The Wife Campaign (Love Inspired Historical Series)

The Wife Campaign (Love Inspired Historical Series)

by Regina Scott

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781460323380
Publisher: Harlequin
Publication date: 12/01/2013
Series: Master Matchmakers
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 288
Sales rank: 85,897
File size: 330 KB

About the Author

Regina Scott started writing novels in the third grade. Thankfully for literature as we know it, she didn’t actually sell her first novel until she had learned a bit more about writing. Since her first book was published in 1998, her stories have traveled the globe, with translations in many languages including Dutch, German, Italian, and Portuguese. She and her husband of over 25 years reside in southeast Washington State.

Read an Excerpt

Fern Lodge, Peak District, Derbyshire, England
July 1815

Ruby Hollingsford threw herself out of a moving coach.

There was little danger—it hadn't been moving very fast, the carriage slowing to take the gracefully arching bridge over the River Bell. And her father should have expected it. How else was she to react to his cork-brained, ninnyhammer of an idea?

I know I told you we were going to Castleton for business, her father, Mortimer Hollingsford, had said. But the truth is, the Earl of Danning has taken a fancy to you.

Ruby's temper had flared like a match to oil. Not another aristocrat! I told you I'd have none of them!

He'd pulled a gilded invitation from the travel desk on the leather-upholstered seat beside him and held it out to her with a commiserating smile. Oh, he's a fine fellow. I asked about him. He's never invited a lady to his Lodge before. You behave for once, and your future will be secure.

If she had taken that note, she'd have torn it to shreds her hands had been shaking so hard. My future? Why would my future need to be titled? If you want a title so much, you marry one.

And then she'd bunched her skirts with one hand, wrenched open the door with the other and jumped.

She landed on the verge of the road, her ankles protesting, then gathered herself to stand. Behind her, she could hear Davis calling to the horses as he reined them in.

"Ruby!" her father shouted after her. "Oh, come now!"

In answer, she ran down the grassy embankment for the river's pebbled edge.

Really, what else was she to do after such an announcement? She'd thought her father couldn't shock her any further after she'd discovered an elderly viscount—an utter stranger to her—lounging in her withdrawing room, waiting to propose. After that, she had learned to be on her guard from her father's future attempts, which thus far had been many and varied. What wastrel aristocrat in the vicinity of London didn't leap to do her father's bidding when he dangled her sizeable dowry? But to drag her all the way out to the wilds of Derbyshire, to make up a Banbury tale of business up north? That was the outside of enough.

Her father must have signaled Davis to continue, for their coachman gave the horses their heads, taking the carriage farther along the road. Very likely he was looking for a place wide enough to turn the coach and team and come back for her.

But she wasn't ready to face her father, not when she was in such a temper. He'd always said there was a reason she'd inherited her mother's sleek red hair and catlike green eyes. They were a warning to beware. A shame her father didn't heed them.

Shaking out the folds of her wine-colored pelisse, she marched down the riverbank, gaze on the speckled stones to keep from tripping. But despite her efforts to calm herself, the anger bubbling up inside her found its way out of her mouth.

"Doesn't bother to tell the truth, oh, no, not him." She detoured around a leafy shrub overhanging the shore. "'Think of it as a holiday, Ruby,' he says. 'A chance to see the sights.' I'll give him a sight—my back as I head for London!"

Someone coughed.

Ruby's head jerked up, heart ramming against her ribs. She pulled herself to a stop to avoid colliding with a tall man who stood on the riverbank, blocking her way forward. "Oh!"

Her first thought was to run. Even in skirts and on a rocky shore she ought to be able to beat him to the road. But what help would she find there? All that remained of her coach was the dust lingering in the summer air.

As if he knew her fears, the man before her held up his hands to prove he meant no harm. Indeed, now that she looked closer, he didn't appear particularly dangerous. His thick hair was not quite as bright gold as a guinea and neatly combed about his head despite the breeze that followed the stream down the dale. And his eyes were perfect for Derby: they matched the swirling combination of purple and blue found in the fabled Blue John stones native to the area that her father sold in his jewelry shop. His clean-shaven face was firmly molded like the alabaster statues her father imported, body tall and strong.

In fact, the only things about him that weren't firstrate were his clothes, which consisted of scuffed, water-stained boots, corduroy breeches and a wool waistcoat over a linen shirt. He probably wasn't even a second son, much less a selfish, self-absorbed aristocrat like she was sure to find in the Earl of Danning, who thought he could summon a gentlewoman he'd never met to Derby with a perfunctory note. With his head cocked and that smile on his handsome face, he looked as if he wanted nothing more than to help her.

However, looks could be deceiving, as she knew to her sorrow.

"Forgive me for intruding," he said. "May I be of assistance?"

Nice voice—warm, earnest. Nice manners. She still didn't trust him.

"I don't need assistance," she said, using a tone that brooked no argument. "My carriage will return for me any moment." As her boxing instructor had taught her, she positioned her feet in a preparatory stance, one forward, one back, and held her arms loosely at her sides. She was tall for a woman, and she was fairly sure that if the situation called for it, she could hit that perfectly formed nose of his with sufficient force to make him think twice about pursuit.

He glanced at the road as if considering how quickly the coach would return. "I'm glad to hear you have an escort." His voice betrayed his doubts.

She could only wish for an escort, but she'd failed to even snatch up her reticule and the pistol it contained when she'd jumped, worse luck!

Perhaps if she explained her circumstances, this fellow would be less likely to think her easy prey. She waved a hand to the north, where the coach had been heading, and hoped there truly was a lodge somewhere about, close enough that someone might hear her if she had to scream. "Oh, they'll all be looking for me. I'm to attend a fortnight's house party in the area."

He frowned. "I didn't realize His Grace had returned, much less begun entertaining."

His Grace! Her temper thrust past her logic once more, and she threw up her hands. "Oh! My father said he was an earl! Another lie!"

A shadow flickered past his face, and he bent as if to keep her from seeing it. For the first time, Ruby noticed a long wooden rod lying at his booted feet. His fingers closed around it and tugged it up before the lapping water pulled it in. "I'm sorry, madam, but the only earl in this area is the Earl of Danning, and he isn't entertaining."

Ruby made a face as he straightened. "That bad, is he?"

He chuckled, one hand on the rod, which rose even above his considerable height. "Not really. I've even heard him called affable. What I meant is that he doesn't come here to entertain." He nodded toward the river. "He comes to fish."

"Really?" She gazed at the swirling green waters as they leaped over stones, chattered past mossy boulders. Hard to imagine a puffed-up aristocrat willingly standing by a stream, angling for his dinner. Could there be more to this earl than the other nobs she'd met? Her look swung back to him. "How well do you know him?"

He hesitated, then shrugged. "Reasonably well."

Such a cautious response. Was he a servant of his lordship and feared retribution if he gossiped? Was the Earl of Danning a vengeful man? She had no wish to put this kind man at risk, but she had to use the opportunity to learn more about the earl who had somehow taken a shine to her. She stepped closer. "Is it true he's looking for a wife?"

He recoiled, eyes widening. "What?"

She smiled sweetly and repeated her question, enunciating each word with care. "Is. He. Looking. For a wife?"

He frowned at her, and it struck her that he probably thought she was bent on pursuing a title. Ruby shuddered at the idea.

"Forgive me for speaking so plainly," she said. "Please understand, I'm not after him. I'd like nothing better than for you to assure me that he is old and fat and quite set in his ways, sworn never to wed."

A muscle worked in his cheek as if he were fighting a smile. "He just reached his thirtieth year, and I believe some would consider him reasonably fit. However, I can promise you he is not actively seeking a bride."

Relief coursed through her. All that worry, for nothing! But then, who'd sent the invitation? Oh! Not another prank! Far too many aristocrats of her acquaintance found juvenile amusement in reminding her and her father of their "place" in Society. She had learned to ignore their petty jokes, but her father still hoped for the best in them. When would he learn that interaction with the upper class led to nothing but heartache?

Her would-be rescuer was still regarding her as if not quite sure what to do with her. Ruby smiled at him.

"How rude of me," she said, sticking out her hand. "Ruby Hollingsford. And you are?"

"Whitfield Calder," he supplied, taking her hand and inclining his head over it as if he were honoring her. She liked that he was taller than she was. She was growing decidedly weary of looking down onto balding crowns when she danced.

Ruby beamed at him as he released her hand. "And apparently you and the earl have something in common. You like to fish, too. I'm very sorry to have interrupted you."

He smiled. For some reason, she thought he was rusty at smiling. Perhaps it was how slowly his lips lifted. Perhaps it was the way his golden lashes veiled his eyes. Had he seen tragedy then?

"It was no trouble," he assured her, bending to retrieve a tweed coat and shrugging in his broad shoulders. "Allow me to escort you back to the bridge. A lady should not be left alone."

Ruby started to protest. For one, she wasn't considered a lady by the standards of the upper class. She was merely the daughter of a cit, a merchant, if a happily wealthy one. For another, if she could protect herself on the streets of London as she'd been forced to do as a child, surely she could take care of herself on a remote road in Derby.

Yet he seemed so sincere, and so charming, as he offered her his arm, that she decided to let him think he was taking care of her. "How kind," she said, linking her arm with his.

But as he walked slowly, carefully, putting his hand on her elbow and helping her over every little bump in the uneven ground, Ruby felt her charity with him slipping. Did he think her so frail that she couldn't keep up if he walked his normal pace, or so clumsy that she'd trip over a stone? She might have been wearing a velvet pelisse with lace dripping at the cuffs, but her boots were sturdy black leather. Hadn't he noticed that she'd already crossed the distance, at a run part of the way, with no need to lean on his manly arm?

As the ground rose sharply to the road, she broke away from him and lifted her skirts with both hands to complete the climb. Still, she felt him hovering, as if he expected her to take a tumble any second. When they reached the top, he positioned himself beside her, keeping her safely between him and the stone column of the bridge head. His deep blue gaze flickered from the road winding up the hill to the copse of trees across from them to the bridge, as if he expected a highwayman to leap from hiding. Concern radiated out of him like heat from a hearth.

What sort of man took such responsibility for a woman he'd known less than a quarter hour? What would he say if he knew she'd taken boxing lessons and could shoot the heart from an ace at fifty paces?

"Do you have sisters or a wife," she asked, bemused, "that you're so mindful of a lady's safety?"

Again something crossed behind his watchful gaze. "Alas, no. I'm not married, and I'm an only child. My parents died many years ago now."

An orphan. Instantly her heart went out to him.

The crunch of gravel and the jingle of tack told her a coach was approaching, and she could only hope it was her father's. Sure enough, Davis brought the carriage around the bend and pulled the horses to a stop beside her and her handsome stranger, wrapping them in dust.

Her father lowered the window and scowled at them. "Leave you alone for ten minutes and look what you drag up," he complained. "Are we hiring him or paying him off?"

Ruby's cheeks heated as she waved her hand to clear the air. Though her father's long face and sharp nose gave him a stern appearance, he was more bark than bite. The man beside her didn't know that, of course, but he stepped closer to her instead of backing away in dismay.

"This man was very kind to wait with me," Ruby explained. She turned to find her hero frowning as if he wasn't sure he was leaving her in reliable hands. She could understand his concern. The coach was more serviceable than elegant, the team of horses unmatched except in strength. Even the two servants sitting behind looked common in their travel dirt. Nothing said that the master was one of the richest merchants in London. Her father was careful where he spent his money.

He was equally careful of her. "Well, wasn't that nice of him?" he said. "And what did you expect in return, fellow?"

Mr. Calder inclined his head. "Merely the opportunity to be of service to a lady. If you have no further need of me, Miss Hollingsford, I wish you good day."

"I'll be fine, Mr. Calder," Ruby replied, suddenly loath to see the last of him. "Know that I appreciate your kindness."

He took her hand and bowed over it, and Ruby was surprised to find herself a bit unsteady as he released her.

Her father must have noticed a change in her, for he leaned out the window. "Calder, did you say? And your first name?"

"Whitfield, sir," he said with a polite nod.

Her father's narrow face broke into a grin. "Whitfield, eh? Very good to meet you, my lord."

"My lord?" Ruby stared at him, heart sinking.

Mr. Calder, who had seemed so nice until that moment, inclined his golden head again. "Forgive me. I neglected to offer my title. I'm Whitfield Calder, Earl of Danning."

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The Wife Campaign 4.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 10 reviews.
amybooksy More than 1 year ago
The Wife Campaign is about bachelor, Whitfield Calder, Earl of Danning, in 1815 Derbyshire, England. When his valet decides to invite three young ladies for a house party to convince Earl of Danning to propose to one of the young ladies. One of those young ladies, Ruby Hollingsford, is the fiery haired beauty, who reluctantly attends. She has no desire to marry anyone, especially from aristocracy.  Regina Scott does a wonderful job of bringing you back in time in this beautiful story. A story full of adventure, trust, love, and forgiveness. I loved the character of Ruby Hollingsford. What an admirable, strong, and heroic woman of those times. If I could meet her right now, I bet she would be a hoot to know. I found this book really enjoyable. I am looking forward to reading more by Regina Scott and more of this series. Highly recommended. 5 Stars.
Jutzie More than 1 year ago
The Wife Campaign By Regina Scott The Master Matchmakers Series Book 2 Whitfield Calder, Earl of Danning enjoys his time at his home by the river. His busy life does not allow him to visit here as often, a place where he can relax and fish. Unfortunately his valet has other plans for this fortnight, a house party. Not just a house party but he's invited three eligible woman and wants Whit to choose a wife! Ruby Hollingsford cannot believe her father has tricked her into meeting yet another aristocrat. Doesn't he remember her painful past? At least there are two other women to keep the Earl's attention and she's made it plenty clear to him that she does not plan to marry. Unfortunately her heart seems to forget that she's just a jewelers daughter and Whit is an aristocrat. The hired help are taking things into their own hands in this series. If their masters cannot see the need for a wife, well then they'll just give them the push they need. Once again the author brings in an assortment of characters. Those mother's of the young ladies are definitely the worst to deal with, but a simpering young woman batting her eyelashes can be annoying as well. An enjoyable story with a few twists and turns in the plot to add more excitement on that pathway to love. The first book is The Courting Campaign.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Grest read
weatherlover1 More than 1 year ago
Love it! Ruby jumps out of a moving carriage when she finds out her father is taking her to a two-week house party to meet a man. She has no desire to marry and is fit to be tied with her father. Whitfield finds himself host to three women and their families for two weeks thanks to his valet and friend. He plans to  get through the two weeks as best he can yet he finds himself drawn to a spirited redhead.      This is book two of the series and I very much enjoyed it. What I liked: Ruby’s was not born into money. So even though her father worked hard to earn his keep society still sees them as beneath them. Having had her heart-broken by an aristocrat she does not trust any of them. I loved her spunk and how she handled being looked down at. Whitfield was also a fun character and the chemistry between the two of them made for a great book.      The other women in this book also had a story. The one will be in book three and the other had a good ending as well. I really enjoyed that. All three of the women seemed to grow as the book went a long and for a shorter book that really speaks to the talent of the writer. What I did not like: Not much.      This book has it all. Romance and suspense. Along with a good plot. Being a love inspired book(shorter than an average novel) the story did seem a little rushed at the end but did a great job laying the foundation for the next book in the series. If you enjoy historical fiction this is a must read. This can be read as a stand alone but I would recommend going back and reading the first book in the series as well just because it’s also a good read.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Loved this book!!!!!!"
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Really wonderful story and characters. Loved it.
GHott More than 1 year ago
Hott Synopsis: Fire him! That’s Whit’s first thought when he finds that Quimbly, his valet and best friend, has invited three ladies and their families to his sanctuary with the promise of proposal. What else is there to do but his duty & see this farce through… though, Whit has no plans of a proposal, just the house party part. Does God have other plans for him? His staff certainly seems to. Hott Review: I LOVED this book! I felt so very real & there was a light mystery included as well. Trust was the prominent theme in this book. I felt that it was well presented and had a clear moral lesson mixed in with the fun and drama. More… Author: Regina Scott Source: Regina Scott Grade: A Ages: 14+ Steam: YA Series: The Master Matchmakers #2
BrittanyMc More than 1 year ago
What a beautiful story! This book was a real page turner for me! This is the second book in The Master Matchmakers series, however, it is also completely able to stand alone. The story begins with a very upset Ruby Hollingsford jumping from her father’s carriage when she learns that she has been tricked into attending a house party for an earl who is searching for a bride. Her father is happily offering her up, as has become his habit! He is determined to raise her status by marrying her to someone with high standing in the ton. Poor Ruby has had her share of heartbreak and bitter experiences and wants absolutely nothing to do with members of the ton. She especially abhors the idea of marrying into it. She resolves never to marry. Whitfield Calder, Earl of Danning, is in for a surprise. He is apparently hosting a house party and in search of a bride! With the help of an interfering servant, it has all been arranged and there is nothing to be done, except to try to find ways to entertain his guests. Three young ladies and their parents have descended on his retreat for a fortnight! With no desire to marry at present, he tries to make the best of things. Two people, set against the idea of marriage, form an alliance of sorts to try to make it through these two weeks. But will their hearts make it through unscathed? What a wonderful romance and truly likeable characters! There was a twist toward the end of the book that was such a surprise to me. I loved, loved, loved this story! (5 stars) I received a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for an honest review, which I have given.