A Spinster’s Sinful Temptation (Preview)

Chapter One

“Are we almost there?” Dorothea asked as she looked out of the window, watching the townhouses pass by.

Ellie was about to answer her sister when the carriage rocked violently, tossing them around. She gasped as her shoulder hit the wall and pain shot down her arm. Beside her, Regina groaned and clutched at her elbow.

“Ouch! That really hurt!”

“We probably just hit something in the road,” Ellie said, rubbing her shoulder. She looked at Dorothea. “Are you alright?”

“I think so.” Her youngest sister pressed a hand to her chest. “I think I was more shocked than anything else. I thought the roads in London were supposed to be in better condition than in the country.”

“Apparently, that’s not always the case.”

Ellie peered out into the street. It was late afternoon, and the sun was slowly creeping down the sky, changing shades and making the shadows lengthen. It made the walls of the buildings look like they were turning a pale orange.

“So?” Dorothea prompted. “Are we almost there? Aunt Emma said she lives near a park, and we passed one a while ago.”

“There are several parks in London, Dorothea. They don’t have just one in the city,” Regina retorted. She bumped into Ellie as she peered out past her sister. “Why are some of the windows blocked up? It makes the houses look a bit odd.”

“I think it’s something to do with the window tax,” Ellie said.

“Window tax?”

“Father mentioned something about having to pay more money to the government for the treasury.” Ellie pointed at a house with four of its thirteen windows bricked up. “People didn’t want to pay it, but you obviously couldn’t get rid of all of the windows, so they would brick up a few so they would have to pay less. It’s not a very popular tax, according to Father.”

Regina looked bewildered. Dorothea snorted.

“They’re just trying to squeeze more money out of us. It’s silly.”

“The government will do what they can to raise money in case we have another war and such.” Ellie sighed. “Hopefully, it’ll be stopped in the future. Nobody likes it, and we can’t block up all of the windows.”

“Does Aunt Diane have blocked up windows?” Regina asked.

“How should I know? I haven’t been there in twenty years.” Ellie gestured for her sister to sit back. “Just settle down and stop being so impatient. We’ll be there soon.”

“I hope so.” Dorothea scowled as she shifted back on the cushions, dusting down her skirts and adjusting her gloves. “I don’t like travelling, and I feel like we’ve been in here all day, even with our break for lunch.”

Ellie could sympathise. She didn’t like travelling for a long time, either, but it was necessary. Their family home was in Kent, so it took a while to go from Gillingham to Harrow. Even spritely people like her younger sisters would end up getting grumpy and fed up.

It shouldn’t be too long. Things were beginning to look vaguely familiar, and Ellie imagined they would be coming to a stop soon.

As she watched the scenery go by, the carriage rocking as it moved along, Ellie found herself thinking about her father. The Earl of Gillingham was sick, and it looked like he was on death’s door. She had wanted to stay at his bedside to take care of him, just as she had done since their mother passed away. But her father had told her to go with her sisters to London and do her duty. She couldn’t do it in their home looking after him.

Leaving his side had been difficult, especially when she knew that she had to leave to find a husband. There was no money, no prospects, and no other male relatives to take them in. Their only option was to get married.

Which was why all of them were coming to stay with their late mother’s widowed sister in London. She was well-connected, so she would be able to point them in the right direction.

The problem was that Ellie didn’t want to do it, mostly because it felt like she was going to be paraded around as though she were on display. Finding a husband had passed her by, and Ellie suspected she would struggle to find someone who wanted to be with a woman in her mid-twenties. As far as the ton were concerned, she had already been put on the shelf.

She had tried to tell her father that before, but he’d said that she shouldn’t put herself out of commission yet. She could find someone who would be perfect for her. Ellie had argued that if there was someone perfect for her, she would have found him years ago.

She looked over at her sisters. Regina sat beside her, adjusting her hat on her auburn curls. With only eighteen months between them, they were incredibly close. Ellie was the more practical, sensible one, while Regina was the careful, confident sister. She was also far more beautiful. Dorothea was barely eighteen, so this would be her first Season. The youngest sister was looking like she was going to blossom into a beauty herself with her burnished gold curls, delicate complexion, and cornflower blue eyes.

Ellie felt plain compared to her sisters. Her hair was a simple brown, and she wasn’t willowy and petite. Her body was curvier, which made fitting her for dresses a bit of an annoyance. And while Ellie could handle herself in a social setting, she liked her own company. She was the practical one of the three.

Tradition said that she should be the one to get married first, but Ellie didn’t see that happening. Not when her sisters, quite rightly, outshined her.

If only her father had allowed her to stay behind and let Regina and Dorothea go to London. Aunt Diane and their cousin Emma could look after them. Then again, given how mischievous the two girls could be, Ellie had a feeling she needed to be present to keep them in line.

The carriage turned onto another street and pulled up outside a townhouse. Dorothea sat forward, almost knocking Ellie out of the way to look out.

“So, we’re here now?” she squealed. “We’re finally here!”

“Calm down, Dorothea. Aunt Diane doesn’t need you getting overexcited.”

“Oh, you fuss too much, Ellie! I’ll be fine.” Then Dorothea was squealing again, loud enough for Ellie to wince, and scrambled at the door handle. “There’s cousin Emma now!”

She was out before Ellie could stop her, bouncing past the footman, who managed to catch the door before it swung back. A tall, handsome woman with red hair had come out and was standing on the top step. Dorothea flung herself at the woman, almost knocking her over. After a moment of bewilderment, their cousin smiled and embraced Dorothea in return.

“Nice to see Dorothea is still spritely after such a journey,” Regina muttered. “My rear end feels like it’s gone as numb as my hand.”

“Regina!” Ellie glanced at the footman, who was putting on the appearance that he hadn’t just heard that comment. “Keep your voice down. You’re supposed to be an earl’s daughter.”

“What? Servants have rear ends as well, and I’m sure they get sore on occasion.” Regina rolled her eyes and pushed past Ellie. “Come on, let’s get out. I’m sure we need to get Dorothea off Emma.”

Sighing, Ellie followed Regina out onto the pavement, unable to look at the footman as she passed him. There were times when she wished that Regina wasn’t so blunt; she did end up speaking a little too loudly at the wrong moments.

Dorothea and Emma were talking on the top step, and both women turned as Regina and Ellie joined them. Emma gave Regina a smile and clasped her hands.

“Regina, darling. You look absolutely delightful.”

“Thank you, Emma.” Regina accepted the kiss on her cheek. “I’ll take that after bouncing around for several hours.”

Ellie nudged her sharply, but there was a twinkle in Emma’s eye as she turned to Ellie and reached out a hand.

“And Ellie. I can’t believe how grown up all of you are now. It’s only been two years, and it feels like I’m looking at different people.”

“You’ve not changed at all, Emma,” Ellie said warmly, squeezing her cousin’s hand. “I think you’ve gotten younger.”

“Oh, don’t be silly. But I appreciate the compliment.” Emma beckoned for the sisters to follow her. “Come with me. Mother has the housekeeper fixing some tea and cake for everyone. And your cousin Madeline is here, as well.”

Dorothea looked delighted.

“Madeline’s here? I thought she was living near the Scottish border.”

“Her husband has some business in London, and Madeline didn’t want to be away from him for long, so she’s come with him.” Emma glanced back. “It’s a delicate time for her, and all that.”

It took a moment for Ellie to realise what she had said. “Is Madeline pregnant?”

“She is.”

Now Regina was the one who was squealing. “Oh, that’s brilliant! I love babies!”

“You might have to wait a while before you see the baby. But I’m sure Madeline will make sure you’re one of the first people to meet her child.”

Regina looked delighted about that, and Ellie found herself smiling at her sister’s joy. Even when they were small, Regina absolutely adored babies. She had helped out with Dorothea, being their nanny’s little shadow, and she had doted on her younger cousins.

When she became a mother, she would be a great parent. Ellie could see it.

Leaving their coats and hats with the butler, a wizened old man who was shorter than Ellie, the sisters followed Emma into the drawing room. A young woman with a round face and pale red hair was sitting on the settee, wearing a sky-blue dress and looking very healthy with rosy cheeks. She was rubbing her belly, which was starting to look a little swollen. She beamed when they filed in.

“You’re finally here.”

“Madeline!” Regina hurried forward, sitting beside her cousin while staring at her belly. “I didn’t realise you were this far along. And you travelled this far?”

“Well, I wasn’t about to let Matthew come to London and stay for a month without me.” Madeline shrugged. “I suppose I’m emotional due to the baby, but I didn’t want to leave his side.”

“Are you staying here?” Dorothea asked as she sat in a chair near the window, folding her hands in her lap. “Or have you and your husband taken lodgings elsewhere?”

“We are staying a short carriage ride away. Matthew’s joining us for dinner tonight.” Madeline looked from Dorothea to Regina. “Mother told us why you’re in London. Matthew has quite a few eligible friends we could introduce you to—”

“That’s very kind of you,” Ellie cut in quickly. “But how about we settle in first before we start talking about husbands?”

Madeline shrugged. Emma nodded.

“That sounds about right. After all, you’ve been travelling for a while. You need nourishment and rest before you think about anything else.”

Ellie couldn’t agree more. She just wished that she didn’t have to think about marriage, for her or any of her sisters. But as she was finding out now, letting it happen naturally when her father was sick was no longer an option.

***

“I do love a sunset,” Randall Copelton said as he and Derrick walked along the path. “It’s better when it’s in the country, though. No smog floating around to get in the way of the scene.”

“Or the smell.” Derrick took a sniff of the air and made a face. “I don’t understand why they built the factories so close to where we live. If the wind is blowing the right way, it makes my eyes water.”

“Same here. But it could be worse. We could be living near that tannery a short way from your estate in Northampton.”

Derrick had to concede that. That did absolutely stink. His house in London wasn’t too far from a pottery, and he had heard rumours that they made the china cups out of bone. It was known as fine-bone china. After all, why else would one of the workers at that factory ‘the bone cleaner’?

It was a little disconcerting knowing that he was drinking tea out of something made of animal bones, but Derrick was in no position to complain. At least the crockery was well-made.

“So, have you heard about the ball at Lord and Lady Yaxley’s home tomorrow night?” Randall asked, twirling his cane before he tapped it on the path as he walked. “I’ve heard it’s going to be a bit of a wild party.”

“A wild party? At Lord Yaxley’s?” Derrick snorted. “I doubt that’s going to happen.”

“Well, I have it on good authority. Besides, if it isn’t, there’s always the club nearby. We can go there and make things more interesting.”

“You can, anyway. I can’t.”

“How come?”

Derrick frowned. “You know why. I am an earl, after all.”

Randall sniggered. “Oh, of course. You have to find yourself a wife. You are almost thirty, and you’re still unmarried. Your poor mother must be going out of her mind.”

Derrick rapped him sharply with his cane. Randall winced and hobbled out of reach.

“Hey! Not the shins! That hurt!”

“Serves you right. You know I don’t like the situation.”

“Just tell your mama that you’re not going to do it. There’s nothing wrong with a grown man telling his mother that he’s not going to do as she wants.”

Derrick sighed. Being a single gentleman with both parents having passed away long ago, Randall didn’t have anyone to answer to. With his playful demeanour, Randall Copelton was one of those rakes who didn’t seem to care much about how his future was going. How he hadn’t ended up in a duel for taking things too far, Derrick had no idea. His friend just seemed to have all the luck.

And he was able to walk around without having to worry about finding a wife. Or, at least, he had nobody pestering him into finding a wife. Derrick wasn’t so lucky. He had been Earl of Northampton for four years now, and there was no woman in sight. His mother was in despair about this. It was becoming a regular conversation, something that Derrick didn’t like.

“You’ve met my mother, Randall. Do you really think that’s something I can do to dissuade the dowager countess?”

“Erm… fair point.” Randall shrugged. “I’m just glad she’s not my mother. I’m fond of her, but she is awfully scary when she wants to be.”

“I won’t argue with that,” Derrick grunted. “At least she’s given me a bit of leeway. She’s granted me until I turn thirty to find a wife on my own before she looks for me.”

“But that means you’ve only got six months to have your own way, doesn’t it?”

“Five months.”

“It’s close enough to six.” Randall frowned. “Sounds like you’d better get a move on. I know your mother will look for someone who’s perfect for you in terms of social status, but it could end with you being with a woman who is horrific as a person. Forget about having children after that.”

“Randall!”

“What? I’m just making an observation. Being told to do your duty for the family is not as simple as people think.”

Derrick had to concede that. He didn’t want to think about going to bed with a woman he didn’t care for, or even like. True, he had played around with women, and he had taken many women to bed, but that was by choice, and he had liked them enough to want to bed them. Could he do that with an arranged wife? He doubted it.

That was something else his mother was pestering him about—having an heir to pass on the title. If he didn’t, it went to his cousin George, who was living in Ireland with his family. His cousin was a good person and they got along, but Derrick’s mother was adamant that her nephew wouldn’t get the title.

“There are times when I wish I was simply a gentleman like you, Randall,” Derrick grumbled. “I would have less to worry about when it comes to the future of the title I possess.”

“You think I haven’t got anything to worry about? I have three businesses I need to keep going, and they do require a bit of attention.”

“But they’re doing well, aren’t they? You don’t need to do much.”

“I still need to be sure that my supervisors are doing what they’re supposed to be doing and things are not slacking, including the glass factory Father founded.” Randall shook his head. “It’s not as simple as you think.”

“I don’t know about that. I think it would be better than being an earl.”

“Do you think you could handle it?”

“I think I could.”

Derrick had a feeling he would be better at running a business or two than running his estate and trying to keep his mother happy. He loved his mother, but Lady Northampton was a strict woman, very fixated on what everyone of their position should be doing. And she had been going on and on about how she wasn’t getting any younger at the age of fifty. It was getting draining.

Anything was better than having to perform a duty that Derrick didn’t like the sound of. He wanted to go back to his hedonistic lifestyle; it had been a lot more fun. But if he did that, the dowager countess would be more than a little furious, and Derrick could do without her temper flaring at him.

“Whoa, slow down,” Randall murmured, holding out an arm to stop Derrick in his tracks.

“Why? What is it?”

Randall nodded towards the gate that framed the entrance to the park. A plush-looking carriage had pulled up, and a gentleman with white hair was getting out, helping a young woman with raven hair alight. Derrick stiffened. Even from the distance they were at, he recognised the woman immediately.

Catherine Saxton was here. And she was with her husband.

“Do you think we can go in a different direction?” he asked. “If she sees us…”

“Let’s just wait a moment.” Randall beckoned him to follow. “Over here.”

Derrick followed him behind a tree, hovering just out of sight as Catherine and her elderly husband entered the park. The husband was saying something that made Catherine laugh, the throaty sound reaching Derrick’s ears. It stirred memories in his chest, reminding him of their intimate times together.

God, he felt like a fool hiding away from a former lover, but Derrick didn’t want to cross paths with her. Especially when she was with the man she had married only a few months ago. On the day after they last spent their night together. 

When Derrick had heard about that, he’d felt like he had been tricked. Catherine had said nothing about it, and then she’d dropped it on him as she was getting dressed the next morning. If he had known she was engaged, Derrick wouldn’t have seduced her again. But she didn’t seem to care, and from her attitude, she clearly thought that they were going to carry on after she got married.

He had purposefully avoided her as a result. That was easy enough as he and her husband, Lord Saxton, didn’t run in the same circles, but there were going to be moments, much like now, where they would end up being in the same place.

Derrick felt a pang of sympathy for Saxton. He was a good person, a friendly individual. He deserved someone with better morals than Catherine.

“Derrick?” Randall waved a hand in front of his face. “Are you with me?”

“What? Oh, right.” Derrick shook himself. “Apologies, Randall. I—”

“I know.” Randall sighed. “Look, I know you’re still hurting after what happened the last time, but you can’t keep running away and hiding every time you see her. It’s going to get awkward.”

“It’s already awkward, Randall!” Derrick snapped. “She didn’t tell me she was getting married, and then she just dropped it on me. Now I feel like I’ve betrayed her husband.”

“Has she given any indication that she wants to carry on the affair since the marriage?” Randall queried. “Or is that what you’re going on from what she said that day?”

“I haven’t spoken to her since that day. But I think that’s what she would want.”

Catherine had declared her disgust for the man she had been made to marry by her parents. She didn’t want to do it, but she had no choice. Derrick had been aware that a marriage was in the works, but Catherine had dismissed it all until the morning of the wedding. And then she’d had the nerve to say they could carry on their affair once she was married as she was never getting into the same bed as the old man. Derrick had done a lot of things with women, but he drew the line at bedding a woman who was married or about to be. His ladies were always unmarried and available, and he had thought Catherine was the same.

“Surely, you should be able to tell her,” Randall insisted. “If you do end up seeing her, and she brings it up again, you should be able to say no.”

“That’s easier said than done, Randall.”

“How is that so?”

Derrick grimaced. “I hate to admit it, but Catherine is a weakness. One that I can’t afford to succumb to. Why else am I running away from her whenever she’s close by?”

Randall grunted. “I never thought I’d see the day when you were running away from a woman. Except your mother, that is.”

“And there are times when I hate you.”

“I know.” Randall looked around the tree again. “They’re out of sight now. Are we making a run for it, or are we going to pretend we didn’t see them?”

“We’re going to carry on with our walk and leave the park.” Derrick stepped out onto the path, adjusting his hat and dusting down his coat. “I could do with a drink after that.”

“So could I. Especially after we had to go jumping into bushes to hide from a former flame of yours.” Randall twirled his cane as he started walking again. “Let’s go. And I think we will both have large brandies.”

That sounded very appropriate.


“A Spinster’s Sinful Temptation” is an Amazon Best-Selling novel, check it out here!

The captivating Ellie Drummond and her sisters must wed quickly and nobly, but with their penniless state and an aunt who refuses to chaperone them, that is easier said than done. Under pressure from her sisters, Ellie makes herself out to be the chaperone, as she has no interest in ever wedding. Yet, despite her sisters’ best-laid plans, when she catches the eye of the wicked Earl of Northampton, the future might surprise them all. With the seductive Derrick trying to seduce her, will she manage to follow the plan?

Marriage is out of the question until she receives an intriguing offer…

The tempting Derrick Upton, Earl of Northampton, has finally decided to settle down. When he sees Ellie attempting to fade into the background, Derrick finds her more fascinating than any other lady and so, he comes up with a scandalous plan. He knows that a marriage of convenience suits him perfectly fine, however, he will soon realise that there is absolutely nothing convenient about the feelings he begins to develop for the alluring Ellie.

Yet, will he still feel the same way once he finds out who she really is?

The fire between them burns hot and fierce and therefore getting married to help each other seems like a great plan. However, with a mother-in-law who is suspicious of her and a former lover of Derrick’s trying to sabotage them, their flaming affair will be tested. When things seem to be falling apart, will they manage to trust each other or is this sinful marriage destined to go down in flames before it fills them with sparks?

“A Spinster’s Sinful Temptation” is a historical romance novel of approximately 80,000 words. No cheating, no cliffhangers, and a guaranteed happily ever after.

Get your copy from Amazon!

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