Accidentally Married to a Seductive Beau (Preview)

Chapter One

Lady Charlotte Barham took a deep breath, smoothing down the creases in her evening gown, as she walked into her sister’s chambers. Emily was seated at her dressing table, putting a pearl and diamond earring through her left lobe. Her maid, Paula, was sticking a hairpin into her hair, her face creased in concentration.

Emily smiled into the mirror as she registered her sister. “Charlotte! How becoming you look in that gown. Those yellow flowers are so pretty, are they not?”

Charlotte smiled back at her sister, gazing down at her gown. “It shall do at a pinch, dearest,” she said. “The gown is tolerable.” Her smile widened. “We all know that is not me who everyone will be looking at this evening. It hardly matters what I am wearing to this dinner party.”

To Charlotte’s surprise, Emily blushed. A deep pink that made her cheeks glow and her blue eyes sparkle. If Charlotte didn’t know any better, she would almost believe that her sister was thinking about her new fiancé, who was coming to dinner that evening, quite fondly. That perhaps her sister might even be in love with him.

However, she knew that Emily didn’t have any fond feelings for Lord Christopher Forbes, who was almost—but not quite—her official fiancé. It wasn’t that she disliked Lord Christopher. Not at all. It was just that they had only met two times, and both of those times had been brief before they had become betrothed. Emily barely knew the man, and Lord Christopher Forbes barely knew her sister.

Such was the way of marriage in high society.

Paula placed the last pin in Emily’s hair, stepping back and admiring her work.

“Oh, you do look pretty, my lady,” said the maid, nodding approvingly. “Your fiancé won’t be able to take his eyes off you.”

Emily laughed but didn’t reply. Paula bobbed a quick courtesy, excusing herself, before walking out of the room. The two sisters were alone at long last. Charlotte knew they didn’t have much time before the evening’s guests arrived, and they were summoned to the parlour for pre-dinner drinks.

“I declare that I cannot quite believe it,” said Charlotte, sitting down on Emily’s bed and staring at her sister. “You are betrothed. You are an engaged lady. I am about to lose you.” Her eyes inexplicably filled with tears.

“Oh, Charlotte,” said Emily, gazing at her younger sister affectionately. “It was bound to happen one day. And that day has been long enough coming.” She took a deep breath. “I am five and twenty now. Dangerously close to becoming an old maid who is on the shelf forever. If Papa hadn’t managed to secure this engagement, it might have been the end of my chances forever, you know.”

Charlotte sighed. “I know that you think that, dearest, but I declare that you are wrong. I am certain you would have found someone. How could you not? You are beautiful and clever. The wittiest lady in Manchester.”

Emily laughed, standing up. “You are biased, dearest. No one notices a lady’s wit or grace once she is past five and twenty. She is on the shelf, make no mistake.” She paused, twirling around. “What do you think? Shall Lord Christopher not be able to take his eyes off me, as Paula declared?”

Charlotte clapped her hands together with pure excitement as her beloved older sister showed herself off. It was very odd—her feelings about Emily’s forthcoming engagement swung precariously, from exultation that her sister was securing her dearest wish, to deep sorrow that she was about to leave home forever.

Charlotte studied her sister. She hadn’t lied to her. Emily was beautiful, in an understated way. And the new peacock blue silk gown she was wearing this evening brought out the cornflower blue of her eyes. Her dark blonde hair was piled atop her head, an intricate mass of tiny braids, with long curls framing her face, as was the fashion. She looked truly lovely. A loveliness that was accentuated by her sister’s obvious joy.

And Emily was very clever and witty. She could hold a conversation with a gentleman—she wasn’t any shrinking violet. The only reason that Charlotte could think as to why her dear sister had never secured a proposal before was perhaps because Emily could be just a little intimidating. She had an intense, serious air about her that scared off some gentlemen, who were not her equal. And as she had gotten older, that intensity had only grown. Emily had started to despair that she would ever find a husband. She had become just a little obsessed with it.

Thank the Lord that Lord Christopher Forbes had suddenly entered their lives, thought Charlotte with relief. She might have personal reservations about losing her sister, but she couldn’t deny it had transformed Emily. It was like she had a sense of clear purpose now, in a way she never had before. A luminous glow surrounded her.

Charlotte took a deep breath, getting off the bed and walking toward her sister. She took her hands in her own, staring deep into her eyes. “You look radiant,” she said in a quiet voice. “If you are this happy before the engagement has even been officially announced, how incandescent shall you be by the time your wedding day arrives?”

Emily laughed, squeezing her hands. “Oh, the thought of it takes my breath away, Charlotte! I think I shall be walking on air when that day finally arrives.” Her eyes were sparkling. “But let us not get ahead of ourselves. One step at a time. I still must get through this dinner party. The first time that I shall speak with my fiancé in an informal setting. Oh dearest, what shall I say to him?” Emily looked scared suddenly.

Charlotte pondered the question. “Well, we know that Mama has seated you beside him. And I am on the other side. Do you want me to help you if you get a little stuck?”

Emily nodded her head vehemently. “Would you, dearest? I must confess, I am feeling a tad nervous this evening. Far more than for a regular dinner party.” Her face grew pinched. “I do hope he likes me. I know that we are hardly star crossed lovers, but it would make both our lives so much more tolerable if we at least get along.”

Charlotte nodded. “Of course, I shall help if I can, Emily. The only reason that I might find more topics of conversation is that I am not as invested in the outcome, am I? And it is natural to be nervous. You have just been told about this engagement, after all. It hasn’t even been made public yet. And you do not know him at all, as you say.”

Emily bit her lip. “What if he doesn’t like me, Lottie? What then?”

“Of course, he will like you,” said Charlotte in a confident voice. “How could he not like you? I do not know Lord Christopher any better than you do, but I am sure he is a decent gentleman.”

“No one really knows him,” said Emily, frowning slightly. “He has only just returned to Manchester after being abroad with the Army. He was stationed in Ireland.” She paused. “Apparently, he has left the Army now and is intent on becoming a bona fide businessman. Lady Astor informed me just the other day. It is a bit shocking.”

Charlotte’s eyes widened. It was indeed a bit shocking for a member of the nobility to want to go into trade, so to speak. Manchester was filled with self-made men who were climbing the ranks of society—they grew wealthy at the cotton and textile mills that proliferated through the city, but they were hardly gentlemen born. However, they were tolerated in certain quarters, as they were able to buy their way into some areas of high society.

A gentleman like Lord Christopher Forbes was very different. He was the oldest son and heir of the Earl of Coventry and did not have to dirty his hands with trade. The estate of the Earl was sound—he was known to be one of the wealthiest gentlemen in the North. Thus, it was rather surprising to hear that Lord Christopher was intent upon becoming a businessman.

“What does he wish to do?” asked Charlotte in a curious voice.

Emily sighed. “He wants to become a primary investor in one of the more successful cotton mills. A silent partner, I think.”

“Well, that shall be fine, then,” said Charlotte, squeezing her hands. “Silent partners do not get up and do the dirty work, so to speak. I am sure he intends to pursue the life of a noble.”

Emily nodded. “Yes, I am sure you are right. He will hardly be working long hours at the factory, will he? The thought is ludicrous.” She paused, gazing at Charlotte intently. “By the way, I think you shall be wed very soon as well, dearest. Lord Daniel Ashton appears to be head over heels in love with you.”

Charlotte gave a bark of laughter. “What? You exaggerate, Emily. Daniel and I are very good friends and get along well, but I hardly think he is head over heels in love with me.” She frowned. “At least, he has never intimated that. And I must say, I do not think I would be pleased if it were true.”

Her frown deepened as she pondered Emily’s surprising comment. She would never say it to her sister, but she didn’t want to get married yet. Marriage would limit her freedom, and Charlotte really enjoyed just going to dances and assemblies around town without being tied down to any particular gentlemen. There was time enough for the thought of marriage. She was only one and twenty, after all.

It wasn’t that Daniel wasn’t a suitable candidate for her hand. Not at all. He was a baronet. He came from a wealthy family. In addition, he was handsome, charming, and witty. Lord Daniel Ashton ticked all the boxes. And now that Emily had mentioned it, he did seem to pay special attention to her when she saw him at social events. But Charlotte had never thought of him in that way. Not at all.

She sighed. She hoped that he wouldn’t go and spoil it all by proposing to her. She enjoyed having Daniel as a friend, and that friendship would probably be finished if she rejected him as a suitor. It would make things awkward and odd between them. Charlotte had so few real friends as it was. There was Lady Martha Fitzgibbon, of course, who was her very best friend in the whole world, apart from Emily. But otherwise, she found most of the other young ladies too conventional, dull and boring. She wasn’t friends with any gentlemen. Except for Daniel.

“Whyever not?” asked Emily, looking genuinely surprised. “Take my advice, dear sister. Try to secure a husband as soon as you can. Then you will not end up like me. If it were not for this happening, I would still be staring down the tunnel of eternal spinsterhood, and I would not wish that upon you.”

Charlotte’s frown deepened. But just as she was about to explain to Emily that perhaps they were different people, and she truly didn’t want to think about marriage at the moment, they heard the sound of a carriage pulling up on the street below.

Emily turned to her sister, her blue eyes luminescent with joy. “He is here, Charlotte! It is beginning! Oh, I am the luckiest woman in the world!”

Charlotte laughed, taking her sister’s arm as they both sailed out of the room. She had never seen her sister so full of joy. It was truly wonderful. She only hoped that Lord Christopher Forbes deserved such a jewel. She only hoped he would appreciate what he had managed to secure. For he was the lucky one.

Chapter Two

Charlotte tried not to stare at the tall gentleman just in front of her. Lord Christopher Forbes, her sister’s new fiancé. It was the very first time she had met him, and she was quite struck by how commanding a presence he had.

For some reason, she had been expecting an average looking gentleman, perhaps because this betrothal between him and her sister had been so clinical and business-like, without even the slightest hint of romance. She was ashamed to admit to herself that she had thought that perhaps Lord Christopher might not be very handsome or charming if he had agreed to it and just taken what he could get. But that wasn’t the case at all.

He was chatting with her parents, clutching his pre-dinner champagne flute, his eyes animated and full of light. She could just hear him regaling them with an anecdote from his time in the Army in Ireland. Papa and Mama looked spellbound, nodding eagerly to encourage him before laughing. He was tall—at least a head taller than both her parents, with broad shoulders, russet brown hair, and quite striking moss green eyes.

Lord Christopher Forbes was quite handsome and charming, indeed.

Charlotte turned to Emily, sipping her champagne. “I must say I am quite shocked, sister. You did not tell me how handsome he is. Were you trying to be modest?”

Emily laughed, looking a bit coy. “Well, I suppose he is, now that you mention it.”

“Go and join the conversation,” urged Charlotte. “It looks like our parents are riveted by what he is saying. There will be no pressure. You can simply stand back and listen, but it shall show that you are eager to get to know him. Go on.”

Emily bit her lip, looking uncertain. Charlotte fixed her with a stern look. This was so out of character for her sister, who was usually a lot more confident in social situations. But it seemed that the shock of procuring a fiancé, at long last, had rendered Emily oddly reticent and shy.

“Go on,” urged Charlotte again. “Take a long sip of that champagne and just walk over there. I shall help you at dinner. I promise.”

Emily nodded. Then, to Charlotte’s shock, she drained her champagne flute, placing it down on a side table. Before Charlotte could say anything, Emily strode away, joining the group. She was pleased to notice that Lord Christopher smiled, making room for her sister, welcoming her easily. He had a very carefree, easy-going manner about him.

Charlotte sipped her champagne, feeling oddly relieved. Yes, she rather thought that she was going to like her sister’s fiancé. It was very early days, of course, but perhaps Emily would be in good hands. Perhaps her beloved sister even had a chance at love and happiness. If she could get over her nerves, of course. Charlotte took a deep breath, resolving to help Emily in whatever way she could.


Eventually, the dinner gong sounded, and they all drifted into the dining room. Charlotte smiled to herself as she beheld the table. It seemed her mother had gone to great lengths for tonight’s dinner. It was laid with the most exquisite white lace table runner and the family’s best china and silver. A magnificent bouquet of pink roses sat in the middle of the table in a beautiful crystal vase. The total effect was striking.

They all took their seats. She was seated to the left of Lord Christopher, and Emily was on his right. Sitting opposite were Lord Christopher’s parents, the Earl and Countess of Coventry, who were quite an attractive looking older couple, exuding wealth and power.

Charlotte glanced at her sister as the first course was served. Emily had seemed to relax a little in the parlour when she had joined in the conversation between her fiancé and their parents, but now she seemed tense again, with an almost frightened expression upon her face. And Lord Christopher wasn’t saying much, either. It was just a bit awkward.

Charlotte took a deep breath, turning to the gentleman. “So, you are only recently returned from Ireland, Lord Christopher? It must be a bit strange to be home, I would wager.”

The gentleman turned, nodding. He smiled slightly. “Yes, you are right, Lady Charlotte. One always longs for home when one is away from it, but it never seems quite how one remembers it. Still, I was more than ready to put my soldiering days behind me and take on a new challenge.” He sipped his claret, gazing at her intently.

Charlotte nodded. “And how long were you in the Army, pray tell?”

“Five years,” said the lord, grimacing slightly. “Three of those were spent in Ireland, managing the native insurrection against the crown.” He hesitated. “I know that this is probably not a popular opinion, but it strikes me as a lost cause. And I often wondered if we should just give autonomy back to the native population.”

“Ireland for the Irish?” asked Charlotte, staring at him with new interest. “You are against colonialism, then? You do not believe in the supremacy of the British empire?”

He laughed ruefully. “Well, yes. At least, I have had my fill of being a part of it. I have seen enough to last a lifetime. Now, I simply wish to settle down and start something new. A fresh beginning…in more ways than one.” He glanced at Emily.

This was her sister’s chance to join the conversation. Lord Christopher was gazing at her expectantly. But Emily simply smiled shyly, picking up her wineglass, twirling the stem between two fingers. Charlotte sighed. This was a bit more work than she had expected. Still, she was starting to enjoy the conversation. Her sister’s fiancé was more progressive and liberal politically than she had ever imagined.

Perhaps that was part of the problem, she thought, sipping her wine reflectively. Emily was not as liberal as she was. Emily fervently believed in the supremacy of King and Country and that everyone should know their proper place. Whereas Charlotte was more inclined to believe in native autonomy and humanitarian principles. The rights of man, and so on. Charlotte was definitely the most progressive member of her family.

Perhaps that does not bode well, she thought, taking another sip of her wine. Emily and her fiancé might be at loggerheads. It could be a bone of contention between them.

She took a deep breath. She would simply change the direction of the conversation, that was all. It was never wise to discuss politics at the dinner table, after all. She had never intended it—it had just happened. But there must be something that her sister and her fiancé had in common, surely? It was just a matter of discovering it.

“Indeed,” said Charlotte, smiling brightly. “And do you enjoy the arts, Lord Christopher?” She paused. “Our entire family is very fond of supporting the arts. We attend the Theatre Royal quite regularly.”

Emily gazed at her fiancé with interest, waiting for his reply. Her sister’s passion was the opera and the ballet. Emily liked to attend frequently. In fact, she lived for it. It would be wonderful for her if her husband enjoyed the same interests.

But, to Charlotte’s chagrin, Lord Christopher pulled a face. “I am afraid that the opera and the ballet are rather too high brow for me. But I do enjoy musicals from time to time. The rowdier, the better.” He smiled archly.

Charlotte couldn’t help laughing. She liked musicals too, although her whole family thought them a bit uncouth and common. “I suspect that you frequent the less salubrious areas of town, then. The common music halls?”

Lord Christopher laughed, as well. “Well, I shouldn’t admit such a thing, should I, Lady Charlotte? One should never admit to frequenting the more common areas of town. I do believe that most people believe that I shall pick up some disease by merely breathing the same air as the common people.”

“But you can,” remarked Emily earnestly. “It is well known that many illnesses are picked up by being in proximity with ill people. Even people who are yet to know that they are ill. One can never be too careful, Lord Christopher.”

He seemed surprised at her vehemence. “I am sure you are correct, Lady Emily. I must admit I haven’t contemplated the subject that closely. My reply was rather tongue in cheek. I do apologise.” He took a quick swig of his wine, staring down at his bowl of soup.

There was an awkward silence. Emily bit her lip, looking away. Charlotte sighed inwardly. This was tougher going than she had expected. They lapsed into silence as they finished the first course, and the next course was laid before them. Charlotte took a deep breath. She must keep trying, for Emily’s sake.

“I have heard you are going into business, Lord Christopher,” she said. “I would be intrigued to hear all about it. It is rather unusual.”

He smiled sardonically. “Really? My parents think me quite mad. As do most people who have heard of my plans.” He hesitated. “But I must confess that I must do something now that I am back in Manchester. I have been kept active and busy in the Army for so long that I can no longer lead an idle life. I rather think I shall wither away and die of boredom if I am forced to.”

Charlotte smiled. “Oh, I know how you feel! Boredom is the very worst thing in the world, is it not? It almost saps your energy more than being too busy.” She paused, gazing at him curiously. “So, you shall not just be a silent investor, then? You are intending to play an active role within the business?”

He nodded, his green eyes alight. “Yes. I shall own part of the Collins wool mill, and as such, shall have an office within it. Some investors are silent and keep their distance, of course, but I intend to learn everything about the running of the factory that I can. And hopefully, find a way to make it more profitable without slaving the workers to death. I fully believe that it is possible for workers’ rights to be respected and still turn a good profit.”

Charlotte took a large sip of wine to hide her surprise at his words. He really was that very rare thing: a progressive noble who believed in the rights of all. What an intriguing man. But she wasn’t sure that his attitudes and ideals boded well for his life with her sister, who was quite conservative. A pity, but it couldn’t be helped, could it?

She glanced at Emily, recognising that look on her face. Her sister’s lips were slightly pursed in disapproval. But Charlotte knew that she would never contradict or argue with her fiancé. That wasn’t Emily’s style at all. She firmly believed that a lady should know her place and always agree with a gentleman.

Charlotte turned back to her meal, feeling rather deflated on behalf of her sister. Lord Christopher was handsome, charming and clever. He should be everything that her sister wanted. But he was too liberal for her sister’s tastes. Instinctively she knew that it didn’t bode well for their future happiness. Emily would always be disapproving of her husband.

Charlotte knew Emily would much prefer a husband who rode to hounds, quaffed brandy and smoked cigars and lived the life of the lord of the manor to the hilt. A traditional man who expected that she be a traditional wife and lady. It was a role that Emily had always desired. She had just been waiting for her moment to finally arrive.

Charlotte smothered her misgivings. Emily could still be the lady of the manor, regardless of how her husband acted. It wasn’t doomed. No, not at all. Her sister’s wonderful life was just about to begin.

“Accidentally Married to a Seductive Beau” is an Amazon Best-Selling novel, check it out here!

The fiery Lady Charlotte Barham is quite pleased that her beloved sister is finally betrothed. Even though it is not a love match, Charlotte has high hopes for her sister’s future happiness by the side of the eligible and very seductive Lord Forbes. Everything seemed to be perfect, until a fateful night at a ball, Charlotte and her sister’s fiancé find themselves in the middle of a terrible scandal that can ruin them both. There seems to be no other solution than marrying Lord Forbes and losing her sister’s trust once and for all…

Could such an unforeseen marriage ever succeed?

Lord Christopher Forbes, a former army officer and son of an Earl, unexpectedly finds himself torn between duty and honour. His betrothal with the older Lady Barham was a well-received settled match, but an intimate moment with her tempting sister, Charlotte, was enough to turn his life upside down. After their hasty wedding under the threatening shadow of scandal, he realises how his deep admiration for her is turning into burning, untamed passion.

Only time will tell if his lust for her can be the road to their redemption…

A simple accident, a scandal brewing, and life veers off in the most unexpected direction of all… Charlotte and Christopher quickly become inextricably linked by their inescapable desire for one another. However, with her sister’s betrayed gaze always upon them, guilt and doubts will haunt them. Can Charlotte and Christopher’s flaming love persist over lies and machinations? Or will their tempting romance be cursed to end in the same unfortunate way it began?

“Accidentally Married to a Seductive Beau” is a historical romance novel of approximately 80,000 words. No cheating, no cliffhangers, and a guaranteed happily ever after.

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