Never Seduce a Scoundrel

( 11 )

Overview

Even a cloistered young heiress in medieval England has her reckless moments. . .

Lord Oliver Bellecote has a way of bringing out the vixen in any woman. Any woman, that is, but Cecily Foxe, an innocent flower destined for the abbey who seems utterly immune to his charms. Or so he believes until the night they accidentally meet in the pagan ruins of Foxe Ring, and Oliver discovers that "Saint Cecily" is actually as tempting as sin. . .

Cecily ...

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Never Seduce a Scoundrel

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Overview

Even a cloistered young heiress in medieval England has her reckless moments. . .

Lord Oliver Bellecote has a way of bringing out the vixen in any woman. Any woman, that is, but Cecily Foxe, an innocent flower destined for the abbey who seems utterly immune to his charms. Or so he believes until the night they accidentally meet in the pagan ruins of Foxe Ring, and Oliver discovers that "Saint Cecily" is actually as tempting as sin. . .

Cecily would like nothing more than to forget her night of heated passion with the dangerously handsome Lord Bellecote. But denial proves quite impossible when she is charged with tending his every need during his stay at Fallstowe Castle. For only in his arms does she feel truly alive, despite the deadly secrets that surround his past—and threaten their tenuous future. . .

Praise for Never Kiss a Stranger

"Grothaus packs this medieval romance with humor and suspense. . . Her departure from the formulaic sensuality of many historical makes this tale a delightful read." -Publishers Weekly (starred review)

"A charming romance." -RT Book Reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Grothaus follows Never Kiss a Stranger with another tale of love and longing in 13th-century England. Cecily Foxe ducks out of a lavish feast to go to the Foxe Ring, a stone circle where legend says one can find one’s future mate. Drunken womanizer Oliver Bellecote is thrown from his horse onto one of the stones, and Cecily recklessly lets him seduce her. As Oliver recovers from his injuries at Fallstowe, Cecily tends to him and is embarrassed to realize he has no memory of their lustful encounter. Their witty repartee contrasts with the machinations of Cecily’s oldest sister, Sybilla, who is ruthless in her efforts to keep her sisters safe from harm. A subplot involving the death of Oliver’s older brother adds an element of mystery to this enticing and vibrant historical. (Mar.)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781420112436
  • Publisher: Kensington Publishing Corporation
  • Publication date: 3/1/2012
  • Format: Mass Market Paperback
  • Edition description: Original
  • Pages: 384
  • Sales rank: 434,861
  • Product dimensions: 4.10 (w) x 6.70 (h) x 1.20 (d)

Read an Excerpt

Never Seduce A Scoundrel


By Heather Grothaus

ZEBRA BOOKS

Copyright © 2012 Heather Grothaus
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-1-4201-1243-6


Chapter One

February 2, 1277 Fallstowe Castle, England

Cecily Foxe was fairly certain she was going to hell.

She had been standing alone for the better part of two hours following the lavish supper, struggling to maintain a serene expression while she watched the revelers and their atrocious behavior. It was proving increasingly difficult. Men drank so heartily and hastily that the fronts of their tunics were dark with wine, and most women recklessly attempted to keep pace with them. Unmarried couples danced, although the lewd displays of bodies touching so intimately could hardly be defined as a supposedly innocent activity.

Cecily bristled as she watched even the least of the nobility, the humble, the homely, the meek, carry on with members of the opposite sex. Even poor Lady Angelica, who had a lazy eye and spat upon anyone unfortunate enough to be engaged in conversation with her, was being twirled about Fallstowe's great hall with sordid abandon. Cecily had clearly seen the young man currently in possession of Lady Angelica unabashedly grasp the woman's breast.

Only Cecily stood alone.

No one had asked her to dance. No young lord dared come near and whisper lurid suggestions to her, proposing they steal away from the hall for an hour of private sin. She was a lady of Fallstowe, wealthy beyond comprehension, powerful by her connection to Sybilla, perhaps even wanted as a criminal by the Crown. Unmarried. Both her eyes pointed in the same direction and she kept her saliva properly in her mouth when speaking.

And yet they all simply pretended she wasn't there.

To everyone who knew her—nay, even knew of her—she was Saint Cecily. Middle daughter of Amicia and Morys Foxe. Slated for a life of quiet, gentle sacrifice. Although she had yet to formally commit to the convent, Cecily already fulfilled many of the obligations put upon one under holy orders. Up to even the wee hours of that very morn, she had assisted Father Perry in the countless and tedious preparations for the Candlemas feast; and in general, she looked over Fallstowe's charitable responsibilities, tended the ill and dying, duteously prayed the liturgy of the hours.

Most of them, any matter.

She seldom raised her voice in a passion of any nature. She did not lie, nor indulge in gossip. She was obedient to her older sister, Sybilla, the head of the family now that both of their parents were dead. She was not ostentatious in either dress or temperament, preferring to wear costumes so closely akin to the habits of the committed that strangers to the hold often greeted her with a deferential incline of their heads and a murmured, "God's blessing upon you, Sister."

Cecily knew she was admired and even revered for her restraint and decorum. She was not outwardly bold, like young Alys, seen now dancing gaily with her new husband in the middle of the crush of guests. She was not obviously ambitious like the eldest, Sybilla, who ruled Fallstowe with a delicate iron fist. Cecily had spent the greater part of her score and two years carefully cultivating her gentle qualities. Molding herself to them.

And yet, at that very moment, her supposedly meek heart was so full of discord, she was quite surprised that she had not already burst into flames where she stood.

The dancers continued to whirl past, little carousels of gaiety and color around massive iron cauldrons that blazed with fires fed by the brown and brittle swags of evergreen and holly that had festooned Fallstowe's great hall since Christmas. Although the blessed candles burned in their posts, the remainder of the celebration was largely pagan, bidding farewell to the barren winter while at once beckoning to the fertile light of spring. Cecily knew that her elder sister had purposefully sought to emphasize the heathen aspect of the celebration—unfortunately, Sybilla seemed to thrive on wicked rumor.

The Foxe matriarch herself weaved through the crowd now, both adoration and jealousy following close at her heels as she made her way toward Cecily. The men hungered for Sybilla—those few who'd once held her let their eyes blatantly show the aching memories of their hearts, and the many who had not been honored with the privilege of her bed pursued her without a care for their pride. Sybilla was powerful, desirable; Cecily was not.

As if to emphasize this point, Cecily again caught a glimpse of the primary object of her bitterness.

Oliver Bellecote.

He could have been your husband, a wicked little voice whispered in her ear.

"Hello, darling." Sybilla had at last fought her way through the pulsating throng to stand at Cecily's side, her slender arm pulling the two sisters together at the hip. "I would have thought you to be abed an hour ago."

Cecily was careful to keep her tone light. "This may well be my last feast at Fallstowe, Sybilla. I would remember it."

Sybilla gave her sister's waist a gentle squeeze, but did not comment on Cecily's reference to Hallowshire Abbey. The two women observed the debauchery that ruled the supposedly holy day feast in silence for several moments. Then Oliver Bellecote whirled past once more, causing Cecily to lose control of her suddenly wicked tongue.

"I am quite surprised to see him," she said, thankful that, at least, her tone was casual.

"Who? Oliver?" Cecily felt more than saw Sybilla's shrug. After a moment, she said quietly, "I suppose I must call him Lord Bellecote now."

Cecily's heart thudded faster in her chest, and her indignation made pulling in her next breath difficult. "August has not been dead a month, and yet he is here—still behaving as if he hasn't a care in the world or one whit of responsibility. It's indecent and disrespectful. To his brother and to you."

Sybilla drew away slightly, and Cecily could feel her sister's frosty blue gaze light the side of her face. Cecily's ear practically tingled. She hadn't meant for her comment to come out that way at all.

"I am not offended by Oliver's presence, Cee, nor by him enjoying himself at Fallstowe. Although 'tis no secret that Oliver oft exasperated him, August loved his younger brother. And Oliver loved August."

Cecily turned to look at Sybilla, the question out before she could restrain herself. "Did you love August?"

For the briefest instant, Sybilla's lips thinned and a fleeting fire came into her eyes. But then it was gone, replaced by a washed-out melancholy that wrenched at Cecily's heart.

"No, Cee. I did not," she admitted as she turned her attention back to the crowd, now dispersing from the center of the hall as the music came to an end. The guests seemed only able to communicate in shouts and shrill laughter that sounded to Cecily like tortured screams. Yet she heard her sister's low murmurs as if the two women stood alone in a cupboard. "I'm certain you pity me now."

"No, not pity," Cecily insisted. "I only worry for you. I was with the two of you the last time August was at Fallstowe, Sybilla—I remember."

"As do I." Sybilla's eyes scanned the crowd disinterestedly. "I told him not to come back."

"You didn't mean it, though."

"Oh, but I did," Sybilla argued, quickly but with her signature coolness. "And now he never will come back. Now Oliver is Lord of Bellemont, a position I know from his brother that he never wanted, and is perhaps ill-equipped to fill. Oliver deserves a final farewell to his carefree existence before he truly dons the mantle of responsibility over such a large hold. Perhaps he'll marry Lady Joan Barleg now— Bellemont needs heirs." She paused as if thinking, and when she again spoke her voice was low. "It gladdens me to see him at Fallstowe."

"It wasn't your fault, Sybilla." Cecily had forgotten her selfish pity at the thought that she had caused her sister to relive such sad memories. "You did nothing to cause August's death. 'Twas a terrible accident, and that is all."

"Hmm. Well, perhaps you should pray for my soul, any matter."

Cecily tore her gaze away from her sister's pale, enigmatic profile as the dancers reformed at the opening notes of the next piece. "I do hope he does marry Lady Joan," she said abruptly. "He's been toying about with the poor girl for the past two years. She must be completely humiliated. Are they already betrothed?"

Sybilla chuckled. "Oliver took nothing from Joan Barleg that she didn't freely offer him, and now that he's Lord of Bellemont, she has the chance to better her station immensely. Had Oliver been firstborn instead of August, Lady Joan would have had little chance of winning him." A faint smile remained on her lips. "You likely don't remember, but there was talk of a betrothal between you and Oliver when you were children."

Cecily indeed remembered, but she gripped her tongue between her teeth painfully. Should Sybilla continue to goad her so, Cecily would end up as Lady Angelica, spitting her words rather than speaking them.

Sybilla continued in a bored tone when Cecily gave no comment. "It would be quite the coup d'état for Joan. But I have heard no formal announcement from either of them as of yet, so who can know?"

As if their talk had summoned him, Oliver Bellecote himself slid between a pair of dancers, becoming momentarily entangled in their arms. The three shared a raucous laugh as he extracted himself with a lewd pinch to the woman's buttock, his chalice held high above his head to preserve the wine contained within. Cecily felt her diaphragm shrivel up uncomfortably at his approach.

Then he was before them both, bowing drunkenly, his lips crooked in a cocky grin beneath the close shadow on his face. His brown eyes were like muddy pools powdered with gold dust—dark and dirty and deep, the bright sparkle hiding what lay beneath. His thick black lashes clustered like reedy sentries, both beckoning and guarding at once.

"Lady Sybilla," he sighed, drawing up Sybilla's hand beneath his face and kissing the back of her palm loudly three times.

Cecily rolled her eyes and sighed.

Sybilla only laughed. "Lord Bellecote, you flatter me."

He should have risen then. Instead, he dropped to one knee, pulling Sybilla's hand to his bosom and then lowering his chin awkwardly to kiss her fingers once more before raising his slender, strikingly handsome face to gaze adoringly at Cecily's sister.

"Lady Sybilla Foxe, my most gorgeous, tempting hostess! Won't you marry me?"

Cecily gasped.

Sybilla threw back her head and laughed even louder, and although it was likely only the candlelight and smoke, Cecily thought she saw a glistening of tears in Sybilla's eyes.

"Is that a no?" Oliver asked, feigning shock.

"Guard your honor well, Lady Sybilla!" a female's gay shout rang out, and Cecily looked up in time to see the comely Joan Barleg skip past them in the arms of her dance partner, her golden curls spilling recklessly from her simple crispinette. She looked so carefree and ... at ease. Cecily's spine stiffened further.

Sybilla gave the woman a wink and raised a palm in acknowledgment. She then looked back down at the still-kneeling Oliver Bellecote.

"It is a no," she affirmed.

To Cecily's horror, Oliver Bellecote gave a horrendous wail—as if he'd been shot with an arrow—and then collapsed fully onto his back, the drink inside his chalice still miraculously maintaining the level.

"I am crushed! Defeated!" he shouted in mock agony. Several guests were now pointing and laughing at the display he presented on the stones. He raised his head abruptly, took a noisy swallow, and then looked at Sybilla. "Will you at least sleep with me then? Completely inappropriate, I know, considering our very slight degree of separation, but I fear I am now considered quite eligible."

"Oh, this is truly too much," Cecily gritted out from between her teeth. Her cheeks felt as if they were on fire.

Sybilla cocked her head and gave him a sympathetic smile. "Sorry, Oliver."

His forehead wrinkled, giving him the appearance of a chastised pup. "Damn my slothly feet— you're already spoken for."

"I'm afraid so," Sybilla answered.

"Sybilla!" Cecily hissed, outraged that her sister would have such an inappropriate conversation— even in jest—with this man where any could overhear their lewd banter. This man in particular.

"Forgive me, Cee," Sybilla conceded, turning amused eyes to her sister while Lord Bellecote staggered to his feet.

Cecily squared her shoulders, somewhat placated that Sybilla had at last remembered both her station and her very public venue.

"How thoughtless of me," Sybilla continued. "Lord Bellecote, I am engaged with other business this night, but I believe Lady Cecily, however, is thus far unattended."

Cecily's entire body went ice cold. She was unsure whether she would cry or throw up.

Oliver Bellecote had tardily gained his feet, brushing at his pants with his free hand. Sybilla's flip invitation caused his movements to freeze. He slowly raised his face until his eyes met Cecily's.

She would have gasped had she been able to draw breath. His direct gaze was like witnessing lightning striking the ocean. The first thought that came into her mind was, Why, he's as lonely as I am. Her stomach hardened into a pained little stone. She wanted to scream at him to stop looking at her, wanted to turn and berate Sybilla for drawing her into such an indecent exhibition—

—she wanted Oliver Bellecote to suggest something inappropriate to her so that she might agree.

Oliver's eyes flicked to Sybilla's and in that next instant, both the notorious nobleman and Cecily's sister burst out in peals of laughter.

"I am sorry to tease you so, Oliver," Sybilla chuckled, drawing her arm back around Cecily's middle, and Cecily hung a brittle, fragile smile on her numb lips. "My dearest sister would not have the likes of you wrapped up in the holy shroud itself."

"Nor should she," Oliver agreed with a naughty grin and deep bow in Cecily's direction, although his eyes did not look at her directly again. "Alas, I am not worthy of such a gentle lady's attention, as our wise parents decided so long ago."

Sybilla quirked an eyebrow. "Yet you are worthy of my attention?"

The rogue winked at Cecily's sister. "One must never cease to aspire to the heights of one's potential." He bowed again. "Ladies." And then he slipped back into the writhing crowd with all the grace of a serpent in the garden.

Cecily felt her eyes swelling with tears, and she swallowed hard.

Sybilla sighed. "Perhaps he— Cee? Cee, are you all right?"

"Of course, Sybilla. I'm fine."

Sybilla's expression turned uncharacteristically sympathetic. "I'm sorry. You appeared so forlorn standing there, I only wanted you to join in a bit of merrymaking."

How would you have me join in? Cecily screamed in her head. No one will so much as speak to me, and I've just been rejected by the most notorious womanizer outside of London!

But she pulled together every last scrap of her dignity to give Sybilla a smile. "I'm fine, Sybilla. Don't apologize. It was ... it was amusing." She tried to laugh but it came out a weak, stuttering breath. Cecily pulled away from her sister slowly, deliberately. "It is late. I am off to Compline and then my own bed."

Sybilla's fine brow creased, and Cecily leaned in and pressed her cheek to her sister's. "Don't worry so. Would that you ask Alys and Piers to wait for me in the morn so that I might bid them farewell. I fear 'twould take me an hour to find them tonight in the crush."

"Of course," Sybilla promised. "Good night, Cee."

Cecily could not return the sentiment, as it had been anything but for her, and so she simply smiled again and walked away.

She made her way around the perimeter of the hall beneath the musicians' arched balcony, excusing herself quietly around little clusters of people oblivious to her passing, until she at last came to the lord's dais—Sybilla's dais now. The stacks of tables and benches cleared away from the great hall floor to give the dancers room felt like a haven, a fortress, shielding Cecily from the cruel celebration as she ducked through the hidden door set in the rear wall.

The stone corridor was cool and blessedly unoccupied, a welcome relief from the humid cacophony of the feast. Cecily's footsteps were quick and quiet as she made her way to her rooms to fetch her cloak for the walk across the bailey to the chapel.

He hadn't considered her for one instant, even in jest.

(Continues...)



Excerpted from Never Seduce A Scoundrel by Heather Grothaus Copyright © 2012 by Heather Grothaus. Excerpted by permission of ZEBRA 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
( 11 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 11 Customer Reviews
  • Posted February 26, 2012

    What a scoundrel

    I really enjoyed Heather Grothaus's new book "Never Seduce a Scoundrel". In this book you will find two lonely people who find each other in the mist of the pagan ruins of the Foxe Ring. The Foxe Ring legend says that a woman who visits at the full moon shall meet her intended husband. But when Lady Cecily Foxe (known as Saint Cecily because of her religious vow)goes there, she doesn't expect to find in the rain a drunken Lord Oliver Bellecote, who falls from his horse literally at her feet. When Cecily runs to the deserted castle ruins for shelter from the rain, Oliver follows. What comes next in heated passion in the night that changes Cecily and Oliver forever. Thank you Ms Grothaus for the excellent tale of love and redemption of lost souls who come together in a love to last a lifetime.

    4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 7, 2014

    Not too bad

    This book wasn't bad. I just found Oliver a bit lacking in the gumption department and Cecily a bit tedious.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 2, 2014

    Love it

    Wonderful just right I enjoyed it so of its on fair that I read Sybille tale I am so anxious to began. Ms. D from Bronx NY

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  • Posted April 24, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    NEVER SEDUCE A SCOUNDREL by Heather Grothaus is an exciting Medi

    NEVER SEDUCE A SCOUNDREL by Heather Grothaus is an exciting Medieval historical romance set in 1277 Fallstowe Castle,England. It is the second in the
    Foxe Sister Trilogy,but can be read as a stand alone. See, “Never Kiss a Stranger”. An exciting story of Lady Cecily Foxe,the middle Foxe sister who is set of be a nun,shy,and a healer or is she really shy or just lonely. And Lord Oliver Bellecote,a notorious womanizer,the brother of Cecily’s eldest sister who has died,who is also lonely,and a new earl due to his brothers untimely death.Cecily and Oliver met at the pagan ruins, Foxe Ring,quiet by accident,they share a passionate night,even through Oliver is wounded and forgets. He remembers bits and pieces of the passion they shared and the not so saintly Cecily. While enemies try to destroy them,they must fast the past,and move forward to a blissful future,if they can and are willing to give everything to their future. A fast paced,action filled,adventure of secrets,love,romance,passion,desire,mystery,betrayal,and deception.As the eldest Foxe sister,Sybilla,tries to hold onto the Foxe Castle from King Henry III,her beloved sisters find happiness,love,and peace. “Never Seduce a Scoundrel” will capture your heart as you see two lonely people find their happiness. A must read for anyone who enjoys Medieval romance,historical romance, England, the Tudor era, myths,legends and the love of family. I can hardly wait for Sybilla’s story. Received for an honest review from the publisher. Details can be found at Zebra Books, a division of Kensington Books,the author’s website,and My Book Addiction and More.
    RATING: 4.5
    HEAT RATING: MILD: Mild detailed scenes of intimacy,mild violence or profanity
    REVIEWED BY: AprilR, My Book Addiction and More

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  • Posted March 17, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    Second in the Foxe Sister Trilogy, Heather Grothaus continues to

    Second in the Foxe Sister Trilogy, Heather Grothaus continues to enthrall us with the lives and loves of the Foxe Sisters.

    Cecily Foxe, middle sister to Sybilla and Alys, is practically considered a Saint for her life of calm, gentle sacrifice to others. Although not a member of the convent, everybody thinks it's just a matter of time. And that time is drawing near. But is that what Cecily really wants? She has always lived her life to serve others but there is a small part of her that wonders what if....

    What is her childhood betrothal to Oliver Bellecote hadn't been broken by their parents? Would she be happy as a married woman? Or was her life destined to be one of quiet servitude to the Convent?

    Watching the lewd revelry at the Candlemas feast with her oldest sister Sybilla, Cecily is appalled, fascinated and ignored by the crowd. Everybody has a partner except Cecily because no man would dare accost Saint Cecily.

    However, the new Lord Oliver Bellecote has no qualms at throwing himself at Sybilla and begging her to marry or sleep with him. Cold, stern Sybilla rejects his suit and in jest suggests Lady Cecily. But Oliver knows he is not worthy of the saintly Cecily and only laughs at her expense.

    To escape the drunken revelry, Cecily goes to the Foxe Ring to pray, a place reputed to be magic, especially when interested in finding your mate. Cecily prays to find the right path for her life. What she doesn't expect is a drunken Oliver Bellecote riding like a mad man through the Foxe Ring while he chases his soon to be betrothed , Joan Barleg. She is shocked when Oliver is thrown from his horse, injured, right at her feet.

    Having used up her patience with Oliver and his drunken ways, Cecily walks off into the ruins of the old Foxe keep with Oliver chasing after her. While Cecily knows the layout of the old keep and what to area to avoid, Oliver heads straight towards the open pit above the dungeon. Reacting quickly Cecily helps push Lord Bellecote out of the path of danger.

    Their fall backwards into the old stone wall changes more than they could have dreamed, especially when it escalates into a night of passion between Cecily and Oliver. But what will it mean when morning comes? Will Cecily's reputation be in tatters? What of Oliver's soon to be betrothal to Joan Barleg?

    The road to love is never smooth and this tale is no exception. Add the secrets kept by the Bellecote and Foxe families, not to mention that the Foxe family has become an enemy to the King and you have a journey that keeps you riveted from beginning to end of this wonderful book. You won't want to put it down!

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
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    Posted March 13, 2012

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