USA Today bestselling author Cathy Maxwell delivers another passionate romance wherein marriage is based on convenience not love, and only desire can get in the way.
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The Lady Is Tempted
The Peak District
Deborah Percival should have been on her guard from the moment she had first received an invitation to Dame Alodia′s Spring Afternoon Soiree.
After all, although her sister was married to the dame′s favorite nephew, it had been years since she′d been included in their social circle. However, Deborah had been so pleased to be out of mourning and reinvolved in society, she′d forgotten how Dame Alodia adored using her soirees as an opportunity to arrange the world to her liking.
That is, she forgot until the dame singled her out.
"You′re mourning has passed, hasn′t it, Mrs. Percival?" The dame′s gravelly voice resounded in an unexpected lull in the conversation. She was a tall, rawboned woman with a ruddy complexion, gun metal gray hair, and a love of the color purple. Her pug, Milton, sat on her lap licking his nose.
The magpie chattering of gossip came to a halt. The twenty or so other women guests, the "acceptable" members of Peak District′s cloistered society, sat perched in ornate chairs set up in a circle in the center of the dame′s cavernous drawing room. They turned as one toward Deborah, their eyes bright with surprise...and interest.
Deborah shifted her cup and saucer from one hand to another. "Well, yes, Dame Alodia, I am three months out of mourning."
"Then isn′t it time you should be thinking about a new husband?" the formidable dowager said.
For a second, Deborah couldn′t breathe, let alone answer. Eleven years ago, shortly after her father′s untimely death and at exactly such a Spring Afternoon Soiree, Dame Alodia and the others had decided a too-young, too-naive Deborah should marry Mr. Richard Percival, a man almost thirty-three years her senior. He had been feuding with his adult children. He had asked for Deborah′s hand with the intention of starting a new family and putting their noses out of joint.
Like any sensible young woman, Deborah had shuddered at the thought of being wed to a man so much older, but the women of the Valley, these women, had insisted her duty was to marry in order to support her widowed stepmother and two half sisters.
Her duty. Deborah always did what was expected of her. Her overdeveloped sense of responsibility had been honed to a keen edge over the years, sharpened by the knowledge that, even all these years after her death, her mother was still considered an interloper. Some even considered her immoral. First, because she′d been French, and second, because she′d upset the village′s plans for their favored bachelor.
In turn, Deborah had learned early on she must walk the straight and narrow lest she be accused of her mother′s perceived sins.
Now, she glanced around the room. Every one of them waited, eager to hear her reply -- all, that is, save for her sister Rachel. Seated next to Deborah, she had acquired a sudden fascination in the curve of her teacup.
Since Mr. Percival′s death, Deborah had been forced to live with Rachel and her husband Henry. Her widow′s portion had been a pittance, which Henry found humiliating and a blow to the family pride. The fact Deborah worked harder than his wife and servants held no sway in the face of his resentment, and she couldn′t help wonder if Henry now played a part in his aunt Alodia′s questioning.
"Have you naught to say for yourself?" Dame Alodia demanded, with a haughty lift of her brows. She sniffed to the others. "I ask a question and don′t receive an answer. Do young women not use their ears anymore?"
Oh, Deborah had an answer: Ambushed by the Dowagers of Ilam. Again!
As her late husband would have said, double damn.
But she couldn′t speak in such a manner in front of the cream of Ilam society.
Instead, she cleared her throat self-consciously, and admitted, "I had not thought on the matter, ma′am."
"No thought on marriage?" Dame Alodia emphasized the last word to show her astonishment. "Every woman should be married."
Deborah could have pointed out that Dame Alodia was a widow and happy for it, but she bit her tongue. "It is still too soon--"
"Nonsense!" Dame Alodia interrupted. The purple ribbons and lace of her cap bobbed with her enthusiasm for her topic. "You′ve done your mourning. How old are you? Eight-and-twenty? Almost thirty? No longer in your prime breeding years and no children."
"No, no children," Mrs. Hemmings reiterated. She was Dame Alodia′s constant companion, a colorless, nondescript woman and a warning to Deborah of what might become of her. Life was not pleasant for a genteel woman forced to depend on the mercy of relatives.
"Actually, I′m seven-and-twenty," Deborah corrected, feeling hot color stain her cheeks. She did not like confrontation.
"Twenty-eight, seven-and-twenty, what difference?" Dame Alodia said with a dismissive wave. She picked Milton off her lap and unceremoniously handed him to Mrs. Hemmings. The dog growled at being moved from his comfortable position. "Take him out of the room for his walkie-walk, Hemmy," Dame Alodia ordered "while the rest of us talk sense into Mrs. Percival."′
"Yes, sense," Mrs. Hemmings echoed, and left the room.
As soon as the door shut, Dame Alodia came directly to the point. "Every woman needs a husband and children unless she is barren, and then she is not fit for a thing. Whatever your age, Mrs. Percival, you are not growing younger. Furthermore, those dark looks of yours are not in fashion. Blond hair and blue eyes, like your sisters have, is the style. Black hair and black eyes are too foreign-looking. Too Continental, and no one likes the Continent anymore. Not after the war."The Lady Is Tempted. Copyright © by Cathy Maxwell. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
Meet the Author
Cathy Maxwell spends hours in front of her computer pondering the question, "Why do people fall in love?" It remains for her the great mystery of life and the secret to happiness. She lives in beautiful Virginia with children, horses, dogs, and cats.
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I couldn't wait to read the next chapter and the next, Cathy Maxwell creates incredible romance in this novel. The overwelming feeling in your heart as you read each chapter captures you. I recommend anyone who likes historical romance to definately read this one. It will be one cherished forever in my library.
From birth Deborah Percival was trained to do what others desired of her not what she wanted from life. At seventeen, Deborah¿s father died leaving her, her two half-sisters and her stepmother in financial straits. To help her siblings, Deborah acquiesces and marries a man almost sixty years old. This enables her half sisters to wed the husbands they wanted to marry. When Deborah becomes a widow, her family pressures her to remarry a widower with six children. Displaying rare spunk, Deborah refuses and journeys to London to stay with one of her half-sisters. Earl Anthony Aldercy has worked hard to recover the family fortune that his late father lost gambling. However, his intense efforts cannot overcome his family reputation for scandals. To help erase some of that taint, he agrees to marry a respectable lady. On her way to London, torrential rain forces Deborah to take lodging at the home of Miss Chalmers whose other guest is Tony. Tony and Deborah soon share a bed and begin to fall in love. However, since he is betrothed and cannot deal with any scandal their relationship appears short-lived. THE LADY IS TEMPTED is a character-driven Regency romance starring two wonderful protagonists though the audience will wonder why Deborah waited so long before showing her independence. The fabulous story line provides fans with a delightful tale focusing on Tony struggling between his heart and his obsession to avoid shame. Cathy Maxwell furbishes an engaging romance that unabashedly highlights the love between two people. Harriet Klausner
I have read quite a few books by Cathy Maxwell this past year. She was a new author I found via B &N and took a chance on some of her stories. I have read ¿Treasured Vows¿, ¿Falling in Love Again¿, ¿The Price of Indiscretion¿ (all three not bad ¿ average), ¿You and No Other¿ (pretty good) and ¿Because of You¿ and now ¿The Lady is Tempted¿ (the last two being excellent!). I¿m always excited when I stumble upon an author I like. SO¿after reading ¿The Lady is Tempted¿ I was smiling and pleased again at the experience. If you are a true historical romance reader and love a strong leading lady and a strong yet, kind leading man ¿ this will be a great book for you. Our heroine Deborah is a gal we can all relate to and you will root her on! She begins the book as a widowed woman of 27 in a small, rural English village where everyone knows everything about you. Her family and the leading townsfolk have run Deborah¿s life for her and made her decisions (sad to say). Many women of this time held similar lives ¿ woman were not open minded, strong and determined back then as they are in today¿s world. Many families dictated what would happen in a girl¿s life and poor Deb was no different. Deborah takes the leap to true womanhood and independence by leaving to go help her sister, brother-in-law and new baby in the city for a short while to get away. It is during this trip to town that Deborah becomes a new woman ¿ the woman she was destined to be. How you ask? Why she simply takes shelter in a local cottage run by a woman named Marmy and as Deborah is taking off her hat and gloves to warm in the library near a fire, she comes face to face with her other half ¿ Anthony Aldercy, the Earl of Burnell. The other half she didn¿t know existed, could only dream about and now she has to find courage within herself to take what she wants in life and not wait for crumbs to be left to her. The beauty of this book is that for once, our hero, Anthony, feels exactly the same. He lived a similar life to Deborah¿s so, they have much in common. Two people doing the right things for everyone but, themselves. For a few shorts days as the storm rages on¿the two find the strength to act on their impulses and please themselves which in turn pleases the other. Of course, once the storm ends, reality returns and they have to deal with what the world expects of them as well. You do wish Tony had the courage earlier in the book to take scandal head on instead of trying to avoid it for so long. But...when you hear about his family and past you understand his needs to do the right thing and not upset society. Tony does learn in time that good comes from those who do as their heart dictates not just what is in their head. This book is deep, detailed and very heart warming. You know with a romance the ending will be good but, you¿ll have to buy this one to find out how Tony over-comes a contract to marry another man¿s daughter, how he helps out her family, how he finds out who his real father is, how he finds the courage to make Deb his own and how Deb finds the courage to leave her old town and become the woman she is destined to be ¿ a wife, a lover and mother. I¿m sad to see their story end as I really liked these characters and the hurdles they had to face to become who they were truly meant to be. The love scenes were simple and tastefully written. The characters were all well rounded and interesting. The beginning, middle and end of the book was powerful and detailed and never lost steam. Do pick up this book and try this author if you have not. Especially 'Because of You' and 'The Lady is Tempted' ¿ they are both first class reads. Be tempted yourself. Enjoy!
Fantastic read. Love this author. Wonderful characters especially Deborah and I wanted to read more about this family.