The Secrets of Sir Richard Kenworthy

By: Julia Quinn


Dedication


For Tillie, sister of my heart.

And also for Paul,

even though I still think you should have gone

for the Jedi Knighthood.








Chapter One


Pleinsworth House

London

Spring 1825

TO QUOTE THAT book his sister had read two dozen times, it was a truth universally acknowledged that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife.

Sir Richard Kenworthy was not in possession of a fortune, but he was single. As for the wife . . .

Well, that was complicated.

“Want” wasn’t the right word. Who wanted a wife? Men in love, he supposed, but he wasn’t in love, had never been in love, and he didn’t anticipate falling in such anytime soon.

Not that he was fundamentally opposed to the idea. He just didn’t have time for it.

The wife, on the other hand . . .

He shifted uncomfortably in his seat, glancing down at the program in his hand.

You are Cordially Welcomed to

the 19th Annual Smythe-Smith Musicale

featuring a well-trained quartet of violin,

violin, cello, and pianoforte

He had a bad feeling about this.

“Thank you, again, for accompanying me,” Winston Bevelstoke said to him.

Richard regarded his good friend with a skeptical expression. “I find it unsettling,” he remarked, “how often you’ve thanked me.”

“I’m known for my impeccable manners,” Winston said with a shrug. He’d always been a shrugger. In fact, most of Richard’s memories of him involved some sort of what-can-I-say shoulder motion.

“It doesn’t really matter if I forget to take my Latin exam. I’m a second son.” Shrug.

“The rowboat was already capsized by the time I arrived on the bank.” Shrug.

“As with all things in life, the best option is to blame my sister.” Shrug. (Also, evil grin.)

Richard had once been as unserious as Winston. In fact, he would very much like to be that unserious again.

But, as mentioned, he hadn’t time for that. He had two weeks. Three, he supposed. Four was the absolute limit.

“Do you know any of them?” he asked Winston.

“Any of who?”

Richard held up the program. “The musicians.”

Winston cleared his throat, his eyes sliding guiltily away. “I hesitate to call them musicians . . .”

Richard looked toward the performance area that had been set up in the Pleinsworth ballroom. “Do you know them?” he repeated. “Have you been introduced?” It was all well and good for Winston to make his customary cryptic comments, but Richard was here for a reason.

“The Smythe-Smith girls?” Winston shrugged. “Most of them. Let me see, who’s playing this year?” He looked down at his program. “Lady Sarah Prentice at the pianoforte—that’s odd, she’s married.”

Damn.

“It’s usually just the single ladies,” Winston explained. “They trot them out every year to perform. Once they’re married, they get to retire.”

Richard was aware of this. In fact, it was the primary reason he had agreed to attend. Not that anyone would have found this surprising. When an unmarried gentleman of twenty-seven reappeared in London after a three-year absence . . . One did not need to be a matchmaking mama to know what that meant.

He just hadn’t expected to be so rushed.

Frowning, he let his eyes fall on the pianoforte. It looked well-made. Expensive. Definitely nicer than the one he had back at Maycliffe Park.

“Who else?” Winston murmured, reading the elegantly printed names in the program. “Miss Daisy Smythe-Smith on violin. Oh, yes, I’ve met her. She’s dreadful.”

Double damn. “What’s wrong with her?” Richard asked.

“No sense of humor. Which wouldn’t be such a bad thing, it’s not as if everyone else is a barrel of laughs. It’s just that she’s so . . . obvious about it.”

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