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Romancing Mister Bridgerton
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Matchmaking mamas are united in their glee -- Colin Bridgerton has returned from Greece!
For those gentle (and ignorant) readers who are new to town this year, Mr. Bridgerton is third in the legendary string of eight Bridgerton siblings (hence the name Colin, beginning, with C. he follows Anthony and Benedict, and precedes Daphne, Eloise, Francesca, Gregory, and Hyacinth).
Although Mr. Bridgerton holds no noble title and is unlikely ever to do so (he is seventh in line for the title of Viscount Bridgerton, behind the two sons of the current viscount, his elder brother Benedict, and his three sons) he is still considered one of the prime catches of the season, due to his fortune, his face, his form, and most of all, his charm. It is difficult, however, to predict whether Mr. Bridgerton will succumb to matrimonial bliss this season, he is certainly of an age to many (three-and-thirty), but be has never shown a decided interest in any lady of proper parentage, and to make matters even more complicated, he has an appalling tendency to leave London at the drop of a hat, bound for some exotic destination.
|LADY WHISTLEDOWN'S SOCIETY PAPERS, 2 APRIL 1824|
"Look at this!" Portia Featherington squealed. "Colin Bridgerton is back!"
Penelope looked up from her needlework. Her mother was clutching the latest edition of Lady Whistledown's Society Papers the way Penelope might clutch, say, a rope while hanging off a building. "I know," she murmured.
Portia frowned. She hated when someone -- anyone -- was aware of gossip before she was. "How did you get to Whistledown before I did? I told Briarly to set it aside for me and not to let anyone touch --"
"I didn't see it in Whistledown," Penelope interrupted, before her mother went off to castigate the poor, beleaguered butler. "Felicity told me. Yesterday afternoon. Hyacinth Bridgerton told her."
"Your sister spends a great deal of time over at the Bridgerton household."
"As do I" Penelope pointed out, wondering where this was leading.
Portia tapped her finger against the side of her chin, as she always did when she was plotting or scheming. "Colin Bridgerton is of an age to be looking for a wife."
Penelope managed to blink just before her eyes bugged right out of her head. "Colin Bridgerton is not going to marry Felicity!"Portia gave a little shrug. "Stranger things have happened.""Not that I've ever seen," Penelope muttered."Anthony Bridgerton married that Kate Sheffield girl, and she was even less popular than you."
That wasn't exactly true; Penelope rather thought they'd been on equally low rungs of the social ladder. But there seemed little point in telling this to her mother, who probably thought she'd complimented her third daughter by saying she'd not been the least popular girl that season.
Penelope felt her lips tightening. Her mother's "compliments" had a habit of landing rather like wasps.
"Do not think I mean to criticize," Portia said, suddenly all concern. "In truth, I am glad for your spinsterhood. I am alone in this world save for my daughters, and it's comforting to know that one of you shall be able to care for me in my older years."
Penelope had a vision of the future -- the future as described by her mother -- and she had a sudden urge to run out and marry the chimney sweep. She'd long since resigned herself to a life of eternal spinsterhood, but somehow she'd always pictured herself off in her own neat little terrace house. Or maybe a snug cottage by the sea.
But lately Portia had been peppering her conversations with references to her old age and how lucky she was that Penelope could care for her. Never mind that both Prudence and Philippa had married well-heeled men and possessed ample funds to see to their mother's every comfort. Or that Portia was moderately wealthy in her own right; when her family had settled money on her as a dowry, one-fourth had been set aside for her own personal account.
No, when Portia talked about being "cared for," she wasn't referring to money. What Portia wanted was a slave.
Penelope sighed. She was being overly harsh with her mother, if only in her own mind. She did that too often. Her mother loved her. She knew her mother loved her. And she loved her mother back.
It was just that sometimes she didn't much like her mother.
She hoped that didn't make her a bad person. But truly, her mother could try the patience of even the kindest, gentlest of daughters, and as Penelope was the first to admit, she could be a wee bit sarcastic at times.
"Why don't you think Colin would marry Felicity?" Portia asked.
Penelope looked up, startled. She'd thought they were done with that subject. She should have known better. Her mother was nothing if not tenacious. "Well," she said slowly, to begin with, she's twelve years younger than he is. "
"Pfft," Portia said, waving her hand dismissively. "That's nothing, and you know it."
Penelope frowned, then yelped as she accidentally stabbed her finger with her needle.
"Besides' " Portia continued blithely, "he's" -- she looked back down at Whistledown and scanned it for his exact age -- three-and-thirty! How is he meant to avoid a twelve-year difference between him and his wife? Surely you don't expect him to marry someone your age."
Penelope sucked on her abused finger even though she knew it was hopelessly uncouth to do so. But she needed to put something in her mouth to keep her from saying something horrible and horribly spiteful.
Everything her mother said was true. Many ton weddings-- maybe even most of them -- saw men marrying girls a dozen or more years their junior. But somehow the age gap between Colin and Felicity seemed even larger, perhaps because...
Excerpted from Romancing Mister Bridgerton by Julia Quinn. Copyright © 2002 by Julia Quinn. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.