to attract worthy husbands. In a bind, Riley, as the Madame is known, agrees. Once the bargain has been struck, Mason finds that he too is falling under the Madame's spell, and it's not long before an additional couple is heading to the altar.
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Chapter OneLondon, 1798
"Cousin Felicity, my brother had the business sense of a pelican," Mason St. Clair, the new Earl of Ashlin said, waving his hand over his littered desk. "Look at these. Bills for carriages. Bills for horses. I've looked in our stables. We have no horses. And we have no carriages. From what I can surmise, as quickly as Freddie bought these extravagances, he gambled them away."
Mason's announcement hardly seemed to upset his elderly relative, who sat primly on the settee in the comer of his study.
"Frederick always said life was just a dice toss away. Perhaps you should take up gambling." She nodded sagely, as if she'd recited gospel.
He picked up several sheets of paper and shook them at his cousin. "That's exactly what got us into this situation. That and Freddie's ill-advised investments. I never knew anyone who could throw so much money at such nonsense. Gold mines in Italy, Chinese inventions, and of all things, a theatre!" The Earl shook his head. "Only my brother would invest in some tawdry play on Brydge Street."
"Really, my dear, you shouldn't speak ill of the dead," she sniffled. A day never passed that Cousin Felicity didn't find something to cry about, especially when it came to Frederick. "My poor Caro and dear Frederick have only been...been... gone now..." Cousin Felicity faltered, unable to continue. With a shaky hand, she reached for her ever near lacy handkerchief and dramatically blew into it. She glanced up at him, her blue eyes misting, making her look frail beyond her fifty-odd years.
Mason sighed. "Yes, I know the last seven months have been terribly difficult for you and thegirls. But weeping all the time does not solve the problems at hand. The bill collectors are becoming quite insistent, Cousin. If we don't find a way to satisfy some of the more pressing debts...we'll be out on the street."
"Pish posh, my boy," Cousin Felicity declared most decidedly, her bout of tears forgotten as she settled back into the elegant settee and reached for her embroidery. "You are the Earl of Ashlin. They wouldn't dare cast us out. Honorable debts are always overlooked." She leaned forward in a confidential manner. "Frederick informed me thusly whenever my dressmaker became rude or insistent about my account."
"I'm sorry to be the bearer of bad news, Cousin Felicity, but debts are never overlooked, honorable or not."
"But Frederick said "
He held up his hand to stop her from spouting another litany of Frederickisms. Even Mason had his limits with the saintly accomplishments and nonsensical witticisms his cousin attributed daily to his deceased brother.
"Really, Mason, you always tended toward exaggeration as a child. I would have thought you'd have outgrown that by now. Our situation can hardly be as bad as you say."
"I don't see how it could be any worse."
"If that is the case, you could secure quite a tidy fortune by marrying Miss Pindar," she began deliberately. "She's just come out of mourning for her father, and from what I hear, she's exceedingly well off. Yes, that would be the perfect solution." She went back to selecting a thread.
Mason leaned over the mounds of paper and gave his cousin what he hoped was a censuring look.
Marry Miss Pindar?
He'd rather suffer transportation to Botany Bay. The girl embodied every vapid, silly pretension he detested. Besides, he'd never considered himself the marrying type, having been happy until now to live out a bachelor existence.
But if Cousin Felicity wanted to deal out marriage cards, he had one of his own.
"Cousin Felicity, why don't you marry Lord Chilton?"
Cousin Felicity turned a rosy shade at the mention of her twenty-year romance with the reluctant baron. "I wouldn't find that convenient right now." She took on a renewed interest in her silks.
Mason knew that what she was really saying was that she hadn't been asked. Not once in all these years. Oh, he hadn't meant to embarrass her about her hesitant beau, but he found it the only way to stop her from pushing this proposed marriage to the cloying and wealthy Miss Pindar. And with Cousin Felicity temporarily quieted, he could get back to the accounts at hand.
"My heavens," Cousin Felicity said, interrupting his tally of the greengrocer's bill. "Have you considered the girls' dowries? You could borrow against those accounts."
Mason shook his head. He should have known Cousin Felicity never gave up easily. "Frederick drained them years ago," he told her. "Even Caroline's dower lands are mortgaged to the rooftops."
Cousin Felicity looked aghast as the reality of their situation finally sank in. "Whatever shall we do?" True to form, the elderly lady finally gave way to a full bout of weeping. "Take my poor pin money. I also have some set aside.... It is yours, my dear boy. Take it with my best wishes," she said between sobs.
"No, please, Cousin Felicity," Mason said, getting up from the desk and sitting beside her. He couldn't take her small allowance, besides the fact that it probably wouldn't even begin to cover their bare necessities. But perhaps now she'd be willing to discuss the economies he'd been trying to explain to her earlier when she'd come into his study to badger him about firing their French chef. "You know how I feel about tears."
"But the girls..." she wailed. "How will they ever hope to find husbands without dowries?"
Mason groaned. Not this husband subject again. It was worse than discussing his order that she cease her weekly visits to the dressmaker.
"Oh, Mason, this is a disaster. I'll not say another word about the way you cast out dear Henri, for the girls must have husbands. I will forgo whatever necessities I must, for I've promised them all brilliant matches."
Meet the Author
Elizabeth Boyle has always loved romance and now lives it each and every day by writing adventurous and passionate stories that readers from all around the world have described as "page-turners." Since her first book was published, she's seen her romances become New York Times and USA Today bestsellers and won the RWA RITA® and the Romantic Times Reviewer's Choice Awards. She resides in Seattle with her family, her garden, and always-growing collection of yarn.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
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In 1798 Mason St. Clair, the new Earl of Ashlin knows he should not speak unkindly of the dead. However, the amount and types of debt his predecessor, his older brother Freddie, managed to accumulate simply stuns Mason. Adding to his discomfit, is his three ungainly nieces who he needs to find mates for them without dowries. Actress Madame Riley Fontaine arrives to allegedly pay off a debt that Mason never heard of in his life. To Riley¿s chagrin and shock, the studious Mason reads the contract instead of ogling her body as she expected. The debt owed the estate by Riley would pay for the three nieces¿ debut. Instead, his Cousin Felicity works a deal in which Riley trains the nieces into becoming the diamonds of the season. As Riley and Mason work together and begin considering a marriage of convenience, they fall in love. However, she remains a financially strapped actress with a mysterious past and he is an aristocrat facing bankruptcy. NO MARRIAGE OF CONVENIENCE is an entertaining Regency romance filled with an assortment of odd, but endearing characters (and a villain). The brazen story line is amusing yet filled with tender feelings that touch the audience. Elizabeth Boyle¿s witty tale will provide much delight to sub-genre readers. Harriet Klausner
Lots of drama with love scene injected rather hastily.
Mason Ashlin is a professorial throwback in a family of charming rogues and is at his wit's end unsuccessfully coping with his untidy relatives. There are equally - and literally - colorful characters among the Fontaine troupe of actors, led by gorgeous, talented actress Riley Fontaine with her mute African bodyguard. To repay a debt to the Earl she has no money for, Riley becomes an offbeat but most effective governess for the unruly girls, as well as an unsettling mutual attraction for the bemused earl. In the end, Riley finds out who she is, and Mason finds his craft and fortune as the author of lurid tales based on Riley's life.