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To Marry a Marchioness (Lords of London, Book 6) (Ebook)

To Marry a Marchioness (Lords of London, Book 6) (Ebook)

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Lady Henrietta Zetland is definitely not looking for love again after being widowed so young. She cannot provide the heirs most husbands desire, so is quite happy to abandon the trappings of the ton and London Season for country life. Yet the moment she meets Marcus Duncan, the new Marquess Zetland, the passion she has long suppressed returns to life and overwhelms all good sense and propriety.

Becoming a Marquess is just what Marcus Duncan needs to save his crumbling Scottish estate. His travels to England to oversee his newly acquired estates, throws him into the path of his cousin’s widow. Marcus is instantly charmed by Henrietta and a passionate love affair ensues. The last thing he expects is to lose his heart and when he pushes for more, it is revealed they both have secrets that could separate them forever.

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Lady Henrietta Nicholson, Marchioness of Zetland, sat before her bedroom dressing table and stared at her reflection. Her eyes were bloodshot and puffy, the tip of her nose was red, and her hair had somehow refused to be appropriate on this sombre day and stay confined under her hairpins.
Behind her, her maid bustled about the room, making her bed that now looked too large, empty, and cold, much like her life as she would know it from this day forward. Her mother, the Duchess of Athelby, was downstairs and not willing to leave Henrietta alone in this large estate that was now hers. The property had not been entailed, and she was free to live out the rest of her days in Surrey if she wished. How wonderful that idea sounded. Having laid her husband to rest in the cold, damp soil not an hour before, Henrietta needed something to look forward to.
She swiped at the tears that fell down her cheeks. How could this be her life? They had only been married twelve short months, it wasn’t possible for Walter to be gone. His sickness had been so fast, a trifling cold that had settled in his lungs and then would not budge. No matter what they tried, or how many doctors they’d seen on Harley Street, his cough and his breathing steadily became worse until he passed in his sleep.
Henrietta thought back to the day she’d come upon him in their bedroom fighting for breath, and she’d known with sickening dread that he wasn’t long for this earth. That the ailment that had wrought carnage on his body would win the war. Wanting to be strong for him, she’d not broken down until alone, and she had remained steadfast in her ability to remain calm in his presence, to try and keep him cheerful, when all the while her heart was crumbling in her chest knowing that he was slipping away. That she was going to lose him.
If only it had been a peaceful passing. His chest had rattled fiercely during the last hours and Henrietta had prepared herself as best she could. And now the worst was here and she was alone. The man she loved was no longer of this realm, and no matter how much her mother tried to comfort her, it was not her that Henrietta wanted at her side.
She sniffed and started to pull out what few pins she had left in her hair, placing them on the shallow crystal dish on her dressing table. Her mother wanted her to return to town with her, but Henrietta would stay in Surrey. This was her home now, the place she’d been happiest, and she wasn’t willing to leave it only to be bombarded in town with pitying looks from friends and acquaintances, constant attempts to comfort and relay their sadness regarding her loss.
Her closest friends meant well, and she was thankful they’d come to Surrey to pay their last respects, but the social whirl of London no longer drew her like it once had. Over the past year she’d become accustomed to country living, to running a large home of her own. The frivolities of London life seemed empty and silly now. The gossip and scandal. As much as she’d miss her friends, on the morrow she would bid them goodbye and selfishly be thankful for it.
Should she return to town the ton would expect her to marry again, and she would never do such a thing. She would not cheat another husband out of what they rightfully needed upon marriage—children. No, she was a widow. She would become a matron of the ton—if a very young one—when she eventually did return, and that would be her life.
A light knock sounded on the door and her maid opened it, revealing her mother. Even in middle age, the Duchess of Athelby was a beautiful woman. Many said that Henrietta took after her mama more than her dearest papa, but she’d always liked to think that she and her twin brother Henry took after them both.
“Are you alright, dearest? I thought I’d sleep in here with you this evening.”
Henrietta smiled, taking in her mother in her nightgown and bare feet. Even if she’d wanted to be alone this evening, it was pointless to argue with her mama. If she thought she needed to stay, to give comfort—even if that comfort was without words—there was little Henrietta could say to persuade her otherwise.
“You may stay, Mama. I do not mind.”
Her mother dismissed the maid and climbed up into the bed, arranging some pillows so she could sit upright.
“Have you given any thought to returning to London with me next week? Or perhaps even Ruxton estate? Your father thought it may be good for you to close up Kewell Hall and come home for a while. Henry too. We discussed it this evening after you retired.”
Did they just. Henrietta pushed away the flicker of annoyance that her family was arranging her, for they really only meant well. Today had been hard on them too, she reminded herself. They had loved Walter—there were few who did not—and they would miss him. “I have given it some thought,” she said, standing and walking over to the bed, playing idly with the linens. “But I’m going to remain here, Mama. I promise I shall be fine,” she continued when her mother looked at her with something akin to horror. “I will not do anything silly, but I want…no, I need, time to be alone. To come to terms with the fact that I’m a widow and Walter is gone. You understand, do you not? I shall return to town after my year of mourning, but until then, I want to be here. Near my horses, our pets, our garden and home. I just need to heal before I start running to where I’ll never face the truth of my life.” The truth being now that Walter was gone, she would be alone. Forever.
Her mama nodded, her eyes hooded with sadness. “You’ve been so strong throughout this whole ordeal, my dear. It is acceptable to break when we lose someone we love. Fortunately, you’ve never lost a loved one before, so I worry that you’re bottling your emotions up.”
Henrietta swallowed the lump in her throat. She had been strong, and now that she no longer needed to be, all she wished was to be alone. To crumble and break by herself so she may put the pieces of her life back together. She’d never been an impractical woman, but something told her she’d be anything but her usual self in the next few months.
“I love you so much, darling,” her mama said. “If I could take away this pain, if I could turn back the clock and give you Walter back, I would in a heartbeat. I’ll worry for you if you stay here. Maybe I could delay my departure. I’m sure your papa will not mind in the least.”
Henrietta climbed up into bed beside her mama, lying down and cuddling into her arms. “I want you to go with Papa. I’m sad, and I shall cry just as we are now, but I shall be fine. In time. I promise I shall write to you every week, but I need to be on my own at present. I promise all will be well again.” Henrietta hoped that was true. The estate and the people who depended on its success were relying on her to make it so. The new marquess would take care of Walter’s other properties, but Kewell Hall was her responsibility and she would not fail these people. She would give herself a month at best to grieve and then she would have to rally and push herself into everyday duties. It was what Walter would want her to do. He loved her so very much that he’d never want her to wallow in unhappiness forever.
Her mother ran a hand through her hair, and Henrietta heard her sigh of defeat. “Very well, we shall return to town next week as planned. But I will visit every month or so. Surrey is not so far away, and for my own sanity you shall allow me to. I will never rest easy if I do not know that my baby girl is well.”
Henrietta smiled, hugging her mama tighter. “I love you.”
Her mother reached down and kissed her hair. “I love you too, my darling girl. And I promise you, your grief will lessen in time, and you’ll find that life will carry on, even if you do not want it to. But it will, and when you’re ready, you’ll love again. You’re too young, with too much of a beautiful soul, to be a widow forever.”
The idea made Henrietta shudder. The thought of marrying again, of being intimate, of sharing any kind of life with someone who was not Walter was too abhorrent to imagine. She would never marry again, for the love of her life was gone, and such a love only came around once. No one was ever lucky enough to find two great loves in their life. Her mother ought to know very well how true that was, since Henrietta’s father the Duke of Athelby was her mama’s second marriage after her disastrous first one.
“You know as well as anyone that marriage will not happen again for me, Mama. I cannot marry a man knowing that I’m unable to bear children.”
“The doctors could be wrong, dearest,” her mother said.
Even to Henrietta her mother’s tone held a sliver of despair. “A year of marriage and not one child, Mama. I think in my case they were correct, and I need to accept my fate. I will never be a mother.” Not wanting to give her any more reason to worry, or to discuss the matter any further, she yawned, tiredness swamping her. “I need to sleep now, Mama.”
“Very well.” Her mother settled beside her. “Goodnight, darling.”
“Goodnight, Mama.” At least in sleep she might be oblivious to the pain that ricocheted through her with every breath. A pain that only sleep would relieve. A pain that she doubted would ever go away.

Marcus Duncan sat before the roaring fire in his library and read the missive notifying him that his distant cousin, the Marquess of Zetland, had passed away suddenly and unexpectedly from some sort of lung ailment.
He shook his head at the windfall that couldn’t have happened at a better time. The knowledge that the marquessate was now his, along with all the properties that came with it, filled him with joy, as well as with despair for the late marquess’s family. No one wished to come into lands, money, and a title in such a way, and he would write to them and support them in their grief.
It would also mean, ultimately, that he would have to travel from Scotland to England—leave his beloved son and homeland and deal with the legalities of the situation. Marcus looked down at Arthur, who was sitting with his nurse, playing with a wooden horse. Although his boy would not inherit the marquessate, or the unentailed lands and properties, his future would be more secure. The income Marcus would draw from the estates would help rebuild and repair his own here in Scotland, giving his son a solid footing for the future.
Guilt pricked his soul that he’d not been able to give that solid footing himself just by siring the boy. When one was born out of wedlock, the stigma followed like the waft of cow dung. But now that there was the possibility of fortune favouring them, well, that could change things a little for his lad, and that alone made him thankful.
He skimmed through the legal document that accompanied the letter from his solicitor in Edinburgh stating that his cousin’s widow, the marchioness, had remained at Kewell Hall, but that there was some sort of trouble regarding who owned this unentailed estate and that further correspondence would be forthcoming.
Marcus supposed he would have to look over the estates, ensure all were in working order, and lease them out before he headed back to Scotland. His solicitor mentioned the possibility of leasing out the London townhouse as well, an income source that was timely due to the repairs required at his castle. Not that he had wished death upon his cousin, never that, but he would have to think in terms of his own financial responsibilities now that the marquisate was his.
Once the weather was better he would travel south, maybe in a month or two, but first he would have to go to Edinburgh to sign off on the inheritance and officially become the new Marquess of Zetland.
The name Zetland didn’t roll off the tongue as well as Duncan did, but he’d never thought to inherit the title. His poor cousin. Dying at such a young age, and without heirs, must be a terrible blow to the family, and as much as they would hate anyone distant inheriting the seat, Marcus would do all that he could to help them with their grief. He may be a hard man, but he was not unkind.
He stood and went over to his desk, sitting down behind the four feet of mahogany. Sliding a piece of parchment closer, he scribbled a note to his solicitor that he would attend his office next week. As for when he’d leave for England, well, he would think of that later. With his own estate to take care of here in Scotland, and preparing for planting, he didn’t have time right now to oversee the estates in England. His son needed him, and the windfall of inheriting the marquessate would give him some extra funds so work could commence on the east wing of his home. He couldn’t very well leave now that he had an opportunity to complete all of the building repairs he’d longed to do. There were also numerous crofters homes that needed new roofing prior to winter, and other repairs that had only been temporary until his fortunes turned.
He would ensure the steward overseeing the marquess’s homes started proceedings to lease out the properties to anyone who was interested, and have his solicitor forward any correspondence to him here. For the time being, this would be where he’d deal with any business at hand.

Main Tropes

  • Enemies to Lovers
  • Widow Heroine
  • Regency Romance
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