Convince Me by Bess Gilmartin
As far as Miss Amelia Caulfield is concerned, the fact that her fiancé is a marquess does not excuse the peas on his cravat, whiskey on his breath, or horses on his brain. With the wedding set for tomorrow, life just might be over before Amelia’s even gotten to the interesting bits. That is, unless she can convince the Duke of Haliford (who, if rumors are correct, knows a great deal about the interesting bits) to marry her—tonight. But twelve hours is hardly enough time to even flirt properly, and arranging a tryst at a ball can be so difficult. Fortunately, there’s a secret alcove behind her mother’s potted palm, and it’s big enough for two.
Dinner was, without a doubt, the most excruciating hour of the Duke of Haliford’s life. His thirteenth birthday had previously laid claim to that exalted position. But not even having to run five miles (because his horse had mysteriously disappeared) naked (because his clothes had also disappeared) through the village (whose inhabitants had been forewarned) because his younger brother had just discovered they could not both be dukes (what Nathaniel lacked in inheritance, he more than made up for with his sense of humor and thieving tendencies), could vie with being abandoned by the Honorable Miss Amelia Caulfield.
She was almost directly across from him, but she might as well have been across the Channel. He could not speak to her without breaking at least half a dozen rules of basic etiquette and although he had dropped a spoon and knocked over a glass of wine in a bid to get her attention, she would not even look in his direction. Every other woman at the table was looking at him. Even the lovely Miss Gormley could not seem to get enough of him. Normally, he would be very appreciative of that fact, but not today.
He wasn’t even sure why he wanted Miss Caulfield to look at him. If he had any sense, he would count himself very fortunate indeed to have escaped her scheme to make him her husband. But he didn’t feel particularly clever or fortunate at the moment. What he did feel was cheated. As though Miss Caulfield were rightfully his and Grafton had stolen her from him.
That was absurd. He had hardly ever even spoken to her prior to this evening. He had been aware of her, of course. No man (whether he favored dimples or not) could be unaware of a woman as attractive as Miss Caulfield. But not even a duke dallied with a viscount’s daughter unless he was interested in marriage. James was most emphatically not interested in marriage, ergo he wasn’t interested in her.
Even if he were (and he wasn’t, of course he wasn’t), the lady seemed to have withdrawn her offer.
He risked another glance at her while stabbing peas onto his fork. For someone who not two hours ago had begged him to marry her, she seemed remarkably uninterested in him. In fact, she seemed remarkably uninterested in everything except the Marquess of Grafton, and that, well, that was enough to make a man lose his appetite. He put down his fork and took another sip of wine.
* * *
The Duke of Haliford was being very hard on the peas. And the spoons. And the glasses. And he had a morose expression on his face that made Amelia want to throw something at him. Peas, perhaps. What he had to be unhappy about was a mystery. No one expected him to marry the marquess.
Amelia looked back at her betrothed. She would have been hard pressed to say what bothered her the most about the prospect of becoming the Marquess of Grafton’s wife. Of course, his temper was the first thing that came to mind. It was rumored to be dreadful, but then he had been remarkably tolerant of her when she had declared her dislike of him, so perhaps people had exaggerated.
As for his person, the marquess was not a fastidious sort of gentleman. The fact that several of his peas had already found their way onto his cravat was unfortunate, but then whatever wifely duties might be required of Amelia, washing the marquess’s linen would not be one of them. Thank heaven, for the marquess was not a small man.
His conversation was as lively as his appetite, provided one enjoyed horses and hunting, which Amelia did not. That is, she enjoyed riding just as much as any Englishwoman, but she was not horse mad. As for hunting, she appreciated having meat on the dinner table, but she preferred not to discuss the details of her dinner’s dying breath, especially while she was actually chewing. She had always been squeamish in that regard, so she was willing to consider the possibility that perhaps that was a failing in her character rather than the marquess’s. The fact that the marquess talked of little else was, as her father had explained to her, of little consequence. Shakespeare did not matter when one was a marquess.
It did matter, however, when one was a viscount’s daughter. How was she supposed to spend the rest of her life with a man who thought of nothing but horses and hunting? Not that she would see much of him. His passion for the sport would keep him out of doors and away from home a great deal of the time. As long as Amelia confined her walks to the marquess’s extensive gardens, she would be unlikely to encounter him outside of the dining room, or the bedroom. And if the rumors were correct, what happened in the marquess’s bedroom, though unpleasant, would not take very long. If she were to be perfectly honest with herself, she would have to admit that she could do worse than the Marquess of Grafton.
But that argument did not take into account the marquess’s hands, and how they had squeezed and pinched and hurt. Nor did it take into account how very differently the duke’s kiss had made her feel.
She glanced at the duke. His attention was elsewhere. Most likely the glorious Miss Gormley. Amelia turned her attention to the peas, stabbing a few of her own before giving up all pretense of being hungry. If she married the duke, she could look forward to what? Intelligent conversation, laughter, kisses that threatened to set her on fire? And if she married the marquess? The best she could hope for was not to cry.
Q: Tell our readers why you think they’ll enjoy Convince Me
A: Convince Me is a funny, sexy, short, Regency read. That pretty much sums it up.
Q: You may have noticed we like to include our favorite quote in our reviews of the books we read. What is your favorite quote from Convince Me?
A: My favorite quote from Convince Me is:
“An independent nature is one thing,” he said, dodging a half-hearted blow in the direction of his head. “But I believe you may have crossed over into stubborn territory. Fortunately, I have experience with stubborn women.”
Bess Gilmartin would like to give away a copy of Convince Me. (ebook) To enter, just answer her question:
My favorite book of all time is THE DAY OF THE TRIFFIDS by John Wyndham. What’s yours?
Giveaway is open to all (where allowed). You have until end of day Feb 1 to enter, winner will be announced soon after.
Giveaway sponsored by: Bess Gilmartin. No purchase necessary to win. You must be 18 or over to enter, void where prohibited. The number of eligible entries received determines the odds of winning. FVBR is not being compensated for this giveaway. If the winner declines to accept or fails to claim their prize within 72 hours of the announcement they forfeit their prize. Prize distribution is the sole responsibility of the giveaway sponsor. Fiction Vixen Book Reviews will not be held responsible for lost or misdirected prizes or for circumstances beyond our control. More information here.