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The Honorable Anne Hartfield had married a stranger.
The thought drummed in her head all day, through the morning ceremony at Saint George's and the recitation of vows.
I, Anne Elizabeth, take thee, Leopold, to my wedded Husband, to have and to hold from this day forward, for better for worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love, cherish, and to obey, till death us do part, according to God's holy ordinance; and thereto I give thee my troth.
He had slipped a ring upon her finger, of rubies and diamonds that had been purchased the day before—it was no family heirloom, no treasure passed from one generation to the next, but pristine from the jeweler's workbench. It was beautiful, yet as Leopold Bailey had given her the ring, its red stones on the golden band reminded Anne of sunlight pierced by drops of blood.
With this Ring I thee wed, with my Body I thee worship, and with all my worldly Goods I thee endow: In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.
They were married. She was no longer her father's responsibility, but everything of her keeping now relied upon her husband. The food she ate, the clothing covering her body. The bed in which she slept, which she would sometimes share with her husband when he so chose to exercise his rights and make use of her body.
The thought made her stomach pitch to her feet. This night would see her enter into the state of married women everywhere, leaving behind the solitude of virginity. She belonged to him now, his possession.
Those whom God hath joined together let no man put asunder.
She watched him now, this stranger who was now her husband for the rest of her living days. Leopold Bailey. He stood with a group of guests, and though the breakfast at his Bloomsbury home was well attended, finding him in the glittering crowd proved itself an easy task.
"Admiring your new prize?" Lady Byton followed Anne's gaze across the drawing room.
Heat spread through Anne's cheeks, and her father's cousin chuckled. "There's no shame in it, child, for he's worth admiration."
"Then we share an opinion," Anne said. She almost checked herself, then remembered that she was now a married woman, and had the liberty of speaking with greater boldness. Unwed girls hadn't freedom of opinion, for they were to be at all times agreeable. As Mrs. Bailey, she could opine as she wished. Though she did not know if her husband would encourage such behavior. Perhaps he would be one of those stern men who wanted only silence and obedience from his wife.
She rather hoped not.
"In my youth," said Lady Byton, "we would have called such a man a 'strapper,' and so he is. Mark me, child, you'll have the devil's own time in the bedchamber, but I warrant it will put more roses in your cheeks."
Lady Byton lived in the country.
Her cheeks already red, Anne studied her new husband. Her cousin's assessment, coarse as it was, proved correct. The drawing room of his Bloomsbury house was filled with the wealthiest and most influential of London Society, men of extraordinary power, and men of extraordinary affluence. Yet no one commanded attention as Leopold did.
He was not much taller than any of the other men, yet the eye sought him out with unerring frequency. Normally, he eschewed a wig and wore his sandy hair back in a simple queue—rather like a laborer—but today he marked the occasion by having his hair dressed and powdered.
Even in his wedding finery of gold velvet and cream satin, his lean, muscular build could not be disguised, nor the breadth of his shoulders or length of his legs. A few of the wedding breakfast guests were sportsmen, just as Anne's own brothers were, but Leopold carried his physicality in a way that suggested use and purpose rather than idle recreation.
Easy to imagine that Leopold was, in fact, the son of a saddler. Not a gentleman.
"Is his father here?" Lady Byton scanned the chamber. "With a son so handsome, surely the father is as well favored."
"The elder Mr. Bailey died two years ago."
Lady Byton clicked her tongue. "Such a disappointment."
"I imagine the greater disappointment belonged to Mr. Bailey."
"And the elder Mr. Bailey's wife?"
"She was likely disappointed by her husband's death, as well."
Lady Byton pursed her lips. "As a woman happily widowed, I beg you to reconsider that notion."
Anne had witnessed many marriages amongst the ranks of the gentry. A select few could be called truly happy; even fewer might be considered love matches. Love had no commerce when it came to marriage. Only in the pages of sentimental novels did girls and young men of standing find love. For herself, she hoped only to earn her husband's respect and to give it in return. That she was married at all was something of a miracle.
A cloud of gillyflower perfume announced the approaching presence of Anne's Aunt Louise before she even spoke a word. She enveloped Anne in a fragrant embrace, crying, "Oh, my child, I wish you happy on this wondrous day."
"My thanks, Aunt." Anne extracted herself from her aunt's arms. Wondrous. She supposed it was.
Aunt Louise and Lady Byton hailed from opposite sides of the family and, after curtsying, eyed each other warily like two strutting hens.
"Lud, Clarissa," Louise chirped to Lady Byton. "Is it really you? You are so altered from last we saw each other. Ah, well, I suppose all that country air has a rather ripening effect."
"You are much the same as when last we met," answered Lady Byton. She peered closer at Aunt Louise. "The paint is unchanged."
Anne supposed she had better avert a full-scale war whilst there was still time, or else the iced cakes would be used as mortars and the wedding breakfast table would serve as battlements. "I was just telling Lady Byton that my husband's mother resides in the country, and hasn't the constitution for travel."
"She sounds very delicate," said Aunt Louise, "for a woman from the lower orders."
Anne supposed that now she was Leopold's wife, she would have to hear such comments frequently. "I have never met her, so I have no firsthand knowledge of her health. Only what Leopold relates to me."
Lady Byton's brows rose. "It is passing strange that you have not met your husband's mother. But," she added, "the whole courtship seemed to take place with extreme haste. No banns read. Everything done by special license, regardless of the expense." Her kinswoman glanced at Anne's silver-embroidered stomacher. "Perhaps you have acted quickly in anticipation of an event?"
The very idea nearly made Anne laugh. Her? Indulge in a dalliance? "You forget, cousin, how very little any man might have to gain by compromising me."
"A hard truth, child," agreed Aunt Louise. "A baron's daughter you might be, but the estate loses capital like a cup made of lace."
Lady Byton clearly felt the need to defend her side of the family. "But Anne has three brothers. Even the most profitable of titles would be hard-pressed in the keeping of all of them."
"Yes, however," smiled Aunt Louise with all the warmth of an adder, "I am obliged to note that the two younger boys must truly earn their bread through the military and the Church."
Leaving Anne with a paltry dowry and even smaller annual income. Soon after her coming-out, she began to realize the futility of a Season as, one by one, young men learned how little she could bring them, and they fell away, petals from a dying blossom.
"If you are not enceinte," said Lady Byton, pointedly turning from Aunt Louise, "then why the rapidity of the marriage?"
"Because Leopold wished it." Honestly, Anne did not know how or why the courtship had progressed as fast as it had. It seemed a blur to her now. Within a few meetings, she had found herself engaged and, only weeks after that, married. It was as though she had been playing blindman's buff: she'd been blindfolded and spun around, then she had grabbed the first person she could. Now she stood with sight and balance restored, the wife of a man she hardly knew.
As if sensing her watching him, Leopold turned, his gaze holding hers. Anne could not look away as he murmured something to the guests and then walked toward her, weaving through the guests. He moved beautifully, with a sleek animal fluidity that suggested barely restrained power. His gaze never left her, as if she were the prize he was determined to claim. The thought both thrilled and terrified.
She saw now how he had risen from his humble beginnings to who he was now: one of the wealthiest nontitled men in England. He permitted nothing to stand in his path.
Anne's pulse quickened as Leopold came to stand before her. Good Lord, how had she managed to wed this gorgeous stranger? He had none of the well-bred gentleman's softness, no insipid chin from generations of selective breeding. A bold jaw, high cheekbones, firm mouth that boasted a full lower lip. His morning shave had already lost its battle, and Anne could mark the faint trace where his beard gilded his cheeks and chin. As if the veneer of civility could not last long, and the marauder beneath came to the surface.
At eight and twenty, he was only five years older than she, yet he had the air of a man who had seen and knew the world. She had known ... only this. London. The circles of the polite. What she understood of life outside her conscripted patterns came from books, yet she knew that the world as depicted on the printed page did not reflect true experience.
Her new husband was experienced. Even a sheltered young woman like her could see it.
"Ladies," he murmured, bowing.
Though Aunt Louise was surely on the other side of forty, and Lady Byton a good ten years older, both trilled and blushed as if barely out of the nursery. Anne could not fault their response. She was married to him, yet his nearness befuddled her senses to an alarming degree, and when he next spoke, her heartbeat raced.
"Might I speak with my lady wife in private?"
"Most certainly, Mr. Bailey," warbled Aunt Louise.
"Emphatically, Mr. Bailey," added Lady Byton. The two women nearly came to blows in their haste to curtsy prettily in their departure.
As her kinswomen drifted away, sudden panic gripped Anne. Don't leave me alone with him!
She pushed that thought away. This man was her husband now. They would be alone together a great deal. And in all their interactions, he was always courteous. She had nothing to fear.
"The wedding breakfast pleases you, my lady wife," he said. This was not a question, merely a statement of fact.
"It does, sir," she answered. "I commend your household for assembling such a feast in so short a time."
He turned to survey the long table that spanned the length of the chamber. Rather than look at the pyramids of iced cakes, the platters of roast pheasant, the bowls of negus, Anne gazed at her husband. He studied the table as if assessing its profitability, sharp and shrewd.
"It isn't enough," he said. "I'll have servants go to the shops and get more."
"No, please." Anne placed a hand on his sleeve. She felt solid muscle beneath his velvet coat, then snatched her hand back, shocked by the sudden intimacy of touch. During their brief courtship, she had taken his arm a time or two when walking, but that had been before. Before they were married, and the promise of his body existed only in theory rather than the soon-to-be-realized future.
She also did not know how he would respond to being contradicted.
"That is, sir," she murmured, "no one can fault you for your hospitality. There is plenty for all of the guests."
He looked unconvinced, so Anne continued. "There is such surplus, Lady Taplow is putting cake into her pockets. I wager her panniers are stuffed with bacon."
A smile curved at the corners of his mouth, softening the hardness of his expression. "I pity those who have to carry her home in a sedan chair. Perhaps we should send her in a dray."
"Drawn by draft horses."
His gaze now turned back to her, and she grew warm to be under his scrutiny. His deep-set eyes were clear gray, the sky moments after dawn, and they missed nothing. She rather felt like the table bearing the wedding feast, being assessed, her worth judged.
Apparently, whatever he saw when he looked at her pleased him, for his smile widened. "With the business of the day, I neglected to tell you how pretty you look."
"You are gracious, sir, and a flatterer." He might well compliment her on her appearance: everything she wore had been purchased by him, from her open sack gown of blue Spitalfieds silk, to the silver lace frothing at the sleeves and pinned in her hair, to the pearls at her throat and the satin slippers on her feet. Even her fine West Indian cotton chemise was provided at his expense.
The whole of the wedding had been paid for by Leopold. All her father had provided was her.
"Not at all," Leopold said. "Plain speaking is my only form of address. I know no other way." His expression darkened slightly. "A fault of my birth."
"Honesty isn't a fault." She ducked her head. "Forgive me, I talk too boldly, and would hate to have you regret our marriage before it is scarce two hours old."
"No." He touched his finger to her chin and gently raised her head. "Don't apologize for speaking your mind." His gaze warmed. "You're right. Honesty isn't a fault—in and out of business. And I encourage you to always say what you think."
Well—that was certainly different from the advice Anne had received from her mother. Tell him what he wants to hear. Always agree, never contradict. That is how one maintains tranquility in marriage.
Perhaps it was different amongst people without titles. She had so little experience with them, every moment was a discovery.
"If it pleases you, sir," she said.
"It does. It would also please me, Anne, if you called me 'Leo,' not 'sir.' 'Sir' feels ... cold."
"Yes, sir ... I mean, Leo." Her own parents called each other my lord and my lady or, when they were especially vexed with each other, Lord Wansford and Lady Wansford.
She and Leo fell into a silence that was not entirely comfortable. So much of him remained mysterious to her beyond only the barest outline of his history, and even that was cloaked in speculation and uncertainty. Together, they watched the room as people ate and drank and an occasional laugh floated through the room.
"I must admit that many of these guests are unknown to me," she finally said. Gentry she might be, but her family's circumstances had been reduced for so long that they seldom had the funds to make suitable appearances. New clothes cost money, as did tickets to the theater. "Are they all your friends?"
"Of the men in this room, I could claim less than half as acquaintances."
Her brows rose. "Then why—"
There was little warmth in his chuckle. "A business investment. That fellow, over by the sweetmeats." Leo nodded toward the man in question, a stout gentleman leaning on a cane as he selected one of the little confections. "He owns warehouses here and in Liverpool. By inviting him to my wedding festivities, he'll be more inclined to give a reduced rate to store cotton arriving in from the Colonies."
"Cotton shipments in which you have invested."
"Precisely." Leo turned his sharp gaze toward a lanky man in rust-colored satin. "That's Lord Medway. His estate is in the prime location for a canal that will help get tin from Cornish mines to London. He's been balking at the idea of cutting a canal, but after today and the amount of claret he's drinking, he might be favorable to the scheme."
"Not everyone must be here for the advancement of business, surely."
Excerpted from Demon's Bride by Zoë Archer Copyright © 2012 by Ami Silber. Excerpted by permission of ZEBRA BOOKS. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Posted April 29, 2012
When I read the first installment of the series, I could see the building blocks being laid and set. Since Ms. Archer had accomplished that task so well in Devil’s Kiss, she released the second installment of the Hellraisers series; Demon’s Bride, full steam and doesn’t look back. Leo Bailey was gifted from the Devil, the ability to see the future by. All he needs is an item from a person and he can see the disasters that will plague the owner. He then uses that knowledge for evil and personal gain. Either pushing that person towards their inevitable disastrous future or plainly betting against them. Leo’s passion is the exchange market and he uses his talent to control every aspect of it. Because of his cunning and skill, he is simply known as Demon. While Anne Hartfield may be the daughter of a baron, she knew from the very beginning her marriage to Leo was not a love match. He dutifully wooed and courted her, but the love spark was never there. All her hopes blossomed on her wedding night to only be crushed just as quickly. Now she is determined to make the best of her marriage. She will do everything in her power to win her husband’s heart. From the first “I Do’s” things begin to change for these two people. Neither expected what was in store for them and quickly things begin to turn. Good, evil and other forces are converging to shape the future. It’s too bad Leo can’t see what is ahead for himself, because he never expected to fall in love with his wife and that very well may ruin his life forever. In my opinion, Ms. Archer has improved on the series. I loved how Demon’s Bride had more of a sinister feeling to it. You can’t help but hate the Hellraisers. They are marvelously evil, encompassing all of man’s sins. While their power may focus on one attribute, you can feel the lust, greed, wickedness and power radiating off of all them. Ms. Archer did an outstanding job writing them with malevolence and still make them all seem human. I enjoyed how Anne was so willing to make the best of her circumstances and didn’t cower. She showed such strength throughout the story, when most women of that time would have crumbled. The turmoil that she put Leo through was just as delightful. Everyday his reserve was crumbling as he fell for Anne. I was utterly shocked at some of the sad developments in the story. In an odd way, I can agree with the choices that were made, though they must have been hard decisions to make for the storyline. I am absolutely bewildered and have no idea which direction the series will take now. This new development has thrown me and I actually find it wonderful. Ms. Archer has removed the predictability that some series encounter and she has made me want the next story even the more. Demon’s Bride is a remarkable historical paranormal that has a familiarity feel to it right along with an unpredictability too. Zoe Archer has written an innovative novel that is sexy, beautiful and suspenseful.
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Posted February 4, 2013
Posted July 1, 2012
Much better than the 1st book. Unfortunately you will ahve to read the 1st book to understand the situation is this one. The 2 main characters had much better chemistry than the main character in the 1st book. Leo's past lent more credibility to why he could not just let the power go. This book redeemed the series enough that I may purchase the 3rd.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted June 5, 2012
Zoe Archer returns with book two in the Hellraisers series, which will once again prove good, must triumph over evil. It will take one of the strongest in the still enraptured group of men known as The Hellraisers to help save the others from the fate that has befallen them. Leo Bailey, not of noble birth whose only purpose in life is to find himself regarded on equal footing as one among the nobility, has a secret and talent no one can match. Leo knows how to make money, known as the Demon of the Exchange, he is determined to take it from those who have shunned him. A member of the Hellraisers, who has also succumbed that not so long ago night to the gift which contains promises of all he desires made to him by the mysterious Mr. Holliday, finds he now needs more than the wealth he has amassed. Leo needs a ticket into the circles he himself cannot enter alone. Leo believes his instincts which have not failed him thus far that Anne Hartfield is that ticket for him and by marrying her, the noble gates, although grudgingly, will open for him and provide access to that very world he covets. As she says the words that will bind her to this man who stands beside her, Anne Hartfield knows she is marrying a stranger. However, what choice did she have as the eldest daughter (considered well past the age of marrying), of an indebted country baron. How especially, with the terms of the arrangement proposed to her father by the wealthy Mr. Bailey could she refuse? Anne vows this day, she will not become some retrained wife molded by the whims of her husband, although this is not a love match. Unbeknownst to Leo and Anne the bond made on the day of their marriage will prove to be the strength they need to carry them through the upcoming tests made by forces not of this world.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted May 21, 2012
Leo Bailey was born the poor son of a saddler. He used his brains and his determination to crawl out of poverty, but that is not enough for Leo. Leo gladly makes a deal with the devil for the ability to see the future and the financial ruin of his competitors, so he can not only grow his own wealth, but to take down those of the aristocracy who will always look down on him no matter how much money he acquires. He makes his deal with the devil with no thought as to what the cost may truly be to him.
Leo also knows the only way into the ranks of the aristocracy for someone like him is to wed a nobleman’s daughter. He chooses quiet Anne Hartfield, the daughter of a Duke who is on the verge of poverty. Except once the marriage night approaches, Anne is overwrought with nerves. Since Leo’s parents were a love match, he doesn’t want to force himself on his new wife as his aristocratic brethren would have done. So Leo offers to wait on the consummation of their marriage until they have had an opportunity to get to know each other.
As Leo and Anne get to know each other and their mutual respect grows, Leo cannot believe how lucky he is in his choice of a wife, and as the love grows between them, Leo knows that he cannot allow Anne to ever know of his about his deal with the devil, but can one hide that much sin. The epic fight for Leo’s soul begins once Anne claims his heart.
I looked several times at Devil’s Kiss when it came out and I kept wavering back and forth whether I wanted to read what was Book 1 of this series. When I read the back cover of this one, the premise definitely caught my attention and I put it on my TBR list. This was a great story and the most interesting part is that at the beginning of this story, the hero and heroine from Book 1 begin as our antagonists. As we soon learn, they are truly the protagonists as they are trying to save the souls of the Hellraisers, all five of whom have made a similar deal in trade for different powers granted from the devil. With the help of Whit and Zora, Leo and Anne fight the demons to reclaim Leo’s soul before it is too late and the darkness consumes him.
Anne starts out in our story as a very shy woman, but she grows into a powerful and determined heroine as our story goes on with the Leo support, and as the love and respect grow between them. Sadly, we see the foundation created between them torn apart once Anne finds out the truth about Leo, especially considering the darkness was so deep in Leo that although he knew he couldn’t let Anne find out about his powers, it took him a looonnng time for him to figure out that he needs to let go of that power to reclaim his soul and rebuild that foundation with his wife.
Fabulous story! I can’t wait to see what happens next.
Posted May 2, 2012
Reviewed by Angela & posted at Under the Covers Book Blog
Ms. Zoe Archer did not disappoint. This 2nd installment of the Hellraisers is just as good as the first and then some.
Leopold Bailey, the son of a saddler, has made a deal with the Devil. As all of the Hellraisers, each of them now possess a power gifted by the Devil himself to be used in exchange for their souls. The problem is that the more they use their power the more of their soul is consumed by the devil and more evil is unleashed around them.
Leo’s gift is the ability to see one’s future. He used this gift wisely to gain power and wealth but his long time desire to be accepted by the people who treated him poorly was not within his grasp. Leo will never be of noble birth and the only way to get similar recognition is to marry with name and station. With evil and greed, will it ever be enough?....
Ann Hartfield, daughter of a Barron, knew exactly what she married into. She married a man who has made his own wealth and she knew exactly of his family background. But what she didn’t know was that the man she married had deep secrets.
I must say that I enjoyed this book a lot. The character build up was well done. Both Ann and Leo had grown in a respectable time within the book. Ann grew from this demurred woman to a strong willed heroine who can take care of herself. And Leo, well, we already know he’s a greedy man, but his realization of his predicament was well done. He did not just wake up and said…“oh, I'm so SOL”. He had time to see what he might be losing…..
The best was their romance. Although they were married for business, they both decided to take the time to get to know each other and up until the very end Ms. Archer made it to the point that…trust is not easily given. Of course, because of his love, Leo will definitely take the challenge.
We got a good amount of Whit and Bram in this book which I loved. Bram is one hottie Hellraiser to watch out for, mark my words. I think he is the most intriguing of them all. We also get a glimpse of John and Edmund, which I thought was NOT enough of. The ladies Zora, Livia and Rosalind were also there briefly.
By the end of this book, we are left with half of the Hellraisers with their souls still to be saved. I was left with my mouth open with one question in mind: Did that just happened? Oh yes, an unexpected outcome just for our couple to get their HEA. I cannot wait to see what Ms. Archer has for the next book.
*ARC provided by author
Posted May 23, 2012
No text was provided for this review.