Lady Ophelia longs to be independent, daring and bold, but her mother’s illness has stolen the last of her creative fire. Condemned to an isolated country cottage after the death of her idealistic father, she and her mother are forsaken by family and all of society. Disappointed by those she once trusted, Lady Ophelia lovingly nurses her dying mother knowing that her own dreams of being an artist will never be realized. That is until she meets a devilish aristocrat who reawakens her desire to be wild.
Viscount Stark has never known love. Reputed to be a rebel and a rake by all, at heart he is anything but. When he meets Lady Ophelia, he is struck by her haunting presence, dignity, and honor. Will he continue to play his wicked games and risk ruining the last of Lady Ophelia’s wounded heart? Or will he dare to be the gentleman he always wanted to be and unveil a love he never thought possible?
“You’re a perfect stranger,” she said.
“I came upon you for a reason, or are you one of those strange modern people who believe that all is at random?” He stroked back a lock of damp, fiery red hair clinging to her cheek. “That there is no order, and that the soul is a figment of our desperate pinings for meaning to our seemingly meaningless world?”
“You speak the words of a poet,” she whispered.
“And you shall have consumption if we don’t get you out of these soaked garments.” He set her down, making certain her feet had found purchase upon the soft earth before turning her and working at the lacings of her gown.
“What are you doing?” she gasped.
“Ensuring you don’t die of exposure.”
“By taking off my frock?”
“Yes, and giving you my coat.” His usually sure fingers stumbled over the lacings. How many women had he extricated from their far more elaborate clothes? More than he could ever recall. But this woman? Trepidation dumbed his movements. “Then I shall see you home. Is that acceptable?”
She hesitated then replied,“It seems logical.”
“I am nothing if not logical,” he teased.
“I somehow doubt that, sir.”
“My lord, actually,” he corrected.
“I beg your pardon?”
Slowly, carefully, painfully, he worked the laces of her bodice, not daring to allow his fingers to wander over her delicate back as he exposed her flesh. With each inch of damp undergarment he exposed, he found his brain flying off and something quite different taking over his actions. And it wasn’t exactly lust. Lust he knew quite well, and this burning was not just one of bodily desire, but the mystifying possibility that he had found a better reflection to his damaged soul. Could fate be at work here? The circumstances certainly were remarkable.
He leaned in, bending his head down to accommodate for the several inches of difference in their heights, and whispered, “My lord Viscount Stark, if you must know.”
She tensed but didn’t pull from his grasp. “How fortunate for you, my lord viscount.”
The fabric of her gown peeled away from her corset and chemise, which had become transparent. He ached to slip his fingers beneath the thin fabric and caress the delicate skin of her back, but he refrained. “Yes, it is. I promised whilst you were in the river to tell you who I am. No prince, alas.”
Her shoulders straightened, a strange prickliness giving her body starch. “Princes, I should think, are far and few between.”
“So are lords.”
“Lords seem to be everywhere,” she countered, a brittle note to her voice.
“You know many?”
“I know enough.”
“Enough to have clearly harbored an unfavorable disposition toward them?” he observed dryly.
“Please, just continue on with your task.” She shivered, and a delightful display of chilled skin mirrored what she might look like when overcome with desire. It was a damned appealing image.
He teased his fingers along the base of the wool bodice, inching it away from her white corset and chemise, sliding it down her arms. “You can continue to call me sir or mister, if it gives you more pleasure.”
She tossed her head at that, her hair, the color of the setting sun, flying over his hands. “What I call you does not change who you are.”
The feel of her slightly wet, silken locks stole his breath. The waist-length strands spilled over his fingers. He longed to wind them with his palm, grip her nape and take her sweetness in a wicked kiss. “I suppose not. What shall I call you?”
“Ophelia, of course.”
He frowned. There was more to her name. He felt certain of it. “Yes, but—”
“Plain Ophelia will do.”
“You could hardly ever be called plain.”
She was so unlike the other women of his acquaintance, fanciful and strange. He couldn’t help himself. He liked her. Andrew gazed down at her through heavy-lidded eyes, the air about them growing tangible with his growing desire for her.
“Come now,”he said. “Has no one ever told you of your beauty?”
She flushed, heady at his nearness. Whether she realized it or not, she tilted her head back slightly, her lips parting, baring the slightest hint of pink tongue. “You are so. . .”
“Handsome?” he teased.
Andrew drew her to him and lowered his mouth to hers. Unthinking, he took her lips, kissing with a softness he had not felt in a decade. It made no sense, the desire to meld her body to his own.
The taste of her was sweet, mint leaves and unsurety, as she gasped against his assault. Her hands gripped his arms, hard at first, but then she yielded, her body pliant.
A pleasure so great he could scarce countenance it overwhelmed him. She was the answer to his unknowing pleas that he find solace in this broken world.
And how could he ever let that go?
REVIEW: Let me start this review by addressing the cover. I’m not a fan of this cover but I am a HUGE fan of this author. I’ve read, or more like gobbled up, everything she’s written so far and I’m sure I always will.
Even though she’s an ‘up and coming’ romance author, she is someone to watch out for. Her writing style is unique as much as her characters are; her stories are well written, researched and plotted while she still manages to populate them with characters that are strong, appealing and intriguing.
This is a short novella that does an excellent job in introducing us to the new Wicked Games series, and I could go on in praising Ms. Claremont’s skills in telling a compelling, touching and heart wrenching story of two people who are thirsting, craving affection and love, which they finally satisfy with each other, but I’ll leave that for the other reviewers.
What I want to do here is use this opportunity and tell you why this novella was written and try to compel you to buy it.
You see, this author wrote it to raise $10,000 for donation to Hospice. Many of you may not know, but her mother and father died losing their battle with cancer, both spending some months on Hospice. She says “It’s such an incredible organization and I don’t know how my mom or dad and I would have made it without the support of the staff. It’s wonderful that so many people raise money for cancer prevention! But I also think it’s important to help those who’ve sadly reached a point in which terminal illness is the reality. Death is expensive and painful. Thankfully Hospice helps with nursing, counselors, medication, and sometimes even bills. They provide relief for the caretaker. I can’t tell you how huge that is. I’m sure many of you already know. So, together, let’s help make the crossing over of a terminally ill person a little more peaceful, a little more loving, a little more free of fear.”
Now, how can we not help after such a heartwarming plea? I for one am honored to do so, especially after having a personal knowledge of what Hospice is all about. I had my mother, mother-in-law and my aunt benefit from the loving care of wonderful people from Hospice. While I hope to God you never have to go through what our families did, I also pray that if you do, you may be assured that Hospice is an organization that will always be there for you, as it was for us.
Melanie for b2b
Complimentary copy provided by the author