Notoriousby Nicola Cornick
When the town's most notorious heartbreaker
Dangerously seductive and sinfully beautiful, Susanna Burney is society's most sought after matchbreaker Paid by wealthy parents to part unsuitable couples, she's never yet failed to accomplish her mission of diverting a groomtobe. Until her final assignment brings her
When the town's most notorious heartbreaker
Dangerously seductive and sinfully beautiful, Susanna Burney is society's most sought after matchbreaker Paid by wealthy parents to part unsuitable couples, she's never yet failed to accomplish her mission of diverting a groomtobe. Until her final assignment brings her facetoface with the man who'd once taught her an intimate lesson in heartache
Meets London's most disreputable rake
James Devlin has everything he's always wanted: a title, a rich fiancee and a place in society. But the woman who's just met his eyes across a crowded ballroom threatens it all. Not because she'd once claimed his heart, or that every sinuous swirl of her ball gown takes his breath away. But because the secrets she carries could cost him everything.
To put the past to rest once and for all, Dev just might have to play Susanna at her own wicked game
Let the seduction begin!
"Nicola Cornick gives the Regency historical a deliciously fresh twist with her sexy tale of daring explorers, bold women, and the uncharted dangers of the frozen North." - Booklist on Whisper of Scandal
"'(An) emotionally charged romance and a powerful love story.'"
- Romantic Times on Mistress by Midnight
"[A] sinfully amusing and sexy historical." Booklist on The Confessions of a Duchess
Read an Excerpt
James Devlin was twentyseven years old and he had everything that he had ever wanted. He had a place in society, he had a beautiful, rich fiancée and he had a title of his own. Yet on the night that his former wife walked back into his life after nine years absence he was bored; as bored as it was possible for a gentleman to be at a ton ball at the height of the London season.
It was another night of lavish excess and hollow entertainment. The Duke and Duchess of Alton threw the best parties in the ton, opulent, tasteful and frightfully exclusive. For Dev it was also another night of fetching lemonade for Emma when she became thirsty, of finding her fan when she misplaced it and of fawning on Emma's mama, who could not stand him and probably did not even know his name although he had been betrothed to her daughter for two years. Once upon a time Dev had had to brave the elements on the rainlashed deck of a ship of the line, scramble up rigging and fight for his life. Each day had brought new dangers, new excitement. It had only been two years but it felt like a century ago. These days he did nothing more dangerous than check the set of his coat and pass Emma her reticule.
"Jealous, Dev?" His sister Francesca put a hand on his sleeve and Dev realized that he had been frowning at Emma across the dance floor, glaring at her as she twirled through the steps of the waltz in the arms of her cousin Frederick Walters. Chessie was not the only one who had noticed his grim stance. He saw the sideways glances and covert amusement. Everyone thought that he was possessive, resentful of the time that Emma, a consummate flirt, lavished on other men. If he had been the jealous type he would have spent his days on the dueling field but the fact was that one had to care in order to be jealous and Dev had long ago realized that he did not care a jot if Emma flirted with every man in London.
He straightened up and smoothed the frown from his brow. "I'm not jealous in the least," he said.
Chessie's blue gaze appraised his face, looking for signs that he was trying to fool her. "It is no secret that the Earl and Countess of Brooke prefer Fred as a suitor for Emma," she said.
Dev shrugged. "The Earl and Countess would prefer a distempered hound as a suitor for Emma but I am the one that Emma wants."
"And Emma always gets what she wants." There was the very faintest edge to Chessie's voice now.
Dev shot his sister a look. Chessie had not yet got what she wanted and she had been waiting a long time. Fitzwilliam Alton, only son and heir to the Duke and Duchess, had been paying Chessie marked attention for some months. Such public notice could only end respectably in a proposal of marriage but so far Fitz had not declared himself and now the ton was starting to gossip. Society, Dev thought, had not been kind, talking scandal about him and Chessie in particular from the first. They had breeding of sorts, but precious little of it and no money. He had at least carved out something of a Navy career for himself before he had resorted to hunting a fortune. Chessie had had to make an impression through her beauty and her vivacious personality alone. It was always harder for a woman.
"You don't like Emma," Dev said now.
He felt rather than saw his sister's scornful glance. "I don't like what she has done to you," she said. "You've become one of Emma's pets, like that fluffy white dog or her badtempered monkey."
"It's a small price to pay for what I want," Dev said.
Wealth. Status. He had hunted them for the last ten years. Born with nothing, he had no intention of going back to the poverty of his youth. Now everything was within his grasp and if that meant he had to be Emma's lapdog for the rest of his life there were worse fates. Or so he told himself.
"You are no better," he said to his sister, aware that he sounded perilously close to the tit for tat banter of their childhood. "You have caught yourself a marquis."
Chessie flicked her fan in a gesture that conveyed total disdain. "Don't be so vulgar, Dev. I am completely different from you. I may be a fortune hunter but at least I love Fitz. And anyway" a tiny frown marred her brow "I have not caught him yet."
"He'll propose soon," Dev said. He had heard the trace of uncertainty in Chessie's voice that revealed how wafer thin was her confidence. He wanted to reassure her, even though he thought Fitzwilliam Alton nowhere near good enough for his sister. "Fitz loves you, too," he said, hoping he was right. "He is only waiting for the right moment to tell his parents the news."
"That will never happen," Chessie said dryly.
"You must love Fitz very much to be prepared to endure the Duchess of Alton as a motherinlaw," Dev said.
"And you must love Emma's money very much to be prepared to endure the Countess of Brooke," Chessie said.
"I do," Dev said.
Chessie shook her head slightly. "It will not serve, Dev," she said. "In the end you will hate her."
"I'm sure you are right," Dev said. "I already dislike her very much."
"I meant Emma," Chessie said, her eyes on the shifting patterns of the dance, "not her mother. Though if Emma becomes more like her mother as she grows older that will be hard to bear."
Dev could not deny that it was not an appealing prospect.
"If Fitz becomes more like his mother you will have to squeeze money out of him like a lemon," he said. The Duchess of Alton had a sour disposition and a mouth like the tightly drawn drawstring of a purse. It gave fair warning as to her character.
Chessie gave a spontaneous giggle. "Fitz will not become like his parents." The laughter faded from her face and she fidgeted with the struts of her fan, her gloved fingers pulling at the lace. Lately, Dev thought, she seemed to have lost some of her sparkle. Now he could see her searching the crowded room for Fitz. She was wearing her heart on her sleeve. He felt a rush of protective concern. Chessie was pinning everything on the prospect of this betrothal and Fitz, genial enough, but arrogant and spoiled in equal measure, was aware of her regard and was toying with her reputation. Chessie deserved better than that. Dev clenched his fists at his side. One step out of line and he would ram that silver spoon Fitz had been born with right down his throat.
"You look very fierce," Chessie said, squeezing his arm.
"Sorry," Dev said, smoothing out his expression again. He smiled at her. "We haven't done badly," he said, "for two penniless orphans from County Galway."
Chessie did not reply and he saw that her gaze had returned to the waltz, which was now spinning to a triumphant climax. Fitz, tall, dark, distinguished, was at the far end of the room, almost lost in the shift and sway of the dancers. He was partnering a woman in a shimmering silver gauze gown, a woman who was also tall and dark. They looked magnificent together. Fitz had always had a weakness for a pretty face, just as his cousin Emma wanted a handsome trophy of a husband. But this woman was different from Fitz's usual flirts and there was something about the way that she moved, the lilt and cadence of her steps that shot Dev through with recognition even though he could not see her face.
"Who is that?" he said, and his voice sounded a little hoarse. Something strangepremonitionwas edging up his spine. He was the least superstitious of men yet he felt the cold air breathe gooseflesh along his skin even though the Duke and Duchess of Alton's ballroom was stiflingly hot.
He could see that Chessie felt something, too. She was strung as tight as violin, her face pale now. He saw a shiver rack her body.
"Someone rich," she said bitterly. "Someone beautiful and eligible whom Fitz's parents will have introduced to him tonight in order to distract him from me."
"Nonsense," Dev said bracingly. "She will be yet another horsefaced, inbred poor relation"
"Dev," Chessie reproved, as a dowager rustled past them on a wave of disapproval.
The music finished on a resounding flourish. There was a ripple of applause about the room. The pattern of dancers broke up. Fitz was escorting his partner across the floor toward them. Evidently he intended to introduce her to Chessie. Dev was not sure whether that reassured him or worried him.
"Dev!" Emma had also arrived, breathless and flushed by his side, dragging Freddie Walters with her by the hand. "Come and dance with me!"
For the first time in as long as he could remember, Dev did not respond immediately to Emma's imperious demand. Instead he was watching the woman at Fitz's side. She was not in the first flush of youth, closer perhaps to his age than Chessie's. Age, or experience, or both, gave her an unconscious confidence. She walked with the same elegance that Dev had seen in her in the waltz, a fluid grace that was accentuated by the sinuous swirl of the silver gauze gown. It caressed her breasts and hips, wrapping itself about her like a lover's kiss. There was not a man in the room, Dev thought, who was not staring at her, his mouth drying with lust, his mind a rampage of images as to what it would be like to unwrap that gown from those curves.
Or perhaps those were just his fantasies.
She was very pale with the kind of translucent skin dusted with freckles that was a feature of the Celtic races. The contrast between her vivid green eyes and her black hair was shocking, exhilarating. It made her look fragile and fey, like a kelpie or dryad, too exotic to be human. Her black curls were piled up on her head in a tumble of ringlets held by a dazzling diamond comb. Matching jewels sparkled about her slender neck and adorned her wrists. Not a poor relation then. She looked magnificent.
She also looked familiar.
Dev's heart missed a beat then started to race. For a moment it felt as though everything had stopped; the music, the chatter, the breath in his body. For one long moment he could neither think nor speak.
It was almost ten years since he had seen Susanna Burney. His last memory of her was not one he was likely ever to forget; Susanna gloriously naked and fast asleep in the bed that they had shared for their brief, passionate wedding night. As he had blown out the guttering candle he had had no notion that he would never see her again.
In the morning she was gone, and with her his marriage. She had left him a noteit had all been a terrible mistake, she had said. She had begged him not to come after her, had said that she would sue for an annulment. Young and full of pride, angry, hurt and betrayed, he had let her go.
It had been two years later when he had returned from his first full tour of duty with the Royal Navy that he had reconsidered his abandonment of his wayward wife and had traveled to Scotland to find her again. He had told himself that it had been for curiosity's sake alone and to ensure that their annulment had indeed been granted. He had plans for the future, ambitious ideas, and they did not involve the girl he had seduced, married on impulse and let go. Sweat broke out over his body now as he recalled knocking on the door of the rectory and confronting Susanna's uncle and aunt. They had told him that Susanna was dead. He could recall the fierce punch of shock that had made a mockery of his bravado. He had cared for Susanna a great deal more than he had pretended.
Susanna Burney looked very much alive to him.
Anger and shock warred within him. He met her indifferent, unrecognizing gaze and a second wave of fury beat through him. She was pretending that she did not know him.
"Dev!" Emma was tugging on his hand, reclaiming his attention. A frown marred the pretty regularity of her features.
Emma, his rich, beautiful, wellconnected fiancée
Emma, the woman who was bringing him everything that he had ever wanted
He had never told Emma about his first hasty, illfated marriage. There were many things that he had not told Emma. He had pretended that it was because all his past indiscretions were long gone, unimportant and forgotten, but the truth was that Emma was jealous and possessive and he could not predict how she would react to any revelation, and he did not want to put that to the test and endanger the entire house of cards he had built for himselfand for Chessie.
A cold prickle of tension edged its way down Dev's spine. The damage that Susanna might do was incalculable. If she revealed even a hint of his past, Emma might break their engagement and everything he had worked for would be lost.
He watched as Susanna drew closer. Her hand was resting on Fitz's arm in the most confiding gesture, their dark heads bent close together. She was smiling at Fitz as though he was the most fascinating man in the universe. Fitz, Dev thought, looked completely dazzled, flushing like a youth in the grip of his first infatuation.
Susanna looked up again and her gaze met Dev's for one long, long moment. He could not read her expression. There was still no flicker of recognition in her eyes and no trace of nervousness in her manner.
Dev felt cold, very cold. He straightened, squared his shoulders and prepared to be introduced to the wife he had thought was dead.
Meet the Author
USA Today bestselling author Nicola Cornick has written over thirty historical romances for Harlequin and HQN Books. She has been nominated twice for a RWA RITA Award and twice for the UK RNA Award. She works as a historian and guide in a seventeenth century house. In 2006 she was awarded a Masters degree with distinction from Ruskin College, Oxford, where she wrote her dissertation on heroes.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
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Before we begin, let us just take another moment to admire that cover art. Take several minutes if you must. There isn't anything about that cover that isn't great. And after looking at Cornick's website, I'm seeing that most of her cover art is top notch. Bravo! Moving on to the story . Conflict is a crucial element in story telling. Without it you have a . well, not much of a story. Some authors center on one main conflict. Some authors throw in a second or third smaller conflict to go along with a main one. Cornick just goes nuts. Roller coaster is a good explanation. A wonderful, eye widening roller coaster. Honestly, I've never seen a more twisted web in historical romance. James and Susanna want one thing, financial stability. Both have searched and found their marks only to find themselves positioned to be in each other's way. Neither can budge, and yet someone has to. Neither can blow the whistle on the other, least they find themselves discovered. And the conflicts mount as the story goes on. In fact, I lost count of the number of conflicts. However, it is not confusing. It's very cleverly laid out. It's a complex storyline with one thread that can pull it all apart, and when Cornick pulls that thread it all falls apart painfully and beautifully. There were a lot of questions I had while reading this book, and had it not been for so much going on those questions might have bothered me. So the amount of conflict worked very well here. What didn't work for me was the story line of the hero's sister. I did not connect with this character, nor was I happy with her ending. However, she is a side-character and this did not take away from James and Susanna's story. Over all I found this to be a heavy read. It is very emotional in dealing with loss, regret, and mistakes people make in their youth. One that is beautifully written, entertaining, and very seductive.
Epic romance tends to guard its deepest, darkest secrets closest to the heart rather than wear them on its sleeve, so pardon James Devlin if he fails to acknowledge his perfect-in-every-way fiancée when he spots his dead wife across the ballroom. No, not zombified, but very much alive and currently seducing a gentleman away from Devlin's sister! Susanna Burney had learned long ago that love is not invincible and has found a lucratrive job in helping disapproving mamas and papas of the ton to break up an unwanted courtship. This was supposed to have been an easy come-hither-and-dash deal, but Susanna did not count on running into her past in the form of a husband she had discarded long ago. Egads - I just realized James Devlin and I are the same age (27) as of a few months ago, and I can hardly say that I have everything I have ever wanted. Back on subject, though, Notorious was a scrumptious feast for this reader who practically inhaled it up her nose! The tension tightly bound like a corset, the love-hate bubbling to a delicious boil, the secrets as decadent as dark chocolate, Nicola Cornick nailed the emotional rollercoaster on the nail and I cried my eyes out. There were some awkward moments in Notorious that felt a little too melodramatic, but these were mostly side-plots that snuck in for a few seconds of pagetime. Otherwise, I loved how Susanna was a match-breaker - I don't think I've run across such a concept before and thought it awfully smart!
NOTORIOUS by Nicola Cornick is an exciting historical romance set in Regency England. It is book #4 in The Scandalous Women of The Ton,but can be read as a stand alone. See Book #1"Whisper of Scandal",Book 2 "One Wicked Sin" and Book 3 " Mistress By Midnight".This is a wonderful series that shows not only strong,wicked,sexy,heros,but also strong,beautiful heroines. Who can stand their ground,hold their own against a tough, determined advisory and come out one of the winners. While James Devlin,cousin to the hero of Whisper of Scandal,is London's most shocking rake,he needs respectability,a society heiress,and is bored to near death with his so called fiance. Enter,Lady Carew,Caroline,a mysterious woman of Devlin's past.This story has everything a romance should.It has sweet sensuality,secrets,romance,love,mystery,a ruin engagement,a notorious match breaker,who is paid by rich parents to end their loved ones unsuitable engagements,family,deception,and second chances. This is a fast paced,page turning story that will leave you breathless. Nortorious is a must read and a keeper.This is an awesome story of what a young naive couple who find each other again after nine years of secrets can have a second chance at true love. I enjoy this author's work and this one is another keeper. This book was received for the purpose of review from the author,Net Galley and the publisher.Details can be found at HQN and My Book Addiction and More.
Choosing love or money can be a pressing issue for someone who has been starving and homeless and alone as a child. If one cannot have money AND love then some hard decisions have to be made. Sir James Devlin may have an air of confidence and authority now, but he was once one of the starving and homeless. Even though a good navy man, he has little money. He has a deep desire for wealth and status that will insure he is never destitute again. Engaged to the spoiled, but rich young Emma, daughter of Earl and Countess Brooke, Devlin is bored stiff with the social life of the ton but tolerates the tedium and Emma's possessiveness for his soon-to-be security as a member of the elite Brooke family. Susanna aka Lady Caroline Carew appears with Fitzwilliam, Devlin's sisters Francesca's love. Like Devlin, Susanna knows poverty, its degradation, fear, pain, and suffering. She does what she must to keep it at bay for herself and the twins Rose and Rory. She is a beauty with all the attributes (a lithesome body, exquisite style, and a touch of mystery) for the job she does as a "heartbreaker". As these two characters collide and their back stories unfold, the reader gets a fantastic, vicarious experience that is full of secrets, fears, fun, and heartache. The sexual awakening of young, spoiled Emma Brooke, the heartbreaking love that Francesca Devlin has for Fitzwilliam and clings to at tremendous costs, plus the emotional roller coaster with Devlin and Susanna create a page turning story with "oh-such-yes" love scenes and plot twists that intrigue. Nicola Cornick weaves past and present stories together as smooth as silk. She touches the reader's senses with fear, fun, and love that amazes. Notorious is a captivating tale of what one will do for love or money. Good entertainment! Originally posted at the Long and Short of It Romance Reviews
Susanna Burney and James Devlin were in love. However, the day after their wedding vows, she abruptly left him. Over the ensuing years Susanna worked diligently to insure she and her two wards would be financially secure. Likewise, James did the same to insure he would never worry about money ever again. They see each other for the first time since the breakup and both know they still are attracted to one another. He happens to be engaged to Emma for two years though her affluent parents prefer his cousin Frederick Walters. Likewise his sister Chessie detests that he has become one of Emma's groveling pets. Susanna prays he keeps his mouth shut over her past and he wonders why she interferes with the pending betrothal between Chessie and Fitzwilliam Alton. However what Dev really wants to know from her is why she left him.. This is an entertaining Regency romance starring an avaricious seeking male and a for hire relationship destroyer. The story line is fast-paced and fun to read though the back story of what happened years ago between the protagonists seems inane and unlikely. Still those historical sub-genre fans that put aside their plausibility meter will enjoy the zany antics of the Ton in this over the top of the London Tower tale. Harriet Klausner