BOOK BLURB: Betrayed by her fiancé and her best friend, Lady Diana Haversham’s reputation is left in ruins, and she is unjustly cast out by her family. Left with little choice, she agrees to pretend to be a courtesan to protect her benefactor’s secret. What she didn’t count on was meeting temptation in the form of one Lord Lucas Blackthorn.
Lucas is fascinated by the shameless Diana, whom his friends claim is his perfect counterpart. He can’t stop thinking about her sultry smile and captivating eyes, but what draws him most is the sharp mind she reveals—and the certainty she’s hiding something.
When Lucas learns the scandalous truth, Diana will have to make a life-and-death choice.
REVIEW: Even though this is the third story in a series, you can definitely be read it as a stand alone.
Interesting, entertaining and unique plot is what I liked the best about this story. A strong willed heroine and an unabashedly charming and unapologetic hero and their road to happily ever after, adds a lot of fun to this romance.
Highly recommending it.
Melanie for b2b
Gift ARC provided by the publisher
of a $25 Amazon gift card for one lucky winner!
Heat crept into Diana’s cheeks, and her heart began to pound anew. “It was once, Uncle, and only once. He’d only just asked for my hand, and you specifically ordered me not to discourage his affection for fear of endangering the match with—how did you put it? Ah, yes: ‘female frigidity’.”
Bolingbroke’s beefy face darkened to an ugly purple. “Insolent harlot! You dare cast my own words back at me?”
“I am no harlot!” Diana shouted, past caring. “And you were the one to speak them. Do you deny them now?” She braced herself as he took a step toward her.
Aunt Jane stepped in, her cheeks as pale as parchment, and laid a restraining hand on his sleeve. “Arthur, please—”
“Enough!” shouted Bolingbroke, shaking himself loose with a growl. “I will not tolerate defiance in my household. Not from her, and certainly not from you,” he rasped, shoving a fat finger in his wife’s face and causing her to flinch. “There is more to this than one kiss. Grenville said he’d heard tales concerning her lack of propriety on other occasions from several different men.”
Shock coursed through Diana, swiftly followed by anger. “What men? Who has spoken such lies?”
But her uncle ignored her outraged inquiry. “Being a gentleman, he had refused to believe them—until he’d witnessed it himself. It is an embarrassment not to be borne!”
“But she claims to be innocent,” pleaded Aunt Jane in a small voice. “Surely there must be some way to prove—”
His eyes widened until the whites showed all around his small brown irises, and Diana shook her head slightly, willing her aunt to be silent.
Bolingbroke’s voice was as cold as a cheerless winter’s dawn. “You dare persist in pleading this creature’s case when the stain of her scandal threatens to taint us all? Think of your own children, woman. People will talk of this for years to come. No matter what ‘proof’ is offered, there will always be the question. Even you confessed doubts as to her virtue.”
It was all Diana could do to conceal how deeply this revelation wounded her.
“But she is our niece, Arthur. We cannot—”
“She’s none of my blood!” he snarled, his mouth thinning to a bitter line.
Dread filled Diana, along with icy calm. She knew what was coming. Aunt Jane had been kind after her parents’ deaths and had loved her as best she could, but Bolingbroke had never warmed toward his wife’s orphaned niece. He’d tolerated her, but after assuming the title of viscount last year he’d become insufferable, always reminding her she lived as befitted a lady only because of his charity and sufferance.
Puffing out his chest, he continued, relentless. “I have a responsibility to this family, to my own good name, and I refuse to shirk it. You are to leave this house at once.”
“Arthur!” gasped Aunt Jane. “You cannot cast her out into the street! Think of—”
“Silence!” he thundered, sending flecks of spittle flying. “I will not be prevailed upon to house a wanton trull under my own roof!”
Rejecting the sudden impulse to crumple to the floor, Diana squared her shoulders and stood her tallest. She’d rather die than beg this man for mercy, if such a thing even existed in his cold, empty heart. “I vow before God I’m innocent of any immorality,” she said with quiet dignity. “You accuse me wrongly and will only add to the undeserved slurs against me by refusing to deny them.”
Beneath her withering gaze, he shrank a little. But it wasn’t enough. “I have little choice but to renounce you—for the sake of my own daughters,” he countered, but his tone was less strident than before. It weakened further as she continued to stare him down. “I do it for my family!”
Unbidden, a strangled chuckle rose up in Diana’s throat. “I realize you feel no personal obligation where I’m concerned, Uncle,” she said, placing deliberate emphasis on the familial title, “but despite your fervent wishes otherwise, I am a member of your family.”
Vicious glee kindled in his eyes. “Not anymore.”
Again, Aunt Jane risked censure to do what Diana couldn’t. “Arthur, I beg you to be sensible about this. If she isinnocent…” she trailed off, and for a moment Diana thought she’d fall silent rather than face his anger. But her aunt had more courage than she gave her credit for. “If that is not reason enough, think how others will view us. Remember that you are being considered for the Order of the Garter.” This time when she rested a hand on his arm, Bolingbroke let it stay. “As such, it would be far better to be merciful and be looked upon as overly kind rather than cruel and unfeeling.”
The silence stretched taut between them. Then: “Three days,” he said at last. “I’ll give her three days to settle herself elsewhere. Quietly.” He turned to again address her. “You may take what came with you when you go, as well as your clothing. I want nothing of you to remain in this house.”
“I assume that includes my dowry?” Diana heard herself ask mildly. It was almost as if someone else were forming the words with her lips. Satisfaction seeped into her, warming her as his face registered first surprise and then outrage. That’s right, you greedy bastard! I’ve not forgotten. “My father’s will made provision for seven thousand pounds for my dowry. You’ve held this in trust on my behalf. I am still unwed. As stipulated by the will, the moment you cease to be my guardian, it belongs to me.”
The plum flush returned to his cheeks with alarming swiftness. “Ungrateful little bitch! I have put a roof over your head and food in your mouth for ten damned years!”
But his rage was no match for hers. Diana no longer felt any fear, for she had nothing to lose. What good were clothes and a few pieces of furniture when one had nowhere to put them and no means to feed oneself? “Perhaps I should seek an audience with the king? I’m certain His Majesty would see the daughter of his dear friend, the late Duke of Avondale,” she reminded him. “Perhaps he would award you a fair portion to cover the expense of feeding and clothing a child for ten years—taking into account, of course, that the interest from my dower fund has been accumulating in your coffers for the entire duration—but I’m certain he would not ask me to forfeit the entire amount.”
His lips went white, slowly followed by the rest of his face. Diana knew his accounts would not withstand close scrutiny by the Crown. Even so, the man quickly recovered his bluster. “Do you truly believe His Majesty would tolerate someone like you in his presence? You can be assured he will have heard of your downfall.”
“Naturally, I shall request that the court physician examine me and attest to my innocence,” she said lightly. “And once my name has been cleared of the slander that has besmirched it, I shall protest your undeservedly harsh treatment of me and beg His Majesty to make me a ward of the Crown.”
“You would not dare!” he spluttered.
She smiled her sweetest smile. “In addition to reclaiming my entire dowry, the reinstatement of my good name would be well worth any embarrassment I might have to endure. You, on the other hand…”
“This is extortion!” he shouted. “I should have you—”
AUTHOR BIO: Liana LeFey delights in crafting incendiary tales that capture the heart and the imagination, taking the reader out of the now and into another world.
Liana lives in Central Texas with her dashing husband/hero and their beautiful daughter. She’s also privileged to serve one spoiled rotten feline overlord.
Liana has been devouring romances since she was fourteen and is now thrilled to be writing them for fellow enthusiasts.