The Viscount Needs a Wife (Rogue Series)

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9780451471901: The Viscount Needs a Wife (Rogue Series)

The New York Times bestselling author of Too Dangerous for a Lady returns with another roguishly delicious Regency romance...

Since being widowed two years ago, Kitty Cateril has been trapped in her late husband's home, where she is expected to mourn forever. Desperate to escape, Kitty will consider any option—even a hasty marriage to a stranger with no intention of abandoning his bachelor ways.
 
London life suits Beau Braydon, especially his work keeping Britain safe. So when he inherits the title of Viscount Dauntry, he has no intention of resettling on a rural estate. He can’t resist the opportunity to marry a sensible widow who can manage Beauchamp Abbey for him—until he realizes Kitty is more than he bargained for...
 
Before Kitty and Dauntry can adjust to each other, a threat to the royal family takes them to London. Soon someone is determined to prevent Dauntry from exposing the villain, and secrets in Kitty's past threaten their growing love...

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About the Author:

Jo Beverley was the New York Times bestselling author of the Rogue series and numerous other romance novels. Widely regarded as one of the most talented romance writers today, she was a five-time winner of Romance Writers of America’s cherished RITA Award and one of only a handful of members of the RWA Hall of Fame. She also twice received the Romantic Times Career Achievement Award. She had two grown sons and lived with her husband in England. Jo Beverley passed away in May 2016.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

Chapter 1

November 7, 1817
Cateril Manor, Gloucestershire



“Kathryn, your dog is looking at me again.”

Kitty Cateril looked up from her needlework to see that indeed her King Charles spaniel was sitting in front of her mother-in-law, eyes fixed on her face. She bit the inside of her cheek to hold back a smile as she patted her leg. “Sillikin, come.”

The small black and tan dog cocked its head, then trotted over, as if expecting a reward for a job well done. Kitty wasn’t sure why Sillikin sometimes stared at people, but it seemed to be in disapproval, and her mother-in-law sensed that.

What secret sins could lurk in the soul of straight-backed, gray-haired Lady Cateril? She was the sort of woman often described as beyond reproach. These days, dressed permanently in mourning black, she had been canonized by the heroism and death of her younger son—Kitty’s husband, Marcus.

Had Sillikin caught Lady Cateril wishing that the heroism and death had come together? That Marcus hadn’t lived, wounded and broken, for seven more years and married someone like Kitty? That devotion to Marcus’s memory hadn’t required her to offer Kitty a home? Kitty and her irritating dog.

“I will say again, Kathryn, that you should rename that creature.”

And I will say again, Kitty supplied silently, “She’s too used to the name by now.”

“She’s a dumb creature. She cannot care.”

“Then why do dogs respond to their names as people do, Mama?”

Names. So powerful and so often poorly considered. Six years ago, she’d named a wriggling ball of fluff Sillikin. Three years before that, when Kitty had married Marcus, she’d called his mother Mama, in the hope of pleasing the disapproving woman. It had never seemed possible to change to something more formal.

Her bid for approval had been a hopeless cause. Lady Cateril’s favorite son, the wounded hero of Roleia, bound to a seventeen-year-old chit? Had she hoped that by using the name Kathryn, the chit would become a sober matron? “Kitty,” she’d said at first meeting, “is a romping sort of name.” There’d been a clear implication that Kitty was a romping sort of person.

Better that than being starchy as a frosted petticoat on a winter washing line!

The weather today wouldn’t freeze cotton as stiff as a board, but it was raining. That trapped Kitty in the house, and effectively in this small parlor that smelled of wood smoke and the mustiness that came from long-closed windows. The larger, airier drawing room was rarely used in the colder months, so the fire there was unlit.

She would have liked to retreat to her bedroom even though that, too, lacked a fire, but in Lady Cateril’s domain, bedrooms were not sitting rooms. They weren’t dining rooms, either. The only time anyone was served food in her bedroom was if she was ill.

Kitty knew she should be grateful to be housed there. Her only other option was to live in cheap lodgings somewhere. At least there she had everything she needed and the estate to walk about on.

She had everything except freedom.

In the beginning, she’d rubbed along well enough with her mother-in-law, united in grief. However, when six months had passed, Kitty had followed custom and prepared to put off her widow’s weeds. When Lady Cateril realized Kitty had ordered new gowns in gray, fawn, and violet, she’d reacted as if she’d spat on Marcus’s grave. When reproaches and then tears hadn’t changed Kitty’s intent, Lady Cateril had taken to her bed and sent for the doctor. Kitty had been badly shaken, but the rest of the family hadn’t seemed alarmed, so she’d stuck to her guns. The first gown had arrived, a very plain gray wool round gown, and she’d worn it, quaking. The next day Lady Cateril had emerged. Nothing more had been said, but a frost had settled.

Kitty had realized then that in Lady Cateril’s mind she had only one reason to exist: as Marcus’s inconsolable widow. She was as much a monument to his magnificence as the marble plaque in the village church.

Captain Marcus Edward Cateril

of the 29th

Hero of Roleia

1782–1815


The words were inscribed on a large alabaster bas-relief that included a shrouded, mourning woman drooping over a plinth. The plaque was white, but the figure was black. Kitty had assumed at first that it was a symbolic representation of grief, but she’d since realized it was supposed to be her. Fixed in drooping black for all eternity.

She’d worn half mourning since then, but when her mourning year had ended, she’d lacked the fortitude to progress to bright colors. Her pretty clothes were stored away, becoming more out of style every day. She’d tried to think of ways to escape, but here she still was, eighteen months after Marcus’s death. She had hardly any money and no possibility of desirable employment. She’d gone straight from school to marriage.

She picked up Sillikin. Through the most difficult times, the spaniel had been her confidant and consolation and had heard all that Kitty’s pride had kept silent from people. We’ll find a way, she said silently to the dog. There has to be a way—

The door burst open and Lord Cateril entered, eyes wild. “The most dreadful news!”

Lady Cateril started upright, a hand to her chest. “John?” she gasped, meaning her surviving son. “The children!”

“The princess. Princess Charlotte is dead!”

There was a moment of stillness as Kitty and Lady Cateril took in his words. Princess Charlotte, second in line to the throne, who’d been due to deliver her first child, the hope of the future, was dead?

“No!”

For once, Kitty and her mother-in-law were completely in harmony.

“The child?” Lady Cateril asked desperately.

“A son. Also dead.” Lord Cateril sank into a chair by his wife’s side and took her hand. “All hope is gone.”

It was overly portentous, but Kitty knew what he meant. The king and queen had presented the nation with seventeen children, but now, nearly sixty years after George III had come to the throne, there had been only one legitimate grandchild, the Regent’s daughter, Charlotte. With her dead, what would become of the nation? The king was old and mad and expected to die at any moment. The Regent was nearing sixty, grossly fat, and led a dissipated life. No one would be surprised if he died soon as well.

His sisters were all middle-aged, and those who had married hadn’t produced offspring. Few of his brothers had married, and none of those unions had produced a living child. With the perversity of fate, some had bastards, which were of no use at all.

Kitty’s heart ached for the people involved. “Poor woman,” she said. “And her poor family. Royal, but not beyond the hand of fate.”

“Amen,” Lord Cateril said. “The shops and theaters have closed in respect. The court has gone into mourning, of course. But I’m told people of all degrees are putting on black, or at least dark bands.”

“We must do the same,” Lady Cateril said. “The family must wear full black.” In spite of her genuine shock and sorrow, she shot Kitty a triumphant look.

Kitty almost protested, but Lord Cateril agreed. “You’re right, my dear. And black bands, aprons, and gloves for the servants. Please gather the household together in the hall. I must read out the news.”

Kitty helped to pass the word, and soon the family and servants stood together in the oak-paneled hall as Lord Cateril read out the letter he’d received. All were affected and many wept. Afterward Kitty went to her room to put on one of her black gowns. If only she’d given them away . . . but it was provident to keep mourning by. No one knew when death would strike, as had just been proved.

As a red-eyed housemaid fastened the back, Kitty resolved two things. She’d return to half mourning after the funeral, along with everyone else except the court. And she would not live this half life any longer.

Somehow she’d find a way to escape. Here was evidence that life was fleeting. She wouldn’t waste what time she had left in the everlasting shadows of Lady Cateril’s grief.

The princess’s coffin, along with that of her stillborn child, was lowered into the royal vault at Windsor on November 15. Lord Cateril read a letter giving an account of the funeral to the assembled household, and they all prayed again for the princess and the bereaved family.

Kitty went upstairs to take off her black, tempted to move into brightly colored gowns now, but she truly was sorrowful over Princess Charlotte’s fate, so half mourning felt correct. She chose gray and wore silver ornaments instead of jet. When she entered the parlor, Lady Cateril’s look was flat, which seemed even worse than anger. Strenuous thinking over the past week had brought Kitty no closer to escape. The only prospect was to find employment. She’d discussed the situation with her sister-in-law and raised the possibility that Sarah give her a reference.

“Employment?” Sarah had asked, eyes wide. “Mama would never permit that.”

“She can’t stop me.”

“But she can make my life miserable if I assist you.” Sarah was plump, practical, and kind, but not courageous. She never tried to cross Lady Cateril over anything.

Kitty tried another approach. “Don’t you think we should try to ease her out of her mourning? She has two fine children still, and six grandchildren—yours and Anabel’s.”

Anabel was Lady Cateril’s youngest child, who’d married a man who lived three counties away, probably by design. Anabel had as much spine as her mother, so they easily clashed.

“She won’t,” Sarah said. “In some ways she likes the effect of it, but it reflects true grief. She always loved Marcus best.”

“Doesn’t John mind?”

“He’s his father’s favorite and he is the heir. Surely you’re comfortable here overall, Kathryn. Why would you want to become someone’s servant?”

On the surface it was idiotic. She was treated as one of the family, with everything provided for her. She hardly ever had to touch the small sum left her by Marcus, for any bills were paid by Lord Cateril without complaint.

Kitty had told Sarah the truth. “I want to wear rainbow colors and be joyful.”

“I don’t think governesses or companions are encouraged to dress gaudily, or romp around laughing.”

Kitty had had to admit the truth of that, but it didn’t change her mind. She was only twenty-seven years old and felt entombed.


Chapter 2

The next day, Kitty entered the parlor and found it empty. John and Sarah had driven out to visit friends who were celebrating the healthy birth of a child. Kitty could imagine how fearful the parents must have been with such a prominent example of the dangers. Lady Cateril must have been going over the household accounts with the housekeeper, for mourning had not led her to loose the reins of management. Lord Cateril would be in his office, where he spent most of his time when at home.

Kitty settled by the fire, Sillikin at her feet, to seek escape of another sort—in the delightful adventures of Love in a Harem. She’d enjoyed novels when young, but they’d become a precious escape during her marriage. The unlikely adventures had transported her far from the Moor Street rooms in London that she and Marcus had called home. Marcus hadn’t liked her to leave him alone, but as long as she was in the room with him, he hadn’t minded her reading. In good times she’d read to him, and they’d chuckled together over the most implausible parts.

He would have enjoyed Love in a Harem. The heroine had been plain Jane Brown when she’d set sail from Plymouth, but her ship had been captured by Barbary pirates and she’d been sold into the harem of the Sultan of Turkey and renamed Pearl of the North. She’d narrowly escaped being ravished by a number of men, including the captain of the ship, but now, trembling and dressed in the skimpiest silks, she awaited her lord and master. The harem door opened. . . .

“Silent reading, Kathryn?” Lady Cateril asked, coming in. “You know I don’t approve.”

Suppressing some salty words she’d learned from Marcus, Kitty did her best to be pleasant. “Would you like me to read to you, Mama? You might enjoy Love in a Harem.”

She heard her own words only as she spoke them and had to fight the giggles. “Fulminating” was exactly the word for the look she received. Kitty was saved from another unwise remark by Becky, the housemaid, coming in with a letter.

“His lordship’s sent this for Mrs. Marcus, milady.”

She looked as if she might give it to Lady Cateril, so Kitty held out her hand. “Thank you, Becky. It will be from my friend Ruth Lulworth,” she told her mother-in-law, for Ruth was her only correspondent.

“Ah.” Lady Cateril’s expression lightened a little. Ruth was a clergyman’s wife and thus approved of. She sat. “You may read that to me.”

It was revenge for that mischievous offer to read from the novel, and probably for Kitty’s putting off mourning, but not worth fighting over. Kitty and Ruth were long past their school days, when they’d shared all the anxieties, dreams, and longings of their silly hearts. The letter would contain news about Ruth’s home and family, and of her work in the parish around the Gloucestershire village of Beecham Dabittot. Kitty broke the seal and unfolded the letter, but was startled to see that Ruth had written a great deal. To save the cost for the recipient, she’d kept to one sheet of paper, turning it sideways and continuing the letter crossways. There were even a few lines on the diagonal. A sense of dramatic doings rose from the jumble, especially as one crosswise phrase stood out, because Ruth had underlined the “Yes!”

Yes! I’m sure your astonishment equals mine.

At least that didn’t sound like tragedy.

Kitty needed to read the astonishing news in private, but Lady Cateril was waiting. The beginning of the letter seemed to be normal news and she didn’t think Lady Cateril could see the crossways writing, so she’d make do.


My dear Kitty,

It’s been a long time since I wrote, but we’ve been very busy here in Beecham Dab. Such terrible news about Princess Charlotte. All around put on some mark of mourning, and we tolled the bells at the time of her interment. The tragedy is a reminder to us all to be mindful of our brief lives and the judgment to come.

Sadly, we have been visited by death more frequently than usual here this year. In August a sickness carried off ten souls and weakened many others, even at harvesttime, so Andrew went out when he could to help in the fields.


“Andrew is Reverend Lulworth, Mama.”

“So I remember. A charitable act, but not, perhaps, suitable for a man of the cloth.”

Kitty was tempted to debate how any charity could be unsuitable for a clergyman, but she returned to the letter.

By God’s grace, we are all well. Little Arthur is babbling very cleverly for three. Maria is still quiet, but that makes her an easy babe.

Kitty remembered that Ruth’s second birth had been difficult, but she and the child had survived, unlike poor Princess Charlotte.

She continued to read more descriptions of the children, the work of the parish, and about a pair of clever cats they’d acquired who were...

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