Golden-haired Aurora Kimberly possesses only one passion—to live a simple life on the lush island paradise bequeathed to her family by the English Crown. Now her peace is about to be threatened by the appearance of Valerian Hawkesworth, Duke of Farminster, who has arrived to claim his own prize—an heiress promised to him in a marriage contract. But the free-spirited beauty has no intention of letting some pompous duke carry her off to cold and gloomy England. Her sister Cally, who has always yearned for the luxurious life of a duchess, agrees to switch places.
But can the sisters hope to play out this charade successfully? And what sweet revenge will the duke demand once he discovers the deception? Only a twist of fate and the power of an indomitable love can change the heart of a man scorned…
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"I have only just heard of your husband's death, Mistress Kimberly. May I tender my condolences to you and your family?"
"You may, Captain Young," Oralia Kimberly said quietly. "Tell me, what brings you to St. Timothy? I have not seen you since Robert and I took our last voyage to Jamaica, two, three years ago."
"Three years," he reminded her, and then remembering why he was there, he handed her the letter. "I was entrusted with this letter in Plymouth, Mistress Kimberly. It is for your late husband. It has a mighty fancy crest on it, if I might be so bold to say."
"Why, so it does, Captain Young," Oralia Kimberly replied, a small smile touching her lips. Barnabas Young was a notorious gossip, but then how else could one learn what was going on in the outside world if it were not for people like him? "I do not recognize the hand," she said. "I believe I shall save it for Aurora to open, as she is her father's heiress."
"I hope he left Missy Calandra and Master George a bit too," the captain said, fishing none too delicately.
"Oh, indeed he did," the widow assured him. "Robert was most generous to my children even if they weren't his own. Why, Calandra is to have five thousand a year, not to mention an outright bequest of a thousand pounds, Captain Young. And, of course, George has done even better, being the young man in the family." There! Now the old seafaring Yankee gossip would have something to talk about as his ship made its way among the islands. And her children would be known as good marriage prospects. She and Robert had been so content with their family that they hadn't considered the future. Now, of course, widowed, the children without a fatherly protector, Oralia Kimberly had to think of her two daughters and her son. Of course Aurora wasn't really her child, but she had raised the little girl since she was barely three and thought of her as her own. She was certainly the only mother Aurora could remember. "Will you stay for dinner, and for the night?" she politely asked the captain.
"Thank ye kindly, Mistress Kimberly," he replied, "but 'tis not even noon yet. I have several other stops to make before I take on my cargo in Jamaica and head for England. I hope to get several voyages in before your stormy season hits. I've delivered your letter, and now I'll be heading off again." He tipped his hat to her and made a small bow. "Good day to ye, then, Mistress Kimberly."
"Good day, Captain Young, and thank you," she replied. Oralia Kimberly watched as the seaman made his way down the hill road back to the harbor of St. Timothy. She could see his great-masted ship riding at anchor in the bay. She looked again at the letter he had delivered. It was an extremely fancy crest that decorated the missive. Turning the letter over, she inspected the same crest in the sealing wax, and then, breaking the seal, she unfolded the paper. Waiting for Aurora had merely been an excuse to avoid opening the note in Captain Young's presence. She would have been hard pressed to keep the contents a secret with the nosy sailor standing before her. Her brown eyes scanned the page, and then she gasped. "Gracious! Oh, my!" she exclaimed. Then she sat down and fanned herself with the parchment. "Oh, Robert, why did you not tell me of this?" she said aloud to her dearly departed spouse.
"What, Mama? Are you still scolding Papa? I do not believe he can hear you now." Her son George gently teased his parent as he entered the airy morning room, removing his broad-brimmed hat, for he had been out in the fields, and the day was already hot.
Oralia Kimberly handed her son the letter.
"Damnation!" George swore softly when he had read it. "Does Aurora know of this, Mama?"
His mother shook her head in the negative. "I remember Robert mentioning to me some years back that he had arranged a marriage for Aurora one day, but he never brought it up again. Quite frankly, it slipped my mind. Ohhh, George! Just think! Aurora is to be a duchess!"
Her son burst out laughing.
"George!" Oralia Kimberly glared at her son.
Stifling his chortles, he replied, "Well, Mama, you must admit it is an interesting concept. You must let me be here when you tell her the news that even as we speak her betrothed husband is on the high seas, prepared to sail into the welcoming anchorage of her innocent, girlish heart." Then he burst out laughing again, quite unable to restrain himself.
"George," his mother said, "you are quite impossible! Do you not understand the importance of this? Aurora is to be the Duchess of Farminster. This island is her dowry. What will become of the rest of us, especially of you."
George Spencer-Kimberly shrugged. "I doubt the duke will dispossess us simply because he gains possession of the island, Mama. I am certain that I will remain on as the plantation's overseer, and I have the generous bequest that Papa left me, not to mention a yearly income as well. And you will certainly remain. Our about-to-be relation would hardly send his pretty mother-in-law packing."
"Of course you are correct," Oralia responded. Then she brightened even more. "And Calandra can go to England with Aurora, be presented to society, and find a titled husband! Of course she cannot seek as high as Aurora's husband, but a not too wealthy earl would be delighted to have a girl with five thousand a year. I am, of course, furious with Robert, God rest him, for not telling me of this match, but all in all, it is very fortuitous for the entire family, isn't it, George?"
"Only if Aurora cooperates," her son replied.
"Why would she not cooperate?" his mother asked. "What girl in her right mind would turn down a duke?"
"Aurora would," the young man replied, and then sat himself next to his mother. "You and Papa spoiled both the girls, Mama. Cally is charming, but a vain and acquisitive little minx. As for Aurora, she is probably the most headstrong girl in the world. If it is not to her liking, then she will not do it. God help the man who tempts her to the altar, Mama. And she will, I suspect, marry only if it is her idea first. Aurora is not a girl to sit coyly by, waiting for any man."
"Oh, George, what are we to do?" his mother said, and her eyes filled with anxious tears. "This duke is coming all the way from England to marry your sister. It would be scandalous for her to refuse him under such circumstances, especially after Robert arranged it."
"Does his letter say upon which vessel he will take his passage?"
"The Royal George," Oralia answered him. "It was to sail from Plymouth on the tenth of February."
"It's an elegant, sleek modern ship," George noted. "It should be arriving no later than March ninth, provided they do not run into any heavy weather, but coming south at this time of year, it should be smooth sailing for the bulk of the voyage, Mama. It carries little cargo, for it is a passenger vessel. It will probably go on to Barbados, St. Kitts, and Tobago after it stops here for our duke."
"And how long will this duke stay with us?" Oralia wondered, then answered her own question. "He will probably want to return fairly quickly to England. That means we won't have long to prepare for the wedding, or to pack Aurora's trousseau, or Cally's possessions. Oh! This is simply impossible!"
George grinned. "When do you intend telling Aurora, Mama?"
Oralia's pretty face grew determined. "Immediately, George! Your sister must be told right away so that she has time to get used to this change in her life. Aurora will be sensible. I know she will be sensible. You are right that she is headstrong, George, but she is an intelligent girl, and logical to a fault. This news will certainly come as a shock, I have no doubt, but when all is said and done, Aurora will see the wisdom in her father's decision. She will not want to disappoint him, I know, even if Robert is no longer here with us."
"I can but hope and pray that you are right, Mama," he replied, but George was not certain at all. Aurora was intelligent, and that, in his opinion, was the problem. A simple, biddable girl would cry a bit upon learning she was to marry a stranger and leave her family. Then she would rally and do her duty. Even Calandra, his younger sister, while hardly simple, would see the advantages to the kind of marriage Aurora was to have. Cally would pounce upon a duke with delight. He did not think Aurora would. No. She would consider the situation, and then decide what was best for her, for the family. Yet, was not this best for her? George considered. He left his mother and hurried off to wash, for it was almost time for the midday meal. In the upstairs hall he ran into Calandra.
"Sally tells me Captain Young was here this morning," she said to him. "Was he?"
George nodded. "He brought a letter, Cally."
"From where? England? Who was it from? What did it say?" she demanded of him. Calandra Spencer-Kimberly was a very beautiful girl, and used to getting her own way in most things.
"I have absolutely no idea," her brother answered her. "I believe Mama intends to tell us later, when we are all together."
"It must be important, George," Cally decided.
"Let me go and wash," he said. "It's damnably hot out in those fields, and you had best get dressed, or you will miss whatever news Mama has for us, little sister. Where is Aurora?"
"She took Martha and went swimming," came the reply. "I think it's shocking that she still swims in the sea, George, and naked too. Only little children should swim naked, for they know no better. I hate swimming! I always felt so sticky after swimming in the sea."
"You dabbled in the sea," he teased her. "You never liked it like Aurora and I like it, Cally. Well, if Martha's with her, they'll be back in plenty of time for the meal, and Mama's news."
The siblings parted, each to their own room, meeting later in the dining room of the house, where their mother and stepsister already awaited them.
"How can you look so cool on such a hot day?" Calandra grumbled, her hazel eyes taking in Aurora's appearance.
Aurora Kimberly laughed. "Because I've spent the morning shamelessly frolicking in the sea, Cally. It's wonderful, and you should join me instead of lying in bed until almost noon each day."
"My skin is too delicate to expose to the hot sun," Calandra replied. "You know I burn like a lobster, Aurora."
"You don't have to stay out as long as I do," her stepsister replied. "Just a quick swim to cool off, and then back into your clothes. You could swim in the afternoon, when the sun isn't as strong, or in the very early morning just before dawn."
Now it was Calandra who laughed. "You know I'm no fish like you," she teased. "Besides, I'd be mortified if anyone saw me. One day some wicked pirate is going to catch a glimpse of you in the sea and carry you off, Aurora. You had best be more careful."
"No pirate ship could get into my cove," Aurora said smugly, "and there is no one else about to see me, Cally, isn't that right, George? George knows my little cove, don't you?"
"It's safe enough," her stepbrother agreed.
They sat down at the beautiful mahogany dining table, Oralia at its head, her son to her right, and her daughters on her left. A servant ladled clear turtle soup into their dishes. Beyond the table the French doors were opened, the light muslin hangings blowing in the trade winds. The sea, calm, and blue-green, spread itself before them.
Calandra gobbled her soup, then said eagerly, "What was in the letter you received from England today, Mama? Who wrote to you?"
Oralia was not surprised by her daughter's question. Calandra's servant, Sally, had undoubtedly seen Captain Young arrive. "The letter was not addressed to me, but to your father," she told her daughter, keeping her voice calm and well modulated. "It seems that Robert made an arrangement with an old friend in England many years ago that his son and Aurora marry one day. The young man is on his way from England now, and will arrive on the Royal George in a few weeks' time."
"He'd best not get off the boat," Aurora said fiercely.
"Aurora, this is no younger son coming to wed you because you are an heiress and he needs a living. This young man is Valerian Hawkesworth, the Duke of Farminster. He is wealthy, and just the sort of man the heiress to a sugar plantation should marry."
"My God, Aurora!" Calandra's eyes were wide, and not just a bit envious. "You are going to be a duchess!"
"No, I'm not, Cally," came the stubborn reply.
"Aurora, I realize this is a shock to you," her stepmother said. "It was very foolish of your father not tell us of this arrangement at all, particularly before he died so suddenly."
"Papa's horse threw him, Mama," Aurora reminded Oralia. "He could have hardly anticipated that."
"No," Oralia responded, "he could not have anticipated it, but the marriage contract says you are to marry when you are seventeen. You will be seventeen on the sixth of April. Robert might have said something. I do not know when he expected to tell you, my dear, but he is gone, and the duke is on his way to St. Timothy expecting to marry you. Now you know, and we will not discuss it again for a few days so that you may get used to the idea of of it all." She smiled at her children, and then said, "Serve the chicken now, Hermes."
"I am not going to get used to it, Mama!" Aurora protested. "I have absolutely no intention of marrying an English duke I never met, and probably won't like anyhow. And I shall have to live in England all the time, and probably go to court to meet that German king. I do not like Germans, Mama. Do you remember that German overseer we once had? He was a horrible man!"
"One cannot judge an entire nation by one man, Aurora. I thought I had taught you better than that. Besides, the king is an old man and will probably not live much longer. His son, Prince George, is said to be kind and lovely. A real Englishman. It will be a young and delightful court that you join, my dear."
"Not I," Aurora said ominously.
"We will discuss it in a few days," Oralia said.
"We will discuss it now, Mama," came the reply. "I am not going to marry a stranger and go to live a life that I should hate in a wet, cold country I have never even seen."
"I would," said Calandra. "To marry a duke, and go to court, I would marry the devil himself! You really are a fool, Aurora. What an opportunity your father has given you, and you are not one bit grateful. If Papa had betrothed me to a duke, I'd wed him in a trice!"
"A stranger, Cally? You would marry some stranger you had never set eyes upon? I think it is you who are the fool!" Aurora said.
"Marriages are always arranged," Calandra answered her stepsister. "So you have never set eyes upon this man. He cannot, surely, be the beast from some fairy tale! And, remember, he has never laid eyes on you either. I'm certain he is wondering during his long days at sea if you are the sort of girl he really wants for a duchess, but he will do his duty, for his father made this match."
"He will gain a sugar plantation and this island for his troubles," Aurora noted.
"And you will gain a duchess's coronet!" Calandra countered.
"I don't want it," Aurora said irritably.
"I wish I had your opportunity, you silly creature," Calandra snapped at her stepsister. "You really are quite spoiled!"
"Do you want this duke, Cally?" Aurora asked the other girl. "Then have him! You marry this Valerian Hawkesworth!"
"Aurora, that is quite impossible," her stepmother said.
"Why?" Aurora demanded. She brushed a tendril of hair from her face where it had fallen. "Have you seen this marriage contract that Papa arranged? What exactly does it say, Mama?"
"Say? Why, I have no idea," Oralia replied.
"George! Go to Papa's library and look in the strongbox he kept by his desk. I will wager a year's crop you will find this marriage contract in that box. Bring it here at once," Aurora commanded her stepbrother. Then she looked directly at her stepmother in a way that discomfited the poor woman. "We will see if there is not some way I cannot wheedle my way out of this situation. Why, the nerve of this duke! He has ignored us all these years, and now, with not so much as a by-your-leave, madam, he announces he is coming to marry me!"
Calandra giggled. "I will wager a year's crop, if it were mine to wager, that your duke would be horrified to learn what manner of girl you are, Aurora. Men, I am told, do not like forward and fierce women such as yourself. You will have to improve your manners."
"Hah!" her stepsister responded. "The man who marries me will have to accept me for myself. I will not be molded and posed like some clay figurine. Besides, Cally, how would you know what a man wants in a woman. You haven't been off St. Timothy since you arrived from Jamaica, when my father and your mother married. You don't know any more about men than I do!"
Excerpted from "Deceived"
Copyright © 1998 Bertrice Small.
Excerpted by permission of KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP..
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
This ebook is incomplete. There are several chapters left out.
I normally give Bertrice Small 4 or 5 stars, but not this one. The last third of the book is missing! This needs to be rectified.
I own over half of Smalls books, and have probably read 50% of the other half. I have read them all multiple times and loved them all. Except one book, well now two. Even the first book I didnt like, I was hooked in the beginning not bored. I am 77 pages in... and nothing has happened. The book is less than 300 pages. It's quite dull.
I have read 90% of Bertrice Small novels but I do not see how they claim this is a new book since Mrs. Small passed away 3 years ago this upcoming February 2018. The last book that was supposed to be released was the last book in the Bianca series about 4 sisters living in or near Italy.
This was a reissue, I had bought and read this book 4 years a \go. B & N should more clearly state that a book is a reissue. the book is still a good story with a twist.
I read this book in paperback and was very upset on how it ended. This ebook does not relect the entire story. I was very dissapointed and I hesitate to purchase any other books from this author!
A overall good book. It gets very hasty and rushed towards the end. Still a very decent read.
This book started off good but got a little boring when Valarien married Aurora. I liked Aurora but I wasn't fond of the other characters in the book. I didn't hate this book but it's not on my top 10 list of the best B. Small books. I plan to read all of Ms. Small's books, so I'm glad I read it.
love the book. would recommend it to anyone. a must have book.
If I had to choose one of my absolute favorite Bertrice Small novels, it's this one. This was my very first romance novel and it has remained my favorite to this day. Most romance novels that I buy now are Bertrice Small novels. She keeps me interested with her historical romance novels. WELL DONE BERTRICE!!
This was another of her greatest hits, not quite as good as the Skye O'Mally series but more than worth the time it takes to read it. Ive read so many books by this author that I have an entire bookshelf devoted to her work, this is definately a winner.
Ms. Small creates another beautiful story. From the beginning of the page I was hooked. The plot and characters were very enjoyable and interesting. It's not to be missed.
I have read about 12 of Bertrice Smalls' books and she is magnificent a author. She does it again with Deceived!! This book is awesome. You must read it!!