The Spring Bride (A Chance Sisters Romance)

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9780425259276: The Spring Bride (A Chance Sisters Romance)

In this charming regency romance, a dog in need of rescue brings together a young debutante and a mysterious stranger—third in the Chance Sisters series.
  

After a childhood riddled with poverty and hardship, Jane Chance intends to enter high society and make a good, safe, sensible marriage during the London Season. All goes according to plan until a dark, dangerous vagabond helps her rescue a dog.

Zachary Black is all kinds of unsuitable—a former spy, now in disguise, he’s wanted for murder. His instructions: to lie low until his name is cleared. But Zach has never followed the rules, and he wants Jane for his own, even if that means blazing his way into London society.

Jane knows she shouldn’t fall in love with an unreliable, albeit devastatingly attractive, rogue. But Zach is determined—and he‘s a man accustomed to getting what he wants.

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About the Author:

Anne Gracie is the award-winning, national bestselling author of numerous novels including the Merridew Sisters Romance series, the Chance Sisters Romance series, and the Marriage of Convenience Romance series. She spent her childhood and youth on the move. The gypsy life taught her that humor and love are universal languages and that favorite books can take you home, wherever you are. Anne started her first novel while backpacking solo around the world, writing by hand in notebooks. Since then, her books have been translated into more than sixteen languages, and include Japanese manga editions. As well as writing, Anne promotes adult literacy, flings balls for her dog, enjoys her tangled garden, and keeps bees.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

“Treat yourself to some super reads from a most talented writer.”

Romance Reviews Today

“For fabulous Regency flavor, witty and addictive, you can’t go past Anne Gracie.”

—Stephanie Laurens, bestselling author

Prologue

Happiness in marriage is entirely a matter of chance.

—JANE AUSTEN, PRIDE AND PREJUDICE

London, 1805

“Tell us about the night you were a princess, Mama.”

“She felt like a princess, she wasn’t really one,” Jane’s big sister, Abby, corrected her.

Jane didn’t care. A princess was a princess. “Mama? Tell us.”

Mama smiled. “Don’t you ever get sick of it, darling?”

Jane shook her head fervently.

“Well, I was just eighteen, and it was the grandest ball of the season. Everybody was there, dukes, earls, even a royal prince.”

“And what were you wearing, Mama?”

“You know very well what I was wearing, you’ve heard it a hundred times.”

“Mama!”

“Very well, I was wearing a beeeyoutiful ball gown, rose-colored silk that swished like water when I walked.”

“And a gauze overdress—go on,” Jane prompted.

“A gauze overdress with hundreds of tiny crystals sewn on it that caught the light—”

“And glittered like a shower of diamonds,” Jane finished for her.

“See, you know it better than I do.”

“Go on. And on your head . . .”

“On my head I wore a most elegant little headdress of pink pearls and diamonds—of course, they were paste, but—”

“And you came down the staircase, and everybody turned to look at you . . .” Jane didn’t want to hear about paste, which wasn’t as good as diamonds—not that she’d ever seen any kind of jewelry, except for Mama’s gold wedding ring—but everybody knew a princess wore diamonds.

“Yes, little tyrant, and everybody turned to look at me in my beeyoutiful glittery pink dress.” Mama laughed, but the laughter turned into a coughing fit that ended with her lying back on the bed, handkerchief pressed to her mouth, exhausted.

Abby fetched Mama some water and a clean handkerchief, slipping it into Mama’s hands so that Papa wouldn’t notice the blood on the old one. Abby was always secretly washing blood out of Mama’s handkerchiefs.

After a while, Jane asked, “Mama, why aren’t you a princess now?”

“Oh, I’m still a princess, my darling.” Mama opened her eyes, and looked over Jane’s head at Papa, who was standing behind her, silent and grim. “That night I met and fell in love with your papa. He’s my prince, and always will be.” And she smiled up at Papa.

And Jane could see for herself that Mama really had been a princess because the smile made her beautiful again, so beautiful, as if someone had lit a candle inside her.

“You’ll always be my princess,” Papa said in a choked voice, smoothing Mama’s hair back and kissing her on the forehead.

Jane loved Papa dearly, but she knew he wasn’t a prince. A prince lived in a castle, not one poky little room in a smelly old building.

Mama was supposed to have married someone else—a rich man who did live in a castle. Papa too was supposed to marry another lady, but then they met each other and fell in love. And because they fell in love, they had to run away and get married, because their parents wanted them to marry the other people. The rich other people.

That was why Jane and Abby had never met their grandparents, even though Abby was almost twelve and Jane was nearly six. Because they were still angry. Papa and Mama had been cast out, cut off without a penny. That’s why they had no money. Papa did his best, but there was never enough . . .

If Mama were a princess now, she wouldn’t be a thin shadow of herself, faded, sad and sick. And Papa wouldn’t be so tight and angry and sad. Jane and Abby would be princesses too, and they’d all be living in a castle, not a cold, dark little room, where rats scrabbled behind the walls. And none of them would ever be cold, or hungry or frightened.

“I’m going to be a princess too, when I grow up,” Jane declared. “And I’ll have a pink glittery dress and wear diamonds and—”

“Janey darling, it’s just make-believe,” Abby began.

“No, I will!”

“Ah, sweetheart, no matter what you wear, you’ll always be Papa’s little princess,” Papa said, picking Jane up and twirling her around and around. And everybody laughed.

But Jane had no doubt of it. Twirling high in Papa’s arms, she looked down at the dingy little room spinning around her, Mama lying weak and thin in her bed, and Abby crouched beside her with a clean cloth. It wasn’t always going to be like this. Everybody said Jane was the image of her mother, and that meant she could be a princess too. She just had to find a prince with a castle.

Chapter One

But there certainly are not so many men of large fortune in the world as there are pretty women to deserve them.

—JANE AUSTEN, MANSFIELD PARK

Mayfair, London, March 1817

“That was a lovely treat, thank you, Abby.” Jane squeezed her sister’s arm affectionately as they walked through Berkeley Square. “I can’t believe I had to wait eighteen years to taste ice cream.”

Abby laughed. “You’ve made up for it in the last few months—is there any flavor at Gunter’s you haven’t tasted?”

“No,” Jane admitted, “but I still haven’t decided which is my favorite.”

Abby laughed again. “And it’s not even summer yet.” It was barely even spring. The plane trees that lined the square were only just beginning to bud and a few scattered clumps of snowdrops were in bloom.

Jane squeezed her older sister’s arm again. “Ice cream or not, it’s lovely to have the catch-up, just the two of us. I love Damaris and Daisy—you know I do, but sometimes . . .”

Abby nodded. “Sometimes you just need to be with your big sister, I know. It’s the same for me.” She paused, then glanced at Jane. “Are you nervous about your season? Your first ball, it’s what, ten days away?”

“A fortnight,” Jane corrected her. “And no, I’m not nervous. Not really.” She shook her head. “Well, nervous in a good way. If you want to know the truth, I can’t wait. All those years in the Pillbury Home wearing gray and brown serge and never dreaming—well, only dreaming about going to balls and parties and routs, wearing pretty dresses, dancing until dawn and going to plays and concerts and picnics, as Mama did. But I never truly believed it would happen, that one day . . .” She hugged her sister, then gave a happy little twirl. “It’s so exciting, Abby. I feel so very lucky.”

“We are lucky,” Abby said, sobering a little. “All of us. If it weren’t for Lady Beatrice . . .”

“I know. But she insists we rescued her, which is true too, in a way. And truly Abby, she’s enjoying this as much as any of us. She couldn’t be more delighted if we were her real nieces.”

Abby laughed. “Good thing I married her nephew then, which makes it almost true.”

“‘Nonsense! Your marriage to Max has nothing to do with it. If I want nieces, I’ll dashed well have ’em!’” Jane declared in an excellent imitation of Lady Beatrice, and they both laughed.

Abby linked arms with Jane again and they resumed walking. “Oh, Jane, I’m so happy. Happier than I ever dreamed possible. You have no idea. Marriage is . . .” She gave a blissful sigh and then blushed. “But you’ll find out soon enough. You’ll meet a handsome young man—maybe even next week at the ball—and you’ll fall madly in—”

“Do you think Damaris and Freddy will have arrived in town yet?”

Abby gave her a sharp glance, but accepted the change of subject. “Damaris’s last letter said they expected to arrive in London today or tomorrow, so they might have, yes.”

“Oh, good. I can’t wait to see her. Her letters from Venice contained some beautiful sketches—it seems like a magical place. I wonder if I’ll ever get to see it.”

“Jane—”

But Jane didn’t want to talk about falling in love, which was all Abby talked about these days. “Watch out,” she said, pulling Abby back as a curricle whizzed past them. “You’re not in the country now, Abby—we have traffic in London, remember.” They crossed the street and mounted the front steps of Lady Beatrice’s house, where Jane and Daisy still lived.

Max, on his marriage to Abby, had rented a town house around the corner. He’d offered to house Daisy and Jane there as well, but Lady Beatrice had objected strongly. “Stealing my gels? Losing Abby and Damaris to you and Freddy is bad enough. What’s wrong with newlyweds today—don’t you want privacy?” Delivered with a gimlet stare magnified by her favorite lorgnette.

Abby and Max hadn’t argued. And Freddy, taking the hint, had also arranged the hire of a town house for the season, within easy walking distance of Berkeley Square.

The front door opened silently before Jane could even reach for the bell. Featherby, their butler, placed a white-gloved finger over his lips in mysterious fashion and stood back to let them in.

Daisy was sitting on the stairs, halfway up. “Daisy?” Jane began.

Sssh!” Daisy made extravagant shushing gestures. Jane and Abby exchanged glances. What on earth was going on?

Featherby, tapping his finger against his lips to reinforce the need for silence, pointed to the door to the drawing room, which was ajar. Voices wafted out. Lady Beatrice and a male visitor. Nothing unusual there. So why were Daisy and Featherby behaving so mysteriously?

“What—” Jane began.

Shhh!” Daisy made fierce, emphatic gestures, beckoning to Jane to come up and to be quiet.

Mystified, Jane obeyed. Featherby stepped in front of the sitting room door, blocking them from the sight of the unknown visitor while Jane and Abby slipped past and hurried silently up the stairs.

“What’s going on?” Jane whispered.

“Sit down and listen!” Daisy tugged her down beside her on the stairs. “It’s about you.”

Jane sat. So did Abby. The three girls leaned against the rails, listening intently to the voices coming from the drawing room.

The man, whoever he was, was talking about himself. “Of course, you know my family and my circumstances, Lady Beatrice, and naturally my eligibility is not in doubt—”

Eligibility? “What’s he talking about?” Jane whispered.

“He’s making an offer for you,” Daisy whispered back.

“For me?” Jane squeaked. She turned and stared at Daisy. “Who is he?”

“Lord Cambury.”

Jane gave her a blank stare. “Who?

“Lord Cambury. He came to the literary society a couple of times.”

Jane shook her head, none the wiser.

“Little fat bloke. Thirty-three or so. Natty dresser. Balding.” Daisy mimed a comb being dragged across a scalp and Jane suddenly remembered. Lord Cambury.

Lord Cambury? There must be some mistake. He couldn’t possibly be offering for her. She’d barely exchanged a dozen words with the man. She leaned closer to hear the conversation coming from the drawing room.

But Featherby, who had been hovering casually near the drawing room door, suddenly turned and gestured urgently. Lord Cambury’s voice grew louder, saying, “Tomorrow then, Lady Beatrice. I look forward to it.”

He was leaving. The girls rose and hurried up the stairs out of sight.

At the landing, Jane turned and peered down cautiously between the rails. She caught a glimpse of a pink and shiny pate, over which thin strands of fair hair had been carefully combed, and then Featherby was handing Lord Cambury his hat, coat and cane.

The front door closed behind him and Jane let out the breath she hadn’t even realized she’d been holding.

Featherby glanced up and said in a voice that carried up the stairs, “Yes, m’lady, Miss Jane and Lady Davenham are here with Miss Daisy. I’ll call them down, shall I?” The girls hurried downstairs.

“Tea, m’lady?” Featherby asked as they entered the drawing room.

Lady Beatrice nodded. “And something stronger for me.” Featherby bowed and withdrew. Lady Beatrice pulled out her lorgnette and regarded Jane through it. “Well now, you’re full of surprises, miss.”

Jane’s jaw dropped. “I am?”

Lady Beatrice frowned. “You didn’t expect this?”

“I’m not entirely sure what ‘this’ is.” She glanced at Daisy. “Daisy said Lord Cambury was making an offer. Of marriage. For me.”

Lady Beatrice nodded. “Nothing wrong with the gel’s ears. Not that any of you should be listening at doors.”

Daisy gave her an unrepentant grin. “Best way to keep up with all the news.”

“Minx.” The old lady shook her head, sending her vivid red curls bobbing. “But you’re quite right.” She turned to Jane. “Lord Cambury has made a formal offer for your hand.”

So it was true. Jane stared at her, stunned. “But . . . he hardly knows me.” She tried to remember the times she’d spoken to Lord Cambury, and could recall only the most commonplace exchanges—a comment about the weather on one occasion, and her partiality for cream cakes on another.

“And from the sounds of things, you don’t know him either,” Abby pointed out.

“Nevertheless, it’s an excellent offer,” Lady Beatrice said. “He’s rich, as rich as Golden Ball they say, only without the vulgarity. Lord Cambury prides himself on his exquisite good taste.”

William, their footman, brought in the tea tray with a large pot of tea and a plate of cakes and other delicacies. Featherby followed, bearing the brandy decanter. Under Lady Beatrice’s supervision, he poured her tea—more brandy than tea.

Abby poured for the rest of them, just tea with a little milk. For a few moments the silence was broken only by the clattering of teacups and spoons.

“What did you tell him?” Jane blurted out as soon as William and Featherby had left.

“That it was your decision, of course.”

“It’s ridiculous,” Abby declared. “As if Jane would even consider such an insulting offer. So he’s rich and a lord. Does he think he is so rich and important that he doesn’t even have to bother courting her?” She looked at Jane expectantly.

Jane said nothing.

“Ridiculous, perhaps,” Lady Beatrice said after a moment, “but it’s quite a coup for your sister. The caps that have been set at Cambury these past ten years—you have no idea, my dears—and he’s offered for Jane before the season has even begun!”

She drained her cup and signaled for Abby to refill it with tea this time. “Whether or not you accept him, your success is assured, my dear. What a season this is going to be! Two of you brilliantly married already and now, a magnificent offer for Jane—and from Cambury, of all men.”

“What do you know about him?” Jane asked.

There was a sudden silence.

Abby put the teapot down with a thump and turned to her sister. “You can’t be seriously considering him, Jane. You don’t even know him—you said as much yourself.”

“That’s why I asked Lady Beatrice what she knows about him,” Jane responded tranquilly. “I’m curious.” She glanced at Abby. “I have a right to know, after all.”

Abby bit her lip. “Of course.”

The old lady picked up her teacup and regarded Jane for a thoughtful mome...

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Descrizione libro Penguin Putnam Inc, United States, 2016. Paperback. Condizione libro: New. Language: English . Brand New Book. In this charming regency romance, a dog in need of rescue brings together a young debutante and a mysterious stranger--third in the Chance Sisters series. After a childhood riddled with poverty and hardship, Jane Chance intends to enter high society and make a good, safe, sensible marriage during the London Season. All goes according to plan until a dark, dangerous vagabond helps her rescue a dog. Zachary Black is all kinds of unsuitable--a former spy, now in disguise, he s wanted for murder. His instructions: to lie low until his name is cleared. But Zach has never followed the rules, and he wants Jane for his own, even if that means blazing his way into London society. Jane knows she shouldn t fall in love with an unreliable, albeit devastatingly attractive, rogue. But Zach is determined--and he s a man accustomed to getting what he wants. Codice libro della libreria ABZ9780425259276

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Descrizione libro Penguin Putnam Inc, United States, 2016. Paperback. Condizione libro: New. Language: English . Brand New Book. In this charming regency romance, a dog in need of rescue brings together a young debutante and a mysterious stranger--third in the Chance Sisters series. After a childhood riddled with poverty and hardship, Jane Chance intends to enter high society and make a good, safe, sensible marriage during the London Season. All goes according to plan until a dark, dangerous vagabond helps her rescue a dog. Zachary Black is all kinds of unsuitable--a former spy, now in disguise, he s wanted for murder. His instructions: to lie low until his name is cleared. But Zach has never followed the rules, and he wants Jane for his own, even if that means blazing his way into London society. Jane knows she shouldn t fall in love with an unreliable, albeit devastatingly attractive, rogue. But Zach is determined--and he s a man accustomed to getting what he wants. Codice libro della libreria ABZ9780425259276

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Descrizione libro Penguin Putnam Inc, United States, 2016. Paperback. Condizione libro: New. Language: English . This book usually ship within 10-15 business days and we will endeavor to dispatch orders quicker than this where possible. Brand New Book. In this charming regency romance, a dog in need of rescue brings together a young debutante and a mysterious stranger--third in the Chance Sisters series. After a childhood riddled with poverty and hardship, Jane Chance intends to enter high society and make a good, safe, sensible marriage during the London Season. All goes according to plan until a dark, dangerous vagabond helps her rescue a dog. Zachary Black is all kinds of unsuitable--a former spy, now in disguise, he s wanted for murder. His instructions: to lie low until his name is cleared. But Zach has never followed the rules, and he wants Jane for his own, even if that means blazing his way into London society. Jane knows she shouldn t fall in love with an unreliable, albeit devastatingly attractive, rogue. But Zach is determined--and he s a man accustomed to getting what he wants. Codice libro della libreria BTE9780425259276

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