H&H Reads <i>A Breath of Scandal</i> (6 of 6) H&H Reads A Breath of Scandal (6 of 6) Elizabeth Essex Are you ready to be reckless? Join us for the FINAL installment of the H&H Reads A Breath of Scandal <i>Uncensored Passion</i>: Exclusive Excerpt Uncensored Passion: Exclusive Excerpt Bobbi Cole Meyer "Kayla wrapped her arms around his strong neck and hugged him close." <i>Hell for Leather</i>: Exclusive Excerpt Hell for Leather: Exclusive Excerpt Julie Ann Walker "Lord almighty, how he wanted to touch her there, needed to touch her there." <i>The House on Blackberry Hill</i>: Excerpt The House on Blackberry Hill: Excerpt Donna Alward "He felt a shiver of anticipation that had...everything to do with the client."
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Apr 20 2014 2:00pm

It Takes a Scandal by Caroline LindenCaroline Linden
It Takes a Scandal
Avon / April 29, 2014 / $5.99 print, $4.99 digital

Sometimes It Takes a Scandal...

Abigail Weston has everything: beauty, wit, and one of the largest dowries in England. Her parents hope she'll wed an earl. Abigail hopes for a man who wants her desperately and passionately. But the money seems to blind every man she meets—except one.

Sebastian Vane has nothing. He came home from war with a shattered leg to find his father mad and his inheritance gone. He's not a fit suitor for anyone, let alone an heiress. But Abigail lights up his world like a comet, bright and beautiful and able to see him instead of his ruined reputation. And it might end happily ever after . . .

To Reveal Your Heart's Desire

...Until Benedict Lennox begins courting Abigail. Ben is everything Sebastian isn't—wealthy, charming, heir to an earl. Sebastian won't give up the only girl he's ever loved without a fight, but Abigail must choose between the penniless gentleman who moves her heart, and the suitor who is everything her parents want.

Sebastian Vane has had a tough seven years. He came home from Waterloo with a serious injury that has left him with a limp and in constant pain to find that his father had gone insane and sold off most of his assets for pennies on the pound. And then things got worse.

His father had disappeared, not turned up dead. A missing man couldn’t be judged incompetent, which meant Sebastian had no grounds to contest the sale of the land in court. A missing man wasn’t the same as a dead man, which meant Sebastian couldn’t even inherit the remaining property and begin to rebuild his estate. With his father missing, he was effectively bankrupt, unable to sell Montrose Hill but barely able to maintain it. In his darker moods, he thought that if he had decided to kill his father, he damned sure wouldn’t have done it in a way that made things worse for him.

[You would certainly think so...]

Mar 27 2014 9:30am

Confessions of a Royal Bridegroom by Vanessa KellyVanessa Kelly
Confessions of a Royal Bridegroom
Zebra / April 1, 2014 / $7.99 print, $6.99 digital

Some men are born into scandal. Others pursue it with a passion. Griffin Steele, secret son of the Duke of Cumberland, is guilty on both counts. Yet somehow London’s most notorious scoundrel has been saddled with an abandoned baby boy—and with the unflappable, intriguing spinster summoned to nurse him…

Justine Brightmore may be a viscount’s niece, but she’s also a spy’s daughter, determined to safeguard the infant when his suspected royal parentage makes him a target. Yet how to protect herself from the rakish Griffin? Marriage might shield her reputation, but it can only imperil her heart, especially with a groom intent on delicious seduction…

Vanessa Kelly's Confessions of a Royal Bridegroom is a forced marriage romance. Circumstances require Justine and Griffin to marry in order to preserve her reputation and save them both from scandal. He is the illegitimate son of a royal prince and a maid, and has justly earned the reputation as a dangerous scoundrel with a quite cynical view of family, having lived most of his life without one. She is the proper daughter of a spy who longs for stability and an ordinary life. Neither gets what they think they want out of their marriage, but that's not what I want to talk about. I want to talk about the consummation scene. In a book filled with danger and intrigue, Justine and Griffin's first time together is surprisingly sweet and humorous.

[Confess all!]

Mar 20 2014 2:00pm

Elizabeth Essex
After the Scandal
St. Martin's Press / March 25, 2014 / $7.99 print / digital

When Lady Claire Jellicoe agreed to a walk in the moonlight, she never imagined her titled companion might have brutal motives. Nor could she have dreamed up such a brave rescue by the most unexpected savior of all: an inscrutable nobleman with a daring plan of escape - and a deliciously tempting embrace…

Timothy Evans, the Duke of Fenmore, has palmed more treasures than he can count. Even for a man who grew up thieving in London’s stews, a stolen bride should be beyond the pale. But Fenmore won’t let scandal ruin the spirited beauty’s reputation. And now that she’s stolen his heart, how can he ever let her go…?

The Duke of Fenmore is doing what he always does at balls, even one at his grandmother's Richmond estate, when he sees a young woman leaving the ballroom with a Very Bad Man.

[And what does he always do?]

Mar 10 2014 9:30am

Sweet Disorder by Rose Lerner

Rose Lerner
Sweet Disorder (Lively Lemeston #1)
Samhain Publishing / March 18, 2014 / $5.50 digital

Nick Dymond enjoyed the rough-and-tumble military life until a bullet to the leg sent him home to his emotionally distant, politically obsessed family. For months, he's lived alone with his depression, blockaded in his lodgings. But with his younger brother desperate to win the local election, Nick has a new set of marching orders: dust off the legendary family charm and maneuver the beautiful Phoebe Sparks into a politically advantageous marriage.

One marriage was enough for Phoebe. Under her town's by-laws, though, she owns a vote that only a husband can cast. Much as she would love to simply ignore the unappetizing matrimonial candidate pushed at her by the handsome earl's son, she can't. Her teenage sister is pregnant, and Phoebe's last-ditch defense against her sister's ruin is her vote-and her hand.

Nick and Phoebe soon realize the only match their hearts will accept is the one society will not allow. But as election intrigue turns dark, they'll have to cast the cruelest vote of all: loyalty...or love.

There's lots of fascinating political maneuvering and intrigue going on in Rose Lerner's Sweet Disorder, but what kept me riveted was Nick and Phoebe's relationship. They both grew up with very dominating mothers who continue to try and rule their lives and teach have developed very different reactions to it.

[It always comes back to the mother, doesn't it?...]

Feb 25 2014 5:30pm

Lorraine Heath
When the Duke was Wicked
Avon / February 25, 2014 / $7.99 print / $6.64 digital

Lady Grace Mabry’s ample inheritance has made it impossible for her to tell whether a suitor is in love with her - or enamored of her riches. Who better to distinguish beau from blackguard than her notorious childhood friend, the Duke of Lovingdon?

With no interest in marriage, Lovingdon has long lived only for pleasure. He sees little harm in helping Grace find a proper match. After all, he’s familiar with all the ploys a scoundrel uses to gain a woman’s favor. He simply has to teach the lovely innocent how to distinguish honest emotions from false ones. How better than by demonstrating his wicked ways. But as lessons lead to torrid passion and Grace becomes ensnared in another man’s marriage plot, Lovingdon must wage a desperate gamble: Open his heart fully - or risk losing the woman he adores…

Grace and Lovingdon have been friends since childhood and she once harbored a girlish passion for him. But she is all grown up now and is saddened by the transformation of her friend. Lovingdon changed after his wife and daughter died of typhus; he withdrew from good society and has spent the last two years wallowing in drink, gambling and low women.

[Because THAT's always a great idea]

Feb 15 2014 1:02pm

Secrets at Court by Blythe GiffordBlythe Gifford 
Secrets at Court
Harlequin / February 18, 2014 / $5.85 print, $4.61 digital

Anne of Stamford has long been the keeper of her mistress's secrets, but when Lady Joan marries the king's son, court life becomes ever more perilous. Sir Nicholas Lovayne has arrived to uncover the truth about Lady Joan's past, and Anne must do something—anything—to throw him off….

Longing to escape the intrigues at court, Nicholas hasn't counted on the way Anne distracts him—her refusal to accept pity for her clubfoot touches something deep inside him. Will he be able to follow his duty when every fiber of his being tells him to protect Anne?

In Blythe Gifford's Secrets at Court, Anne has been a valued part of Lady Joan's household since childhood, surprising, given that Anne was born with a club foot and lives in an era (the 14th c.) that was not kind to those with physical infirmities. But, she is the keeper of Lady Joan's secrets, secrets that could prove especially damaging now that Joan has married Prince Edward in a clandestine ceremony.

Sir Nicholas is indispensible to both the King and the Prince. He is the man who fixes problems, arranges food and lodging for an army at war, smoothes over difficulties, and just in general gets things done. He's recently returned to England from visiting the Pope to get dispensation and blessing for the marriage of Joan and Edward. He is successful, but has one more task: to travel to Canterbury, find the proof of the annulment of Joan's previous marriage, and obtain the Archbishop's blessing.

[But it's never that easy, is it?...]

Jan 24 2014 5:10pm

Why Earls Fall in Love by Manda CollinsManda Collins 
Why Earls Fall in Love
St. Martin's Press / January 28, 2014 / $7.99 print & digital

Young widowed Georgina Mowbray is settling into her role as Lady Russell's companion quite well—until the lady's nephew Dominic, the Earl of Coniston, arrives in Bath for a visit. Georgie's always found him shallow and too smooth, and trusts him as much as she trusts most men...which is to say, not at all. But Con turns out to be more intriguing than she remembers—and completely irresistible...  

Pretty, practical Georgie is nothing like the women Con usually woos—especially since she seems blind to his charms. But his elderly aunt is so fond of her that Con is determined at least to be sociable...with the occasional flirtation thrown in just for fun. But things take a serious turn when a dangerous figure from Georgie's unhappy past appears and threatens to bring her harm. Con will do whatever it takes to keep Georgie safe. And if he can show her that all men are not menaces, he might be able to keep her in his arms and never let go...

In Manda Collins's Why Earls Fall in Love, “Con,” the Earl of Coniston, is used to charming every lady he meets, so he is kind of put out that his aunt's new companion, Georgina Mowbray, has taken an obvious dislike to him.

“Have I done something to offend you, Mrs. Mowbray?” the earl asked, his usually good-natured expression clouded with concern. “Because for the life of me I cannot remember anything which might have put us at loggerheards.”. . .
“There is no problem with you, per se,” she explained, willing her attention back to the matter at hand. “I am simply not all that comfortable around…” She paused searching for a word. “Gentlemen,” she forced herself to say aloud.

[Something tells me she changes her mind...]

Jan 14 2014 5:30pm

To Tempt a Viking by Michelle WillinghamMichelle Willingham
To Tempt a Viking
Harlequin Historical / January 21, 2014 (print), February 1, 2014 (digital)/ $6.50 print, $5.99 digital

Warrior Viking Ragnar Olafsson stood by as his best friend claimed the woman he desired the most. There was only one way to quench the deep darkness within him—become merciless in battle.

When Elena is taken captive, fearless Ragnar risks everything to save her. Now they are stranded with only each other for company. Suddenly every longing, every look, every touch is forbidden. Elena could tempt a saint—and sinner Ragnar knows he won’t be able to hold out for long!

Michelle Willingham's To Tempt a Viking is a good, old-fashioned angst-fest with not one, but two, forbidden love stories. It is set during the Dark Ages and a band of Vikings are about to go ashore in hostile Ireland. Among them are Styr, his wife, Elena, and their mutual best friend, Ragnar. Poor Ragnar.

There was nothing worse than being in love with your best friend's wife. Ragnar Olafsson tightened his fists over the oars, pulling hard against the waves of the sea. He shouldn't have gone with them to Eire. But when Styr had asked him to come, he'd agreed in a weak moment. Though he'd buried all traces of his obsession with Elena, the idea of never seeing her again was worse than the torment of seeing her with her husband. Never once had he let either of them know of his fascination. No one knew of the raw frustration gnawing within him when he watched Styr take the women he loved into his hut. It was a dark torture, seeing them together.

Ooh, great beginning!

[Where will it go from here?...]

Jan 11 2014 12:00pm

Annie Burrows
Portrait of a Scandal
Harlequin Historical / January 21, 2014 / $6.50 print, $5.99 digital

Her heart and hope long since shattered, Amethyst Dalby is content with her life as an independent woman. With wealth of her own, and no one to answer to, she is free to live as she pleases. 

Until a trip to Paris throws her into contact with the one man who still has a hold over her - the bitter but still devastatingly sensual Nathan Harcourt! Living as an artist, this highborn gentleman has been brought low by scandal - and he is determined to show Amethyst that life is much more fun if you walk on the dark side…. 

Sometimes the setting for a novel becomes as important a player as the protagonists, and so it is with the city of Paris in Annie Burrows's Portrait of a Scandal. The English are flocking to Paris now that the war is over and Amethyst Dalby is one of them. She is there, ostensibly, to find new markets for the business her aunt has left her.

[Ah, the city of love...]

Jan 3 2014 10:30am

Scandalously Yours by Cara ElliottCara Elliott 
Scandalously Yours
Forever / January 7, 2014 / $5.69 digital

Proper young ladies of the ton—especially ones who have very small dowries—are not encouraged to have an interest in intellectual pursuits. Indeed, the only thing they are encouraged to pursue is an eligible bachelor. Preferably one with both a title and a fortune. So, the headstrong, opinionated Sloane sisters must keep their passions a secret.

Cara Elliott's Scandalously Yours uses the plot from the Tom Hanks/Meg Ryan movie Sleepless in Seattle as a starting point, specifically the bit where Jonah (Hanks' son) calls into a radio talk show in an effort to find his father a new wife. One of my favorite aspects of that movie is the father/son relationship.

Prescott's mother died more than a year ago while his father John, the Earl of Wrexham, was in Portugal, fighting in the war. John is home now, but things are a bit strained at the Manor.

[Understandably so...]

Nov 10 2013 4:30pm

The Luckiest Lady in London by Sherry ThomasWith The Luckiest Lady in London, Sherry Thomas has created two characters who disguise their true natures and objectives while manipulating others into doing what they wish. And makes us care for them.

Louisa Cantwell knew at a young age that she would have to be the one to marry well and save her family from the penury that awaits her and her many sisters when their mother—and her annuity—passes on.  She spends years transforming her outward appearance and manners in order to woo London Society.

But all her extra years of practice had paid off and London was quite taken with her. Or rather, with the Miss Cantwell she presented to Society. She was warm but not overfamiliar, sweet but not cloying, and appreciative of her moment in the sun without the least whiff of graspiness or, worse, desperation.

. . .

All this linguistic extravagance sometimes made Louisa laugh at night, under her blanket. And it sometimes made her quake—for surely the illusion couldn't last the entire Season. Soon people would realize that her hair was glossy only because of all the mayonnaise she'd put in it over the years, that her trademark closedmouthed smile was to hide several crooked teeth, and that, of course, the bodices of her dresses would look awfully concave if it weren't for the artful and stalwart bust improvers in her wardrobe.

[Perfectly imperfect heroines ftw...]

Oct 28 2013 4:45pm

Once She Was Tempted by Anne BartonAnne Barton
Once She Was Tempted
Forever / October 29, 2013 / $8.00 print, $7.59 digital


. . . or is it? The risqué painting owned by Benjamin Elliot, the earl of Foxburn, features a stunning beauty with sapphire eyes, golden hair, and creamy skin. Ben recognizes this particular English rose the instant he meets her-though she's wearing considerably more clothing. In person, the demure debutante is even more irresistible . . .

In desperate need of money for her sick mother, Daphne Honeycote had posed for two scandalous portraits. Now she must hide her secret to save the Honeycote family name. Ben's possession of one painting makes him an insufferable thorn in her side-and yet he may be her best chance at finding the canvas's companion. As she becomes drawn to the dark-tempered earl, can Daphne risk laying bare the secrets of her heart?


Anne Barton's Once She Was Tempted begins:

Upon meeting Miss Daphne Honeycote for the first time, Benjamin Elliot, Earl of Foxburn, had two distinct thoughts.

The first was that she appeared to be a suitable match for his upstanding young protégé, Hugh. . . . The earl's second thought regarding Miss Honeycote was that he should probably take down the nude portrait of her that was hanging in his study.

Now that's an opening that will grab you. Ben has been obsessed with the woman in the portrait ever since it came into his possession. He keeps it in his private study and rewards himself for doing estate work by glancing at it every 15 minutes or so. An interesting work incentive. So to come face to face with the embodiment of his fantasies takes him aback.

[In a good way or a bad way, hmm?...]

Oct 23 2013 9:30am

Once a Rake by Eileen DreyerEileen Dreyer
Once a Rake
Forever / October 29, 2013 / $8.00 print, $7.99 digital

Colonel Ian Ferguson may be a rake, but he's no traitor. Accused of trying to kill the Duke of Wellington, the disgraced Scotsman is now a fugitive-from the law, the army, and the cunning assassin who hunts him. Wounded and miles from his allies, Ian finds himself at the mercy of an impoverished country wife. The spirited woman is achingly beautiful . . . and hiding some dangerous secrets of her own.

She was a child nobody wanted. Now for Lady Sarah Clarke, holding on to her vanished husband's crumbling estate is her final chance to earn respectability. She knows that hiding the devastatingly handsome Ferguson will jeopardize her home. Common sense demands that she turn him in. But a single, delirious kiss shatters her resolve . . . and awakens a passion that neither of them can escape.

The framework for Eileen Dreyer's Once a Rake is built around Col. Ian Ferguson's struggle to clear his name after an assassination attempt is made on Wellington's life. He is wounded and on the run when he is discovered hiding out at Sarah's farm. But the story really belongs to Sarah and her life-long search for a home and acceptance.

[Home is where the heart is...]

Oct 21 2013 4:30pm

The Sum of All Kisses by Julia QuinnJulia Quinn
The Sum of All Kisses
Avon / October 29, 2013 / $7.99 print, $6.84 digital

Hugh Prentice has never had patience for dramatic females, and if Lady Sarah Pleinsworth has ever been acquainted with the words shy or retiring, she's long since tossed them out the window. Besides, a reckless duel has left this brilliant mathematician with a ruined leg, and now he could never court a woman like Sarah, much less dream of marrying her.

Sarah has never forgiven Hugh for the duel he fought that nearly destroyed her family. But even if she could find a way to forgive him, it wouldn't matter. She doesn't care that his leg is less than perfect, it's his personality she can't abide. But forced to spend a week in close company they discover that first impressions are not always reliable. And when one kiss leads to two, three, and four, the mathematician may lose count, and the lady may, for the first time, find herself speechless ...

In The Sum of All Kisses Julia Quinn takes an unlikely pair who actively dislike each other and makes us believe that all that animosity can turn into love in a matter of weeks. She does this in small conversational steps, each building on the previous until love is inevitable. Quinn is a master at writing dialog and it is key to the relationship between Sarah and Hugh.

[Talk to me like lovers do...]

Oct 15 2013 9:30am

In Love with a Wicked Man by Liz CarlyleLiz Carlyle
In Love with a Wicked Man
Avon / October 29, 2013 / $7.99 print, $6.99 digital

What does it matter if Kate, Lady d'Allenay, has absolutely no marriage prospects? She has a castle to tend, an estate to run, and a sister to watch over, which means she is never, ever reckless. Until an accident brings a handsome, virile stranger to Bellecombe Castle, and Kate finds herself tempted to surrender to her houseguest's wicked kisses.

Disowned by his aristocratic family, Lord Edward Quartermaine has turned his gifted mind to ruthless survival. Feared and vilified as proprietor of London's most notorious gaming salon, he now struggles to regain his memory, certain of only one thing: he wants all Kate is offering - and more.

But when Edward's memory returns, he and Kate realize how much they have wagered on a scandalous passion that could be her ruin, but perhaps his salvation.

The Amnesia Plot. I can't tell you how many of these books I've read, and all too often I've been left unconvinced. Not many have done a good job of making the experience of the amnesia victim believable. I can only imagine how terrifying and frustrating it must feel to have no memory, but I read about characters whose attitude is fairly blasé—“Oh well. Whatever. yawn.”

Liz Carlyle's latest book features a man who contracts amnesia through a riding accident and is taken to the nearby Bellecombe Castle, where its mistress, Kate (that rare creature, a baroness in her own right), tends to him. His luggage has the initials NED on it, so she asks if his name is Edward.

[Her guess is probably as good as his, huh?...]

Sep 27 2013 10:15am

Murder at Hatfield House by Amanda CarmackAmanda Carmack
Murder at Hatfield House
Signet / October 1, 2013 / $7.99 print & digital

1558. Kate Haywood, a simple musician in the employ of a princess, will find herself involved in games of crowns as she sets out to solve the murder of the queen’s envoy....
England is in tumult under the rule of Queen Mary and her Spanish husband. Confined to house arrest at Hatfield House, young Princess Elizabeth is the country’s greatest hope. Far from court intrigues, Elizabeth finds solace in simple things: the quiet countryside and peaceful recreation, including the melodies of her chief musician and his daughter, Kate Haywood.
But Kate will prove herself most valuable when an envoy of the queen—sent to flush out heretics in the princess’s household—is found dead on the grounds of Hatfield. Acting as Elizabeth’s eyes and ears, Kate is sent out on the trail of a killer whose mission could destroy her family, friends - and the future of England.

The back cover blurb above does an excellent job of conveying the gist of Amanda Carmack's Murder at Hatfield House. I want to talk about the period in which the mystery is set: the Elizabethan Period and, in particular, Elizabeth herself.

Elizabeth is 24 years old, and her short life has been one of danger and tumult, buffeted by politics and her capricious sister, Queen Mary. Carmack's portrayal reflects her many sides and moods.

[She was as complex as anyone...]

Jul 30 2012 2:00pm

The Bride Wore Pearls by Liz CarlyleLiz Carlyle
The Bride Wore Pearls
Avon / July 31, 2012 / $7.99

Beneath the elegant façade of Victorian high society, the mysterious men of the St. James Society play only by rules of danger and desire.

Rance Welham, the Earl of Lazonby, has survived scandal and disgrace, even evading the Queen’s justice at the end of a hangman’s rope. Now he’s about to gamble everything on something far more dangerous—desire.

An exotic and elegant beauty, Lady Anisha Stafford fled her native India to seek refuge within London’s secretive St. James Society. But accepting protection from someone called a cold-hearted killer is a double-edged sword . . . especially when he’s the most intriguing man Anisha has ever laid eyes upon.

In a world where treachery abounds, no one can be trusted—and no true passion can be denied. Together, these two tempestuous souls will risk their lives for a love that could redeem them . . . or destroy everything they hold dear.

One of the things that Liz Carlyle does very well is create a delicious air of sexual tension between her future lovers. She doesn’t hit you over the head with it—until things get really hot and heavy, of course!—but she uses visual clues, like a pinkened cheek, a dry mouth, or seemingly throw-away lines that perfectly encapsulate a relationship.

[Good things come to those who wait...]

Jun 19 2012 10:30am

Scandal Wears Satin by Loretta ChaseLoretta Chase
Scandal Wears Satin
Avon / June 29, 2012 / $7.99

From the Journals of Sophia Noirot: A dress is a weapon. It must dazzle his eye, raise his temperature . . . and empty his purse.

A blue-eyed innocent on the outside and a shark on the inside, dressmaker Sophy Noirot could sell sand to Bedouins. Selling Maison Noirot’s beautiful designs to aristocratic ladies is a little harder, especially since a recent family scandal has made an enemy of one of society’s fashion leaders. Turning scandal to the shop’s advantage requires every iota of Sophy’s skills, leaving her little patience for a big, reckless rake like the Earl of Longmore. The gorgeous lummox can’t keep more than one idea in his head at a time, and his idea is taking off all of Sophy’s clothes.

But when Longmore’s sister, Noirot’s wealthiest, favorite customer, runs away, Sophy can’t let him bumble after her on his own. In hot pursuit with the one man who tempts her beyond reason, she finds desire has never slipped on so smoothly . . .

Ah, Loretta Chase! I eagerly look forward to every new book and in between reread the old ones. She is, arguably, one of the best romance writers going. I feel as if her manifold writing charms have been well-documented and extolled. What can I write about a Loretta Chase book that hasn’t already been said?  Intriguing characters?  Yeah, yeah. Compelling storyline? Yawn. Sexy hero? Whatever. Humorous prose and dialog? Laugh it up, Fuzzball.

[Still she manages to surprise...]

May 28 2012 4:00pm

A Gentleman Undon by Cecilia GrantCecilia Grant
A Gentleman Undone
Bantam / May 29, 2012 / $7.99

Lydia Slaughter understands the games men play—both in and out of the bedroom. Not afraid to bend the rules to suit her needs, she fleeces Will Blackshear outright. The Waterloo hero had his own daring agenda for the gaming tables of London’s gentlemen’s clubs. But now he antes up for a wager of wits and desire with Lydia, the streetwise temptress who keeps him at arm’s length.

A kept woman in desperate straits, Lydia has a sharp mind and a head for numbers. She gambles on the sly, hoping to win enough to claim her independence. An alliance with Will at the tables may be a winning proposition for them both. But the arrangement involves dicey odds with rising stakes, sweetened with unspoken promise of fleshly delights. And any sleight of hand could find their hearts betting on something neither can afford to risk: love.

Our heroine, Lydia Slaughter, is a courtesan. Now, it’s not unusual for an historical romance novel to feature a courtesan, but Lydia is different. She’s a currently employed courtesan and we see her plying her trade with her protector, Roanoke, a man who remains her protector through more than half of the book. Moreover, she is a courtesan who enjoys sex, and her relations with Roanoke are satisfying, though it is strictly business. About the only thing that makes her your typical romance novel heroine courtesan is her sad story that led her into the business and the fact that she would like to get out of it.

[Her story is far from typical, we’re guessing]

May 24 2012 5:00pm

A Night Like This by Julia QuinnJulia Quinn
A Night Like This
Avon / May 29, 2012 / $7.99

Anne Wynter might not be who she says she is . . . But she’s managing quite well as a governess to three highborn young ladies. Her job can be a challenge—in a single week she finds herself hiding in a closet full of tubas, playing an evil queen in a play that might be a tragedy (or might be a comedy—no one is sure), and tending to the wounds of the oh-so-dashing Earl of Winstead. After years of dodging unwanted advances, he’s the first man who has truly tempted her, and it’s getting harder and harder to remind herself that a governess has no business flirting with a nobleman.

Daniel Smythe-Smith might be in mortal danger . . . But that’s not going to stop the young earl from falling in love. And when he spies a mysterious woman at his family’s annual musicale, he vows to pursue her, even if that means spending his days with a ten-year-old who thinks she’s a unicorn. But Daniel has an enemy, one who has vowed to see him dead. And when Anne is thrown into peril, he will stop at nothing to ensure their happy ending . . .

It’s time for another installment in the Smythe-Smith family series, the family who has been assaulting the ears of the ton for years with their annual family musicale. Our heroine this time around is not a Smythe-Smith, but a governess in a Smythe-Smith household who was dragooned into playing the piano at the last minute when an enterprising Smythe-Smith debutante feigned illness to get out of performing in the musicale which took place at the end of the previous book. Fortunately—or unfortunately—Anne Wynter’s musical abilities fit right in with the rest of the performers and nobody much noticed the substitution. Except for Daniel Smythe-Smith, who was exiled to Europe for several years because of a duel and who arrived home just in time to catch the musicale. And be instantly smitten with Anne.

[Instant smittance! Sounds delightful!...]