About A LADY’S GUIDE TO SKIRTING SCANDAL
Lady Viola Hextall is bored – of the sea, her chaperones, and the woeful lack of available dukes on the ocean voyage from London to New York. Scrambling for any diversion short of jumping overboard, Viola strikes up a conversation with the ship’s rough-hewn, blue-eyed surgeon – and discovers an immediate cure for what ails her…
To Nathaniel Shaw, Viola has the bearing of a lady and the spirit of an adventurer – an unlikely combination that he finds utterly irresistible. So he’s hoping to convince Viola to leave the stifling ballrooms of London high society behind because there is a big, wide world just waiting for them to explore – together.
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“To make a good duchess. No matter what you think, Mr. Shaw, I will be a duchess one day. I deserve to be a duchess one day.”
Nate made a disparaging noise. “And is this how you’ve decided to measure your value – your worth in life, Lady Viola? By whether or not you become a duchess?”
“What else is there?” She put her hands on her hips.
Nate felt his own rush of resentment, along with another pang of scathing disappointment. “This is exactly why I am leaving England,” he said.
“What? Why?” Viola looked puzzled.
“This antiquated viewpoint that some of us are better than others based not on merit or intelligence or courage, but based only on an accident of birth.”
“Do you know how they select officers for the army, Lady Viola?”
“I’m not sure if—”
“They are selected based on their titles and their purchase of a commission.”
“Well, of course—”
“Do you know what happens when officers are given command of men not because they are qualified in the art of war, but because their names were preceded by a title?”
She was looking up at him now, startled, no doubt, by the bitterness that even he could hear in his words.
“Surgeons like me deal with the casualties resulting from inexperience and incompetence.” He leaned forward. “And it is such a shameful waste.”
“Why are you telling me this?” she demanded a little defensively.
“What happens if the duke you choose is a simpleton?” he asked her. “Or perhaps he is given to sloth, or drink, or another vice that might make him cruel. To you or to others around him. Will you disregard this to attain the title that marriage to such a man will give you?”
Viola blinked at him.
“I would have thought that a woman such as you would want a husband who would admire her. Respect her. Maybe even love her.”
“I do,” she said, a little uncertain now.
“But yet those things do not count if they don’t come with a title?”
“You can’t have everything, Mr. Shaw.”
“So that is what you would choose? Title over happiness? Title over love?” He was provoking her deliberately.
She was twisting the ribbons of her bonnet in her fingers now. “You must choose what is more important, don’t you agree, Mr. Shaw? And in my world, it isn’t a choice.”
“Then I suggest you consider leaving your world behind.”
“One cannot simply leave a titled position, Mr. Shaw.”
Perhaps it was the powerlessness Nate had felt on the battlefield, his inability to challenge or change such thinking. Perhaps it was the catch of hesitation he heard in her answer. Either way, an edgy recklessness gripped him, and he found himself closing the distance between them, catching her chin in his fingers and tipping her head up to meet his gaze.
“And what would happen, Lady Viola, if you found a man who did not have a title, but a man who would worship the ground upon which you walked?” he asked, his voice barely a whisper. “A man who would trade his life for yours without a second’s thought. A man who would give anything he owned just for the opportunity to kiss you? Would you turn away from such a man and live the rest of your life wondering how things might have been if you had chosen happiness and love?”
“I don’t know.” Her breath was coming in shallow gasps, and her color was high.
He had proven his point, he knew. He had made her uncomfortable and had dared her to think. He should step away from her now and leave her to consider his words, if she was wont to do so. But he couldn’t.
Aside from the recklessness that had clouded his judgment, there was a woman he had glimpsed within her, one who sat cross-legged and spoke of frogs and muck. A woman who he feared he might like very much, should she ever be allowed to be completely free of the woman who spoke of dukes and parties.
His hand slid from her chin to the back of her neck, his fingers caressing the silk of her hair. She was watching him now, her beautiful blue eyes wide. But not afraid. As if she was challenging him to do his worst.
So he kissed her.
Kelly Bowen grew up in Manitoba, Canada. She attended the University of Manitoba and earned a Master of Science degree in veterinary physiology and endocrinology. But it was Kelly’s infatuation with history and a weakness for a good love story that led her down the path of historical romance. When she is not writing, she seizes every opportunity to explore ruins and battlefields. Currently, Kelly lives in Winnipeg with her husband and two boys, all of whom are wonderfully patient with the writing process. Except, that is, when they need a goalie for street hockey.