Forever a Ladyby Delilah Marvelle
Lady Bernadette Marie Burton may be the richest widow in England, but like her dreams of finding true passion, her reputation is deteriorating. Cruel gossip, loneliness and hordes of opportunistic suitors have her believing Society couldn't be more vile or dangerous. So when an attacker threatens her life, she finds safety in the most unseemly of
Lady Bernadette Marie Burton may be the richest widow in England, but like her dreams of finding true passion, her reputation is deteriorating. Cruel gossip, loneliness and hordes of opportunistic suitors have her believing Society couldn't be more vile or dangerous. So when an attacker threatens her life, she finds safety in the most unseemly of places: the arms of a mysterious, Irish-American gang leader.
His fortune stolen, young Matthew Milton is done playing the respectable gentleman. In the slums of New York, only ruffians thrive. But from the moment he arrives in London and encounters the voluptuous Lady Bernadette, he can't help but wonder about the finer pleasures he's missing. Or just how much he's willing to risknot only to bed her, but to prove his worth .
"[A] quintessential romance." -Booklist on Prelude to a Scandal
Read an Excerpt
New York CitySqueeze Gut Alley, evening
The sound of hooves thudding against the dirt road in the far distance beyond the dim, gaslit street made Matthew snap up a hand to signal his men, who all quietly lurked across the street. The five he'd chosen out of his group of forty strategically spread apart, one by one, backing into the shadows of narrow doorways. Still watching the street, Matthew yanked out both pistols from his leather belts. Setting his jaw, he edged back into the shadows beside Coleman before whispering in riled annoyance, "Where the hell is Royce?"
Coleman leaned toward him and whispered back,
"You know damn well that bastard only follows his own orders."
"Yes, well, we're about to show that no-name marshal how to do his job. Again.'''
"Now, now, don't get ahead of yourself, Milton. We've got nothing yet. We're all standing outside a brothel that appears to be out of business, and most of our informants are worth less than shite."
"Thank you for always pointing out the obvious, Coleman."
They fell into silence.
A blurred movement approached and a wooden cart with two barrels rolled up to the curb, pulled by a single ragged-looking horse. A large-boned man sat on the dilapidated seat of the cart, his head covered with a wool sack whose eyes had been crudely cut out. The man hopped down from the cart, adjusting the sack on his head. Glancing around, he pulled out a butcher knife and hurried toward the back of the cart.
Justice was about to pierce Five Points. Because if this didn't look nefarious enough to jump on, Matthew didn't know what nefarious was anymore. Pointing both pistols at the man's head, Matthew strode out of the shadows and into the street toward him. "You. Drop the knife. Do it. Now."
The man froze as Coleman, Andrews, Cassidy, Kerner, Bryson and Plunkett all stepped out of the shadows and also pointed pistols, surrounding him.
The wool-masked man swung toward Matthew, tossing his knife toward the pavement with a clatter and held up both ungloved hands. "I'm delivering oats.
You can't shoot me for that." His clipped, gruff accent reeked of all things British.
Cassidy rounded the cart, his scarred face appearing in the glow from the gaslight before disappearing into the shadows again as his giant physique stalked toward the man. "oats, my arse. You Brits seem to always think you're above the law. Much like the Brit who had the gall to slit me face." Cassidy paused before the man. He yanked the wool sack off that head and whipped it aside, revealing beady eyes and a balding head. Cassidy cocked his pistol with a metal click and growled out, "I say we kill this feck and send England a message."
Matthew bit back the need to jump forward and backhand Cassidy. This was exactly what happened when an Irishman had too much justice boiling his blood. He fought against everyone. And woe to the man who also happened to be British. If it weren't for the fact that Cassidy was dedicated to the cause and would fight with his own teeth to the end for it, Matthew would have booted him long ago.
Veering closer to Cassidy, Matthew hardened his voice. "This has nothing to do with England or your face. So calm the hell down. We don't need dead bodies or the marshals on our arses."
Cassidy hissed out a breath but otherwise said nothing.
"Check the barrels," Matthew called out to Coleman.
Tucking away both pistols, Coleman jogged over to the cart and, with a swing of his long legs, jumped up onto the back of it. Angling toward the two wooden barrels, Coleman pried each one open, tossing aside both lids with a clatter. He glanced up, his chiseled grim face dimly lit by the gas lamp beyond. "They're both here."
A breath escaped Matthew.
Bending over each barrel, Coleman dug his hands in and hefted out a young girl of no more than eight, gagged and roped, along with another young girl of about equal age. He set each onto bare feet. Using a razor, Coleman sliced off the ropes and removed their gags.
Choked sobs escaped the girls as they jumped toward each other, clinging. The lopsided wool gowns they wore were crudely stitched and most likely not what they had been wearing when they had been taken from the orphanage.
Matthew's throat tightened. He knew that if not for the interference of him and his men, these two girls, who had disappeared from the orphanage all but earlier that week, would have been sold to a brothel. Shoving his pistols into his leather belt, Matthew gestured toward the balding man. "Rope this prick up before I do."
The man shoved past Kerner and Plunkett, and darted, running down the street.
Shite! All of Matthew's muscles instinctively reacted as he sprinted after the man, leveling his limited vision.
"I told you we should have killed him!" Cassidy boomed after him. "What good are pistols if we never use them?"
"Everyone move!" Matthew yelled back, running faster. "Spread out! Coleman, stay with the girls!"
Matthew refocused on the shadowed figure who was already halfway down the street, those thick legs splashing through muddy puddles as his cloak flapped against the wind blowing in.
Matthew pumped his legs and arms faster and sped into the darkness. Through the sparse light of the moon and passing lampposts, Matthew could see the man repeatedly glancing back, his self-assured run turning into a jogging stagger as the balding man huffed and puffed in an effort to keep moving.
The man wasn't used to running.
The man was used to the cart.
And this was where he, Matthew, who did nothing but run for a damn living, brought an end to the bastard's grand delusions of escape. Closing the remaining distance between them, and just before a narrow alleyway between two buildings, Matthew reached out and grabbed the man hard by the collar of his cloak.
Gritting his teeth, Matthew flung his body against that hefty frame, knocking them both down and into the mud with a skidding halt, spraying water and thick sludge everywhere.
As they rolled, Matthew used his weight to stay on top, shoving the man back down. The bastard punched up at him, hurling frantic blows that rammed Matthew's shoulders and chest.
Holding the man down with a rigid forearm that trembled against that resisting body, Matthew swung down a clenched fist, thwacking him in the head, sending his balding head bouncing against the mud beneath. "Stand down, you son of a bitch! Stand down before I"
"We got him!" Bryson yelled, pushing in and setting a quick knee against the man's throat.
In between ragged breaths, Matthew scrambled up to his booted feet. He staggered back, feeling mud sloughing off his arms and trouser-clad thighs.
Cassidy skidded in, spraying more mud and shoved aside Bryson's knee. "I'll bloody show you how things are done over in Ireland."
Effortlessly jerking the man up and out of the mud, Cassidy swung a vicious arm around his throat, causing the man to gag and stagger. Bryson scrambled over with the rope.
Once the man's arms were tightly roped against his sides, Kerner jumped forward and, with a growl, delivered a swinging fist into the man's gut. "That's for every girl you ever touched, you feck!" He swung back his arm and delivered another blow, causing the man to gasp and stagger against the ropes. "You think you can" Kerner jumped forward again and punched that face, a pop resounding through the night air.
"Kerner!" Matthew boomed.
Kerner stumbled back and swung away, his chest heaving.
Matthew swallowed, trying to calm the chaotic beat of his own heart. Despite the reprimand, Matthew knew all too well that Kerner, who had lost his twelve-year-old daughter to a brutal rape and murder just down this very street six years earlier, was relatively calm given the situation.
Sadly, a deeply rooted need to right the wrongs that had been committed against them was what had brought each and every one of them together. Their grief had become his own grief. They all struggled with anger. "I know this isn't easy for you. Breathe."
Kerner swiped at his bearded face with a trembling hand. "Aye. I'm sorry." As if lurching out of a trance, he said, "Tend to those girls. Coleman is probably scaring the piss out of them."
"Ah, leave off the man. He's not as rough as he lets on." Matthew flung off whatever mud he could from his hands and jogged his way back down the street until he reached the cart. "We got him," he called out to Coleman, who was bent over the cart, waiting for the verdict.
Coleman huffed out a breath. "Good."
Heading toward the back of the cart, Matthew leaned against the uneven planks of wood. Neither barefooted girl was crying anymorethank Godbut both were still tucked against the barrels they'd been removed from, huddling against each other.
Coleman gestured toward the two. "You should probably take over. They don't seem to like me. Or my stories."
Hopefully the man hadn't been sharing the wrong sort of stories. Swiping his muddied hands against his linen shirt, Matthew held out both hands toward them and gently urged, "All of us are here to help. My name is Matthew and this gent beside you is Edward. Now. I want you both to be brave and ignore the mud and the scary eye patch. Can you be brave enough to trust me? Just this once?"
They stared, still clinging to each other.
Matthew lowered his hands and smiled in an effort to win them over. "Tell me what you want me to do and I'll do it. Do you want me to act like a monkey? One-eyed monkeys are my forte, you know. Just ask anyone." He scratched his head with his fingers and softly offered, "ooh, ooh, eee, eee, aah, aah."
Coleman leaned down toward them. "I can do a better monkey than he can. Watch this." Coleman swung his long, muscled arms in the air and garbled toward them.
The girls darted away from Coleman. Their dark braids swayed as they scrambled toward Matthew in clinging unison, as if deciding that Matthew was a better choice than Coleman.
Matthew bit back a smile. Good old Coleman. He could always depend on the man to scare anyone into cooperation. Matthew held out both hands. "There's no need to be frightened. He's merely being silly. Now come. Give me your hands."
The girls paused before him, each slowly taking his outstretched hands, though they still clung to each other. Those small, cold fingers trembled against his own.
Matthew gently tightened his hold on them, trying to transmit warmth and support. He leaned toward them and whispered, "Thank you for being so brave. I know how hard that was. Are you ready to go back to Sister Catherine? She's been very worried."
To his astonishment, both girls flung themselves at his throat, bumping their heads against his shoulders. They sobbed against him.
Matthew gathered them, sadly unsurprised as to how little they weighed, and draped each girl around a hip, ensuring his pistols were out of the way.
The thudding of a single horse's hooves echoed in the distance. The girls tightened their hold against him as he turned toward the sound.
The lamppost beyond resembled a golden halo eerily floating in the bleak distance. The steady beating of hooves against the trembling ground drew closer as the silhouette of a man in full military attire with a sword at his side, pushed his horse toward them.
Marshal Royce. The bastard. Now he arrived.
Matthew glanced at each girl and chided, "This here man was supposed to assist, but the mayor wouldn't let him out of the house in time to play. The mayor is his mother, you see. And neither do enough for this city. Make sure you remember that when women are finally given the right to vote."
The horse whinnied as it came to a stop beside them. "I heard that," Royce snapped from above, his rugged face shadowed. "Why don't you also tell these girls how I always look the other way when you're doing something illegal?"
Matthew glared up at him. "Why don't you offer up your horse so I can take them back?"
Royce wagged gloved hands and commanded, "I've had a long night that included almost getting my throat slit. Why the hell do you think I'm late? Hand them up. I'll return them myself."
Their arms tightened around Matthew and sobs escaped them.
Matthew stepped back, adjusting his hold on them. "You know, Royce, I don't know if you care enough to even notice, but these girls have been through enough and don't need to hear about throat slitting. So tone down that voice and get off the horse. I'm taking them back. All right?"
Royce hesitated, then blew out a breath. With the swing of a long, booted leg, he jumped down and off the horse with a thud. Digging into his pocket, he held out a five-dollar bank note. "Take it to pay your bills," he grudgingly offered. "I heard you up and stole another shipment of pistols. Just know the next time you do something like that on my watch, I'll ensure you and your Forty Thieves end up in Sing Sing Prison. And believe me, men don't sing sing there."
The bastard was fortunate Matthew was holding two girls. "I don't need your money. Give it to the orphanage. They need locks on their goddamn doors."
"You won't take money from me and yet you have no qualms stealing." Royce shook his head from side to side, lowering the money he held. "Your pride is going to hang you one of these days."
"Yes, well, it hasn't yet."
Meet the Author
Delilah Marvelle loves writing historical romances with scandalous twists she digs up from history. She is a two time Golden Heart Finalist, an RT Reviewer's Choice Nominee and a double finalist in the Bookseller's Best Award. You can visit her at her website at www.DelilahMarvelle.com or visit her blog, A BIT O'MUSLIN which explores the naughtier side of history at www.DelilahMarvelle.blogspot.com
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
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Free to live the life of a rich widow in New York away from the gossips of London Lady Bernadette Marie Burton has no desire to allow another man to control her destiny. Matthew Milton knew the prestige and freedom money gave his life and now is living with the pain that losing it brings. When these two forces meet in New York, there are actions beyond pleasure to partake in, a battle over maintaining one’s pride, and a tussle of wills to overcome. Matthew is scraping along the underbelly of New York trying to ensure everyone has a meal and a place to sleep while Bernadette fulfills her desires and lives out her dreams going from one adventure to the next. They both bring a calming peace to each other’s life and trying to overcome the obstacles standing in their way is very difficult. Overriding every other thought is the feeling that this is the moment to seize. Every expectation you have from life is right in front of you, so decide how to make the most of it together. Enemies abound for both of them, and trying to figure out which one of them is bringing trouble to their door is difficult to discern. Delilah Marvelle writes with such exquisite beauty that the mere words on the page bring a blush to your check and a tear to your eye. With each book, Ms. Marvelle delivers on the diversity of life and the romance you can find if you keep looking.
I had a hard time getting into this novel. The characters weren't really "speaking" to me at first, and I couldn't recall enough of the details from book one (Forever and a Day) to make it all make sense--I read it back at the end of December. Maybe I read too much (is that even possible?) but I couldn't for the life of me remember enough about Georgia and Matthew and Roderick from book one, so about a quarter of the way through, I went back and skimmed book one and re-read the prequel (Forever Mine, although I was more than halfway through the novella before I realized that I HAD read it before) and that helped me feel like I had more of a grasp on the characters and their motivations. After that, the reading got much better. I liked Matthew at the beginning of the novel, he lost me a bit before he decided to reform, and I LOVED him at the end (though I was bothered a bit by their big moment when he "made" her his virgin...that he went from back to front like that, it's just so unhygienic....) I absolutely loved Ronan, Matthew's adopted son, and totally can't wait to read book three and get to hear Coleman's story (though I should probably make myself a cheat sheet for all the characters and plot lines in these three books now, while I still remember!) There were times--many of them--when I just wasn't crazy about Bernadette. I understand her issues with London society, but it seemed like there were many instances when she appeared to go out of her way to make things more difficult for herself and for Matthew. Frustrating. Still, she made up for much of it at the end. It's an interesting series, and I am anxious to get my hands on book three.
What I liked in this book was the way Milton roused above his circumstances and that no matter what happened in his life he put everyone above his own needs. Not many people see this way. Even knowing he came from a place of money he didn't let that go to his head and he helped everyone he could as much as he was capable of. Something that got to me and I have this problem a lot was that even as it was a historical book I didn't felt like I was transported to that time in which the book was wrote. But in general it was a good story of survival, morals and above all triumph over the circumstances in which life can be cruel and make you forget yourself.
FOREVER A LADY by Delilah Marvelle is a Regency historical romance.Book 2 in the "Rumor" series, but can be read as a stand alone. See," Forever and a Day". While, this title starts out a little slow to me, never fear it does pick up nicely. It has rumors,passion,a bit of danger,secrets,touches on the crudites of Sing-Sing prison during the 1800's,social class, Irish Catholics, rumors,a bit of suspense,Irish-American gangs,romance,and love. Follow, Bernadette Marie Burton,a respectable widow and Matthew Joseph Milton,an Irish-American gang leader,on a journey filled with adventure and passion. Can rumors and Society gossip stop Bernadette and Joseph from finding true love, you will have to read "Forever A Lady" to find out. Received for an honest review from the publisher and Net Galley. Visit the author's website,HQN or My Book Addiction and More for more details. RATING: 4 HEAT RATING: MILD REVIEWED BY: AprilR, My Book Addiction and More/My Book Addiction Reviews
Matthew Milton is a man who was wronged by an employee of his father's who stole their business and livelihood and landed Matthew and his father in the bowels of life in the inner city we were introduced to in Forever and a Day, the first book in the Rumor series. He starts off as the gentleman he was raised to be, but quickly realizes he can not stay that way in order to survive in Five Points. Lady Bernadette Burton is the wealthiest widow of her time. She cast off propriety when her elderly husband passed away and decided to follow her desires to America. She does as she likes and cares for few. When their paths cross in London, Lady Bernadette is being attacked by a spurned former suitor and Matthew comes to her rescue. There is instant attraction, but she is not looking for commitment while Matthew is looking for just that: "The One." As more obstacles rise and time is spent in each other's company, they start to come to want what they did not think they could have. Delilah Marvelle has a remarkable skill of taking a two unlikely soul mates and bringing them together while maintaining the historical integrity of the period she writes about, while keeping the reader entertained. I was surprised by how much I felt for Matthew and Lady Bernadette. Matthew's history was particularly touching because it showed what had shaped him into being the gentlemanly head of The Forty Thieves. He was willing to steal to keep women and children fed, but he was not willing to steal to make a profit for his own gain. Matthew was willing to take on a virtually parent less child and love and raise him as his own. It's really hard to like someone who isn't honest, but it's even harder not to like someone who does it for the greater good of others. Lady Bernadette was also a surprise. Having being constrained in a marriage not of her choosing and unhappy in it, she was not willing to compromise on it now that she was a widow. I admired her joie de vivre and her willingness to help Matthew and those he cared for. Ms. Marvelle has also once again covered many topics that you would not expect to find in a historical novel. This is no piece of historical fluff, but a meaty book with social issues relevant not only to the time, but also to today with a tender, romantic story. I applaud Ms. Marvelle's depth of research and her topic matter. Her vivid writing allowed me to picture myself cantering alongside Lady Bernadette in the park or seeing the appalling state of Five Points through Matthew's eyes. I am so glad that I stumbled across the novella Forever Mine, that preceded Forever and a Day. It introduced me to a lovely series and a brand new author. I look forward to the next book in the series, which is the about the missing Lord Abbott and his journey to reclaim that which was lost to him. December 18, 2012 can not come fast enough for me!
Loved this book. Absolutely amazing to read about New York in this time period. Loved the story, and loved each character. I enjoy all her books and truly would recommend any of them especially this one!
I received a copy of Forever a Lady through NetGalley in exchange for my honest opinion, and I genuinely LOVED this novel!!! Now, anyone who knows me knows how much I absolutely love historical romance novels; this is definitely on my list of favorite books now. In the prologue, we are introduced to Matthew Milton, the main character, who is rescuing Ronan from a man, who has dealings with his mother; we also meet Coleman, who ends up befriending Matthew. Chapter one is years later, and Matthew is still poor, leading a group called the Forty Thieves, and is blind in one eye. The story is also told from Bernadette Burton's point-of-view; she is the richest widow and does as she pleases. She and Matthew meet in London while they are riding horses, he's with Coleman, and she is with Georgia; when Matthew saves her from being cropped, their lives are forever changed (in a good way). This novel had all of the right elements and didn't lack in anything…if you're not mature or don't like love scenes, I suggest not reading this novel. Even though Matthew's character was supposed to be super poor and only had sight in one eye, I found him to be very intriguing and attractive. The thing I loved most about this novel is that the author, Delilah, didn't shy away from anything. I also admire the fact that she included tidbits about "The Truth Teller and also the Five Points at the end of the novel, in the Author's Note. Although this novel is the second in a series, it can be read as a stand alone novel. If Historical Romance is your genre, I HIGHLY recommend that you purchase this novel today! I'm super anxious for Coleman's story!!