To Woo a Rake is book 10 of 18 in the Wicked Widows’ League series, which are coming out at the fancy clip of one a week! Today brought us Scoundrel for Sale by Courney McCaskill. You can check out the whole series on Amazon at this link. The first book is free! Check your favorite platform for the series.
hours minutes seconds
Sarah Pelham was, she liked to think, the responsible sister. She made all of the wise and prudent choices that her older sister Georgiana never had. She married young to an older, respected gentleman in their county. She wanted to be nearby in case her younger siblings needed her, you see. She wanted to settle into the life of a country doyenne, surrounded by children and enjoying the indulgences of a husband who realized how lucky he was to have her.
Life, however, hadn’t turned out as Sarah planned.
First, her father moved to London, taking her siblings with him. That left her nonplussed and rusticating in the country with a husband whose only interests seemed to be hunting and tobacco. Henry Pelham had not by any measure been an ogre, but he’d been a bore and felt no need to dote on her in any way. That led to the loneliest three years of her life, her interminable days only broken by the rare visits of other country matrons who did not, it turned out, have much in common with a young childless woman they still saw as a child herself. Her mother’s reputation didn’t help, of course. She thought half of the biddies merely came to gather fodder for gossip. Oh, whatever was to happen to her poor, widowed father now that his mad wife passed?
In many ways Sarah couldn’t blame her father’s retreat to Town.
Then, sadly, her husband Henry died in a hunting accident. It was only then that Sarah learned how truly vulnerable she was under the law. Having died without issue, his estate was inherited by a brother who had his own family, and thus absolutely no use for Sarah. She was given her widow’s share and roughly shoved aboard a coach bound for London, as though an unwanted piece of furniture bound for distant relatives. It was beyond lowering.
That was two months ago. She’d felt shattered from the abject failure of her life to go as intended, but less so about the loss of her husband, which made her sad in itself. Families should be about love, about connection. Now she was in her father’s London townhouse, which should have felt like a relief, but somehow she couldn’t shake her loneliness, as though it had become a habit.
Worse yet, one of her dearest friends had come to call today as soon as she learned Sarah was in Town. Samantha Walters had grown up in Derbyshire with her, and they’d been close after their older sisters left home. Samantha, however, recently became betrothed to Justin Miller, the boy who used to follow her in the fields back home and now served as a Parliamentary clerk for the Earl of Harington. Sarah wanted to be happy for Sam, but it broke her heart all over again to see someone so ebullient, so sure of their future happiness. It only served to remind her how foolish she’d been when she married Henry. She’d once had dreams, had been sure of her choices and future happiness, but now she just felt hollow.
“Oh, I’ve been prattling on about myself, haven’t I?” Sam asked in a rush. She bent forward and took Sarah’s hands in her own. “I’m just so pleased that you’re in Town, and obviously far too pleased with myself.”
Sarah squeezed her friend’s hands. “You have every reason to be pleased with yourself. As for me, I will get on, I suppose.”
Kit Wilkins was not at all pleased with himself. Or pleased with much of anything, really. His collar was too starched, his cravat too tight, and his dinner jacket almost made it impossible to raise his fork high enough to reach his mouth. He knew his attitude bordered on surly, but love of his dear mama kept it from showing on his face. Anyone looking upon Kit, better known as Lord Christopher Wilkins, younger son of an earl and now younger brother of an earl, would only see a pleasant mien. It had been six months since papa’s death and he was expected to be out in Society. Better yet, he was supposed to be quite serious about convincing some poor maiden to marry him.
The very idea set his teeth on edge.
Mama always accused him of being born old, as though there was something wrong with enjoying a slower pace. Left to his own devices he preferred a bucolic life, clothes one could actually breathe in and endless acres to ramble about on. One of his greatest fears was that his brother, who enjoyed a fast life, would do something tragic and leave Kit with the responsibility of all this.
This, at present, was an enormous supper party. His brother Isaac was perfectly at home in these environs, and Isaac’s wife Judith fairly bloomed under these conditions. Good. They could have it all. His greatest fear on the marriage mart was somehow being shackled to one of these young women who enjoyed such displays. The profusion of candles and lamps needed to light the room made Kit feel stifled, but Judith simply glowed. Isaac was nothing but smiles and conviviality.
The dining partner on Kit’s left bumped him with a rather sharp elbow. Were it anyone else, Kit would assume it was an accident.
“What is it, War?” he murmured to his friend.
“You were about to stare a hole through our hosts, so I thought it best to distract you,” the rather aptly named Lord Warner Sharpe answered while casually buttering some tidbit on his plate. War was angular to the point of sharpness, and blessed with the long dark hair and dark eyes of a soulful poet. Poetry, however, was not what lurked in his heart.
“Yes,” Kit said dryly, “you are always the best judge of who is being most unpleasant.”
“It’s always me,” War answered with some savage pleasure, “but after me it is always you. Talk to Henny, that will cheer you up.”
Sharpe was referring to Lord Henry Greer, seated to Kit’s right. The three of them became best mates almost the instant they started school, and Judith was kind enough to seat Kit between his two friends this evening. He wasn’t sure if it was because his sister in law had some empathy for his feelings, or simply wanted to ensure he wouldn’t say something untoward to another attendee.
He’d certainly been quite clear the day before during a family coze that he didn’t want to stay in Town and take to the social whirl. His mother had been shocked by his determination, since a mere handful of years before he’d been a darling of the ton. A young man, however, could flirt and tease a bit without expectation of marriage. Now that he was five and twenty, with the glaring possibility of inheritance should his sibling not procreate, every young woman in his orbit would be dangling for a marriage proposal.
He certainly didn’t need his mother to know he had quite the reputation as a rake, as well. More than one liaison with a willing widow had ended with the lady’s tearful condemnation of his heartlessness. It was just such a relationship three years ago that sent him even more hastily to his ill father’s side at their country house. The woman was incensed at the end of their relationship and promised to exact her revenge. He’d waited in some trepidation for news that shredded his reputation to tatters, but it never came.
Meanwhile, the quiet time spent reading aloud to his bedridden father and living a simpler life changed something in him. London was entertaining, but Leicestershire made something in his heart finally unfurl. It gave him a settled sense of place that he’d never had before.
Sitting here between his two best friends, however, reminded him of how fun London could be, if you didn’t have the expectations of family responsibility hanging over your head.
He jabbed Henny in the side much as War had done him. “Are you going to sit there mooning over Miss Barshaw or talk to her sometime this evening?”
His friend flashed a smile. “I’m not mooning, I simply find her enchanting.”
“Well, if you keep making it so obvious then her mama will have you fitted for your wedding clothes before you can blink.”
That startled a laugh from Henny. Greer was as fair as Sharpe was dark. His golden locks and cornflower blue eyes made the maidens sigh over him. Kit had the least noteworthy coloring of the three of them, with sandy brown hair and hazel eyes.
“There is no one here that these young ladies would rather marry than you,” his friend assured him with a grin.
That was exactly what Kit feared.