Beguiled

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Overview

Ally Grayson never wanted to be a heroine—she dreamed of writing great stories, not living in a fairy tale. But when she's abducted by a charming highwayman right out of a novel, Ally finds herself thoroughly enchanted. No matter that she's betrothed to another—or that she has no intention of binding herself in an arranged marriage anyway.

But when Mark, her burdensome fiancé, is revealed to be none other than the rogue of her dreams, Ally must make a choice: plunge into a world...

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Overview

Ally Grayson never wanted to be a heroine—she dreamed of writing great stories, not living in a fairy tale. But when she's abducted by a charming highwayman right out of a novel, Ally finds herself thoroughly enchanted. No matter that she's betrothed to another—or that she has no intention of binding herself in an arranged marriage anyway.

But when Mark, her burdensome fiancé, is revealed to be none other than the rogue of her dreams, Ally must make a choice: plunge into a world of murder and deceit without a protector, or place her trust in the man who lies to her but makes her heart sing.

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Editorial Reviews

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The Barnes & Noble Review
The murder of three antiroyalists drives the plot of Shannon Drake's historical romance set in the late 1800s, and so does an unlikely romance between a gently raised orphan and a very handsome highwayman. An encounter with the notorious highwayman would send most young Victorian women over the edge, but not Ally Grayson. Still, in a single week, she's been waylaid by the highwayman, found out she was engaged to a stranger (one who couldn't bother to show up for the engagement party), and been cursed. So much for the quiet, genteel life. It turns out both the highwayman and her fiancé, Mark Farrow, are on the hunt for the murderer. Ally seems attracted to both men -- until she realizes Mark is the highwayman. He's determined to keep her out of danger; she's determined not to be shut out of the investigation. She has a few theories of her own. Naturally they put her life in jeopardy, as do the family secrets that must never be revealed. (Note: Shannon Drake is the name Heather Graham uses for her historicals.) Ginger Curwen
Publishers Weekly
Drake turns out another fine historical in this Victorian murder mystery/romance. In the final years of Queen Victoria's reign, a series of murders of outspoken antiroyalists is stirring up hostility toward the crown-not a matter of interest to many young ladies of the 1890s, but gently reared orphan Ally Grayson is a serious writer who takes the matter to heart. That gives her something in common with Mark Farrow, the nobleman she abruptly learns she's been betrothed to marry since childhood, and also with an intriguing highwayman who waylays her coach in the woods; both men are looking for the killer. Ally figures out soon enough that the highwayman and the nobleman are one and the same, but as Mark begins to fall in love with his surprising bride-to-be, he insists on excluding her from his dangerous investigation. But Ally has a mind of her own and is determined to use it, no matter how great the threat to her safety. Bestselling author Drake, the pseudonym used by Heather Graham for her numerous historicals, keeps Ally's relationship with her aunts and godparents playful, forming an intriguing contrast with the grim progress of the murder probe, while satisfying romantic progress and rising suspense keep the book running on all cylinders. (Dec.) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780373771318
  • Publisher: Harlequin
  • Publication date: 12/1/2006
  • Format: Mass Market Paperback
  • Pages: 432
  • Product dimensions: 4.21 (w) x 6.62 (h) x 1.13 (d)

Meet the Author

Shannon Drake grew up in Dade County, Florida, and attended the University of South Florida at Tampa, majoring in theater arts and touring Europe and parts of Asia and Africa as part of her studies. After college, she acted in dinner theaters, modeled, waitressed, and tended bar. After the birth of her third child, she was determined to devote her efforts to her writing: her dream. She sold her first book in 1982.


Today, this author's success is reflected not just by reader response and the over 20 million copies of her books in print, but in many other ways. In addition to being a New York Times bestselling author, Shannon has received numerous awards for her novels, including over 20 trade awards from magazines such as Romantic Times and Affaire de Coeur, bestseller awards from B. Dalton, Waldenbooks, and BookRak, and several Reviewers' Choice and People's Choice awards.


Shannon has appeared on Entertainment Tonight, Romantically Speaking, a TV talk show that aired nationwide on the Romance Classics cable channel, and CBS Sunday News. She has been quoted in People and USA Today, been profiled in The Nation, and featured in Good Housekeeping. Her books have been selections for the Doubleday Book Club and the Literary Guild. She has been published across the world in more than 15 languages and has published over 70 titles, including anthologies and short stories.


Somehow, this prolific author manages to juggle it all--family, career, and marriage--while reaching a level of success to which few can aspire.


Shannon Drake is the pen name for Heather Graham.

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Read an Excerpt


"DOWN WITH THE MONARCHY!"

Ally Grayson could hear the shouting as the carriage slowed. They were passing along the main street of the small village of Sutton, and she had suspected, even as they neared the town, that there might be trouble. Both saddened by the mood of the country and curious, she drew back the curtain of the carriage window.

People were milling about in an angry mood bearing placards that read "End the Reign of Thieves!" and "Royal Murder!" Some trudged the street in silence; others shouted angrily before the fine redbrick building that housed the sheriff's office.

Sour stares met the carriage, but no one moved against it. Ally was on her way to see her godfather, Brian Stirling, Earl of Carlyle, an admired and beloved figure despite the fact he was an ardent supporter of sad and aging Victoria. No one would wield a finger against him, his property or those beneath his protection, as his carriage proclaimed her to be.

Still, the tension in the streets was ugly.

Ally saw several people she recognized. Just outside one of the decaying Tudor houses that were so common in the area, she could see the journalist Thane Grier, not taking part in any way but observing avidly. She took time to observe him herself. He was a tall, handsome man, eager to move up in the world and be recognized as a writer of note. She wasn't at all certain what his opinion on the matter at hand might be, nor would he himself think it mattered. She thought—having read many of his articles—he would report objectively. He was not so determined to be an essayist as he was to be known for his acute eye and sound evaluation of the facts.

"See here!" came a shout from the sheriff himself as he emerged onto the steps in front of his office. "You will all stop this nonsense and go about your business!" he roared. "By God, what have we come to? Circus shows?"

Ally felt sore that the sheriff, Sir Angus Cunningham, would have the power to quiet the crowd. He was a war hero who had been knighted for his service in India. A big man, tall, broad-shouldered—and in the process of acquiring an ample girth—he had a head full of snow-white hair, muttonchops and a distinguished mustache.

Even so, there were a few more rumblings, despite the sheriff's words. "Murder," a woman cried out weakly. "Two men murdered—and them men who spoke out against the waste in Her Majesty's court. Something must be done about a queen who condones—no, orders—such heinous and foul deeds."

Ally couldn't see the woman's face. She was clad in black, a veil observing her features. She was wearing widow's weeds. She did recognize the woman standing next to her, who tried to hush her and draw her into her arms. It was Elizabeth Harrington Prine, widow of Jack Prine, a valiant soldier who had died in South Africa. Through her husband, she owned thousands of acres just west of the forest surrounding the village.

"Murder!" the woman in black shouted again.

Sir Angus didn't get a chance to reply. He was joined on the steps by an ally in the cause of justice, the elderly Lord Lionel Wittburg. Wittburg was taller but thinner, and his hair was pale silver rather than solid white. His reputation, however, reached back almost as long as the queen's reign, and the country had always loved him as a stalwart soldier. He echoed the words that were in Ally's own mind. "How dare you?"

But though he spoke the words full force, Ally sensed he was about to start crying, and she knew why. Hudson Porter—a man with whom he had little in common but who had been a dear comrade from his days in India—was one of the anti-monarchists who had so recently been slain.

A third man joined them. He was far younger, very attractive, a gentleman often seen on the society pages— a man who had the ability to charm those around him. "Please, this is unseemly behavior for good Englishmen. And women," he added with a roguish smile. "There is no call for this, no need for this." He was Sir Andrew Harrington, cousin of the widow trying to give solace to the woman in black. Hudson Porter had not been married, Ally knew, so the woman could not be his widow. A sister, cousin...lover? The other activist who had been slain, Dirk Dunswoody, had been eighty years old if a day at the time of his murder, and in all those years he had remained a bachelor, studying law and medicine, traveling abroad with the queen's army for much of that time. Why he had turned so violently against the monarchy, no one knew, unless it was because he had felt he should have been knighted for his service. Ally knew there had been a strange scandal associated with his name, and in its wake he had been passed over.

"Please, please, everyone. Go about your business. We will solve nothing here, and all of you know that," Sir Angus told the crowd.

There were continued murmurings, but there was movement, as well.

The crowd was apparently dispersing enough for Shelby, Lord Stirling's coachman, valet, assistant and man of all work to drive the carriage through the streets. As he carefully wended his way, Ally saw that Thane Grier, still keeping his silence and his distance, was busy scribbling notes on a pad he pulled from his vest pocket.

She dropped the curtain as they left the small village square behind and headed along the road through the forest.

She didn't notice at first when the carriage began to pick up speed. She had dropped deep into thought, worrying about the state of the realm, then about her own situation. She couldn't help but wonder about the summons that was bringing her to the castle. It undoubtedly had something to do with the fact that her birthday was fast approaching. Though she had considered herself an adult for quite some time, her guardians had wanted to protect her from the world as long as possible, and it was only on this birthday that she would finally be considered an adult in their eyes. She loved those who had raised her and cared for her, but she was eager to have a say in her own life. Though her upbringing had been sheltered, she thrived on newspapers and books, and had savored each of her few excursions into the city, to a world of theaters and museums. She certainly considered herself intelligent and well educated, even if most of that education had taken place in a small school in the country or from the private tutors who had been sent to her humble home deep in the woods.

She had managed a bit of a peek at the real world. Though she had grown up in the care of her three "aunties," she'd also had the benefit of her three sets of godparents. How she had been so blessed, she couldn't even imagine. Three wonderful, sweet women to actually raise her, and as an incredible addition to her life, three couples numbered among the peers of the realm to see that she received the best education and many benefits. Those latter three ladies—Maggie, Kat and Camille—were amazing, unique, and had once been hel-lions, she dared say to herself, even if not to them. She was glad of their wild past, because if they were to become angry when they discovered she had been taking her future into her own hands, she could remind them they were rather modern women themselves. Lady Maggie had defied all convention to minister to the prostitutes in the East End, Camille had met her Lord husband through her work in the Egyptology department at the museum; and Kat had already ventured out on several expeditions to the pyramids of Egypt and even into the Valley of the Kings. They could hardly expect her to be meek and mild and not want to make her own way in the world.

As she brooded, the carriage began to go faster and faster, and finally it began to career madly down the road.

Ally was roused from her meditations when she was slammed from one side to the other. She struggled to find her seat once again, and then held on for dear life. She wasn't afraid, just puzzled.

Was Shelby worried that the protesters who had filled the village square might be coming after them? That couldn't be. Surely he knew that frightened farmers and country shopkeepers would offer no real threat. Especially not when there were such illustrious men as Sir Harrington, Sir Cunningham and Lord Wittburg there to assure them.

So why was Shelby suddenly driving like a maniac?

She frowned, scrambling for balance, and realized that the deaths that had brought on the fear and frenzy in the village were certainly frightening enough. Two men murdered, public figures whose views opposed the Crown and who had pushed for an end to the monarchy. The deaths were terrible, and the times in general were hard. The poor queen, Victoria, aging and still so sad; Prince Edward taking on more and more duties; the threat of war in South Africa again...naturally, people were distraught. For many, poverty and ignorance super-ceded the amazing progress that Victoria's reign had brought in the fields of education and medicine. Workers were protected now, as they had never been before. There were those who protested the allowance given the Royal House. Those who felt that the royals did not do enough to warrant the money spent on the upkeep of their many properties and lavish lifestyle. England had a prime minister and a Parliament, and many felt that should be enough.

With a sharp thunk, a wheel went into a pothole, and she nearly hit the ceiling. What was going on? Shelby wasn't the type to be easily alarmed. He wouldn't be frightened by law-abiding protesters. Then again, the protesters were not the ones actually causing the tremendous unease in the streets and the press at the moment. That unease could be laid at the feet of those trying to inflame the crowd by making people believe that the monarchy was behind the murders of those politicians who were speaking out against them. There were far too many people willing to believe that the Crown was silently behind the murders.

She knew from her studies that anti-monarchists were not new to English politics, and she even understood, at least to some degree, why such a movement had come to the forefront again now. Despite Queen Victoria's determination to bring abstinence and goodness back to the Crown, her children, including her heir, had behaved scandalously. Back in the days of Jack the Ripper, there had even been a theory that her grandson, Prince Albert Victor, was the murderer. Since that day, a very vocal faction of anti-monarchists had not hesitated to step forward. These current murders, said by many to be the monarchy's attempt to quell that faction, had brought the political fever to such a rabid pitch that many of the country's sanest politicians were warning that there must be compromise and temperance, or there would be civil war.

Ally had never met the queen, but from all she had seen and heard, she couldn't believe that the woman who had brought such progress to her empire and still mourned a husband lost decades ago could be guilty of such horror.

But for all her knowledge of history and politics, she realized, she still had no idea why the carriage was racing so terrifyingly fast.

Suddenly, with a jerk, the carriage began to slow. Surely, she thought, this could have nothing to do with the furor going on because two men, two politicians and writers who had viciously slandered the queen, had been found dead, their throats slit. Or with the distraught people in the streets, bearing their signs to protest the queen and Prince Edward. No, the cause of this had to be quite different, and if so...

If so, she knew the answer.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 1, 2006

    Beguiled

    England is in a turmoil. The anti-monarchists are causing political furror and a mysterious killer is eliminating those who support the crown. If they could find out who A.Anonymous was, he or she would probably be on the killer's hit list, but the outspoken editorial writer lives in relative safety under their pseudonym. No one would guess the author to be Ally Grayson, a very proper, engaged young lady. Ally has dreams of being a great writer, ala Conan Doyle, but imagines her only adventures will be on paper until a highwayman kidnaps her and wins her heart. Unfortunately, she has an arranged marriage in her near future, and her fiance', Mark, is just not as exciting as the stranger. Or is he? Little does she know, the man to whom she is engaged is the man she loves and is trying to keep both England and her safe using his secret identity. Nor does she comprehend how much danger there is. Of course, Mark does not realize how much he needs her yet, either. .............. *** The idea of a 'love triangle' involving the heroine, the hero, and one or the other's secret identity is not a new one, but it is not common in historical novels. It is still an intriguing device, well combined here with a complex mystery and interesting historical insights. Ms. Drake's loyal fans will be pleased, and new readers should be as well. ***

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 24, 2008

    AMAZING

    I found this book entrancing. I felt that Shannon Drake wrote in a way that made me feel like I was realy there and I have recomended my friends read this book

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 27, 2008

    Decent Enough.....

    Alexandra Grayson is a ward of Brian Stirling, the Earl of Carlyle, and lives comfortably in small forest cottage with three lovable aunts. She possesses a plethora of close friends and guardians who wish nothing more than to see her married to a respectable gentleman. Ally, wishes that her friends and family would see her as the intelligent woman she is, rather than the marriage prize for some stuck up aristocrat. It is for this reason that she begins working as a free lance essayist under the pseudonym A. Anonymous. One day, while enroute to her own surprise engagement party, Ally's carriage is attacked by a dashing highwayman who charms himself right into her heart. He could not be more different than her stuffy fiance, Mark Farrow.....or so she thinks. Ally soon discovers that her handsome criminal, and her seemingly boring husband to be are one in the same. Mark in turn discovers Ally's secret identity as the controversial A. Anonymous. But when Ally's life is threatened by a madman who is murdering journalists who speak out against the monarchy Mark comes to her rescue. He opens not only his home to her, but his heart as well. They quickly fall in love and must fight to keep Ally safe from a deadly murderer. I was at first apprehensive about starting Beguiled because it received pretty mediocre reviews. I'll admit that even though I'm not raving about this book, i was nevertheless pleasantly surprised. Mark is an honorable and exciting male lead and Ally is rebellious but not irritating in the least. Despite the lovely characters in this book I found myself bored by the secondary plot involving the murders. The romance aspect took a back seat to longwinded interrogation scenes and boring investigations. The last sixty or so pages were pretty much pointless. Ally and Mark cemented their love for each other and I easily guessed the identity of the killer so there was really no excitement in the climax. I really can't say anything bad about this book, but all the same there was nothing particularly special about it either.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 5, 2007

    Couldn't put it down

    This story was captivating. The interaction between Ally and Mark was quite comical in the beginning. Ally is a no nonsense girl ready to put her man in his place. Very refreshing.

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  • Posted December 9, 2008

    more from this reviewer

    A terrific historical romance

    The English monarchy is in jeopardy from a growing opposition to a kingdom. Even more horrific is that someone is targeting supporters of the crown, killing anyone who even tenuously seems to support the royals. One person this serial killer would like to assassinate is editorial writer A. Anonymous who apparently thinks the monarchy brings something special to England.-------------------------- Most people assume A. Anonymous is a male royal, but instead the author is truly an anonymous proper female author with dreams of becoming a great writer. Ally Grayson is engaged to prim and proper Mark with no hopes for adventures except in her writings. That is until a mysterious highwayman abducts her. Whether it is the Stockholm syndrome or not Ally falls in love with her kidnapper. Unbeknownst to her, her captor is also her fiancé, who works secretly to keep their homeland safe from internal terrorists and his beloved from harm¿s way as the royal assassin has targeted A. Anonymous.-------------------- This is a terrific historical romance starring a brave heroine and a courageous hero inside an action-packed fast-paced plot. Mark is delightful as he loves his fiancée but hides his identity from her to his chagrin and jealousy Ally falls in love with his dashing alter ego. Fans will enjoy this delightful tale wondering how the lead couple will resolve their romantic entanglement as much as who is plotting to destroy the monarchy.-------------- Harriet Klausner

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 21, 2006

    FANTASTIC!!

    This is my first Shannon Drake novel, and I did not realize what I have been missing! Ally Grayson is the perfect feisty heroine, and Mark Farrow is the perfect noble hero. Shannon Drake definitely knows how to tell a story. 'Beguiled' has just the right amount of humour, suspense, drama, and, of course, romance. One of my favourite scenes include the encounters between Ally and the 'highwayman'. And one of my favourite aspects of this novel is the fact that heroine and the hero realize that they are in-love early on in the story and were not afraid to say so. After reading countless romance novels, this scenario is almost unique. Overall, 'Beguiled' is a fantastic read! I could not put it down and read it in one night!

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