The Courtship Dance

The Courtship Dance
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Lady Francesca Haughston had given up on romance for herself, finding passion instead in making desirable matches for others. So it seemed only fair, when she learned she had been deceived into breaking her own long-ago engagement to Sinclair, Duke of Rochford, that she now help him find the perfect wife.Of course, Francesca was certain any spark of passion between them had long since died - her own treatment of him had seen to that. The way Sinclair gazed at her or swept her suddenly into his arms.well, that was merely practice for when a younger, more suitable woman caught his eye. But soon Francesca found his lessons in love scandalously irresistible - and a temptation that could endanger them both.

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Praise for the novels of New York Times bestselling author


“Delightful…. Camp is firmly at home here, enlivening the romantic quest between her engaging lovers with a set of believable and colorful secondaries.”

—Publishers Weekly on The Wedding Challenge

“Camp delivers another beautifully written charmer, sure to please fans of historicals, with enough modern appeal to pull in some contemporary romance readers.”

—Publishers Weekly on The Marriage Wager

“Lively and energetic secondaries round out the formidable leads, and…assuring readers a surprise ending well worth waiting for.”

—Publishers Weekly on The Bridal Quest

“A beautifully crafted, poignant love story.”

—Romantic Times BOOKreviews on The Wedding Challenge

“The talented Camp has deftly mixed romance and intrigue to create another highly enjoyable Regency romance.”

—Booklist on An Independent Woman

“A clever mystery adds intrigue to this lively and gently humorous tale, which simmers with well-handled sexual tension.”

—Library Journal on A Dangerous Man

“A smart, fun-filled romp.”

—Publishers Weekly on Impetuous

The Courtship Dance

Candace Camp























NO ONE WOULD have guessed from the way Lady Francesca Haughston moved through the Whittington ballroom that she was making the opening moves of her campaign. She strolled along in her usual manner, pausing to compliment a dress here or flirt with one of her many admirers there. She smiled and talked and plied her fan deftly, a vision in ice-blue silk, her blond hair falling in a cascade of curls from an upswept knot. But all the while, her dark blue eyes were looking for her prey.

It had been almost a month since she had vowed to herself to find a wife for the Duke of Rochford, and tonight she intended to set her plan in motion. She had made all her preparations. She had studied the young unmarried women of the ton, and through careful research and observation, she had managed to whittle the number down to just three whom she felt suitable for Sinclair.

All three of the young ladies would be here this evening, she was certain. The Whittington ball was one of the highlights of the Season, and, short of dire illness, any marriageable young lady would attend. Moreover, the odds were that the duke would be there, as well, which meant that Francesca could set her scheme in motion. It was time she began, she knew—past time. She had not really needed three weeks to sort out the possible brides for Rochford. There was only a rather small number of girls who could qualify to become his duchess.

But for some reason, ever since Callie’s wedding, Francesca had been beset by ennui, curiously reluctant to pay calls or attend parties or the theater. Even her good friend Sir Lucien had commented on her sudden preference for staying at home. She was not sure of the reason for it; everything just suddenly seemed dull and scarcely worth the effort. She had felt, in fact, a trifle blue-deviled—a result, she had decided, of the fact that Callie, who had been living with Francesca while they sorted out a husband for her, was now married and gone. Without Callie’s cheerful voice and fetching smile, Francesca’s house was too empty.

Still, she reminded herself, she had vowed to make up for the wrong she had done to Callie’s brother, Sinclair, fifteen long years ago. It was impossible to right matters, of course, but she could at least do the duke the favor of finding him a suitable bride. It was, after all, the thing at which she was most skilled. So she had come to this party tonight determined to begin the long dance of courtship on his behalf.

She strolled along the perimeter of the grand ballroom, a huge affair painted all in white and gold, floored with oak planks the color of honey, and lit by three glittering cascades of crystal chandeliers. Several gold stands of thick white beeswax candles provided more light, as did the gold-and-white sconces along the walls. All this brilliance was softened by the huge bouquets of crimson roses and peonies standing in vases against the walls, and twining in garlands up the banister of the magnificent staircase to the second floor. It was an elegant room, worthy of a palace, and it was rumored that only the formal ballroom made Lady Whittington willing to remain in this enormous and antiquated old mansion situated unfashionably outside Mayfair.

Francesca threaded through the crowd to the staircase, intending to use the vantage point of the second-floor railing to locate the young women she was seeking in the massive ballroom below. It was fitting, she thought, as she began to climb the curving stairs, that she should begin her campaign at the Whittingtons’ ball. It had been here, after all, that she had ended things with the Duke of Rochford fifteen years ago. It had been here that her world had come crashing down.

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