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Sophie Jordan | Exclusive Excerpt: THE DUCHESS


The Duchess
Sophie Jordan

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April 2024
On Sale: March 26, 2024
304 pages
ISBN: 0063270749
EAN: 9780063270749
Kindle: B0C9JK852R
Paperback / e-Book
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Also by Sophie Jordan:
A Fire in the Sky, October 2024
The Duchess, April 2024
Add to review list
The Duke Starts a Scandal, November 2023
The Countess, April 2023

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The Duchess of Dedham’s husband was dead.

 

The wretch had expired nearly a year ago, found with a broken neck at the bottom of the

stairs. No one was surprised given how poorly his health and how dependent he was upon

whiskey and laudanum to get through each day. No secret, that. Perhaps the only surprise

was that he had survived as long as he had before plummeting to his death in the midst of a

country house party.

 

Now, as the Dowager Duchess of Dedham, Valencia was free and ready for revelry. Truth be

told, she had been ready upon the discovery that she was a widow, but there were rules. So

many rules. Rules that she had followed all her life. Not that they had ever served her well.

Rules, she found, rarely served women well. And yet those rules had changed now that she

was no longer Dedham’s wife. At long last.

 

She was done with mourning. Done with her widow’s weeds. Done with hiding away in her

Mayfair house.

 

She had made it a year. Eleven months to be precise, but that was time enough not to raise

eyebrows. Time enough devoted to starched bombazine and the denial of all Society, to

eschewing drawing rooms and teas and soirees and balls and nobles with their false smiles.

At first, she was fine with that. Preferred it, even. After her husband expired in so dramatic a

fashion, she needed her solitude. She had cloaked herself in isolation, taking comfort in her

own company, growing stronger with each and every day, until she felt ready to emerge and

rejoin the Living.

 

She was now ready.

 

Today was her birthday, and her husband was gone from her life forever. That was perhaps

the greatest present of all. Terrible as the thought was, it was the truth of how she felt. The

Dedham she had once loved died years ago when he was thrown from a horse. Another man

took his place. Not her true husband. A ghost. A stranger. That stranger had died nearly a

year ago, and she could feel no remorse for the loss.

 

She no longer had to suffer Dedham’s glowering, controlling presence anymore. No more

hugging the shadows. No more making herself as small as possible. She was celebrating

life—the rest of her life—and she had long years of marital misery to make up for.

 

More than a dozen revelers, all her closest friends (and foes), occupied the less-than-steady

vessel as it departed the docks and glided slowly down the dark waters of the Thames to the

South Bank as dusk descended. Destination: Vauxhall. Objective: a carousing good time.

And who knew? Perhaps she would find a handsome gentleman to take her down one of the

infamous dark walks. She would like that very much indeed. It had been far too long since

she had been touched. Since a handsome gentleman had made her heart race. Since she had

been held. Kissed.

 

Oh, she liked kissing. She had been good at it. There were many things at the start of her

time with Dedham that seemed a hazy dream now, but that bit was true. Her pleasure in

kissing had been real.

 

The yacht’s weight limit had perhaps been exceeded, but that did not concern the guests.

They laughed. They drank. They applauded the opera singer who performed for them on a

small dais. They hooted at neighboring boats—calling to people they knew across the

water . . . and people they would like to know.

 

Ladies in gowns of every color lounged among the cushions, laughing and sipping

champagne distributed by liveried servants managing the deck with acrobatic dexterity.

Torches blazed along the perimeter of the conveyance, popping and crackling and doing

wondrous things for the glittering silks, satins, and brocades. Not to mention the jewels.

Extraordinary gems winked from deep decolletages and coiffed hair.

 

The marchioness’s improbable red wig flashed like flame on the night air as she laughed

gaily. Valencia narrowed her gaze at her stepmother. Witch. If the woman was not married to

Valencia’s papa, she would not have been invited, to be sure. Societal expectations and all

that rubbish. Valencia rolled her eyes and sighed before sipping her champagne.

 

“Do not let the sight of her ruin your night,” Tru advised, very correctly guessing the reason

for Valencia’s sigh.

 

“I cannot believe I must tolerate her. Especially tonight.” It was a celebration, after all, in her

honor, and yet she must endure her father’s ridiculous wife.

 

She eyed Papa in distaste. His gnarled, paper-thin-skinned hands clutched the gold-knobbed

and gem-studded cane as the conveyance rocked its way toward the entrance of Vauxhall.

His equilibrium was poor, and yet somehow, with great assistance, he had managed to climb

up the ramp of the yacht. She had not thought he would brave a party to Vauxhall, and yet

here he was.

 

A nearby barge of gentlemen noticed their yacht. It was hard to miss. They waved and

hooted across the waters at them. One young man stepped dangerously close to the edge

and pressed both hands over his heart as he called to them, “Beautiful ladies, please accept

my escort throughout the Gardens!”

 

Valencia gripped the railing and waved gaily back with a laugh. She glanced again to Tru.

“Look at all those randy young bucks.” And then in a lowered voice, “Could Hazel not have

chosen one of them? Why did she have to pick my father?”

 

Maeve, ever rational, shrugged from beside Tru. “Why not your father? He is wealthy and

titled and dotes upon her.”

 

Valencia shook her head. “All these years later, and I still cannot believe Papa married her.”

His mistress. He had married his mistress. It shamed her mother’s memory.

“Of course you can,” Maeve returned. “Like so many men, your father is a vain man, and it

feeds his ego to have a young and beautiful wife. He’s not extraordinary in that respect.”

“Could he not have chosen someone who was not a paramour to half the gentlemen in our

set?” she grumbled.

 

“Oh, you exaggerate,” Tru chided.

 

“Exaggerate she does not,” Lady Ashbourne inserted, stepping close and sliding into their

conversation, nodding in the direction of the marchioness and lifting her glass in mocking

salute. “I just know my dear Ashbourne dipped his quill in that inkpot.” The lady deliberately

lifted her voice, making certain to attract Hazel’s notice with these inflammatory words.

 

Hazel frowned and inched closer toward them. “Are you speaking of me, Lady Ashbourne?”

The lady looked Hazel up and down with a flare of her nostrils, clearly ready for battle. “In

truth, I was speaking of your . . . inkpot.”

 

Hot color splashed Hazel’s cheeks, and Valencia almost—but not quite—felt sorry for her.

Valencia could not deny it. She enjoyed watching her stepmother’s discomfort. Until Hazel

reacted.

 

The marchioness lifted her hands and shoved Lady Ashbourne hard, pushing her squarely in

the chest. The action sent the lady colliding into Valencia, the force of which propelled her

directly over the railing of the yacht.

 

Valencia plunged into the dark waters of the Thames with a scream. Brackish water rushed

into her lungs. The weight of her beautiful gown pulled her down, down, down.

 

She fought, clawing water, kicking at the tangle of skirts, fighting to rise to the surface. It was

impossible. She writhed and twisted. Suddenly she was no longer certain which way was up

or down. The fight seeped out of her. Her lungs burned like fire, and her limbs turned to

lead, powerless to move . . . to save her.

 

She was drowning, dying . . . dead.

 

On her birthday, no less.

 

Bloody hell.

 

Copyright © 2024 by Sophie Jordan

THE DUCHESS by Sophie Jordan

The Duchess

The thrilling second book in New York Times bestselling author Sophie Jordan’s amazing new high concept series, The Scandalous Ladies of London, which chronicles the lives of a group of affluent ladies reigning over glittering, Regency-era London, vying for position in the hierarchy of the ton. They are the young wives, widows, and daughters of London’s wealthiest families. The drama is big, the money runs deep, and the shade is real. Life is different in the ton.

“I liked my husband well enough … but I like him even better dead.”

It’s been a year since her wretched cad of a husband died and Valencia, the Dowager Duchess of Dedham, is finally her own woman. Flitting from party to party, freedom is sweet and life should be perfect. Until the new duke surfaces.

Nothing like the haughty noblemen who populate the ton, Rhain, the newly minted Duke of Dedham, is a big brawny Welshman with an accent that makes Valencia’s knees go weak as he boldly moves into her home with his six wild unwed sisters. The rude and humorless usurper thinks her vain and spoiled. But with a pittance to her name, Valencia needs his support to remain in London and enjoy all the pleasures her new position as a merry widow has to offer.

So a bargain is struck. Valencia will usher his sisters into Good Society and see them happily betrothed. In return, he’ll give her the financial security and independence she craves. But the more time they spend beneath the same roof, the more she realizes it's not safety she wants but the dangerously seductive Rhain. Valencia has vowed never to risk marriage again. And yet how can she resist the tempting man when he might be the greatest adventure of her life?

 

Romance Historical [Avon, On Sale: March 26, 2024, Paperback / e-Book, ISBN: 9780063270749 / eISBN: 9780063270756]

Buy THE DUCHESSAmazon.com | Kindle | BN.com | Apple Books | Kobo | Google Play | Powell's Books | Books-A-Million | Indie BookShops | Ripped Bodice | Walmart.com | Target.com | Amazon CA | Amazon UK | Amazon DE | Amazon FR

About Sophie Jordan

Sophie Jordan

 

Sophie Jordan grew up in the Texas hill country where she wove fantasies of dragons, warriors, and princesses. A former high school English teacher, she's also the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of Avon historical romances. She now lives in Houston with her family. When she's not writing, she spends her time overloading on caffeine (lattes and Diet Cherry Coke preferred), talking plotlines with anyone who will listen (including her kids), and cramming her DVR with true-crime and reality-TV shows. Sophie also writes paranormal romances under the name Sharie Kohler.

Forgotten Princesses | A Devil's Rock Novel | Rogue Files | The Scandalous Ladies of London | Duke Hunt

AMAZON | INSTAGRAM | BOOKBUB | GOODREADS | TWITTER | FACEBOOK

 

 

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