Miss Anne Brotherton, supporting character of The Importance of Being Wicked and jilted once the Duke initially courting her fell head over heels for her widowed cousin instead, now has to fend off eager suitors everywhere she turns in London. Every man becomes a fortune hunter when faced with the ridiculous amounts of money, land holdings and estates that Anne, sole heir to the Earl of Camber brings to the marriage. Of course, while Anne is by no means poor, she doesn’t actually have access to much of the money, and if she marries without her guardian’s consent, she’s likely to be left with only a tiny allowance. Not that that’s looking like such a bad prospect.
All she wants is to find someone who might appreciate her for her intelligence and kindness. She’s deeply passionate about ancient history and archaeology, but most people find it dreadfully dull. Not that any of her many would-be suitors would let her talk drive them off for long. So when she meets a handsome young gentleman who seems ever so interested in the same things as her, she can’t help but be a bit smitten. Even when he warns her that he’s by no means appropriate company for a proper young lady. Frankly, Anne is ready to spend more time in the company of someone a bit scandalous, hoping that the light tarnish to her reputation might at least dissuade some of the stuffier candidates vying for her hand.
Marcus Lithgow isn’t lying when he says Anne should be careful to be seen in his company. A shameless rake, gambler and occasional thief, he has indeed singled her out to seduce her. For months, he’s had absolutely no luck at the gambling tables, and he needs money, fast. He doesn’t actually have marriage in mind, he just hopes that her guardian might pay him a generous sum to never set foot near her again. He reads up on all the topics she finds fascinating and orchestrates a number of chance meetings for them around London. Unfortunately, Marcus is staying with his old school friend Julian Fortescue, the Duke of Denford, whose house is right next door to that of Lady Windermere, Anne’s current chaperone. When Anne hears the two men talking and realises what Marcus’ devious plan is, she is determined to get her revenge. She starts forcing Marcus to accompany her everywhere, making him waste huge amounts of money he doesn’t really have taking her to the most tedious of exhibitions. But then Marcus is told he has inherited an estate, and suddenly seems to lose interest in her entirely.
It wouldn’t be much of a romance if the hero went off to his crumbling estate, leaving the heroine confused and slightly disappointed in London. There are Roman ruins on Marcus’ land and Anne is absolutely desperate to be allowed to excavate them. Marcus, who at this point has grown quite fond of the place he has neither the money nor the staff to maintain (all the villagers refuse to work there because of rumours that it’s haunted) strikes an unusual deal with Miss Brotherton. If she works as a maid of all work for an hour and a half in his house every day, he will allow her to excavate the ruins. More on my blog.