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.
Lady Anisha and Rance Welham meet when he is tasked by his best friend (and Anisha’s brother) to meet her ship as she arrives from India with her children. In the cramped quarters of her cabin, it is lust at first sight for Rance.
“Ah!” His gaze having dropped to the floor, Welham bent down to grab something, his head so near it brushed the fringe of her shawl. Then he came back up at once, his lean, hard-boned cheeks faintly pink. “I fear, ma’am, that you have dropped an … er, a garment of a personal nature. I shall restrain the temptation to retrieve it.”
Anisha looked down to see her zari peignoir in a puddle of green silk beneath the berth. Faintly mortified, she snatched it up and stuffed it into the portmanteau. Welham swallowed a little oddly, as if his mouth had just gone dry.
Though there is interest, they steadfastly refuse to acknowledge or act upon it. Both know he is no good for her - Rance’s past is steeped in vice and he is consumed with revenge (long story). A year or so passes and he and Anisha have become good friends, but their relationship can be summed up in a single line.
Always, always there had been that ethereal something between him and Anisha.
Whenever they are in the same room the tension is palpable. Even during mundane conversations, even when arguing, even when just catching a glimpse of each other across a room, it is there.
Turning slightly, Anisha looked at him, and for an instant, their eyes locked. It was as if, for a split second, she glimpsed a pure truth in his eyes. A longing as deep as it was undeniable.
She knew him.
He knew her.
They were intimate in every way save one. She desired him; desired him above all things. She was tired of this game. Tired of pretending that something else—or someone else—might do.
When they finally decide to do something about it, I love how Carlyle brings it full circle and ties it all in with their first encounter.
“I have burned for you, Anisha, from the moment I bent down to pick up that luscious scrap of green silk from the floor of your cabin and felt your scent swirl up like hot, sunlit flowers. And I think that I have burned for you every moment since.”
“You remember it,” she murmured, and this time she did push the waistcoat off.
After all this time, after all this buildup, after all this simmering tension, there had better be a big payoff, and, boy, howdy! does Carlyle deliver. It’s been years since I quit smoking, but I felt the need for a cigarette. Sexual tension released is such a Good Thing, isn’t it?
Cheryl Sneed reviews for Rakehell.com.