Release Date: August 30, 2016
Series: The Improper Princesses
First, Vanessa Kelly brought readers The Renegade Royals. Now, in a delightfully witty new series, she introduces The Improper Princesses—three young women descended from royalty, each bound for her own thrilling adventure . . .
Despite being the illegitimate daughter of a prince, Gillian Dryden is happily ignorant of all social graces. After growing up wild in Italy, Gillian has been ordered home to England to find a suitable husband. And Charles Valentine Penley, the excessively proper, distractingly handsome Duke of Leverton, has agreed to help transform her from a willful tomboy to a blushing debutante.
Powerful and sophisticated, Charles can make or break reputations with a well-placed word. But his new protégée, with her habit of hunting bandits and punching earls, is a walking scandal. The ton is aghast . . . but Charl
es is thoroughly intrigued. Tasked with taking the
hoyden in hand, he longs to take her in his arms instead. Can such an outrageous attraction possibly lead to a fairytale ending?
“The best way to handle gossip or ill-mannered remarks is to feign ignorance,” Charles said. “Simply give a vague smile and excuse yourself from the discussion.”
“You mean I shouldn’t plant them a facer or threaten to shoot them?” she asked, opening her eyes wide.
“I know it’s hard to fathom, but Englishwomen don’t generally engage in fisticuffs or duels.”
“How boring of them. I suppose I’ll have to find other ways to avenge myself on the gossips of London.” She lifted an eyebrow. “What do you think of poison?”
He was tempted to laugh. “Miss Dryden, it’s fine for you to engage in this sort of raillery with me or with intimate family, but—”
She waved a dismissive hand to interrupt. “I know, I know. If the situation should ever arise, I promise to be a paragon of good manners and stupidity. All of London can insult me until the cows come home, and I won’t say a word. I’ll simply smile and commence speaking of the weather.”
“Why does that promise fill me with more alarm than reassurance?”
She chuckled, then glanced past him. Her smile faded. “I do mean it when I say I don’t care if the gossips prattle on about me. But I worry about Mamma. She’s very sensitive, you know.”
Gillian tapped her chest, right over her heart. The gesture had the unfortunate effect of bringing his attention to the gentle swell of her breasts under her close-fitting garment. She wasn’t a buxom girl by any means, but she had more than enough curves to attract any man’s attention. They’d gotten his attention.
He jerked his gaze upward. Fortunately, she didn’t seem to notice his inappropriate regard.
“It upsets Mamma when people say something nasty about me,” Gillian said. “I won’t pick fights on my own behalf, but if they insult her, I won’t be held accountable for my actions.”
Her loyalty was commendable, but hardly helpful.
“Then I suggest you let me handle any problems that may arise.” When she started to object, he held up a restraining hand. “I’m quite capable of doing so, and a good deal more effectively than you could. Your grandmother and I should be able to keep any gossip to a whisper that will fade away once you’ve been out for a few weeks. Your task is to exercise self-restraint. If you do, eventually the ton will become bored with you and move on.”
She started to cross her arms over her chest, but got caught up in the ribbons of her muff. Blowing out an impatient breath, she tugged it off her wrist and looped it on the fence post behind her. When Charles raised his eyebrows with polite incredulity, she either didn’t get the point or chose to ignore it.
Subtlety was not her strong point.
“Do you also have power over the weather?” she asked. “Perhaps you can arrange for a sunny day, for once.”
He smiled. “I’ll see what I can do. Miss Dryden, please trust that I can handle any gossip about you or your mother, as I trust that you will have the good sense to allow me to do so. You have already told me that you are quite capable of keeping the peace when necessary. I expect nothing less of you.”
“Do you think you have the right to order me about because you’re a duke? I don’t care a fig about that.”
“As head of our family, I have your mother’s and your grandmother’s support in this matter. I’m sure they wish you to accord me the same level of trust.”
It seemed a bit risky to play the head of the family card this early in the game, but, somewhat to his surprise, it seemed to work. Gillian fumed for a few moments and then gave a grudging nod. “Oh, very well. But never assume I’ll sit quietly by while people insult my mother.” She reached out and poked him in the chest. “I expect you to deal with any such episodes in a decisive fashion. If you don’t, I will.”
“You have my word. And may I point out that young ladies are not encouraged to go around jabbing men in the cravat. They might take it amiss.”
“No doubt. You poor dears spend so much time on the blasted things, you’d probably burst into tears if I disturbed the folds.” She gave him a look of mock concern. “I do hope you’re not going to go into hysterics now.”
“My dear Miss Dryden, may I just say that you are an exceedingly annoying young lady?”
She laughed, her good humor restored. “So I understand. But here’s Mamma now. Perhaps we can finish this conversation another time.”
“We can agree that this particular conversation is closed.”
He ignored her muttered comment about having the last word as he turned to greet her mother.
“Gillian,” the contessa said, “do you not find Green Park simply delightful? It’s quite changed from my youth, when men often met here to fight duels. And you could never be sure a cutpurse wouldn’t leap out from behind a tree and rob you.”
“Goodness,” Gillian said, slipping a hand through her mother’s arm, “that does sound rather exciting.”
“Only to you, my love,” her mother said with rueful affection.
Three (3) Print copies of CONFESSIONS OF A ROYAL BRIDEGROOM
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About the Author
Vanessa Kelly is an award-winning author who was named by Booklist, the review journal of the American Library Association, as one of the “New Stars of Historical Romance.” Her Regency-set historical romances have been nominated for awards in a number of contests, and her second book, Sex and The Single Earl, won the prestigious Maggie Medallion for Best Historical Romance. The Renegade Royals, her last series, was a national bestseller. Vanessa also writes contemporary romance with her husband as VK Sykes.