From the Blurb:
When her eccentric aunt suddenly dies and bequeaths her the key to a falling-down cottage in Cornwall, Lucy Westmore is surprised. After all, she scarcely knows her aunt, and her memories of Heathmore are murky, at best. But even more surprising is the part of Lucy’s inheritance that doesn’t come with a key: an old leather journal that provides the details of her mysterious aunt’s life and-for better or worse-gives Lucy all the instructions she needs to live the life of a scandalous spinster.
Lord Thomas Branston has spent the last five years in Cornwall, hiding from his painful past. Nothing has been tempting enough to lure him back to London…until now. He alone knows the real value of the property, and he’s determined to buy Heathmore before Miss Westmore ruins everything and sells it off to the highest bidder.
Emboldened by the guidance in her aunt’s diary, Lucy refuses to sell the property, not even when Lord Branston’s offers escalate, or when the house turns out to be truly uninhabitable. Lucy has no intention of giving up her one chance for independence. And Thomas has no intention of abandoning his suit.
But is it the property or the spitfire of a spinster that’s got his heart all tied up? And what is he willing to offer for both?
“This isn’t about a cottage, Lydia. It’s about my future, and what I want from it.” She hesitated, thinking with a small cramp of regret of how long her mother had been planning this Season, and how hurt she would be if she did something to ruin it. “I know this is hard for you to understand, but I can’t imagine myself happy with a husband.” In fact, she couldn’t imagine a more miserable existence than being shackled to a man she didn’t know, forced to conform to a stranger’s expectations of what a suitable wife did and said.
A knock came at the door, making them both jump.
“Miss Lucy?” came Wilson’s booming voice from the hallway.
Oh, bugger it all.
Lucy brought her finger to her lips, begging her sister’s silence.
“I know you are here,” Wilson warned from outside the door.
Lucy groaned. Slowly, she stood up. Slowly, slowly, she opened the door to face Wilson’s predictable scowl. But as the butler’s frown dissolved into a look of abject horror, her lips flirted with a smile. She did enjoy vexing the man. “Do you like it?” she asked, touching the new rough edges of her hair. “I think it complements my trousers.”
Wilson made a wheezing sound deep in his chest. Lucy stepped forward and clapped him on the back, suddenly worried. She enjoyed annoying the man, but she didn’t want to kill him.
“You’ve a caller, Miss Lucy,” he rasped, punctuated by a series of halting, gasping coughs. He straightened, regaining a bit of his usual starch. “A gentleman caller.”
Lucy’s skin began to itch along the collar of her borrowed shirt. “I … I do?”
“The gentleman specifically asked me not to involve Lord Cardwell.” He handed her a card with a disapproving frown. “I don’t mind saying I am uncomfortable with the request.”
Lucy looked down at the card.
The Marquess of Branston.
“Oh my God,” she whispered. Her knees buckled and she had to lean against the door frame for support. Oh, bloody, bloody hell.
“Shall I inform Lord Cardwell?” Wilson frowned. “Or perhaps you would prefer Lady Cardwell provide attendance? Calling hours have ended, but perhaps an exception could be made.”
“No!” Lucy cried, beginning to panic now. When Wilson’s frown lengthened, she tried to temper her voice. “The gentleman is here about something to do with one of the charities I work with.” The lie tasted sour on her lips, but she plowed ahead. “I shall be fine with Lydia as chaperone. You may show him in now.”
Wilson looked down at her trousers.
“He is no one of consequence,” Lucy insisted, squirming now. And she didn’t dare leave Lord Branston alone in the drawing room for the half hour or so it would take to dress and curl her hair. It was better to see him quickly and be done with the matter, before her father caught wind of his visit. “Please show him in,” she insisted.
With one last frown, Wilson did as she asked, saving her from a spate of further lies.
Because Lord Branston was someone of consequence. And while she’d felt empowered dashing off a scathing letter, she felt ill-prepared for a face-to-face meeting.
The Spinster's Guide to Scandalous Behavior by Jennifer McQuiston is a historical romance, released by Avon on November 24, 2015.
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A veterinarian and infectious disease researcher by training, Jennifer McQuiston has always preferred reading romance to scientific textbooks. She resides in Atlanta, Georgia with her husband, their two girls, and an odd assortment of pets, including the pony she promised her children if mommy ever got a book deal.
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