Lady Clara, the fan-favorite character from Loretta Chase’s New York Times and USA Today bestselling Dressmakers series, finally gets her own happily ever after!
Convenient marriages are rarely so…exciting. Can society’s most adored heiress and London’s most difficult bachelor fall victim to their own unruly desires?
Biweekly marriage proposals from men who can’t see beyond her (admittedly breathtaking) looks are starting to get on Lady Clara Fairfax’s nerves. Desperate to be something more than ornamental, she escapes to her favorite charity. When a child goes missing, she turns to Oliver Radford—a handsome, brilliant, excessively conceited barrister.
Having unexpectedly found himself in line to inherit a dukedom, Radford needs a bride who can navigate the Society he’s never been part of. If he can find one without having to set foot in a ballroom, so much the better. Clara—blonde, blue-eyed, and he must admit, not entirely bereft of brains—will do. As long as he can woo her, wed her—and not, like every other sapskull in London, lose his head over her…
Small Drawing Room of Warford House Monday 31 August 1835
Clara did not run screaming from the room. A lady didn’t run screaming from anywhere unless her life was in immediate danger.
This was simply another marriage proposal.
The Season was over. Almack’s had held its last assembly at the end of July. Most of Society had gone to the country. Yet her family remained in London because her father, the Marquess of Warford, never left before Parliament rose, and Parliament still sat.
And so her beaux lingered in London. For some reason—either they’d joined a conspiracy or had made her the subject of wagers in White’s betting book—they seemed to be proposing on a biweekly schedule. They were beginning to wear on Clara’s nerves.
Today was Lord Herringstone’s turn. He said he loved her. They all said so with varying degrees of fervor. But being an intelligent girl who read more than she ought to, Clara was sure that he, like the others, merely wanted to claim the most fashionable girl in London for his own.
She’d inherited the classic Fairfax looks—pale gold hair, clear blue eyes, and skin that seemed to have been poured like cream over an artistically sculpted face. The world agreed that in her these traits had reached the very acme and pitch of perfection. So had her figure, a model for one of those Greek or Roman goddess statues, according to her numerous swains.
Her single flaw—on the outside, that is—the tiny chip in her left front tooth, only made her human and thus, somehow, more perfect.
She was like a thoroughbred everybody wanted to own. Or the latest style of dashing vehicle.
Her beauty surrounded her like a great stone wall. Men couldn’t see above, beyond, or through it. They certainly couldn’t think past it.
This was because men only looked at women. They didn’t listen to women, especially beautiful women.
When beautiful women talked, men merely made a greater pretense of listening. After all, everybody knew that women did not really have brains.
Clara wondered what women were imagined to have in their skulls in place of brains or what men thought women did their pitiful excuse for thinking with . . .
“. . . if you would do me the inestimable honor of becoming my wife.”
She came back to the present and said no, as she always did, kindly and courteously, because she’d been rigorously trained in ladyship. Moreover, she truly liked Lord Herringstone. He’d written odes to her, and they were witty and scanned well. He was amusing and a good dancer and reasonably intelligent.
So were dozens of other men.
She liked them, most of them.
But they had no idea who she was and did not try to find out.
Perhaps it was quixotic of her, but she wanted more than that.
He looked disappointed. Yet he’d survive, she knew. He’d find another woman he would look at and not listen to, but that woman wouldn’t be so unrealistic as to expect him to. They’d wed and rub along together somehow or other, like everybody else.
And one of these days Clara would give up hoping for more. One of these days, she would have to say yes.
“Either that,” she muttered, “or become an eccentric and run away to Egypt or India.”
About the Author
Loretta Chase has worked in academe, retail, and the visual arts, as well as on the streets-as a meter maid-and in video, as a scriptwriter. She might have developed an excitingly checkered career had her spouse not nagged her into writing fiction. Her bestselling historical romances, set in the Regency and Romantic eras of the early 19th century, have won a number of awards, including the Romance Writers of America’s Rita. For more about her past, her books, and what she does and doesn’t do on social media, please visit her website www.LorettaChase.com.
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