Please welcome the wonderful Christi Caldwell back to the blog! Christi is giving away a copy of her latest book, More Than A Duke , to one of you. If you want to be included in the drawing, leave a comment telling her you want the book. How easy is that?
As always, we’ll begin with the lovely cover.
Now the blurb.
Polite Society doesn’t take Lady Anne Adamson seriously. However, Anne isn’t just another pretty young miss. When she discovers her father betrayed her mother’s love and caused her family descent into poverty, Anne comes up with a plan to marry a respectable, powerful, and honorable gentleman— a man nothing like her philandering father.
Armed with the heart of a duke pendant, fabled to land the wearer a duke’s heart, she decides to enlist the aid of the notorious Harry, 6th Earl of Stanhope. A scoundrel with a scandalous past, he is the last gentleman she’d ever wed…however, his reputation marks him the perfect man to school her in the art of seduction so she might ensnare the illustrious Duke of Crawford.
Harry, the Earl of Stanhope is a jaded, cynical rogue who lives for his own pleasures. Having been thrown over by the only woman he ever loved so she could wed a duke, he’s not at all surprised when Lady Anne approaches him with her scheme to capture another duke’s affection. He’s come to appreciate that all women are in fact greedy, title-grasping, self-indulgent creatures. And with Anne’s history of grating on his every last nerve, she is the last woman he’d ever agree to school in the art of seduction. Only his friendship with Anne’s sister compels him to help.
What begins as a pretend courtship, born of lessons on seduction, becomes something more leaving Anne to decide if she can give her heart to a reckless rogue, and Harry must decide if he’s willing to again trust in a lady’s love.
And an excerpt.
A lock toppled free from the collection of ringlets artfully arranged by Anne’s maid. She brushed the strand back. It fell promptly back over her brow.
The earl collected that single curl between his fingers and studied the strand bemusedly. “A ringlet,” he murmured. His lips twitched as though he found something of the utmost hilarity in her gold ringlet, immediately snapping her from whatever momentary spell he’d cast.
She swatted at his fingers. “What is wrong with my ringlets?” She knew there was a more pressing matter to attend. But really, what was wrong with her ringlets?
He tweaked her nose. “There is everything wrong with them.”
Well! Anne gave a flounce of those ringlets he seemed so condescending of. “I’ve not come to speak to you about my hair.”
The earl narrowed his gaze as he seemed to remember that: one, they were shut away in their host’s conservatory one step from ruin and two, that she was the sister of the twin he’d once tried to seduce. And more specifically, the sister of the twin who’d looked down a pointed nose at him whenever he was near.
With trembling fingers, she righted the upended flute. “I require but a moment of your time.”
“You’ve already had at least five moments.”
Distractedly, she picked up the crystal flute still filled to the brim and eyed the nearly clear contents of the glass. It really did look quite delicious. “Do you mean five minutes?” Because there really wasn’t such a thing as five moments. Or was there? She raised the glass to her lips.
With a growl, he snatched it from her fingers with such ferocity the exquisite liquor splashed her lips.
“What are you doing, Lady Anne?” he asked, his voice garbled.
She sighed. She really should have tried the bubbly drink before he’d arrived and gone all serious, disapproving-lord on her. “If you must know, I’d intended to sample—”
“You are not sampling anything, my lady.” He set the flute down so hard liquid droplets sprayed the table.
Yes, it seemed the roguish earl had gone all stodgy. She released a pent up sigh of regret. What a waste of perfectly forbidden champagne.
Footsteps sounded outside the door and her head snapped up as suddenly, the ramifications of being discovered here with the earl slammed into her. She felt the color drain from her cheeks and frantically searched around.
The earl cursed and taking her by the hand, tugged her to the back of the conservatory. His hasty, yet sure movements bore evidence of a man who’d made many a number of quick escapes. He opened the door and shoved her outside into the marquess’ walled garden.
“You really needn’t—”
“Hush,” he whispered and propelled her further into the gardens. From behind the marquess’ prize-winning gardens, the moon’s glow shone through the clear crystal panes and briefly cast the earl’s partner in a soft light. The tall, voluptuous lady walked about the conservatory.
“The Viscountess of Kendricks?” Shock underscored her question. “But she is recently widowed.” Granted she’d come out of mourning, but that was neither here nor there. Oh, he had no shame.
Lord Stanhope clamped his hand over her mouth. He glowered her into silence and pulled her back, before the viscountess caught sight of them.
Oh, the highhandedness! She’d never been handled thusly in her entire life. She glared up at him.
At long last he drew his fingers back. She continued to study the lush creature, a recent widow with a hopelessly curvaceous figure.
Anne frowned. Mother said gentlemen didn’t desire ladies with well-rounded figures but Anne quite disagreed. All the well-rounded ladies seemed to, for some unknown reason, earn the favor of all manner of gentlemen. The respectable ones. The less respectable ones. Even the old ones with monocles.
A sly smile played about the viscountess’ lips as she paused beside the table. Even with the space between them, Anne detected the viscountess’ lazy yet graceful movements as she picked up the still full glass and took a slow taste of the bubbling champagne.
Envy tugged at Anne. He really should have allowed her just a small sip. Surely there was no harm in a mere taste of the French liquor. And now this blousy creature with her… She wrinkled her brow. “Has she dampened her gown?”
The widow froze mid-sip and glanced around.
Lord Stanhope cursed softly, clapped his hand across Anne’s mouth yet again and whispered harshly against her ear. “Hush, you silly brat, or you’ll see the both of us ruined.”
Anne pointed her gaze to the moon above. As if a rogue, especially this particular rogue, could be ruined. She, on the other hand… She swallowed hard. She, on the other hand, danced with disaster.
With good reason, of course. But still, disaster nonetheless.
“Hullo, my lord,” the woman called into the quiet. A smile played on her too-full lips. “Are you teasing me, Lord Stanhope? I’m eager to see you. Will you not come and see how eager I am?”
Anne glanced up the more than a foot distance between her and the earl to gauge the gentleman’s, er…eagerness. He appeared wholly unmoved by the woman’s none-too-subtle attempt at seduction. His narrow-eyed gaze remained fixed on Anne. Annoyance glinted within the hazel-green irises of his eyes.
“Lord Stanhope?” the woman called again.
Oh, really. She tapped a foot and wished the bothersome baggage would be on her way already. As charming as the Earl of Stanhope seemed to most ladies, she was quite confident that no gentleman could manage to lure her away from polite Society—for any reason.
Lord Stanhope reached down between them and through the ivory fabric of her satin skirts, wrapped his hard hand about the upper portion of her leg, effectively stilling her moments.
Anne’s breath froze and she looked at him.
Be still, he mouthed.
Her throat convulsed. Odd, they were just fingers on just a hand, so very uninteresting, something possessed by everyone. And yet, her skin thrummed with awareness of his touch. She swallowed again. There was nothing uninteresting about his fingers upon her person.
“Stop tapping your foot,” he whispered against her temple. His words had the same affect of a bucket of water being tossed over her foolish head.
“She’s not going to hear my foot,” she shot back. “It is more likely she’ll hear your constant haranguing.”
He closed his eyes and his lips moved as if he were uttering a silent prayer. Which was peculiar, because she’d not ever taken him as the religious sort.
“Lord Stanhope?” the woman called again, impatience coating her words.
Anne sighed. She’d had this all planned out. She’d speak to the earl. Enlist his help and be gone before his trysting partner had arrived. That had been the plan. Then again, a lifetime of scrapes that had gone awry should have prepared her for how this evening would likely turn out. “Oh, for goodness sake, will she not go already?” she muttered. “Whyever is she so insistent on seeing y—”
The earl cursed under his breath. “For the love of all that is holy.” And then, he kissed her. Hard.
Buy link: Amazon