Mon
Dec 19 2016 1:00pm

Maya Rodale Excerpt: Lady Claire Is All That

Maya Rodale

Lady Claire Is All That by Maya Rodale

HER BRAINS…

Claire Cavendish is in search of a duke, but not for the usual reasons. The man she seeks is a mathematician; the man she unwittingly finds is Lord Fox: dynamic, athletic, and as bored by the equations Claire adores as she is by the social whirl upon which he thrives. As attractive as Fox is, he’s of no use to Claire . . . or is he?

PLUS HIS BRAWN . . .

Fox’s male pride has been bruised ever since his fiancée jilted him. One way to recover: win a bet that he can transform Lady Claire, Society’s roughest diamond, into its most prized jewel. But Claire has other ideas—shockingly steamy ones . . .

EQUALS A STUDY IN SEDUCTION . . .

By Claire’s calculations, Fox is the perfect man to satisfy her sensual curiosity. In Fox’s estimation, Claire is the perfect woman to prove his mastery of the ton. But the one thing neither of them counted on is love . . .

Get a sneak peek at Maya Rodale's Lady Claire Is All That (available December 27, 2016) with an exclusive excerpt of a selected scene.

Chapter 3

Lord Fox has wasted no time finding a new woman after being jilted by Arabella Vaughn. He seems to have taken an interest in Lady Claire Cavendish, of all the ladies in London. This author knows not what to make of it.

—Fashionable Intelligence, The London Weekly

The next evening, the card room at yet another ball
Claire’s sister Amelia often complained about the tedium of balls—after the novelty had worn off, Claire privately agreed, though she knew better than to encourage Amelia by admitting she felt the same. As the eldest, she had to set an example. Always. It was almost as tedious as enduring London soirees.

Fortunately, she developed stratagems to keep herself sane in these endless social events. First, her trick with the dance card—she simply told every gentleman who inquired that her card was full and thus she was able to politely refuse her offers to dance, an activity at which she did not excel and thus did not care to partake in.

But even she came to enjoy balls when she discovered the card room. She could stand to the side and watch emotions run high as lords and ladies would win and lose fortunes at the mere turn of a card. She watched as they made idiotic wagers and foolish choices that led to disastrous outcomes that might have been avoided with some rational thought and calculations. In her head, Claire counted cards, calculated odds, and made her own private wagers on the outcome. In her head, she’d won a fortune of her own.

She yearned to play a hand herself and to win on the strength of her intelligence and rational judgment. Even more she wanted to play against the lords and ladies who gossiped relentlessly about her family. She wanted to beat them. Take their money, their jewels, their hunting boxes in Scotland and dole them back out once people stopped making remarks about the smell of the stables when James went by or whispers about Amelia’s hoydenish behavior being embarrassing.

Most of all, she wanted an activity with which to occupy her brain.

She was too smart to simper on the sidelines of ballrooms.

Claire was edging her way closer to a table where a game was in progress and deliberating as to how she might join in when the oh-so-handsome Lord Fox found her. She thought she’d been rid of him.

Lord Fox, of the brawn and male beauty and inane conversation. Lord Fox, who was a little too certain that he was a treasure from heaven sent down for women. Lord Fox, who attracted attention when he spoke to her. She did not want attention.

“Good evening, Lady Claire.” He bowed and she inclined her head slightly. “It seems we meet again.”

“So it would seem.” She cast him a bored glance. “Good evening, Lord Fox.”

“Is your dance card full again?”

He gave her the sort of glance that was supposed to make her knees weak.

“Yes. Every last dance.” From now until Judgment Day.

“Yet you are in the card room,” he pointed out. “Shall I escort you back to the ballroom?”

Damn. She was caught in a lie. She eyed him more carefully now, not wanting to underestimate him again. She took in his green eyes, fixed on her. A lock of black hair fell rakishly across his forehead. It was the sort of thing silly girls would sigh over, but as someone who usually wore her hair severely pulled back from her face, it just annoyed her.

“Well, this dance isn’t claimed,” she said.

“May I have the honor of this dance?”

Claire didn’t think twice about refusing him, again. She hadn’t the slightest clue why he had suddenly taken an interest in her but she saw no point in encouraging him. Furthermore, etiquette dictated that if a woman refused a dance, then she wasn’t able to accept another dance for the rest of the evening. This suited her just fine.

Sometimes, knowing the rules of etiquette could work to a woman’s advantage. Not that she’d ever tell Amelia that. Or maybe she ought to. Her baby sister was willfully ignorant when it came to such matters.

But first, a rejection.

Because Fox didn’t seem terrible, just misguided in his attentions, she decided to let him down gently.

“I’m afraid I cannot. For health reasons.” She coughed delicately. Men were usually terrified of women’s ailments.

“Of course,” he said dryly. “Women have such delicate constitutions. Why, the slightest thing could gravely endanger their health—a gust of wind that is too strong or too cool, for example. Perhaps the lemonade offered tonight was not sufficiently tepid. Or your corset might be laced too tightly.” He said this with a look that suggested he’d like to loosen her corset and suddenly hers did feel too tight. “There are any number of reasons why a woman would feel under the weather.”

Every fiber of her being wanted to disagree with him.

“That is why it’s best that I remain here, where I will be unperturbed.”

“Indeed, there is nothing much to excite you here. Playing cards might be interesting, but watching others play is certainly tedious. But do take care not to overtax your lady brainbox by trying to understand the rules of the game.”

This time when she coughed, it was because a hot ball of rage had lodged in her throat. Men. And the assumptions they made about women—especially the assumption that all women were the same.

If she weren’t so determined to avoid this overbearing male, Claire would have given him a piece of her mind. She would have told him in no uncertain terms that she did indeed enjoy watching the game, far more than she enjoyed his belittling conversation. She would have informed him that her “lady brainbox” was more capable of understanding it and winning it than all the male brains in the room combined.

She bit her lip and said none of that.

“The game is vingt-et-un,” Fox explained. “It’s French for twenty-one.”

“I am aware.”

“Well, I wasn’t sure if they taught foreign languages to girls over in the colonies,” he said with a laugh. “Wasn’t sure if they taught anything other than tossing tea in the harbor.”

“I assure you my education was—”

“Now the object of this game is to get one’s cards as close to twenty-one as possible without going over.”

Claire just sighed and rolled her eyes. This was the story of her life. Men explained things to her that she not only knew, but knew far more about.

“An ace can be either high or low.”

Claire wanted to scream.

And just when she was about to throttle this man, who had for some reason developed the habit of seeking her out and annoying her, he asked, “Would you care to play?”

Claire’s rage dissipated. Slightly.

“Yes, thank you, I would.”

She would play, and win, and stun him into silence with the brilliance of her female brain. He would see that she was a frighteningly intelligent bluestocking future-spinster-witch and would never ask her to dance again. Which would be fine.

Lord Fox used his large size to intimidate people into removing themselves from their way. Upon approaching a table, he said a few words to some gent, who immediately stood and offered his space to Claire. She took a seat, skirts swishing around legs.

Though it was normal for a woman to join a game of cards, there were murmurs around the table when she took her place. Perhaps it was her reputation as a bluestocking, or with Lord Fox, or that she was an American crashing this bastion of English high society, too. She didn’t know or care.

Fox stood behind her. She was very, very aware of him.

His hands curled around the top of the chair. She felt his fingertips brush against her bare skin.

Claire went still.

-From Lady Claire is All That by Maya Rodale. Reprinted by permission of Avon, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers.

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Copyright © 2016 by Maya Rodale.
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Maya Rodale began reading romance novels in college at her mother's insistence. She is now the bestselling and award-winning author of smart and sassy romances. She lives in New York City with her darling dog and a rogue of her own.

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