The third novel in New York Times bestseller Jane Feather's sexy and scintillating Blackwater Brides trilogy about the bonds of family and the lure of romance.
Long ago, young Viscount Bradley's prudish family forbade him to marry his beloved. Now, the aging lord has plotted a subtle revenge. His three nephews can split his fortune, but only if each marries a fallen woman. Two have found brides who meet the terms . . . and all depends on the youngest, Peregrine Sullivan. New York Times bestselling author Jane Feather's Georgian trilogy concludes with a sexy tale sure to delight.
Only desperation would drive a lady to disguise herself in hopes of employment, but the twenty thousand pounds that their father promised beautiful Alexandra Douglas and her invalid younger sister has vanished into the hands of the greedy cousin who inherited the estate. Alexandra, in search of justice, embarks on an elaborate charade to infiltrate Combe Abbey, her ancestral home, and secretly take the money back.
Peregrine, visiting the Abbey, is intrigued by a woman whose mind matches his on every level. Who is this middle-aged spinster with a young woman's eyes and a youthful step that even a limp cannot disguise? Sensing some scandalous secret, Perry assumes the lady would delight in being rescued. But his efforts are rebuffed; Alexandra will take care of herself and her sister, thank you very much. Can Perry court the daring and independent young woman, win her heart, and be the last brother to wed?
"Readers will be entranced as Feather infuses her protagonists with intelligence, wit and maturity-along with a dose of sensuality ... What a wonderful and satisfying confusion to The Blackwater Brides series. (4.5/5 stars)"
-RT Book Reviews
An Unsuitable Bride Prologue
"But I don't understand." Alexandra Douglas stared at the two objects the lawyer had placed on his desk in front of her. "These are our inheritance?" She touched the heavy gold signet ring and the diamond fob before looking up at Lawyer Forsett, her clear gray eyes bemused. "Sylvia and I were to have ten thousand pounds each on Papa's death. He told me so himself."
The lawyer pulled at his chin and stared down fixedly at the blotter on his desk. He cleared his throat. "Mistress Douglas, yours and your sister's circumstances changed when Sir Arthur divorced your mother."
"I'm well aware of that, sir," Alexandra responded somewhat tartly. "When my mother ran off for the last time, I was sent to St. Catherine's Seminary and Sylvia to live with our old nurse. Quite different circumstances from our previous life at Combe Abbey. We were under no illusions, sir."
The man looked at his visitor with a hint of compassion. "There was another aspect to your changed circumstances, Mistress Douglas, that perhaps you did not fully understand." He cleared his throat again. "Your legal status changed as well."
A little needle of apprehension pierced Alexandra's customary composure. "Legal status?" she queried.
The lawyer sighed. It was a damnable business. He'd told his client, Sir Arthur Douglas, many times that he owed it to his daughters to explain what his divorce meant for them, but Sir Arthur had waved away any urgency. "All in good time, my good man." The lawyer could hear the brusquely dismissive tones as if the man were sitting right in front of him, instead of dead and buried in the family mausoleum. In essence, Sir Arthur had not had the courage to inform his daughters of the ghastly situation his own selfish actions had put them in. And now it was up to his lawyer to do his dirty work for him.
"Your father obtained a divorce from his wife, your mother, a vinculo matrimonii," he began.
"What does that mean?" his visitor interrupted before he could continue.
"It means, ma'am, that the marriage in question was null and void from its inception, either because of an improper blood relationship, insanity, or . . ." He paused, a slight flush on his cheek. "Or because of nonconsummation. On such grounds, the marriage is dissolved as if it had never been, and all children of the union in the first two causes are declared illegitimate. Your father had your mother declared insane in absentia."
Alexandra began to see where this was leading, and the needle of apprehension became a knife of fear. "So Sylvia and I are bastards, sir? That is what you're saying?"
His flush deepened, and he coughed into his hand. "In a word, ma'am, yes. And as such are not legally entitled to inherit anything from your father's estate, unless specific provision has been made."
The young woman was very pale now, but her voice was steady, her eyes focused. "And am I to assume that no such provision was made?"
"Your father intended to do so, but his death was rather sudden, before he had managed to settle anything on you or your sister. However . . ." Lawyer Forsett opened a strongbox which stood on a small pedestal table beside his chair. "Sir Stephen Douglas, your father's heir, has agreed to allow you and your sister fifty pounds apiece from the estate, just to tide you over until you find some means of employment." He pushed a bank draft across the table to Alexandra.
She looked at it in disgust. "Cousin Stephen? That's what he considers fair?"
The lawyer's distress increased visibly. "I did suggest to Sir Stephen that he