Today’s snippet comes from Elizabeth Boyle and her newest book If Wishes Were Earl’s. If you’ve never read one of Liz’s books you should. She’s one of my favorite historical authors, and favorite people in general.
***Liz is giving away an awesome package full of great books to one commenter. This is INCLUDING the box of books we are giving away this season.
Every gambler knows the moment when his luck changes.
And not for the good. Luck is too fickle of a lover to whisper in a gamester’s ear to encourage him to double down.
No, when she turns her back on a fellow, he knows it. As sure as all the air in the room has rushed out.
Like a fish out of water, he suddenly finds himself grasping at anything that might return her bright favor to his dark and empty pockets.
So it was with Tiberius Maximus Marshom, the 7th Earl of Roxley.
Roxley, who took wagers that no one else would, and won . . . The earl who always had pockets of vowels that only needed collecting was now dodging friends and ducking out of White’s to avoid the embar- rassment of his current dire financial straits.
And his shocking turn of luck was what had brought him here. To the City. To the offices of one Aloysius Murray.
“So you see, my lord,” the merchant was saying, his hands folded atop a pile of notes, “you have no choice but to make my daughter your wife.”
The earl looked across the wide expanse of the man’s desk at a fellow he hadn’t even known existed until two days ago when he’d received Mr. Murray’s summons. Still, despite the gravity before him, Roxley could not resist smiling.
It was all he could do. A Marshom through and through, he knew he was trapped, but he was certainly not going to let this mushroom, this Mr. Murray with his most likely equally uncouth daughter, know that he had Roxley in a corner.
Mr. Murray pushed the papers across the top of the desk. “I’ve managed to buy out all your vowels, all your debts. You’re solvent, for the time being. I think a kindly given ‘thank you’ would be in order.” He paused for a moment and then added belatedly, “My lord.”
Roxley looked at the pile of notes and scribbled promises and realized that his hopes of reclaiming all that he’d managed to lose over the past eight months— his money, his position with the Home Office, his standing (what there had been of it) —was for naught.
His legendary luck was gone.
If he were inclined to be honest—which he rarely was—he could point to the exact moment when Fair Fortune had abandoned him.
Eight months ago. The third of August, 1810, to be exact. The night he’d kissed Miss Harriet Hathaway.
And since we’ve established that the Earl of Roxley possessed very little honesty, kissing had been the least of his sins that night with the aforementioned Miss Hathaway.
He’d demmed well ruined her.
But enough of contemplating an evening of mad-ness—it wasn’t his insatiable desire for Harriet that had gotten him into this mess.
Oh, Harry what have I done? he thought as he looked at his all his wrongdoings piled up atop this cit’s desk and knowing that no matter how much he . . .Well, admitting how he felt for Harriet Hathaway was just too much honesty for one day. Especially this one.
When he was having to face his ruin. A reckoning of sorts.
If it was only the money, only his own ill-choices, that would be one thing. But there was more to this than just a gambler’s reversal. His every instinct clam-ored that this was all a greater trap, a snare, but why and how, he couldn’t say.
More to the point, he couldn’t let this calamity touch anyone else.
As it had Mr. Ludwick, his man of business. Roxley’s gut clenched every time he thought of the fellow—disappearing in the middle of the night with a good portion of Roxley’s money.
Yet Ludwick wasn’t the sort. And that was the prob-lem. There was no explanation for his abrupt depar-ture. None.
Further, the man’s vanishing act had been followed by the revelation of a string of soured investments. Wagers began going bad. Files for the Home Office stolen from his house. None of it truly connected, yet he couldn’t help feeling that there was a thread that tied it all together, winding its evil around his life.
But who was pulling it, and why, escaped Roxley entirely.
Sensing the earl’s hesitancy, Mr. Murray pressed his case, pulling out a now familiar document.
The mortgage on Foxgrove.
The one property of his that wasn’t entailed. The one with all the income that kept the Marshoms afloat.
Without Foxgrove . . .
Mr. Murray ran a stubby, ink-stained finger over the deed. “I’ve always fancied a house in the country. How is this village? This Kempton?”
“Kempton, you ask?” Roxley replied, wrenching his gaze up from the man’s covetous reach on his prop-erty. “Oh, you won’t like it. Cursed, it is.”
Mr. Murray stilled at this, then burst out in a loud, braying laugh. “I was told to expect you to be a bit ofa cut-up, but that! Cursed, he says.” He laughed again, more like brayed.
Good God, Roxley could only hope Murray’s daughter didn’t laugh like that. But to keep Foxgrove . . . tokeep his family out of debtor’s prison, Roxley knew he could bear almost anything.
And if he did his utmost to make this mushroom’s daughter miserable for the next forty years, he’d never have to hear that sound again.
That was, if anything, a small condolence.
“I have a mind to drive down next week,” Mr. Murray was saying. “Probably needs renovations like the rest of the piles of stones you gentry keep.”
Roxley ruffled at this. For his residences were his pride and joy. As had been his infamous luck that had kept them in good order. “Yes, well, currently my Aunt Essex lives at Foxgrove and she would be most put out to have strangers arrive at her residence.”
“Isn’t really hers, now is it?” Mr. Murray pointed out, once again running his ugly fingers along the edge of the deed.
He didn’t even want to think about it. Aunt Essex forcibly removed from the house she’d lived in most of her life. She’d have no choice but to move permanently to London.
Into the earl’s house. And without the income from Foxgrove, Aunt Eleanor in Bath, and Aunts Ophelia and Oriel at the Cottage would soon be forced to follow. All of the Marshom spinsters together. In one house. His house.
Worse than that, he’d have failed them. When they had once rescued him in his darkest hours.
He must have twitched as Mr. Murray chuckled. “Got your attention now.”
“Mr. Murray, you had my full attention when you sent me the list of my debts you were holding. But what I don’t understand is, why have you chosen to invest in me?”
Now it was Mr. Murray’s turn to still, as if he wasn’t too sure which direction to turn. But he had an answer at the ready soon enough. “Always fancied my daughter a lady, and a countess seems the right place to start.” Roxley nearly asked if the merchant was planning on sending him to an early grave, if only to climb the noble ladder again and gain a duke for his daughter the next time around.
“And,” Murray added, as if suddenly finding the rest of his answer, “your situation is not unknown.”
Roxley sighed. That was the truest thing the man had said since the earl had entered his study.
His fall from grace and rapid descent into debt had every tongue in London wagging. Hadn’t he once told Harry as much?
There are no secrets in the ton.
So the word had spread quickly that the Earl of Roxley was up the River Tick.
Worse, to those who’d lost to him over the years, it was a just reward to watch. And since that was most everyone, the entire ton seemed delighted by his plummet.
“It’s my daughter or the poorhouse with your aunts, my lord.” Murray smiled as he folded his hands atop what was the ruin of Roxley’s fortunes. “The choice is yours.”
Harriet Hathaway has only ever wanted one man: the Earl of Roxley. After a passionate interlude at a house party, Harriet is convinced Roxley will do the right thing and propose. But when she returns to London, she finds the roguish earl on the verge of proposing to another. Yet Harriet refuses to believe that her hopes of a happily-ever-after are completely lost—for she can see the desire still flickering in the earl’s eyes when he looks at her from across the dance floor. And when they are alone . . . there is one wish neither can deny. . . . the most extraordinary things can happen.
The Earl of Roxley is in a dangerous fix—and to keep Harriet safe, he must hold her at arm’s length. He won’t entangle her in the murderous mystery that is threatening to destroy his family and his future. But keeping Harriet Hathaway out of his troubles proves as impossible as it is to keep the determined beauty from stealing his heart.
Elizabeth Boyle has always loved romance and now lives it each and every day by writing adventurous and passionate stories that readers from all around the world have described as “page-turners.” Since her first book was published in 1996, she’s seen her books become New York Times and USA Today bestsellers and won the RWA RITA Award and a Romantic Times Reviewer’s Choice award. She resides in Seattle with her husband and two small sons, or “heroes in training” as she likes to call them.