Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
From the moment smoke-haired Emerald FitzGerald Montague first gazes into the pewter eyes of Sean FitzGerald O'Toole, she wants him. He is the dreamed-of dark prince who will spirit her away from the Wales of her venal father, William, to the Ireland of her beautiful, debased mother, Amber. Sean wants Emerald, too, but there's a wee problem: Amber is trysting with Sean's older brother, Joseph, and when William learns of the affair, it's the end of the precarious money-making alliance between the Montagues and the FitzGerald O'Toole clan. Issues of honor and vengeance, confounded by 18th-century Anglo-Irish politics, motivate the men's every action here. When Joseph dies at William's order, Sean's desire for vengeance consumes him. Like the Count of Monte Cristo, he steels himself in body and mind, believing he can do anything to destroy William, even use Emerald, whose love he has not forgotten-but in Henley's universe, love may conquer all. Making her hardcover debut, Henley (Enticed) excoriates the British and celebrates the Irish, especially in bed. The sadism of the former and the tender genius of the latter are drawn in loving detail, down to shrieking climaxes. Some characters are inconsistent, notably Emerald's brother, as suits the tale, and all the women are saintly bawds; but the pace is brisk and the passions are huge. Author tour. (Feb.)
Another in this romance author's best-selling tradition, full of the obligatory scandals, violent earls, and headstrong beauties.
In historical romances, where sex ranges from a premarital chaste kiss to a velvetized version of down-and-dirty, British veteran Henley weighs in at the erotic end. For her first hardcover, she titillates with sex talk, incorporates common parlance for intercourse, and calls some sex organs by their less-exalted names.
Henley's devilish hero, Sean O'Toole, the Earl of Kildare, has an ax to grind, it seems. Framed for the murder of his brother, Sean is sentenced to ten years' hard labor aboard a convict ship. His poor mother, meanwhile, has died of grief. Escaping after five years, with hardened muscles and considerable resolve, Sean vows to destroy not only Montague, his brother's murderer, but Montague's free-spirited daughter Emerald, who first enchanted Sean when he saw her swimming on the back of a dolphin. So he kidnaps Emerald, who's married to a man she doesn't love, her wild Irish spirit having been beaten down into tepid Englishness by her cruel father and her terrible governess, Irma Bludget. (Emerald's Irish mother was beaten and left for dead by Montague; she's now gone back to Ireland and opened a brothel.) Sean carries Emerald off to his reclaimed estate, Greystones, with the intention of impregnating her and sending her back to her husband and father with his bastard in her belly. But, naturally, the two fall in love. While they have great sex on his extremely clean white sheets (the prison ship gave him a taste for fresh linen and double-starched shirts), Sean heals his wounded heart, Emerald finds sexual and spiritual heaven with her Irish Prince, the villains are trounced, and Emerald's mother gives up the brothel and is reunited with her daughter.
A few sordid moments, but should satisfy romance readers who like their stories sensuous.
Read an Excerpt
At last Sean came to retrieve Emerald from her dancing partner and indicated that he was ready to leave. When they reached the ballroom doors, she turned to survey the crowded floor. Then very deliberatly she removed the velvet mask and tossed it in the air. A group of men standing nearby eagerly scrambled for it.
With a grim look on his dark face and a firm hand at the small of her back, Sean pushed her through the doorway. His brow lowered and his jaw clenched as he retrieved her cloak and wrapped it firmly about her naked shoulders and half-exposed breasts. "What the hell was that all about?" he demanded as they emerged from the palatial house on Piccadilly. "You were acting like a little whore," he ground out.
"But, Sean, darling, that's exactly what I am," she said sweetly, "your whore. And you have made sure all London knows what I am."
"Get in the carriage." His tone warned her just how furious he was.
Emerald ignored the warning. "Would you like me on my hands and knees, my lord, so I can service you here in the carriage?"
He gripped her shoulders and shook her till her teeth rattled. "Stop it this instant. You are driving me to violence."
"I am aware of your violent nature, my lord. Perhaps I can match it! Come on, I'm licking my lips over you," she taunted.
He forced her down on the seat and crushed her mouth with his, mastering her. Only Emerald wouldn't be mastered, not without giving as good as she got. She bit down on his lip and raked the side of his face with her nails.
He flung away from her. "Little bitch!" he cursed.
As she had promised, she licked her lips over him and tasted his blood.
They entered the Mayfair house in silence. Emerald ran up two flights to their spacious bedchamber. She dismissed the maid who has waited up for her. Her anger at him did not cool, rather it grew hotter by the minute. She had thought the diamonds, a gift of love; now she knew he wanted to flaunt her and the diamonds in the face of the English. Though the hour was late she decided the evening was not quite over; the fireworks hadn't yet started.
Sean lingered in the salon, trying to cool his temper with a snifter of French brandy. By the time he finished it, he felt in full control. He slowly mounted the stairs, and when he entered the bedchamber he was almost ready to forgive her.
She deliberately turned her back upon him.
He felt his control slip a notch.
She had removed the ostrich-feathered wig, but still wore her gown and her diamonds. Completely ignoring him, she unfastened the crimson velvet and stepped out of it. Naked, save for lace stockings and diamonds, she sat down at the dressing table and picked up her hairbrush.
Emerald knew his dark eyes were riveted upon her. She bent her head forward, allowing her hair to almost touch the carpet, she brushed it vigorously, then tossed it back so that it fell in a smoky cloud about her shoulders. With hairbrush still in hand she padded over to the bed with feline grace to retrieve her night rail from beneath the pillow. It was a flame-colored diaphanous garment designed to give a man pleasure. She made no effort to put it on, but took it back to the dressing table with her and draped it across the stool. Then she made a display of admiring herself in the mirror. She tossed her curls and drew the brush through them one more time, then very deliberately she brushed the black curls between her legs.
"What the hell game is this you are playing?" he growled.
She dropped the hairbrush and with hands on naked hips walked provocatively toward him. "A harlot's game. Isn't that what you want? I was just admiring the diamonds one last time before I give them back."
"The diamonds are yours," he ground out.
"Oh, I don't think so. They are your property, just as I am. We are both for display purposes only."
"Stop this game now," he said with quiet authority. He knew if he didn't hang on to the last of his control, he would throw her to the floor and mount her. Lust now mingled with his anger, and lust was rapidly gaining the upper hand.
"When you gave me the diamonds last night in bed, I didn't realize the significance. I had no idea I was paying for them with sexual favors. Perhaps last night was only the down payment?" She knew she was deliberately goading him, as did Sean. She wanted to exercise her woman's power over him, to see if she could shatter his control into a million shards.
He reached out with powerful hands and jerked her against him. "If you want fireworks, I'll start with skyrockets."
She fought him like a spitting cat, enjoying every blazing moment. They were a perfect match, each driving the other to madness. In the end they both surrendered. Sean gave in because he was physically stronger and didn't want to hurt her. Emerald yielded because she didn't want to maul his pride. In the end it was his tenderness that melted her anger toward him. His loving affection for her was boundless and showed her just how much she meant to him.
Much later, as she lay cradled in his arms, they both whispered love words. "My honey love, I did want to show you off, but I swear it was your Irish beauty I wanted to flaunt in the face of so many raddled Englishwomen. You never have to wear the necklace in public again, but you must keep it. You have no money of your own and it will give you some financial security."
"My darling, you are all the security I'll ever need."
He pressed her to his heart. "Promise me you'll keep it?"
"I promise," she whispered. "Let's not accept any more social invitations. I heard enough gossip tonight to last me a lifetime. I don't give a damn that the Duke of Devonshire has impregnated his wife, Georgiana, and his mistress, Elizabeth Foster, at the same time. I want to go home."
"Only a few days longer, sweetheart. I have merchant ships docked here in London. I must speak with my captains before we leave. Tonight I'll show you London's pleasure gardens. Just the two of us. Have you ever been to Vauxhall or Ranelagh?"
"Of course not. I never did anything sinful or worldly."
"Until I stole you," he whispered.
She laughed seductively. "Now I sin on a regular basis." She slid a silken knee between his rock hard thighs. "You taught me to be wild and wicked and to never say no!"