Lucy Gordon

Bride By Choice

The third book in the Italian Grooms series, 2001

Dear Reader,

Being married to an Italian, I take a special delight in writing about Italian men-the most fascinating and endearing men on earth. I’ve enjoyed telling the stories of the three Martelli brothers.

Although linked by kinship, they are all different. Renato, the eldest, is head of the family, a man of confidence and power. Bernardo is aloof, a loner. Lorenzo, the youngest, is a merry charmer. Lovable and thoughtless, he has much to learn, but the right woman can teach him.

And then there is Sicily, their home, one of the most beautiful places on earth, where people’s true passions rise to the surface, giving them the courage to follow their hearts.

Bride by Choice is about Lorenzo, who intended to stay fancy-free-until he met Helen, daughter of a New York Sicilian family. She was determined never to marry a Sicilian-until Lorenzo won her heart. He taught her that love could conquer prejudice, and when she broke his heart he became a stronger man, ready to endure anything to win the woman he loved.

With best wishes,



‘THEY’LL be calling you any minute,’ Heather said, looking up at the screen that gave boarding details at Palermo Airport.

Lorenzo gave a sigh of pleased anticipation. ‘Can’t be soon enough for me. New York, here I come!’

‘Well, try to remember what you’re there for, little brother,’ Renato reminded him. ‘You’re Lorenzo Martelli, Export Manager for Martelli Produce, visiting America to establish the firm in a big, new market; not Lorenzo Martelli, playboy, there to spend money enjoying yourself.’

‘You can’t stop him doing that,’ Heather chuckled. ‘But he might sell a few vegetables between orgies.’

She had to admit that her brother-in-law looked like a playboy. With his light brown curly hair, deep blue eyes, good-looking face, and athletic figure, he might have stood as a symbol of healthy, thoughtless young manhood: with the emphasis on “thoughtless”, she decided with wry affection.

It was almost incredible that only a few months ago she had fancied herself in love with Lorenzo, had actually come out to Sicily to marry him, only to discover that her true love was his older brother Renato after all. Most women would have found her choice puzzling. Renato was a hard, difficult man who frowned more than he smiled, except for those he loved. Lorenzo had a smile for everyone, and was, in Renato’s caustic words, ‘too handsome for his own good or anyone else’s’.

But Heather had seen beyond looks and discovered that it was the prickly Renato who touched her heart. She had been married to him for eight months now, and was expecting his child. It had been natural for the two of them to come to the airport to see “their” brother off to the States.

‘Call us when you reach the Elroy Hotel,’ Renato reminded him now. ‘And don’t forget-’

‘Will you stop?’ Lorenzo pleaded plaintively. ‘What with your instructions and the list Mamma’s given me of people to visit I shan’t have a moment to myself. She was so determined I shouldn’t forget the Angolinis that she called them yesterday, and the next thing I knew I was promising to spend next Thursday evening with them.’

‘Our grandfather and Marco Angolino were young men together before Marco emigrated with his wife and son,’ Renato reminded him. ‘Their friendship was very close.’

‘But that was years ago and Marco is dead,’ Lorenzo objected. ‘I’m having dinner with the son, who’s now an old man, his wife, who’s an old woman, his three sons who are all older than I am, and his four daughters, Elena, Patrizia, Olivia, and Carlotta-all unmarried.’

The nervous way he said “unmarried” made Renato grin. ‘In other words, you think they’re on the catch for you,’ he said. ‘Conceited oaf!’ He aimed a friendly punch at his brother’s shoulder.

‘Let’s just say that the Angolinis are butchers, and I feel as if I’m being laid out on the slab for inspection,’ Lorenzo observed gloomily.

‘Definitely you should marry one of those girls,’ Renato said, turning the screw with brotherly malice. ‘With their meat and our vegetables it’s a match made in heaven.’

‘Get lost,’ Lorenzo told him without rancour.

The boarding call came. They all rose, and Lorenzo hugged his sister-in-law eagerly. Renato gave his brother the fierce, unembarrassed embrace of one Latin male to another.

‘Behave yourself!’ he barked. ‘If you cause our mother a moment’s anxiety I’ll personally put an end to you. Now get going!’

As Lorenzo strode off, turning at the last minute to wave at them, Renato said, ‘The annoying thing is that those daughters really will lay themselves out to trap him. Too many women do. That’s his trouble.’

‘Well, you know one woman who fell for you instead,’ she reminded him, and knew, by the pressure of his hand, that she’d said what he needed to hear.

As they walked away she said, ‘You’re worried about him, aren’t you? Don’t be. He’s a good salesman.’

‘I know. I’m just bothered by the conviction that when he’s in America he’s going to go just that little bit too far.’ He slipped an arm about his wife’s shoulders. ‘But it’s too late to worry about that. Little brother’s on his own now.’


SNOW was on the ground and a bitter wind cut through the darkness of an early February afternoon, but New York still glittered and nothing could dim the glory of Elroys, the most glamorous, the most expensive hotel on Park Avenue.

There was a new security man at the staff entrance, who didn’t recognise Helen until she showed him her pass with its proud words, Helen Angolini, Management Trainee, and the even prouder words, “First Class”. She’d joined a training program in which only one applicant out of a hundred was accepted, worked her way up from Third Class, through Second Class, and now she was on the last stage before a full appointment.

‘Not that I’ll ever get appointed if I’m late,’ she groaned to herself as she dashed for the elevator to the eight floor. ‘Can’t this thing go any faster?’

‘I didn’t think you’d be here for this function at all,’ said a voice beside her. It was Dilys, her fellow trainee, whom she’d overlooked in her agitation. They’d joined on the same day, soon become flatmates, and been “partners in crime” (as Dilys was fond of putting it) ever since. ‘You’ve just gotten back from Boston,’ she observed.

‘Right, and I was supposed to be going straight to my parents’ house from the airport. But Mr Dacre called and said to look in at the hotel first. That’s why I’ve still got my luggage with me.’

At that moment the elevator doors opened, and Dilys grasped Helen’s arm, steering her towards the ladies’ room. ‘Dump your things in here,’ she said. ‘And put your glad rags on.’

She was a petite blonde with a come-hither eye. Helen was taller, more statuesque, with shoulder-length hair as black as a raven’s wing, and dark, expressive eyes. In her mid-twenties her lush beauty was reaching its height, but she thought her appearance reflected too accurately her Sicilian ancestry, and longed for blue eyes and fair

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