Vanessa Fitzwilliam is in dire straits. Her father's death a year ago left her with a crumbling manor and a handful of old retainers relying on her for support. When the Duke of Northbridge sweeps into her life with a surprise proposal, Vanessa is tempted--but the arrogant duke believes her to be something she's not.
Hardened by the ravages of war, Northbridge seeks a wife who will provide him with an heir but make no demands on his emotions. The scandalously experienced Vanessa, neither clinging nor innocent, seems the perfect choice. But Northbridge isn't prepared for her reluctance to accept him, or his own fierce reaction to her beauty.
To fulfill his desires, Northbridge is prepared to be ruthless, but can he bend Vanessa to his will? Or has the Duke met his match?
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The Wild Rose Press
September 13, 2011
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Excerpt from The Duke's Blackmailed Bride by Leigh D'Ansey
"Ours is a small world, Miss Fitzwilliam, and you have not moved through it without notice."
Vanessa's cup halted halfway to her lips. Over its rim she sent him a cool stare.
"Those cat's eyes of yours could never look the innocent, so do not play the ing�nue with me, Miss Fitzwilliam."
Her name on his tongue sounded strangely exciting.
He leaned forward, elbows on knees, his glass cupped loosely in both hands. Not a gentleman's hands, noted Vanessa. Northbridge's hands were scarred and calloused, she supposed from hard riding and the perils of warfare.
"There was the incident of the high perch phaeton driven at speed through Hyde Park." His measured voice brought her attention back to his account of her misdemeanors. "Two wheels off the ground at one point, so I have been told. Dowagers having to adjust their hat pins as you flew by."
Vanessa sipped her tea.
"The night you played understudy to one of Prinny's coterie in Drury Lane," Northbridge continued, "wearing trousers. The footlights showed your legs to advantage, I believe." His gaze moved downward.
Even though they were well concealed, Vanessa found herself pressing her limbs together. "I was obliged to play the part of a young man. What was I supposed to wear? Petticoats and hoops?"
"Your appearance on stage was shocking enough," Northbridge said, leaning toward her and pinning her with his gaze, "but surely even you must have been aware that staying overnight at Crockford House, without even a maid in attendance, scandalized all society and put you quite beyond the pale."
Vanessa's skin crawled at the very mention.