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An impossible inventor...
With dreams of flight...
" If truer-than-life characters in vivid, sometimes-heartstopping situations set against historical events is something that interests you, I suggest you run-don't walk!-to pick up a copy of this book." - Romance Reader at Heart
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- 6.52(w) x 7.98(h) x 1.03(d)
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For the fourth time, His Grace the Duke of Damerell lifted the knocker with his free hand and brought the tarnished brass crashing down on its mottled-green base. For the fourth time, the sound echoed on the other side of the oaken door, unanswered. Ransom Falconer's mouth drew back in the faintest hint of a grimace.
He and his horse appeared to be the only civilized creatures within five square miles. Had he thought otherwise, he would never have allowed himself such a show of emotion. The overgrown Tudor walls rose above him, gray stone and neglect, an affront to the values of ten generations of Falconers. Admittedly, from where he stood on the threshold Ransom could see the romantic possibilities of the place: shaped gables and tall oriel windows and dark spreading trees, but at the very thought of such sentimentality those Falconer ghosts seemed to stare in haughty disapproval at his back. Without conscious intention, his own aristocratic features hardened into that hereditary expression of disdain.
Princes had been known to quail before such a look. There had been a few kings, too, and innumerable queens and duchesses and courtly ladies, all struck dumb and uneasy beneath the Falconer stare. Four centuries of power and politics had evolved and improved the expression, until by Ransom's time it was a weapon of chilling efficiency. He himself had learned it early-at his grandfather's elegant knee. As it was, when at last the rusty lock creaked and crashed and the door opened on a complaining groan, the figure peering out from the gloom received the full force of His Grace's pitiless mien. The young maid would have been forgiven by a host of knowledgeable Whigs if she'd turned tail and run in the instant before Ransom recalled himself and softened his expression. But she did not. She merely wiped her hands on a grimy white apron and lifted a pair of vaguely frowning gray eyes. "Yes?" she asked, in a voice which might have been testy had it not been so preoccupied. "What is it?" Ransom held out his card in one immaculately gloved hand. She took the card. Without even glancing at it, she stuck the engraved identification into one bulging pocket of her apron.
Ransom watched his calling card disappear, shocked to the core of his pedigreed soul at such poorly trained service. "Mr. Lambourne is at home?" he prompted, keeping his voice quietly modulated. She might be a country mouse of a maid, a shade too softly rounded to be in vogue, but she was a pretty chit with those misty-gray eyes and elegant cheekbones, made more striking by the stark simplicity of her coiled chestnut hair. Not that His Grace the Duke of Damerell was in the habit of dallying with housemaids-she was not at all in his usual style in any case-but he found no advantage in needlessly frightening her. Ransom even allowed himself a moment's human pleasure, his glance resting briefly on her full lower lip before he looked up and lifted one eyebrow in expectant question.
She blinked at him. He found himself experiencing a peculiar sensation. Her eyes held his, but it was as if she did not even see him standing there, but looked past him at some distant horizon. Her mouth puckered. She lifted her hand, resting one delicate forefinger on that sweetly shaped lower lip. "Square the coefficient of the diameter of the number three strut," she murmured.
"I beg your pardon?"
She blinked again and dropped her hand. Her eyes came into soft focus. "Can you remember that?"
"I'm afraid I don't..."
His voice trailed off as she rummaged in her huge pocket and drew out his calling card. After another moment's search, she located a pencil lead and scribbled something on the back of his card. "There," she said, with husky satisfaction. She dropped the card into her pocket and looked up at him with an absent smile. "Who are you?"
His earlier affront at her excruciatingly bad training returned, cooling his momentary startlement back to full reason. "I believe I delivered my card," he said pointedly. "Oh." A becoming blush spread up from her modest collar, but he forced himself to ignore it. Well, not to concentrate on it, at any event. She had skin like an August peach, soft and golden and touched with pink.
She was rummaging again in her apron. The Pocket, as he termed it to himself, seemed to be burgeoning with peculiar paraphernalia. A jay's feather, a tiny telescope, a tangled length of wire, and a flat-toothed metal disk with a hole in the center-all appeared from the depths into which his card had vanished. She looked down, poking out the tip of her tongue in a child's gesture of concentration.
It was not The Pocket so much as the sleepy hedgehog she produced that left him nonplussed. She held the creature out to him, still fussing in her pocket with the other hand. He accepted the animal in dumbfounded silence. She located the card at last and glanced at the engraving, frowning. Then she flipped the creamy rectangle over.
"Oh, yes." She heaved a sigh of relief. "Square the coefficient of the diameter of the-what does that say? Three? Yes, the number three strut." She looked up at him with a small, accusing frown. "I thought you were to remember that."
"Forgive me," he said icily, "but I wish to see Mr. Lambourne, if it won't tax you too much to announce me." She looked completely blank. He was beginning to think that she was unbalanced in her mind when she repeated, "Who did you say you were?"
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Meet the Author
Laura Kinsale is the award‑winning and New York Times–bestselling author of The Shadow and the Star, Seize the Fire, The Prince of Midnight, Flowers From the Storm, For My Lady’s Heart, and The Dream Hunter. She and her husband divide their time between Santa Fe and Dallas. Shadowheart won the Romance Writers of America Rita Award for best long historical romance of 2004. Kinsale also won best romance novel of 1990 for Prince of Midnight. Kinsale was 1987–1988 Career Achievement Award Winner from Romantic Times Magazine. She was also Regency Historical Romance 2004 Career Achievement Award Winner from Romantic Times Magazine and the Innovative Historical Romance 1994 RRA Awards Nominee for Best Historical Romance Author.
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Ransom Falconer, the Duke of Damerell, went to a remote household to locate an inventor named Merlin Lambourne. Many under cover men had died to bring word of the activities involving the enemy, the French. One report had mentioned a remarkable invention by Mr. Merlin Lambourne that could change the tide of the war! However, Mr. turned out to be a very lovely and very innocent Miss!
Merlin knew little to nothing about the outside world. All she cared about was making her flying invention work. She had no idea what 'Duke' meant about one of her inventions. She was alone in her home a.k.a. lab, with only Thaddeus and her hedgehog for company. Her mind was busy with experiments and equations. She had no time for being transferred to another location! Setting everything back up somewhere else would take too long.
Ransom finally found the invention, a box one could speak into and another person with a duplicate box could hear them! Merlin was a genius! With or without her consent he would get her to a safe place. Thaddeus agreed, especially when he found out Merlin was no longer as innocent as she once was (there was something definitely in the salt).
***** Thus begins one of the best books I have ever read in my life! I purchased this book as a paperback in 1987. I read and reread it until the pages fell out. Now I never have to worry about wearing out the book! HOO-RAY! It is in electronic form! I cannot recommend this author highly enough! Laura Kinsale IS the best of the best! *****
This is one of the most delightful books Kinsale has written. It is a feminist reimagining of every romance in which the hero is perfect and saves the day. Merlin and her hedgehog save England from certain invasion by the French and Ransome from himself.
I have read everything she's published and one of the things I love is her ability to take a not perfect heroine and a not perfect hero and make them perfect for each other. Asperger's is something I deal with everyday and to see those traits and be able to laugh at them and find Merlin all the more loveable for them was delightful. The stuffy, imperfect hero just ices the cake. Afterall, we are all jusr imperfect broken people trying to stumble through this life, hoping to find love and joy along the way.
Im really reaching the bottom of the Lara Kinsale barrell. The only characters i liked in this book and who didnt violate any number of ethical principles involving considering the feelings of others were a French opera dancer and a hedgehog. Well, the hedgehog was a bit violent but the hero deserved a little straightforward animocity to knock him into shape. Not that it worked, since he and the heroine persist in acting like nitwits. It's incurible. They deserve each other. Now if only they'd accepted that 200 pages earlier.
As much as I love Laura Kinsale's writing usually, something about this book really bothered me. On my second reading, it occurred to me that Merlin displays several symptoms of Asperger's--narrowly-focused intelligence, lack of social skills and general dismissal thereof, a tendency to get so caught up in her work that she neglects everything else, conversations that wander off on tangents, poor facial and name recognition. Granted, Ransom has no reason to know this, it being the 19th century. But he still proceeds, throughout the book, to do every single thing that is guaranteed to frustrate, confuse, and outrage Merlin, all in the name of taking care of her little cloudcuckoolander self. She is an inventor, she would respond to clearly-delineated reasoning, but not once does he try to see things her way, to actually *talk* to her, to *explain* why it's important that he marry her, why he's so terrified of her flying machine, etc. And near the end, when he pulls the classic "Oh, you've hit your head and can't remember me? We're totally engaged!" gambit, that was when he lost me for good. I'll stick with the rest of Kinsale's novels, and leave this one be.
I couldn't get into this story line! The characters were without substance specially the heroine! I cannot believe this book is the work of Ms. Kinsale!