Bestselling author Amelia Grey is back with a brand-new tale of daring, desire, and a delightfully scandalous bargain in her newest, sexy Regency-set historical romance, The Earl Claims a Bride.
CAN A HASTILY ARRANGED MATCH
Harrison Thornwick is the Heirs' Club's newest member. His carefree days as a reckless rogue carousing around London are suddenly behind him after the tragic death of his brother leaves him in charge of the family estate. What's more, the Prince himself has offered to secure his marital prospects. Now Harrison has no choice but to grin and bear his noble fate-and the woman who's been chosen for him.
BECOME A LOVE FOR ALL TIME?Miss Angelina Rule is a spectacular beauty, a dream match for any man. But she is fiercely independent-and full of passion-and is all set to rebel against her royal order of marriage...until she meets the devilishly charming Harrison. With him by her side, Angelina devises a scheme that will teach her meddlesome relatives a lesson, once and for all. But little did she and Harrison expect to fall into a tempestuous attraction-and a powerful desire that neither of them can deny...
About the Author
New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Amelia Grey read her first romance book when she was thirteen. She's been a devoted reader of love stories ever since.
Amelia has been happily married to her high school sweetheart for over thirty-five years and she lives on the beautiful gulf coast of Northwest Florida.
She is a two-time winner of the prestigious Booksellers Best Award, and she has also won the Aspen Gold, and Golden Quill awards. Writing as Gloria Dale Skinner, she won the coveted Romantic Times Award for Love and Laughter and the Maggie Award. Amelia's books have been published in Europe, Indonesia, Turkey, Russia, and Japan. Several of her books have been featured in Doubleday and Rhapsody Book Clubs.
The Duke In My Bed is Amelia's first book in the widely acclaimed "The Heirs' Club of Scoundrels" trilogy.
Read an Excerpt
The Earl Claims a Bride
By Amelia Grey
St. Martin's PressCopyright © 2015 Amelia Grey
All rights reserved.
He which hath no stomach to this fight, let him depart. Henry V 4.3.35–36
The last thing Harrison Thornwick wanted to do was shoot the man, but he didn't have a choice.
Harrison's head was pounding and his eyes were blurry, but his spine was straight as an arrow as he stood back-to-back with — with ...
He grunted a tired laugh.
Well, hell, Harrison couldn't remember the tosspot's name. They'd been playing cards all night at one of the gambling hells on the east side of Bond Street and both he and Mr. No Name were deep in their cups. It was a wonder Harrison was still upright and thinking at all.
No Name had accused Harrison of cheating after he'd won all the man's money and prized stallion, too. And then the bloke had the nerve to call him out. Harrison tried to quiet him, but pointing out his shortcomings as a card player had enraged the dandy all the more. The only thing that had mollified him was Harrison picking up the glove the man had thrown to the floor of the club.
If he wanted to get shot, Harrison would have to oblige him.
"Dueling is against the law," Harrison's second reminded him in a subdued voice as he extended the pistol to him.
"Either that gentleman has a death wish or he doesn't know you are one of the best shots in London, even when you are none too steady on your feet as you are now. Do you really want to do this?"
"No. I don't like dueling, and I hope this is my last. I never like shooting a man."
"Then perhaps you should just conveniently miss this time and not wound him."
Harrison took the pistol without bothering to look at it. "He called me a card cheat."
"He's drunk and so are you."
"I'm not the one itching to feel a lead ball in my shoulder this morning. He is. You know I gave him ample opportunity to repair the injury. I cannot accept the affront without redress. This point will be settled here and will be settled now. My honor demands it."
"Very well," the second said and stepped away.
Harrison had shed his hat, cloak, and gloves in preparation for the duel. As was the custom, he'd allowed his second to inspect the pistols, make all the arrangements, and resolve the details with No Name's second.
A dozen or so bloodthirsty witnesses formed a silent bulwark at the edge of the field of honor. They held their impatience well. Harrison knew the small crowd was ready to get on with the matter and be off to their slumber.
So was Harrison.
"On the count of ten, gentlemen," someone called, "turn, lower your weapons, and fire."
Harrison placed his forefinger on the cold metal of the trigger and lifted the barrel of the pistol level with his chin.
The ground crunched as Harrison took a wide step and a calming, shallow breath. He didn't know whose property they were on, but it had been a short carriage drive outside London. The area was all it needed to be: wooded and isolated.
"Two ... three ..."
The last vestige of night had faded. Scattered whorls of fog had evaporated, and the early-morning sky was shaping up to be a bright shade of blue even though the winter air was damned crisp. Sunlight glistening on the crest of the horizon was visible through the spindly limbs of the barren trees.
"Four ... five ..."
Harrison couldn't help but think it was going to be a good day — after he got this nasty business out of the way.
Harrison halted and looked around. A tall, robust gentleman clutched his hat to his head and ran out of a thicket of trees with his coattails flapping behind him. He skidded on traces of silvery dew covering the hard ground before stopping between Harrison and his opponent, gasping to catch his breath.
"I've been looking for you, Mr. Thornwick," the man finally got out.
"And you found me at a most inopportune moment," Harrison said dryly.
"But thankfully before it was too late."
Harrison eyed the interloper suspiciously, but it was Mr. No Name who said, "Who the deuce are you?"
The meddler cast his large, slightly bulging eyes toward the man and lifted his chin disdainfully. "Sir, I am Mr. Alfred Hopscotch."
"I don't know you," No Name snarled. "So who do you think you are to stop this duel?"
"I am the Prince's emissary," Mr. Hopscotch said testily. "I'm here on his official business."
"Yes, and I am the King's brother." No Name cut his eyes around to Harrison and grunted a slurring laugh. "Did you hire this man to come here and save your bloody life, Thornwick?"
Harrison squinted against a sudden bright ray of sunlight that broke through the tree limbs. His answer was to turn his back on the man and resume the dueling stance.
"Keep counting," Harrison called.
"Step aside, sir," No Name said. "Or stand your ground and get the bullet that's meant for him!"
"Seven ... eight ..."
"No, I beg of you, Mr. Thornwick, wait."
Harrison hoped like hell the Prince's man had the good sense to move out of the way.
Harrison pivoted on his back foot, lowered his body as he swung, aimed, and fired his pistol at No Name's shoulder. The man folded with a yelp, his shot wild and plugging a nearby tree.
Smoke from Harrison's gun barrel swirled and then quickly evaporated in the frosty air. Several of the onlookers rushed to the fallen man's side while other gentlemen were already pulling money out of their pockets to settle their wagers.
Harrison walked over for a look, too. Blood had stained the man's white shirt and quilted waistcoat, and was seeping through his fingers held tightly against the shoulder wound.
No Name looked up at him with a furious glare in his wild eyes. "Did you come to gloat?"
Harrison stared at him and said, "Don't ever call me a card cheat again." He walked over to the carriage that had brought him to the dueling site. Several of the young blades and onlookers followed him, some offering mumblings of congratulations and deserved claps on the back while others quietly counted their winnings.
"Well done," Harrison's second said, handing Harrison his coat. "The shot missed his bone. He'll have a hell of a pain in his shoulder for a few weeks, but nothing that won't heal properly with time."
"It took great restraint," Harrison admitted, returning the pistol to the second.
"I'm sure. No one likes being called a cheater and a coward in the same breath."
The stranger who had interrupted the duel elbowed his way through the muttering crowd gathered around Harrison and in a loud, impatient tone said, "I must speak to you now, my lord. I have important information for you."
Harrison frowned at the man as he shoved his arms into the sleeves of his coat. "I am not a lord, sir."
"That's what I've been trying to tell you. You are. The Prince charged me with finding you and giving you the unfortunate news that your brother, the Earl of Thornwick, and his heir have died. You, my lord, are the new Earl of Thornwick."
Gasps from the tight circle of men rent the air, and shock rippled through Harrison. His mind immediately recoiled from the words he'd heard. It took several seconds before he managed to say, "What?"
"I'm sorry, my lord."
The pounding in Harrison's head increased. A loud roar swooshed through his ears as denial rose up within him. Cold, dry air caught in his lungs, pressing like an anvil on his chest.
The ramifications of the man's words sank deeply into his soul, wounding him, and he whispered, "My brother and his three-year-old son? Dead? Are you sure?"
Mr. Hopscotch ran a nervous hand down the front of his waistcoat. "Yes, my lord. There's no doubt. A fever quickly ravaged a nearby village and spread throughout Thornwick."
"That one an earl? Can't be!" Harrison heard a man whisper.
"He'll never take care of the place," another gentleman said. "He doesn't know how. It'll be in ruins in less than a year."
"For sure," came the reply. "He doesn't know anything but drinking, gambling, and dueling."
"He certainly does all three of those bloody well," someone else whispered.
"Damnation" blew softly past Harrison's lips on a throb of hellish emotion he couldn't hold inside.
"I know," Hopscotch said. "It's tragic. Since you are the new earl, the Prince wants to make certain that you don't go to Thornwick and expose yourself to the fever, too."
"My brother's wife and daughters?" Harrison asked as alarm nipped him. "How are they?"
The man blinked rapidly. "Gone, too, I'm sorry to report. Most of the servants as well."
A low groan of anguish rose from Harrison's throat but he managed to swallow before it sounded. Beautiful, sweet Maddie with her raven hair and soft brown eyes dead. And her twin infant girls gone, too?
Harrison turned away from the man and threw his fist into the side of the carriage before clamping a hold on the door handle to shore himself up should his knees fail him and buckle. The pain that shot through his hand whipcord-fast couldn't dull the shattering grief that echoed through him. Over the years he'd lost his parents and two older brothers, but their deaths had been years apart and somehow easier to bear than hearing of the loss of the rest of his family.
"The Prince says it is imperative you to come to London immediately so he can speak to you about a most important matter. My carriage is right over there. I'll take you."
Mr. Hopscotch had continued talking as if he had no clue about the torment thundering through Harrison. "Being an earl is of little consequence to me right now," he ground out.
Hopscotch nervously clutched his hands together in front of him. "But it must matter, my lord. The Prince can't risk losing you, too."
Harrison jerked open the door of his carriage before looking back to the man and saying, "I'm going to bury my brother and his family."CHAPTER 2
Wake not a sleeping wolf. Henry IV 1.2.153–54
Harrison put his two fingers to his lips and whistled. When the driver of the wagon looked up at him, he called, "Over there," and pointed to a lean-to built to store the lumber that would be used in rebuilding Thornwick.
Late-morning sun warmed the back of Harrison's neck as he stood on the back lawn, his gaze scanning the gently rolling hills in the distance. As far as he could see, and then some, it was Thornwick land. His land. Still, at times he didn't want to believe everyone was gone. That he was now the earl. There were a few times when he was a youngster that he'd wished Thornwick would be his one day, but those were foolish, childish wishes that weren't supposed to come true. He never wanted to lose his family.
The trees, shrubs, and scrub grass were showing their first signs of green. Harrison looked behind him at the burnt-out shell of what was once the massive three-story manor house where he'd grown up. It was situated on a spacious, grassy knoll. The more than twenty rooms that were in the main section of the house had been gutted; a dozen others in the guest wing had fared little better. The expanse of flawlessly manicured gardens and lawn outlined by a tall yew hedge and perfectly trimmed topiary trees hadn't been touched by the destructive fire, and neither had the carriage house and two paddocks that accommodated his more than two dozen horses.
Not only had the fever taken his family, but the Thornwick he'd loved, the house that had been in his family for over one hundred years, had been destroyed while he was off carousing. But there was so much more lost than just the house. The urns, the china, the furniture could all be replaced. Even the hundreds of books in the library could be replaced. It was the portraits of all the previous Thornwicks that had hung in the gallery, and the priceless volumes of recorded family history, that were gone forever. All of it had been lost and on his watch.
His brother had written and asked him to come home, but he ignored the request as he had so often in the past. While he had been drinking, gambling, and dueling his family had perished and the manor had burned. Over the past weeks, Harrison had often remembered the hastily spoken words he'd overheard that morning he'd learned that he was the new earl. They all doubted his ability to properly manage Thornwick and keep it prosperous. And with good reason. He'd never given anyone reason to believe he could do anything other than continue his debauchery. But that was before the title became his.
Thornwick was where he'd learned how to ride, shoot, and wield a sword. During long, cold winter nights he became proficient at cards, billiards, and chess. On this land he'd chased his older brothers, climbed its trees, fished its streams, and hunted its game. But it was never supposed to be his.
The fourth son of an earl wasn't meant to outlive his brothers and their sons to inherit the title. Certainly not by the age of thirty. A different kind of ache suddenly pierced his chest. And to lose Maddie, too. His first love. His only love. His thoughts drifted back to the Season she'd made her debut. He'd tried his best to capture the heart of the dark-haired beauty and win her favor. But it soon became clear she had eyes only for his older brother, and in time Harrison had accepted that. Though it hadn't been easy.
Damnation, none of it had.
Not the grief of losing them all and losing Maddie twice. Not the struggles of these past weeks of discovering what was expected of an earl, learning to see that an estate was managed, and functioning well enough that once the house had been rebuilt there would be a Thornwick for the foreseeable future. Fourth sons were educated but never groomed to take on all the responsibilities that came with bearing the title of earl. It was assumed they would never need it.
Harrison had never had any responsibility to anyone or anything. There was never a reason. The oldest son was always revered, but the youngest was either treated like an infant and indulged or completely ignored. Harrison made certain he was neither by challenging, testing, and besting his older brothers from a very early age. He'd missed them when one by one they'd been sent away to school, but he soon found replacements for them in his friends Bray Drakestone and Adam Greyhawke when it was his turn to be shipped off to Eton.
When Harrison had left Oxford, his father had bestowed a more-than-generous allowance on him, and from his cards, bets, and all manner of wagers he added a considerable amount to that each year. All his father had expected was that he live the comfortable and respectable life of a gentleman and not sully the Thornwick name.
Harrison hadn't been able to manage that small request. His father should have known better than to ask that of him with scoundrels like the Duke of Drakestone and Adam Greyhawke as his friends. The three of them had scandalized London's social elite more times than Harrison could count. Harrison was a rebel at heart, and neither his father nor anyone else had ever been able to make him follow the rules or do what he was told.
He'd always done whatever pleased him because he had no reason not to. But now he did. He had Thornwick, or what was left of it. And he would rebuild it. Bigger and better than it was before. He owed it to his father and to his brothers to make it the grand place it once was.
He didn't know a damned thing about buying books, furniture, and all the other items that filled a house, but he'd learn. And despite the assertions of the gentlemen at the duel that day, Harrison would take care of Thornwick.
The first load of supplies to reconstruct the house had arrived earlier in the day, bringing with them a small measure of peace to Harrison. There had been a steady stream of wagons carrying lumber, ladders, hammers, nails, and all manner of materials to start the rebuilding of the manor first thing tomorrow morning.
Excerpted from The Earl Claims a Bride by Amelia Grey. Copyright © 2015 Amelia Grey. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Tedious and boring.
This is book 2 in the Heirs' Club of Scoundrels Trilogy. Harrison Thornwick never imagined that he would one day be the Earl, but when his father and brothers suddenly die he finds himself thrust into being the head of the family. Wanting to get the estate into order, he is surprised to get a visit from the King's man demanding that he marry a lady of his the King's choosing or go to prison for fighting a duel. With only one option, Harrison heads off to London to meet the woman he is to marry. He is attracted to her the moment he spies her across the ballroom, but she is in love with someone else. Angelina Rule has been in love with her Captain for many years and is just waiting on his return. When she learns of her father's debt, she knows that she must do her duty and marry to save her father from going to debtor's prison. Even with her heart given to another man, Angelina finds herself attracted to Harrison and can't seem to keep from kissing him. Will Angelina realize that what she thought she wanted is not what she really needs to get her HEA? Loved this story!! We've got Angelina who is caught between two men. The Captain is finally back and he is who she has dreamed of for the past three years. But she doesn't want her father to go to prison, so she must marry Harrison...unless she can't come up with another plan! I loved the love triangle and watching Harrison do everything in his power to get Angelina to see that he was the right man for her. The chemistry between the two of them was red hot!! I can't wait to read the last book in the trilogy which is about Harrison's friend, Adam Greyhawke! Thanks go out to St. Martin's Press via NetGalley for a copy of the book in exchange of an honest review.
Book #2 of The Heirs and Scoundrels Trilogy Synopsis: When your dreams of marrying a soldier are thwarted by being told to marry an Earl so that you can save your father from debtor’s prison, what do you do? That is just what Angelina Rule is told by her father she must do and that it has all been set up by the prince. Angelina is adamant that she will make her own way. She wants to live life on her own terms. When your main focus is rebuilding your ancestral home after suddenly becoming the Earl of Thornwick and the prince’s messenger arrives to tell you to marry someone selected by the prince or go to prison, what do you do? Harrison is intent on living life by his own rules. No restrictions for him. When events change the life he has built for himself he has to adapt. Harrison Thornwick and Angelina Rule meet at the first dance of the season. Neither one expects to find anything likable in the other, but could it be that the Earl has finally met his match? My Thoughts: This is book 2 of The Heirs and Scoundrels Trilogy. I didn’t read book #1 but recommend that you read the books in order. I think you would enjoy them even more that way. This book can however, be read as a stand alone. It is a wonderful feast for the mind and heart. Amelia Grey has created a story that proves be delightful, bewitching and well written. I received this title Free through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
Harrison Thornwick is the fourth son of a Earl. When he learns that his brother, the Earl of Thornwick, his wife and children have all died from a fever, he is devastated. Most of Thornwick Manor has been destroyed by fire. It is unknown whether it was an accident or deliberately set afire thinking it would stop the rampages of the fever. Now, he is the Earl of Thornwick and he has to rebuild the Manor. When an emissary of the Prince comes to see him, he is told that the Prince insists that he marry right away and produce an heir. It appears that Harrison was involved in a duel while in his cups and that is illegal. So, he has no recourse but to do as the Prince wants. Miss Angelina Rule loves to paint mostly miniatures. A beautiful young woman, she paints lovely scenes on fans, snuff boxes and the like. In addition, she loves dogs and tends to take in strays. Her life is soon to change though. Her father has amassed huge debts by gambling foolishly and may soon be in debtor’s prison. But once again, the Prince steps in and declares that he will pay her father’s debts if Angelina marries Harrison Thornwick. Angelina has been in love with Captain Maxwell for some years now. He has been fighting in the war and she has been waiting for him to come home. So when she in introduced to Harrison, her attitude lets him know that she does not want to be his pawn. Instead, she has a scheme to try and sell some of her paintings in hopes of making enough money to pay off her father’s debts. When Captain Maxwell returns from war injured and he and Harrison meet up, the struggle begins to see which man will win Angelina’s love. Will she be successful with her paintings to achieve her goal? The plot here is a good one, but the characters were a bit too shallow which made me lose interest.
A fast paced tale that is charming, interesting and very entertaining. I absolutely adore the H/H. So much to enjoy about this story, passionate, compelling and simply charming how the heroine wished to save her father. Fans of Historical Romance are sure to enjoy. Can't wait for the next installment. Well written with a delightful cast of characters. Well done! Another enjoyable read by Ms. Grey! * Received for an honest review from the publisher via Net Galley * **Will be cross -posted on My Book Addiction Reviews ** Rating: 4.5 Heat rating: Mild Reviewed by: AprilR, courtesy of My Book Addiction and More
The Earl Claims a Bride is the second book in the great series of The Heirs’ Club Of Scoundrel. This is the third book that I read by Amelia Grey and I loved every single one. Her characters and the plots seem real and delightful. There is always loss, sacrifices, romance ,fun, passion and witty dialogue that captivate the readers from the first page. Harrison Thornwick never thought to claim the earldom since he was the 4th son but after the death of all his brothers, he can't ignore the responsibility of his family estate and earldom anymore. But there is one problem, the Prince wants him to marry the girl he has chosen for him by the end of season or he goes to.......... Miss Angelina is not thrilled by the arranged engagement either, she has been in love with Captain Maxwell since she was 16 years old and doesn't plan to give up her love easily. But can Angelina resist the handsome earl? I really enjoyed this amazing book and can't wait for the next one. Thank you Amelia Grey
An excellent historical romance. Harrison was never supposed to be the one to run the family estate but when his brother dies it is his duty to settle down and marry. Angelina has been waiting for her true love to return from the war and is shocked to learn she must marry to keep her father out of prison. I really liked this story, it was a wonderful love triangle. The chemistry between Angelina and Harrison is hot and the drama wonderful. A great historical read.
Fabulous Historical Romance to enjoy! I had the great opportunity to receive an ARC of Amelia Grey, 2nd book The Earl Claims a Bride. What a nice surprise because Ms. Grey has truly outdone herself! She is a talented storyteller, that caught me by surprise! I loved her 1st story, Bray's story, in her trilogy The Heirs' Club of Scoundrels! Her beautiful historical romance will sweep you off your feet. The men in this trilogy are so charming and handsome, that no women can't resist them. I love her writing with her wonderful characters, the heroines are lovable and the heroes perfect scoundrels! The Earl Claims a Bride, tells the romantic story of Harrison Thornwick, a devilish earl who loved to drink, gamble and engage in duels and of a young woman, Angelina Rule, who loved her father dearly and had a passion for painting. Harrison, a member of this notorious club, is a rebel and self-confident man who loves to break rules. Angelina doesn’t want a husband, but to save her father, she accepts to meet Harrison. Will she be infatuated by the devilish rogue's kisses? Will she be able to resist him? Enters a captain that will try to captivate her. Which man will she choose? Both men will try to win her heart! It's a charming romance to enjoy! I’m looking forward to read the conclusion of this trilogy, with Adam’s own story. I strongly recommend this book! You won't be disappointed! Just let yourself be carried away in the Regency period and enjoy Harrison and Angelina's story. I really enjoyed this book! Amelia Grey, 2nd book, is a must to read! Beware, once, you start reading it, you won’t be able to put it down.
The Earl Claims a Bride is book two in the Heirs' Club of Scoundrels by Amelia Grey. Nothing gets the pages turning like a rake in shining armor and a heroine in distress! This was a novel of multi-layers that built over the course of the story. Long-standing ideals versus reality take a lead in this book. The patient, thoughtful and persistent wooing of the heroine by the hero gave a nice romantic feel to the overall story and it's twist. By the end of this work you could not help but smile at it's lovely conclusion. *I received this arc via Netgalley.* *While part of a series this book can be read as a stand alone.*
When your dreams of marrying a soldier are thwarted by being told to marry an Earl so that you can save your father from debtor’s prison, what do you do? That is just what Angelina Rule is told by her father she must do and that it has all been set up by the prince. When your main focus is rebuilding your ancestral home after suddenly becoming the Earl of Thornwick and the prince’s messenger arrives to tell you to marry someone selected by the prince or go to prison, what do you do? Harrison Thornwick and Angelina Rule meet at the first dance of the season. Neither one expects to find anything likable in the other. Angelina is innocent and naïve while Harrison is just the opposite though he has many admirable qualities. Their story is a fun read and one that I thoroughly enjoyed. It provided me a nice afternoon of escape to a different time with different expectations. Thank you to NetGalley and St. Martin’s Press for the advanced reader’s copy to read and review.
A wonderful feast for the mind and heart. Amelia Grey has created a story that proves be delightful, bewitching and well written. Harrison is intent on living life by his own rules. No restrictions for him. When events change the life he has built for himself he has to adapt. Angelina is adamant that she will make her own way. She wants to live life on her own terms. So when that is called into question she is willing to fight tool and nail to make her dreams come true. The battle of wills is on. Who will win this power struggle in the came of love. I enjoyed Angelina. Her wild spirit and soft heart proved an interesting contrast to Harrison devil may care attitude and enigmatic personality. I received an ARC of The Earl Claims a Bride by Amelia Grey in exchange for an honest review. A spellbinding, breathtaking and entertaining journey to love.