Excerpts for If Wishes Were Earls


If Wishes Were Earls


By Elizabeth Boyle

HarperCollins Publishers

Copyright © 2013 Elizabeth Boyle
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-06-208909-0



Chapter 1
I have seen one night be the ruin of many a good man.
Lt. Throckmorten to Miss Darby
from Miss Darby's Reckless Bargain
London, April 1811
Eight months later
Every gambler knows the moment when his luck
changes.
And not for the good. Luck is too fickle of a lover
to whisper in a gamester's ear to encourage him to
double down.
No, when she turns her back on a fellow, he knows
it. As sure as all the air in the room has rushed out.
Like a fish out of water, he suddenly finds himself
grasping at anything that might return her bright
favor to his dark and empty pockets.
So it was with Tiberius Maximus Marshom, the 7th
Earl of Roxley.
Roxley, who took wagers that no one else would,

18 Elizabeth Boyle
and won . . . The earl who always had pockets of
vowels that only needed collecting was now dodging
friends and ducking out of White's to avoid the embar-
rassment of his current dire financial straits.
And his shocking turn of luck was what had
brought him here. To the City. To the offices of one
Aloysius Murray.
"So you see, my lord," the merchant was saying, his
hands folded atop a pile of notes, "you have no choice
but to make my daughter your wife."
The earl looked across the wide expanse of the
man's desk at a fellow he hadn't even known existed
until two days ago when he'd received Mr. Murray's
summons. Still, despite the gravity before him, Roxley
could not resist smiling.
It was all he could do. A Marshom through and
through, he knew he was trapped, but he was certainly
not going to let this mushroom, this Mr. Murray with
his most likely equally uncouth daughter, know that
he had Roxley in a corner.
Mr. Murray pushed the papers across the top of the
desk. "I've managed to buy out all your vowels, all your
debts. You're solvent, for the time being. I think a kindly
given 'thank you' would be in order." He paused for a
moment and then added belatedly, "My lord."
Roxley looked at the pile of notes and scribbled
promises and realized that his hopes of reclaiming all
that he'd managed to lose over the past eight months--
his money, his position with the Home Office, his
standing (what there had been of it)-- was for naught.
His legendary luck was gone.
If he were inclined to be honest-- which he rarely
was-- he could point to the exact moment when Fair
Fortune had abandoned him.

If Wishes Were Earls 19
Eight months ago. The third of August, 1810, to be
exact. The night he'd kissed Miss Harriet Hathaway.
And since we've established that the Earl of Roxley
possessed very little honesty, kissing had been the
least of his sins that night with the aforementioned
Miss Hathaway.
He'd demmed well ruined her.
But enough of contemplating an evening of mad-
ness-- it wasn't his insatiable desire for Harriet that
had gotten him into this mess.
Oh, Harry what have I done? he thought as he looked
at his all his wrongdoings piled up atop this cit's desk
and knowing that no matter how much he . . .
Well, admitting how he felt for Harriet Hathaway
was just too much honesty for one day. Especially
this one.
When he was having to face his ruin. A reckoning
of sorts.
If it was only the money, only his own ill- choices,
that would be one thing. But there was more to this
than just a gambler's reversal. His every instinct clam-
ored that this was all a greater trap, a snare, but why
and how, he couldn't say.
More to the point, he couldn't let this calamity touch
anyone else.
As it had Mr. Ludwick, his man of business. Roxley's
gut clenched every time he thought of the fellow--
disappearing in the middle of the night with a good
portion of Roxley's money.
Yet Ludwick wasn't the sort. And that was the prob-
lem. There was no explanation for his abrupt depar-
ture. None.
Further, the man's vanishing act had been followed
by the revelation of a string of soured investments.

20 Elizabeth Boyle
Wagers began going bad. Files for the Home Office
stolen from his house. None of it truly connected, yet
he couldn't help feeling that there was a thread that
tied it all together, winding its evil around his life.
But who was pulling it, and why, escaped Roxley
entirely.
Sensing the earl's hesitancy, Mr. Murray pressed his
case, pulling out a now familiar document.
The mortgage on Foxgrove.
The one property of his that wasn't entailed. The
one with all the income that kept the Marshoms afloat.
Without Foxgrove . . .
Mr. Murray ran a stubby, ink- stained finger over the
deed. "I've always fancied a house in the country. How
is this village? This Kempton?"
"Kempton, you ask?" Roxley replied, wrenching his
gaze up from the man's covetous reach on his prop-
erty. "Oh, you won't like it. Cursed, it is."
Mr. Murray stilled at this, then burst out in a loud,
braying laugh. "I was told to expect you to be a bit of
a cut- up, but that! Cursed, he says." He laughed again,
more like brayed.
Good God, Roxley could only hope Murray's daugh-
ter didn't laugh like that. But to keep Foxgrove . . . to
keep his family out of debtor's prison, Roxley knew he
could bear almost anything.
And if he did his utmost to make this mushroom's
daughter miserable for the next forty years, he'd never
have to hear that sound again.
That was, if anything, a small condolence.
"I have a mind to drive down next week," Mr.
Murray was saying. "Probably needs renovations like
the rest of the piles of stones you gentry keep."
Roxley ruffled at this. For his residences were his

If Wishes Were

(Continues...)

Excerpted from If Wishes Were Earls by Elizabeth Boyle. Copyright © 2013 Elizabeth Boyle. Excerpted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers.
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