Publication Date: February 25, 2020
St. Martin’s Press
eBook & Paperback; 368 Pages
Series: The Cavensham Heiresses, Book #6
Genre: Historical Romance
Her first marriage was an epic fail.
Lady Avalon Warwyk never did love her husband. Arrogant, selfish, and cruel, it’s a blessing when she’s widowed and left to raise her son all by herself. Finally, Avalon can live freely and do the work she loves: helping fallen women become businesswomen. She’s lived these past ten years with no desire to remarry―that is, until Mr. Devan Farris comes to town.
Can he convince her to take another chance at happily ever after?
Devan Farris―charming vicar, reputed rake, and the brother of Avalon’s son’s guardian―is reluctantly sent to town to keep tabs on Avalon and her son. Devan wishes he didn’t have to meddle in her affairs; he’s not one to trod on a woman’s independent nature and keen sense of convictions. But she’ll have nothing to do with vicar with a wild reputation―even though he’s never given his heart and body to another. If only he could find a way to show Avalon who he really is on the inside―a good, true soul looking for its other half. But how can prove that he wants to love and care for her…until death do they part?
Praise for the Cavensham Heiresses Series
“Full-bodied romance…with intelligence and heart.”―New York Times bestselling author Cathy Maxwell
“Sparkling…MacGregor brings England’s Regency era to life.” ―Publishers Weekly
“Beautifully defined, exceptionally appealing.” ―Booklist (starred review) on The Bad Luck Bride
I adore this scene. First, it makes me laugh, but it also shows how Avalon can serve up the snark as well as Devan. They’re equals here, and that’s the way it should be in any marriage. A little setup to the scene: Avalon has used a tremendous amount of ‘d’ words to describe Devan.
—An excerpt from WILD, WILD RAKE by Janna MacGregor
“How much money is it going to take for you to leave me alone?” Avalon hissed.
“How much do you have?” Devan lifted both brows, waiting for her answer. “My brother wants me to become a rector. You need to make it worth my while for me to say yes.”
“More than enough, you despicable lout,” she said, keeping her gaze glued to his. “Rector,” she scoffed. “More like rectum.”
“I didn’t wreck them.” He lifted an arrogant brow, but his lips twitched in mirth. “For your information, I killed them.” Then as if he couldn’t help himself, Devan laughed aloud as if enjoying her name-calling. “What a charming sense of humor you possess for a warlock. If I didn’t know you better, I’d think you’re growing sweet on me.”
“You’re delusional,” she retorted.
“Someone needs to expand their vocabulary out of the d’s. Tomorrow, I can tutor you.” That aggravating lopsided grin appeared. “I wager we can finish the e’s if you work hard.”
“You’re diabolical,” she murmured.
“I heard that,” he quipped. “But no need to show your prowess on the d’s. Remember I’ve heard you call me the devil before.”
She pursed her lips into a thin line. The man drove her crazy. “I now understand your role in our community.”
“Oh?” He tilted his head and smiled. The grin emphasized his full lower lip.
For an outrageous moment, she wanted to bite it. “Indeed. Mr. Greatwell’s livestock won’t be needed for next year’s nativity scene. You can easily stand in for his prized ass.”
Instead of her words angering him, his smile grew even bigger. “Wonderful. It means you still want me here. I’ll be in your delightful and witty company for another year.”
“You are a dreadful menace. You endanger anyone’s sanity if they spend any time at all conversing with you.”
“An e word.” He winked at her. “Bully for you. You’ll be a star pupil in no time.” He held out his arm for her to take so they could continue on their way.
She slowly examined his arm, then turned up her nose.
It was all she could offer to end their ridiculous conversation. Without a look back, she made a half turn and continued on her way toward Warwyk Hall.
“Avalon, wait. I’ll see you home.”
“There’s no need, nor do I want you to, Vicar.” She pulled the neck of her cloak a little tighter.
“There’s every need.” The silkiness of his voice seemed to surround her. “What if you fall?”
“Suit yourself.” Avalon turned abruptly and locked her gaze with his. “But if you fall, you’re on your own.”
As the last notes of the opening processional hymn hung in the air, the Thistledown parish members openly sighed in contentment. It could only be described as a rich sound, one that should have provided Avalon peace. Her community was happy with their parish and their new vicar.
The vicar’s clear baritone rang through the sanctuary in welcome as he extended his arms wide as if enveloping them in his embrace. Devan Farris appeared larger than life in his black-and-white vestments. The bell-shaped sleeves of his cassock emphasized his long arms and hands while the pristine white collar contrasted nicely with his dark hair.
But it was the breathtaking smile on his face, which highlighted his perfect white teeth, that had female sighs and flutters joining in a chorus of undeniable pleasure at the countenance of their new vicar.
It was enough to make Avalon want to tilt her head to the heavens and ask why.
Why did the pious killjoy have to reside in her community? At any moment, she expected him to call her out by saying that God wanted to cast Lady Warlock from their midst so they could worship in peace.
Which would be perfectly acceptable to her as she thrummed her fingers atop the hymnal. She’d rather be anywhere else but here this morning. Sophia, Thane, and she had arrived late for the service, and instead of making a spectacle of themselves by parading down the aisle in the middle of the opening processional hymn to reach the pew reserved exclusively for the Warwyk family, they sat in the back of the church.
The view from there was certainly different than from the Warwyk pew, the first pew on the right side of the sanctuary. From where Avalon sat, she could see everyone in attendance. She made a mental note that from now on while Devan Farris resided in town, she’d prefer to sit here during services. It meant she could make a timely exit and leave the church before the irreverent vicar could lead the congregation through the recessional hymn.
However, it would not do to act so contrary because of his presence in her community. She needed to be here in church every Sunday. These people were hers, and she’d not shirk from the responsibility of caring for them.
As Mr. Farris spoke about his good fortune in moving to their parish, something that didn’t hold her interest in the least, Avalon’s gaze settled over the parishioners. The entire female population sported gaudy new bonnets and sparkling new ribbons in hopes of capturing the vicar’s attention. If they’d only asked Avalon, she could have spared them their wasted time, money, and effort. The new vicar was only interested in one type of female, a rare breed, indeed—an heiress.
His effect on the masses explained egalitarianism to those unfamiliar with the term. Ladies, gentleman, girls, and even the babies in attendance drooled—yes, drooled—over Devan Farris. A gaping mouth on a lady in her ninth decade makes one either lose one’s appetite or want to roar in disapproval.
In fairness to her and the wellbeing of the parish, Avalon should be the one in the pulpit, proselytizing about the evils of falling under the vicar’s influence.
There was no denying he was handsome this morning, and everyone, including his conceited self, was aware of that fact. It was as if all intelligence in the fairer sex decided to fly out the window in his presence, if the fluttering of eyelashes and coy smiles were any indication.
The thrumming of her fingers grew loud enough that several members turned in their seats to see who was disrupting the vicar’s speech.
Beside her, Thane’s cheeks heated. “Maman, they think it’s me making that racket.” His whisper grew louder. “Will you please stop?”
Without turning her smiling face from the vicar’s direction, Sophia discretely placed her hand over Avalon’s, which immediately made Avalon cease her thrumming.
She huffed a silent protest. Simply put, while he stood there waxing and waning about “turn the other cheek,” he was corrupting every moral female in the congregation with his potent wry smile.
But to keep peace within her family, she clasped her hands together and caught the vicar’s knowing gaze. He tilted his head and directed a blazing but wicked smile her way as if saying “aha, you’ve been caught.” Unable to bear it without protest, Avalon tilted her chin up a notch to show him she’d not turn the other cheek and listen to his sermon. Instead, she directed her attention to the congregation.
About the Author
Janna MacGregor was born and raised in the bootheel of Missouri. She credits her darling mom for introducing her to the happily-ever-after world of romance novels. Janna writes stories where compelling and powerful heroines meet and fall in love with their equally matched heroes. She is the mother of triplets and lives in Kansas City with her very own dashing rogue, and two smug, but not surprisingly, perfect pugs.
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