Marriage Most Scandalous

Marriage Most Scandalous

by Johanna Lindsey


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#1 New York Times bestselling author Johanna Lindsay presents a powerfully romantic Regency-era tale that is breathtaking in scope and wondrously passionate.

When Sebastian Townshend, son of the eighth Earl of Edgewood, was banished from his family due to the tragic results of a duel, he vowed never to return to England. Now living on the continent, Sebastian has forged a new identity as a deadly mercenary, The Raven. But his former neighbor, Lady Margaret Landor, has different plans for him. Back in England, Sebastian's father has had several accidents and Margaret suspects foul play and deception that reach as far back as the infamous duel. Convinced that only Sebastian can set the situation to rights, Margaret arranges a scandalous bargain with him that includes Sebastian's returning home as her husband. As the newlyweds uncover a deadly scheme, a fierce passion blossoms between them, which neither anticipated — and neither can resist.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781476798394
Publisher: Gallery Books
Publication date: 10/04/2014
Edition description: Reissue
Pages: 448
Sales rank: 473,967
Product dimensions: 7.90(w) x 4.90(h) x 1.20(d)

About the Author

Johanna Lindsey (1952–2019) was world-renowned for her “mastery of historical romance” (Entertainment Weekly), with more than sixty million copies of her novels sold. She was the author of nearly sixty nationally bestselling novels, many of which reached the #1 spot on the New York Times bestseller list. Lindsey lived in New Hampshire with her family.

Read an Excerpt

Marriage Most Scandalous

By Johanna Lindsey

Pocket Books

Copyright © 2005 Johanna Lindsey
All right reserved.

ISBN: 1-4165-0545-8

Chapter One

Like many towns and villages throughout Austria, Felburg had its share of Baroque architecture in its churches and its plaza, its fountains and charming squares. Where Vienna overwhelmed, Felburg offered peace and quiet, which was why Sebastian Townshend decided to spend the night there as he passed through the Alpine hills.

The job he had just finished had been frustrating, taking him from France to Italy, back to France, then to Hungary, and finally to Vienna. His mission had been to retrieve stolen books, very rare books that a wife had absconded with. His current employer didn't want his wife back, just the books. Sebastian had them in his possession now. The wife hadn't been cooperative, though. He'd had to steal them from her.

It had been a distasteful task but not as abhorrent as some of the jobs he'd taken over the years since he'd left home. For quite a few years he hadn't discriminated. He simply had little reason to care about anything. Disowned by his father, all ties to his family broken, and carrying a bitterness deep inside himself that he refused to acknowledge, Sebastian wasn't a man to trifle with. You had to have a reason to live in order to value life. He didn't particularly value his.

He used to. Wealth, title, good friends, and family had all been his. His life had seemed almost charmed. He had a tall, strapping body, exceptional good looks, and enjoyed splendid health. He'd had it all. But that was before he'd killed his best friend in a duel and had been told by his father never to darken England's shores again.

He hadn't gone back, had sworn he never would. England, once his home, held only painful memories for him. He'd been adrift now for eleven of his thirty-three years and saw no end to it.

Europe could be called his home if he had to name a place, but there was no place in particular that he favored. He'd been to every country on the Continent and a few beyond, spoke all of the major languages and a few of the less well-known ones, three acquired by necessity, six in all. He could afford a nice property to settle on. He'd left home penniless, but the jobs he took were lucrative, and with nothing to spend his money on, he was quite rich. But the idea of "home" reminded him too much of his real one, so he'd avoided establishing one. And he was rarely in one place for long. He lived in inns and hotels, and frequently when he was on a job, on a pallet on the ground.

He did buy one property in the north of France, though, only because he found it occasionally useful. The crumbling ruins of an old keep could hardly be called a home. The only thing intact in it had been the dungeon, but even that consisted of bare doorless cells that he'd never bothered to refurbish. He'd bought the ruins mainly to have a place where those looking to hire him could readily find him, or leave word with the caretaker he kept there. And because it suited his fancy to own a ruins, so similar to his life.

He didn't travel alone. Oddly enough, his valet had elected to go into exile with him. An adventurous sort John Richards had turned out to be, he actually enjoyed his new role. He still acted as Sebastian's valet, but he was also his source of information. As soon as they arrived in a new town or city, John would make himself scarce, then return with all pertinent information about the area and the important people who lived there. John could make himself understood in two more languages than Sebastian, though none of them fluently. He had become invaluable for Sebastian's line of work. He'd also become a friend, though neither of them would ever admit it, and John prided himself on adhering to his role of servant, albeit a superior one.

There was one other in their entourage now, a spunky ten-year-old lad who called himself Timothy Charles. He was English, though he'd been orphaned in Paris, which was where they'd met him last year when Timothy had been unsuccessful in picking Sebastian's pocket. John had taken pity on the lad because he reminded him of home and he was homeless in a foreign city. Somehow or other it was decided that they'd keep him, at least until they could find him a good home. They really ought to get around to doing that one of these days.

"Raven I believe you are called?"

Sebastian had been enjoying a glass of Austrian wine in the dining room of the inn where they were spending the night. The well-dressed man who had approached his table looked official. Tall, middle-aged, impeccably dressed. The two men who stood behind him looked like guards, not by their dress, which was plain, and not by their stature, which was on the short side. It was their alertness, the way they kept their eyes not just on Sebastian but also on the entire room.

Sebastian merely raised a black brow and said indifferently to the tall fellow, "I'm called many things. That's one of them."

He had a reputation, unwanted, certainly not intentional, but it had developed nonetheless, no doubt partially at John's instigation, of being a mercenary for hire, capable of accomplishing the impossible. He wasn't sure how he got the name Raven, possibly because there was a certain sinister look to him with his black hair and golden cat's eyes, though he wouldn't be surprised if the name was John's doing as well. And John never failed to let his contacts know that The Raven was in town, which frequently produced jobs that he wouldn't have otherwise heard about.

"You are for hire, yes?"

"Usually - if my fee is met."

The man nodded and assured him, "A man of your caliber would be expensive. This is understood and will not be an issue. My employer is generous and will more than meet your price. Do you accept?"

"Accept what? I don't hire on blindly."

"No, no, of course not. But the job is a very simple one, will require only time and a little effort."

"Then you don't need me. Good day."

The man looked shocked at being dismissed. Sebastian stood up and finished his wine. He didn't like dealing with lackeys, no matter how official or important they were. And he certainly wasn't interested in a simple job that anyone could do. But frequently he encountered rich men who could afford him, who wanted to hire him just so they could brag to their friends that they had employed the notorious Raven.

He started to walk away from the table. The two guards suddenly moved to block his way. He didn't laugh. Humor wasn't part of his character anymore. That deep bitterness that he refused to acknowledge left no room for humor. He was annoyed, though, that he was going to be forced to expend effort just to say no.

Before any violence could erupt, the official said, "I must insist that you reconsider. The duke expects you to be hired. He cannot be disappointed."

Sebastian still didn't laugh, though this time he actually had a small urge to do so. He took a moment to deal with the two fellows who thought to detain him, grasping each of them by their heads, which he smashed together. They crumpled at his feet while he glanced back at the official.

"You had a point to make?"

The man was staring at his guards on the floor. He looked disgusted. Sebastian couldn't blame him. Good guards were hard to come by.

The official sighed before he faced Sebastian again. "You've certainly made your point, sir. And allow me to apologize. I understated the matter, which on the surface seems simple enough but is far from it. Others have been sent to perform the task, and all have failed. Five years of failures. Have I intrigued you yet?"

"No, but you've gained a few more minutes of my time," Sebastian said and sat down again at the table. With a hand he indicated the man could make use of the other chair there. "Keep it brief, but be precise this time."

The fellow sat down, cleared his throat. "I work for Leopold Baum. This is his town, in case you were not aware of it. As you might guess, men of the duke's stature make enemies rather easily. It's unavoidable. One in particular happened to be his wife."

"She was his enemy when he married her?"

"No, but it didn't take her long to become one."

Sebastian raised a brow. "He's that difficult to get along with?"

"No, no, certainly not," the fellow insisted in defense of his employer. "But she possibly thought so. But to the facts. Five years ago she was kidnapped, at least it seemed so. A ransom was demanded and delivered, but the duchess wasn't returned. It was assumed she was killed. The duke was furious, of course. An extensive search ensued, but there were no clues to follow."

"Let me guess," Sebastian said dryly. "She perpetrated the kidnapping plot to extract some wealth before she went on her merry way?"

The fellow flushed. "So it would seem. Several months after the ransom was paid, she was seen traveling, quite in style, across Europe. Men were sent after her. A few more clues were found, but she never was."

"So what exactly does the duke want? His wife, his money, or both?"

"The money isn't important."

"If that's the case, why wasn't more expended in finding her? It sounds like he didn't really want her back."

"Frankly, sir, I must agree with you," the fellow confided. "I would have devoted more effort myself if she were my wife and I'd yet to produce an heir."

Sebastian sat back, somewhat surprised, though his expression remained inscrutable. He waited for the man to clarify his statement. He did appear slightly nervous now, after saying it.

"That is not to say that a great deal of effort has not already been made in the search. But the duke is a busy man. He has not spent every moment of these last years actively pursuing the matter. Now, however, he has become obsessed with finding her so he can divorce her and remarry."

"Ah, finally to the heart of the matter."

The fellow flushed, and his nod was so slight it was almost imperceptible. His nervousness was understandable now. He was saying things his employer wouldn't like him to reveal.

"When he heard you were in town, his hopes soared. Your reputation of success, no matter how difficult the job, has preceded you. He has every confidence that you will find his wife and bring her home."

"If I take the job."

"But you must!" the fellow began, then amended, "Or does it seem too difficult a task, even for you?"

Sebastian didn't take the bait. "I don't particularly like jobs that deal with women. I also haven't finished my last job, am on my way to France now to do that."

"But that is not a problem," the fellow assured him with some relief. "This job will take you in that direction. A brief detour would be quite permissible."

"That's where the duke's wife was last seen, in France?"

"The trail led there, and beyond. The duke's arm is far-reaching. Putting a great distance between herself and Austria appears to have been her priority during her escape."

"Did she head to the Americas?"

"No - at least we pray not. And a woman of her description took ship to Portsmouth at the time. The last report we had was that she took ship again, but only farther up the coast of England. Another ship was available, to North America, but since she didn't take that one, we concluded she decided to settle in England under an assumed name. There were no further reports. Every other man who was sent there to find her has never returned." And then the fellow whispered, "It's my guess they were afraid to return to the duke with only failure to report."

Having heard enough, Sebastian stood up to leave. "I am afraid I will have to decline after all," he said, a coldness having entered his tone. "England is one place I will never go. Good day."

He expected the man to try and stop him again. He didn't, probably because he realized it wouldn't do any good. Just as well. Jobs that dealt with women had an extra level of difficulty. On every single one he'd taken, the female involved had tried to seduce him.

John found it amusing, hilariously so, claiming that Sebastian was too handsome to be a mercenary. Sebastian disagreed. It was his reputation, the sinister persona of The Raven, and his indifference to the women that created the problem. He believed in putting the job before pleasure. But the women felt differently. Intrigued by him, they saw no reason to wait until the job was finished to become intimately acquainted with him. Which is where the added difficulty came in.

He had an ingrained sense of duty, which was probably why he excelled at his chosen occupation. Anything that deviated from getting the job done was to be avoided. Anything that distracted him was to be avoided as well. And a woman trying to seduce him was a definite distraction. He might not call himself an Englishman anymore, but he was still a man. So it really was just as well that he couldn't accept the duke's job.


Excerpted from Marriage Most Scandalous by Johanna Lindsey Copyright © 2005 by Johanna Lindsey. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Marriage Most Scandalous 3.9 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 79 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
After reading some of the spectacularly bad reviews for this book I expected it to be awful, but was pleasantly surprised. I think it was a decent read, not her best, but ok. I think it was better than some of her other recent novels (A Man to Call My Own), and wasn't nearly as terrible as a lot of people claimed it was. I found the ending neither confusing, nor convoluted, and I find it hard to believe that anyone who paid a modicum of attention to the story would find it overly so either. Also, it was implied that the story is 'far-fetched' and to an extent it's true, but isn't that somewhat of an element of romance novels in general? I know I don't read romance novels because I expect that that's going to happen in real life! It's worth giving a chance anyway, and I feel many of the reviewers were a bit too harsh in reviewing it. It's true, it's not up to the usual standard, but it certainly was better than 1-2 stars.
harstan More than 1 year ago
In 1808 Sebastian Townshend is stunned to learn that his best friend Giles Weymess married a ¿whore¿ who he just slept with; however, he was unprepared for Giles to challenge him to a duel as the new wife weeping confessed that Sebastian seduced her. At Dueling Rock, Sebastian kills Giles. Feeling guilt and wanting to die, Sebastian flees to the continent where he becomes Raven the mercenary. --- When a series of near deadly accidents occur to Sebastian¿s father Douglas, his ward Lady Margaret Landor wonders if his younger son Denton and his spouse want to inherit early. She knows the only person she feels can keep her beloved guardian safe and uncover the truth is Sebastian. She travels to illicit his help; he refuses to go home unless she pays his mercenary fee that she cannot remit or her body in trade. Offering him a fortune they return to his home to learn the truth even as they fall in love. --- MARRIAGE MOST SCANDALOUS is a fabulous Regency romantic suspense starring a wonderful courageous heroine and her remorseful brooding champion. The exciting story line at times reads like an amateur sleuth tale as the lead couple try to keep his father safe and learn who the malevolence is as much as a save his soul historical. With several Lindsey twists, sub-genre fans will treasure this author¿s latest fine scandal driven tale.--- Harriet Klausner
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I like Johanna Lindsay. And this bookwas no exception. There were some editing errors that made it difficut to figure out which character was speaking but over all I still rnjoyed the book. Great chraracters, mystery, passion and love.
LynDenise More than 1 year ago
Loved this book -- Had a hard time putting it down!
Guest More than 1 year ago
There's definite chemistry between the characters, however there's not much time spent between them for the readers to obsorb. The plot is weak, but I still liked the book.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I think that this book was ok. I rushed to the book store to get it and it took me a week to read it. I usually read her books in a day or two. It was slow and did not have any real passion. I thought that it was hard to follow in some places. This book will not deter me from buying other books. I still love her books, but this one was not my favorite.
Lostshadows on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The book contains potentially interesting setups, that constantly go nowhere. The hero and heroine's reason for the charade seems forced, and neither of them is all that interesting a character. And when what is actually going on is revealed, it's a huge let down.
dmwmtgal on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Another keeper. A great example of why I love Johanna Lindsey's writing so much. I read it from cover to cover - couldn't put it down
TallyDi on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Since romance novels are escapist reading, their formulaic structure doesn't bother me. Lindsey's are well written around characters that I can like. This one added a twist to the end that was a complete surprise and made me move this book to my "read again" stack.
ancestorsearch on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Excellent book, a keeper for me. From page one I was hooked could not put it down.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Loved this sooo much!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I enjoyed this story very much!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I never seemed to connect with the heroine, which made the book very flat for me. Overall, it was a good story with interesting characters, but very slow moving! It was difficult for me to finish.
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Loved it! Unexpected ending!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I really enjoyed this book.
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This is why I keep reading her books. Keepsme entertained.
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Havent read a book by johanna lindsey that i havent become completely enraptured with.
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