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A Gentleman's Vow (Saints and Sinners series #2)

A Gentleman's Vow (Saints and Sinners series #2)

Jaded by her unsuccessful first season, Lady Jessica Westfall has returned home … only to have a fortune hunter follow her from London. Fearing entrapment, she enlists the aid her dearest friend, Gideon Whitfield, to keep the scoundrel at bay…and to deliver her very first kiss.

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Main Tropes

  • Friends to Lovers
  • Age Gap
  • Slow burn


Jaded by the experience of dodging fortune hunters during her first season, Lady Jessica Westfall returns home to the estate she loves expecting peace… until the biggest fortune hunter of all follows her from London. To keep Lord James at bay, Jessica enlists the aid of her neighbor, Gideon. As her lifelong friend, Giddy can be trusted to help thwart James’ pursuit, while also satisfying Jessica’s budding interest in things of an intimate nature…things like the kisses she’d missed out on during her season.

Gideon Whitfield’s quiet bachelorhood is interrupted by the arrival of a marriage-minded widow to the nearby village, with her sights set on him as her savior. But the greater threat to his peace proves to be his dear friend’s daughter, Lady Jessica Westfall. Gideon has always adored Jessica, and had expected the headstrong beauty to marry well in her first season. When she comes to him for help avoiding the unwanted advances of a fortune hunter, and also lessons in love—he may prove utterly incapable of helping her while guarding his own heart in the process.

Intro to Chapter One

A reputation for having an easy disposition and no other responsibilities was a curse to be borne at a country gathering. Gideon navigated the stifling alehouse, sweat trickling down his spine as he carried two drinks through the chattering crowd of mourners. Determined not to spill one single drop, which would mean starting over, he concentrated on his errand and ignored the assessing glances thrown his way.

The late Mr. Grieves had been well liked and it seemed everyone in the district had come to mourn together in the village tavern. Everyone, unfortunately, included a few too many widows, or wives with daughters of marriageable age in want of a husband.

Being the sole bachelor in a crowd was an uncomfortable experience at Gideon’s age.

“There you are, madam,” he murmured to Mrs. Hawthorne as he passed over the punch, and then glanced around for young Miss Natalia Hawthorne. He didn’t immediately see her, so he held on to her glass.

Mrs. Hawthorne craned her neck to look beyond him. “What became of my husband, Mr. Whitfield?”

Gideon glanced over his shoulder in surprise. Mr. Hawthorne, carrying two tankards of ale, had vanished. Gideon suppressed a groan. Hawthorne must have slipped outside instead of returning to his wife. “I’m sure he’ll be along any moment.”

Gideon had no choice but to remain in the oppressive heat with Mrs. Hawthorne, at least until Miss Hawthorne returned to take her cup of punch. He studied the crowd again, wondering where the girl had gone to this time. Natalia Hawthorne tended to disappear from her mother’s side with alarming frequency.

Mrs. Hawthorne’s lips pinched tightly together and he averted his eyes. She would, of course, be displeased that her husband had quit the very crowded tavern without seeing to his family’s comfort. Wives were said to be highly combative, not that he’d know from personal experience. He’d never married. But he’d overheard the odd argument, whispered complaints and such, from male acquaintances. They were never allowed a moment’s peace. Still, today, Mr. Hawthorne was very much in the wrong.

He glanced around for the daughter discreetly once more. He should never have made that foolish promise to watch over Natalia Hawthorne.

He leaned closer to Mrs. Hawthorne. “Where has she gone?”

Mrs. Hawthorne patted his arm. “She’s sitting with Mrs. Grieves, right behind you.”

“Ah, good.” He glanced over his shoulder and, sure enough, the girl—or woman, he should say now, because she’d been out for two years—was speaking earnestly to the newly made widow who appeared to be crying yet again.

“You are so kind to worry,” Mrs. Hawthorne said. “It means so much to our family that you concern yourself when you have no obligation to us.”

Gideon was not related to the Hawthornes, but they were friends of his absent friends, and therefore important. He had made an attempt to ensure the Hawthorne ladies would not expire from thirst in this dreadful heat. What more could a bachelor be expected to do?

Nothing. He glanced at the glass of punch in his hand with a wry smile, wishing it were the ale Mr. Hawthorne had taken with him.

“You must long to rejoin the gentlemen outside,” Mrs. Hawthorne murmured, lips lifting in a half smile. The act of smiling, forgetting her husband’s neglect, transformed her face, making her appear a jolly sort of woman. He recalled that she’d once been that way all the time. At least, at the start of her marriage she had been.

“Not at all,” he murmured.

Her smile grew. “My dear Mr. Whitfield, what a terrible liar you are.”

“No. No. I speak nothing but the truth,” he promised. “There is nowhere I’d rather be.”

Mrs. Hawthorne laughed softly. “You, sir, are the very best companion when a woman’s spirits are low. Thank you for keeping me company.”

“Happy to be of service,” he promised.

“Oh, are you still here?” Natalia Hawthorne appeared at his side, hand extending to take the cup of punch intended for her, displeasure turning down her lips. “Thank you.”

He handed over the glass without a word.

Miss Hawthorne stared at him over the rim of her cup, eyes narrowing. “You don’t have to linger today.”

“You might be right.” He grinned. “I am happy to observe that all the scoundrels seem to have avoided the wake.”

“That is nothing to be happy about,” Miss Hawthorne grumbled quietly. “I can’t very well reform a rake if none of them show up to start with.”

He nodded solicitously. Reforming a rake was all Miss Hawthorne ever talked about. “Finding a husband is never easy, I hear.”

“Indeed you are correct,” Mrs. Hawthorne murmured. “The best spouses are often the most difficult to catch.”

“So everyone tells me.” Gideon wasn’t quite sure what sort of character deserved to catch Miss Hawthorne, but thought he’d better have patience to spare. The woman spoke her mind and admired younger gentlemen quite openly.

Why had Lady Jessica Westfall, the daughter of his best friend, the Duke of Stapleton, begged him to help Natalia secure a husband while she was away in London enjoying her first season? Had it been purely to torture him from afar?

Most likely—although she probably didn’t see it that way.

Mrs. Hawthorne craned her neck to look about the room again. “I have not seen Mrs. Napier’s sister yet. I was sure Mrs. Beck would make an appearance.”

Gideon frowned. “Who?”

Mrs. Hawthorne clucked her tongue. “Mrs. Napier’s widowed sister has come to live with her at last. I told you all about it last week when you called. Such a tragedy to lose a husband at such a young age, and she has two sons in need of a father’s steadying influence, too.”

“Oh, yes.” Napier had his hands full, and Gideon did remember some of the discussion, now he thought about the matter, but he hardly knew those involved to feel the same level of concern as Mrs. Hawthorne apparently did. He held out his hand for her empty glass. “So very sad. If you would excuse me?”

“Yes, yes. You go off, but of course we must stay for poor Mrs. Grieves’ sake.”

He accepted Miss Hawthorne’s empty glass too, eagerly making a move toward the refreshment table, and the doorway that led to freedom. Unfortunately, he ran headlong into Mrs. Napier before he achieved his goal.

“Mr. Whitfield!” she exclaimed excitedly.

“Madam.” He nodded politely to the matron, but wasn’t truly interested in beginning a conversation. He glanced toward the door with longing—and his heart skipped a beat at the glimpse of a well-formed figure blocking his path. For a moment, hope bloomed in his chest. Yet the small woman, so pale she almost appeared translucent with the sunlight shining behind her, was indeed a stranger to him.

The village was not so large that new faces were not instantly the center of attention. This woman was ten times more handsome than past newcomers, and her confident smile hinted she knew she was attractive. 

“Mr. Whitfield, may I introduce my sister, Mrs. Alice Beck, formerly of Bath,” Mrs. Napier murmured at his side.

For a moment, he was frustrated his escape was yet again delayed, but then he recovered his manners and offered a short bow. “A pleasure to make your acquaintance.”

“And you, sir,” Mrs. Beck said softly. “I have heard so much about you since my arrival.”

He laughed, but he felt nerves jumping inside him. “All good things, I trust.”

“The very best.” She smiled and a charming pair of dimples graced her cheeks. “My brother-in-law was telling me over breakfast that your interest in botany is known all the way to London.”

“I doubt that far, but I am a member of the Royal Horticultural Society. Do you have an interest in the subject?”

Mrs. Beck eased closer. “In many things, sir. I should dearly love to see the specimens you grow. I hear too that you have an astonishing array of greenhouses.”

“Indeed I do, but far less than the Duke of Stapleton’s estate boasts.”

She beamed at him, flashing those dimples yet again. “I should dearly love to bring my sons, if you can bear the noise of two boys under the age of ten asking a thousand questions of you.”

Mrs. Napier edged closer, and Gideon felt himself hemmed in completely. “Mr. Whitfield has the patience of a saint when it comes to children.”

Mrs. Beck smiled. “Do you have family?”

“No, none.”

Mrs. Napier’s smile widened. “None of his own, but he is closely acquainted with the Duke of Stapleton and his children, which I’ve written to you about before, I am sure.”

“Yes, I remember something to that effect.”

Gideon did not like it when people remarked on his friendship with the duke. He rarely spoke of the family to others. “The duke’s children are fully grown,” he told Mrs. Beck, to be sure there were no misunderstandings about the Westfall children’s ages.

Mrs. Beck nodded. “Do they live close?”

“The Westfalls? Goodness, no.” Gideon shuffled his feet a little and fought the urge to loosen his neck cloth. “Each has moved away years ago.”

“Have you any news about the success of Lady Jessica’s London season?” Mrs. Napier asked. 

He shook his head. “I’ve not received news of a wedding yet.”

But he’d been expecting a letter from someone in the family any day now. Lady Jessica Westfall was sure to win hearts wherever she went.

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Saints and Sinners Series

Defining your place in a troublesome family is sometimes the first challenge to making the right match.