The Rakehell of Roth (Everleigh Sisters #2) - Amalie Howard

Chapter One

England, 1819

Was it peculiar that she didn’t feel married?

A forgotten glass of warm champagne in hand, Lady Isobel Vance, the new Marchioness of Roth, peeked up at the towering, silent gentleman beside her as they stood on the balcony. The Marquess of Roth could be a statue carved from marble instead of flesh and bone. Starkly beautiful. Impenetrable. Impossible to read.

Her husband.

A thoughtful frown limned his full lips, turning them down at the corners, and his gray eyes held less warmth than shards of flint. Hardly a doting bridegroom. Other than the exchange of vows, he hadn’t said more than two words to her since they’d left the chapel. Isobel swallowed past the thickening knot in her throat and the feeling of unease growing in her belly.

Shouldn’t a bride feel a modicum of happiness on her wedding day?

Then again, her nuptials to Lord Roth had been rather abrupt. Over the past few months in London with her aunt and uncle, the marquess had treated her with polite courtesy and charming indulgence. He wouldn’t have found her disagreeable in looks, she knew. Most men didn’t. Her sister, Astrid, had always bemoaned her beauty as a curse, but Isobel well knew that men craved beautiful things. In their world, beauty was coveted, much like pedigree.

And the Marquess of Roth was of exceptional pedigree.

Heir to the Duke of Kendrick, he was well-heeled, handsome, and young. A desirable catch, by all accounts. And he wasn’t the lecherous Edmund Cain, Earl of Beaumont, who was twice her age and had been trying to lift her skirts since the moment she’d been old enough to marry, especially after compromising her own sister. Poor Astrid had quit London, only to fend off his return as earl nine years later—and his vile pursuit of Isobel—by wedding the dreaded Duke of Beswick.

Isobel had attempted to take matters into her own hands to secure a husband who wasn’t the earl, but it had only been with Beswick’s help that she’d been able to avoid the earl’s trap altogether. Astrid’s scarred duke had not only persuaded the Prince Regent to favor Roth’s suit, but had also procured a special marriage license.

Gratitude didn’t begin to cover what she felt.

She’d escaped Beaumont’s clutches and secured an enviable match with a marquess. A man who was both beautiful and heroic. Noble and honorable. The perfect gentleman. Already half-enamored, girlish visions of a blissful future had danced in her head, full of laughter and joy, family and children. They would be rapturously happy.

Despite a few vague rumors of his aversion to matrimony, their wedding had been a boon, and what had caused him to propose hadn’t been of interest to her, only that he had.

Now, however, Isobel frowned.

Why had he decided to settle down?

Roth didn’t need her dowry. As far as she knew, he was in line for a very solvent dukedom. She’d heard the gossip that the marquess had the reputation of a notorious rake, but which young gentleman wasn’t a bit of a rogue? Her aunt had always said that reformed rakes made the best husbands.

Isobel didn’t know if that was the case with Roth, but she hoped his roué days were over. Her own father had been faithful to her mother, and though Isobel knew that many gentlemen of the ton kept mistresses, the idea did not sit well with her. Not that she would have any say in such things. A society lady was meant to do her duty and provide an heir, and even if her husband sought carnal diversions elsewhere, it was of no consequence.

With a face like his, it wasn’t hard to picture the dashing marquess being surrounded by fawning, simpering women. She spared him a furtive glance through her lashes and promptly lost her breath. The man made the estimable Beau Brummell look like a shriveled toad. Tall, broad-shouldered, and superbly fit, he was every lady’s dream. Hers as well, if her galloping heart had anything to say about it. Even in profile, his sharply edged masculine beauty made her cheeks heat. Sculpted lips, high cheekbones, thick, golden-brown hair curling into a wide brow, and glittering eyes the color of a glacier in a winter storm. His given name was fitting.


Because at the moment, he embodied the frigid season.

Suppressing a tiny sigh, Isobel sipped at her warm drink and winced. She’d give anything for a glass of her sister’s whiskey. Or some French brandy. Something with a little more bite to bolster her flagging confidence. Or ward