Vicky Dreiling is a confirmed historical romance junkie and Anglophile. Frequent business trips to the UK allowed her to indulge her passion for all things Regency England. Bath, Stonehenge, and Spencer House are among her favorite places. She is, however, truly sorry for accidentally setting off a security alarm in Windsor Castle. That unfortunate incident led her British colleagues to nickname her “Trouble.”
When she’s not writing, Vicky enjoys reading, films, concerts, and most of all, long lunches with friends. She holds degrees in English literature and marketing. A native Texan, she shares her home with her daughter and a spoiled mini-lop rabbit that lives in a slightly gnawed cardboard cottage.
1. The Rules and He’s Just Not That into You inspired Vicky to write HOW TO SEDUCE A SCOUNDREL.
2. Vicky writes to music and created a playlist for HOW TO SEDUCE A SCOUNDREL. Readers can listen to the songs on her website. The theme song for the book is Better Man (Pearl Jam).
3. Lady Julianne, the spunky heroine of HOW TO SEDUCE A SCOUNDREL, finds inspiration in Anne Boleyn, who was said to be only moderately attractive but managed to charm everyone at court with her wit and vivacity.
4. A giant statue of Napoleon at Apsley House, the Duke of Wellington’s residence, was the inspiration for the hideous statue of Apollo in the opening scene.
5. One scene involving a decanter of wine and a thumping door is based on something that Vicky overheard. She plans to include a spoiler on her website that details the hilarious incident.
You can visit Vicky Dreiling at:
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Miss Julianne Gatewick is in a pickle. It started when her brother’s best friend-for whom she’s long nursed a secret tendre-agreed to act as her guardian for the Season, only to seduce her with a risqué waltz. But when the music stopped and the expectant ton waited for Marc Darcett, Earl of Hawkfield, to claim her as his own, he made his disinterest clear. Rather than succumb to humiliation, Julianne does what any self-respecting, recently discarded young miss with a wicked sense of humor would do. She secretly pens a lady’s guide to enticing unrepentant rakes . . . and it becomes the hottest scandal sheet in London.
Every honorable rake knows that friends’ sisters are forbidden. But suddenly Julienne has a spark of mischief in her eyes that Hawk can’t resist. Try as he might to push her away, he spends his days listening for her laughter and his nights dreaming of kissing her senseless. He’s always avoided innocents and their marriage-minded mothers, but has the man least likely to wed finally met his match?
Read An Excerpt
Excerpt from HOW TO SEDUCE A SCOUNDREL
A Scoundrel’s Code of Conduct: Virgins are strictly forbidden, especially if said virgin happens to be your friend’s sister.
Richmond, England, 1817
He’d arrived late as usual.
Marc Darcett, Earl of Hawkfield, twirled his top hat as he sauntered along the pavement toward his mother’s home. A chilly breeze ruffled his hair and stung his face. In the dwindling evening light, Ashdown House with its crenellated top and turrets stood stalwart near the banks of the Thames.
Ordinarily, Hawk dreaded the obligatory weekly visits. His mother and three married sisters had grown increasingly demanding about his lack of a bride since his oldest friend had wed last summer. They made no secret of their disappointment in him, but he was accustomed to being the family scapegrace.
Today, however, he looked forward to seeing that oldest friend, Tristan Gatewick, the Duke of Shelbourne..
After the butler, Jones, admitted him, Hawk stripped off his gloves and greatcoat. “Are Shelbourne and his sister here yet?”
“The duke and Lady Julianne arrived two hours ago,” Jones said.
“Excellent.” Hawk couldn’t wait to relate his latest bawdy escapade to his friend. Last evening, he’d met Nancy and Nell, two naughty dancers who had made him an indecent proposition. Not wishing to appear too anxious, he’d promised to think over the matter, but he intended to accept their two-for-the-price-of-one offer.
The fastidious Jones eyed Hawk’s head critically. “Begging your pardon, my lord, but you might wish to attend to your hair.”
“You don’t say?” Hawk pretended to be oblivious and peered at his windblown locks in the mirror above the foyer table. “Perfect,” he said. “Mussed hair is all the rage.”
“If you say so, my lord.”
Hawk spun around. “I take it everyone is waiting in the gold drawing room?”
“Yes, my lord. Your mother has inquired after you several times.”
Hawk glanced out at the great hall and grinned at the giant statue next to the stairwell. “Ah, my mother has taken an interest in naked statuary, has she?”
The ordinarily stoic Jones made a suspicious, muffled sound. Then he cleared his throat. “Apollo was delivered yesterday.”
“Complete with his lyre and snake, I see. Well, I shall welcome him to the family.” Hawk’s boots clipped on the checkered marble floor as he strolled toward the cantilevered stairwell, an architectural feat that made the underside of the stone steps appear suspended in midair. At the base of the stairs, he paused to inspect the reproduction and grimaced at Apollo’s minuscule genitalia. “Poor bastard.”
Footsteps sounded above. Hawk looked up to find Tristan striding down the carpeted steps.
“Sizing up the competition?” Tristan said.
Hawk grinned. “The devil. It’s the old married man.”
“I saw your curricle from the window.” Tristan stepped onto the marble floor and clapped Hawk on the shoulder. “You look as if you just tumbled out of bed.”
Hawk wagged his brows and let his friend imagine what he would. “How is your duchess?”
A brief, careworn expression flitted through his friend’s eyes. “The doctor says all is progressing well. She has two more months of confinement.” He released a gusty sigh. “I wanted a son, but now I’m praying for a safe delivery.”
Hawk nodded but said nothing.
“One day it will be your turn, and I’ll be the one consoling you.”
That day would never come. “And give up my bachelorhood? Never,” he said.
Tristan grinned. “I’ll remind you of that when I attend your wedding.”
Hawk changed the subject. “I take it your sister is well?” His mother planned to sponsor Lady Julianne this season while the dowager duchess stayed in the country with her increasing daughter-in-law.
“Julianne is looking forward to the season, but there is a problem,” Tristan said. “A letter arrived from Bath half an hour ago. Your grandmother is suffering from heart palpitations again.”
Hawk groaned. Grandmamma was famous for her heart palpitations. She succumbed to them at the most inconvenient times and described them in minute, loving detail to anyone unfortunate enough to be in the general vicinity. Owing to Grandmamma’s diminished hearing, this meant anyone within shouting range.
“Your mother and sisters are discussing who should travel to Bath as we speak,” Tristan said.
“Don’t worry, old boy. We’ll sort it out.” No doubt his sisters meant to flee to Bath, as they always did when his grandmother invoked her favorite ailment. Usually his mother went as well, but she’d made a commitment to sponsor Julianne.
A peevish voice sounded from the landing. “Marc, you have dawdled long enough. Mama is waiting.”
Hawk glanced up to find his eldest sister, Patience, beckoning him with her fingers as if he were one of her unruly brats. Poor Patience had never proven equal to her name, something he’d exploited since childhood. He never could resist provoking her then, and he certainly couldn’t now. “My dear sister, I’d no idea you were so anxious for my company. It warms the cockles of my heart.”
Her nostrils flared. “Our grandmother is ill, and Mama is fretting. You will not add to her vexation by tarrying.”
“Pour Mama a sherry for her nerves. I’ll be along momentarily,” he said.
Patience pinched her lips, whirled around, and all but stomped away.
Hawk’s shoulders shook with laughter as he returned his attention to his friend. “After dinner, we’ll put in a brief appearance in the drawing room and make our escape to the club.”
“I’d better not. I’m planning to leave at dawn tomorrow,” Tristan said.
Hawk shrugged to hide his disappointment. He ought to have known the old boy meant to return to his wife immediately. Nothing would ever be quite the same now that his friend had married. “Well, then, shall we join the others?”
As they walked up the stairs, Tristan glanced at him with an enigmatic expression. “It’s been too long since we last met.”
“Yes, it has.”
The last time was Tristan’s wedding nine months ago. He’d meant to visit the newlyweds after a decent interval. Then Tristan’s letter had arrived with the jubilant news of his impending fatherhood.
Hawk’s feet had felt as if they were immersed in a bog.
After they entered the drawing room, Hawk halted. He was only peripherally aware of his sisters’ husbands scowling at him from the sideboard. All his attention centered on a slender lady seated on the sofa between his mother and his youngest sister, Hope. The candlelight gleamed over the lady’s jet curls as she gazed down at a sketchbook on her lap. Good Lord, could this delectable creature possibly be Julianne?
As if sensing his stare, she glanced at himHe took in her transformation, stunned by the subtle changes. In the past nine months, the slight fullness of her cheeks had disappeared, emphasizing her sculpted cheekbones. Even her expression had changed. Instead of her usual impish grin, she regarded him with a poised smile.
The sweet little girl he’d known all his life had become a woman. A heart-stopping, beautiful woman.
The sound of his mother’s voice rattled him. “Tristan, please be seated. Marc, do not stand there gawking. Come and greet Julianne.”
Patience and his other sister Harmony sat in a pair of chairs near the hearth, exchanging sly smiles. No doubt they were hatching a plot to snare him in the parson’s mousetrap. They probably thought he was as besotted as the numerous cubs who vied for Julianne’s attention every season. But he was only a little taken aback by her transformation.
Determined to take himself in hand, he strode over to her, made a leg, and swept his arm in a ridiculous bow last seen in the sixteenth century.
When he rose, his mother grimaced. “Marc, your hair is standing up. You look thoroughly disreputable.”
He grinned like a jackanapes. “Why, thank you, Mama.”
Julianne’s husky laugh drew his attention. He set his fist on his hip and wagged his brows. “No doubt you will break a dozen hearts this season, Julie-girl.”
She regarded him from beneath her long lashes. “Perhaps one will capture my affections.”
Helen of Troy’s face had launched a thousand ships, but Julianne’s naturally raspy voice could fell a thousand men. Where the devil had that foolish thought come from? She’d grown into a stunning young woman, but he’d always thought of her as the little hoyden who climbed trees and skimmed rocks.
Hope stood. “Marc, take my seat. You must see Julianne’s sketches.”
He meant to make the most of the opportunity. For years, he’d teased Julianne and encouraged her in mischief. After sitting beside her, he grinned and tapped the sketch. “What have you got there, imp?”
She showed him a sketch of Stonehenge. “I drew this last summer when I traveled with Amy and her family.”
“Stonehenge is awe-inspiring,” the countess said.
He dutifully looked on as Julianne turned the page. “Those are some big rocks.”
Julianne laughed. “Rogue.”
He tweaked the curl by her ear. When she swatted his hand, he laughed. She was the same Julie-girl he’d always known.
Heavy footsteps thudded outside the drawing room doors. Everyone stood as Lady Rutledge, his great-aunt Hester, lumbered inside. Gray sausage curls peeked out from a green turban with tall feathers. She took one look at Hawk’s mother and scowled. “Louisa, that statue is hideous. If you want a naked man, find yourself one who is breathing.”
Hawk’s mouth worked with the effort not to laugh out loud.
The countess fanned her heated face. “Hester, please mind your words.”
“Bah.” Hester winked at Hawk. “Come give your aunt a kiss, you rogue.”
When he obliged, she muttered, “You’re the only sensible one in the bunch.”
Tristan bowed to her. “Lady Rutledge.”
Hester eyed him appreciatively. “Shelbourne, you handsome devil. I heard you wasted no time getting your duchess with child.”
Hawk’s mother and younger sisters gasped. Patience cleared her throat. “Aunt Hester, we do not speak of such indelicate matters.”
Hester snorted and kept her knowing gaze on Tristan. “I heard your duchess has gumption. She’ll bring your child into the world without mishap—mark my words.”
Hawk considered his wily old aunt with a fond smile. Eccentric she might be, but she’d sought to reassure his old friend. And for that alone he adored her.
He led Hester over to a chair and stood beside her. Her wide rump barely fit between the arms. After adjusting her plumes, she held her quizzing glass up to her eye and inspected Julianne.
“Aunt Hester, you remember Lady Julianne,” Patience said, as if speaking to a child. “She is Shelbourne’s sister.”
“I know who she is.” Hester dropped her quizzing glass. “Why are you still unwed, gel?”
Julianne blushed. “I am waiting for the right gentleman.”
“I heard you turned down a dozen proposals since your come-out. Is it true?” Hester continued.
“I’ve not kept count,” Julianne murmured.
Hester snorted. “There were so many you cannot recall?”
Noting Julianne’s disconcerted expression, Hawk intervened. “Mama, I understand we’ve a bit of a problem. Grandmamma is claiming illness again, is she?”
His mother and sisters protested that they must assume Grandmamma was truly ill. Finally, Aunt Hester interrupted. “Oh, hush, Louisa. You know very well my sister is only seeking attention.”
“Hester, how can you say such a thing?” the countess said.
“Because she makes a habit of it.” Hester sniffed. “I suppose you and your girls are planning to hare off to Bath on a fool’s errand again.”
“We cannot take a risk,” Patience said. “If Grandmamma took a bad turn, we would never forgive ourselves.”
“She ought to come to town where she can be near the family. I offered to share my home with her, but she refuses to leave her cronies in Bath,” Hester said.
“She is set in her ways.” Hawk grinned down at his aunt. “Few ladies are as adventurous as you.”
“True,” Hester said, preening.
The countess gave him a beseeching look. “Will you write William to inform him?”
“I’m not sure of his address at present,” Hawk said. His younger brother had been traveling on the Continent for more than a year.
Montague, Patience’s husband, lowered his newspaper. “It’s past time William came home and stopped raking his way all over the Continent. He needs to choose a career and be a responsible member of the family.”
Hawk regarded him as if he were an insect. “He’ll come home when he tires of wandering.” He’d hoped Will would return for the London season, but his brother hadn’t written in over two months.
Montague folded his newspaper. “He’d come home soon enough if you cut him off without a penny.”
Hawk ignored his least favorite brother-in-law and returned his attention to his mother. “What of Julianne? Her brother brought her all this way. Mama, can you not stay behind?”
“Oh, I could not ask such a thing,” Julianne said. “I can stay with either Amy or Georgette. My friends’ mothers would welcome me, I’m sure.”
“Her friends’ mothers will be too busy with their own girls,” Hester said. “I will sponsor Julianne. She will be the toast of the season.”
A long silence followed. Hawk’s mother and sisters regarded one another with barely concealed dismay. They thought Hester a few cards shy of a full deck, but he knew his aunt was prodigiously clever, if a bit blunt in her manners.
The countess cleared her throat. “Hester, dear, that is too kind of you, but perhaps you have not thought of how exhausting all those entertainments will be.”
“I’m never tired, Louisa,” she said. “I shall enjoy sponsoring the gel. She’s pretty enough and seems lively. I’ll have her engaged in a matter of weeks.”
Hawk schooled his expression. Julianne married? It seemed so…wrong. Even though he knew it was customary for young ladies to marry young, the idea didn’t set well with him.
Tristan eyed Hester. “Granted, she’s been out four seasons, but marriage is for life. I’ll not rush her.”
Hester looked at Julianne. “How old are you, gel?”
“One and twenty,” she said.
“She’s of age, but I agree marriage should not be undertaken lightly,” Hester said.
Tristan regarded his sister. “I must approve any serious attachments.”
When Julianne rolled her eyes, Hawk grinned. He didn’t envy any man bold enough to ask Tristan’s permission for Julianne’s hand. The old boy had kept a tight rein on her for years—as well he should.
“Now that the matter is settled, let us go to dinner,” Hester said. “I’m starved.”
After the ladies withdrew from the dining room, Hawk brought out the port. His sisters’ husbands exchanged meaningful glances. Tristan kept silent but watched them with a guarded expression.
Montague folded his small hands on the table and addressed Hawk. “Lady Julianne cannot stay with Hester. Your aunt’s bold manners and rebellious ideas would be a bad influence on the girl.”
Hawk met Tristan’s gaze. “Join me in the study?”
They both rose. When Hawk claimed a candle branch from the sideboard, Montague scrambled up from the table. “Patience will stay behind and look after Julianne.”
“My sister is determined to go to Bath,” Hawk said. “She will not rest easy unless she sees our grandmother is well.” The last thing he wanted was to expose Julianne to his sister’s acrimonious marriage.
“You know very well your grandmother feigns illness,” Montague said. “If your mother and sisters refused to go, that would put a stop to this nonsense.”
Hawk realized Montague had seized the opportunity to keep his wife at home. The man constantly queried Patience about her whereabouts and upbraided her if she even spoke to another man. “I’ll discuss the matter with Shelbourne. Gentlemen, enjoy your port.”
He started to turn away when Montague’s voice halted him.
“Damn you, Hawk. Someone needs to take responsibility for the girl.”
Hawk strode around the table and loomed over his brother-in-law. “You’ve no say in the matter.” Then he lowered his voice. “You will remember my warning.”
Montague glared but held his tongue. Hawk gave him an evil smile. At Christmas, the man had made one too many disparaging remarks about Patience. Hawk had taken him aside and threatened to beat him to a pulp if he ever treated her disrespectfully again.
As he and Tristan strode away, Hawk muttered, “Bloody brute.”
“Montague resents your political influence, your fortune, and your superior height. He feels inferior and engages in pissing matches to prove he’s manly.”
Hawk wished Montague to the devil. The man had campaigned for his sister’s hand and showered her with affection. He’d shown his true colors shortly after the wedding.
When they walked into the study, the scent of leather permeated the room. Hawk set the candle branch on the mantel and slumped into one of the cross-framed chairs before the huge mahogany desk. The grate was empty, making the room chilly. He never made use of the study. Years ago, he’d taken rooms at the Albany. His family had disapproved, but he’d needed to escape his father’s stranglehold.
Tristan surveyed the surroundings and sat next to Hawk. “The study is virtually unchanged since your father’s death.”
He’d died suddenly of a heart seizure eight years ago, closing off any chance of reconciliation between them. A foolish thought. There was nothing he could have done to change his father’s opinion of him.
“Your father was a good man,” Tristan said. “His advice was invaluable to me.”
“He admired you,” Hawk said.
Tristan had single-handedly restored his fortune after discovering his late wastrel father had left him in monstrous debt.
“I envied your freedom,” Tristan said.
“I had an easy time compared to you.” Hawk’s father had never let him forget it, either. Unbidden, the words his father had spoken more than a dozen years ago echoed in his brain. Do you even know how much it will cost to satisfy Westcott’s honor?
He mentally slammed the door on the memory. “Old boy, your sister may prefer to stay with one of her friends, but I advise you to refuse if she wishes to stay with Lady Georgette. I heard a nasty rumor about her brother. Evidently, Ramsey got a maid with child.” No honorable gentleman ever took advantage of servants.
Tristan’s face showed his revulsion. “Good Lord. He’s disgusting.”
“If you prefer, take your sister to Amy Hardwick’s mother.”
“No, your aunt is right. Mrs. Hardwick should concentrate on her own daughter.” Tristan frowned. “I cannot impose.”
Tristan probably felt a bit guilty because Amy and Georgette had devoted their entire season last year to his unusual courtship. “My aunt is a cheeky old bird, but she’s harmless enough. Hester will enjoy squiring Julianne about town.”
Tristan glanced sideways at Hawk. “I’ve a favor to ask.”
A strange presentiment washed over Hawk. He’d known Tristan since they were in leading strings, because their mothers were bosom friends. At Eton, he and Tristan had banded together to evade the older boys who liked to torment the younger ones. Hawk knew his friend well, but he’d no idea what Tristan intended to ask of him.
Tristan drew in a breath. “Will you act as my sister’s unofficial guardian?”
Hawk laughed. “Me, a guardian? Surely you jest.”
“As soon as the fortune hunters discover I’m out of the picture, they’ll hover like vultures over Julianne. I won’t feel easy unless a solid man is there to protect her from rakes.”
“But…but I’m a rake,” he sputtered. Of course, she’d blossomed into an uncommonly lovely young woman, but she was his friend’s sister. Even among rakes, it was a point of honor to avoid friends’ sisters.
“You’ve watched my sister grow up the same way I have,” Tristan said. “She’s almost like a sister to you.”
He’d never thought of her that way. To him, she was simply Julie-girl, always ready for a bit of mischief. He never grew tired of daring her to do something unladylike, but she’d never once backed down. “Old boy, you know I’m fond of her, but I’m not fit to be anybody’s guardian.”
“You’ve always looked out for her,” Tristan said.
Guilt spurted in his chest. His own family thought him an irresponsible rogue, with good reason. He didn’t even know how to locate his own brother. But clearly Tristan had complete faith in him.
Tristan pinched the bridge of his nose. “I should stay in London to watch over Julianne, but I cannot bear to leave my wife. No matter what I do, I’ll feel as if I’ve wronged one of them.”
Ah, hell. Tristan had never asked for a favor before. He was like a brother to him. Damn it all. He couldn’t refuse. “Anything for you, old boy.”
“Thank you,” Tristan said. “There’s one more thing. You’re not going to like it.”
He lifted his brows. “Oh?”
Tristan narrowed his eyes. “You will give up raking for the duration of the season.”
He laughed. “What?”
“You heard me. There will be no ballerinas, actresses, or courtesans. Call them what you will, but you will not associate with whores while guarding my sister.”
He scoffed. “It’s not as if I’d flaunt a mistress in your sister’s face.”
“Your liaisons are famous.” Tristan tapped his thumb on the arm of the chair. “I’ve often suspected you delight in your bad reputation.”
He made jests about his numerous mistresses. Everyone, including his friend, believed his tall tales. While he was a bona fide rake, Hawk couldn’t possibly live up—or was that down?—to the exaggerated reports about his conquests. “I’ll not agree to celibacy,” he said.
“You don’t even try to be discreet. Julianne adores you. I don’t want her disillusioned.”
“I’ll keep my liaisons quiet,” Hawk grumbled.
“Agreed,” Tristan said.
He’d better forget the ménage à trois with Nell and Nancy. It rather aggrieved him, since he’d never dallied with two women at once, but he couldn’t possibly keep that sort of wicked business under the proverbial covers.
Tristan tapped his thumb again. “Write periodically and let me know how my sister fares.”
“I will,” Hawk said. “Don’t worry. Julianne will grow accustomed to my aunt’s blunt manners.”
“When the babe is born, bring my sister home to me.” He smiled. “Tessa already asked Julianne to be godmother. Will you be godfather?”
A knot formed in his chest, but he forced a laugh. “You would trust a rogue like me with your child?”
“There is no one I trust more than you, my friend.”
Hawk cut his gaze away, knowing he didn’t deserve his friend’s regard.