Mr. S. Clemmons is alarmed to confirm the rumor running rampant for the past week that a certain Miss T*** L***, a young female of such dubious reputation that one hesitates to call her a “lady,” despite her gentle birth, will in fact affront the propriety of Society by entering the Marriage Mart this Season. 

Such a young person would expect to meet with nothing but the Cut Direct she so richly deserves, were it not for the unfortunate circumstance that perhaps the most redoubtable matron in all Society, the Dowager Countess Lady S****, has inexplicably agreed to act as her sponsor.

While one would never have the temerity to question the decision of this formidable lady (or wish to risk incurring her censure,) we believe that responsible members of Society (and certainly matrons with innocent daughters to protect) will find a discrete but effective way to avoid interacting with this Infamous Personage. After sufficient discouragement, we trust that this unsuitable female will soon remove herself from the company of respectable members of Society.

Respectfully submitted, Mr. S. Clemmons

About the Book

Angered by Society’s treatment of her mother and unfounded suspicions about her character, Temperance Lattimar dreams of exploring the world, gathering treasures for her father.  Hiding a dark secret, she’s determined never to marry—until her father’s restrictions on her fortune induce her to suggest a marriage of convenience to her brother’s rakish best friend, Gifford Newell.  If he’ll allow her to travel as she wishes, he can use her money to further his career in Parliament. 

Then a tragic accident turns this “mister” into an earl, upsetting the comfortable terms of their “marriage blanche.”  Temper knows an earl needs an heir, while Gifford finds himself increasingly tempted to renegotiate their bargain of a marriage in name only–for the hoyden he once knew has become a seductively beguiling woman…




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London, early April, 1833

            “You’re certain you won’t come with me?” Temperance Lattimar’s twin sister asked as she looked up from the trunk into which she’d just laid the last tissue-wrapped gown.  “I know Bath isn’t the center of Society it used to be, but there will be balls and musicales and soirées to attend.  And, with luck, attend without whispers of Mama’s latest escapade following us everywhere.”

            Temperance jumped up from the window seat overlooking the tiny garden of Lord Vraux’s Brook Street townhouse and walked over to give Prudence a hug.  “Much as I will miss you, darling Pru, I have no intention of leaving London.  I won’t let the rumor mongers chase me away.  But I do very much hope that Bath will treat you kindly—“ though I doubt it, London gossips being sure to keep their Bath counterparts updated about the latest scandal—“and that you will find that gentleman to love you and give you the normal family you’ve always wanted.”  Letting her sister go, Temper laughed.  “Although, growing up in this family, I’m not sure you’ll recognize ‘normal’ even if you find it.”

            “You mean,” Prudence asked, irony—and anger—in her voice, “not everyone grows up with a father who won’t touch them, a mother with lovers tripping up and down the stairs every day, and rumors that only their oldest brother is really the son of their father?”

            “Remember when we were little—how much we enjoyed having all those handsome young men bring us hair ribbons and sweets?” Temper said, trying to tease her sister out of her pique.

            Pru stopped folding the tissue paper she was inserting to cushion the gowns and sent Temper a look her twin had no trouble interpreting.

            “I suppose it’s only us, the lucky ‘Vraux Miscellany,’ who fit that sorry description,” Temper said, changing tacks, torn between sympathy for the distress of her twin and a smoldering anger for the way Society had treated their mother.  “Gregory, the anointed heir, then you and me and Christopher, the…add-ons.  Heavens, what would Papa have done, had Gregory not survived?  He might have had to go near Mama again.”

            “Maybe if he had, they’d have reconciled—whatever difficulty lay between them, and we would have ended up being a normal family.”

            Temper sighed.  “Is there such a thing?  Although, to be fair, you have to admit that Mama has fulfilled the promise she made to us on our sixteenth birthday.  She’s conducted herself with much more restraint these last six years.”

“Maybe so, but by then, the damage was already done,” Pru said bitterly.  “How wonderful, at your first event with your hair up and your skirts down, to walk into the drawing room and hear someone whisper, ‘There they are–the Scandal Sisters.’  Besides, as this latest incident shows, Mama’s reputation is such that she doesn’t have to do anything now to create a furor.”

“Not when there are always block-headed men around to do it for her,” Temper said acidly.  “Well, nothing we can do about that.” 

After helping her twin hold down the lid of the trunk and latch it, she gave Pru another hug.  “Done, then! Aunt Gussie collects you this morning, doesn’t she?  So take yourself off to Bath, find that worthy gentleman, and create the warm, happy, normal family you so desire.  No one could be more deserving of a happy ending than you, my sweet sister!”

            “Thank you, Temper,” Pru said as her sister crossed to the door.  “I shall certainly try my hardest to make it so.  But…are you still so determined not to marry?  I know you’ve insisted that practically since we were sixteen, but…
            The dark memories struggled to surface, and Temper forced them down.  “You really think I would give up my freedom, put myself legally and financially under the thumb of some man who can ignore me or beat me or spend my entire dowry without my being able to do a thing to prevent it?”

            “I know we haven’t been witness to a…very hopeful example, but not all marriages are disasters.  Look at Christopher and Ellie.”

            “They are fortunate.”

            “Christopher’s friends seem to be equally fortunate—Lyndlington with his Maggie, David Smith with his duchess, Ben Tawny with Lady Alyssa,” Pru pointed out.

            Temper shifted uncomfortably.  If she were truly honest, she had to admit a niggle of envy for the sort of radiant happiness her brother Christopher and his friends had found with the women they’d chosen as wives.

            “Besides,” Pru pressed her point, “it’s the character of the husband that will determine how fairly and kindly the wife is treated.  And we both know there are fair, kind, admirable men in London.  Look at Gregory—or Gifford!”

            Gifford Newell.  Her brother’s best friend and carousing buddy, who’d acted as another older brother, tease, nag and friend since she was in leading strings.  Although lately, something seemed to have shifted between them…some sort of wordless tension that telegraphed between them when they were together, edgy, exciting…and threatening.

            She might be inexperienced, but with a mother like theirs, Temper knew where that sort of tension led.  And she wanted none of it.

            “Very well, I grant you that there are some upstanding gentlemen in England, and some of them actually find the happy unions they deserve.  I…I just don’t think marriage is for me. “ Squeezing her sister’s hand, she crossed to the doorway.  “Don’t forget to come say good-bye before you leave!  Now, you’d better find where your maid has disappeared with the rest of your bonnets before Aunt Gussie arrives.  You know she hates to be kept waiting.”

            Pru gave her a troubled look, but to Temper’s relief, did not question her any further.  She kept very few secrets from her sister, but this one she simply couldn’t share.

Tacitly accepting Temper’s change of subject, Pru said, “Of course I’ll bid everyone goodbye.  And you’re correct, Aunt Gussie will be anxious to get started.  She’s hoping to travel most of the way to Bath today, so we might arrive in good time tomorrow.  Anyway, since you can’t be presented this year, what do you mean to do in London?”

            “Oh, I don’t know,” Temper replied, looking back at her from the doorway. “Maybe I’ll create some scandals of my own!”

About the Author

Award-winning historical romance author Julia Justiss has written more than thirty novels and novellas set in the English Regency and the American West.

A voracious reader who began jotting down plot ideas for Nancy Drew novels in her third grade spiral, Julia has published poetry and worked as a business journalist.

She and her husband live in East Texas, where she continues to craft the stories she loves. Check her website for details about her books, chat with her on social media, and follow her on Bookbub and Amazon to receive notices about her latest releases. For special subscriber giveaways, discounted books, character sketches and more, sign up for her newsletter at: