The Spring Bride

The Spring Bride

by Anne Gracie

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Overview

The Spring Bride by Anne Gracie

In this charming regency romance, a dog in need of rescue brings together a young debutante and a mysterious stranger—third in the Chance Sisters series.
  

After a childhood riddled with poverty and hardship, Jane Chance intends to enter high society and make a good, safe, sensible marriage during the London Season. All goes according to plan until a dark, dangerous vagabond helps her rescue a dog.

Zachary Black is all kinds of unsuitable—a former spy, now in disguise, he’s wanted for murder. His instructions: to lie low until his name is cleared. But Zach has never followed the rules, and he wants Jane for his own, even if that means blazing his way into London society.

Jane knows she shouldn’t fall in love with an unreliable, albeit devastatingly attractive, rogue. But Zach is determined—and he‘s a man accustomed to getting what he wants.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780425259276
Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date: 06/02/2015
Series: Chance Sisters Series , #3
Pages: 320
Sales rank: 142,468
Product dimensions: 4.10(w) x 6.70(h) x 0.80(d)
Age Range: 18 Years

About the Author

Anne Gracie is the award-winning author of the Chance Sister romances, the Merridew series, and the Devil Rider series, along with numerous novellas. In addition to writing, Anne teaches adult literacy. She lives in Australia.

An AudioFile Earphones Award winner, Alison Larkin is a classically trained actress who has appeared on Broadway with the Royal National Theatre and Off-Broadway with the Royal Shakespeare Company. Her unusually wide range of voices can be heard in award-winning audiobooks, cartoons, and movies.

Read an Excerpt

“Treat yourself to some super reads from a most talented writer.”

Romance Reviews Today

“For fabulous Regency flavor, witty and addictive, you can’t go past Anne Gracie.”

—Stephanie Laurens, bestselling author

Prologue

Happiness in marriage is entirely a matter of chance.

—JANE AUSTEN, PRIDE AND PREJUDICE

London, 1805

“Tell us about the night you were a princess, Mama.”

“She felt like a princess, she wasn’t really one,” Jane’s big sister, Abby, corrected her.

Jane didn’t care. A princess was a princess. “Mama? Tell us.”

Mama smiled. “Don’t you ever get sick of it, darling?”

Jane shook her head fervently.

“Well, I was just eighteen, and it was the grandest ball of the season. Everybody was there, dukes, earls, even a royal prince.”

“And what were you wearing, Mama?”

“You know very well what I was wearing, you’ve heard it a hundred times.”

“Mama!”

“Very well, I was wearing a beeeyoutiful ball gown, rose-colored silk that swished like water when I walked.”

“And a gauze overdress—go on,” Jane prompted.

“A gauze overdress with hundreds of tiny crystals sewn on it that caught the light—”

“And glittered like a shower of diamonds,” Jane finished for her.

“See, you know it better than I do.”

“Go on. And on your head . . .”

“On my head I wore a most elegant little headdress of pink pearls and diamonds—of course, they were paste, but—”

“And you came down the staircase, and everybody turned to look at you . . .” Jane didn’t want to hear about paste, which wasn’t as good as diamonds—not that she’d ever seen any kind of jewelry, except for Mama’s gold wedding ring—but everybody knew a princess wore diamonds.

“Yes, little tyrant, and everybody turned to look at me in my beeyoutiful glittery pink dress.” Mama laughed, but the laughter turned into a coughing fit that ended with her lying back on the bed, handkerchief pressed to her mouth, exhausted.

Abby fetched Mama some water and a clean handkerchief, slipping it into Mama’s hands so that Papa wouldn’t notice the blood on the old one. Abby was always secretly washing blood out of Mama’s handkerchiefs.

After a while, Jane asked, “Mama, why aren’t you a princess now?”

“Oh, I’m still a princess, my darling.” Mama opened her eyes, and looked over Jane’s head at Papa, who was standing behind her, silent and grim. “That night I met and fell in love with your papa. He’s my prince, and always will be.” And she smiled up at Papa.

And Jane could see for herself that Mama really had been a princess because the smile made her beautiful again, so beautiful, as if someone had lit a candle inside her.

“You’ll always be my princess,” Papa said in a choked voice, smoothing Mama’s hair back and kissing her on the forehead.

Jane loved Papa dearly, but she knew he wasn’t a prince. A prince lived in a castle, not one poky little room in a smelly old building.

Mama was supposed to have married someone else—a rich man who did live in a castle. Papa too was supposed to marry another lady, but then they met each other and fell in love. And because they fell in love, they had to run away and get married, because their parents wanted them to marry the other people. The rich other people.

That was why Jane and Abby had never met their grandparents, even though Abby was almost twelve and Jane was nearly six. Because they were still angry. Papa and Mama had been cast out, cut off without a penny. That’s why they had no money. Papa did his best, but there was never enough . . .

If Mama were a princess now, she wouldn’t be a thin shadow of herself, faded, sad and sick. And Papa wouldn’t be so tight and angry and sad. Jane and Abby would be princesses too, and they’d all be living in a castle, not a cold, dark little room, where rats scrabbled behind the walls. And none of them would ever be cold, or hungry or frightened.

“I’m going to be a princess too, when I grow up,” Jane declared. “And I’ll have a pink glittery dress and wear diamonds and—”

“Janey darling, it’s just make-believe,” Abby began.

“No, I will!”

“Ah, sweetheart, no matter what you wear, you’ll always be Papa’s little princess,” Papa said, picking Jane up and twirling her around and around. And everybody laughed.

But Jane had no doubt of it. Twirling high in Papa’s arms, she looked down at the dingy little room spinning around her, Mama lying weak and thin in her bed, and Abby crouched beside her with a clean cloth. It wasn’t always going to be like this. Everybody said Jane was the image of her mother, and that meant she could be a princess too. She just had to find a prince with a castle.

Chapter One

But there certainly are not so many men of large fortune in the world as there are pretty women to deserve them.

—JANE AUSTEN, MANSFIELD PARK

Mayfair, London, March 1817

“That was a lovely treat, thank you, Abby.” Jane squeezed her sister’s arm affectionately as they walked through Berkeley Square. “I can’t believe I had to wait eighteen years to taste ice cream.”

Abby laughed. “You’ve made up for it in the last few months—is there any flavor at Gunter’s you haven’t tasted?”

“No,” Jane admitted, “but I still haven’t decided which is my favorite.”

Abby laughed again. “And it’s not even summer yet.” It was barely even spring. The plane trees that lined the square were only just beginning to bud and a few scattered clumps of snowdrops were in bloom.

Jane squeezed her older sister’s arm again. “Ice cream or not, it’s lovely to have the catch-up, just the two of us. I love Damaris and Daisy—you know I do, but sometimes . . .”

Abby nodded. “Sometimes you just need to be with your big sister, I know. It’s the same for me.” She paused, then glanced at Jane. “Are you nervous about your season? Your first ball, it’s what, ten days away?”

“A fortnight,” Jane corrected her. “And no, I’m not nervous. Not really.” She shook her head. “Well, nervous in a good way. If you want to know the truth, I can’t wait. All those years in the Pillbury Home wearing gray and brown serge and never dreaming—well, only dreaming about going to balls and parties and routs, wearing pretty dresses, dancing until dawn and going to plays and concerts and picnics, as Mama did. But I never truly believed it would happen, that one day . . .” She hugged her sister, then gave a happy little twirl. “It’s so exciting, Abby. I feel so very lucky.”

“We are lucky,” Abby said, sobering a little. “All of us. If it weren’t for Lady Beatrice . . .”

“I know. But she insists we rescued her, which is true too, in a way. And truly Abby, she’s enjoying this as much as any of us. She couldn’t be more delighted if we were her real nieces.”

Abby laughed. “Good thing I married her nephew then, which makes it almost true.”

“‘Nonsense! Your marriage to Max has nothing to do with it. If I want nieces, I’ll dashed well have ’em!’” Jane declared in an excellent imitation of Lady Beatrice, and they both laughed.

Abby linked arms with Jane again and they resumed walking. “Oh, Jane, I’m so happy. Happier than I ever dreamed possible. You have no idea. Marriage is . . .” She gave a blissful sigh and then blushed. “But you’ll find out soon enough. You’ll meet a handsome young man—maybe even next week at the ball—and you’ll fall madly in—”

“Do you think Damaris and Freddy will have arrived in town yet?”

Abby gave her a sharp glance, but accepted the change of subject. “Damaris’s last letter said they expected to arrive in London today or tomorrow, so they might have, yes.”

“Oh, good. I can’t wait to see her. Her letters from Venice contained some beautiful sketches—it seems like a magical place. I wonder if I’ll ever get to see it.”

“Jane—”

But Jane didn’t want to talk about falling in love, which was all Abby talked about these days. “Watch out,” she said, pulling Abby back as a curricle whizzed past them. “You’re not in the country now, Abby—we have traffic in London, remember.” They crossed the street and mounted the front steps of Lady Beatrice’s house, where Jane and Daisy still lived.

Max, on his marriage to Abby, had rented a town house around the corner. He’d offered to house Daisy and Jane there as well, but Lady Beatrice had objected strongly. “Stealing my gels? Losing Abby and Damaris to you and Freddy is bad enough. What’s wrong with newlyweds today—don’t you want privacy?” Delivered with a gimlet stare magnified by her favorite lorgnette.

Abby and Max hadn’t argued. And Freddy, taking the hint, had also arranged the hire of a town house for the season, within easy walking distance of Berkeley Square.

The front door opened silently before Jane could even reach for the bell. Featherby, their butler, placed a white-gloved finger over his lips in mysterious fashion and stood back to let them in.

Daisy was sitting on the stairs, halfway up. “Daisy?” Jane began.

Sssh!” Daisy made extravagant shushing gestures. Jane and Abby exchanged glances. What on earth was going on?

Featherby, tapping his finger against his lips to reinforce the need for silence, pointed to the door to the drawing room, which was ajar. Voices wafted out. Lady Beatrice and a male visitor. Nothing unusual there. So why were Daisy and Featherby behaving so mysteriously?

“What—” Jane began.

Shhh!” Daisy made fierce, emphatic gestures, beckoning to Jane to come up and to be quiet.

Mystified, Jane obeyed. Featherby stepped in front of the sitting room door, blocking them from the sight of the unknown visitor while Jane and Abby slipped past and hurried silently up the stairs.

“What’s going on?” Jane whispered.

“Sit down and listen!” Daisy tugged her down beside her on the stairs. “It’s about you.”

Jane sat. So did Abby. The three girls leaned against the rails, listening intently to the voices coming from the drawing room.

The man, whoever he was, was talking about himself. “Of course, you know my family and my circumstances, Lady Beatrice, and naturally my eligibility is not in doubt—”

Eligibility? “What’s he talking about?” Jane whispered.

“He’s making an offer for you,” Daisy whispered back.

“For me?” Jane squeaked. She turned and stared at Daisy. “Who is he?”

“Lord Cambury.”

Jane gave her a blank stare. “Who?

“Lord Cambury. He came to the literary society a couple of times.”

Jane shook her head, none the wiser.

“Little fat bloke. Thirty-three or so. Natty dresser. Balding.” Daisy mimed a comb being dragged across a scalp and Jane suddenly remembered. Lord Cambury.

Lord Cambury? There must be some mistake. He couldn’t possibly be offering for her. She’d barely exchanged a dozen words with the man. She leaned closer to hear the conversation coming from the drawing room.

But Featherby, who had been hovering casually near the drawing room door, suddenly turned and gestured urgently. Lord Cambury’s voice grew louder, saying, “Tomorrow then, Lady Beatrice. I look forward to it.”

He was leaving. The girls rose and hurried up the stairs out of sight.

At the landing, Jane turned and peered down cautiously between the rails. She caught a glimpse of a pink and shiny pate, over which thin strands of fair hair had been carefully combed, and then Featherby was handing Lord Cambury his hat, coat and cane.

The front door closed behind him and Jane let out the breath she hadn’t even realized she’d been holding.

Featherby glanced up and said in a voice that carried up the stairs, “Yes, m’lady, Miss Jane and Lady Davenham are here with Miss Daisy. I’ll call them down, shall I?” The girls hurried downstairs.

“Tea, m’lady?” Featherby asked as they entered the drawing room.

Lady Beatrice nodded. “And something stronger for me.” Featherby bowed and withdrew. Lady Beatrice pulled out her lorgnette and regarded Jane through it. “Well now, you’re full of surprises, miss.”

Jane’s jaw dropped. “I am?”

Lady Beatrice frowned. “You didn’t expect this?”

“I’m not entirely sure what ‘this’ is.” She glanced at Daisy. “Daisy said Lord Cambury was making an offer. Of marriage. For me.”

Lady Beatrice nodded. “Nothing wrong with the gel’s ears. Not that any of you should be listening at doors.”

Daisy gave her an unrepentant grin. “Best way to keep up with all the news.”

“Minx.” The old lady shook her head, sending her vivid red curls bobbing. “But you’re quite right.” She turned to Jane. “Lord Cambury has made a formal offer for your hand.”

So it was true. Jane stared at her, stunned. “But . . . he hardly knows me.” She tried to remember the times she’d spoken to Lord Cambury, and could recall only the most commonplace exchanges—a comment about the weather on one occasion, and her partiality for cream cakes on another.

“And from the sounds of things, you don’t know him either,” Abby pointed out.

“Nevertheless, it’s an excellent offer,” Lady Beatrice said. “He’s rich, as rich as Golden Ball they say, only without the vulgarity. Lord Cambury prides himself on his exquisite good taste.”

William, their footman, brought in the tea tray with a large pot of tea and a plate of cakes and other delicacies. Featherby followed, bearing the brandy decanter. Under Lady Beatrice’s supervision, he poured her tea—more brandy than tea.

Abby poured for the rest of them, just tea with a little milk. For a few moments the silence was broken only by the clattering of teacups and spoons.

“What did you tell him?” Jane blurted out as soon as William and Featherby had left.

“That it was your decision, of course.”

“It’s ridiculous,” Abby declared. “As if Jane would even consider such an insulting offer. So he’s rich and a lord. Does he think he is so rich and important that he doesn’t even have to bother courting her?” She looked at Jane expectantly.

Jane said nothing.

“Ridiculous, perhaps,” Lady Beatrice said after a moment, “but it’s quite a coup for your sister. The caps that have been set at Cambury these past ten years—you have no idea, my dears—and he’s offered for Jane before the season has even begun!”

She drained her cup and signaled for Abby to refill it with tea this time. “Whether or not you accept him, your success is assured, my dear. What a season this is going to be! Two of you brilliantly married already and now, a magnificent offer for Jane—and from Cambury, of all men.”

“What do you know about him?” Jane asked.

There was a sudden silence.

Abby put the teapot down with a thump and turned to her sister. “You can’t be seriously considering him, Jane. You don’t even know him—you said as much yourself.”

“That’s why I asked Lady Beatrice what she knows about him,” Jane responded tranquilly. “I’m curious.” She glanced at Abby. “I have a right to know, after all.”

Abby bit her lip. “Of course.”

The old lady picked up her teacup and regarded Jane for a thoughtful moment. “Good family, of course—been here since the conquest. I’m fairly sure I attended the boy’s christening.” She took a sip of tea, grimaced and signaled for Abby to add some brandy to it.

“As for Cambury himself,” she continued, “I’ve heard nothing to his detriment. His aunt, Dora, Lady Embury, comes occasionally to my literary society.” Nobody said anything and the old lady added, “You gels must know her. Large lady, lives on the other side of the square. Often dresses in purple—not the shade I’d advise for a woman of her high color—and could talk the leg off an iron pot. Owns a herd of little yappy dogs.”

“Oh, yes, I know who you mean,” Jane said. She’d seen and even patted the dogs in the park.

Lady Beatrice continued, “According to Dora, her beloved Edwin—Cambury—is a perfect paragon—a dutiful nephew—his parents died some years ago—visits Dora often enough to keep her happy but doesn’t appear to be tied to her apron strings. Even walks those dratted little dogs for her on occasion.” She shook her head. “As for what he does with himself, from what he said, his passion in life seems to be collecting beautiful things. He told me he considers himself ‘a connoisseur of beauty.’”

She snorted. “In fact, it’s more or less how he referred to you, Jane—said he wishes to acquire a beautiful wife to complete his house full of beautiful objects. Houses,” she corrected herself. “He has three that I know of. One in London, another his country seat—Cambury Castle—”

“A castle?” Jane echoed.

“Yes, quite a magnificent estate—and a place in Brighton—he’s a member of the Prince Regent’s set.”

“Coxcomb! I don’t care whose set he’s part of or how many houses he owns, or how much his aunt dotes on him,” Abby said hotly. “Jane deserves better than a man who doesn’t even bother to get to know her before offering for her hand, a man who wants to add her to his collection of beautiful things—I’ve never heard of anything so outrageous—and I hope you told him so, Lady Beatrice.”

The old lady made a vague gesture. “It’s not for me to say who Jane will or won’t marry. She must decide for herself. Cambury’s coming back tomorrow at three to speak to her.”

“Good. Jane can tell him herself, then.” Abby turned to Jane. “And I hope you send him away with a flea in his ear. The arrogance of the man!”

Jane didn’t respond. She couldn’t think straight. She’d expected—well, hoped—for an offer of marriage from some eligible gentleman, but not before the season had even started. And certainly not from someone she’d barely exchanged a word with. Or anyone so . . . rich. With a castle.

“Jane?” Abby said, frowning. “You will send him away, won’t you?”

Still Jane said nothing. She had no idea what she would do. She could feel everyone’s eyes on her.

“It’s what you’ve always said you wanted, isn’t it, my dear?” Lady Beatrice asked after a moment. “To make a good marriage to a wealthy man?”

“Oh, but that was before,” Abby said. “Back then, when we were destitute and quite horridly desperate. I’d say any one of us would have agreed to marry a virtual stranger then, just to get a roof over our heads and to know where our next meal was coming from.”

“And to be safe,” Jane added.

“Exactly. But now we’re in a completely different situation. We’re not in need of anything. And Damaris and I are married and so very, very happy—more so than either of us dared to dream of.” There was a catch in her voice as she said it.

Jane was in no doubt of her sisters’ happiness. Abby fairly glowed with love and joy and so had Damaris as she’d left with Freddy after Christmas on their honeymoon trip to Venice.

Abby continued, “So there’s no need for anyone to make a marriage of convenience now. Everything’s set for Jane to make her come-out, and over the next few months she’ll meet dozens of eligible and handsome young men, and I just know she’s going to fall in love with one of them, and be happier than she’d ever dreamed of.”

Jane smiled. She knew what her sister wanted for her. Abby wanted Jane to have what Abby had—everything her heart desired. But Jane was different from Abby.

“Is he a kind man, do you think?” Jane asked Lady Beatrice. It sounded like he was, seeing he walked his aunt’s dogs for her. His liking dogs was promising.

“Jane, you can’t possibly be taking this offer seriously,” Abby burst out.

“Why not? It was made seriously, wasn’t it?”

“But—” Abby began.

“Now, Abby,” Lady Beatrice said warningly.

“But she’s thinking of accepting him—can’t you see?” Abby turned back to her sister. “What about love, Jane? You can’t marry without love. You simply can’t. You can’t imagine how wonderful it is, Jane, to be in love and to know that you’re loved in return.”

Jane swallowed and glanced away.

Abby gave her a narrow glance, then her tone changed. “Look, you don’t need to decide now; there’s plenty of time to meet the right man, to fall in love. You’ll have dozens of eligible offers, just wait and see. Isn’t that right, Lady Beatrice? Once the season gets started, she’ll be knee-deep in suitors, all clamoring for her attention.”

Jane didn’t say anything. She didn’t want to be knee-deep in suitors. The very idea made her uncomfortable. Men always seemed to want something from her—she’d never quite understood what. They seemed to imagine she was someone different, someone who matched her face.

She didn’t want dozens of men clamoring for her attention; she just wanted to be . . . safe. And comfortable.

She’d been so looking forward to her season, wearing pretty dresses and going to balls and parties and concerts—after twelve years in the Pillbury Home, wearing cast-offs and hand-me-downs from the older girls, what girl wouldn’t? She’d looked forward to dancing with a succession of handsome young men too. She hadn’t thought much beyond that.

Oh, she knew marriage was the aim of it all, and she wanted to be married, of course she did; you had to be married to have children, and Jane wanted children more than anything.

But it had all been a bit vague in her mind. She’d vaguely imagined she’d meet a nice eligible gentleman and he would propose, and she would accept and then, at the end of the season, she’d get married.

And then her life—her real life—would start. She’d have a husband and a home and soon, she hoped, she’d be blessed with her own little baby. It was all she’d ever wanted—a home of her own and children. And of course, a husband made all that possible.

But dozens of suitors . . . staring . . . and clamoring . . .

“Jane—” Abby began again, but Lady Beatrice held up a magisterial hand.

“Hush, Abby! I know you want what’s best for your sister—we all do—but it’s Jane’s decision and she needs time now, to think it over. In peace.”

Abby gave a rueful smile. “Of course. I’m sorry, love.” She rose and gave Jane a hug. “I didn’t mean to be telling you what to do. It’s a bad big sister habit—I forget sometimes that you’re eighteen and all grown up now. You’ll do the right thing, I know you will.”

Jane hugged her back, grateful not to have to explain herself while her thoughts were still in turmoil.

“I’d better go,” Abby said. “I said I’d meet Max at four, and I’m already late.” She kissed Jane. “Don’t do anything rash, little sister.”

“I won’t.”

Daisy stood as well. “I got work to do, so I’m goin’ too. See you upstairs, Jane?”

Jane nodded. “In a few minutes.” She wanted to talk to Lady Beatrice alone.

Abby took her leave in a round of hugs, and Daisy hurried away upstairs. Jane sat down again, facing Lady Beatrice. There was a short silence while she organized her chaotic thoughts. Lady Beatrice sipped her “tea” and nibbled on an almond cat’s tongue.

“I’ve never had a marriage proposal before,” Jane said eventually. “It’s a little daunting. So I have until tomorrow to make up my mind?”

“Not at all. He might press you for an answer, but if he does and it makes you uncomfortable, refer him to me. I have no intention of letting anyone rush you into a decision. Marriage is a serious matter, my dear, and this decision will affect your entire life. So take as much time as you need.”

“But if he’s coming back tomorrow . . .”

“You can tell him you need more time to think it over. It does men good to be kept waiting—how often do I have to tell you gels that? Men want what they can’t have. They’re hunters by nature, and the harder the thing is to catch, the more they value it. Keeping them waiting and guessing is part of the game.”

Jane gave her a troubled look. “It’s not a game to me.”

Lady Beatrice reached across and patted Jane’s hand. “I know it isn’t, my dear. It’s all very serious, isn’t it—and you’re quite right to take your time and think it through very carefully. And even if you decide to refuse Cambury, it won’t hurt your reputation at all when it gets out that you’d been asked.”

“Oh, but I’d never tell anyone—”

“Pish-tush, who is talking about telling?” The old lady gave an airy shrug. “But such things often happen to get out—I can’t imagine how—but I assure you, it won’t hurt your chances for it to be known that Cambury made an offer for you before the season has even started.” Lady Beatrice grinned. “Every eligible miss—and her mother—will be ready to scratch your eyes out. I’ve lost track of the number of dazzling beauties that have set their caps at Cambury—and failed. So whether you accept him or not—either way, it’s a triumph!”

She chuckled gleefully, then saw Jane’s worried look and assumed a solemn expression. “But there, I don’t wish to put any pressure on you, my dear. It’s entirely up to you. If you don’t want him, tell him so, and if you’re not sure, simply tell him you need more time.”

“But if I make him wait, he might change his mind.”

The old lady eyed her shrewdly. “He might. Would that distress you?”

Jane bit her lip. That was the trouble; she didn’t know.

Chapter Two

I lay it down as a general rule, Harriet, that if a woman doubts as to whether she should accept a man or not, she certainly ought to refuse him.

—JANE AUSTEN, EMMA

“Gawd, I’m fair knackered.” Daisy stretched and groaned. She and Jane were getting ready for bed.

“‘Vulgarity, Daisy, m’gel, vulgarity,’” Jane said in Lady Bea accents. “Turn around and I’ll get you undone.”

Daisy laughed and turned her back for Jane to unlace her. “I’m never gunna sound like a lady, am I? I’ll have to get someone else to run me posh shop. If I ever get it, that is.”

“You’ll get it,” Jane told her confidently. “We got a lot done today. Two more outfits finished.”

Daisy shook her head. “Yeah, but there’s piles and piles of work still to do.” She plonked herself down on the bed with a sigh. “I dunno how I’m gunna manage it all, to tell the truth, Jane.”

“Even with Polly and Ginny helping?” Lady Beatrice had given two of the maids permission to help Daisy every afternoon.

Daisy nodded. “Even then. I reckon I might have overreached meself, Jane.”

“Nonsense.” Jane gave her a hug. “You’re just tired.”

Daisy’s dream was to become a fashionable dressmaker—fashions to the ton—and the plan was for her to make a splash this season, having designed and made all Jane’s clothes for her come-out, most of Abby’s and some of Damaris’s—only some because Freddy had taken Damaris to Paris on their honeymoon. Damaris had written apologetically that Freddy had insisted on buying her the most beautiful dresses and two gorgeous pelisses, that she didn’t have the heart to say no to him and she hoped Daisy wouldn’t be offended.

Daisy had admitted to Jane that far from being offended, she was a bit relieved—it was a bigger job than she’d imagined, making clothes for all three of them for a whole season. Of course, Jane and Polly did all the seams and hems and Ginny, who was skilled at fine needlework, did some of the fancywork while Daisy designed, cut, fitted and did the rest of the fancywork. And Abby lent a hand when she could.

Still, it was a stretch.

They’d all underestimated the amount of work it would be. And the space it would take.

That’s why the two girls were sharing a bedroom—Daisy’s bedchamber was so taken over with garments in various stages of manufacture, a dummy with a half-made dress pinned in place, rolls of fabric, patterns, pins, reams of braid, beads, lace, fringes and whatnot. “Me cave of gorgeousness,” Daisy called it, but her bed had become so buried under dressmaking materials that finally she’d moved the bed and her personal belongings into Jane’s room.

It was cosier this way, Jane thought. For most of her life she’d shared a dormitory with other girls, and though she’d enjoyed the luxury of having her own room when they first came to live with Lady Beatrice, she had to admit she enjoyed sharing with Daisy, and talking over the day’s events as they drifted off to sleep. Not to mention the convenience of having someone to help you dress and undress without having to summon a maid.

“But enough about me,” Daisy said. “Have you worked out what you’re going to do about Lord Comb-it-up?”

Jane pulled her dress over her head. “No, I haven’t decided.”

Daisy frowned. “You ain’t gunna marry him, surely? You don’t even know him.”

Jane sighed. “Probably not.” She wasn’t dismissing him out of hand, though. A rich man of good family, with nothing known to his detriment, a dutiful nephew who was kind to animals. There was nothing alarming about that.

And he owned a castle. Oh, she’d grown out of that silly childhood fantasy, but still . . . if she said yes to him tomorrow . . .

Daisy reached for Jane’s stay laces. “I saw your face when Abby said that about you fallin’ in love.” As she spoke, she glanced at Jane’s reflection in the mirror. “Yeah, that’s the look. So, how come you ain’t so excited about meetin’ some handsome young gent and fallin’ in love?”

“It would be nice to fall in love,” Jane said uncertainly. “But . . .”

“Cor, these strings is knotted tight! So what’s the problem? It’s not the broffel, is it? I mean you weren’t touched or nuffin’.” It was how they’d met—Jane and Damaris had been kidnapped and sold into a brothel, and Daisy, who’d been a maid there, had, with Abby’s assistance, helped them escape.

“No, it’s not that. It’s just . . . It’s not so simple. I can’t fall in love with just anyone. I have to make sure he’s the right kind of man.”

There was a short pause, then Daisy said bluntly, “You mean rich, don’t you?”

Jane sighed. “I know, it sounds awful, but you must understand, Daisy, a girl like me, without a bean to my name except the allowance dear Lady Beatrice makes us out of the goodness of her heart, well . . . I need to marry a rich man if I’m to have . . .” She trailed off.

“What? Pretty dresses? Jewels? Lots of parties—what?”

“Children.”

Children?” Daisy stared at Jane in the looking glass. “Gawd, Jane, you don’t need a rich bloke to get kids.”

I do.” She knew very well the consequences of being too poor to support children. She’d lived them and she would rather die than submit her own children to such a fate. “I think it’s more sensible to choose a man for what he can offer, instead of trusting to luck to fall in love with the right kind of man.”

And a rich man who was good to his aunt and who liked dogs didn’t sound like the wrong kind of man.

She continued, “Trusting to love is like a leaf trusting the wind to blow it to safety. You never know where you might end up. So I don’t plan to fall in love at all. I will choose a husband carefully and then I’ll fall in love with him.”

“It don’t work like that.” Daisy shook her head knowingly. “Not for you. When the time comes, you won’t be able to ’elp yourself. You’ll fall in love, just like Abby and Damaris; they never expected it neither. There y’are, it’s done now.”

Jane pulled off her stays and stepped out of her petticoat. “Nonsense. People choose whether they fall in love or not.”

Daisy snorted.

“They do, they just don’t realize it,” Jane insisted. She shrugged off her chemise and slipped her nightgown on. “I’ve observed it in others. There’s a period of time at the beginning when a person thinks, ‘Him? Or not him?’ And they either find reasons not to like him, or else they spin rose-colored stories about how wonderful he is.”

She climbed into her bed. “People choose to fall in love.” And plenty of people who made convenient marriages fell in love, she knew; it happened after the marriage, that was all. Because they chose to make the best of things.

Daisy climbed into her bed. “Some folks might think like that, mebbe. But not you.”

“Why not me? You think I’m being a coldhearted, designing female? Maybe I am, but there’s nothing wrong with being ambitious. You are, for your business.”

“Yeah, but bein’ ambitious and fallin’ in love is poles apart. Anyway, I’m tough, me. I was brung up in the gutter, I know what I got to do to succeed and I’ll fight to make it ’appen. And sure, plenty of ladies are ambitious to marry the richest bloke they can find. But not you—you got a heart as soft as butter.”

“I haven’t!” Jane said indignantly.

Daisy laughed. “So who was it who brought Damaris out of the broffel with ’er, endangering ’er own escape—but would you take no for an answer?”

Jane frowned. “That was different. Damaris saved me from that horrid auction. I couldn’t leave her there.”

“And then there was that cat and ’er kittens you brought in—fleas an’ all. Without knowing how Lady Beatrice would react. You coulda got us all kicked out.”

“The building was going to be demolished, they would have been killed. And we got rid of the fl—”

“And we both know what you do wiv pennies—”

“That’s diff—”

“Face it, you’re as softhearted as they come, Janey girl. And knowin’ you, you’ll find the most impossible, unsuitable bloke in the ton and fall for ’im like a ton o’ bricks.”

“I won’t. I absolutely will not do anything so foolish!” She felt oddly panicky at the thought.

“Pooh, you won’t have no choice in it, just like Abby and Damaris didn’t. And if anyone’s made for love, you are. You can say what you like, Janey, love’ll find you anyway. Now go to sleep. We got a lot of work to get through in the morning. Your turn to blow out the candle.”

Jane slipped out of bed and blew it out. She climbed back into bed. You’ll find the most impossible, unsuitable bloke in the ton and fall for ’im like a ton o’ bricks.

She wouldn’t. She absolutely wouldn’t.

*   *   *

“Jane! Jane, wake up!” A hand was shaking her shoulder, hard.

“Wha—” Jane sat up abruptly, staring around her wildly. Her heart was pounding.

“You was dreamin’ again.” Daisy was sitting on Jane’s bed. “’Nother nightmare.”

Jane blinked, and her dazed thoughts slowly came into focus. She glanced at the window. The curtains stirred slightly, letting in a few slivers of gray predawn light.

“You all right now?” Daisy asked.

Jane nodded. “Thanks, Daisy.” It was the same dream as always.

Daisy didn’t move. “You been dreamin’ a lot lately. Cryin’ and callin’ out.”

“Sorry. I don’t mean to wake you.” She hesitated, then, “What do I say?”

“Can’t make out the words, just a lot of muttering, thrashing around and yelling—but that ain’t the point. I keep tellin’ you, it’s the night air. Everybody knows night air is bad for you, but you will insist on sleepin’ with the window open.”

“I don’t like it shut,” Jane said.

Daisy slipped off the bed and stumped over to the window. “Yeah, well, too bad, because I’m shuttin’ it now. It’s bloody freezin’ outside and we got at least another hour before it gets light enough to start sewing, so I’m gunna get some sleep.” She pulled back the curtains and sniffed appreciatively. “Mmm, must be an east wind. Smell that? You can always smell the bread from the bakery when there’s an east wind. Best smell in the world, that is.”

Jane repressed a shudder.

“Mmm, lovely it is. Makes me hungry.” Daisy took another deep sniff, then closed the window and pulled the curtains closed. “Funny that,” she said as she climbed back into her bed.

“What is?”

“You often seem to have bad dreams when there’s an east wind. Night.” She laughed. “Or whatever you say when you’re goin’ back to sleep in the mornin’.”

“Night. And thanks, Daisy.” Jane snuggled back down in the warm bedclothes. She wouldn’t get any more sleep, she knew. She never did after she’d had the dream.

Daisy never asked what Jane’s nightmares were about. She took it for granted that everyone had terrible memories from before. “It’s normal, innit?” she’d said once. “But we’re the survivors, and bad dreams is what we pay for bein’ survivors.” It was a comforting philosophy. Dreams were frightening while you were having them, but they couldn’t hurt you, after all.

And Jane was a survivor.

London, 1804

A fist thumped on the door. Hard. Three loud thumps. With every bang the door rattled. “Come on, little girl, open the door!”

Silence. Jane didn’t move. Besides, she wasn’t a little girl anymore. She was six.

“I know you’re in there, little girl.”

She scarcely dared to breathe.

“I’ve got a bag of sweeties for you. Just open the door and you can have them.”

Sweeties? She loved sweets, had only tasted them a few times in her life, but she still didn’t move. Mr. Morrison, the landlord, frightened her, sweets or no.

Besides, she was not to open the door to anyone, Abby had said. Not to anyone. Only Abby.

Outside in the hallway, Mr. Morrison’s voice lowered. There was someone with him. Jane crept closer to the door and pressed her ear against it.

“She’s in there, I know she is. And alone—her sister works at the bakery and won’t be back for hours.”

“Then get that bloody door open. I ’aven’t got all day.”

Jane froze. She knew that voice, low as it was. It was The Man. The Man. She started to shake. The Man had tried to take her before. Oh, where was Abby? She bit on her knuckle and stared at the door.

The first time he’d just grabbed at her in the street, but Abby was there and she’d pulled Jane back and The Man had gone away.

The second time she’d been playing in the street with the other children, and a boy had come eating an orange, not a boy she’d seen before, but he’d come right up to Jane and given her a piece, and oh, it was delicious, so sweet and juicy and the boy had said a man was giving out oranges to children for nothing, just go around the corner.

Only when Jane had gone around the corner, it was The Man—and he was waiting for her. He’d thrown a bag over her head and would have stolen her away, only she’d screamed and the other children—Mama called them street urchins, but they were Jane’s friends—had rushed up in a group and attacked The Man, and he’d dropped Jane and she’d escaped and run home to Mama, and safety.

But Mama was dead now, and Jane was alone.

The knock on the door came again, softer this time, and Mr. Morrison said, trying to sound friendly but she could tell he was cross, “Now don’t be foolish, girl. You know me. Nobody’s going to hurt you.”

A key scraped in the lock and the handle turned. Shivering, Jane watched it like a snake. Last month Mama had made Abby put a bolt on the door. Mr. Morrison didn’t know about the bolt. But was it strong enough to keep out him and The Man?

The door rattled, but stayed shut. Mr. Morrison swore.

The Man had come here once when Mama was alive. Mama had been expecting Mr. Morrison, come about the rent, and had told her to hide in the wardrobe like a little mouse and to keep the door closed and not to move or come out—no matter what she heard—until Mama called her.

It was Mr. Morrison, but he’d brought The Man with him. Jane had seen him through a crack in the wardrobe door. She’d listened as he told Mama he could give Jane a good job and a good home and plenty of food and he’d pay Mama ten pounds for her—ten pounds! But Mama got angry and started coughing and telling The Man to get out and that he wasn’t to lay a finger on either of her daughters, but The Man had said he didn’t want the other one, only Jane.

He told Mama she wasn’t long for this world anyway, and that sooner or later he’d get Jane. And if not him, that someone else would get her, that Jane was worth good money in the right hands, and if Mama sold her to him now, she could buy medicine for herself and food for her other daughter.

Mama had called him a filthy procu-something, and told him to get out! Get out! And to stay away from her daughters! The more angry and upset Mama got, the more she coughed, and the man had laughed because in the end she could hardly talk for coughing.

He’d stopped laughing when Mama had coughed blood on him. He’d sworn and backed away.

People got frightened when Mama coughed blood. Jane and Abby were used to it. After the man had gone, Jane fetched the cloth and the bowl of water and gave Mama some drops from the little blue bottle and soon Mama was quiet again.

That was when Jane had asked Mama why The Man wanted Jane and not Abby. Abby was stronger and quicker and much cleverer than Jane. Abby was twelve and could read and write and do everything. She even had a job already, at the bakery. Jane was only six and not very good at anything much.

“So why, Mama?” she’d asked. “Why did he want me, and not Abby?”

Mama had cupped Jane’s cheek with her thin, white hand and said in such a sad voice, “Because you’re beautiful, my darling. Because you’re beautiful.”

She’d told Jane then that The Man was a very bad man, a wicked man. And that she must watch out for him and stay away from him, that when Mama was gone, Jane must stay with Abby at all times and not wander off.

Mama had died last week but Jane wasn’t allowed to go to work with her sister. Abby’s boss said he wouldn’t allow a child of Jane’s age in the bakery, that she would be a nuisance and get underfoot—no matter that Abby promised him Jane would not. So while Abby was at work, Jane had to stay here, alone, in the small room that was their home. Abby said it was safer here than playing in the streets.

Jane didn’t feel safe at all. At least in the street there were the other children.

The door rattled again. “Open this door at once!” Mr. Morrison yelled.

“Oh, fer Gawd’s sake, just break it down,” she heard The Man say. “I’ll pay for the damage.”

Jane looked frantically around the room. There wasn’t any place to hide. They’d be sure to look in the wardrobe. There was no way out except the door. Even the window was boarded over from when it had been broken so long ago.

The window! In the summer, Abby had loosened some of the nails so they could get some fresh air into the room. Crash! The door trembled. A crack appeared down the middle.

Jane flew to the window. With fingers that were shaking and clumsy, she worked the loose nail out. One of the boards swung down, leaving a narrow gap. She could see outside, to daylight.

Crash! It was the sound of splitting timber but Jane didn’t wait to see. In a flash she was wriggling through the gap between the boards. It was a very tight squeeze.

Behind her she heard the door splinter. She heard a shout and footsteps.

She squirmed frantically, heard something rip, felt someone grab her foot, but she kicked back and fell to the pavement in a heap, one shoe missing.

“Come back ’ere, ya little bitch!” Mr. Morrison shouted, but Jane didn’t wait.

She picked herself up and ran and ran and ran, not stopping for breath, not caring that she had only one shoe, not caring that there was a stitch in her side, not stopping until she reached the bakery and ran around the back and there was Abby in an apron too big for her and covered in flour. She hurled herself at her big sister. “Oh, Abby, Abby, Abby!”

And Abby’s arms came around her. “What’s happened, Janey? What are you doing here? And where’s your shoe?”

Shaking, and gasping for breath, she managed, “He came, Abby—The Man—with Mr. Morrison and I didn’t open the door to them just like you said, but he banged so loudly and, and then The Man said to break the door down and, and—” She broke off, sobbing.

“Hush, love, you’re all right,” Abby soothed. “You’re here with me now, you’re safe.”

“I got out of the window.” She looked down at her one remaining shoe and shivered. “Someone grabbed my foot as I was climbing out. He got my shoe, Abby. The Man got my shoe.”

“Yes, but he didn’t get you,” Abby said firmly. “And that’s all that matters.”

“We can’t go back there, Abby. He paid Mr. Morrison to let him in.”

“What’s that child doing here?” a deep voice boomed. “I told you, no children!” It was the baker, fat and red-faced with a big beard.

“Wait here.” Abby sat Jane down on an upturned bucket and hurried away to speak to the baker. Jane couldn’t hear what they said, but several times the baker turned to look at her. He was frowning.

The minute Abby came back, Jane said, “I won’t go back, Abby. He’ll—”

“Hush. I’ll go when I’ve finished work, but only to collect our things.”

“What about me?” Jane sent a nervous glance at the baker.

“He said you can stay in the yard during the day,” Abby said.

“You told me there were rats in the yard.” Jane was scared of rats. She’d been bitten by a rat when she was little. She still had the scar.

“There are two cats and a little dog to keep the rats away,” Abby told her. “You’ll like that, won’t you?”

Jane nodded. She loved animals, except for rats.

“Are you hungry?”

Jane nodded. She was always hungry.

“I’ll bring you a nice warm bun to eat.” Abby fetched the bun and gave it to Jane. It was the best thing about working in a bakery; there was always stale bread for Abby to bring home. Most days it was all they ate.

“Abby, where will we live now?”

There was a short silence. Abby glanced at the baker, who was pulling trays of bread from a fiery oven.

“He said we can sleep in the shed for a night or two, on the flour sacks, just until we find somewhere else. Don’t worry, we’ll work something out. I’ll write some letters. We can’t go on like this,” Abby said.

“Letters like Mama used to write?” Mama wrote letters but she never got any answers.

Abby sighed. “I know. But what else can we do?”

*   *   *

Jane lay curled up in bed, thinking about the past.

Don’t do anything rash, Abby had said.

But Abby’s idea of rash wasn’t Jane’s. Abby thought it would be rash for Jane to accept a man of good reputation, good family and good fortune, just because she didn’t know him very well. Didn’t love him.

But Abby had been twelve when Mama and Papa had died. Abby had memories of when they’d been happy. Abby trusted in love. And she’d been lucky.

Jane had only a few memories of those days. She mainly remembered hunger, and being cold and uncomfortable. And frightened. For most of her life she’d been alone, without family.

Trust in love? Hope to be lucky in love?

Mama and Papa had—and look where that had ended; Papa in his desperation shot as a highwayman, Mama coughing her lungs out with consumption and their children left destitute and alone, aged twelve and six.

It was only by the purest luck that she and Abby weren’t living in poverty still.

Luck, and Daisy . . . And Lady Beatrice . . . And a chain of random lucky events . . . But you couldn’t rely on luck forever.

The pinkish light of dawn edged through the gap in the curtains. Jane huddled the warm bedclothes around her. No, she wouldn’t do anything rash.

Chapter Three

Oh, Lizzy! do anything rather than marry without affection.

—JANE AUSTEN, PRIDE AND PREJUDICE

Lord Cambury arrived at exactly three o’clock.

Punctuality was good, Jane thought. It showed that politeness was important to him, and that, in small ways at least, he kept his word. While he was greeting her and Lady Beatrice, and being seated in the drawing room, Jane examined him carefully.

He was rather tubby around the waist, only a few inches taller than she, and physically unthreatening. He was neatly and stylishly dressed in immaculate fawn breeches and gleaming black boots, his neckcloth was elegantly arranged, but not overly elaborate, and the cut of his coat showed the hand of a master tailor. His hair was carefully styled to disguise his bald pate, and pomaded into place. Lord Comb-it-up. Jane tried not to think about Daisy’s comment. His encroaching baldness wasn’t his fault, poor man.

After a short exchange of polite commonplaces, and his refusal of any refreshment, Lady Beatrice left Jane alone with him. She sat, smoothing her skirt over her knees, trying to appear calmer than she felt.

“Y’look lovely today,” Lord Cambury told her with an approving smile. “All my years in society, don’t think I’ve ever seen a more beautiful young lady—and believe me, I’ve looked.” He held up his hands, making a frame of her face with his fingers, then altering it. “Perfect proportions, no matter what angle you take.”

Jane blushed and thanked him. She never felt comfortable when people talked about her beauty. “I believe you walk your aunt’s dogs on occasion.”

“Yes, fond of dogs.”

“So am I. And are you fond of cats too?”

“Don’t mind ’em, though I don’t keep ’em. Make me sneeze.”

“Ah.”

There was a short pause, then Lord Cambury said, “Went to your literary society last week. Heard you read.”

“Yes, I remember.”

“Don’t generally read much. Boring.”

“Oh.”

“Pretty voice, though. Don’t mind listening.”

“Thank you.” There was a short silence. She couldn’t think of a thing to say. It was hard to pretend this was an ordinary morning call, when she knew the real purpose of his visit. She was absurdly nervous.

“Your guardian inform you as to the purpose of my visit?”

So there was to be no beating about the bush, no attempt at flirtation, no pretense that this was to be anything but a straightforward arrangement. Jane relaxed a little. “Yes, she did.” Lady Beatrice wasn’t her guardian, not in any formal sense, but that didn’t matter.

And then he launched into the speech she’d overheard most of the day before on the stairs. She listened politely as he outlined his desire for a beautiful wife to add to all the other beautiful things he had collected in his lifetime, adding delicately that he hoped she would give him beautiful children, eventually—he needed an heir, of course.

He explained his eligibility, though not in the detail he had to Lady Beatrice the day before. He did describe all three of his houses and their contents in great detail, as if she were marrying his houses as well.

There was some truth in the notion, she decided. She was, after all, marrying him to get a home.

It was all a little strange, but Jane didn’t feel at all uncomfortable with him. He did stare at her, but not in that way, the way so many men did that usually made her uncomfortable. It was almost as if she were a painting or a statue, rather than a person.

He finished his speech, hesitated, then carefully lowered himself onto one knee and said, “Miss Chance, will you do me the honor of becoming my wife?”

Jane took a deep breath. This was the moment. With a simple “yes,” she could secure her future. And that of any children she might have. But she respected that he hadn’t tried to flummery her with false declarations of love, and she owed him the same honesty.

It seemed she was going to do something rash after all.

“Please sit down, Lord Cambury,” she found herself saying. “There are one or two things I need to clarify before I answer your very flattering question.”

He frowned, rose with only a slight degree of difficulty, brushed off his breeches and sat down again.

“Thank you for your offer,” she told him. “I am deeply honored by it.”

“But?”

“But you need to know something about me before you ask me again.” His frown deepened, but she continued, her voice shaking a little. “You asked Miss Chance to be your wife. I am . . . I am not Miss Chance. Chance is a name we made up—my sisters and I—when we were in trouble and fleeing from an evil man who intended us harm. My real name is Jane Chantry.”

His expression didn’t change. “Of the Hertfordshire Chantrys.”

She couldn’t tell if it was a question or not, but she decided to treat it as one. “I believe so, though my sister Abby and I have never had any contact with my father’s family.” The Hertfordshire Chantrys had never acknowledged Jane and Abby’s existence, not when they were born and Papa wrote to his parents, not when Papa was killed and Mama wrote to them, nor when Mama died and twelve-year-old Abby wrote to tell them she and her little sister were now orphaned, destitute and alone. The Hertfordshire Chantrys had offered no help, shown no interest.

“We’ve never had any contact with our mother’s family, the Dalrymples, either. Our parents died when I was six, and Abby and I went into an orphan asylum.”

“Orphan asylum?”

Jane raised her chin. “Yes, the Pillbury Home for the Daughters of Distressed Gentlewomen. I lived there for twelve years.”

His sandy brows rose. “And what about the Marchese di Chancelotto?”

She swallowed. “I’m afraid he is a figment of Lady Beatrice’s imagination that somehow caught the ton’s attention and became accepted as fact. We cannot publicly deny it without embarrassing Lady Beatrice, so we don’t. We owe her everything, and would not for the world cause her any distress.” Though it was doubtful whether anything could embarrass Lady Beatrice.

The old lady had made up the outrageous story one night at a dinner party, out of a mischievous desire to annoy her nephew, Max. None of them had dreamed anyone would take it seriously, but the story had spread and become established as truth, much to the old lady’s delight.

He frowned. “And Lady Beatrice is . . .”

“A dear and beloved friend. But no blood relation.”

“Yet your sister married her nephew. He know about this?”

“Yes.”

Lord Cambury sat back in his chair, looking thoughtful. “I see. Your other sisters?”

“Equally dear and beloved, but no relation to Abby and me. Nevertheless, we are committed to each other as sisters of the heart, and nothing would ever prevail on me to deny them,” Jane said firmly.

“I see.”

No, he didn’t. There was worse to come. She took a deep breath and smoothed her hands over the fabric of her skirt again. They trembled a little. This was going to be the hard part. “I need to tell you how we met, but first, I want your word as a gentleman that you will repeat this to no one, for the secrets I must reveal are not mine alone.”

He gave her a narrow look, pursed his lips, then nodded briskly and gave his word.

In a quiet voice, and not looking at him as she spoke, she explained how on the very day she’d left the Pill, she’d been drugged and kidnapped, how she’d woken up in a brothel, and how Damaris, who’d also been newly kidnapped, had helped save her from the virgin auction by brewing a potion of herbs that had made Jane too ill to be sold.

She told him how Daisy, who’d worked in the brothel as a maidservant, had smuggled them out with Abby’s help, and how they’d inadvertently caused Abby to lose her position as a governess. She told him how the four girls had vowed to band together as sisters and to take care of each other, and she finished by telling him how they’d come—at Lady Beatrice’s invitation—to live with her as her nieces.

She finished, and Lord Cambury said nothing for a long time. Jane waited anxiously, having no clue what he was thinking—his face was quite hard to read—and when he finally spoke, it was to ask for a cognac.

Jane rang for Featherby, and after he’d brought his lordship a cognac, she said, “Would you rather I left you alone for a while, Lord Cambury? I know I’ve given you quite a lot to take in.”

He drained the glass, set it down carefully and fixed her with a stare. “Still a virgin?”

What People are Saying About This

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The Spring Bride 4.9 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 9 reviews.
ReadingGenie More than 1 year ago
"The Spring Bride" by Anne Gracie 2015 (The Chance sisters, Book #3) Jane was going to have a season. After living in poverty and fear, her goal was to find safety, security, a home and children. But before the season even began an offer was made by Lord Cambury. He was kind to his aunt and dogs, had money and respectability so Jane accepted his offer to the shock of her sister, Abby who wanted her to find True Love. Zachary Black was back in London. His presence was requested by Mr. Gilbert Radcliffe. Zach was a spy and was in disguise as a gypsy. His boss, Mr. Radcliffe told him to go and visit his family's lawyers. His father had died months before but something was up. His cousin was trying to have him declared dead and then he was told there was a complication- he was wanted for murdering his step mother who he knew wasn't dead because he had spirited her away to Wales to save her from his father's brutality. "Keep low he was told. We'll send someone up the Wales to get her." His lawyer , Mr Smith told him. Jane loved animals. About to get into the carriage after shopping, she noticed some street urchins hurting a dog. She took off after them. Zach was watching and curious why a young Lady would venture alone into a dirty London side street, he took off to look down the alley. A group of youths were gathered in a circle kicking something and the girl ran right into the mix pulling at the youths and getting shoved into a wall for her efforts. Zach came to her rescue. After the youths left, Zach stood and looked into the most beautiful pair of wide blue eyes he had ever seen. Will Jane exchange security for love to an unreliable rogue/gypsy? Will Zach change to be with the one he loves? Happy reading!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I loved this book. It's such a sweet story. The entire series is wonderful.
Sissymae1 More than 1 year ago
This is book three in the "Chance Sisters" series. I would say that this is a standalone book just like the other but I would highly recommend that you read all the books..just because this series is so good! I love Anne Gracie writing.. they are always funny, moving, emotional and has great secondary characters. Ms. Gracie is one of my favorite authors. When I get one of her books I cannot put it down and this was no exception! This book is the story of Jane Chance who at a early age lost her mother and father. So Jane and her older sister Abigail did all they could to survive on their own. Jane is very beautiful and at a early age men have started wanting her for her beauty. So between poverty and uncertainty of men's attitude toward Jane she feels that she needs a marriage of financial security and safety. Our hero, Zachary Black too has had a tough life. Zack was a young man with a wealthy titled father, but that father physically abused him and his step-mother. So as a young man of about sixteen him and his mother leave his father and go their separate ways. Zack has taken to spying and living by earning his money. Years later after his father dies, Zack goes to town to settle his title and inheritance that his cousin his trying to declare is his. Although Zack doesn't plan on staying in town any longer than necessary to clear up this matter he finds that he cannot leave yet due to a murder accusation hanging over his head that he murder his step-mom. So Zack has to stay in his role of being a gypsy and commoner. But he meets Jane and he starts to rethink his whole life and how he has ignore his responsibility and how if he wants to continue his feelings for Jane he is going to have to come clean because Jane is set to marry a man that does have wealth and security. This starts their much loved story! I hope that you will enjoy it too!!
Time2ReadMore More than 1 year ago
The Spring Bride by Anne Grace- This is one of a series that is a must read. Anne Grace has talent in her writing. In this story Jane chance, beautiful in figure and face, is about to be presented to high society. She has a natural sister and two sisters in heart. Zachery Black is a Noble man’s son and a spy who has returned to England after 8 years to find he is accused of the murder of his step-mother Cicely. And needs to clear himself so he can inherit his estate from his deceased father. Some cousins of his are attempting to declare him dead. Jane and Zach try to clear him of the murder and come up against many obstacles on the journey. There is plenty of suspense, romance and humor in this story
RogueDiva More than 1 year ago
It's wonderful to see how Jane stays true to herself and still has her happy ending - can't wait for Daisy's story!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Loved the Spring Bride.nIt moved a little slower for me than the previous two books but still exceptional. Can't wait for Daisy's story.
Historical_Romance_Lover More than 1 year ago
This is book 3 in the Chance Sisters series. Jane Chance is about to make her debut, but before she can she gets an offer of marriage from a wealthy lord. He represents everything she has ever wanted: a husband, money to secure her future and the chance of children. That is until she meets Zachary Black and he turns her world upside down. Zach is not what Jane needs to secure her future. He is a gypsy that helps her rescue a dog, not someone she would consider marrying. But what she doesn't know, is that Zach is a wealthy lord himself. Unfortunately, this former spy is wanted for murder and must keep his identity a secret until he finds evidence of his innocence. Can Zach keep Jane from marrying long enough to clear his name and claim her as his own? I had never read anything by Anne Gracie before this series. When finding out it was book three in a series, I quickly checked out the other two books from the library. Book one had me hooked and I quickly read the next two. Falling in love with all the "sisters" in book one, had me eagerly wanted to read each of their stories. Jane has always wanted security when choosing a spouse. I thought that she might change her mind after watching her sisters fall in love. But her childhood memories of struggling just to survive were more powerful than the lure of love. It was interesting to watch her inner struggle with what her mind wanted and what her heart was telling her to do. I was also fun to watch the "bad boy" fall in love and get something he never thought he wanted. Of course this series wouldn't be the same without Lady Bea and her outrageous stories and meddling ways. I think I'd like to see her get her HEA too!! I can't wait to read Daisy's story! She is such a colorful person and doesn't hold anything back. Her match will definitely have to be strong willed! Thanks go out to Penguin Group via NetGalley for a copy of the book in exchange of an honest review.
J-Rae More than 1 year ago
This book is well written. I  couldn't put it down until the end. All the mystery of whom Jane will choose. Anne Gracie is one of my favorite authors.