I’m not picky about my gems. I’ll take rubies, sapphires, emeralds, even cubic zirconia! But when I was brainstorming a sobriquet for my three courtesan heroines in When You Give a Duke a Diamond, only one gem would do—a diamond, of course. One of the popular cant phrases during the Regency era was diamond of the first water. A woman or man referred to in this way was of the highest quality. He or she was simply the very best. That’s why my heroines are called The Three Diamonds. They are the most notorious, most sought-after courtesans in London.
Of course, not every man wants to be paired with a notorious courtesan. William Cavington, the sixth duke of Pelham would much rather not be associated with ladies of easy virtue. Unfortunately, the gossip magazines sell far more copies if they invent stories. Here’s a little excerpt featuring the moment Will realizes he’s been paired with Juliette, one of The Three Diamonds.
Fitzhugh’s face remained impassive, but Pelham could have sworn he was enjoying the moment. “You’ve been mentioned in the Cytherian Intelligence column of late. The writers of the Morning Chronicle have you paired with the Duchess of Dalliance.”
“Don’t pretend you don’t know who she is,” Darlington said, sipping his sherry. “Even a country bumpkin like you has heard of The Three Diamonds.”
“Are you speaking of courtesans?” He should have known. Darlington was always chasing after some woman or other.
“Now you’re following,” Darlington said, raising his glass.
“Then why do you keep calling her Duchess?”
Fitzhugh raised a hand before Darlington could speak again. Thank God. “The Prince Regent dubbed Juliette the Duchess of Dalliance. That’s the one you’re rumored to be madly in love with.”
Pelham stared absently at the fireplace blazing behind Fitzhugh. On the mantle, an ancient clocked ticked away the hours. Above it, a painting of a hunting scene in greens and browns dominated the dark-paneled wall. He thought he vaguely remembered glimpses of these Three Diamonds from afar. He tried to picture this Juliette. “She’s the dark one?” he asked.
“No. That’s the Marchioness of Mystery,” Darlington informed him.
Pelham shook his head. Had the Prince nothing better to do than invent titles? “Then she’s the pale one?”
“Right,” Fitzhugh said.
“I’d hardly call her pale,” Darlington corrected. “She’s blond, but her complexion has quite the pinkish quality. Most fetching.”
“Perhaps the papers should pair her with you,” Pelham said, lifting his spoon and tasting his soup.
“He’d like nothing better,” Fitzhugh said, swirling his port. “But the Duchess won’t have him.”
Darlington scowled at Fitzhugh, and Pelham paused in dipping his spoon in the soup. Now this was interesting. He couldn’t remember ever seeing Darlington scowl.
“Why won’t she have you?” Pelham said, tasting the soup again. “She’s a courtesan. I didn’t realize they were overly choosy.”
Darlington shook his head. “She’s one of The Three Diamonds, Pelham. She picks her own lovers, and she’s extremely choosy.”
“And why don’t you make the cut? Not rich enough?”
“No.” Darlington looked away.
“Too ugly?” Fitzhugh asked with a laugh.
“Not compared to some,” Darlington said with a pointed look at Fitzhugh, who shrugged.
“I’m not the one who can’t get a woman.”
“I will have her,” Darlington protested a bit too loudly. “I simply need to prove that…” He mumbled the last.
“Say again?” Pelham asked.
“That I don’t need a nursemaid.”
Pelham lifted his napkin, covering his smile. Fitzhugh wasn’t so kind. He laughed loudly. “Is that what she said?”
“Oh, stubble it.”
“Listen, Darlington,” Pelham said. “I have no designs on your pale duchess. I’d venture to say, she planted those stories in the Morning Chronicle herself.”
“She’s not like that,” Darlington protested.
Pelham almost felt sorry for the man, besotted as he was. “Of course she is. Probably needs to be set in her place.”
“I like her place,” Darlington grumbled.
“Find someone else,” Pelham suggested.
Darlington gave him a look of incomprehension. “I can’t simply forget her. I’m in love with her.”
“Oh, good God.” Fitzhugh rolled his eyes and finished his port.
“I don’t expect you two to understand. You have hearts of stone.”
“That’s not true,” Pelham argued. “In fact, I have reason to celebrate tonight. I’m about to sign betrothal papers. In a few short months, I will have my own duchess.”
“Lady Elizabeth accepted your suit?” Fitzhugh asked.
Pelham lifted his port and toasted.
“Lady Elizabeth.” Darlington snorted. “You’re not in love with Lady Elizabeth.”
“You know my rule,” Pelham told him.
“Ah, yes, Pelham’s Cardinal Rule. Never fall in love. It’s complete rubbish.”
Do you read any of the contemporary “gossip magazines?” I’ll admit, I couldn’t resist thumbing through People the other day. That story about Prince Harry in Vegas was simply too delicious. One reader who comments will win a copy of When You Give a Duke a Diamond.