"London's love story is tense and tender, held aloft by endearing, dynamic characters."
Publishers Weekly on The Perils of Pursuing a Prince
Lady Phoebe Fairchild is well aware that the ton would be appalled to learn of a young lady of quality involved in a trade. Therefore, she resorts to selling her beautiful handmade gowns under a fictitious name: Madame Dupree. So when circumstances force her to visit the estate of William Darby, the Viscount of Summerfield, to design ball gowns for his sisters,… See more details below
Lady Phoebe Fairchild is well aware that the ton would be appalled to learn of a young lady of quality involved in a trade. Therefore, she resorts to selling her beautiful handmade gowns under a fictitious name: Madame Dupree. So when circumstances force her to visit the estate of William Darby, the Viscount of Summerfield, to design ball gowns for his sisters, she assumes Madame's identity. Phoebe's discomfort in her new position as hired help is nothing compared to her visceral attraction to the viscount himself. Heathenishly handsome and shamelessly seductive, Will invites her to be his mistress and Phoebe is shockingly tempted to accept. But as their desire for each other grows and the risk of exposure becomes even greater, Phoebe is in dire danger of losing her reputation, her livelihood and her chance of becoming the bride of the man whose passion has claimed her forever.
"London's love story is tense and tender, held aloft by endearing, dynamic characters."
Publishers Weekly on The Perils of Pursuing a Prince
With this singular, outstanding Regency romance, London concludes the Desperate Debutante series at the top of her game. Lady Phoebe Fairchild is a talented seamstress who sews dresses for an exclusive London Bond Street shop, but knows that if her job is revealed, it will expose her family's financial woes to the tonand ruin their reputation-not to mention Phoebe's marriage prospects. Knowing this, her employer threatens to expose Phoebe if she refuses to travel to rural Bedfordshire to sew gowns at the home of William Darby, Viscount Summerfield. Phoebe reluctantly agrees, and posing as widowed dressmaker Madame Dupree, she travels to Summerfield's estate to create gowns for his wild, untamed sisters. Soon, Phoebe and Will are involved in an intense affair that's very likely doomed, as Will must wed a noblewoman-which Phoebe is, but Madame Dupree is not. Should she reveal her deceit, making her a worthy bride for Summerfield? Or should she keep up the charade, lest he despise her for her duplicity? As London explores the intricate, authentic-feeling relationships blossoming among the players, her masterful ability to bring characters to life makes this romance entirely absorbing. (Nov.)Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
William Darby, Viscount Summerfield, Baron Ivers, rode the last mile to Wentworth Hall full bore. The letter from his father's secretary was in his breast pocket, stained red by the sands of the Egyptian desert, smelling of salt from the passage across the Mediterranean, and tattered at the folds from Will's frequent reading of it.
The earl has suffered a terrible fit of apoplexy that has left him paralyzed. You are needed at home, sir.
In the six years since Will had left Wentworth Hall to take his grand tour of Europe a tour his father had urged a restless young man of two and twenty to take before duty and responsibility claimed him he'd received many letters from his father. In the first letters, the earl had exulted in the sights Will had seen and the adventures he'd experienced, as related weekly in a letter home. The tour was supposed to have lasted two years, but Will had gone on to India instead of coming home as expected, and his father's letters had changed in tone. While the earl still enjoyed the tales of Will's travels, he often reminded his son of his responsibility to his family and as the future Earl of Bedford, and asked him to come home.
Will always wrote that he would, and truly, he always meant to come home. But invariably he'd meet a fellow traveler who would feed his wanderlust with a tale of the Himalayas or searching for treasure in the oases of Africa, and Will would be off again.
In the last two years, his father's letters had cajoled and pleaded with Will to come home and marry as he ought, to provide an heir before it was too late, before the earl was gone. His father professed a longing to hold his grandchild in his arms. Will was confident he would fulfill that wish, but he believed there was ample time for marrying and fathering children.
Then had come the last letter from Mr. Carsdale, the earl's secretary. It was delivered to Will in a Bedouin tent by his loyal manservant, Addison, who had been with him since his eighteenth year and had traveled the world with him regardless of whether he liked it or not. Addison had come from Cairo on a Bedouin train and was wearing a kaffiyeh wrapped around his head, his clothing and eyes red from the stinging sand. When Will read the letter, the words seemed to sag on the vellum under the weight of what they related.
He'd left Egypt at once, of course. He'd taken the arduous Bedouin route to the sea, and had booked passage on a ship that sailed through a stormy sea and the Straits of Gibraltar, which had almost cost him his life when the clipper was shipwrecked. It had taken him three months to reach England's shores. Another week was spent purchasing a horse and arranging to have his things and Addison sent to Wentworth Hall, and yet another week riding across the rain-soaked English countryside.
At last, Will and Fergus the Welsh pony he'd acquired were riding up the lane to the majestic hall that had housed his ancestors for centuries. The sight of the mansion warmed his heart. It was built in the shape of an H, and stood four stories high. Ivy covered the corners, and row upon row of six-foot paned windows looked out across the woodlands, the deer park, and the fields where the estate's sheep and cattle grazed.
He reined to a hard stop in the drive, surprised and unsettled that no footman or groom hurried to attend him. Will flung himself off Fergus, shoved his cloak over his shoulder, and reached for the letter. Clutching it in his gloved hand, he vaulted up the steps to the double-door entry, flung them open, and strode inside.
The foyer was empty. Completely empty devoid of furniture and accoutrements. The only things left were the very large paintings of mythical scenes that filled an entire wall. Will walked on, vaulting up the stairs to the family rooms on the first floor. But as he reached the first-floor landing, he stopped, unable to comprehend what he was seeing. A broken chair was lying on its side. Papers were strewn across the carpet as if they'd been scattered by wind. A large black area in the carpet appeared to be the result of a burn, and the candles in their wall sconces had been left too long, the wax having melted onto the silk wall coverings and the carpet beneath them.
Stunned, Will moved on, pausing to look in every room and finding them in the same condition. The rooms smelled musty, as if they had not been aired in months. The sitting room was strewn with trash and books and, inexplicably, ladies' shoes. In the grand salon, furniture had been shoved up against the walls and it looked as if a game of lawn bowling had been interrupted, with balls scattered across the floor and a porcelain vase lying in pieces.
He reached the library last. In that room, books were out of their shelves and stacked in various configurations; a thick layer of dust on the floor was marked with foot traffic.
Will turned slowly in a circle, taking it all in, trying to make sense of it. As he turned toward the hearth, where a mound of blankets had been piled, he caught sight of a figure rising from the chaise longue. It was a young woman whom he'd obviously awakened. She stood up, blinking at him. Her gown was too small for her lanky frame and it looked rather old. Her hair was pinned awkwardly to the back of her head, and her blue eyes were the only spots of color in her pale face. But something struck him as familiar, and Will squinted at her. "Alice?"
The woman did not respond, but he was certain it was his sister standing before him. She had been eleven years of age when he'd left home, a little wisp of a girl who'd followed him about and peppered him with endless questions or begged him to take her riding or to play with her in the garden.
"Who's there?" a hoarse male voice demanded, piercing the silence.
It appeared that what Will had believed to be a pile of blankets was actually another person. That person came up on his elbows, knocking over an empty glass when he did, and blinked in Will's direction.
"I think it is our brother," Alice said uncertainly, staring curiously at Will.
"Who?" the young man asked, pushing himself up and struggling to his feet. It was no easy task. His shirttail was hanging to his knees, his trousers were covered in dust, and the rest of his clothing was in the pile of blankets, for all Will knew. His hair was standing on end and he had the scraggly growth of an unshaved beard.
"Joshua," Will said, looking at his brother, the sibling who was closest to his own age, who'd been only fourteen when he'd left. "Do you not know me?"
"Will! What are you doing here?" Joshua demanded, peering closely at him. "Who sent for you?"
"Did you not receive my letters?" Will said, moving cautiously forward. "Where is everyone? Where are the servants?"
With a snort and a flick of his wrist, Joshua said, "Gone. They've not been paid in ages. Only Farley and Cook remain."
"And Jacobs, the footman who tends Father," Alice offered, still eyeing Will curiously. She stood self-consciously, her arms folded tightly about her. "Are you to stay here?"
"You won't want to remain here, I assure you," Joshua said. He took an unsteady step and knocked over a bottle of amber liquid that spread across the floorboards and into the blankets where he had been sleeping. Neither he nor Alice seemed to notice it.
This was wrong. This was terribly, horribly wrong. "Where is Father?" Will asked in a sudden panic.
"Father? Where is he ever?" Joshua asked. "In his suite, of course."
Will dared not ask after his two youngest siblings, Roger and Jane. He just turned and strode from the library, his footfall matching the rhythm of his rapidly beating heart. As he hurried to the master suite, his crime became clearer. He'd stayed away too long.
Will rapped hard on the door of the master suite, and was reaching for the handle when the door suddenly opened. An enormous bear of a man dressed in shirtsleeves and waistcoat peered suspiciously at Will. "Who are you, then?"
"I am Summerfield, the earl's son. Where is my father?"
The man's eyes widened, but he opened the door and bowed his head at the same time. "Just there, milord," he said, pointing.
Will swept past him. The room smelled of ointments and smoke; the drapes had been pulled shut, save one window, which provided only dim light. Yet it was enough light to see his father in the shadows. "Dear God," he muttered in horror.
His father was seated in a wheelchair. A lap rug had been draped across his legs, and his hands, bent with apparent uselessness, were folded together in his lap. His head lolled unnaturally to one side.
But as Will drew near, the Earl of Bedford lifted his gaze, and in those wet gray eyes Will saw the light of recognition shimmer.
"Papa," Will said. The earl moved his lips strangely, but no sound came forth, and Will realized he could not speak. Grief dealt him a crushing blow. With the letter still clutched in his hand, he fell to his knees and pressed his cheek against his father's bony knees. He'd stayed away too long and any apology he could make was not enough.
It would never be enough.
Three months later
In the back room of the smart Bond Street boutique, Mrs. Ramsey's Haute Couture Dress Shoppe, Lady Phoebe Fairchild stood among dozens of gowns made of China silk, velvet, satin, and muslin, gaping in disbelief as Mrs. Ramsey calmly explained that her reputation, the future of her dress shop, and indeed her livelihood depended on Phoebe's ability to deliver gowns.
When the tall and cadaverously thin woman had finished, Phoebe was dumbstruck. No words would come, no coherent thought, no stinging retort.
"If you are unable to do as I ask, Lady Phoebe," Mrs. Ramsey said, "I shall have no choice but to expose you to the entire ton."
Phoebe gasped. "Madam, what you are suggesting is blackmail!"
Mrs. Ramsey smiled, her lips all but disappearing behind tiny teeth. "Blackmail is a harsh word. Charlatan, imposter... now there are two words that are not harsh enough... Madame Dupree." She cocked one brow high above the other, letting the words fill the air around them.
Phoebe could not think. She felt entirely incapable of it. The business of making gowns the very thing Mrs. Ramsey had threatened to expose was a plan Phoebe had hatched with her sister Ava and her cousin Greer two years ago. It was a plan that had been born out of desperation after the untimely death of Phoebe and Ava's mother, Lady Downey. Their stepfather, Lord Downey, had commandeered their inheritance and had made it plain he would marry them to the first men to offer. The three of them had quickly determined they needed money to put in motion their plan for avoiding such a fate. Ava had determined to marry well, Greer had gone in search of an inheritance, and Phoebe... well, Phoebe had talent with a needle. It was the only thing she had to offer.
She'd always been talented with a needle, and made a hobby of making gowns for the three of them, or enhancing the ones they bought in exclusive Bond Street shops such as this one. The spring her mother had died, Phoebe had latched onto an idea. What if she took the gowns from her late mother's closet and refashioned them into lovely ball gowns to be sold? Ava and Greer had agreed it would bring in some sorely needed money.
There was only one small problem: to enter the business of making gowns would give the appearance to the rest of the ton that they were desperate which, obviously, they were. But the ton would flee from desperate debutantes and their prospects would be reduced to nothing.
So they had invented a reclusive modiste Madame Dupree and had introduced Madame Dupree's work to Mrs. Ramsey. They claimed the French modiste was in much demand in Paris, but, tragically, had been made lame and disfigured in a carriage accident, and therefore could not and would not go out in society. Phoebe had very graciously offered to act as the liaison between Mrs. Ramsey and Madame Dupree. If Mrs. Ramsey would provide her customers' precise measurements, Madame Dupree would make gowns that would delight them and be highly praised by the ladies of the ton.
It seemed the perfect ruse, and, indeed, to Phoebe's way of thinking, it had worked very well for two years.
Until today, Phoebe had no inkling that Mrs. Ramsey suspected she was Madame Dupree. Apparently, the shopkeeper had suspected it for some time, for when Phoebe delivered two gowns that afternoon, Mrs. Ramsey had locked the door of her shop and then asked Phoebe if she could arrange a meeting with Madame Dupree.
That was the moment Phoebe had felt the first curl of doom in her belly. "Oh, I'm very sorry, Mrs. Ramsey. I'm afraid that's not possible," she'd said as congenially as she could.
"After all this time?" Mrs. Ramsey asked haughtily. "Surely she trusts me by now, Lady Phoebe. I have a very lucrative proposition for her and she certainly seems to accept you readily enough. Why do you suppose that is?"
Phoebe had been so flustered she did not respond. She could not recall a time Mrs. Ramsey had been anything but courteous but now the woman folded her bone-thin arms over her woefully flat chest, narrowed her eyes beneath a row of tiny pin curls, and said, "I know perfectly well what you are about and I am fully prepared to tell the world of your scandal."
"What I am about?" Phoebe echoed with a desperate laugh as the sense of doom coiled tighter. "I assure you, I am about nothing other than delivering the two gowns you commissioned from Madame Dupree."
"And where, precisely, does Madame Dupree buy the fabric needed for the gowns she makes? Or do you do that for this poor disfigured woman as well?"
It had gone from bad to worse. Phoebe was woefully bad at lying and stumbled through her every response until Mrs. Ramsey had cut her off with an ultimatum: either Phoebe take on the account she had just established with a Lord Summerfield of Bedfordshire for an unheard-of number of gowns and other articles of clothing or Mrs. Ramsey would expose Phoebe's deceit to the world.
It seemed this Lord Summerfield a name that Phoebe had never heard before was the son of the ailing Earl of Bedford. He'd recently returned from abroad and discovered his sisters had not been properly presented to society. Toward that end, he'd ordered new wardrobes for them both. He was prepared to pay a premium to have them done by late autumn: two thousand pounds.
Two thousand pounds.
Mrs. Ramsey practically drooled with glee when she reported the agreed-upon sum and made it quite clear she would not lose it merely because Phoebe had invented Madame Dupree and was the one who was really behind the gowns all the women of the ton suddenly could not do without. Mrs. Ramsey had already promised Lord Summerfield that she would send Madame Dupree to Wentworth Hall in a fortnight to make the clothing she could not readily provide from her shop. Her only problem being, of course, that Madame Dupree did not exist.
Nevertheless, Phoebe insisted she would not hie herself off to Bedfordshire as a servant to anyone.
"Indeed?" Mrs. Ramsey drawled. "I do not think your esteemed family would appreciate such a scandal at this point in their political lives do you, Lady Phoebe?"
Phoebe gasped. Mrs. Ramsey was referring, of course, to the very thing Ava and Greer had feared most when they had tried to convince Phoebe to stop making the gowns this past Season. As they were both married now, and to very wealthy men at that, they no longer needed the money Phoebe's clandestine sartorial occupation brought her. Particularly not now that their lord husbands, Middleton and Radnor, had been moved by their wives' work with the Ladies' Beneficent Society, a charitable organization that endeavored to help women who had landed in the poorhouse. Middleton and Radnor had drafted and proposed reforms that would give women who were forced to earn their livings some basic and decent rights. But opponents of the reforms saw such measures as opening the door to other untenable actions, such as woman suffrage and, God forbid, temperance.
A scandalous exposure of Phoebe's deceit would bode ill for her brothers-in-law, and might cause the derailment of reforms they were trying to steer through Parliament.
"You wouldn't!" Phoebe cried. "You are a woman in trade, Mrs. Ramsey! You stand to gain a great deal from their reforms!"
"Yet I stand to gain two thousand pounds with Lord Summerfield's commission," she snapped. "That is a year's receipts!"
Phoebe scarcely recognized Mrs. Ramsey at that moment. She was the devil, and Phoebe could all but see the tiny horns sticking out of her wretched pin curls.
Phoebe had recently left her stepfather's house to live with her sister, Ava, in the much larger and grander Middleton House. After a restless night through which she could see no way out of her predicament, she dragged herself to Ava's dressing room. Ava, now the Marchioness of Middleton, was there with her nine-month-old son, Jonathan. So was Phoebe's cousin Greer, the new Lady Radnor and Princess of Powys. She was cooing over her godchild.
Both women took one look at the dark circles under Phoebe's eyes, the crooked buttoning of her gown, and knew something was very wrong.
The three of them sat on the floor in a tight circle with Jonathan at the center crawling over them and gurgling as Phoebe told them the awful truth.
"You poor darling!" Greer cried when Phoebe had finished. "That wretched woman won't get away with this treachery! You mustn't worry, Phoebe, we will think our way through this!"
The Last Unmarried Daughter of the Late Lady Downey Phoebe was convinced the entire ton thought of her in exactly that way rather doubted that.
"I knew it was a dangerous game you were playing!" Ava moaned. "Really, Phoebe, you live in fantasy without considering the consequences of fantasy becoming reality! Now what are we to do?" Ava asked, pausing to kiss the bottom of Jonathan's foot. "It will be a horrible scandal! There are those in the ton just waiting for something like this to happen! And if it does, even Lord Stanhope won't have you."
"What?" Phoebe cried. "Is that all you care about?" She bent over, scooping up Jonathan onto her lap and burying her face in his neck. "I've told you a dozen times, Ava, I don't want to marry Stanhope."
"Yes, but it is my duty as your sister and your friend to help you find a match, and I take that duty very seriously!"
"It is scarcely your duty, and really, Ava, you might as well face the fact that when a woman has been out an astonishing four Seasons without gaining an offer, to continue to pursue one only makes her situation worse."
"Four!" Greer exclaimed. "Has it really been as many as that?"
"Four," Ava said, wiggling four manicured fingers at Greer. "In her first Season out, she was the youn-gest of three unmarried Fairchilds and therefore, third in line to be considered," she said, bending one finger. "In her second Season, Mama died and we were in mourning, weren't we? There was no money for her to enter society in the third Season "
"Not to mention the scandal you created by pursuing the marquis," Phoebe reminded her.
"Yes, the scandal," Ava said airily, and bent the third finger. "And in the fourth, Greer followed my scandalous path and returned to London married to the elusive Prince of Powys, much to everyone's great surprise, and I had my confinement and gave birth to my darling, sweet boy." She smiled lovingly at her child.
"That is four," Greer said, nodding thoughtfully. "Astonishing. Thank goodness Stanhope is expected to offer."
"Why? Because I am so desperately close to being put on the shelf?" Phoebe huffed. "I say again, I will not accept a match with Stanhope, and please do not try and persuade me with the fact he is one of Middleton's dearest friends, for he is also destitute and in search of a fortune. Not a marriage." She gave a kiss to Jonathan's cheek. He grabbed her earring and pulled. "Ouch, ouch," she said, handing Jonathan to Greer so that she might extract her earring from his chubby fist.
"What do you expect?" Ava demanded. "How can we possibly arrange a marriage for you when you are so reluctant to be out in society?"
"That is simply not true!" Phoebe insisted, although she knew her sister was right. She did not care for London society. Never had. When they were girls at Bingley Hall, Phoebe had been content with her painting and drawing and her first sartorial creations, reticules (dozens of them, all haphazardly sewn and poorly beaded, but her mother had carried each one proudly), than going on the round of social calls that Ava and Greer found so delightful.
Granted, her first Season out had been very exciting, but Phoebe now found the routine of it tiresome. All of the so-called gentlemen bachelors seemed to believe that by virtue of merely being bachelors she must find them quite desirable, and they leered at her more often than not. If she paid the slightest attention to any one of them, rumors spread quicker than the plague that Lady Phoebe Fairchild desired a match with that particular gentleman.
Moreover, the older she became two and twenty now the more it seemed as if the conversations at social events with people she scarcely knew were entirely too vapid, and she could not abide sitting in overdone salons along with dozens of unmarried debutantes who all shared the singularly uninspired goal of gaining an offer of marriage. She felt root-bound in a society she did not care for, like some old bush whose limbs had become entangled with the others around it and could not be extracted.
"You are so difficult!" Ava said. "You are uncommonly beautiful, far more beautiful than me look at your lovely pale blond hair. Mine is a common shade. And your eyes, such an unusual color of blue, while mine are very plain. And you are more handsome than Greer with all that Welsh blood in her "
"I beg your pardon!" Greer said, putting a hand to her inky black hair.
"You are handsome, Greer," Ava said impatiently, "but Phoebe has always been considered the handsomest of us all. Really, I should think if only she would go out into society with a cheerful disposition, she would gain a half dozen offers instantly!"
"Thank you, Ava. I had no idea I was so handsome, yet so morbid."
"You know very well what I mean."
"I do not. But really, whether or not I am in society has little to do with Mrs. Ramsey's threats."
"She's right," Greer said as Jonathan began to babble. She handed him back to his beaming mother. "But what can Mrs. Ramsey do, in truth? Very little if you ask me."
"Oh, I think she could do quite a lot," Phoebe said morosely. "She stands to gain two thousand pounds and is quite determined to fulfill Summerfield's order, no matter the cost to me."
"Who is Lord Summerfield?" Greer asked. "I've not heard of him."
Phoebe shrugged. "I know only from Mrs. Ramsey that he lives in Bedfordshire at a place called Wentworth Hall. The family rarely leaves the country for town and his sisters have not been presented to any society."
"Does she truly expect Lady Phoebe Fairchild to go to this... this country place as Madame Dupree and make clothes like a common seamstress?" Ava cried.
"She does indeed," Phoebe said solemnly.
"What a vile, wretched woman!" Greer added angrily.
She was vile, all right.
The more they talked, the more the three of them grew convinced there was no way to refuse Mrs. Ramsey without irreparable harm to Phoebe's reputation and Radnor's and Middleton's Parliamentary work on behalf of poor women. The consequences were powerful instigators.
But how could she manage to meet Mrs. Ramsey's demands and maintain her secret? Phoebe wondered.
At the very least, she had to keep her true identity a secret nothing could make her predicament worse. After much discussion, the three women felt more confident about Phoebe's ability to assume a false identity in Bedfordshire. As the Parliamentary season had closed, everyone was leaving the heat of London for the cooler breezes in the country, and wouldn't return to London until late autumn, when Parliament would reconvene for a short session.
Further, they determined no one among their group of acquaintances hailed from or would be in Bedfordshire. They believed there were only three people in that county who might possibly know Phoebe, and actually, Phoebe had never been formally introduced to any of them.
The first was the elderly Earl of Huntingdon, who, by all accounts, was too infirm to receive callers. The Russell family lived in Woburn Abbey, but they were in France for the summer. And finally, there was the infamous Lady Holland, whose parties in London were legendary. She had a house in Bedfordshire, but Ava had learned from Lady Purnam their mother's lifelong friend and a general busybody that Lady Holland would be in Eastbourne until the Little Season began in the autumn.
There was really very little danger of Phoebe's encountering anyone she knew in that sleepy little corner of England. That left the real hurdle Phoebe's identity.
"A widow," Ava insisted.
"How did her husband die?" Greer asked.
"I hardly know," Ava said with a shrug as she rocked Jonathan in her arms. "How do men typically die? A fall from a horse or some such thing."
"I scarcely believe scores of men are falling to their deaths from their saddles," Greer said drily. "Perhaps a wasting illness. That is sufficient to keep the questions to a minimum." The three of them wrinkled their noses.
"All right, then where am I from?" Phoebe asked.
"The moors, north of Newcastle," Greer said instantly. "No one ever hails from there. It's practically uninhabitable."
"And you mustn't be too dreamy, Phoebe," Ava warned her sternly. "You know how bird-witted you can be with your head in the clouds."
"I beg your pardon, I am not bird-witted," Phoebe protested.
"Yes, but you have a tendency to let daydreams cloud your common sense."
"That is ridiculous! I do no such thing!"
"You do have a rather vivid imagination," Greer said kindly. "You must have a care that you do not allow it to run away from you. You must concentrate on your work and your disguise if this ruse is to work."
Phoebe clucked her tongue. "Honestly, with the number of gowns Mrs. Ramsey expects me to make in a very short time, there will hardly be time for sleep, much less daydreaming or even talk, for that matter. What could possibly go wrong?"
Julia London is the New York Times, USA TODAY, and Publisher's Weekly bestselling author of historical romance, contemporary romance, and women's fiction with strong romantic elements, including the Secrets of Hadley Green bestselling series, and the Homecoming Ranch series. She is a four-time finalist for the RITA Award of Excellence in Romantic Fiction, and the recipient of Romantic Times Bookclub's Best Historical Novel. She lives in Austin, Texas.
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I loved this book and the series.
I read the 1st & 2nd Desperate Debutantes book and really enjoyed reading them. However, I was really disappointed with the 3rd book. I didn't care how the author made Phoebe unable to outwit being black mailed, her character came across undetermined, a bit obtuse. Unlike the other 2 women (Ava & Greer). The story didn't have enough of the main characters longing for one another like the 1st & 2nd book, instead it talked alot about the bratty siblings. The first romantic encounter was not moving but sad. I was disappointed the author didn't do a better job at the end discussing the 3 women regarding the gender of all their children they ended up having. It would have been better if the author would have put a quick scene of the 3 women together with their families as a closure.
So far the book is great to read, everybody hides who they truly are.
I found myself skimming through this book rather than really reading it. I don't seem to be a huge fan of this author's writing style. She's got some really good dialogue mixed in with a sort of rushed-feeling narrative that makes the story feel uneven. Also, the characters seem inordinately fond of speaking in italics. Phoebe and Will are two fairly likeable characters dealing with unexpected life circumstances. She is gently-bred and suddenly finds herself inhabiting the role of an upper level servant. He's had an acute case of wanderlust, and suddenly finds himself back home in the country, dealing with some extremely recalcitrant siblings and a heartbreakingly disabled father. Will wants Phoebe as his mistress while he courts a local heiress. Phoebe suddenly finds herself wanting to marry, but she's hemmed herself into a corner with her charade as a 'modiste' (*not* a seamstress!). They spar with each other, fall in love, deal with messy situations and a herd of feral horses, break each other's hearts, and of course, make up in the end. I did rather like the secondary storyline concerned with Will's younger sister, Alice - I thought it felt fairly realistic, compared to similar storylines I've seen in other romance novels.