The Courtship: Bride Series by Catherine CoulterThe Courtship: Bride Series by Catherine Coulter

The Courtship: Bride Series

byCatherine Coulter

Mass Market Paperback | January 3, 2000

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The stunning Regency-era romance from #1 New York Times bestselling author Catherine Coulter.

Characters from two of Coulter’s most beloved novels in the Sherbrooke Bride series find each other in The Courtship. Helen Mayberry of Mad Jack has one passion: to track down a mystical treasure. That is, until she meets the thoroughly wicked Spenser Heatherington in a clash of the titans.
Catherine Coulter is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of the FBI Thrillers featuring husband and wife team Dillon Savich and Lacey Sherlock. She is also the author—with J. T. Ellison—of the Brit in the FBI series. She lives in Sausalito, California.
Title:The Courtship: Bride SeriesFormat:Mass Market PaperbackDimensions:352 pages, 6.75 × 4.25 × 1 inPublished:January 3, 2000Publisher:Penguin Publishing GroupLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0515127213

ISBN - 13:9780515127218


Date published: 2000-10-27

Read from the Book

London 1811May 14Just before midnight LORD BEECHAM STOPPEDdead in his tracks. He turned around so quickly that henearly tripped over a huge potted palm.He couldn’t believe it. He had to be wrong. Shecouldn’t have said that, could she? He looked for thewoman he had just heard speaking.He parted two huge palm fronds and peered into theSanderling’s library, a long, narrow, shelf-lined room justoff the ballroom. Where the library was filled with darkboundtomes, cobwebs in gloomy corners, and just onesmall branch of candles casting shadows, the ballroomwas overflowing with lit candles, plants, and at least twohundred guests, all of them laughing, dancing, and drinkingtoo much of the potent champagne punch.The woman he had heard before spoke again. He took2 Catherine Coultera step closer to the dimly lit library. Her voice was rich,tantalizing, filled with laughter. “Really, Alexandra,” shesaid, “doesn’t just the simple thought of discipline, justhearing the word, saying it slowly to yourself and lettingit caress your tongue as you say it, doesn’t it conjure upall sorts of delicious scenes of dominance? Can’t you justsee yourself? You are completely at the mercy of another,that person is in total control, and there is nothing youcan do about anything. You know something is going tohappen, you’re dreading it, your heart is pounding, you’reafraid, so very afraid, yet it’s a delicious sort of fear youfeel. You know, deep down, that you are anticipating whatis to come. You can’t wait for it to come, but there isnothing you can do except imagine what will be done toyou. Ah, yes, your skin is rippling with the excitement ofit.”There was dead silence. Wait, was that heavy breathinghe heard?Lord Beecham, whose very active imagination had conjuredup a vision of himself standing over a beautifulwoman, smiling down at her as he tied her hands over herhead and her legs, spread, to the posts of his bed, knowingthat in just a few minutes, he would remove her clothing,one lovely garment at a time, slowly, ever so slowly,and—“Oh, goodness, Helen. I have to fan myself. I believemy bosom is palpitating. You are far too good at paintingword pictures. What you describe—it sounds terrifyingand wonderful. It rather makes my mouth water. It alsosounds like a grand production that requires a lot of planning.”“Oh, yes, but that is part of the ritual. It is very importantthat it be planned perfectly. You are part of theritual, the most important part, if you are the one in control.It requires that you be constantly inventive, that youdon’t continue to rely on the same old disciplines. Remember,anticipation of something unknown is a veryTHE COURTSHIP 3powerful thing. To be effective, discipline must constantlygrow and change. In most cases, it is effective to haveother people nearby to witness the discipline. This makesthe recipient all the more frightened, his senses moreheightened, his thoughts more focused. It is an amazingprocess. You will have to try it. Both sides of it.”More deep silence.Try it? He wanted to run into that room this very instantand try everything he could possibly envision or dreamabout. His fingers were already on his cravat, ready tojerk it off so he could tie the wrists of the woman speaking,together over her head, so she would be helpless, hereyes large and frightened and excited as she stared up athim, her lips parted. Damnation, he had only one cravat,the one he was wearing. He needed at least two. He shuddered,imagining the smooth flesh of her wrists as helightly wrapped the cravat around and around them, thenpulled them bound, over her head—He heard a deep sigh.“All of that is well and good, Helen, but what I needare specific disciplines to try. A list of disciplines, if youwill. From mild disciplines to the most rigorous.”He realized suddenly that he knew that voice. GoodGod, it was Alexandra Sherbrooke. He couldn’t believeit. On second thought, he pictured Douglas Sherbrooke inhis mind’s eye, that big, hard man who had reputedly kepthis wife happy for eight whole years now. And Alexandrawanted to know about discipline? To try on her husband?What a delightfully wicked idea.Who was the woman speaking to her, this Helen?“On the other hand,” Alexandra said after a moment,“I would like to know how you know so very much aboutdiscipline.”“I have read every book, every article, every paper—both scholarly and secular—ever penned on the subject.I have seen every painting, etching, and drawing of disciplinesemployed throughout the world and throughoutthe ages. Now, the disciplines in China—goodness, talkabout inventive. The drawings show that the Chinese areexceedingly flexible.”A bit more silence, then Alexandra said, her voice lowereda bit, as if she were leaning closer to this otherwoman, speaking in confidence, but he could still makeout her words. “Helen, you are laughing at me. All right,I accept that you know all about discipline. Now, youmust force yourself to come to my level. You have toldme how you discipline your servants. You have told meabout the ritual, how to build to a climax, how to squeezeout every tantalizing drop of fear and excitement duringthe discipline to achieve the result you wish.“Now I want to go directly to the extreme pleasure endof things. I want specifics. I am talking about physicalpleasure, Helen. I want to know exactly what you woulddo to a man to drive him to the brink of madness. Sinceyou have read every tome written about the subject, youmust know something that would help me.”Lord Beecham would not have moved if a beautifulwoman had stripped naked in front of him and startedkissing him. Now this was a kicker. Alexandra Sherbrookewanted to know how to drive Douglas to the brinkof madness? That made no sense. Driving a man likeDouglas to the brink would require very little effort onher part. It would probably require an effort of ten seconds,no more. Actually, any man who was still breathingwas a suitable candidate. He himself, for example.Suddenly it simply became too much. He was eavesdroppingon two ladies discussing discipline, for God’ssake. He was lurking there behind a palm, listening tothem, sweating, and ready to remove his cravat. It wasnot to be borne. Lord Beecham couldn’t hold it back. Itjust burst from his mouth. He laughed—something hedidn’t normally do because he was, after all, a man of theworld; a lazy nod or a slightly contemptuous snicker wasusually more fitting. And so what poured out of his mouthTHE COURTSHIP 5sounded a bit rusty, perhaps a tad hoarse to the casual ear,but it was a laugh, a good strong laugh, and it just keptrolling out of him.He realized they could hear him. That would never do.He tried so hard to stop laughing that he hiccupped. Heclapped his hand over his mouth and quickly slipped behindanother giant palm tree. And none too soon.“I know I heard someone, Helen. It was a man and hewas laughing. Oh, dear, you don’t think it was Douglas,do you? No, Douglas would come right in here and laughin our faces. Then he would look at me with a smile inhis eyes and tell me to forget the thought of disciplininghim, that he is in charge. I am tired of his controllingeverything. Eight years is a long time, Helen. I want tomake him wild first, for once.”“Well, that can’t be too difficult. Simply distract himwhen he is reading the Gazette. Start nuzzling his ear,kiss his neck, bite him. Why haven’t you done this already?”Dead silence.“Oh, dear, you are scarlet to your hairline, Alexandra.”“I have bitten him, Helen, I have. My bites simply takeplace in a different context. There is no Gazette lyingabout.”“A context that Douglas has provided?”“Yes. You know, it’s just that Douglas has only to lookat me, perhaps give me a small touch anywhere with hishand or his mouth, and I lose every shred of thought. Ipuddle right on the floor, directly in front of him. It justdoes not stop, Helen. Help me. Oh, dear, what if he is outthere, listening? Now he knows what power he wieldsover me.”“Trust me, he already knows. Now, you’re right, ofcourse. If it had been Douglas, he would be standing rightin front of us, laughing his head off. But then, perhaps hewould have let you lead him off to begin disciplining himthis very night—that is, if he didn’t decide to disciplineyou first.”Alexandra sighed.“Goodness, you mean it? You’re serious here, Alexandra?Doesn’t Douglas ever let you have control? Eightyears of one-sided marital sorts of things? From everythingI’ve read, this isn’t good. The Italians, especially,believe that participation in lovemaking should be balanced.You must pull yourself together.”“It’s difficult once Douglas turns his attention on me. Iwould like to read what the Italians have to say aboutthis.”“I will lend you a treatise on it. Now, you cannot allowDouglas always to discipline you first. You must focusyour mind, Alexandra.”Alexandra’s eyes nearly crossed. She shuddered delicately.“Douglas has never said anything at all about discipline.I’m sure he’s never done any to me.”Helen laughed and patted her cheek. “From everythingI’ve read, I’ll wager Douglas already performs a lover’sstandard discipline on you and you don’t even realize it.You’re just having fun.”“Do you really think so? I wonder what specific sortsof things that Douglas enjoys with me one could call discipline?Perhaps I shall ask him.”“Or perhaps not, at least not yet.”“Whatever he does, it’s true that I do sometimes forgetto think,” Alexandra said, then squared her shoulders, “butthat’s another problem, one I will have to solve.” Hershoulders squared even more and her magnificent bosomachieved new prominence. “I will have to learn how toretain my own control if I want to have a chance of controllingDouglas. I will have to have a specific goal inmind, a course that I will have to follow. I will get theupper hand of Douglas. The brink of madness—yes, Helen,that is where I want to dispatch Douglas. You musttell me specifically what I am to do.”Helen looked down at her fingernails a moment. Sheknew she should keep her mouth shut, but she couldn’thelp herself. She said on a deep, wistful sigh, overflowingwith exquisite memories, knowing that Alexandra wouldbe enraged within moments, “Ah, even when I was fifteenand I first saw Douglas and fell in love with him, I knewinstinctively that he wouldn’t be a clod. I knew he wouldexcel, and I wanted to be the female he chose to excelupon. Such a pity that it wasn’t meant to be.” She sighedagain, a sad, forlorn sigh.Helen watched beneath her lashes as Alexandra’s eyesnarrowed remarkably, and her voice turned mean and low.“Helen, I will not tell you again. You will forget thoseearly years of infatuation with Douglas. You will forgetthose tender feelings you cherished for him when youwere too young to realize what was what.”“Yes,” Helen said at her most humble, her head bentto show how contrite she was, “I will try.” She hopedAlexandra couldn’t hear the laughter in her voice.Lord Beecham heard the laughter. And then he realizedthat here he was, a man of immense savoir faire, hidingbehind huge green palm fronds, hanging on thesewomen’s every word. He hadn’t yet seen the disciplinarian,but he could see Alexandra Sherbrooke now. She waslooking around, just a bit apprehensively, her fingerssplayed over her incredible bosom. It was too bad Douglasinsisted she keep all that lovely white flesh more coveredthan not. It wasn’t at all the style. God gave women bosomsto flaunt, and every woman he knew flaunted, exceptAlexandra Sherbrooke. Everyone had seen Douglas draghis wife into a corner from time to time to pull up herbodice if he thought there was too much white flesh showing.A pity.Lord Beecham loved breasts: bountiful breasts like Alexandra’sthat would overflow a man’s hands, smallbreasts that were ripe and sweet, breasts pushed up to belovingly framed by a gown’s satin and lace. He loved tobury his face in a woman’s breasts.He got hold of himself. Who was the other woman, theself-proclaimed mistress of discipline? He knew only thather name was Helen.Lord Beecham was not normally a skulker, but he hadto know who she was. He waited, veiled by the palmfronds, until, finally, the two ladies came out of the Sanderling’slibrary.He nearly dropped his glass of champagne when he sawHelen. She was the woman he had seen riding in the parkwith Douglas. He remembered remarking to himself thenthat he wanted a better look at her. Now he was gettingit. She had to be nearly as tall as he was, but there allresemblance between them ended. His imagination soaredto Mount Olympus for suitable comparisons. She wassculpted like a goddess, statuesque and beautifully curved,skin so white it was alabaster, and her hair—surely evengoddesses didn’t have hair like that, thick and pure blondwith no hints of gold or red. She wore it twisted atop herhead, making her appear even taller, with long, lazy curlscaressing the white flesh of her shoulders. Her eyes werebluer than Aphrodite’s, her smile so charming, so utterlyseductive, it could have belonged to Helen of Troy. Hewould wager that this new Helen could launch even moreships.Lord Beecham had just lost his wits. Frankly, hisliterary-inspired imagination had made him produce tripe.She was a woman, just a woman, and her name wasHelen. She might be on the magnificent side, but she wasstill only a woman, nothing more, nothing less. He hadseen women who were more beautiful, had beddedwomen who were more beautiful. She was not a goddess,not even close to a siren of myth. She was just a very biggirl who happened to have very nice hair of a shade thatsparked poetry in a man’s soul. And she had spoken authoritativelyof discipline.All other things being equal, she was a man’s dream.He watched Helen and Alexandra walk away from him,down the corridor to the ballroom.She wasn’t a young, untried girl of eighteen either,newly released from the schoolroom to prey upon the haplessbachelors of London. No, she had been released agoodly number of years ago, which meant she was wellmarried and knew exactly what was what—and that wassurely an utterly excellent thing.He had always preferred married women. What mandidn’t? They were safe. They wanted what he wanted—a bit of excitement, a bit of warmth, a new companion toadd spice and passion. They didn’t usually whine or carpwhen he was ready to move on. He did not have to worryabout their husbands, most of whom were his friends andwho bedded other friends’ wives just as he did. Many menand women were not discreet, and that sometimesstretched civilized manners to the limit. Lord Beecham,however, never spoke of his conquests. There wasn’t anyneed to even if he had been inclined to bray and brag.For some reason, he could not escape the gossips, no matterhow silent he remained.He tossed down the rest of his champagne as the twowomen disappeared from his view back into the ballroom.He rubbed his hands together.Helen was a very big girl. He spread his fingers out.He thought of her breasts. Were his hands big enough forher? Oh, yes, he thought, his hands would make do quitenicely. He looked at his hands, pictured her breasts, andknew that if he had been speaking just then, he woulddoubtless have been stuttering.Why were they talking about discipline? His flesh rippled.He pictured Helen on her back, her white armspulled above her head, her wrists tied with two of hissoftest cravats to the posts at the head of his bed.A woman who was well versed in the art of discipline?She had read everything ever written about it? Had shealso employed everything she had learned? Had it all beenemployed upon her? It was a heady thought, one thatmade him swallow a bit convulsively.When he reached the ballroom he looked and looked,but the big girl was gone.He wasn’t worried. He would simply call upon Alexandraand, with his exquisite finesse, discover Helen’s addressand the name of her husband.He hoped Alexandra would cooperate. He had stoppedtrying to seduce her at least six years ago, when one eveningin the midst of one of his more effective offeringsshe laughed at him. It had wounded him greatly. He wasa renowned lover—at least that was what the gossips werealways saying.But in the end, he quite liked Alexandra Sherbrooke,despite her appalling preference for only her husband inher bed. He liked her husband as well, all the more soonce Douglas determined he wouldn’t have to kill him fortrying to seduce his wife. It was nothing more than attemptedpoaching, and that, Douglas had told him someyears before, he would let slide. Thank the heavens thatthere were not all that many couples like the Sherbrookesin London.Exactly what did the big girl know about discipline?Like Alexandra, he wanted specifics. He couldn’t wait tofind out. Other than her far-flung reading, had her husbandtaught her? Or a lover?Lord Beecham wanted her in his bed, and he wantedher there very soon. He would be a lover who would teachher something altogether new about discipline. He wouldtake his fill of her and when they eventually parted, shewould never forget him. Whenever she spoke of disciplineafter her time with him, she would remember him, andsmile.He rubbed his hands together in anticipation even as hewondered if her hair was long enough to fall over hershoulders and curl lazily around her breasts.Lord Beecham was a man with a very detailed imagination.He saw her beneath him, all of her, stretched out,smiling up at him, and her hands were busy, very busy.He was forced once again to swallow. He would bed hersoon. Very soon.Tomorrow night would fit nicely into his schedule.His fingers clenched at the emerging picture in hismind, a very big picture.So much white canvas.

From Our Editors

Imagine all of your favourite characters from Catherine Coulter's Bride Trilogy series, as well as her novel Jack, appearing in a single story. If you do, you won’t feel disappointed in what happens in The Courtship. Fans will feel like they have reunited with beloved characters who are more like long-lost friends, thanks to the author’s skill in creating people who touch the reader’s heart. A cherished and best-selling writer of historical romances, Coulter is also the author of The Sherbroooke Bride, The Hellion Bride, The Heiress Bride and The Target.

Editorial Reviews

"Delectable humor and sexuality." -PUBLISHERS WEEKLY“A good storyteller…Coulter always keeps the pace brisk.”—Fort Worth Star-Telegram“Ms. Coulter is a one-of-a-kind author who knows how to hook her readers and keep them coming back for more.”—The Best Reviews“Coulter is excellent at portraying the romantic tension between her heroes and heroines, and she manages to write explicitly but beautifully about sex as well as love.”—Milwaukee Journal“Coulter instinctively feeds our desire to believe in knights in shining armor and everlasting love—historical romance at its finest.”—“One of the genre’s great storytellers.”—Kansas City Star“One of the masters of the genre.”—The Newark Star-Ledger“Catherine Coulter is one of the best authors of exciting thrillers writing today.”—Midwest Book Review