Secrets of a Proper Lady

Secrets of a Proper Lady

3.5 19
by Victoria Alexander

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Who will be the last man standing?

New York Times bestselling author Victoria Alexander's delicious series about four men desperately trying to avoid matrimony continues...

Lady Cordelia Bannister simply cannot marry a man she has not chosen herself, no matter what her father decrees. So, pretending to be her own companion, she decides to seek

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Who will be the last man standing?

New York Times bestselling author Victoria Alexander's delicious series about four men desperately trying to avoid matrimony continues...

Lady Cordelia Bannister simply cannot marry a man she has not chosen herself, no matter what her father decrees. So, pretending to be her own companion, she decides to seek out information about her intended by meeting with his secretary—a man who soon beguiles her. But Lady Cordelia doesn't know the truth—the man can't resist is really her intended, Daniel Sinclair.

Daniel has nearly won the wager he made with three of London's most eligible bachelors. While two of his compatriots have surrendered to the shackles of marriage, he's remained free to woo any woman he chooses. Yet duty forces him to consider Lady Cordelia, so, determined to find a way to escape honor intact, he continues the masquerade he started.

Each finds the other completely irresistible, but when they uncover their mutual mistaken identities, Daniel and Cordelia must make the most important choice of all...

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

Lady Cordelia Bannister, Lord Marsham's youngest daughter, is a self-assured Victorian woman who writes articles about her extensive travels for ladies' magazines. Still single at 25, even Cordelia admits that too much independence isn't a good thing, but when her father engages Cordelia to a wealthy American, Daniel Sinclair, a man she's never met, Cordelia is furious. Determined to do what is best for her family, Cordelia sets out with her cousin to learn more about Daniel. When she comes upon a man in the park claiming to be Daniel's secretary, she assumes a false name to gather information, not realizing he's actually Daniel. Cordelia quickly finds herself falling for the handsome American, and he with her. Mistaken identities securely in place, Alexander has a fine time orchestrating the sparkling battle of wits between them. The leads make a superb match, bringing to mind classic sparring partners like Katharina and Petruchio or Bogie and Bacall; readers will be too amused by them to care that the supporting characters are a bit stunted. While there is no serious tension, Alexander knows what her romance readers want-charming characters, sharp banter, missed connections and a happy ending-and delivers with gusto. (Oct.)

Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
Library Journal

Lady Cordelia Bannister, still single at 25, must deal with the engagement her father has arranged between her and Daniel Sinclair, a wealthy American. Independent Cordelia is furious and plans to learn more about her unknown husband-to-be. She ends up passing herself off as her own companion, Sarah, to a man she believes is Daniel's secretary but who is in fact Daniel himself. Unfortunately, many listeners will find that the confusion of identities and misunderstandings turns a promising story into a disappointing one. The characters are less entertaining than annoying as the tale progresses, with the story line seeming to go in circles. The humor in the dialog is forced, and the (happy) ending seems rushed, even for a Victorian romance. Charlotte Parry's reading is clear and helps establish the atmosphere. This is the third in Alexander's "Last Man Standing" series. Recommended for larger collections only. [LJencourages a diversity of opinion. This was an LJBest Romance of 2007. Maybe it just doesn't work in audio.-Ed.]
—Denise A. Garofalo

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HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
Last Man Standing , #3
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Secrets of a Proper Lady

Chapter One

Even the least astute among us, upon observing Lady Cordelia Bannister for the first, or even the second or third, time would immediately recognize that she was a young woman of sterling qualities. Properly raised, well mannered, respectful in all ways, and a credit to her parents. Even her penchant for travel, her writing about said travel, and a distinct hint of independence in her attitude would not significantly detract from that impression. Unless of course that first observation, or second or third, of the last remaining unwed daughter of the Earl of Marsham took place on a particularly overcast summer day as Cordelia stood before her father's desk in his library, her mother seated off to one side.

"No. Absolutely not. Why, the very suggestion is barbaric!" Cordelia stared at her father in stunned disbelief. "And this is why you called me here? Honestly. Father, for something of this magnitude, one should be given some sort of warning so that one might prepare oneself. I thought it was nothing more important than discussion of my latest bill at Madame Colette's."

The earl sat behind his desk, the very symbol of his authority and that of any number of earls preceding him, and closed his eyes momentarily as if to pray for strength, as he often had through the years when dealing with his daughters. "I have not yet seen that particular bill although I suspect it will not surprise me."

"It's really not that bad, dear," Mother said with an unconcerned shrug. "No worse than usual."

"That is good news," Father said sharply and directed his attention back to Cordelia. "But it's not thesubject at hand."

"As for the subject at hand." Cordelia raised her chin and met her father's gaze directly. "I have absolutely no intention of doing anything of the sort and frankly, Father, I don't believe you can make me. I am of age after all." Cordelia sank down into the chair that matched her mother's. "I find the idea repugnant and offensive and really quite medieval."

"I wouldn't call it medieval," her mother murmured. "A bit out of fashion perhaps."

The earl ignored his wife and stared at his youngest daughter. "Oh, but I can make you, Cordelia. And your age is of no particular consequence as you are as firmly dependent on your family for your support and sustenance now as you were when you were a child. As your bill from your dressmaker attests."

Cordelia was hard pressed to dispute the point given that Father was right. Still, a woman approaching her twenty-sixth birthday should not be forced to take a step as drastic as marriage without her approval. "Not entirely, Father. I've managed to save quite a tidy sum from my travel articles."

His eyes narrowed. "Based on travel I paid for."

"If you wish to look at it that way . . ." She shrugged in an offhand manner even if, in truth, there was no other way to look at.

Cordelia had accompanied her parents on a tour of Europe shortly after her eighteenth birthday and had fallen passionately in love with the grand adventure of travel. Two years later she had repeated the trip with her married older sisters Amelia, Edwina, and Beatrice. Then two years ago, she had joined Aunt Lavinia on an extensive and fascinating adventure to Egypt and the Holy Lands. Indeed, Cordelia had found that area of the world to be the most amazing place and could scarcely wait to return.

While Cordelia had always kept journals and diaries about her travels, it was Lavinia who had suggested she turn them into articles for ladies' magazines. After all, Lavinia had said, if Cordelia wasn't going to listen to her advice and marry, she should do something with her life if she didn't want to end her days living with one of her sisters and caring for children that were not her own.

Cordelia had no intention of not marrying, indeed she very much wished to marry; she simply hadn't yet found a man worth the trouble. Because, as much as Lavinia encouraged marriage, she was never reluctant to point out that men were a great deal of trouble and exceptionally difficult creatures if not managed correctly. And, as Lavinia had been married three times herself, who would know better than she?

"This tidy sum of yours," her father continued, "is it enough to support yourself? To put a roof over your head and clothes—expensive, fashionable clothes—on your back? To pay the salary of your companion? A companion, I might add, that would not be necessary if you had found yourself a husband as your sisters have done."

"Admittedly, it might not be enough for all that," Cordelia murmured.

In point of fact, the total she had accumulated from her writings was rather paltry if one looked at it as a living wage. In truth, Cordelia harbored no foolish illusions of independence. Although she was working on a compilation of her writings thus far, a travel book for the benefit of female travelers, she was realistic enough to know such an endeavor would not provide the means necessary to make her own way in the world. She'd once heard talk of a legacy from a distant aunt, but that was apparently conditional on marriage. Her only true hope for real independence lay in the possibility of a wealthy, if unknown, relative breathing his last and leaving Cordelia his entire fortune. As all relations on both sides of her family were accounted for, the possibility of that happening was extremely slim.

"I never asked for a companion, Father," Cordelia said.

"And dear, Sarah Elizabeth is as much as a member of the family as if she were one of our own daughters." Her mother pinned her father with a firm look. "And you well know it."

Father rolled his gaze toward the ceiling. "Of course, she is. I didn't mean to imply otherwise. However, I do pay her a respectable wage. And Sarah Elizabeth's position in this household is not the subject at the moment."

Secrets of a Proper Lady. Copyright © by Victoria Alexander. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

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