Madeline Haversham wanted to gain the attention of a certain gentleman, but tumbling into an ornamental pond is not how she had envisioned achieving her aim. Snaring a husband is proving more difficult than she had imagined, as she cannot seem to make it through a Season without countless mishaps. No sane man would willingly wed her, when she has already broken the nose of one would-be suitor. Unfortunately, Jonathan Danforth is honor-bound to offer for her hand.
Tracy Blalock lives in Southern California with her family and assorted pets. In her free time she is most likely to be found with a book in her hands. She has always had a passion for history, earning a Bachelor of Arts in History, which she has put to good use penning historical romances. When she is not reading or writing, she enjoys traveling to historic sites off the beaten path, which she uses as inspiration to dream up new characters and stories.
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London, April 1815
Madeline Haversham wanted to gain the attention of a certain gentleman.
But not like this.
Sitting in an ornamental pond with slimy green water dripping from her person was not how she had envisioned this scene playing out.
A short time before, while in her bedchamber, she was passing the time staring out the window, weaving pretty fairy tales. Her true love would spot her across a crowded ballroom and finally see she was a woman grown—no longer a clumsy, foolish child. Stunned by her beauty and poise, he would fall madly in love and beg her to be his bride.
Her head filled with romantic musings, she had believed it must surely be part of her daydream when through her leaded glass window she chanced to see the object of her imaginings, walking in the garden with her brother, Morgan.
For a moment, she considered the possibility her hero had been conjured by her fanciful thoughts, as Mr. Jonathan Danforth was generally kept busy with estate matters and rarely made it up to London during the Season.
With severely limited opportunities where he might take notice of her, Maddie was determined to make the most of the unexpected chance she had been granted. After hastily changing into her best walking gown and taking special care to ensure she looked as fetching as possible, she hurried outside to the garden.
Tracking the movements of the two men on the other side of a hedge, she paused out of sight, carefully calculating the exact moment when she would step out and greet them. She imagined Jonathan’s admiration of her ladylike deportment and appearance during the ‘coincidental’ meeting.
But focused on her mission to make a perfectly timed entrance, she did not pay close attention to where she was placing her feet, and she tripped over a stone. Stumbling, she pitched sideways into the pond, which was the focal point of her father’s manicured grounds.
In the comfort of her bedchamber, it had appeared to be the most extraordinary luck that she had spied her elusive gentleman taking a turn around the gardens in the company of her brother. But now, with her torso and knees poking from a few feet of murky water, it seemed a cruel jest played by fate. It was unlikely the men would not have been alerted to her presence.
Wet hunks of hair hung over her eyes, preventing her seeing their approach, but she knew the moment the pair rounded the hedge and caught sight of her, as Morgan started braying like a donkey.
She must look an absolute fright! She could feel her once sophisticated coiffure was now completely askew, sliding down the side of her head. She had the mortifying feeling she was wearing a lily pad for a hat, and her favorite gown was ruined beyond repair.
Pushing her waterlogged blonde tresses out of her eyes, she wiped dirty water from her face. With her vision clear, she viewed two pairs of immaculate glossy black boots—and her horrifying countenance reflected in them, times four! Though distorted, she could see her appearance was even worse than she had feared and a far cry from the ladylike image she had intended to portray.
She looked like a troll!
Tearing her gaze from the dismaying sight, she raised her eyes.
Her brother was bent over double, holding his sides, and laughing so hard he was in danger of toppling over. He clearly found her present misfortune enjoyable, but she doubted he would think the situation as humorous if their positions were reversed.
All that was needed was a bit of a nudge, and he would be sent tumbling into the water. She was sorely tempted to climb out of the pond and do just that, as it seemed the only way guaranteed to squelch his mirth.