Stortford House, London, April 1814
A discerning gentleman could read a thousand things in a woman’s eyes. When Marcus had met with Sophie earlier that afternoon, he had seen regret, excitement, the glitter of disdain. In his own had likely been betrayal, clear and bright as the day he had met her.
He was presently entering the ballroom of Stortford House in London, and one hundred pairs of eyes had locked onto him. From this distance, he could read nothing in those marbles of blue, green, and brown. But he could feel the room swell with pity at the sight of him, and the feeling swirled in his gut. He kept his head low and forced a smile as he greeted his hosts for the evening. The baron and baroness of Stortford were the most palatable type of aristocrats, philanthropic to a fault, maintaining a decent balance between London life and the real world of their parish in St Albans. The lady was French, and despite her many years in England, her pronunciation was marked by her heritage. Marcus took her hand in warm greeting, and she blessed him with a kind look. He found within the sum of her seventy-years of life wisdom and empathy.
Hers was a gaze that was not wholly unfamiliar. The line of Stallard’s to which Marcus belonged had for generations resided in Hatfield, five miles from St Albans. Their deep acquaintance was the reason for Marcus’s invitation that evening; his humiliation was the reason he had chosen to attend. His mother had always advocated for facing trouble head on—and there had never been so troublesome a thing as a man’s lover choosing to be courted by another.
Marcus proceeded to the back of the ballroom, but he was soon intercepted by a familiar face. There were not many who called Mr Richard Sloane a friend, but Marcus counted himself lucky to be among them. Richard shot a hand in the air and beckoned Marcus to him, grinning in the boyish way of his which danced the freckles on his cheeks.
He was soon supplying Marcus with goblets of punch and wafers, summarising the events of the evening with colourful descriptions of the guests. “You have arrived in the nick of time, my friend. Saltburn has wagered two pounds with Cockermouth that Baron Stortford is one fortified lemonade away from recounting the glories of Ranelagh.”
“Because there really is not greater use of our youth than chivvying the elderly into embarrassing themselves,” Marcus said sardonically. He discarded his goblet and turned his attention to his friends on the other side of the dance floor. “Our lecturers at Oxford would blanch if they saw what Saltburn gets up to on his own time.”
“Our lecturers at Oxford could learn a thing or two from Saltburn, I say.” Richard elbowed Marcus as Saltburn crossed the ballroom to speak with the baron. “You are not usually such a prig. Dare I ask what has caused this sudden change?”
“You could dare, but I am under no obligation to reply with any honesty.” Marcus sighed when Richard remained silent. “I met with Miss Palfrey earlier this afternoon. I beseeched her to harken to reason, but she would not listen.”
Richard crossed his arms behind his back and moved to stand in front of Marcus. He nodded thoughtfully, and Marcus could not decide whether his concern was genuine or part of another joke.
“It is not reason you hope she will display, but love for you. And I am sorry to say that the beautiful chit’s heart has been claimed by another. You know his name. It is double-barrelled.” Richard paused dramatically. “Rank and Money. Your only mistake was believing that she could change.”
There was another name dancing at the forefront of Marcus’s mind. Marcus had introduced Sophie to his friend, the marquess of Carmarthen, two weeks ago. When Carmarthen had asked Marcus whether he could court Sophie three days later, Marcus had agreed.
Marcus had thought Sophie loved him. And because he loved her, Marcus had wanted to give her a choice.
“I would argue this entire courtship has been a mistake. Would that I had known two months ago, before we met.” Marcus could feel his anger rising inside him. “Miss Palfrey’s father looked me in the eye just one week ago and gave me his blessing to ask for her hand. By Jove, he must have known what her answer would be and allowed me to humiliate myself, regardless.”
Marcus staunched his tirade when the energy in the hall shifted. The baron and baroness were conversing with the members of the string quartet, and already the dance floor was filling with prospective pairs. He glanced around the ballroom and counted the women who remained. Of the twenty who had made no effort to move, ten were twiddling their dance cards. Good manner dictated that Marcus had to ask at least one of the wallflowers to dance.
“I do believe a cotillion would kill me,” Marcus murmured. Richard was humming and hawing, surveying the room for the first of his partners. “I shall return once the first set is complete.”
“Stallard?” Richard cried. “Egad! Where are you going?”
Marcus reached the doorway and did not look back. From there, he moved into the entrance hall, relieved to find it empty. He debated climbing the stairs and stowing himself away in the water closet, but he settled for a less dramatic egress instead. Checking the corridors, he searched for any door that led out into the garden. He found one towards the back of the house, and the key had been left in the lock. The sky was turning from dusk to night behind the embossed glass, beckoning him forward. Marcus took a deep breath before he exited, Sophie’s rejection letter still burning a hole in his breast pocket.
Genevieve’s heart thumped wildly in her chest. She gingerly unclamped her hand from the bannister and shook it out, then inspected the crescent-shaped dents in her palm where her nails had dug into her skin. Her grandmother would inflict much worse if she caught Genevieve out of bed. Her orders had been clear: Genevieve was not to attend the soiree that evening, not even for a second.
The whole thing seemed farcical to Genevieve. At five-and-ten, she was hardly a child. She would be brought out before the queen that year or the next. Her mother was the real gaoler, whispering in Mamie’s ear that Genevieve was like an under proofed loaf, and that an early introduction into society would compromise her integrity. Genevieve had no intention of ruining herself before it was time. Her primary concern that evening had been her boredom. And what fun it had been to watch the guests from the crack in the ballroom door! Until that same door had cracked open, and Genevieve had been forced to run for her life.
Slowly, she peered around the railing and glanced down the stairs. A primly dressed young gentleman was dithering in the entrance hall. His hair was dark brown and softly waved, and his countenance was fair and angular. He could not have been much older than Genevieve herself. She was reminded yet again of the unfairness between their sexes, channelling her beloved Mrs Wollstonecraft.
Soon the man slipped out of sight, and Genevieve breathed a sigh of relief. Rising to a stand, she tightened the belt on her dressing gown and readjusted it to conceal the evening dress beneath. She considered returning to her bedroom, then grimaced at the prospect. The soiree would be underway for hours more, and the makeshift pillow-Genevieve beneath the coverlets of her bed had surely bidden her some time with Mamie and the maids.
It occurred to Genevieve that the ballroom doorway was lost. The young gentleman would return from the water closet—or wherever he had gone—soon enough. Instead, Genevieve crept down the stairs on the tips of her toes and ran for the back door once she reached solid ground.
The cool night air wreathed around her as she arrived on the commons behind her grandfather’s house. The gardens were boxed in by four other townhouses, extending one hundred metres at least in each direction. Her slippers were wet with evening dew by the time she had circled the back of the house. The tall windows from the ballroom cast golden crisscross patterns across the lawn. Genevieve stopped behind the third window, where the curtains had been parted just enough to allow her a peek. She pressed herself up on the border of the home’s foundation and was immediately enraptured by the view. Six quartets of dancers were performing a cotillion, which Genevieve recognised from her dance classes, turning in time with the ghostly echo of the music.
The scene was like something out of a fairy tale. And one day soon, that world would be Genevieve’s for the taking. Her eyes smarted as she pictured herself dancing with a gentleman of highest ton. Grandpapa and Mamie would present her proudly to their friends, and Genevieve would at last form some real connections of her own. Her mother would overcome her melancholia and return to London with her father. In that world, they would all be happy. Genevieve would make it so.
The sudden sound of a gate creaking open tore the dream from her mind. Genevieve turned brusquely on her heel and looked out into the darkness. She fixed her eyes on the rhododendron garden in the centre of the lawn. The iron gate was yawning open slowly, the latch dangling from the hardware. A few gas lanterns had been lit in the garden for the evening, allowing Genevieve to watch as the shadow of a man slipped down the flagstone path between the barely flowering trees.
Gone was the fantasy of her happy family. In their wake, a collection of salacious vignettes flashed before her eyes. Had the gentleman gone to meet a woman for a rendezvous? Was a conspiracy underway, like in her favourite Shakespeare plays? If the night had proven anything, it was that Genevieve was clearly a master of subterfuge. Hoisting up her skirts, she cautiously crossed the lawn to find out.
To her surprise, she was not greeted by the sounds of whispered sweet nothings or treasonous plots, but by the broken sobbing of a man. She followed the sound until she arrived at the heart of the garden where the paths formed a crossroads, in the middle of which a stone fountain rose proudly from the earth.
The gentleman was sitting on the edge of the pool, tearing up a sheet of paper. He bunched the remnants in his fist before thrusting the lot beneath the surface of the water. Genevieve watched in shock behind the trunk of a magnolia. She had never seen a man behave this way. She had never seen a man cry. The sight did not tickle her as she thought it might. It made her yearn to comfort him.
She took a soundless step forward, but it was enough to capture the man’s attention. He whipped his head around, and Genevieve gasped. This was the gentleman who had escaped from the ballroom earlier.
“Who goes there?” he demanded. “I can see you. Come out!”
Genevieve wound through the trees until she stepped onto the path. Her heart leapt into her throat, preventing her from speaking.
The weeping young cad had the audacity to say: “You’re a child.”
“I am not!” she protested in return.
The power of Genevieve’s voice startled her. She waited as the man wiped his eyes and looked around. She could not determine whether he was angry or embarrassed. He took in a breath and turned to say something, but he paused to inspect Genevieve, eyeing her from head to toe.
“Is that a dressing gown?”
“Perhaps it is. Perhaps it is not,” Genevieve lied unevenly. She crossed her arms over her chest to conceal what she could of the garment.
“So, you are not a child, but you are a liar. What are you doing here? Which house did you come from? A girl of your age should be in bed at a time like this, not roaming around the garden spying.”
“A girl of my age? I told you—I am not a child but a woman. I should be questioning you regarding your presence in our garden.” She took another step forward, hoping to get a peek at the paper in the fountain. “If you meant to destroy that piece of paper, you should not have discarded it in the water. The gardeners will see it and have to fish it out in the morning.”
The man seemed taken aback by her brazenness, but Genevieve was undeterred. The shredded paper had floated to the top of the water, gliding across the surface at the mercy of a gentle current.
“The ink will be gone by the matins,” the man muttered. “Though you will forgive the gardeners on my behalf for adding to their labour.” He paused. “Now, regardless of your age, you should not be out here with me.”
Genevieve chose not to listen. “What was in that letter that made you so sad?” she asked. “If I know what has upset you, I might be able to help.”
“You really are a relentless little minx, aren’t you?” he protested, but his lips had curled into a smile. It dissolved into a frown as he agreed to tell her the truth. “The woman I love has chosen another. That was the letter in which she delivered the news. I could not bear to have it on my person a moment longer. I ran from a nearby ballroom and searched for solace here. All in vain, it seems, thanks to you.”
“If the story is true, then I can understand why you tore the letter up,” Genevieve replied. “Your littering is forgiven.”
While she had no experience of love herself, Genevieve knew from all the stories she had consumed that it was the most powerful thing in the world. Poets were obsessed with love, as were composers and painters, the romantics, the industrialists, the unfortunate and most fortunate, and everyone in between. It was the second most powerful currency behind cold hard cash.
As she regarded the heartbroken gentleman, she wondered what sort of woman could have denied him. He was exceedingly handsome, but in a way that was graceful and soothing. She tensed as she realised her attraction to him and decided against dissecting his heartbreak further.
“Do you intend to stay out here for much longer?” she asked.
“I have no idea what I intend to do tonight or ever again.” He sat on the edge of the fountain with his elbows on his knees, arching over. He cocked his head to look up at Genevieve. “Why, listen to me… I am a maudlin mess of a man.”
“A maudlin mess of a man,” Genevieve repeated. “That is not so different from something a poet might have written.”
Her musing eased a laugh from him, and the sound made her smile. She crossed the path until she reached the edge of the fountain, where she kneeled beside him. Genevieve rested her head on her arm and draped her free hand in the water, swimming through the remnants of the man’s letter with her middle and pointer fingers.
“It would seem everything they write of love is true,” Genevieve surmised. “You know, Lady Mary Wortley once said: By thy pale beams I solitarily rove, To thee my tender grief confide,” she quoted. “Something to consider.”
“I cannot claim to be overly familiar with her work. I am surprised that you are enough to quote it. You are old enough to have shirked your childhood, but not old enough to have known love.”
“Was that a question?”
“More of a hypothesis, if you will allow it. But I have always been more interested in the facts. Given that I shared a secret with you, it is only right that you share one with me,” the young man said, looking down at her. “What is your name?”
Genevieve’s eyes darted upward, locking with his own. The intensity of his gaze swept over her, and she felt her cheeks flush pink. In that moment, she understood why her mother advocated so fiercely to delay her entrance into society. If London was ripe with men as powerful as the one before her, Genevieve didn’t stand a chance.
Entranced, she parted her lips to say her name. But a cry sounded from the top of the garden instead, in the usual shrill tone of her lady’s maid, Delphine.
“Mademoiselle Blacket!” the woman shouted in French. “Mademoiselle, êtes-vous là? On ne joue pas à cette heure du soir! Présentez vous immédiatement!”
Genevieve sprang to her feet and glanced through the trees. Delphine was standing on the terrace, looking wildly side to side. She picked up her skirts and began marching down the steps. Inexperienced though she was, even Genevieve understood the consequences of being caught with an unmarried gentleman.
The young man had risen as well and was peering through the trees. “Who is that?” he asked, almost playfully.
There was no time to answer him. Collecting herself, Genevieve launched into a sprint, kicking up dirt as she went. Her dressing gown billowed open, and she scrambled to close it in time. The gentleman followed her to the gate, which she shut behind her with a resounding clang!
“I’m so sorry,” Genevieve panted, taking one last look at him. She turned to leave but spun on her heel to utter one last thing. She cupped her hand over his where it rested on top of the gate and declared: “You will recover from this. I know it. Hold on to hope and do not let this loss of love ruin you!”
Sandridge Abbey, Hatfield, August 1820
“There are many things a man must consider when taking a woman to wife. Chief of all is whether or not he should condescend to love her. And so I must ask before we begin, Lord Easterbrook, whether there is room in this match for love.”
Marcus peered at the matchmaker over the top of his newspaper. She was a curious-looking woman, who asked even curiouser questions. Her greying hair was piled high atop her head in the fashion of the last century, decorated with barrettes in the shape of dragonflies. They were the same shade as her eyes, blue and green, but there was something almost oriental about her face that gave him pause.
His gaze travelled next to his mother, the dowager countess of Easterbrook, who was the culprit behind the matchmaker’s visit. She widened her eyes as though to encourage Marcus to speak, tapping her nails against the side of her teacup in anticipation. She was the perfect opposite of her matchmaking friend who had presented herself as Mrs Liena Heatherpot with severely pinned back hair and a lavender attire fit for half-mourning.
“I agreed to this appointment on the condition I would have nothing to do with it.” Marcus straightened the broadsheet of that day’s issue of The Times. “But to answer your question: if love was of any concern to me, it follows that I would not have agreed to this appointment at all.”
“You would be surprised, My Lord, at the number of love-matches I have engineered over the years,” Mrs Heatherpot argued. “While I cannot say to have an exact percentage at hand, the vast majority of my matches result in love.”
“By accident or by design?”
“I beg your pardon, My Lord?”
“Do you consider love an important facet in these matches?” Marcus asked, raising his newspaper higher and dropping his voice low. “What should happen if I were to forbid you from finding a wife I should want to consider with any affection?”
The room was quiet for a moment, except for the creaking of the matchmaker’s armchair. Marcus heard next the sound of a saucer clipping against a table. When he lowered his broadsheet, the matchmaker was staring at him avidly.
“I would rise to the challenge,” she intoned. “But I would not be surprised if you should fall in love with the woman, regardless. A match is merely the joining of two parties who are in many ways aligned. It is inevitable that by agreeing to marry a suitable woman, you should walk into the theatre of love. What happens from there is not my concern. My work, by that point, would be done.”
Marcus heaved a sigh and definitively set The Times aside. He scowled at his mother, expressing wordlessly his exasperation at the whole ordeal. He primed himself to say something scathing until he noticed the slight tremble of his mother’s frail hands around her cup. There were few things a man could deny a poorly woman, especially when the woman in question had given birth to him.
Her illness was yet without a name. Marcus had brought the best physicians from all over England to attend his mother and diagnose the sickness which ravaged her, to no avail. The first had called it consumption. The second had argued that the symptoms for consumption did not align with those expressed by the dowager countess, and that she had likely picked something up on the Continent the last time she had visited Florence with the former earl. The third had merely called it old age and poor nerves. Well, Julie Stallard was a mere six-and-forty. And until the death of her husband, Marcus’s father, a year prior, she had been in fighting form. Marcus was not satisfied. But if he could not diagnose and heal his mother, the least he could do was appease her. There were only two things which Lady Easterbrook desired, even above her own health: her son’s happiness and an heir to her husband’s earldom. What a shame it was that the two wishes were near irreconcilable!
Thinking as much, Marcus turned to the matchmaker and agreed to play her game, to the visible relief of his mother.
“There are three qualities alone I am seeking in this match,” he declared. “First, any prospective wife of mine shall be spotless. I will not accept a wife who has involved herself in scandal. Now, do not make the mistake of thinking I am a bastion of propriety,” he protested. “A woman’s reputation is her own concern, not mine. Nay, it is the headache of ton gossip I wish to avoid above all else.”
“Naturally, I would not embroil you in any such predicament,” the matchmaker responded. “What is the second point on your list of demands?”
“I would ask that she hail from a respectable family. As the future countess of Easterbrook, whichever wife I select will need to understand the responsibilities carried by the title and have the wherewithal to execute her duty.”
“There are many fine young ladies in the county, and no small number of them have fathers with peerages,” his mother interjected. She had leaned forward slightly in her seat, and her face was suffused with colour for the first time in months. “Would it not serve to pluck a rose from our own garden?”
“I suppose a woman from a nearby parish would be ideal. I would like for her family to reside nearby, for her sake.” Marcus paused to ring the bell for another pot of tea, having decided to entertain the matchmaker as long as it took to get her out of his hair. “Finally,” he continued, “though this point I do not stress as strongly as the others, I should wish to marry a woman of decent health.”
At this, the matchmaker let out a laugh.
“Forgive me, Lord Easterbrook.” Mrs Heatherpot tried and failed to conceal a smirk. “Too often have I heard bachelors of your calibre speak of health when they mean beauty?”
“What she looks like is of no consequence to me,” Marcus sputtered. He felt his ears grow hot at the insinuation. With some thought, he supposed a beautiful wife would not be a tremendous burden. “A woman of equal health to me, then.”
“Certainly,” the matchmaker said with a magnanimous nod. “If there is nothing else, I could begin putting feelers out on the morrow. As your mother will attest, I am renowned throughout the south of England for my talents, and I have many young ladies already on my list, waiting to be paired with suitable husbands.”
Marcus leaned back in his armchair, averting his eyes to the drive beyond the window. He wondered what sort of woman would concede to being match made. The London Season was a glorified wife sale, with an innumerable number of prospective buyers. Any woman who resorted to using the services of a matchmaker had to have more to gain by going through her or more to lose by going without. It seemed unlikely that such a woman would be irreproachable, accomplished, and beautiful. The idea did not sit well with Marcus, who had no desire to take on a wife out of pity to her. He looked across the room to the matchmaker, more convinced by the second that she was little more than a charlatan selling him false promises.
“Enlighten me, then.” His voice called to attention his mother and their guest. “You claim to have a collection of names for me already. I would like to hear them.”
“Marcus…” his mother whispered warningly beside him.
The matchmaker froze in her seat and said nothing. She narrowed her eyes and considered Marcus for a long while. Slowly, she leaned back to click open her beaded reticule, extracting from within a small leather-bound notebook and a pencil. Licking her thumb teasingly, she took on a snobbish air and began flicking through the pages, humming as she worked. Meanwhile, a maid appeared with a fresh pot of tea, changing out the dumbwaiter as she left.
Marcus shot his eyes heavenward as the door yawned to a close, watching the matchmaker in her performance.
“You are in luck, My Lord, having called upon me when you did,” the matchmaker said, with a lilting quality to her voice. “My little book has benefited greatly from the end of this Season. Many are the young popsies who return to their native parishes looking for a match close to home. Of those I have recently collected, I have four names for you…no, five!”
He rolled his hand in the air, gesturing for her to continue.
“Miss Rosemarie Thorpe and her younger sister, Miss Anneline Thorpe, were both delivered to me by their mother. Their father is Sir Francis of Stevenage, of whom you may have heard.”
“I know Sir Francis,” Marcus said, considering the first page of The Times lying beside him. “He was an old gambling friend of my father’s. From what I recall, he is cardsharp, to be certain. I will not take on his sins as my own, no matter the quality of his daughters.”
With a little shake of her shoulders, Mrs Heatherpot resumed her search. A moment later, she flicked the tip of her pencil atop the journal and smiled. Reaching a hand over to grasp the countess’s wrist, she said: “You will like this next one! Lady Cassandra is the daughter of the marquess of Basingstoke—”
“No,” Marcus announced.
“No?” the matchmaker echoed.
“You haven’t heard anything about her,” his mother murmured.
“Not from your matchmaker’s mouth, but I have met Lady Cassandra one time too many during my trips to London with father. We were forced to dance on more than one occasion, and I cannot decide which one of us was more disappointed. Though I am tempted to say it was her. She would make an amenable and unsatisfied wife. Her caprices are more than I could handle. Egad, Lady Cassandra?” he guffawed. “Absolutely not!”
The matchmaker made a disapproving noise. She released his mother and slumped back into her seat, disrupting the closest dragonfly pin to her ear, but not bothering to correct it. She said: “For a gentleman who claimed to have no opinion about his future bride, you certainly have much and more to say about all the women I have suggested to you. Shall I bother with the final two names?”
“We have come this far,” Marcus replied. Fearing he had scorned his mother, he leaned over to pat her hand atop the armrest of the sofa. “Tell them to us.”
“The first woman is Miss Livingstone,” the matchmaker resumed, with decidedly less enthusiasm. “She is the only living daughter of Viscount Livingstone, who seats in Bath. The family is quickly ascending to haut ton thanks to the popularity of his wife, Lady Livingstone.” She paused to eye Marcus and his mother. “You have not yet stopped me, so I shall continue. Miss Livingstone is a gentle young woman with great sensibilities. She is a highly accomplished musician and a blessing upon all who know her. Her mother sought me out a few months ago, fearing that the Season was too cutthroat a business for her quickly fading wallflower.”
Marcus listened along seriously. His heart sank with every new thing he learned about the woman. “She would be too good for me,” he said gravely, clearing his throat when his voice caught. “And I know that rather contradicts what I asked of you, but…”
“I understand,” the matchmaker replied.
“Who is the last? Might we know?” the countess requested. “You said there were five women you knew off the top of your head.”
“The last woman…” She paused dramatically and steepled her fingers before her lips. “Well, the last woman is equally bright, beautiful, and kind. But contrary to Miss Livingstone, she has all the makings of a diamond and the courage to boot. The problem lies with her father, you see.” The matchmaker quieted suddenly. “Are you familiar with the marquess of Chesterfield?”
Marcus pulled back with a start. He had not heard the title in years, but he was definitely familiar with the man. His father had been closely acquainted with the marquess and his brother for many years in their youth, having drifted apart only when they had finished their schooling and taken their women to wives.
Marcus cast his memory back, trying to recall the last time he had encountered the marquess or any members of his family. Their meeting certainly predated his father’s death a year ago, maybe even Marcus’s grand tour. He had most often met with the marquess’s in-laws, but even those meetings had been far and few between. He seemed to recall a daughter, but her name eluded him.
“Lord Chesterfield attended Eton and Cambridge with my father,” Marcus said, and he looked toward his mother for guidance. “Or am I mistaking him for someone else?”
“No, you have the right of it.” She turned to Mrs Heatherpot, a wistful expression on her face. “My late husband and I were better acquainted with the marquess’s father-in-law and mother-in-law, the baron and baroness of Stortford. You were likely too young to remember them in any detail, but they were a valiant pair,” she said softly to Marcus. “By the time you were old enough to socialise with them properly, I do believe they had… well, they were…”
Marcus comforted his mother with a squeeze of her fingers. He returned his attention to the matchmaker, who was listening with rapt attention. This did not perturb him. The woman was in the business of feelings and had likely collected more tales of woe than successful matches.
“I recall the baron and the baroness fondly. It is true. And I seem to recall Lord Chesterfield having a daughter, though I do not believe we ever met,” Marcus explained. “How curious…”
“For what it is worth, her name is Lady Genevieve Blacket.” The name did not strike Marcus as familiar, so he gestured for the woman to continue. “She is aged one-and-twenty. She is an expert in languages and artistically inclined. She has a great penchant for animals, the variety of which I will allow you to discover for yourself. And while I am averse to qualifying my girls first hand for fear of influencing the gentlemen who employ me, I have it on good authority that her beauty and kindness are unmatched.”
“Lady Genevieve…” Marcus repeated, letting the name coat his tongue. It was soothing, yet wholly unfamiliar. “What did you mean when you said the problem lies with her father?”
“The story is not mine to tell, My Lord,” the matchmaker protested, but Marcus caught the glint of scandal in her eye. “Suffice to say that it is a safely guarded secret that the marquess and his family are not quite as affluent as they once were. It is my understanding that the match would likely favour the daughter, whom Lord Chesterfield hopes to marry off before his financial troubles can impede her in any way. One might see this as a good thing, that the father cares so deeply for his daughter as the orchestrate a happy match for her.”
“So long as he does not intend for her future husband to foot the bill,” Marcus contested. “And who can say he will not?”
With a sigh, he took a moment to consider the match properly. The prospect of marrying into Blacket debt did not appeal to him in the slightest. But Lady Genevieve’s relations, primarily to her maternal grandparents, made her more favourable than the rest. Contrary to the other women the matchmaker had described, it struck Marcus that this Lady Genevieve would approach the idea of marriage with the same view as him: as an exchange of services, a door opening, a thing that must be done for their own sake. If Lady Genevieve meant to marry to escape financial ruin, Marcus could only presume that she would not long for a love-match either. Marcus could provide her an escape, and she could provide him the means with which he could please his mother. And if they came to be friends through the long-standing acquaintance of the families, all the better.
Glancing between his mother and the matchmaker, Marcus rose to a stand. He pried free his pocket watch and inspected the time, shoving it back in his pocket as the face read eleven o’clock. Luncheon was in order, and then a decent ride.
“In truth,” Marcus declared, “I am quite tired of all this matchmaking nonsense. If you believe a marriage between myself and this woman would be of some advantage to us, then you have my permission to approach her on my behalf. Make clear to her my conditions, and if she is willing to abide by them, we shall meet by the end of the week. Yes, let it be Lady Genevieve. Let it be Lady Genevieve and have us be done with it.”
“Mending an Earl’s Broken Heart” is an Amazon Best-Selling novel, check it out here!
Lady Genevieve Blacket has all the makings of a ton darling, and none of the luck. By the time she attends her first Season, her father, the Marquess of Chesterfield, has run their finances into the ground. Desperate to spare Genevieve the consequences of his gambling, he calls upon the services of a local matchmaker to secure a husband for his daughter. Yet the Earl that Genevieve is matched with could not be more different from her or less eager to take her as a wife…
Will Genevieve risk her chances for marriage only for the promise of true love?
Marcus Stallard, the Earl of Easterbrook, used to wear his heart on his sleeve. When his first encounter with love ends in perfect disaster though, Marcus vows to never let a woman get the better of him again. Years later, when Marcus decides that he must break his vow and fulfil his duty, he hires a matchmaker to organise a marriage of convenience for him. However, the woman he is matched with is anything but convenient. In fact, Lady Genevieve is perfectly equipped to ruin him all over again…
Will this be his chance to finally find true love or will his fears destroy it all?
Having shared a tender moment years ago, Genevieve cannot believe how much Marcus has changed. When Marcus allows only one month of courtship to see if they can make a match, Genevieve labours to thaw his heart and restore his faith in love. They cannot outrun their back luck forever though, especially when the Earl’s first love reappears to take back what is hers… Can they overcome the obstacles that are mounting against them or will their love sink, once and for all?
“Mending an Earl’s Broken Heart” is a historical romance novel of approximately 80,000 words. No cheating, no cliffhangers, and a guaranteed happily ever after.