When you ' re the oldest daughter, you don ' t get to have any fun!
Witty, orphaned Tess Essex faces her duty: marry well and marry quickly, so she can arrange matches for her three sisters ' beautiful Annabel, romantic Imogen and practical Josie. After all, right now they ' re under the rather awkward guardianship of the perpetually tipsy Duke of Holbrook. But just when she begins to think that all might end well, one of her sisters bolts with a horse ' mad young lord, and her own fianc ' just plain runs away.
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December 28, 2004
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Excerpt from Much Ado About You by Eloisa James
Holbrook Court, seat of the Duke of Holbrook
On the outskirts of Silchester
In the afternoon
"I am happy to announce that the rocking horses have been delivered, Your Grace. I have placed them in the nursery for your inspection. As yet, there is no sign of the children."
Raphael Jourdain, Duke of Holbrook, turned. He had been poking a fire smoldering in the cavernous fireplace of his study. There was a reserved tone in his butler's voice that signaled displeasure. Or perhaps it would be more accurate to say that Brinkley's tone signaled the disgruntlement of the entire household of elderly servants, not one of whom was enchanted by the idea of accommodating themselves to the presence of four small, female children. Well, the hell with that, Rafe thought. It wasn't as if he'd asked to have a passel of youngsters on the premises.
"Rocking horses " came a drawling voice from a deep chair to the right of the fireplace. "Charming, Rafe. Charming. One can't start too early making the little darlings interested in horseflesh." Garret Langham, the Earl of Mayne, raised his glass toward his host. His black curls were in exquisite disarray, his comments arrogant to a fault, and his manners barely hid a seething fury. Not that he was furious at Rafe; Mayne had been in a slow burn for the past few months. "To Papa and his brood of infant equestriennes," he added, tossing back his drink.
"Stubble it!" Rafe said, but without much real animosity. Mayne was a damned uncomfortable companion at the moment, what with his poisonous comments and black humor. Still, one had to assume that the foul temper caused by the shock of being rejected by a woman would wear off in a matter of time.
"Why the plural, as in rocking horses " Mayne asked. "As I recall, most nurseries contain only one rocking horse."
Rafe took a gulp of his brandy. "I don't know much about children," he said, "but I distinctly remember my brother and me fighting over our toys. So I bought four of them."
There was a second's silence during which the earl considered whether to acknowledge the fact that Rafe obviously still missed his brother (dead these five years, now). He dismissed the impulse. Manlike, he observed no bene- fit to maudlin conversation.
"You're doing those orphans proud," he said instead. "Most guardians would stow the children out of sight. It's not as if they're your blood."