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An Engagement with the Enemy Audiobook

An Engagement with the Enemy Audiobook

Narrated by Jessica Elisa Boyd

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James Aldwick and Jessica Westcote - childhood enemies - find themselves unlikely allies in a battle against matrimonial expectations. James, under the expectations of his father, the Baron, is thrust into a summer of house parties to find a bride and cleanse the family name of scandal. Jessica, spirited and independent, joins the summer festivities at Amoret Castle with no intention of succumbing to her own father's demands for a betrothal.

Bound by their mutual disdain for forced matches, James and Jessica embark on  scheme to thwart potential suitors, vowing to protect their freedom at all costs. But as the summer wanes, their former enmity and playful sabotage lay the groundwork for an unexpected connection. Can two self-proclaimed adversaries navigate the thin line between love and strategy, or will their pact to remain unattached unravel in the face of true feelings?

Main Tropes

  • Enemies to Lovers
  • Best Friend's Brother
  • Anxiety Rep


Debutantes, debates, and disasters abound when two former enemies join forces to maintain their freedom.

James Aldwick isn’t ready to settle down, but his father, Baron Retford, doesn’t give him a choice. The stigma of illegitimacy has haunted the baron his whole life, and it’s up to his son to reestablish their good name by marrying into a family with a perfect pedigree. A series of summer parties is the obvious course of action and the perfect opportunity to parade eligible ladies before the reluctant James.

Jessica Westcote, the only daughter of a gentleman, is the dearest friend of James’s sister. When an invitation to Amoret Castle’s long list of events arrives, Jessica accepts to spend time with her friend, not the infuriating James. Even if she does enjoy their spats. But when her father announces that she must betroth herself before the end of summer, she has more in common with James than she likes.

James is certain his former foe won’t lay down arms long enough for a truce, even if it means they both avoid matrimony. Battle lines are drawn, but it isn’t long before those lines begin to blur. Are they friends or foes? Enemies or allies? As the end of summer approaches and James must make his choice, can Jessica trust long enough to imagine a future with him?

Originally part of a multi-author series, can be enjoyed as a stand-alone.

Intro to Chapter One

The morning sun filtered through the stained-glass windows of the library, dappling the floor with colorful shapes that danced across the carpet and the pages of James Aldwick’s open book. He lounged in an overstuffed armchair, one leg draped over the armrest as he let his mind wander through the world of a novel by Sir Walter Scott.

Yesterday, a certain lady had caught him reading the book and threatened to tell him the ending, as she had already completed reading it. James momentarily glowered at the page with that memory.

Fortunately, not even his sworn enemy, Miss Westcote, possessed the audacity to ruin the end of a good book. Why his sister’s best friend had determined herself to be a thorn in his side since her infancy, he couldn’t say.

The sound of someone clearing his throat came from the doorway, and when James swung his gaze that direction, he immediately dropped both feet to the floor. His father stood there, dressed in his customary deep blue frock coat and cravat. The corners of Baron Retford’s mouth turned down in disapproval, likely over finding his son in such a lazy pose.

“Must you lounge about like an uncouth vagabond?” His father’s clipped tone made James inwardly groan. His father didn’t usually begin a conversation with a correction. Unless the rest of his chosen subject matter had to do with one particular matter. An heir’s duty and responsibility.

James straightened and set the book aside. “My apologies, Father. How may I be of service?” He kept his tone neutral and his expression respectful. 

Baron Retford’s frown deepened.

“We have had this conversation before, and it is high time something is done. Your duty is to this family. You must settle down and choose a wife.”

James swallowed a sigh. This again. His father had been after him for months to find a suitable bride, though James had no intention of marrying some naive girl barely out of the schoolroom, likely with more pedigree than wit if his father had his way. 

“There are many fine ladies who would make a worthy match,” his father continued. “What happened with Lady Anne in April, while we were in London? She has a generous dowry, and her family’s status would reflect well on our own. We should invite her to the castle this summer.” 

At this, James could no longer contain a grimace. Lady Anne was as dull as she was vain, caring for nothing but the latest fashions and increasing her collection of admirers. 

His father’s gaze sharpened. “Do not scowl so. I expect you to treat all ladies of quality with courteous attention.” 

Courteous attention. James swallowed a biting retort. He had no desire to waste his summer trotting after females in hopes of an alliance. He wanted more than that for himself. But he held his tongue, offering a stiff nod instead. “As you wish, Father.”

If he placated the baron enough, perhaps he would gain a few more weeks before the subject came up again.

“Good.” The baron went to the stained glass, looking through a green pane with a somewhat relieved expression. “Because your mother and I have decided it is time you took your future more seriously.”

 A sense of unease settled in his stomach, hinting at what might be in store. He had an intuition, a sense that he could anticipate what awaited him. And it was unpleasant.

“We do not think it wise to wait until the next Season to begin your hunt in earnest.” Baron Retford spoke more to the window than he did his son. “Your duty is to restore the reputation of this family.”

James’s attention fell away as his father continued a lecture he’d heard many times before.

Their family name didn’t actually need restoration, to James’s way of thinking. Though his father had been born illegitimately, he’d been legally recognized before he’d reached his majority. He carried his father, the fourth baron’s, name and had inherited all his lands and wealth.

He’d even successfully petitioned Parliament and the Crown to restore the title that had died when his father, the fourth baron, had passed on. They’d made John Aldwick the First Baron Retford. The title hadn’t been continued but remade. 

Something that had seemingly caused James’s father to feel less than equal to his peers.

“…I will not have you wasting away your days in frivolity—”

James interrupted. “Frivolity? Father. I am reading a book. I do not go about our little village gambling, carousing, or courting actresses. For one thing, none of those activities are available to me here.” He tried to keep his tone light. Tried to bring his father back to reason with humor. “Considering I do not take part in such things even in London, and at the height of the Season, I cannot think it just for you to accuse me of frivolity.” 

His father glowered at him. “You are not taking this conversation seriously.”

“I’m only eight and twenty. Many men of our rank do not marry until thirty or older.” 

“Most men do not have a family scandal to erase from history.” His father pinned him with a hard look. “And it is time to move forward with your life. Your mother and I have a plan.” 

James gritted his teeth. “A plan? For what?”

“For your future. Your marriage.” His father came closer and bent at the waist enough to bring him eye-level with James. “What do you think of this: a series of house parties, balls, and outings, all summer long, with invitations sent to every young lady of quality—and her family, of course—to attend? You will meet eligible, unmarried women here, without the pressures of London’s social schedule, and have their full attention. You will see how they fit into life at Amoret. One of them is bound to suit you.”

James slowly came to his feet, leaving his book in the chair behind him. “You expect me to endure the spectacle of women being paraded through our home, hoping that by some chance I may find a suitable match among them to marry? Everyone invited will see through the ruse of a house party and know precisely what you intend. What lady will agree to such a display? This is a terrible idea.”

His father’s chest puffed up. “Invitations have already been sent—”

“What?” James stiffened, but his father ignored him.

“—and we have drawn up a schedule, a calendar, of events and plans. Not only for the castle, but for the village. We will host a fair, races, and your mother has plans to bring in actors.”

“You did all this without consulting me first?” James asked, pushing a hand through his hair. 

His father drew himself up to his full height, still three inches shorter than James’s six-foot frame. “Have I need to consult you before planning entertainments at my expense?”

“When the entire goal of said entertainment is to procure a wife for your son, one would think the son worth consulting.” James moved away, dropping both hands to his side and trying not to curl them into fists. He’d ignored the lectures too long, it would seem, if his father had moved to the desperate point of planning what would amount to a search for a bride, bringing willing ladies to the castle to act as the quarry to James’s reluctant hunt.

“James,” his father snapped, and James turned to see the dark frown on his father’s lined face. It wasn’t anger he saw, though a stranger might mistake the wrinkles in the baron’s forehead as impatient furrows and the flat set of his mouth as a warning. James knew better. “The guests are invited. We are doing this for the good of the family. And for you.”

No, his father wasn’t angry. He was worried. And getting older. A grandson and heir would no doubt ease his mind about the future of Castle Amoret and the title.

James’s shoulders fell. He didn’t have the heart to argue. What was done was done. “I understand.” He took in a deep breath. “I will do what I can to ensure our guests enjoy their time at Castle Amoret.”

“Thank you, son.” Apparently satisfied, and perhaps realizing any further conversation would be detrimental to the already precarious calm, Baron Retford took his leave. 

Try as he might, James couldn’t escape the truth that his aging father simply wanted to see him settled and secure before he passed. When viewed in that light, the baron’s plans seemed almost thoughtful, even in their misguidedness.

James waited until his father’s footsteps receded down the corridor before collapsing back into the chair. Marriage and duty. Always his father’s refrain. 

James yearned to live as he chose, unburdened by the demands of society and family. But as the eldest son, he had obligations he couldn’t ignore, no matter how he chafed against them. With a sigh, he picked up his book again, but as he stared at the page, the words blurred together. He could not stop thinking about what this would mean for his summer. The idea of being paraded before a bevy of eligible women left a bitter taste in his mouth. 

Glancing at the stained glass again, he studied the shift of light on the carpet. For a moment he allowed himself to picture a different life, one where he chose his own bride and followed his own passions rather than duty. Yet the next instant he thought of his mother’s hopes, his sister’s dependence on a settled line of inheritance, and the stability his marriage would bring to both. His future wasn’t the only one at stake.

He shook his head with a rueful smile. 

Daydreams would get him nowhere.

Setting the book aside, James stood and straightened his coat. He would play the part his father required and smile through the coming parade of eligible young ladies, even if he held no hope of finding one he could truly call a match.

He would spout pleasantries, engage in meaningless conversation, and endure the entertainment his mother had arranged. He would smile and play his part, concealing his bitterness behind a mask of cheerful obligation.

With grim resignation, James steeled himself and left the library, along with his personal wishes, behind. What choice did he have but to endure what he could not avoid? This was yet another duty to tick off his list, another thing to suffer in silence. And then, with luck, it would be over.

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