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  • Written by Elizabeth Thornton
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  • The Marriage Trap
  • Written by Elizabeth Thornton
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Written by Elizabeth ThorntonAuthor Alerts:  Random House will alert you to new works by Elizabeth Thornton

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On Sale: June 28, 2005
Pages: | ISBN: 978-0-553-90174-0
Published by : Bantam Bantam Dell
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Synopsis|Excerpt

Synopsis

Nationally bestselling author Elizabeth Thornton returns with a wickedly tempting new tale of scandal, intrigue, and daring proposals. . . .

From dueling at dawn to fighting at Waterloo, Jack Rigg, Earl of Raleigh, has seen his share of danger. But now he faces his greatest fear: wedlock by ambush. It began in Paris, when he rescued an alluring cardsharp named Aurora from a tavern brawl. In the safety of Jack’s rooms they shared a passionate embrace. He never suspected their compromising encounter would change his life completely. . . .

The idea that a poor vicar’s daughter should marry Jack Rigg might be amusing–if it weren’t so imperative. When she last saw Jack, Ellie Hill was disguised as “Aurora,” indulging her gift for gaming. Now she’s in trouble with the law–and Jack is her alibi. She must hope he’ll be more of a gentleman than he was to Aurora. But as they forge an unlikely and increasingly amorous alliance, someone with a deadly agenda wants to end their union before it begins.

Excerpt

Chapter 1


Ellie's ears pricked the moment she heard Jack's name. It seemed that she wasn't the only female whose ears pricked. Ambitious mamas with young daughters to marry off broke off their conversations and scanned the crush of elegant guests in the embassy's grand salon. This was Paris, six months after Waterloo, and the ambassador was hosting the first ball of the new year.

And, thought Ellie, a glittering affair it was, too. Handsome soldiers in their dress regimentals, gentlemen of fashion, and ladies in their high-waisted, diaphanous ball gowns ringed the dance floor as they watched couples form sets for the next dance.

She wasn't really a part of this glittering crowd. As a paid companion-cum-chaperon, she had to dress modestly and try to look invisible. That wasn't difficult. She was no beauty and was past the age of attracting masculine attention, assets that she took pains to cultivate. Beautiful young women rarely found employment as governesses or companions.

Her gaze came to rest on two gentlemen who had just entered the salon. They were both tall and dark-haired, both very elegant in their English tailoring and satin breeches. But only one of those gentlemen was known to her--Jack Rigg.

She was probably prejudiced, but she could not help thinking that, even in that glittering crush, he was a formidable presence. Part of his appeal was that he was quite unconscious of the impression he made, either that or he did not care. He was darkly handsome, with beautiful, lustrous eyes the color of the luxurious French chocolate she sipped every morning to slowly bring herself awake. A look from Jack's eyes had the same effect.

She smiled at her fanciful turn of mind.

Though she remembered him very well, he wouldn't remember her. As a young man, no more than a boy, really, he'd been rusticated from Oxford for wildness and truancy and his irate father had sent him to the local vicar for tutoring. Her father just happened to be the local vicar.

She could still see traces of that reckless boy in the grown man, but tempered now by a soldier's discipline. Not that Jack was still a soldier. She'd heard that he'd resigned his commission when he'd come into the title. She supposed she should think of him as Lord Raleigh now and not as plain Jack Rigg.

When he brushed back a lock of dark hair, a fleeting smile softened her expression. She recognized the gesture, as well as the glint in his dark eyes and the slant of that sculpted mouth in his tanned face. He'd had the same expression as a boy when he couldn't get his mind around Greek grammar, and was impatient to get out of the schoolroom and go riding on the downs or flirt with the local girls.

No one denied that Jack had a way with women.

Her father never claimed that he had turned Jack into a scholar, but he'd imparted the rudiments of Latin and Greek, enough to gain the boy re-admittance to Oxford's hallowed halls. Papa had always maintained that though Jack was a little wild, he was sound in the things that mattered, and he expected him to turn out well.

She wondered, if her father were alive, what he would think of Jack now.

Her thoughts scattered when she heard her employer's voice, thin and nasal, pitched above the noise as she addressed her daughter. "Look, Harriet," exclaimed Lady Sedgewick, "there's Lord Raleigh with his friend. Now there's a gentleman I hope your papa will cultivate. Next to Devonshire, he is the most eligible bachelor in Paris."

She fanned her hot cheeks as she gazed avidly at the gentleman in question. Lady Harriet, a tall, willowy girl with blonde curls and a pleasant rather than a pretty face, followed the direction of her mother's gaze. "There are two gentlemen there, Mama. Which of them is Lord Raleigh?"

Her mother frowned. "Not the dandy with the quizzing glass! That is Lord Denison, and everyone knows he has to marry money." Her ladyship flicked a glance at Ellie. "I expect you, Miss Hill, to keep a sharp lookout for fortune hunters and keep them away from Harriet."

"Naturally," replied Ellie meekly.

Lady Sedgewick need not have worried about fortune hunters. Harriet was in love with a young soldier who had been posted to Canada, so she was safe from everyone, even from her mother's stratagems to marry her off.

"Mama!" Harriet protested. "He's too old for me. He must be thirty if he's a day."
Thirty-two, to be exact, but Ellie kept that piece of information to herself. She knew her place.

Her ladyship made a clucking sound. "Stuff and nonsense! And what has that to do with anything? He must be worth at least thirty thousand pounds a year."

One could never, thought Ellie, accuse the upper classes of delicacy when it came to discussing money and marriage. It was a different story when it came to discussing servants' wages. In her own case, her wages were two months in arrears, but it would never occur to Lady Sedgewick that her daughter's chaperon would need money when her employer paid all her expenses. As her ladyship had pointed out when she'd offered Ellie the position, though the wages were small, it was the chance of a lifetime for a young woman with no money and few connections to see a little of the world.

And so it had proved. Paris was supposed to be their first stop, but they'd been here for a month, and no one was in a hurry to leave, least of all Ellie. Lady Harriet was a good-natured girl and her attachment to the young soldier who had been posted to Canada made her easy to chaperon. Ellie didn't have to discourage suitors. Harriet did that quite well on her own. And Paris was an exciting city. It seemed that half of England's aristocracy had come for an extended visit now that the war with France was over. Every night there were parties, balls and receptions, or visits to the theater and opera.

All the same, she still felt like an outsider looking in on the world. Her place wasn't to offer opinions or share what she was feeling. She was there to listen, to fetch and carry, and smile through it all. She wasn't unique. All young women who served as chaperons or companions led solitary lives.

There was something else that troubled her. She needed money badly, and two months' wages wasn't nearly enough to cover her expenses, even if her ladyship could be hinted into opening her purse.

She sucked in a breath when Jack's gaze passed over her, then let it out slowly when he gave no sign of recognizing her. What did you expect? she chided herself. Jack had been her father's pupil for a mere six months. After that, he'd returned to Oxford, and by the time he came home for the holidays, her father had become the vicar of St. Bede's, a good ten miles from the Raleigh estate.

Fifteen years had passed since she'd last seen Jack. Naturally she remembered him. He'd been seventeen and full of himself. She'd been a tiresome adolescent who had hoped to impress him with her extensive book learning. After all, that's what impressed Papa. Someone should have told her that the way to a man's heart was not through book learning.

Lord Sedgewick joined them at that moment. "Arthur," said his wife, "don't waste a moment or Lady Oxford will steal him from under our noses for one of her girls."

"Eh?" said his lordship, mystified.

"Lord Raleigh!" She used her fan as a pointer. "Invite him over to meet Harriet. How will she ever meet eligible gentlemen if she's not introduced to them?"

Lord Sedgewick, tall and lean, with a perpetual bloodhound expression, studied the crush that was beginning to form around Lords Raleigh and Denison. He shook his head. "It's like a veritable fox hunt. Give the fox a sporting chance is what I say."
And to all his wife's commands and pleas, he turned a deaf ear.

* * *

When the orchestra struck up for a waltz, Jack deftly detached himself and his friend from the group that hemmed them in and made for the cardroom. Lord Denison, "Ash" to his friends, and a former comrade in arms, was the gentleman whom Lady Sedgewick referred to as a "dandy," largely because a quizzing glass hung from a black ribbon around his neck, and his neckcloth was done in a series of intricate folds and bows.

Just as they reached the cardroom, their hostess, Lady Elizabeth, exited it with two young hussars in tow. "Come along, Edward, Harry." Her voice was friendly but firm. "This is a ball, remember? I expect you to do your duty. There will be no wallflowers at my ball. If you won't choose a partner, I'll choose one for you."

Before Lady Elizabeth could catch his eye, Jack turned aside and steered Ash toward a stand of potted palms beside a Grecian pillar. From this vantage point they had a good view of the dance floor, and the fronds of the palms gave them some privacy. There wasn't much to see. Only a few couples were dancing, but Lady Elizabeth obviously wasn't going to tolerate that state of affairs. Gradually, more couples joined them.

"I don't suppose," said Jack, "we can slip away unseen?"

Ash looked at his friend with a mixture of amusement and curiosity. "I know you don't mean that because I know you wouldn't dream of offending Sir Charles and Lady Elizabeth. Besides, you're not usually a boor, so what's the problem?"

Jack opened his mouth to defend himself, then thought better of it. Ash was right. He was behaving like a sulky schoolboy. He was irritated because he didn't want to be here, but one did not decline the personal invitation of the British ambassador without serious consequences. He wasn't thinking only of the prime minister, but also thinking of his grandmother, whose friend happened to be the ambassador's aunt. Grandmamma would blister his ears if he slighted her friend's favorite nephew.

He gestured to the dancers on the floor. "It's this cursed ritual. This isn't a ball, it's a hunt, and all those steely-eyed matrons are really a pack of bloodhounds in full cry. And guess who their quarry is?"

"You?" asked Ash, his lips twitching.

"Oh, I don't flatter myself that it's me they want. It's my fortune. That's what is so offensive." He felt in his pocket for his snuffbox, offered it to Ash, then took a small pinch and inhaled. After savoring the aroma, he went on. "Nobody spared me a second glance until I came into the title."

He fell silent as he remembered the drastic change in his circumstances when his brother, the earl, suddenly died, leaving a widow but no male issue to inherit. As his grandmother never stopped pointing out, it was his duty to marry and, in short order, produce the next crop of Riggs to carry on the family name.

He had become resigned to his fate, more or less, until he'd found himself besieged by a horde of ambitious matrons and their equally ambitious daughters. He'd come to Paris for a respite from the hunt, only to meet the same fate here. Ash, whom he'd known since they were at school together, had offered to come with him. It had seemed like a grand idea at the time. Paris represented gaming, drinking, wenching, and dueling. That was the real draw--the dueling. In England, men still called each other out for some slight, imagined or otherwise, but it had become a ritual with no passion behind it. Pistols had replaced swords and no one ever got hurt. It was different in Paris. Frenchmen knew how to wield their small swords to devastating effect. It was an honor and an education to cross swords with them, not to mention a risky business. Not everyone put up his sword when the first blood was drawn.

Ash said, "Cheer up, Jack. Just think--once you've shackled yourself to some eligible girl, you'll be out of the race and the pack will turn on fresh prey."

Jack turned his head slowly and stared at his friend. "I don't know why you're laughing. We're both in the same quandary. In fact, you're a bigger matrimonial prize than I am. One of these days, you'll be a marquess."

"Ah, but I'm not a marquess yet, am I? That's the difference between us. All I have to offer are expectations. You, on the other hand, are a belted earl with a fortune at your disposal."

A spark of amusement glinted in Jack's eyes. " 'Expectations' be damned! You're wealthy in your own right. It suits your purposes to pretend to be a pauper."

Ash's brows lifted. "Can you blame me? I've no wish to be hounded like you or Devonshire. You see, Jack"--a satirical smile touched his lips--"I want to be loved for myself." He raised his quizzing glass and made a leisurely appraisal of the dance floor. "Is that too much to ask?"

Jack lounged against the pillar and eyed his friend with interest. "Careful, Ash, or you'll find yourself snagged by some dewy-eyed damsel with marriage on her mind."

Ash grinned. "But that's my point. Marriage is payment for services rendered. Love should be free. That's why I prefer to remain a single man."

" 'Love should be free'?" Jack made a small sound of derision. "Try telling that to the fair Venuses who hang around the Palais Royal. Haven't you noticed that they swarm around the man who has made a killing at the gaming tables? Wife or courtesan, it's hard to tell the difference."

Ash turned his quizzing glass upon Jack. "You're in an odd humor," he said. "I've never heard you complain of the Venuses at the Palais Royal. What's brought this on?"

Jack shrugged. "I miss my dog. She, at least, loves me unconditionally."

Ash laughed. "She's a slut. You told me so yourself. You never know who has been bedding her until the pups arrive."

"Ah, but I know it's me she really loves." His smile faded and he said in an undertone, "Don't look now, but our host has discovered our lair and is coming this way."

Ash lowered his quizzing glass. "Well, Jack," he said, "what is it to be? Shall we do our duty and partner one of those dewy-eyed damsels you mentioned, or shall we hide under that table over there and, if we're discovered, pretend to be looking for a priceless ring one of us has lost?"

"Ever the humorist," murmured Jack. "I prefer to meet my fate head-on."

"Better you than me. Ah, look who has just arrived, Lady Pamela Howe. Excuse me, Jack."

Jack was amused. Lady Pamela was an heiress, and his friend's strategic pursuit would only reinforce the fiction that Ash was in need of a rich wife to fill the family's empty coffers. Cautious fathers did not encourage their daughters to court fortune hunters. He wondered why he had not devised a similar ploy to save himself from the huntresses.

The answer came to him unbidden. Because, of course, Ash's grandfather, the marquess, lived in the wilds of Scotland. No one really knew him. His family, on the other hand, lived in Sussex, and there was also a town house in London. As a result, everyone knew their business. If he pleaded poverty, no one would believe him.

He sighed when he felt the hand on his shoulder. Resigned, smiling faintly, he turned to acknowledge his host, the ambassador.

Sir Charles said, "Can't have you standing around, Jack, setting a bad example to all the young sprigs. Allow me to introduce you to any lady of your choosing." In a humorous vein, he added, "One dance is all I ask, then you're free to leave and enjoy all the dissolute attractions of the Palais Royal."
Elizabeth Thornton|Author Q&A

About Elizabeth Thornton

Elizabeth Thornton - The Marriage Trap
Elizabeth Thornton was born and educated in Aberdeen, Scotland, where she taught school for a number of years.

She is the author of five Regency Romances and fifteen historical romances. She has been nominated for and received many awards including the Romantic Times Trophy Award for the best New Historical Regency Author and Best Historical Regency. Her books have appeared on best-selling lists and have been translated into many languages.

Author Q&A

Q: When you researched a Lady at the gaming tables, were there any such ladies in this period in history or are Aurora and her card playing ways purely fiction?

A: Yes, ladies did go gambling during this period, but only the dashers, such as Aurora. The original Almack’s, the precursor of Brooks, opened in 1759 at 49 Pall Mall. Among its patrons were the Dukes of Hamilton, Portland and so on, so the people who frequented it were wealthy. Almack’s differed from other gambling clubs because ladies also were admitted to the gambling tables. It was not unusual for patrons to lose anything from ten to fifteen thousand pounds in an evening — so wrote Horace Walpole in 1770.

Other prestigious clubs where gambling was permitted were White’s and, later, Brooks and a plethora of others that were for gentlemen only.

Those were the clubs. There were, in addition, many gambling houses, some of which were owned and operated by women — Lady Mornington, Lady Cassilis, and Lady Archer for a start. There were two duchesses whose names I forget who also opened their houses for gambling. Christopher Hiebert, The English, A Social History, states: “Gambling was not confined either to the rich or to gentlemen.” (P. 373)

We know, for example, that the Duchess of Devonshire and her sister were compulsive gamblers and were constantly in debt for enormous sums of money. The duchess died in 1805, still in debt, and terrified that her husband would find out.

This is approximately when the Regency began. Fifty years later, when Victoria reigned, these goings-on were not tolerated so they went underground.


The Palais Royal was a known den of every vice going. English visitors were shocked by its depravity — and visited it in the thousands! In 1816, there were 18 gaming houses in this vast three storied building. I’m betting that at least one of them allowed women to play. As for Cribbage — that was an English game and had its origins in Tudor times.

What the heck? I’m the writer. I say that this particular house in my book catered to English tourists and allowed well-heeled females like Aurora to play any card game they wanted. Everything else, the house’s employees, etc., comes from my research.

You may want to refer to these books:

Blyth, HenryHell and Hazard
Burford, E.J.Royal St. James’s (index “gambling”)
Hiebert, Christopher.The English, A Social History, 1066 — 1945 (index “gambling”)
Kennedy, CarolMayfair, A Social History (index “gambling”)
MacDonald, Violet M. (trans.) Daily Life in France Under Napoleon
Plowden, Alison.Lords of the Land (See ‘house of Cavendish’)

And for sheer enjoyment, read Georgette Heyer’s novel, Faro’s Daughter.


Q: Did you use a model for your tall, dark and very handsome Jack Riggs? Who is it? What about him inspired you?

A: I don‘t model my heroes on actors or real people. The one exception would be Richard Maitland who appears in three of my books. I found as he developed that he was becoming more and more like me, you know, a cranky, blunt, unromantic Scot. His character was already set when he became the hero of his own book, The Perfect Princess, so what I had to do, then, was find the ideal mate for him — Lady Rosamund DeVere.

That’s how I get my characters. In The Marriage Trap, I began with Ellie. She is a composite of the many young Quaker women I knew in the seventies, when I sojourned with the Quakers for a while. She is free-spirited but has strong convictions about doing what’s right. She is innocent and, not worldly — but practical. It would take a special kind of man to keep her out of trouble. Enter Jack Rigg, a seasoned soldier, a man of honor, who is jaded by the prevailing modes and manners of Regency England. They are made for each other.

Q: What books are you working on next?

A: I am hard at work on The Bachelor Trap which is the story of Brand Hamilton, Jack’s friend from The Marriage Trap. After that will come Ash’s book.


Q: What is your favorite book you wrote?

A: This is hard. I know which is my least favorite book and that is always the one I am working on. Nothing seems to go right. The dialogue is wooden. The characters are wrong for each other, etc., etc. It amazes me, when I get the book finished and after reading it over, I think it’s the best thing I’ve ever done.

However, If I had to choose, I’d say The Perfect Princess and Scarlet Angel because I fell in love with the leading characters. Incidentally, Scarlet Angel will be re-issued by Zebra in October this year.


Q: What inspires you? How do you come up with the ideas for your stories?

A: I’ve mentioned character, but it can be anything. I'm very susceptible to places. On a holiday to Cornwall, for example, my husband and I visited St. Michael’s Mount, a castle jutting into the ocean with a causeway that was submerged during high tide. My agile mind peopled the scene with fictitious characters, and Scarlet Angel was born.

You’ll see what was running through my mind if you read pp.232 — 245 of Scarlet Angel.

The Palais Royal in Paris had the same effect on me and I’ve used that setting in several stories.

Also, London, my favorite city. Then, there’s Bath and Brussels and so it goes on. My characters are already there, waiting for me to get their stories down on paper.


Q: What can you tell us about the remaining books in the trilogy?

A: The second book in the trilogy, The Bachelor Trap, has Brand Hamilton for its hero. Brand is the base-born son of a duke, a self-made man now, but with a big chip on his shoulder. In his time, he has met with a lot of prejudice. I think I found the perfect match for him in prim and proper earl’s daughter, Lady Marion Dane. Marion is not all she appears to be as Brand begins to discover when they join forces to solve an old mystery and catch a killer.

The third book, provisionally entitled, The Bride’s Trap or The Debutante’s Trap, is Ash’s story — Ash, the rake and man-about-town who is the darling of society. I’m still working on the perfect mate for him.

Any ideas?


Q: How did you get started in writing?

A: I picked up a novel by Georgette Heyer at a church bazaar and was entranced. I loved the humor and lively dialogue in her stories. I began to look for other stories like hers and found the romance section in my local bookstore. Until then, I’d been hooked on murder mysteries. I read everything, voraciously, from Harlequins to the huge historicals. My respect for writers of romance was immense.

The prod came from my husband and son. They were writers and persuaded me to give it a try. So I did. And my first manuscript, Bluestocking Bride, was accepted by Zebra and published in 1987.

And I’ve never looked back.

Q: What is your writing schedule like?

A: I’m at my desk by 8:00 a.m. every morning, take a short break for lunch and a quick nap and write until about 4:30 p.m. when my brain gives out.

Of course, when I’m needed to help out with my grandchildren, I take the time to do it. They grow up so fast.

And when deadlines approach, I work flat out, even during weekends.


Q: Do you have a blog? If yes, where is it located?

A: Not yet, but I’m thinking about it.

Happy reading!
Warmest regards,
Elizabeth Thornton

Q&A created and compiled by Romance Designs. Visit them at www.romancedesigns.com

Praise

Praise

"As multilayered as a wedding cake and just as delectable…. [Thornton] excels at creating likable characters who play well off of each other.... A memorable start to a new trilogy and a fine introduction to Thornton's work."--Publishers Weekly

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