The Reluctant Bridegroom Chapters 1-3
The handsome Earl of Wenham has no intention of marrying any time soon in the near future. At thirty, as one of London’s leading Corinthians, he sees no need to interrupt his enjoyable life, filled with the kind of sporting and gambling activities a man of his position enjoys. A wife, he feels, would hamper him. His sister Almeria, some fifteen years his senior, feels duty bound to point out to Hugo that he owes it to the title and the estates to marry and produce an heir. Failure to do so means the entire lot devolves upon his second cousin, the Honourable Felix Barstowe. She also reminds him that their father had promised an old friend, Lord Lavenham, that his son should marry Lord Lavenham’s daughter, Miranda. Time has passed, and the young lady in question is now twenty two. Out of respect for his father’s dying promise (which he had never taken seriously), the earl tells his sister he will pay the Lavenhams a visit, but he makes no undertaking to fulfil their father’s wish. After all, he reasons, the young lady might well be a complete frump, given that at twenty two she is still unattached. Expecting nothing but a boring few days fulfilling his duty, the earl sets off the Lavenham House. He is stranded by snow a few miles away from his destination and takes refuge in a local inn. He meets up with a heavily veiled, mysterious young woman, who, by her confidences to him, he realises is the elusive Miranda. To his shocking surprise, the feisty Miranda declares she has never heard of the Earl of Wenham’s glorious reputation and will not have anything to do with someone whom she declares, “is possibly so fat and gouty, that he needs to have a wife found for him.” In fact, she would rather run away with a childhood friend than have anything to do with the “ridiculous” Earl of Wenham.