One of the perks of helping Lime out with formatting and scheduling posts is that I get to see everything before the rest of the world does. And it’s been quite the challenge sitting here waiting for everyone to be able to read this exclusive excerpt from Lillian Marek!
A Match for the Marquess will be out August 7th, so go ahead and exercise your 1-click finger and pre-order it now!
Should Lady Anne Milhaven marry the wealthy and handsome young marquess, or should she resign herself to living out her life in poverty and disgrace, exiled from the world she was born to?
Should Philip Tremaine, the new Marquess of Penworth, redeem his honor and marry the proud and beautiful earl’s daughter whom he has unintentionally compromised, or should he prove himself as dissolute as his contemptible family?
They are not fools, but marriage is only the beginning. They have an estate to restore and reputations to repair. In addition, they must learn to work together if they are to thwart the vile plots of their scheming relatives.
A Match for the Marquess is the prequel to the Victorian Adventures series.
Philip Tremaine, the sixth Marquess of Penworth, sat at a corner table in the dining room at Brooks and could feel everyone in the dining room watching him. Oh, they weren’t obvious about it. Just a casual glance around the room that lingered a bit on this particular table. Or a sidelong glance that slid away the moment he began to turn his head.
He must have twitched a bit because Charles Wetherby, his childhood friend, sent him a sympathetic smile across the table. “They’ll get used to you soon enough,” he said. “It’s just that they never even knew you existed, and you suddenly appear from India, rich as Croesus and heir to a marquisate. Nobody knows what to expect.”
Philip started to scowl but carefully smoothed out his features into a bland mask. “I don’t know what to expect myself. I didn’t want this any more than the Tremaines ever wanted me or my parents. I wanted to stay in India.”
“Why didn’t you?” Charles asked as if he was genuinely curious.
“Greystone.” Philip paused while a waiter placed dishes of some sort of brownish soup before them. “He said it was a matter of honor, that I owed it to the title. As far as I am concerned, I owe the Tremaines and the title nothing, but I am indebted to Greystone. His family took me and my mother in after my father died. I couldn’t say no to him.” He took a taste of the soup. It was as bland as everything else he had been fed here.
Charles grinned. “Not many fellows would have to be urged into accepting a marquisate. Is the estate truly in bad shape?”
“So the lawyers tell me. They’re still sorting through everything and intend to lay it all at my feet in a week or two. Meanwhile, I am at leisure.” He waved a careless hand. “There is nothing for it. My valet assures me that he has sent me out attired as a perfect English gentleman, so I will have to do what every aristocratic Englishman does—indulge in a life of irresponsible hedonism.”
Charles snorted soup through his nose. There was a pause while he mopped himself up and assured the waiter that he was quite all right. He looked reproachfully at Philip. “You really shouldn’t say things like that without giving me some warning. Irresponsible hedonism? Really!”
Philip laughed. “Well, why shouldn’t I? I’ve been working and taking care of other people since I was twelve years old. That’s sixteen years of being dutiful. Why can’t I be irresponsible for a while?”
Charles was still patting his lips with the napkin and paused, giving Philip an odd look. “You mean to live up to the Tremaine name?”
“No!” The word exploded out of Philip and he glared furiously at his friend. “You would have to mean live down to the Tremaine name. I have no intention of becoming a cheat or a wastrel or a drunkard or a debaucher of innocents.” He took a deep breath and forced himself to smile calmly. “However, I have always heard that the married ladies of the ton are not always averse to a bit of…flirtation?”
“Ah, well, if that’s what you’re after, you’ve come to the right man.” Charles leaned back, folded his hands, and smiled over them. “The town’s a bit thin of company at the moment, but there are always a few people around and a few gatherings where you might meet just the sort of interesting ladies you are thinking of. In fact, Mrs. Dalrymple is hosting a soiree this evening. We can drop in later.”
Philip looked suddenly uncertain. “I don’t know the lady, and I haven’t been invited.”
“Penworth…” Charles drawled out the name and smiled when Philip flinched slightly. “You are a marquess, and the Dalrymples are ambitious. They entertain frequently and lavishly, but they do not precisely attract the elite of society. Mrs. Dalrymple will fall all over herself with delight if I bring you to her.”
“I feel like a prize pig,” muttered Philip.
A few hours later, Charles was unable to resist a flourish when he presented Philip to Mrs. Dalrymple. To Philip’s eyes, the lady herself seemed to be impeccably dressed and groomed, jeweled but not overly so, and as courteous of speech as anyone could wish. But to Philip’s embarrassment, she was every bit as overjoyed to welcome him as Charles had predicted.
Since other guests were still arriving and needed to be greeted, she regretfully allowed Charles to take him away, saying, “For I’m sure, Mr. Wetherby, you know everyone Lord Penworth would care to meet.”
As they strolled away, Charles spoke in an undertone. “That means she expects me to keep you away from the mushrooms and direct you to any titles she has managed to snare.”
“I don’t know why you are so wary. It seems an unexceptionable gathering. Those fellows over there are doing their best to look bored to death, and those young ladies on the opposite side of the room simply look terrified, and the older women seem to be busy gossiping among themselves.” To his amusement, some of them were wearing what they thought of as turbans. He supposed it was no odder than the women out riding in the park with little men’s hats perched on their heads, but he found it difficult to think of a turban as anything other than masculine attire.
He stopped when a burst of laughter caught his attention. Near the windows were two women surrounded by admirers, all of them laughing at something. The men looked like all the others in the room, but the women did not. One had golden hair, dressed in intricate braids and ringlets entwined with ribbons and gems. The other had sleek dark hair, pulled back very simply, and topped with a bizarre confection of feathers. The blonde wore a dress in shades of gold, pale at her shoulders and deepening to almost bronze at the bottom flounce. The brunette wore a dress of crimson trimmed with black lace. Both dresses were cut very low, displaying their wearers’ ample charms, and both women sparkled with necklaces, bracelets, rings, and earrings.
Philip turned to Charles. “I thought you said this was a respectable gathering.”
Charles snorted with laughter. “I’ll have you know that those are two of the ton’s most fashionable matrons.” When Philip looked dubious, he continued, “No, really. The dark one is Mrs. Bracegirdle, wife of the immensely wealthy Henry Bracegirdle, who is the uncle of the Earl of Wilton.” Charles paused for a moment. “Come to think of it, he’s probably the great uncle, or maybe even the great-great uncle.”
Philip looked at the lady in question. “I cannot imagine anyone needing to look very far for an explanation of the gentleman’s choice. Bracegirdle is both elderly and wealthy?”
“Yes,” said Charles in mock sorrow. “One must of course feel pity for the poor lady, with widowhood looming so rapidly on the horizon.”
Philip inclined his head in understanding. “And the golden lady?”
“An excellent description,” said Charles. “Golden in coloring, golden in tastes, and golden in opportunity.”
“Another elderly, wealthy husband?”
“Mmm, not quite so clear. Lord Hadlow is not elderly but is reputed to be wealthy. Unfortunately for the lady, he is also tightfisted, so Lady Hadlow, the fair Claudia, is suspected of indulging in paramours who can shower her with the little luxuries that her husband neglects to provide.”
Charles waved a hand in an airy gesture. “Mere bagatelles. A ball gown here, an emerald bracelet there. Nothing to speak of.”
“And her husband has no objections?” Philip shook his head in bemusement.
“Sir! How can you be so censorious! Everyone knows the lady is simply very clever with her pin money.”
By now they had reached the laughing group, and had caught the friendly attention of the ladies and the less friendly attention of the gentlemen.
Charles bowed courteously to the ladies. “Lady Hadlow, Mrs. Bracegirdle, may I present my friend, the Marquess of Penworth?”
The ladies looked still more interested, and dropped curtsies that somehow included a display of bosom. And admirable bosoms they were, thought Philip with amusement as he bowed in return. Before he quite knew how it had been managed, Lady Hadlow was attached to his arm and he was being subjected to a thorough investigation, though conducted in admirably sultry tones. He was uneasy, but made an effort to overcome his discomfort. Indeed, this seemed the perfect introduction to the irresponsible hedonism he longed for.
Doesn’t this make you want to sit down with the book, a glass of wine, and figure out just how Phillip is going to brought to his knees? Because I just have a feeling he will be! If you’re as intrigued as I am, you can pre-order a copy here.