Shy Ivy Bateman has always felt more comfortable behind the scenes than front and center. She is happiest caring for her family and baking sweet treats. She certainly never expected the wealthy Marquess of Kendall to propose marriage, especially a marriage of convenience. It seems his baby daughter needs a mother, and Ivy cannot deny the attraction of the role, or the attraction she feels for the handsome marquess.
Kendall had asked Miss Thorn of the Fortune Employment Agency to find him a particular sort of lady. His heart went to the grave with his first wife. Now, all he cares about is ensuring his frail daughter doesn't follow it. Installing Ivy Bateman as his next marchioness will not disrupt his life or make him question his love for his dead wife. But as he comes to appreciate Ivy's sweet nature, he begins to wonder about their future. When an old enemy strikes at Miss Thorn and all her ladies, a grieving lord and a shy lady must work together to save the day. In doing so, they might just discover that love, and a good cinnamon bun, can heal all wounds.
Sequel to Never Kneel to a Knight. Fortune's Brides: Only a matchmaking cat can hunt true love.
Here's a little taste:
Lord Kendall was on one knee, gaze on hers, waiting. Fine lines fanned out from his eyes. It seemed she wasn't the only one wondering about this proposal. Once she'd dreamed of a proposal from the man she loved, of accepting with joy in her heart. Was it right to accept when she felt no joy? Was it wrong to accept for her family's sake?
As if determined to protect her, Fortune the cat stalked out from behind the couch, put her paws on Lord Kendall's knee, and glared up at him, tail swishing.
Ivy leaned back. "Please. Do get up."
He set the cat gently aside and climbed to his feet. Fortune paced back and forth in front of him, tail in the air, back up, ears tight, as if challenging him to combat.
He returned to the chair and sat. "I take it you decline."
His voice was so heavy Ivy hurt for him. Twice in the last month he had come to her aidonce by taking her in secret to see her brother box for the prince and once by helping her find Petunia when her sister had disappeared. He had been a true friend then. He had been honest with her now. She could do no less.
"I am not declining," she told him. As he raised his head, she hurried on. "Neither am I accepting. I understand the honor you have given me, my lord. I never thought to receive a proposal from a gentleman like you. But I had dreamed of a love match. Can you give me no hope of one someday?"
His eyes dipped at the corners. "Alas, Ivy, I cannot. My heart, once given, does not easily give again."
How extraordinary. She had loved her mother, father, and brother. That love had only expanded with the births of Daisy and Tuny. Now it had grown yet again with the addition of Charlotte to their family. Had he focused all emotions on his dead wife?
What would it be like to win such a devotion for herself?
Dangerous thought. He offered her nothing of his love. Yet she knew love could grow. He clearly cared for his daughter. Might he someday come to care for her as well? Was she willing to risk her future on a chance?