Saturday, April 26, 2008
A Bittersweet Proposal
My latest Regency romance, A Bittersweet Proposal, will be published by Robert Hale in June. Marc Rothwell was quite content with his life the way it was and had no wish to become the new Earl of Bracknell, a position which ought to have been his cousin's by rights and for whose death Marc feels responsible. Perhaps that's why, when we first make Marc's acquaintance we find that he has already earned himself a reputation for being taciturn. Here's a little taster.
A collective groan echoed round the card table as Marcus Rothwell laid calim to yet another winning hand.
'By all that's holy, Marc, you have the very luck of the devil!' complained Giles Merrow, throwing down his cards with an amiable grin that belied his malcontent.
An uneasy silence ensued as all eyes turned towards Marc: not just to gauge his reaction to an extraordinarily large win - brought about by daring or, some might argue, reckless play - but to his friend's taunt as well. No one anticipated that his lordship would display the least sign of pleasure at the turn events had taken and indeed were not to be disappointed in that respect. Few people had ever known the new Earl of Bracknell to go to the trouble of revealing an agreeable visage: many privately doubting that he possessed one, even if they did not have the courage to actually speculate upon the matter in the earl's hearing. A formidable Corinthian with a reputation that, even allowing for exaggeration, bordered on the legendary, no one wished to make such a powerful and dangerous enemy. Referring to the darker side of his character, even in jest, was not for the fainthearted.
'Luck had little to do with it, Giles,' responded Marc smoothly, rising from the table and scooping up a handful of banknotes, interspersed with a healthy smattering of vowels. 'Fortune has a tendency to favour the brave. Gentlemen, I bid you adieu.'
Giles collected his own, more modest, winnings and followed his friend from the room, accepting his outer garments from the porter at the door to Brook's Club.
'Where are we going?' asked Giles, donning his hat and striding along at Marc's side.
'I do not know about you, but I am for Lady Charington's ball.'
'Good God, whatever for?'
'To dance, of course.'
'Yes, I had ascertained that much, and I suppose now that you are no longer in full mourning for your uncle there is no reason why you shouldn't do so.' Giles appeared perplexed. 'But, Marc, why ever would you wish to?'
'Because the Earl of Bracknell is in need of a wife: or so my aunt would have it.'
'Yea gods, I wouldn't be you, Marc, not for all your fortune. But if you are seriously contemplating matrimony would you not do better to postpone matters for a few months more? The season is almost at an end and all this year's chits that are worth looking at, or who have dowries that are up to scratch, must already have been snapped up.'
Marc appeared perfectly unruffled at the prospect of picking over the season's wallflowers. 'I have no use for a handsome wife,' he responded indifferently. 'Such a creature would most likely spend all her time preening herself, waste my money on fripperies and require pretty words from me to keep her faithful. I have no need to add to my fortune through matrimony either. All I require is a lady of good breeding and refined manners: preferably one not given to giggling or fits of the vapours, and one in possession of a modicum of common sense: if one such exists, which I grant you is asking a lot. Most importantly, though, my choice will be based on the likelihood of the lady in question being able to bear my children without creating an almighty fuss over the matter. Presumably there are still one or two hardy specimens of that ilk not spoken for?'
'I dare say,' agreed Giles equitably. 'But does not the countess favour Miss Gibbons as your consort?'
'Which is precisely why I do not intend to spare that particular lady the time of day,' said Marc, his already ferocious expression darking further at the mention of his interfering aunt.
'Perhaps an older lady might better suit your purpose, then?' suggested Giles helpfully; keen to coax his friend back into a more congenial frame of mind. 'One who has been out for several seasons but who has not taken.'
'Good point! If she considers that she is being passed over then she will likely be more receptive to my proposition and save me the tedium of an overlong courtship.' Marc inclined his head. 'Thank you, Giles; that is an excellent suggestion. All ladies, in my experience, dread the prospect of being left on the shelf. In any event, I have yet to meet one who is averse to the idea of matrimony.'
This conversation takes them to Lady Charington's residence. Will Marc really set about finding a wife in such a cold and calculating manner and, if so, will she be in that ballroom? Find out by ordering a copy of A Bittersweet Proposal from your local library.