A Regency Robin Hood, a duke's daughter and deceptions of the heart.
To escape her stepmother, the duchess's matchmaking machinations, Lady Pearl Moreston runs away, pretending to be a common housemaid, with the help of her abigail. When she is rescued from the near-disaster of recognition by a charming serving-man, Pearl pretends to be simple-minded to safeguard herself from any unwanted advances. But soon she begins to suspect that her rescuer is far more than the common servant he seemed at first.
Luke St. Clair lives a double life, pretending to be a gentleman while in reality sustaining himself and the needy as the notorious Robin Hood-type thief, the Saint of Seven Dials. The last thing he needs in his life is a beautiful simpleton in need of protection. But "Purdy" proves to be anything but simple-or common! Once he learns the truth, does he dare continue, in the ballrooms of the elite, the flirtation that began in the slums of London? The risk is enormous, but Lady Pearl's sweet kisses may just be worth it.
Book 1 of Brenda Hiatt's bestselling Saint of Seven Dials series.
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"She'll marry you, never fear."
Lady Pearl Moreston froze, her hand suspended over the crystal handle of the parlor door of Oakshire House, the finest mansion on Berkley Square. How dared her stepmother make such a promise -- and to whom? Instead of opening the door, which stood slightly ajar, she waited to hear what reply might come.
"But she's refused me twice already, Your Grace." Pearl identified the tremulous tenor as belonging to Lord Bellowsworth. "It seems dear that her wishes --"
Obelia, Duchess of Oakshire, cut him off. "Her wishes have nothing to say to the matter. Do you wish to wed the Lady Pearl or not?"
Scarcely waiting for the young marquess's stammering assent, the Duchess went on. "When you get her to Hyde Park, take one of the less frequented paths -- the one leading off to the north, about a quarter mile from the entrance. You know the one? Good. No, don't interrupt. She'll be down at any moment. Go all the way to the end, to the little copse you will find there, and renew your addresses, as...forcefully as you can."
"Forcefully? I -- I'll try. But what if --"
"I told you not to interrupt. I have arranged to have someone discover you, seemingly by chance, who will attest that he found the two of you in a most compromising situation. The Duke will be only too happy to consent to the match, whatever his daughter's wishes might be. Her hand -- and her fortune -- will be yours."
Pearl waited to hear no more. Breezinginto the room, her head held high, she exclaimed, "A delightful plan, to be sure!"
Lord Bellowsworth started violently and began to stammer, but the Duchess merely smiled. "Lady, Pearl. What a surprise. We were speaking hypothetically of course."
"Of course you were," Pearl agreed. "A hypothesis I fear I cannot help you to prove. You'll excuse me my lord, for feeling indisposed for our drive today." day."
"Of...of course. That is to say...I never meant...I'll give you good day, my lady, Your Grace." Bowing and blathering, he backed out of the parlor and fled Oakshire House.
Pearl turned to her stepmother, whose petite, blond beauty so similar to her own mother's, even now diluted her anger with long-remembered sorrow. "I know you have been anxious for me to marry, but I confess I had not expected you to resort to such measures as these to ensure it."
The Duchess appeared more vexed than apologetic. "You leave me little choice," she said, flouncing across the room to seat herself in a high-backed chair that rather resembled a throne -- her favorite. "Your father is concerned about your future, and I feel bound to make him easy on the subject."
"And, of course, the fact that the Fairbourne estate will fall to me if I am yet unwed on my twenty-first birthday has nothing to do with your solicitude." Pearl spoke dryly, hiding any pain she felt from both herself and her stepmother. Sevenyears ago, when her father had first remarried, she had wished -- She cut off that regret ruthlessly.
Obelia tossed her golden curls. "You'll have a substantial fortune in any event. If you marry well, you'll have no need whatsoever for that property, which by rights should go to Edward with the rest when he inherits. You cannot fault me for looking out for my son's interests."
"Edward will scarcely be paupered by my inheritance of the smallest of the seven Oakshire estates." She adored her five-year-old half-brother, currently in the country while his mother enjoyed the London Season. But even for his sake, Pearl refused to sacrifice Fairbourne, a lovely little estate in the north of Oakshire, where she had spent many happy months as a child. She had definite plans for the land and people there -- plans to put some of the theories she had studied into practice.
"That is not the point. It will divide the Oakshire estate and lessen its consequence, which I cannot imagine you would wish. Besides," the Duchess continued peevishly, "that addendum to the entail was intended to provide for any daughter who might prove unmarriageable. As you've had any number of offers, it clearly does not apply in your case. I believe the lawyers will agree, when I explain how matters stand."
Before Pearl could reply, her father appeared at the parlor door. "I don't hear my two favorite girls arguing, do I?" he asked jovially. "What is it this time? The color of the new draperies.
Obelia rose to greet the Duke, ushering him to the chair next to hers. "Of course we're not arguing, my love. We both know how that upsets you." She shot an admonitory look at Pearl, "I was merely pointing out to dear Pearl the advantages of matrimony, as I have been so blessed by that state myself. I do so wish to see her comfortably settled. Don't you?"
The Duke frowned, as he always did when this subject arose -- which it did all too frequently, in Pearl's opinion. "So long as she's happy, and needn't be too far away," he conceded. "I won't let my 'Pearl beyond price' go to just anyone, you know. But I leave that in your capable hands, Obelia, as I've told you often enough. And Pearl's, of course."
"Of course," echoed the Duchess, clearly less than perfectly pleased by his caveats. "You may always trust me to do what's best for both of our children, my love."
He smiled fondly at his wife, and Pearl rose abruptly. "If you'll excuse me, I have some reading I'd like to finish."Rogue's Honor. Copyright © by Brenda Hiatt. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.