Tag: Tessa Dare

Review: The Duchess Deal by Tessa Dare

Posted September 1, 2017 by Rowena in Reviews | 8 Comments

Review: The Duchess Deal by Tessa DareReviewer: Rowena
The Duchess Deal by Tessa Dare
Series: Girl Meets Duke #1
Also in this series: The Duchess Deal (Girl Meets Duke #1)
Published by Harper Collins, Avon
Publication Date: August 22nd 2017
Genres: Historical Romance
Buy on Amazon | Barnes & Noble
Goodreads
four-half-stars


When girl meets Duke, their marriage breaks all the rules…

Since his return from war, the Duke of Ashbury’s to-do list has been short and anything but sweet: brooding, glowering, menacing London ne’er-do-wells by night. Now there’s a new item on the list. He needs an heir—which means he needs a wife. When Emma Gladstone, a vicar’s daughter turned seamstress, appears in his library wearing a wedding gown, he decides on the spot that she’ll do.

His terms are simple:

- They will be husband and wife by night only.
- No lights, no kissing.
- No questions about his battle scars.
- Last, and most importantly… Once she’s pregnant with his heir, they need never share a bed again.

But Emma is no pushover. She has a few rules of her own:- They will have dinner together every evening.- With conversation.- And unlimited teasing.- Last, and most importantly… Once she’s seen the man beneath the scars, he can’t stop her from falling in love…

The Duchess Deal is the first book in Tessa Dare’s Girl Meets Duke series and I adored this book. It’s got Dare’s classic humor and seriously, her writing style never fails to wrap me up in feels.

This book follows the Duke of Ashbury as he marries Emma Gladstone, a young woman down on her luck but determined to brave things out. Ash thinks it’s fate that brought them together since he had literally just written down that he needed a wife and a woman comes into his office dressed as a bride. How can they not be together, right? Sure, the dress is hideous but with his scarred face from the war, beggars can’t be choosers.

From beginning to end, I was locked up in feels. This is probably one of the more swooniest Tessa Dare books that I’ve ever read and I just thought the writing style, the pacing, and just everything was spot on. Aside from the feels, this book was funny. Both the hero and the heroine have such great dialogue together. I loved seeing them bicker back and forth until feelings emerged between them and I really enjoyed their story as a whole.

Ash was such a surly hero and I thought that I would not like him because he was such a bulldozer. He went out of his way to be mean and sarcastic and even though there were times when I wanted to kick him, I still loved the hell out of him. There’s a balance to his character that really worked for me and Dare could have easily crossed the line with his character but doesn’t. For me, he was the right amount of mean and swoon-worthy that I was able to see past his shortcomings.

Emma was a fantastic heroine that I completely connected with. Her fierce determination to make it in a world that isn’t easy for women to succeed in was admirable. I loved seeing her figure things out, make the best of her situation, fight for what she thought was right and I really loved seeing her go toe to toe with Ash. She stood her ground when it was needed but she wasn’t hard.

I thought the romance between Ash and Emma was a lot steamier than what I’m used from Tessa Dare. I loved it. I loved seeing them grow to love each other and I really enjoyed seeing them work toward their happy ending. It wasn’t easy but man was it worth it.

This is another winner for me. Tessa Dare really know what she’s doing with writing these historical romances. She writes all around fantastic romances with characters that are strong and memorable. I’m eager for the next book in this series. I totally recommend this book.

Grade: 4.5 out of 5

four-half-stars


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Guest Review: The Duchess Deal by Tessa Dare

Posted August 21, 2017 by Tracy in Reviews | 2 Comments

Guest Review: The Duchess Deal by Tessa DareReviewer: Tracy
The Duchess Deal (Girl Meets Duke #1) by Tessa Dare
Series: Girl Meets Duke #1
Also in this series: The Duchess Deal
Published by Avon
Publication Date: August 22nd 2017
Genres: Historical Romance
Pages: 384
Buy on Amazon | Barnes & Noble
Goodreads
four-half-stars

When girl meets Duke, their marriage breaks all the rules…

Since his return from war, the Duke of Ashbury’s to-do list has been short and anything but sweet: brooding, glowering, menacing London ne’er-do-wells by night. Now there’s a new item on the list. He needs an heir—which means he needs a wife. When Emma Gladstone, a vicar’s daughter turned seamstress, appears in his library wearing a wedding gown, he decides on the spot that she’ll do.

His terms are simple:
- They will be husband and wife by night only.
- No lights, no kissing.
- No questions about his battle scars.
- Last, and most importantly… Once she’s pregnant with his heir, they need never share a bed again.

But Emma is no pushover. She has a few rules of her own:
- They will have dinner together every evening.
- With conversation.
- And unlimited teasing.
- Last, and most importantly… Once she’s seen the man beneath the scars, he can’t stop her from falling in love…

The Duke of Ashbury is contemplating his upcoming marriage and how he’ell go about finding a bride when Emma Gladstone, seamstress, walks into his study in a wedding gown.  She’s fearless when she asks him for payment for the dress.  His former fiancé had ordered the dress but when she broke her engagement to the Duke she refused to pay for it.  While Ashbury is proposing marriage, Emma is trying her hardest to just get the money so that she can get out of there, which she finally does.

The Duke, however, doesn’t give up on Emma and soon their actually married.  There are a couple of reasons that Emma wants to marry the Duke and one of those is to help her friend who is single but finds herself in the family way.  She figures once she get pregnant and the Duke sends her off to the country house she’ll take her friend with her and then the girl can give the child up for adoption.  Simple.  Yeah, not so simple.  Emma doesn’t get pregnant right away and then if seems as if the Duke won’t send her to the country after all.  On top of that Emma finds herself falling in love with the growly man and doesn’t want to be sent away.  But how can she stay with the man she loves and still help her friend?  Emma will find a way.

This was a great story, I must say.  I love Dare’s writing and I love the sense of humor that she instills in her characters.  In this book Ashbury has a very dry wit and he never hesitates to bring it forth.  I loved the banter between Ash and Emma and wanted more and more.

Emma’s plan to help her friend seemed a little feeble to start off with but her intentions were good.  She’d been kicked out by her father just by being caught with a man – she was afraid of what her friend would go through if she told about the baby.  I could understand why she did it but it still seemed a bit pie in the sky but she had a good heart.

Ash had been hurt and burned in the war and had hidden himself away.  He was jilted by his fiancé who couldn’t bear to look at him and that’s where he ended up coming up with the “rules” that he gives Emma.  Once he’s with her his thoughts fly away and he wants to keep her closer – he falls in love.  The pair of them have some oh-so-steamy sex and wow – Dare was in top form when she wrote those scenes.  Wow.

Overall the book had all the things I like – humor, witty banter, serious situations and great sex.  What more could I ask for?

Rating: 4.5 out of 5

four-half-stars


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Sunday Spotlight: The Duchess Deal by Tessa Dare

Posted August 6, 2017 by Rowena in Features | 10 Comments

Sunday Spotlight is a feature we began in 2016. This year we’re spotlighting our favorite books, old and new. We’ll be  raving about the books we love and being total fangirls. You’ve been warned. 🙂

Sunday Spotlight

Tessa Dare is one of my favorite historical romance authors and whenever she releases a book, I’m excited. Her books just do it for me and to say that I was excited about this book is an understatement. Scarred hero strikes up a deal with a damsel in distress? Count me in!

The Duchess Deal by Tessa Dare
Series: Girl Meets Duke #1
Genres: Historical Romance
Release Date: August 22, 2017
Publisher: Avon

When girl meets Duke, their marriage breaks all the rules…

Since his return from war, the Duke of Ashbury’s to-do list has been short and anything but sweet: brooding, glowering, menacing London ne’er-do-wells by night. Now there’s a new item on the list. He needs an heir—which means he needs a wife. When Emma Gladstone, a vicar’s daughter turned seamstress, appears in his library wearing a wedding gown, he decides on the spot that she’ll do.

His terms are simple:

– They will be husband and wife by night only.
– No lights, no kissing.
– No questions about his battle scars.
– Last, and most importantly… Once she’s pregnant with his heir, they need never share a bed again.

But Emma is no pushover. She has a few rules of her own:

– They will have dinner together every evening.
– With conversation.
– And unlimited teasing.
– Last, and most importantly… Once she’s seen the man beneath the scars, he can’t stop her from falling in love…

Order the Book:

AMAZON || BARNES AND NOBLE || KOBO

The Duchess Deal was a great read and it has one of the more memorable meet cutes that I’ve read in a long time. Check out how the hero and heroine of this book meet for the first time below…

Excerpt

Emma Gladstone had learned a few hard lessons by the age of two-and-twenty.

Charming princes weren’t always what they seemed. Shining armor went out of fashion with the Crusades. And if fairy godmothers existed, hers was running several years late.

Most of the time, a girl needed to rescue herself.

This afternoon was one of those times.

Ashbury House loomed before her, taking up one full side of the fashionable Mayfair Square. Elegant. Enormous.

Terrifying.

She swallowed hard. She could do this. Once, she’d walked to London alone in the bitter heart of winter. She’d refused to succumb to despair or starvation. She’d found work and made a new life for herself in Town. Now, six years later, she’d swallow every needle in Madame Bissette’s dressmaking shop before she’d go crawling back to her father.

Compared to all that, what was knocking on the door of a duke?

Why, nothing. Nothing at all. All she had to do was square her shoulders, charge through the wrought-iron gates, march up those granite steps—really, there were only a hundred or so—and ring the bell on that immense, richly carved door.

Good afternoon, I’m Miss Emma Gladstone. I’m here to see the mysterious, , reclusive Duke of Ashbury. No, we aren’t acquainted. No, I don’t have a calling card. I don’t have anything, really. I may not even have a home tomorrow if you don’t let me in.

Oh, good heavens. This would never work.

With a whimper, she turned away from the gate and circled the square for the tenth time, shaking out her bare arms under her cloak.

She had to try.

Emma stopped her pacing, faced the gate, and drew a deep breath. She closed her ears to the frantic pounding of her heart.

The hour was growing late. No one was coming to her aid. The could be no further hesitation, no turning back.

Ready. Steady. Go.

From his library desk, Ashbury heard an unfamiliar ringing sound. Could it be a doorbell?

There it came again.

It was a doorbell.

Worse, it was his doorbell.

Damned gossips. He hadn’t even been in Town but a few weeks. He’d forgotten how London rumors traveled faster than bullets. He didn’t have the time or patience for busybodies. Whoever it was, Khan would send them away.

He dipped his quill and continued the letter to his feckless solicitors.

I don’t know what the devil you’ve been doing for the past year, but the state of my affairs is deplorable. Sack the Yorkshire land steward directly. Tell the architect I wish to see the plans for the new mill, and I wish to see them yesterday. And there’s one other thing that requires immediate attention.

Ash hesitated, quill poised in midair. He couldn’t believe he was actually going to commit the words to paper. But much as he dreaded it, must be done. He wrote:

I need a wife.

He supposed he ought to state his requirements: a woman of childbearing age and respectable lineage, in urgent need of money, willing to share a bed with a scarred horror of a man.

In short, someone desperate.

God, how depressing. Better to leave it at that one line.

I need a wife.

Khan appeared in the doorway. “Your Grace, I regret the interruption, but there’s a young woman to see you. She’s wearing a wedding gown.”

Ash looked at the butler. He looked down at the words he’d just written. Then he looked at the butler again.

“Well, that’s uncanny.” Perhaps his solicitors weren’t as useless as he thought. He dropped his pen and propped one boot on the desk, reclining into the shadows. “By all means, show her in.”

A young woman in white strode into the room.

His boot slipped from the desk. He reeled backward and collided with the wall, nearly falling off his chair. A folio of papers tumbled from a nearby shelf, drifting to the floor like snowflakes.

He was blinded.

Not by her beauty—though he supposed she might be beautiful. It wasn’t possible to judge. Her gown was an eye-stabbing monstrosity of pearls, lace, brilliants, and beads.

Good Lord. He wasn’t accustomed to being in the same room with something even more repulsive than his own appearance.

He propped his right elbow on the arm of his chair and raised his fingertips to his brow, concealing the scars on his face. For once, he wasn’t protecting a servant’s sensibilities or even his own pride. He was shielding himself from…from that.

“I’m sorry to impose on you this way, Your Grace,” the young woman said, keeping her gaze fixed on some chevron of the Persian carpet.

“I should hope you are.”

“But you see, I am quite desperate.”

“So I gather.”

“I need to be paid for my labor, and I need to be paid at once.”

Ash paused. “Your…your labor.”

“I’m a seamstress. I stitched this”—she swept her hands down the silk eyesore—“for Miss Worthing.”

For Miss Worthing.

Ah, this began to make sense. The white satin atrocity had been meant for Ash’s formerly intended bride. That, he could believe. Annabelle Worthing had always had dreadful taste—both in gowns and in prospective husbands.

“When your engagement ended, she never sent for the gown. She’d purchased the silk and lace and such, but she never paid for the labor. And that meant I went unpaid. I tried calling at her home, with no success. My letters to you both went unanswered. I thought that if I appeared like this”—she spread the skirts of the white gown—“I would be impossible to ignore.”

“You were correct on that score.” Even the good side of his face twisted. “Good Lord, it’s as though a draper’s shop exploded and you were the first casualty.”

🙂 You interested in reading it for yourself? Enter our giveaway below for a chance to get a copy of the book for free…on us! 🙂

Giveaway: We’re giving one lucky winner their choice of one of our Sunday Spotlight books. Use the Rafflecopter widget below to enter for one of this month’s features.

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Are you as excited for this release as we are? Let us know how excited you are and what other books you’re looking forward to this year!

About the Author

Tessa Dare

WEBSITE | TWITTER | FACEBOOK | INSTAGRAM | GOODREADS

Tessa Dare is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of fourteen historical romance novels and five novellas. Her books have won numerous accolades, including Romance Writers of America’s prestigious RITA® award (twice!) and the RT Book Reviews Seal of Excellence. Booklist magazine named her one of the “new stars of historical romance,” and her books have been contracted for translation in more than a dozen languages.

A librarian by training and a booklover at heart, Tessa makes her home in Southern California, where she lives with her husband, their two children, and a trio of cosmic kitties.


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Review: Do You Want to Start a Scandal by Tessa Dare

Posted September 20, 2016 by Rowena in Reviews | 0 Comments

Review: Do You Want to Start a Scandal by Tessa DareReviewer: Rowena
Do You Want to Start a Scandal by Tessa Dare
Series: Spindle Cove #5
Also in this series: Lord Dashwood Missed Out
Published by Avon
Publication Date: September 27th 2016
Pages: 272
Buy on Amazon | Barnes & Noble
Goodreads
four-stars

On the night of the Parkhurst ball, someone had a scandalous tryst in the library.•Was it Lord Canby, with the maid, on the divan?•Or Miss Fairchild, with a rake, against the wall?•Perhaps the butler did it.

All Charlotte Highwood knows is this: it wasn’t her. But rumors to the contrary are buzzing. Unless she can discover the lovers’ true identity, she’ll be forced to marry Piers Brandon, Lord Granville—the coldest, most arrogantly handsome gentleman she’s ever had the misfortune to embrace. When it comes to emotion, the man hasn’t got a clue.

But as they set about finding the mystery lovers, Piers reveals a few secrets of his own. The oh-so-proper marquess can pick locks, land punches, tease with sly wit … and melt a woman’s knees with a single kiss. The only thing he guards more fiercely than Charlotte’s safety is the truth about his dark past.

Their passion is intense. The danger is real. Soon Charlotte’s feeling torn. Will she risk all to prove her innocence? Or surrender it to a man who’s sworn to never love?

Tessa Dare delivers another fabulous historical romance that had me captivated from the very first page. She writes such wonderful romances that really grab at readers and she did it with ease here. Every word moved the story along and I felt every emotion that both main characters felt throughout the course of this book. So good!

Charlotte Highwood is the youngest Highwood sister and she had plans. Plans that did not include getting caught with Lord Granville and being forced into a marriage neither of them wanted. She just wanted to talk to Lord Granville, let him know that she had no plans to trap him into marriage and to also warn him about her Mother and how he was to stay far away from her. She’s pissed to high heaven that her plans went up in flames by a scandal that wasn’t even hers. Well, wasn’t entirely hers. She’s not going to give in without a fight and if she can just figure out who was getting down in that room, she can clear her and Piers name and they won’t have to get married. She can save him from being forced to marry her and she can save herself to find and fall in love with the man she was meant to marry.

Charlotte was just as awesome as I was hoping she’d be. I’ve always like her from the early Spindle Cove books and was super excited when I found out she was finally old enough to get her own book. She was so nosy and yet so funny and she was all that and then some in Do You Want to Start a Scandal. Her personality shined so brightly and honestly, she was everything in this book. She made me happy, she made me sad but oh man in the end, I felt like Tom Cruise in Jerry Maguire.

Piers was great too. I loved watching him fall in love with Charlotte, completely confused while it was all happening. When he said:

“What are you doing to me?” he murmured.

He was so confused about her and everything he was feeling about her. I loved it all. I loved seeing him crumble to pieces toward her. I loved how deeply and how fast he fell for her. I mean, sure he pissed me off a bit when he tried to manage her, manipulate her into seeing things his way but he more than made up for that when all was said and done. His love for Charlotte was as deep and her love for him was. The epilogue made me happy sigh because gah. I loved these two.

Tessa Dare always serves up great characters and witty dialogue with spicy scenes that I love each and every single time. She doesn’t disappoint with this latest book in the Spindle Cove series. This was a good one. I definitely recommend it.

Grade: 4.25 out of 5

four-stars


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Sunday Spotlight: Do You Want to Start a Scandal by Tessa Dare

Posted September 11, 2016 by Rowena in Features | 18 Comments

Published by Avon, Harper Collins

Sunday Spotlight is a feature we’re running in 2016. Each week, we will spotlight a release we’re excited about. We’ll be posting exclusive excerpts and being total fangirls. You’ve been warned. 🙂

Sunday Spotlight

I love Tessa Dare’s books and I adore her Spindle Cove and Castles Ever After series. I absolutely adore Charlotte Highwood so when I found out that this new book was Charlotte’s book and that it blends both the Spindle Cove and Castles Ever After series, I was over the moon! I’m so in for this one.

do-you-want-to-start-a-scandal

Do You Want to Start a Scandal by Tessa Dare
Series: Spindle Cove #5, Castles Ever After #4
Releases on September 27, 2016 by Avon

Pre-Order the Book:

AMAZON || BARNES AND NOBLE || KOBO

On the night of the Parkhurst ball, someone had a scandalous tryst in the library.

•Was it Lord Canby, with the maid, on the divan?
•Or Miss Fairchild, with a rake, against the wall?
•Perhaps the butler did it.

All Charlotte Highwood knows is this: it wasn’t her. But rumors to the contrary are buzzing. Unless she can discover the lovers’ true identity, she’ll be forced to marry Piers Brandon, Lord Granville—the coldest, most arrogantly handsome gentleman she’s ever had the misfortune to embrace. When it comes to emotion, the man hasn’t got a clue.

But as they set about finding the mystery lovers, Piers reveals a few secrets of his own. The oh-so-proper marquess can pick locks, land punches, tease with sly wit … and melt a woman’s knees with a single kiss. The only thing he guards more fiercely than Charlotte’s safety is the truth about his dark past.

Their passion is intense. The danger is real. Soon Charlotte’s feeling torn. Will she risk all to prove her innocence? Or surrender it to a man who’s sworn to never love?

During a ball, Charlotte Highwood has discreetly followed Piers Brandon, Marquess of Granville into a room while everyone else dances the quadrille…and then shenanigans.

Excerpt

“Don’t be alarmed,” she said, closing the door behind her. “I’ve come to save you.”

“Save me.” His low, rich voice glided over her like fine-grain leather. “From . . . ?”

“Oh, all kinds of things. Inconvenience and mortification, chiefly. But broken bones aren’t outside the realm of possibility.”

He pushed a desk drawer closed. “Have we been introduced?”

“No, my lord.” She belatedly remembered to curtsy. “That is, I know who you are. Everyone knows who you are. You’re Piers Brandon, the Marquess of Granville.”

“When last I checked, yes.”

“And I’m Charlotte Highwood, of the Highwoods you’ve no reason to know. Unless you read the Prattler, which you probably don’t.”

Lord, I hope you don’t.

“One of my sisters is the Viscountess Payne,” she went on. “You might have heard of her; she’s fond of rocks. My mother is impossible.”

After a pause, he inclined his head. “Charmed.”

She almost laughed. No reply could have sounded less sincere. “Charmed,” indeed. No doubt “appalled” would have been the more truthful answer, but he was too well-bred to say it.

In another example of refined manners, he gestured toward the settee, inviting her to sit.

“Thank you, no. I must return to the ball before my absence is noted, and I don’t dare wrinkle.” She smoothed her palms over the skirts of her blush-pink gown. “I don’t wish to impose. There’s only one thing I came to say.” She swallowed hard. “I’m not the least bit interested in marrying you.”

His cool, unhurried gaze swept her from head to toe. “You seem to be expecting me to convey a sense of relief.”

“Well . . . yes. As would any gentleman in your place. You see, my mother is infamous for her attempts to throw me into the paths of titled gentlemen. It’s rather a topic of public ridicule. Perhaps you’ve heard the phrase ‘The Desperate Debutante’?”

Oh, how she hated even pronouncing those words. They’d followed her all season like a bitter, choking cloud.

During their first week in London last spring, she and Mama had been strolling through Hyde Park, enjoying the fine afternoon. Then her mother had spied the Earl of Astin riding down Rotten Row. Eager to make certain the eligible gentleman noticed her daughter, Mrs. Highwood had thrust her into his path—sending an unsuspecting Charlotte sprawling into the dirt, making the earl’s gelding rear, and causing no fewer than three carriages to collide.

The next issue of the Prattler had featured a cartoon depicting a young woman with a remarkable resemblance to Charlotte, spilling her bosoms and baring her legs as she dove into traffic. It was labeled “London’s Springtime Plague: The Desperate Debutante.”

And that was that. She’d been declared a scandal.

Worse than a scandal: a public health hazard. For the rest of the season, no gentlemen dared come near her.

“Ah,” he said, seeming to piece it together. “So you’re the reason Astin’s been walking with a limp.”

“It was an accident.” She cringed. “But much as it pains me to admit it, there’s every likelihood my mother will push me at you. I wanted to tell you, don’t worry. No one’s expecting her machinations to work. Least of all me. I mean, it would be absurd. You’re a marquess. A wealthy, important, handsome one.”

Handsome, Charlotte? Really?

Why, why, why had she said that aloud?

“And I’m not setting my sights any higher than a black-sheep third son,” she rushed on. “Not to mention, there’s the age difference. I don’t suppose you’re seeking a May-December match.”
Lord Granville’s eyes narrowed.

“Not that you’re old,” she hastened to add. “And not that I’m unthinkably young. It wouldn’t be a May-December match. More like . . . June-October. No, not even October. June-late September at the very outside. Not a day past Michaelmas.” She briefly buried her face in her hands. “I’m making a hash of this, aren’t I?”

“Rather.”

Charlotte walked to the settee and sank onto it. She supposed she would be seated after all.
He came out from behind the desk and sat on the corner, keeping one boot planted firmly on the floor.
Have out with it, she told herself.

“I’m a close friend of Delia Parkhurst. You’re an acquaintance of Sir Vernon’s. We’re both here in this house as guests for the next fortnight. My mother will do everything she can to encourage a connection. That means you and I must plan to avoid each other.” She smiled, attempting levity. “It’s a truth universally acknowledged that a titled man in possession of a fortune should steer far clear of me.”

He didn’t laugh. Or even smile.

“That last bit . . . It was a joke, my lord. There’s a line from a novel—”

“Pride and Prejudice. Yes, I’ve read it.”

Of course. Of course he had. He’d served for years in diplomatic appointments overseas. After Napoleon’s surrender, he helped negotiate the Treaty of Vienna. He was worldly and educated and probably spoke a dozen languages.

Charlotte didn’t have many accomplishments, as society counted them—but she did have her good qualities. She was a good-natured, forthright person, and she could laugh at herself. In conversation, she generally put other people at ease.

Those talents, modest as they were, all failed her now. Between his poise and that piercing blue stare, talking to the Marquess of Granville was rather like conversing with an ice sculpture. She couldn’t seem to warm him up.

There must be a flesh-and-blood man in there somewhere.

She stole a sidelong look at him, trying to imagine him in a moment of repose. Lounging in that tufted leather chair with his boots propped atop the desk. His coat and waistcoat discarded; sleeves uncuffed and rolled to his elbows. Reading a newspaper, perhaps, while he took the occasional sip from a tumbler of brandy. A light growth of whiskers on that chiseled jaw, and his thick, dark hair ruffled from—
“Miss Highwood.”

She startled. “Yes?”

He leaned toward her, lowering his voice. “In my experience, quadrilles—while they may feel interminable—do, eventually, come to an end. You had better return to the ballroom. For that matter, so had I.”

“Yes, you’re right. I’ll go first. If you will, wait ten minutes or so before you follow. That will give me time to make some excuse for leaving the ball entirely. A headache, perhaps. Oh, but then we have a whole fortnight ahead. Breakfasts are easy. The gentlemen always eat early, and I never rise before ten. During the day, you’ll have your sport with Sir Vernon, and we ladies will no doubt have letters to write or gardens to pace. That will see us through the days well enough. Tomorrow’s dinner, however . . . I’m afraid that will have to be your turn.”

“My turn?”

“To feign indisposition. Or make other plans. I can’t be claiming a headache every evening of my stay, can I?”

He extended his hand and she took it. As he drew her to her feet, he kept her close.

“Are you quite sure you’ve no marital designs on me? Because you seem to be arranging my schedule already. Rather like a wife.”

She laughed nervously. “Nothing of the sort, believe me. No matter what my mother implies, I don’t share her hopes. We’d be a terrible match. I’m far too young for you.”

“So you’ve made clear.”

“You’re the model of propriety.”

“And you’re . . . here. Alone.”

“Exactly. I wear my heart on my sleeve, and yours is clearly—”

“Kept in the usual place.”

Charlotte was going to guess, buried somewhere in the Arctic Circle. “The point is, my lord, we have nothing in common. We’d be little more than two strangers inhabiting one house.”

“I’m a marquess. I have five houses.”

“But you know what I mean,” she said. “It would be disaster, through and through.”

“An existence marked by tedium and punctuated by misery.”

“Undoubtedly.”

“We’d be forced to base our entire relationship on sexual congress.”

“Er . . . what?”

“I’m speaking of bedsport, Miss Highwood. That much, at least, would be tolerable.”

Heat bloomed from her chest to her hairline. “I . . . You . . .”

As she desperately tried to unknot her tongue, the subtle hint of a smile played about his lips.
Could it be? A crack in the ice?

Relief overwhelmed her. “I think you are teasing me, my lord.”

He shrugged in admission. “You started it.”

“I did not.”

“You called me old and uninteresting.”

She bit back a smile. “You know I didn’t mean it that way.”

Oh, dear. This wouldn’t do. If she knew he could tease, and be teased in return, she would find him much too appealing.

“Miss Highwood, I am not a man to be forced into anything, least of all matrimony. In my years as a diplomat, I’ve dealt with kings and generals, despots and madmen. What part of that history makes you believe I could be felled by one matchmaking mama?”

She sighed. “The part where you haven’t met mine.”

How could she make him see the gravity of the situation?

Little could Lord Granville know it—he probably wouldn’t care if he did—but there was more at stake for Charlotte than gossip and scandal sheets. She and Delia Parkhurst hoped to miss the next London season entirely, in favor of traveling the Continent. They had it all planned out: six countries, four months, two best friends, one exceedingly permissive chaperone—and absolutely no stifling parents.

However, before they could start packing their valises, they needed to secure permission. This autumn house party was meant to be Charlotte’s chance to prove to Sir Vernon and Lady Parkhurst that the rumors about her weren’t true. That she wasn’t a brazen fortune hunter, but a well-behaved gentlewoman and a loyal friend who could be trusted to accompany their daughter on the Grand Tour.

Charlotte could not muck this up. Delia was counting on her. And she couldn’t bear to watch all her dreams dashed again.

“Please, my lord. If you would only agree to—”

“Hush.”

In an instant, his demeanor transformed. He went from cool and aristocratic to sharply alert, turning his head toward the door.

She heard it, too. Footsteps in the corridor. Approaching.

Whispered voices, just outside.

“Oh, no,” she said, panicked. “We can’t be found here together.”

No sooner had she uttered the words than the library became a whirlwind.

Charlotte wasn’t even certain how it happened.

Had she bolted in panic? Had he swept her into his arms somehow?

One moment, she was staring in mute horror at the scraping, turning door latch. The next, she was ensconced in the library’s window seat, concealed by heavy velvet drapes.

Pressed chest to chest with the Marquess of Granville, The man she had meant to avoid at all costs.

Oh, Lord.

Spindle Cove

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About the Author

tessa-dare

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Tessa Dare is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of fourteen historical romance novels and five novellas. Her books have won numerous accolades, including Romance Writers of America’s prestigious RITA® award (twice!) and the RT Book Reviews Seal of Excellence. Booklist magazine named her one of the “new stars of historical romance,” and her books have been contracted for translation in more than a dozen languages.

A librarian by training and a booklover at heart, Tessa makes her home in Southern California, where she lives with her husband, their two children, and a trio of cosmic kitties.


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