BOOK BLURB: Despite being the illegitimate daughter of a prince, Gillian Dryden is happily ignorant of all social graces. After growing up wild in Italy, Gillian has been ordered home to England to find a suitable husband. And Charles Valentine Penley, the excessively proper, distractingly handsome Duke of Leverton, has agreed to help transform her from a willful tomboy to a blushing debutante.
Powerful and sophisticated, Charles can make or break reputations with a well-placed word. But his new protégée, with her habit of hunting bandits and punching earls, is a walking scandal. The ton is aghast . . . but Charles is thoroughly intrigued. Tasked with taking the hoyden in hand, he longs to take her in his arms instead. Can such an outrageous attraction possibly lead to a fairytale ending?
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“Letitia, I’m the one who should be insulted. You rejected me once, and now you’re propositioning me in the middle of a ballroom. Did you really believe I would fall for your tricks again?”
She struggled to control her temper and made a credible job of it. “Poor Charles, you always were a fool. That, I see, has not changed.”
“Well, now that we’ve exchanged a sufficient number of insults, I think—”
Before he could finish, Jack materialized from behind a nearby pillar. “Excuse the interruption,” he said brusquely, “but I need to borrow Leverton.”
Letitia sneered. “You may have him. He’s quite as rude as you are, Lendale, which I had not thought possible.”
Jack laughed. “Up to the old game again, eh, Letitia?” He looked at Charles. “She tried it on me a few weeks ago, if you can believe it.”
Her pale blue gaze brimmed with hatred. “You are no gentleman.”
“And you are no lady, so we’re even,” Jack said in a cheerful voice.
Charles thought she would choke on the spot. And he thought he would choke on the laugh he decided to swallow. “I suppose I should be annoyed that I was her second choice. Again.”
“Consider yourself lucky,” Jack replied. “But enough of this nonsense, old boy. You need to rejoin your party immediately.”
The vague anxiety that had been lurking around the edges of Charles’s consciousness sprang into sharp definition.
“Dear me,” Letitia said in a catty voice. “There is a commotion on the other side of the dance floor, and I believe I see your protégé, Your Grace. She seems to be engaged in some kind of dispute with my husband and Lord Andover.”
When Charles took a hasty step toward the dance floor, Letitia grasped his arm. “Are you sure you want to do that? You know how much you hate scandal, my dear Charles.”
“Letitia, what did you do?” he asked.
She shrugged her beautiful white shoulders. She’d almost destroyed him years ago, and now she’d apparently decided to do it to Gillian.
“Why?” he demanded.
“Because she decided she wanted you, old son,” Lendale said. “And she clearly thought Miss Dryden was an impediment.”
“I don’t have time for this,” Charles said, disgusted. He stalked away, trying to ignore Letitia’s mocking laugh. He wove his way through the crowd, moving as quickly as he could without knocking anyone over.
“Why the hell weren’t you keeping on eye on Gillian?” Charles snapped when Lendale caught up with him.
“I’d just gone off to get some refreshments, for God’s sake. I’d snagged a footman with a tray of drinks when I saw that Letitia had trapped you in her evil snare.”
“You shouldn’t have left Gillian on her own, Jack.”
“She’s your damn responsibility, not mine. Besides, she was with her grandmother the last time I saw her. How the hell was I supposed to know she would get into an argument with one of the greatest morons in London?”
“You have no idea how many ways that blasted girl can get into trouble,” Charles said. “And speaking of Lady Marbury, where is she?”
“There she is,” Jack said, all but pushing a corpulent earl out of their way. They ignored his protests as they hurried to join her.
“Charles, there you are,” she said in a relieved voice. “I stepped away to the retiring room, and I came back to this. You must make Lord Andover go away before Gillian does something dreadful.”
“I intend to,” he said in a grim voice. Unfortunately, he was still several feet away when he saw Gillian’s lips curve up in a smile that made it clear mayhem was about to occur.
By the time he got clear of a gaggle of excited debutantes, Gillian was practically standing on Andover’s toes, saying something that Charles couldn’t hear over the din of the crowd. A moment later, she delivered an outstanding right hook that caught Andover under the chin.
Since the earl was well-known at Gentleman Jackson’s for having a glass jaw, the effect was both predictable and profound. He toppled like a felled tree, straight into a cluster of bystanders, including a footman carrying a tray of champagne goblets. The poor footman tumbled into a middle-aged matron possessed of a well-padded figure, and both went crashing down to the floor, along with the champagne.
“What a nice, flush hit,” Jack said in an admiring voice.
“Do not tell her that,” Charles growled as he elbowed past a pair of girls who were shrieking and fanning themselves in a dramatic fashion.
Jack shot a sly grin at Charles. “I don’t mean to interfere, old boy, but you might want to drop a word in Miss Dryden’s ear that boxing isn’t usually the done thing in the middle of a ballroom.”
“Thank you for that extremely helpful bit of advice, you idiot,” Charles said in a blighting tone.
Jack simply laughed.
Charles stalked up to Gillian, who stood over Andover, flexing her hand. When she glanced up at him, she let out a sigh. At least he thought she sighed, since it was hard to hear anything in the growing pandemonium.
Gillian clasped her hands at her waist and patiently waited, a picture of serene beauty in the midst of chaos.
“Well, Miss Dryden,” Charles said, “now that you’ve provided the main entertainment for the evening, what have you planned for an encore?”
She flicked a glance around the crowded ballroom that seethed with excitement and gossip. Then she looked back at him and shrugged. “I hadn’t thought that far ahead, Your Grace. I am, however, entirely open to suggestion.”
REVIEW: Sicily – 1816
Gillian Dryden, along with her half brother, Griffin Steele, are on the hunt for the man who murdered their stepfather. Antonio Falcone and his men have long been committing murder and mayhem. Gillian has sought justice herself because Falcone has bribed the authorities who refuse to do anything. Just as she successfully shoots and kills the man, she is shot in the shoulder.
London – 1816
Charles Valentine Pensley, Sixth Duke of Leverton, has recently returned to London from his estate in Lincolnshire. Today, he is visiting Lady Marbary, a distant cousin who has just returned to England after living in Italy. Her granddaughter, Gillian, age 21, and Gillian’s mother have returned with her. Gillian is the bastard daughter of the Duke of Cumberland, heir to the Prince Regent. Gillian is not happy about the move to London as she is unfamiliar with the English way of life. Lady Marbary is requesting that Charles teach Gillian how to be a proper English lady so she can find a husband. Taken aback at his aunt’s request, Charles realizes he has little choice in the matter and he realizes that it will be a difficult undertaking knowing the girl’s background.
As Charles learns more about Gillian, he finds she is quite intelligent but lacks the skills of the gently bred young woman, such as playing an instrument, singing, dancing, artistry, and needlework. As if these strikes against her aren’t enough, adding her half brother, Griffin, and his reputation to the mix leaves Charles nearly overwhelmed at the task ahead of him.
After her first reaction of anger that she has to be taught by Charles to be a lady, Gillian soon realizes she has to comply and agrees to do her best to conform. However, we soon find that she is a very stubborn young lady and will do what she wants.
As we meet more characters, we realize that the perfect Charles has a few skeletons in his closet as well. As problems with smugglers on his estate begin to escalate, Gillian can’t help but become involved. Oh, dear. What is she up to now?
I really enjoyed this book. The author has created two terrific characters who provide the reader with lots of chuckles. They are perfect for each other. Another favorite character of mine is Teddy. You will meet him too and I bet you would love to hug him. I know I would.
Connie for b2b
Complimentary copy provided by the author
MINI REVIEW: To say that this was a romance with a twist, is an understatement! Everything from the plot to the characterization of the heroine, was somewhat over the top, yet I loved it!
How could I not to? You had a heroine thirsting for blood and revenge and a hero that’s honorable to the core. Mixing those two was pure delight!
If you’ve never read Vanessa Kelly, I suggest you rectify this omission. She can certainly plot her stories and take you to places you only dream about.
Melanie for b2b
Complimentary copy provided by the publisher
AUTHOR BIO: Vanessa Kelly is an award-winning author who was named by Booklist, the review journal of the American Library Association, as one of the “New Stars of Historical Romance.”
Her Regency-set historical romances have been nominated for awards in a number of contests, and her second book, Sex and The Single Earl, won the prestigious Maggie Medallion for Best Historical Romance.
Her current series, The Renegade Royals is a national bestseller. Vanessa also writes USA Today bestselling contemporary romance with her husband, under the pen name of VK Sykes