In this dazzling Dangerous Rogues novel from Tiffany Clare, a daring and dangerously handsome duke will do anything for the woman he loveseven if it sparks a scandal, in The Scandalous Duke Takes a Bride.
FRIENDS AND LOVERS…
As a wealthy young widow, Lady Jessica Heyer must endure the closest of scrutiny and most wicked of rumors from society gossips. Their whispers would be utterly unbearable if it weren't for her oldest friend, the Duke of Alsborough. Jessica knows she can always count on Hayden. What she never could have expected, however, is that he is deeply, madly in love with her…
TO HAVE AND TO HOLD
For years, Hayden has kept his longing for his beautiful friend Jessica a secret. But now that she's finally free to remarry, will she be willing to take their relationship to a more intimate level? He'll get his answer soonat a glittering masquerade, where identities are hidden, hearts are open, and true love is unmasked…in a single, shameless act of passion.
"Sensual historical romance that will touch your heart."Romance Junkies
|Publisher:||St. Martin's Press|
|Product dimensions:||5.00(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.78(d)|
About the Author
Deciding that life had far more to offer than a nine to five job, bickering children in the evening and housework of any kind, Tiffany Clare opened up her laptop to rediscover her love of the written word. She lives in Toronto with her ever-patient photographer husband, two mischievous children, and her two dogs that think they are humans. Tiffany writes historical romances set in the Victorian era for St. Martin's Press and some of her previous works include The Secret Desires of a Governess, Wicked Nights with a Proper Lady and Midnight Temptations with a Forbidden Lord.
Read an Excerpt
The Scandalous Duke Takes a Bride
By Tiffany Clare
St. Martin's PressCopyright © 2014 Tiffany Clare
All rights reserved.
The rumors this writer has heard about the most sought-after bachelor in all of England. And what wicked things this particular man has committed. ... Could you suspend belief if I accused a certain duke of engaging in acts only a commoner would participate in?
Mayfair Chronicles, May 1846
"Hold, Miller." When the valet dodged around a tall stack of crates on the dock, Hayden, the Duke of Alsborough, had no choice but to punch out the blunt end of his cane to knock the man to the ground. Hayden roughly pulled Miller up the rest of the way.
Dazed but still determined to escape, Miller stood on wobbly legs and threw out a fist that glanced off Hayden's left shoulder. The feeble hit was ineffective and only angered Hayden further.
He returned the blow, striking the valet square in the face and knocking him back another step. The man teetered to the right before falling like a sack laden with rocks to the cobbled road. He tried to scramble backward on his hands and feet, but his shoulders came up against a wall.
For two days Hayden had searched for this man. There was no way in hell he would give Miller the opportunity to run now that he had finally caught up to him. He unsheathed the blade from his cane and pointed it at the valet's neck, a mere inch from piercing his pale skin. It took everything in him to hold back and not bury it deep into Miller's throat.
"We've been over this," Hayden reminded him, the sharp edge of his temper spilling out in his words. "You came here willingly not an hour ago on the presumption that you would be leaving London. Tonight."
He exacted enough pressure to the valet's throat, just above his rumpled cravat — it would only take the flick of Hayden's wrist to end the other man's life should he run again.
Miller laughed, the sound gurgled and broken as he spat out a wad of blood next to Hayden's boot. When Miller grinned, a gaping hole at the front of his mouth oozed more blood where his tooth had been knocked out. "You're no better than me, Duke."
"That's where you're wrong," Hayden said.
Hayden stared at the one man who threatened the only person who mattered to him, the only woman he'd ever truly loved. Though he'd only been tossed out of his master's house a week past, Miller's dark hair stood on end greasy with dirt, and stubble covered his jaw and neck. He also sported a black eye that Hayden had not been the one to deliver.
"You'll leave or the outcome will look like child's play compared to what I've already done to you."
Miller shook his head, a sinister smile curling his lips. "You're mistaken to think you have any hold over me."
"Oh, I assure you I do. Should you choose to stay in England, you will live to regret that decision before the day is through." Slowly, Hayden removed the blade from the man's jugular.
The valet wiped his dirty sleeve across his mouth as he stood on unsteady feet, following the tip of Hayden's blade as though they were in the midst of some macabre dance of death.
"Why did you do it?" That was the one question Hayden wanted answered most.
"She's got no right to the fortune. I told my lordship I'd do anything he saw fit done." Miller spat and wiped his sleeve across his mouth again, smearing blood across his cheek. "You're too late to change the outcome. His Lordship would have divorced her were he still alive."
Hayden glared at the valet and took a threatening step forward. Jessica had every right to the fortune she'd married into. Hell, Hayden didn't know a person more deserving of a decent life, one that she'd been deprived of since the ill-fated day her father gave her to Fallon. Divorce seemed drastic, even for the old earl — and on what grounds?
Divorce was risky. The valet was lying. He had to be.
"Why are you here, Duke? Hushing up a bit of dirty work? Protecting that whore's reputation, or at least what's left of it?" The valet sneered. "You aristocrats are all the same, thinking your secrets are so precious. Especially Lady Jessica's. We both know she's no better than a trollop."
Hayden looked at the glint of steel in his hand. He could end all of Jessica's problems right now. But what kind of man would that make him? He lowered his blade long enough to sock Miller in the face again. The valet shook his head, dazed.
Hayden pulled away, cracking his knuckles, satisfied in knowing that Miller's face hurt a hell of a lot more than his fist.
"I'm willing to let her secrets die at the cost of your life," Hayden said bluntly.
"Then get on with it." The valet took a brazen step forward, letting the tip of Hayden's blade pierce his dirty vest and shirt and press just above his heart. "Go ahead; slide the blade in the rest of the way. It's only a matter of time before Lady Jessica's reputation is well and truly destroyed."
The man had a death wish, but Hayden would not grant him that wish tonight. "Who else has been privy to her secrets?"
"That's for me to know. But it's not me you should fear. She's garnered enemies far and wide. That's what happens when a woman leads a disgraceful life, without thought to her reputation."
All Hayden had to do was buy Jessica a few months by ridding London of the pathetic weasel of a man standing before him. Who else knew about Jessica's situation, aside from him? Hayden needed the valet gone, before he could sell his secrets to the highest bidder. The last thing Hayden wanted to see printed in the gossip columns was Jessica's current predicament.
Wiping his bloodied knuckles on a handkerchief, Hayden reached into his breast pocket to retrieve the papers for the valet's voyage. He watched Miller in case he tried to run again, but there was a defeated look in the man's eyes that hadn't been there the last time he'd taken flight. Had he honestly thought he'd escape Hayden?
The valet snatched the papers from Hayden's grasp. "I wouldn't have minded tossing Her Ladyship down a flight of stairs, you know. It might have done the trick sooner."
Hayden grasped the man's throat tightly. He wanted to squeeze the last breath from his lungs and forever silence him. He watched as Miller struggled to breathe, his face flushing red.
In slow increments Hayden relaxed his grip, though he left the sword's sharp edge resting over the man's heart as he took a step back.
"I'll tell you this once because the repercussions for any disobedience will be the forfeiture of your life."
"I'm a dead man either way," the valet challenged him.
"You'll find no compassion from me," Hayden said. "You're a bigger fool than I imagined if you think I'll end your life swiftly. Board the ship set for Australia. The debt holders after you will be far kinder than me."
The valet pushed himself off the wall to stand on shaky legs; his height was nearly even with Hayden's. Miller really did have a death wish, but Hayden could not fulfill the man's wish to die so easily. In reality — and with no irony lost on him — Hayden had bought the man a second chance at life, since he probably would have been dead inside a week had he stayed in London. But the damage that could be accomplished in even a few days wasn't a chance Hayden was willing to take with Jessica's future.
Hayden motioned his sword in the direction of the ship that was leaving that evening. The valet straightened out his jacket, and held his head high as he stared back at Hayden.
"You haven't gotten the better of me."
"But I have, Miller."
Hayden nodded toward the ship again. He did not want to stand and talk to a man he reviled for threatening the woman he loved. Though he had every intention of waiting here till the ship had truly sailed from the dock.
This man leaving London would be the first right in a long list of wrongs, not wrongs done by him but wrongs committed toward Jessica. Hayden would do everything in his power to ensure her life from here on out started on the right foot.
Miller didn't grumble a moment longer and slowly ambled toward the ship, holding out his papers as he approached. Hayden sheathed his sword inside his cane and leaned on the stylized eagle handle as he waited.
How had everything turned into such a bloody mess?
With a heavy sigh, he left the docks when the ship was but a dot on the dusky horizon.
It was time to pay Jessica a visit and let her know the good news. Though he doubted the valet's removal from London would lighten her spirits; she'd been out of sorts since her husband's death, but Hayden hoped this would cheer her some.CHAPTER 2
I would bet my finest pen that you are curious to know what I meant when I said that Mr. W---- might take his seat sooner in the House of Lords. There are few reasons for someone like the Dowager F---- to go into seclusion, so I leave the guessing game with my dear readers as to why she's been absent from society after her boldly inappropriate appearance at her husband's funeral. Or perhaps I should spill every last one of her secrets on these pages and have society wash their hands of her once and for all. In due course, dearest readers. In due course.
Mayfair Chronicles, June 1846
"You'll have a year in your house, Jez, as Fallon's widow. Though I have my doubts that Warren will let you stay that long."
Hayden leaned back in his chair and scrutinized his friend carefully. The bruise on her left cheek had faded to a buttery yellow. The mar on her flesh was a final token of how her husband had treated her, and it had Hayden's jaw clenching in anger to see it still there.
Jez perched forward, her elbows on the edge of his desk as she stared back at him. Her complexion was wan, and her once lustrous red curls looked limp and dull where they were piled atop her head. The constant spark of mischief usually lurking in her light blue eyes had been smothered for too many weeks to count.
"It shouldn't be a surprise that Fallon has reduced me to a pauper. If ever I needed proof that my husband despised me, he's managed to prove so even after his death."
Jez was more candid than usual about her late husband. She never discussed her tumultuous marriage with Hayden, or anyone else for that matter. It was a fine line she wouldn't cross, or she'd have to face too many ugly truths, he suspected. Hayden wished he could have changed the course of her life sooner.
How he would have changed it was anyone's guess. And really, there wasn't much he could have done to help her. When he'd finally discovered just what type of man Fallon was — a mere two years ago compared to the eight years that Jessica had been married — the law, he found, was not in favor of a friend protecting a married woman. They didn't seem to care how barbarous that husband was behind closed doors.
The one occasion that Hayden had witnessed the brute nature of Fallon he'd been escorted to Jessica's drawing room and heard the smashing of glass in the parlor next door. He'd been well and ready to ignore it until Jez's pained voice had begged for mercy.
The scene he'd witnessed upon sliding the door open ...
Any man would have charged Fallon as he'd done.
After the first fall of his fist to Fallon's face and his attempt to strangle the man, Jez had pulled him off and had refused to budge from the path that blocked her scoundrel husband from further injury. Her dress had been torn at the shoulder; blood had smeared her upper lip where she'd been hit hard across the face. Hayden had never understood why she had dragged him off her husband or why she had protected the bastard all the years they'd been married.
While they'd never mentioned that day again, the knowledge of it had always stood between them. He had never witnessed a repeat of Fallon's high-handed abuse, and while he hoped that Fallon had never raised another hand against his wife after their confrontation, the evidence stared him baldly in the face right now.
He and Jez had known each other for nearly a decade, and looking at her now, he didn't see one ounce of the vibrant woman she once was. What he saw in her gaze was eight years of a miserable marriage weighing down on her soul.
But he knew there was an abundance of liveliness hidden beneath all the sorrow. If he could just find a way to unlock it again ...
"You have a portion of your dowry that was protected from the estate. That hardly makes you a pauper," he pointed out. "What you do over the next year with that money will be what defines your financial stability in the future. I will make the investments on your behalf."
He was merely repeating the advice given to him by his solicitor. He did not tell her that he'd already allocated some of his money to bonds in her name.
She raised a hand to stall his speech. "Fallon invested a few hundred thousand pounds of my inheritance into the estate and ensured that it was tied firmly into the entailment. Ten thousand pounds is hardly enough to keep me in a decent life for long." She paused for a long moment, tapping her fingers along the arm of the chair. "I'll not leave London behind, Hayden. I can't live anywhere but here. This is my home."
He removed his reading glasses and pinched the bridge of his nose. Now would not be the best of times to tell her that he'd saved well for her future. She'd refuse him. That he knew without doubt.
"And I'll keep reminding you that it's in your best interest to escape the city for a while" — he held up his hand when she tried to interrupt him — "at least until the gossip settles down about your lack of widow's weeds. We can arrange to have a summer house party at my estate. Or Leo's if you prefer, since his is closer to Town."
Jez shook her head. "And let Warren move in like a hawk on wounded prey? I will not expose my back to that man. He'll turn me out in a fortnight if I give him an open opportunity."
The only reason she had a year was to ensure that the next heir to the house of Fallon wasn't in her womb. While she'd revealed to Hayden that that wasn't a possibility, that didn't mean the rest of the ton needed to know that fact.
"Then I'll speak to him, Jez. Make it very clear what his moral obligation is under the law and in the eyes of society."
Jez closed her eyes for a brief moment before pulling herself to her feet to pace the study floor. The room doubled as his library, with heavily lined mahogany bookshelves on three of the walls and paned windows with stained glass decorating the tops on every other wall of the hexagonal room. A burgundy Persian rug covered the center of the room, stopping well before the molding to reveal the zigzag design of the hardwood inlay that bordered the room.
"You'll do no such thing," she said. "I will deal with Warren directly."
"He hasn't listened to your pleas thus far; why do you think he'll listen to you now?"
Her periwinkle silk day dress swished over her legs as she walked to and fro. She wrung her hands together in agitation. "He's my problem."
Hayden didn't agree — and he'd pay the man a visit to let him know that he should leave Jez alone for the foreseeable future.
"I cannot believe my life has been reduced to this," Jez said.
"There are investments you can make. ..."
"I'll not wager away the last of my money on speculation."
Hayden gave her a droll look. The irony was that the first half of her marriage had been spent in and out of gaming houses. It was baffling that she wouldn't make one small gamble now.
She plopped herself down on the sofa with a heavy sigh, half a room away from him. He pushed his chair out from his desk and walked over to her, his hands in his vest pockets as he studied her.
"It wouldn't be a risk," he assured her.
Jez threw her right arm over her brow dramatically. "I don't want to think about this at the moment."
"This is your reality, Jez." He didn't finish his diatribe, as he didn't want to lecture her any more than she wanted to be lectured. Another time perhaps, but not now. "We'll discuss this when you're in better spirits, then."
She peeked at him from under her arm. "I doubt that'll be any time soon. The only thing I care about right now is what our plans are for this evening."
"Cards. Here, of course."
She needed to stay out of sight for a while, let the gossip surrounding her appearance at her husband's funeral die down; by wearing scarlet to the funeral of her late husband she'd dared society to censure her. Hayden wondered if society would ever look at Jez in a kinder light than the one that currently shone upon her. Only time would tell.
Excerpted from The Scandalous Duke Takes a Bride by Tiffany Clare. Copyright © 2014 Tiffany Clare. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
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
THE SCANDALOUS DUKE TAKES A BRIDE by Tiffany Clare is another exciting Victorian era Historical Romance. #3 in the "Dangerous Rogues" series, but can be read as a stand alone. Meet, Lady Jessica Heyer, a wealthy widow and her oldest friend, Hayden, the Duke of Alsborough. Jessica abused as a wife, left nearly dissolute, under scrutiny by the gossip-mongers to the ton, and rumors twirling all around her, she must move forward. Hayden, her closest and dearest friend, has loved her from afar for years. He will do anything to save her and marry her. He has loved her for years, but sat by helplessly as her husband abused and mocked her endlessly even after his death. Filled with passion, a bit of danger, and romance. Can long-time friends become lovers and finally find the love they both seek? You must pick up SCANDALOUSLY DUKE TAKES A BRIDE to find out their fate. The three books in this series overlap each other, with their stories. Except, you learn more of Jessica and Hayden in this one. Also, to me, this story is more about the romance between Jessica and Hayden than anything else. The characters are engaging and likeable. The storyline was interesting. An overall enjoyable read! Received for an honest review from the publisher. RATING: 4 HEAT RATING: HOT REVIEWED BY: AprilR, courtesy of My Book Addiction and More
Had a really hard time getting into the book...the best part of the book is the last 45 pages
This is a really slow-moving book. It is rather staid and un-sexy until you get about 3/4 of the way through. By that time, frankly, my dear , I didn't give a damn. I have enjoyed most of this author's other books and was looking forward to reading this one. I was really disappointed and resorted to skimming ahead to see if the plot and action improved. It did not. I would not recommend anyone buying this book. I probably will not be buying any more of Tiffany's offerings.