W. J. Power • May 3, 2022
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She was a Diamond with a few very tiny flaws—and the desire to be good.
He was a rogue with the sense to reform—and to help her to be bad.
Adelaide Devereaux flabbergasts most men she meets. She’s a Diamond, petite, mild-mannered—the perfect picture of a demure lady. She has one ambition—to kiss every man she likes until she finds one whose lips make her hear church bells chime.
In Brighton, she meets confirmed bachelor Gyles, Marquess of Heath, who is felled by her charm. Though he vows to kiss her until she’s felt the earth turn on its axis, he cannot claim her unless he fixes his parents’ refusal to accept her. They’re too high in the instep to accept a wayward Irish lass who’s the granddaughter of a notorious rascal.
Pride might stall their romance, and lust might motivate a scoundrel to try to carry Addy away, but when love is the only passion that matters, do not all objections fall before its power?
Triplets. Trouble. Frauds.
Can these funny Irish ladies each land a husband who’s so enchanted and so plump in the wallet that he forgets their other…hmmm…shall we call them…proclivities?
Read an Excerpt / Excerpt 1
Adelaide Devereaux propped open her umbrella, stepped from the carriage and scurried through the deluge toward the tiny chemist’s shop she favored in The Lanes. Yesterday upon her perusal of the other chemist shops in this maze of little establishments, she’d discovered this charming proprietor knew his trade better than that hum drum chap around the corner. Cousin Cass affirmed Addy’s conclusion this morning when that lovely lady who was her and her two sisters’ chaperone rose from her reclining couch and declared how Mister Alworth’s ‘Fine Headache Syrup’ was really the best she’d ever used.
Addy knew why that was so. The addition of her own special ingredients was the reason. Mister Alworth’s description of his own concoction mirrored her own requirements for excellence, save for her two little improvements. Small they might be, but it had taken her two years to perfect it. She prided herself on the success of her headache formula, as well as the other two she’d concocted in Dublin. Those two were to cure cough and loose stools. The latter was not a condition many spoke of, but one that must be corrected if one were to live serenely in polite society, eh? She often fantasized that she might one day make them remedies she could sell to the world. Of course, that would have to be after she married a man who might allow her to be so free with her knowledge and her time.
She sighed. Where would she find such a creature?
“Hurry, Fifi!” Addy dashed under the apothecary’s awning as she urged Cass’s French maid out of the rain.
“Oui, Mademoiselle!! I come!” Fifi was a cool bit of frosting whom Cass had brought down from London two days ago when the four of them moved to Brighton to begin the triplets’ debuts. The servant was forty, if a day, and took pains, or so Addy thought, to act surly. Or was the woman simply arrogantly French?
Addy pushed open the shop door and paused as Fifi scurried up behind her. The bell above the lintel ting-a-linged as both women fought to close their umbrellas and the summer rain deluged the entry of the shop floor.
“Quelle damage,” Fifi complained, brushing fat raindrops from her gray pelisse and skirts.
“This is nothing, Fifi. In Ireland, it rains sheep and piglets. Here, just cats and dogs!” She chuckled at her own humor.
In reply, Fifi gave her a Gallic ‘hunf’.
Another good one lost on the maid. She suffered interminably from too much anxiety. Of course, Addy admitted she would too if she had escaped Madame Guillotine when she was twenty, Napoleon’s Chief of Police when she was twenty-two, and a lover who had attempted to lock her in his dungeon when she was twenty-four.
“Good morning, Miss! Miss…” The shopkeeper put a finger to his temple in thought. “Adelaide Devereaux! That’s it, isn’t it?”
“Right you are, sir! A very good morning to you, too.” Addy had no problems with men remembering her name, when they’d met or how.
“Did your Cousin fare well with our headache syrup? Ah, let me recall… Don’t tell me! Lady Downs, is that correct?”
Addy smiled at the man who’d been so good as to call his preparation ‘our’ remedy. He really was a light-hearted fellow, short, portly, bald with a cute rimless pince-nez perched atop a bulbous nose. “Indeed, you have the right of it, Mister Alworth. Our guardian and cousin, Lady Downs found the potion to be her saving grace. With the addition I recommended, of course.”
“A wonderful suggestion. For one so young, you know your elixirs.”
I’ve got the best solutions for neuritis, lung ailments, and especially for megrims, real or imagined. She shivered, satisfied with herself. “My cousin has completely recovered this morning and sends me to you with an order for another vial and her many thanks.”
“Most kind of Lady Downs. Most kind.” He rubbed his chubby palms together as he beamed at her. “But I am grateful to you, Miss, because it was you who had me add a drop of peppermint to my mix.”
“And two of licorice, sir. Do not forget.”
He leaned over his counter to focus more fully on her eyes.
Addy was used to such scrutiny of her person and did not blush, but smiled graciously like the unique young creature God had seen fit to make her.
“Of course, Miss. How could I? I have often questioned if my compound was complete. One must constantly test, is that not true? So many are afflicted by these so-called lightning headaches. So hard, so very hard to cure, you know.”
“I do, sir. My grandfather suffered from them too.” Though his episodes occurred most often after a night indulging in too much good Irish whiskey. “I had to experiment for many years to get the formula correct.”
The door crashed open and the bell rang as if it hung on a crazed cow. A roar—a wild long cry of an injured animal tore the air and had Addy spinning toward…
The most luscious vision of a man she’d ever seen.
He was tall with a square jaw, broad brow and a bright shock of auburn hair falling over his eyes. Handsome as any hero of Greek tragedy, he was also in distress.
One arm windmilled as he held the handle of the shop door as if it were his last sane grip on the world gone rocking. Meanwhile his long muscular legs danced under him as he fought for purchase.
“Sir!” Addy dropped her reticule and umbrella and ran to grab his arm. She hoisted him up. Righted him. And noted by the power of his arm, he was delightfully sturdy. “Lean on me!”
He fought for words, teetering on his feet and devouring her features as if she were an angel.
Well, that was nothing new. Men did that when viewing her dulcet blue eyes and white-gold hair for the first time. She appreciated this man’s good taste to marvel at her. In return, she smiled in comfort.
Clutching her arm like a pot of gold, he got his footing on the slippery floorboards. “Dear god. I say, who in hell…ah…Hades! Pardon! Pardon!”
He cleared his throat. Blinking, he recovered enough of his sanity to realize that her perfect oval face was not the one he should be addressing for redress of his grievance of the wet wooden floor. At once, he searched for the shop keeper.
“My lord,” Mister Alworth appealed to the man as he scuttled round the end of his counter. “My sincerest apologies, dear man. It is the very devil out there this morning.”
“It is,” the beautiful man murmured as he focused on Addy once more. “I say, good of you to help me.”
“Think nothing of it, my lord. What anyone does when one slips inside a shop.”
He snorted at her turn of phrase.
Good for him. She liked to surprise men with her wit. Handsome men. Like this one who was out so early in the morning. Odd for a nob to even be up at this hour, and superbly dressed in expensive dark brown superfine too. But she’d learn why and how he was out and about—and in particular, she’d discover who he was. He was too handsome, too well dressed to pass up the opportunity to give him reason to remember her.
He regained his full impressive stature and cleared his throat. But she held on to his biceps. Why not. She liked the girth. No puny boy, this man!
“I am in your debt, miss, for your kind assistance.” His gravel voice was indeed that of a hearty fellow. As he gazed down at her with his sweet chocolate eyes, she liked how he examined her in detail. “I fear we have not formally met.”
“No. Perhaps Mister Alworth would do the honors for us?” She was never one to stand on too much ceremony back home in Waterford, nor even in Dublin. But here, in England she would definitely insist on every rule to give no tongues an opportunity to wag. She was a Devereaux, one of the three newly arrived granddaughters of the late Earl of Barry, here to snare…or ahem, no…to find a proper husband. Rich, handsome, a man she could revere.
This excellent candidate for that honor shifted and with an apologetic smile, bent to retrieve his top hat from the floor.
“I’m afraid that’s ruined,” she said with a tight press of her lips. “That is my fault.”
“Never! It’s only a hat.”
She appreciated his ability to forgive. An excellent quality in a man.
“I say, Mister Alworth,” he grinned at her, “will you help us with the proper introductions?”
“Indeed. Indeed.” The little man gave a laugh, atwitter at the prospect. “I make known to you, Miss Adelaide Devereaux, this gentleman, Lord Heath.”
“The Marquess of Heath, Alworth,” the man corrected him with a fond smile and a bow to her. “Gyles Whitmore.”
She responded with her most exquisite expression of pleasure. Wracking her brain for what she should have studied in Debrett’s for the past two months, she cursed her poor memory. Had she been half as devoted as her sisters Laurel and Imogen, she’d know at once his lineage, his worth or at least, his sire’s full title. “How do you do, sir?”
“And this is Miss Adelaide Devereaux, my lord, recently come to town.”
“Miss Adelaide,” she corrected Alworth allowing the more familiar form for so marvelous a new friend as an heir to a duke. “Miss Adelaide Devereaux of the family of the Earl of Barry, of Waterford and Dublin. Lately of London and now Brighton.”
She beamed as she completed the fullness of it. Heath would want to know precisely who she was and her worth. Not her financial worth. No, for that was not worth much at all. Sadly. Only two thousand. But she was the descendant of a long line of notable Norman lords who’d sailed to take Ireland after the Conqueror had claimed England.
“I am honored to make your acquaintance, Miss Devereaux. Are you in Brighton for a lengthy holiday?”
“The Season here only. Then we return to London. My two sisters and I are with our cousin, Lady William Downs.”
“Ah, I know her well,” her paragon said with a firm nod. “A light of London society.”
Addy had perceived that when she and her sisters had lived in that city with Cousin Cass for the past few months. But it was good to hear it confirmed by another.
The door burst open with a gush of cold air and a downpour of rain. Heath hovered over her, one sturdy arm to her shoulders as another swept into the shop with a ting-a-ling-ling-ling of the bell.
“Heath!” cried the older lady who stood in the doorway.
“Come inside, Mama!” He ceased his very welcome shelter of Addy to pull the woman into the shop and shut the door behind her with a decided thud.
“Thank, you, my dear.” She inched near Heath as her maid pushed into the shop and all six of them now stood indiscreetly nearly nose-to-nose. “Is this the man who sold you that syrup for our headaches?”
Addy hid her surprise. Not only was this dashing gentleman afflicted with terrible headaches as well as his mother, but the lady had admitted it aloud. Few ever wished the world to know of their maladies, especially those so high in the instep.
“Good. Well!” she said with indignant authority and pushed her way past Addy to look down her nose at Mister Alworth. “I tell you, sir, your syrup does not work. It needs a stronger element. Stronger, I say!”
“Well, Your Grace, I think I have just the thing for you.” He sent a thankful smile toward Addy. “If you will allow me to serve this young lady who was here before you and your son, I’ll—”
“Sir!” She frowned at him and in so doing narrowed her long elegant nose, so similar to that of her handsome son’s. “I am not accustomed to taking second place.”
“No, ma’am. I understand but—”
“I insist on good service, sir.”
“And you shall have it, ma’am. But you must first understand that the excellent remedy I will give you will be superb because this young woman has improved my usual fine mixture.”
“Oh?” The duchess directed her attention toward a smiling Addy. The woman’s incredulous gaze spoke of a tinge of respect, just in case, Addy concluded, the lady had to praise her. “How is that possible that you should know such things?”
Addy curtsied. “My grandfather suffered such megrims, Your Grace. I was responsible for his care and I learned the best way to treat lightning headaches by trial and error.”
“Humf. And why are you here then if you know such things?” She waved a careless hand in the air denoting the shop.
“My cousin, Lady William Downs, has need of similar medication and although I know what to put in such a potion, I am no chemist to mix it. Suffice it to say that I hope you will be discreet,” Addy said with the most gratifying of dispositions cloaking the most severe warning, “and not to say that I have been so bold as to reveal her need for such to you.”
“No, no. Of course not. I know of the lady, I do.“ The duchess pulled her pelisse closer about her chest emphasizing that such revelation would be beneath her dignity. “Well, I should like some of your formula. I am quite ready to find relief.”
Addy leaned toward the kindly apothecary. “I can certainly wait, sir, while you fill Her Grace’s order.”
The little man checked the duchess’s growing smile and hurried away.
Fifi’s gray eyes met Addy’s in praise of her largesse to allow the duchess to get her syrup first.
So did the melting brown gaze of the Marquess of Heath.
“Kind of you, young lady,” announced the duchess. “Forgive me, but the shop keeper should have introduced us.”
“Indeed,” said Heath. “Allow me, Mama.” He proceeded to do the formalities with all names and titles included, including that of his mother, the Duchess of Stonegage.
“Devereaux,” the duchess mulled over Addy’s family name. “The Barrys. Quite a large family.”
Addy said nothing. Well aware that a few of their distant relatives were confidants of Prince George, and scoundrels at that, she did not wish to focus on that branch of the tree. “We have many cousins in Ireland.”
“And you are the branch from Waterford?”
Addy hoped that was sufficient identification. “We are.”
“And your grandfather was the Earl of Barry?”
The duchess narrowed her gaze upon Addy in a most chilling manner. “He recently passed away.”
“He did. Fourteen months ago, it was.” She hoped that concluded the family examination. Her Grandpapa had been a loving substitute parent to the triplets after their father and mother had passed way, but outside the family he had a less sterling reputation.
The duchess glared at her, then expressed her dim view of Grandpapa when she was so unladylike as to snort. Loudly.
Addy lost her smile. Her hope for a pleasant ending died.
The duchess went on. “Your grandfather was ‘Monsieur de la Voleur de Grand Chemin’.”
Addy noticed that the duchess had not asked a question, but simply made a declaration. To cover any misinterpretation, Addy offered her own translation of Grandpapa’s famous moniker. “‘The valet of the great road.’”
From the corner of the room, Fifi broke into a coughing fit.
Addy shot her a quelling look. The French woman always hated Addy’s translations of her language, especially her grandfather’s funny little title.
“A valet, you say?” the duchess tittered.
“Oui, Grandpapa was a very fine fellow. We miss him terribly.”
“I’m sure you do,” pronounced the woman with a tight twist of her lips. “I’m sure you do.”
Silence descended over them all.
Addy tapped her toe and focused on the door to the back room.
Heath stared at Addy.
His mother gazed about the shop.
The duchess’s maid and Fifi glared at each other.
Tense minutes later, Mister Alworth emerged from his back room with two vials in hand. The first he sold to the Duchess of Stonegage, who immediately thanked him and bid all in the shop good day.
As the woman turned to leave, her son offered his thanks to Alworth. To Addy, he offered an apologetic smile and a polite bow. “A pleasure to meet you, Miss Adelaide. I hope we meet again very soon.”
“As do I, my lord.” She dipped in a small curtsy and prayed she’d see him soon somewhere. When that occurred, she prayed he’d not be in the presence of his disapproving mother.
Read an Excerpt / Excerpt 2 / Kiss Excerpt
“Do not,” she admonished.
He stared at her. “No?”
“Spirits will only aggravate your condition.”
He looked away, but grimaced at the bright light of candles in a nearby sconce.
“Close your eyes. Turn toward me.” She stroked his hand and wrapped her fingers around his wrist and counted. “There. Your heart beat slows. You will be well. Give this a few minutes.”
He did as she bade him and in his time, he opened his eyes to consider her with quiet appreciation shining there. “You know my condition.”
“Bold sounds. Bright lights. Alcohol. Late nights. Exertion. They all contribute to your headaches. How long have you suffered them?”
He exhaled. “Since I was imprisoned by the French when I was young.”
“I see.” She squeezed his hand in sympathy. About that, she would learn more but not tonight. He had to recover first before he relived the cause of his distress. “You should not be at balls, sir. But home where you can be quiet and untroubled.”
“But if I did not attend here tonight, I would not have found you again.”
She bobbed her head to and fro. “We might have met in more sedate gatherings.”
“Perhaps. I would have chanced missing you.”
She had never been so sweetly entranced by a man who confessed to his liking for her in so unique a manner. “My sisters and I are in Brighton specifically to enjoy the Season. We will be…” she said as she circled a hand in the air, “everywhere.”
“Addy, How may I press my advantage?”
“You made an impression on me yesterday, Gyles. I will not soon forget you.”
He grasped her hand tightly. “Don’t forget me at all.”
“I won’t. How could I? You like my syrup.” She had to tease him and make him smile.
“I do. Among other things.”
She nodded, compassion in her heart for so afflicted a darling man. “Perhaps my dancing, too?”
“Indeed,” he said. “I’d like to kiss you for it.”
She gave a shocked little laugh. Since Grandpapa died and she knew she’d have to find a husband soon, she’d taken to kissing any man who appealed. Alas, she’d found none. But now, she was not only complimented but tempted to kiss this man. “Not here.”
“No. But somewhere and soon. With my thanks for the syrup, the dance and the laughter.”
Oh, my. Was he much too chivalrous? Was he a rake of no morals? A man who complimented women? Women like her? Young and naive. For all her good looks, for all her pride in them and understanding of them as a tool to attract men, she was still untried, uninformed of much of the physicality of mating. She could be all too easily influenced by a practiced man’s charms. Of that she had always been on guard.
“A kiss for relief from a headache? Oh, surely that would be—”
“Bliss,” he vowed. “I will try for it tomorrow.”
“When you come for tea?”
“I come for you, Addy.”
He lifted her hand and pressed his firm lips to her glove in a stunning kiss. Had he blessed her bare skin with his mouth, she would have taken him to an alcove in the hall and tasted the flavor of his desire and called herself barely satisfied.
“Tomorrow then,” she whispered and longed to taste his lips on hers.