Noble Destinyby Katie MacAlister
Second in the beloved, hilarious Regency series that launched the career of New York Times bestselling author Katie MacAlister.
If Dare thinks he can escape his fate...
Having weathered the scandal of elopement with an Italian count who subsequently had the bad taste to die, Lady Charlotte Collins has set/strong>
Second in the beloved, hilarious Regency series that launched the career of New York Times bestselling author Katie MacAlister.
If Dare thinks he can escape his fate...
Having weathered the scandal of elopement with an Italian count who subsequently had the bad taste to die, Lady Charlotte Collins has set her sights on Alasdair "Dare" McGregor-one deliciously handsome and brilliantly inventive Scottish earl.
Then he doesn't know Charlotte
Charlotte doesn't accept that the McGregor family fortune is a sham and Dare is working desperately hard to find a way out. She has no intention of giving up one iota of either the success or the connubial bliss they both so clearly deserve. She will simply have to take their destiny into her own hands...with explosive results.
"Imbued with a delectable sense of wit...an irresistible, laughter-laced treat." -Booklist
"Another wonderful Regency romp. Funny and fast-paced, with surprising twists...a memorable book." -RT Book Reviews
Read an Excerpt
"You can't leave me now! Not when I need you! How selfish is it to leave just when I need you most? I forbid you to leave! I absolutely forbid you to leave me in my time of Great Distress!"
"I have no choice. I must leave now."
"Stop just where you are, Gillian. Don't you dare take another step toward this door!"
"Charlotte, give me the key."
"Mama, want to widdle!"
"Char, Dante needs to use the necessary before we leave. Now please, if you have any love for me, hand over the key. Noble's going to be in a terrible fury if he finds out you're holding us prisoner in his library, and I can assure you from experience that Dante does not announce his intention to widdle unless that event is nigh on imminent."
The petite blonde blocking the two oak doors cast a hesitant glance toward the figure of a three-year-old child doing an urgent dance before her. Two thin furrows appeared between her dark blond brows.
"It's a trick. You've taught him to say that. You're using your own child's plumbing as a weapon against me, cousin, and I find that a completely nebulous act."
"The word is nefarious, Charlotte." Gillian, Lady Weston, picked up her son and pointed him toward her cousin. "If you do not unlock the door and release us, I shall allow him to widdle upon you."
The child giggled in delight. Lady Charlotte di Abalongia nee Collins, sucked in a horrified breath and leveled a defiant glare at her cousin. "You wouldn't!"
"Gillian? Wife, where are you hiding? This is no time for play, woman. We should have left an hour ago!" The doorknob rattled ineffectually.
"Papa, have to widdle!" Dante squirmed in his mother's arms.
"Now you've done it." Gillian nodded, stepping backwards. "Now you've annoyed Noble. I would advise you to move away from the doorway since he is sure to-"
Three sudden bangs against the door at her back caused Charlotte to jump a good foot off the ground.
"-want in. We're in here, my love," Gillian called. "Charlotte seems to have misplaced the key. We won't be a moment finding it."
"WANT TO WIDDLE!"
"What's that? Charlotte? What the devil is she doing here? I thought she ran off to be some Italian's mistress years ago."
"I didn't run off, we eloped!" Charlotte bellowed at the door. "We were married in Paris. It was romantic!"
"It doesn't matter. Open the door! Gillian, we have to leave. Now!"
"Charlotte," Gillian said, her voice low and urgent. Charlotte eyed the door with alarm as the Black Earl pounded on it, demanding immediate entrance, but she paid heed to the steely note in her closest friend and relative's voice. "I understand you're terribly upset," Gillian continued, "and I know you've had a horrible time returning to England from what sounds like a perfectly ghastly old ruins in Italy, but my dear, I have a son full of widdle, two impatient children in the carriage with Nurse, and a husband who"-she paused as a particularly loud barrage of swearing accented the increased pounding on the door-"is fast losing a temper that has been extremely tried today. Please, please, Char, give me the key before Noble is forced to take drastic measures."
Charlotte glanced from the squirming child to the look of concern in Gillian's emerald eyes. Tears had always worked well for her in the past. Perhaps if she could work up a few, her cousin would see how serious she was. She waited for the peculiar prickling sensation to indicate that her cornflower-blue eyes would soon be becomingly framed in a pool of tears, and allowed a note of raw desperation to creep into her voice. "Gilly, I need you. I truly do. You're all I have left. There's no one else left who will receive me. Papa saw to that. I have nowhere to go and no money. I sold what remained of Mama's jewels just to buy a few traveling gowns and passage to England on a merchant ship. You're the only one in the family who will acknowledge me, and now you are sailing to the West Indies..." Her voice cracked as she brushed at the wetness on her cheeks, surprised to find her crocodile tears had suddenly become real. "Oh, Gilly, please stay. Please help me. I've never been alone. I don't know what to do."
Gillian shifted the child in her arms and squeezed Charlotte's hand. "You know I will do everything I can to help you-"
Charlotte shrieked in joy and hugged her cousin, widdly child and all. "I knew you wouldn't leave me!"
A tremendous splintering noise reverberated through the room as Noble Britton, known by the (in Charlotte's mind, understated) sobriquet of the Black Earl, burst through the doors, followed by a tall, bewigged man with a hook where his left hand should have been, and two smaller footmen in livery.
"Are you all right?" the earl asked his countess, rushing to her side.
She smiled reassuringly. "Of course we are. Charlotte just needs a moment or two of my time, and then I will be ready to be off." She forestalled protests on both her husband's and cousin's lips by thrusting the squirming child into his father's arms just before she grasped Charlotte firmly and tugged her toward a nearby emerald-and-gold damask couch. "While you're taking Dante for his widdle, I'll speak with Char. Crouch, please take Lady Charlotte's things up to the Blue Suite. She'll be staying here for a time. Dickon, Charles, tell the other carriages to start, we'll be along directly."
Noble shot his wife a questioning look before settling a glare on Charlotte, who was profoundly thankful it was a short glare, as she never could stand up to one of the earl's scowls. Both father and child hastened away when the latter announced his intention to widdle right there in the library.
"You have five minutes until I must leave," Gillian told her cousin sternly. "You are welcome to stay here for as long as you like. Now, what else can I do to help you?"
Charlotte's heart underwent a peculiar motion that felt suspiciously as though it had dropped into her jean half-boots. "You're leaving? You're still leaving me?"
"I have no choice," was the calm reply. A burst of pain flared to life within Charlotte's breast at her cousin's defection, but a moment's consideration led her to admit that Gillian really could not remain behind while her husband and children sailed to their coffee plantation. She shoved down the pain of abandonment and focused her energies on explaining what a shambles her life had become.
"Very well. You received my letter that mentioned Antonio died of sweating sickness in November?"
Gillian nodded. "And you wanted to leave Villa Abalongia because you had a difficult time with his family, but you mentioned going to Paris, not home to England."
Charlotte's eyes threatened to fill once more with scalding tears that she suspected would leave her with unattractive, swollen, red eyes and a nose that would require much attention with a handkerchief. "And I don't even have a handkerchief anymore," she wailed, unable to stop the tears. Charlotte seldom had recourse to real tears, but they were just as uncomfortable as she recalled. "Everything's gone, everything! The contessa took it all for her two horrid, fat daughters. She said I wouldn't need my fine gowns when I was in mourning for Antonio. She said I'd have to go live on a tiny little farm in the mountains and tend a bunch of smelly goats, that I wasn't welcome to stay in Florence as I wasn't truly a member of the family, all because I hadn't given Antonio an heir!"
"That was very cruel of her."
"Yes." Charlotte sniffed. "It was. Especially since it wasn't my fault. I wouldn't have minded a child-you seem to enjoy yours so much-but Antonio refused to do his husbandly duty by me."
Gillian's eyes widened. "He...he refused?"
Charlotte nodded, her eyes filling again at the memory of such a grave injustice. "It was all he could do to consummate the marriage. After that...oh, Gilly, he wouldn't even try. And the contessa was forever making nasty remarks that I was not doing my duty properly! I tried, I honestly tried! I wore naughty nightwear, I allowed him to catch me en dishabille on many occasions, and I even sought advice from the local strumpet as to how to arouse the passion of Antonio's manly instrument, but to no avail. His instrument resisted all my efforts. I think it hated me," she added darkly.
"Oh, I'm sure that wasn't-"
"It wouldn't even twitch for me!"
"Well, really, Charlotte." Gillian looked a bit embarrassed. "It's not as if it were an animal trained to jump on your command."
"I know that, but the strumpet said it should at the very least twitch once in a while, and not lie limp and flaccid like a week-old bit of blancmange. It wouldn't make even the slightest effort on my behalf. If that's not cruel and petty-minded of a manly instrument, well, I just don't know what is!"
Gillian blinked once or twice before patting her cousin's arm and handing her a lace-edged handkerchief. Charlotte viewed it with sorrow. "I used to have handkerchiefs like this," she cried, mopping at her eyes and blowing her nose in a less-than-dainty manner. "But that evil woman took them away from me, just as she took everything else, even my husband!"
"Oh, surely she couldn't have taken Antonio's affection from you-"
"Not his affection." Charlotte sniffled loudly. "He was fond enough of me, although he never dared act so before the contessa. No, she took him away and sent him to a nasty little town on the Mediterranean for his weak lungs. And he died there!"
"Char, I'm sorry about Antonio. I know you must have loved him greatly..."
Charlotte stopped dabbing at her eyes, a look of utter astonishment on her face. "Love him greatly? Where did you get that idea?"
Gillian stopped patting her cousin's hand. "Well...that is...you eloped with him! You dismissed all your suitors and eloped with the son of a minor Italian nobleman. Why else would you sacrifice everything you held dear if you didn't love him greatly?"
"Oh, that," Charlotte responded dismissively, gently prodding the region below her eyes to ascertain whether they were swollen from her recent tears. "It was my third Season, and I didn't care for that year's suitors. Antonio was just like the hero in Castle Moldavia, Or, The Dancing Master's Ghost. He was so very romantic, but Papa was being stiff-rumped about my marrying him, threatening to cut me off without a shilling if I didn't marry someone suitable instead. Papa became ever so tiresome, and the Season was really quite boring, so I did the only sensible thing."
"Sensible?" Gillian stared at her cousin in disbelief. "Are you telling me you ran off to marry knowing that your father disapproved of your husband, knowing he would disinherit you, knowing that such an elopement would cause a scandal that would even now keep all of the doors of Society closed to you, and yet you did it not for love, but because you were bored?"
Charlotte frowned. "Most of the doors of Society, not all, and I don't see what that has to do with anything. You said you would help me. I really don't think spending my five minutes discussing the past four years is helping me. I don't see how chastising me for actions viewed by some as romantic and daring-"
"Not to mention heedless, hen-witted, and hasty."
"-is going to benefit me now," Charlotte finished, ignoring the interruption. "As I said, I simply cannot see my way out of this dreadful moil."
"Coil." Gillian chewed on her lower lip for a moment. Charlotte watched hopefully; whenever her cousin got that peculiar light to her eyes, it meant she was about to come up with a truly magnificent plan. "What of Lord Collins?"
"Matthew?" Charlotte snorted the name. "He's cut from the same cloth Papa was. When Papa died almost four years ago, Matthew took up the banner of ostriching me."
"Ostracizing, Char. You really should make an effort to use the correct word."
"Pheasant feathers! Language should be fluid, it should work for me, not the other way around. And don't distract me, I have only a few minutes remaining. I wrote Matthew when Antonio succumbed, but all I received back was a terse note to the effect that I was reaping what I had sown. There will be no help from my brother or the rest of the family."
"Hmmm. Well, you do have certain assets we can work with..."
Charlotte's dark lashes fluttered as she smiled depreciatingly and gazed down at her hands in what she knew to be an extremely fetching approximation of modesty. "Yes, of course, that's very kind of you to say, especially considering the fashion is for dainty, blonde nymphs, not redheaded, green-eyed amazons like yourself."
Gillian gave her a puzzled look. Charlotte allowed her dimples to peek out in a manner she had been told by several gentlemen was utterly charming. "My appearance."
Gillian's look of puzzlement deepened as her cousin explained. "You mentioned my assets, Cousin! It would not be meet for me to point out my many and various charms, but I am not so foolishly modest that I don't recognize them. If you recall, Lord Darnley did write a sonnet about my eyes."
Gillian rolled her eyes. "Oh, that."
"He called them limpid pools of cerulean, whatever that is. And Lord Beckstand composed several lines about the gilt tones of my hair."
"It's a shade of blue, but I wasn't speaking about something so trivial as your appearance, Char. I was speaking of your assets, your true assets."
"Trivial!" Charlotte recoiled from such blasphemy. "Trivial! Cousin, marriage has addled your brains! There is nothing trivial about one's appearance. Why, without a comely countenance, one would have no suitors! No inamoratos! Society would shun one! No invitations to balls and routs and breakfasts would be forthcoming! One simply could not attend the opera nor the theater, nor expect to be received by anyone of discerning taste..."
Gillian was nodding even before the words dried up on Charlotte's lips. "Exactly. You are the picture of loveliness, and yet you find yourself in a position exactly as you describe, hence my comment on the trivial nature of something so shallow as beauty. What you need is to focus on your assets, namely, your status as a widow, your good breeding, your congenial manner, and"-she took a deep breath-"your willingness to marry again."
"Marry?" Charlotte blinked in surprise at her cousin's words. "Who said anything about my marrying? You just said my widowhood was an asset, why would I want to give it up?"
Gillian cast a quick glance at the door. Voices could be heard in the hallway beyond. "Charlotte, you have limited choices. You can either resolve the argument with your family..."
"I've tried. Matthew is just as bullheaded as Father was."
"...or come with us to the West Indies..."
Charlotte made a moue of disapproval. "It's hot there. I would perspire all the time, and I cannot think of anything worse than being in a continual state of perspiration."
"...or find a position as a companion to an elderly lady..."
An unladylike snort answered that suggestion.
"...or you can marry again."
A frown wrinkled Charlotte's brow as she smoothed out the drab olive-green traveling gown her limited funds had forced her to buy en route to England. "Marry. I hadn't thought to marry. All I wanted to do was to come home. Marriage means...well, there would have to be a husband, wouldn't there? I'm not sure I want another husband."
"Well, what do you want?"
Charlotte tried on a little pout. "I want what I had before Antonio swept me off my feet and dragged me to that godforsaken castle in Italy. I want to be the Season's reigning Incomparable, I want my court of suitors, I want lovely gowns and dancing and stolen kisses in the garden!"
"But you're not eighteen anymore, Charlotte," her cousin protested. "You're a grown woman. Surely you want something more meaningful than the mere glitter of life in the ton?"
"There's nothing wrong with glitter," Charlotte objected, her pout dissolving into another frown. "It's bright and pretty and it entertains."
"It's also shallow, unsubstantial, and unimportant. Oh, Char, I want you to be happy, but I don't see how that's possible if all you want-"
Gillian rose as the voice in the hall took on a strident note. "Blast! I really have to go now. I'm sorry I can't help you. Crouch and the other staff will take care of you here at Britton House for as long as you like, and I'll have the household funds put at your disposal. If you get in a terrible bind and need advice, write to me."
"It will take forever to hear from you, not to mention the fact that you'll only lecture me and say improving sorts of things that are of no practical use whatsoever." Charlotte plucked at the ugly trim on her equally ugly gown and tried not to covet her cousin's smart green-and-white-striped gown with matching green pelisse.
"It wouldn't hurt you in the least to listen to a bit of improving advice, Charlotte. Do think about what I said-I wouldn't wish for you to be in another unhappy marriage, but it's the only solution I can see."
Charlotte nodded sadly and accompanied her cousin to the hall, kissed Gillian's and Dante's cheek, tried not to flinch under the earl's stern, disapproving look, and rallied a smile and a wave as the last of her familial connections drove off in a sleek black-and-scarlet coach.
"She's left me here alone with no one but the servants. Damnation!" Charlotte swore as the carriage disappeared from view.
"Ye can say that again," a voice muttered behind her, but when she spun around to pin the ears back on the speaker, she was faced with a line of servants wearing faces so innocent they could have doubled for cherubim.
"Hrmph," she snorted, eyeing the collected servants. "Much as I would like to dissolve into tears over my desperate and completely tragic situation, I shall give in to a well-earned megrim at a later time. Right now I have a more important dish to fry. Crouch, fetch me writing paper, and have the footmen standing at the ready."
"Eh...fish to fry, d'ye mean, m'lady?"
Charlotte raised her brows in the manner that had never failed to intimidate Graveltoes, her father's butler, but it appeared that the giant pirate the Westons employed was made of sterner stuff. No doubt it was the hook that made him feel superior. "I simply do not understand this unreasonable fixation you and Gillian and others have with something so unimportant as language, Crouch. It's unwholesome. I urge you to get over it. And don't think you can put on airs as you do with Gillian, I shan't tolerate it as she does. I'll have enough of that as I contrive to make my stunning reappearance in the drawing rooms and ballrooms of the ton."
She shooed Crouch on his way and marched upstairs to take possession of Gillian's personal sitting room. It wasn't going to be easy reestablishing herself after the scandal, but that was four years ago, and certainly people must have forgotten the details by now. With a little finesse and sweet-talking to the right matrons, the doors would surely open to her again. It wouldn't be pleasant to be forced to listen to lectures by the very same women who had called her foolish and headstrong all those years ago, but she could endure a few "I warned you!" comments if necessary. Besides, there were the gentlemen to think of-she had charm and vivacity, and despite her cousin's doubts of the effectiveness of a pretty face and a neat ankle, Charlotte had always found she could have her way if she fluttered her eyelashes and dimpled just so.
"It will be as easy as taking honey from a flea," she predicted, sitting down to write her letters.
"I can't believe it! I just can't believe it! How dare she refuse me a voucher! How dare she tell me I am not welcome to her blasted masquerade ball next week! How dare she tell me that no polite person will recognize me!" Charlotte ripped a cream-colored sheet of paper to shreds and threw it into the unlit grate. "Who would have thought that Lady Jersey had a memory like...like...like a lion?"
Charlotte made a dismissive motion with her hands as she paced by the figure sitting in the blue-and-gold brocade chair in her cousin's sitting room.
"A lion, Caro, a lion. You know, one of those big gray beasts that lives in Africa. They have prodigious memories."
Lady Caroline Beverly looked confused. "Are you sure? The lion I saw at the menagerie was sort of a yellowish-brown color and no bigger than a very small pony."
Charlotte spun on her heel and paced a line back toward the fireplace. "Brown, gray, it doesn't matter. They come from Africa, and they have excellent memories. Just like Lady Jersey."
Caroline frowned. "I thought Lady Jersey's family came from Devonshire."
Charlotte stopped pacing, put her hands on her hips, and glared down at her friend. "What on earth does Lady Jersey's family have to do with anything?"
"You mentioned it! You said she came from Africa just like the lions."
"There are times," Charlotte said, breathing heavily through her nose, "when I find myself regretting that I returned to England. Memory, Caro, I likened Lady Jersey to the lion because it has an exceptional memory. Just as she has."
"Oh. Does she? What about?"
Charlotte tossed up her hands and resumed pacing, reminding herself not to snap at the only person who had responded to her plea for help. "I can't afford to be discriminating," she muttered.
"No, you said you were quite pockets to let, but that doesn't explain why you're upset with Lady Jersey's memory."
Charlotte took a deep, deep breath, and sat on the love seat next to the brunette. "Caroline, listen to me very carefully. You remember four years ago when I left England to marry the Conte di Abalongia's eldest son?"
Caroline nodded her head. "Yes, of course I do. It caused ever such a scandal! Mama said it would all end in sorrow and that you'd come to a bad end, and for me not to even consider running off with Raoul the drawing master, which of course I wasn't considering because dearest Algernon was about to offer for me, and why would I want to be married to a drawing master when I could be a viscountess instead? Although Raoul did have the most attractive mustache-do you remember it? The ends came to two lovely points. And of course dearest Algernon tried to grow one just to please me when I admired Sir Ralph Henderson's mustache, but he did not seem to have much luck at it, although I rubbed pomade onto his lip faithfully every night."
A small headache pulsed to life at the front of Charlotte's head. She opened a window that looked out onto the tiny garden below and welcomed the sweet summer air, tainted though it was by the ever-present hint of coal.
"I must admit I was glad when he gave it up. The pomade smelled of garlic, and you know, really, it's impossible to go to sleep when the person next to you has a garlic-perfumed lip."
The headache blossomed into something deeper. "Caroline, do you think we could get back to matters at hand-namely, that Lady Jersey has poisoned everyone's mind against me by recalling my romantic and dashing elopement all those many years ago?"
"Oh, but it isn't Lady Jersey," Caroline protested, smoothing the soft gray kid of her gloves. "At least, that's what dearest Algernon said two nights past when we were at the opera and he was talking to Lord Collins. Have you seen your brother since you've come home again? He has the most divine mustache with just the shortest little beard, which I don't quite like, but I think you will find his mustache is all the rage. Many of the gentlemen are adopting them now. Except, of course, dearest Algernon. I told him I simply cannot endure more sleepless nights smelling the garlic on his lip."
Charlotte frowned in concentration as she picked through the other woman's mental meanderings. "What did my brother say to Lord Beverly?"
"About his mustache? Well, it seems he uses a special pomade that contains the glands of a-"
"No, what did Matthew say about me?"
Caroline pursed her lips as she searched the dark, dusty hallways of her memory. "Oh, yes, that. Evidently when dearest Algernon mentioned that I was calling on you today, Lord Collins told him not to allow it, that after The Event your father had made sure you weren't accepted in Polite Society, and he had taken it as a sacred duty to see his father's wishes carried out, and that he would be contacting Lady Jersey and other preeminent matrons to let them know of his feelings. So you see, it's not Lady Jersey's fault at all that you received so many cuts yesterday when you went out. I suspect it was all your brother's doing."
"That beast!" Charlotte stood, her hands balled into fists as she stomped over to the fireplace. The stomping didn't make her feel the least bit better, so she spun around and stomped to the other side of the room, anger seething from every pore. "I knew he wouldn't do anything to welcome me back into the family, but to deliberately sabotage my chances, why, that's...that's...that's a calligraphy!"
"A catastrophe." Caroline nodded. "Especially if you hope your plan to find a husband goes forward. What gentleman will offer for you if he knows your brother does not recognize you?"
Charlotte snarled silently and strode by, two fingers pressed to her forehead.
"Of course, you could always look outside of the ton for a husband," Caroline said tentatively.
Charlotte drew to a halt before her and gave a haughty glare down her nose. "Bite your tongue, Caro! I am an earl's daughter, the widow of the heir to a count, and I shall be a nobleman's wife, so help me! No, I shan't look outside of the ton, but I will defeat my brother nonetheless."
A look of interest sparked in Caroline's dark gray eyes. "How will you manage that?"
"It's evident that Matthew will not be quiet about my arrival in London. No doubt he's been carrying out his plans to keep me from my rightful place by spreading this foul slander at his clubs, filling the ears of all of the eligible gentlemen with warnings against me."
"I could ask dearest Algernon if he has heard anything," Caroline offered helpfully.
"Mmm." Charlotte twisted her borrowed handkerchief as she paced, her mind a whirl of thoughts. "There must be someone imperious to Matthew's evil plan. Who's in town, Caro? Unmarried and wealthy and titled gentlemen only, of course."
"The word is impervious, not imperious."
Charlotte paused to glare. "Not you as well? What happened while I was in Italy? Did some sort of language plague strike everyone?"
"Did you or did you not agree to help me?"
"Yes, of course I did, but-"
"Even after my brother warned your husband about you being seen with me?"
"Yes, I told you that I reassured dearest Algernon that you were blameless-"
"Then would you kindly construe your mind to matters of importance, and not blether on about silly things such as mere words!" Charlotte shot her a penetrating glance before turning to the window to breathe in calming gulps of air.
"Constrain, not construe," Caroline said softly.
Charlotte spun around. "What?"
Caroline blushed and lowered her eyes to the gloves twisted between her fingers. "Nothing. What did you want to know about the gentlemen?"
"Everything. Who is in town now, who has a fortune and title, and of course, whether they will look good against me."
"Whether they will look good against you?" Caroline blinked in surprise.
"Yes, yes, will they look good against me! That is to say, will our appearances complement one another? Will we have handsome children? I must have a husband who will give me handsome children. Can you imagine having ugly children?" She shuddered. "It wouldn't be tolerable at all. Therefore, I must select a husband who not only has the fortune and position I require, but he must also have looks that will complement my own."
Caroline gaped at her openmouthed.
"Come along, Caro, I don't have all day, I have to make plans. Who of the gentlemen in town possesses suitable fortune, rank, and appearance to meet my needs?"
Caroline snapped her mouth shut. "I...you...well...there's Sir Everett Dillingham."
Charlotte seated herself on the love seat and picked up an ebony-figured fan. "Everett? Is he still alive? Too old, Caro, much too old. He must be all of forty, if he's a day! Think of someone younger."
"Well..." Caroline sucked on her lower lip in thought. "There's the Marquis of Chilton's son. He's cutting quite a swath in town."
"His eldest son? The Earl of Bramley? I thought he married Lucy Gordonstone?"
"Not his eldest son, his youngest. Lord Thomas."
Charlotte stared at her friend in horror. "Thomas? He's nineteen!"
"Well, you said you wanted someone younger."
"Not infantile! I'm three and twenty, Caro. I would like a husband of an age with me, not one who still rides ponies!"
"I'm sorry, but I can't think of anyone else."
Charlotte snapped her fan closed. "Then think harder. I'm not an unreasonable woman, there must be someone with the title, fortune, and appearance to satisfy me."
"Well," Caroline drawled the word out as she eyed her friend carefully. "I did hear that there was a gentleman in town who might suit, but he doesn't attend many functions."
"All the better." Charlotte smiled, her dimples flashing. "He shan't object to my making a splash in Society as is my due. What is his name?"
"I've heard it said that he has a terrible temper, and Mama once told me that he fought a duel over a lightskirt."
"That shows he has passion and an interest in matters of the bedchamber. I swear, it will be a nice change from Antonio. Who is this gentleman?"
"Being an earl, most of the mamas have him in their sights," Caroline warned. "You will have heavy competition for his attention."
Charlotte's dimples deepened. "Let me worry about that. Who is this charming earl?"
Caroline hesitated, watching her friend warily. "It's someone with whom your name was linked five years ago."
"Really?" Charlotte drummed her fingers on the arm of the love seat. "An earl? I don't remember attaching an earl to my court before I met Antonio. Which earl?"
"He wasn't in your court, as such," Caroline replied carefully. "The attraction was more one-sided..."
A face began to appear in the mists of Charlotte's memory. A long, lean, rugged face, perhaps not handsome by conventional standards, but a face that had great character, a face that had haunted her dreams for the last five years.
"...although some said you would do the impossible and he would make you an offer..."
It was his eyes that she remembered the best. Deep, dark sapphire blue, almost indigo at times, with a distinctive black ring. Framed by two dark blond brows a few shades darker than her own hair, those eyes could pierce through even the most formidable appearances to see the soul.
"...but then your cousin married and he returned to his estates in Scotland. I'm speaking, of course, of-"
"Alasdair McGregor, Lord Carlisle." Charlotte breathed the words as Caroline was about to pronounce them.
"Yes," Caroline agreed, still watching her friend closely. "The only man you were interested in that Season."
"Alasdair," Charlotte murmured, seeing again the face of the handsome Scot. "He was so very handsome, so dashing, so enigmatic. Everyone wanted to be seen on his arm, all the ladies fought to catch his eye."
"He seemed fond of you," Caroline said slowly.
Charlotte closed her eyes, swaying a little as she remembered the pleasure of dancing with him, of having him next to her as he drove her through the park. Once she thought he was going to kiss her, but they were interrupted before she knew what it was to feel his lips upon hers. "Alasdair McGregor. He was everything I wanted in a man."
She opened her eyes to find Caroline's knowing gaze on her. With a lift of her chin she rose and went to the window, staring blindly out at the garden as she played with the curtain tie. "And he still is."
Meet the Author
For as long as she can remember, Katie MacAlister has loved reading. Growing up in a family where a weekly visit to the library was a given, Katie spent much of her time with her nose buried in a book. Despite her love for novels, she didn't think of writing them until she was contracted to write a non-fiction book about software. Since her editor refused to allow her to include either witty dialogue or love scenes in the software book, Katie swiftly resolved to switch to fiction, where she could indulge in world building, tormenting characters, and falling madly in love with all her heroes. Two years after she started writing novels, Katie sold her first romance, Noble Intentions. More than thirty books later, her novels have been translated into numerous languages, been recorded as audiobooks, received several awards, and are regulars on the New York Times, USA Today, and Publishers Weekly bestseller lists. She also writes for the young adult audience as Katie Maxwell.
Katie lives in the Pacific Northwest with her husband and dogs, and can often be found lurking around online.
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This was my first by this author. I immediately bought the others in the series. It was actually the 2nd in the series of 3 books and was my favorite. I laughed aloud at some points! I read it all in a day/night.
This lady can write and so funny to boot• YOU GOT TO READ THIS!
Lady Charlotte Collins, like all women of the ton, during Regency period, were raised to be vane, shallow and think little past the fashions of the day. This has always chaffed Charlotte, cousin of the vivacious Gillian Leigh (Gillian¿s story is told in Noble Intentions where she married Noble Britton). Charlotte shocked the ton and outraged her family, by eloping with a second son of Italian noble, just after Gillian married Noble. But now she is back after five years. A window, penniless thanks to the hatred of her mother-in-law, she is ready to embrace the shallowness and adoration of the ton again - only she is shocked to find the doors of the ton slammed in her face. Her father was furious with Charlotte for the shocking elopement, and though dead, her brother Matthew is determined to see she is not received. She rushed to Gillian for aid and support, but Gillian, now a mother, is off to the West Indies with Noble and the kids to inspect their plantation, so she gives her sage advice: Marry well and marry soon. Once Charlotte embraces the notion, one man comes to mind Alistair Macgregor, known as Dare. He 'looks well on her' - i.e. - they make a beautiful couple, he is an Earl, and he is still un married. There were sparks five years ago, and Dare likely would have offered for Charlotte, but when he inherited the Earldom, he inherited a mountain of debts that will take three life times to pay off. In London, to see his sister Patricia married and to find financing for his marine steam engine, he was thrilled to see Charlotte again, disappointed to know he feels the same because he cannot offer for her because since he has nothing to offer a woman. Especially, he has nothing to offer Charlotte, who will need to be supported in lavish style. To his surprise, she proposes married to him! He declines, which does not deter Charlotte. She sets up a situation to trap him into marriage¿and what a situation! The plan works, but suddenly things are not going as Charlotte planned. A faulty codpiece, a circus for a wedding - literally! - and a husband who refuses to bed his wife because he is determined, she may have caught him and used his honourable ways to get him to marry her, but she cannot force him to be a husband, a lady just has to take matters into her own hands¿such as shooting her husband¿to cheer him up, mind you!!! In Macalister¿s third novel, (Improper English and Noble Intentions her others - with Men In Kilts, A Girl¿s Guide to Vampires and Heat Wave due out later this year) she shows she is a force here to stay. Dare is enchanting, to die for, and Charlotte and her murdering the language is a howl. Maybe not quite as extra special as Improper English or Noble Intentions, this is still a winner that will have you howling. If you scored books 1- 100, her first two would rate 100s, this would be a 98. You cannot get much better than that!! Cannot wait for the rest of her works coming our soon. Fans that love Lynsay Sands or Amanda Quick, will love the second in the Noble line!!
Loved, loved, loved this book. I laughed so hard. The author makes you feel like you are right there. It was great. I would read more of this series without hesitation
Characters appear silly and spoiled...quite annoying
Nice flow funny dialogue
A funny romantic oomedy that is a real page turner.
Four years ago, the Ton was stunned when Lady Charlotte Collins eloped with Italian Count Di Abalonia. However, that marriage ended tragically and now Charlotte returns to England to what she believes is her rightful place amidst the aristocracy. However, her peers have a long memory and refuse to accept Charlotte back into the fold. Her only recourse to regain what she lost is to marry her way back. Lord Alasdair ¿Dare¿ MacGregor attends the wedding of his sister where he meets Charlotte for the first time since just before her scandalous marriage. Dare enjoys the verbal battles with Charlotte just like he did five years ago, but has no plans to marry anyone. All he wants is to flee London so he can return to working on his marine engine, but Charlotte knows he is perfect for her to overcome her past, not that his owning her heart hurts her decision. Readers will enjoy the war of words between the lead couple though why Charlotte insists she must return to her place of prominence is never fully understood. Still, she is a refreshing individual whose antics with the hero is not only amusing but also provide insight into the options Regency women had. Dare is a delightful counterpart who needs a catalyst to realize he cherishes Charlotte more than his engine. NOBLE DESTINY will please sub-genre fans with its battle of the sexes plot starring two fine protagonists. Harriet Klausner
This is book 2 in the Noble series. Charlotte Collins has come back to London after a disastrous first marriage. She has set her sights on Alasdair MacGregor as her second husband. Having landed themselves in a compromising situation, they are quickly married. Alasdair won't consumate the marriage until Charlotte is in love with him, so she sets her mind to do just that. Between Charlotte constantly getting her meaning of words wrong and Alasdair working on his steam engine there are plenty of antics to liven up this marriage. Can this turn into a marriage of love? I really tried to like this book. I enjoyed the first one in the series, but this one was just horrible. The storyline had potential, but the author blew it with annoying characters. The heroine was a selfish snob and didn't take anyone or anything else into consideration. That combined with the fact that she was always misusing words was quite annoying. Add to that the long monologues from the butler and it was like pulling teeth to get me to finish the book. I know this is a re-issued book and maybe MacAlister's writing has gotten better, but at this point I don't think I will be picking up anymore of her books. I think there should have been some major re-write done before re-releasing this book and maybe the whole series. Thanks go to Sourcebooks via NetGalley for a copy of the book in exchange of an honest review.
Read from May 26 to 27, 2014 Book Info Kindle Edition, 384 pages Expected publication: June 3rd 2014 by Sourcebooks Casablanca (first published May 28th 2003) original title Noble Destiny ASIN B00HFDVOOG edition language English series Noble #2 characters Charlotte Collins DiAbalongia, Alasdair (Dare) McGregor - Lord Carlisle setting London, England (United Kingdom) other editions (12) Source:Netgalley EARC Book Buy Links Amazon B&N BOOK SYNOPSIS Just how far will Lady Charlotte go to win his heart? Lady Charlotte Collins returns to England as a poor widow. She's eager to take her place in the ton, but is quickly shunned by all. There is only one way to redeem her good standing: find a groom with wealth, a title, and good looks. Alasdair McGregor posseses all these fine attributes, but he cruelly refuses to be the answer to Charlotte's problems. So what is she to do but take extreme measures? She'll make him fall in love with her by any means necessary, even a gun. Can this determined lady capture his heart, or will she misfire? My Thoughts Charlotte had eloped against the wishes of her family and the counsel of friends 5 years prior, returning a penniless widow to England she wants nothing more than to be reinstated within society and to that end she hatches a scheme to trap Alasdair McGregor-Earl of Carlisle into marriage. Enlisting the aid of the only friend she has left she puts her plan into motion as upon finding the direct approach of proposing marriage to “Dare” a failure Charlotte is left with only the option of trickery. The means which she employs works up to a point as Dare does accept her invitation to what he assumes to be a mutually satisfying assignation during a ball they both attend. What happens during the meeting is comical and at the same time sets the stage for Charlotte and Dare’s relationship through most of the book, it is one of both exasperation and passion in equal measures! When started this series with Noble Intentions I was delighted with the misunderstandings that the characters found themselves muddling through over and over. This second book carried the same theme throughout but is able to stand on it’s own with a cast of characters that will keep you scratching your head with a smile on your face at their outrageousness. There were times however the smile slipped as trying to keep up with the convoluted meanderings of Charlottes mind exhausted my patience as well as Dare’s, by the end though I was as besotted by her as everyone else she managed to charm along the way. Delightful but not quite as much as first book as at times could not make up my mind whether to applaud or curse the character of Charlotte, Batsfoam however stole the show every scene he was involved in! [EArc from Netgalley in exchange for honest review]
I agree with other reviews that the firtst half was hard to read... The main character was clueless and selfish beyond belief. She redeems herself the second half. If you can get past the first half, it's actually a good story.
I should have listened to the bad reviews. But I liked the first book. And it was only $1.99. Time and money wasted. I know it was said before but Charlotte is so whiny selfish and self absorbed it becomes impossible to like the book. You can't even imagine why Dare loves her. With one exception--her friend Caro--no one else in England---or apparently Italy even likes her. Wouldn't say it's the worst book I ever read---but it's in the top ten. It did pick up slightly in the end. Thus the 2 stars. Would not recommend at all.