The Worst Woman in London

The Worst Woman in London

by Julia Bennet
The Worst Woman in London

The Worst Woman in London

by Julia Bennet


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Notes From Your Bookseller

With strong female characters and a witty plot, this is a Victorian romance sure to endear itself to anyone who craves more Bridgerton.

A Bridgerton-inspired humorous Victorian romance featuring a defiant heroine who fights to escape a bad marriage, while her love for a forbidden man jeopardizes her chance at freedom.

James Standish knows how to play society’s game. He’ll follow the rules—marry a virginal debutante and inherit a massive fortune. At least, that’s the plan until he meets Francesca Thorne. She’s not the sort of woman a respectable gentleman like James could ever marry—not least because, strictly speaking, she’s married already to James's friend Edward. Francesca is determined to flout convention and divorce her philandering husband. When James sweet-talks his way into her life—tasked with convincing Francesca to abandon her dream of freedom—she’s unprepared for the passion that flares between them.
        Torn apart by conflicting desires, James and Francesca must choose whether to keep chasing the lives they’ve always wanted or to take a chance on a new and forbidden love.

The Worst Woman in London is the kind of historical novel I’ve been dying to read.”—The New York Times

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781454954484
Publisher: Union Square & Co.
Publication date: 05/07/2024
Pages: 304
Sales rank: 125,243
Product dimensions: 8.10(w) x 5.50(h) x 0.80(d)

About the Author

Julia Bennet writes historical romance with passion, intrigue, dark humor, and the occasional animal sidekick. A tea-sodden Englishwoman, she’s the only girl in a house of boys and yearns for all things pink and fluffy. If she isn’t writing, she’s probably reading everything she can get her hands on, spending time with her boys, or procrastinating on the internet.

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

London, 1872

The Thorne marriage was doomed from the start.
     Of course, James Standish didn’t know that yet, as he sat on a bench in the shade of a plane tree, waiting to meet the bride-to-be.
Impulsive, headstrong, hideously romantic Thorne was getting married. Never mind that six and twenty was far too young an age for any man, even a less impetuous one, to sacrifice himself on the altar of matrimony. Remarkable the things that went on when one’s back was turned.
     By the time James knew anything about it, the matter was entirely settled. The wedding would take place in August, before the grouse shooting started on the “Glorious Twelfth” and lured the fashionable set to the country.
     “Standish.” Thorne loped across the grass, golden hair flopping into his eyes as always, his mouth curved in a sheepish grin. "Not late, am I?"
     James rose and smoothed the lapels of his new black morning coat. "Not at all."
     "Hope you haven't waited long. Thank you for coming all this way to stand up with me."
     No need to let Thorne know how little he relished being here. "You know me,” he said, trying to sound jovial. “Any excuse to escape Shropshire. I spent the entire season dancing attendance on Aunt Miriam."
     "Poor you." Thorne clucked sympathetically as he led the way through the sunlit square toward the Palladian townhouse where his intended, Miss  Francesca Heller, resided. The gracious white stucco towered over them, devoid of ornament, elegant in its simplicity.
     Thorne bounded to the door, rang the bell, and stood tapping his foot on the stone step.
     “Steady on.” James leaned one shoulder against the doorjamb. “If you don’t calm down, Miss Heller’s aunt will think you’re a collie and refuse to let you on the furniture.” Despite his words, he always found Thorne’s enthusiasm rather endearing. Whenever James sank into one of his sporadic bouts of ennui, his friend always somehow managed to encourage him out again.
     Thorne stopped tapping but smoothed imaginary wrinkles from his gloves instead. No more than ten seconds passed before he lifted his cane and rapped on the glossy black-painted panels.
     James smiled and shook his head. “They won’t thank you if you scratch the paint. I’ve never seen anyone so keen to put their head in the marital noose.”
Just then, a footman opened the door on behalf of an elderly butler who stood ready to welcome them. “Hello, Walters,” Thorne said. “Mr. Standish and I are here to see the ladies.”
     “Of course, sir. They’re waiting in the parlor.”
     They relinquished their toppers to the footman and followed the butler across the checked tile of the entry hall. A wide, curving staircase led them up to the first floor and the principal receiving rooms.
     Thorne’s hand shook as he reached up to brush a lock of hair out of his eyes. He approached the parlor with the air of a supplicant entering the Holy of Holies.
     James stifled the urge to tease. With Thorne in his current agitated state, it would be too cruel. Besides, new husbands often pruned their less respectable acquaintances after the wedding, and he didn’t want to end up among the deadwood. They were close friends now, but all that might change once Thorne had a wife and in-laws to consider.
    “Mr. Thorne and Mr. Standish, madam.” Walters bowed out of the room.
    The door closed, entombing James with an over-excited Thorne, two ladies he’d yet to meet, and nothing to console him but tasteless sandwiches and weak tea.
     A woman rose with a rustle of wheat-colored skirts and came forward with hands outstretched to Thorne. “My dear Edward, it’s always a joy.” Then she turned her dazzling smile on James. “You are very welcome here, sir.”
     James stood, utterly confused. Alluring she might be, but surely this woman was too old for Thorne.
     “Thank you, Mrs. Lytton,” Thorne said.
     Mrs. Lytton? This was Miss Heller’s aunt? How fortunate Thorne answered for both of them, because James couldn’t have uttered a word. . . .
     He stood there, like a hungry lion sizing up an impala, until Thorne cleared his throat and gestured to a girl standing just beyond Mrs. Lytton. “Standish, this is Francesca—I mean Miss Heller.”
     Lord, he’d almost forgotten why they’d come. The girl stepped forward.
     Ah. This was more like it. If James had noticed her before, he’d have known immediately which lady was which. Miss Heller was perhaps ten years younger than her aunt and just the type of girl he’d been expecting.
    According to Thorne, she possessed fortune, breeding, and beauty excelling even Cleopatra’s. In the flesh, she was pretty enough, but too short for such high praise. The top of her thick, dark hair—fashionably if fussily curled—barely reached James’ chin. Her gown did little to flatter her small stature; rows of white ruffles covered her from neck to ankle, obscuring her figure. Altogether, with her sweet smile and fair complexion, she reminded him of a doll gracefully posed in a shop window.
     Not his sort of woman, though he understood why his friend admired her; she was a perfect debutante. Girls like her thronged the ballrooms of London during the season. If James one day discovered they assembled them in a factory somewhere, he’d feel only mild surprise.
     “There,” Thorne said. “The two people dearest to me together in the same room at last.”
     “It’s a pleasure to meet you, Mr. Standish.” Miss Heller spoke the commonplace sentiment with just the right degree of eagerness. Any less and she might appear cold. Any more would be vulgar.
     James smiled and bowed, but inwardly he groaned. He loathed chitchat and foresaw half an hour’s worth. Still, three more days and his part would end. He’d watch Thorne marry this thoroughly appropriate girl and wave them off on their wedding journey. No doubt their chances of rubbing along happily as man and wife equaled any other couple’s.


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