Miss Nicolette De Burgh’s mind wandered as she sat in the garden, the roses in bloom before her. The beauty of them had caused her mind to shift back in time when she used to walk the garden with her mother and observe the roses and the other types of flora. She smiled to herself, thinking of all the things her mother was trying to teach her at that age about the different plants. And all she had been focused on was the joy of being with her mother.
Nicolette sighed heavily, trying her best to picture her mother’s features in her mind. She knew that her mother had the same black hair as she did and matching bright blue eyes. But had she been tall or short? How did she do her hair normally? What was her favourite colour of dress? After losing her mother to typhoid when Nicolette was only five years old, it became harder each day to remember the small details of her mother’s likeness. Now she was eighteen, it was a real struggle to remember her mother as clearly as she would have liked to.
The one thing Nicolette knew for sure is how much her mother had loved flowers and plants. Roses were her favourite, of course, and therefore Nicolette had always insisted that rose bushes be maintained in the garden behind the townhouse. Nicolette would either tend to the roses herself, or work alongside the hired gardener, Mr. Franklin.
This was the place that Nicolette could always retreat to and be confident that no one would bother her. On hot days, when most people wouldn’t venture outside, she was in the garden with her sun hat on, enjoying the smell of the garden mixed with the warmth of the sun. But it seemed besides her father and her governess, Miss Hall, she was the only one who truly loved the garden or do anything to see them maintained.
The sound of singing drifted across the garden on the breeze, and Nicolette sighed with irritation. It was one of the most awful sounds she had ever heard. And since the song was being conducted by her stepsister, Miss Daniella, she couldn’t really escape it no matter how far into the garden she walked. That was because Daniella insisted on singing facing the garden because she was convinced the fresh air gave her a better singing voice. But anyone who had the unfortunate opportunity to hear her sing would agree that there was no hope for the young lady.
Nicolette rose from the stone bench, frustrated about her deep thoughts being interrupted as she wandered deeper into the garden, following the maze of hedges to the small fountain. There at least the sound of running water was able to smother the horrible singing voice that made its way into the garden.
For the last two years, Nicolette had had to bear many things when it came to her stepsister. When her father had announced that he was remarrying, Nicolette had done her best to be happy for him. She was going to have a mother figure in her life for the first time since her own had passed away. And, she was going to gain a sister from the marriage. It had been a happy thought for Nicolette as she had always wanted a sister, and with Daniella being older, she was certain that her new sister would be a model for her.
What Nicolette actually learned from gaining new family members was that her stepmother was a very timid creature who was very softly spoken and liked to keep to herself, while her daughter was a very outspoken young lady of twenty who was quick to share her opinion on every matter as though she contained a wealth of knowledge that no one else could possibly have. Therefore, Daniella was quick to judge and criticize Nicolette to the point that she was convinced her sister took great pleasure in proving her wrong.
“No, Nicolette, you shouldn’t walk like that. Your shoulders must be rotated back more so your posture is better. No one wants a hunchback for a wife,” Daniella would lecture while they were on outings, making Nicolette suddenly self-conscious and worried about who might have heard her sister scolding her unnecessarily. After all, her governess had never commented on her lack of good posture.
“Nicolette, you must drink your tea with your little finger extended,” Daniella had said during a tea party with the wives of all her father’s business partners. It was up to the De Burgh women to entertain the women while the men were conducting business matters. Nicolette had done her best not to feel embarrassed she wasn’t drinking tea in the latest fashion.
“Come now, Nicolette. You really shouldn’t wear such a shabby gown,” was one of Daniella’s favourite comments. Especially when she had just returned from tending to the garden. Nicolette would always wear the day gowns that were more worn, and though Daniella knew the pleasurable work she was doing, she still seemed to always criticize her about it.
With the season in town soon beginning, with winter having given way to spring, there was much talk about balls, dinner parties, and other social outings that would certainly occupy the family’s attention. With Daniella being the eldest De Burgh young lady, the pressure was on her to marry well and be settled. When Lady De Burgh spoke, it was often on this topic. And Daniella would surely agree with her mother and talk of nothing else for the rest of the day. It was no doubt the reason she was practicing her singing voice right now to hopefully seduce a man into marrying her. Nicolette smiled to herself, knowing that if Daniella did gather up the courage to sing in front of others, she would send everyone running for the hills.
Nicolette turned her thoughts towards her own expectations for the season. Having debuted two seasons earlier, she was certainly out by society’s standards. However, she hadn’t really gone after any particular gentleman. She wasn’t in a hurry to marry, and if she was truly being honest with herself, she would very much rather wait to find the perfect man who she could actually love than jump into marriage with the first gentleman who offered her a comfortable life. With her father being the Earl of Chessington and a very successful businessman, it wouldn’t be hard for her to find a suitable match.
Nicolette understood how important it was for her to marry well. Though Daniella was convinced that she would be the one to marry into a better family, Nicolette did not care about rank or social standing as long as she could truly love the man she married. With Daniella’s late father having been a duke, she had pretty lofty goals when it came to the type of man she would marry.
“My husband will be a duke or a son of a duke, soon to inherit his birthright. Then I shall be a duchess like my mother was and return to the comfortable life I’ve been used to,” Daniella would say when it was just the two of them in the sitting room. Nicolette would be trying to study one of her botany books and Daniella would have taken it upon herself to lecture her on the importance of matrimony and what Nicolette should be doing differently to entice the opposite sex.
“No one likes a wife who has more knowledge than them. You shouldn’t bother yourself with your studies and instead become proficient in needlework,” she would say.
“Then I suppose I shall need to find an intelligent man to marry so my knowledge of plants doesn’t offend him,” Nicolette would retort back, closing her book and finding somewhere else in the house to read. The only other place to hide from her stepsister was her own bed-chamber. But on warm days, she’d much rather be out in the garden as a way to escape her current situation.
Nicolette was confident that one day she would marry, but she would marry for love. The man she would say “I do” to would love her for who she was, for her in-depth knowledge of flowers and plants, and her more adventurous side. For a woman who loved horseback riding as much as she did spending time in the garden, Nicolette knew she wasn’t the typical young lady of high society. But she still had hope in her heart that she was capable of being loved completely by a wonderful man she would love in return.
Nicolette’s deep thoughts were interrupted by the soft footsteps of someone approaching through the garden. Nicolette stood from the bench she’d been sitting on and rounded the garden to see Miss Hall coming her way. The woman was wearing a cream-coloured gown, using her gloved hand to shield her eyes from the sun. Her long brown hair had been braided into a simple design. And as Nicolette observed her, she saw that she held a new book in her hand.
“Miss Nicolette, you are late for your afternoon lessons,” Miss Hall called out as she approached. Nicolette picked up the hem of her gown and hurried towards Miss Hall, having truly lost track of time.
“Forgive me, Miss Hall. I had not realised it was that time of day,” Nicolette said as she neared her governess.
“Did you at least eat during the noon meal?” Miss Hall asked, looking down at her with dark brown eyes. Miss Hall was quite tall for a woman, which was no doubt one of the reasons she became a governess when she couldn’t find a suitable man to marry.
“I have been outside for quite a long time,” Nicolette admitted. “I have not eaten since breakfast.”
Miss Hall sighed as she gestured for Nicolette to follow her. She turned and led them towards the house as she said, “Miss Nicolette, you must be more mindful of time. You can’t sustain yourself if you keep skipping meals.”
“I get carried away sometimes and just lose track of time,” Nicolette admitted.
“Then perhaps you should start carrying a pocket watch,” Miss Hall suggested. “The ticking of the clock would help you remember that time does exist.”
“That is truly an idea,” Nicolette said, wanting to at least agree with her governess. Miss Hall held the back door open for them so they could enter. As they passed through the house, through the drawing room, they made their way to the study where Nicolette took all her lessons with Miss Hall. Her governess asked one of the maids for a tea tray to be brought to the study so Nicolette could eat during her lesson.
“Really, Miss Hall. I will be fine until dinner,” Nicolette said as they entered the study together. She went to the window and pulled open the curtains, letting in plenty of light.
“Miss Nicolette, you need your sustenance. You can eat and learn at the same time,” Miss Hall said as she set the next book down on the desk. As Nicolette approached, she quickly read the title on the spine and smiled.
“I have not read this botany book before,” Nicolette said happily, looking back up at her governess.
“It’s a good thing that your father is so doting, Miss Nicolette. He allows you to study to your heart’s desire instead of having you practice singing, dancing and modern languages.”
“There is no use for such things after marriage,” Nicolette reasoned. “At least my study of plants will sustain my pleasure for years if I can’t receive the same pleasure from my future husband.” Miss Hall laughed as they settled down at the desk together.
“You certainly have particular ideas about marriage,” Miss Hall replied.
“I feel as though I have reasonable ideas about marriage. Compared to another young lady I know, I feel as though I am much more prepared for married life than most,” Nicolette said, lowering her voice in case anyone was listening to their conversation. Nicolette knew how much Daniella liked to snoop. And since she could no longer hear her dreadful singing voice, Nicolette knew the woman could be anywhere.
“In that case, why don’t you enlighten me?” Miss Hall asked as she set the new book aside, causing Nicolette to sigh once more. She didn’t want to talk about marriage. She wanted to read the new book.
“The way I perceive marriage is this,” Nicolette said, focusing her eyes on her governess instead of the book. “A young lady will either marry for comfort and safety, living a separate life from her husband until the need for an heir must be produced. Therefore, the wife needs to find her own pleasures in life through hobbies or child-raising while the husband continues on as he always has, and more than likely with a mistress or two.
“Or, a young lady can marry for love, embarking on the adventure of marriage in an honest union. They are more likely of living a life together instead of two parallel lives. Then, everything from hobbies to pastimes could be shared and enjoyed together. In some cases, the couple realise that married life isn’t all that it’s cracked up to be and no doubt take lovers anyway.”
Miss Hall was giggling by the time she finished her speech, and it took some time for her mirth to subside. Thankfully, a tea tray had been brought in by one of the footmen and Nicolette was busy fixing herself a piece of toast with sliced boiled eggs and butter.
“You have such an interesting perspective on the world,” Miss Hall agreed when she was able to compose herself once more. Nicolette poured tea for the two of them and proceeded to sip on hers as she thumbed through the new book.
“Sometimes I wonder if I should begin to write down my theologies on life,” Nicolette mused. “It could be titled, The Realistically Absurd Ideas Of A Young Lady.” Her comment only sent Miss Hall into another giggle fit, and Nicolette herself had to regain her composure before she could continue her meal.
“You should call your book instead, The Rantings of a Lunatic,” Daniella said with a chuckle as she came into the study, obviously having overheard their conversation.
Nicolette set aside her toast, the need to eat soon fleeing her as the woman came near. Daniella had dazzling blonde hair that was so golden it almost looked white. Her honey-coloured eyes matching her naturally red lips made her a very attractive creature. It was when Daniella opened her mouth that she proved just how ugly she could be.
“Are you in need of assistance?” Nicolette asked as she took a sip of her tea.
“Not at all. It appears, however, that you may need my assistance as your governess still continues to teach you things that are of no use,” Daniella said, looking at the book on the desk. Nicolette tried to refrain from rolling her eyes as she set her teacup aside and focused her attention on Daniella in order to confront the woman.
“Miss Hall is a modern woman of keen understanding. Much unlike the nanny you used to have,” Nicolette retorted, always willing to stand up for Miss Hall when Daniella treated her no better than a servant to be ordered around. Nicolette watched as Daniella narrowed her eyes at Nicolette, placing her hands on her hips.
“You should be learning proper dance steps for the upcoming balls. Or how to have a pleasant conversation at the dinner table if for some miracle a gentleman asks you to accompany him,” Daniella said.
“And your nanny should have taught you when to mind your own business and not meddle in the affairs of others,” Nicolette said, standing to her feet.
“How dare you?” Daniella scoffed.
“How dare you interrupt my lessons?” Nicolette quickly replied.
“Enough!” came a voice from the doorway. Everyone turned to see Lady De Burgh standing behind Daniella. It wasn’t often that Lady De Burgh spoke up, and it surprised them all to hear such a loud sound come from the timid woman.
Lady De Burgh approached, her burgundy gown sweeping around her. Even though she was simply a countess now, she never stopped dressing like the duchess she had been for more than twenty years. A dazzling gold necklace hung around her neck, a locket containing the words her husband had wrote to her before his death.
“Daniella, you shouldn’t be interrupting your sister’s lessons, regardless of the topic,” Lady De Burgh scolded. Daniella lowered her hands from her hips and her eyes to the polished wood floors. Nicolette was surprised by the dominating tone in her stepmother’s voice. This was very unlike her and it made Nicolette wonder what might have caused the woman to change so suddenly.
“Now, we will be having a very special dinner guest this evening, so you two need to be on your best behaviour,” Lady De Burgh announced.
“Really? Who?” Daniella quickly asked as she looked up, a bright smile on her face. Nicolette wasn’t really all that interested, but as she clasped her hands together, she thought she could at least show her stepmother respect by keeping her mouth shut.
“An old family friend is coming to visit,” she happily said. “And one of you could be very lucky by making such a match.”
Nicolette should have known that the only thing that stirred life into the former duchess was talk of marriage. While Daniella excitedly clapped her hands, Nicolette took her seat once more at the desk, reaching across the table to gather her new book in her hands.
“You should help me pick out a suitable gown for this evening,” Daniella suggested to her mother.
“That would be the best use of your time,” Lady De Burgh said as she led her daughter from the room. But Nicolette caught sight of Daniella looking over her shoulder and sticking her tongue out at her. Nicolette didn’t fall to her taunting and instead simply looked away.
“Don’t you think you should join them and possibly get some insight on this dinner guest?” Miss Hall suggested as Nicolette finally took a bite of her toast.
“Anyone that Lady De Burgh suggests as a suitable match will certainly not interest me in the least,” Nicolette said. “I shall dress as I always do and give Daniella the opportunity. The powers above certainly know that as soon as that woman is married, the rest of our lives will be far easier.”
Miss Hall hid her smiling face behind her gloved hand while Nicolette smiled and dove into her new book.
Mr. Eric Masters was riding in his phaeton with four horses as he traveled through town towards the home of Lord De Burgh for dinner. He’d been invited to join the family for dinner by Lady De Burgh. And since his father had been very close with the late duke, Eric thought it would be fitting to accept the invitation and pay respects to the former duchess. And, since she was now remarried, he could congratulate her on her new marriage.
When Eric had been very young, his father and the late duke had spent much time together in their respective country estates. It was during these times that Eric formed a love for hunting when he would witness his father and close friends enjoying the hunt and returning home in the evening to talk of their tales of pursuit. It was something Eric later in life learned to enjoy for himself. And when he was able, he spent more time in the country than he did in town.
But things were now changing for Eric. He was older, almost twenty-five, and had been impressed upon by his parents to start considering the matter of marriage. At first, Eric had revolted against the idea. He enjoyed his freedom, his love for the hunt, and cared very little about business like his father did. But after having a heart-to-heart conversation with his father, he was able to learn more about the real ideologies of marriage.
“Eric, a wife is like a daily companion. When you want company, you have company. But for the most part, life continues for the husband after marriage while the wife is occupied with child-rearing and her own personal interests,” his father had lectured. “Do not fear that your life is over if you marry. Just see it as a way to improve upon yourself as you continue to do as you always have. The dukedom will support your family even if you don’t enter into commerce like I have.”
Eric had gained much re-assurance from his father and mother alike. Though he knew that their marriage had been arranged, Eric had never known discontent between the two of them as they had a mutual fondness for one another. Eric knew it wasn’t love, but they had lived a very happy life.
Therefore, as Eric traveled across town towards the De Burgh residence, he kept in mind that there were two eligible young ladies at the home. There was the daughter that Eric faintly remembered from his childhood, Miss Daniella. Eric had been more focused on outdoor adventures than little girls and therefore couldn’t really picture her in his mind. All he could think of was that she never wanted to play with him because she was worried about ruining her dress.
As Eric contemplated marriage, there was one thing he was truly hoping for. Though it was rarely and hardly ever seen, he hoped to marry for love instead of convenience or fortune. It had always been an idea in his head that when he felt the need to settle down and start a family of his own, that he would be completely in love with the woman he married so that their married days would be filled with only bliss.
Eric was certain that his parents would think he was mad with foolish fairy-tale ideas. But there was still hope in his heart that such a thing could be possible. He wanted to hope for love and therefore decided that he would try to meet several different young ladies to see for himself if true love was even possible.
When the phaeton pulled to a stop and the door was opened for him by the footman, Eric alighted from the vehicle and stopped for a moment outside the townhouse. Though Lord De Burgh was an earl of good standing and fortune, the house did not look as grand as his own father’s. Eric was not one to judge anyone on appearances. He had high hopes for the evening and that it would be enjoyable.
Eric made his way towards the front door, pulling down on the lapels of his dinner jacket. As he pulled the cord at the door, he fiddled with his cravat, making sure it was still on properly. When the door was opened and he was greeted by the family butler, Eric was full of confidence and pleasant demeaner.
After handing his top hat and gloves to a waiting footman, he was shown into the drawing room. He noted the polished wooden floors, nice yet not like the marble floors of his own home. Different paintings lined the hallway of various landscapes, and it made him wonder if someone in the house was a great painter, or if Lord De Burgh was simply an enthusiast of art.
“Ah, Mr. Masters,” Eric was greeted as he stepped into the drawing-room and was quickly approached by Lady De Burgh. He smiled kindly at the woman, thinking she had aged quite a bit since they had last met. But she was still a warm woman that Eric was pleased to see again.
“Thank you for joining me and my family for dinner. May I introduce you to my husband, Lord De Burgh,” she said gesturing to the man at her side. Eric dipped his head towards the earl, thinking the man looked rather friendly, a bright smile on his face.
“The pleasure is all mine, madam. It has been quite some time since our last visit. I wish you happiness in your marriage, though my condolences are quite late,” Eric said.
“Fear not, Mr Masters. I hear you reside mostly in the countryside,” Lord De Burgh said.
“I do, sir. I personally find it more enjoyable than town life,” Eric admitted.
“No harm in knowing what one likes in life,” Lord De Burgh happily agreed.
“Might I introduce you to my daughter once more, Mr. Masters? You two were quite young the last time you were around one another,” Lady De Burgh said.
She turned and gestured towards the young lady with light blonde hair. Miss Daniella smiled brightly as she approached slowly, her ivory gown reflecting the candlelight. Eric could readily agree that Miss Daniella was a beautiful young lady that any man would be happy to marry on appearance alone.
“Hello, Mr. Masters. It’s so good to see you again,” Miss Daniella said as she curtsied low, giving Eric a clear look at her décolletage. Eric dipped his head towards her, a small smile on his lips.
“Hello, Miss Daniella. Pleased to meet you once more,” Eric replied.
“And my daughter is in our party tonight as well,” Lord De Burgh said, stepping aside and gesturing towards another young lady.
She had just set aside a book as she approached him. Eric’s lips parted as he looked at the young lady with black hair as dark as coal, yet bright blue eyes like sapphires. Her skin was a little tanned, clearly showing that she spent more time outside than most young ladies did. She wore a dark green gown, something more young ladies did not wear during the season. But it made her appear almost mythical.
“My daughter, Miss Nicolette,” Lord De Burgh introduced.
“A pleasure to meet you,” Eric said, trying not to forget his manners as he dipped his head.
“The pleasure is all mine,” Miss Nicolette replied as she righted herself, having not fallen into such a deep curtsy as her stepsister. When their eyes met once more after the introduction, Eric felt a spark of something whip down his arms, forcing him to clench his fists for a moment. He wasn’t sure what the sensation was, but he liked it.
“Too Scandalous to Marry a Duke” is an Amazon Best-Selling novel, check it out here!
In an instant, Miss Nicolette De Burgh’s world turned upside down, when her dear mother passed away. A few years later, her father remarried and as if this was not enough, her new step sister, Miss Daniella, has been trying to prove her superiority in every way possible ever since. However, tensions will run high when Nicolette meets Daniella’s childhood friend, the dashing Mr. Eric Masters, future heir to the Duke of Terrace. When her eyes meet his dazzling blue eyes, desire instantly sparks inside her. Will she fight a love that makes her heart flutter? Or will Nicolette let Daniella win this time?
Mr. Eric Masters is an attractive young man with a lopsided grin that makes young ladies lose control of themselves. Although he strives to make his parents proud, his playful nature renders him unwilling to give up his freedom just yet. Forced by his parents to find a suitable match and trapped in an undesirable future, Eric never expected to be introduced to an alluring Lady, who will make his heart shiver. Much to his surprise, he finds himself lost in a game of love and passion. Nicolette is fiery enough to drive a Duke to his knees…but will she manage to make Eric reconsider marriage?
A series of unexpected events will lead the two stepsisters to war, fighting for the heart of the dashing Duke-to-be. Trying to endure all the obstacles that emerge, Eric and Nicolette find themselves closer to each other than ever, and desire can no longer be denied. Will they withstand Daniella’s scrutiny? Or will Nicolette have the last word?
“Too Scandalous to Marry a Duke” is a historical romance novel of approximately 80,000 words. No cheating, no cliffhangers, and a guaranteed happily ever after.