Tempting the Bride - By Sherry Thomas
Wendy McCurdy, for her patience and insight.
Katherine Pelz, for making everything easier.
Kristin Nelson and everyone at the Nelson Literary Agency, for their unparalleled dedication and competence.
Janine Ballard, for boldly going where all great critique partners do—right to the crux of the problem.
Shellee Roberts, for her concurring opinion that kicked my ass back into gear.
Tiffany Yates Martin of FoxPrint Editorial, for always helping me out when I really need it.
Margaret Toscano, for generously sharing her knowledge of Latin and the classics.
My family, especially my husband, for shouldering nearly the entirety of our move while I was hunched over my laptop, desperately trying to figure out what to do, and my mother, for all the food, which is nothing but love.
And as always, if you are reading this, thank you from the bottom of my heart.
Table of Contents
Beguiling the Beauty
David Hillsborough, Viscount Hastings, had never been in love. And he had most certainly never been in unrequited love. Why, his was a heart buoyantly and blissfully unattached, while he devoted himself to sampling all the charms life had to offer a young, wealthy, and handsome bachelor.
This was, in any case, his official position.
He suspected that several of those closest to him had guessed the truth—possibly a long time ago, as his particular instance of unrequited love had lasted nearly half of his life. But he took comfort in the fact that she hadn’t the slightest idea. And, God willing, she never would.
For he would be in hell if she ever learned.
Not that he was very far from it at the moment, watching the girl of his dreams, Miss Helena Fitzhugh, gazing at another man with adoration. Her elder sister was the acknowledged Great Beauty of their time, but it was always Miss Fitzhugh from whom he couldn’t look away. Her flame-bright hair, her luminous skin, her clever, wicked eyes.
He did not begrudge her falling in love with another. After all, if he refused to participate in the contest, he could not complain when someone else won the prize. But he did mind, very much, that this man on whom she lavished her attention did not deserve it in the least.
Years ago, Andrew Martin had had the opportunity to marry her. But his mother had expected him to marry someone else in order to unite two adjacent properties. Lacking the courage to defy the elder Mrs. Martin, he’d married that someone else.
Even in a land full of cold, formal marriages, Mr. Martin’s marriage stood out for its coldness and formality. Husband and wife dined at different times, moved in different circles, and communicated almost entirely via written notices.
None of it mattered. Happy or otherwise, a married man was a married man, and a respectable young lady ought to search elsewhere for fulfillment.
Miss Fitzhugh was a rule breaker. Until now, however, those she’d trampled had not been so much rules as recommendations. When she became the only one of her siblings to pursue a university education, it was looked upon as an eccentricity. And when, upon coming into her small inheritance, she’d used the funds as capital for a publishing firm that she ran herself, the venture was dismissed as simply another idiosyncrasy in the family—after all, her brother, Earl Fitzhugh, managed the tinneries his heiress wife had inherited.
But indulging in a close friendship with a married man pushed the boundaries of acceptable behavior. She needed not commit any actual sins; the appearance of impropriety would be quite enough to wound her.
The drawing room at Lord Wrenworth’s country estate was awash in laughter and good cheer. Mrs. Denbigh, Miss Fitzhugh’s married friend who was her chaperone at the Wrenworth house party, was all too busy amusing herself. Hastings waited for a natural pause in the conversation in which he’d been taking part, excused himself, and crossed the room to where Miss Fitzhugh and Martin sat on a chaise longue, their bodies turned toward each other, effectively blocking anyone else from joining their tête-à-tête.
“Mr. Martin, what are you still doing here?” Hastings asked. “Haven’t you your new great tome to write?”
Miss Fitzhugh answered for Martin. “But he is working. He is conferring with his publisher.”
“And he has been conferring with his publisher since morning, if I’m not mistaken. A cook can confer with the mistress of the house all day long, but that doesn’t put dinner on the table. Mr. Martin would quite deprive his readers of