Serving as the advice columnist, ‘Miss Busy B.’, for an often-subversive ladies’ magazine is the perfect outlet for Daphne Burke’s outspoken nature. But when she advises a young lady of the ton, to break off her engagement to a notorious rake, the consequences take Daphne beyond the page and into her real life.
Miles, Viscount Deveraux, sometimes known as “that devil Deveraux” needs a respectable bride by the end of the Season, and he’s bet a fortune that he can get one. Now, his fiancée has not only changed her mind—but done it publicly, in a letter to London’s most infamous magazine. With the stakes high and time short, it seems reasonable to him that the columnist responsible should come to his rescue and marry him instead.
Fortunately for Miles, Daphne is eager to escape the pressures of the London marriage mart. She agrees to a courtship. But at the end of two weeks, she intends to turn him down in a big, splashy, scandal that will ruin her reputation and set her free. There’s just one shocking wrinkle: Who knew being ruined by a rake could be so much fun?
Exclusive excerpt from The Lady Knows Best by Susanna Craig,
for The Romance Dish:
Daphne Burke’s first act as “Miss Busy B.,” the advice columnist for Mrs. Goode’s Magazine for Misses, is to encourage a young lady to call off her engagement to notorious rake Miles, Viscount Deveraux. But when Miles—who has a great deal of money riding on a wager that he will marry by the end of the Season—discovers Miss Busy B.’s true identity, he blackmails Daphne into finding him a new bride. Daphne offers to marry him herself, but only after a two-week courtship, during which time she intends to discover enough about “that devil, Deveraux” to ruin him in the eyes of society and then jilt him. But is Miles really the man she believed him to be?
In this scene, a few days into their courtship, Miles meets Daphne for a private conversation at a garden party.
When a long silent moment passed, he asked, “Are you afraid that if we converse, you might discover something likeable about me? That you might find me amiable, amusing, attractive?”
Her lips twitched. “Not in the slightest.”
“Then I wonder why you insisted upon a courtship at all. If it distresses you, we could just go ahead and get married without it.” He slid closer and lightly covered her hand with his. “I can have a special license in hand first thing tomorrow.”
She jerked free of his touch. If it were not made of stone, the bench would have swayed with the force of her movement. “You needn’t keep reminding me of your power over me, my lord.”
Miles disguised his own uncertainty by gripping the edge of the bench.
“I suppose that’s why you sent me those quills—to mock me, as you did with that song.”
“Mock you?” he echoed, genuinely astonished. “Is it not a custom of proper courtship for a gentleman to send a token of his esteem?”
“Gentlemen send flowers.” The governess-y tone was back, a sort of exaggerated patience, as if she were delivering a lesson in etiquette to an unruly boy. “Bellis gets them by the cartload. Daisies, usually.”
If he hadn’t been watching, he would have missed the slight wobble of her chin as she spoke those words.
He didn’t think she begrudged her sister those gifts. Not exactly, anyway. But with every bouquet of flowers, every
reminder of her talented and famous elder siblings, she swallowed a pang of something like jealousy. Often enough
that it had become little more than a reflexive tickle in her throat.
And he had unwittingly made that irritation worse.
“I’m quite aware gentlemen send flowers.” He forced a lightness into his tone. “And setting aside any debate over whether that dubious distinction applies to me, I did in fact speak with the clerk at the florist’s shop, who explained to me the botanical meaning of your lovely name.” It was a source of some amusement in certain circles that all the Burke siblings were named after plants. “But a few branches from a shrub laden with poisonous berries didn’t seem quite the thing.”
That made her snicker. Reluctantly, to be sure. Just the tiniest hint of a laugh.
Nevertheless, his chest swelled with pride; he always enjoyed pleasing women. “I thought quills would be at least as apt as Bellis’s daisies. Something befitting the woman you really are. Sharp, yes, but soft too. Strong, but delicate.”
Like most women, in one way or another, he supposed.
But they’d seemed to him a particularly perfect gift for Daphne.
“I pictured you writing your column with them,” he finished simply.
She would start out with a straight spine and a spotless page. But as she went on, warming toward her subject, her quill would fly. Gradually, as if pouring a bit of herself into her words, she would bend her head closer to the paper.
He’d imagined pressing his lips to the soft skin that peeked between the collar of her dress and the few stray wisps of hair that tickled the back of her neck.
After a moment, she asked in a whisper, “Does that mean you intend to permit me to keep writing?”
The question was so unexpected, it took him a moment to comprehend. “Once we’re married, you mean?”
Her chin dipped, almost imperceptibly.
“I will not permit it, my dear,” he said. At that, her head spun and her gaze snapped to his. “I will insist upon it. I for one am eager to read your retraction.”
“Oh, yes.” He lifted his brows suggestively. “It should be easy enough to pen. Once you’ve discovered just how enjoyable it can be, being married to a rake.”
Was it his imagination, or was the spark in her eyes brighter now? Warmer?
Could it be that she enjoyed being teased?
Oh, but that was promising indeed.
“I assume you refer to that old saw about reformed rakes.” She tilted her head toward him and favored him with a look he was fast coming to consider her “Miss Busy B. expression”—part disapproving governess, part insufferable know-all, part inquisitive young lady who couldn’t quite make herself look away, though she knew she ought. “Tell me, my lord. Do you have any intention of reforming?”
He stretched out his legs and leaned back as much as the bench would allow. In a more comfortable chair, his posture would have been described as a sprawl—a blatant invitation for her gaze to travel his body, head to toe. “Which of my vices would you have me give up? My bootmaker? My tailor? Surely, you do not want a shabby bridegroom, ma’am.”
Again, the quirk of lips that were determined not to betray a smile.
“Or perhaps you object to my French cologne?”
“Your French brandy, rather,” she retorted. “Your gambling. Your . . .” Her voice dropped to a whisper, barely audible above the chatter rising from the garden below. “. . . flirtations.”
A little frippery of a hat sat perched high upon her head. Beneath it, her hair was more simply arranged today, the sort of coiffure that could be mussed by a man’s careless fingers without anyone being the wiser. And her gown was pale, diaphanous muslin, embroidered with a green vine and the occasional pink rosebud. Perfect for a garden party. On this warm day, its skirts clung to her limbs most provocatively.
He raked his gaze over her, tipping his head to the side.“Must I stop flirting with you?
I am a fan of Ms Craig and I have a couple of her books on my keeper shelves. I do enjoy when a series draws from the past. That is always a good reminder if it was a book I particularly liked. As for stories for which I am waiting. There are certain authors and whatever they write would be a story I anticipate. Thanks for this post.ReplyDelete
I do enjoy her writing and have read quite a few. Love when characters from other books come back in their own stories! And who doesn't love a fake engagement!ReplyDelete
I do enjoy her writing! I also enjoy when authors return to a beloved series to feature a now adult character, as long as part of the plot doesn’t involve messing with the HEAs for other characters we’ve already spent time with. If there’s a time jump to age up a character, that time jump impacts the rest of the cast and that can be odd or even sad if the author envisions a future for the characters differently than you did.ReplyDelete
This sounds wonderful, though, and I’m excited to read it!
I have not read any of her books yet but find the plot of this one intriguing. I do love when there are future stories for secondary characters. It is always a wonderful opportunity to revisit with favorite characters from previous stories.ReplyDelete
I love all of Susanna's books and can't wait to read this one!!!!ReplyDelete
I haven't read any of her books yet - but I have a few on my ebook tbr. I do love when characters 'grow up' 'and get their own books.ReplyDelete
I have seen Susanna Craig's books, but don't believe I have read them. I like what I read in the excerpt. The descriptions, the banter, the insight of the character. I will have to check her out with this book.ReplyDelete
I do like when an author has a follow-up series that follows the next generation from a previous series. I just finished such a series by Linda Broday following the children of the main characters in an earlier series. There was a related series in between those two. She has left that community. which is too bad. The related middle series has a second generation of characters plus the growth of the town that could serve as the basis of another series.
I have read and enjoyed several of her books, so it would be so exciting to win this book!ReplyDelete
Susanna Craig is on my auto-buy list. I really enjoyed the prequel.ReplyDelete
new to me author. I like when a character ages to an adult and gets a book years later.ReplyDelete
I don’t think of read any of her books.ReplyDelete
I’m also trying to think of books that follow up with the children grown up.
Sherryl Woods’ Chesapeake Bay series
The O’Brien family children
Susan Wiggs’ Lakeshore Chronicles series
Kate Hoffmann’s Mighty Quinn family series
Debra Webb - Colby family security company
Love this author. Looking forward to a new series.ReplyDelete