Excerpt: Since Caroline had left, Charlotte’s mind had been turning over and over toward the idea of convincing her mother that James would never make a proper husband for her, with or without the complication of her ruse engagement to Kenley. She had also been fretting about this; with no occasion to draw Kenley alone and speak with him in the confused aftermath that had followed his bold announcement, she still had no idea why he had done as he had. She was tremendously grateful to him, whatever his reasons, but in her heart, she knew she could not see even that marriage through. No matter what they had offered in pretence, Kenley did not know her. He had obviously acted out of some sense of courtesy in rescuing her from James, but to hold him to this hasty declaration - one that she felt certain he was likely pounding his head against the wall regretting - would be no less cruel than her mother’s expectations that Charlotte marry James.
“There must be some way out of this,” Charlotte whispered. If she did what she knew in her heart was right - releasing Kenley from his offer - then she would be left to a forced marriage to James. If she married Kenley, however, it would still be something forced. True, she was drawn deeply toward him; charmed, captivated, and infatuated by him, but could one base a marriage on such curious fascination?
“Of course not,” she told herself, shaking her head. “Do not be stupid. There is only one way out of this.”
She had to prove James unfit in Lady Epping’s regard.