The Accidental Countess
by Valerie Bowman
For seven long years, Lady Cassandra Monroe has waited for the man of her dreams to return from the war. Unfortunately, he happens to be engaged to her flighty cousin. What Cass wouldn’t give to take her cousin’s place! When he mistakes Cass for Patience Bunbury, a fictitious friend her cousin has invented to escape social obligations…even with her future husband, Cass thinks this is her chance.
LEAD TO TRUE AND LASTING LOVE?
After defeating Napoleon at Waterloo, Captain Julian Swift is not quite ready to settle down and enter into his unwanted arranged marriage—especially when the real object of his affection turns out to be a beguiling beauty he meets at a party. Patience Bunbury is witty, independent, passionate…and, unbeknownst to him, the cousin of his current fiancée. When the truth about Cass comes out—and Julian discovers that their courtship is anything but accidental—will he surrender his heart to a woman who really is too good to be true?
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Julian pulled on his gloves. “I know I’m going to regret asking this, but why did Mother give you five pounds?”
“Because I won the bet, silly,” his sister, Daphne, said.
He arched a brow. “Bet?”
“I bet Mama that when you came home you would end things with Penelope immediately. Mama said you’d be planning a spring wedding.”
His brow remained arched. “Mother had that much faith in me, did she?”
“It’s not that she wanted you to marry Penelope. I don’t think she did, really. Though she hasn’t said. It’s just that she was convinced you would do it.”
“I see. And you didn’t believe I’d remain so steadfast?”
Daphne shook her head. Her blond curls bobbed against her cheeks. “Absolutely not.”
“What made you so certain?”
“Because I’ve been around to see her cousin Cassandra grow up, dear brother.” She gave him a sidewise catlike smile. “You’ve seen Cassandra since you’ve been back, have you not?”
“Yes. I’ve seen her,” he growled.
“Perhaps at the house party?”
Julian’s gaze snapped to his sister’s face. “How did you—?”
“You mentioned Lady Worthing’s eyes, which led me to believe that Lady Worthing is in fact the Duchess of Claringdon, which then led me to believe that Miss Bunbury might well have been Lady Cassandra. Am I right?”
Julian clenched his jaw. “It seems the entire house party was an elaborate ruse to fool me.”
“I knew it! I begged Penelope to take me with her when she stopped by to visit before she left for Surrey.”
“You knew about this mad ploy and you didn’t think it absurd?”
“Oh, it’s absurd to be sure. Though I think you’d have to know the Duchess of Claringdon to truly understand. She’s a bit . . . unpredictable.”
“And you didn’t see fit to mention to Penelope that her cousin and friend were playacting in the country?”
Daphne plunked her hands on her hips. “And spoil the fun? I wouldn’t think of it.”
“You’re mad, too,” Julian declared, shaking his head.
“My point is that you have, in fact, seen Lady Cassandra.”
“So I needn’t explain my reasoning for why I bet Mother that you’d break things off with Penelope.” Daphne smiled at him sweetly. “And I thank Lady Cassandra kindly for my five pounds.”
Julian shook his head. Yes, Daphne was no longer a cute little girl with a penchant for asking too many questions. She’d grown up to be an astute young woman who was much more thoughtful than she first appeared. Thankfully, Julian was spared more inquiry from his talkative sister when their coach pulled to a stop in front of the Hillboroughs’ town house. Julian alighted first and then turned to help Daphne from the coach.
As soon as Daphne’s slippered feet touched the ground, the siblings turned toward the front door.
Directly into the path of . . . Lady Moreland, Garrett Upton, and Cassandra Monroe.
Julian gritted his teeth. He glanced away but not before he caught a glimpse of her. Cassandra looked like a dream in a violet-colored gown, diamonds sparkling at her throat.
“Now this is going to be an interesting evening,” Daphne said, with a wide grin on her impish little face. “An interesting evening, indeed.”
VALERIE BOWMAN is an award-winning author who writes Regency-set historical romance novels (a.k.a. Racy Regency Romps) with a focus on sharp dialogue, engaging story lines, and heroines who take matters into their own hands!
Valerie’s first Regency series from St. Martin’s Press has garnered acclaim including a nomination for Best First Historical from RT Book Reviews, a BookList starred review, and a Publishers Weekly starred review. She is also a 2014 Kirkus Prize nominee for fiction. Her work has been called “Too delightful to miss” by New York Times bestselling author Lisa Kleypas and “Everything a romance should be” by New York Times bestselling author Sarah MacLean.
Valerie grew up in Illinois with six sisters (she’s number seven) and a huge supply of historical romance novels. After a cold and snowy stint earning a degree in English with a minor in history at Smith College, she moved to Florida the first chance she got. Valerie now lives in Jacksonville with her family including her rascally rescue dog, Roo. When she’s not writing, she keeps busy reading, traveling, or vacillating between watching crazy reality TV and PBS.
Valerie will be awarding a print copy of The Accidental Countess and fun swag (US ONLY), or a digital copy of the book for a international winner, to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour, and a print copy of The Accidental Countess and fun swag (US ONLY), or a digital copy of the book for a international winner, to a randomly drawn host.