A Lady's Prerogative

A Lady's Prerogative

by Annabelle Anders

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Overview

It's not fair. Titled rakes can practically get away with murder, but one tiny little misstep and a debutante is sent away to the country. Which is where Lady Natalie Spencer is stuck after jilting her betrothed. Frustrated with her banishment, she's finished being a good girl and ready to be a little naughty. Luckily she has brothers, one of whom has brought home his delightfully gorgeous friend. After recently inheriting an earldom, Garrett Castleton is determined to turn over a new leaf and shed the roguish lifestyle he adopted years ago. His friend's sister, no matter how enticing, is out-of-bounds. He has a run-down estate to manage and tenants to save from destitution. Can love find a compromise between the two, or will their stubbornness get them into even more trouble?

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781509220694
Publisher: Wild Rose Press
Publication date: 06/18/2018
Series: Lord Love a Lady , #2
Pages: 348
Product dimensions: 5.00(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.72(d)

Read an Excerpt

CHAPTER 1

May 1824

Less than twenty-four hours ago, Lady Natalie Spencer had been an engaged lady — a future duchess. Today she was the object of London's latest scandal. And on this particular morning, the esteemed daughter of the Earl of Ravensdale was like any other girl, awaiting her father's punishment and the lecture he was sure to dole out.

For yesterday, only one week before the wedding, she'd broken off her engagement to the Duke of Cortland. Despite the extenuating circumstances, she was a jilt. It was time to face the music. Her parents had demanded her presence in the study first thing this morning. After handpicking and then practically courting the duke himself, her father was none too happy.

Natalie's maid, Mrs. Tinsdale, helped her dress for the occasion with care, admonishing her to not appear overly pleased nor terribly distraught. The day dress they settled on was well cut but unimaginative, fashioned from a dull lavender muslin. It was a gown a lady might wear if she were in half-mourning. Natalie's blonde hair was pulled back from her face, braided tightly, and wound about her head. With the accentuated paleness of her face and the circles under her eyes, Natalie felt her appearance was appropriate for the solemn mood the occasion demanded. Over and over, Tinsdale urged Natalie to try to be demure. "For your own sake, dearie," she said.

And so Natalie sat straight backed, with her feet flat on the floor and her knees pressed together. Twisting her hands in her lap, she took a deep breath when Lord and Lady Ravensdale stepped in and quietly closed the door behind them.

Her father's presence filled the room. He did not sit but stood behind his imposing desk, hands clasped behind his back. Her mother dropped into the chair adjacent to Natalie's. Thank heaven her mother was not the vaporish sort! Her father did not require further aggravation.

Following Natalie's emotional outburst the previous day, his lordship had promised she would be held accountable this morning. Her mother shrugged and smiled tentatively in encouragement. Her father cast his eyes downwards and scowled.

"Well, my girl," her father began, using his very serious voice (the one he used when he wished to inflict the greatest amount of guilt on one of his children). "I am none too pleased at the disgrace you've brought upon your family. What in God's name were you thinking? You promised yourself to the duke! I expect a daughter of mine to keep her promises." With a quick glance at her mother, he asked, "Has notice of the broken engagement been sent to all the papers?"

In her normal calm and efficient manner, Mama responded, "First thing this morning, dear."

Lord Ravensdale nodded before turning his attention back to his daughter. "We will remove you from society for what remains of the Season and then confine you at Raven's Park for the summer. There will be no house parties for you, young lady. No traveling. No suitors and no balls — not even country assemblies."

"But Papa —"

Her mother broke in to reassure her, "But it is believed, Natalie, by Aunt Eleanor and me, that if you remain above reproach this summer, you may participate in the Little Season this autumn. Then, assuming you behave properly of course, you may take up your position, once again, in society next spring. With your dowry, there will be no shortage of suitors, darling. I have no concerns on that point."

Hearing mention of the dowry, her father winced. "Cortland won't sue for breach of contract. A saving grace, for certain." Lord Ravensdale's voice was less cajoling than his wife's. "But you must regain the approval of the ton if we're ever to land you a husband half as suitable as the duke." An expression akin to physical pain crossed her father's features. He was undeniably very sorry to have lost the Duke of Cortland as a son-in-law. "A perfect match broken — such a shame." And then recalling his previous train of thought he continued, "Otherwise, I could not care less what those old biddies think."

"Broderick." Her mother shot the earl a warning look.

Her father pinched the bridge of his nose. "What I would like to know, daughter, is why you consented in the first place. I had always thought you were a young lady who knew her own mind." Before she could begin to answer, he went right on speaking. "Your indecisiveness has wasted a great deal of time and money for the duke, the solicitors, myself, and your mother. In addition to all of that, you have tarnished your reputation and the good name of this family. I chose a man who would treat you well, a man I could trust. By jilting him, you've made me look a fool! What were you thinking, girl?" In the midst of his tirade, he began pacing. And then, clenching his jaw, he ceased moving and fell silent.

Natalie stared at her father innocently. She did not feel guilty for her decision, only the timing of it.

"Do you wish for me to answer your questions, Father, or are they rhetorical?"

His eyes narrowed. "I would have an answer," he said curtly. Her tone had obviously not pleased him.

Summoning a meeker countenance, Natalie schooled her features and stared solemnly at the colorful rug upon the floor. "I accepted the duke's proposal, Father, because I did not wish to disappoint you." She raised her gaze to his face and pouted. "At the time, it all felt very sensible. Father chooses a governess; I mind my governess. Father says I am to have my come out; I make my entrance in society. Father chooses me a husband; I marry the husband. But a marriage is not the same thing, is it?" She held her eyes wide as she pleaded with her father. "It is not! And the wedding date was getting closer and closer and I ..." She swallowed a not entirely feigned sob. "I did not want to disappoint you, but I could not go through with it. Marriage is for life. I want to love my husband, just as you love Mother." She looked over at her mother. "And just as Mother loves you."

She could hardly blame her father for feeling thwarted. She had consented, after all, when the duke proposed — despite her reservations.

Like a child, she'd been more concerned with pleasing her papa than considering her future as the Duchess of Cortland. The farce of her engagement had proceeded far too long. Any longer and she might have jilted him at the altar. That would not have gone over well.

And then she thought of Lilly. "Would you have me marry a man who is in love with another woman, Papa?" Natalie dared ask. She was not the only one at fault. Why must she take all the blame?

Her father's voice thundered. "He is a man of honor. We had already signed the contracts. It would not have been an issue." He did not appreciate it when his children challenged his decisions — especially if said child was his only daughter.

Natalie took a breath to argue further, but her mother put out a hand and interjected.

"What the duke would or would not have done is not our concern. Our concern is restoring Natalie's reputation and moving beyond this scandal." Her mother's voice had a calming effect on the earl, but Natalie's eyes still glared defiantly.

After an uncomfortable silence, her father cleared his throat. "Very well." But he continued his tirade. "We shall leave for Raven's Park immediately following Joseph's nuptials. At least all the money I've put out for the ceremony and reception will not go to waste." Late last night, it had been decided that Natalie's brother, recently engaged himself, would utilize the church on the date Natalie and the duke were to have been married.

"Is that all then, Father?" Natalie stood, ready to escape, hoping the interview was concluded.

"It is not. Sit back down. I've a few rules you will follow until we leave London." Not giving in to the urge to sigh loudly, Natalie dropped back into her seat and made herself comfortable. Demure, be demure.

Her father and mother then listed a litany of requirements to be adhered to in order to minimize her social fallout.

She was to remain in the townhouse unseen for the entire week while they awaited Joseph's wedding, the wedding that was to have been her own.

She was not to go shopping.

She was not to go to Gunter's with her friends.

She was not to receive any visitors.

Nor write any letters.

In no uncertain terms, she was to be kept out of the public eye until they departed for London.

Surely she could not stay locked inside for the entire week! As her father's little princess, Natalie usually was able to soften her father up when he was angry. And she needed some sort of freedom for goodness sake! That being said, it took her a considerable amount of beseeching for him to relent. Eventually, he gave her permission to take one thirty-minute walk per day, in Hyde Park, with her chaperone, in the morning hours only.

She was not to stop.

She was not to converse with anyone.

She was not to extend the thirty minutes to thirty-two minutes or even to thirty-one minutes. If she did not follow these rules exactly, she would lose this privilege as well.

With that settled, Natalie sought one more concession. "May I attend the wedding?" Despite her extreme reluctance to be in the church on that particular day, she could not imagine missing Joseph's wedding.

Her father looked to his wife for her opinion.

"The ceremony, I think," Mother said, "but not the breakfast."

They all sat without speaking for several moments, the rhythmic ticking of the ancient long-case clock the only sound in the room. Containing her desire to escape for as long as possible, Natalie waited two whole minutes before speaking. "May I be excused now, Papa?"

With narrowed eyes, her father pointed one finger at her. "You had better not disobey me! I will have your complete obedience, Natalie. And lest you find yourself tempted, remember your aunt Mary lives in Scotland and I am not opposed to sending you up there for a year or two, if necessary."

Of course he would never do such a thing!

"Yes, Papa." Natalie rushed around the desk to kiss her father's weathered cheek and then dashed from the study. Relief swept through her to be finished with such disagreeable business. She would obey her father's silly rules, and before she knew it, all this rubbish would be far behind her. She simply needed to avoid trouble until after Joseph's wedding. That ought not to be so hard. The Season was winding down, after all. How difficult could it be?

* * *

The newly titled Earl of Hawthorne braced himself as three familiar gentlemen strolled toward him along the walk. They were men with whom he'd broken bread, wagered cards, and practiced fisticuffs at Gentleman Jackson's. As they neared him, their conversation halted and their countenances transformed from pleasure to distaste. All six eyes focused on some unknown distant object behind him. The only sound was their booted heels and wooden canes tapping along the pavement as they passed. This wasn't the first time he'd received the cut today.

Walking aimlessly upon leaving his new office at Whitehall, Garrett Castleton resisted the urge to turn around and call the three of them out. Instead he clenched his fists and increased his pace. News of his father's crimes had spread quickly, and men he'd considered friends now treated him as though he had the plague. It ought not to bother him.

Although the morning air was cool, he reached up and tugged at his cravat. Resentment festered in his chest. To avoid any further unpleasant encounters, Garrett crossed the street to Hyde Park and headed down one of its less populated paths. The leaves rustled in the trees as a gentle gust stirred the air. Any breeze this time of year in London was welcome.

Unfortunately, solitude was not to be his for long. For the fragrant waft of nature carried with it the distinctive scent of ladies' perfume. Oh, wonderful, Lady Natalie Spencer — diamond of the first water — was just ahead. Careful to avoid soiling her slippers, she daintily picked her way toward him with a maid in tow. Just what he needed, another snub by one of London's elite.

He slowed his pace and scrutinized her, not bothering to move to one side or the other. By no stretch of the imagination was he feeling amicable in that moment.

She looked pale and fragile, wearing an icy blue confection of a dress. Of course, she carried the ridiculous ruffles and lace elegantly, not a bit of it hindering her practiced grace. Atop blonde tresses, she wore a jaunty hat, decorated with, of all things, two ladybugs and a butterfly. Ladies of the ton never failed to surprise him in their frivolousness.

Apparently sensing his presence, she glanced up. Garrett watched her lashes flutter and noted her blue eyes widen before shifting away.

He halted, opened his stance, and planted his boots on each side of the path. The trail was narrow here. She would be forced to acknowledge his presence if she wished to pass. In no mood to play the gallant, he removed his hat and bowed mockingly.

"My lady." His gaze travelled the length of her. He did nothing to hide his appraisal. In fact, he allowed it to linger over her tiny waist, bodice, and exposed décolletage. A flush spread across her creamy skin.

Hesitating for only a moment, with downcast eyes, the lady dipped into a flawless curtsey. "My lord ..." She still had not looked directly at him. "I'll thank you for permitting my maid and me to pass." Garrett's eyes fixed upon a loose curl dangling teasingly over one silken shoulder. His mind conjured up thoughts of how her skin might taste, how it would feel beneath his lips. In another world, she would be his for the taking.

But not in this one.

Although acquainted with the girl's father and brothers, he'd never been allowed an introduction to the delicate flower herself. "We've not been introduced, my lady. The Earl of Hawthorne at your service." His tone made a mockery of his words. Standing before her, he was aggravated to note he suddenly felt coarse and brutish. How could he not? She embodied all of that which polite society esteemed.

She bit her lip and looked about, as though seeking escape. He could have sworn her sapphire eyes flashed. "You'll excuse me please, my lord. I haven't time to converse." For the first time, he noticed she clutched a timepiece tightly. She glanced at it and frowned.

Goaded by her cool demeanor, Garrett reached out and snagged her fingers in his. Unwilling to release her, he pried opened her palm to reveal the gold watch. She held herself rigid. Did he frighten her, or was she merely too proud to tug against his grip? With an irresistible urge to shock her sensibilities, he raised her hand to his lips. Turning it over, he pressed his open mouth upon the silk of her glove and then slowly slid his tongue along the sleek fabric.

The silk was scented with something floral, but the material itself tasted sweet. Cruel satisfaction infused his cold heart when he felt her tremble. "A lady such as yourself should never be hurried. Won't you allow me to escort you to your destination?"

She glanced up with a shudder. Her expression nearly crushed him.

She was horrified!

Shaking her head from side to side, she practically cringed. "Oh, no! You mustn't, my lord. My father ... I cannot possibly ... No one must see me speaking to you!" and then pulling her hand from his, she grasped her maid from behind and pushed her way past. As she did so, the tight space of the path forced her to brush her entire person against him.

"I'm so very sorry, my lord," she mumbled into his coat as she passed. For such a feminine creature, she'd shown surprising strength. As his hands instinctively grasped her hips, he was momentarily, and most inconveniently, tempted by the womanly curves pressed against him. But Lady Natalie Spencer's response was chilling. He would detain her no longer. For but a moment he wished she weren't one of them.

But only for a moment.

And then, she disappeared as quickly as she'd come.

More than even before, he burned to depart London and all it represented. Even if that meant returning to Maple Hall.

He had one last appointment today, and then he would leave and perhaps never return. He only wished he could dispense with his father's dubious legacy so easily.

* * *

Sharing a pint of ale with one of his oldest friends, Garrett suppressed a twinge of guilt. Stone Spencer, ironically enough, was an elder brother to the lady he'd practically accosted not an hour ago, in the park.

Having just returned to London, Stone had suggested sharing a quick drink at this place, an anonymous pub, just outside Mayfair. He would have known that Garrett wasn't welcome at White's. Even Brooks' would balk if Garrett were to present himself.

(Continues…)


Excerpted from "A Lady's Prerogative"
by .
Copyright © 2018 Annabelle Anders.
Excerpted by permission of The Wild Rose Press, Inc..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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A Lady's Prerogative 4.9 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 10 reviews.
Anonymous 15 days ago
When Natalie jilted the Duke, she was banished to the country for the summer. Her mother was having a house party and Garrett Castleton was invited. Her brother asked her to be kind to Garrett since he is not like his father. It seemed her parents were trying to push these too together without her knowing it. Loved the story of a Lord not thinking her was worth anything and a lady who wanted to find Love! Beautifully written.
ReadingGenie 9 months ago
"A Lady's Prerogative" by Annabelle Anders 2018 (Lord Love a Lady #2) I wanted to find out what happened to Natalie Spencer after she broke off the engagement to the Duke of Cortland. This is her story. Breaking an engagement one week before the wedding was BAD TON. Breaking off an engagement to a Duke...very, very BAD TON. Well now she had to pay the price and was sent to the country. it was going to be very boring until her brother Stone invited his friend, Garrett Castleton, the new Earl of Hawthorn for a visit.. He was known as a notorious rake. Natalie wanted to enjoy and experience life and Garrett looked like just the place to start but she didn't realize he was turning over a new leaf and he had decided that Natalie was out- of -bounds to him. Jump in and enjoy Natalie and Garrett's journey to true love. Isn't the cover delicious! Happy Reading! ReadingGenie
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
story%21+You%27ll+love+the+talented+Annabelle+Anders%21
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Love+this+series.+Intriguing+storyline.
Sunshine1006 More than 1 year ago
Another great story from Annabelle Anders. Lady Natalie Spencer just broke off her engagement to the Duke of Cortland. It was the right thing to do as neither one loved each other and the Duke was in love with someone else. Her father, the Earl of Ravensdale is very upset and limited her social life until it is forgotten. While walking thru the park, she meets the Earl of Hawthorne, Garrett Castleton. While she wants to speak to him, she can't since her father has threatened her with going to Scotland until the ton forgets her broken engagement. He thinks it is because, he has inherited his Father's title and mental problems. When Natalie's brother invites Garrett to their country house, she sees that he is not the monster people think. He loves her but will not marry her because he is afraid of of his children having this mental disorder. He feels unworthy. Then the secrets start coming out. When Natalie becomes comprised, will Garrett marry her despite his feeling? Sweet story of love and overcoming obstacles to be happy. I received this book from Net Galley and Wild Rose Press for allowing me to read this book for a honest review and no compensation otherwise.
mscountrylace More than 1 year ago
A heart-melting Earl with a heartbreaking story meets his match with a lady rake that is just what he needs! I was so happy to see Natalie get her own story and she does not disappoint. They are like to halves to a whole heart from the start even though you wouldn’t think so by the way they act at first. I loved getting to know both of them and uncovering their own stories as they did with each other. They came from two very different upbringings, but both had scandals that put them at risk. I was holding my breath wishing for a certain twist and wanted to jump up down when it appeared. I did not see the twist of what happened with the trunk coming and was worried for a bit. I laughed when it came to her mother and godmother coming up with a plan. The ending was perfect and I hope to see her brothers again. Natalie did what she had to so that two people that truly loved each other could be happy. She just didn’t expect the rules and lectures that followed. I loved her right away and especially as soon as she decided to take control and be free. She never shied away from anything and really understood him more than anyone. Garrett is free from his father, but not the scandal that surrounded him. He broke my heart with his fears and reasons for not wanting to marry. But he also was heart-melting with how he listened to her and asked the questions that no one else did. When he discovered the truth it was like a weight off of his shoulders and he had the support he needed.
Robindpdx More than 1 year ago
This was a well-written, entertaining book. Lady Natalie Spencer has been sent from London to the country after ending her engagement. Garrett Castleton, one of her brother's friends, is visiting their country home before he goes to take over the estate he has inherited along with an earldom. He is trying to shed his roguish lifestyle, but she is frustrated with her banishment and wants to be a little naughty. They strike up a friendship and events proceed from there. I enjoyed this book and look forward to reading more books by this author.
Kat Wiley More than 1 year ago
The more I read Annabelle Anders’s books, the bigger fan I am becoming. A Lady’s Prerogative is the 2nd book in Lord Loves a Lady series and I am hoping this series will never end! I know that it is just wishful thinking however, this book can be read as a standalone but I recommend you read Nobody’s Lady to really understand why Garrett Castleton, Earl of Hawthorn is the way he his. Annabelle has an amazing writing talent that just draws you into her book from the first page to the very last page. The descriptions are so clear and vivid that you really feel like you are back in 1824 England. This story is so original and delightful that I could not put this book down. Oh and the characters are just wonderful, Lady Natalie Spencer is a favorite of mine! This story has a broken engagement, kindness so true that they put some else before themselves, friendships, arranged marriage, possible madness, misunderstandings, unexpected guess, deception, a new growing friendship, trust, brotherly love, misjudgment in character, scandal, disapproval, evil but is there love? You will just have to read this story to find out! I highly recommend this book, you will not be disappointed! Bravo Annabelle Anders Bravo! ***This book was gifted to me and I am voluntarily reviewing.
georgia1 More than 1 year ago
Being totally elated by the first book in this series, I highly anticipated this second. Can I say "wow", I was not disappointed! There are just too many adjectives I could use to describe this book. Ann takes pen to paper and wraps you into a romantic time I can never get enough of.. We were left at the end of the last book with a secondary character, Lady Natalie, leaving a Duke at the alter. We begin with her being disgraced and sent to the country with her family away from the Ton (you know, those sometimes judgmental high society that have a long memory?). But Natalie is truly an amazing young lady. She jilted the Duke so he could marry the one he truly loved and had no qualms about it.. So we pick up with Natalie with her family and her brother Stone's friend, Garrett Castleton who was invited to take some rest from his problems. Of course sparks seem to fly between the two and Garrett is determined to stay away. I mean, this is his good friend's sister and he is trying to focus on straightening himself up and pulling his life together to take the Earldom. But there is nothing like a determined whirlwind who is both beautiful and intelligent. There are some heartwarming scenes and the humor to be found just will bring a smile to your face. But there is also a lot of strong emotions that will grab your heart and make you sigh. I cannot say enough about this story, while greatly anticipating the next book (there are so many characters I hope will get their HEA I cannot wait!!) Lori Dykes
georgia1 More than 1 year ago
Being totally elated by the first book in this series, I highly anticipated this second. Can I say "wow", I was not disappointed! There are just too many adjectives I could use to describe this book. Ann takes pen to paper and wraps you into a romantic time I can never get enough of.. We were left at the end of the last book with a secondary character, Lady Natalie, leaving a Duke at the alter. We begin with her being disgraced and sent to the country with her family away from the Ton (you know, those sometimes judgmental high society that have a long memory?). But Natalie is truly an amazing young lady. She jilted the Duke so he could marry the one he truly loved and had no qualms about it.. So we pick up with Natalie with her family and her brother Stone's friend, Garrett Castleton who was invited to take some rest from his problems. Of course sparks seem to fly between the two and Garrett is determined to stay away. I mean, this is his good friend's sister and he is trying to focus on straightening himself up and pulling his life together to take the Earldom. But there is nothing like a determined whirlwind who is both beautiful and intelligent. There are some heartwarming scenes and the humor to be found just will bring a smile to your face. But there is also a lot of strong emotions that will grab your heart and make you sigh. I cannot say enough about this story, while greatly anticipating the next book (there are so many characters I hope will get their HEA I cannot wait!!) Lori Dykes