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Mistress by Midnight [NOOK Book]


First comes seduction. . .

As children, Desmond Ryland, Marquess of Conover, and Laurette Vincent were inseparable. As young adults, their friendship blossomed into love. But then fate intervened, sending them down different paths. Years later, Con still can't forget his beautiful Laurette. Now he's determined to make her his forever. There's just one problem. Laurette keeps refusing his marriage proposals. Throwing honor to the wind, Con decides that the only way Laurette will ...

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Mistress by Midnight

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First comes seduction. . .

As children, Desmond Ryland, Marquess of Conover, and Laurette Vincent were inseparable. As young adults, their friendship blossomed into love. But then fate intervened, sending them down different paths. Years later, Con still can't forget his beautiful Laurette. Now he's determined to make her his forever. There's just one problem. Laurette keeps refusing his marriage proposals. Throwing honor to the wind, Con decides that the only way Laurette will wed him is if he thoroughly seduces her. . .

Then comes marriage. . .

Laurette's pulse still quickens every time she thinks of Con and the scorching passion they once shared. She aches to taste the pleasure Con offers her. But she knows she can't. For so much has happened since they were last lovers. But how long can she resist the consuming desire that demands to be obeyed. . .?

Praise for Maggie Robinson's Mistress by Mistake

"Sizzles off the page." --Anna Campbell

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
When the young marquess of Conover is forced into an arranged marriage, he and his beloved neighbor, Laurette Vincent, first swear unsanctioned vows and consummate their relationship. The result is a daughter, whom Laurette keeps secret. Con fathers the obligatory legitimate heir, then abandons his wife and child to travel the world for a decade until his wife's sudden death. Just when Con and Laurette can finally get together, secrets, loyalties, and hurt feelings tear them apart. Con resolves to win Laurette through the odd strategy of blackmailing her into becoming his mistress, all while planning to marry her and bring her into society. Robinson (Mistress by Mistake) mines every tiny shred of conflict to try to make their alienation believable, with mixed results. There's plenty of passion and genuinely likable characters, but the thin plot feels more suited to a novella. (Jan.)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780758267993
  • Publisher: Kensington Publishing Corporation
  • Publication date: 1/1/2011
  • Sold by: Barnes & Noble
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 352
  • Sales rank: 670,855
  • File size: 3 MB

First Chapter

Mistress by Midnight

By Maggie Robinson


Copyright © 2011 Maggie Robinson
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-0-7582-5101-5

Chapter One

London, 1820

Laurette knew precisely what she must do. Again. Had known even before her baby brother had fallen so firmly into the Marquess of Conover's clutches.

To be fair, perhaps Charlie had not so much fallen as thrown himself headfirst into Con's way. Charlie had been as heedless as she herself had been more than a decade ago. She was not immune even now to Con's inconvenient presence. She had shown him her back on more than one occasion, but could feel the heat of his piercing black gaze straight through to her tattered stays.

But tonight she would allow him to look his fill. She had gone so far as having visited Madame Demarche this afternoon to purchase some of her naughtiest underpinnings. Laurette would have one less thing for which to feel shame.

Bought with credit, of course. One more bill to join the mountain of debt. Insurmountable as a Himalayan peak and just as chilling. Nearly as cold as Conover's heart.

She raised the lion's head knocker and let it fall, once, composing herself to face Con's servant.

Desmond Ryland, Marquess of Conover, opened the door himself.


"Did you think I would allow you to be seen here at such an hour?" he asked, his face betraying no emotion. "You must indeed think me a veritable devil. I've sent Aram to bed. Come into my study."

He was a devil, suggesting this absurd time. Midnight, as though they were two foreign spies about to exchange vital information in utmost secrecy. Laurette followed him down the shadowy hall, the black-and-white tile a chessboard beneath her feet. She felt much like a pawn, but would soon need to become the White Queen. Con must not know just how desperate she was.

Though surely he must suspect.

He opened a door and stepped aside as she crossed the threshold. The room, she knew, was his sanctuary, filled with objects he'd collected in the years he'd been absent from Town and her life. Absent from his own life, as well. The marquessate had been shockingly abandoned for too long.

She had been summoned here once before, in daylight, a year ago. She was better prepared tonight. She let her filmy shawl slip from one shoulder but refused Con's offer of a chair.

"Suit yourself," he shrugged, sitting behind his desk. He placed a hand on a decanter of brandy. "Will you join me? We can toast to old times."

Laurette shook her head. She'd need every shred of her wits to get through what was ahead. "No thank you, my lord."

She could feel the thread of attraction between them, frayed yet stubborn. She should be too old and wise now to view anything that was to come as more than a business arrangement. As soon as she had seen the bold strokes of his note, she had accepted its implication. She was nearly thirty, almost half her life away from when Conover first beguiled her. Or perhaps when she had beguiled him. He had left her long ago, if not quite soon enough.

A pop from the fire startled her, and she turned to watch sparks fly onto the marble tiles. The room was uncomfortably warm for this time of year, but it was said that the Marquess of Conover had learned to love the heat of the exotic East on his travels.

"I appeal to your goodness," Laurette said, nearly choking on the improbable phrase.

"I find good men dead boring, my dear. Good women, too." Con abandoned his desk and strode across the floor, where she was rooted by feet that suddenly felt too heavy to lift. He smiled, looking almost boyish, and fingered the single loose golden curl teasing the ivory slope of her shoulder. She recalled that her hair had always dazzled him and had imagined just this touch when she tugged the strand down.

She had hoped to appear winsome despite the passage of time, but her plan was working far too well for current comfort. She pushed him away with more force than she felt. "What would you know about good men, my lord?" She scraped the offending hair back with trembling fingers and secured it under the prison of its hairpin. It wouldn't do to tempt him further. Or herself. What had she been thinking to come here?

"I've known my share. But I am uncertain if your brother fits the category. A good, earnest young fellow, on occasion. A divinity student, is he not? But then—I fear his present vices make him ill-suited for his chosen profession. Among other things, he is so dishonorable he sends his sister in his stead. Your letter was quite affecting. You've gone to a great deal of trouble on his account, but I hardly see why I should forgive his debt." He folded his arms and leaned forward. "Convince me."

Damn him. He intended her to beg. They both knew how it would end.

"He does not know I'm here. He knows nothing," Laurette said quickly, and stepped back.

He was upon her again, his warm brandied breath sending shivers down her spine. She fell backward onto a leather chair. A small mercy. At least she wouldn't fall foolishly at his feet. She closed her eyes, remembering herself in such a pose, Con's head thrown back, his fingers entwined in the tangle of her hair. A lifetime ago.

She looked up. His cheek was creased in amusement at her clumsiness. "He will not thank you for your interference."

"I'm not interfering! My brother is much too young to fall prey to your evil machinations."

Con raised a black winged brow. "Such melodramatic vocabulary. He's not that young, you know. Much older than you were when you were so very sure of yourself. And by calling me evil you defeat your purpose, Laurette. Why, I might take offense and not cooperate. Perhaps I am a very good man to discourage him from gambling he can ill afford. But I will be repaid." He leaned over, placing his hands on the arms of Laurette's chair. His eyes were dark, obsidian, but his intentions clear.

Laurette felt her blush rise and leaned back against her seat. She willed herself to stay calm. He would not crowd her and make her cower beneath him. She raised her chin a fraction. "He cannot—that is to say, our funds are tied up at present. Our guardian...." She trailed off, never much able to lie well. But she was expert at keeping secrets.

Con left her abruptly to return to his desk. She watched as he poured himself another brandy into the crystal tumbler, but let it sit untouched. "What do you propose, Laurette?" he asked, his voice a velvet burr. "That I tear up your brother's vowels and give him the cut direct next time we meet?"

"Yes," Laurette said boldly. "The sum he owes must be a mere trifle to you. And his company a bore. If you hurt his feelings now, it will only be to his ultimate benefit. One day he will see that." She glanced around the room, appointed with elegance and treasure. Brass fittings gleamed in the candlelight. A thick Persian carpet lay under her scuffed kid slippers. Lord Conover's study was the lair of a man of exquisite taste, and a far cry from Charlie's disreputable lodging. She twisted her fingers, awaiting his next words.

There was the faintest trace of a smile. "You give me far too much credit. I am neither a good man, nor, despite what you see here, so rich a man I can ignore a debt this size. We all need blunt to keep up appearances. And settle obligations."

Laurette knew exactly what his obligation to her cost him and held her tongue.

Con leaned back in his chair, the picture of confidence. "If I cannot have coin, some substitution must be made. I think you know what will please me."

Laurette nodded. It would please her too, God forgive her. Her voice didn't waver. "When, Con?"

He picked up his glass and drained it. "Tonight. I confess I cannot wait to have you in my bed again."

Laurette searched her memory. There had been very few beds involved in their brief affair. Making love to Con in one would be a luxurious novelty. She was not prepared, however; the vial of sponges was still secreted away in her small trunk at her brother's rooms. She had not allowed herself to think the evening would end in quite this way. But she had just finished her courses. Surely she was safe.

"Very well." She rose from the haven of her chair.

His face showed the surprise he surely felt. Good. It was time she unsettled him.

"You seem to be taking your fate rather calmly, Laurette."

"Did you arrange it? That it would come to this?" she asked softly.

"Did I engage your brother in a high stakes game he had no hope of winning? I declare, that avenue had not occurred to me," Con said smoothly. "How you must despise me to even ask." He motioned her to him. After a few awkward moments, Laurette walked toward him and allowed him to pull her down into his lap. He was undeniably hard, fully aroused. She let herself feel a brief surge of triumph.

Con placed a broad hand across her abdomen and settled her even closer. "How is the child?"

Was this an unconscious gesture? Con had never felt her daughter where his hand now lay, had never seen her, held her. She fought the urge to slap his hand away and willed herself to melt into the contours of his hard body. It would go quicker if she just gave in and let him think he'd won. "Very well, my lord. How is yours?"

"Fast asleep in his dormitory, I hope, surrounded by other scruffy little villains. I should like you to meet him one day."

She did not tell him that his son was already known to her, as his wife had once been, improbably, her friend. "I don't believe that would be wise, my lord."

"Why not? If you recall, I offered you the position as his step-mama a year ago. It is past time you become acquainted with my son, and I with your daughter." His busy fingers had begun removing hairpins.

Laurette said nothing, lulling in his arms as his lips skimmed her throat, his hands stroking every exposed inch. In dressing tonight, she'd bared as much of her flesh as she dared in order to tempt him. She wondered how she could so deceive herself. Nothing had changed. Nothing would ever change. And that was the problem.

Laurette pressed a gloved finger to his lips. "We do not need to discuss the past, my lord. We have tonight."

"If you think," he growled, "that I will be satisfied with only one night with you, you're as deluded as ever."

An insult. Lucky that, for she suddenly retrieved her primness and relative virtue. She straightened up. "That is all I am willing to offer."

He stood in anger, dumping her unceremoniously into his chair. "My dear Miss Vincent, if you wish me to forgive your brother's debts—all of them—I require a bit more effort on your part."

"A-all? What do you mean?"

"I see the young fool didn't tell you." Con pulled open a drawer, fisting a raft of crumpled paper. "Here. Read them and then tell me one paltry night with you is worth ten thousand pounds. Even you cannot have such a high opinion of yourself."

Laurette felt her tongue thicken and her lips go numb. "It cannot be," she whispered.

"I've spent the past month buying up his notes all over town." Con's smile, feral and harsh, withered her even further. He now followed in his father-in-law's footsteps.

"You did this."

"You may think what you wish. I hold the mortgage to Vincent Lodge as well. You've denied me long enough, Laurie."

Her home, ramshackle as it was. Beatrix's home, if only on brief holidays away from her foster family. Laurette had forgotten just how stubborn and high-handed Conover could be. She looked at him, hoping to appear as haughty as the queen she most certainly was not.

"What kind of man are you?"

"Not a good one, I wager. I offered you my name once. I shan't do so again. Your refusal still rings in my ears. But I need a mistress. You once played the part to perfection. The position is yours if you want it."

Laurette considered. She could do it, but he would pay—far more than the price of her brother's losses.

She scooped up her hairpins from her skirt. "All right. The notes, if you please."

Con locked them into the desk drawer and pocketed the key. "Very amusing. You'd toss them into the fire and laugh all the way home. No, my dear. We are going upstairs. Now. As a show of good faith. The vouchers will be destroyed once I engage your services in a binding agreement. A year, I should think, will suit me."

Laurette's lips twisted in distaste. How had she ever thought to get around this man? She was as much an innocent as before. "But it will not suit me."

"Still full of misplaced pride, I see." Con ran a long finger down her cheek and she felt herself flush. "Six months, then. Surely you can endure my lovemaking for that amount of time."

"I shall endeavor to do so." He might own her body, but never her heart. Not again. Six months would seem an eternity. "What of Charlie?"

"He's about to go on a Grand Tour. A trip to the Holy Land is in order, with a tutor, far from the gaming tables and whores. Yes," he added, as she stiffened beneath his fingers, "your brother has devoutly been studying all manner of carnal pleasures. I spoke with him this afternoon. He's actually most eager to get away."

She shivered. "Does he know what you plan for me? For us?"

Con raised another irritated eyebrow. "Come now. Give me points for discretion. I know how to be a marquess now. I'm not still some love-struck boy. I've kept my tongue this time." He cupped her cheek, almost tenderly. "It's all arranged, Laurie. A little house on Jane Street, not far from here. You may even have the child visit if you desire."

"Beatrix. Her name is Beatrix," Laurette whispered.

Con pulled her to him, kissing her forehead. "I know her name. I am her father, after all."

Chapter Two

Holding a taper, his heart flickering in rhythm with the candle, Con clasped Laurette's hand as they mounted the stairs. The circumstances were not ideal. She was not far wrong to think he'd orchestrated the swift sinking of young Mr. Charles Vincent, although Charlie had been floundering in deep water without any initial assistance from the Marquess of Conover. When the rumors reached Con's ears, it had been a simple matter to inquire about the well-being and solvency of his country neighbor and take him about Town. It was not Con's fault Charlie was such a complete mutton-head.

The boy couldn't match his sister for spirit or consequence. God had played a joke making Charlie the heir, not that there was much in the Vincent treasury to inherit. Con had done his research. Laurette would have a pittance when she turned thirty next year. Their guardian should be shot, but Con had planned a more subtle revenge for Sir Zachary Billington. He knew all about the perfidies of greedy guardians. His own had taught him well.

They stood now before his bedroom door. What transpired this night marked the beginning of both their lives. Laurette didn't need to know she'd be a mistress for much less than six months if he had anything to say about it. Con was looking at the future Marchioness of Conover. He'd done everything, would do anything in his power, to make it so. Laurette had refused him once. She would not do so again. He couldn't permit it.

He swept her up into his arms and carried her through the doorway.

"Put me down at once!"

Con grinned. She all but beat her fists upon him. However, that would have required more energy on her part, and his Laurette seemed intent on playing the rigid doll. He was looking forward to loosening each limb, and plying her with his fingers and his tongue, until she was enslaved ... ensorcelled. He hoped he'd not lost his knack to satisfy her. It had been over a decade since he'd touched her—touched any woman—and longer than that since he'd slept with his relieved wife as he'd done his reluctant duty. Their son was proof that at least something of value had come out of the ill-fated union.

Con laid Laurette on his bed gently, as if she were precious porcelain that might shatter at any moment, and stepped back to light more lamps. Soon the room was ablaze, as bright as daylight.

"Open your eyes, Laurette."

He watched the mulish set of her mouth. He could kiss the difficulty away, but ground rules were to be set. He watched as she gaped in wonder at the furnishings—the richly tented bed, the intricate carvings casting shadows on the gilded walls.

"It's like a seraglio." She didn't sound pleased.

"Just the effect I was going for, my dear. You will find your new abode decorated in a similar style."

"I trust there will be just one concubine at a time."


Excerpted from Mistress by Midnight by Maggie Robinson Copyright © 2011 by Maggie Robinson. Excerpted by permission of BRAVA BOOKS. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3.5
( 19 )
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  • Posted February 28, 2012


    I almost didnt finish this book. The H/h annoyed me to no end with their guilt, secrets and lies. As I kept reading the hero grew on me...although misguided he did love the heroine and tried to make things right so they could finally be together. She, on the other hand, thwarted his every move to maintain her own lies. The writing overall was well-done and quite believable for the time and setting. I typically dont read historicals so I did find it a bit too colorful and lyrical for my taste, but was appropriate for the genre. I havent read the others in the series and I can honestly say that I most likely will not.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 28, 2011

    a charmingly imperfect hero

    Maggie Robinson again spins her storytelling magic in "Mistress by Mistake", offering one of the most delightfully imperfect heroes you'll ever meet! Desmond Ryland, Marquess of Conover, has always loved Laurette Vincent. Childhood friendship budded into adolescent infatuation, later becoming adult desire and devotion in full bloom. When Con is forced to marry a wealthy older woman to fulfill the social and financial obligations of his family, Laurette is devastated. She and Con continue to meet even after he is married, risking much and desiring even more. Con's wife bears him a son, but Laurette keeps secret from him the fact that she also bore his child, a daughter. Con's marriage is one of convenience, and his unhappiness with his forced separation from Laurette leads him to escape by traveling abroad. He remains gone for many years, writing to his son, and never forgetting his "Laurie". When his wife dies, Con at last returns home to become a father to his son. He also wants to marry Laurette, and he is stunned when she turns down his proposal. He is also shocked, but delighted to learn that he and Laurette have a daughter, and he determines to set all his mistakes to right. He often goes about things the wrong way, acting on his heart's desire without thinking things through. Laurette is a very strong-minded woman, fierce in her lifelong love for Con, but afraid to believe that they could find true happiness. Despite his unconventional ways, Con is so very appealing! He never wavers in his love for his "Laurie", often telling her how much he cares. He was manipulated as a young man into a situation that solved some issues just as it created a world of complications and heartache. Con is not a perfect man, but he is a worthy man, and love at last comes home to his heart.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 17, 2011

    Well Worth The Read!

    I enjoyed this book. I've not yet read the 1st book in this trilogy but do plan to.
    At 1st I did not like Con, the hero, very much at all. And... I didn't like the way Laurette reacted to him. I was very frustrated by her continual refusals of his marriage propositions. By the 2nd half of the book, I was starting to change my mind... and by the end of the book, I had a new understanding of them and their actions... and I thought the ending was a perfect closure.
    I didn't give it more stars as I really struggled with it in the beginning; not enough to not want to read it; but the interactions between the two main characters were just so frustrating. I don't want to discourage anyone from reading it as, even when I was so frustrated, I didn't want to put the book down; and I couldn't put it down at all as I neared the end.
    Thank you, Maggie, for an enthralling story... that's well worth the read...

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted November 22, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    an enjoyable Regency romance

    Desmond Ryland, the Marquess of Conover, wants nothing to do with an arranged marriage as he loves his childhood friend and neighbor Laurette Vincent. They exchange vows to each other in secrecy and make love. Laurette becomes pregnant giving birth to a daughter she conceals from Con.

    Con completes his obligation by marrying the arranged bride and siring the heir. He deserts his wife and son going overseas for the next decade. When he learns his spouse died, he comes home to see his Laurette. Although they still love one another, Laurette has doubts especially since he abandoned his heir. Desperate to win over his beloved, Con blackmails her into becoming his mistress using the one pawn he could control her with; an interim step until he can marry her.

    Mistress by Midnight is an enjoyable Regency romance starring two fascinating lead characters. Whereas Laurette sacrificed her place in society to raise their love child; Con completed his obligation to society and fled instead of staying to raise his heir. Fans will admire the heroine while hissing at the lead male for abandoning his offspring. Although the story line slows down somewhat in the middle, readers will enjoy wondering whether Con can achieve his quest as he has a lot of baggage to overcome.

    Harriet Klausner

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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