THE PENNILESS BRIDE
Robert, Earl of Selborne, returns from war to discover his parents and grandmother have succumbed to fever and some difficult conditions are attached to his inheritances. Robert's father's will says he'll come into the title and money the day that he marries. Worse, he must choose a bride from the ladies present at his cousin's wedding and marry her within four weeks.
His grandmother's will says that Robert will inherit the money necessary to restore the family estate only if he remains celibate for 100 days after the reading of her will.
The only woman at his cousin's wedding who interests him is Miss Jemima Jewell, the chimney sweep's daughter, who's selling her kisses among the guests for good luck. Jemima wants to escape an arranged marriage, so when Robert proposes they wed in name only, then annul after 100 days, she accepts, though she has little hope that things will work out. But it's not long before sparks fly, and Robert finds it hard to fulfill his grandmother's codicil or his promise to annul the union.
There's an entertaining subplot involving Jem's bad-boy brother, and a small error regarding the wills supplies the essential happy ending to this charming tale. (Oct., 299 pp., $5.50)