"A Southern Girl Takes the British by Storm in this Delightful Historical Romance"
Reviewed by Diana Troldahl
Posted March 18, 2012
When a tempting rogue accosts, well, kisses her practically
on the eve of her shipboard wedding Miss Annabell Wheaton
just knows he's going to be trouble. Her father was a man
just like him and left her mother heartbroken. Annabel
firmly believes in holding her own destiny between her two
hands and plans to wed a man who needs her money, no love in
sight. She gains an English estate to manage and a certain
measure of independence in exchange for putting an earl's
ring on her finger. As southern girl she has no doubt she is
tough minded enough to get exactly what she wants out of
life, if only she can convince her family, and her heart
that she is making the best choice.
When Christian Du Quesne, Duke of Scarborough agrees to stop
a silly American chit from marrying against her family's
wishes he knows it is a new low in his admittedly besmirched
life. Yes he needs the money but he wouldn't have taken on
the task had he not also been convinced it would be the
biggest mistake of Miss Wheaton's life, and a damned waste
of a beautifully passionate nature to be tied to a week-
chinned weed like the Earl of Rumford.
Laura Lee Guhrke has given us another delightful romp into
late Victorian romance with her latest in her Abandoned at
the Altar series. Book three introduces a heroine
exemplifying the idea of a steel magnolia from a family of
new money using the British ton's need for funds to gain her
exactly what she thinks she wants from life.
I always enjoy the twists and humor Guhrke infuses into her
tales. I can count on passionate love scenes, plenty of
laughs and always a few surprises. That's probably why her
work populates such an expanse of my keeper shelves. At any
rate, I highly recommend any of her books to lovers of
romance regardless of genre.
The last thing Miss Annabel Wheaton desires is true love.
She learned the hard way that love makes a woman foolish
and only leads to heartache. That\'s why she agreed to marry
an earl who needs her money. He\'s got a pedigree and a
country estate, and he won\'t ever break her heart. There\'s
only one problem...Christian isn\'t about to let her marry
that pompous prig...
Christian Du Quesne, Duke of Scarborough, thinks the
stubborn heiress is about to make the biggest mistake of
her life, and he\'s determined to stop her. Tempting
beautiful women is Christian\'s forte, after all. When her
family offers him a nice sum of money to stop the wedding,
he\'s happy to accept.
Falling in love with Annabel was never supposed to be part
of the bargain.
ExcerptAfter dinner, the gentlemen retired to the smoking room for
brandy and cigars, and the ladies remained in the dining
room for coffee and gossip.
Annabel, however, decided to forgo the coffee. Excusing
herself, she murmured something delicate to her mother and
left the table. Exiting by a side door, she went straight
past the ladies\' retiring chamber, up the stairs, and into
the reading room, where newspapers lay on carved tables and
rows of books lined two walls. After a hasty scan of the
shelves, she found the book she was looking for and lifted
it above the two-inch lip that prevented the volumes from
spilling onto the floor in stormy weather.
Flipping through pages, she soon reached the one she wanted,
but what she found there was every bit as awful as she had
Chilblain: inflammation brought on by repeated exposure
to cold, sometimes accompanied by redness, or painful
Horrified, she stared at the page. Inflammation? Painful
\"Ghastly, aren\'t they?\"
She jumped, startled, and turned to find Scarborough
standing only a few feet away. \"You again? Aren\'t you
supposed to be in the smoking room with the gentlemen?\"
\"Aren\'t you supposed to be having coffee with the ladies?
Neither of us, it seems, is good about doing what we\'re
He leaned one shoulder against the bookshelf and nodded to
the book in her hands. \"Best to eschew those pretty little
silk stockings that no doubt are in your trousseau,\" he
advised. \"Stout woolen socks will serve to protect your feet
Fighting the urge to hide the dictionary behind her back,
she strove for an air of nonchalant dignity. \"I don\'t know
what you\'re talking about.\"
\"Piqued your curiosity, did I?\"
\"You\'re mistaken,\" she assured him, careful to keep the book
positioned so he couldn\'t discern the title. \"I was just
looking for something to read.\"
\"Of course,\" he agreed gravely. \"And the dictionary is so
She slammed the book shut. \"You are like a bad penny,\" she
said, glaring at him. \"Or maybe you\'re just plain bad.\"
\"My reputation precedes me, I see. But it\'s gratifying to
know you\'ve been asking about me.\"
\"I didn\'t,\" she lied at once. \"No need. I know a skunk
without having to ask what the smell is.\"
\"You\'re terribly prickly. Love, if you\'re going to marry an
Englishman, you\'d best cultivate a sense of humor. God
knows, you\'ll need it.\"
\"I have a sense of humor.\" She paused, smiling sweetly. \"I
just don\'t find you funny.\"
To her consternation, he chuckled, not the least bit put
out. \"Point taken. You\'re cheeky, too. Has Rumsford seen
these aspects of your character? On the whole, I\'d guess
not. When he does, he won\'t like it.\"
\"I can manage him.\" The moment the words were out of her
mouth, she wanted to bite her tongue off.
\"Manage him?\" Scarborough echoed, seeming quite entertained.
\"Well, I daresay you think so. He does have that weak chin.
But I do think it\'s a bit unfair of you to correlate that
particular physical trait to the lack of a spine. A few days
from now,\" he went on, overriding her outraged protest about
Bernard\'s chin, \"you might agree with me about that, after
you\'ve said the bit about â€˜until death us do part.\' Men,
even those with weak chins, are often much less willing to
be managed once they\'ve got everything they want, especially
an iron-clad marriage settlement in a country where divorce
is almost impossible.\"
Annabel felt a sudden, inexplicable jolt of uncertainty. Was
any of what he said true? she wondered, and then immediately
shook her head, banishing that question and her momentary
doubt. \"You\'re talkin\' nonsense!\"
\"Perhaps I am. I often do. But your words do make me
wonderâ€”are you really the sort of girl who would be
happy with a man she can â€˜manage,\' as you put it?\"
It was her turn to laugh, for she was beginning to see just
where this conversation was going. \"I suppose I\'d be much
happier with someone else, someone clever and charming
who\'ll always try to spar and match wits with me? Someone
like...\" She paused, giving him her best wide-eyed look.
\"Someone like you, for instance?\"
\"Possibly. Even I can be managed. If a woman does it
Something in those words sent a rush of heat into her face
for no reason at all. She quickly looked away, returning her
attention to the books along the shelf.
\"And,\" he added, \"I like to think I\'m a more interesting
conversationalist than Rummy.\"
\"Don\'t flatter yourself. You\'re not.\"
\"Quite. You must adore listening to dissertations on the
inner workings of Parliament. Now that I\'ve been put most
decidedly in my place, I shall banish all hope of winning
you, my heart broken and my dreams crushed. But before I go
to the garden for an aperitif of worms, might I suggest
muslin as the best binding for chilblains?\"
That reminder of what she\'d just read was a bit sobering.
\"Is that what...what you\'re supposed to do? Bind them?\"
\"Don\'t worry, your new sisters-in-law will show you how.
Like all British girls, they\'ve vast experience with that
particular ailment. Well, except my sister. We installed
radiators ages ago, along with gaslights, and bathrooms with
hot water and flush toilets. Rumsford Castle, alas, is not
so fortunate. They still use coal and candles up there. As
to the matter of flush toilets, there aren\'t any. There
hasn\'t been a hygienic improvement along those lines since
they took out the moat.\"
She swallowed hard. No central heating? No bathrooms?
Bernard hadn\'t told her any of this. Lord, she felt as if
she was going back to the primitive conditions of her
Mississippi childhood, only at much icier temperatures. What
was the point of being an aristocrat if one still had to use
a privy pot and bathe out of a bucket?
Scarborough was watching her, smiling, as if he could read
her thoughts like the pages of a book. She lifted her chin,
rallying. \"That\'s part of what the earl and I shall be
doing. We intend to bring Rumsford Castle up to date.\"
That wasn\'t quite true, for she and Bernard had only
discussed restorations at Rumsford. They\'d never talked
about installing any modern amenities, mainly because she\'d
assumed an earl\'s house would already have them. Still, now
that she knew otherwise, she also knew where her money was
going first. Bernard\'s restorations could wait. \"Our home
shall have all the conveniences of modern life.\"
\"Hmm, I daresay you\'ll have your work cut out for you there.
The Dowager Countess is a formidable opponent of all things
modern. Tradition has always been far more important to that
good lady than comfort.\" He leaned closer. \"I think she
wishes hair shirts and chastity belts were still in vogue.\"
With a shrug, he turned to the bookshelf. \"You obviously
haven\'t met her.\" He lifted out a book and began to scan the
pages. \"Perhaps you should,\" he added, the very nonchalance
of his voice making her suspicious. \"If you could manage
that before the wedding, you\'d avoid a great deal of
heartache and a great many head colds.\"
\"I find it hard to believe that any woman, especially an
older one, would prefer to live in a house that\'s freezing
cold when she shall be able to have central heating instead.\"
\"I told you. Because it\'s tradition, and traditions cannot
and shall not be broken.\" Marking his place with one finger,
he closed the book, then he turned toward her, looking down
his nose at her, the book pressed to his chest. \"\'We have
nev-ah had central heating, my lady,\'\" he said in a
ponderous voice, managing to seem every bit as proper and
stuffy as she\'d always imagined an English butler to be. It
was so uncanny, in fact, that she had to press her lips
together to avoid a smile. Smiling, she feared, would only
encourage him. \"And we nev-ah shall, God willing,\" he went
on. \"Keeping our feet warm is what the dogs are for.\"
\"Dogs? You mean foxhounds?\"
\"No, no, hounds are another thing altogether. They rather go
along with the estate, like the entail, you know, and the
leaky roof, and the inevitable dowager who always hates
being usurped. No, no, I\'m talking about Rummy\'s own dogs.
He has nine.\"
\"Nine?\" She stared at him in some alarm. \"Nine dogs?\"
\"Pugs. Fierce little fellows. I believe Lady Seaworth had to
break with him because of the dogs.\"
She smiled. \"If you\'re trying to shock me, you won\'t
succeed. I know all about Lady Seaworth. Arthur already told
me she was Bernard\'s mistress before he met me.\"
\"You know about Lady Seaworth, but not the dogs?\" He leaned
closer, adopting a confidential air. \"Rumor has it the dogs
slept with them, and after a time, she just couldn\'t
tolerate the snoring. Or the drool.\"
\"You\'re making that up,\" she accused.
\"Ask Rummy if you don\'t believe me.\"
\"Rummyâ€”Bernard,\" she corrected herself at once, \"would
have told me about any dogs.\"
\"Perhaps he didn\'t want to frighten you off. If they\'re
inclined to drool on you in the middle of the night when
you\'re in bedâ€”\"
\"They won\'t drool.\" Annabel set her jaw. \"Not in my bed
\"That\'s the spirit,\" he said with approval, resuming his
former breezy demeanor. \"You Americans are so full of verve.
Bringing our English estates up to snuff, and braving
Northumberland winters without so much as a pug or two to
warm your feet. It\'s all very admirable. But I am curious
He returned the book to the shelf and moved closer to her.
\"Why did you need to learn what chilblains are from a
dictionary? You seem a confident, forthright sort of girl.
Why didn\'t you just ask your fiancÃ©?\" He slanted her a
knowing look. \"Or perhaps you did ask, but Rummy wouldn\'t
He was the most irritatingly perceptive man. Still, she
wasn\'t going to admit he\'d been right again. \"This has all
been very interesting, Your Grace, but I came in here for a
book, so if you will excuse me?\"
She tucked the dictionary back where it belonged, and moved
to the set of shelves where the novels were kept, but of
course he did not take the hint and depart.
\"My guess,\" he added, following her, \"is that Rummy thinks
chilblains are much too crude a subject to discuss with a
young lady. Rather like the lack of flush toilets at
Rumsford Castle. I don\'t suppose he told you about the
wandering hands of his Uncle Henry either? Best steer clear
of the old boy, by the way. He\'s nigh on eighty now, but
still quite spry. He\'ll be in the library, which is always
the only room lit by a fire during the day, so if you stay
away from there, you should be safe.\" He paused, tilting his
head, looking doubtful. \"Although, perhaps not. Henry tried
to corner my sister in a stair cupboard once. She bashed him
with a niblick.\"
\"I don\'t think you\'re serious about anything,\" she accused
and turned to peruse the shelves. \"You\'re just havin\' fun at
\"Ask Sylvia if you don\'t believe me. I shall introduce you
to her, and she can verify every word I\'m saying. Rumsford\'s
uncle is a skirt-chaser of legendary proportions. He\'s
rather like our king in that respect.\"
Appalled, she stared at him. \"The King of England is not
\"Best to toddle off to the Continent whenever Rummy has His
Majesty up to Northumberland for a shooting party,\" he went
on with complete disregard for her protest. \"You won\'t want
to be anywhere in the vicinity. The King would take one look
at you, my delicious little lamb, and start licking his
chops. I\'ve no doubt he\'d make Rumsford step aside.\"
Despite herself, Annabel felt a hint of dread, for she\'d
seen photographs of England\'s pudgy, bearded king. \"He
couldn\'t do that. My husband wouldn\'t let him.\"
\"My dear girl, Rumsford won\'t have a choice. Noblesse
oblige, and all that. Another one of the rules.\"
\"Rules, rules,\" she said crossly, at the end of her rope.
\"Just what are all these rules you keep talkin\' about?\"
\"The rules we British live by. They are very specific, and
they are unbreakable. Violate them, and you\'re out.\"
Annabel felt her dread deepening into alarm. She couldn\'t
afford to commit some awful faux pas. On the other hand, she
didn\'t know whether to believe him or not. Everything seemed
like a joke to him, and his motives, she suspected, were
less than pure.
\"I\'ve been reading your society pages, etiquette books, and
such, and I\'ve learned a lot about England over the last
couple of years.\" She folded her arms, studying him through
narrowed eyes. \"I\'ve never read anything about these rules.\"
\"I highly doubt anyone\'s bothered to write them down.
Someone should, of course. It would save you Americans a
great deal of heartache. I say, that\'s an idea,\" he added as
if to himself. \"If I wrote such a treatise, a guide to
British matrimony for the American heiress, your lot would
buy heaps of copies. I might actually make a living out of
it, a respectable one. What a refreshing change that would
How he earned his living, respectable or not, was of no
concern to her. \"Bernard\'s never told me anything about
rules. Wouldn\'t he tell me if we\'re to be married?\"
\"Doing that would be highly improper. Bernard, despite his
one or two redeeming qualities, is much too proper to have a
candid conversation on any topic.\"
Annabel chose to ignore this disparaging remark about her
fiancÃ©, not wanting to be distracted by side issues. \"Damn
it, stop toying with me. Are you going to tell me about
these rules or not?\"
\"I don\'t know.\" He tilted his head, considering, and his
hesitation confirmed everything she\'d already decided about
\"I suppose you want something in return for this information?\"
\"Why, Miss Wheaton, what a delicious suggestion.\"
\"I should have known,\" she said. \"A cad always expects
something in return for doing a woman a favor.\"
\"It was your idea,\" he pointed out. \"But despite that, I
shall resist the temptations of my baser nature. I am happy
to give you these rules freely, without any expectation of
recompense. The problem is that I don\'t see how such a thing
can be managed.\"
\"What do you mean?\"
\"I told you, it\'s not a proper subject, not one I can
discuss with you in front of chaperones, particularly your
Thinking of what he\'d said about the king, she had to
concede the point, but she didn\'t see why that should matter.
\"So why don\'t you tell me right now?\"
As if in answer to this question, the sound of voices
floated through the open doorway, and Annabel glanced
apprehensively in that direction, for the last thing she
needed was to be caught unchaperoned with a man, especially
this one. But though the couple talking passed by the
reading room without pausing, it was a reminder not to
linger here. On the other hand, she badly wanted to know
what these rules were. What if she went into London society
and made some horrible gaffe that got her shunned? Then all
her efforts would be for nothing. If there were rules, and
he wasn\'t just talking nonsense, then she needed to know
what those rules were.
\"Meet me the day after tomorrow,\" she whispered and lifted a
novel from the shelf. \"Ten o\'clock in the morning, by the
second class smoking room. Since it\'ll be Sunday, everyone
will be at services, but I\'ll plead a headache. No one
either of us knows is likely to be down in second class
\"You\'re willing to be alone with me?\"
He was surprised, she could tell. \"As long as you keep your
hands to yourself,\" she shot back and departed, ignoring his
laughter as she walked away.
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