The Duke’s Courtship
Part of the Windham series
In addition to eight novels, the Windham family series also includes four novellas, each one a complete story of love triumphing over the odds. The Courtship chronicles the early days of Percival and Esther Windham’s romance, while The Duke and His Duchess finds Their Graces five years into marriage, with four little boys underfoot, coin in short supply, familial obligations dragging the couple apart, and Percival’s past coming between them. Morgan and Archer takes one character from The Heir, and one from Lady Maggie’s Secret Scandal, and rewards their tenacity and cleverness with true love. Jonathan and Amy appeared first in Lady Eve’s Indiscretion, and were such a lovely pair that their story became the last title in the Windham series.
If you’d like to read more in the Windham series, Douglas: Lord of Heartache is the prequel to the entire family saga, and we catch glimpses of the Windham siblings later in life in The MacGregor’s Lady, which is Grace’s third Scottish Victorian.
Enjoy An Excerpt
From The Courtship
Esther Himmelfarb’s cousin Michael pulls her aside at Lady Morrisette’s houseparty to interrogate her regarding prospective brides. In the course of their discussion, Esther learns that the man she’s hoping will view her in the same light has departed the premises altogether.
“You look as tired as I feel.” Michael tugged on Esther’s sleeve and led her to a dusty little room full of guns, game bags, and other hunting accoutrements. “Are you getting any rest at all?”
Esther glanced around, her gaze landing on a stag’s head mounted on the opposite wall. The animal’s glass eyes stared at a hare, which the taxidermist’s art had frozen leaping from a set of quarter shelves in a corner.
“House parties are fatiguing,” Esther said. “In your case, I’d say they’re impoverishing as well.”
Michael’s gaze narrowed as he pushed the door closed with a booted foot. “I’m trying to express concern for you, and your response is to nag? Even a cousin finds that tiresome behavior in a female.”
Was he concerned? Esther gave herself leave to doubt that. “Lady Morrisette remarked last night after dinner that she will make it a point to oppose you at whist, because she’s sure to increase her pin money that way.”
“Women’s gossip. She opposes me at whist so she might make free with her hands on my person under the table, while our partners likely do the same across the table.”
Esther thought back to the previous evening, when Sir Jasper and Charlotte Pankhurst had completed the foursome at Michael’s table.
“You might well be right, but, Michael, I am worried for you. These people are above our strata. We’re tolerated here to make up the numbers, and they are not our friends. Your folly would provoke their amused scorn, not their sympathy.”
He crossed his arms while his expression became superior. “And what of you, Esther Himmelfarb? Lurking in gardens with a ducal spare? That’s more than a bit ambitious, I’d say, even for an earl’s granddaughter.”
An arrangement of silver hunting flasks sat on the quarter shelf below the leaping hare. The flasks were going a bit tarnished, but they’d make satisfying missiles fired at Michael’s head.
“Were you spying on me, Michael?”
“I was taking a bit of air, Cousin, and heard voices on the other side of the garden wall. Percival St. Stephens Joachim Windham was getting quite friendly with you.”
He’d forgotten a name—Tiberius. Thank God the wall had been high and solid.
“I can visit with whom I please, Michael, and regardless of how I’m spending what little spare time I have here, you are supposed to be courting the ladies, not financial ruin.”
Michael apparently decided on a tactical retreat. “What can you tell me about Herodia Bellamy?”
And this was likely the point of Michael’s “concern.” He was losing badly at cards, and instead of browsing the available brides himself, he expected Esther to do his scouting for him.
“Marriage is intended to resolve a lack of companionship, Michael, not a lack of coin.”
His smile was quick and genuine. “You sound exactly like Uncle Jacob. Marriage can solve both. The best families have known this for generations and prosper as a result. Tell me about the Bellamy girl.”
There was no reason not to, though Esther eyed the flasks with longing. They would make such a loud, satisfying crash pitched against the old speckled mirror above the mantel.
“Herodia is a trifle too smart for her own good. She’s bored silly but knows better than to get tangled up in anything truly disgraceful. Engage her mind, and she’ll notice you.”
“I’d rather engage her mind than spend my days complimenting her hair bows.” Michael looked thoughtful. “I’m also hoping I might make progress with the Needmore heiress now that the Windham brothers have gone larking into Town.”
Esther barely refrained from clutching her cousin’s arm to wring further details from him. “I wasn’t aware they’d departed from the gathering And her name is Needham.”
Michael began a perambulation of the room, inspecting the hunting paraphernalia and trophies as he wandered. “Lord Percy is partial to mistresses with flaming red hair and lush proportions; at last report he had at least two of that description meeting his needs in Town. Lord Tony probably went along for similar entertainments, or perhaps they share—though I ought not to offer such speculation in your company. Where do you suppose Lord Morrisette killed this thing?”
A man would do that—leap in conversation from mistresses to hunting trophies and be oblivious to the non sequitur. “It’s a skunk. Perhaps he purchased it from somebody who’s hunted in the New World.”
The animal was probably very pretty when alive. Lush black and white fur ended in a graceful plume of a tail, and yet in death, the beast’s eyes bore the same blank stare as every other prize in the room.
“Well, I’m off to hunt a bride, or perhaps some sport more entertaining than dodging Lady Morrisette’s overtures.” He paused by the door and regarded Esther for a moment. “You’re too decent for a gathering like this. I’m surprised Aunt and Uncle let you attend.”
“I’m nominally under Lady Pott’s wing, when she’s awake. You’d best be going lest somebody remark our tête-à-tête, but I truly wish you’d limit yourself to farthing points.” Esther wished as well she could tell her numbskull cousin she’d been “permitted” to attend mostly to keep an eye on him.
Michael pursed his lips in a sulky pout. “Schoolboys play for farthing points.”
When the door clicked softly closed behind him, Esther informed the hare, the skunk, the stag’s head, and a four-foot-long silver-and-black snake twined around a limb above the mantel, “Even schoolboys know their debts of honor must be paid.”
From the Duke and His Duchess
“You’re young and have all your teeth.” George, His Grace, the Duke of Moreland made this state of affairs sound as if Percival had committed a double hanging felony. “If you swive this wife to death, you can always get another.”
Lord Percival Windham’s brothers reacted to the duke’s observation predictably. Tony shot Percy a look of commiseration while Peter—more properly the Marquis of Pembroke—pushed back from the card table.
“I find myself ready to retire,” Peter announced. He rose and bowed to the duke. “Your Grace, pleasant dreams.”
Peter’s younger brothers merited a nod, one conveying more than a touch of sympathy. On this matter at least, the heir to a dukedom could delegate dealing with an irascible old peer to the spares.
“You two are sorry company for an old man,” His Grace spat. “Fetch me a footman that I might preserve myself from the tedium to be endured when you won’t allow me so much as a finger of decent libation.”
Tony and Percy each got a hand under one of His Grace’s elbows and boosted the duke to his feet. Tony pushed the chair away, and then—only then—His Grace shook off his sons’ hold. “Think of me as you’re getting drunk yet again.” He glowered at each son in turn. “And I meant what I said, Percival. Your lady wife has dropped four bull calves in little more than five years of marriage. In my day, a gentleman didn’t trouble his wife beyond the necessary, and certainly not when he could afford to take his rutting elsewhere. Her Grace would have agreed with me.”
Percival didn’t dignify that scold with a response, though Tony—brave man—murmured, “Goodnight, Papa,” as they handed the duke off to a stout, blank-faced footman.
When the door was closed and a thick silence had taken root, Percival went back to the table and started organizing the cards.
“He’s wrong, Perce.” Tony’s path took him to the decanter. “Her Grace would not agree. She’d say Esther’s duty was to provide as many sons as you and the good Lord saw fit to get on her. Her Grace was a terror when it came to the succession.”
In Percival’s hands, the queen of diamonds turned up first. “The old boy may have a point. Esther has done her duty to the succession.”
And at what cost? She fell into bed exhausted each evening, though never once had Percival heard her complain.
With decanter in hand, Tony took himself and a glass of brandy to the side of the game room where darts were played. A stout surface of Portuguese cork surrounded the scarred circular target, the pits and gashes growing fewer closer to the center.
“I would better prosecute a game of darts were I in my cups,” Tony muttered, taking aim. “You will not be the death of your wife, Perce. His Grace is mourning, is all, and not going about it very well.”
Percival kept his hands busy organizing the cards, all the pips going in the same direction, from highest to lowest, suit by suit. “He’s not only mourning, he’s dying. Can a man mourn his own incipient passing?”
Tony shot him a look. “You’re sounding ducal again. Incipient passing? I say it’s Peter we have to worry about most. His Grace has enough spleen left to live to be a hundred. He and Her Grace had a few cordial years there toward the end—largely as a function of your success populating the nursery, if you ask me.”
When Percival had the deck stacked in perfect order, he cut and shuffled, then shuffled again. The snap and riffle of the cards soothed him, putting him in mind of years spent soldiering—and shivering—in Canada. “How long has it been since Peter ventured outside?”
A dart went sailing toward the wall only to land several inches from the target. “Damn. He sits out on the terrace when the weather’s fair. Once a man turns forty, he’s entitled to a more sedentary schedule.”
Sedentary? In his youth, Peter had been a robust, blond giant. Heir to a dukedom, he’d been the biggest prize on the marriage mart in every sense. When he’d departed on his Grand Tour, half the ladies in London had gone into a decline. And now… Peter’s blond hair was going silver, his complexion suggested he abused arsenic when he never touched the stuff. Worst of all, Peter looked at his half-grown daughters like a man who’d reconciled himself to heartbreak.
Percival reorganized the cards, this time starting with hearts. “Maybe it’s Peter’s incipient death His Grace is mourning.”
“This is maudlin talk, Perce, and you’ve hardly touched a drop all night.” Tony fired a second dart toward the wall, only to have it bounce off the edge of the target. “Rotten, bloody luck.”
“Rotten, bloody aim. You need to focus, Anthony.”
And Percival might well need a mistress. The notion that his father could be right was loathsome.
“You need to get drunk and go swive your lady,” Anthony countered. “Moreland’s carping because Her Grace booted him out of her bedroom once I came along. He doesn’t want to see you and Esther come to the same sorry pass.”
The things Tony knew—and the things he let come flying out of his fool mouth. “Esther has given us an heir, a spare, and a pair of Tonys,” Percival observed. “Perhaps there’s been enough swiving in my marriage.”
A Tony. In Moreland family parlance, any son younger than the spare was a Tony, a hedge against bad luck, and a prudent course every titled family with sense followed. Some were blessed with an abundance of Tonys.
For the third dart, Tony set his drink aside, toed an invisible line on the oak parquet floor, and narrowed his gaze at the target. “You love your wife, Percival. You fell arse over teakettle for her the moment you laid eyes on her. You’d break Esther’s heart if you took your favors elsewhere, and I don’t give a hang what Polite Society, senile dukes, or their departed wives have to say on the matter.”
The dart flew true, hitting the bull’s eye with a decisive thunk.
People tended to underestimate blond, amiable Tony, and Percival had a hunch Tony liked it that way. “Is Gladys carrying again?”
Tony pulled two darts from the cork and picked the third up from the floor. “One suspects she is.” His smile was bashful, pleased, and a trifle scared.
“Can’t one simply ask his wife? The girl is forthright to a fault, Anthony.” Something Percival adored about Gladys, especially when the rest of the family shied away from difficult truths like a royal court fleeing the plague.
“One cannot.” Tony put the darts on the mantel and set his half-full glass beside them. “One, as you well know, waits patiently for that happy day when one’s wife reposes her trust in one with news of an inchoate miracle, and then one prays incessantly for months, until said miracle is squalling in one’s nursery.”
In this, Tony was not the hale fellow well met, he was wise.
The ace of hearts was missing, which wasn’t possible, because the damned thing had been present and accounted for moments ago. Percival began at the top of the deck, thumbing through card by card. “Canada was good training for marriage, wasn’t it? Hazards on every hand, hardship, boredom…”
God in heaven, was that what his marriage had become?
“I get a decent complement of howling at the moon, or at my lady wife, so I’m content,” Tony said. “Believe I’ll give the girl my regards while the night is yet young.”
With fatuous smile firmly in place, Tony saluted and took his leave.
While Percival hunted in vain for the damned ace of hearts.
“I love you,” Esther Windham whispered to the fellow in her arms. “I will always love you, and love you better than any other lady loves you. I love my husband too.” Also better than any other lady loved him, though lately, that love had taken on a heaviness.
Esther’s regard for Percival had acquired an element of forbearance that troubled her, because it went beyond the patience any couple married five years endured with each other from time to time. Percival was a doting father, a dutiful son, a loving husband, and yet…
“Is he asleep?” Little Bart had crept to his mother’s side on silent feet—a surprising accomplishment for a lad who could shriek down the rafters with his glee and his ire. “Can we go yet?”
“Hush.” Esther leaned over and kissed the top of Bart’s head. He already hated when she did that. “You’ll wake the baby.”
Impatience crossed Bart’s cherubic features but he knew better than to commit the nursery equivalent of high treason. He was solid, stubborn, charming, and at present in line to become a Duke of Moreland. The charm and stubbornness would serve him well, though Esther had learned to steel herself against both. She rose with the baby and put wee Valentine in his crib, gave the nursemaid a smile—for the next hour at least, there would be peace in the nursery, provided neither the baby nor two-year-old Victor woke up—and extended her other hand to Gayle.
Gayle was not charming in the same way his brother was. He was serious, curious, and sweet natured. He and Bart got on famously, thank a merciful God.
“Will we sail boats?” Bart asked, yanking on Esther’s hand as they headed for the stairs. “We can do Viking burials again, can’t we? Will Papa come, too?”
“Papa is busy today, but yes, we can do Viking burials. Gayle, what would you like to do?”
This was her one afternoon a week to spend with the children, the one she and Percival had vowed and declared would be inviolate. The one the children looked forward to.
The one she used to look forward to, too.
“Pet the kitties.”
“A lovely notion.” Though Bart would scare most of the kitties away, all except the shameless old mamas who seemed to know a kitten favored by a child might find an easy life as a pantry mouser rather than the rigorous existence awaiting the barn cats.
When they reached the ground floor, Bart pelted off in the direction of the library, there to collect paper from the duke’s desk. Esther paused long enough to tell a footman—old Thomas—to have a brazier and some spills prepared for the services to be held at the stream.
Outside the library door, Gayle dropped her hand and peered up at her. He had beautiful green eyes, the same as Bart. Victor’s eyes were a slightly darker hue, and baby Valentine’s eyes had lost nearly all traces of their newborn blue.
Esther dropped to her knees. Gayle did not shout his sentiments, even in his most sanguine moods. “My dear?”
She pushed soft auburn curls away from his face. He’d been born blond, but his hair was darkening as he matured. He tolerated her affection silently, a little man more preoccupied with his inner world than most his age.
“If you could do anything you wanted to do this afternoon,” Gayle asked, “what would you do?”
Esther turned, braced her back against the wall, and slid to a sitting position. “I’m not sure.” This question, and her reply to it, caused a lump in her throat. Many things brought a lump to her throat. “I might take a nice long nap.”
She was treated to a frown that put her much in mind of her husband. “A nap isn’t fun. We’re supposed to have fun for our outings. Petting the kitties is fun.”
“You don’t like the Viking burials, do you?”
The frown did not dissipate. “Was Grandmama a Viking?”
In the way of little minds, he’d skipped across several ideas to connect two disparate concepts. He did this a lot, which fascinated Esther as it worried her.
“Gayle, we did not put your grandmother’s body on a ship, light the ship on fire, and send the ship out to sea. That was for great Viking warriors, for kings long ago and far away. Nobody does that anymore.”
“Grandpapa won’t go away on a ship?”
Esther pulled him into her lap, a warm, sturdy bundle of little boy full of questions and fears a mother could only guess at. He bore the scent of hay, suggesting some obliging footman had already stood guard over a sortie to the hay-mow, where the boys play highwaymen and pirates and Damned Upstart Colonials.
Why did little boys never play Dukes and Earls?
“His Grace will go to heaven when God sees fit to call him home. Grandpapa has lived a long, honorable life, and St. Peter will throw a great fete when His Grace strolls through the pearly gates.”
“Will Grandpapa need a footman to help him?”
Such worry in such a small body. “He will not. He will strut.”
This caused a smile. “Like Papa?”
“Like all of my menfolk.” Esther blew on the back of Gayle’s neck, making the sort of rude sound boys delighted in.
She thought he’d squirm away then, but he sighed, little shoulders heaving up with momentous thoughts, then down. “Will Uncle Peter strut when he goes to heaven?”
“He will strut, and he will shout to everybody that he has come home.” Dear Peter probably hadn’t shouted or strutted since Esther had met him five years ago.
Now Gayle did scramble to his feet. “Will I shout and strut when I go to heaven? Will I be as big as Bart?”
Esther rose, though it was an effort that left her a trifle light-headed. “You will carry on as loudly as anybody, and my guess is you will become very proficient at strutting. You are a Windham, after all. As for being as big as Bart, you are as big now as Bart was when he was your age.”
This concept, that Bart was merely half a lap ahead in the race to adult height, always pleased Gayle. “I want to make birds with my paper, not ships that burn.”
“We can do both.” Though Bart would want to throw rocks at the birds when they became airborne, and Gayle—in a perfect imitation of His Grace—would point out that burning ships was a waste of paper.
Esther followed her son into the library, where Bart—appropriately enough—was already seated at the desk, sturdy legs kicking the air as he folded paper into some semblance of ships.
While the boys argued halfheartedly about which was more fun—birds or ships—Esther sank into a chair and tried not to think about whether she’d be capable of strutting into heaven when her turn came.
No, she would not, though in heaven, she would get a decent nap. She would get as long a nap as ever she wished for.
From Morgan and Archer
Archer Portmaine is doing a bit of snooping in the King’s name when his hostess, Lady Braithwaite, comes upon him prowling in her very boudoir. Morgan James, curious about the handsome blond fellow whose eyes give away nothing, decides to do some prowling of her own…
Archer let his smile degenerate into a leer and used Lady Braithwaite’s hand to tug her against his body. “I’ll leave as soon as I’ve stolen at least a kiss.”
Bother. A bit of wretched melodrama was the best he could think of, and when he’d followed through on his declaration, he saw none other than Miss Morgan James framed in the sitting room doorway, watching every moment of the performance through dancing eyes. While Lady Braithwaite’s tongue imitated a bore auger against Archer’s lips, Archer pointed directly toward the corridor, and—to the extent a man could while enduring an oral assault—glowered at the intruder.
Miss James withdrew, smirk and all, while Lady Braithewaite plastered herself against Archer from north to south and at every point in between. She was a substantial woman and determined on her objective.
Archer had nearly resigned himself to at least pleasuring the woman, when a bad situation threatened to become worse.
“Oh, my lord Braithwaite! I am pathetically relieved to see you!” Morgan James sounded near tears right outside the sitting room door. “I am completely turned about, the women’s retiring room is nowhere in sight, and my need for it becoming urgent.”
Lady Braithwaite retracted from Archer as if bitten. “He mustn’t find me here. My pin money, my allowance for the modiste, my little habit at the whist tables—”
She looked around, eyes huge, while Archer stifled the urge to clap a hand over her mouth.
“They’re leaving,” he whispered. “He’s escorting the young lady down the hall. Listen to the footsteps.”
Relief replaced panic in Lady Braithwaite’s gaze, followed by an air of wounded dignity assumed with astounding rapidity. “I must be going, Mr. Portmaine. Steal your kisses from somebody else.”
With pleasure. “My apologies, Lady Braithwaite. I should not have presumed.” He bowed low, the better to encourage her departure. If she ran true to Archer’s experience, her first stop upon returning to the ballroom would be her husband’s side. She’d fuss and coo and spend at least ten minutes making sure all and sundry observed their marital accord.
Which gave Archer about fourteen minutes to open the safe, review its contents, and return to the ballroom without being seen.
From Jonathan and Amy
Governess Amy Ingraham has been attracted to her pupil’s gruff, handsome father since she interviews for the job, and now Mr. Jonathan Dolan has asked her to help improve his deportment in anticipation of a visit to his aristocratic in-laws. Amy agrees to polish Jonathan’s manners, but it’s her awareness of him that’s developing the keenest edge…
The week flew by, a whirlwind of moments for Amy to dread and then treasure, tumbling one right after another.
Mr. Dolan studied his own betterment with an intensity Amy found daunting. If she handed him a book on manners after dinner, he had it memorized by morning. If she suggested an outing to the park with Georgina for the sake of variety, he used it as an opportunity to practice everything, from his polite conversation to the proper means of handing a lady down from a vehicle.
“You haven’t taught me to waltz, Miss Ingraham. If I’m someday to escort my daughter to social functions, I’ll need that skill.”
Georgina had darted out of the breakfast parlor to take her dog to the garden, leaving Amy alone with her employer for much of the meal.
“Georgina won’t be waltzing for another ten years,” she remarked. “You have plenty of time to learn.”
“Miss Ingraham—” He sounded as if he were going to sail into one of his well-reasoned, volume-escalating tirades that Amy so enjoyed, provided they were directed at others.
His jaw snapped closed. He touched his napkin to his lips. “Miss Ingraham, it’s entirely likely Lord Deene’s marchioness will take it into her pretty head to have a da—a deuced ball in honor of this visit or some such rot. I will not be made a fool of for the sake of your faintheartedness.”
“Faintheartedness, Mr. Dolan?”
“You do not relish the idea of an Irish bear mincing around the da—the blasted ballrooms of proper—Mother of God.” On that exhalation, he leaned forward and used the side of his thumb to brush at the corner of Amy’s lip. “You’ve a crumb…of toast.”
One more fleeting caress and he sat back, scowling mightily. “A toast crumb is distracting, and it’s not in the rule books.”
Amy reached for her tea but didn’t trust herself to bring the teacup to her mouth. The feel of his callused thumb grazing her skin so gently—a butterfly-soft thumb-kiss that sent warmth sizzling through her person—was more than a lady should have to bear without swooning.
“Sometimes, one must improvise, Mr. Dolan.”
“But a gentleman doesn’t touch—”
Before she could stop herself, Amy placed a finger to his lips. “A gentleman can hardly allow a lady to be embarrassed by toast crumbs, can he? Moreover, you would not have used the same measures had Lady Deene been the one sporting a crumb, would you?”
He still looked a trifle tense. “Of course not. Deene would draw my bloo—my very cork. More tea, Miss Ingraham?”
He’d certainly taken to offering Amy tea, but even she had a limit for how much jasmine-scented libation she could down at one meal. “No, thank you.”
“So when do we waltz, Miss Ingraham?”
Amy did not want Georgina underfoot when they danced; she did not want the lesson to be hurried. She also did not want candlelight threatening her good sense beyond all recall. “Now, unless you have other plans?”
“I am at your service.” He rose and offered his bare hand as politely as if he’d been to the manor born. Amy made the trip through the house on his arm, allowing him to escort her through the hallways, up the stairs, and into the largest of the public parlors.
The week had seen a shift in this at least: he was no longer so wary of bodily proximity to her. When their hands brushed, when she took his arm, he no longer tensed at each and every contact.
And neither did she. Amy was learning to handle the flood of pleasure she felt when she was near him, learning to ignore the riot of sensations his scent and warmth provoked. His height and size, his expressions and intonations had become wonderfully familiar in a whole new way.
Mr. Dolan stopped in the middle of the parlor. “We’ll need music.”
“Soon.” Amy dropped his arm. “First, we’ll need the doors folded back and the rugs rolled up.”
While the footmen saw to the arrangements, Amy noted the subtle signs of unease in her pupil. He shot his cuffs, an indication that he’d rather roll them back. He ran his hand through his hair, his shorter locks making him frown each time he repeated the gesture. He paced, he looked out the window, he looked anywhere, in fact, but at her.
When the last footman withdrew to warn the housekeeper she might be needed at the piano, Amy approached the window. “Georgina is a lucky girl, Mr. Dolan. Not all parents are as devoted as you are.”
He glanced down at her. “I’m her father, of course I love her.”
Amy kept her gaze on the child and the spaniel frolicking in the grass outside. Something about Mr. Dolan’s brusque use of the word “love” made Amy regard him yet still more highly.
“Not all fathers can say the same. Are you done stalling?”
His lips quirked up in the fleeting, devilish smile Amy enjoyed so much. The only one she liked better was the one he saved for his daughter, which was so full of affection and approval, it took Amy’s breath away.
“I do not stall, Miss Ingraham. I consider my options, I develop strategy, I choose my moment.”
“You miss her mother.”
The words slipped out, completely inappropriate to the moment, and to Amy’s position in the household. Mr. Dolan’s smile became wistful, then sad.
“I miss her terribly. But as much as I miss what I had with her, I miss as well what was taken from us when she died.”
An inappropriately honest reply to a wholly misguided observation, but Amy couldn’t leave it alone. “What was taken from you?”
“We were slowly becoming friends. She was always my ally, even when I thought she was only carping and correcting to keep me in my place. A man overly endowed with pride doesn’t always make a good husband when he marries so far above himself.”
He had regrets. That he would carry such sentiments without ever giving a hint of them ought to have occurred to her.
“We all have regrets, Mr. Dolan. One makes choices without being able to guess their consequences, and one can’t always choose wisely.”
He turned from the window, his gaze betraying a lurking amusement. “Can’t one? Are you stalling now, Miss Amy?”
Oh, how she liked the sound of her name in his rumbling baritone. How she liked that he looked at her when he teased her and baited her.
He touched her mouth as she had touched his at the breakfast table, with a single, gentle finger. “A gentleman may address a woman familiar to him as Miss Christian Name in informal circumstances if the lady does not object.”
His recitation of the rule was word-perfect. Amy removed his finger from her lips and set her hand on his muscular shoulder. “The time has come to dance.”
End of Excerpt
The Duke’s Courtship is part of the Windham series. The full series reading order is as follows:
Book 1: The Heir • Book 2: The Soldier • Book 3: Lady Sophie’s Christmas Wish • Book 4: The Virtuoso • Book 5: Lady Maggie’s Secret Scandal • Book 6: Lady Louisa’s Christmas Knight • Book 7: Lady Eve’s Indiscretion • Book 8: Lady Jenny’s Christmas Portrait • Novella: Their Graces: The Courtship • Novella: The Duke and His Duchess • Novella: Jonathan and Amy • Novella: Morgan and Archer • Novella: The Ducal Gift and The Christmas Carriage • Bundle: The Duke and His Duchess / The Courtship •