Beloved New York Times bestselling author Mary Balogh has written her most beguiling novel yet, in which the black sheep of the scandalous Huxtable family finally meets his match - in a woman of even more wicked reputation.
'The Devil was about to be tamed.' Her name is Hannah Reid. Born a commoner, she has been Duchess of Dunbarton ever since she was nineteen years old, the wife of an elderly duke to whom she has been rumored to be consistently and flagrantly unfaithful. Now the old duke is dead and, more womanly and beautiful than ever at thirty, Hannah has her freedom at last.
And she knows just what she wants to do with it. To the shock of a conventional friend, she announces her intention to take a lover - and not just any lover, but the most dangerous and delicious man in all of upper-class England: Constantine Huxtable.
Constantine's illegitimacy has denied him the title of Earl, so now he denies himself nothing . . . or so the ton would have it. Rumored to be living the free and easy life of a sensualist in his country estate, he always chooses recent widows for his short-lived affairs. Hannah will fit the bill nicely.
But once these two passionate and scandalous figures find each other, they discover that it isn't so easy to extricate oneself from the fires of desire - without getting singed. For the duchess and the dark lord each have startling secrets to reveal, and when all is said and done, neither will be able to say which one fell in love first, who tamed whom, and who has emerged from this game of hearts with the stronger hand.
First Comes Marriage is Vanessa and Viscount Lyngate's, story. Vanessa and Elliott dislike each other at first sight and nothing improves on second or third sight. But when it becomes clear that Elliott is about to propose marriage to Margaret simply because he needs a wife and she is a convenient candidate, Vanessa decides to take desperate measures and intervene. Her beloved sister has a strong sense of duty and might well accept the horrid Lord Lyngate for the sake of her family though she is deeply in love with a girlhood sweetheart who is off fighting in the Napoleonic Wars. Vanessa has already had her chance at love with Hedley Dew, to whom she was blissfully married for one year before his death. Now is the time to sacrifice herself for her sister, who has had no real chance at love and happiness at all.
Kit Butler is cool, dangerous, one of London’s mostinfamous bachelors—marriage is the last thing on his mind. But Kit’s family has other plans. Desperate to thwart his father’s matchmaking, Kit needs a bride...fast. Enter Miss Lauren Edgeworth.
A year after being abandoned at the altar, Lauren has determined that marriage is not for her. When these two fiercely independent souls meet, sparks fly—and a deal is hatched. Lauren will masquerade as Kit’s intended if he agrees to provide a passionate, adventurous, unforgettable summer. When summer ends, she will break off the engagement, rendering herself unmarriageable and leaving them both free. Everything is going perfectly—until Kit does the unthinkable: He begins to fall in love. A summer to remember is not enough for him. But how can he convince Lauren to be his...for better, for worse, for the rest of their lives?
With his laughing eyes and wild, rakish good looks, Lord Rannulf Bedwyn is a hard man to resist. To Judith Law, a woman in need of rescue when the stagecoach in which she is traveling overturns, Rannulf is simply her savior, her dream come true, an heroic stranger with whom she will allow herself one night of reckless passion before she must settle to the dreary life of companion to her wealthy aunt. However, a shock is in store for her when that same stranger turns out to be the eligible, wealthy son of a duke--and when he arrives at Harewood Grange to woo her cousin.
Judith holds firm against all Rannulf's advances, both honorable and otherwise. But then scandal rocks the household and threatens her name and her very liberty, and it is Rannulf who rides to her rescue--bringing all the considerable power and influence of the Bedwyns to her defense.
But can a relationship begun in passion and culminating in gratitude offer them a future together? Can true love grow out of something very slightly wicked...
An omnibus of novels
Old loves rekindled, new loves found, and family bonds strengthened are the themes of these stories from the beloved, multiple-award winning author Mary Balogh. The four classic stories included here are The Star of Bethlehem, The Best Gift, Playing House, and No Room at the Inn. The new story exclusive to this trade collection is A Family Christmas.
The Earl of Rutherford was handsome, rich and as adept at giving pleasure as he was avid in pursuing it. He was certain his conquest of Jessica Moore--a mere governess--would be swift and satisfying. But what he did not know was that Jessica planned to teach him a lesson in manners.
He'd served with her husband on the battlefield—and secretly desired her for years. Yet for Dominic, Lieutenant Lord Eden, Ellen Simpson has remained tantalizingly out of reach—until she is widowed by the war. Suddenly pursued by the dangerously handsome nobleman, Ellen is stunned by the depth of attraction he arouses in her. Soon their friendship flames into something deeper…and as scandal ignites, marriage seems the only solution. But Ellen has a secret—one she can share with no one—that prevents her from fully opening her heart to Dominic. Until he devises his own plan for the ultimate consummation of their passion—and the woman he is determined to possess at any cost…
THE IMPOSSIBLE MR. GOWER
Lady Rachel Palmer was quite used to men falling helplessly in love with her. Every gentleman in aristocratic society, including her devoted fiancé, Lord Algernon Rivers, fell a willing victim to Rachel's dazzling beauty and bewitching charm.
Every gentleman, that is, except Lord Rivers' closest friend, the studiously unfashionable and splendidly handsome Mr. David Gower.
Mr. Gower made it clear that the ravishing Rache represented everything he scorned, and that he was the very last man in the world she could ever ensnare. It was a challenge Rachel could not ignore-from a man she could not resist…
FIRE AND ICE
Rachel had never been held thus, against the full, warm length of a man's body. And she had never been kissed thus, with lips that moved over hers, parting and persuading hers to do the same. But she knew this was right. This was the way it must be.
Then she felt David's hold loosen.
"I have given into a temptation I thought I had under control," he said. "I had determined never to touch another woman this way until she had consented to be my wife."
"I can marry you," Rachel said eagerly.
He shook his head. "No, Lady Rachel, we can never marry."
Rachel's face was becoming stormy. "Give me one reason why I may not marry you."
"Because I am not asking you," he coldly replied.
Signet, North American Library, Signet
And why take ye thought for raiment? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin:
And yet I say unto you, That even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.
Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field, which to day is, and to morrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith?
-Matthew 6: 28-30
HOW COULD SHE LOVE A MAN WHOM SHE COULD ONLY DESPISE?
How could Lady Helen Wade possibly love a gentleman like William Mainwaring handsome and wealthy as he might be?
How could she love this object of her two older sisters matrimonial designs?
How could she love this cad who was shockingly involved with another man's wife?
How could she love this rogue who shamelessly employed his seductive skills on an innocent young country miss he came upon in the woods…especially when he was so successful in planting Eros's arrows and when his willing victim was Helen herself…?
The Sinful Suitor
Miss Helen Wade had been driven to the limits of self-restraint. Mr. William Mainwaring simply would not abandon his pursuit of her-and his campaign to reconquer the heart he had so sinfully won and then so shamelessly abandoned was casting a dark shadow over Helen's glittering London Season. Now, when he informed her that she had been acting most unladylike toward him, her patience snapped.
"Mr. Mainwaring," she informed him, "when I refused to dance or converse with you at the marquess's ball, I believed, I had made it clear that I had no wish to renew our acquaintance. And when you came to me with your insulting offer of marriage, I thought I had made it abundantly obvious that I both hate and despise you. I had no wish to see you last night, I had no wish to drive with you this afternoon-and I should be happy never to see you again."
That, she told herself, should be that.
Except that it wasn't…
Four romance novellas put a paranormal gloss on elements from Austen's work. Bestseller Balogh (A Precious Jewel) turns in the plodding "Almost Persuaded," wherein Jane Everett and Capt. Robert Mitford realize they're reincarnated soul mates. Gleason makes reference to her Gardella Vampire series with "Northanger Castle," in which pert Caroline Merrill, lover of vampire novels, suspects handsome Mr. Blanchard of being a bloodsucker. Krinard (Bride of the Wolf) sets "Blood and Prejudice" in New York where bookstore staffer Elizabeth Bennet encounters pharmaceutical CEO Charles Bingley and an unusual variety of vampires. Mullany (Jane and the Damned) gives us a witchy Emma Woodhouse running a dating service for Washington D.C.'s supernaturals in "Little to Hex Her." Though none show Austen's gift with character, humor, or irony, all but Balogh's are lively, and Mullany's sparkles with genuine wit.
What if Austen had believed in reincarnation and vampires? Join four bestselling romance authors as they channel the wit and wisdom of Jane Austen.
In this Regency tale of Robert and Jane, bestselling author Mary Balogh brings together former lovers who have seen beyond the veil of forgetfulness to their past mistakes, and are determined to be together in this life, and forever.
Caroline's obsession with Gothic novels winds up being good training for a lifetime of destroying the undead with her newfound beau, in this Regency by Colleen Gleason.
Set in the business world of contemporary New York City, Liz Bennett joins Mr. Darcy in his hunt for a vampire cure in bestselling author Susan Krinard's version of the classic story.
Present-day Washington, D.C., is full of curious creatures in Janet Mullany's story, wherein Emma is a witch with a wizard boyfriend and a paranormal dating service to run.
Miss Rebecca Shaw had lost her heart once in her young life — lost it and had it broken.
At last it had mended — mended enough for her to say yes when the handsome, high-minded young Reverend Philip Everett asked her to be his wife and share a life of the purest propriety and best of good works.
But now Christopher Sinclair had returned. He was free now of the marriage that had given him fabulous wealth at the price of leaving Rebecca behind and betrayed. He was free now to turn Rebecca's head again…away from the man who soon would be her lawfully wedded husband. And Rebecca was also free to change her mind- but was she foolish enough to turn toward a love that had proven faithless once and now could be utterly ruinous…?
It should have been the perfect marriage for beautiful young Georgiana Burton. The husband her parents bad Picked for her, Lord Ralph Chartleigh, was wealthy, handsome, noble, and kind.
Unfortunately, he did not measure up to Georgian's notions of what a man should be. He was uninterested in society, impervious to fashions, had the worst of tailors, knew little of women - and was wary of the little he knew.
Clearly Georgiana had to teach him a great deal about life and even more about love… forgetting until it was almost too late how much she had to learn herself…
THE EARL OF RAYMORE WANTED NOTHING TO DO WITH LADIES
Once he had adored an angelic creature who had turned out to be a devilish minx in disguise. After that, the only females he cared to know were women who catered to his body without laying claim to his heart.
MISS ROSALIND DACEY WANTED NOTHING TO DO WITH GENTLEMEN
Unlike her best friend, the beauteous and biddable Lady Sylvia Marsh, Rosalind found flirtations a fearful ordeal and the game of love one that she could only lose. Better to be happy with herself than suffer a man who would only use her and mock her dreams.
Clearly Raymore and Rosalind were in perfect harmony in assiduously avoiding each other-until the night the unthinkable happened, and the impossible had to be faced…
His Vengeance Was Sweet
Judith Easton knew that even the spirit of Christmas wouldn't stop the Marquess of Denbigh from settling the score with her. For the beautiful young widow had injured Denbigh's rigid pride years ago by jilting him for another man.
Now that Judith was free from her nightmare marriage to that other man, the bold and handsome Marquess made no secret that he had her in his sights and wanted her in his arms.
But how could she trust the tender words on his lips when she could sense the hardness of his heart? And after she had made so grievous a mistake in love once, how could she ever trust her own heart's desire again?
The marquess slowed his pace, and Judith followed suit. She turned to him and fixed her eyes on the top button of his greatcoat as his gloved hands cupped her face. She lifted her hands and rested her palms against his chest. And she lifted her eyes to his and then closed them as his mouth came down to cover hers.
He was the man she had feared for so long. She tried to remember the impression she had had of his face until now-harsh, the eyes steel-gray, the lips thin. It was he who was kissing her, she told herself.
Was this the face of love? The face of hate? And did she, in this moment of abandoned ecstasy, any longer care?