The League of Second Sons…
Do you ever wonder how all those “spares” get on after they’ve
been made redundant when their elder brother produces an heir? I most
certainly do. In fact, I’ve always been intrigued by people who take
charge, go out on a limb, and make lemonade when the universe keeps
handing them lemons. So it comes as little surprise that my series—The League of Second Sons—is
about younger sons of the nobility, the untraditional women they fall
in love with, and what it takes for two people who aren’t going to
inherit everything to make a life for themselves.
The League of Second Sons
is a secret club for younger sons who’ve banded together to help one
another seize whatever life offers them and make the most of it. These
are the men who actually run England. They’re elected to the House of
Commons, they run their family estates, they’re the traditional family
sacrifice to the military (the Duke of Wellington and Lord Nelson were
both younger sons). They work—in a gentlemanly manner—for what they’ve
got and what they want. They’re hungry, in a way that an eldest son,
destined for fortune and title, never can be.
We are MPs and Diplomats, Sailors and Curates, Barristers and
Explorers, Adventurers and Soldiers. Our Fathers and Brothers may rule
the World, but We run it. For this Service to God, Country and Family,
We will have Our Due.
Formed this day, 17 May 1755. All Members to Swear to Aid
their Fellows in their Endeavors, Accompany them on their Quests, and
Promote their Causes where they be Just.
Addendum, 14 April 1756. Any rotter who outlives his elder brother to become heir apparent
to a duke
is hereby expelled.
Addendum, 15 Sept 1768. All younger brothers to be admitted without prejudice in favor of the second.
Book 1 of The League of Second Sons
Second in line, first in love
A secret society of younger
sons, sworn to aid and abet each other, no matter the scandal or
cost…. Their fathers and brothers may rule the world, but they run it .
. . and when it comes to passion, they refuse to accept second best.
Searching for hidden treasure,
finding forbidden fantasy.
London’s most sensual former courtesan, Viola Whedon, is incapable of being seduced-she does
the seducing. Until she meets Leonidas Vaughn. Her salacious memoirs
have made her the target of half the lords in England, and Vaughn is the
only man she can turn to. When he promises to protect her-and to make
her beg for his touch-the alluring beauty finds both offers impossible
Leonidas Vaughn secretly believes Viola possesses a
fortune given to his family by the King of France. So the strong and
sexy Vaughn charms his way into Viola’s life . . . and her bed. But when
their arrangement is consummated, he’ll experience pleasure far beyond
his wildest fantasies-and realize his heart may need the most protection
***Excerpt of the book***
Viola yawned and poured herself another cup of tea. She fingered the hot,
aching mark that ringed her wrist. In a few days she’d be sporting a blue-black
bracelet where her rescuer had manacled her wrist.
It had been a long night, hours spent waiting for the night watchman to
summon the constable and for poor Ned to be taken away. Viola shuddered and
swallowed a mouthful of lukewarm tea. Her stomach protested, and she set the cup
She’d paced and drunk tea and watched with slightly horrified fascination as
her rescuer stepped into the breach. He handled absolutely everything with the
swift efficiency of a man who was used to giving orders, all the while giving every
indication that he’d much rather be doing anything but helping her.
There were now a handful of hulking footmen guarding the house, and the
hall had been cleaned by a swarm of women who’d arrived from his own home
along with the footmen. He’d sent her own maids back to bed, an act of kindness
that she couldn’t easily dismiss.
It was fascinating. He was fascinating.
Lord Leonidas Vaughn. The Corinthian with the mismatched eyes. One blue,
the other green, and both of them cold as the North Sea in February. Viola knew
exactly who he was. One of the Mad Vaughns. The second son of the Duke of
His grandfather was renowned for having intentionally burned down an
entire wing of the family seat in a fit of rage, his father for kidnapping his bride
from the steps of the church as she was arriving to wed someone else. And only
last year, one of his cousins had been tried for the murder of his valet. He’d been
acquitted, but all the same . . . there were rumors and stories of the Vaughn family’s
quirks and indiscretions going back to their knightly ancestor who had supported
Queen Eleanor against her husband, Henry I.
Viola had been close enough on several occasions to judge those
mismatched eyes for herself, but she’d failed to find them as arresting as the rest of
London. Not until tonight, when she’d run headlong into him, while wearing just
this side of nothing. Suddenly she’d been transfixed, for his famously frigid gaze
had been anything but cold.
Viola stretched until her joints strained and her elbows popped. There was
no point in dwelling on those eyes of his. He was notorious for never having kept a
mistress, a fact much bemoaned among the ranks of the fallen, and she had neither
time nor use for cicisbei. She was a retired Paphian, whose most lucrative annuity
had suddenly been stopped. Only the money from her memoirs stood between her
and debtor’s prison, and the payment she’d received for the first volume was very
nearly gone. But the offer she’d secured for the second volume would keep her in
coal and lobster patties for years to come . . .
She wasn’t an actress, couldn’t sing or dance—at least not well enough for a
career on the stage—and at seven-and-twenty, her days as one of the reigning
belles of the fashionable impures were behind her. It was time to make do or suffer
the lot of so many other fallen women: the slow slide down into common
whoredom. A decline from which recovery was impossible.
Viola knew what she was, and she didn’t regret the choices that she’d made,
but she’d be damned if she’d let the sacrifices be for naught. She’d prepared so
carefully, planned so thoroughly—and been ruthless enough as she did so to earn
the enmity of more than one man—only to see everything swept away by a few
investments that had turned out badly and the actions of one petty baronet.
She’d kept her side of their bargain, but the very day the book had been
published, Sir Hugo had reneged on the deal they’d made, canceling the annuity
he’d promised in return for her lapse in memory. And after making only two
quarterly payments. A pittance.
Did he think she wouldn’t find a way to revenge herself? That she was
stupid enough to put all her recollections in a single volume? The more fool he if
She picked up the head of her smashed figurine and turned it over in her
hands, watching the light play over the opalescent glaze. The last remnant of her
girlhood. A gift from her father only days before she’d eloped . . . She set it in the
saucer of her cup and rose to pace toward the window. It really wasn’t worth
If she was going to indulge in that particular emotion, she had far more
valuable losses she could contemplate: love, innocence, and reputation, all gone in
one fell swoop. Viola swallowed a mouthful of air, pushing the faces that swam up
from the recesses of her memory back where they belonged. Back where she kept
them carefully partitioned and locked away.
Viola twitched back the curtain. A cloudless blue sky and a stream of
sunshine greeted her. A small herd of sheep rambled down the street, their young
shepherd marching along beside them. A glossy coach pulled by four bays rattled
past in the other direction, the livery of the footmen bright against the dark finish
of the coach.
Just another May morning. Everything seemingly the same as the day
before. Perfect. Beautiful. Unbearable.
A loud rap on her door made her jump. She turned to find Lord Leonidas
framed in the doorway, his head nearly scraping the lintel. It was as though her
house was simply unable to contain him. How had she never noticed he that was so
His disordered hair was a deep auburn in the sunlight; strands escaped his
queue and hung down at the temples. In candlelight it was merely brown. It made
her almost sick how badly she wanted to tuck those stray bits back into place, just
to have an excuse to touch him.
His expression held both lust and revulsion, and not a little bit of selfloathing.
An intriguing mix, as though he were aware of the contradiction. Men
were usually so much clearer about their wants and needs, and they so rarely
bothered to be squeamish or apologetic about them. To want, to lust, to need, that
Leo paused before entering Mrs. Whedon’s boudoir, a sudden stab of lust
burning away exhaustion. She’d pulled a flowery dressing gown over her wisp of a
nightgown, but the sun blazing through the open window outlined her long limbs
and trim waist perfectly through the thin cloth. Light filtered around the curve of
her breast and sparked her hair into a blaze around her head and shoulders. A
Botticelli goddess without the half shell.
She dropped the curtain, and the room plunged into semi-lit darkness. She
became merely an extremely beautiful woman, rather than something approaching
Thank God for that.
“So what am I to do now?” Viola stepped toward him, and the whole room
seemed to shrink.
“Go to bed, ma’am.”
Her mouth quirked up, mocking him, as though she knew it was all that he
could do not to beg to join her. As well she should, practiced coquette that she was.
She could probably smell lust half-way across town. It was her stock in trade after
all, no different from a tailor knowing the hand of his cloth.
“Practical advice, my lord. Will you be taking it yourself?”
Leo’s mouth went dry. Was that an invitation or a taunt? His cock twitched,
clear about what answer it wanted.
“Yes, ma’am,” he ground out. “I was only stopping to take my leave. I’ll
return this afternoon to await the arrival of Mr. Addison’s men.”
One elegantly straight brow arched as she stared him down, moss green eyes
unblinking. There was a stillness about her that was fascinating, reminiscent of a
doe as the baying of hounds washes over her and she takes stock of her options
before erupting into flight. It made it hard to look away from her. Impossible really.
Leo caught himself and yanked his wandering mind away from her. He was
tired. That was all. He was tired, and sleeplessness always fantasies and gave luster
to otherwise mundane objects. She couldn’t possibly be as beautiful as she looked
at that moment. No woman could.
Annoyed with himself, Leo nodded, turned on his heel, and left. If he stayed
a moment longer, he’d tumble into bed with her, and that wouldn’t do at all. Falling
under Mrs. Whedon’s spell was the last thing he could afford to do.