Promoted to Wife?
Always the dutiful daughter, Fanny Mitchell surprised everyone when she broke her engagement. Now she's working at the fancy Hotel Dupreeand falling for the mysterious, handsome owner, Jonathon Hawkins. But when she and her boss are caught in an unexpected kiss at a ball, will her reputation be tarnished forever?
The son of a woman of ill repute, Jonathon knows that gossip can destroy lives in an instant. And he won't allow sweet, lovely Fanny to suffer the consequences. When he proposes a marriage of convenience, Jonathon believes he can keep his heart to himself. But the more time he spends with Fanny, the more he realizes he may just be in lovewith his wife
Charity House: Offering an oasis of hope, faith and love on the rugged Colorado frontier
About the Author
Renee Ryan grew up in a Florida beach town outside Jacksonville, FL. Armed with a degree in Economics and Religion from Florida State University, she explored various career opportunities, including stints at a Florida theme park and a modeling agency. She currently lives in Savannah, Georgia with her husband and a large, fluffy cat many have mistaken for a small bear. Renee can be contacted through her website at www.reneeryan.com
Read an Excerpt
The Hotel Dupree, Denver, Colorado 1896
Shadows sculpted the darkened ballroom as Fanny Mitchell awaited her employer's arrival. A happy sigh leaked out of her, echoing off the ornate walls. She loved this cavernous, oft overlooked room, loved it above all others in the hotel.
An expectant, almost dreamy silence hung in the air, as if Fanny was on the brink of something new and wonderful. Arms outstretched, she executed an uninhibited spin across the dance floor. Then stopped abruptly, frowning at her whimsy.
A quick tug on her sleeves, a readjustment of her skirt, and she was back to being the oh-so-proper guest-services manager of the finest hotel in Denver, Colorado.
Decorum restored, she continued her inspection at a more sedate pace. In four days, Mrs. Beatrix Singletary would hold her annual charity ball in this very room. Three hundred of Denver's most important residents were invited to attend, including most of Fanny's family. It would be the first time the widow held the event outside her home. Fanny suspected this change in venue was because Mrs. Singletary now owned one quarter of the Hotel Dupree.
As owner of the other three quarters, Fanny's employer wished to impress his new business partner with the efficiency of their hotel staff. Fanny would not let him down.
She would not let herself down. This was her chance to prove she was more than the gossips claimed, more than the labels others had attached to her since childhood.
By organizing this particular function, the largest and most anticipated of the year, Fanny would finally show the good people of Denver that she was worthy of their respect. That she hadn't jilted one of the most highly respected men in town on impulse, or because of some hidden flaw in her character.
Her decision had been well thought out and for all the right reasons.
Fanny moved to a nearby wall and pressed a switch on the raised panel. The recently installed Maria Theresa chandelier came alive with light.
The absurd fee to ship the exquisite fixture from Europe had been well worth the cost. Airy and delicate, the handblown glass and crystal rosettes twisted around the metal frame in such a way as to give the illusion of a floating waterfall.
Continuing her inspection, she made mental notes where to put tables, chairs and the myriad of flower arrangements she'd personally designed.
This was what she was born to do, taking an annual event people talked about for months and turning it into an even more spectacular occasion.
Why, then, did she experience a sudden burst of melancholy? Why this strange bout of dissatisfaction?
Fanny knew, of course.
She would soon celebrate her twenty-fifth birthday. Unlike her four married siblings, Fanny had no one special in her life.
There was still time for her own happily-ever-after. For now, she would focus on the many blessings the Lord had bestowed on her. She had siblings who adored her, parents who supported her unconditionally and a job she loved, working beside a man she greatly admired.
"Fanny," a deep, masculine voice called from behind her, the tone a mix of amusement and lazy drawl. "You've arrived ahead of me as usual."
She ignored a rush of anticipation and slowly pivoted around to face her employer. For one dreadful, wonderful moment, her heart lifted.
There he stood, framed in the doorway. Jonathon Hawkins. The intensely private, overly serious, wildly successful hotelier, whose rags to riches story inspired everyone he met, Fanny most of all.
He was so competent, so handsome. Tall, broad-shouldered, with a head of glossy, dark brown hair, he attracted more than his fair share of female attention.
He seemed oblivious to his effect on women. His mantra was business first, business always. Though she felt a sad heart tug over his resolve to remain unattached and childless, Fanny appreciated his single-minded focus.
That was, at any rate, her official stand on the matter.
His mouth curved in an easy half smile and a sudden dizziness struck her.
"Mr. Hawkins." She ordered her heartbeat to slow to a normal rate. "You'll be pleased to know I've secured"
He lifted a hand to stop her. "You agreed to call me Jonathon."
Her breath snagged on a skittering rush of air. Of course. They'd been on a first-name basis for over a year.
She'd nearly forgotten in his absence, though he'd been gone but a week.
"I yes, I " Get control of yourself, Fanny. "Are you ready for our final walk-through, Jonathon?"
"I am, indeed." He pushed away from the door frame.
Here we go, she thought, silently bracing for the impact of his nearness.
As his long, purposeful strides ate up the distance between them, she noted how he moved with predatory grace. Jonathon Hawkins was a study in contradictions, a man who could be sophisticated and mannerly, or cunning and shrewd, depending on the situation.
He stopped, leaving a perfectly appropriate amount of space between them. Always the gentleman, she thought. She knew enough about his past to find that especially intriguing. And there went that sad little heart tug again.
"Shall we begin?" Under the bright glow of the chandelier, his eyes seemed to hold a thousand shades of blue.
She swallowed back a sigh. "Yes."
"After you." He gestured for her to take the lead.
For a dangerous moment, she couldn't make her feet work properly. Jonathon seemed different today, more intent, more focused. His silvery-blue eyes gleamed with intelligence and something else, something she knew better than to define.
Quickly breaking eye contact, she directed him to the far right corner of the ballroom. Their heels struck the freshly polished floor in perfect rhythm with one another.
"We'll set up banquet tables here and over there." She made a sweeping gesture toward the opposite corner. "This will allow easy access to the food without obstructing the general flow of traffic to and from the dance floor."
He studied the two spaces. His eyes narrowed slightly, as if picturing the setup in his mind. "Excellent."
Pleased by his approval, she continued guiding him through the room, stopping at various points along the way to explain her ideas in greater detail. When they were once again standing in the spot where they'd begun, she drew in a deep breath. "Do you have any questions or concerns?"
"Not at the moment." He smiled down at her. "Thank you, Fanny. As always, you've thought of everything."
Had she? She turned in a slow circle, attempting to determine if there'd been a forgotten detail, something they were both missing. When nothing came to mind, she returned his smile. "I think we're ready."
"So it would seem."
A moment of silent understanding passed between them. His expression was so full of meaning, so unexpectedly affectionate, she thought he might lean in closer and and
She quickly looked away. "I hope Mrs. Singletary agrees."
That earned her a soft chuckle. "You've left nothing to chance. I'm confident your efforts will find favor with the illustrious Beatrix Singletary."
"Did I hear someone mention my name?" As if she'd been waiting for her cue, the widow materialized in the doorway, one hand on her hip, the other poised against her chin.
On anyone else, the pose would look ridiculous. Not on Mrs. Singletary. She was a woman with flair, always dressed impeccably in the latest fashion. A renowned beauty in her day, the widow had golden-brown hair that was a perfect foil for her fair complexion. Her face showed few signs that nearly four and a half decades had passed since her birth.
Fanny liked the woman. She especially appreciated the way she ran her vast fortune, and hoped to learn much from her now that she'd joined forces with Jonathon.
As was his custom, he stepped forward and greeted the widow by placing a light kiss to her extended hand. "It's always a pleasure to see you in the hotel, Mrs. Sin-gletary."
"It's always a pleasure to be in the hotel, Mr. Hawkins."
Mouth tilted at an amused angle, he released her hand. "Would you prefer a walk-through of the ballroom now, or after we review the final guest list?"
"Now, of course. We did, after all, come here first."
One dark eyebrow shot up. "We?"
"My companion and I. Do come along, Philomena." A slight crease marred the widow's forehead as she glanced over her shoulder. "Lurking in the shadows is quite unseemly."
The young woman hurried forward.
Philomena Ferguson was, to Fanny's thinking, the most likable of the seven Ferguson sisters. With her remarkable hazel eyes, golden-brown hair and flawless complexion, she was also the most beautiful. Her pale green shirtwaist dress, cut in an A-line silhouette, only served to enhance her extraordinary looks.
Wondering if Jonathon noticed Philomena's undeniable charms, Fanny slid a glance at him. He was still looking at her. Not Philomena, her.
Fanny knew better than to read too much into his at-tentiveness. The one occasion she'd thought he might actually kiss her, or perhaps profess a personal interest in her, he'd taken the opportunity to explain the motivation behind his refusal to marry. Ever.
This time, when the heart tug came, she shoved it aside with a fast, determined swallow.
"Mr. Hawkins." Mrs. Singletary tapped his arm, the gesture sufficiently pulling his attention away from Fanny. "I believe you've met my companion."
"We are acquainted. Miss Ferguson." He cast a pleasant, if somewhat distant smile in Philomena's direction. "Lovely to see you again."
An attractive blush spread across her cheeks. "Thank you, Mr. Hawkins, and you as well."
As she bounced her gaze between the two, a speculative gleam lit Mrs. Singletary's eye.
That look put Fanny instantly on guard. It was no secret the widow considered herself an accomplished matchmaker. For good reason. Mrs. Singletary had proved herself quite skilled at ferreting out potential love matches. One of her most recent successes involved Fanny's childhood friend Molly Taylor Scott, who was now married to Fanny's brother, Garrett.
Thanks, also, to the widow's efforts, her sister was happily settled, as wellto Fanny's former fiancé. She was glad Callie and Reese had found one another. They'd married for love, which was the only reason for pledging lifelong vows, to Fanny's way of thinking. Marrying for anything less than an all-consuming love would be tantamount to imprisonment.
Mrs. Singletary's eyes sharpened over Jonathon and Philomena. Oh, no. Did the widow have her next match in mind?
"Well, then, Mr. Hawkins." A sly smile spread across the widow's lips. "Since you and my companion are already acquainted, I trust you have no objection to attending the opera with us tomorrow evening."
Fanny made a soft sound of protest in her throat, barely audible, but Jonathon must have caught it because he asked, "You have a concern?"
Think, Fanny, think.
"We're scheduled to, ah, review next month's bookings tomorrow afternoon." An endeavor that almost always went late. She started to say as much but stopped when she glanced at Mrs. Singletary's raised eyebrow. "However, we can certainly reschedule."
Jonathon frowned at her. "Reschedule? But we always"
"Oh, excellent," Mrs. Singletary declared, cutting him off midsentence. "This is most excellent, indeed. You, Mr. Hawkins, are now perfectly free to join Philomena and me tomorrow evening."
His frown deepened. "Mrs. Singletary, I cannot attend the opera when I have a prior commitment here at the hotel."
"Miss Mitchell." Mrs. Singletary gave Fanny a pointed stare. "You don't mind, do you, dear, if Philomena and I steal your employer away for one evening?"
Actually, she minded a great deal. "Certainly not."
Jonathon opened his mouth, then shut it again as he considered the widow through narrowed eyes. "You seem very determined I join you."
"I am quite determined."
Undaunted by his suspicious tone, Mrs. Singletary gave a jaunty wave of her hand. "Considering the nature of our business relationship, I am determined we get to know one another on a more personal level. The opera is an excellent place to start."
Fanny shook her head at the widow's flimsy excuse. Surely Mrs. Singletary had figured out by now that no one knew Jonathon Hawkins on a personal level. He always held a portion of himself back, never letting anyone past the polished facade. It was that mysterious air that made him so attractive to women, and so confounding to Fanny.
"I appreciate the invitation," he said at last. "But I must decline."
He did not expand on his reasons.
A brief battle of wills ensued, but Mrs. Singletary gave in graciously after only a few seconds. "I suppose we will have to try for another time."
He smiled. Or maybe he didn't. Fanny wasn't sure what that twist of his lips meant. "Indeed we will," he said.
"Well, now." The widow clapped her hands together. "Shall we begin our tour of this lovely ballroom?"
Before anyone could respond, she linked her arm with Fanny's. "You will show me around, Miss Mitchell, seeing as the majority of the preparations have fallen upon your capable shoulders."
The widow all but dragged Fanny deeper into the ballroom, leaving Jonathon and Philomena together. Convenient.
At least neither of them seemed overly pleased to be in the other's company. Fanny found far more comfort in their mutual uneasiness than she should.
Did Jonathon have any idea what his business partner was plotting? Would it matter if he did? It was a well-known fact that once the widow set her sights on a particular match, there was no changing her mind.
Perhaps Fanny should warn him. Or perhaps not. She was merely his employee. He'd made it painfully clear there would be nothing more than business between them. She had no claims on him, and she certainly wasn't interested in him romantically.
That was, at any rate, her official stand on the matter.
Jonathon had heard his share of disturbing tales concerning Mrs. Singletary's penchant for matchmaking.
He'd dismissed them out of hand. Beatrix Singletary was eccentric to be sure, but he'd never found cause to think her the meddling sort. Until now.
The woman was actually pushing her companion on him, and she wasn't even attempting to be subtle. When next he had Mrs. Singletary's ear, he would inform her that her efforts were wasted on him.
Jonathon would never marry, nor father any children. He came from bad blood, from a long line of selfish men who'd destroyed the women in their lives.
He would not perpetuate the cycle. His newest project would become his legacy, a tangible way to help women rather than hurt them.
He clasped his hands behind his back and looked up at the ceiling, then across the ballroom, over to the doors leading to the terrace, anywhere but at the pretty young woman standing beside him.
Miss Ferguson was likable enough. She was perfectly suitablefor some other man.
"Mr. Hawkins, I apologize for my employer." Philomena shifted uncomfortably beside him. "She means well, I'm sure. But when Mrs. Singletary gets an idea in her head, she can be unrelenting in her desire to see it through to the end."
Pleased by the young woman's directness, Jonathon decided to be equally forthright in return. "Tenacity is an admirable trait. However, in this instance, Mrs. Sin-gletary will be disappointed if she continues to push you and me together."
Relief filled the young woman's gaze. "I concur completely. You and I would never suit. A match between us would be the very worst of bad ideas."
Jonathon offered a sardonic tilt of his lips.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
The Marriage Agreement by Renee Ryan Charity House Series Book Nine Jonathan Hawkins is a rags to riches story. The rags part of his life is what rules him, his past. Because of that past he has vowed never to marry or have children. But if he was a different man with a different past, he knows just the woman he would want in his life. Fanny Mitchell had always been known as the beautiful Mitchell daughter. She pleased everyone. After breaking her marriage engagement and causing a scandal, she had run away. After returning a year ago, she has reinvented herself. With all the work she has done at the Dupree Hotel, people will see her with new eyes when they attend the charity ball. Oops, things don't quite turn out as she hoped. I love this series and couldn't put this book down once I started reading. The Charity House is a home for children who aren't quite orphans, they are children of prostitutes. Jonathan was one of those children, his character really grabbed my heart. Each book is stand-alone but if you enjoy series, I encourage you to read the previous eight stories as well. **Received from author for an honest review
The Marriage Agreement is the ninth book in Renee Ryan’s, Charity House series. While I’ve read a couple of the books in the series, I actually haven’t managed to read them in any order. That being said, you definitely don’t have to start at the beginning to thoroughly enjoy this book. Though I’m sure it would have most likely helped me keep the characters straight while I was reading, I didn’t feel lost or spend the entire story trying to catch up. I confess, I didn’t have many expectations for this book, since I haven’t read anything of Renee’s recently. If I’d had any, I believe they would have been surpassed, as I immensely enjoyed this book. I very much enjoy Renee’s writing style and this book is no exception! Her descriptions are great and quickly pull me into the setting and the story. I love the historical details she includes and appreciate the research that must go into her books. I do confess that there were a couple instances that I questioned Renee’s choice of wording as it didn’t seem to fit the time period. But, this is mostly me nitpicking. This book definitely held my attention and didn’t want to let go! I found myself picking it up during every spare moment and not wanting to put it down. It kept me up well past when I should have been asleep and I grabbed it again almost as soon as I woke up. It is fast paced and never lags. The story flows quickly from point to point and I found myself rushing through it, all the while reminding myself to slow down and savor it. Obviously, the latter didn’t happen very often. Though, I must confess that I found the ending a bit abrupt. I do generally feel that way with most of the books I read, so this isn’t actually saying very much. I would always like the ending to be longer, simply because I’m rarely ready to say “goodbye” to the characters. The romance was very sweet, if a bit predictable. But that’s to be expected and I personally enjoy reading books where the “happily ever after” is a given, rather than a possibility. I adored watching both Fanny and Jonathon fall in love. They had several obstacles to overcome, something that made their happy ending even more rewarding. They must learn compromise and put their spouse’s needs before their own. I appreciated that Renee took the time to explore their marriage a bit and specifically point out that every marriage takes hard work and determination to make it last. The spiritual element is an important one, for the story as well as the reader. Much of the focus is on forgiveness. I loved this quote that I feel sums up the theme quite well, “Forgiveness was hard, and came at a price, but the cost of bitterness was far steeper.” - Jonathon Hawkins* He had to learn how to forgive, but also how to accept forgiveness and God’s grace. I appreciated the care Renee used with this topic. It certainly isn’t an easy one, but she definitely does it justice, never rushing the story to make it fit within the constraints. There is a slow progression, allowing us to follow each step of his journey toward God’s grace. I received an advanced reading copy of this book through NetGalley for my honest review, which I have given. I was not required to write a positive review and have not been compensated for it in any way. All opinions expressed are my own. *Quotation used with permission from the author. I do not own any rights to the story.