Today's Reading

PROLOGUE

Emmeline Hervey caught her mother by the elbow. "Did I just hear you tell Cousin Penelope that we're vacating Winnover Hall?" Lady Anne Hervey nodded. "We have that lovely cottage in Bath now. There's no reason to keep it a secret."

"There's 'every' reason to keep it a secret, Mother, for heaven's sake," Emmie whispered, pulling the duke's daughter further away from the dance floor of the ballroom. "Especially from Penelope. I've only been out for three weeks, and you've just announced that Winnover Hall is up for grabs."

"Precisely. I've already given you three weeks to plan, without anyone else knowing."

"Yes, but—"

"They were bound to find out soon enough. I wrote the duke at the beginning of the Season, and you know 'he' can't keep a secret."

"Couldn't he make an exception for me? Winnover is my home. I don't want to live in Bath."

"You know he won't. That's the way it is with Winnover Hall. It has been, since the third Duke of Welshire acquired it in 1635. Do I need to recite the rules to you?"

"I know them. I've lived them. 'The first Ramsey descendant to wed after Winnover is vacated wins the use of it for five years. If said descendant produces a child within those five years, they may keep Winnover for their lifetime.'"

"Or until they decide to live elsewhere." Lady Anne peeled Emmie's hand off her arm. "Consider that if your father and I had kept it until I died, you would be already married and not eligible to live there. We've done you a favor, waiting until you turned eighteen and began your Season. You have marriage proposals already."

"Yes, but I haven't decided on any of them yet."

"Well, since your cousin became engaged a week ago, I suggest you do so quickly. Otherwise, Winnover will land in Penelope Ramsey's hands."

'Penelope.' "She would have all the walls smothered in pink wallpaper and use the library to display her bonnets." Just saying the words left a bad taste in her mouth.

"Then I suggest you seriously consider the three proposals you've received, and settle on one of them. Posthaste." With a swift almost-kiss to her daughter's cheek, Lady Anne glided away to converse with their hostess.

Emmie stayed where she was, her gaze on the filling dance floor. Despite her protests, she knew it would do no good to appeal to her grandfather, the current Duke of Welshire, to give her Winnover Hall, even though she'd lived there her entire life. Not only was he famously intractable, but he detested most of his own family—which was odd considering his demand that they all procreate in order to receive any kind of boon from him. He wanted his bloodline to continue, he said, in the hope that at least one of his descendants would be worth a damn.

But for heaven's sake, this was Winnover Hall. Those halls and pastures were the center of her life. Her parents might have given her a few more weeks, at least. By tomorrow every unmarried member of her large, competitive family would know that Winnover was available for the first time in twenty years.

Penelope had a year's head start on her, and while their age difference hadn't mattered much previously, it did now. Or rather, it mattered that Penelope had had a year to fish, and that she'd landed Howard Chase, the puffy-faced second son of a viscount. Stupid Howard Chase.

As she digested all of that, a hand slid around her arm. "My condolences," Penelope Ramsey said, giving her arm a squeeze. "I imagine you'll find residing in Bath much to your taste, though."

Taking a breath, Emmie smiled and gave her cousin a kiss on the cheek. She would 'not' be residing in Bath with the wig-wearing set of gray-hairs. Neither was she about to let Penelope know that, though. "I have to say," she said aloud, "I'm glad we've found a situation that agrees with Father's health. That helps set my mind at ease."

Penelope narrowed her eyes just a touch. "I expected to see you on the floor and flailing your arms about over vacating Winnover. You can't be this content about losing it."

'Oh, Penelope.' "I'll miss it horribly, of course. But I can't ignore the very obvious situation before me. I've only been out for three weeks. You are already betrothed. While I wish my mother might have kept our circumstance hidden a while longer, we all know that that was never going to happen." She sighed. "I intend to be horribly jealous of you, and I hope you will invite me to come visit Winnover—and you, of course—from time to time."

Giving her arm a last squeeze, her cousin straightened. "Of course, you must come to visit Howard and me at Winnover. But not right away; I already have so many ideas for improvements, and I want you to see it at its finest."


...

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Today's Reading

PROLOGUE

Emmeline Hervey caught her mother by the elbow. "Did I just hear you tell Cousin Penelope that we're vacating Winnover Hall?" Lady Anne Hervey nodded. "We have that lovely cottage in Bath now. There's no reason to keep it a secret."

"There's 'every' reason to keep it a secret, Mother, for heaven's sake," Emmie whispered, pulling the duke's daughter further away from the dance floor of the ballroom. "Especially from Penelope. I've only been out for three weeks, and you've just announced that Winnover Hall is up for grabs."

"Precisely. I've already given you three weeks to plan, without anyone else knowing."

"Yes, but—"

"They were bound to find out soon enough. I wrote the duke at the beginning of the Season, and you know 'he' can't keep a secret."

"Couldn't he make an exception for me? Winnover is my home. I don't want to live in Bath."

"You know he won't. That's the way it is with Winnover Hall. It has been, since the third Duke of Welshire acquired it in 1635. Do I need to recite the rules to you?"

"I know them. I've lived them. 'The first Ramsey descendant to wed after Winnover is vacated wins the use of it for five years. If said descendant produces a child within those five years, they may keep Winnover for their lifetime.'"

"Or until they decide to live elsewhere." Lady Anne peeled Emmie's hand off her arm. "Consider that if your father and I had kept it until I died, you would be already married and not eligible to live there. We've done you a favor, waiting until you turned eighteen and began your Season. You have marriage proposals already."

"Yes, but I haven't decided on any of them yet."

"Well, since your cousin became engaged a week ago, I suggest you do so quickly. Otherwise, Winnover will land in Penelope Ramsey's hands."

'Penelope.' "She would have all the walls smothered in pink wallpaper and use the library to display her bonnets." Just saying the words left a bad taste in her mouth.

"Then I suggest you seriously consider the three proposals you've received, and settle on one of them. Posthaste." With a swift almost-kiss to her daughter's cheek, Lady Anne glided away to converse with their hostess.

Emmie stayed where she was, her gaze on the filling dance floor. Despite her protests, she knew it would do no good to appeal to her grandfather, the current Duke of Welshire, to give her Winnover Hall, even though she'd lived there her entire life. Not only was he famously intractable, but he detested most of his own family—which was odd considering his demand that they all procreate in order to receive any kind of boon from him. He wanted his bloodline to continue, he said, in the hope that at least one of his descendants would be worth a damn.

But for heaven's sake, this was Winnover Hall. Those halls and pastures were the center of her life. Her parents might have given her a few more weeks, at least. By tomorrow every unmarried member of her large, competitive family would know that Winnover was available for the first time in twenty years.

Penelope had a year's head start on her, and while their age difference hadn't mattered much previously, it did now. Or rather, it mattered that Penelope had had a year to fish, and that she'd landed Howard Chase, the puffy-faced second son of a viscount. Stupid Howard Chase.

As she digested all of that, a hand slid around her arm. "My condolences," Penelope Ramsey said, giving her arm a squeeze. "I imagine you'll find residing in Bath much to your taste, though."

Taking a breath, Emmie smiled and gave her cousin a kiss on the cheek. She would 'not' be residing in Bath with the wig-wearing set of gray-hairs. Neither was she about to let Penelope know that, though. "I have to say," she said aloud, "I'm glad we've found a situation that agrees with Father's health. That helps set my mind at ease."

Penelope narrowed her eyes just a touch. "I expected to see you on the floor and flailing your arms about over vacating Winnover. You can't be this content about losing it."

'Oh, Penelope.' "I'll miss it horribly, of course. But I can't ignore the very obvious situation before me. I've only been out for three weeks. You are already betrothed. While I wish my mother might have kept our circumstance hidden a while longer, we all know that that was never going to happen." She sighed. "I intend to be horribly jealous of you, and I hope you will invite me to come visit Winnover—and you, of course—from time to time."

Giving her arm a last squeeze, her cousin straightened. "Of course, you must come to visit Howard and me at Winnover. But not right away; I already have so many ideas for improvements, and I want you to see it at its finest."


...

Join the Library's Online Book Clubs and start receiving chapters from popular books in your daily email. Every day, Monday through Friday, we'll send you a portion of a book that takes only five minutes to read. Each Monday we begin a new book and by Friday you will have the chance to read 2 or 3 chapters, enough to know if it's a book you want to finish. You can read a wide variety of books including fiction, nonfiction, romance, business, teen and mystery books. Just give us your email address and five minutes a day, and we'll give you an exciting world of reading.

What our readers think...