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Current Reviews


June 14, 2010

These two reviews are posted on the The Season eZine as well as the Buy Links. Just click the respective covers and press the button “Click to read review”

Rating: 7 Heat Level: 3

Rating: 8 Heat Level: 3-4

Review: Open Country


June 13, 2010


Open Country

Author: Kaki Warner
Publisher: Berkley Trade
Pub. Date: June 1, 2010
ISBN-13: 978-0425234303
Retail: $15.00
448 pages

Penniless and on the run, Molly marries a man she has never met and who is dying from injuries sustained in a train derailment. She hopes the insurance settlement will help her and her late sister’s two children evade their vicious stepfather, who has had men tracking them for three months. Except the stranger, Hank Wilkins, doesn’t die. And when he awakens to a wife and two stepchildren he doesn’t remember, Molly finds herself being coerced by Hank’s overbearing older brother to continue the charade. Fearing for Hank’s life and knowing Molly is a nurse, he wants her to tend Hank at their ranch until he’s fully recovered.

Molly might be a gifted healer, but she knows little about children and even less about men—especially big, silent, brooding types like Hank. But as he slowly recovers, the threat of the children’s stepfather seems distant and the idea of a real marriage becomes more appealing to Molly. Soon, though, Hank learns his marriage is a lie and the past begins to catch up with her…and everything starts to unravel.

~*~*~

The second book in Kaki Warner’s Blood Rose Trilogy combines witty characters, nearly unbearable tension, and stunning prose to give it pride of place on the keeper shelf.

Reading Kaki Warner’s debut novel, Pieces of Sky, was one of the most exciting reading experiences I’ve ever had. Here was an author writing about life in New Mexico Territory in the late 1860s with such vivid imagery that I felt like I was there, and with characters so realistic I could almost swear they were people I knew.

Tricky to follow up on a debut like that, but Open Country more than holds its own. It continues the saga of the Wilkins brothers, focusing on middle brother Hank’s story while also giving readers plenty of time with Brady and Jessica from Pieces of Sky.

At the end of Pieces of Sky, I couldn’t have told you much about who Hank was. That’s not because he was poorly described, but because he’s a man of few words and the reader was never allowed inside his head. Of the three brothers, he’s the quietest (not difficult, since Brady and Jack seem to compete for attention), the biggest, the gentlest, and the hairiest. He has an affinity for treating wounded animals, and, after his heart is stomped on by a silly girl, he doesn’t say anything to his brothers about it. So, although I had these adjectives to describe Hank, I had no idea what made him tick.

Exploring the mysteries of Hank is one of the biggest pleasures of Open Country, so I won’t ruin it for readers. What I will tell you is that Hank is a lucky, lucky man. Not only does he survive a horrific train crash, but his fellow passenger is the courageous Molly McFarlane, a nurse who grew up helping her surgeon father amputate limbs and stitch up wounded men.

Molly’s in a world of trouble. Her dying sister begged Molly to take her two young children because their stepfather was up to no good. Molly’s now on the run, unsure of what exactly she’s running from or how close her brother-in-law is to finding her, and completely flummoxed at how to deal with her angry young nephew.

When their train crashes, she helps take care of the big wounded man she’d been staring at just before the crash. The doctor declares him a hopeless case, and Molly realizes she’ll get some compensation from the railroad if Hank’s death makes her a widow. So she marries him. While he’s unconscious.

But then he recovers.

Thanks to her surgical skills.

And that’s when Molly’s troubles really get interesting. She travels with Hank back to his family’s ranch, and lives there with his older brother Brady, Brady’s wife Jessica, and their children, as well as several servants who are more like family members. Hank’s memory is slow to return, and at first he thinks his marriage to Molly is real. Just as he’s figuring out that she’d been planning to profit from his death, Molly’s beginning to long for a real marriage with Hank.

Some of the best moments are during the period when Hank is desperately searching his memory for traces of his wife. He’s incredibly smart—a man more adept with numbers and mechanical objects than with words—so it really troubles him that Molly is missing from his memory. The fact that he’s missing out on the little details of their life before the accident bothers him most, and he spends his time trying to remember what her favorite food is, and how her breasts feel.

Kaki Warner is fantastic at detail, but she doesn’t bog a story down with it. Her writing style matches the setting perfectly—dry, sparse, and absolutely crackling with tension. This isn’t a place where the threat is to a character’s reputation; characters’ lives are in constant danger from villains, animals and the elements. Her characters laugh hard, love harder, and are willing to sacrifice everything for each other. They are irreverently funny, and Kaki Warner never shies away from showing life at its roughest, which gives the reader confidence that the characters have the toughness necessary to survive in this harsh setting.

It’s a beautifully spun tale that will leave readers satisfied, yet yearning for Jack’s story.

Rating: 9 (Excellent)

Heat-Level: 3 (Sensual)

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Help Wanted: Reviewers — & Other News


June 12, 2010

So many books, so little time…or too few reviewers. The Season is looking for book lovers, romance readers who can write a good review. The genres I’m more keen to cover are: Erotic Romance, Paranormal, Inspirational and–yes this is new–Mystery. I know I love a good Mystery–I bow to the Mystery goddess that is Agatha Christie.

Have no fear, historical romances are still the main focus of this site but I find as my tastes branch out, so does The Season site. And in saying that, look out for an expanded Contemporary Romance section. I couldn’t believe that when working on the July issue (which will be online June 20th) that there are NOT a lot of single title contemporary romances coming out every month. I know, for myself, I’d like to see lots more of them.

If you’re interested in reviewing for The Season, please contact me at theseason at smittenbybooks dot com. Please include a sample of a review you’ve written or of your writing.

Coming this week:

Monday: POV–his or hers, which do you prefer?
Tuesday: Interview: Maya Rodale talks about her new Avon series The Writing Girls Romances and the first book, A GROOM OF ONE’S OWN. Avon Books will be giving away 5 copies.
Wednesday: Interview: Amanda Berry talks about her debut book, L.A. CINDERELLA from Silhouette Special Edition and she’s giving way an autographed copy.
Thursday: Excerpt Thursday
Friday: Read any good books lately? Discover any new or new-to-you authors? Let me know.
Throughout the week: Reviews & Features: Books that will be given away in The Season’s Red, White and Blue Fireworks Giveaway on July 4th!

And the winners are…


June 12, 2010

The winner of Dane: The Lord of Satyr by Elizabeth Amber is


Karyn Gerrard

I also have a surprise winner that I chose from everyone who commented on my promotional launch of A TASTE OF DESIRE. Winner gets to choose a current release (max retail $7.99). That winner is…

Jennifer L.

Congratulations, ladies. Please email your contact information to me at historicals at smittenbybooks dot com. You have one week to collect your prize.

Margaret Rowe ~ Tempting Eden


June 11, 2010

I’m thrilled to have Maggie Robinson back, this time writing as Margaret Rowe. Please give Maggie a warm welcome and comment to enter to win her June release, TEMPTING EDEN. Below is my review of TEMPTING EDEN.

~*~*~

I was thrilled when Bev chose Tempting Eden to be the June Featured Review. I know it scared her a little to read it—it scared me too when I was writing it. I’m a pretty conventional middle-aged woman, and all of a sudden I was writing the noirest Regency Noir. My heroine Eden is a submissive who has allowed herself to be pushed far too far. Her hero Hart discovers he’s spent his whole life not going far enough. The tagline is “the perfect gentleman and the imperfect woman who makes him forget all his good intentions.” Victoria Dahl called it “a deeply emotional story that offers both wicked heat and delicious connection.”

Tempting Eden is hotter both in subject matter and sensual scenes than anything I’d written before. Hence Margaret Rowe was born, the naughtier alter ego of Maggie Robinson. Margaret can push herself far too far without dire consequences. It’s rather exhilarating to erase boundaries line by line. Berkley Heat is an erotic imprint, and will publish a second Margaret Rowe book next year, Any Wicked Thing. I have to say that even though I’ve been bad, my covers are almost too good to be true!
Here’s a brief excerpt:

He sat on the edge of the bed. “Where would you like me to begin?” he asked, the mischievous crease on his cheek deepening.

Eden had been prepared for his deference. “You may kiss my toes.” That would teach him. She still wore her stockings, after all.

His face betrayed no surprise. Gently, he loosened the coverlet at the foot of the bed and exposed her narrow feet. “Which side, madam, left or right?”

“Why, both of course.” Two could play this ridiculous game.

Hart held her feet together, fingering one sole. Eden stifled her urge to giggle, then gasped as he somehow inserted both her big toes into the hot cavern of his mouth. A most peculiar sensation tugged in her lower belly as his tongue tricked and tickled. All the while he was massaging one foot, then the other. She felt an unfamiliar lassitude.

“That’s quite enough,” she said at last.

She felt his hands move up to her calves, stroking and kneading until her legs fell apart. The friction between his hands and her stockings unraveled her. He pushed aside the linens. The candles revealed the shadows on the planes of his face. Eden had never seen anyone with such earnest concentration before.

Bliss. The tip of his tongue swept slowly, remorselessly. She felt no embarrassment as she opened to him, urging him on. She was drenched and filled with the certainty of his perfection. Soon she would edge beyond her boundaries, to the place where there was nothing but feeling and flying. In the meantime she lay dazed, almost thought-free. He was consuming her, devouring her. There would be nothing left but a flash of light as he made her disappear.

Here’s my question for a chance to win Tempting Eden: What’s your greatest temptation? Chocolate? Chili dogs? Power shopping? I have to say I’m inspired by Eden—mine is getting a spa pedicure.

Feature Review: Tempting Eden


June 11, 2010

How do you feel about ‘experienced’ heroines? Do you prefer your heroines virginal and innocent? – Margaret Rowe


Tempting Eden

Author: Margaret Rowe
Publisher: Berkley Trade
Pub. Date: June 1, 2010
ISBN-13: 978-0425234310
Retail: $15.00
352 pages

Forbidden desire is the hardest to deny … Eden Emery is no stranger to sin. To keep her sister safe from harm, she’s paid a steep price with her body—and very nearly lost her soul. But when Baron Ivor Hartford, the very Devil himself finally dies, her troubles are far from over.

Major Stuart Hartford, the late baron’s nephew, is in the market for an honorable wife, but first he has to take care of the matter of his Uncle Ivor’s ward—a young woman who makes him question the virtue of being proper. For the passion she incites burns away his inhibitions and inflames his heart.

But Eden has vowed to never again cede her destiny to a man. And Hart is left with no choice but to tempt the temptress herself, to show the woman he longs to possess forever that passion can heal, that the sins of the past can be overcome, and that submission can be the greatest power of all.

~*~*~

Deeply disturbing, dark, and poignant, Tempting Eden is a love story that will stay with you long after the final page is read.

Maragaret Rowe, who also writes much lighter historical romances for Kensington/Brava as Maggie Robinson, pushes the boundaries of romance in this intense psychological, erotic tale. This book is not for the faint of heart, but if you do have the heart, it’s well worth the read.

At the very least, I was hesitant to read Tempting Eden. To say this is a disturbing romance would be, in my opinion, understating the matter. The premise of the book is taboo. The heroine, Eden Emery, is seduced by her stepfather, and at the age of eighteen willingly assumes the role of his mistress, plays the slave to his master.

I say his slave because not only are they lovers, her stepfather is the dom in this twisted relationship. He is cruel. He is sadistic. He is sick. The book begins by stating his intentions:

When he was done, she’d be the greatest whore in all of Christendom.

And good to his word, in the following four years, Eden’s stepfather, the Earl of Hartford, applies himself to doing precisely that. And his vow, his vision is a success. Eden does any and everything he asks of her. I have to admit this was the hardest thing for me to deal with in reading Tempting Eden, that the heroine took this road willingly…eagerly…at first.

Upon his death, his nephew and heir, Stuart Harford, or Hart as he is called, resumes responsibility for his uncle’s stepdaughters, Eden and her sickly younger sister, Jannah. He and his aunt travel to Hartford Hall to assess his inheritance: the property and the females themselves.

Eden’s introduction to the new lord nearly has her fainting at his feet, for he’s the younger image of his deceased uncle, the man who’d tortured her all those years. And to Hart, Eden is a scrawny wisp of a woman whom he considers ‘a plain virgin’. Little does he know.

But when he discovers a provocative drawing of her ‘au naturelle’ done by his very talented uncle, he immediately understands and is sickened by the nature of their relationship, thinking she seduced his uncle after her mother’s death. He had originally planned to send her away with his aunt after her sister died (Jannah’s illness is terminal), but now he wants her to have nothing to do with his family. The problem is his attraction to her, which of course bothers him to the nth degree because he is the man some called ‘Holy Hartford’ because of his pillar of moral rectitude.

Eden is just as pained and horrified by her attraction to him, which wars with the depth of the shame she bears over the relationship she had with his uncle. Her shame only deepens when Hart confronts her with his knowledge of it. She believes he’s found the book his uncle had published (one single copy) to document his seduction of her titled, The Seduction of a Young Lady.

For me, the other difficult part of this book were the flashbacks. Very difficult. Ms. Rowe does not skimp on the details of Eden’s seduction at her stepfather’s hands. Most of these flashbacks are explicit in nature. There were many times that I sorely wished she had been raped. The fact that I feel this way is a bit stunning, but that’s how difficult it was for me to digest the fact that she was so very willing in the beginning. This affair began when her mother was alive and Eden had no compunction in carrying on with her mother’s husband behind her back. This just added a more unsavory air to something that was unsavory enough.

But once I grew to understand the psychology of this kind of seduction, Eden’s willingness made sense in the context of a mother who might have been in her life in body but certainly not in mind. Her biological father was deceased and the only male figure in her life set his mind on her seduction years in advance. Eden was so ripe for the picking with his flirtations and liberal helpings of wine, it was like shooting fish in a barrel.

Trials and tribulations abound in Eden and Hart’s difficult road to understanding and happily ever after, but they make it, this is a romance after all. Hart has a level of understanding of this tragic part in her life that few men would, and Eden not only has to learn to trust him, she has to learn to forgive and trust in herself. Love, in the end, has the power to heal and give them a fresh start at a new beginning, as they leave the ghosts of the past behind. ~ Beverley

Rating: June Feature Review

Heat-Level: 6 (Erotic)

Review: Admission


June 10, 2010


Admission

Author: Jean Hanff Korelitz
Publisher: Grand Central
Pub. Date: April 8, 2010
ISBN-13: 978-0446540711
Retail: $14.99
464 pages

“Admissions. Admission. Aren’t there two sides to the word? And two opposing sides…It’s what we let in, but it’s also what we let out.”

For years, 38-year-old Portia Nathan has avoided the past, hiding behind her busy (and sometimes punishing) career as a Princeton University admissions officer and her dependable domestic life. Her reluctance to confront the truth is suddenly overwhelmed by the resurfacing of a life-altering decision, and Portia is faced with an extraordinary test. Just as thousands of the nation’s brightest students await her decision regarding their academic admission, so too must Portia decide whether to make her own ultimate admission.

Admission is at once a fascinating look at the complex college admissions process and an emotional examination of what happens when the secrets of the past return and shake a woman’s life to its core.

~*~*~

The book “Admission” by Jean Hanff Korelitz is a rollercoaster ride of emotions that leaves the reader somewhat high, yet somewhat disappointed at the end.

The story centers around Portia Nathan a thirty eight year old Princeton admissions officer that just got her big wish to be stationed on the northeastern cost of the United States. This is the big break that Portia has been waiting for and she can’t wait to dive in. Unfortunately for Portia her dive turns into a fifty foot free for all that sends her emotional life spiraling out of control. This dive starts when she meets her old college acquaintance John Halsey at a new school called “Quest School”. This dive becomes steeper when, on the way to her eccentric mother’s house, her boyfriend of sixteen years informs her that he’s leaving her for his pregnant girlfriend. This start’s Portia’s emotional look at her life as she continues her job as a admission officer at Princeton.

The reason for my use of the rollercoaster analogy at the beginning of the review was because reading this book was a bit like a rollercoaster. Complete with soundtrack that was going off in my head. There were parts of the book that were very compelling and I read quickly. Then there was equally tedious and long parts that I wish would just end.

Portia, herself, didn’t come off as endearing as I believe the author was trying to make her. There were times in the book that she came off a bit high-handed and needed a smack down. Other times I wanted to hand her a Zoloft and send her to a shrink. Then other times, I would have loved to sit down and have coffee with her and pick her brain.

Many of the other characters were somewhat two dimensional and it made it hard to care about them. I mean I’m all for the eccentric mother, but I would have liked to see some more dimension to her. Such as a reason why she chose to raise Portia by herself, why she is so eccentric, and what motivates her to do the things she does. All in all, my soundtrack for this book would include “It’s all coming back to me now” by Celine Dion, “Girl on the verge” by Sarah Hudson, “Hunted” by Poe, and the main theme song from the new Emma movie. I would recommend this book to anyone who likes a mellower Rebecca Wells. I say this because Jean’s writing style is very similar to Rebecca’s, but she lacks Rebecca’s trademark wit.

Rating: 6 (Satisfactory)

Heat-Level: 1 (Inspy)

Excerpt Thursday ~ Hook Me!


June 10, 2010

We’re back on track with Excerpt Thursdays. Let me know if you’ve been hooked or not. Click the cover to purchase Wanton Venture.

~*~*~

Wanton Venture ~ Elaine Lowe
Release Date: June 2, 2010 ~ Resplendence Publishing

“Thank you, Rigby. That will be all.” The butler took one last look at him then left, closing the door softly behind him.

Raymond bowed slightly, his eyes studying this mysterious woman.

She stood and inclined her head. “Greetings, Mr. Talbury. My name is Helena Gracechurch. I am happy to make your acquaintance.”

Good, Alan said nothing about the damned title.

“The pleasure is mine, Miss Gracechurch. How may I help you?”

She indicated the seat across the desk and they both sat. She shuffled papers on the desk, and he took the time to really look at her. At first glance, she looked like a governess or an old auntie, with a high necked serviceable gown in a light shade of gray. Her dark red hair was up in a severe style, without any attempt to highlight her features. She wore spectacles as well, highly unfashionable. And he thought, given the lack of squinting lines around her eyes, very possibly unnecessary.

But all that could not hide the sprinkling of freckles across the line of her nose, proving that despite her rosy pale skin, she occasionally let the sun shine down on her face without a proper bonnet. The warm amber of her eyes could not be dulled but glimmered with intelligence. Her dress might be severe, but it could not hide an impressive bosom or her light and pleasing frame.

Most of all, the tight bun she wore had let a single red curl fall against her neck, and his gaze was immediately drawn to it. Regardless of his respect for women or his attempts to think of this as a business meeting, for a long moment, all he could think about was getting that hair loose and getting his hands into it.

“So, Mr. Talbury, Mr. Saksville has told me that you have considerable—if unconventional—experience in the Navy during the war.”

Raymond smiled. Unconventional was a very politic way of putting it, Alan.

“Yes, Miss Gracechurch, I’ve commanded my share of ships during the recent conflicts.”

She paused for a moment and a smile almost touched her lips. There was something in her eyes that he could not quite identify, though for a moment it reminded him of passion. “Yes, well…have you had any experience with cargo vessels rather than military ships?”

He thought of the months he’d acted as a common sailor in the French-controlled Spanish navy, hauling cargo on supply ships, and acting as crew on captured merchant vessels. “Yes, I have worked on cargo vessels, though not in a command capacity.” Unless the cargo was black powder meant to blow up a bridge over the river Coa. On that tiny boat, he’d definitely been in command.

She nodded and made a note on the page she held in front of her. He wondered how many men she had evaluated for this position, or if he was the first. Noting the very slight tremor in her hand, he thought it was highly probably he was the first.

Had she ever been kissed? What man would be lucky enough to caress those pink lips with his own? To taste her tongue, or taste her other lips, to open the virgin fruit of her loins and savor her intoxicating innocence. Raymond shifted uncomfortably and tried to focus on listening to her words rather than his imaginings.

“You also are half-Spanish, correct?”

He repressed the urge to groan. Why were the English so bloody narrow-minded? His mother would be most interested in an account of this conversation when he returned to their Bristol lodgings, the Rose and Sail Inn. She had insisted on accompanying him, having no desire to be left at the gargantuan Belforth House in London, all alone with disreputable servants and the threat of creditors at the door.

“Yes, my mother is Spanish. Doña Maria Katrina Escobar de Santos.” A smile broke out over Miss Gracechurch’s features, setting her eyes alight.

“Excellent!”

Rarely had anyone been pleased about his lineage It had practically caused his grandfather to disown his father, and only sheer laziness to bother with the legal details meant that Raymond himself was now the Earl. “Might I ask why this is such a pleasing prospect, Miss Gracechurch?”

She blushed, a rosy bloom that crept up her neck and stained her cheeks in the most becoming manner. Raymond swallowed, thinking how lovely she would look in the throes of passion, her bright eyes filled with desire and her cheeks stained with the evidence of her passion.

Review: Dark Deceptions


June 9, 2010


Dark Deceptions

Author: Dee Davis
Publisher: Grand Central
Pub. Date: April 1, 2010
ISBN-13: 978-0446542012
Retail: $6.99
353 pages

TORN BETWEEN DUTY AND DESIRE

Covert operations expert Nash Brennon has spent the last eight years trying to forget Annie Gallagher, his former field partner and the only woman he ever loved. Annie betrayed him when he needed her most, then vanished without a trace. Now suddenly she’s back in the game—this time as a suspected traitor and threat to national security.

Annie’s son has been kidnapped by political terrorists. The price for his life? Assassinate a UN ambassador. Then Nash finds her, and immediately, the smoldering passion between Annie and the man she swore she’d never contact again almost blazes out of control. But can Nash trust her? The stakes couldn’t be higher: their enemy’s endgame is personal, and one false move could cost them their lives.

~*~*~

Fans of Roxanne St. Clair and Suzanne Brockmann will love this new series by Dee Davis.

Unfortunately, I’m not a fan of the following authors. I love romantic suspense novels, but I prefer suspense novels that are more character driven in the style of J.D. Robb and Linda Howard instead of story or plot driven like DARK DECEPTIONS. Having said that, DARK DECEPTIONS is a suspenseful, well-written novel. It just wasn’t my cup of tea.

It took me awhile to read DARK DECEPTIONS because I couldn’t get a grasp of the characters’ or deeper insight into their internal motivation. In my humble opinion, DARK DECEPTIONS had too little back story and narrative, which made it hard to see where Annie and Nash were coming from. For example, there was a big betrayal that separated Nash and Annie years ago, both think of it but not in detail just anger over the other one for not being there. Since this is the big conflict of the book it is annoying there isn’t more details of why. Because of it, the major conflict feels like some big misunderstanding that could’ve been resolved if they just sat down and talked together. As a result, the big misunderstanding seems like something that happened to immature people instead mature professionals, especially considering the jobs they had.

Despite my being unable to being able to buy into the romantic relationship and conflict between the hero and heroine, the suspense part was excellent and carried the story for me.

So I truly think fans of Roxanne St. Clair, Allison Brennan, and Suzanne Brockmann have a new author that they can become addicted to.

Rating: 6 (Satisfactory)

Heat-Level: 4 (Hot)
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Excitement and blatant self-promotion


June 8, 2010

I’m late today, so I decided to do something quick and easy–yep promote my next release six months early. :D I had an absolute blast writing A TASTE OF DESIRE. What’s it about?  Here’s the blurb:

SHE CHALLENGED HIS PRIDE

Lady Amelia Bertram may have a reputation as the most brazen beauty of the ton, but she shocks even herself when she accidently—and loudly—derides one of society’s most eligible bachelors in the middle of a crowded ballroom. The timing of her faux pas couldn’t be worse, for her father is seeking someone to take her off his hands that very night…

HE CHALLENGED HER WILLPOWER

But when Thomas Armstrong overhears the so-called “Lady” Amelia slandering his sexual prowess in public, he cannot help but accept the dare implicit in her words. To her father’s great delight, he offers to take her to his secluded country estate—properly chaperoned, of course—to teach the girl a lesson in ladylike behavior…

If you read SINFUL SURRENDER, you’ll recognize Amelia as the “lady” who gave Thomas (heroine’s brother) the setdown of the century toward the end of the book. Well, obviously, that means the two were meant for each other. Who could have ever thought Amelia could top that setdown, but she does, throwing down the proverbial gauntlet in this ballroom scene…

“And not only is he kind,” Dawn said in her girlish titter, continuing in his relentless praise, “but he is rumored to be an extraordinary lover.”

Amelia’s brows climbed to hitherto unscaled heights as she eyed the furiously blushing blonde. And just when she’d equated Dawn Hawkins with a wilting violet. Proper young ladies did not lend themselves to such discourse. She certainly could, but then she’d never endeavored to fit in with the ladies of the peerage, many of whom were just sheep in a herd where titles, connections, and wealth led with uncompromising rigor.

“Posh, surely a rumor Lord Armstrong himself helped to circulate.”

Once again, three pairs of eyes, all in varying shades of brown, widened and turned on her as if she had just taken over the pulpit and declared to every Sunday worshipper supplicant in prayer that God was just a myth. Blasphemous!

Yay! I received my cover.

“Men tend to think very well of themselves when it comes to such matters. I am quite certain one is no more proficient than the other, though invariably it’s the handsome ones who like to boast the advantage.” And Amelia imagined that the viscount was just such a man.

The women stood mute. Each appeared to be digesting what they’d just heard. Amelia wasn’t a stranger to certain male and female intimacies. How could she forget the rather wet kiss Lord Finley had pressed upon her in the garden at the Walsh ball. He had assumed that with a face that could have coined the phrase beautiful as sin, she would welcome his advances. His shins had paid dearly for his presumption. Good looks did not necessarily equate to skillfulness as a lover. They might one day discover those truths and be much wiser for it, though she was certain some poor gentleman would topple from his pedestal in the process.

“Then why do so many women eagerly follow him to his bed?” Lady Jane’s face climbed three shades of red, the question emerging hushed in a mixture of reticence and urgent curiosity.

At that moment, the music crested as the piano, violin, coronet and cello reached a melodious crescendo. With her recent encounter with the man fueling her renewed dislike, Amelia did not allow the intrusion of the noise to cause her to pause for even an instant. Instead, she raised her voice to be heard above the final notes.

“The same reason you would gladly accept his request for a dance. Women are easily charmed by his dimples and handsome visage. Moreover, the man is a viscount and said to be one of the richest peers in all of England. On paper, he is the ideal catch. In reality, the man is no more than a rake. Lord Armstrong is the type of man who is too self-involved to care about the pleasure of others—in any regard. I would stake my dowry he does not come remotely close to his rumored sexual prowess.”

The three ladies stared at her wide-eyed and slack-jawed. Their gazes shifted to the area beyond her bare shoulder just as a cacophony of female gasps and low baritone snickers punctured the silence.

A silence that had not existed only moments before.

Amelia spun quickly on the heel of her patent leather shoe to confront a scene only fit for some ghastly tableau.

Coiffed matrons and properly turned out debutantes wore scandalized looks of disbelief.

Gentlemen hid their smiles behind pristine white gloved hands.

Not one note of music rent the air to soften words ripe for public reproach.

Dear Lord, when had the music stopped? Her gaze darted about frantically. And when had the guests surrounding her become mutes? She could not even sigh in relief when the harmonious melody of a waltz rang out like a rescuing cavalry arriving fifteen minutes too late to stop the slaughter. Amelia could not recall the last time she’d felt this thoroughly exposed. So stricken and besieged. So completely mortified.

Never.

Then to punctuate the totality of her humiliation, the crowd before her parted as if Moses himself brought his staff down upon the waters of the Red Sea. Hushed tones could barely contain their glee. And condemnation. Through a sea of bejeweled gowns and black waistcoats strode the tall, commanding form of none other than the man whose prowess she’d just eviscerated in the full hearing of the ton.

So every month until the release date, January 4, 2011, I’ll post an excerpt. Hopefully, soon, A TASTE OF DESIRE will make it onto your TBB list. ;)

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