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An Unsuitable Engagement (Book Five)

An Unsuitable Engagement (Book Five)

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Spontaneous and serious. Young and old. Opposites clash and attract, but they can’t ignore each other for long. This age gap novel is a "sweet" historical romance, which means there are swoony kisses and plenty of yearning, but no spicy scenes. It has both enemies-to-lovers and friends-to-lovers vibes. This book can be enjoyed as a stand alone or as part of the Victorian Grand Tour series. Pick up a e-book for your reader or an exclusive signed paperback for your collection today!

Main Tropes

  • Age gap of 12 years
  • Enemies to Lovers
  • Opposites Attract

Book Info

  • Victorian Grand Tour Series
  • Book 5 of 6
  • 312 pages


Seventeen-year-old Octavia Shelford tries to live up to her mother’s expectations and dazzle the beau monde and her suitors. Trying to please everyone has her muddled and exhausted, but the one person whose opinion matters the most never seems to approve. She’s spent a year traveling through Europe, trying to avoid him.


Twenty-nine-year-old Guy Claybury, the Duke of Woodford, knows precisely how he feels about everything and isn’t worried about anyone’s opinion of him. He hasn’t been able to find a fit and proper wife to help run the embassy in Paris, and he has given up on love matches. His only concern is trying to prove that England did not order the assassination attempt on Napoleon III.


With the threat of war between France and England, Octavia is forced to stay at the British embassy in Paris until it’s safe to travel again. No matter how hard the duke tries to overlook his attraction to his entirely inappropriate friend, the more she seems determined to solve the riddle
that he is.


But he cannot allow her to piece together the puzzle his heart has become, because unlocking that secret can only lead to one thing: an unsuitable engagement.

Intro to Chapter One

March 1858


“I’m not a child,” Octavia protested as Guy tugged her by the arm toward the waiting train carriage. The sounds of hissing steam and squealing brakes filled the noisy terminal.

            “Then stop acting like one,” he
growled. He stared at the conductor, motioning for him to open the doors.

            “Tickets?” the man asked in Italian.

            Guy gestured to his entourage. “I’m the British ambassador. Open the blasted doors now, and my staff will show you
the tickets later.”

            The conductor scrambled to unlatch and open the polished green door and lower the creaky metal stairs. Lady Shelford lifted her skirts and accepted the conductor’s help to gracefully climb into the carriage.

            Octavia peered around the busy station. “I still don’t understand the urgency.”

            Guy put his hands on her back to push her up the steps. “Go.” His fingers slipped down to her waist, and she turned around, her eyes wide. He hadn’t meant to do it, but she was so short. From where he stood on the platform, even a single step up put her at a different angle. Quite an attractive angle.

            Octavia scowled down at him. “I can do this well enough on my own.”

            He tightened his hold on her waist, and she sucked in a breath. Guy closed the distance between them to block her way down the stairs, but Octavia didn’t continue up them. She smiled at him.

            Obstinate, headstrong girl.
She always had been. If he moved even one bit, she’d be back down in an instant.

            The conductor laughed. “Newlywed? Or does your wife always tease you this much.”

            She threw back her head and laughed.

            Curse those Italian lessons. He never should have taught her.

            “We’re not married,” he said

            “Ah. A mistress is harder to manage. That explains it.”

            Octavia’s laugh turned to choking. She teetered on the thin metal step, her boots slipping on the rung of the stair, then clung to his shoulders to steady herself. Behind him on the station platform, the embassy staff whispered about the woman embracing him. The one
he’d dropped everything for. The one coming to live in the wing of his personal apartments.

            “She’s not my mistress, either.”

            “Of course.” The conductor winked.

            Octavia looked over his shoulder at his staff and the station. Guy put a hand on her pert chin and turned it toward him. Her brilliant green eyes widened at his proximity, and he returned his hand to her waist. He had her attention now.

            All hopes for a quiet exit from Italy had fled. All the attention in the station seemed fixed on them, and a line of muttering passengers had queued up behind them, but he would not relinquish his hold on her waist, nor would he lessen their scandalous closeness. He knew all of
Octavia’s tricks. She’d find a way to dart out beneath his arm if he did.

            Guy spoke with authority, even though her eyes blazed with resentment. “Inside. Now. Please. We’re holding up the line.”

            She huffed and swatted at the hands on her waist. He dropped them in surprise. Octavia tossed her head as she turned and flounced up the stairs. Guy followed quickly, climbing each step that she vacated, making sure she could not change her mind.

            He entered the train car and scanned the seats to see which benches might be safest for such a long journey, but Octavia folded her arms. She refused to look at him.

            This was a nightmare. From the beginning, he had begged his mother not to invite their old neighbors, the Shelfords, to visit the embassy. Octavia would be a distraction that he could not afford right now.

            Guy nudged her in the small of the back, and Octavia protested. She marched through the crowded carriage and threw herself onto a bench.

            “Not there,” Guy called. “Over
here.” He blew out a breath as Octavia scowled at him.

            “Why not? I like it here.” She
settled herself on a seat in the middle of the train car and gripped the edges of the bench.

            Guy approached her and wrapped his hand gently around her upper arm. He hoisted her up without any ceremony and half-dragged her to the furthest corner. Hadn’t she seen her mother there, seated among the piles of hatboxes and luggage?

            “Because you are a target for any lunatic if you sit directly in the center of the other passengers. Let my staff form a barrier between us and the others.” He released her arm and gently guided her toward a padded bench across from her mother. Octavia flopped onto the bench dramatically, as if he had flung her there. She might as well have been three years old again, not a seventeen-year-old woman. And what a woman she had grown up to be. He tore his eyes away from her reclining figure.

            “Now I’m facing backward,”
Octavia said in a tone of voice that suggested the world might be ending.

            He stared down at her. “Better that than dead.”

            “You’re so melodramatic,” Octavia replied in a starched voice. She straightened on the bench and pinched her lips together.

Guy took a deep breath and ignored the perfect shape of her mouth.

            Lady Shelford switched seats with her daughter. “You can sit facing the landscape, dear. That bench has room for two people, and this bench only has room for one.”

            Octavia gaped at her mother. “Does he have to sit next to me, too? Can’t he sit…” She looked around and gestured toward the back of the carriage. “Somewhere else?”

            Guy grumbled, “We’ve been through this. Italy is in chaos. Separatists tried to kill the emperor of France.”

            “They were not going to attack me,” Octavia said. “I was enjoying Rome.” She smoothed the wrinkles at her waist, where he had helped her up the stairs, and moved her skirt to take up even more

            Guy examined the carriage. Three burly footmen guarded the bench ahead of him and three more sat across from them. He’d taken six members of his staff off their posts at the embassy to chase Octavia down and escort her back to Paris, and he couldn’t even find a place to sit for the return trip from Rome.

            Lady Shelford had dropped her luggage on the seat beside herself so that only one seat remained across from her. He’d have to wedge himself next to Octavia. There was nowhere else in the train carriage where he could protect her, should the need arise. He resigned himself to a long, uncomfortable ride.

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