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Miss Radley's Third Dare (Miss Mayhem series #3)

Miss Radley's Third Dare (Miss Mayhem series #3)

The only person who understood what Julia Radley wanted most in life was the man who accepted her challenge to a bold swimming race, and lost. But when he suggests they marry to quiet the resulting scandal, she discovers the consequences of her actions are far reaching for him too.

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Main Tropes

  • Beach Romance
  • Wager
  • Girl Next Door


The only person who ever understood what Julia Radley wanted most in life was the man who ruined her reputation and secured her victory in a bold swimming race. She does not hold Valentine Merton accountable for the harsh criticisms made against her character until he suggests the only way to smooth over the scandal of his defeat is to wed as soon as possible.

After picking himself up after proposing, Valentine Merton is even more determined to tame the wild girl next door. The future he wants within the clockmaker’s guild depends on their speedy marriage. A few sweet words or, as a last resort, another brazen dare is sure to persuade her to take a chance on him… and his family.

Intro to Chapter One

There is nothing like having a past to shake up a happy present.

Julia Radley flopped onto her bed and groaned into her pillow. The concept of being so grievously ruined because of her harmless little dare three months ago had not truly occurred to her at the time Valentine Merton had accepted the challenge. She had thought any scandal would have blown over soon after the event that proved her an equal to a man when it came to swimming fast. To her dismay, all these months later, she had become a target of her brother’s unending fury and society’s scorn.

She had to escape.

“Don’t you dare walk away from me, young lady,” Linus, her brother and constant pain in her side, bellowed as he followed into her bedchamber to continue delivering his latest assessments of her predicament from the doorway. “You have no idea what strain this places upon me. What this has done to me. And—”

“What have I done to you?” She sat up, blowing a lock of red hair from her eyes. “All I have done is determined that I can swim faster than one man. Just one member of the male gender to prove my point that women possess more skills than merely wielding a needle. I did not parade myself around in my undergarments for the benefit of the masses. The entire event took no more than half an hour and you act like it is such a long-lasting disaster. You were there. You saw everything and said nothing at the time.”

“How could I have stopped you when I was the last to know my sister had been conspiring with a neighbor behind my back?” Linus turned an unhealthy shade of puce when he referred to her opponent, Valentine Merton. Once he’d called the man his best friend, but no more. Not since the race had they been seen together. “Everyone tried to prevent the race. If you were a lady in any shape or form, no one in Brighton would have any idea of what you look like underneath that gown. As it is—”

A loud knock pounded on the door one floor below them and Linus glanced over his shoulder swiftly.

At last, a caller had come to distract Linus from his daily lecture before he really got going. She held her breath as her brother turned on his heel and marched downstairs without another word.

Julia flopped onto her back as Mr. Walter George’s measured tones reached her with an invitation to go out. She grinned and sent Mr. George her undying gratitude. Her brother’s other friends were very good at distracting Linus when he was in high alt. So good, she might even be able to sneak out of the house to visit with Mr. George’s sister Imogen for a good long while without her brother knowing.

The front door slammed shut and Julia jumped to her feet, snatched up her best shawl and checked her reflection in the mirror. Good enough to be seen by any standard. She crept downstairs. There wasn’t a sound in the front rooms and a quick check revealed Linus had indeed gone out with Mr. George. She grinned. Freedom, however temporary, was sweet.

She hurried to the rear of the house, aiming for the kitchen, where Cook was preparing tonight’s meal. Mrs. Baker limped through the room awkwardly, her foot bound firmly following an accident with a kitchen knife.

“Your foot will never get better at this rate,” Julia cried out.

“It is better already thanks to you.” Mrs. Baker smiled. “I’ve just got to get my work done, dearie.”

No matter how much Julia protested that the foot must be rested, Mrs. Baker refused to neglect her duties in the kitchen.

“Sneaking out again?” Mrs. Baker asked, eyeing the shawl she clutched.

“I cannot bear this prison a moment longer.” Julia smiled brightly. “I’m only going as far as the Watsons’ house. I want to see Imogen and ask how her eyesight fares today.”

“No doubt the same as it was yesterday, and all of the days of the months before that.” Cook shook her finger and then winced. “’Tis a miracle, that’s what it is, and you shouldn’t go looking to see every day if it has been reversed.”

“I agree.” Julia nodded as she grasped the door handle. “But I will use any excuse to call on a friend again.”

Cook was sympathetic to her situation and had even once allowed her to hide in the larder when Linus had been at her all day. Linus did not want anyone to see her misbehaving again for fear of setting everyone else against her. Given his unreasonable restrictions, she had no choice but to make good use of the rear door or windows of her home to sneak into her friend’s house from the opposite direction he’d gone.

Mrs. Baker wiped her hands on a cloth. “He wants the best for you.”

“Shouting at me isn’t going to change anything,” Julia grumbled.

“No, it won’t, but…” She shrugged and returned to her baking without another word. Mrs. Baker held back saying what everyone else had suggested out loud at least once. A good marriage would restore my reputation.

Well, she couldn’t marry until the right man asked for her hand.

So far, Mr. Anthony Linden had not even tried to kiss her and, according to Lady Imogen Watson, reticence of that kind wasn’t good during a courtship. Not that he was courting her. Julia simply hoped he would realize she was in love with him. So far, the man appeared unaware and she had no idea how to hurry the understanding upon him.

She slipped out the back door, holding her shawl tighter around her shoulders. Never before had she worried so much about what other people might say when they saw her, but since her spectacular win against Valentine Merton, she took nothing for granted. She was respectably dressed in a blue-and-white striped muslin gown and for a change her hair was not out of place. She was determined to make a good impression because she never knew when she might see Mr. Linden next.

As always, her gaze strayed toward Valentine Merton’s home as she passed his rear boundary. The bachelor had accepted his loss with good grace and even better humor, dumping her back into the churning sea as if she was just another fellow. It had been nice, even if she’d sucked down a lungful of seawater due to her surprise at his treatment. He’d pounded her back and apologized profusely, ensuring she was unharmed and suffered no lasting ill-effects.

But that moment of camaraderie had been replaced by fear for Imogen’s health soon after, and once assured their neighbor had recovered her sight, that ease between her and Mr. Merton had never returned.

She paused and listened for sounds within the remnants of an old stable that Mr. Merton had converted for his nightly observation of the star-filled sky. At least that was what she’d been led to believe he did in there. He could be very noisy at times, tapping away on things she didn’t understand. Perhaps he was building a new telescope.

She dawdled at bit. While she did not blame him for avoiding them, she did not like that he would.

As if called by her presence, Mr. Merton stepped out of the little shed, wiping his hands on a scrap of linen. His pale hair was untidy today, and a streak of something dark marred his right cheek. He’d left off his coat, revealing his lanky form.

She smiled, determined to make him realize she did not expect more from him than a simple greeting. “Sir,” she said with a respectful dip, mimicking behavior other ladies used around men whose opinions matter. “How goes your study today?”

“Good morning, Miss Radley.” He nodded and then hesitated; so clearly, she knew he would make an excuse to go next. “I should be getting back to it.”

When he turned away and reentered the old building, Julia, at her wits’ end, fumed. What must she do to restore the balance? Forswearing adventure wasn’t in her nature but the urge to commit violence on him was growing daily, given his ridiculous behavior.

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Miss Mayhem Series

Welcome to the Miss Mayhem series, where four adventurous young ladies match wits and capture the hearts of with their neighbors in the seaside town of Brighton.