New York Times and USA Today Bestselling Author

of Contemporary Women's Fiction, Romantic Comedies, and Historical Romances

 

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"Jacquie D'Alessandro writes romance at its enchanting best!"

                          ----Teresa Medeiros

New York Times bestselling author of

AFTER MIDNIGHT

 

 

Carolyn Turner, Viscountess Wingate, is shocked by the Ladies Literary Society of London's latest selection. Memoirs of a Mistress is scandalously explicit and it's stirring feelings within Carolyn that she hasn't felt . . . well, ever! She's sure that this steamy read is the only reason she's succumbing to the charms of notorious rogue Daniel Sutton, Lord Surbrooke. She couldn't possibly be falling for his illicit caresses . . . or could she?

The last thing Daniel wanted was to be shackled by marriage vows. He lusted after Carolyn, but never imagined that once he lured her to his bed he'd never want to let her go. Yet when a murderer targets his beloved, all his plans go awry.

 

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“Good evening, my lady.”

Carolyn turned, and realized that even if she hadn’t known Lord Surbrooke’s voice, she would have known his eyes. They gazed at her through a black mask that covered the entire upper half of his face with the same heated intensity that stole the air from her lungs every time he looked at her. She’d have known his mouth as well. Not only because it was perfectly formed, the bottom lip slightly fuller than the upper, but because of how one corner tilted upward, skewing all that perfection with a hint of lopsidedness that shouldn’t have been attractive but was. Annoyingly so.

Her gaze skimmed over his all black highwayman costume. He looked tall and dark and dangerous--as if he were prepared to abscond with whatever might take his fancy and the consequences be damned. A thrill she couldn’t name raced through her.

“Rather than good evening, shouldn’t you say ‘stand and deliver’?” she retorted, proud that she sounded so calm when she suddenly felt anything but.

He made her a formal bow. “Of course. Although by ‘stand and deliver’ I actually mean ‘may I have this dance’?”

 

 

 

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Chapter One

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Chapter One

 

His hand slipped beneath my gown to slowly glide up my leg. The muted sounds of the party came through the library door and I knew we risked being discovered. But I simply did not care...

            From Memoirs of a Mistress by An Anonymous Lady

Chapter One

 

            “When we chose this book to read, I had no idea it would be so...explicit,” murmured Carolyn Turner, Viscountess Wingate.

            She clutched her slim, leather bound--and much perused--volume of Memoirs of a Mistress and glanced around her drawing room at her three guests who, along with her, comprised the Ladies Literary Society of London. All three faces, she noted, bore scarlet blushes identical to the one scorching her own cheeks. Quite understandable as one of her guests was only newly married and the other two were virginal innocents.

Virginal, yes. Innocents--no longer, thanks to the Memoirs.

Of course, in spite of having been married for seven years, Carolyn still had never dreamed of, let alone experienced, half the things described in the scandalous book that had recently taken Society by storm. Before her beloved Edward’s untimely death three years ago, she’d believed they’d shared every conceivable pleasure with each other.

Based on her reading of the Memoirs, apparently not.

Her sister Sarah, the new Marchioness Langston by virtue of her recent marriage, cleared her throat. “Well, the entire point of forming our little Ladies Literary Society was to forsake the classics for more forbidden fare.”

“True,” said Lady Julianne Bradley, whose normally porcelain complexion resembled a fiery sunset, “but there is forbidden, then there is this.” She held up her own copy of the book and Carolyn noted that many of the pages appeared decidedly dog-earred. Julianne leaned forward and although they were alone in the room, she lowered her voice. “If mother ever discovered I’d read such shocking things, she’d...” Julianne briefly squeezed her eyes shut. “Oh, I cannot even imagine it.”

“She’d fly into the boughs as she always does,” chimed in Lady Emily Stapleford with her usual forthrightness. “She’d demand her hartshorn, then, once recovered, I wager she’d confiscate your copy in order to read it for herself.” Emily grinned at Julianne over the rim of her teacup. “In which case you’d not only be confined to your bedchamber for the remainder of your natural days, but you’d never get your book back. So make certain she doesn’t find out.”

Julianne’s color deepened, and she quickly added another sugar lump to her tea. “As I’ve absolutely nothing to which I can compare anything I’ve read in the Memoirs, I can’t help but wonder if half the things the author describes are even...”

“Anatomically possible?” finished Emily. “Yes, I wondered the same thing.” Her gaze bounced between Carolyn and Sarah. “Well?”

Sarah pushed up her spectacles then fanned herself with her napkin. “I’m hardly an expert as I’ve only been married two months. But from what I can tell...”

Her voice trailed off and Emily leaned forward, so far she nearly tipped from her chair. “Yes?”

“Everything she describes is...possible.”

Emily sat back and whooshed out a long breath. “Never say so.” Her amazed gaze shifted to Carolyn. “Do you concur?”

Carolyn pressed her hands against her book which rested in her lap. Snippets from the scorching story of the Anonymous Lady’s sexual exploits sifted through her mind and she felt as if the pages set her gown on fire.

“Certainly possible,” she agreed even though she wasn’t quite positive. But really, weren’t most things possible?

“But are they...enjoyable?” asked Julianne, her blue eyes round. “Because I must say, some of them sound rather...messy.”

An image flashed through Carolyn’s mind...of Edward’s handsome face hovering above hers, his flesh buried deep inside her. The indescribable joy of that intimacy.

“Definitely enjoyable,” Carolyn and Sarah said in unison.

“Even what she describes on page forty-two?” Emily asked in a breathless voice, rifling through the pages of her book.

Carolyn didn’t need to look at page forty-two to know what was described there--she’d read the highly sensual passage so many times she could recite it by rote. Still, she fell in with the group and opened her book. Her gaze fell upon the Anonymous Lady’s vivid description of a quick tryst in which her lover took her against the library wall between courses at a dinner party.

“Possible,” Carolyn murmured, the carnal image of the lady’s legs wrapped around her lover’s hips while he thrust into her, hard and deep. Although Edward had never made love to her in such a rough and...ungentlemanly way, she supposed it was possible--provided the gentleman was quite strong and vigorous, the lady quite agile and filled with stamina, and they were both quite determined.

“And, um, definitely enjoyable,” added Sarah.

Three gazes immediately flew to Sarah. Surely her sister hadn’t--

But one look at her sister’s dreamy expression glowing behind her spectacles made it clear that Sarah knew of what she spoke, a fact which unsettled Carolyn in a way she didn’t quite understand.

Emily cleared her throat. “I...see. Well, what about that bit on page fifty-three? Surely a man wouldn’t do that...would he?”

“And the other on page sixty-one?” added Julianne. “Surely a woman wouldn’t do that...would she?”

Again, Carolyn knew precisely to what her friends referred without looking at the book. Her face flamed hotter and she found herself shifting in her seat from the same disconcerting sensations that had plagued her during her entire reading of the Memoirs. Readingsss, her inner voice interjected, emphasizing the plural.

She shot her pesky inner voice an inward frown. Very well, readingsss. Many, many readings. Alone in her bed, her mind overflowing with carnal images that left her overheated.

Although she again had no personal knowledge of the shocking goings-on described on pages fifty-three and sixty-one, she had no reason to doubt the word of the Anonymous Lady who clearly knew her way around a boudoir. And a library. And the stables. And even the dining room.

For starters.

Carolyn shoved the sensual images aside and stated, “According to the rumors, everything in the book is completely true.”

Sarah cleared her throat. “Yes. Men do do those things. Um, women, too.”

Carolyn blinked. Surely Sarah hadn’t done that. Yet another quick look at her sister made it quite clear she had. And that she was deliriously happy about it. An odd mixture of delight, and envy suffused her. Delight--that Sarah, who for so long had been overlooked because she wasn’t classically beautiful and her interests tended toward scholarly pursuits, had found a deep and abiding love with Matthew Devenport, the Marquess of Langston. And envy--because Carolyn so profoundly missed the deeply satisfying relationship she’d shared with Edward, one she knew in her heart and soul could never be duplicated. She’d been fortunate to find her one true love. And sadly, had lost him to a sudden and unexpected illness.

After three long years of widowhood she’d finally accepted the fact that the ache of missing her beloved husband would never completely go away. So she kept him in a special corner of her heart where his memory burned brightly and always would. She might have remained forever in her state of mourning, isolated from everyone except her family and few closest friends, but several months ago Sarah had taken her firmly in hand and all but dragged her out, encouraging her to discard her solitude and black gowns and join the living again.

At first Carolyn had resisted, but she’d slowly come to once again enjoy being out in Society, attending soirees, socializing with old friends, forging new acquaintances. She behaved a proper lady at all times, determined to never do anything that could besmirch Edward’s memory. Achingly lonely though the long, silent nights remained, her days were now pleasantly occupied with visits and shopping excursions with Emily and Julianne--her two dearest friends, and of course Sarah, her dearest friend of all. Still, she had a great deal of free time on her hands here in London and wished to find something to occupy herself. Something useful. A project of some sort. Most days she felt as if all she was doing in life was taking up space.

Not wishing to dwell any longer on her increasingly somber thoughts, nor on the more salacious parts of the book, parts which had re-ignited desires she’d thought long buried, Carolyn said, “I recently learned that the Memoirs, in addition to being the latest scandal, is also responsible for a new rage sweeping the ton.”

Emily arched a brow. “Oh? Making love in a moving carriage?”

“Or in the billiard room--“

“No,” Carolyn said with a laugh, cutting off Julianne’s guess. “It’s the notes the author describes.”

“Oh, yes, the mysterious unsigned missives the Anonymous Lady received from one of her lovers,” Julianne said, in a breathless voice. “She’d arrive at the time and place in the note and they’d engage in a tryst.”

“Exactly,” Carolyn said. “Last night at Lord and Lady Lerner’s musicale I heard several ladies say they’ve received such notes. And the results were very satisfactory.”

“I would image so,” Sarah said, her nod sending her spectacles sliding down her nose. “I’d very much like to receive such a note.”

“Indeed?” asked Emily, her eyes twinkling with mischief. “From whom?”

Sarah blinked and pushed up her glasses. “Why, Matthew, of course. In fact, I told him so over breakfast this morning.”

Julianne heaved a long, dreamy sigh. “I would love to receive such a note. It’s so...dashing. And romantic.”

“Such a note would ruin your reputation,” Carolyn said gently to her overly romantic friend.

“Yes, but to be desired so strongly...” Julianne heaved another sigh. “The Memoirs have taught me so many things. Things Mother certainly never told me.”

“No one’s mother would ever tell them such things,” Carolyn said with smothered laugh of horror. Certainly her mother never had. On the eve of her wedding, her mother had only offered the troubling and cryptic advice for Carolyn to close her eyes, brace herself, and recall that the ordeal would be over in a matter of moments.

Clearly Mother did not know of what she spoke because Carolyn’s wedding night had been a beautiful, tender experience that marked the beginning of her and Edward’s deeply satisfying and intimate bond.

“My mother has never spoken of such things with me,” said Emily. “Indeed, if it weren’t for the fact that she gave birth to six children I’d be tempted to say she didn’t know how we were conceived. I think it very fortunate that An Anonymous Lady wrote the Memoirs to drag us all from behind the shroud of ignorance. Someday soon some lucky, handsome, wealthy man will have the good sense to fall in love with me, and he will be very happy that I’ve read the book.”

Carolyn glanced up at the portrait of Edward that hung above the fireplace and a flood of sadness swept over her. Love and intimacy were over for her. Edward had been such a wonderful, honest, kind and loving man. To this day she considered it a miracle that the very eligible, very handsome Viscount Wingate had singled her out for his attention. Indeed, if her father hadn’t been a physician, and the viscount hadn’t happened to injure his hand in the same London bookstore where she and her father were browsing, they most likely never would have met. But from that first moment, she’d felt as if she’d found a piece of herself she hadn’t even realized was missing.

Blinking away the memories, Carolyn forced a smile and said, “Well, perhaps we’ll hear of more notes being received at Lady Walsh’s masquerade tonight. It is rumored to be a gala event.”

“I heard more than three hundred guests are expected,” reported Sarah. “Matthew told me this morning that Lord Surbrooke is arriving in London today and will attend.”

For reasons she neither understood nor cared to examine, Carolyn’s pulse jumped at the mention of her new brother-in-law’s closest friend. She’d met Lord Surbrooke several times over the years as Edward had known him, but she herself had only become better acquainted with him earlier this summer during a house party at Matthew’s country estate.

At first she’d categorized the handsome, charming earl as nothing more than another shallow aristocrat, spoiled by too much money, free time, and fawning women. Yet when he believed himself unobserved, his dark blue eyes turned pensive and seemed to harbor sadness. It was an emotion she understood well and she couldn’t help but wonder if some manner of tragedy had befallen him in the past.

But there was something else in his eyes...something that disrupted her calm and made her insides flutter in the most unsettling way. Something she wasn’t quite certain she liked.

She was saved from commenting when Julianne chimed in, “Mother told me that Mr. Logan Jennsen will also attend the party.”

Emily wrinkled her nose. “I’m certain he’ll be easy to spot in the crush. He’ll no doubt be garbed as a serpent. Or perhaps a wolf.”

“I don’t understand why you dislike him so,” Sarah said. “He’s very entertaining.”

“I simply can’t credit that he’s invited everywhere,” Emily said with a sniff. “Has no one besides me noticed he’s an uncouth American?”

“He’s invited everywhere because he’s obscenely wealthy,” Julianne said. “No doubt he’d like to find himself a peer’s daughter to marry to ease his way into Society, and with his vast wealth he’ll surely succeed.” She gave Emily a teasing nudge. “Best watch out or he’ll cast his eye upon you.”

“He’d best not, unless he’d like to lose his eye. Perhaps he’ll cast his net in your direction.”

“He’d be wasting his time as Father would never consent to a match outside the peerage, regardless of the gentleman’s wealth. And there’s not enough hartshorn in the kingdom for Mother to consider it.”

Carolyn had no doubt Julianne’s assessment was true. Julianne’s mother, the formidable Countess Gatesbourne, was overbearing in regards to her only child in a way that made other overbearing mothers seem like tame kittens. She was determined to see Julianne make a brilliant marriage. On the basis of her stunning looks alone, Julianne could attract any man. Combined with her sweet disposition and her family’s vast wealth, she was one of the most eligible young women of the ton. And sadly, very much under the crushing weight of her mother’s heavy thumb. Carolyn prayed that Julianne’s gentle, romantic nature wouldn’t be trampled by some philandering, jaded peer, but she’d seen enough of the breed to know that men like her Edward were rare amongst the species.

Her gaze shifted to Emily and sympathy filled her. Emily had recently confessed that her family was suffering severe financial difficulties thanks in part to her father’s excessive gambling. She feared her father planned to arrange for her to marry some old, creaky lord with nothing to recommend him save a great deal of much needed money. Carolyn dearly hoped such a fate wouldn’t befall her lively, spirited friend.

In order to break the silence that had descended, Carolyn asked, “What sort of costumes are you all wearing?”

“You’re not supposed to tell,” said Emily, shaking a finger.

“But how else will we find each other in the crush?” asked Julianne. “I need to know who to look for in case I get an opportunity to escape Mother.”

“Matthew and I will be attired as Romeo and Juliet,” said Sarah, “except in our version of the story clearly neither of them die as we are older than the teenaged lovers. And besides, I cannot abide unhappy endings.”

Emily heaved a sigh. “I shall be the tragic Ophelia. I wanted to be Cleopatra, but Mama said ‘twas too scandalous.” She grinned. “Perhaps I should go as the Anonymous Lady.”

“Yes,” Carolyn said. “For a costume you could wear your skirt ruched up about your waist and carry a copy of the Memoirs.”

They all laughed. “I’ll be dressed as an angel,” said Julianne.

“Very appropriate,” Carolyn said.

“And boring,” Julianne said with a sigh. “But Mother insisted.”

“Wait until you see Carolyn’s costume,” Sarah enthused. “I helped her choose it.”

Carolyn shot her sister a mock frown. “More like you ordered it, had it delivered here, then demanded I wear it.” She looked at her two friends. “Since her marriage she’s become very domineering and demanding.”

“My husband likes me that way,” Sarah answered tartly. “If I hadn’t helped you with your costume, you’d have dressed as a shepherdess.”

“Most likely,” agreed Carolyn. “I certainly would not have chosen Galatea.”

Julianne’s eyes lit up. “Oh, the beautiful ivory statue that comes to life. You’ll be stunning, Carolyn.”

“And feel as if I’m only half-dressed.”

“Be happy that you’re wearing anything,” Emily said with a devilish grin. “Galatea was nude, you know.”

Carolyn shot Sarah a frown. “I think you should go as Galatea and I’ll go as a shepherdess.”

“Heavens, no,” said Sarah. “What on earth would Romeo want with a Greek statue? As Julianne said, you’ll be stunning. There is nothing the least bit improper about your costume.”

“Of course not,” agreed Julianne. “Indeed, based on some of the costumes worn at Lady Walsh’s ball last year, you’ll be overdressed.” She lowered her voice to impart, “A shocking number of women dressed as harem members.”

“And nearly as many men were attired in togas--men whose rotund figures most assuredly should not have been draped in sheets.” Emily gave an all-over shudder.

“I’m almost sorry I missed it,” Carolyn said with a smile.

“With a few minor adjustments we could turn you from Galatea into Aphrodite,” Sarah said to Carolyn with a speculative air. “The goddess of desire is who I wanted you to be to begin with.”

“Absolutely not,” Carolyn said firmly. “What would people think?”

Sarah reached out and lightly clasped her hand, her brown gaze serious as it rested on her. “That you are a young, vibrant woman who deserves to enjoy herself.”

“I’m a thirty-two year-old widow who is too old and too sensible to parade about in an unbecoming fashion.” She said the words softly, to take any sting from them. She knew Sarah meant well, and truly she appreciated her sister’s efforts on her behalf. But ever since she’d re-entered Society she sometimes felt as if in her determination to get on with her life everything were moving too quickly. As if she were losing part of herself, of the person she’d been for the last ten years--Edward’s wife. She occasionally had difficulty recalling images of him that used to be so clear in her mind. Couldn’t precisely recall the sound of his laughter. The warmth of his touch. The slow leaching of those memories confused and saddened her. And frightened her. For if her memories of Edward faded away, she’d have nothing left.

“There is nothing unbecoming about you,” Sarah said gently, squeezing her hand. Then she smiled. “And we are all going to have a grand time this evening.”

Carolyn returned her sister’s smile, although she wasn’t as optimistic. The idea of a costume ball had sounded exciting when she’d received the invitation, but now that the day was here, she felt decidedly less enthusiastic. She’d allowed Sarah to talk her into the Galatea costume, because as her sister pointed out, Galatea was brought to life, just as she wanted Carolyn to be brought back to life. What she hadn’t pointed out to Sarah was that the statue of Galatea was only brought to life because Pygmalion, the sculptor, fell passionately in love with his work of art. Love had brought Galatea to life. At one time, love had done the same for Carolyn, but she knew in her heart it would not, could not happen again.

 

Top of Page

Excerpt

Chapter One

Reviews

Reader Comments (coming soon)

Awards

Reviews

 


 

Top of Page

Excerpt

Chapter One

Reviews

Reader Comments (coming soon)

Awards

 

Reader Comments

 

Coming Soon

 

Top of Page

Excerpt

Chapter One

Reviews

Reader Comments (coming soon)

Awards


Awards

 

 
 

Top of Page

Excerpt

Chapter One

Reviews

Reader Comments (coming soon)

Awards

You can find me on Facebook, Twitter, and blogging with the Whine Sisters -- stop by and say hi!

         

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