RULES FOR ENGAGING THE EARL

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Tempted by the war secretary’s office, Jonathan Eaton, the Earl of Sykeston, cast aside the promise of Constance Lysander’s youthful love in favor of service to the Crown. Years later, he is being blackmailed with the possibility of a court-martial for his honorable decision to let an unarmed enemy solider go free. After the death of her parents, Constance has successfully run Lysander & Sons Refitting Company. Her first husband bolted in the middle of the night with her dowry, leaving her pregnant, and died not long after. Widowed and with a newborn daughter, she proposes marriage to Jonathan, believing in his integrity and honor. He acquiesces but, after providing for her material comforts, leaves her behind in London right after the marriage ceremony. The fear of court-martial hangs like the Sword of Damocles over his head. He believes he will rain society’s disapprobation down on anyone with whom he associates. The reality of Jonathan’s war injury, with its physical agony and mental pain, is sensitively portrayed. He’s convinced he will never be good enough as a husband, father, or friend, so he isolates himself on his estate, Sykeston Gardens. A year later, battling her fear of abandonment, Constance goes to stay with him. Jonathan’s behavior toward her oscillates between tender and kind in one moment, cold and standoffish the next. He can’t bear to have her with him, and he can’t bear not to. But she’s determined to help him recover and make her second marriage a success. Constance is shown to be a courageous, independent woman who isn’t afraid to display her strong personality. This second book of The Widow Rules series is set in Portsmouth, a welcome departure from the ballrooms of London.

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