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An Earl of her Own (Saints and Sinners series #3)

An Earl of her Own (Saints and Sinners series #3)

Marriage is about finding that special someone you want to annoy for the rest of your life!

Lord Rafferty seeks counsel from a beautiful widow on how to raise his motherless daughter, never expecting to put his heart on the line. But when his trusted advisor turns to him late one night…it could be the start of something extraordinary.

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Main Tropes

  • Single Dad Earl
  • Opposites Attract
  • Second Chance Love


Mrs. Rebecca Warner’s devotion to her family is the perfect distraction from the loneliness of widowhood. Not that she’d ever admit a need for someone special in her life after her husband’s betrayal. With the responsibility of arranging her sister’s wedding falling into her lap, Rebecca has no time for a certain maddening earl bent on seducing her—until he proves her most ardent ally.

For Adam Croft, Earl of Rafferty, what began as an amusing pursuit—shocking Rebecca Warner—becomes something deeper when he recognizes how perfect a wife and mother she would make. Adam’s keenly aware of his loneliness…and that his habit to curb it with drink lost him Becca’s respect. He’ll happily change his ways to win her approval, but what more can he do to win her love?

Intro to Chapter One

Adam Croft scowled at the man striding along at his side through the church. “You’re smirking.”

“Am I, Lord Rafferty?” Gideon Whitfield asked, and then, still smirking, accepted the congratulations for his upcoming wedding to the Duke of Stapleton’s youngest daughter. The announcement had delighted the congregation immensely, and the duke looked pleased as punch also. The ceremony would not be conducted in the village chapel but in the duke’s nearby home.

“Definitely gloating,” Adam noted as they moved on through the crowd. He nodded to the members of the congregation, those he recognized as locals. Adam attended Sunday services infrequently, but he’d had to come and see this. It wasn’t every day that such a confirmed bachelor fell in love.

He nudged Whitfield in the ribs when the fellow continued to smile. “Anyone would think you are happy about today’s announcement.”

Whitfield laughed then. “Well, I am marrying the most remarkable creature in existence, so yes; I suppose I might just be a little happy.”

Adam didn’t bother to hide the fact that he rolled his eyes. “You keep saying that.”

“You’ve only yourself to blame, too. Putting the idea into my head that I wasn’t too old to make a match.”

“The ideas were already in your head. You were just trying not to think about her that way,” Adam gloated. Whitfield had been quite the idiot, and doing nothing to advance his cause regarding his admiration for Lady Jessica, but then again, all men were foolish when they fell in love. Adam had undoubtedly been the first time around.

They stepped outside into sunshine, and Whitfield sighed. “There’s my angel. Would you excuse me, Lord Rafferty?”

Adam’s eyes were drawn across the grassy lawn to where a group of ladies stood chatting together. Lady Jessica Westfall was a bubbly wench, and very popular. Her transparent happiness was almost embarrassing to watch as she welcomed her betrothed to her side. Lady Jessica acted as if they’d been parted for weeks rather than the passage of time required for a dull sermon and one short announcement.

The pair were obviously in love. Adam was pleased. He wouldn’t wish a loveless marriage on anyone.

Adam turned away from the soon-to-be-married pair, and his eyes fell on the next lady in line behind them. Mrs. Rebecca Warner, the duke’s daughter and a widow, was hovering around her younger sister, nothing unusual in that, but today there was a small, indulgent smile playing around her lips. Mrs. Warner rarely smiled upon anyone, and Adam actually thought she might approve of Whitfield for her sister.

Being somewhat taller than most—his mother had frequently referred to him as Mount Rafferty—Adam moved to stand slightly behind Mrs. Warner and out of the way. Mrs. Warner acknowledged him by the slight turn of her head in his direction.

He chose to speak first. “Well, Mrs. Warner?”

She turned a little more, and her smile vanished. “Well what, Lord Rafferty?”

Did he have to spell it out? Adam grinned. “What do you think about this pair making a match of it then?”

Her eyes drifted back to the happy couple, and her expression became one of intense satisfaction. “I couldn’t imagine a better outcome.”

Whitfield must have heard because he bowed to his future sister-in-law. “Thank you, Mrs. Warner,” Whitfield murmured. “I’m still astonished by my good fortune.”

“It was fate,” Lady Jessica exclaimed, causing Whitfield’s skin to redden with the beginnings of a blush. Lady Jessica smiled at Adam suddenly. “You will stay, won’t you, my lord? Until the wedding? We want all our friends to be there for our happy day.”

“I will be present for the wedding day, but I had intended to depart for home tomorrow,” he told her. He had a daughter at home who was writing him letters, filled with recriminations for his absence and the occasional half-hearted threat to run away with the gypsies. His daughter had quite the imagination for only being ten years old, but her threats were empty ones. However, he wasn’t about to test that theory. Her mother had been a rash creature in many respects.

Lady Jessica turned toward her intended. “Oh, he must stay! Shouldn’t he, Giddy? Lord Rafferty can keep Father company now.”

Adam glanced over the crowd and found the Duke of Stapleton easily enough. His grace had taken on a wife after Christmas and there was a babe in her belly already. And Mrs. Warner had come home earlier this year. She normally didn’t return to the estate until June. His grace would hardly lack company when there were so many about. “Is Stapleton really in need of distraction?”

“He is.” Whitfield broke free of his betrothed and came to stand beside him. “He is marrying off his last daughter, and I’m becoming afraid of what he has planned for the wedding breakfast,” Whitfield confided in a whisper.

“You must expect speeches and flattery and an abundance of toasts to the happy couple,” Adam teased.

“That’s only the start, I’m afraid. Stapleton has it in his head to organize a house party. A large one. Everyone is coming, apparently.”

“I see,” Adam rubbed his jaw. By “everyone,” Adam assumed that meant all the duke’s children, grandchildren, cousins, aunts and such. Could be a rowdy crowd indeed. If there was a house party of such magnitude about to commence, Adam certainly wanted to remain for it. “If I remember correctly, there was a grand party for Fanny when she married, too.”

Whitfield leaned closer. “I had wrongly assumed he’d gotten the urge for such elaborate celebrations out of his system when he didn’t hold one for Mrs. Warner’s wedding.”

Adam had forgotten that, but he nodded toward Lady Jessica. “The youngest is his favorite.”

Whitfield made a sound of discontent and Adam nearly laughed at the poor man’s plight. Whitfield preferred the quiet but marrying into the Duke of Stapleton’s family wasn’t going to begin peacefully. Becoming surrounded by the duke’s boisterous family, and exalted members of the ton, too, were bound to discompose Whitfield. He patted his friend on the shoulder solicitously. “You’ll survive.”

“A true friend would remain to support me,” Gideon grumbled. “When you tie the knot again I will not forget your attitude today.”

Adam laughed. He was widowed, left to raise a delightful daughter alone. However, Ava could not inherit his title or estate. Adam would have to marry for a second time and hope again for a son and heir to succeed him. “Weddings are a harrowing business. I’ll see what I can do to stay.”

Carriages began arriving in front of the churchyard, and Whitfield hurried to collect his future bride. The duke’s carriage filled quickly, and when it drew away without Adam, he discovered he’d have to share the next carriage back to Stapleton Manor with only Mrs. Warner’s company. He winced. She was still talking with the older women and had not noticed the others had left without telling her.

He moved toward her to offer his arm. “Mrs. Warner. The last carriage is ready to take us back to the manor.”

She nodded then bid farewell to Mrs. Hawthorne and her daughters before turning to him. “Thank you.”

Mrs. Warner set her hand on his arm and Adam handed her into the carriage, and then joined her, sitting on the opposite bench.

The coachman shut the door and tucked away the step. “Looks like we have a lovely day for a carriage ride,” he murmured.

“Those clouds suggest we are about to get rained upon,” Rebecca Warner said as she adjusted her shawl about her shoulders. “As quick as you can, Mr. Porter,” she called.

Mrs. Warner was something of a pessimist and had never warmed to him. She was always mentioning a lack of some sort—real and imagined. She hardly ever smiled. “Every day brings a challenge,” Adam advised her. “I prefer to look on the bright side and hope for the best in everything.”

Finally, her gaze lifted to his. “Indeed.”

Mrs. Warner’s features were regular, though pretty, and the way she stared at a man could be a little unnerving at times. She was the most reserved of all the duke’s family and the most modest, favoring plain colors and high necklines that hid her charms. Adam found her strangely comforting to be around. He had always known what she thought of him. She was transparent in her dislike and disapproval of the things he said just to rile her up.

He removed his hat once the village was sufficiently behind them and ran a hand through his dark, wavy hair. The church had become stifling before the sermons were half over. He enjoyed the feel of the wind in his hair—more so when he saw her expression of disapproval. “So Whitfield and your sister? Did you sense it coming, too?”

Her lips pinched together a moment before she spoke, but her eyes were fixed on his hat, where’d he carelessly flicked it aside on the bench, and then his hair. “No. Did you?”

“I suspected a partiality on his side some time ago,” he confessed, noting the speed of the carriage had increased to comply with Mrs. Warner’s demand for a quick return to Stapleton. “I thought it all in vain until she returned from London unmarried.”

Mrs. Warner’s lips pouted for a moment. She set her hand to the side of the carriage to brace for the upcoming sharp turn at the bridge. “Yes, opinions change with new experiences.”

“And absence makes the heart grow fonder.” Adam set his feet farther apart on the floor. Tensing in preparation for the turn as well. “I expect—”

The next moment, Adam heard a loud crack and was thrown to the side as the carriage started to tip.

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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.