When Emma helps her friend, Abby, escape a forced marriage, she little thought she would meet the dashing Marquis of Desborough who is looking for a wife.A frothy Regency romance.
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Substitute Bride is a light romantic Regency novel written in the tradition of that great Regency writer, Georgette Heyer. The story has all the hallmarks of Lords and Ladies, the etiquette, manners and the general Pleasures of Good Society in Regency England when to marry well was the aim of every young upper class girl and her mother.
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Emma’s greeting was cold when she met Desborough the next day. Against her will, she was forced to allow him to accompany her outside to where his carriage waited in charge of a groom but all her manoeuvring that he didn’t escort her around the gallery was to no avail. Somehow she found herself in his company while Abby and Mr Pollitt walked ahead but she was glad they were alone. She was determined to speak to him about the marriage. She stopped before a wall of prints and turned to face him. “Lord Desborough,” she began, trying to control the trembling in her voice. “I don’t appreciate the method you used to get information from Abby. Then to pretend you’d given up your room to us when instead you threatened to evict Abby from it if I didn’t agree to your… your…”
He understood immediately. His tone was conciliatory. “My dear Emma. I may call you Emma, may I, seeing we’re in a way related, but what was I to do? You were determined you weren’t Jane Brown, a name I thought suspect from the beginning if you remember?”
“We did have a maid by that name.” Emma was defensive.
“Well, please accept my apologies on that count. As for evicting you from my room, I’m sure I wouldn’t have been guilty of such an ungentlemanly act whatever I may have said at the time.”
She felt incensed. He was full of deceit and twisted every word to suit his purpose. “Now you know who I am, what do you intend to do?” she demanded.
He looked surprised. “What would you have me do?”
Ahead of them, Emma heard Abby’s light laughter. Only a short time ago, it had been Abby wishing her life away. Not that she'd thought of any such thing but how agreeable it was to be without problems. “What has happened about the annulment?”
“It is still being finalized.”
“You said it would only take several weeks?”
He smiled at her accusation. “It is only several.”
“It took place six weeks ago,” she corrected. “Several is generally thought of being three or four.”
“You are being very literal.”
She sensed he was determined not to argue with her. If she persisted in her anger, she’d only appear childish but she wanted to worry him. “My aunt tells me marriage to you is the aim of every young and not so young spinster in society.”
It was a moment before he answered, “I remember telling you that at The Three Feathers.”
She gritted her teeth. “You’d best look out I don’t hold you to your promises, my lord.”
“Would you like to be a marchioness?”
She glared at him. “You missed my meaning.”
“Did I? How dull of me. Now, what are you saying? Are you warning me if I don’t have the marriage annulled immediately you may wish to stay married?”
“I didn’t mean that at all. You know I didn’t.” She found her voice had risen and said in an angry whisper. “You promised it would take three weeks to have the marriage annulled.”
He looked contrite. “I don’t know if I promised an exact time. If I did, I’m sorry, but it isn’t really my fault.”
She wanted to accuse him it was entirely his fault. She fumbled in her reticule and held out his signet ring.
“What is it?” he asked.
“Your ring,” she hissed.
“Give it to me when the annulment is finalized.”
She still held the ring but he refused to take it. He was laughing, the laughter creasing his eyes. She resisted the urge to throw it at him before thrusting the ring back into her reticule.