Earl of Renshaw
Daughters of Desire (Scandalous Ladies), Book Six
This latest Wicked Earls Club installment is a tantalizing tale of lies, scandal, and unexpected love. A brooding earl and a desperate lady embark on a chaotic, humorous, romantic journey in this historical romance gem.
The dratted bounder mistook her for a runaway servant…
- Enemies to Lovers
- Class Difference
- Forced Proximity
- Rescued Heroine
- Fake Engagement
- Opposites Attract
- Redeemed Rogue
- Second Chance
When honor and destiny collide, scandal is never far behind…
Grace Dooley didn’t mean to cause a scandal. She only wanted to escape her employer’s son and his unwanted advances. Running into a terrible storm—ill and feverish, no less—would’ve never been part of her plan. Neither would getting caught hiding in a proper lord’s coach. Blurting out that he was her betrothed? Also not on the agenda. But, oh, she did it. All of it…
Sanford Brockman, Earl of Renshaw, had avoided rumors and dishonor his entire life. Until a wretched (but undeniably pretty) woman made a public spectacle of him. But even though he refuses to go along with her ridiculous ruse, he can’t abandon her—especially after she faints in his arms. All he can do now is help her recover—and hope his reputation can withstand the storm…
It’s not long before Sanford learns there’s more to Grace than meets the eye, and Grace discovers a charming soft side beneath Sanford’s brooding exterior. But is mutual respect and attraction enough to put these polar opposites on the road to happily ever after? Or will society rip them apart forever?
See What Readers Are Saying!
★★★★★ “This enemies to friends story is a very fun one” ~ VA Joanie
★★★★★ “This is a sweet romance with an enemy to lovers trope, which is one of my favorites.” ~ iread
★★★★★ “This is a fast-paced, entertaining, sweetly romantic tale, and I recommend it one hundred percent!” ~ Jenna Lee
★★★★★ “This is a delightful story of a stuffy earl and the young woman who takes the stuffing out of him.” ~ PeggyC51
★★★★★ “This is such a sweet short story, with delightful characters and a charming romance!” ~ Cathie Burhans
★★★★★ “… well-written sweet story that includes a charming epilogue…” ~ Terrie
★★★★★ ” What a story of learning, understanding, caring and finding what is important in life” ~ Nanna
★★★★★ “This is a lovely tale of two mismatched people falling in love and I couldn’t put it down until the end!” ~ Linda G Martin
★★★★★ “Collette Cameron never disappoints. Her stories are well written. I always feel like her characters are people one could be friends with.” ~ Cindy W
★★★★★ “I really enjoyed this delightful historical romance, the author delivers a satisfying and sweet story that will make you laugh, sigh, and swoon.” ~ Lana Birky
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Chapter One Excerpt
A very stormy April afternoon
St. James Street, London, England
Braced against the blustery spring wind determined to finagle a way inside his black-caped greatcoat or sweep his hat from his head, Sanford Brockman, Earl of Renshaw and future Marquess of Trentholm, lifted his chin and glowered at the dismal charcoal sky.
Unlike the unfortunate souls he usually turned his infamous glare upon, causing them to quake in their shoes, the heavens did not care that they’d earned his infamous and formidable disfavor.
With the vengeance of a scorned lover, the tempest had come upon the city unexpectantly. Pouting pewter clouds poured forth every drop of precipitation they contained in an unyielding sheet of bone-chilling, soaking rain.
The petulant day matched his grave mood.
Hours before, Sanford had attended his sister’s wedding, where he’d had to endure not only the beaming bride and groom and his blissfully married younger brothers’ smug expressions but the annoyingly frequent question from other guests: when was he going to find himself a bride?
Not any time soon, by thunder.
Why was everyone so blasted eager to see him dragged to the parson and leg-shackled?
In eerie confirmation, a jagged streak of orange and blue lightning lit the ominous firmament as angry thunder crackled and grumbled in the distance.
At the resonating boom, a woman scurrying past squeaked in alarm and, with a worried glance over her shoulder, ducked her head and quickened her already frantic pace.
Sanford had become so perturbed by the guests’ repeated prying into his private life that he’d indulged in a moment of imprudent flippancy and said, “I assure you, when my betrothal occurs, it shall not be fodder for the gossip rags or newssheets.”
Yes, he well knew his duty, not only to the earldom but to the marquisate. An heir, a spare, and perhaps, as Father had done, a third son to ensure the continuation of the line.
In his four-and-thirty years, Sanford had not met a woman he would consider taking to wife. Regardless, whoever the future Countess of Renshaw was, her lineage would be impeccable, and she would possess decorum, deportment, and a mild, biddable temperament. Should she be winsome, attractive, gifted with musical talent, fond of horses and dogs, and a tolerable chess player, so much the better.
Theirs would be a comfortable arranged marriage based on commonalities and no unrealistic expectations.
Today, when Lady Pandora Osborne—meddling matchmaker extraordinaire—had turned her gimlet eye upon him with a distinct, contemplative, and wholly unnerving glint, Sanford had deemed it time to remove himself from the festivities posthaste.
Straight from his sister’s wedding breakfast, he’d sought a much-needed reprieve from the merrymakers at White’s. A glass of fine scotch had done much to warm his belly and mellow his peevish disposition.
Weddings were supposed to be a time of rejoicing and celebration, and yet he always found them tedious and exasperating in the extreme. All of that unbridled emotion, unrestrained giddiness, sycophantic posturing… Nauseating.
He was hard put to prevent a shudder and his upper lip from curling in disdain.
A once glossy but now mud-splattered ebony coach trundled past, the lobster-red wheels and horses’ hooves churning the murky water flooding the cobbled lane and accumulating in narrow streams along the edges.
Filthy spray shot sideways. On the opposite side of the street, a gentleman shook his fist and cursed as he leaped out of the way and turned his back. A smattering of dirty water splattered the vaguely familiar man’s side, but he’d pulled his hat low on his forehead, and his long cloak made it impossible to identify him. Another chap joined him—a servant of some sort, given his rough clothing—and they put their heads together in earnest conversation.
Not the best location for a serious discussion, particularly if they did not want another coach to drench them. They peered up and down the street before parting in opposite directions.
It seemed Sanford was not the only fellow stupid enough to take a walk in the worst gale of the year. However, he wasn’t as imprudent as three of his four younger brothers and sisters. Every one of Sanford’s married siblings had lost their bloody minds and married for love.
Buffleheaded idiots, all.
Marissa had not Come Out yet, so a chance remained she would make a wise match, unlike the others. He held his brothers and sisters in great affection, but, in truth, he did not understand them any more than they understood him.
Neither was he the least motivated to remedy that disparity.
Indulging in a rare parting from dignified behavior, Sanford snorted aloud, earning a curious glance and a toothy grin from a thin lad running by in an ill-fitting gray tweed coat.
That mystical, farcical, trumped-up, nonsensical emotion caused people to flout responsibility, obligation, and duty. To disregard life-long expectations, strictures, and even honor.
Ronan had married a governess emersed in scandal. Benjamin eloped with an actress—or had Isadora been an opera singer? It should’ve come as no surprise that his impetuous, unladylike, and wholly unconventional sister, Corinna, would choose as her husband a blackguard like Baron Strathmore, rumored to have set the fire that killed his entire family so he’d inherit the barony.
It did not matter that Strathmore had been completely vindicated.
He’d been tainted by disgrace. His reputation smudged beyond repair. Scandal left a stench in its wake that one could never be rid of, and that was why Sanford avoided any association with ignominy.
Stifling an oath, he clapped his hand to his head to prevent the wind from absconding with his beaver hat. Marching along, he held the hat in place and cursed the weather. He should not have sent the coach ahead to The Wicked Earls’ Club to await him, but he’d needed the exercise.
Physical exertion always calmed him and helped to clear his thoughts.
In recent years, fewer nobles joined the earls’ secret society, and several former members had married and left the club. With increased newspaper circulation, keeping the earls’ personal affairs private had become nearly impossible. He wouldn’t be surprised if the club closed its doors in the next decade.
An unforeseen pang of remorse stung him at the thought. The earls’ comradery was not easily replaced.
Heads bent against the relentless wind and rain, a pair of women wearing thin shawls huddled beneath a tattered umbrella as they scooted along the buildings, using the structures as a partial buffer against the torrential onslaught.
Sanford stepped aside to avoid having his eye poked out by the umbrella. His foot sank into a deep puddle, the contents of which consisted of a repulsive mess of rain, manure, and other undefinable muck.
Fiend seize it!
Scowling, he shook his leg, glowering at the revolting residue clinging to the once-shiny shoe. He should’ve changed into his boots before leaving Pelandale House earlier. Mouth pressed into a grim line to stubble the curse rising to his tongue, he increased his pace.
His stocking squished in his shoe.
This confounded day just kept getting worse and worse.
Perhaps Sanford would skip The Wicked Earls’ Club and spend the afternoon and evening at his cottage, Hydeaway House, instead. From time to time, he chose to stay there, relishing the peace and quiet. Something hard to come by at Father’s mansion, where Sanford normally resided.
That was his one concession to selfishness. All else in his life was geared toward the earldom, to preserving its dignity and honor.
Sanford originally bought the quaint cottage to install a mistress in. Except no woman intrigued him enough to make that life-altering commitment. The place had become a sort of private sanctuary. He did not even permit his valet, Brewster, to accompany him, and thanks to the caretakers, Mr. and Mrs. Goggin, the house was always ready for him to pop in without notice.
A slow smile curved his lips.
Yes, that was what he would do.
That would also save him the inevitable gushing conversation about the wedding that was certain to take place at home. Of more importance, he would be spared his father’s and stepmother’s ever more frequent suggestions of a suitable bride.
Feeling much improved with his decision, Sanford turned the corner.
Ah, there was his coach.
Walton, the coachman, had likely taken refuge in The Wicked Earls’ Club kitchen, where he typically enjoyed a hot cup of coffee, a tasty snack, and flirted shamelessly with the maids and cook.
The rain had abated to a drizzle—at least temporarily—as Sanford approached the club, and a few intrepid souls ventured outside. Coach and horse traffic increased as those eager to return home scurried forth before another shower deluged the city.
The dark clouds and the onset of late afternoon cast the street in a multitude of grayish shadows.
That same angry gentleman he had seen earlier gestured wildly at a trio of men forming a semi-circle around him. They all shook their heads and, appearing perturbed, peered up and down the street.
Sanford crumpled his forehead in concentration. He felt certain he must know the chap, but the fellow’s name escaped him. Ah, well. It was of no consequence.
Anticipating a hot bath, a simple dinner, one of Mrs. Groggin’s scrumptious desserts, and reading before a roaring fire as he sipped a superior cognac, Sanford rapped on The Wicked Earls’ Club door.
The panel swung open, revealing a tall, liveried footman.
“Good evening, Lord Renshaw.”
“Please inform my coachman that I have changed my mind about this evening.” Sanford jutted his chin toward the vehicle. “I shall await him in the coach.”
“Very good, my lord.”
Sanford turned away before the door closed and returned the nod of a gentleman with a lady on his arm.
He opened the coach and had raised a foot to climb aboard when he froze.
What the bloody…?
Someone cowered inside on the floor.