A classic work from author Barbara Metzger, now available in ebook format for the first time!
Never did Alexander "Ace" Endicott, the Earl of Cards, imagine himself to be thrice-betrothed against his will by the doings of three desperate debutantes. So he escapes London to his property in the country, where he follows through with his deceased father's last wish-to find his long-lost step-sister. His search takes a detour and leads him to Nell, who piques his interest. Now, Ace may have to reconsider his rejection of marriage and see if two mismatched lovers can make a royal pair.
The Earl of Carde was engaged. Affianced. Promised. He was thrice betrothed, thrice accursed. Bad enough he was parson-pledged—but to three different women? He was regally, royally, ridiculously damned, done in, and ditched. How, by all that was holy and a great deal that was not, had such a nightmare befallen him?
Alexander Chalfont Endicott, Carde to most, Alex to a few, Ace to his closest intimates and the gleeful London gossip columnists, took off his glasses and poured himself another glass of brandy, despite the early morning hour. He deserved the fog of his poor eyesight, and the fog of inebriation. If he drank enough, perhaps he could forget this past week. If he smashed his spectacles to smithereens, perhaps he could ignore the scandal sheets.
Ace of Hearts, they were calling him, with cartoons depicting the winning hand, a stacked deck, three of a kind. Every blasted joke about his title and rumors of his situation were spread out on his desk, and on breakfast tables and boudoirs throughout London, if not all of England, he supposed. Alex cursed, shoved the newspapers and his glasses to the floor, and tried to let the brandy bring him solace.
An hour later, he still had three hopeful brides, but now he had a headache, too. He rubbed the bridge of his somewhat beakish nose, yet another legacy from his father, along with the title and fortune that made him a prize on the marriage market.
He cursed his nose, his headache, the avaricious, ambitious, velvet-draped vultures of the ton, and Fate. Mostly, he cursed himself for being a fool. How had this mess happened? He’d shown three women respect and admiration, that was how. He’d forgotten that the so-called frail sex had no sense of fair play. Honor was not in their vocabularies, nor in their blood. Hell, any man who turned his back on a female deserved a knife stuck in it. But three times? Alex groaned at the injustice, and the headache.
After all, he was not a rake. He’d sown his wild oats as a young buck, of course. What man worth his salt didn’t? Later, when he first came into his majority and control of his own fortune, perhaps he had cut too wide a swathe through the demi-monde, the gambling dens and the opera dancers. He outgrew that nonsense soon enough, when he realized the full weight of the earldom and the extent of his responsibilities. Between his estates and investments, his seat in Parliament, his reform committees and social commitments, the young lord barely had time for reading a book, much less carousing all night.
Whatever his personal inclinations, Alex never forgot what was due his name and his legions of dependents. He took his responsibilities to heart. No half measures for the Earl of Carde.
He laughed now, but without humor. Half measures, indeed. Who else found three fiancées when he set out to fill his nursery?
Again setting his personal desires aside, Alex had decided it was time for him to take a bride and beget heirs for the earldom. After all, he was twenty-seven and his only brother was in the army. Who knew what dangers that daredevil was riding into on the Peninsula, if he would return a hero, or not at all? Alex sorely missed Jack, his best friend and confidante, and worried over him constantly, but Jack was a man now too, and had made his own choices. So Alex had set out to find a suitable countess. His first mistake was mentioning his intentions to a few of his acquaintances at White’s Club. As soon as rumors started circulating that the Earl of Carde was contemplating wedlock, Alex was a dead man. His second mistake was not shooting himself and being done with the misery