The Romance Reviews
"...a fantastic cautionary tale for parents who think protecting their children means keeping them ignorant of the dangers of life and sheltered from all harm."
The Romance Reviews
The Romance Reviews
Charles Huntley, Lord Ryevale, infamous rogue…and government agent.
In unsettled times, with England at war with France, Ryevale is assigned to covertly protect a politician’s daughter, Miss Verity Verrinder. To keep Verity under his watchful eye, Ryevale plots a campaign of seduction that no woman can resist– except it seems, Miss Verrinder. In order to gain her trust Ryevale enters Verity’s world of charity meetings and bookshops…where the unexpected happens and he falls in love with his charge.
When Lord Ryevale turns his bone-melting charms on her, Verity questions his lordship’s motivation. But with her controlling father abroad, Verity wishes to explore London and reluctantly accepts Ryevale’s companionship. As the compelling attraction between them strengthens, Verity is shattered to learn her instincts are correct after all – and Ryevale is not what he seems. If Lord Ryevale can lie, then so can she…but with disastrous consequences.
Excerpt - Lord Ryevale takes Verity to Vauxhall Gardens.
"Vauxhall Gardens." Ryevale stood back and grinned.
Verity clung to his arm like an anchor and drank in the sights. Lanterns hung from tree branches, an amber glow falling on strolling couples. She swallowed hard; her father would definitely disapprove of such shocking familiarity, but then that's why she was here—to form her own opinion. She looked again with fresh eyes; the people looked happy and relaxed. From somewhere to her right came the music of a string quartet. Her gaze roamed along rows of supper boxes, statues and a Chinese pavilion.
"There is much to see," Ryevale whispered. "Where would you like to start?"
"I...don't know. What is your suggestion?"
"Well, depending on your mood, there are jugglers, acrobats and fire-eaters, or we could dance in the rotunda, or take supper or merely stroll."
"Oh, I think perhaps a walk."
"Then you would be more comfortable without your cloak."
Indeed, within its folds Verity felt a little warm. Glancing around at the other ladies, her shoulders relaxed for flimsy gowns seemed the norm, some no more than whispers of silk with bodices no wider than a ribbon. Reassured, she nodded and reached for the fastening, but Ryevale's hand closed over hers in a way that made her heart leap.
"Allow me. 'Tis only gentlemanly."
Eyes bright in the lamplight, he leaned closer to see the clasp. She caught a waft of cologne and bergamot on his skin and her pulse jumped in her throat. Strong fingers unpinned the brooch; his closeness made her feel fluttery inside. The intensity of his concentration, working with tenderness as if unwrapping something precious, disarmed her. The cloak slid from her shoulders, and cool night air caressed her limbs. She might have well stood there naked for all the protection her gown offered from his gaze.
Ryevale took a step back, drinking the creamy expanse of her bosom, a look of wonder dawning across his face. "My, my, Miss Verrinder. You are a surprise," his voice, low and sensuous.
She felt weak, blindly wondering what it would feel like to have those warm hands explore the bare skin of her back and flanks. She shivered and, with difficulty, hauled her senses back to the present. She ought to be ashamed: unchaperoned with a rogue and wearing little more than a slip. However, the sensation raised by the weight of his lingering stare didn't feel wrong.
"You look delicious." A slow, knowing smile slid across his wide lips.
"The gown," her hand fluttered to her bosom. "It's not too fast?"
"No." The low gravelly pitch to his voice thrilled her.
"I took your comments as a challenge."
He arched a masculine brow in query. "Which words were they?"
"Not to be mistaken for a clergyman's wife."
"Then you have succeeded—and how."
"It's not too much?" Oh dear, her courage began to wane.
"Don't you mean, too little?"
"Oh!" She crossed her arms to shield her chest. "Please, my cloak, if you would be so kind."
"Nonsense." Ryevale chuckled. "I'm teasing. And besides—it's a crime to hide such beauty." Indeed, a frown creased his forehead. "Whoever thought to dress you in sacks ought to be shot."
Verity pursed her lips. "You are too cruel. There is nothing wrong with my gowns."
"For a spinster of sixty." An unmistakable hunger glittered in his eye.
"Well, anyhow, I was overdue for a new gown, and the modiste assured me this style is all the rage. She was kind to make it on such short notice."
"Remind me to send her my compliments."
Verity stared. He didn’t seem to be joking. There was no hint of derision in his expression but pure, undiluted male admiration—and it felt good. Could it be that she wasn't quite as plain as her father made her believe? But then another, even more unsettlingly thought presented itself. What if, after all, she was like her mother—given over to bodily pleasure? Suddenly, the evening soured.
Ryevale offered, "Let me show you the sights."
With a weak nod, Verity agreed.