The Earl’s Wagered Bride

Christmas Belles, Book 1

The Earl's Wagered Bride


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Christmas Belles, Book 1

The Countess of Marsden invites you to her house party! Seven nights and days of frolic, gossip, dancing…and match-making for her three nieces.

Sad, isn’t it, that none of the Craymore sisters wishes to wed?
Exciting, isn’t it, that three war heroes arrive who know precisely what they want for Christmas?
Wonderful, isn’t it, that each might gain the most precious Christmas gift of all?

A lady bets her future.

Miss Marjorie Craymore wants to surprise her two sisters with a wonderful gift this Christmas. A house. A home! One they can call their own. After their father gambled away their dowries and drank away the family reputation, the three young women have lived with their Aunt Gertrude. While that lady’s generosity is most kind, her charity chafes their pride. This Christmas at their aunt’s house party, Marjorie plans to employ the one talent she learned well from her notorious papa. She’ll gamble at cards and dice against every wealthy guest—and win. But she encounters one big problem. The man she’s craved all her life appears on Aunt’s threshold and challenges her. Tested by combat, he’s bolder. Dashing. A distraction. And suddenly too charming to resist.

A gentleman weighs the odds.

Griffith Harlinger, the war-weary fourth earl of Marsden, returns home from his duties in Paris with the Duke of Wellington to celebrate the joys of the Season. At urgent request of his step-mama, he must stop her niece Marjorie from creating a scandal by fleecing her house guests! Griff’s thrilled to engage the one woman who’s tormented him and beguiled him all his life. So he makes Marjorie a bet she can’t refuse: he’ll play her for enough money to buy the house she wants.
But can he let her win if he loves her too much to let her go?
And who really wins when both want what’s best for those they love?

If you love swoon-worthy historical romance, starring endearing heroes, sassy heroines and a house full of rogues and cardsharps, this book is for you! Buy THE EARL’s WAGERED BRIDE to attend this Christmas house party!

Other books in the Christmas Belles series

The Viscount's Only Love

Book 2

The Duke's Impetuous Darling

Book 3

The Marquess's Final Fling

Book 4

The Butler's Forbidden Fancy

Book 5

Aunt Gertrude's Red Hot Christmas Beau

Book 6

Christmas Belles Boxed Set

Books 1-6

Read an Excerpt


The first night of the Christmas party, Colonel Lord Marsden, Griff to his friends, sits watching Miss Marjorie Cryamore as she dines far down the table.

Too damn many dishes later, the party rose en masse to follow Griff’s step-mother’s lead into the Red Salon. He shot to his feet, stuck a finger in his shirt collar to cool, having burned like a bonfire through the endless meal. Yes, of course, he was delighted to be home at last. The comfort of good chairs, the sublime flavors of the elaborate meal and the luminous candlelight falling over the creamy shoulders of Marjorie in salmon silk. They mingled, all so delicious.

Tormenting. Devilish to watch her ensnare Riverdale. That man, one of those whose character Griff questioned for his failure to volunteer to defend the country and Crown. He was an heir, but aren’t so many of us? Where was his honor and his loyalty when Britain needed men to fight? Griff was critical of those who’d stayed at home, safe in their beds, while he saw men bleed and scream, lose eyes and arms and legs and even their minds.

Alastair was one whose personality was afflicted by the horror of conflict. And he deserved so much better than the chaos he now encountered in his daily existence. War was not just. He himself had told that to his men daily. Now he only wanted a rest, peace.

He considered her. Lovely, gracious, she’d grown into a raving beauty. Flawless skin, soft cheeks the color of peaches and eyes that could drown a man in their deep violet depths. He’d done nothing but dream of her for nearly two years now. And in his unwanted visions of her, she’d been his. His hands on her shoulders, his lips on hers.

What in God’s name was she thinking to spend time with Riverdale? He was no gentleman. But a roué. A gambler, a cheat. Did she not know?

He fumed. How could she? She was a young woman protected and cosseted, dwelling in the country. Dwelling in my house. Living near me. As she always had. Burrowing her way into my thoughts, my ambitions.

He took up a position by the fireplace in the salon. One arm to the mantel, he downed one glass of port. Then another. If Riverdale didn’t stop peering down Marjorie’s gown, he’d yank down the bell pull, truss him up like a chicken and haul him off to the kitchen for Cook to roast.

“My dears,” his step-mother interrupted his malicious thoughts, “all of you may wish to retire early. It’s been a long day. Many of you have traveled far and I know you’d welcome your beds.”

Alastair went quickly. Eliza excused herself, followed by Del. Then Marjorie did the same and gave a nod to Riverdale. Griff waited a minute more and kissed his mother’s hand. “I must go. Please excuse me.”

She shooed him off with good wishes.

As he left the salon, he caught a glimpse of salmon silk trailing the carpet around the corner toward the library. Or was it the card room?
He halted, admonishing himself to not barge in like some savage. What would he say? “Oh, sorry to intrude.”

Absurd. I’m not sorry.

“It could be…’I came for a book’.”

Which one? Gulliver’s Travels? Hell, no. I thought that one silly when I read it the first time.

Caesar’s Commentaries! That’s the one. He snapped his fingers and hurried to the library.

But at the double doors, he paused. What if Riverdale had her in a compromising position?

He growled and pushed them open.

The room was empty.

He scowled.

Well, of course! She was not here. She’s in the card room! Wagering away her pin money and her reputation.