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Chapter OneThe Bridgertons are by far the most prolific family in upper echelons of society. Such industriousness on the part of the viscountess and the late viscount is commendable, although one can find only banality in their choice of names for their children. Anthony, Benedict, Colin, Daphne, Eloise, Francesca, Gregory, and Hyacinth--orderliness is, of course, beneficial in all things, but one would think that intelligent parents would be able to keep their children straight without needing to alphabetize their names.
Furthermore, the sight of the viscountess and all eight of her children in one room is enough to makeone fear one is seeing double-or triple-or worse. Never has This Author seen a collection of siblings so ludicrously alike in their physical regard. Although This Author has never taken the time to record eye color, all eight possess similar bone structure and the same thick, chestnut hair. One must pity the viscountess as she seeks advantageous marriages for her brood that she did not produce a single child of more fashionable coloring. Still, there are advantages to a family of such consistent looks-there can be no doubt that all eight are of legitimate parentage.
Ah, Gentle Reader, your devoted Author wishes that that were the case amid all large families ...
Lady Whistledown's Society Papers, 26 APRIL 1813
Ooooooooohhhhhhhhh!" Violet Bridgerton crumpled the single-page newspaper into a hall and hurled it across the elegant drawing room.
Her daughter Daphne wisely made no comment and pretended to be engrossed in her embroidery.
"Did you read what she said?" Violet demanded. "Didyou?"
Daphne eyed the ball of paper, which now rested under a mahogany end table. "I didn't have the opportunity before you, er, finished with it."
"Read it, then," Violet wailed, her arm slicing dramatically through the air. "Read how that woman has maligned us."
Daphne calmly set down her embroidery and reached under the end table. She smoothed the sheet of paper out on her lap and read the paragraph about her family. Blinking, she looked up. "This isn't so bad, Mother. In fact, it's a veritable benediction compared to what she wrote about the Featheringtons last week."
"How am I supposed to find you a husband while that woman is slandering your name?"
Daphne forced herself to exhale. After nearly two seasons in London, the mere mention of the word husband was enough to set her temples pounding. She wanted to marry, truly she did, and she wasn't even holding out for a true love match. But was it really too much to hope for a husband for whom one had at least some affection?
Thus far, four men had asked for her hand, but when Daphne had thought about living the rest of her days in the company of any of them, she just couldn't do it. There were a number of men she thought might make reasonably good husbands, but the problem was--none of them was interested. Oh, they all liked her. Everyone liked her. Everyone thought she was funny and kind and a quick wit, and no one thought her the least bit unattractive, but at the same time, no one was dazzled by her beauty, stunned into speechlessness by her presence, or moved to write poetry in her honor.
Men, she thought with disgust, were interested only in those women who terrified them. No one seemed inclined to court someone like her. They all adored her, or so they said, because she was so easy to talk to, and she always seemed to understand how a man felt. As one of the men Daphne had thought might make a reasonably good husband had said, "Deuce take it, Daff, you're just not like regular females. You're positively normal."
Which she might have managed to consider a compliment if he hadn't proceeded to wander off in search of the latest blond beauty.
Daphne looked down and noticed that her hand was clenched into a fist. Then she looked up and realized her mother was staring at her, clearly waiting for her to say something. Since she had already exhaled, Daphne cleared her throat, and said, "I'm sure Lady Whistledown's little column is not going to hurt my chances for a husband."
"Daphne, it's been two years!"
"And Lady Whistledown has only been publishing for three months, so I hardly see how we can lay the blame at her door."
"I'll lay the blame wherever I choose," Violet muttered.
Daphne's fingernails bit her palms as she willed herself not to make a retort. She knew her mother had only her best interests at heart, she knew her mother loved her. And she loved her mother, too. In fact, until Daphne had reached marriageable age, Violet had been positively the best of mothers. She still was, when she wasn't despairing over the fact that after Daphne she had three more daughters to marry off.
Violet pressed a delicate hand to her chest. "She cast aspersions on your parentage."
"No," Daphne said slowly. It was always wise to proceed with caution when contradicting her mother. "Actually, what she said was that there could be no doubt that we are all legitimate. Which is more than one can say for most large families of the ton."
"She shouldn't have even brought it up," Violet sniffed.
"Mother, she's the author of a scandal sheet. It's her job to bring such things up."
"She isn't even a real person," Violet added angrily. She planted her hands on her slim hips, then changed her mind and shook her finger in the air. "Whistledown, ha! I've never heard of any Whistledowns. Whoever this depraved woman is, I doubt she's one of us. As if anyone of breeding would write such wicked lies."
"Of course she's one of us," Daphne said, her brown eyes filling with amusement. "If she weren't a member of the ton, there is no way she'd be privy to the sort of news she reports. Did you think she was some sort Of impostor, peeking in windows and listening at doors?" The Duke and I
. Copyright © by Julia Quinn. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.