Almost Heaven

Almost Heaven

4.6 95
by Judith McNaught

View All Available Formats & Editions

In this classic novel of two willful lovers caught in a breathless adventure of deception and betrayal, #1 New York Times bestselling author Judith McNaught has created a powerful and unforgettable masterpiece.
The Countess of Havenhurst possessed a rare gentleness and fierce courage to match her exquisite beauty. But her reputation…  See more details below


In this classic novel of two willful lovers caught in a breathless adventure of deception and betrayal, #1 New York Times bestselling author Judith McNaught has created a powerful and unforgettable masterpiece.
The Countess of Havenhurst possessed a rare gentleness and fierce courage to match her exquisite beauty. But her reputation is shattered when she is discovered in the arms of Ian Thornton, a notorious gambler and social outcast.
A dangerously handsome man of secret wealth and mysterious lineage, his voyage to Elizabeth's heart is fraught with intrigue, scandal, and a venomous revenge.
Destined for each other, yet wary of each other's motives, Elizabeth and Ian engage in a dance of suspicion and passion that tests the very soul of their star-crossed love. As a twisting path of secrets takes them from London's drawing rooms to the mysterious Scottish Highlands, Elizabeth must learn the truth: is Ian merely a ruthless fortune hunter at heart?

Read More

Editorial Reviews

Houston Chronicle
Judith McNaught's novels tranascend all boundaries of the romance genre.
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Well-developed main characters with a compelling mutual attraction give strength and charm to this romance set in 19th-century Great Britain. When orphaned Lady Elizabeth Cameron is discovered in the arms of Ian Thornton, said to be a gambler and blackguard, her reputation is destroyed. Elizabeth's half-brother shoots Ian in a duel and disappears, while she becomes an outcast. Finally her uncle decides to marry her off, dangling a generous dowry to entice former suitors to reinstate their offers. A bungling secretary erroneously accepts on behalf of scornful Ian, so, baggage and duenna in tow, Elizabeth lands at the door of Ian's hunting lodge. They eye each other warily, irritation and sheer bafflement vying with passion. McNaught is at her best with these two willful lovers; and fans should welcome the reappearance of Jordan and Alexandra Townsende (from bestseller Something Wonderful ) . Fastidious readers may be irked when McNaught's prose plummets into ``the stormy splendor of the pagan kiss'' or by an occasional anachronism. (Apr.)

Product Details

Pocket Books
Publication date:
Edition description:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
4.20(w) x 6.60(h) x 1.70(d)

Read an Excerpt

"Chapter One"

Fifteen servants wearing the traditional blue and silver livery of the Earl of Cameron left Havenhurst at dawn on the same day. All of them carried identical, urgent messages that Lady Elizabeth's uncle, Mr. Julius Cameron, had directed them to deliver at fifteen homes throughout England.

The recipients of these messages all had only one thing in common: They had once offered for Lady Elizabeth's hand in marriage.

All fifteen of these gentlemen, upon reading the message, exhibited shock at its contents. Some of them were incredulous, others derisive, and still others cruelly satisfied. Twelve of them promptly wrote out replies declining Julius Cameron's outrageous suggestion, then they hurried off in search of friends with whom they could sham this unsurpassed, delicious piece of incredible gossip.

Three of the recipients reacted differently.

Lord John Marchman had just returned from his favorite daily pastime of hunting when the Havenhurst servant arrived at his home, and a footman brought him the message. "I'll be damned," he breathed as he read. The message stated that Mr. Julius Cameron was desirous of seeing his niece, Lady Elizabeth Cameron, suitably and immediately wed. To that end, Mr. Cameron said he would now be willing to reconsider John's previously rejected offer for Lady Elizabeth's hand. Cognizant of the year and a half that had passed since they had been in each other's company, Julius Cameron volunteered to send his niece, properly chaperoned, to spend a night with John so that they might "renew their acquaintance."

Unable to believe what he was reading, Lord Marchman paced the floor and read the entire message twice more. "I'll be damned," he said again. Raking a hand through his sandy hair, he glanced distractedly at the wall beside him, which was completely covered with his most prized possessions -- the heads of the animals he'd hunted in Europe and abroad. A moose stared back at him through glazed eyes; beside it a wild boar snarled. Reaching up, he scratched the moose behind its antlers in an affectionate, if ludicrous, gesture that expressed his gratitude for the splendid day of hunting that particular prize had afforded him.

A vision of Elizabeth Cameron danced enchantingly before his eyes -- an incredibly lovely face with green eyes, cameo skin, and soft, smiling lips. A year and a half ago, when he'd met her, he'd thought her the most beautiful girl he'd ever seen. After meeting her only twice he'd been so taken with the charming, unaffected seventeen-year-old girl that he'd dashed off to her brother and offered for her, only to be coldly rejected.

Evidently Elizabeth's uncle, who was now her guardian, judged John by different standards.

Perhaps the lovely Lady Elizabeth herself had been behind this decision; perhaps their two meetings in the park had meant as much to her as they had to him.

Getting up, John wandered over to the third wall, which held a variety of fishing poles, and thoughtfully selected one. The trout would be biting this afternoon, he decided as he remembered Elizabeth's magnificent honey-colored hair. Her hair had glistened in the sunlight, reminding him of the shimmering scales of a beautiful trout as it breaks the water. The analogy seemed so perfect and so poetic that Lord Marchman stopped, spellbound by his own phrasing, and put the fishing pole down. He would compliment Elizabeth's hair in exactly those words, he decided, when he accepted her uncle's offer and she came to his home next month.

Sir Francis Belhaven, the fourteenth recipient of Julius Cameron's message, read it while sitting in his bedchamber wrapped in a satin dressing gown, his mistress naked and waiting for him in his bed across the room.

"Francis, darling," she purred, raking her long fingernails down the satin sheets, "what's important enough about that message to keep you over there instead of here?"

He looked up and frowned at the sound her nails were making. "Don't scratch the sheets, love," he said. "They cost £30 apiece."

"If you cared about me," she countered, careful not to sound as if she was whining, "you wouldn't give a thought to the cost." Francis Belhaven was so tightfisted that there were times Eloise wondered if marrying him would gain her more than a gown or two a year.

"If you cared about me," he countered smoothly, "You'd be more careful with my coin."

At five and forty Francis Belhaven had never been married, but he'd never lacked for feminine companionship. He enjoyed women immensely -- their bodies, their faces, their bodies...

Now, however, he needed a legitimate heir, and for that he needed a wife. During the last year he'd been giving a good deal of thought to his rather stringent requirements for the lucky young lady he would eventually choose. He wanted a young wife as well as a beautiful wife with money of her own so she wouldn't squander his.

Glancing up from Julius's message, he gazed hungrily at Eloise's breasts and mentally added a new requirement for his future wife: She must be understanding about his sensual appetite and his need for variety on his sexual menu. It would not do for her to pucker up like a prune merely because he was involved in one trivial little affair or another. At the age of forty-five, he had no intention of being ruled by some chit with pious notions of morality and fidelity.

A vision of Elizabeth Cameron was superimposed against his naked mistress. What a lush little beauty she'd been when he'd offered for her nearly two years ago. Her breasts had been ripe, her waist tiny, her face... unforgettable. Her fortune...adequate. Since then gossip had it that she was practically destitute after her brother's mysterious disappearance, but her uncle had indicated that she would bring a sizable dowry, which meant the gossip was as wrong as always.


Arising, he walked over to the bed and sat down beside Eloise. Caressingly he laid a hand on her hip, but he reached for the bell pull with his other hand. "A moment, my darling," he said as a servant rushed into the bedchamber. He handed over the note and said, "Instruct my secretary to send an affirmative reply."

The last invitation was forwarded from Ian Thornton's London town house to Montmayne, his country estate, where it appeared on his desk among a mountain of business and social correspondence awaiting his attention. Ian opened Julius Cameron's missive while he was in the midst of rapid-fire dictation to his new secretary, and he did not take nearly so long to make a decision as Lord John Marchman or Sir Francis Belhaven.

He stared at it in utter disbelief while his secretary, Peters, who'd only been with him for a fortnight, muttered a silent prayer of gratitude for the break and continued scribbling as fast as he could, trying futilely to catch up with his employees dictation.

"This," said Ian curdy, "was sent to me either by mistake or as a joke. In either case, it's in excruciatingly bad taste." A memory of Elizabeth Cameron flickered across Ian's mind -- a mercenary, shallow little flirt with a face and body that had drugged his mind. She'd been betrothed to a viscount when he'd met her. Obviously she hadn't married her viscount -- no doubt she'd jilted him in favor of someone with even better prospects. The English nobility, as he well knew, married only for prestige and money, then looked elsewhere for sexual fufillment. Evidently Elizabeth Cameron's relatives were putting her back on the marriage block. If so, they must be damned eager to unload her if they were willing to forsake a title for Ian's money....That line of conjecture seemed so unlikely that Ian dismissed it. This note was obviously a stupid prank, perpetrated, no doubt, by someone who remembered the gossip that had exploded over that weekend house party -- someone who thought he'd find the note amusing.

Completely dismissing the prankster and Elizabeth Cameron from his mind, Ian glanced at his harassed secretary who was frantically scribbling away. "No reply is necessary," he said. As he spoke he flipped the message across his desk toward his secretary, but the white parchment slid across the polished oak and floated to the floor. Peters made an awkward dive to catch it, but as he lurched sideways all the other correspondence that went with his dictation slid off his lap onto the floor. "I -- I'm sorry, sir," he stammered, leaping up and trying to collect the dozens of pieces of paper he'd scattered on the carpet. "Extremely sorry, Mr. Thornton," he added, frantically snatching up contracts, invitations and letters and shoving them into a disorderly pile.

His employer appeared not to bear him. He was already rapping out more instructions and passing the corresponding invitations and letters across the desk. "Decline the first three, accept the fourth, decline the fifth. Send my condolences on this one. On this one, explain that I'm going to be in Scotland, and send an invitation to join me there, along with directions to the cottage."

Clutching the papers to his chest, Peters poked big face up on the opposite side of the desk. "Yes, Mr. Thorton!" he said, trying to sound confident. But it was hard to be confident when one was on one's knees. Harder still when one wasn't entirely certain which instructions of the morning went with which invitation or piece of correspondence.

Ian Thornton spent the rest of the afternoon closeted with Peters, heaping more dictation on the inundated clerk.

He spent the evening with the Earl of Melbourne, his future father-in-law, discussing the betrothal contract being drawn up between the earl's daughter and himself.

Peters spent part of his evening trying to learn from the butler which invitations his employer was likely to accept or reject.

Copyright © 1990 by Eagle Syndication Inc.

Read More

Customer Reviews

Average Review:

Write a Review

and post it to your social network


Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See all customer reviews >

Almost Heaven 4.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 93 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Even 50 stars can't do this book justice.I'm yet to find a book to rival Almost Heaven. I still remember the first time I read it: it made me laugh and cry with the two main protagonists and sometimes it made me want to strangle them whenever they were being hurtful to each other.It showed just how much these special hero and heroine affected me all the way to the soul with their depths and characterisations. I never cared for other couples like the way I did for Ian and Elizabeth. Ian is not the usual romance hero. Yes, he's arrogant, tough,stubborn, indomitable, ruthless, world-weary and unable to trust easily (you know, the usual characteristics of a JM hero), but he possesses other things that make him stand head and shoulders above the other JM heroes, if not above the rest of other heroes that have ever been written. He's a genius who can calculate in his head and read a book faster than lightning, he teach the heroine about love, he's able to see his opponents' point of view that makes it easy for him to defeat them, he loves Elizabeth shamelessly and unconditionally from the very beginning and is very proud of her.In fact,there are thousands other reasons that make him stand out from the rest. A very special and magnificent man he is: lover, husband, teacher, student, genius, artist, tycoon and many other things. Elizabeth, Countess of Havenhurst, is too, a very special heroine. Beautiful, intelligent, proud, stubborn, sweet, free-sprited, optimistic, adventurous and has an extraordinary ability in bargaining. Like the hero, she's strong and possesses qualities that endear her to me. She's Ian saving grace, and watching Ian falling deeper and deeper in love with her and struggling towards her love and warmth sent chills up my spine. She has a less-than-perfect childhood and lives in lonely splendour,pretending her dolls to be her friends and God really knows what he's doing when he gives her Ian, a man who gives her love so fierce and absolute. Ian and Elizabeth are two proud, stubborn, unconventional,alive and breathing people (not two gorgeous, beautiful models-but real people). They fight fate to be together and overcome many obstacles that I loved them so much the first time I read their book. I loved them more the second time I read it. And everytime I finished reading, I had this..fuzzy..feeling and contentment that would't go away. Almost Heaven is a book with multi-dimensional plot. A powerfully moving love story, and it's a keeper for me and I'll cherish it forever. I would definitely recommend this to everyone, especially to non-romance readers so that they'll know that romance novels are not rubbish. Treat yourself to Almost Heaven and it's romance at it's absolute best. And lastly to Judith, thank you for bringing me into the lives of Ian and Elizabeth Thornton.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
It is pretty unfair and annoying that Judith McNaught will not allow her loyal followers the priviledge of reading her works on their nooks.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I really liked this book.Its one of those you cant put down once you start.Ian has a great sense of humor and the book makes you laugh, wanna cry and keeps you in suspence the whole time.Very very good!! Try to read the 3 books in order :Once & Always,Something Wonderful then Almost Heaven.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I found this book on a lonely shelf at a thirft shop. When I started reading it, I began thinking that it was a typical Regency novel. Suddenly I couldn't put it down for any reason. I absolutely loved Elizabeth and Ian's first encounter. Apart from Elizabeth and Ian, I would have to say that my favorite character was the Duke of Stanhope. The epilogue, in my opinion, had to be the highlight of the story. To anyone who gets their hands on this book: You are about to read a soon-to-be classic.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I delayed reading the epilogue for a full day because I just didn't want this story to end. It took me as long to read 2 chapters as it did 30. It is one of those stories, so perfect, that one is left with a sense of loss, of melancholy, when finished. Sheer perfection.
PennylayneOH More than 1 year ago
Loved every minute of this book. Judith McNaught knows romance.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
OSfanbook More than 1 year ago
Just what you'd expect of her novels. Interesting characters and a strong force driving them towards each other.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I recently purchased Almost Heaven - again.  Owned and read it several years ago.  It's one of my favorites.  JM is absolutely the best.  Only wish her books were available as e-books.  
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
oferia More than 1 year ago
love it
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is one of my favorites from Judith McNaught, who is my absolute favorite regency author. The characters are wonderful. She always writes in a way that makes me fall in love with the heroine and most importantly the hero. I've read this book several times and still get excited at some parts and choked up at others. It's an absolute MUST READ for anyone who likes regency romance!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Christy_G More than 1 year ago
I love this book. It is by far my favorite that she has ever written. I love all of her books, but there is something about this story that just captures the heart and breaths lives into the soul. Words cannot describe the emotions that you feel while reading the book. It is one of those books that you are required to have a box of kleenex and a day to just read. I could not put it down. The characters are so real and you are right there with them. If you have never read a romance book before then this is the one to start with. Judith McNaught is a master at her best.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
shanin More than 1 year ago
Judith McNaught never disappoints. This book is beautifully written, the characters engaging, and the story intersting.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago