Vanessa Kelly brought readers The Renegade Royals. Now, in a delightfully witty
new series, she introduces The Improper Princesses—three young women descended
from royalty, each bound for her own thrilling adventure . . .
daughter of a prince, Gillian Dryden is happily ignorant of all social graces.
After growing up wild in Italy, Gillian has been ordered home to England to
find a suitable husband. And Charles Valentine Penley, the excessively proper,
distractingly handsome Duke of Leverton, has agreed to help transform her from
a willful tomboy to a blushing debutante.
can make or break reputations with a well-placed word. But his new protégée,
with her habit of hunting bandits and punching earls, is a walking scandal. The
ton is aghast . . . but Charles is thoroughly intrigued. Tasked with taking the
hoyden in hand, he longs to take her in his arms instead. Can such an
outrageous attraction possibly lead to a fairytale ending?
Her grandmother let out a heavy sigh, and even Griffin shook his head. The duke, however, simply regarded her with a perfectly unruffled manner, as if she were some recently discovered species, only vaguely interesting. Gillian began to get quite a bad feeling that she’d finally met her match.
She’d been hearing for weeks how Leverton was the key to solving Gillian’s little problem, as her family called it. According to them, he was perfectly suited to guide her into society’s good graces, and perfectly capable of managing away even the most troublesome elements of her background.
He must be a bloody perfect miracle worker, if that was the case.
As she cautiously eyed him, she couldn’t help concluding that he did seem rather perfect in some respects. He was certainly prettier than she was, with thick, tawny-colored hair, striking blue eyes, and a face straight off a Greek statue. And he was certainly a good deal more stylish than she was, although that was true of almost anyone. But even she could appreciate the way his beautifully tailored coat showcased his broad shoulders, and how his breeches clung to his muscled legs with nary a wrinkle. As for his cravat, it was practically a work of art.
In fact, he was so damn perfect it made her stomach hurt. She’d been drawn in by perfection before, and it had almost ruined her.
“Stop trying to shock us, Gillian,” her grandmother said. “You know quite well it won’t work.”
“Au contraire, Lady Marbury,” Griffin said. “I find myself quite riven with horror.”
He flashed Gillian the conspiratorial smile that always made her feel someone truly did understand her. And, more important, Griffin didn’t find her wanting, unlike apparently everyone else in London. She couldn’t wait to shake the dirt of England from her boots and return to Sicily—the sooner, the better.
“Miss Dryden is quite right,” Leverton said.
Gillian frowned. “I am? About what, exactly?”
He slowly crossed the room to her. He didn’t prowl, precisely, but something in the way he moved made her think of . . . a wolf, perhaps. Slipping silently through the night as he hunted in silence.
An exceedingly clever wolf, she guessed. One with very sharp teeth well suited for ripping apart a person’s carefully ordered life.
Leverton’s height forced her to tilt back her head to meet his gaze, and she found herself staring into eyes a beautiful shade of cobalt. She had to admit they were really quite amazing.
“Please believe me, Miss Dryden, when I say I meant no insult. I was merely surprised by a few details regarding your situation. It caused me to forget my manners.” A glint of amusement lurked in his gaze.
Her stomach twisted at the notion that he might be laughing at her. But when he smiled, her stomach seemed to untwist and start dancing with butterflies.
“Come, my dear girl,” he said in his beautifully cultured voice. “I beg you to forgive me before I’m compelled to do something drastic—like throw myself at your feet. That would be embarrassing for both of us.”
“Bloody coxcomb,” Griffin muttered.
Leverton ignored the aside, keeping his attention on Gillian. Her heart began to thump and heat crawled up her neck. “Oh, very well,” she grumbled. “I forgive you.”
“You are most gracious,” Leverton said. “Now, perhaps we can start over and leave all this awkwardness behind.”
“What a splendid idea,” Grandmamma said. “Your Grace, my granddaughter, Miss Gillian Dryden.”
The duke bowed as if she hadn’t just tumbled through the door, and as if they hadn’t just spent the last few minutes insulting each other.
“Gillian, I have the pleasure of introducing you to the Duke of Leverton,” Grandmamma added.
“Good Lord. I know who he is,” Gillian replied, not hiding her exasperation.
“Then make him a curtsey, my dear. A proper one.”
Repressing the urge to roll her eyes—one curtsey was as good as another, as far as she was concerned—Gillian dipped down and quickly came up.
Leverton’s eyebrows ticked up. On him, she rather expected it was the equivalent of a horrified gasp.
Well, nobody ever said she was graceful, at least when it came to that sort of silliness.
“Hmm,” he said. “We’ll have to work on that.”
“It’s all nonsense, if you ask me,” Gillian said. “All this bowing and scraping like a peasant before his master. Perhaps you’d like me to polish your boots while I’m at it.”
His disapproving gaze made her blink, and she almost took a step back. This was a man who did not like being crossed.
“Gillian Dryden, you will cease acting like heathen,” her grandmother rapped out.
“I had no idea you had revolutionary tendencies, Miss Dryden,” the duke said. “How very interesting. And no, I would not like you to polish my boots. My valet would not approve.”
Now he sounded bored. And if he was bored, he would be more likely to go away and leave her alone. Splendid.
Still, she couldn’t help feeling irked by his dismissive tone and demeanor. The Duke of Leverton was certainly a snob and probably a fop. She didn’t know which was worse.
“Why would you think I have revolutionary tendencies, sir?” she added in a sugary-sweet voice. “Is it because I think I’m as good as anyone else, despite my unfortunate social status?”
Gillian braced herself for the expected put-down. She’d grown used to being labeled a prince’s by-blow, or worse. It was best to simply accept it and then do her best to avoid anyone who looked down on her because of her parentage. She’d learned that hard lesson a long time ago.
The duke studied her for a few moments before replying. “Of course you are.”
“Of course I am what?” she asked.
“As good as anyone else. Any sensible person must think so,” he said.
“That eliminates most of the ton,” Griffin said.
Leverton seemed to weigh her brother’s droll comment. “I believe your assessment is too pessimistic, Steele. Shall we say, perhaps fifty percent?”
The exchange was so silly that Gillian had to laugh. Leverton’s eyebrows ticked up again, but not, she thought, with disapproval. Then he flashed her another dazzling smile that made her feel like the floor had just tipped sideways.
“That’s much better,” he said.
She shook her head, exasperated. “I don’t understand any of this.”
review journal of the American Library Association, as one of the “New Stars of
Historical Romance.” Her Regency-set historical romances have been nominated
for awards in a number of contests, and her second book, Sex and The Single
Earl, won the prestigious Maggie Medallion for Best Historical Romance. Her
current series, The Renegade Royals is a national bestseller. Vanessa also
writes USA Today bestselling contemporary romance with her husband, under the
pen name of VK Sykes.