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The Wicked Lord Montague

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«The Wicked Lord Montague» - Кэрол Мортимер

‘I have to inform you that your brother has died…’ Lord Giles Montague has always lived his life just the way he wants – fighting on the battlefields and fighting off the fawning ladies in London’s ballrooms. But the notoriously wicked Montague is now the reluctant heir to Castonbury Park!Having grown up with the Montague family, Miss Lily Seagrove finds her least favourite by far is Lord Giles! He’s arrogant, rude and oh, so infuriatingly handsome… But she’s a girl of Gypsy heritage, and although she might be able to get under Giles’s battle-scarred skin, she can never be Lady of the Manor…
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About the Author

Survival of the fittest is fine, so long as you’re the one on top … but the family that has everything is about to lose it all …

The Montagues have found themselves at the centre of the ton’s rumour mill, with lords and ladies alike claiming the family is not what it used to be.

The mysterious death of the heir to the Dukedom, and the arrival of an unknown woman claiming he fathered her son, is only the tip of the iceberg in a family where scandal upstairs and downstairs threatens the very foundations of their once powerful and revered dynasty …

August 2012


September 2012


October 2012


November 2012

LADY OF SHAME – Ann Lethbridge

December 2012


January 2013


February 2013


March 2013


Duke of Rothermere

Castonbury Park

My dear Giles,

Your reluctance for responsibility, my son, has been apparent since you were a child. But under these tragic circumstances it is your duty to step into the shoes of your missing brother and hold this family together. It is what families do and, during times such as these, I will only ask you once to put your frustration aside and keep your opinions quiet. You are now, whether you like it or not, the new heir to Castonbury Park.

Your father

About the Author

CAROLE MORTIMER was born in England, the youngest of three children. She began writing in 1978, and has now written over one hundred and fifty books for Mills & Boon®. Carole has six sons: Matthew, Joshua, Timothy, Michael, David and Peter. She says, ‘I’m happily married to Peter senior; we’re best friends as well as lovers, which is probably the best recipe for a successful relationship. We live in a lovely part of England.’

Previous novels by the same author:








Did you know that some of these novels are also available as eBooks?


The Wicked Lord Montague

Carole Mortimer

To the seven other lovely authors

who made writing this such fun!

Chapter One

Castonbury Park, Derbyshire, April 1816

‘His Grace seems much better today, Lily, thank you for asking,’ Mrs Stratton, the widowed housekeeper at Castonbury Park, assured Lily warmly as she led the way through to her private parlour situated at the back of the grand mansion house that had long been the seat of the Dukes of Rothermere. ‘His Grace’s valet informed me only this morning that the advent of a late spring appears to be having an advantageous effect upon the duke’s spirits.’ She glanced approvingly at the sun shining in through the window.

Lily wondered if it was the advent of spring which had succeeded in reviving the grief-stricken Duke of Rothermere, or the possible return of Lord Giles Montague. His homecoming was in response to the letter Lily’s father said the duke had written to his son four days ago, in which he had demanded that Giles Montague return home and take up his duties as his heir. Sadly, Lord James Montague, previously the eldest son and heir of the Montague family, had died in Spain during the campaign against Napoleon. It had been a devastating blow to the long-widowed Duke of Rothermere, further exacerbated ten months ago by the death of Lord Edward, the duke’s youngest son.

Being the daughter of the local vicar, and an adopted daughter at that, had put Lily in the unique position of making friends both above and below stairs at Castonbury Park, and she was friends with the two daughters of the household, Lady Phaedra and Lady Kate. But it was the late Lord Edward Montague who had been her dearest and most beloved friend. The two of them had been of an age where they had played together about the estate as children, and remained good friends as they had grown too old to play and had instead turned their attention to dancing together at the local assemblies.

Indeed, their friendship had been of such warmth and duration that Lily had been deeply shocked when Edward had succeeded in persuading his father into buying him a commission in the army a year ago, so that he might join his brother Giles in his regiment. She couldn’t bear that Edward had died in that last bloody battle at Waterloo, his life coming to an abrupt end at the point of a French bayonet in only his nineteenth year.

Edward’s life.

Not Giles, the brother who was eight years older than Edward, and who had been the inspiration for Edward’s desire to gain a commission in the army.

‘Thank you, Agnes.’ Mrs Stratton nodded approval as the maid brought in the tray of tea things.

Lily waited until she had departed before continuing the conversation. ‘I have always thought this room to have a particularly lovely view of the gardens.

‘Why, thank you, Lily.’ Mrs Stratton’s already ample chest puffed out with pleasure as she poured their tea. ‘His Grace has always been very generous in regard to the comfort of his servants.’

‘I am sure his kindness is only commensurate with the care and devotion all of you have shown towards him and his family for so many years.’ Lily sat forward slightly so that she might take her cup of tea from the older woman.

It was now four long days since Mr Seagrove, Lily’s adoptive father, and vicar of the parish of Castonbury—and a particular friend of His Grace—had returned from dining at Castonbury Park to confide in Lily concerning the letter the duke had written to his son Giles in London, where that haughty gentleman had chosen to reside since resigning his commission in the army nine months ago.

It was a confidence which Lily had listened to with horror as she recalled the last occasion on which she and Giles Montague had spoken!

Having lived in a state of turmoil these past four days at the mere thought of Giles Montague’s return, Lily had been unable to contain her restless anxiety another moment longer. She decided to walk the mile to Castonbury Park in order to pay a visit to the kindly Mrs Stratton, in the hope that the duke’s housekeeper may have further news concerning the heir’s return.

Presenting Mrs Stratton with a jar of Mrs Jeffries’s legendary gooseberry jam on her arrival—everyone in the parish knew that the gooseberries in Mr Seagrove’s garden were far superior to any other in the district—had gone a long way towards paving the way to an invitation from Mrs Stratton for Lily to join her in her parlour for afternoon tea.

Not that Mrs Stratton was one for gossip. Her loyalty to the Montague family was beyond reproach. Nevertheless, Lily hoped there would be some way in which she might steer the conversation in the direction in which she wished it would go. ‘It must be somewhat lonely here for His Grace since most of the family travelled down to London for the Season?’ she prompted lightly.

‘Perhaps.’ The housekeeper frowned a little.

Lily sipped her tea. ‘Did none of them think to stay behind and keep His Grace company?’

‘I believe Mrs Landes-Fraser had intended on doing so, but Lady Kate was called away on other business, and her aunt decided it prudent to accompany her.’

Lily smiled affectionately as she guessed that the eldest of the two Montague sisters, having pooh-poohed the idea of attending the London Season, was no doubt now off on another of her crusades to help the underprivileged and needy, and that her maternal aunt, Mrs Wilhelmina Landes-Fraser, had accompanied her in order to ensure she did not stray too far from the bounds of propriety.

Mrs Stratton offered Lily one of the meringues made by the duke’s French chef. ‘Besides which, I believe His Grace is more … settled in his manner when he is not troubled by the rush and bustle of the younger members of the family hurrying here, there and everywhere.’

Lily bit back her frustration with this unhelpful reply as she carefully helped herself to one of the delicacies. ‘Perhaps there will soon be news of Lord Giles returning …?’

‘None that I am aware of.’ The older woman looked puzzled. ‘I must say that I do not completely … understand his continued absence, given the circumstances.’

‘No,’ Lily prompted softly.

Indeed, she had never understood Edward’s excess of affection for his brother Giles. He was a gentleman whom Lily had never found particular reason to like in the past, but for over a year now, she was ashamed to admit, she had detested him almost to the point of hatred!

Mrs Stratton gave a slightly exasperated shake of her grey head. ‘And he was such an endearing scamp as a child too. I find it hard to believe—’ She broke off distractedly, not one to give, or condone, any criticism of a single member of the Montague family to whom she had long devoted her time and emotions, the more so since her own son did not visit as often as she might have wished.

Lily had discovered this past year that she was not so generous of nature in regard to Lord Giles Montague. Indeed, she found it hard even to begin to imagine him as anything other than the disdainful and arrogant gentleman who, the last time they had spoken together, had so wilfully and deliberately insulted both her and the possible lowly origins of her forebears. The mere thought of his ever being ‘an endearing scamp,’ even as a child, seemed positively ludicrous to her!

The eight years’ difference in their ages had meant that Lord Giles had already been away at boarding school by the time Lily was old enough to be allowed to play further afield than the vicarage garden, and he had not always returned home in the holidays either, often choosing to spend those times staying at the home of a friend. The occasions when he had come home for the holidays he had scornfully declined to spend any of his time with children he considered should still be in the nursery, and upon reflection, Lily had come to believe that he had only suffered Edward’s company because of the young boy’s obvious hero-worship of his older brother.

A hero-worship Lily firmly believed to have succeeded in bringing about Edward’s early demise.

The fact that Mrs Stratton had obviously received no instructions in regard to airing Lord Giles Montague’s rooms for his imminent arrival did, however, seem to be a confirmation of his continued absence. It enabled Lily to relax for the first time in days as she devoured the delicious meringue with gusto. She had always been naturally slender, and besides, this news of Lord Giles—or lack of it!—was surely reason enough for celebration on her part.

She did feel a slight pang of guilt on behalf of the Duke of Rothermere, but ultimately believed that he, and everyone else at Castonbury Park, and the surrounding village, were far better off without the oppressive presence of Lord Giles Montague and his conceited arrogance.

Lily felt happier than she had for days as she walked back to the vicarage. She had removed and was swinging her bonnet in her gloved hand, allowing the sun to warm her ebony curls as she strolled through the dappled glade, which she invariably used as a shortcut onto the road leading back to the village.

Spring was indeed here; the sun was shining, the wildflowers were in bloom, the birds were singing in the branches of trees unfurling their leaves after the long winter. Indeed, it was the sort of pleasant early evening when one was assured of God’s existence and it felt good just to be alive and in His—

‘Well, well, well, if it is not Miss Seagrove once again trespassing on the Rothermere estate!’

The sun disappeared behind a cloud, the wildflowers lost their lustre and the birds ceased singing as they instead took flight from the treetops at the sound of a human voice. At the same time, the colour drained from Lily’s cheeks and her heart began pounding loudly in her chest, her shoulders having stiffened defensively in instant recognition of that hatefully mocking voice. A voice which undoubtedly belonged to none other than the utterly despicable Lord Giles Montague!

‘I do not remember you as being this … accommodatingly silent during the last occasion on which we spoke together, Miss Seagrove. Can it be that “the cat has finally got your tongue”?’

Lily drew in one, two, three steadying breaths, as she prepared to turn and face her nemesis; all of her earlier feelings of well-being had flown away with the birds in the face of the shocking reality that Giles Montague was returned to Castonbury Park, after all.

In the end it was the impatient snorting of that gentleman’s horse which caused Lily to turn sharply, only to come face to face with the huge, glistening black and wild-eyed animal as it seemed to look down the long length of its nose at her with the same scornful disdain as its rider.

Lily took an involuntary step back before chancing a glance up at the owner of that horse, her breath catching in her throat as the late-afternoon sun shone behind the imposing and wide-shouldered figure of Lord Giles Montague, and succeeding in casting his face into shadow beneath the brim of his tall hat.

Not that Lily needed to see that arrogantly mocking face clearly to know what he looked like; each and every one of those dark and saturnine features was etched into her memory! Cold grey eyes beneath heavy brows, a long and aristocratic nose, hard and chiselled cheeks, the wide slash of his mouth invariably thinned with scorn or disdain, the strength of his jaw tilted at a haughty angle.

She moistened her lips before choosing to answer his initial challenge rather than the second. ‘It is impossible to do anything other than walk in the grounds of Castonbury Park when one has been visiting at the house, my lord.

‘Indeed?’ he drawled in a bored tone, holding his skittish mount in check without apparent effort. ‘And whom, might one ask, can you have been “visiting” at Castonbury Park, when most of my family are away or in London at present?’

Lily’s cheeks flushed at the derision in his tone. ‘I came to deliver some of last year’s jam to Mrs Stratton from our own cook,’ she revealed reluctantly.

‘Ah.’ He nodded that arrogant head, a contemptuous smile curving his lips, no doubt at the knowledge that Lily had been visiting below stairs rather than above.

Now that she could see Lord Giles’s face better Lily realised that there was, after all, something slightly different about him than the last time she had seen him. ‘You appear to have a smudge of dirt upon your jaw, my lord,’ she told him with a feeling of inner satisfaction at his appearing less than his usual pristine self.

He made no effort to raise a hand to remove the mark. ‘I believe, if you were to look a little closer, you would find that it is a bruise, and not dirt,’ he dismissed in a bored voice.

Lily’s brows rose. ‘You have taken a tumble from your horse?’ It seemed an even more unlikely explanation than the dirt, as Edward had told her years ago that the duke had placed all of his sons up on a horse before they could even walk, and Lord Giles’s years in the army would only have honed his already excellent horsemanship.

‘Not that it is any of your business, but I chanced to walk into a fist several days ago,’ he drawled in cool dismissal. ‘Mr Seagrove is well, I trust?’

Lily would much rather have heard more about the ‘fist’ he had ‘chanced to walk into’ than discuss her adoptive father’s health, which had never been anything but robust. ‘My father is very well, thank you, my lord,’ she assured huskily, still staring curiously at the bruise upon his jaw. ‘How did you—?’

‘Please pass along my respects to him when next you see him.’ Lord Giles nodded distantly.

Obviously the subject of that ‘fist’ was not for further discussion, which only increased Lily’s curiosity as to who would have dared lay a fist upon the aristocratic jaw of Lord Giles Montague. Whoever he might have been, Lily knew a desire to shake the gentleman by that very same hand! ‘Certainly, my lord.’ Her tone was dry at the obvious omission of any of those respects being paid towards her; Giles Montague had not so much as raised his tall hat in her presence, let alone offered her polite words of greeting!

Because, as they were both only too well aware, there could be no politeness between the two of them after the frankness of their last conversation together. Not now. Or in the future. Lily disliked Giles Montague with a passion she could neither hide nor disguise, and he made no effort to hide the contempt with which he regarded her and her questionable forebears.

‘You have come home to visit with your father, my lord?’ She offered a challenge of her own.

Those grey eyes narrowed. ‘So it would appear.’

Lily raised dark brows at his challenging tone. ‘And I am sure His Grace will be gratified to know you at last feel able to spare him time, from what I am sure has been your … busy life in London, these past months.’

Giles’s expression remained unchanged at this less than subtle rebuke. A rebuke which told him all too clearly that Miss Lily Seagrove had heard something at least of his rakish behaviour in London these past nine months. ‘If I had known you were counting the days of my absence perhaps I would have returned sooner …?’

Colour brightened the ivory of her cheeks even as those moss-green eyes sparkled with temper at his obvious derision. ‘The only reason I would ever count the days of your absence, my lord, would be with the intention of thanking God for them!’

Giles looked down at her from between narrowed lids. As a young child Lily Seagrove had been as wild and untamed as might have been expected, given her ancestry. Her long curly black hair had seemed always to be in a loose tangle about her thin and narrow shoulders, smears of mud and berries invariably about her ruby-red mouth, her tiny hands suffering that same fate and her dresses usually having a rip or two about them where she had been crawling through the undergrowth with his brother Edward on one of their adventures.

Quite when that untamed child had become the composed and confident young lady Giles had met just over a year ago he was unsure, only knowing that he had returned home to find that his brother Edward was completely—and quite unsuitably—infatuated with the beautiful young woman Lily Seagrove had become.

The beautiful young woman she undoubtedly still was….

Her hair was just as black and abundant as it had ever been, but without her bonnet it was visibly tamed into becoming curls at her crown, with several of those shorter curls left to frame the delicate beauty of her face which boasted smooth, ivory skin, moss-green eyes surrounded by thick dark lashes, a tiny upturned nose, high cheekbones and full and sensual lips above her pointed and very determined chin.

She wore a dark brown velvet pelisse over a cream and fashionably high-waisted gown; her tall body was slender, the swell of her breasts covered by a wisp of delicate cream lace, matching lace gloves upon her hands, and tiny boots of brown leather upon her feet, the latter obviously out of deference to her walk about the countryside rather than fashion.

Yes, that wild and seemingly untameable child had grown into this beautiful and alluring woman of composure and grace. But, nevertheless, she was still one who had been, and always would be, a foundling of questionable ancestry and who was, and would ever remain, socially inferior to each and every member of the Montague family. It was an indisputable fact she still resented having heard from Giles’s own lips a year ago, if the anger that now burned so brightly in Miss Lily Seagrove’s moss-green eyes was any indication!

He gave a haughty inclination of his head. ‘I am sure your prayers this evening will not be quite so full of gratitude on the subject.’

‘I might always pray for your visit to be of short duration instead, my lord,’ she returned with false sweetness.

Giles permitted himself a hard and humourless smile. ‘I am sure that we both might pray for it to be so!’

She blinked up at him. ‘You do not intend your visit to Castonbury Park to be of long duration …?’

In truth, Giles had no idea how long he would be able to endure being in the home where he would be reminded, on a daily basis, of all that the Montague family had lost—namely Jamie and Edward, the eldest and the youngest sons.

He quirked mocking brows. ‘No doubt it would please you if that were to be the case?’

‘As you made so clear to me on the last occasion we spoke, my lord, it is not for someone as lowly as I to be pleased or displeased by any of the actions of a member of a family as superior to myself as the Montagues!’ Those moss-green eyes met his gaze with unflinching challenge.

She really was quite remarkably beautiful, Giles noted admiringly, as she stood there so tall and proud, with her cheeks flushed and those green eyes glittering angrily. In fact, Miss Lily Seagrove was far more beautiful than any of the numerous women Giles had known so intimately in London these past nine months.

It was a thought totally out of keeping with the strained nature of their acquaintance. ‘Even you must acknowledge it really would not have done, Lily …?’ Giles quirked a dark brow.

Her eyes widened incredulously. ‘You would dare to talk of that again now, when Edward has been dead these past ten months, and so lost to all of us for ever?’

No, Giles would prefer never to have to speak of anything ever again which forced him to acknowledge that his brother Edward was dead. Indeed, he had spent the past nine months avoiding returning to Castonbury Park in an attempt to do just that. Without any success, of course, but there was not a fashionable man, or willing woman, in London who could not confirm how vigorously he had attempted to achieve that oblivion, in the company of the former, in the beds of the latter.

How ironic that the first person Giles should meet upon returning to Castonbury should be the one woman guaranteed to remind him of the losses he had been trying so hard to avoid!

His mouth twisted bitterly. ‘No doubt ten months has been more than long enough for you to have recovered sufficiently from your hopes regarding Edward, and to have some other unsuspecting—and, for your sake, I hope wealthy!—young man ensnared by your charms?’

Lily drew her breath in sharply, so deeply wounded by Giles Montague’s dismissive scorn of the affection she had felt for Edward that for several minutes she felt completely unable to speak. She almost—almost!—pitied Giles Montague for his lack of understanding.

No—she did pity him, knowing that a man as arrogant and insensitive as Giles Montague could never appreciate or attempt to understand the love she and Edward had felt for each other, or how their friendship had been of such depth and duration that Lily had come to regard Edward as the brother she had never had, as well as being her dearest friend in all the world.

A year ago the haughty and disdainful Lord Giles Montague had been blind to the nature of that affection, and chosen instead to believe that as she was only the adopted daughter of the local vicar—her real parentage unknown—then she must necessarily be out to ensnare his rich and titled youngest brother into matrimony. It must have been a match he considered so unsuitable he had felt no qualms in arranging to talk to Lily without Edward’s knowledge, so that he might inform her of such. It had been a conversation that had so stunned Lily by its forthright audacity she was ashamed to say she had felt no hesitation in returning that frankness in regard to her own less than flattering opinion of Giles Montague.

She raised her chin now. ‘I will continue to love Edward until the day I die,’ she stated softly and evenly, too heavy of heart to feel the least satisfaction when she saw the way Giles Montague’s eyes widened upon hearing her declaration. ‘Now, if you will excuse me, my lord, I believe it is past time I returned to the vicarage.’ She continued to hold that guarded and icy grey gaze as she sketched the slightest of curtseys before turning on her booted heels and walking away.

Her head was held high as she refused, even for propriety’s sake, to resume wearing her bonnet. Giles Montague already believed her to be socially inferior to him, so why should she care if her actions now confirmed that belief.

Except Lily did care what people thought of her. She had always cared. Not for her own sake, but for the sake of the kindly Mr and Mrs Seagrove.

Lily had only been eight years old, and had not understood, when one of the children from the village had first taunted her and called her ‘Gypsy.’ She had questioned Mrs Seagrove as to its meaning as soon as she had returned to the vicarage. That dear lady had taken Lily gently in her arms and explained that it was merely another name for the Romany families who stayed at the Castonbury estate during the spring and at harvest time.

Again, having rarely bothered to waste time looking at herself in a mirror, Lily had not understood why one of the village children should have chosen to taunt her with such name. Until Mrs Seagrove had stroked Lily’s long and curling black hair and explained that she was not the true child of Mr and Mrs Seagrove, but had in fact been left, as a baby of only a few weeks, on the doorstep of the vicarage eight years previously; of how she and Mr Seagrove suspected that Lily’s real mother had perhaps been one of the young and unmarried Gypsy girls who travelled the roads of England with their tribe.


Lord Giles Montague had made it obvious a year ago that he was both totally aware of such a heritage, and disapproving of its being connected with his noble family.


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