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Only a Lady Will Do (To Marry a Rogue, Book 5) (Ebook)

Only a Lady Will Do (To Marry a Rogue, Book 5) (Ebook)

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She’s exactly what he isn’t looking for…and everything he never knew needed…

Josh Worthingham, Duke of Penworth, must marry—and not just any bride will do. He needs a true lady to be his duchess. It’s what’s expected of him, and he can accept no less. So, why is it that the only woman who snags his full attention is the entirely inappropriate Miss Iris Cooper?

Iris may be the granddaughter of an Earl, but that’s where her lofty connections to the ton end. She knows securing a good match won’t be easy—especially not when she still carries the scars of her failed first union. There’s
no way the Duke of Penworth can ever be hers. But a girl can dream, can’t she?

Can a stolen kiss in a drawing room turn Iris’s dreams into reality? Or will their differences—and the dark secret Josh is harboring—destroy their one chance at happily ever after?

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London 1812

How had he managed to get himself into this mess? Josh Worthingham, Duke of Penworth, lowered his head and tried to use the ferns and abundant greenery his mother had placed around their London home for the ball to shield his location. She had been adamant that she wanted the room to represent the delightful outdoors, the trees, moss, grasses, and flowers that grew in the parklands about their estate, Dunsleigh.
His mother had pulled off the effect, and it was stunning. If not a little over the top for Josh's liking, but the foliage did at least enable him to hide.
The guests too gasped and smiled, looked about with awe, just what his mother would adore, being this was her final year as the Duchess of Penworth, a celebration for her time as one of the pillars of society. One must go out with a bang if one was to be remembered.
Not that his mother was going too far, but it was due to his declaration that this Season he would marry. Find a wife suitable for the role of a duchess and let his mother hand over the busy reins of her position in society.
He could only hope the colossal mistake he'd made last year in Hampshire did not follow him to town. He caught sight of Lady Sophie and cringed. Being respectable and kind did not mean he would offer the hand of marriage. He had shown such respect to many ladies over the years and had not proposed. Why the rumor he would ask Lady Sophie had arisen, he could not fathom, nor would he allow it to continue.
When had the rules changed? He had danced and had discourse with many ladies during his years scuffing the boards in London. When had talking and dancing morphed into his choice of bride?
An absurd notion.
He caught sight of Lady Sophie, surrounded by her many beaus, but he did not wish to be one of them. At one time, she may have piqued his interest, but that had long passed. Nor had he ever shown more interest than a gentleman should. His mother had raised him right, and he was one duke who did not bend the rules.
There was something about the lady he did not like, a littleness to her that was ugly no matter how beautiful she was. No amount of rouge or diamonds could alter one's personality if it were rotten at its core.
A finger flicked his ear, and he started. His older sister Elizabeth laughed, coming to stand at his side. "Still hiding, I see. We have been in London for a month, Josh darling. I think it is time you came out of the shadows and faced the lady who seems to be telling all of London how enamored you are of her. Of course, she's only telling a select few of her friends so the rumor does not spread too far and wide, but it would seem it has scattered to Mama's ears at least."
Josh groaned, hating that he would have to flee the Season if he could not find a way out of this mess. Maybe Elizabeth would like him to travel north to Scotland and check on their estate while they were in London this year.
"It is a mess that I cannot escape. I danced with her in Hampshire and conversed as one would since they were hosting the ball. How can a lady from that form the opinion that a proposal is imminent?" He met his sister's amused gaze and frowned. Was no man safe from such women? Was this how the ladies thought to trap men into their marriage nets?
Well, he would not succumb to such antics. He would choose his lady when he found one suitable for the position as duchess.
Not just any lady would do.
Oh no, his lady needed to be witty, intelligent, and beautiful if he could be so vain to desire such a thing. But most of all, she needed to be from an upstanding family, without reproach, without a blemish to her name, and a sizable dowry. Not that he needed such funds, but he did not want to be one of those fathers who left everything to his eldest son and had nothing for his other children. His parents had bestowed fortunes on all their children, and he wanted to do the same.
"You must have made an impression in Hampshire." Elizabeth sipped her negus, watching the throng of guests behind the green foilage with him. "You must also stop hiding, return to the ball and speak with all manner of ladies and gentlemen to quell the rumors. While I would not suggest avoiding Lady Sophie at all costs, I think asking another of her friends to dance and not paying too much attention to the lady, would be wise. I'm certain by acting so, all this nonsense will soon pass, and there will be another bet at Whites that does not include you."
He groaned. "You know of the bet?" How he loathed that book and the trouble it wrought. Not just this Season, but in the past. And at his own doing.
Elizabeth raised a dubious brow. "Of course, does not everyone?"
That was probably also true. His good friend Anthony, Earl Thetford had thought it a lark in making a bet at his expense. Who would be the lady the Duke of Penworth marries? Several names were listed, Lady Sophie's with the best odds. None of them would be the woman he married. He had not found her as yet. His sisters had married for love. He knew that to his very core. The way they looked at their spouses reminded him of how his mama once looked at his father before he passed.
He wanted that for himself. To marry was for life, and he did not want to regret his choice should it be wrong, for there would be no changing it after the fact.
"That book ought to be burned for all the trouble it's caused many families in London."
Elizabeth threw him a curious look but did not pry into his thoughts. "Did you hear," she said, changing the subject, "that Mama is going to be sponsoring her closest friend's daughter this Season? She could not make it tonight but will be here tomorrow."
Josh inwardly groaned, having heard already. A vicar's daughter whose mother had been born a daughter of an earl but married beneath her station and reportedly was shunned by her family for her efforts in love.
He knew his mama had debuted with the young woman’s mother the same year, and their friendship had remained one of the pen since the family never came to town.
"I did hear she was to arrive tomorrow. I will relocate to my bachelor lodgings for the duration of her stay, which I hope will not be long. The sooner she is married, the better."
"Be kind to her, Josh. You have always been a loving brother. I hope you will assist in finding a suitable match for the lady and not scuttle away at your club and gambling dens while she's here in town. She has not had an easy life, from what I have heard. You need to be kind."
He could no sooner be cruel to his sisters or his mama's sponsor, even if he wished to. It was not in his nature to be an ass. "I promised Mama I would escort them several times a week to any balls or musical events, operas, and such. I shall do the pretty and vet any suitors who step forward for her hand. I will ensure she marries well."
Elizabeth threw him a shrewd glance. "You will need all our assistance if she's to wed well. She will have nothing but her wits, charm, and looks to win her a match with no dowry or title. Let us hope she has all three in abundance."
"The Countess Buttersworth, her grandmother, will not wish to guide her? Surely, after all these years, she could not still be angry at her only daughter marrying a vicar?"
Elizabeth finished her drink and handed it off to a passing footman. "Mama heard the countess is quite put out that her granddaughter will be back in town. She had a Season several years ago, but it was not successful. I do not know all the particulars, but Mama said the countess is set to give her the cut direct."
Lady Buttersworth was an old, cranky witch. Who could treat family with such cruelness? "I trust in Mother’s choice of friends. If she is fond of this young woman and her mother, I'm certain she will make a match. With or without her grandmother's help."
"And what of your life, dear brother? When shall I be able to welcome a duchess as my new sister? Will it be this year, you think? Another rumor surrounding you says that it will be."
Josh rubbed his jaw, thinking over his sister's words. No doubt his mother had told his siblings of his statement. "I am set on finding a suitable bride for the position of duchess this Season. I have decided she must be a lady of the finest breeding, well-spoken and educated, and above all else, take London by storm with her beauty and grace."
Elizabeth snorted, covering her lapse in manners with a cough that Josh did not buy for one second. "How lovely. I wish you all the very best in finding this gem." She started off toward where their mama stood but turned before gaining too much distance. "Perhaps you ought to go fishing and catch a mermaid, dear brother. I'm certain you shall have more luck in finding one of those mythical creatures than the one you just mentioned."
Josh gaped before shutting his mouth with a snap. His idea for a bride was no mythical being. Why, his perfect lady could be here tonight, hiding in the greenery like him.
He stepped out of his hiding place, determined to find his jewel and crown her with a ducal coronet. The Season was young, and so was he, and he would prove his sister wrong and enjoy throwing his perfect bride before her when he found his match.

Main Tropes

  • Wallflower
  • Disabled Heroine
  • Regency Romance
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