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If it's the last thing I do, I will free myself of that scoundrel. Sipping her third glass of champagne in an absentminded motion, Cecily Nottingham, the new Countess of Kensington, glared daggers across the crowded ballroom at the man she'd pledged to love, honor, and obey in a church of God, less than one month ago. Even if I have to kill him.
Tonight, her husband's hand caressed the delicate arch of another woman's back as he guided the lady across the parquet dance floor and outside to a romantically lit terrace.
Cecily wondered if anybody present did not know that that woman was his lover. For since their nuptials, Flavion had exhibited no discretion whatsoever. All too late, Cecily realized that she'd married a narcissistic, good-for-nothing, parasitical bastard.
Both Cecily and her father had been fleeced.
The villain, Flavion Nottingham, the Earl of Kensington, stood at above-average height and was slim with blond hair and gloriously cobalt eyes. In addition to being inordinately handsome, he possessed an uncanny ability to charm any lady he so desired. One might call it a gift.
His lady love, Miss Daphne Cunnington, nearly equaled him in beauty. A twinkle caught Cecily's eye and curdled something ugly in her stomach. For Miss Cunnington's dark ringlets were being held in place by a heavily bejeweled barrette purchased with the money from Cecily's dowry.
Which now belonged to Flavion.
It was not the first gift he'd bestowed upon his lover since his windfall.
A fleeting urge gripped Cecily, to run across the ballroom, slip outside and rip the barrette off Miss Cunnington's head. Cecily would not be sorry if she pulled a few strands of hair out as well. In her mind, she could picture the scene — Miss Cunnington's high-pitched wails drowning out the sounds of the orchestra as she clutched at her ruined coiffure, her face pinched and red. The thought could almost make Cecily smile.
Instead, she lowered her gaze from their retreating figures to watch the bubbles in her champagne glass. She would not give in to boorish behavior. Cecily was a lady now.
It was not Miss Cunnington, anyhow, who vexed her most; her degenerate louse of a husband deserved that honor.
And herself for being so gullible.
"I had no choice but to court you. I have responsibilities - quite noble of me, really," he had told her, with not even the tiniest trace of regret in his voice. "The earldom needed the blunt."
He had explained this to her approximately two minutes after consummating their vows.
That had been twenty-four days ago.
Every night since then, she'd locked the connecting door between their chambers and wrapped herself in a cocoon of icy anger. Based upon his persistent requests to enter, he still expected her to present him with an heir. His sense of entitlement knew no bounds. Cecily, however, would not allow him to touch her ever again.
During mealtimes and in passing, the bounder impudently assumed that she would be a cordial and biddable wife. He expected her to peaceably accept her circumstances as though she were any other lady of the ton. But she was not, never had been, and never would be. As the only daughter of the well-known, self-made millionaire, Thomas Findlay — an orphan who had created his own wealth from nothing but cunning and determination, she could not settle for intolerable circumstances. She would not.
"But we live amongst the haute ton," Flavion had told her. Had she truly expected his undying love and flattery to continue indefinitely? "You ought to be grateful to me! You are now the Countess of Kensington, for God's sake. You have duties, my lady."
Flavion, apparently, had comprehended to know her no better than she had thought she'd known him.
Despite all the lessons and training she'd received from her governess, her middle-class notions of marriage could not be so easily relinquished. She'd married believing she'd found a love match. Instead, she was the pawn of a horrific business transaction.
She wished her papa had not sailed for America so soon after the ceremony. He would never have allowed this farce of a marriage to stand.
A gust of wind blew, causing the gauzy curtains to billow out from the panes of glass along the ballroom. Cecily could barely make out the outline of her husband and his lover standing scandalously close to each other. Were they in fact touching one another? By God, they were — from hip to chest.
A man possessed of even a morsel of honor would at the very least have feigned affection for his new wife whilst in public. Instead, Flavion's unrepentant disregard laid her open to scorn and ridicule. And as each day passed, the situation grew more unbearable. Making matters worse, but unable to help herself, Cecily could not pretend to be anything other than a lady scorned. She had fallen from the pinnacle of happiness to the depths of despair. Her dreams were shattered.
She was trapped in a loveless marriage.
Furthermore, in the perverse way of the ton, despite outwardly flaunting his infidelity, Flavion continued to be well-received and even revered. For he was one of them. Our poor, dear Lord Kensington, stuck with a lowborn wife! They'd understood his action to be perfectly acceptable. Their precious earl was a martyr, a hero, a victim! What did Lady Kensington expect?
She'd gotten her title, after all. Good lord, Miss Cecily Findlay had been elevated to the title of countess. Amazing, what money could buy these days!
"You are clenching your jaw again, Cece." Her friend Emily's voice broke into Cecily's bitter thoughts. "You'll grind up all of your teeth if you keep doing that. Here, I've brought you another glass of champagne." And then, turning to follow the direction of Cecily's gaze, Emily sighed. "I know. I saw them leave, too. He ought to have two horns and a tail instead of well ... looking like such an angel, rather."
Cecily dragged her eyes away from the terrace doors toward her friend and attempted a smile. The image of Flavion with horns protruding from his head and a tail shooting out behind him nearly caused her to laugh out loud. But she did not. For if she were to begin laughing, she very well might become hysterical.
The alcohol made her more than a little fuzzy. Since her wedding night, she'd acted with reckless disregard for her reputation. But did it matter? She'd followed the rules of etiquette diligently when she'd first been introduced to Society, and look where that had gotten her. Now, ironically, as a countess, she received the cut direct nearly everywhere she went. No one but her dearest friends ever met her eyes anymore. She was not one of them. She never would be. She wished her father had not set his sights so high for her.
But, in all fairness she could not lay all the blame for this catastrophe at her father's door. For she herself had been swept up in the intoxication of Flavion's romantic declarations.
When she'd said, "I do," returning his loving gaze, she'd thought she had finally found her happily ever after — her fairy tale prince. But, nay, that had been a fantasy.
She had become a countess, but she'd also become an object for ridicule.
Thank God for Emily, Sophia, and Rhoda, (short for Rhododendron). The three of them had been marginalized to the periphery of the ballroom by diminutive dowries; Cecily by low birth. The bonds of mutual rejection were apparently stronger than one would have thought.
In spite of their respective parents' disapproval, the small group of friends had stood by her through it all. They'd rejoiced with her when they thought she was making a glorious love match with Flavion, they'd cried with her when she left her wedding breakfast, and then they'd cried with her again when she broke the news to them that it had all been a charade. He only needed her money.
Since then, daily and with unabridged enthusiasm, her three friends now concocted elaborate plots for her to escape her despicable marriage. Alas, all they had been able to come up with to date were methods for murdering him. The law did not allow a woman to divorce her husband. This being the case, their suggestions encompassed poisonous herbs, carriage accidents, and outright shooting the louse through the heart.
And eventually, they'd succeeded in making her smile again.
Fixing her gaze on a distant candle, Cecily wished for the thousandth time that her father was still in London. He would hopefully receive her letter soon. And then, return to England on the next ship. The last time he'd crossed, it had taken thirty-two days to do so. He would likely be unable to return to London for another month — or longer. But even then, could he do anything to help her? His wealth had gotten her into this marriage; surely it could buy her way out of it.
"Perhaps you could get Fiavionto divorce you!" Sophia sidled up beside Emily. "You could do something so very terrible that he could not help but begin divorce proceedings." With Sophia being the most timid and shy of her friends, this suggestion came as a bit of a surprise.
Emily pushed her spectacles up higher onto the bridge of her nose and grimaced. "It would have to be truly horrible. The cost of a divorce is exorbitant! He would end up spending a huge part of your dowry on legal fees. And if he divorced you, Cece, your reputation would be beyond repair. The scandal would be horrendous."
By this point, Rhoda had returned from the ladies' retiring room and picked up on the last part of the conversation. As the four had continuously discussed methods to free Cecily from her marriage for several days now, she had no difficulty in picking up on the train of thought. "What could possibly make him angry enough to do that? Cece's dowry was his sole purpose for marrying her after all."
Cecily closed her eyes and pressed her fingertips to her temples. She could barely organize her champagne-muddled thoughts. After a few moments, she picked up the idea again. "He isgrowing quite angry with me for locking my chamber door at night. Despicable man. I'm not sure how much longer I can hold him off. I find it reprehensible that he still expects for me to ... that I will ... well, that I would present him with an heir — the lying, snakein-the-grass, scum-sucking rat."
"You could make him into a cuckold. Present him with another man's child," Sophia suggested breathlessly.
Three sets of widened eyes turned on her at the same time.
"That's perfect!" Rhoda said.
"She'd be an outcast," Emily stated.
A shiver ran down Cecily's spine as she imagined Flavion's reaction to such a scandal. "I'd be free," she whispered. "But how would I go about doing such a thing? I know nothing of seduction, and if I did, who on earth would I seduce?"
In that moment, a commotion arose by the doors where a man bearing an eerie resemblance to Flavion Nottingham stood. Instead of being fair and blond, this man's skin was bronzed and his hair more of a tarnished golden color — but the eyes were the same, the features nearly identical. And as several ladies swooped in on him, it quickly became apparent that he also possessed the same lethal magnetism.
"What about him?" Emily asked with a wicked glint in her eyes.
* * *
It had been over eight years since Stephen Nottingham had last set foot in a London ballroom. He'd left England at the age of one and twenty with a resolve to find his own place in life, and had finally returned, having done so. He'd established a fortune, a rather convenient set of circumstances, considering the letter he'd finally received from his cousin. News was that the family coffers were in dire need of funds. Stephen vowed this would be the last time he would bail out his cousin, now the earl. He only hoped he wasn't too late. As the second in line to the earldom, and having been virtually raised by his uncle, Stephen felt more than a little responsible for the family estate and holdings.
He was in a position to save it, and save it he would. But there would be conditions. He would not offer his assistance without oversight.
Upon the death of Uncle Leo, Flave had most likely relinquished full control to the stewards who had worked under his father for years. There would have been no control, no guidance, and no innovation.
Stephen tried to ignore the niggling of guilt that assaulted him whenever he pondered his uncle's death. He had not returned home for the funeral. He'd stayed away intentionally, still feeling the sting of his family's betrayal. He had left Flavion to cope alone.
And Flavion had always been a spendthrift. Who knew what had transpired over the past five years or so? Nothing lucrative, for certain.
Stephen would be damned if he would sink his hard-earned funds into the properties and then allow them to be mismanaged. Flave must learn to put in some effort.
Narrowing his eyes, he scanned the ballroom, hoping to locate his erstwhile, younger cousin. But he wasn't quick enough. Before he could take more than a few steps, he found himself surrounded by an army of mamas and debutantes. Oh hell.
* * *
"He must be Lord Kensington's cousin. The resemblance is eerie," Cecily said as she warily watched the familiar, yet not familiar, gentleman attempt to extricate himself from the more aggressive Mayfair mothers. The man's similarity to her husband was uncanny, and yet ... not. Whereas Flavion drank in adoration greedily, this man looked irritated and a bit uncomfortable. He pulled at his cravat a time or two and scowled.
Handsome, indeed, drat him.
Cecily attributed the zing of awareness flowing through her to the man's likeness to her husband. Until her wedding night she'd thought herself in love with Flavion. Of course, a man who looked so much like him would cause her heart to race. Wouldn't it?
"I think he's even more attractive than Flavion," Emily said. "Sturdier, manlier somehow."
Emily had the right of it. Cecily did not believe, in truth, that she could seduce any man, let alone this one. He seemed far too worldly, untouchable — almost. Her friends' outlandish ideas were getting more and more preposterous.
Sophia shook her head, her blond ringlets dancing about her petite shoulders. "He doesn't look like he would be as fun as Flavion is — was," she said with a pout. "He seems overly serious."
"Could you do it, Cecily? Could you seduce your husband's cousin?" Rhoda asked daringly.
Cecily thought about the kisses she had shared with Flavion during their courtship. The compliments, secret smiles, and elicit touches. It had all been coldly calculated to lure her into falling in love. And she had believed in him. He'd made her heart dance. He'd caused the sun to shine inside of her on the rainiest of days.
None of it had meant anything to him.
And now she felt more powerless than she had in her entire life.
Her father hadn't raised her to be an empty-headed miss, well, not until the last couple of years, anyhow. As a child, she'd sit with him in his office while he made decisions affecting hundreds of people. He'd allowed her to remain in the room during sensitive negotiations and then later explained his strategies and techniques. Although a female, she had been, nonetheless, his favorite protégé. He'd expounded the importance of knowing every detail, no matter how minute, before entering any contract. "And always remember," he'd told her, "once money has exchanged hands, consider the deal final." Cecily could not deny the direness of her situation.
For the payment of her dowry, had indeed, been delivered in full
If she were going to free herself, she would have to do something drastic.
Could she do it? Could she seduce her husband's cousin?
Her cold anger turned into a steely resolve. "If it will make him angry enough to divorce me," she said through clenched teeth. Perhaps then she would stop feeling so mad all of the time. Perhaps her hurt would go away if she could hurt him. She tamped down the part of her conscience that told her it wouldn't work, it wasn't right. But the scars of betrayal were now a part her. He had done this to her! She handed her empty glass to a passing waiter and accepted a new one.(Continues…)
Excerpted from "Hell Hath No Fury"
Copyright © 2017 Annabelle Anders.
Excerpted by permission of Blue Tulip Publishing.
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.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
If not for some. . . questionable decisions, Hell Hath No Fury might have been a favorite romance of mine for this year. Alas, it was not meant to be. So. The basics. Cecily marries quick, thinks she’s in love and that her new husband Flavion loves her back but jokes on her, he’s cheating on her with another woman (the guy gets around). Enter his dashing cousin Stephen, his complete opposite, and just a really bad plan to get the jerk husband to file for divorce. Problem #1 – Cecily thinks it’s a good idea to pretend to have an affair with Stephen to hurt Flavion’s pride and get him to divorce her so she’s free. Like, alright, this would have been fine if it hadn’t been his cousin. She’s pissed at Flavion for cheating on her but now she wants to pretend to do the same thing (but we all know it won’t be pretend for long). I love a good fake relationship and it’s one of my favorite tropes in romances, but not how this was done. Problem #2 – Cecily and Stephen have an affair but, oh no, it’s not like a drawn out even to get to that point. This happens within days of meeting each other and coming up with this crazy scheme. It came off as rushed and I also wasn’t a big fan of getting back at Flavion by doing the exact same thing that he did. I’d have rather seen Cecily overcome her situation in some other manner. And yet, I still enjoyed Hell Hath No Fury. Cecily and Stephen actually have a really great relationship going, situation aside. The way it’s written makes it seem like a lot more time has passed as they get to now each other, rather than days. The moments I forgot about the adultery were the best because I could enjoy this book for the love story (which was also thankfully a good portion of the book). The writing was solid too and I finished reading in one sitting. Anders kept the story moving at a good pace with enough tension from the situation to keep things interesting while also providing page time for the characters to grow as individuals and as a couple. And I enjoyed the book enough to want to read the rest of the series, so that’s something, I suppose. Hell Hath No Fury was decent and I think if you don’t mind the whole fight fire with fire bit, you’ll really enjoy it. By the end, it bothered me more than I expected but the romance made up for enough that I would still recommend this book!
The cover is what caught my eye. Didn't even read the description and downloaded it on Audible. I love historical romances but a few in the past have grabbed interest. I mostly read Rosemary Rogers and have given into Christine Merrill! This book is one of a kind, the story is unique. Not many historical's start out with this beginning. I highly recommend to read and trust me it's that good. For I won't talk about it but encourage you to give this book a chance. Elegant writing with a twist!
Flavion Nottingham, the Earl of Kensington is an amazingly handsome man - slim with blonde hair and gloriously cobalt eyes. Unfortunately, he is also a lying toad of a man. Cecily Nottingham, the new Countess of Kensington thought she was marrying for love, but Flavion has proven himself to be a liar and a cheat. Now Cecily wants to find a way out of their sham of a marriage. When she meets Flavion’s cousin Stephen Nottingham, Cecily concocts a plan to drive Flavion to divorce her. Will it work? Or will she be forced to stay chained to a man who doesn’t love her? I thought this book was very well written. There are quite a few sex scenes in it. I liked Cecily and Stephens characters. I am looking forward to reading the rest in the series.
Hell Hath No Fury is an amazing historical romance by Annabelle Anders. Ms. Anders has delivered a well-written book. The characters are outstanding, I love them. Flavion married Cecily for her money, and promptly informed her after their wedding night. He then flaunts his mistress everywhere. Cecily wants out of the marriage. Stephen is Flavion's cousin and arrives on the scene too late to stop the wedding. Stephen, Flavion and Cecily's story is loaded with drama, humor, sizzle, suspense and action. I enjoyed reading Hell Hath No Fury and look forward to reading more from Annabelle Anders in the future. Hell Hath No Fury is book 1 of the Devilish Debutantes Series but can easily be read as a standalone. This is a complete story, not a cliff-hanger.