Pleasure for Pleasure Page 1

Author: Eloisa James

Series: Essex Sisters #4

Genres: Romance , Historical


An extract from the widely proclaimed memoir:

The Earl of Hellgate,

or Night Scenes Amongst the Ton

Dear Reader,As I would loathe to shock and dismay you, I must beg all ladies of a delicate disposition to put down this volume on the moment.

I have lived a life of Immoderate Passion, and have been persuaded to share the particulars in the hopes of keeping any susceptible gentlepersons from following in my steps…

Oh Reader, Beware!

May 24, 1818

15 Grosvenor Square

London residence of the Duke of Holbrook

T here was no way to introduce the subject with delicacy, at least none that Josie could imagine. “None of the novels I’ve read elaborate on the wedding night,” she told her sisters.

“I should hope not!” her eldest sister Tess said, not even looking at her.“So if we’re going to discuss Imogen’s wedding night, I’m not leaving.”

“It wouldn’t be appropriate for you to join us,” Tess said, with the rather wearied air of someone who has said the same on two former occasions. After all, of the four Essex sisters, Tess, Annabel, Imogen, and Josie, there was only one left unmarried: Josie.

“We’ll give you all the details you need on the eve of your marriage,” Imogen put in. “I don’t need the talk. I am a widow, after all.”

They were seated around a small table in the nursery, having a light supper. Josie’s chaperone, Lady Griselda, was technically dining with them as well, but since she had spent most of the evening huddled in an armchair reading the Earl of Hellgate’s memoirs, she hadn’t taken more than a bite, nor contributed to the conversation a whit.

They were eating by themselves because Imogen had heard it might cause misfortune to see her groom on the night before the wedding, and since Imogen was marrying their guardian, the Duke of Holbrook, they couldn’t eat in the dining room. Technically, Annabel’s son Samuel was a member of the party, but since he was all of four months old and dreaming of a red shiny ball, an occasional longing snort were his only contributions.

“If my season continues as it’s begun,” Josie said, “I shan’t be married at all. One can hardly obtain one’s entire education in the ways of men and women from the pages of novels.”

“Tess, did you know that Josie has made a list of efficacious ways to catch a husband?” Annabel asked, taking a final bite of syllabub.

“Based on our examples?” Tess said, raising an eyebrow.

“That would be a remarkably short list,” Josie said. “Lady is compromised, gentleman is forced to marry her, marriage ensues.”

“I was not compromised by my husband,” Tess said, but she was laughing.

“You married Lucius only after the Earl of Mayne jilted you at the altar,” Josie said. “It wasn’t precisely a long courtship period. All of ten minutes, as I recall.”

The smile in Tess’s eyes suggested that those ten minutes had been sweet, and Josie didn’t want to think about that because it made her feel jealous. If she, Josie, were jilted at the altar, there’d be no secondary candidate waiting in the next room. In fact, given her disastrous performance on the marriage market, the altar was likely a prospect she should discard.

“It’s true that I was compromised,” Annabel said, “but Imogen is marrying Rafe for pure love and after a long courtship.”

“I suggested we elope,” Imogen said, grinning, “but Rafe said he’d be damned if he’d follow in Draven’s footsteps and allow me to direct all the wedding traffic to Scotland.”

“He was right,” Tess said. “You’re going to be a duchess. You couldn’t marry in such a hurly-burly fashion.”

“Yes, we could have.”

“But think of all the pleasure you would have denied the ton,” Josie said. “The prime enjoyment of the season so far has been watching Rafe stare at you longingly from the side of the ballroom. Now, are we going to discuss your wedding night, or not? Because there are marked gaps in my knowledge.”

“There are no gaps in my knowledge,” Imogen said, “so—”

“I knew it!” Josie said. “You and Rafe anticipated the night, didn’t you? Oh, the shame!” She threw a dramatic hand up to her brow. “My sister lies prostrate under her guardian.”

“Josephine Essex!” Tess said, suddenly turning into the eldest sister who’d raised them all. “If I hear you say such a coarse thing in the future, I shall—I shall swat you!”

Josie grinned. “I was merely demonstrating that the gaps in my knowledge do not have to do with mechanics.”

“Anything else will have to be learned on the fly, darling,” Annabel said. She had gone over to the crib and scooped up Samuel. Now she was comfortably snuggled into a deep chair, feet up and casually crossed at her slender ankles, cuddling the baby. He was used to such manhandling and slept on.

Josie knew that she should do a better job at curbing the wild flares of jealousy that periodically gripped her. Yet all she had to do was look from one to another of her three sisters to feel the pinch as sharply as frozen toes while skating. All three of them were slim. Well, Annabel wasn’t precisely slim, but she carried her curves splendidly. All of them were (or soon would be) happily married. Two of them married titles, and if Tess’s husband didn’t have a title, he was the richest man in England and anyone with common sense would agree that such wealth trumped a coronet.

“I’m serious,” Josie said, pulling her mind back to the subject at hand. “Annabel, you’re only here for the wedding, and Imogen is leaving on her marriage trip directly. What if I have to marry quickly? You won’t be here to give me advice.”

In the back of her mind, Josie knew that she might have to do something drastic to find a husband. No one was wooing her in the normal way of things, so she might have to compromise someone in order to get the deed done. Which would require an immediate wedding. “When Annabel was about to marry Ewan, Imogen told her that she should kiss her husband in public.”

“Goodness, do you remember that?” Imogen said, looking faintly surprised.

“You said,” Josie reminded her, “that Draven didn’t fall in love with you because you refused to kiss him at the racecourse. Whereas Lucius did fall in love with Tess because she allowed intimacies in public.”

Tess was laughing again. “I’ll have to inform Lucius precisely why he’s so fond of me. It was all that kiss at the racetrack!”

“Hush,” Imogen told her. “That was just a stupid idea I had last year, Josie. You mustn’t take it so seriously.”

“Well, I do take it seriously,” Josie said. “That is, I would if anyone showed the slightest inclination to kiss me in the open air, or the closed air, for that matter.”

Annabel looked up from kissing Samuel’s head. “Why so bitter, dearest? Has no man presented himself whom you admire?”

There was a moment of silence in the room, as everyone realized that a letter or two had gone astray between London and the Scottish castle where Annabel lived with her earl.

Characteristically, Josie took the bull by the horns. “I’m not exactly the toast of the season,” she said grimly.

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