The Naked Baron

( 139 )

Overview

Tell Me What You Want

New to London society and rather. . .awkward. . .Lady Grace Belmont would just as soon hide behind the palm trees as dance with a man she doesn't know. But Baron Dawson is on the hunt for a wife. Grace's generous curves and remarkable height do not intimidate him. In fact, it would be more accurate to describe his reaction to the charming newcomer as lust.

Before Grace can so much as gather her thoughts, she finds herself ...

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Overview

Tell Me What You Want

New to London society and rather. . .awkward. . .Lady Grace Belmont would just as soon hide behind the palm trees as dance with a man she doesn't know. But Baron Dawson is on the hunt for a wife. Grace's generous curves and remarkable height do not intimidate him. In fact, it would be more accurate to describe his reaction to the charming newcomer as lust.

Before Grace can so much as gather her thoughts, she finds herself in his arms, committing one shocking impropriety after another. The Baron's devilish attractiveness—to say nothing of his splendid muscles—is simply impossible to resist. Her beloved aunt and chaperone advises patience, but Grace is not about to listen. The handsome baron is whispering such delightful things in her ear. . .

Praise for the Novels of Sally MacKenzie

"The romance equivalent of chocolate cake...every page is an irresistible delight!" —Lisa Kleypas, New York Times bestselling author

"Plenty of sexy sizzle and charming wit."—Booklist

"Plenty of heat and hilarity."—Publishers Weekly

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781420102536
  • Publisher: Kensington Publishing Corporation
  • Publication date: 5/1/2009
  • Format: Mass Market Paperback
  • Edition description: Original
  • Pages: 353
  • Sales rank: 1,144,724
  • Product dimensions: 4.10 (w) x 6.70 (h) x 1.20 (d)

Read an Excerpt


The Naked Baron


By Sally MacKenzie
ZEBRA BOOKS
Copyright © 2009

Sally MacKenzie
All right reserved.



ISBN: 978-1-4201-0253-6



Chapter One Lady Grace Belmont stepped through the wide double doors into the Duke of Alvord's ballroom.

Dear God.

She froze on the small landing. Hundreds of candles lit hundreds of faces-and she'd swear every single face was turned toward her. Men in precisely fitted black coats and snowy white cravats raised their quizzing glasses. Brilliantly-gowned women, plumes bobbing, fans shielding their lips, tittered and whispered.

Dear, dear God. She couldn't escape fast enough-except she couldn't escape at all. A gaggle of elderly women blocked the stairs.

Blast! Grace swallowed and clenched her hands. She tried to take a deep breath, but the air was too thick with the scent of candle wax, perfume, and infrequently washed bodies. Black dots swam before her eyes. Was she going to swoon? That would be an even more entertaining spectacle for the duke's guests-the Amazon from Devon, all five feet nine inches and eleven stone of her, collapsing into an ignominious heap-a very large ignominious heap-on the ballroom floor. What a lovely way to begin her first-and last-London Season.

"Isn't it splendid?"

"What?" Grace looked down at her petite, ethereally beautiful aunt, Lady Oxbury.

"The ballroom, the guests ... isn't it all splendid?" Aunt Kate almost glowed with pleasure. "It reminds me of my own come-out. The room is much the same, but the gentlemen then all wore lace and velvet, of course. They were as colorful as-perhaps more colorful than-the ladies." She sighed, smiling wistfully. "I was completely enchanted."

Enchanted? Enchantment was not one of the emotions swirling through Grace's gut at the moment. Nausea-well, nausea was not precisely an emotion. Terror, mortification, self-consciousness, anger . . . there was a lively stew brewing inside her, but enchantment was not one of the ingredients-it wasn't even one of the seasonings.

"You were only seventeen," Grace said, "and lovely. I am twenty-five and large."

"Grace!" Aunt Kate frowned at her. "Don't say that. You are quite regal."

"Regal." How Grace detested that word! It was uttered kindly by tiny women like her aunt, women who made her feel like a female Gargantua simply by standing next to her. Unless one were actually of royal lineage, regal was merely a synonym for large.

"Yes, regal. You are very striking. Don't you see how the gentlemen are admiring you?"

They were certainly admiring one specific part of her. "They are staring, Aunt Kate. That is not the same thing at all."

"Nonsense. They are all struck by your beauty." Aunt Kate smiled, but the curve of her lips looked strained. "However, if you keep scowling like that, you will scare them all off."

One can only hope. "Aunt, can't you see where all those quizzing glances are directed? Those men aren't studying my expression; they are examining my bos-"

"Grace!" Her aunt fanned her face and glanced quickly to either side. "Mind what you say. You are not at Standen any longer."

No, she wasn't at Standen, was she? And she had only herself to blame. If she'd kept her tongue between her teeth when her aunt had arrived and proposed this hare-brained trip, she'd be home now, curled up with a good book in the drawing room, pretending to listen to Papa discourse on crop rotation and drainage issues.

The thought didn't give her the feeling of contentment she expected.

She suppressed a sigh. Of course it didn't. Life at Standen had been comfortable while Papa had mostly ignored her. Now, however ... for the last year he'd become obsessed with the need to marry her off.

The elderly ladies had managed to navigate the first step. Now they were struggling with the second. Was it going to take them all evening to reach the floor?

Grace swallowed her annoyance. If only she'd done the same at Standen, but how could she have kept her temper in check when Papa had gone on and on about what a laughingstock she'd be if she appeared at the Season's events? She couldn't. So she'd let her temper slip its rein, and it had bolted, taking her good sense with it.

She blew out a short, impatient breath, causing the tendrils that had worked themselves free of her coiffure to float briefly in front of her eyes, and glanced back down at her aunt.

Aunt Kate looked as if she would like to wrap her elegant fingers around her neck in exasperation.

"You are in a pucker over nothing, Grace. Didn't you notice in the receiving line that Miss Hamilton was almost as tall as you? And I'm sure there are other ladies present as"-Aunt Kate blushed and coughed slightly-"well endowed." She patted Grace's arm. "Your father is an idiot. There will be plenty of gentlemen eager to pay you court."

That was highly unlikely, but there was no need to argue the point. "You know I'm not here to find a husband, Aunt Kate. Papa has already arranged everything with Mr. Parker-Roth. I just came to attend a few parties and see the London sights." And enjoy my last gasp of freedom before I give my life over to John.

"But do you truly want to marry this neighbor, Grace?"

"Er ..." She didn't, but she was resigned to her fate. She couldn't live at Standen forever-and marrying for love was a fairy tale reserved to Minerva Press novels. "I'm content with Papa's choice. After all, didn't he choose Oxbury for you? And you had over twenty years of marital harmony."

Aunt Kate's face suddenly assumed the oddest expression, almost as if she'd taken a bite of stewed eels and couldn't decide whether to swallow or spit it out.

"Ah ... er ... yes." Aunt Kate cleared her throat. "But I do think you might wish-you really might wish-to look around, Grace. Mr. Parker-Roth may be a pearl beyond price, but how will you know unless you see what else is available? I, at least, had a brief Season."

"Well ..."

"You can't go home like a beaten dog with your tail between your legs and give your father the pleasure of saying he told you so."

"True." This was her only chance to see London. She should enjoy the experience. She would think of the male population as simply another sight to see, like London Bridge or Westminster Abbey. "I suppose there would be no harm in looking."

"Exactly." Aunt Kate smiled. "And there is so much to look at." She made a small, graceful gesture encompassing the ballroom. "You have all of society at your feet."

"Until these ladies finally move and we descend to join the crush." There was hope. The women had reached the final stair.

Kate's smile widened. "Indeed. So take a moment to survey the scene. I see a number of tall gentlemen, don't you?"

"Perhaps." There did seem to be one or two men above average height, though it was difficult to be certain from this vantage point.

"Perhaps? Of a surety. Look at the man by the ficus over there. Or the one by the windows. Or those two gentlemen by the ... by the-oh, dear God." Aunt Kate turned as white as a sheet and gripped Grace's arm hard enough to leave marks.

"What is it? What's the matter?"

Aunt Kate was staring at one of two men standing by a clump of potted palms. The fellow was tall with dark hair, graying slightly at the temples. Distinguished looking-not alarming in the slightest. What could be the matter with-

Grace's gaze traveled to his companion.

Oh.

Her heart began to thud; heat flooded her face. For a moment she forgot to breathe.

This gentleman was even taller and roughly twelve years younger. His black coat stretched tight across impossibly broad shoulders, and his hair, dark blond and slightly longer than fashionable, waved back from a broad forehead. He had deep-set eyes, high cheekbones, a straight nose, firm mouth ... and was that a cleft in his chin?

He was staring at her, but not in the highly obnoxious fashion of the other men. Oh, no. She met his gaze and felt a jolt of ... something. The feeling fluttered down to lodge low in her belly.

What was the matter with her? Could the sooty London air be affecting her constitution? She'd never before felt this heat, this heaviness in-

She flushed. Could he tell?

A corner of his mouth turned up in a half smile. He could tell.

Aunt Kate's fingers dug farther into Grace's arm and her voice sounded slightly strangled. "I ... I need to go to the ladies' retiring room," she said. "Now!"

"Damn, this ballroom is crowded." David Wilton, Baron Dawson, grabbed two glasses of champagne from a passing footman and retreated to the relatively quiet spot he'd found by some potted palms. "I can hardly breathe or hear myself think, there are so many people."

"Welcome to London and the ton." His uncle plucked one of the glasses from his hand and took a hearty swallow. "Now you know why I abhor the place, though this gathering may be even more of a squeeze than usual. The on dit is everyone's here to see Alvord's American houseguest-and to see how Alvord's cousin reacts to her."

David grunted and sipped his champagne. Gossip! London must be as bad as-no, worse than-the country. This was his first trip to Town for the Season-and his last, if he had anything to say to the matter. He wouldn't be here now if he didn't need a wife. But he did, and he couldn't choose a woman from the country. He'd grown up with all the females around his estate; he wasn't able to conjure up the slightest spark of desire in his heart-or other organ-for any of them.

He surveyed the blushing debutantes in their virginal white gowns. Faugh! What a collection of silly young geese.

"See anything-I mean, anyone-you like, nephew?"

"No." David swallowed, trying to rid his voice of annoyance. "Not yet, at least. But we've just arrived. Perhaps the more attractive ladies-the somewhat more mature women-have yet to make their appearance." He bloody well hoped these fluttering young girls weren't all society had to offer this Season. He didn't have forever. Yes, he was only thirty-one and had been a baron for just a year, but life was fragile and death too unexpected. He knew his responsibility. He needed to see to the succession.

Even his devil-may-care father had attended to that before splitting his head open on a rock.

"What about that girl? She'd be a pleasant sight over the breakfast table-or over rumpled bed sheets."

David looked at the young woman in question-a blonde in a crimson gown with an exceedingly small bodice. The girl noticed their attention and fluttered her fan.

"I don't think so." The chit was far too short and thin for his taste. "Do you suppose her mantua maker ran out of fabric before she finished that dress?"

"Perhaps." His uncle Alex's voice held a salacious note.

David frowned. "The girl's young enough to be your daughter."

Alex's jaw tightened; something-sorrow, pain?-flickered in his eyes, but it was gone so quickly, David couldn't be sure he'd seen anything but a shadow from the candlelight.

"A man can look, can't he?" Alex waggled his eyebrows in a distinctly lascivious fashion. "Admire beauty in all its manifestations?"

"Especially when the chit has two very lovely manifestations almost leaping from her gown."

"Especially then."

David laughed. "Behave yourself, uncle."

Alex scowled. "I am sick to death of behaving myself. I haven't been to Town in over twenty years. If I choose to celebrate with a little misbehavior, who the hell will care?"

"Surely you don't intend to take after my disreputable father at this late date?" David hoped the alarm he felt wasn't reflected in his voice.

"Perhaps I will. Luke's life may have been short, but it was intense. He knew what he wanted and he took it."

"But-"

"Mr. Wilton! Oh, Mr. Wilton! I say, can it really be you?"

"Wha-?" They both turned. An elderly woman with a cane and elaborately powdered hair was hobbling toward them as quickly as she could.

"Oh, God," Alex muttered. "Lady Leighton. I thought she'd been put to bed with a shovel."

David bit back a laugh. "She looks very much alive-and delighted to see you."

"God only knows why."

Lady Leighton grabbed Alex's arm as soon she got close enough. "About time you came back to Town, Mr. Wilton. It's been so long, I hardly recognized you."

"Ah."

David turned his laugh into a cough. Poor Uncle Alex was apparently rendered speechless by Lady Leighton's enthusiasm.

The lady frowned and turned her grip into a pat. "I want to tell you I was so sorry to hear of your parents' passing."

A muscle jumped in Alex's cheek. Bloody hell. This time David was certain what he saw in his uncle's eyes-that stricken, bleak look was sadly all too familiar. When would Alex realize he was not responsible for Grandda's and Grandmamma's deaths?

David cleared his throat.

Lady Leighton turned her attention to him. "And who might this be?" She put up a hand as David opened his mouth to reply. "No, don't tell me-the resemblance is too great. Lord Dawson, correct?"

Damn. Was everyone going to see his ignoble father in his face? That was a trial he'd not anticipated when he'd mentally listed all the reasons not to come to Town. He inclined his head as unenthusiastically as he could manage. Perhaps the woman would take the hint and drop the subject.

No such luck. Lady Leighton thumped her cane on the floor. "Just as I thought. Luke's son. Does everyone tell you you're very like your father, my lord?"

David's stomach clenched. No, thank God. "I've been told I resemble him physically." He had tried his entire life to ensure that was the only way he resembled the man.

"Ah." She nodded. "Not a scapegrace, eh? Well, for all his faults, Luke Wilton was charming." She shook her head, sending a flurry of hair powder drifting down to her ample bosom. "Such a senseless tragedy."

She looked back at Alex. "And such a tragedy Standen insisted on thrusting a spoke in your wheel all those years later, Mr. Wilton. I hope this visit to Town means you've finally got over your disappointment? It's not too late to find a nice girl and start your nursery, you know. You can't be much above forty."

"Ah. Er."

She patted his arm again. "It is time to get on with your life, sir. Past time. Some woman will have you-you'll see." She turned back to David. "And are you in London to go shopping on the Marriage Mart as well, my lord? Very good. I like a man who recognizes his duty and gets down to business." She laughed. "Should I wager which of you will be the first to produce an heir?"

"Ah." It was David's turn to be less than coherent.

"I don't need to tell you-" she said.

He and Alex both shook their heads.

"-but-" Blessedly, Lady Leighton stopped and waved at someone. "Oh, there's Mrs. Fallwell. I have something of a very particular nature to say to her. I hope you don't mind if I run off?"

"No, please-" Alex said.

"Don't let us keep you." David said.

"Well, then." Lady Leighton squeezed both their arms. "Good luck with the ladies, my dear fellows," she said before she toddled off to accost Mrs. Fallwell.

"Thank God." They looked at each other and laughed.

"I never thought I'd be grateful for Mrs. Fallwell's presence on this planet." Alex took another long swallow of champagne. "She's a gabble-grinder of the first order, you know."

"Hmm." David studied his uncle. "What did Lady Leighton mean about your 'disappointment'? About Standen putting a spoke in your wheel?"

Alex's ears turned red. "I have no idea." He gulped the rest of his champagne and grabbed another glass from a passing footman.

"Is there something you haven't told me?"

"I can't think of anything." Alex stared into his champagne glass.

Why wouldn't his uncle meet his eyes? "Lady Leighton seemed quite-Damn!"

"Damn?" That made Alex look up.

"Yes. The Addison twins are here." David glanced around, looking for a suitable hiding place.

Alex gave a low whistle. "So they've tracked you all the way to London. Very impressive." He chuckled. "I'd say one of the Misses Addison plans to bag herself a baron."

"Not this baron." Those palms might conceal him. And look-a splendidly stout pillar as well.

"Don't be so certain. You'd best tread carefully if you don't want to stumble into parson's mousetrap."

David didn't bother to reply, he was too busy putting as many barriers as he could between himself and the Addisons. There was nothing so terribly wrong with the girls, besides the fact that he'd known them since they were in leading strings. Some man would be delighted to wed one of them, but not he. He couldn't tell them apart for one thing. Confuse his wife with her sister? That would be exceedingly awkward. And they were both far too scraggy.

(Continues...)




Excerpted from The Naked Baron by Sally MacKenzie Copyright © 2009 by Sally MacKenzie. Excerpted by permission.
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

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( 139 )
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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 141 Customer Reviews
  • Posted April 8, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Readers will appreciate THE NAKED BARON as humor and heat combine for an engaging historical.

    At twenty five years of age, Lady Grace Belmont is elated not to be at Blandon where her father is obsessed with marrying her off, but is unhappy to be on display during her first London season as the men stare at her bosom. She knows she is too old, too tall and a bit too plump to have anyone truly interested in her. Grace is especially grateful to her widowed Aunt Kate who is sponsoring and chaperoning her, which keeps Grace away from her father who has been arranging for her a marriage after providing no seasons for his daughter.------------

    However David Wilton, Baron Dawson, observes Grace in a garden and thinks she is the loveliest woman he has ever seen. He tries to steal a kiss from her and plans to court her as he wants her like no one ever before. At the same his Uncle Alex Wilton sees his beloved Kate. Years ago when they were younger than Grace is now, he proposed to her but her martinet father gave her to someone else. Alex plans to try again to win Kate's heart, unaware he always owned it. He also wants to insure history does not repeat itself with his nephew and her niece starring in their former roles.-------------------

    With two heated Regency romances, Sally Mackenzie provides her readers with a fun, often amusing, but always entertaining novel. The story line is brisk from the onset as the older couple seeks a second chance at love while hoping to steer their younger relatives to an easy landing in a field of love; only their efforts lead to scandal. Readers will appreciate THE NAKED BARON as humor and heat combine for an engaging historical.-----------------

    Harriet Klausner

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 9, 2010

    I Also Recommend:

    What is it with all these weird exclamations?

    Eek! Eep! Everytime a female character is touched, she screeches in surprise. Good grief. The basic premise of the Naked series is pretty good but the actual writing is so boring. Way too much internal dialogue. The purpose of romance is to make the reader FEEL...I just felt like I should have saved my money.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 1, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    The Crown Jewel in Sally MaKenzie¿s ¿Naked¿ Series!

    Lady Grace Belmont was having her first carefree time of her life. It just happened to be in London during the debutante season at the ripe old age of 25. She was grateful to be spreading her wings in the company of her beloved Aunt Kate away from her over-bearing and domineering father, boring soon-to-be husband and stuffy country life. Her widowed Aunt Kate had invited Grace to spend time in London prior to her arranged nuptials of course under her careful chaperoned supervision. Kate planned all this out very intricately but what she never anticipated that while out showing her niece the London experience a long forgotten man would rekindle feelings she thought had long been buried and emotions she was convinced had died. Why now after all these years was her first and deepest love back in London and with Kate a widow was she now free to do as she pleased because if so she wanted very much to please Mr. Alex Wilton.<BR/><BR/>On her first evening out Grace meets David Wilton, Baron Dawson of Riverview and it was hard not being wooed by him, impossible to stop herself from going out to the garden for an innocent stroll or stop him from stealing an innocent kiss. While Grace was naive David was not and he knew that they should not be together because he was the result of the first Wilton-Belmont scandal and his parents has caused the hatred between two families but perhaps David and Grace could bury the feud deep in their love. <BR/><BR/>But Grace did not know any of this and after meeting David she did not care about anything but the feel of their first touch and all the sensations created with his words of endearment and caring. Grace grew up with a father who had little use for his tall, gangly daughter but David seemed to accept everything about her including those facts that others were against. She was neither thin nor petite but Grace soon became aware that David cared not for her supposed imperfections but he cared for everything that was the person of Grace Belmont. Her tall fame enticed him, her full figure aroused him and very expansive bosom absorbed his every capable desire without judgment or criticism. Even though David did know of the history between the families it did not sway him from going after what he felt was the only woman for him ¿ a woman he wanted as his wife from the moment he first saw her enter the ballroom. <BR/><BR/>There are so many hurdles to overcome and much conflict for Grace when she does discover who David is and what his parents had done to cause such conflict for her father. But even knowing all this she does agree to be a free and fun loving woman for a bit of time when they all join up at a house party ¿ back in the country of all places. Try as she might she does fall as much in love with David as he is with her and while her father may have other plans Grace now has a mind of her own and feels she may be strong enough to make a decision for a husband based on love for convenience.<BR/><BR/>David seizes on this opportunity with Grace not aware that many surprises await him at the house party - some he enjoys and others he is still trying to understand. None of these distractions stops David from wooing Grace and trying to convince her that they are meant to be together and that insistent set of twins that keep following him around are an annoyance and no more.<BR/><BR/>David is also trying to

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 19, 2011

    Enjoyable, but nothing memorable

    This book was certainly better than the Naked Earl, but nothing memorable. The characters didn't really stand out, but after reading The Naked Earl my expectations were very low.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 7, 2009

    My Insight

    I am a new reader of Sally Mackenzie. There are a few things I really enjoy about her writting style. She incorporates the other "Naked" books together but not in a strong conilogical sense. In this book there are hints of The Naked Duke, and The Naked Laird. Mackenzie's humor is a great in the form of Miss Smyth, and it compliments the steamy romance. I read many romances and I must say I like her build up, suspence, and love sequenses because they are not too numerous or gaudy. Just enough to really make you flush.

    My only complain about this one book the collection is the end leaves NO follow up with Grace's father. I wonder what is going to happen? I understand cliff hangers and lead-ins into other books but this is not that kind of a detail to be left out as a lead-in.

    All in all, I say get this one and all of the "Naked" collection if you like this style, want some heat, humor, and truelly likable characters (that are not complete idiots).

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  • Posted June 23, 2009

    I Also Recommend:

    Very good read

    Like the rest of Sally MacKenzie's Naked Series, the Naked Baron was a very enjoyable read. Her Naked Series stories are both romantic and amusing.

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  • Posted June 21, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    Great for a rainy day!

    If you love the Naked series by Sally MacKenzie you will love this book! I love that each book introduces you to characters in other books. It will make you laugh out loud!

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