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Dukes By The Dozen - September Excerpt

What’s better than a dashing duke? A dozen of them! In this case, a baker’s dozen—thirteen of your favorite historical romance authors have come together to bring you more than a dozen tantalizing novellas, with one per month, for a year’s worth of never-before-released romances.

Duke in Search of a Duchess

By Jennifer Ashley

September 

The widowed Duke of Ashford is nonplussed when his children hand him a paper specifying what sort of woman he needs to marry. When Ash’s best friend Guy finds the letter, Guy is most amused:

 

Item one: She must be tall so she does not have to stand on her tiptoes to kiss you. What the devil, Ash?”

“I told you, a bit of nonsense.” Ash stopped himself trying to snatch away the paper. He pretended indifference. “Lewis has decided I need a wife.”

“Has he indeed?” Guy’s dark eyes glittered. “Wise lad. Item two: She must not be too thin or too wide. Hmm, very specific. Item three: She must like children, even when they are loud and less than punctual.”

Ash folded his arms, something punching him in the gut.

Item four: She must know how to sew so she can mend tears in your shirts and spare Edwards, who is tired of you throwing them at him.” Guy broke off in admiration. “That boy is destined for greatness.”

Ash was torn between pride and annoyance. “Leave it, my friend.”

Guy ignored him. “Item five: She must not adhere to timetables, and must teach you to leave off them. Ah, now we come to the crux of the matter.”

Ash cleared his throat. “It is possible I’ve grown too fond of my routine.”

Guy burst out laughing. “Too fond of your routine? Give me strength. All in London set their watches by it. Those who don’t know you believe you mad, or at least eccentric. I defend you every night to ignorant fools.” Not noticing Ash’s firming mouth, Guy returned to the paper.

Because we know, dear Papa, how little time you have to pursue the matter, we will ask a person to assist you.

“What? Who on earth would they ask?” Ash tried to hide his unease. “You? A recipe for disaster. I’ve met your volatile mistresses, and you’ve never been inclined to matrimony.”

“No, they have someone entirely different in mind. Lewis says, We have written to Mrs. Courtland and asked her to help find a suitable woman to marry you, which will be handy as she lives next door.” Guy looked up, smile wide. “Oh dear.”

Anything amusing about the situation rapidly dropped away. Ash, blood cold, advanced on Guy and ripped the paper from him. He turned it around to see the words in plain black ink, scrawled in Lewis’s young penmanship.

Helena Courtland. The widow next door, an unmistakable busybody. Talkative, gossipy, and absolutely the last person in the world who should be involved in Ash’s private life.

Mrs. Courtland was a fairly young woman, not yet thirty, having buried a husband nine years ago. She had no children of her own and had taken to Ash’s offspring rather too well. They enjoyed regaling Ash with her many and bizarre opinions on everything from the latest in clothing to the governing of the British Empire.

“Dear God, not Mrs. Courtland.” The paper crumpled under Ash’s big hand. “I forbid it,” he said hotly, with a sinking sense of futility. “I absolutely forbid it.”

His words were drowned by Guy’s loud and prolonged laughter.

As always, Read, Feel, Fall In Love! 

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