The spirited Catherine Malboeuf has just arrived in England to reclaim her ancestral home, Walsley Manor, and a valuable missing heirloom. Nicholas Adair, the attractive and frustratingly inflexible Duke of Boulstridge, however, is quite unwilling to sell the estate back to Catherine. Unless, of course, she accepts a small wager...
Nick will sell Walsley Manor if--and only if--Catherine secures an offer of marriage from an eligible member of the ton before the end of the London season.
Of course, Nick is certain he'll win. After all, no proper gentleman would ever marry a woman who conceals a cutlass in her skirts. Yet something about Catherine's unconventional disposition seems to ignite a need deep inside him. A need that won't just cost him the wager, but the very heart he swore to never give away...
Each book in the How To series is a standalone story that can be enjoyed out of order.
Book #1 How to Beguile a Duke
Book #2 How to Bewitch an Earl
Book #3 How To Bewilder a Lord
About the Author
Ally lives in Texas and is convinced her house is shrinking, possibly because she shares it with three kids, five dogs, a cat, a rabbit, a parrot, and several reptiles. Oh, and her husband. She likes to curse in Russian and spends most of her spare time letting dogs in and out of the house and shuttling kids around. She writes historical romance and middle grade/young adult fantasy.
You can find Ally on her website, Facebook, and Twitter (though she makes no claims of using any of them properly).
Read an Excerpt
How to Beguile a Duke
By Ally Broadfield, Robin Haseltine
Entangled Publishing, LLCCopyright © 2014 Ally Broadfield
All rights reserved.
Catherine Malboeuf awoke with a start and reached for her knife. She cast her eyes around the carriage and stilled, waiting for some indication of what had awoken her. There were no unusual sounds or movements, and Cay didn't bark or even growl. Sinking her fingers into his thick fur, she pulled back the curtain to peer out the window of the carriage. Rain trailed down the glass in slow rivulets. Though it was daytime, the dense clouds crowded out the sun, likening it to dawn in the Bahamas. She guessed it to be midday. Beyond the rain, shops and small homes lined the street. Her stomach jumped. They were in London.
She would have to contain her excitement for a few more days before she would be free to explore the city.
Her companion snored softly on the seat across from her. Catherine had already informed the coachman of their new destination, but it would be much more difficult to convince Diana of the wisdom of her plan.
London was so much larger than New Orleans. They passed seemingly endless blocks of houses and buildings before fields and forest predominated as they headed further north.
Diana sat up and stretched. "Have we reached London yet?"
Without meeting her eyes, Catherin nodded. "Several hours ago."
Diana sighed dramatically. "What sort of scheme are you plotting?"
She knew Catherine well. Too well. "I think we should go to Walsley Manor now. Today."
Her eyes narrowed. "That is not the plan."
"Well, it wasn't our original plan, but now that I've had time to think about it, it makes more sense to go to Walsley and find the journal before we settle in London."
Diana didn't budge. "Dearest, I'm hungry and I want a proper bath. Why can't we rest here before heading off on your wild-goose chase to Derbyshire?"
"It just doesn't make sense to settle in London and then have to leave again. Besides, we're already well north of the city."
Cay curled up beside her and after glaring at her one more time, Diana closed her eyes, resigned to her fate. Catherine quivered with anticipation. She couldn't wait to explore Walsley Manor. She couldn't wait to read Great- Grandmother's journal. She couldn't wait to solve the mystery and locate the diamond tiara.
* * *
By their third day of travel, even Catherine had grown weary of the endless monotony of riding in the carriage. She tried to read her book, but looking down made her queasy, so writing in her diary was out of the question as well. As they drew nearer to Derbyshire, she studied the changing landscape with interest. This was where her mother had grown up. She had been about Catherine's age when her father, Viscount Walsley, died after being thrown from his horse and a distant cousin inherited the title and property, changing the course of her life.
The carriage slowed to a stop and Catherine ran her fingers over her hair in an effort to repair her appearance. Following a brisk knock, the door opened to reveal Mr. Eddington.
Cay stepped in front of Catherine in a protective gesture, but wagged his tail nonetheless.
The coachman removed his hat and gave Cay a pat on the head. "Miss Malboeuf, we are nearing a cross road. Do you want to proceed directly to Walsley Manor, or would you like to make arrangements to stay at the inn in Nunefield?" He looked pointedly at the sun, which crept farther west with each passing moment.
Catherine wrinkled her nose and turned to Diana. Her countenance left no doubt as to her preference. "I expect we should secure rooms at the inn before proceeding. Thank you, Mr. Eddington."
Diana met her eyes. "I can see what you're thinking. It's much too late to make a call at Walsley today. We will secure our rooms, eat dinner, and get a good night's rest before visiting tomorrow."
As they turned onto the road to the right, Catherine's gaze strayed to the left, hoping for a glimpse of Walsley Manor, but there was nothing to be seen except trees and fields.
The village of Nunefield wasn't far, and she had Diana and Mr. Eddington settled into rooms at the inn in no time. Diana opted to rest before ordering dinner. Perhaps it was a bit late for a social call, but Catherine didn't care. She was finally here and she would go to Walsley now. Separate rooms for herself and Diana gave her greater freedom of movement.
She pulled on a pair of men's breeches underneath her dress and checked the placement of her knife before strapping the scabbard that held her cutlass to the outside of her thigh. Cay wagged his tail and trotted to the door. If she left him alone in her room he would bark, and she couldn't very well ask Diana to watch him, so he would have to go with her. They set off toward the stables behind the inn.
She made arrangements to have a horse saddled for her use, but was a bit dismayed when she discovered they had given her a side-saddle. Of course she had ridden with one before. Social conventions similar to those here required her to use one when in New Orleans, but at home in the Bahamas, she rode astride without a saddle. She would have to make do.
Once she was secure in the saddle, she turned to leave. The sun was near the western horizon and would soon begin its descent. Catherine had to locate Walsley before it became dark.
"Miss Malboeuf," her coachman called. "Do you wish me to accompany you? I shouldn't like to think of you getting lost out there alone, especially once the sun goes down."
It would be safer to have someone with her on the ride to Walsley, so it made sense to accept his offer. Once she returned, it didn't matter if Diana found out what she was about.
"That would be lovely. Can you ask for direction to Walsley Manor please, Mr. Eddington?"
"You can call me Thomas, my lady." He grinned. "And there is no need to seek direction. I grew up in Derbyshire and know my way around."
She gave him a grateful smile. "Thank you, Thomas. I'm simply Miss Malboeuf." Although he might soon discover how unladylike she could be.
He returned a few moments later on a bay gelding and they headed out.
They soon reached the crossroads that had led them to the inn, and continued on toward Walsley. The woods gave way to fields fenced for livestock and small cottages dotted the landscape. She was able to catch glimpses of stone through the trees. When they circled a hillock, Walsley Manor came into view. It was extraordinary; even more grand than what Mama had described. She'd never seen such an enormous building, let alone a home for a single family. Not even in New Orleans. It looked more like a castle than a house. What could they possibly need with all of those rooms?
"Are you familiar with the owner, ma'am?" Thomas asked.
"No, I haven't had the pleasure of meeting the owners yet."
"It's just one owner. The Duke of Boulstridge lives alone."
Catherine's mouth dropped open. "One man lives here? Alone?" What was he doing in her mother's house?
"Yes, ma'am." He laughed. "Along with a bevy of servants, of course. My cousin works in the stables."
The horses' hooves clattered against the bridge as they crossed the River Wye, which flanked the property, and Thomas led her to what he referred to as the lower courtyard entrance. They dismounted, and he took her mare's reins.
"I'll take the horses to the stables. You can have the butler send for me when you're ready to leave."
"Thank you, Thomas," she said, distracted by the grandeur of the house until Cay jumped up on her leg. "Could you please take Cay with you, as well? I'm not certain he'll be welcome in the house."
He touched the brim of his hat in response, and she turned back to the house. She could hardly grasp that her mother had spent her childhood here.
The seemingly ever-present clouds were gathering on the darkening horizon, threatening a wet ride back to the village. She squared her shoulders and strode toward the door, which popped open while she was still several feet away.
"May I help you, Lady ...?" the butler asked.
"Miss ... I am Miss Malboeuf." She sucked in a breath and willed her voice to remain steady. "I would like to request an audience with the Duke of Boulstridge."
He pursed his lips. "May I tell His Grace what this is in regard to?"
"It is a bit of a long story, but my mother, Helena Walsley, used to live here. Her father was Lord Walsley."
The butler raised his brows and ushered her in. He stood holding the door open for several seconds before leaning out and perusing the stoop, no doubt wondering where her maid was. Perhaps she ought to have coerced Diana to join her after all. If the butler noted her lack of proper escort, the duke certainly would. Mama had warned her about the strict social conventions in England.
No matter, she couldn't do anything about it now.
Apparently convinced of her lack of escort, the butler led her to a drawing room. "Please make yourself comfortable. I shall ascertain whether His Grace is at home." He turned on his heel and left the room, shutting the door softly behind him.
How could he not know whether the duke was at home? Though the house was certainly enormous, one would think the butler, of all people, would know the whereabouts of the owner. Losing him seemed a dereliction of duty on his part.
Too restless to sit, she wandered around the room. She stopped to warm her hands at the fireplace, noting the ornate mantle clock and huge oil painting of some grand fellow hanging over the mantle. Her stomach quivered. Perhaps she was related to him. It was odd to think she had relatives here in this land that was so foreign to her.
The door squeaked open and the butler entered. "Miss Malboeuf, I regret to inform you that His Grace is not at home."
He held out his arm to usher her to the door.
She drew her brows together. She hadn't traveled all this way to give up so easily. "Is there a more convenient time I might call?" she asked as politely as she could.
"I'm afraid I don't know, ma'am."
He tilted his head toward the door in a not so subtle gesture, and she followed him into the corridor.
Perhaps she would do a bit of exploring on her own. It wouldn't hurt to examine the outside of the house and locate the library. Though the cousin who inherited the property after her grandfather's death had insisted everything in the library, including her great-grandmother's journal, belonged to him, Mama had assured her that it had been well hidden.
"Your cloak, madam," the butler said, placing it on her shoulders.
"Thank you." She hurried down the stairs and walked toward the stables until the door clicked firmly behind her. Continuing around the corner of the house, she acted as if she was headed toward the stables, but when she reached the rear of the house, she veered left into the gardens. Squeezing between the bushes and the outside wall of the manor, she followed her way down the back of the house in the rapidly dwindling light of day. The sun had dropped below the horizon, and it grew darker by the second. The wind picked up and the temperature seemed to drop several degrees in an instant.
Mama had said that the library was in the northwest corner. The garden sloped down at this end of the house, making it difficult for her to peer through the window, but she was certain she saw bookshelves. She pulled herself up onto the narrow window ledge, grateful for all of the climbing of trees and ruins she had done in the Bahamas to strengthen her arms. Papa often joked that she would have made a wonderful sailor if she had been a boy. She pressed her face to the glass, but aside from a banked fire glowing in the enormous fireplace, there was no sign of activity in the room.
Catherine attempted to lift the window, but it was latched. After pulling her small knife from her boot, she slipped it between the panes, clicking the latch open as Papa had taught her. She raised the window slowly, alert to any movement from within, but there was none. Feet first, she slid through the small opening and closed the window behind her.
* * *
Someone was breaking into his library. From his position behind the desk opposite the fireplace, he was likely invisible to the intruder. Who appeared to be a woman.
It seemed unlikely that a male thief would utilize women's clothing as a disguise. No one would willingly encumber himself with skirts, especially if he had housebreaking in mind.
Nick held himself still, waiting to see what she would do. It had to be the Walsley girl who had attempted to call on him. She was closer to the fireplace than he, and it illuminated her chestnut hair. She lifted her skirts halfway up her leg, and a finely shaped leg it was, to slide a small knife into her boot. She wore breeches underneath her skirts, and a much larger weapon was strapped to the outside of her thigh. Whoever this girl was, she was serious.
Just when he didn't think the evening could become any more bizarre, she plunked herself down on the floor and removed her boots, then slid her feet back and forth across his Aubusson carpet, almost as if she was scratching them. He couldn't help but note the delicate curve of her ankle and the graceful arch of her foot. Really, it was impossible to ignore a shoeless woman breaking into his library.
She arched and flexed her feet, as if they had barely survived the cruel confines of her boots, then stood and headed to the shelves in the opposite corner and began removing books from the first two. Once all of the books were stacked neatly on the floor, she crouched and felt around in the back corner where the boards met. She fumbled around for some time, her features scrunched into a scowl, until he decided this had gone on long enough. It was time to reveal himself.
"May I be of service?" he asked in a not so quiet tone.
She jumped at the sound of his voice and whacked the top of her head against the shelf. Spinning quickly, she turned toward him as she pulled a cutlass from the sheath on the outside of her thigh and crouched in a defensive position.
He noticed three things at once, each of which caused the hair on the back of his neck to rise. First, her countenance left no doubt that she was prepared to use her weapon; second, she wielded the cutlass in way that spoke to her proficiency with said weapon; and third, her eyes were a deep emerald green that was rarely found outside of a forest. He held up his hands. "I mean you no harm. Yet." He stood and walked around to the front of the desk and leaned against it, arms crossed. "May I ask what you are doing in my library?"
Like a cornered animal, she flicked her eyes from him to the door, then to the window in the opposite corner.
Her eyes narrowed as her gaze settled back on him. "Your library?"
Straightening, she lowered the cutlass, holding it against the outside of her thigh. "You are the Duke of Boulstridge."
"Yes." He couldn't quite place her accent, a strange mix of English with a faint French lilt.
Her face dropped, and she shifted her eyes away. "But if you are here, why did your butler say you were not at home?"
Her confusion was genuine, revealing a vulnerability that touched the hollow space inside him. He did not respond, but waited for her to reveal more.
"Why did you lie about not being at home?"
The woman was too much by half. If a man had made such an accusation, Nick would have called him out. He stood and strode toward her, stopping with his nose mere inches from her admittedly exquisite face. Stepping back so she was against the window, she lifted her cutlass.
"Madam, I suggest you identify yourself at once, or I shall have you thrown out."
She glared up at him. "You haven't answered my question."
He stretched to his full height and squared his shoulders, ready to issue a much-deserved dressing down to the chit. "I am the Duke of Boulstridge and you have broken into my home. I have no obligation to answer your questions."
"I should think my identity would be obvious as your butler announced my arrival not a half hour ago."
He preferred her earlier vulnerability to this shrewishness. "So you are Miss Walsley."
"No. Helena Walsley is my mother. I am Catherine Malboeuf," she said, her chin held high.
The name sounded familiar for some reason, but he couldn't place it. He raised a brow. "What are you doing in my library, Miss Malboeuf?"
Excerpted from How to Beguile a Duke by Ally Broadfield, Robin Haseltine. Copyright © 2014 Ally Broadfield. Excerpted by permission of Entangled Publishing, LLC.
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