Night of Fire

Night of Fire

4.7 18
by Barbara Samuel

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Lady Cassandra St. Ives had sworn off marriage ever since becoming a happy widow, but lately her affections have been engaged by a mysterious, long distance correspondent. Cassandra has shared her soul with her far-off admirer, and whe he invites her to visit his home she accepts the invitation gladly. Expecting a kindly of gentleman, Cassandra is stunned to find

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Lady Cassandra St. Ives had sworn off marriage ever since becoming a happy widow, but lately her affections have been engaged by a mysterious, long distance correspondent. Cassandra has shared her soul with her far-off admirer, and whe he invites her to visit his home she accepts the invitation gladly. Expecting a kindly of gentleman, Cassandra is stunned to find that Count Basilio Montevarchi is a virile man in his prime who knows her heart's most intimate desires—and is only too willng to fulfill every one...

The moment Basilio sets eyes on the vibrant beauty he recognizes a soul mate he will never be able to claim as his own. A long-standing betrothal—and the honor of his family—dictate that Basilio must deny himself Cassandra's love. Still they cannot deny the force of their passion until the confines of responsibility finally force them apart. Now Basilio must find a way to keep his heart's desire—before he loses her forever.

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Editorial Reviews

Lynn Coddington
"A beautiful novel, seamlessly executed, cathartic in the way of tragic love stories, yet even more satisfying for the triumphant finish that rewards Basilio and Cassandra’s honor pledged in love."
Kathe Robin
KISS AWARD WINNER: "For sensuality, few men can best Count Basilio Montevarchi, loving brought to life by Barbara Samuel…this is a man who certainly fires my imagination."
—Kathe Robin, Romantic Times

Product Details

HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
4.13(w) x 6.73(h) x 1.08(d)

Meet the Author

Barbara Samuel (also known as Barbara O’Neal) is the bestselling author of more than 40 books, and has won Romance Writers of America’s RITA award an astounding six times, and she has been a finalist 13 times. Her books have been published around the world, including France, Germany, Italy, and Australia/New Zealand, among others. One of her recent women’s fiction titles, The Lost Recipe for Happiness (written as Barbara O’Neal) went back to print eight times, and her book How to Bake a Perfect Life was a Target Club pick in 2011.

Whether set in the turbulent past or the even more challenging present, Barbara’s books feature strong women, families, dogs, food, and adventure—whether on the road or toward the heart.

Now living in her hometown of Colorado Springs, Barbara lives with her partner, Christopher Robin, an endurance athlete, along with her dog and cats. She is an avid gardner, hiker, photographer and traveler who loves to take off at dawn to hike a 14er or head to a faraway land. She loves to connect with readers and is very involved with them on the Internet.

You may read more about Barbara’s books at and
Find her blog at A Writer Afoot:

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Read an Excerpt

Chapter 1

Eighteen months earlier...

Danger arrived in the form of a letter.

On that cold and rainy day, Cassandra huddled close to the fire in her sitting room. Her hands were encased in fingerless gloves, her shoulders draped in a thick woolen shawl, her legs covered with a lap robe. Even so, her nose was cold.

She was supposed to be working, but even with the gloves, her fingers had grown stiff after an hour, and it was not a particularly exciting project, anyway--a rote translation piece for a professor who would pay her well and claim the credit.

Sipping tea, she stared gloomily at the long windows streaked with a cold March rain. Rain and rain and rain. Ordinarily she didn't mind it, she found stormy weather exhilarating and stimulating. But the sun had not shown itself in nearly a month, and even Cassandra was weary of it. If it went on much longer, they would all have mold dripping from their fingernails. Society matrons would declare green hair to be the only shade for the season. She amused herself for a moment imagining a rout crowded with beauties sporting twists of mold from their coiffures.

A sniffle in the hallway shattered the amusing picture just as Cassandra was about to embroider it fully--waistcoats brocaded in silk and mildew, perhaps. She sighed and turned. Her maid, Joan, had had a cold for a week.

"Letter just come for you, my lady."

"Thank you." At least it was something to break the monotony. Cassandra hoped it might be from her sister Adriana in Ireland, who had once been a very good correspondent-love had made her neglectful. Cassandra tried not to mind.

At the sight ofthe thin, elegant writing on the letter, her heart jumped. Even better than Adriana! She had not dared hope for a letter from Italy yet.

As the maid left, Cassandra put aside her tea and carried the letter to the window seat. It was colder there, but the light was good. For a moment, she only held it up to look at her name written in his beautiful script, letting the simple presence of it enliven her day. Already she felt warmer, as if the paper itself carried beams of Tuscan sunlight that now leaked into the room, buttery and rich. She lifted it to her nose and inhaled the evocative scent of the far away--sometimes she thought it was the ocean breezes she smelled, at others she thought it might be his cologne.

She ran her finger over the black ink that had written her name, Lady Cassandra St. Ives, feeling the faint indentation his pen had made. With her thumb, she brushed the raised letters of the words within the paper, a thick packet this time, words she would read, then read again, and put away, then take out and read again.

Count Montevarchi. She imagined him to be a stout, short-sighted man, middle aged if she were to judge by the breadth of his studies and travels. He wrote magnificently well, bringing his lovely, faraway world to her.

The correspondence had begun nearly two years before, when he'd written to praise an essay she'd written on Boccaccio. She'd been quite proud of it, thinking she had captured well the vivid, witty, even bawdy sense of the master, and Count Montevarchi's letter had commented on each of the points she'd thought particularly fine. He'd praised her mightily, which was heady enough.

Then he had confessed he'd been languishing for over a year after the death of his brothers, and her essay had "broken through the clouds of sorrow over this man's heart and allowed the fresh breeze of laughter to enter." Touched, Cassandra had written back and enclosed a new essay, which she hoped he would find as cheering as the first.

In return, he'd sent travel articles that he'd written--lush and sensual things that captured exotic and sunny places. They'd exchanged dozens of letters now, sometimes crossing in the mail in their eagerness, letters that became, somehow, very heartfelt. The Count was a thwarted scholar who'd had to don the mantle of his inheritance, returning to the provincial world where his compatriots did not care to discuss poetry. Though she already had a circle of witty and artistic friends, Cassandra had found it easy to express her deepest ambitions to him.

It was safe. She knew that was a part of the appeal. A confirmed bachelor scholar, a thousand miles or more away, who listened. It was so very rare. And that he should also be a man with a soul painted in the colors of poetry, who responded entirely to her mind instead of her physical presence, made him a very dear friend indeed. He also embodied some of the qualities she would most like to develop in herself. His example had made her braver these past months.

At last she turned the letter and broke the seal.

Villa de Montevarchi, Toscana
2 April 1787

My Dear Lady Cassandra,

I have had poor news and find myself driven here tonight to write to you. It is an affair of little importance, a matter of duty I must attend to which gives me no pleasure, so You need not worry it is some awful thing I dare not speak of. Only wearisome.

I am honored that you enjoyed my essay on Cypress--and will now urge you again to indulge that longing I sense in you to travel yourself. Why not begin by coming to my Tuscany? Here you would be able to test your bravery under the guidance of a friend. By your writings, I sense you are braver than you know, and since you are a widow, there is none to tell you it is not appropriate. Perhaps it is just the tonic you need to inspire your fine work even more. I will tempt you with the lure of my small collection of Boccaccio manuscripts, which I would enjoy sharing with one who appreciates their worth. Would it not be the deepest pleasure to hold them in your own hands?

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