The Marriage Pact
by Wendi Sotis
A Regency Romance
The heir to an earldom has little control over his own fate, but Mr. James Aldridge promised himself one freedom. To marry for affection instead of wealth or connections. Anger flares when he learns his father has struck a deal: in one year, he will be leg-shackled to Miss Celia Colton, the dazzling beauty who had previously caught his eye. Now certain she was simply performing her role in a scheme to catch him as her husband, resentment prompts James to refuse to squander his last months of independence in the company of such a mistress of manipulation. But why can he not wrench his gaze from her at every encounter?
Completely unaware of the pact that has matched her with James, Miss Celia Colton is at a loss to explain why the man she secretly loves has suddenly become cold and critical. Abandoned by James, who had promised to guide her through her debut Season, she fears she will have to navigate the ton with only her grasping mother and distracted cousin as companions. Surrounded by gentlemen merely interested in her dowry, young ladies who view her as unwelcome competition, and, worse yet, James’s icy stares and disdainful manners, her primary concern is to discover the reason for his altered behaviour. How can she make things right between them? Will a love-match be forever out of her reach?
Praise for The Marriage Pact
This novel had quite a few twists & turns to it that I didn’t quite expect. I won’t give away any spoilers, but I will say I truly enjoyed this book – I felt thoroughly engaged throughout the whole of it & being a regency style novel as well as being a clean read, I can highly recommend it.
For the moment, the pair of matrons were silently observing Celia interact with a newly introduced gentleman, a Mr. Montgomery. As she rose from yet another curtsy, her gaze deviated from its mark and locked onto a sight that caused her heart to cease beating.
James stood directly across the ballroom, speaking to a lady. Even from this distance, his handsome visage nearly took her breath away. She strained to discern a trace of the deep timbre of his voice from the din of the crowd, but she could not make it out. It had been too long since her heart had soared with the rumbling of his laughter — far, far too long since his smile had warmed her soul.
She willed James to approach. Alas, he did not. The urge to call out to him almost overcame her sense of propriety before the recollection of the change in their situation crashed down on her all at once. Her elation burst, leaving an ache in its place.
She sighed and glanced at Mr. Montgomery, who looked away from her neckline only long enough to sign her dance card.
If she could put up with this man’s ogling her through a set, then surely, she could endure pairing up with James and withstand his angry glares.
Mr. Montgomery returned the card to her hand, and she saw there were still two sets open. As was expected of her, she thanked the gentleman and curtsied once again. Mr. Montgomery bowed and retreated.
Her mother immediately took hold of one of her hands. “Celia! Lord Eagleton has come, after all, and he moves in this direction. Remember everything I have told you, dear — simply everything. You must attract his attention immediately, before Miss Buchannan does so.” She craned her neck to peer around a group of ladies who had moved between them and James. “Oh, that disagreeable Mr. Kenilworth has delayed Lord Eagleton’s approach. I had the disadvantage of making his acquaintance last summer, while I stayed at Penelope’s estate. Mr. Kenilworth is a distant relation to the baron, and although he may be the younger son of an earl, I do not like that man. Especially not now.” She held out her hand to Celia. “Give me your dance card, dear.”
Celia held onto her card tightly, already suspecting what her mother had in mind. She widened her eyes. “Why?”
“If Mr. Kenilworth delays Lord Eagleton much longer, he will not be able to reserve a set with you. I shall do so for him.”
“But mother …” Celia sputtered out, “Perhaps Lord Eagleton does not wish to request a dance.”
“Nonsense.” Mrs. Colton laughed as she waved the idea away. “Of course he does. He would wish to reserve a set of honour.” She plucked the card and pencil out of Celia’s hand. “You are unengaged for the last set. I shall fill in his name.”
“Mother, please do not —” It was too late. As her mother returned her card, Celia stared at the name now written next to the final set. Viscount Eagleton. Good Lord, what was she to do?
Author Wendi Sotis
Wendi Sotis lives on Long Island, NY, with her husband and triplets. While searching for Pride and Prejudice from Darcy’s point of view, she became thoroughly enamored with Jane Austen Fan Fiction or JAFF. In early 2010, she dreamed an idea for a story and hasn’t stopped writing since: Promises, Dreams and Expectations; All Hallows Eve;The Keys for Love; Safekeeping (with just a dash of Austen); The Gypsy Blessing; Foundation of Love (The Gypsy Blessing 2); and A Lesson Hard Learned. A Very Austen Christmas, released in 2017, is an anthology of short stories and novellas including Wendi’s story No Better Gift.
The Marriage Pact, and some of her works-in-progress, have branched away to Regency Romance (the Loving an Aldridge series) and Contemporary Romantic Mysteries (the Implicated series).
Wendi will also continue bringing Darcy and Lizzy together again and again in an unusual manner.
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