Dukes to the Left of Me, Princes to the Right

( 152 )


Most women would not be pleased to be labeled a spinster. But Lady Poppy Smith-Barnes isn’t most women. In fact, Poppy has invented an imaginary fiancé, the Duke of Drummond, to deter unwanted suitors. A very useful fellow, this duke, until the real Drummond turns up and uses Poppy’s ploy to trap her in a betrothal.

A good spy flies below the radar. Which is why being named one of the Prince Regent’s “Impossible Bachelors” is so inconvenient for Nicholas Staunton. Every society ...

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Dukes to the Left of Me, Princes to the Right

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Most women would not be pleased to be labeled a spinster. But Lady Poppy Smith-Barnes isn’t most women. In fact, Poppy has invented an imaginary fiancé, the Duke of Drummond, to deter unwanted suitors. A very useful fellow, this duke, until the real Drummond turns up and uses Poppy’s ploy to trap her in a betrothal.

A good spy flies below the radar. Which is why being named one of the Prince Regent’s “Impossible Bachelors” is so inconvenient for Nicholas Staunton. Every society female will be out to ensnare him. Nicholas needs a fiancée—and Poppy’s ruse is the answer. How could he have known she’d be a brazen, sensual siren with an irresistible taste for adventure? Now nothing less will do than to convince his fiery Poppy to revoke her spinster status…for good.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“A delectable debut…I simply adored it!”—Julia Quinn, New York Times bestselling author of What Happens in London

“At once frothy and heartfelt, When Harry Met Molly satisfies! This book is better than dessert!”—Celeste Bradley, New York Times bestselling author of Rogue in My Arms

 “Kieran Kramer pens a delightful regency confection...a wonderfully bright debut.” —Julia London, New York Times bestselling author of Courtesan’s Scandal

“A delicious romp that will keep you laughing. A fun heroine and a sexy hero make this a delightful read.”—Sabrina Jeffries, New York Times bestselling author of The Truth About Lord Stoneville

“I couldn’t put it down...a charming delight!”—Lynsay Sands, New York Times bestselling author of The Hellion and the Highlander

“A wickedly witty treat…an exquisite debut!”—Kathryn Caskie, USA Today bestselling author of The Most Wicked of Sins

When Harry Met Molly is a delightful, page-turning read! New author Kieran Kramer will capture both your imagination and your heart.”—Cathy Maxwell, New York Times bestselling author of The Marriage Ring

Library Journal
Secretly waiting for her schoolgirl crush, Prince Sergei, to come back into her life, the highly eligible Lady Poppy Smith-Barnes has successfully avoided marriage for three years by claiming an understanding with the mysterious, supposedly imaginary Duke of Drummond. Then Nicholas Staunton, the real Drummond, shows up at a ball, intent on carrying off the farce for reasons of his own, and Poppy ends up publicly engaged (thanks to the Prince Regent's intervention), thoroughly kissed, absolutely furious, and totally determined not to marry this forceful, enigmatic man who has upended her life. Fate, of course, sees things quite differently. VERDICT Another sexy, aristocratic "Impossible Bachelor" bites the dust in this mischievous, page-singeing adventure that takes a superbly matched pair of strong-willed, sparring lovers, a diverse profusion of secondary characters, and an intricate, spy-laden plot, and serves it up with great flair and a lively sense of fun. Kramer (When Harry Met Molly) lives in South Carolina.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780312374020
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Press
  • Publication date: 11/30/2010
  • Series: Impossible Bachelors Series , #2
  • Format: Mass Market Paperback
  • Pages: 404
  • Sales rank: 694,909
  • Product dimensions: 4.10 (w) x 6.70 (h) x 1.20 (d)

Meet the Author

USA Today best-selling author and double-Rita finalist Kieran Kramer writes Regency historical romances for St. Martin's Press. IF YOU GIVE A GIRL A VISCOUNT, the fourth and last book in her Impossible Bachelors series, is on sale now. Her new series, House of Brady, premiers in August 2012. A former CIA employee, journalist, and English teacher, Kieran's also a game show veteran, karaoke enthusiast, and general adventurer. Find her on Facebook, Twitter, and at www.kierankramerbooks.com.

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Read an Excerpt



In a proper English drawing room on Clifford Street in London’s Mayfair district, Lady Poppy Smith-Barnes, daughter of the widowed Earl of Derby, threw down the newspaper and stood up on shaky legs. Finally, the secret passion she’d been carrying around with her for almost six years would have its day in the sun.

“He’s here,” she announced to Aunt Charlotte. “Sergei’s in England.”

She could hardly believe it. She’d resigned herself to being a Spinster—she was in good company, after all. But now … in a matter of a moment, everything had changed.

Her prince had arrived.

Aunt Charlotte, tiny in her voluminous, outmoded gown, stopped her knitting. “Are you sure?”

Poppy found the paper again and put it under her aunt’s nose. “He and his sister are touring with their uncle’s last portrait and unveiling it for the very first time here in London.”

“Oh, Poppy!” Aunt Charlotte’s eyes were a bright, mischievous blue above her spectacles, and her powdered white wig sat slightly askew on her head. “He’s the only man on earth who could coax you out of the Spinsters Club.”

“Indeed, he is.” She hurried to the front window and looked out, expecting something to be different. But the day appeared like any other day. She knew, however, that it wasn’t. It was special.

Sergei—the perfect boy, and now the perfect man—was in Town.

She spun around to her aunt. “Do you think he’ll remember me? It’s been six long years. I was fifteen. We had only a week. It seems a lifetime ago.”

“How could he forget you?”

She shrugged. “So much has happened to him. He’s been traveling, he was in the military—I kept up with him as best I could through the papers. I’m afraid he’ll see me at a ball and walk right by me.”

Aunt Charlotte laughed. “No one walks right by you, dear. Not with that fiery hair and impudent air.”

Aunt.” Poppy’s cheeks colored. “This is a fine time to remind me I’m not the malleable sort.”

Aunt Charlotte calmly resumed her knitting. “Eversly will survive the turndown, and so will you. It’s not as if you haven’t had a great deal of practice.”

Eversly was due to arrive within the hour, and his would be the twelfth marriage proposal Poppy had rejected in the three years she’d been out. Two of those offers had rather predictably taken place during the fireworks at Vauxhall. Another two had transpired at Rotten Row in Hyde Park at the fashionable hour, both times while she’d sat astride docile mares (Papa wouldn’t let her take out the prime-goers). One proposal had taken place in front of a portrait of a spouting whale at the British Museum at eleven in the morning and two more at the conclusion of routs that had dragged on until dawn. One had transpired in the buffet line at a Venetian breakfast after she’d overfilled her plate with wedges of lemon tart to make up for the dull company, two had occurred in her drawing room over cold cups of tea—tepid because her suitors had prosed on so long about themselves—and one had taken place, inexplicably, at a haberdashery, where she’d gone to buy buttons for Papa’s favorite hunting coat.

Two barons, a baronet, three viscounts, four earls (one of them only nine years old at the time), and one marquess had proposed to her. Two had had large ears. Four had had small eyes. Three had smelled of brandy, and one had lost his breeches in a fountain. One had been missing his front teeth (and it hadn’t been the boy).

Stay calm, she told herself. More than ever, you have a reason to say no to Eversly.

As the clock ticked closer toward the earl’s arrival, Aunt Charlotte kissed her on the cheek and left the room. Poppy waited another agonizing twenty minutes. Finally, there was a knock at the front door, and she put her newspaper under a pillow. Kettle, Lord Derby’s elderly butler, greeted the visitor in his usual sober way.

Poppy stood.

Then she sat.

And then she stood.

Finally, the earl, a veritable Adonis, entered the room. He had gleaming blue eyes, a golden curl on his forehead, and shoulders so broad she should feel weak in the knees.

But her knees stayed firm.

“You’re alone.” Eversly’s eyes were warm. She could tell he had genuine affection for her, and she did for him, actually. He was sporting, congenial company, but she couldn’t help thinking of him only as a friend. It was always that way with her suitors, as if there were a big NO stamped on all their foreheads.

Thanks to Sergei.

“Yes,” she told Eversly, swallowing hard. “I am alone.”

They both knew what that meant. Without her father or Aunt Charlotte by her side, she was unchaperoned. Only an engaged or married woman could meet a man alone in a room.

But she wasn’t quite alone, was she? There was her mother—sedate, mature—smiling down at her from her portrait, her wedding rings sparkling on her pale, slender hand. Her hair was the same shining copper color as Poppy’s own wavy locks; her eyes, the identical emerald green.

The earl moved toward Poppy, skirting a small table and rounding a chair. He lifted her hand to his lips and brushed a soft kiss against her knuckles. “We shall do well together,” he said, in a low-timbred voice that should have sent shivers up Poppy’s spine.

But it didn’t.

She stole a glance at his perfect lips. She’d heard from her aunt’s maid, who’d heard from the maid of a widow who’d had an affair with him, that he was a splendid kisser.

“We should,” she said with a little intake of breath, “were we to marry.”

Lord Eversly arched an eyebrow. “Aren’t we?”

“No, we aren’t,” she said in a small voice.

“What?” The earl’s voice became a mere squeak.

Poppy bit her lip. It was always at this point she reminded herself of the Spinsters Club and the vow she’d made with her two very best friends, Lady Eleanor Gibbs and Lady Beatrice Bentley. None of them would marry except for love.

And then, to inspire herself further, she imagined herself kissing Sergei.

“I can’t marry you,” she said to Lord Eversly, feeling braver now. “I’m so sorry.”

And she did feel sorry. He was such a dear.

He winced. “But your father said—”

Poppy blinked. “He doesn’t know.”

“Doesn’t know what?”

She was reluctant to hurt him, but she told her usual story. “I’m to be engaged,” she said. “And it’s a love match. Surely you understand.”

“I demand to know his name,” the earl said rather breathlessly.

Sergei, she wanted to say. But instead she said, “The Duke of Drummond.” Her tone was firm but gentle. She’d been through this scenario many times before.

Her other suitors believed she’d met the Duke of Drummond on a walking tour she’d taken in the Cotswolds, but he was totally fictitious, actually, a product of Cook’s lurid imagination. Cook enjoyed making up tales as she stirred her pots and chopped her vegetables, but that was part of her charm (if a floury-faced, wild-haired harridan in the kitchen who tippled occasionally could be called charming).

Indeed, just this morning, Cook told Poppy another outlandish tale about the duke. Poppy already knew he was the mightiest, fiercest duke ever to have walked the earth. And she knew as well that his ancestral castle jutted out over a cliff above the swirling waters of the North Sea. According to Cook, he’d murdered his brother so he could become duke, and to forget his guilt, he regularly plunged off this cliff for a swim. Occasionally, he came back up from the depths with a writhing sea creature under his arm, usually one with large, snapping teeth.

Today, Poppy learned the dreaded duke had even fought an octopus the size of a Royal Mail coach—and won.

“Did you say the Duke of Drummond?” the earl demanded.

Poppy yawned. “Yes, he rusticates somewhere far away.”

Eversly drew in his chin. “Never heard of him.”

“He’s quite wicked.”

“Wicked?” The earl raised his brow.

“Wickedly handsome, that is,” Poppy recovered. She thought again of Sergei. “We met three years ago. Remember the year I missed that impromptu boat race on the Thames?”

“Oh, yes. I do recall. My side won, actually. I had a prime spot at the front of the boat, and Miles Fosberry fell in the river. We couldn’t fish him out until we’d finished.”

“Right.” She gave him a sheepish smile. “Well, while you and your team were rowing past your less-favored acquaintances, I was on a walking tour of the Cotswolds. The duke was on one, too. We met at a village fair.”

“But your father—” The earl’s brow puckered. “Lord Derby never mentioned it. He said you were free to accept my offer.”

“Drummond hasn’t exactly offered for me yet,” she explained. “But he’s”—she paused—“on the verge.”

She’d been quite clever to have come up with that phrase—on the verge. Her previous suitors had found it suitably vague, so that when they saw her dancing for weeks and months—and some, for years after her rejection of them—they didn’t think to question her story.

“It’s simply a matter of time,” she said. “I’ve never told my father. It’s my secret”—she laid a hand on her heart—“my secret of the heart.” She allowed her voice to go a bit trembly. “And I’m not willing to reveal it yet, even to Papa.”

Lord Derby would be furious, of course, that she’d turned down the earl’s suit. But surely he’d recover. He was far too busy toiling away for England to waste time being angry at her for long, especially if she cried and told him she was waiting for a true love match, like his and Mama’s.

The earl looked down at his well-polished Hessian boots, and when he looked up again, his gaze was both besotted and disappointed.

“I still like you,” Poppy protested. “As a friend. This little … engagement thing between us—let’s forget it, shall we? I’ll see you throughout the Season, won’t I? We can share a waltz.” Although her dream was to share her next waltz with Sergei.

She dared to lean forward and give Eversly a small kiss on his cheek. She wasn’t one to dispense her kisses lightly, and the whole ton knew this of her.

“I shall hold you to that waltz,” the earl said, a little gruff. She could tell he genuinely cared for her. Nevertheless, his old good cheer sneaked back into his tone.

“I look forward to it.” She smiled. “Meanwhile, I know I can count on you to be discreet. Please don’t say a word to anyone about our … conversation.”

“I wouldn’t dream of it.” The earl bowed and left the drawing room without another word.

She waited a few seconds for Kettle to open the front door, then she ran to the window and looked out. Lord Eversly descended the front steps rather slowly. Poppy recognized that walk. It was the gait of a jilted bachelor. She’d induced it in many men.

But by the time he ascended the steps of his fine carriage waiting on the street, the earl’s pace had picked up to his regular jolly one. And why shouldn’t it? He was a wealthy, handsome peer of the realm with tremendous charm. Plenty of women would accept his suit. Why, she’d put a bug in several girls’ ears this very week.

She turned around to see Aunt Charlotte standing in the door, a loose curl from her wig hanging in her eye and making her look quite the scamp. “I heard every word,” she whispered loudly. “I’m so proud of you for following your heart. But—”

“But what?”

“We’re doomed. I hope your emergency suitcase is packed.”

“It is,” Poppy said in a thin voice.

“You know the procedure. Now that Waterloo is behind us, Spinsters in untenable situations no longer retreat to the north of Scotland. We’re forced to go to Paris!”

Aunt Charlotte appeared delighted at the prospect.

“Poppy?” It was her father’s voice. She could hear him in his boots, clomping down the hall toward the drawing room. “That wasn’t the earl leaving, was it? I’ve brandy and cigars in the library to celebrate your betrothal.”

Outside, Lord Eversly’s coachman cracked his whip, and he was gone.

But Poppy’s problems had only begun.


Copyright © 2010 by Kieran Kramer.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 152 )
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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 153 Customer Reviews
  • Posted November 29, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    charming investigative Regency romance

    A proud contented card carrying member of "The Spinsters' Club," Lady Poppy Smith-Barnes avoids potential suitors with a made-up fiancé as she waits for the return of her sweetheart Prince Sergei from Russia. Her model for her fake intended is her cook's tales of the adventures of the "Impossible Bachelor" the Duke of Drummond.

    Her sham works perfectly until the worst that could happen occurs when Nicholas Staunton arrives to see his fiancée. An undercover espionage agent, Nicholas uses his engagement to elude hunting mamas and conceal his work for the Crown. However he underestimated Poppy who has his back (and heart) as they search for a painting and an enemy spy.

    The second delightful Prinny Impossible Bachelors Regency romance (see When Harry Met Molly) is a charming investigative thriller starring two likable lead characters. The heroine is refreshing as she learns the best laid plans of mice and Poppy often go astray, but she charges on her light feet leading her beloved into battle. Nicholas is more typical of the sub-genre as an agent who uses his image as a rake to conceal his dangerous royal work. Together they come across as Nick and Nora (Charles not the Playlist that is) of early nineteenth century England.

    Harriet Klausner

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 31, 2010

    This is a definite must skip.

    I read the reviews and thought this book would be great. I loved the idea of the story. The book really pulls you in at first but as the story evolves the plot and the characters fall apart. The idea of Poppy being a beautiful spinster doesn't match the way the author portrays her character. She doesn't act like a spinster at all. I enjoyed Drummond as the lead in the book but even the hero couldn't save this weak story line. In addition the Prince and Princess of Russia story line is boring and contrived. I would save your money. This is not a must read.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted December 23, 2010

    I've fallen in love!

    The title intrigued me and I'm always hesitant to pick up a book by an author I haven't read so this was quite a treat. I'll admit I'm picky and overcritical, having said that I absolutely LOVED this book! It was the perfect mix of humor, sexiness and great writing. I rarely love the hero and heroine equally, but these characters were just perfect. Even the supporting characters were phenomenal. As soon as I finished the book, I had to run out and pick up the prequel. I'm definitely looking forward to future novels.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted December 16, 2010

    2nd in the series...

    I would highly recommend this book. I read so many historical romances that it is a pleasant surprise when I find an author that keeps my attention. Enjoyed the book very much!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted December 5, 2010

    Good Random Pick

    With all the material that is available out there I happened to choose this one because of the free snippet download given on the Nook. After I read the first chapter and half I felt drawn in enough to buy. However the book was not without it's quirks. At times it was like whoa, wait, did that just happen. Nicholas is a very strong character and he is as the series implies an Impossible Bachelor. Poppy is just the right sort of heroine that I like in my books. Not too simpy and still holds on to her backbone. The quirks about the book is that Poppy is supposed to be a spinster and in my opinion allows Nicholas too many liberties too fast. Hey call me old fashioned. Like I said he's a strong male lead. Even with these scenes, I laughed with the book and I felt emotion right along with the characters. This is why I would recommend the book and of course it has spy intrigue. Who can turn that down in a historical romance? I hope you enjoy the book as much as I did when I randomly choose it.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted December 2, 2010

    7.99 for a romance novel?

    the price is absurd. and thats the ebook too. anyway the book itself is ok.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 3, 2014

    Poppy was a very lovable and funny character, whereas Nicholas a

    Poppy was a very lovable and funny character, whereas Nicholas actually had me wanting to reach into the book and punch him a few
    times. I do recommend this book, simply because it is a great read. Kieran Kramer did a really good job.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted June 14, 2012

    OK, this got some good and bad reviews but let me just say... I

    OK, this got some good and bad reviews but let me just say... I have NO IDEA what people are talking about when they say this wasn't very good. It's wonderful. Even much cuter than the first (which I liked but did not love). Couldn't be better in my opinion!!!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 2, 2011

    Another good one

    I have read the whole series and have been very entertained. Just keep 'em coming Kieran Kramer and please dont lose the humor in them thats the cherry on top!!

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted August 29, 2011

    I love historical romances

    Enough said

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  • Posted April 6, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    Superb Writing!

    Nicholas is currently an agent for the British 'Service', unfortunately, he also recently got landed with the title of Duke of Drummond. Which means that he now must get married (a Duke is high in demand for marriage minded mothers and would bring too much attention to him as a Service Agent). Of course this is the worst case scenario for Nicholas, he thoroughly enjoys his bachelorhood and loathes the requirement of marriage that lies ahead of him.

    Poppy has been pining after the Prince of Russia that she met 6 years ago and has been waiting for his coming to England all this time, the true tragedy is that she is much too beautiful to be a Spinster and have to wait 6 years for her beloved. What this all means is that she has the misfortune to have to turn down multiple proposals, for the past 3 years, she has been using the name 'Duke of Drummond' as a scapegoat to all of her suitors, claiming that they are madly in love and will soon be engaged. Imagine Poppy's surprise when she realizes that not only does the Duke of Drummond actually exist, but he is extremely handsome, and he proposes to her the very night that she meets back up with the prince again (which of course, she has to actually accept this time because this is her supposed 'true love'.

    This was a marvelous book. I'll admit that when I first bought it, I hadn't been expecting much. I had read a few excerpts and was not really anticipating this read because of the parts that I read. Towards the beginning of the book, I still wasn't expecting much, I wasn't really enjoying Poppy's self-denial or either the Prince or Princess (which is to be expected). After a few more pages however, I couldn't put it down. The story line was thoroughly captivating and well done. By the end of the book, I couldn't get enough of the two main characters as well as the side characters (aside from the afore mentioned royalty). Kramer finalized every little twist to the story and left you wanting to read the next in the series. Bravo!

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted January 21, 2011


    When I read what the book was about I thought it would be boring but something kept drawing me back to this book and so I bought it. It was so well worth it. It was so much fun I couldn't put it down. I feel it's a must read.

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  • Posted January 16, 2011

    It was good.

    The book was good. I would recommend it but I must say that I was a bit disappointed only because I fell in love with the author's first book "When Harry Met Molly" and I expected the same kind of chemistry and vibrancy between the main characters in this book as in her first book. But overall the book was good and I'm glad I bought it but like someone mentioned in an earlier review; the price is absurd and the book doesn't deserved to be so pricey.

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  • Posted January 15, 2011


    DUKES TO THE LEFT OF ME,PRINCES TO THE RIGHT by Kieran Kramer is delightful historical romance set in Regency London. It is the second in "The Impossible Bachelors" series,(Book One "When Harry Met Molly") but can be read as a stand alone. It is well written with details,depth,fast paced and a page turner. It has romance, passion,sweet sensuality,humor,wit,spy, a fun heroine,a sexy hero,secrets,adventure,family secrets,and following your heart. The hero, Nicholas, is handsome,sexy, one of the Impossible Bachelors, a spy, and needs a fiancee.The heroine, Lady Poppy, is a spinster,beautiful,sexy,bright,strong-willed, not looking to marry except for love, wants adventure, witty, and makes up a fiancee who is none other than the handsome Impossible Bachelor,Nicholas(Duke of Drummond). Who she thinks is just made up stories.When Nicholas shows up he uses Poppy's ploy to trap her into a betrothal.Together they will find love, happiness, and adventure.The banter between Nicholas and Poppy is delightful. When their true feelings began to show, they encounter a nasty princess of Russia and her twin brother.The princess is after Nicholas,who she believes is a true Duke with a good fortune,so she fakes being with child. The prince, who was once a childhood friend of Poppy's,tries to force her to be his mistress. Poppy,finds out he is not what she had dreamed he was since childhood. Nicholas,who has spy work to do,and Poppy who wants adventure work together to retrieve a famous portrait,which has the name of a traitor in it. The portrait is of Poppy's mother,who died a few years early. Will family secrets come to light, will the mean-spirited prince and princess of Russia win their quest, or true love,and truth prevail?This is a fast paced,fun,adventure of love,truth and will capture your heart and imagination. I would highly recommend this book especially if you enjoy banter between the hero and heroine and a delightful Regency read. This book was received for the purpose of review from the publisher and details can be found at St.Martin's Paperbacks and My Book Addiction and More.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
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    Posted February 7, 2011

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    Posted June 22, 2011

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    Posted May 10, 2011

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    Posted April 12, 2011

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    Posted December 7, 2010

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    Posted February 18, 2011

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