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A Suitable Arrangement

A Suitable Arrangement

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The arrangement may well be suitable, but is it bearable?

Main Tropes

  • Enemies to Lovers
  • Scottish Hero
  • Marriage of Convenience


The arrangement may well be suitable, but is it bearable?

As the new Earl of Lismore, it is Sandy Duncan’s duty to save both his family and Lochlarren Castle from impending ruin. He has always known he must marry well, but his father’s deathbed revelation of a slew of other debts creates an unexpected urgency to the situation. With his last breath, Sandy’s father extracts a promise from him to accept the match he has arranged: a marriage to the daughter of a low-born but wealthy English merchant.

While Juliana Godfrey has never had the recognition of Society’s most elite, she has been able to take comfort in what she does have: money—and she has that in spades. Her father’s newest ambition to marry her into the aristocracy, however, could provide her with both things. The fact that the Duncans are Scots—and Highland ones, at that—is not ideal, but an earldom simply cannot be refused.

Despite being the face of the Duncan family’s salvation, Juliana’s reception at Lochlarren Castle is less than warm. As for the earl, he is bewildered to find his prospective bride arrogant and condescending, evidently expecting her future family to be barbaric. In spite of such shaky foundations, however, the match must proceed, bleak as the future may be to both participants. Will first impressions stand against the intimacy marriage brings, or are money and title all Sandy and Juliana can truly hope for from their union?

Intro to Chapter 1

Equipages of all sorts rumbled down Princes Street in a display of organized chaos. From my place on the pavement, I gazed past the carts and on to each carriage.

It was a futile exercise, for Papa had written just this morning to inform me he was yet again delayed. Despite the news, I could not help hoping to see him, for I would feel a great deal calmer making the final part of the journey in his presence. But my cousin and I had already delayed two days, and there was no telling when the officials at the port would release Papa’s long-awaited shipment of textiles, just arrived from the East Indies.

“Come along, my dear Juliana,” Augusta said. My cousin was dressed for travel, and her blond hair, shifting toward gray now, peeked from beneath her bonnet before her head disappeared into the carriage awaiting us. The carriage was loaded high with my belongings and hers—in my case, all my belongings, for I might never return home to Newcastle.

I took one last look at New Town, intrigued by how the stately, clean buildings contrasted with the ones in Old Town across the bridge. Would I have occasion to come to Edinburgh regularly in my new life? I hoped so. This town was to Scotland what London was to England, after all, attracting all of Scotland’s peers. And as the future Countess of Lismore, doors would be open to me here that, despite Papa’s wealth, had never been so in Newcastle.

Augusta’s head emerged from the carriage door, and she smiled sympathetically. “He shall meet us at Lochlarren soon enough, Juliana.”

“Of course,” I said as brightly as I could, stepping into the carriage. I settled onto the squabs across from my cousin, arranging my skirts in a way that might prevent wrinkling. I could only hope Augusta had been right to choose this particular dress. It seemed a bit too fine for travel, with its embellished bodice, large epaulets, and embroidered hems, but Augusta knew far better than I did what would be expected of a future countess.

My own experience of Society was limited to the sort of assemblies and engagements a wealthy tradesman’s daughter would be invited to frequent, and those events had simply not included peers of the realm. Of course, in our less exalted domain, Papa’s significant wealth had made us some of the most sought-after attendees, but at Lochlarren Castle, things would be different. I would be below everyone rather than above.

Augusta regarded me as the carriage pulled forward. “I am certain your father wishes he could be with us, but it is the sort of hard work he is now engaged in which has made this match possible.”

“I know it well,” I replied. “No one works more tirelessly.” And neither was anyone more deserving of the elevation my impending marriage would bring. It was Papa’s dearest wish to see me established amongst the highest echelons of society. I, too, was eager for the opportunities such a life would bring—the mere thought of being looked toward as an arbiter of fashion or an example of the best Society made my heart flutter with anticipation. But equally, I wished to please Papa—to repay him for all he had done for me through his indefatigable work. My marriage to Lord Lismore would connect him with the wealthiest investors and consumers of fine goods in the country, and he was already planning how to expand his ventures.

Town soon gave way to country, and I stared through the window, watching it all pass by. I wondered what my new home would be like—and what to expect of the people within.

“It is my understanding that the earl’s three brothers will be present at Lochlarren,” Augusta said. “You remember their names and how to address them?”

I nodded, for these things had been drummed into me for the past fortnight. “Mr. Magnus Duncan, Mr. Blair Duncan, and Mr. Iain Duncan.”

“Very good. And the earl?”

“Alexander Duncan, known by those nearest him as Sandy.” I met her look with my own mischievous one. “I prefer Sandy.”

Augusta cocked a brow at me, a stern look belied by the twitch at the corner of her mouth.

“However,” I said with impish reluctance, “I shall endeavor to remember to call him by his title.”

“I certainly hope so. If you are to marry into the aristocracy, my dear, you must play by their rules or risk being ostracized.”

My humor dissipated slightly. I had no wish for such a fate. Indeed, it was quite opposite my goal. I would continue to call the earl Sandy in my thoughts, for it made him less intimidating. He had only recently come into the earldom, for his father’s illness and subsequent death had been abrupt and unexpected. Almost as abrupt and unexpected as the arrangements for a match between us.

“I assure you, you have nothing to fear from me, cousin,” I said.

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