Mistress by Midnight [NOOK Book]

Overview

Merryn Fenner is on a mission to ruin the Duke of Farne. A beautiful bluestocking with a penchant for justice, Merryn has waited ten years to satisfy her revenge against sensual, mysterious Garrick Northesk. Her family name had been tarnished at his hands, her life destroyed. And now she intends to return the favor—by finding the true heir to the duke's title and disinheriting Garrick.

Yet when a disaster traps Merryn and Garrick together, ...

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Mistress by Midnight

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Overview

Merryn Fenner is on a mission to ruin the Duke of Farne. A beautiful bluestocking with a penchant for justice, Merryn has waited ten years to satisfy her revenge against sensual, mysterious Garrick Northesk. Her family name had been tarnished at his hands, her life destroyed. And now she intends to return the favor—by finding the true heir to the duke's title and disinheriting Garrick.

Yet when a disaster traps Merryn and Garrick together, white-hot desire stirs between the two sworn enemies. Her reputation utterly compromised, Merryn is forced to do the one thing she cannot bear: accept the scandalous marriage proposal of the man she has vowed to ruin.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781426875694
  • Publisher: Harlequin
  • Publication date: 12/1/2010
  • Series: Scandalous Women of the Ton Series
  • Sold by: Barnes & Noble
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 384
  • Sales rank: 140,177
  • File size: 586 KB

Meet the Author

For the first 18 years of her life Nicola lived in Yorkshire, within a stone's throw of the moors that had inspired the Brontë sisters to write Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights. One of her grandfathers was a poet, and her family contained teachers and avid readers who filled the house with books. With such a background it was impossible for Nicola not to become a bookworm.

Nicola went to school in a historic building that had originally been the dower house of a stately home. It was the sort of school that taught girls how to find a rich husband and how to get in and out of a Rolls-Royce gracefully.

Unfortunately Nicola did not pay enough attention to the bit about the rich husband and has therefore never had the chance to practice the bit with the Rolls- Royce. She was too busy reading. It was also at school that Nicola developed her love of history, English literature, and French, due to some truly inspirational teachers.

Meanwhile, Nicola spent her evenings reading piles of romances and historical novels and watching costume dramas with her grandmother. Her grandparents were very influential to her and also taught her canasta, ballroom dancing, and how to grow rhubarb, all of which she is determined to incorporate in a historical romance one day.

At 18 Nicola went south to study history at London University and during her holidays did a variety of jobs, from sticking price tags on shoes in a factory to serving refreshments on a steam railway. When she left college she had to settle for something far less interesting in order to earn a living and worked as an administrator in a number of different universities. She moved to Somerset and lived for seven years in a cottage haunted by the ghost of a cavalier.

Nicola met her future husband while she was at university, although it took her four years to realize that he was special and more than just a friend. Her husband, being so much more perceptive, had worked this out much sooner but eventually an understanding was reached.

This lack of perception also meant that Nicola did not realize for years that she was meant to be a writer. She wrote bits and pieces of novels in her spare time but never finished any of them. Eventually, she sent in the first three chapters of a Regency romance to Mills and Boon and, although they were rejected, she found she had become so addicted to writing that she could not stop. Happily, her third attempt was accepted and she has never looked back.

Nicola loves to hear from her readers and can be contacted by email via her web site, members.madasafish.com/~ncornick/.

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Read an Excerpt

London, November 1814

"We were not expecting you, your grace," Pointer, the butler, said.

Garrick Northesk, Duke of Farne, paused in the act of loosening his greatcoat. The raindrops on the shoulders glittered in the dim candlelight of the hall like dusty diamonds before sliding down to splash on the tiled floor.

"Lovely to see you again, too, Pointer," he said.

The butler's expression did not waver. Evidently, Garrick thought, his late father had not been given to jokes with the servants. Of course he had not. The eighteenth Duke had been famed for many things but a sense of humor was not one of them.

"We have had no time to prepare your chamber, your grace," Pointer continued, "nor is there any food in the house. I only received your message a few hours ago and there was no time to engage any staff." He gestured at the shrouded furniture and grimy mirrors. "The house has been closed. We have not had the opportunity to clean."

That was manifestly obvious. Long cobwebs trailed from the chandelier in the center of the vast hall. The dust and grit of the London streets crunched beneath Garrick's boots as he crossed the floor. The ghostly covers on all the statuaries and the veiled furnishings only added to the sense of Gothic mystery. A mere two candles burned in the sconces, throwing long shadows. And it was cold, very cold. Garrick wished he had kept his coat on.

"I don't require anything tonight, thank you," he said. "Only a candle to light me to my bed and some hot water."

"You have no luggage, your grace?" Pointer's long nose, so appropriate to his name, twitched with disapproval.

"It follows," Garrick said briefly. No carriage could have kept up with his hell-for-leather ride. "And your valet?" "Gage follows, too."

Garrick took a candle from the sconce, leaving Pointer fluttering around in the dark hall like a monstrous moth. He was tired, exhausted really, the fatigue bone-deep, his limbs aching from riding hard all day. He had buried his father only five days before in the family mausoleum at Farnecourt on the west coast of Ireland. Trust the old devil to choose to be buried on his Irish estates with all pomp and circumstance and maximum inconvenience to his family. The late Duke had never cared a fig for Farnecourt in his lifetime, deploring the beautiful Irish countryside as barbarous and the people as heathens.

It was no wonder that few people other than his closest family had turned out for the funeral and those who did had probably only come so that they could be sure the old man really was dead. Well, the vault was sealed now and not even the eighteenth Duke could come back from beyond the grave.

He was Duke of Farne now, with no son to follow him.

Nor would there ever be one.

His first marriage had been disaster enough. He had no inclination to try again.

Garrick paused halfway up the shallow staircase that led to the first floor. The intricately inlaid parquet steps were dull with dirt. The elegant curls and swirls of the iron banisters were festooned with thick white cobwebs. The house was like a tomb. How appropriate.

His father, the eighteenth Duke, had been furious to be dying in such an untimely fashion, with half his life's ambitions still unfulfilled. He had railed against his mortal illness, a reaction that had in all probability carried him off all the quicker. So now Garrick was master of this mausoleum and twenty-six other houses in ten counties, plus an obscenely large fortune. It was more than one man had any right to possess.

Out of habit rather than choice, Garrick pushed open the door of the sixth bedchamber on the left-hand side down an endless corridor that stretched away into darkness. On the rare occasions that he had stayed at his father's house in London this had always been his room.

It was smaller than the state chambers albeit not one whit cozier. Farne House had been designed to awe and impress not to welcome. It would be possible for a small army to be lost in the labyrinth of passages for a number of days. The grate was empty and the whole room cold and inhospitable, although there was an odd scent of smoke in the air as though the candles had recently been snuffed out. A copy of Mansfield Park lay on the floor. Garrick picked it up absentmindedly and returned it to the table.

There was a knock at the door; a housemaid with blessedly hot water. Evidently Pointer had managed to drum up at least one servant to help him. The girl placed the ewer of water carefully on the side table and dropped him a frightened curtsy. Her wide-eyed gaze searched his face before sliding away when he turned to thank her. Perhaps she was afraid of him in case he was like his sire. Rumors of the late Duke's behavior must have made their way into every servant agency in London. Garrick's father had seen the rape of the maidservants as one of his privileges rather than as a heinous crime. The eighteenth Duke had beaten his servants and kicked his dogs, and vice versa. Garrick felt his stomach cramp with disgust and revulsion at the memories.

Once the girl had run away he eased off his boots with a heartfelt sigh. As he had no valet to attend him it was fortunate that he was no dandy. He liked fine leather but he did not want a pair of boots that were so tight they had to be removed by brute force. Nor did his jacket require coaxing from his shoulders. He had even mastered the art of tying his own neck cloth with tolerable ease. It had always struck him as supremely impractical to be incapable of dressing or undressing without help, like a child or an invalid. Besides, for many years he had lived and traveled in places where not even the most devoted servant would ever follow.

The hot water removed the dirt of his journey and made him wish suddenly for a bath to ease his saddle-sore body, but it was late and he had no intention of disturbing the servants again. Tomorrow he would have to start the tedious business of mastering his father's affairs. That was his duty. Being a Duke was a privilege, or so he had been told from the cradle. It was a pity, then, that he saw it as a monstrous burden. He would not shirk it, though. He understood all about duty and service. Now, though, he wanted nothing more than to sleep.

There was a decanter on the dresser. On impulse he poured a glass of brandy, hoping it might warm him a little. It did more than that; it burned fire down to his stomach, reminding him he had not eaten for at least a day. No matter. He refilled the glass, knocked the liquid back again, once, twice? The combination of strong drink and weariness set his head spinning but now at least he might be able to sleep.

He expected the bed to be damp but to his surprise the sheets were cool and smooth but quite dry. He slid between them with a heartfelt sigh and turned his head against the softest of down pillows. A scent arose, elusive, sweet, the smell of a summer garden with shifting perfumes of bluebells and honeysuckle. It filled his senses, heating him from the inside out, awakening urges that were as unexpected as they were unwelcome. Suddenly the silken slide of the sheet felt like a lover's caress against his bare chest. He could taste temptation, sweet, dark and provocative. His body hardened into arousal.

He was dreaming. Fantasizing.

With a groan Garrick rolled over and willed his errant body into submission. Mind over matter. It was easy. He had done it a hundred times before. But this time the desire was too strong and it had come upon him too hard and fast. It swirled about him sinuously until he was helpless in its grip. He lay back and breathed deeply but that merely filled his lungs with that wistful scent of flowers. If it had not been so fanciful he would have sworn that someone had been sleeping in his bed, a wraith, a ghost, imprinting her very presence on him.

It was a trick of the senses. It could be no more. He was tired and drunk, and he had not had a woman in a long time and now his body was rebelling, reminding him of all that he had rejected.

Once, before his marriage, he had been a rake and after his wife had died he had returned to that life for a while. He had tried to drown his grief and guilt in debauchery. It had not worked. Now he lived like a monk. Some physical frustration was therefore inevitable. Or so he told himself.

The ton gossiped about him. They had done for years. He knew it. He ignored it.

Garrick Farne, the man who murdered his best friend, his wife's lover.

It was twelve years but even now he could not remember without a lurch of the heart and that familiar drag of guilt and grief. Which was as it should be. Penance was not meant to be easy.

As he rolled over to blow out the candle the book caught his eye once more. It had a deep red cover and black lettering. Below it, on the nightstand, was tucked a small pair of spectacles. Garrick raised his brows. Had Pointer used this room to escape with a good book? Garrick thought it unlikely. The very proper butler would surely not make free with the ducal bedroom, nor would he approve of fiction for that matter.

He took the book in his hand and turned to the flyleaf. There was an inscription there, the initials M and F entwined, and from the pages came the same elusive scent of flowers. Garrick laid the book aside on the coverlet and thought vaguely that he should perhaps check beneath the bed or inside the wardrobe for the spectacle-wearing, bluebell-scented intruder, but he was too tired. Tomorrow…tomorrow he would make a thorough search, but for now he wanted to slough off all the responsibilities of rank, forget his father's grim legacy and sink into unconsciousness.

He was about to do so when the door opened again, most unexpectedly and without the courtesy of a knock first. In the doorway stood a vision of beauty. From her elegantly coiffed dark curls to her pink satin slippers she exuded sophistication and an unmistakable air of raw sexuality. Garrick shot bolt upright with an oath.

"Harriet? What the devil—" He was fiercely aware of his huge erection, which had not been roused by Harriet's appearance but by his previous unrestrained imaginings. Thank goodness he had retained his trousers. He had no wish for the evidence of his physical state to be tenting the bedcovers.

"What the hell are you doing here?" he demanded. He should have locked the door, he thought. Except that this was his house and he had not expected a seduction.

He had last seen Harriet Knight five days ago at his father's funeral, when she had been swathed from head to foot in irreproachable black rather than lightly dressed— or rather, undressed—in this thistledown confection of pale, transparent pink. So much for his belief that he had outrun the rest of the family in his headlong flight back to London. Harriet, his late father's ward, was before him. And she really was standing before him, allowing the gown to fall from her shapely pale shoulders, down over her full breasts and lushly curved hips, to stand beside the bed in all her glorious nudity. Garrick's head spun with drink, tiredness and shock. He had known Harriet was a minx, probably worse than a minx, but he had not thought her quite so brazen.

"Garrick, darling." Her voice—that throaty, seductive purr—washed over him. "I've come to welcome the new Duke to his new…position."

Harriet, Garrick thought, had long wanted to be the next Duchess of Farne. She had made no secret of it. She simply had not previously resorted to such sledgehammer tactics.

She stepped up to the side of the bed and he was almost knocked flat by the powerful scent of her perfume. It banished the other softer, sweeter scent of bluebells with the subtlety of a mallet. He almost fell over against the pillows.

"Did Pointer let you in?" he demanded. "At this time of night? Dressed like that?"

Of all the foolish questions… A naked Harriet was sitting down on the edge of the bed, a foot away from him, and he was discussing issues of etiquette? He was disorientated, drunk and disturbed. Harriet's left breast brushed his bare arm and he flinched. He was getting confused now. He was weary and more than a little cast away, and he was aching for a woman who was not this one, a woman who was no more than a wraith, a dream. But Harriet was all too real and she did have magnificent breasts.

She also had an enormous desire to be a Duchess and he was in extreme danger. He eased away from her beneath the sheets. She wriggled voluptuously in pursuit.

"Where is your chaperone?" he demanded, breathlessly. "I cannot believe that Mrs. Roach would countenance this—"

"I'll send for her if you desire a threesome." Harriet's narrow green eyes glittered like a feral cat. "Darling Garrick, shall we celebrate?"

"My father's death is hardly a matter for celebration," Garrick said. His mind was spinning. "Harriet, no—"

"On the contrary." She had thrown one thigh over him now and was pinning him down. Her moist warmth seared him through the sheet. "We are all absolutely thrilled that he has died," she said. "Why pretend? And now you and I can have our own, very special little reunion, Garrick." She slid a hand down over the bedcovers until it met his erection. "Oh, good, you have started already."

She wriggled down upon him, simultaneously pressing her lips to his. "Brandy," she murmured. "Delicious."

She, in contrast, tasted a little sour. Garrick felt as though he was being smothered by a cushion. He groaned in protest. Harriet seemed to interpret this as enthusiasm. Her hands were all over his naked chest now, her lips clinging to his, her thighs gripping him through the bedcovers. In a moment she would surely slip under the sheets, slide down on top of him, and then.

And then there would be the most almighty scandal and Harriet Knight would be Duchess of Farne and his life would be ruined a second time over.

To have one unfaithful wife could be construed as a misfortune. To have two would be worse than careless. He did not want a wife with fashionable morals. He did not want a wife at all.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 36 )
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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 36 Customer Reviews
  • Posted February 12, 2012

    Highly Recommend

    Loved it...couldnt put it down!!!

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  • Posted October 4, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    Fun but not a must have

    I enjoyed this book. It wasn't wonderful. It wasn't terrible. It was better than okay. I'll probably read it again. I'll absolutely pick up the other books in this series.

    Why? Well, that's a bit harder. I enjoyed the history that was brought into the book. The characters were fun if a bit obvious. I really liked Merryn but I liked her sisters better. There was something compelling but I'm just unable to put my finger on it.

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  • Posted January 16, 2011

    A WONDERFUL EXCITING HISTORICAL ROMANCE!A MUST READ IN REGENCY ROMANCE!

    MISTRESS BY MIDNIGHT by Nicola Cornick is a wonderful historical romance set in 1814 London. It is the third in the "Scandalous Women of the Ton",(#1 Whisper of Scandal,#2 One Wicked Sin") but can be read as a stand alone. It is well written with depth,details,fast paced, page turning and the plot is easy to follow with twists and turns. It has romance,passion,secrets,regrets,witty banter between the hero and heroine,action,danger,sweet sensuality, healing,redemption desire,vengeance, a vendetta,disaster, finding out the truth, and finding true love against the odds. The hero, Garrick, is handsome,haunted by the past,killed his best friend,lost his wife twelve years earlier,sexy,has secrets,and regrets.The heroine,Merryn, is beautiful,strong-willed,plain in the eyes of others,has a vendetta against Garrick(he killed her brother during a duel),looking for the truth,has secrets of her own and regrets. When they first meet sparks begin to fit with witty banter,and mistrust. After a disaster leaves them trapped together,they learn that not only do they have a strong attraction for each other. But one must try to keep a long ago secret that could destroy the innocence of others.And one must find the truth about her brother's death.When they are found in a comprising position,Garrick ask Merryn's hand in marriage.At first she refuses,but soon learns her feelings have actually changed and she is falling in love with him,but she must find out the truth of that long ago day when her brother was killed.Garrick wants to tell her the truth,but is obligated to keep a secret,finds he is being pulled apart by his actions. He is falling in love with Merryn.Will the truth of long ago finally come out and heal third families?This is a must read series with witty banter between the hero and heroine,a dark secret that could destroy the innocent,a promise that could destroy the love between the hero and heroine or all the secrets be revealed and help heal three families.I would highly recommend this book for it is full of passion,desire,and healing.This book was received for the purpose of review from Net Galley and details can be found at Harlequin and My Book Addiction and More.

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  • Posted November 30, 2010

    Great Read

    Many components draw a reader to a certain book. The author? Check! I look out for Ms. Cornick's books. The cover? Check, although I had to visit the author's website to find it! The title? Check! It intrigued me as soon as I saw it. But. As I read on it puzzled me because it didn't appear relevant to the contents of the book. If I have a nit, it is the misdirection of expectations the title created.

    Why the author? Well Ms. Cornick's writing is seamless, suspenseful and always well paced. In Mistress by Midnight the author pulls you in immediately. An unexpected homecoming and the hero, Garrick Farne, discovers all sorts of discrepancies and expectations he has to deal with without delay. By his actions and reactions the author introduces us to a strong man who has overcome familial confrontations and been strengthened by them. He's a man set in his ways, and knows both what he wants from life and what he expects from those around him.

    We sound discover he abhors greed and cruelty so often found in the Gentry of Regency times.

    Tuck a heroine, Lady Merryn Fenner, underneath his bed, the same bed she's been sleeping in during his absence. Introduce a scheming vindictive ward of his father's, Harriet Knight, whose ambition is to become the Duchess of Farne, and you have the intial ingredients for another amazing Cornick story. Add in a dash of factual history, in this case the London Beer Flood of 1814, a resentful bastard of Garrick's father, stir generously, and the author tantalises her readers taste buds with humour, tragedy, and ultimately a hard won HEA. A winner on all fronts.

    Originally posted at The Long and Short of It Romance Reviews

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  • Posted November 18, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    Historical Romance at its very best is written by Nicola Cornick

    Garrick Charles Christmas Northesk, The Duke of Farne is dealing with the relief of his father's death, the burden of gaining the title of Duke, the guilt even after all these years of having killed his best friend and the annoyance of that man's sister who is attempting to have him tried for murder after all these years. Lady Merryn Fenner is a wisp of a woman who has made it her mission in life to have Garrick brought up on charges resulting from her brother's demise that she holds Garrick solely responsible for.

    This mission has consumed the bluestocking every waking moment and drove her into the unheard of profession of Inquiry Agent the Regency version of a private detective. Merryn feels so passionate about justice and revenge is the bittersweet pill will take to have Garrick held accountable for his sins. But when confronted by him her objective becomes blurred when the hatred turns to lust and the vendetta becomes passion and a new obsession reveals itself in the overwhelming desire to have him kiss her. It is such a fine line in identifying the emotions that drive us from one extreme to another and Merryn becomes confused to say the least.

    Merryn is so much more than just one dimensional and it takes Garrick's gentle touch and warm heart to show her that hiding behind the glasses she doesn't need and the tough façade she doesn't possess is only going to get her hurt. Garrick is trying his best to right the wrongs done to Merryn's family and while she cries foul over the gesture her hands are wrapped around his neck and her lips are pressed against his. When exactly did she become the seductress and not the victim?

    Once the walls literally come down upon them the secrets start to reveal themselves, the lies exposed, lust explored and the truth finally told. Garrick and Merryn learn they can love and trust one another with their hearts as well as their long buried thoughts. The deeds of the past bring pain and it is possible to love the person who performed them once you learn the difference between fact and fiction.

    This final book in the series is splendid to say the least. It is the exploration, again of an event that while not central to the story lends itself to some historical interaction with romance which is always a pleasure to read. As a die-hard fan of Ms. Cornick's books this one again shows how historical romance is written and the variety each character brings to her books. Merryn is tough and dealing with all her sensibilities while Garrick is soft trying to be strong and carry on where others have failed. Thank you Nicola for writing such awe inspiring stories it is greatly appreciated.

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  • Posted November 1, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    This is a super Scandalous Women of the Ton saga

    Merryn Fenner has waited seemingly forever to ruin the man who destroyed her family and her life, but he fled England. Now the wait is finally over as Garrick Nothesk has come home as a Duke; a title Merryn believes he does not deserve. Her plan is simple: find the true heir of Farn so that Garrick is left with nothing except bitterness just like her. She also wants to find the proof he murdered her brother Stephen so he is also locked away or executed.

    Garrick does not want to return to England where his memories are sad as his wife betrayed him with his best friend Stephen who he killed. He came home because as the duke he needs an heir.

    Merryn seeking clues is trapped under Garrick's bed. He spots her and insists on marriage. When an explosion occurs they are almost drowned in a sea of beer. As they fall in love, the ghost of her sibling, his best friend, remain between them unless he moves passed his guilt and she moves passed her anger.

    This is a super Scandalous Women of the Ton saga (see One Wicked Sin and Whisper of Scandal) as grief, distrust and guilt seem to easily supersede love. Fast-paced (like its predecessors) with a touch of mystery, Regency romance fans will want to know if Garrick killed Stephen over cuckolding him or, if not, why.

    Harriet Klausner

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