Welcome to Thorncliff Manor, where London's elite mix, mingle, and may even find their heart's desire...
There are thousands of things Christopher, Viscount Spencer, would rather do than hunt for a bride, especially since experience has taught him that women are not to be trusted. Then he finds the intriguing Lady Sarah scrambling around in Thorncliff's conservatory and he is instantly charmed by her passionate nature. But why is she so intent on avoiding him?
Lady Sarah would make the perfect bride for a peer—if not for a tarnished past that she's hiding from the ton. A stay at Thorncliff Manor was meant to help her plan for her future, not fall in love. Yet Christopher's kisses are irresistible, his gallantry enticing. When her secret stands to be revealed, will the truth ruin their dreams of happiness?
In a carriage on the way to Thorncliff Manor
“Do you suppose we’ll be arriving soon?” Rachel asked with an edge of impatience. “Before leaving the last posting inn, Mama assured me that it would only be another two hours, but according to my pocket watch it has already been one hundred and twenty- seven minutes. To be exact.”
Christopher gazed across at his younger sister. “I don’t believe Mama has ever visited Thorncliff before,” he said, referring to the Countess of Dun- caster’s large estate, which she had turned into a guesthouse. He and his family would be spending the summer there. “This makes her estimate regarding the duration of this journey exactly that—an estimate.”
Rachel didn’t look pleased. “I wish everyone would appreciate the importance of precision as much as I do.” “Cook does,” Laura said sweetly, directing Christopher’s attention to another sister. He had five in total. “I’m sure she would acknowledge the importance of accuracy. After all, there’s nothing worse than a cake with too much flour in it.”
“Do you have to encourage her?” Fiona asked. As the youngest of the Heartly siblings, she had never developed the sort of patience the rest of the brood possessed.
Christopher frowned, while Rachel’s face beamed with newfound pleasure as she latched onto Laura’s comment. “Life as we know it would be impossible without adhering to mathematical and scientific principles. Buildings would fall to the ground, dough would refuse to rise, your clothing would be ill- fitting . . . why, I could go on forever about the effect a lack of structure would have on us all.”
“Must you?” Fiona asked with an underlying note of dread.
“Why not distract yourself by contemplating the splendor of our destination?” Christopher suggested. As much as he loved Rachel, he had little desire to endure a prolonged lecture on Euclidean geometry or, God
forbid, her recent study on the movement of slugs. “I’ve heard that Thorncliff is magnificent. Apparently the third Earl of Duncaster wasted no expense when he expanded it,” Laura said before Rachel could comment. “My friend Lady Harriet visited last year with her family, and she has assured me that the estate can easily amuse us all for the duration of our three-month stay.”
“I’ve no doubt about that,” Fiona said promptly, her eyes lighting, “especially since I’ve every intention of putting my own time there to good use. I mean to find that jewelry box Grandmamma spoke of when we were little.”
Christopher stared at her. “What are you talking about?”
“Don’t you remember? She always said her family in France sent heirlooms to England during the revolution to prevent them from falling into the wrong hands. It was all she would have had left of her family after they all perished at the guillotine, but for un- known reasons, the box of heirlooms never arrived. I’m convinced they must be hidden away at Thorn- cliff. Considering Grandpapa’s close friendship with Lord Duncaster, I—”
“Now that you mention it, I do recall her saying something to that effect, but I never really put much weight in it,” Laura said. “You know how badly Grandmamma suffered the loss of her family. I always believed her talk of the jewelry box was her way of hoping a part of them had been left behind and would eventually come to her.”
“But she specifically mentioned receiving a letter from her sister, the Duchess of Marveille, in France, encouraging her to wait for it—that the duchess had sent it to England and that arrangements had been made for it to be delivered to her.”
“Your memory is certainly to be admired,” Rachel said, “but I think we must accept that the heirlooms never left France, as unfortunate as that is.”
“But in her diary,” Fiona insisted, “Grandmamma wrote of a visit Grandpapa made to Thorncliff shortly before his death. She wrote that she prayed her husband would soon return home with the box.” “And yet she never received it,” Christopher pointed out
Fiona sighed. “No, she didn’t. Grandpapa set sail for France, perishing with the third Earl of Duncaster when the ship went down.” She sighed, her expression somber, though her eyes remained sharp with determination. “It’s possible the jewelry box is still at Thorncliff, in which case, I’ve every intention of locating it. You can count on that.”
Born in Denmark, Sophie Barnes spent her youth traveling with her parents to wonderful places all around the world. She's lived in five different countries, on three different continents, and speaks Danish, English, French, Spanish and Romanian. She has studied design in Paris and New York and has a bachelor's degree from Parsons. But, most impressive of all, she's been married to the same man three times—in three different countries and in three different dresses.
While living in Africa, Sophie turned to her lifelong passion: writing. When she's not busy dreaming up her next romance novel, Sophie enjoys spending time with her family, swimming, cooking, gardening, watching romantic comedies and, of course, reading. She currently lives on the East Coast.
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