Sir Richard Kenworthy has less than a month to find a bride. He knows he can’t be too picky, but when he sees Iris Smythe-Smith hiding behind her cello at her family’s infamous musicale, he thinks he might have struck gold. She’s the type of girl you don’t notice until the second-or third-look, but there’s something about her, something simmering under the surface, and he knows she’s the one.
Iris Smythe-Smith is used to being underestimated. With her pale hair and quiet, sly wit she tends to blend into the background, and she likes it that way. So when Richard Kenworthy demands an introduction, she is suspicious. He flirts, he charms, he gives every impression of a man falling in love, but she can’t quite believe it’s all true. And when his proposal of marriage turns into a compromising position that forces the issue, she can’t help thinking that he’s hiding something...even as her heart tells her to say yes.
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“There were so many handsome gentlemen at the performance last night,” Daisy said. “Did you see, Mama?”
Iris rolled her eyes. Of course their mother had seen. It was her job to notice every eligible gentleman in the room. No, it was more than that. It was her vocation.
“Mr. St. Clair was there,” Daisy said. “He’s so very dashing with his queue.”
“He’ll never look twice at you,” Iris said.
“Don’t be unkind, Iris,” their mother scolded. But then she turned to Daisy. “But she’s right. And nor would we wish him to. He’s far too rakish for a proper young lady.”
“He was talking with Hyacinth Bridgerton,” Daisy pointed out.
Iris swung her glance over to her mother, eager—and, truth be told, amused—to see how she’d respond to that. Families didn’t get more popular or respectable than the Bridgertons, even if Hyacinth—the youngest—was known as something of a terror.
Mrs. Smythe-Smith did what she always did when she did not wish to reply. Her brows rose, her chin dipped, and she gave a disdainful sniff.
Conversation over. At least that particular thread.
“Winston Bevelstoke isn’t a rake,” Daisy said, tacking a bit to the right. “He was seated near the front.”
“I never said that he wasn’t,” Iris replied. “But he must be nearly thirty. And he was in the fifth row.”
That seemed to mystify their mother. “The fifth—”
“It’s certainly not the front,” Iris cut in. Blast it all, she hated when people got the little details wrong.
“Oh, for heaven’s sake,” Daisy said. “It doesn’t matter where he was sitting. All that matters is that he was there.”
This was correct, but still, so clearly not the salient point. “Winston Bevelstoke would never be interested in a girl of seventeen,” Iris said.
“Why wouldn’t he be?” Daisy demanded. “I think you’re jealous.”
Iris rolled her eyes. “That is so far from the truth I can’t even begin to say.”
“He was watching me,” Daisy insisted. “That he is as yet unmarried speaks to his selectiveness. Perhaps he has simply been waiting for the perfect young lady to come along.”
Iris took a breath, quelling the retort tickling at her lips. “If you marry Winston Bevelstoke,” she said calmly, “I shall be the first to congratulate you.”
Daisy’s eyes narrowed. “She’s being sarcastic again, Mama.”
“Don’t be sarcastic, Iris,” Maria Smythe-Smith said, never taking her eyes from her embroidery.
Iris scowled at her mother’s rote scolding.
JULIA QUINN started writing her first book one month after finishing college and has been tapping away at her keyboard ever since. The New York Times bestselling author of twenty-four novels for Avon Books, she is a graduate of Harvard and Radcliffe Colleges and is one of only fifteen authors ever to be inducted in the Romance Writers of America Hall of Fame. She lives in the Pacific Northwest with her family.
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