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An Accidental Affair (Distinguished Rogues series #4)

An Accidental Affair (Distinguished Rogues series #4)

Arabella learned the value of independence after an unfulfilling marriage but must chaperone her niece during the season. Merrick was once a notorious seducer, but Merrick’s intentions are honorable now… until he mistakenly kisses the wrong lady and everything about the encounter feels very right.

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Main Tropes

  • Virgin Widow
  • Secret Admirer
  • Reformed Rake

Synopsis

Widowed beauty, Arabella Lawson, Lady Farnsworth, knows the value of independence after being trapped in a marriage that left her unfulfilled. Although she longs for a lover at last, she’s expected to chaperone her flirtatious niece during her first season. However, given the way the girl keeps disappearing every chance she gets, there is little hope of a good or speedy result. While searching for her charge yet again, she blunders into one of Lord Rothwell’s scandalous assignations. This time it’s Arabella’s turn to be on the receiving end of his hungry kisses, and she’s far from prepared to make the most of the opportunity.

Gossip may paint Merrick Bishop, the Earl of Rothwell, as a notorious scoundrel when it comes to women, but this season his intentions are honorable. Duty bound to marry, he’s determined to discreetly court an open-minded bride and prove the gossipmongers wrong by being on his very best behavior… until in his frustration, he mistakenly kisses the wrong lady and discovers that everything about the encounter feels so very right. Merrick never once believed he had a chance with shy Arabella, and when the unthinkable happens, she turns to him not for an affair or hopes of marriage but for his friendship and protection from her own family.

Can a rogue with a reputation for breaking hearts convince a widow who only hopes for an affair that their feelings are not only the stirrings of desire but the beginnings of the deepest and truest love?

Arabella also appears in the last book (Hunting the Hero) of the Wild Randalls series.

Intro to Chapter One

Being good was a damned nuisance. Merrick Bishop,
Lord Rothwell, steered Lady Harrison away from curious onlookers for a moment’s
privacy.

When they were alone and safe from prying eyes,
Louisa’s lit up with mischief. “I thought you came to my ball to further your
search for a wife, Rothwell?”

“I did.” He sighed at her suggestion that he was
after more than just information from her tonight. Louisa might be very lovely
and have curves enough to tempt a man away from honorable intentions, but she
had connections he needed to make use of first. Merrick wanted a wife this
season, not a potential scandal. He’d put the decision off long enough. He was
thirty and at an age when the future, not just his but others, preyed on his
mind. “There is still much you can tell me about my quarry. What did you
discover?”

She smiled at him fondly and ran her hands over
his forearms. “A pity it must be so, but I agree it is high time you married.
With your connections and wealth you should have had even the most cautious of
fathers lining up to offer up their daughters for marriage to you by now.”

He frowned. “That has not been my
experience. I only need one.” If he wanted to find himself the right sort of
wife, then he needed access to information about the candidates and their
families before he approached them. Louisa had her ear in the right circles,
and the wrong ones too. Merrick cast an anxious glance along the hall, hoping
no one was lingering close enough to overhear their conversation. He didn’t
want to ruin what he’d started before he’d truly begun. “Where is your husband
tonight?”

“Oh, the card room, I imagine. You know how he is
when there are high stakes involved. Except”—her brow furrowed and her head
turned toward the hall door—“he did seem rather interested in the guest list,
so I think he may have his eye on someone I invited tonight. I do hope it’s not
one of your possibilities.”

Merrick studied her face, wondering if Louisa had
it in her to be the least bit jealous of another woman. “Does that disturb you?
That he might be meeting with a lover of his own even now?”

She made a face and then laughed. “Only if he
chooses someone I dislike. I do not like to share with my enemies.”

He laughed along with her, but he wasn’t the least
bit amused. Marriage was a serious business. When he found the right woman,
Merrick would not share. He knew his own mind well enough to believe that when
he found a woman who matched his criteria and married her, he would be entirely
possessive about her company. “Tell me.”

Louisa’s gaze softened. “It is as you feared.”

He cursed under his breath. “Why?”

“I’m not entirely sure.” She frowned. “The old
rumors about your father’s frequent dalliances are circulating again, as well
as whispers of your own more recent affair with that dreadful actress. I warned
you anyone who named herself after fruit would be trouble. But she has cried so
convincingly over the loss of your affection and everyone thinks you were a
monster to her.”

Merrick scowled at the memory of his last affair
with Josephine Peach. He was not sorry to have ended things as abruptly as he
had. “I found her in bed with not one but two grubby stage hands when she’d
claimed to be indisposed for dinner. I brought her flowers for heavens sake to
brighten her bloody room.”

“Well, she is an actress and they do lie for a
living.” Louisa shrugged. “Couple that with your new interest in balls and even
attending the odd picnic, and your behavior has taken on a wholly different
light than what you wished for. I imagine every father with a daughter fresh to
the marriage mart is watching you closely, and they don’t believe you intend to
marry. It’s no wonder there’s a chill greeting you.”

Merrick slumped against the wall. “I’m nothing
like my father.”

“I know. We’ve been friends a long time and that
is why you have me on your side. I’ll help ease your way into their good
graces, though I’m not sure how much good it will do. You’ll have to prove you
have honorable intentions, at least for a while.” Lady Harrison eased closer,
her hands caressing his chest fleetingly. “So, the Howard chit is rumored to
prefer books to balls, and there is Lady Cecily, who seems meek and mild at
first glance, but she has more spirit than most beneath the well-polished
exterior.”

She paused for a moment, thinking. “You also asked
about Miss Milne’s family. Her father has built a reputation as a shrewd
businessman, thanks in no small part to the weight of his pocketbook, though
that also makes her less appealing when compared to other young ladies coming
out this year. The girl is quiet but always the first to supper. Nerves, I
expect. Some women eat when they are anxious. She will regret that later in
life, I believe.”

Merrick nodded. “The Howard girl clings to her
mama’s skirts at balls and will not leave her side, so we have not spoken more
than a few words.” He would never consider Lady Cecily, though he did not
mention that to Lady Harrison because he didn’t care to fuel the gossips as to
his reasons. Miss Milne was a possibility, though with her background and
lesser connections, she had not been invited to tonight’s ball. Louisa’s
remarks about her appetite did explain why he could never find her at other
events she attended though. He’d avoided the supper room in the hopes of
striking up conversation away from prying eyes. He wasn’t keen to single out
any one woman yet, but if he wanted to speak with Miss Milne, he was looking
for her in the wrong places. “Thank you for the information.”

“It must be rather tedious to court a proper girl,
given your past preference for naughtiness. Everyone expects you to continue as
you always have, and there have been more than a few long faces this season, I
can tell you.” Louisa’s gloved fingers curled around his. “You should stick to
your own kind, Rothwell. You want a wife with an adventurous manner, not a
frumpy mouse who’ll clear the sideboard in one sitting. I think Lady Cecily
deserves a longer look. She has come into her own in terms of fashion, thanks
to her aunt’s excellent influence. If you would simply tell me your exact requirements
the pain might be done already. You’re holding back something, I can tell. If I
knew all it might make finding the right wife for you easier. I hate to see you
unhappy and I know just the way to make you smile again.”

Her hand slipped lower to brush across his groin,
tempting him away from his plans for the night. A romp with Louisa would do his
body good, though getting caught in an affair, no matter how fleeting, was the
surest way to lose ground. The ball underway was in part a way to help him find
a wife. He had spoken with Lady Mary tonight, though he still had doubts they
would suit. Her mother and father had seemed ill at ease when he joined them,
almost frightened, which he found utterly ridiculous. He did not make a habit
of seducing virgins, though it was highly likely he would end up married to
one. Observing Miss Milne’s behavior around others would require planning on
his part and would await another evening.

“What I want precisely is my business to know.”
Merrick eased back from Louisa, offering an apologetic smile. “I do appreciate
whatever advice you can offer, my dear.”

She pouted. “Whoever you marry had better deserve
your skills in the bedchamber. You will find you sacrifice much freedom in a
marriage.”

“That is true.” And it was also not. The lady he
married would be the one to sacrifice much. The rumors of his father’s misdeeds
had plagued Merrick his entire life. His mother had fled society eventually,
humiliated and hurt because it was all too true. Once Merrick married, he feared
that his wife could be subject to the same sort of horrid speculation.

Yet he needed a son—a legitimate heir to take
responsibility for the estate and all those who depended on him.

So, in return for taking him on, and the burden of
his father’s legacy, Merrick would make his own pledge. Fidelity. His
wife would be the only one to bear his children. There would never be a bastard
child bearing his likeness. He would not cause the same pain as he had
witnessed in his parents’ marriage.

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Praise for An Accidental Affair ...

★★★★★ “One of the things I really admired about Merrick is that he takes responsibility for his family. He is loyal to them and they are very loyal to him. I don't want to give too much away here but parts of this story just melted my heart.” ~ Crystal @ Reviews by Crystal 

★★★★★ “AN ACCIDENTAL AFFAIR has lots of mayhem, angst, panic, fear, romance and love set in the summer of 1814 in London. It takes place in ballrooms, in the city and the country and the descriptions are vivid and make me feel like I am there.” ~ Jo @ Romance Junkies

★★★★★ “Ultimately, this was a story of one loving man teaching the gift of love to one wounded woman, told beautifully and with fantastic pacing!” ~ Mary @ Buried Under Romance

★★★★★ “I found An Accidental Affair to be a historical romance treat – it is sweet and engaging and I could hardly put it down.” ~ Julie @ Romantic Reads and such 

★★★★★ “Beautiful historical romance with a heroine I absolutely loved and a rogue so honorable and decent I couldn't help but fall for” ~ LexySky

 

Distinguished Rogues Series

The Distinguished Rogues have the world at their feet, but they may have met their match in this ongoing steamy series.
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