Mason St. Clair, the new Earl of Ashlin, has inherited a title for which there is no longer a fortune, thanks to his elder brother. Steeped in debt, with three ungainly nieces to marry off, Mason is desperate for relief. Only he doesn ' t expect it in the form of Madame Fontaine, a woman of questionable reputation.
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August 31, 2000
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Excerpt from No Marriage of Convenience by Elizabeth Boyle
"Cousin Felicity, my brother had the business sense of a pelican," Mason St. Clair, the new Earl of Ashlin said, waving his hand over his littered desk. "Look at these. Bills for carriages. Bills for horses. I've looked in our stables. We have no horses. And we have no carriages. From what I can surmise, as quickly as Freddie bought these extravagances, he gambled them away."
Mason's announcement hardly seemed to upset his elderly relative, who sat primly on the settee in the corner of his study.
"Frederick always said life was just a dice toss away. Perhaps you should take up gambling." She nodded sagely, as if she'd recited gospel.
He picked up several sheets of paper and shook them at his cousin. "That's exactly what got us into this situation. That and Freddie's ill-advised investments. I never knew anyone who could throw so much money at such nonsense. Gold mines in Italy, Chinese inventions, and of all things, a theatre!" The Earl shook his head. "Only my brother would invest in some tawdry play on Brydge Street."
"Really, my dear, you shouldn't speak ill of the dead," she sniffled. A day never passed that Cousin Felicity didn't find something to cry about, especially when it came to Frederick. "My poor Caro and dear Frederick have only been ' been ' gone now ' " Cousin Felicity faltered, unable to continue. With a shaky hand, she reached for her ever near lacy handkerchief and dramatically blew into it. She glanced up at him, her blue eyes misting, making her look frail beyond her fifty-odd years.
Mason sighed. "Yes, I know the last seven months have been terribly difficult for you and the girls. But weeping all the time does not solve the problems at hand. The bill collectors are becoming quite insistent, Cousin. If we don't find a way to satisfy some of the more pressing debts ' we'll be out on the street."