"The Cousins of the Aristocracy" Book 1
earl

Cover photo © PeriodImages.com

Cover design by KGee Designs

Paperback ISBN: 978-1-4787-0273-3
iBooks ISBN: 978-0-9893973-1-5

The Promise of a Gentleman

"When it comes to matchmaking, will the third time be the charm?"

Orphaned at seventeen, Emma Fitzsimmons lives at the London finishing school her late father, George, arranged for her to attend. With no prospects for marriage but having experience as a bookkeeper at her father's hat shop, Emma decides to pursue a position as an accomptant. But who will hire a woman in 1802 London?

Her roommate's brother, Thomas Welllingham, inherited his father's import company and quickly expanded operations. Convinced someone is embezzling from Wellingham Imports, he solicits advice from his banker, Sir William Burroughs.

Charged with Emma's financial welfare, Sir William recommends Thomas hire her to audit his books. Thomas does so, arranging for her to work at his manor in Chiswick and be a companion to his sister Christiana. And he may have just the man for Emma.

Todd Vandermeer, a wealthy broker with the East India Company, has decided to marry. His apparent low birth and excessive height make courting awkward, although once he meets Emma, he's sure she's the one for him. Emma's best friend Deborah, a midwife at a home for unwed mothers, may be a better choice, though. The tall, willowy woman has an unfortunate past that may prove too much to overcome, although not in a way she expects.

Emma's new landlords, an older couple who are rather overt in their affection for one another, seem intent on introducing her to the wealthy Gregory Grandby. With a reputation as a rake, Gregory has already made his choice in a future wife, a young lady who is rather good at keeping secrets—especially him.

With one couple having found love despite their class differences and three couples looking to find love, one banker is determined to see it all work out in his favor. Or will it be the butler who prevails in the epic Regency The Promise of a Gentleman?

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Excerpt

April 23, 1802, Gamma House

The note was written on rather expensive parchment, folded neatly into its own square envelope, and sealed with wax. A double-S was stamped into the near-perfect circle of scarlet wax. Given the impression in the wax was as fine as gold filigree, Emma wondered if the seal had been made by a jeweler rather than a stationer.

“Who is your letter from?” Christiana wondered as she held her latest post in both hands, secretly excited when she realized who had penned it.

“Whom,” Emma said absently, almost unaware she had corrected her roommate’s grammar. She carefully loosened the wax seal and unfolded the parchment.

“Whom is your letter from?” Christiana tried again, opening her own but turning a bit so her missive wasn’t visible should Emma’s attention be diverted from her own.

“I’m not sure,” Emma murmured, awed by the beautiful shape of the handwriting she found inside.

Christiana quickly perused her own letter, her heart rate increasing with each line she read. He’s coming back for the ball! she thought with joy. Just a few more months and her beau would be back in London. Before she finished reading, she glanced back at Emma and watched as her roommate’s expression changed from a look of bewilderment to stunned awe.

“I may have a place to live,” Emma breathed. “And not far from here.”

Frowning, Christiana refolded her note. “Whatever do you mean?” she wondered, moving to stand next to Emma. She glanced at the parchment still held open in Emma’s fingers and was startled to see a feminine script with not a single crossed out word nor errant ink smear. “Someone obviously had Mrs. Pendergast for penmanship,” she said as she admired the script.

Emma’s brows furrowed. Although she, too, had admired the handwriting, she hadn’t noticed its similarity to their instructor’s hand. “Possibly,” Emma murmured as she continued to read. When she finished, she lifted her head and stared at her reflection in the dressing table looking glass. “It seems Sir William has made a recommendation on my behalf. The letter is from ...” She paused as she studied the signature. “Mrs. James Simpson,” she finally said. “She and her husband own a block of townhouses in Kingly Street. One of their tenants has recently died, and so a townhouse is available to let.”

Christiana wrinkled her nose. “Do you suppose he died there?” she wondered, not at all impressed with the news Emma might have a townhouse. In less than six weeks, their term at Warwick’s would be complete, and they would move out of Gamma House. At least she would return to Woodscastle. And she would still see Emma nearly every day, although she wasn’t sure just how much. If her brother was as serious about whatever work he had hired Emma to perform for him as he was with his own work at the warehouse, she was afraid Emma might be locked away in a room at Woodscastle for ten hours a day, and then she would never see her.

“Possibly,” Emma answered. “He had no relatives, so there are some furnishings and books left behind, but it sounds as if there is enough room for my mother’s furnishings,” she said hopefully.

Although Ambrose Smith had been generous enough to allow her to leave several pieces of fine furniture and most of her personal effects in the apartment above the hat shop, the couple would soon need the space—a baby was on the way. “Anyway, I’m to call on Mrs. Simpson tomorrow afternoon,” she said, her smile fading when she realized she would probably be late for class as a result of the meeting.

“You can finally wear your peacock blue walking ensemble,” Christiana suggested, her mood suddenly lighter despite what she might have first thought of as bad news.

Emma nodded in agreement, folding the note along its original lines and deciding she really must send a reply to Mrs. Simpson as well as a thank you note to Sir William. Whatever is that man up to? she wondered as she moved to her small escritoire. Mr. Wellingham had mentioned the banker when he had hired her, implying Sir William had recommended her for the position. Now it seemed the man had recommended her for a townhouse. With a wry grin, she wondered if he would also provide a husband.

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