HANNAH REID, Duchess of Dunbarton, was free at last. Free of the burden of a ten-year marriage, and free of the endlessly tedious year of deep mourning that had succeeded the death of the duke, her husband.
It was a freedom that had been a long time coming. It was a freedom well worth celebrating.
She had married the duke after a five-day acquaintance—his grace, all impatience to be wed, had procured a special license rather than wait for the banns to be read—when she was nineteen and he was somewhere in his seventies. No one seemed certain of exactly where in his seventies that had been, though some said it was perilously close to eighty. At the time of her marriage, the duchess was a breathtakingly lovely girl, with a slender, lithe figure, eyes that rivaled a summer sky for blueness, a bright, eager face made for smiling, and long, wavy tresses that were almost white in their blondness—a shimmering white. The duke, on the other hand, had a body and face and head that showed all the ravages of age that time and years of hard living could possibly have piled upon them. And he suffered from gout. And from a heart that could no longer be relied upon to continue beating with steady regularity.