Educated and brilliant, classics scholar Catherine Hartland has yet to meet a man who takes her intellect seriously or views the fairer sex as anything but mere playthings. Certainly the Marquis of Rutherston is no exception. But, as much as her head demands she ignore his bold, sensual gaze, his beautifully sculpted features, and his clear intent to kiss her senseless, have her heart dictating otherwise.
Cynical and weary of matchmaking games, the Marquis is stunned by his own reaction to a woman so different from the docile, biddable beauties he much prefers. Catherine might be the only woman in London immune to his considerable charms, but that immunity convinces him she is the only woman he has to have. And as passion makes Catherine a prisoner of her own desires, she knows the time has come to teach this arrogant gentleman a lesson in the true meaning of love.
“I consider Elizabeth Thornton a major find.” —Mary Balogh, New York Times–bestselling author of the Westcott Novels
“A major, major talent, Ms. Thornton takes her rightful place as a genre superstar.” —RT Book Reviews
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Richard Fotherville, Marquis of Rutherston, flicked the ribbons of his matched grays, urging them into a brisker trot. His cousin, Charles Norton, an open-faced young man of three and twenty, looked at Rutherston with an appreciative twinkle in his eyes.
"By Jove, Richard, you are in a foul temper today. You have hardly said two words to me since we set off from the Bull & Finch. When I think of it, my dear cousin, you have been in a blue funk since we set off from town yesterday. Now what can have occurred to put you in the dismals?"
Mr. Charles Norton smiled broadly as he observed the frown deepen on Rutherston's brow. He thought that he had a fair idea of what was troubling his cousin.
"It don't have anything to do with the fact that you have just celebrated a birthday, Richard?" He paused for effect. "A thirtieth birthday," he added with a chuckle.
Lord Rutherston gave his cousin a sideways glance, and seeing the open laughter on his face, relaxed his own grim countenance. "You may well mock, you young whelp, but I see little to be amused about." A smile belied the harshness of his tone. "How the devil I had the folly to confide in you I shall never comprehend." He flicked the ribbons impatiently, urging his grays on.
A comfortable silence descended, and each man was left to his own thoughts as the soft rolling hills of Surrey flew by.
Rutherston's frown returned. He was in a blue funk, and Charles had unerringly fingered the cause. He allowed his thoughts to wander to that night, only a fortnight before, when there had been a small family gathering in his mother's house on Green Street to celebrate his thirtieth birthday.
The conversation at the dinner table on that cold January evening in the year of our Lord 1811 had been all of the Regency Bill that had just come before Parliament. With the sovereign, George III, reverting to one of his mad and melancholy spells and retired once more to the seclusion of Windsor, it was imperative that his heir, the Prince of Wales, be appointed to the national helm as regent. Too many matters of importance vital to the safety of the country had been left in abeyance, Rutherston reflected, and the British army in Portugal was suffering from lack of direction as a consequence.
Rutherston's brother-in-law, the Duke of Beaumain, voiced his gloomy predictions.
"Daresay the prince will oust the Tories and bring in his batch of Whig supporters. If he does, we can expect even less support for Wellesley in the Peninsula. Then who will be left to clip the wings of that damned upstart Corsican?"
"Oh, I don't know," Rutherston returned thoughtfully. "The prince, as regent, may not wish to align himself with the opposition. The Whigs have served their purpose. Now that Prinny is taking over the reins, he will not need their support against his father and his ministers. No, I think the Whigs may be counting their chickens before they are hatched if they expect the prince to bring in a new government."
He had tried to prolong the conversation as long as possible, but he had known that his mother was anxious for a private interview with him. When the covers had been removed and the port decanter and glasses set on the gleaming mahogany table for the gentlemen, she had asked Rutherston if he would escort her to her sitting room for a few minutes' private conversation.
He had squared his shoulders and set his expression resolutely, like a man about to embark on a well-matched duel. He was aware of a knowing smile exchanged between his older sister and her husband, Duke Henry, as he offered his mother his arm to lead her dutifully from the dining room.
Their interview had been brief and to the point. The marchioness had merely reminded him, as she had so often done in the last number of years, of his promise.
That deuced promise! He tried to recall the circumstances that had induced him to make it. He had been a mere five and twenty at the time. It was the sense of anxiety, he decided, that had pervaded the atmosphere when he was in the presence of his mother and sister and had intruded upon every conversation. To them, it was an intolerable thing and not to be borne that his name should die out and the entailed estates and the title revert to the crown.
They had used all their powers of persuasion to get him married, exerting all their energies to introduce him to every eligible young female of their acquaintance who would, by birth and breeding, make a suitable wife for the sixth Marquis of Rutherston. So relentless were they that Rutherston had begun to feel beleaguered. In desperation, and exasperation, he had promised them that he would marry, putting off the evil day till he should attain his thirtieth year. A five-year respite had seemed like an eon to him then, but the day of reckoning had come all too soon upon him.
He knew that he was in no worse position than any other eligible young man of his station. They might buck and rear, but in the end, so it seemed to him, they were always broken, bridled, and hobbled. It was the way of the world. His Name, his House must continue. And he had no doubt that if and when he had an heir of his own body, he would expect the same filial duty to Family as he was now preparing to offer.
His mother had settled herself more comfortably into her chair, but he had remained standing and looking out the window as a light fall of snow blanketed the city streets in white.
"Well, Richard?" his mother had begun with a touch of asperity in her voice.
"Well, Mama?" he returned, mocking her tone as he moved to take his place on an adjacent sofa.
"Richard, I rely on you to keep your promise and do your duty to your Name and your House." His mother spoke with impatience, not at all in the voice he was used to hearing from his doting parent.
"Is there to be no reprieve then, Mama?" he asked, charming her with his boyish grin.
"Fustian!" she replied, not taken in. "Marriage to the right woman will be the making of you."
"Ah, the right woman! And where am I to find this paragon, pray?"
"I said the right woman, you incorrigible flirt, not paragon. Surely among your acquaintance there must be a girl with some starch — someone who isn't afraid to give you a good tongue-lashing when you fall foul of her?"
"A good tongue lashing?" Shock registered on Rutherston's face, and his mother smiled smugly to see the effect of her words. "You must be joking, Mama, if you think I would countenance a match with a tempestuous wench! The woman I choose to be my marchioness will be sweet-tempered, docile, and biddable."
"Bah!" the dowager retorted in disgust. "Just like the mount your sister insists I ride now that I'm into my dotage, I suppose — a wishy-washy creature with no spirit. A comfortable ride, I grant you, but so predictable!"
"No! The Indomitable Belle Fotherville reduced to such a pass? Never say so, Mama!"
"Ah, you may chuckle at your mother's misfortune, you young whelp, but when I was a gel, let me tell you, I had some spunk. And your father admired me for it."
The marquis, perceiving that his mother was about to embark on her favorite reminiscence of how she had escaped from the clutches of her wicked guardian to come to his father in little more than her shift, exerted himself to head her off.
"When you come down to Fotherville House, Mama, I promise to find you a more spirited mount."
"A more spirited mount? We were talking of a suitable bride for you, I think. Now how did you contrive to turn the subject into horseflesh, you naughty boy? No matter. Let us return to the terms of your promise."
"Yes, Mama," replied Rutherston, suppressing a sigh.
"You will own, I think, Richard, that since you made that promise, your family has put little restraint on your mode of life. But now," she continued seriously, "that must change. It is time for you to marry and set up your nursery."
"Oh, I have no disinclination to set up my nursery," Rutherston joked, "if only I need not marry a wife!" He gave her a quizzical look, expecting to see her smile, but the dowager was not amused.
"It will not do, Richard, it will not do. Your mode of life is a constant worry to me and an irritation to your sister. Richard, if I have grandchildren, I would wish to be proud of them, not have them hidden from my knowledge because they are base born."
She heard her son's sharp intake of breath, then a soft laugh as he bent over to kiss her gently on the cheek. "Am I such a worry to you then, ma'am?" he asked affectionately. "I need not be. It has not come to that, I assure you. You may rest easy, for I intend to stand by my word. But you will not mind if I take more than a se'ennight to find a suitable wife?" He brought her hand to his lips. "Mama," he said, all signs of levity gone from manner and expression, "I know what I owe my Name and my Station, and I promise that before long you will be the happiest of women."
The dowager marchioness had searched her son's face intently, and what she saw there seemed to satisfy her.
Rutherston mused on that penetrating look. His mother understood him very well. Perhaps she had seen more than he had been willing to concede. Had she grasped that his gay, bachelor existence was, in fact, a crashing bore? There was only one mode of life that he could imagine more boring, and that was the state of wedlock. "It is a case of damned if I do and damned if I don't," he thought, a deeper melancholy settling upon him.
He had considered at one time abandoning his idle existence to join Wellesley in Portugal. But the reprobation of his family had stifled that ambition. Heirs to titles did not have the same freedom of choice as younger sons, but had responsibilities and duties to assume about which their younger brothers knew little. He glanced amusingly at Norton, envying him his carefree life. And now he had this drat promise hanging over his head like the sword of Damocles.
Lord Rutherston must marry, but he had no inclination to find a wife. Women were a bore, especially the empty-headed widgeons that graced the balls, halls, and drawing rooms of fashionable London when the Season was at its height.
If one found a woman of intelligence, she invariably had the face of a horse; if she were endowed with beauty and grace she was bound to be bird-witted; and if she had that certain something that he called "quality," she was almost certainly as cold-blooded as a fish.
He let his mind linger fleetingly on the warm-blooded women he had known — the fashionable impures, those Cyprians whom he had on occasion allowed to share his bed. He thought of Marguerite, whose protector he now was. She was beautiful, intelligent, and passionate. She was also grasping and ambitious and fast becoming a bore. His mind strayed to Lady Pamela, his latest conquest, and his gloom deepened.
His reverie was broken by a question his cousin had flung at him. "My dear fellow," said Charles amiably, "do strive for a little countenance. You look like a general who has just lost a battle — not at all like the man of title, fortune, and favor that you are. Now do pay attention. I asked you how far it is to your uncle Bernard's estate. Surely it can't be far now?"
Rutherston replied that they would be there directly, and once again, for the umpteenth time, explained to his cousin why his uncle's estate, unentailed as it was, had been bequeathed to him.
"Well, it don't seem quite the thing," said Norton with some vehemence. "When you think of all the younger sons of no fortune and with little prospects, that he should leave it to you just because you read classics at Oxford!"
"Not because I read classics, Charles. 'Twas because I excelled at classics," Rutherston corrected mildly. "There is a difference, you know."
"Fudge!" retorted Norton, not mincing words. "My argument still stands. He left his property to you on the merest whim when there are probably a dozen more worthy candidates to whom such an estate would be regarded as a plum. You don't need it, nor even want it, I'll be bound."
Rutherston turned away to hide his smile. Norton, as a younger son, was talking with the vehemence of personal experience. Rutherston fully intended, with the utmost discretion of course, to ease that young man's way in the world when he judged that the time was right. Meantime, his young cousin was content to idle away his days, hoping no doubt that the right girl with the right face and fortune would just happen to come his way.
With some semblance of equanimity in his voice, Rutherston wondered aloud at the eccentricity of a doddering old uncle who had bequeathed a choice estate to a relation — a connection really — whom he had hardly seen, and upon so trifling a circumstance.
The news of his inheritance had come to him on the day following his birthday, and he had grasped at the excuse of paying a visit to the neighborhood to look it over. It would be a short respite from the task his mother had set him. Two weeks later had seen Rutherston embark on his journey in company of his young cousin, Mr. Charles Norton, who was enthused at the prospect of the riding, shooting, and hunting that Rutherston had promised. The two men enjoyed each other's company, despite the difference in their ages, and the marquis felt himself to be much more in the role of elder brother than distant cousin. The prospect of male camaraderie in thoroughly masculine pursuits for the next month or so was a most pleasant diversion from the petticoat government of Green Street and the muslin company of the demimonde, and did much to relieve his lordship's black mood.
Norton eased back in the curricle, observing appreciatively his cousin's handling of the high-stepping grays. It would be going too far to say that he hero-worshipped the older man, although he held him in the greatest affection and highest esteem. But Norton was well aware of his cousin's flaws, although he owned that a man who had such a title and fortune could be excused for being a trifle high in the instep. Norton wriggled uncomfortably in his place at the thought of his mild disloyalty. Not that Richard had ever displayed that side of his character to him. Their relationship had always been marked by cordiality and informality. And then, for some reason or another, unfathomable to Norton, Richard had taken to him. In his manner to others, however, he sometimes displayed an aristocratic hauteur that kept them at a distance. It was not exactly pride, but something very close to it; not a sense of his own consequence but more a sense of his own worth, not as a marquis, but as a man. It was hard to define, and Norton soon gave up the effort.
"Well, Charles?" Rutherston broke the easy silence that had fallen between them. "Do you mind giving up a few weeks of the Season to bury yourself down here with me?"
"Not I," said Norton with a shake of his head, "but I am surprised that you should."
"I?" Rutherston asked in some surprise. "What can you mean?"
"Oh, only that I would have thought that the hunting in London was more in your line."
"Hunting?" repeated the marquis in some confusion. "In London?"
"Well, I only surmise that the kind of game you are looking for will be much bigger in town — but of course, the Season ain't underway yet." Norton suppressed a chortle.
The confusion on the marquis's face gave way to enlightenment.
Rutherston was about to return some freezing rejoinder, but seeing the shaking of his friend's shoulders, he stayed the retort on his lips.
After a moment or two, his face broke into a grin, and then his laughter joined his friend's.
Thus it was, on a fine afternoon in February, near the beginning of the London Season, the good folk of the village of Breckenridge, in the county of Surrey, beheld two fine London gentlemen almost doubled up with laughter as their curricle bowled along the High Street at a spanking pace, with a livened groom perched up behind.CHAPTER 2
Catherine Harland paused atop her perch on the rough-hewn country stile and looked irately at the muddy patch of water that barred her path to Branley Park. A thick mass of bramble bushes on either side of her formed an impenetrable obstacle. The puddle had to be crossed. After only a moment's hesitation, she gathered up her skirts and threw herself bodily across the mire. She fell headlong on the soft ground, but her pelisse brushed the surface of the puddle and a dark stain spread along its hem.
"Damn!" Catherine muttered under her breath, borrowing one of her older brother's hackneyed expletives. She looked round guiltily to ascertain whether or not she had been overheard. Satisfied that no one was in the vicinity, nor like to be, she picked herself up and repeated her expletive more forcibly. "Damn! And damn again!" Her amber eyes danced merrily to hear her own audacity — a shocking want of conduct, she knew, in one of her gentle birth.(Continues…)
Excerpted from "Bluestocking Bride"
Copyright © 1987 Mary George.
Excerpted by permission of Diversion Publishing Corp..
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
I purchased four of this author's books. Only one was anywhere readable.(The Bride's Bodyguard) This book is listed as having 304 pages it has only 230. Page 236 thru 319 is a 'bonus' short story just as poorly written as the Bluestocking Bride. It is listed as first printing Dec.2003 but the book also documents 1987 and the short story in 1990--herefore it must be a re-write. I shudder to think what the original story was since re-writes are normally a better updated version. The two secondary characters are more interesting then the main-boring ones-wouldn't mind reading about Charles and Lucy in a future book.