The Noble Hearts Series from USA Today bestselling author Callie Hutton brings heart, humor and happiness to three sisters and the father eager to marry them off.
Lady Marigold Smith, daughter of the Earl of Pomeroy and his last daughter to be married off, cannot find a man as intelligent as she is or who treats her like more than a featherheaded piece of fluff. So the spinster state is fine with her.
Jonathan, Lord Stanley, belongs to the same elite book club as Lady Marigold, who annoys him to no end. In his esteemed opinion, she is nothing more than a nonsensical chit who doesn't deserve membership in their exclusive club.
When they both attempt to buy the same journal of a deceased member, a man well-respected in the science community, a tug of war begins. The battle for the book throws them into danger—and passion. Something neither of them expected.
Jonathan, The Right Honorable Lord Stanley, entered the bi-weekly meeting of the Gentlemen and Ladies Literary Society of London, handed his hat, cane and great coat to the man at the door, took two steps and cringed at the sound of Lady Marigold’s laughter. Not that his fellow member laughed like a horse, or any other grating-on-the-nerves sound, but she was always laughing. Certainly, her life wasn’t that funny. The chit didn’t seem to take anything seriously.
‘Twas probably why after more than a few Seasons, she remained a spinster. Truth be known, the girl didn’t resemble any spinster he’d ever seen. Her curly dark blonde hair was always in disarray, but unlike other decorous maidens, that failing didn’t appear to trouble her at all. Her hazel eyes, which he’d seen up close only one time when he’d danced with her at Everson’s ball, had a sparkle to them that always put him on edge. As if she was planning something she knew he would disapprove of.
Yes, there were many things about Lady Marigold that set his teeth to grinding, and his skin to itching. As usual, she was surrounded by a bevy of men, a handful young, a few old, and several in between. She held them captive with some sort of story that he was sure was not anything worth listening to. Despite himself, he picked up a glass of warm lemonade and made his way to the group. Even if she was spouting a bit of nonsense, it might be a way to pass the time before the meeting began.
Why someone as flighty and silly as Lady Marigold belonged to this very proper book club baffled him every time he attended. Surely, she had better things to do with her time, like looking over fashion plates, selecting ribbons, and discussing the next ball with equally silly ladies.
He sipped slowly, not hearing anything coming from those plump lips, but watched the animation on her face as she spoke. Her generous breasts rose and fell as she took deep breaths and related her tale. She waved her hands in a most unladylike fashion as she spoke. Had the girl no training in proper decorum? Of course her mother had died when the chit was young, but someone should have taken her in hand by now.
“Don’t you agree, Lord Stanley?” He started at her question when he hadn’t been listening to anything but the grousing voice in his head. As if she suspected as much, she grinned at him with that smile that always annoyed him as well. Since most times it was directed at him in a way that made him feel like he’d just missed something important and was a dunce to have not noticed it. Blast the girl.
“I am sorry, my lady, but I am afraid I was woolgathering. Excuse me for being so impolite.”
Lady Marigold opened her mouth to respond when Lord Dunkirk, president of the club, announced it was time for the meeting to begin. She flashed Jonathan a look that told him she knew he was happy to discontinue the banter she was surely prepared to engage in. And he would never come out the winner.
Once they all took their seats, Lord Dunkirk cleared his throat and addressed the audience. The speaker, who’d been the president for more than two years, sported a full beard and mustache, which Jonathan had long guessed hid scars from Dunkirk’s time in His Majesty’s service. From what Jonathan had heard, Dunkirk had served well, and bore the physical memory of his time there. He also used a sturdy cane to walk, again most likely from a war injury.
“Before we begin the discussion on our selected book of the week, Lord Byron’s The Vision of Judgment, I would like to make an announcement.”
He waved a cluster of papers fisted in his hand. “Our former member, Lord St. Clair, as you all know, passed several months ago. We are all sorry for the loss of his insight into the literary works we have discussed over the years. However, his nephew and heir, the new Lord St. Clair, is selling quite a bit of the former viscount’s personal belongings.”
Once again, he raised the papers. “In my hands, I have a list of what is to be offered at the estate sale on Saturday, next. I shall pass it around to the membership so each of you might examine the list. There are numerous household items, but I am sure most of you will want to take special note of the books that are being offered for sale. St. Clair had quite a collection in his library.”
He handed the notes to Lady Banburry, seated in the front row. Without even glancing at the documents, she passed them to Mr. Fiddle, sitting next to her.
Jonathan soon became engrossed in the discussion of The Vision of Judgment, and forgot about the papers until they arrived in his hands. Keeping one ear attuned to the discussion, he perused the list, flipping the pages as he went. On the fourth page, he stopped halfway down, his heart hammering in his chest.
Journal of Dr. Vincenzio Paglia (1800-1821).
Grasping the papers tightly in his hands, Jonathan blew out a breath and sat back in his chair. How the devil had St. Clair gotten ahold of the personal journal of the most famous man in Anatomy? His work and writings were renowned—at least in the circles Jonathan favored—and having the man’s private journal, reading his thoughts and ideas, would be an absolute treasure to own. And one he had no intention of passing up.
With a smile on his face, he skimmed the rest of the sheets, nothing of major interest, but possibly a few tomes he might be inclined to purchase. However, no other item was near the consequence of the journal. He passed the papers along, and settled back to resume listening to the lecture, excited for the following Saturday to arrive.
Lady Marigold Smith, third and the last unmarried daughter of the Earl of Pomeroy, at the ancient age of two and twenty years, shifted in her seat as Mr. Boswick droned on and on about his understanding of the poem they were discussing.
Goodness, she hated when their assigned reading for the week was poetry. She loathed it and wanted to read more fiction. But since several members—especially that stiff-necked Lord Stanley—thought she wasn’t serious enough to belong to the esteemed group, she would not give them the satisfaction of nodding their heads and looking at each other when she asked for the latest Anna Marie Porter or Jane Harvey book.
Oftentimes she questioned why she continued with the group. The answer was always the same. She did not like spending all her time on balls, routs, afternoon calls, and shopping. Or talking to the young ladies who enjoy that to the exclusion of everything else. Her secret love of Anatomy and Mathematics kept her distant from the other young ladies of the ton.
Yet, her vivacious and outgoing personality could not be hidden, and consequently, every time she attempted to be serious about something she was met with smiles, condescending looks, and complete dismissal of what she said. Too many times she felt like a small child being patted on the head because she had gotten her letters right.
And no one was as annoying as Lord Stanley. She had to admit the man was easy on the eyes. Tall, broad shouldered, deep chocolate brown eyes and wavy hair that continued to fall on his forehead. She couldn’t imagine any part of him not obeying his command, so how his hair got away with it she didn’t know.
But his comely face was held up by such a stiff neck it was a wonder the man could move his head from side to side. He always looked at her as if she had something nasty on her face. Of course, that only made her want to annoy him more. The one time he’d asked for a dance at Everson’s ball, she tried her best to be pleasant to him, but he scowled at her the entire time. Why did he even ask for a dance if he disliked her so?
She shrugged her dismissal of the baron just as she was handed the papers on the estate sale being passed around for the members to view. She withdrew her spectacles from her reticule and slipped them on her face. Her vision had been poor since she’d been a child. It had never bothered her to wear them since her sisters and father saw nothing wrong.
However, once her finishing governess had arrived to train her sisters, Elise and Juliette, as well as Marigold, in the ways of the ton, and how to behave to catch a husband, the woman had told her in no uncertain terms that gentlemen do not approve of women who wore spectacles. That statement had thrown a young Marigold into a panic. She could not see very well without them, and here she was supposed to make her debut in a few years and stumble around the ballroom!
Her current chaperone and companion, Lady Crampton had dismissed the training governess’s ideas and told Marigold she would be much more attractive to a gentleman if she wasn’t walking into walls and plowing over potted plants.
She loved Lady Crampton.
Marigold ran her gloved finger down the list of the first couple pages. Nothing appealed to her, since Lord St. Clair had apparently been quite fond of hunting and husbandry as many of the books for sale were of that ilk.
She flipped to the fourth page and her finger stopped at a listing.
Journal of Dr. Vincenzio Paglia (1800-1821)
Dr. Paglia? The most notable figure in Anatomy? His discoveries of how the body functioned and was framed were held in a great deal of esteem by his colleagues. To think the daily recording of his days, activities, thoughts, and ideas, in his own handwriting, could be in her possession!
Two gentlemen sitting in front of her both turned and glared, making her realize she’d been talking out loud. Another trait of hers that annoyed those staid and pompous members of the club.
Too excited by far at the thought of obtaining the journal, she didn’t allow their scowls to bother her. Smiling brightly, she turned the papers over to Miss Granger and tried once more to focus on Mr. Boswick’s treatise which seemed to have no end.
Bright the following Saturday morning, Marigold pulled on her gloves and tapped her foot impatiently in the Pomeroy townhouse entrance hall as she waited for her father’s carriage to be brought around.
“Are you sure you don’t want me to go with you, Marigold?” Lady Crampton walked down the stairs, a shaft of papers in her hand. Most likely the following week’s menu that she generally went over with Cook on Saturday afternoons.
“No, thank you for offering, but I will be fine by myself. Now that I am labeled as ‘on the shelf’ I can enjoy the freedom I could not just a couple of years ago.”
Lady Crampton stopped in front of Marigold and rested her palm on Marigold’s cheek. “You are not ‘on the shelf’ my dear. You are a lovely young woman of only two and twenty years. Far from a spinster.”
Marigold smiled back at the woman she’d known for only a few years but had grown as close to as a mother. “Perhaps not in your eyes, but certainly in the eyes of the ton.”
Her chaperone smoothed back the hair that was forever falling out of Marigold’s hairdo. “When the right gentleman comes along, he will no doubt sweep you off your feet and it will not matter how others view you.”
Marigold reached in and kissed her on the cheek. “You have been reading too many fairy tales to your daughters.”
The butler, Macon, opened the door and bowed. “Your carriage has arrived, my lady.”
With excitement at her upcoming purchase, she hurried down the stairs and into the carriage.