Tristan Gatewick, the Duke of Shelbourne, is closing in on
his 31st birthday and has not taken a bride to produce an
heir to his title. He enlists the services of Miss Tessa
Mansfield, a matchmaker, to find him a suitable wife.
Tessa is a declared spinster, although she is only 26. Her
desire in life is to make matches for unfortunate young
ladies who might otherwise have trouble finding a husband.
She considers it her career. She is extremely wealthy and
very independent. A husband for herself is the least of her
But this is the first time Tessa has tried to make a match
for a man. Their many meetings about the duke's courtship
of the 24 candidates she selects lead to longing looks and
gestures that stir feelings in both of them. As the duke
declares his feelings for Tessa, she resists because of a
secret in her past. When that secret rears its ugly head
and Tessa is blackmailed, she's afraid of what her fate and
that of Tristan and his family may be.
You are sure to enjoy the delightful games and interviews
in this matchmaking saga. But just what is Tessa's dark
secret that will keep her from the love of her life? How
does Tristan make his choice of a duchess, and who will it
be? Ms. Dreiling has done a fine job with her debut novel.
Tristan, the Duke of Shelbourne is a man with a mission:
find a wife he can tolerate as long as they both shall
live. No love is necessary—nor desired. But how to choose
amid a dizzying array of wealthy-yet-witless candidates?
Hire London’s infamously prim and proper matchmaker. Then
pretend she’s not the most captivating woman he’s ever
met . . .
Helping a devilish Duke create a contest to pick his
perfect mate is the kind of challenge Tessa Mansfield
relishes. Her methods may be scandalous, but she’s
determined to find the notorious bachelor more than a wife—
she’ll bring him true love. Yet when Tessa watches the
women vie for the Duke’s affections, she longs to win his
heart herself. And after a stolen kiss confirms Tristan’s
desire, Tessa knows she has broken a matchmaker’s number
one rule: never fall in love with the groom.
The belles of the Beau Monde had resorted to clumsiness in
an effort to snag a ducal husband.
Tristan James Gatewick, the Duke of Shelbourne, entered
Lord and Lady Broughton’s ballroom and grimaced. A quartet
of giggling chits stood near the open doors, dangling their
handkerchiefs as if poised to drop them. Determined to
avoid playing fetch again, he strode off along the
perimeter of the room.
With a long suffering sigh, he conceded he’d contributed to
this national disgrace. Ever since the scandal sheets had
declared him the most eligible bachelor in England, he’d
rescued twenty-nine lace handkerchiefs, five kid gloves,
and twelve ivory fans.
If only he could have convinced himself to choose a bride
based upon the inelegance of her fumbling, he might have
wedded and bedded the most inept candidate by now. Alas, he
could not abide the thought of spending a lifetime with Her
He surveyed the crowd looking for the hostess of this grand
squeeze, a useless endeavor. The crème de la crème swarmed
the place like bees. The din of voices competed with the
lively tune of a country dance, making his ears ring. He’d
rather eat dirt than subject himself to the dubious
delights of the marriage mart, but with his thirty-first
birthday approaching, he could no longer pretend he was
invincible. The dukedom had been at risk far too long.
Someone tapped a fan on his shoulder. He paused to find
Genevieve and Veronica, two of his former mistresses.
Seeing them together, he realized how alike the striking
widows looked. Both were tall, dark-haired, and curvaceous.
He canvassed the cobwebs in his brain and realized all of
his past lovers had similar attributes. Well, those he
Tristan bowed and lifted each of their hands for the
requisite air kiss. “Ladies, it is a great pleasure to see
“Were your ears burning?” Veronica said in an exaggerated
boudoir voice. “You are the subject du jour.”
“I am delighted,” he lied. He’d grown increasingly
frustrated with all the notoriety the papers had whipped
up. How the devil he’d ever find a bride in this circuslike
atmosphere evaded him. But find one he must.
Genevieve tittered. “We were comparing you to all of our
other gentlemen admirers.”
He’d bedded more than his fare share of mistresses, but
this situation was certainly unique among his
experiences. “What did you conclude?”
Genevieve leaned closer and squeezed his arm. “We agreed
you were the naughtiest of all our lovers.”
He regarded her with a wicked grin. “Praise indeed.”
Veronica glanced at him from beneath her lashes. “How does
it feel to be England’s most sought after bachelor?”
High-pitched giggling rang out from behind him. He rolled
his eyes. Not again.
Genevieve’s shoulders shook with laughter. “Watch out,
Shelbourne. A bevy of little misses are stalking you.”
He grimaced. “Rescue me?”
The two women laughed, blew him a kiss, and drifted away,
leaving him to the predators. When he turned round, the
four silly chits he’d seen earlier halted and stared at
him, agog. Given their youthful faces and puritanical white
gowns, he surmised not one of them was a day over
seventeen. He needed a wife, but he’d no intention of
robbing the proverbial cradle.
When they continued to gape at him as if he were a Greek
statue come to life, he took a step closer. “Boo.”
Their shrieks rang in his ears as he walked off into the
crowd. Ignoring the avid stares directed at him, Tristan
squeezed past numerous hot, perspiring bodies, and not the
kind one hoped to find naked and willing in bed. With more
than a little regret, he banished thoughts of Naked and
Willing in order to concentrate on Virtuous and Virginal.
First he must locate Lord and Lady Broughton. Perhaps his
hostess would introduce him to a sensible young lady of
good breeding. Perhaps pigs would fly, too.
He might have avoided all this nonsense if his dear mama
had cooperated. When he’d informed her of his bridal
requirements a month ago, she’d swatted him with her fan
and told him he had rocks in his head.
A loud bang nearly sent him ducking for cover. Feminine
gasps erupted all around him. Alarmed, he sought the source
of the disturbance and realized it was only the slamming of
the card room door. The gentleman responsible for this
discourteous act was none other than his oldest friend,
Marc Darcett, Earl of Hawkfield.
Tristan hailed Hawk with a wave and walked in that
direction. Intent upon reaching his friend, Tristan failed
to notice the impending danger until something crunched
beneath his shoe. A quick glance to the floor confirmed his
worst fear - the thirteenth incident of a dropped fan. Damn
and blast, he’d crushed it.
He lifted his gaze, expecting a devious mama and her
blushing daughter. Instead, a petite, young woman with
honey-blonde hair stood staring at his shoe. She said
something that sounded suspiciously like ashes to ashes,
dust to dust. With all the voices ringing in his ears, he
assumed he’d misheard.
Though he was tempted to walk past her, he couldn’t ignore
the fan he’d broken. “I beg your pardon,” he said, bending
to retrieve the mangled, ivory sticks.
“You are not to blame. Someone jostled my arm.”
Her excuse was the worst he’d heard yet. He didn’t even
bother to hide his cynicism as his gaze traveled up her
white gown. Blue ribbons trimmed her bodice, drawing his
attention to her generous décolletage. He continued his
perusal to her heart-shaped face. She watched him with
twitching lips. Pillow-plump lips. He inhaled on a
constricted breath. Lord with that mouth she could make a
fortune as a courtesan.
Her long-lashed eyes twinkled. “Sir, if you will return the
remains, I will see to its burial.”
Her witty remark stunned him. Belatedly, he realized he was
grinning up at her. She probably thought he’d fallen for
her ruse. Exasperated with himself, he grasped the broken
sticks, rose, and placed the ruined fan in her small,
He met her amused gaze again, noting she did not simper or
blush. She was no miss fresh out of the schoolroom. “I
apologize for the damage. Allow me to make reparations,” he
“It is quite beyond repair,” she said.
“I insist upon compensating you for-”
“My pain and suffering?” She laughed. “I assure you the
fan’s death is a relief to me. Look, you can see it is
They’d not had a proper introduction, and yet, she’d
invited him to come closer. He decided to oblige her and
find out if her intentions extended beyond droll quips.
While she chattered about a dim shop light and putrid green
paint, he stole another glance at her mouth, picturing
those lips damp and kiss-swollen. Slow heat eddied in his
She continued speaking in an unreserved manner as if they
were old friends rather than strangers. “Even my maids
refused to take the fan,” she said. “So I decided to carry
the pitiful thing at least once.”
A footman carrying a tray of champagne paused before them.
She lifted up on her toes like a ballerina to place the
ruined fan upon it. Pint-sized she might be, but her flimsy
skirts outlined a deliciously rounded bottom. He liked
voluptuous women, and his practiced eye told him this one
had the body of a goddess.
His blood stirred. He wanted her.
A warning clanged in his head. She was probably married,
and he never dallied with other men’s wives. Then again,
maybe she wasn’t. He found himself hoping she was a willing
and lonely widow, but he meant to do more than hope.
“Poor little fan. May you rest in peace.” She pirouetted
and gave him a dazzling smile. “There now, I’m done
She was exceptionally clever, but without the brittle
artifice common among the ton. He caught her gaze, willing
her with his eyes. “Now that the funeral is over, perhaps
you would allow me to escort you to the refreshment table.”
And thence to a more private location.
“You are too kind, but I must return to my friends.”
Triumph surged inside him. She’d said friends, but made no
mention of a husband. “Will you allow me the pleasure of
your company a little longer? I mean to persuade you to
accept my offer.”
“I have dozens of other fans,” she said. “Your apology is
more than sufficient.”
She intended to play hard to get. Since he’d come of age,
women had always pursued him. At the prospect of a chase,
excitement raced through his blood. But he must proceed
with caution. If he’d misjudged her, she would take
offense. A smile tugged at his mouth. He knew exactly which
card to play.
He reached inside his coat and produced his engraved
card. “Take it. In the event you change your mind, send
round a note.” If she refused, he’d have his answer. But if
she accepted, he’d have her name. And soon her.
When she started to reach for the card, he held his breath.
Take it, little charmer. I’ll ride you to the stars all
She hesitated and then peered at his card. Her doll-like
eyes grew round as carriage wheels. She curtseyed, mumbled
something he couldn’t hear, and disappeared into the crowd.
Her sudden departure caught him off guard. He took two
steps, searching for her, but the crowd had swallowed her.
Obviously she’d not known his identity beforehand. But why
had she fled?
“There you are.”
At the sound of Hawk’s voice, Tristan turned.
“I tried to save you,” Hawk said, “but that dragon Lady
Durmont waylaid me. So who was the latest clumsy belle to
“I’ve no idea,” Tristan said. “I take it you do not know
“I never saw her face.” Hawk frowned. “What the devil were
you doing engaging a strange lady in conversation?”
“I stepped on her fan.”
Hawk made a sound of disgust. “Follow me.”
As he walked with his friend, Tristan frowned, wondering
how he could have misread her signals. Then again, the
women who pursued him made no secret of their illicit
intentions with their risqué innuendo. The mysterious lady
had surprised and intrigued him, but she’d not taken the
bait, so he dismissed her from his mind.
Hawk led him over to a wall niche displaying a winged
statue of Fortuna, goddess of fortune and fate. “Old boy,
you’ve got to be more careful,” Hawk said. “These chits are
desperate. One of them might trick you into a compromising
Tristan huffed. “A cautionary tale in reverse. Lady Rake
seduces unsuspecting bachelor.”
“There are plenty of schemers on the marriage mart who
would throw away their virtue to marry a duke.”
“Ridiculous.” He’d never fall for such tricks.
“Forget this bridal business for now,” Hawk said. “You
needn’t rush to the altar.”
“I’ve left the dukedom unsecured for thirteen years.” With
good reason, he silently amended.
Hawk released a loud sigh. “You’re determined to wed.”
“Determined, yes. Whether I’ll succeed is debatable.”
“As usual, you’re making matters much too complicated.
You’re in luck. I have a brilliant plan.”
“This ought to prove entertaining,” he said.
“It’s simple,” Hawk said. “Choose the most beautiful belle
in the ballroom, get an introduction, and ask her to dance.
Then call on her tomorrow and propose. In less than twenty-
four hours, you’ll be an engaged man.”
“You call that a brilliant plan?”
Hawk folded his arms over his chest. “What’s wrong with
He huffed. “Most of the beauties I’ve met are vain, silly,
“You want an ugly wife?”
Tristan scowled. “That’s not what I meant.”
“What the devil do you want?”
“A sensible, respectable, and graceful woman.” He wanted
more, but he wasn’t about to confess his fantasies.
“If it’s a boring and plain bride you’re wanting, you need
look no further than the wall,” Hawk said, indicating a
group of pitiful looking gels sitting with the dowagers.
Tristan started to turn away when he saw the amusing lady
he’d spoken to earlier. His heartbeat drummed in his ears.
She led two gangly, young cubs over to the forlorn girls.
The chandelier’s soft candlelight illuminated her curly,
Within minutes, both cubs were escorting wallflowers
towards the dance floor. The lady responsible for this turn
of events clasped her small, gloved hands. As she watched
the couples, her plump lips curved into a dreamy smile, and
her eyes softened. Transfixed, Tristan forgot to breathe.
He’d last seen that expression on a woman after a vigorous
bout between the sheets.
Then Lord Broughton and his new bride approached her. All
signs of temptress disappeared as the lady faced the
couple. “That’s her,” Tristan said.
Hawk squinted. “Who?”
“The lady I spoke to earlier. She is standing with
Broughton and his wife.”
“Lord help us. It’s Miss Mansfield.”
Miss Mansfield? She was a virtuous, unmarried lady? The
devil. He’d almost made her an indecent proposition.
Hawk laughed. “You’ve never heard about her?”
“You’re obviously itching to tell me,” he grumbled.
“She makes matches for every ugly duckling in London,” Hawk
said, wagging his brows.
Tristan scoffed. “You’re funning me.”
“I’m not jesting. She’s not called Miss Mantrap for
nothing,” Hawk said. “The woman is a menace to bachelors.
Good old Broughton is a prime example.”
Good old Broughton gazed down at his pretty, blonde bride.
The man looked as if he were suffering from unbridled lust,
a term women euphemistically called love.
Hawk regarded Tristan with suspicion. “Why are you so
interested in her?”
“Mere curiosity,” he said with a shrug.
Hawk smirked. “Cut line. You thought she was available for
He’d never admit it. No doubt she was as poor as a church
mouse, without noble family connections. She probably found
matchmaking preferable to taking a position as a lady’s
maid or governess. Most likely, she’d only received an
invitation to the ball because she’d made Broughton’s match.
He wished she’d not refused his offer to pay for the fan.
But he understood her pride all too well, and though he
thought her chosen career odd, he couldn’t deny she’d made
a successful match for Broughton.
Tristan’s skin tingled. No, he would not stoop to hiring
her to find him a bride. He could practically picture the
news in the scandal rags. The Desperate Duke has hired a
He was not desperate. He was a bloody duke. With a mere
crook of his finger, he could have any woman he wanted. The
problem was he didn’t want just any woman. He’d formulated
requirements for his ideal bride.
All he needed was to find someone who met them.
He thought about spending week after week trolling for a
wife in ballrooms. He thought about fetching fans,
handkerchiefs, and parasols. He thought about his need for
an heir. His chances of finding his perfect duchess seemed
remote at best.
Tristan glanced at Miss Mansfield again and reconsidered.
She needed money. He needed a bride. For the right price,
Miss Mansfield would keep her involvement a secret from all
but the chosen girl and her grateful family.
He frowned, realizing he was basing his decision on one
example – Broughton. Hiring Miss Mansfield meant taking a
risk, but if her efforts proved unsatisfactory, he could
dismiss her. Truthfully, a larger risk loomed. Marriage was
for life, and as matters now stood, he was in serious
danger of tying himself forever to an unsuitable wife. Or
no wife at all at this rate.
Tristan sized up the situation and realized he had two
choices: continue his haphazard search or hire Miss
Mansfield. After weeks of pure hell shopping at the
marriage mart, the matchmaker won hands-down.
Of course, he had no intention of enlightening his
friend. “I’m off to pay my respects to Broughton and his
Hawk snorted. “This marriage business has addled your
“I fail to understand what you find so amusing.”
“Miss Mansfield is a happily ever after spinster.” Hawk
clapped him on the shoulder. “Congratulations, old boy.
You’ve just chosen the only woman in the kingdom who won’t