The Gilded Web

( 35 )

Overview

From one of America’s most beloved storytellers comes a classic love story—the breathtaking tale of a man and a woman caught in a web of temptation and seduction.

All she wanted was to escape the hot, crowded London ballroom. But moments after stepping into the bitterly cold night, she is seized by a pair of strong hands and spirited away. Fully expecting to be ravished, sheltered Alexandra Purnell instead finds herself at the mercy of the man who saved her from certain scandal....

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The Gilded Web

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Overview

From one of America’s most beloved storytellers comes a classic love story—the breathtaking tale of a man and a woman caught in a web of temptation and seduction.

All she wanted was to escape the hot, crowded London ballroom. But moments after stepping into the bitterly cold night, she is seized by a pair of strong hands and spirited away. Fully expecting to be ravished, sheltered Alexandra Purnell instead finds herself at the mercy of the man who saved her from certain scandal. Edmund, Earl of Amberley, is bold and sensual, tempting Alexandra to be reckless for the first time in her life. But as passion ignites, Edmund’s offer of marriage takes Alexandra completely by surprise. Now a woman who craves her freedom above all else is about to discover how far one man will go to protect and possess the woman he loves.…

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780440243069
  • Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 11/28/2006
  • Series: Dell Historical Romance Series
  • Format: Mass Market Paperback
  • Edition description: Reprinted Edition
  • Pages: 480
  • Sales rank: 332,725
  • Product dimensions: 4.15 (w) x 6.85 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

The New York Times bestselling, multi-award winning author Mary Balogh grew up in Wales, land of sea and mountains, song and legend. She brought music and a vivid imagination with her when she came to Canada to teach. There she began a second career as a writer of books that always end happily and always celebrate the power of love. There are over four million copies of her Regency romances and historical romances in print.

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Chapter One

It was a bitterly cold night for early May. It was not actually raining, but there was a heavy cloud cover, and the strong wind felt like a thousand knives to the scantily clad young lady who walked alone into its teeth. The thin dark cloak that she wore over an even thinner ball gown seemed like no protection at all, though she held it closed at the front with one hand and huddled inside it. The other hand held the loose sides of the hood tight beneath her chin.

Alexandra Purnell shivered and lowered her head. But she did not turn back to the ballroom behind her, despite the inviting glow of hundreds of candles through the long windows and the memory of scores of gay, brightly dressed guests. And despite the fact that the room she had just left was warm–perhaps even a little too warm, as the French doors into the garden had been firmly closed against the inclement weather.

No, foolish as it seemed, Alexandra preferred the discomfort of a solitary walk in the garden to the pleasures of the ballroom–for a short time anyway. In fact, she almost welcomed the weather just as it was. If it were warmer or less windy, doubtless there would be any number of guests strolling outside, and she would be unable to find any solitude at all.

She glanced back over her shoulder, but there was no one behind her. And there were no accusing faces at the French windows watching her make her temporary escape. Even so, she instinctively moved farther away from the lights of the house and closer to the dark back alley across from the stable block. It seemed that London dwellers were doomed either to live at some remove from their own stables or else to have them almost on top of the house.

Alexandra shivered again, and burrowed her chin behind the hand that held her hood firmly closed. She blew warm air down into her clasped hand. It was doubtless foolish to have run away like this. Her slippers were probably stained with grass. And her smooth chignon, which she had insisted upon despite Nanny Rey's plea that she try a hair fashion more suited to the festive occasion, would be flattened and disheveled by the close-held hood. And she certainly could not escape for an indefinite period. She would have to go back soon.

She was one-and-twenty years old already, she told herself in an interior monologue that had become very familiar to her mind over the past weeks. She was in her first and perhaps her only really active Season in London, which involved her in all the diversions of the beau monde. Papa had decided, quite without warning, that she must be given a proper introduction to society before her long-planned betrothal to the Duke of Peterleigh became official. They had taken a house on Curzon Street–Papa, Mama, her brother James, and herself. And they had met all the right people and attended all the proper functions in the month since.

She should be happy. Most young ladies would be ecstatic to be in her position. But she felt positively in her dotage beside all the other young girls who were making their come-out. And she could not feel comfortable with such a life. Nothing in her past had prepared her for the gaiety and frivolity of London. She was only now beginning to realize fully what a very strict and narrow upbringing she and James had had at Dunstable Hall. Almost any form of entertainment and personal pleasure had been frowned upon by Papa. Every thought and word and action had revolved around church and the Scriptures and Papa's firmly held notions of virtue and morality. And unlike James, she had not even been to school to discover that there was another world beyond home.

She had been intended for the Duke of Peterleigh for as far back as she could remember. She had met him only on a few occasions and then very briefly and formally. He did not live often on his estate, which adjoined theirs. He was twenty years her senior and spent most of his time in London on government business.

Alexandra had never questioned the fact that she would marry him when the time came. And she still did not do so. They had met a few times since her arrival in London, and she had found nothing to censure in him. He was in many ways like her father–stern and severe in manner, it was true, but surely an honest and an upright man. Unfortunately, he was also a busy man and did not appear at nearly as many entertainments as she was expected to attend.

And so there was an awkwardness about her come-out. She did not feel any affinity with the members of society around her. And she was not in search of a husband, or a flirt, as most of the other girls seemed to be. Papa did not like her to dress quite as fashionably as the others, and she could not bring herself even to dress her hair in a pretty fashion.

And there were the Harding-Smythes to contend with almost wherever she went. They kept her constantly aware of her inadequacies. Her aunt Deirdre, Papa's sister, always assumed that she lacked amusement and went out of her way to provide it. Her efforts were kindly meant, perhaps, but her ideas of amusement were not Alexandra's. Her cousin Caroline simpered and clung, more in an attempt to attract James than out of any real affection for her, Alexandra felt. And Cousin Albert appeared to have set himself the task of protecting an innocent young country cousin from all the evils and temptations of London. His manner toward her, toplofty and condescending, irritated her beyond bearing.

Alexandra blew again onto her cold hand. Had she been very rude to Caroline and Aunt Deirdre earlier? Did she owe them an apology? They had wanted her to return home with them that night so that she might accompany them to the shops on Bond Street the next morning. They had even secured her mother's permission before coming to ask her and had arranged to have a maid bring suitable clothes for her to wear the next day. But she had refused their invitation. She had not even softened her abruptness by offering some sort of excuse. She had been taught too well that telling the truth is always a virtue and that there is no such thing as a white lie.

They had left the ball soon after her refusal, as Aunt Deirdre had a headache. And at the same time she had been unable to resist the temptation to rescue her cloak and step outside for a moment's peace, especially as Albert had been smirking at her from across the room, and she knew he would come soon, remark on the singular misfortune of her having no dancing partner, and condescend to lead her out himself. Probably Mama still thought that she had gone with Aunt Deirdre. She really should be returning to the ballroom. Someone had signed her card for a set of country dances. She must not pay him the discourtesy of not being present when it began. Besides, Mama would scold if she were absent for a noticeable length of time and perhaps even report the fact to Papa the next morning. Then there would be trouble.

But Alexandra was fated not to return after all. As she was about to turn back to the house, she glanced almost absentmindedly at a closed carriage that was being drawn by four horses into the alley before the stable block just a short distance away.

And then the nightmare began.

Her back prickled to the knowledge that someone had stepped up behind her only a fraction of a second before a hand clamped over her mouth. Terror engulfed her instantly as she clawed at the hand and kicked back at her assailant with one slippered foot.

But her hands were soon dragged from her face and pulled firmly behind her back. Her cloak fell open so that the wind blew all its chill force against the delicate silk of her blue ball gown. She tried to shake her head, bend forward, kick herself free. But her efforts were all to no avail. Her hood had somehow been pulled down over her nose so that she could not even see.

"Got you!" a male voice said from behind her in tones of breathless amusement. "No use to struggle anymore now, young lady. You'll not be going such a long distance tonight after all. You should have stayed dancing. What in the deuce are you doing, Clem? Don't you have her wrists bound yet?"

"She is struggling like six cats," another voice said. "There. That should hold right and tight."

"Get the scarf for her mouth then," the first voice said. "We don't have all night, you know. A pretty pickle we would be in if she set up a screeching and we were caught. We could end up swinging."

"Swing yourself!" the second voice said indignantly. "I'm just doing this as a favor to a friend. I ain't in the habit of kidnapping females, y'know."

But Alexandra was not listening to the conversation. As he talked, the second man was stretching a scarf tightly over her mouth and tying it in a tight knot at the back of her head. And her hood was still down over her nose, so that she felt as if she were being bound in a sack. Renewed terror set her to kicking with fresh vigor and pulling uselessly against whatever it was that held her hands imprisoned.

"Grab her feet, Clem, will you," the first man said, "before my shins start getting bruises on top of bruises!"

And Alexandra was lifted unceremoniously from the ground and dumped none too gently inside what she realized must be the carriage she had seen pull out into the alley.

"There are limits to friendship," the first man grumbled before slamming the door and leaving Alexandra alone inside the dark interior of the coach. "Next time Eden has a wild scheme like this to execute, he can damned well do it himself."

The coach lurched into motion, and Alexandra realized that she was lying on a seat that must normally be exceedingly comfortable. But whose carriage was it? Who were her kidnappers, and where were they taking her? What did they plan to do with her? Ransom her? Did they imagine that Papa was a wealthy man? Murder her? She dragged again at her wrists, only to find that there was no way to loosen the bonds. She could feel the gag tight over her mouth, her hood halfway down her nose. And she began to draw fast and shallow breaths. She could not breathe. She was going to die. She was going to suffocate even before they had a chance to kill her.

Perhaps they were going to ravish her. Oh, dear God, she would rather die! Alexandra wrenched at her wrists again and found herself falling and quite unable to save herself from an awkward landing on the floor between the two seats.

The journey was not a long one. The carriage stopped, the door was thrown open, and the nightmare began again. If only she could see! She would not be so terrified if she could only see her captors and know that at least they were human.

"Oh, Lord, she fell off the seat," the first man's voice said. "Eden will have a thing or two to say if she has any bruises."

Alexandra had no chance to try once more to kick her way to freedom. Her head was toward the open door. One captor pulled her out by the arms, and she was immediately tipped forward and over the shoulder of the other, who proceeded to carry her up a flight of steps and into a lighted hallway. She could just make out a pattern of black and white tiles through the sides of her hood.

"Yes, I shall lead the way to her room," a third voice was saying. It was a stiff and disapproving voice. "But I don't like it, sirs. His lordship has never done anything quite like this before. She's all trussed up. It doesn't seem quite fitting somehow."

"Just lead the way, Palmer," the first man said breathlessly. "She ain't a featherweight."

Alexandra was bumped up a seemingly interminable flight of stairs and finally set down on her feet for a brief moment before being pushed backward quite gently. She landed on what felt like a perfectly soft bed.

"Here," her captor said, fumbling beneath her until he found the bonds at her wrists. "I can't leave you like that, now, can I? But I'll have to tie you up somehow and leave on the gag. Can't have you screeching and disturbing the whole household. And can't leave you free or you'll only run away again and all my efforts will be in vain. I'll tie your hands to the bedpost here. No offense meant. Eden will be home soon. He'll deal with you."

Alexandra's struggles were not as frenzied as they might have been. She was feeling very close to despair. If she escaped from this man, she had a whole houseful of enemies to get past before she could regain her freedom. She made only muffled protests as her hands were tied quite firmly above her head. She shook her head furiously, but she could not uncover her eyes enough to see either her assailant or the room into which he had brought her.

And then she was alone, the room quiet and dark, all sound obliterated by the closing of the door. Alone to struggle for a freedom that she knew was next to impossible to achieve. Alone with her imagination. Alone and waiting for her real captor to come. Eden. He would be there soon. Soon she would know.

Alexandra struggled on.

Dominic Raine, Lord Eden, blew out his breath through puffed cheeks when he returned to the ballroom from the garden and saw Madeline, his twin sister, quite close by, flanked by her bosom friends Miss Wickhill and Lady Pamela Paisley, the three of them laughing at something Lord Crane had just finished saying.

What a relief to see her there. He had made enough of a cake of himself as it was in the past hour. He had been justly served for jumping so hastily to conclusions. But it could have been worse–a lot worse. He would never have lived the matter down if his plan for Faber and Jones to bundle Madeline off to Edmund's house had been carried out. Her wrath would have been dreadful to behold. Not to mention Edmund's.

But all was well. Provided that couple of loose screws didn't still try to abduct her from the middle of the ballroom, of course. He would not put it past those two. The more difficult the scheme, the more likely they were to take the risk. And he was no better, he had to admit. He would not be able to resist the challenge if he were in their place. He must find them. Tell them the whole thing was off.

First, though, perhaps he had better warn Madeline. Tell her the whole story in such a way that she would think it all a great joke. He fingered his neckcloth to check that it was straight and sauntered over to the group of which his sister was a part. She flashed him a smile and finished the story she was telling to an attentive group. A burst of laughter greeted her final words.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3.5
( 35 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(11)

4 Star

(4)

3 Star

(7)

2 Star

(9)

1 Star

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 35 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted June 19, 2012

    Not her best

    Wanted to slap all the charaters. Awful

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  • Posted February 16, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    New Series

    I am liking Mary B's books. Now that I know her style and what I'm getting into before I read them, the stories are engaging and make me want to finish the whole group.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 9, 2009

    I Also Recommend:

    The Gilded Web

    I enjoyed this book very much and am looking forward to the other books about the same family. I am an avid reader and enjoy Mary Balogh very much.

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  • Posted March 10, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    So La-la

    I picked up this book in an attempt to broaden my range of authors. While I was not totally disappointed, indeed, for two whole days I found I could not really put it down - this was completely shattered by the ending. I will not disclose the events of which, however, it seems I have grown lazy in imagination and accustomed to epilogues, for I found the ending horribly abrupt and myself wishing that some loose ends were tied. Anyone with even a lick of common sense could surmise what could very well happen, I believe; however, I suppose I was just taken off guard when it was not readily supplied to me. I suppose that is my fault, and not the fault of the work itself, however, I am the consumer and I want my end.

    The prose of the book was also an adjustment, although I would never say it was poorly written. I think the language and voice were simply different from what I am accustomed. While this took some time to get acclimated to, it really took little to nothing from the book as a whole.

    One thing that I did find quite unfathomable was the attitude of the main female character. I found that her hyper-feminism was not only counter-productive, but made her arguments shallow and to put it bluntly, her whole paradoxical, vicious circle of reasoning simply got old, very quickly. In a time when feminism was sorely needed, I found absolutely no sympathy or even empathy with her situation as she seemed entirely her own sick, twisted oppressor. I think that makes for an interesting and complex character, and I also think it can, and was, taken too far.

    Luckily, this did not occur in doses large enough to take away from the other characteristics that this book has to offer. Among these are extremely complex and well developed characters; a plot with enough that was archetypal and enough that was unique that it went off rather well; and for the most part, enough humor to keep a well elevated mood.

    As my title indicates, while this book had a lot going for it, there were also many things that made me only mildly gratified in picking it up in the first place. My review, therefore, comes to a resounding, "So La-la".

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 2, 2007

    A good story

    Enjoyed the story so much that I've already puchased and read the next in the series. Hope the third comes out soon. I like the fact that Ms. Balogh actually takes the time to develop the characters and their relationship instead of just jumping into bed.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 15, 2007

    Waiting for the next one

    No it doesn't have the love scenes every couple pages, but if your looking for a classic, here it is. At first I thought it would be boring, but I loved the book. I have been waiting for James' story. If I have to go through Dominic's story first, well that's just a bonus.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 15, 2007

    Liked the characters, but way too drawn out

    Wow...how Mary Balogh has improved over time. She repeated the same things over and over and over...so I agree with the previous review...This book should have been called 'Slightly Boring'. I just kept reading because I liked the characters, and I'm looking forward to the Madeline/James story...I just hope it is more to the point...All in all, just an okay book.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 19, 2007

    Boring

    I tried my hardest to get through this book but I just couldn't finish it. The first 150 verbose pages could easily, and would have been more wisely summed up in fifteen. It's difficult to imagine a duller set of characters. Everyone is rigid and lifeless or annoyingly...well annoying. Both hero and heroine are so very priggish. Balogh has written better novels than this.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 16, 2007

    Not her best work

    I only finished this book because once I start one I have to finish. But the other characters(Madeline/James) were more interesting in this book the the main(Alex/Edmund). I just think the author should have focused more on the main characters. But the other books I have read from this author are great.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 13, 2007

    SHOULD HAVE REWORKED IT!

    Comments in the front of the book by balogh says she is surprised how much her writing has changed over the years (this book was written in 1989) she goes on to say some readers say the change is for the better other readers have a fondness for my older books.That statement is more than egotistical...Sounds as if anything she writes is the best. This book borders on the one of the worst i have ever read.The reader needs a list of charactors to refer to while reading there are so many. Both alex and edmund are nearly non-entities and blend meaninglessly into the storyline. Balogh says edmund is bold and sensual...True...If you consider a bowl of cold oatmeal sensual. Balogh says she will be bringing back all her old books. I can only hope she will read what she had previously written and do some work to salvage what is now a bad read.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 20, 2007

    Worst Book by Mary Balogh

    I thought this book was the worst M.B. book ever. the characters were so boring. Esp Alex I just wanted to smack her off her head. But I found myself skimming the book. I always have to finish it once i begin one. But I do not recommend it what so ever!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 11, 2007

    Wonderful First in Gilded Series Reissue

    Fans of Mary Balogh will be so happy to have the classic Gilded Series re-released. In this first of three books we find the sheltered Alexandra Purnell in a mistake of identity, kidnapped from the gardens of a ball and taken to the townhome of the Amberley family and tied to the bed for the evening. Dominic, Lord Eden, believes it is his sister Madeline safely tied up in bed at home, as he believes she is eloping with a scoundrel and arranges the kidnapping to prevent disaster. It is his serious, straight-laced, responsible brother, Edmund Raine, the Earl of Amberley who arrives home and finds the young Alex tied to the bed. He knows he must save her reputation and do the honorable thing, especially because he is in need of a wife anyway, so he arrives to her home the following morning to ask for her hand in marriage. Alex and her brother James have led troubled lives under the strict, sheltered, over-religious, controlling rule of their father, Lord Beckwith. Alex not only has no idea about society and rules of the ton, but also does not know how to express her feelings or show joy or happiness, yet alone passion. Edmund and Alex eventually become betrothed and the story moves to the Amberley country estate where Alex and Edmund are to become acquainted with each other. There the story goes into deep detail of the stuggles between these two very sensitive and deep emotional characters, who at first feel they will never know each other, but eventually learn passion and love. It is a deep, strong story and really shows how the romance genre, which according to this reviewer, feels has become too simplified. The romances written in the past were much more involved and took more time in story development. At times it appears that the newer romance writers seem to have lost this art, and at times the classic romance authors disappoint as we look for something written like the Gilded Series, but instead get a rush in less than 300 pages. What has happened to the epics of Bertrice Small and Virginia Henley? Why must a story and the romance reader's attention span be so short? Bringing back this series proves that romance readers are begging for more in-depth romance epics, and it is a delight! I look forward to the next two reissues, Web of Love and Devil's Web.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 30, 2006

    Too Boring

    I have read several of Mary Balogh¿s books and I believe this was the most boring one of them all. The main characters in this book did not have any chemistry at all. Do not waist your time or money on this book. Although I would like to read the stories of some of the other characters, I am afraid to do so because of how boring this book was. I was REALLY DISAPPOINTED.

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    Posted January 30, 2011

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    Posted October 25, 2008

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    Posted March 4, 2011

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    Posted May 20, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted May 1, 2010

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 9, 2011

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 19, 2011

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