Oh, and don't forget that I'm signed up to Kindlegraph if you'd like a personalized message to go with the book.
Anyway, he's a little snippet just to remind you what it's all about:
Dutiful, dependable and desperate… sometimes falling into the arms of a gorgeous rakehell really is the only way out. Better yet, make that three gorgeous rakehells.
31st January 1801 – Darleston House, Knightsbridge, London.
“Isn’t it marvellous?”
Fortuna Allenthorpe forced a benign smile for her younger sibling, and wished she felt half her sister’s delight. “It’s grand,” she remarked. “Truly, grand.” Indeed, the ballroom was a fantastical paradise, dressed with vast swathes of silken fabrics of emerald and gold, and enormous potted ferns. Their hostess, the Countess of Onnerley, wore a turquoise silken turban, decorated with a single star-like jewel and six enormous ostrich plumes. With a little imagination Fortuna could easily imagine the ballroom as part of a vast Persian palace. The moon outside blazing over a desert city in a cloudless sky, instead of inadequately lighting the churned up slush they’d driven through to get here.
“Shall we go in?” Alicia, the closest of her seven sisters to her in age, gently squeezed her hand.
Fortuna nodded, though she felt sick to her stomach. “I rather suppose we must.”
Alicia gripped her hand a little tighter. “You know you do look awfully pale, perhaps you oughtn’t to have come out.”
“Nonsense, Alicia.” Their mother, a short stout woman, bustled between them, breaking them apart. “It’s merely anticipatory nerves, and well her stomach might flutter. It’s not every day a girl can expect to be engaged, nor a mother so delighted. I’m quite aflutter myself.”
Fortuna flicked open her fan and tried to waft away her misgivings along with the colour in her rapidly heating cheeks. Beneath her rigidly laced stays and narrow petticoats, perspiration slicked her skin. Why had nobody listened to her protests? Even Aunt Beatrice, their chaperone, had approved the match before she took her annual Christmas visit to her family in Norfolk. Why couldn’t they see that it would be a terrible marriage?
If only there were a way to flee into the night, avoid the proposal altogether.
“It won’t be long now, darling. I expect we’ll hear him announced.”
Fortuna peered at her mother over the flounced edge of her fan. She hoped Sir Hector’s carriage got stuck in snowdrift and never arrived.
Was it wrong to wish for a husband who excited her, whose very presence made her tingle with excitement? She pursed her lips. Sir Hector Macleane was not, and never would be that man. Twice her age, over large and a dreadful bore, the only reaction he provoked in her was disgust.
His title and impressive estate had swayed her parents’ hearts far more than her protests, which they dismissed as natural maidenly reservations, but then, as she’d repeatedly said to herself in the mirror, they didn’t have to live with him.
“Ah! Girls.” Mrs. Allenthorpe nudged her five attending daughters to attention, before swirling gracefully on the spot. “Good evening, Sir Hector.” She extended her hand for him to take, and dropped into a low curtsey. A formality quickly replicated by her four younger daughters. Fortuna remained rigidly upright, a wave of nausea almost choking her as Sir Hector diligently turned towards her.
“Miss Allenthorpe, I’m enchanted as always.”
Gracious, but the man was huge. Built like a wild boar. Her nose barely reached his chest, which put her on the same level as his collection of gaudy brooches, each an exquisite example of what not to do with an array of precious gems.
The heat drained from Fortuna’s skin as Sir Hector brushed his dry lips across her knuckles. She tried to smile, but it was no use, the thought of him heaving himself over her in bed, touching her with his club-like hands filled her with horror. Aghast, she cast her gaze downwards, hoping he would mistakenly think her demure.
Sir Hector coughed to clear his throat. “Miss Allenthorpe, I’ve a gift. If you’ll forgive the impudence.”
No, not here, not now. It would be a deal more difficult to refuse him in front of her expectant family. Luckily, when she squinted at her palm, the object was a delicate mother-of-pearl comb and not a betrothal ring. Fortuna stared at the shiny waves of pearlescent pink and felt relief wash through her limbs like a drug.
“Sir, it’s exquisite, but I can’t possibly accept this.”
“Nonsense.” Mrs. Allenthorpe snatched the comb from Fortuna’s hand and with a sharp stab pushed it into her daughter’s elaborate hair arrangement. “My daughter is extremely flattered by your generosity, Sir Hector.”
“Oh, Tunie, it’s lovely,” Mercy, the plainest of the five girls, announced. “The very palest pink and a perfect match for your sash. How clever of you, Sir Hector.”
“Very pretty,” said Mae, the youngest, her lips jealously pursed and her arms folded across her ample breasts. Her huff lasted no more than a second.
Fortuna gently eased the comb away from her scalp as her sisters continued to twitter. As beautiful as the gift was, she wished she could pass it on to one of them and Sir Hector with it. Mercy at least found his lapidary monologues interesting. They’d have suited far more as a couple.
Sir Hector gave another of his intrusive coughs. “Perhaps you’d oblige me with a turn about the room, Miss Allenthorpe.”
“Of course.” Given the extravagant present and her mother’s expectations, she could hardly refuse.
Sir Hector laid her hand upon his sleeve, and with her tucked against his side, plunged them into the crowd.