When Devil, the most infamous member of the Cynster family, is caught in a compromising position with plucky governess Honoria Wetherby, he astonishes the entire town by offering his hand in marriage. No one dreamed this scandalous rake would ever take a bride. And as society mamas swooned at the loss of England′s most eligible bachelor, Devil′s infamous Cynster cousins began to place wagers on the wedding date.
But Honoria wasn′t about to bend society′s demands and marry a man "just" because they′d been found together virtually unchaperoned. No, she craved adventure, and while solving the murder of a young Cynster cousin fit the bill for a while, she decided that once the crime was solved she′d go off to see the world. But the scalding heat of her unsated desire for Devil soon had Honoria craving a very different sort of excitement. Could her passion for Devil cause her to embrace the enchanting peril of a lifelong adventure of the heart?
"The duchess is so very ... very ... well, really, most charming. So..." With an angelic smile, Mr. Postlethwaite, the vicar of Somersham, gestured airily.
"Continental, if you take my meaning."
Standing by the vicarage gate while she waited for the gig to be brought around, Honoria Wetherby only wished she could. Wringing information from the local vicar was always one of her first actions on taking up a new position; unfortunately, while her need for information was more acute than usual, Mr. Postlethwaite's comments were unhelpfully vague. She nodded encouragingly-and pounced on the one point which might conceivably mean something. "Is the duchess foreign-born?"
"Dowager Duchess." Mr. Postlethwaite beamed. "She likes to be called that now. But foreign?" Head to one side, he considered the point. "I suppose some might call her soshe was French-born and -bred. But she's been amongst us so long, she seems a part of our landscape. Indeed" -- his eyes brightened -- she's something of a feature on our limited horizon."
That much, Honoria had gleaned. It was one reason she needed to know more. "Does the Dowager join the congregration here? I didn't see any ducal arms about." Glancing at the neat stone church beyond the vicarage, she recalled numerous commemorative inscriptions honoring the deceased from various lordly houses, including some scions of the Claypoles, the family whose household she joined last Sunday. But no ducal plaques, helpfully inscribed with name and title, had she discovered anywhere.
"On occasion," Mr. Postlethwaite replied. "But there's a private church at the Place, quite beautifully appointed. Mr. Merryweather is chaplain there. The duchess is always reliable in her devotions." He shook his head sadly. "Not, I'm afraid, a general characteristic of that family."
Honoria resisted a strong urge to grind her teeth. Which family? She'd been chasing that information for the past three days. Given that her new employer, Lady Claypole, seemed convinced that her daughter Melissa, now Honoria's charge, was destined to be the next duchess, it seemed the course of wisdom to learn what she could of the duke and his family. The family name would help.
By choice, she had spent little time amongst the haut ton but, thanks to her brother Michael's long letters, she was reliably informed of the current status of the families who made up that gilded circle-the circle into which she'd been born. If she learned the name, or even the major title, she would know a great deal more.
However, despite spending an hour on Sunday explaining in excruciating detail just why Melissa was destined to be a duchess, Lady Claypole had not used the lucky duke's title. Assuming she would learn it easily enough, Honoria had not specifically questioned her ladyship. She'd only just met the woman; advertising her ignorance had seemed unnecessary. After taking stock of Melissa and her younger sister Annabel, she'd vetoed any idea of asking them; showing ignorance to such was inviting trouble. The same reason had kept her from inquiring of the Claypole Hall staff. Sure that she would learn all she wished while being welcomed to the local Ladies Auxiliary, she'd arranged for her afternoon off to coincide with that most useful of village gatherings.