Courtship In The Regency Ballroom - Энни Берроуз - About the Author Читать онлайн любовный роман

В женской библиотеке Мир Женщины кроме возможности читать онлайн также можно скачать любовный роман - Courtship In The Regency Ballroom - Энни Берроуз бесплатно.

Правообладателям | Топ-100 любовных романов

Courtship In The Regency Ballroom - Энни Берроуз - Читать любовный роман онлайн в женской библиотеке LadyLib.Net
Courtship In The Regency Ballroom - Энни Берроуз - Скачать любовный роман в женской библиотеке LadyLib.Net

Берроуз Энни

Courtship In The Regency Ballroom

Читать онлайн

Аннотация к роману
«Courtship In The Regency Ballroom» - Энни Берроуз

His Cinderella BrideJasper Challinor, Marquis of Lensborough was a man well usedto getting exactly what he wanted–and he wanted Hester!Convinced that the redheaded, badly dressed waif was a poorrelation, the noble lord was about to receive the shock of his life…from a lady who would break all of his rules!Devilish Lord, Mysterious MissThe brooding Lord Matthison has still to recover from the deathseven years ago of Cora Montague, whose body was never found…So when he encounters a fragile-looking woman, the image of hisbetrothed, Matthison is convinced Cora is still alive. But whatshould he do to claim her…?
Следующая страница

About the Author

ANNIE BURROWS has been making up stories for her own amusement since she first went to school. As soon as she got the hang of using a pencil she began to write them down. Her love of books meant she had to do a degree in English literature. And her love of writing meant she could never take on a job where she didn’t have time to jot down notes when inspiration for a new plot struck her. She still wants the heroines of her stories to wear beautiful floaty dresses and triumph over all that life can throw at them. But when she got married she discovered that finding a hero is an essential ingredient to arriving at ‘happy ever after’.


in the Regency Ballroom

His Cinderella Bride

Devilish Lord, Mysterious Miss

Annie Burrows


Before you start reading, why not sign up?

Thank you for downloading this Mills & Boon book. If you want to hear about exclusive discounts, special offers and competitions, sign up to our email newsletter today!


Or simply visit

Mills & Boon emails are completely free to receive and you can unsubscribe at any time via the link in any email we send you.

In The Regency Ballroom Collection

Scandal in the Regency Ballroom –Louise Allen

April 2013

Innocent in the Regency Ballroom –Christine Merrill

May 2013

Wicked in the Regency Ballroom –Margaret McPhee

June 2013

Cinderella in the Regency Ballroom –Deb Marlowe

July 2013

Rogue in the Regency Ballroom –Helen Dickson

August 2013

Debutante in the Regency Ballroom –Anne Herries

September 2013

Rumours in the Regency Ballroom –Diane Gaston

October 2013

Rake in the Regency Ballroom –Bronwyn Scott

November 2013

Mistress in the Regency Ballroom –Juliet Landon

December 2013

Courtship in the Regency Ballroom –Annie Burrows

January 2014

Scoundrel in the Regency Ballroom –Marguerite Kaye

February 2014

Secrets in the Regency Ballroom –Joanna Fulford

March 2014

His Cinderella Bride

To Aidan, my own hero,

for always believing in me.

I wouldn’t have been able

to do this without you

Chapter One

Lady Hester Cuerden did not wait for anyone to answer the kitchen door of Beckforth’s vicarage. After thumping on it with her clenched fist a couple of times, she just pushed it open and marched straight in.

Caught in the act of hiding a book under her skirts, Emily Dean, the vicar’s daughter, looked up from her chair beside the fire in guilty shock. Her eyes widened when she realised that Hester was visibly trembling.

‘Whatever is the matter?’she asked, forgetting to conceal the worthless novel from her closest friend as she got to her feet.

Hester pulled off her gloves as she headed for the warmth of the kitchen fire. ‘C…cold…’ she said through chattering teeth. ‘And w…wet…’

‘And absolutely filthy!’ Emily grabbed Hester’s gloves before they had a chance to contaminate the freshly scrubbed deal table on which she had been about to deposit them, and ran with them instead to the sink in the adjacent scullery.

With numbed white fingers, Hester fumbled the buttons of her overcoat undone. Emily came back in time to see her drape it over the back of the chair she had just vacated and stretch her hands out towards the fire.

‘Where’s your bonnet?’ Emily asked as Hester tucked a wayward coil of her distinctive vibrant auburn hair behind her ear. ‘You came out in this weather without one?’

‘Of course not,’ Hester said. ‘I was prepared for any eventuality when I set out. I had a bonnet, and a shawl wrapped over it to keep the wind off, and a basket full of provisions over my arm. You want to know where they all are now? In the bottom of a ditch, that’s where.’

Emily blinked at the circle of greenish slime that was dripping on to the flagged floor from the uneven hem of Hester’s skirt.

‘The only eventuality for which I was not prepared,’ Hester continued through gritted teeth, ‘was that I should step out of the lodge gates at the exact same moment when his Lordship, the high and mighty Marquis of Lensborough, happened to be rounding the bend in the lane at breakneck speed. That reckless, foul-mouthed…’ she struggled to find an epithet black enough to express her wrath, coming up eventually with ‘Marquis!’ as though it were the lowest form of insult she knew ‘…was going too fast to stop, and clearly deemed it imprudent to take evasive action. He might have injured his horses, mightn’t he, if he had veered towards the ditch, or scratched the paintwork of his shiny curricle against the park wall if he had tried to swerve the other way. Do you know what he chose to do instead?’ She continued before Emily even had a chance to draw breath. ‘He swore at me for flinging myself under his horses’ hooves. I’ve never heard such language.’

Emily found it hard to believe anyone was capable of exhibiting such callous behaviour. ‘Didn’t he make any attempt to stop?’

‘I was too busy diving into the ditch myself to notice.’ Hester shifted from one foot to another, drawing Emily’s notice to the greenish sludge that was oozing out between the uppers and the soles of her ancient walking boots.

‘You must get those boots off at once,’ Emily said, promptly dropping to her knees so that she could untie the sodden laces.

‘They’re done for,’ she pronounced as the mud-clogged sole peeled away in her hand as she tugged one boot from Hester’s foot.

Hester shivered violently, then sank abruptly on to Emily’s chair. ‘At least I’m not,’ she said, passing a shaky hand across her mud-streaked face. Her mind had been so preoccupied by the news that had sent her scurrying from the house as soon as she could slip away unnoticed, that she hadn’t paused to check for traffic before stepping out into the rutted lane. She didn’t know what had made her glance up. She certainly hadn’t heard the curricle approaching over the noise of the wind that was buffeting her ears.

Seeing a vehicle bearing down on her had been a shock. Far more shocking was the look of blistering fury that emanated from the driver’s night-dark eyes. It had pinned her, for a split second, to the spot, until the unbelievable sound of his foul language triggered her indignation, and from somewhere deep inside the instinct for self-preservation had kicked in.

‘I honestly believe if I was not such a good swimmer…oh, not that there was much water in the ditch, I don’t mean I would have drowned,’ she explained at Emily’s puzzled look. ‘And that was half-frozen. Just slushy enough to cushion my fall…no…I mean that it was all those hours I spent diving into the tarn at Holme Top that gave me the expertise to dive out of the way before his Lordship had the chance to crush me.’

‘Don’t make it sound as if he did it on purpose, Hester,’ Emily reproved. ‘Just because you decided not to like the man before even meeting him.’

It was all very well for Emily to take the moral high ground, but she hadn’t had all her plans overturned by the arrogant, cold-blooded…lecher! For the past three weeks, ever since he had written to inform her uncle Thomas of the date he was going to visit, and decide which one of her cousins was going to have the dubious honour of becoming his wife, the household had been rather like an ant hill after a mischievous boy has poked a stick into it. Her aunt and cousins had embarked on a shopping spree for clothes that had her uncle practically tearing his hair out at the prospect of the bills, leaving her to placate staff who were already braced for a family house party that included her imperious aunt Valeria the very same week. There was no putting off a marquis. Telling him that the date was inconvenient and could he please come another time, or saying that no, there wasn’t sufficient room to accommodate the friend who had been spending Christmas with him. Oh, no. She’d simply had to devise a way of squeezing them into a house already crammed to the bursting point with assorted guests, their servants and horses.

She smiled a little maliciously to herself. Just wait till he tried to get to sleep in the rooms in the North Wing that she had persuaded her uncle to open up for his sole use. On learning from her aunt Susan that the marquis, whom she had met on several occasions, was a tall man, she had taken great delight in having the so-called Queen’s bed made up for him in the abandoned Tudor apartments. His legs would overhang the end of it by miles if he tried to stretch out flat. If he did manage to doze, propped up against the mound of pillows she’d provided, the noise from the uncarpeted servants’ attics directly above him would be sure to disturb him. If he lasted the full week he’d declared he intended to stay, she would be surprised. A man of his wealth was used to the finest of everything. He had only to snap his fingers and whatever he wanted was handed to him on a plate. Naturally she hadn’t needed to meet him to decide that she loathed him.

‘You haven’t heard the worst of it yet.’ Hester’s hazel eyes glowed almost amber with the heat of her indignation. ‘While I was struggling to climb out of the ditch, his groom sauntered over to tell me off for frightening his lordship’s horses and perhaps even costing him the race.’

‘No.’ Emily sat back on her heels, suitably appalled.

‘Yes. And do you know what he was doing? Backing his team up so that they blocked the gateway. So that his friend had no chance of overtaking him. When he saw his groom trying to help me, he told him to stop wasting time and get back to where he belonged.’

Hester neatly omitted to tell Emily that at the time the marquis called his groom to heel, she was physically attacking the man. She had the volatile temper to match her red hair, and when the groom had implied his master’s horses were of far more value than a mere woman, she had seen red. She had only intended to slap the man’s face, and wipe off the impudent grin he’d been wearing since the moment he had come upon her, sprawled face down in the mud at the lip of the ditch she’d just clambered out of, her skirts tangled round her knees. He’d dodged her slap, laughing, and she’d snapped. Forgetting she was a lady, that he was merely a servant, that she was on a public highway for anyone to see, she had launched herself at him, pummelling his chest with her clenched fists, kicking at his shins with her disintegrating boots.

It had taken his lordship’s exasperated voice to cut through her humiliated rage and bring herself back to a sense of what she owed her station in life. Hitching up her dripping skirts and battening down her temper, she had squelched across the lane to confront the author of her disaster.

‘Just what do you think you are about?’ she had demanded. ‘Taking a blind bend at that speed—you might have killed somebody. A child might have been playing in the roadway. A farm cart might have been going down into the village.’

‘But they weren’t.

’ He lifted his left eyebrow a fraction. ‘Let us stick to the facts of the case.’

‘The facts,’ she spat, justifiably incensed by the brusque tone that accompanied his irritated expression, ‘are that I had to take such drastic action to save my skin that everything I had in that basket is now crushed at the bottom of that ditch.’

His only response was to sit a little straighter while he ran his eyes swiftly over her. ‘Not to mention the loss of your bonnet, the ruination of your stockings…’

Hester had gasped, feeling her face grow hot. The fact she wore no bonnet was obvious, since the wind was whipping her hair round her face, but when had he been able to catch so much as a glimpse of her torn stockings? She had tried to tuck some of her hair behind her ears, suddenly acutely aware of the picture she must present, but her movements had been jerky with embarrassment. The bulky, muddy cuff of her coat had flapped against her cheek and she knew that, in trying to tidy herself up, she had only succeeded in daubing her face with muck. While she had prayed for the road to open up and swallow her, so that she would not have to endure another second of the Marquis of Lensborough’s coldly withering gaze, his groom had gone off into fresh gales of laughter at her expense.

‘God give me strength,’ she heard the marquis sigh as his mouth twisted in disgust.

How dare he! How dare he look down his nose at her as though she were something he wished to scrape off the sole of his glossy Hessians. She glared at the offending footwear for a second. He probably gloated that his valet could achieve a shine he could see his arrogant face in. And what if those tightly fitted buckskins, that multi-caped driving coat and the supple gloves cost more than her uncle spent on his own daughters’ clothes in a year? His manners and morals were straight from the gutter. She didn’t care what anyone else thought of his reasons for coming to The Holme. He was despicable through and through.

She hadn’t bothered to disguise her disdain, and he hadn’t liked it. When their eyes finally met, hers flashing with contempt and his black with fury, he had gripped the handle of his whip and sworn at her yet again.

Who knew how long the stand-off might have lasted if they had not both turned at the sound of a second vehicle approaching?

‘And then he just whipped up his t…team,’ Hester told Emily through teeth that were still chattering with a combination of cold, and shock, and temper, ‘and t…took off without so much as a backward glance.’

‘You need to get out of that dress,’ was Emily’s measured response. ‘I will lend you one of mine.’

Emily followed Hester up the stairs with a dishcloth in her hand, mopping up the footprints and puddles as they went.

‘He is so addicted to sporting pursuits, and gambling, that he cannot even spare the time to find himself a wife in the usual way,’ Hester grumbled as she climbed out of her wet dress and petticoats. ‘He gets his mother to write round to anyone with a couple of spare daughters and a pedigree worthy of being mingled with the Challinor blood line—’ her stockings hit the floor of Emily’s bedroom with a resounding slap ‘—just as if he were selecting a brood mare.’ Emily handed her a towel.

‘And then informing my uncle that he would come and look my cousins over, in a letter so lacking in feeling it could have been referring to a visit to Tattersalls,’ she huffed as she vigorously rubbed her legs dry.

‘You make it sound far worse than it really is. Men of his class routinely contract marriages arranged by their families. And your aunt and his mother have corresponded for years. Julia is Lady Challinor’s goddaughter, isn’t she? She must have thought she would suit him, and he has only agreed to come and meet her to see if he thinks so too.’

‘But it isn’t only Julia, is it?’ The damp towel went the same way as the ruined stockings. ‘You cannot have forgotten that awful letter his mother wrote suggesting he may as well look Phoebe over while he is here? In case he finds a very young girl, whose opinion is not yet fixed, might be more easily moulded to the position she would fill. Moulded! As though she were a thing of clay, a puppet for him to play with. Not a real person at all.’ Her voice was barely above a whisper as she concluded, ‘Em, she’s barely sixteen. I cannot condone a man of his age and experience forcing a girl so young to his bidding, simply because he has not so far been able to find what he wants from a wife elsewhere.’

Emily handed her a pair of clean stockings. ‘Neither of your cousins object to the prospect of marrying a marquis, though, do they? And he could not have come visiting if either your uncle or aunt had indicated he was not welcome.’

Hester sighed, one stockinged foot curling over her cold, bare toes, remembering how her cousins had waltzed each other round the parlour, giddy with glee on the day her aunt received the letter confirming his intent to make one of them his wife.

‘I think that is the worst aspect of the case. They are willing to sell themselves to this heartless, horrible man simply because of his stupendous wealth and the position he occupies in society. By the end of this week, one of my poor cousins will have given herself into the keeping of a virtual stranger, a man cold enough to take a wife on his mother’s recommendation, sight unseen, heartless enough to run a defenceless female off the road and despicable enough to berate his groom for wasting time going to her help.’

She thrust her other foot into a neatly rolled stocking and jerked it up her leg. ‘If I hadn’t been only a few yards from the vicarage, and known I could rely on you to provide me with a quick change of clothing, I would have had to go home instead of…’

She bit her lower lip, knowing her friend must disapprove of the way she had intended to spend this afternoon. As she had guessed, Emily laid a hand on her shoulder, before saying gently, ‘Perhaps you ought to look on him as a messenger of divine providence then. Sent to deflect you from—’

Hester leaped to her feet, throwing her friend’s hand from her shoulder. ‘I am not doing anything wrong. Not really.’

‘Nevertheless—’ Emily’s voice was muffled as she rummaged in the bottom of her wardrobe for a spare pair of boots ‘—you do not want any of your family to know what you are about, do you? Not to mention the fact that your aunt must need you today, with so many guests arriving.’

Hester stamped her feet into the shoes Emily set in front of her. ‘I have spent the last few weeks ensuring that everything will run like clockwork. The staff all know exactly what to do, and my aunt will be in her element. Nobody will miss me. They will all be far too busy fussing over the new arrivals.’ Then she shrugged. ‘I deserve a day off.’

Emily went back to the wardrobe to select a dress suitable for the errand she knew Hester was embarking on. ‘It’s the talk of the village that the gypsies set up camp in The Lady’s Acres last night. Running off to visit them behind your uncle’s back is not at all proper and you know it.’

‘If I asked his permission, he would not let me go, not today,’ Hester cried. ‘And it has been a whole year since they were last here.’

Emily sighed. ‘You are determined to go?’

‘Yes.’ Hester raised her chin defiantly, knowing that though Emily disapproved, she would not betray her.

‘Then would you consider letting me come with you, so that if anyone were to find out, you can at least say you had a chaperon?’

Hester felt her dark mood dissipate as swiftly as it had descended. ‘I would be delighted to have your company, if you are sure? I know Jye can be a bit…’

‘Scary?’ Emily shivered.

‘I was going to say unpredictable, but, yes, I know he scares you. That is why I would never have asked this favour of you. And the meeting today is not likely to go smoothly, either, now that I’ve lost the basket of provisions I intended to sweeten him up with.’

‘I can run quite fast, you know, if he decides to set his dogs on us.’

Hester laughed. ‘And no man is going to stop us from following the dictates of our conscience, be he marquis or gypsy.’

Having washed her face and changed into dry clothing, Hester set out back down the lane, with Emily at her side, to see if she could rescue anything from the ditch before heading off to the gypsy camp. She managed to hook her bonnet from the hawthorn branch that had earlier snagged it so painfully from her head. She could sew new ribbons on to it. The old ones had got a bit threadbare anyway. There was nothing left of the pies, pastries and preserves that had been in the basket but an unappetising reddish mush studded with shards of broken pottery. But a package containing coloured paper and a box of crayons had survived. Triumphantly she wiped the gloss of freezing mud from her spoils with the sleeve of her borrowed coat.

They had not gone far when Emily, who had clearly been turning something over in her mind for quite some time, said, ‘Has it occurred to you that it might not have been the marquis himself who ran you off the road? You did say he was bringing a friend with him.’

‘Oh, it was him,’ Hester breathed. ‘He more than matched the description my aunt Susan provided us with.’ Her lip curled. ‘Of course, she used terms that were meant to make him sound attractive. Saying he had the physique of an accred-ited Corinthian, besides being tall and distinguished in his bearing.’She snorted in derision. ‘The truth is that he is a great brute of a man with shoulders like a coal heaver and a permanent sneer on his face. He has eyes as hard and black as jet. I don’t think I have ever seen a man who is so…dark. Like a creature of the night.’ She shivered. ‘Everything about him was black. His clothes, his hair, even the language he used came straight from the pit. And,’ she concluded, ‘expressed complete contempt for lesser mortals.’

Em looked thoughtful. ‘I suppose he must have thought you were just a simple working woman, though, Hester, since you are dressed for visiting…um…the disadvantaged, and were without a chaperon.’

‘Well, that would excuse him, of course!’ Hester’s pace quickened as her temper seethed, forcing Emily into a trot to keep up with her longer-legged stride. ‘In effect, it was all my fault for getting in his way.’

‘No, that was not what I meant at all,’ Emily panted. ‘Only that it might have accounted for his attitude. I am sure he would not treat your cousins with the same—’

‘Contempt?’ Hester supplied. ‘Oh, he might gloss it over with society manners, but that is exactly how he will treat them. Men of his class think of women as playthings at best. Have you forgotten what I told you about the poor women Mrs Parnell takes in?’

Hester had renewed her acquaintance with her former schoolfriend during her short, disastrous Season, and become heavily involved with the refuge she ran for unwed mothers and foundling children. She had found it increasingly hard to mingle, in the evenings, with men who she knew full well were capable of using and discarding women of the lower classes without a qualm. Who would then compound their villainy by duping an innocent girl of their own class into marriage with the intention of squandering their dowries on vice. When any of them had looked her over with the sort of lascivious gleam in their eye that other girls regarded as a form of flattery, she had gone hot all over, and then icy cold, and then begun to tremble so violently that she usually had to flee the room altogether.

‘And wives have no legal rights,’she continued. ‘A husband can do what he likes with his wife, as he can with any other of his possessions, while she must turn a blind eye to his conduct if she values her own skin. I dread to think of either Julia or Phoebe in the hands of such a brute as Lord Lensborough.’

She dreaded him being in the house at all. He would be looking her cousins over in that speculative way that single men had when considering marriage, polluting the wholesome atmosphere of what should have been an informal family gathering.

‘Surely his sense of pride in his family name would prevent him from being downright cruel, though? Even I have heard how high in the instep the Challinors are.’

‘On the contrary. Having met him, I fully believe he is so conceited that he doesn’t care what anyone else thinks of him. He acts as though the rest of the human race is so far beneath him that he need not pay any heed to what they think, or say.’

Emily reached out and gave Hester’s hand a squeeze. ‘Don’t judge him before you have even got to know him. During the course of this week you will have ample opportunity to observe him, and perhaps find that he had reasons to explain his behaviour this afternoon. It is all too easy to misjudge a person’s motives. After all, a person who did not know you as well as I do might well put a most ungenerous interpretation on your own behaviour.’

Hester broke away abruptly, climbed on to the stile that spanned the hedge, and swung her legs over it.

‘That is entirely different,’ she insisted as she dropped into the meadow on the other side of the hedge and strode, head held high, towards the cluster of brightly painted caravans that were drawn into a semi-circle around an open fire.

She did not look back. She knew Emily would soon realise that she would feel much safer beside her than hesitating timidly on the stile.

Eagerly, she searched among the swarm of ragged children who were tumbling out of the caravans for one very special little girl. Tears sprang to her eyes the moment she saw Lena’s copper curls bobbing amidst the sea of black, and it was all she could do not to rush forward, sweep her into her arms and kiss the tip of her freckled little nose. How she had grown.

Emily was so naïve. Men were beastly, even the ones you thought you could trust. The very thought of marrying one of them was akin to enduring the most degrading form of slavery. And as for saying she should observe Lord Lensborough before deciding what his motives were—she knew all too well what motives men had for the way they acted towards women. She had Lena as living proof.


Получить полную версию книги можно по ссылке - Здесь

Следующая страница

Ваши комментарии
к роману Courtship In The Regency Ballroom - Энни Берроуз

Комментарии к роману "Courtship In The Regency Ballroom - Энни Берроуз" отсутствуют

Ваше имя


Введите сумму чисел с картинки