A Diamond for a Duke


Seductive Scoundrels Series, #1

A dour duke and a wistful wallflower—an impossible match until fate intervenes.

Jules, Sixth Duke of Dandridge disdains Society and all its trappings, preferring the country’s solitude and peace. Already jaded after the woman he loved died years ago, he’s become even more so since unexpectedly inheriting a dukedom’s responsibilities and finding himself the target of every husband-hunting vixen in London.

Jemmah Dament has adored Jules from afar for years—since before her family’s financial and social reversals. She dares not dream she can win a duke’s heart any more than she hopes to escape the life of servitude imposed on her by an uncaring mother. Jemmah knows full well Jules is too far above her station now. Besides, his family has already selected his perfect duchess: a poised, polished, exquisite blueblood.

A chance encounter reunites Jules and Jemmah, resulting in a passionate interlude neither can forget. Jules realizes he wants more—much more—than Jemmah’s sweet kisses or her warming his bed. He must somehow convince her to gamble on a dour duke. But can Jemmah trust a man promised to another? One who’s sworn never to love again?

Buy this page-turning book for an emotional, entertaining, and romantic Regency world adventure you won’t want to put down.

Though this book is part of a series, it can easily be read as a stand-alone novel.

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“…another hit, that will keep you glued to the pages…” ★★★★★ ~My Reading Addiction
 
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 “…a truly sweet and touching story.” ★★★★★ ~Flippen Pages 

 “…long on charm, the writing is exquisite as ever, which is not surprising from Collette Cameron.” ★★★★★ ~Mo

“…funniest I have read in a long time. The monikers Ms. Cameron gave her characters made me laugh so hard at times that I had tears in my eyes.” ★★★★★ ~Monica
 
“Collette Cameron has done a marvelous job retelling Charles Perrault’s classic tale! Bravo!” ★★★★★ ~Dottie
 
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“Miss Cameron is an excellent story teller and always brings her characters to life. This tale will not disappoint you but make you want more!! ★★★★★ ~Lori Dykes
 
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FlourishChapter One Excerpt

 

 

April 1809

London, England

 

A pox on duty.

A plague on the pesky dukedom too.

Not the tiniest speck of remorse troubled Jules, Duke of Dandridge as he bolted from the crush of his godmother, Theodora, Viscountess Lockhart’s fiftieth birthday ball—without bidding the dear lady a proper farewell, at that.

She’d forgive his discourtesy; his early departure too.

Unlike his mother, his uncles, and the majority of le beau monde, Theo understood him.

To honor her, he’d put in a rare social appearance and even stood up for the obligatory dances expected of someone of his station. Through sheer doggedness, he’d also forced his mouth to curve upward—good God, his face ached from the effort—and suffered the toady posturing of husband-stalking mamas and their bevy of pretty, wide-eyed offspring eager to snare an unattached duke.

Noteworthy, considering not so very long ago, Jules scarcely merited a passing glance from the same tonnish females now so keen to garner his favor. His perpetual scowl might be attributed to their disinterest.

Tonight’s worst offender?

Theo’s irksome sister-in-law, Mrs. Dament.

The tenacious woman had neatly maneuvered her admittedly stunning elder daughter, Adelinda, to his side multiple times, and only the Daments’ intimate connection to Theo had kept him from turning on his heel at the fourth instance instead of graciously fetching mother and daughter the ratafia they’d requested.

A rather uncouth mental dialogue accompanied his march to the refreshment table, nonetheless.

Where was the other daughter—the sweet-tempered one, Miss Jemmah Dament?

Twiddling her thumbs at home again? Poor, kind, neglected sparrow of a thing.

As children and adolescents, he and Jemmah had been comfortable friends, made so by their similar distressing circumstances. But as must be, they’d grown up, and destiny or fate had placed multiple obstacles between them. He trotted off to university—shortly afterward becoming betrothed to Annabel—and for a time, the Daments simply faded from his and society’s notice.

Oh, on occasion, Jules had spied Jemmah in passing. But she’d ducked her shiny honey-colored head and averted her acute sky-blue gaze. Almost as if she was discomfited or he’d somehow offended her.

Yet, after wracking his brain, he couldn’t deduce what his transgression might’ve been.

At those times, recalling their prior relaxed companionship, his ability to talk to her about anything—or simply remain in compatible silence, an odd twinge pinged behind his ribs. Not regret exactly, though he hardly knew what to label the disquieting sensation.

Quite simply, he missed her friendship and company.

Since Theo’s brother, Jasper, died two years ago, Jules had seen little of the Daments.

According to tattle, their circumstances had been drastically reduced. But even so, Jemmah’s absence at routs, soirees, and other ton gatherings, which her mother and sister often attended, raised questions and eyebrows.

At least arced Jules’s brow and stirred his curiosity.

If Jemmah were present at more assemblies, perhaps he’d make more of an effort to put in an appearance.

Or perhaps not.

He held no illusions about his lack of social acumen. A deficiency he had no desire to remedy.

Ever.

A trio of ladies rounded the corner, and he dove into a niche beside a vase-topped table.

The Chinese urn tottered, and he clamped the blue and white china between both hands, lest it crash to the floor and expose him.

He needn’t have worried.

So engrossed in their titillating gossip about whether Lord Bacon wore stays, none of the women was the least aware of his presence as they sailed past.

Mentally patting himself on the back for his exceptionally civil behavior for the past pair of vexing hours, Jules permitted a self-satisfied smirk and stepped back into the corridor. He nearly collided with Theo’s aged mother-in-law, the Dowager Viscountess Lockhart, come to town for her daughter-in-law’s birthday.

A tuft of glossy black ostrich feathers adorned her hair, the tallest of which poked him in the eye.

Hell’s bells.

“I beg your pardon, my lady.”

Eye watering, Jules grasped her frail elbow, steadying her before she toppled over, such did she sway.

She chuckled, a soft crackle like delicate old lace, and squinted up at him, her faded eyes, the color of weak tea, snapping with mirth.

“Bolting, are you, Dandridge?”

Saucy, astute old bird.

Nothing much escaped Faye, Dowager Viscountess Lockhart’s notice.

“I prefer to call it making a prudently-timed departure.”

Which he’d be forced to abandon in order to assist the tottering dame back to her preferred throne—er, seat—in the ballroom.

He’d congratulated himself prematurely, blast it.

“Allow me to escort you, Lady Lockhart.”

 He daren’t imply she needed his help, or she’d turn her tart tongue, and likely her china-handled cane, on him too.

“Flim flam. Don’t be an utter nincompoop. You mightn’t have another opportunity to flee. Go on with you now.” She pointed her cane down the deserted passageway. “I’ll contrive some drivel to explain your disappearance.”

“I don’t need a justification.”

Beyond that he was bored to his polished shoes, he’d rather munch fresh horse manure than carry on anymore inane conversation, and crowds made him nervous as hell.

Always had.

Hence his infrequent appearances.

Pure naughtiness sparked in the dowager’s eyes as she put a bony finger to her chin as if seriously contemplating what shocking tale she’d spin.

“What excuse should I use? Perhaps an abduction? Hmph. Not believable.” She shook her head, and the ostrich feather danced in agreement. “An elopement? No, no. Won’t do at all. Too dull and predictable.”

She jutted her finger skyward, nearly poking his other eye.

“Ah, ha! I have just the thing. A scandalous assignation. With a secret love. Oh, yes, that’ll do nicely.”

A decidedly teasing smile tipped her thin lips.

Jules vacillated.

She was right, of course.

If he didn’t make good his escape now, he mightn’t be able to for hours. Still, his conscience chafed at leaving her to hobble her way to the ballroom alone. For all of his darkling countenance and brusque comportment, he was still a gentleman first.

Lady Lockhart extracted her arm, and then poked him in the bicep with her pointy nail.

Hard.

“Go, I said, young scamp.” Only she would dare call a duke a scamp. “I assure you, I’m not so infirm that I’m incapable of walking the distance without tumbling onto my face.”

Maybe not her face, but what about the rest of her feeble form?

Her crepey features softened, and the beauty she’d once been peeked through the ravages of age. “It was good of you to come, Dandridge, and I know it meant the world to Theodora.” The imp returned full on, and she bumped her cane’s tip against his instep. “Now git yourself gone.”

“Thank you, my lady.” Jules lifted her hand, and after kissing the back, waited a few moments to assess her progress. If she struggled the least, he’d lay aside his plans and disregard her command.

A few feet along the corridor, she paused, half-turning toward him. Starchy silvery eyebrow raised, she mouthed, “Move your arse.”

With a sharp salute, Jules complied and continued to reflect on his most successful venture into society in a great while.

Somehow—multiple glasses of superb champagne might be attributed to helping—he’d even managed to converse—perhaps a little less courteously than the majority of attendees, but certainly not as tersely as he was generally wont to—with the young bucks, dandies, and past-their-prime decrepitudes whose trivial interests consisted of horseflesh, the preposterous wagers on Whites’s books, and the next bit of feminine fluff they might sample.

Or, in the older, less virile coves’ cases, the unfortunate woman subjected to their lusty ogling since the aged chaps’ softer parts were wont to stay that way.

Only the welcome presence of the two men whom Jules might truly call ‘friend,’ Maxwell, Duke of Pennington, and Victor, Duke of Sutcliffe, had made the evening, if not pleasant, undoubtedly more interesting with their barbed humor and ongoing litany of drolly murmured sarcastic observations.

Compared to that acerbic pair, Jules, renowned for his acute intellect and grave mien, seemed quite the epitome of frivolous jollity.

But, by spitting camels, when his uncles, Leopold and Darius—from whom his middle names had been derived—had cornered him in the card room and demanded to know for the third time this month when he intended to do his ducal duty?

Marry and produce an heir…

Damn their interfering eyes!

Jules’s rigidly controlled temper had slipped loose of its moorings, and he’d told them—ever so calmly, but also enunciating each syllable most carefully lest the mulish, bacon-brained pair misunderstand a single word—“go bugger yourselves and leave me be!”

He’d been officially betrothed once and nearly so a second time in his five-and-twenty years. Never again.

Never?

Fine, maybe someday. But not to a Society damsel and not for many, many years or before he had concluded the parson’s mousetrap was both necessary and convenient. Should that fateful day never come to pass, well, best his Charmont uncles get busy producing male heirs themselves instead of dallying with actresses and opera singers.

Marching along the corridor, Jules tipped his mouth into his first genuine smile since alighting from his coach, other than the one he’d bestowed upon Theo when he arrived. Since his affianced, Annabel’s death five years ago, Theo was one of the few people he felt any degree of true affection for.

Must be a character flaw—an inadequacy in his emotional reservoir, this inability to feel earnest emotions. In any event, he wanted to return home early enough to bid his niece and ward, Lady Sabrina Remington, good-night as he’d promised.

They’d celebrated her tenth birthday earlier today, too.

Jules truly enjoyed Sabrina’s company.

Possibly because he could simply be himself, not Duke of Dandridge, or a peer, or a member of the House of Lords. Not quarry for eager-to-wed chits, a tolerant listener of friends’ ribald jokes, or a wise counselor to troubled acquaintances. Not even a dutiful nephew, a less-favored son, a preferred godson, or at one time, a loving brother and wholly-devoted intended.

Anticipation of fleeing the crowd lengthening his strides, he cut a swift glance behind him, and his gut plummeted, arse over chin, to his shiny shoes.

Blisters and ballocks.

Who the devil invited her?

Flourish

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