American heiress Victoria Wentworth has spent her life blithely ignoring her father's wishes... until he enters her into an unwanted marriage contract with a despicable man. She has two choices: marry the bounder or fight the archaic English laws in court. Her only hope is Hugh Worth, the Earl Montgomery and Lord Chancellor of the Exchequer: her judge and jury. Society paints him as stern and subdued, yet fair. Society didn't warn her that beneath his somber facade beats a passionate heart and soul.
Hugh finds himself irresistibly, inexplicably, drawn to the spirited American, despite himself and his better judgment. As the inconvenient heiress takes on the fight against the very foundation of his life and career, another battle wages in his once cold heart. Everything about her is inappropriate, illogical, and unexpected. Yet, she is a woman he could admire. A woman of intelligence and beliefs that challenge the existing world.
But she is forbidden.
Each book in the Worth Brothers series is STANDALONE:
* Love's Revenge
* Love's Justice
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A Worth Brothers Novel
By Joan P. Avery, Gwen Hayes, Kate Fall
Entangled Publishing, LLCCopyright © 2014 Joan P. Avery
All rights reserved.
London, December 1879
What was it about American women that was so enticing to British men?
Hugh Worth, the Earl of Montgomery and Lord Chancellor of the Exchequer, set the letter he had been reading on the corner of his desk. He looked out the window of his office in the Royal Court of Justice on The Strand. The building was still under construction, and the noise of the workmen pierced through the stone walls, violating his beloved silence.
"Is it good news, my lord?"
"Yes, good news, indeed."
Obvious curiosity on his longtime clerk's face along with his quick glance at the letter on the corner of the desk forced Hugh to elaborate.
"It is a letter from my brother, Stephen. It seems he has married an American heiress."
"Ah, yes, my lord. How nice. There seem to be so many of them ... American heiresses. Even here in London." The man nodded knowingly.
Stephen was a serious, considerate man. His unfortunate expulsion to the States had robbed him of any opportunity to marry a proper English woman. Still, he had to smile. He was happy for his brother. While marriage wasn't for Hugh, he would not deny it to anyone else.
"Are you ready, my lord?"
"Yes, yes, Dennison. I'm ready."
The lanky clerk with hawk-like features moved quickly to the built-in wardrobe concealed in the elaborate mahogany paneling of the room and removed a scarlet robe faced with fur. He returned to his employer and helped him into the flowing silk garment. Finally, he sought the white horsehair wig. It was the long version of the antiquated hairpiece worn by judge and barrister alike in English courts. A shorter version could be worn, but Hugh preferred the formality of the long wig. It was the mark of a Justice of the Queen's Bench.
Dennison carefully adjusted the bands of Hugh's stiffly starched wing collar until its tabs hung just so down the front of the robe.
He must have been encouraged by his employer's unusual willingness to share the contents of the letter, for the clerk went on. "The three Jerome girls from America are the talk of London now that Jennie has married Lord Churchill. They are referred to as 'The Good, the Witty, and the Beautiful.'" The clerk smiled.
When Hugh didn't smile in return, Dennison sobered almost instantly. He took in the judge from head to foot before nodding his approval. "You are ready, my lord."
"Thank you, Dennison."
Hugh walked slowly down the long marble corridor, passing through rays of light admitted by the high windows. Despite his best efforts, his thoughts were on the women to whom his clerk had referred — wealthy American heiresses and their determined mothers. Rich from new money, exiled, it seemed, from New York society, they came to England in search of titles. They were referred to as "Buccaneers" ... as if they were pirates and the English peerage their plunder. What tempted a woman to exchange her wealth for a title? She must be a desperate sort, caught up in the notion a title meant respect and admiration.
He knew too many fools and miscreants with titles to give any credence to that notion. He dismissed the women as gold diggers and simpletons. This type of woman held no attraction for him. How could they attract any man?
* * *
Sitting beside her barrister in the oak-paneled courtroom, Victoria Westwood observed the man who would determine her future. He hadn't looked up as he slowly ascended the three steps to the bench. It was hard to tell his age with any certainty, considering the ludicrous wig he was wearing and the fact he hadn't even raised his head. The English and their traditions exasperated her. Nothing in the last few months had enamored them to her. The only appeal of her time in London was the freedom it gave her from her father. But even that had proved fruitless. His machinations had finally proved her undoing.
She resented being in a London courtroom and railed at the legal wrangling that had entangled her. It was painful enough that she had lost her reputation, but it appeared she could lose her fortune as well. And it was this man in the absurd wig and red silk robe who would decide her fate. He knew nothing of her but his prejudices could change her life irreparably.
He had been described to her by her friends as a diehard bachelor. Now, the Earl of Montgomery's stern expression and long white wig seemed to confirm his dour disposition. She had been told he was past thirty. Almost elderly. At twenty-one, she was certainly not a child, but this man seemed old enough to be her father. And if he shared her father's views, her future would surely be destroyed.
Since her arrival in England, the patriarchal, misogynistic nature of some English gentlemen had left her in a fit of temper on more than one occasion. Certainly there were few ways an English woman could protect an inheritance, or wealth of any sort, from falling to the control of her husband after marriage. This concept of coverture seemed medieval to Victoria. And yet because of it, she might be left with an impossible choice. She could marry Lord Stanford and be miserable for the rest of her life, or refuse to marry him and be left destitute. The very idea left her shaking in anger.
Chilled by the solemn atmosphere in the courtroom, she pulled her wool cape tightly around her. The garment's buttery color and soft fur collar cocooned her, leaving her to fixate on the Earl of Montgomery, judge of the Queen's Court.
* * *
Lord Montgomery had given little thought to the case prior to this morning. He reread the papers before him. It was a breach-of-contract suit brought by Lord Stanford against Victoria Westwood. It seemed she had reneged on a promise to wed the impoverished Englishman. Stanford was asking that the laws covering a married wife's property be applied to his ex-fiancé. What was hers would become his.
He looked up, curious about the woman, and his gaze was met by velvet-black eyes that didn't waver. He was unaccustomed to such forwardness, especially in a woman, and couldn't look away. The woman before him was the stuff of legends. Breathtakingly beautiful. Impeccably dressed in French couture that only accentuated her unusual dark looks. An apparition that could take your breath away.
He knew very little about Victoria Westwood, only what he had read in the newspapers: her exotic features were attributed to Iroquois blood in her family history. Her high cheekbones, fine oval face, and olive complexion moved beyond beautiful to unforgettable. No doubt, many a man had been left speechless in her presence. And many more, he had read, had been intimidated by her quick wit and sharp intelligence.
Lord Stanford's barrister, George Cairns, addressed him, "My lord."
He tore his eyes away from hers. "Yes?"
"Shall I begin, my lord?"
"My lord, we would argue the contract between the defendant's father and my client is valid on its face and the failure to fulfill the contract should warrant a monetary penalty equal to the promise of the original contract. The law of coverture requires a wife's property upon her marriage become the property solely of the husband. We are requesting, in point of fact, that Miss Wentworth's entire personal fortune, settled on her by her father without the protection of trust or bequest to make them her private estate, should become the property of Lord Stanford."
There was a common intake of breath in the courtroom, a momentary gasp of astonishment at the breadth and scope of the request.
Miss Wentworth remained stoic. She stared unrelentingly at Lord Stanford. Her look would have withered a more sensitive man.
"Furthermore, my client's reputation has been damaged immensely by the scandal her refusal has caused. The woman who was promised to him as his wife was inaccurately portrayed by her father as a modest and virginal woman. Neither of which, my client soon learned, was true."
This time the courtroom broke out in an uproar. Hugh gaveled those in the courtroom quiet even as the reporters in the room scribbled frantically in their notebooks.
"Thank you, Mr. Cairns." Cairns sat down next to his client, who was leering at the Wentworth woman.
"May I begin?" William Manning stood next to his client, politely waiting for the judge's approval.
"We would argue, my lord, the contract is invalid in its entirety. It is little more than enforced slavery and Miss Victoria Wentworth remains a femme sole under English law and is entitled to hold property in her own right. Furthermore, she was not a party to the original contract and therefore cannot be held in violation of this contract. That being said, Lord Stanford can hold no claim to her fortune. If Lord Stanford wishes the law of coverture to apply, he should know well Miss Wentworth then cannot be sued. It is her father who should be sued for the breach of contract."
William Manning paused for a moment. He looked over to his client and she nodded. "My client would wish to make it clear to the court the doctrine of coverture is unfair, not only to her, but to all women. The fact that it makes a woman a legal nonentity upon marriage is repulsive and unjust. And because this case is an important one, not only for my client, but to establish precedent, the defense respectfully requests an immediate decision on whether she can indeed be sued in her own right.
"Should that be the case, we further request an adjournment of the trial until after the first of the year. We feel the proceeding should not be interrupted by a recess for the holidays, my lord."
"Does the plaintiff have any objections?" Hugh asked.
Lord Stanford was pale and porkish. Overweight, the man appeared disheveled, as if he had slept in his clothes. If Hugh were closer, he suspected he might smell liquor on the man's breath. He didn't know Stanford well, but had seen him at several functions, always in some state of inebriation and agitation. He was the perfect example of his earlier thoughts on these ridiculous marriages. Impoverished and ignorant, Stanford was not the sort of man any woman should marry, least of all an intelligent and beautiful woman.
He almost felt sorry for the man's barrister, who leaned over his client close enough to feel his pungent breath. Stanford was shaking his head violently, clearly disagreeing with Cairn's position.
His anger added nothing to his looks. The man's doughy flesh appeared never to have seen a ray of sun. His hair was thinning, and he wore a mustache that added little to his small mouth and weak chin. He was not a tall man, and Hugh wondered if the American woman towered over him. The match, at least physically, was ludicrous. He must have underestimated Stanford. The man's cunning in landing such a woman must be considerable.
Finally Stanford's barrister gave up and addressed the court.
"My lord, my client feels the conflict should be resolved as quickly as possible. He sees no reason to delay the trial."
"No!" The shouted objection silenced the courtroom.
Victoria Westwood had made the objection. She stood beside her barrister in high color.
"Mr. Manning?" Hugh addressed the woman's barrister.
Before he could answer, the woman spoke. "Every day of delay impacts my life and my inheritance much more than that man's." She didn't acknowledge Stanford with a look, only a nod. "It is my reputation that has been sullied and my fortune that is in jeopardy. And I say we delay. I will not have my life expedited as if I have no standing or value. There are matters here that concern not just me but many women. There can be no harm in taking the time to address those issues."
Everyone in the courtroom held their breath. This kind of violation of decorum was unheard of.
Hugh didn't show his displeasure at the outburst, but he would deal with it quickly.
"Mr. Manning, will you please inform your client that she is out of order. Until she retakes her seat, nothing will be decided."
Manning whispered something to Miss Wentworth. If it was intended to silence her, it had quite the opposite affect.
"I am neither deaf nor dimwitted, my lord. Do not ignore me."
"You would be hard to ignore, indeed, Miss Wentworth." There were more than a few snickers in the room. "Even in America, there are rules that govern courtroom proceedings. I would hope you would give us the benefit of the doubt and abide by ours while you are here."
The woman looked as if she would object again, but Manning's hand on her arm seemed to stop her. She sat down reluctantly.
The stir in the courtroom continued until Hugh gaveled the group quiet again. He looked over the crowd. There was more than one newspaperman present, notepad in hand. Reluctantly, he realized Miss Wentworth was right. There was no need to rush into a trial, which, no doubt, would be recorded in detail by the press. And more importantly, a case whose very merits were the subject of heated discussion in English society. There was much agitation about women's rights in England, and this case could go a long way in taking them forward or back.
The room waited expectantly in silence.
"I will give my opinion on the validity of the lawsuit on Monday next. The trial itself will be postponed until after the holidays."
Lord Stanford's vile expletive filled the room.
Hugh brought down his gavel and took one last glance toward the beautiful defendant. He would be loath to admit his interest in the case had increased significantly.CHAPTER 2
"No, no, not once. I haven't seen him at any social events since I arrived over three years ago."
The former Emily Sherman, now the Lady Whitney added, "It seems everyone of my acquaintance long ago gave up hope of enticing Lord Montgomery to any of their soirées or balls. He is said to be somber to the point of boring, forcing even the most patient woman into an early retreat." The young woman smiled sympathetically at Victoria. "I don't believe you will be able to persuade him or entice him, my dear Victoria."
Victoria found this news discouraging. She wanted to assess her odds of winning, and getting to know the judge seemed the best way. She had no intention of enticing him. She was far too opinionated and forward to prove beguiling, and that was why she was in this predicament. Her father had considered her future and saw nothing but impending doom: an old maid with no offspring.
Offspring was her father's goal, and titled offspring all the better. To accomplish this, he had basically sold her to the highest bidder with no consideration at all for her feelings. She remembered the day he had presented her with the fait acccompli.
It had been in early November at the home she had rented in Mayfair. She had arrived in London in August, along with her father's unrealistic expectations. In the months after her arrival, she had met a few people who might gain her entry into the highest ranks of society, but this would not happen until the New Year began and with it the high Season in London.
"I've given you more than enough time, my dear." Her father was an imposing man. He was over six feet tall, broad-shouldered with a full head of dark hair, and a bushy mustache that did little to soften his menacing look.
"Papa. You do not understand; these things take time. The London Season will begin soon and I fully expect to be a part of it." It was only a half-truth. She had no interest at all in finding a husband. She had, without her father's knowledge, enrolled in the University of London. For the first time in her life, she was with likeminded souls. In this small group of university women, she was not strange or headstrong or contrary.
"I'm afraid if left up to you, it will never happen. Marriage is not some romantic notion. It is a bond of fortune and opportunity. You are far too headstrong to understand the practicalities of the matter. I have gone ahead and made the arrangements for you."
Her father had smiled smugly.
"How dare you! I demand you tell me what you have done."
"I have formally engaged you to Lord Stanford. He is a distant relative of the Duke of Northumberland. A man of some standing in the community, I gather. The wedding will be after the holidays. I have some business at home I wish to attend to, and then I shall return to England for the wedding."
Victoria couldn't speak for a moment. When she did, it was barely above a whisper, "What have you done, Papa? I will not marry a man I do not know. I will not marry at all if you force me."
Excerpted from Love's Justice by Joan P. Avery, Gwen Hayes, Kate Fall. Copyright © 2014 Joan P. Avery. Excerpted by permission of Entangled Publishing, LLC.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
*This is book two in a wonderful series.. I have read all three (completely out of order) and they all work well as stand-alone books. Excellent and highly recommended.
This is book 2 in the Worth Brothers series. Victoria Wentworth is going to court to make sure her ex-fiancee won't get her money. Victoria's father signed a wedding contract without her knowledge. But after her father goes back to America and she meets her fiancee, Victoria knows there is no way she can marry the despicable man. Hugh Worth, the Earl Montgomery and Lord Chancellor of the Exchequer, is the judge and jury for Victoria's case. Before the trial starts, he just imagines that Victoria is one of those American Heiresses just looking for a title, but he soon learns there is much more to her than he thinks. What happens when they find themselves attracted to each other. Will it taint the outcome of Victoria's case? I really liked Hugh and the fact that his attraction to Victoria knocked him so off kilter that he did things he normally wouldn't have done (kiss her after just being introduced). I was a little turned off with all the spouting off that Victoria did in the courtroom and out in public. I just thought it was a bit too much. I've read several books lately that had heroines that would be considered suffragettes and I don't think it needed to be taken quite so far. The story also had many secondary characters that I enjoyed reading about that definitely made it a worthwhile read. Thanks go out to Entangled Publishing via NetGalley for a copy of the book in exchange of an honest review.
His hot gf Kayla
&hearts John Edward Caster &hearts
My crush is a boy from my school who im verry lucky to even have him as my boyfreind. :)
Logan &hearts &hearts &hearts &hearts &hearts &hearts