|juliaross.net The Seduction|
(Originally published in a Berkley trade edition ISBN: 0-425-18469-2)
(Reissued in a Berkley mass-market edition ISBN: 0-425-19486-8)
Romantic Times "Top Pick"
"A definite keeper." - Five Hearts - The Oakland Press
A powerful Georgian historical romance
|E-book coming!||Where a lady's virtue is risked by the roll of the dice|
Romantic Times: (Four1/2 Stars Exceptional) TOP PICK K.I.S.S. HERO
(A) sweet web of seduction.... An extraordinary story ... a superb example of Ms. Ross's outstanding story-telling talents and exceptional writing abilities. Intense emotions and passionate, strong characters.
All About Romance: Desert Isle Keeper”
Ross skillfully portrays (Alden) as a complex and completely masculine man (But) besides the characters, what makes this novel shine is the language ... quick and witty, and the level of sexual tension is passionate and sizzling throughout ... I wish I could say more, but I don't want to give away anything that will spoil it.
(A) spellbinding tale of a wickedly refined, elegantly attired rake who is redeemed by one woman's love. Ross, whose combination of lyricism and sensuality is on par with Jo Beverley's, skillfully builds the simmering sexual chemistry between Alden and Juliet into an exquisitely sensual romance and luscious love story.John Charles
The Romance Reader: Five Hearts
Brilliant scorching The Seduction, with its fascinating characters, intriguing plot, and engrossing, rewarding romance, is a story not to be missed. (A) lyrical storytelling style and a beautifully woven tale of an unexpected love that succeeds against all odds. This will be ranked as one of the years best.
The Oakland Press: Five Hearts "A definite keeper"
Rich, delicious Books like this are treasures Put it at the top of your summer reading list.
Old Book Barn Gazette:
Captivating in its beauty and stunning in its passion (the) words are sheer poetry and should be savored like a fine wine ... a work of art not to be missed.
The Best Reviews:
Set in Georgian England, this well-written novel ... deftly interweaves an exciting, fast-paced plot with romance and the development of strong characters. Readers won't want this book to end!
The Road to Romance:
Magnificent A wonderfully tempting tale filled with unsurpassed sensuality a hot and fast-paced read Completely enthralling.
A Romance Review: "Highest Rating - Five Roses!"
Alive with passion. The plot twists and turns with one surprise after another . . . a book that you cannot put down because it is so lovely, so pleasing to read. When I think about all of the historical romances that I have read, only a few have met and surpassed my expectations as much as this.
Plot SummaryA Reckless Wager
The London night draws on. Three men play cards. Alden, Viscount Gracechurch, faces absolute ruin. All is lost: his wealth, his ancestral home, his future . . . until he is offered one final wager, one last chance to win everything back: He must seduce, within the week, a mysterious lady he's never met. If he fails, he will not only be ruined, he will also owe these unpleasant men some further, unspecified penalty.
It's the most perilous wager he's ever accepted. Yet how can London's most infamous lover fail, even when his enemies have chosen the lady?
Safely hidden in the English countryside, Juliet knows that desire leads only to disaster. Then a charming stranger beguiles his way into her carefully guarded sanctuary to ask for a single game of chess. She must send him away or risk the destruction of her world, for temptation is Juliet's bitter nemesis and he's the loveliest man she has ever seen.
So why does she agree to play?
An expert seduction is Alden's most brilliant, most heartless, most irresistible skill. He expects to win. She expects betrayal. Neither of them expects to become embroiled in a web of treachery, where unknown enemies have plotted their destruction.
Yet win or lose the infamous wager, surely falling in love isn't even an issue?
After losing the wager, Alden travels to Juliet's village, prepared to risk everything, even his life....
Juliet looked up at a small sound to see him standing among her hollyhocks. Golden. Bright. Glimmering in the sunshine. Vividly male.
A sudden panic clamored for her attention. Mad imagesof fallen angels, of the Heavenly Host singing of glory, of the golden band she had once worn on her fingerjostled and demanded for a moment. Her breath came fast, shivering up from her lungs in hot, angry gasps.
But he is so beautiful!
Damnation! Another man determined to disturb my peace!
Worse: a man of fashioneyes exhilarated, intelligent, wary.
His hair was tied neatly at the back of his neck, but it rippled at the temples where a more elaborate style had been brushed out. The blond waves framed skin with the fashionable pallor of London, enhanced by a small patch high on one cheekbone. Arrogance was reflected in every line of his body, enhanced, not hidden, by the full-skirted riding coat, the tall boots, the fall of white linen at his throat.
A town gentleman, dressed for the country.
His moment of surprised admiration had been masked quickly enough, but it had been there. She had suffered from it all her life. It was the way men always looked at her, as if she were fruit, and ripe, and ready for plucking. Even after she suppressed her moment of panic, it still filled her with fury.
In a movement of pure aristocratic grace, he held out one hand, reddened in the palm, but his face had turned pale as death. His eyes dark with the bodys reflexive, panicked shock, he slid to the path.
Juliet dropped the basket and ran up to him.
A damp sheen glistened on his cheekbones. He tipped his head back, breathing hard, seemingly incapable of movement. She knelt and took his hand. It was supple and long-fingered, with square knuckles and beautiful nails. A hand that further betrayed him: a hand inherited from a long line of nobility who disdained honest labor and valued their sensitive fingertips. Yet several rings had been recently removed. Rings he had worn a long time by the look of the indented traces.
A gentleman down on his luck?
The stinger was steadily working itself into his palm, automatically pumping poison. With a quick scrape, she removed it, but his hand was swelling and the breath whistled in his throat. Alarm reverberated. She had seen this before a few timespeople for whom a bee sting could prove fatal.
Lie quite still where you are, she said. Remain as quiet as possible. I shall be back in a moment.
In her kitchen she grasped a kettle of hot water. Hefting her load in both hands, she hurried back down the path, carrying a cushion, a blanket, some white cloth and the kettle. Fierce, exasperated anger flamed beneath her fearthat a golden prince risked death in her garden after first looking at her with that wicked flash of self-derision, of lust tinged with humor, that had made her knees weaken for a moment.
Her fury was not because the admiration of men did not affect her, but because it did. She could not afford it. She had never understood it. Now it was an intolerable burden, when her only future lay in concealment and denial. Yet sometimes loneliness caught her unawares, like a little beggar child suddenly grasping at her skirt, demanding her attention with heartbreaking need. She knew no defense against that, except anger. The world believed her a widow. Why couldnt men leave her alone?
He lay where shed left him, among the lazy scents of summer.
The sunlight was broken, marking him with dapples where it sifted through the trees, creating one moderately cool spot in her hot garden.
He burned there like a fire.
As she approached he opened eyes blackened into midnight pools and grinned at her. It sent creases into his cheeks, disarming, making her anger seem absurd. The lines of his face were almost severeclean, hard, shaped like a sculpture, easy to barricade againstbut the smile made him human again, even frivolous.
Swallowing her uneasiness, Juliet slipped the pillow under his neck. His hair was the color of the cowslips she used to make wine. Silky under her fingers.
Give me your hand. She poured hot water from the kettle onto her cloth and wrapped the compress over the swelling. Now lie still until you feel stronger. The pain and the weakness will probably pass.
I can . . . stand them, maam. His voice was almost strangled by his erratic breathing. But if they do not?
Then no doubt your heart will stop beating, sir. With relief she noticed there was no feminine tenderness at all in her voice. However, it would be a considerable inconvenience to me if you were to die in my garden, so I pray you will concentrate on maintaining life.
She reached for the folds of his cravat and pulled out the knots. She did not want to touch him, but his tight clothes were a danger to a man in shock.
Her fingers felt clumsy and heavy as she unbuttoned the front of his waistcoat, then opened his shirt at the neck. The strong skin of his throat gleamed smooth and white in the mottled light. She noticed the perfect shape of his jaw at the strangely vulnerable junction where it curved up into his ear and felt a small surge of discomfort, as if she were a young farm girl winked at by a gentleman.
How humiliating to mark such things! So the man was handsome and golden in the sunshine. He was also spoiled by discontent and idleness. There was a petulant scorn to the set of his lips and a permanent disdain bred into the shape of his nostrils. A man of leisure, no doubt, and very probably a wastrel.
His clothes were simple, but sumptuously made, the fabric of his coat rich and thick. Without compunction, she wrenched it off, tugging at the arms. He was firm, superbly fit. So he fenced and rode. Of course. Most gentlemen did, however much they disguised that strength with the gloss of fashion.
His shirtsleeve stretched over his swollen wrist, so she slit the fabric to the elbow with the little knife from her chatelaine. His forearm was strong, carved with muscle beneath a masculine dusting of golden hairs. Juliet tried to ignore the unwelcome intimacy, the unwelcome feelings, but she held a mans naked arm in her bare hand.
The swelling blurred the fine shape, the powerful mesh of wrist to arm.
He was ill.
Steadily, she applied more compresses. Even his shirt was finer than anything in her wardrobe, soft and enticing to touch. So he wasor had recently beena wealthy man. A little tendril of curiosity unfurled. What was he doing in Manston Mingate?
She bit her lip and suppressed the question.
It made no difference. She would be forced into his company for only a few hours of simple nursingand even that was a compromise.
Juliet wanted to be left alone, but she did not want a corpse on her garden path.