With her three good friends all recently married, Elizabeth Turley is ready for some husband-hunting of her own. One gentleman in particular sparks her interest. Geoffrey, Earl of Harrington is tall, handsome, and dashing. He’s also just a bit too sure of himself. But Elizabeth has observed enough about the rules of attraction to pique the earl’s attention. Yet once she has it, the discovery of a troubling secret taints her future happiness . . .
Lord Harrington must marry or lose a prestigious position in Brussels, and pretty, well-connected Elizabeth fits his needs admirably. But could it be that he has underestimated his bride? She doesn’t bat an eye in the face of the danger they encounter overseas. She’s strong-willed, intelligent, and more enticing each day—yet also more indifferent to him. Now Geoffrey faces his greatest challenge: to woo and win his own wife, or risk losing her for good . . .
Praise for The Worthingtons
“The happy and chaotic family life that takes place around the edges of the love story is what makes this novel so delightful. A fun read.”
– Kirkus Reviews on It Started with a Kiss
“Quinn offers a refreshing take on historical-romance conventions. . . . Grace Burrowes’ readers will also appreciate the intelligent commentary on issues of the day.”
– Booklist on When a Marquis Chooses a Bride
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Geoffrey, Earl of Harrington, first son and heir to Marquis of Markham, set out from his rooms. He was excited that his task to find a wife was finally finished.
Today was the day he would ask for Lady Charlotte Carpenter's hand in marriage. He had written to her guardian and brother-in-law, Lord Worthington, requesting the appointment. Soon he would wed the most sought after lady on the marriage mart and begin his journey to the Continent where he would take up his position on Sir Charles Stuart's staff.
He rounded the corner into Berkeley Square. There were a damn lot of people out at this hour of the morning. He entered the Park and shock halted him. It looked like some sort of catastrophe in the making. Lady Charlotte's family's two Great Danes were with several footmen.
A rough-looking man was being led away, and Lady Charlotte stood with her hands on her hips, her face flushed, saying something to the Marquis of Kenilworth. The last gentleman Geoff wished to see. The man had been a thorn in his side since he'd returned to Town. Still, he was certain Kenilworth had not yet requested to marry her.
But what the devil could be going on at this time of the morning?
"I'm coming with you. She won't trust a man by himself," Lady Charlotte proclaimed.
Geoff's attention was drawn to a weeping female servant. The two youngest girls, Charlotte's sisters, were trying to comfort the woman. Lord Merton, Worthington's cousin, had joined the fray.
"Charlotte, you cannot," Lord Merton said, glancing from her to Kenilworth. The man shrugged as if to say he did not care and was not going to become involved. "Worthington will not allow it."
It took a few seconds more for Geoff to understand exactly what Worthington, Charlotte's brother-in-law and guardian, would not allow. Then he saw that Kenilworth had his carriage a short distance away. Hell and damnation! There was no way Geoff would allow her to go off with that licentious bounder!
"I completely agree." Geoff strode forward to add his voice to the side of reason. "Lady Charlotte, you may not accompany Lord Kenilworth. I forbid it."
"You. You have no business telling me what to do." Her voice shook with growing anger. "Nothing will keep me from going. If need be —"
Geoff had never seen her in such a taking. He was about to attempt to calm her when her brother-in-law appeared.
"Go where?" Worthington asked as he reached them. Lady Worthington was beside him but almost running to keep up.
"Miss Betsy abducted another young woman." Charlotte narrowed her eyes at Geoff before she turned her back on him. "Kenilworth is going to the inn where they are taking her. I am going with him."
"Kenilworth?" her brother asked.
"I'll keep her safe," the man said.
"I object." Geoff started after Charlotte as she moved away toward Stanwood House.
Kenilworth grabbed Geoff's shoulder. "You have no business disagreeing. It is her guardian's decision to make and he has done so."
He jerked out of the other man's grasp. "I see what's going on," he said to Worthington. "You are encouraging Kenilworth's suit over mine."
Worthington turned and stared at Geoff as if he was mad. "This man" — Worthington pointed at Kenilworth — "has actually asked to marry my sister, which is more than I can say for you. I suggest you leave, before you are forced to do so."
This could not be happening. Geoff couldn't believe what he was hearing or seeing. Lady Charlotte, the woman he had decided was his perfect wife, was driving off with that bounder Kenilworth. And not only had her guardian refused to stop her, he was aiding and abetting Kenilworth.
Snapping his mouth shut, Geoff wrenched his gaze from the carriage. All his planning, all the time and effort he had put into courting Lady Charlotte ... all for naught. What the devil was he supposed to do?
Drat it all! He needed a wife and soon. Still, there must be a chance that all was not lost. There must be a way to get her back. "My lord —"
"If you'd wanted to marry Lady Charlotte" — the Earl of Worthington cut Geoff off as he began striding away, as if there was nothing further to discuss — "you should not have disappeared in the middle of the Season."
He had not disappeared. He had specifically informed Lady Charlotte that he must attend his father. "But I wrote you expressly stating that I wished to speak with you about Lady Charlotte," Geoff said, following Worthington out of the square. That, after all, was what was properly expected from a gentleman wishing to marry a lady.
Worthington halted and turned so quickly, Geoff almost ran into the man. "Be that as it may, I fully expect my sister to wed Kenilworth." They had reached the front door and Worthington stood aside as Lady Merton was issuing orders to a footman placing a trunk on her coach. He pressed his lips together before saying, "Accept the facts as they are and focus on finding another lady."
Geoff's breath rushed out as if he'd been punched in the stomach. That was untenable. How the devil was he to find a wife of whom his father would approve and wed her in the short period of time he had?
His mouth opened but nothing came out. Finally he croaked, "This late in the Season? That will be almost impossible."
"You should have thought of that before you left Town." Worthington inclined his head. "I suggest you get started. Lady Holland's ball is this evening. The eligible ladies still here should be present."
But none of them was Lady Charlotte. Then again, if he wished to take the position with Sir Charles — whom Geoff had been told was now in Brussels to try to manage the Prince of Orange — he must wed. Worthington was right. Geoff had no more time to waste on Lady Charlotte. He had to find a lady who wanted to marry him and not drive off with another man. But whom? No other lady had attracted his attention. And he'd not paid attention to any other female all Season.
He jerked his mind back to the ball this evening. Had he even been sent a card to the entertainment? Not that it mattered. Even if Lady Holland had not invited him, he could attend. She was a friend of his mother's and would not turn him away. No hostess would bar an eligible gentleman. She would also be able to introduce him to the ladies he hadn't yet met.
He barely stopped himself from raking his fingers through his hair. How could this be happening to him? He had always been lucky before. Nothing he had ever wished to accomplish had been difficult. Yet now, less than a month before he was due to take up his position with Sir Charles Stuart, Britain's ambassador to France and the Hague, a position that required him to have a wife, he must find a suitable lady. For some reason, the Fates must be out to get him.
Geoff started down the street and out of the square toward his rooms on Jermyn Street. He had been so certain of his future with Lady Charlotte.
Granted, he had been at his family's main estate for the past three weeks attending his father and waiting for news of his acceptance to a post in the Foreign Office as an aide to Sir Charles Stuart. Geoff's father, the Marquis of Markham, did not believe in young men engaging in dissipation while waiting for their sires to die. He himself had spent time in the Foreign Office as a young man, and had determined his eldest son should do the same.
Not that Geoff had in any way objected. The idea of living in Europe and learning more about the cultures and how diplomacy affected the world fascinated him.
Confirmation of his posting came three days ago. The only hurdle he had yet to bring about was his marriage. He had thought that would be easily accomplished. His father had given him permission to wed the prize of the Season, Lady Charlotte Carpenter. Lady Charlotte was everything a hopeful diplomat could wish for in a wife, possessing a perfect bearing and manners. She was never too loud. She was never out of temper — although she had seemed a bit crabbed of late. She was, in fact, moderate in all aspects of life. And beautiful, with golden curls and sky blue eyes. She, her sister, the former Lady Louisa Vivers, and their friend, the former Miss Stern, had been dubbed the Three Graces.
An hour after the messenger had arrived at his father's estate with the news of his appointment, Geoff had left Fulbert Hall determined to meet with Lady Charlotte's guardian and finalize the wedding plans. Now he would have to begin all over again. How had it all gone so wrong?
"My lord?" His groom held his pair of Blue Roans as he followed Geoff.
He had completely forgotten about his horses and carriage. "Take them to the stables. I shall walk back."
"Very good, my lord."
Geoff did not wish to return to his rooms, but couldn't think of where else to go. Obviously, he needed advice if he was to find a wife quickly. His elder sister was in Town. She might assist him, but his pride would, no doubt, take a beating. And he'd rather not go through that.
Grandmamma was, however, also in the metropolis. She would be more than happy to find him a bride. It shouldn't be that hard. He was extremely eligible and all he required was a lady of good birth, amiability, the ability to hold a conversation — she would, after all, be discussing world events with other diplomats and their wives — a graceful dancer — he could not imagine having a wife whose abilities might disgrace him — intelligence, and a certain elegance. Yes, that was all he required. He would like a lady who was not hard on his eyes, but a great beauty was not required. In fact, it might be better that she was merely pretty.
Love was not important. Not to him. The dilemma was that many young ladies appeared to want a love match these days. In his opinion, it was a messy way to start a marriage. Neither his parents nor grandparents had had love matches.
He was certain his grandmother would be able to think of someone. And who better to know exactly what was expected of the future Marchioness of Markham than the Dowager Marchioness of Markham.
Feeling more the thing, Geoff began strolling toward Grosvenor Square before he realized that the day was still young, and if he wanted Grandmamma's help, he should not descend on her before eleven o'clock at the earliest.
The only other choice was one of his clubs. He stood for a moment debating whether to go to Boodle's or White's. At this time of day, Boodle's was likely to be filled with provincials. Listening to talk of crops and the like did not appeal to him. He shrugged. White's it was then. He made his way in the opposite direction toward St. James Street.
All the way from Berkeley Square Geoff's feelings of ill usage grew. How could Lady Charlotte have gone off with Kenilworth when she must have known — indeed, Geoff had told her — that he'd planned to speak with her brother? On the other hand, she did appear to be exceedingly reluctant to reside overseas. And Kenilworth had done his best to monopolize her attention. Geoff grimaced. The man had done a good job of it as well.
Fully expecting to be the only gentleman present at this hour of the day, he entered White's and saw that he was mistaken. When he strolled into the morning room on his left several gentlemen were reading newssheets, and the aroma of coffee scented the air. He glanced around looking for anyone with whom he was acquainted. Seeing no one, he crossed the hall to the other morning room.
"Harrington." Mr. Gavin Turley, the eldest son of Viscount Turley, hailed Geoff as he stepped through the door. "Haven't seen you in weeks. What have you been up to?"
"I've been with my father." He sat in the large leather chair on the other side of a low table. A footman brought him a cup of tea, and he took a sip. It was comfortable being known in a club well enough that they knew what a fellow drank. Coffee might smell good, but he couldn't stand the taste. He thought of not mentioning his most pressing dilemma, but he was desperate. "If you must know, I'm in the market for a wife."
Turley stared at Geoff for a few moments, then turned his attention to the teacup that he twisted around before looking up again. "Are you indeed?"
"Yes." Geoff nodded. "And quickly. You might have heard ... Well, it is no matter." There was no need for the whole world to hear from him how shoddily he had been treated by Lady Charlotte. Making sure that others knew he wished to marry, however, was prudent. After all, he was an eligible match for any lady.
"Tell you what," Turley said, leaning forward. "Come around to my father's house this afternoon on Green Street and join us for tea." Turley raised a dark blond brow. "If you don't have other plans, that is."
An image of a lady with the same light flaxen hair came to Geoff's mind. Lady Charlotte had introduced him to Miss Turley. The sister of Mr. Turley and the daughter of Viscount Turley. "Do I recall correctly that you have a sister who is out?"
"You do." He leaned back in the dark brown leather chair. "She is enjoying her first Season. She is very pretty — at least I think so — and amiable as well. Even when I try her temper, she manages not to give me a bear garden jaw."
He debated telling the man that he had already been introduced, but decided not to. Joining Miss Turley for tea was as good a place as any to begin, Geoff supposed. "I have no other obligations. In fact, I would be delighted."
"Excellent." The other man set his cup down and rose. "We shall see you at three o'clock this afternoon."
He rose as well and held out his hand. "I look forward to it."
Once Turley was gone, Geoff tried to remember everything he could about the man's sister. She was pretty. Although, he could not remember much about her features. Her brother had blue eyes. He assumed she would as well. There could be no objection to her breeding. The title was quite old. They had come over with the Normans if he remembered correctly. To his knowledge, there had never been a scandal in the family. His grandmother would know more about that. After Lady Charlotte had introduced him to Miss Turley he had stood up with her for one country dance. As best he could recall, she was a graceful dancer and had kept up the conversation with him. Whether or not she was suitable to be his wife was yet to be determined. He shrugged. With any luck, he would know more later today.CHAPTER 2
Geoff went into the dining room and ordered breakfast. Therefore it was more than an hour later before he hired a hackney to take him to Markham House in Grosvenor Square where his grandmother resided during the Season.
Her elderly butler opened the door. He half expected the old servant to creak like an ill-oiled hinge when the man bowed. "My lord, welcome. Her ladyship is in her parlor."
"Thank you, Gibson. Can you tell me if that blasted parrot is with her?"
"The admiral is taking his exercise, my lord. I shall announce you."
Geoff gave thanks to the deity. After the animal had bloodied his fingers when he was a child, he had not been able to stand his grandmother's damn bird. "That is quite all right. I can find my way."
Before the butler could protest, Geoff gave the servant his hat, ignored the faint look of censure on the man's face, and swiftly ascended the stairs. He turned right at the landing, then left down the corridor toward the back of the house.
When he reached his grandmother's apartments, he knocked. Several moments later, a cousin, almost the same age as Grandmamma, opened the door.
"Harrington, how nice of you to visit us. I see you did not wish to wait for Gibson." One might expect an indigent relation to curtsey and scrape, but not Cousin Apollonia. Although, that was to the good when it came to his grandmother. "You probably hurt his feelings."
"Better hurt feelings than an injury." It wouldn't have surprised Geoff if the servant had fallen down the stairs. "He's not very steady on his pins. How is it he has not been made to retire?" He gave his cousin an affectionate peck on the cheek she offered.
"I must say I agree that he has become quite wobbly. Yet, for all that, her ladyship does not wish for a younger butler. She says it would unsettle her. One cannot really blame her. You know how set in her ways she is. Having to train someone new would try her nerves." Apollonia placed her hand on Geoff's arm. "Not only that, but having never married and possessing no family, it would be cruel to make poor Gibson leave his home and friends."(Continues…)
Excerpted from "You Never Forget Your First Earl"
Copyright © 2018 Ella Quinn.
Excerpted by permission of KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP..
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