"Anne Barton is a delightful new voice in historical romance! Once She Was Tempted is a charming read, with characters who are easy to love--a wounded earl and a determined heroine whose heart won't be denied."
Once She Was Temptedby Anne Barton
"Anne Barton is a delightful new voice in historical romance!"
Tessa Dare, New York Times bestselling author
A PORTRAIT OF A LADY
. . . or is it? The risqué painting owned by Benjamin Elliot, the earl of Foxburn, features a stunning beauty with sapphire eyes, golden hair, and creamy skin. Ben recognizes this particular English rose/b>/b>… See more details below
"Anne Barton is a delightful new voice in historical romance!"
Tessa Dare, New York Times bestselling author
A PORTRAIT OF A LADY
. . . or is it? The risqué painting owned by Benjamin Elliot, the earl of Foxburn, features a stunning beauty with sapphire eyes, golden hair, and creamy skin. Ben recognizes this particular English rose the instant he meets her-though she's wearing considerably more clothing. In person, the demure debutante is even more irresistible . . .
In desperate need of money for her sick mother, Daphne Honeycote had posed for two scandalous portraits. Now she must hide her secret to save the Honeycote family name. Ben's possession of one painting makes him an insufferable thorn in her side-and yet he may be her best chance at finding the canvas's companion. As she becomes drawn to the dark-tempered earl, can Daphne risk laying bare the secrets of her heart?
Anne Barton is a delightful new voice in historical romance! Once She Was Tempted is a charming read, with characters who are easy to lovea wounded earl and a determined heroine whose heart won't be denied."Tessa Dare, New York Times bestselling author"
Fans of historical romance, especially books by Tessa Dare and Grace Burrowes, will enjoy Barton, who is proving to be an enticing new voice."
Barton follows up When She Was Wicked with a delightful tale filled with sexual sizzle and banter. ...Barton's strong prose and wit will have readers clamoring for more."
-RT Book Reviews
WHEN SHE WAS WICKED:"
Sensual and solid, this debut is a story demanding to be read. The characters are believable and relatable, and Barton smartly blends issues of morality and Regency era social class with passion and excitement."Publisher's Weekly (Starred Review) on When She Was Wicked"
Stunning and heart melting...When She Was Wicked is a beautifully written regency Romance that I fell deeply in love with! Anne Barton has succeeded in writing the perfect debut. This is a must read that you do not want to miss!"harlequinjunkie.com on When She Was Wicked"
4 stars! Delightfully smart, fun, fast-paced and just different enough for readers to take note of Barton's charming voice, this novel is filled with wry humor and compassion intrigues readers. The intrepid heroine, arrogant hero, memorable secondary characters and the colorful depiction of the era add to the reading enjoyment"RT Book Reviews on When She Was Wicked"
When She Was Wicked is a delightful debut! Anne Barton's cast of characters is charming and witty. Owen is the type of hero that readers fall in love with from the very first introduction, and Anabelle is ingenious and resourcefully cunninga girl after my own heart."Tiffany Clare on When She Was Wicked"
Break out the bubbly for Anne Barton's delightful debut!"Vicky Dreiling, award-winning author on When She Was Wicked
Read an Excerpt
Once She Was Tempted
By Anne Barton
Grand Central PublishingCopyright © 2013 Anne Barton
All rights reserved.
Bristle: (1) A coarse animal hair used in making paintbrushes. (2) To become agitated or irritated, as in The young lady's innocent inquiries caused the brooding earl to bristle.
Upon meeting Miss Daphne Honeycote for the first time, Benjamin Elliot, Earl of Foxburn, had two distinct thoughts.
The first was that she appeared to be a suitable match for his upstanding young protégé, Hugh. Her golden hair was smoothed into a demure twist at her nape, and the collar of her gown was prim enough to pass muster in a convent. Her entire person radiated light, goodness, and purity.
The earl's second thought regarding Miss Honeycote was that he should probably take down the nude portrait of her that was hanging in his study.
To be fair—and to his everlasting regret—Miss Honeycote wasn't entirely nude in the painting. She reclined on a chaise of sapphire blue, her gown unlaced all the way to the small of her back, exposing slim shoulders and the long indent of her spine. The look she cast over her shoulder was serene and wise.
And utterly captivating.
His butler had once nervously suggested that a less titillating painting—of the English countryside or a foxhunt, perhaps—might be more befitting an earl's study. Ben had explained to the butler—with uncharacteristic patience—that since he had no intention of hosting the next meeting of the ladies' Scripture study, he'd hang any picture he damn well pleased.
But now, as he watched poor Hugh fumbling over himself to impress Miss Honeycote at the Duchess of Huntford's dinner party, he realized he'd have to take down the painting. It would never do for Hugh to see the scandalous portrait and discover that the woman he was courting was not the paragon of virtue he imagined her to be.
Ben wasn't one to cast stones, but at least he didn't pretend to be anything other than what he was—a bitter, cynical bastard. Everyone knew what he was, and yet invitations were never in short supply. It was truly amazing what character defects people would tolerate if one had a title, a fortune, and a few interesting scars.
He preferred to eat alone but couldn't refuse an invitation from Huntford. Especially when he suspected the duchess had arranged the dinner party in order to further Miss Honeycote's acquaintance with Hugh. This dinner was the social equivalent of advancing a column of infantry and probably involved more strategy. It was the kind of maneuver that Robert—Hugh's older brother and Ben's best friend—would have skillfully countered. Ben tucked an index finger between his neck and cravat, which suddenly felt tight.
Robert was gone, killed in the line of duty, leaving his younger brother with no one to look out for him but Ben—a poor substitute if ever there was one. The least he could do was protect Hugh from the mercenary and morally suspect Miss Honeycotes of the world.
Ben kept a wary eye on the stunning blonde throughout the evening. If he didn't know better, he'd swear she'd stepped out of the portrait in his study and raided the armoire of a prudish vicar's wife before coming to dinner. The contradiction between the oil-painted and in-the-flesh versions of Miss Honeycote kept his mind pleasantly—if wickedly—occupied during the meal, which was otherwise predictably tedious. Huntford sat at one end of the table, looking more medieval king than sophisticated duke; his pretty wife sat at the other. The duke's two sisters—Olivia and Rose—and Miss Honeycote were interspersed among the remaining men—Hugh, himself, and his solicitor and boxing partner, James Averill.
It was the sort of social affair Ben had avoided since returning from Waterloo. Cheerful gatherings, replete with inane conversation about the condition of the roads and the prospects for rain made him feel like the worst kind of hypocrite. He sat in one of London's most elegant dining rooms enjoying savory roast beef while members of his regiment lay buried in the cold ground.
It seemed almost traitorous.
Ben's leg twitched, signaling its agreement.
Damn. That twitch was like a warning shot before cannon fire. Sweat broke out on his forehead, and he clutched his fork so hard the fine silver handle bent.
Beneath the polished mahogany dining room table, he gripped the arm of his chair while the twisted muscles in his right thigh spasmed and contracted like a vise. He gritted his teeth, keeping his breathing even. The dinner conversation became muffled, as though he listened through a door. Objects in front of him blurred, and he could no longer tell where the tablecloth ended and his plate began. Silently, he counted. One, two, three ... The episode could last ten seconds or ten thousand, but he gleaned a shred of comfort from knowing it would end. Eventually.
He reached eighty-six before the pain subsided and the room slowly came back into focus. After a glance up and down the table, he relaxed slightly. No one seemed concerned or alarmed, so he must have gotten through the spell without grunting. As inconspicuously as possible, he swiped his dinner napkin across his damp forehead. Miss Honeycote cast him a curious look, but he ignored it, took a large gulp of wine, and tried to pick up some thread of the conversation around him.
Hugh was grinning at Miss Honeycote like an idiot. He seemed to fall further under her spell with each bloody course. At this rate, they'd be betrothed by dessert. "I understand you volunteer at the orphanage on Thursdays," Hugh said.
"Yes, I enjoy being around the children." She lowered her eyes, as though uncomfortable discussing her charity work. Little wonder. She probably wouldn't know an orphan if one bit her on her lovely ankle.
"The children adore Daphne," the young duchess said proudly. "With a smile, my sister can brighten the darkest of rooms."
"I do not doubt it," exclaimed Hugh.
Miss Honeycote blushed prettily, while Ben just barely refrained from snorting. He had to admit, she did a fair job of brightening his study.
She probably wouldn't deign to bat her lashes at Hugh if a viscount's title hadn't been tragically plopped onto his lap. Hugh was so smitten he'd already sunk to composing bad poetry in her honor, which meant Ben would have to confront her about the painting—in private, and soon. With any luck, he'd spare Hugh the humiliation of learning that the woman he fancied himself in love with was, for all intents and purposes, a doxy.
"Lord Biltmore tells us you're something of a hero." Lady Olivia Sherbourne, the more animated of the duke's sisters, leaned forward, gazing expectantly at Ben.
He shot Hugh a scathing glance before responding to Lady Olivia. "Hardly. I had the misfortune of finding myself in the path of a bullet. Let me assure you—there was nothing vaguely heroic or romantic about it."
"Nonsense." Hugh sat up straighter. "The colonel himself came to visit Lord Foxburn, and he said—"
"Enough." It was a bark, harsher than Ben had intended. The duchess fumbled her fork and it clattered onto her plate. Accusatory silence followed. The women stared at him with owlish eyes and, at the head of the table, Huntford glowered.
Ben set his napkin next to his plate and leaned back in his chair. If they were waiting for an apology, they were going to wait a long time. In fact, his flavored ice, which had been cleverly molded into the shape of a pineapple, was already starting to melt. Instead, he said, "I'm certain there are more appropriate topics of conversation for a dinner party."
The duke arched a dark brow.
Ben responded with a grin but didn't let it reach his eyes. "Better to stick with less distressing subjects when conversing with the gentler sex." He sounded like an insincere ass, and no wonder.
"Must we limit our conversation to weather and roads, then?" Lady Olivia looked like a chit who'd discovered her diamond earrings were paste jewelry.
"Of course not." Ben scooped the spike of the ice pineapple into his spoon. "There are plenty of interesting, appropriate topics for young ladies."
He froze, his spoon halfway to his mouth. "I don't know ... the color of Lady Bonneville's newest turban?"
Every head at the table swiveled toward him, and no one looked particularly pleased.
Miss Honeycote cleared her throat, drawing the attention away from him like a matador unfurling a scarlet cape. She smiled, instantly raising the temperature in the room several degrees. "Lord Foxburn, I cannot speak for my entire sex, but let me assure you that my sister, Olivia, Rose, and I are not nearly as fragile as you might think. If you knew us better, you wouldn't worry about offending our sensibilities. You'd be worried that we'd offend yours."
The ladies giggled, murmuring their agreement, and even Huntford chuckled reluctantly. Miss Honeycote pursed her pink lips and tilted her head as she met Ben's gaze. Her knowing smile and heavy-lidded eyes were an exact match to those of the woman in the portrait.
And, coincidentally, to the woman who invaded his dreams.
Daphne took a sip of wine and, over the rim of her glass, marveled at the luxury surrounding her. A fire crackled in the marble fireplace of the duke's dining room, gilt-framed pictures graced the sea-green walls, and a chandelier glittered over the mahogany table.
Her sister, Anabelle, blushed prettily under her husband's appreciative gaze. If the new fullness in her cheeks and sparkle in her eyes were any indications, being a duchess suited her quite nicely.
Her sister, the Duchess of Huntford. The thought still made Daphne giddy.
A year ago she and Belle were living in a tiny rented apartment wondering how on earth they were going to be able to feed themselves, much less purchase the medicine Mama needed. Daphne had spent night after night in Mama's room, watching over her, as if that would keep Death from skulking in and snatching her away. Some mornings, when the air was thick with the pungent smells of strong tea and bitter medicine, she was afraid to approach Mama's bed. Afraid that she'd take her hand and find it cold and stiff.
Daphne shivered in spite of herself. She wasn't the sort to dwell on dark times, but remembering was useful on occasion—if only to make one appreciate one's blessings.
And she had many.
Mama was now the picture of health. She and Daphne lived in a town house twenty times the size of their old apartment and a hundred times more beautiful. They had a butler and a cook and ladies' maids, for heaven's sake. If a gypsy had foretold it, Daphne would have fallen off her chair from laughing. And yet here she sat, in a ducal dining room of all places.
Enjoying her first season.
Even she, the eternal optimist, never dared to dream of such a thing. Because of her sister's marriage—a love match to rival any fairy tale—Daphne would gain admittance to lavish balls and perhaps receive her vouchers to Almack's. She might even be presented at Court. The very thought of which made her pulse race.
Yes, it was that thought that made her pulse race. Not Lord Foxburn, or his bottomless blue eyes, or his irreverent grin. He seemed a jaded, bitter sort, but Lord Biltmore held the earl in such high esteem that he must have some redeeming qualities. Something beyond the broad shoulders and the dimple in his left cheek. She endeavored not to stare, but he was sitting directly across from her, and a girl could hardly gaze at the ceiling all evening.
If she was nervous tonight, it was only because her recent good fortune seemed almost too perfect, too fragile. Like a tower of precariously balanced crystal glasses that would come crashing down from the slightest vibration. She pushed the image away, inhaled deeply, and savored her last bite of pineapple ice, which was surely a spoonful of heaven.
Shortly after the dessert course, Daphne and the other ladies filed into the drawing room for tea. The moment the doors closed behind them, Belle drew her aside and, as only a sister could, began interrogating her without preamble. "What did you think of him?"
"He is a bit boorish, but I think that, under the circumstances, we must make allowances."
Belle squinted through the spectacles perched on her nose, perplexed. "Lord Biltmore?"
Oh, drat. Of course her sister was asking about Lord Biltmore—the kind, young viscount who'd sent flowers once and called twice. "I thought you were asking about Lord Foxburn." Daphne's cheeks heated. "Lord Biltmore is a true gentleman. Amiable, gracious, and—"
"Did you notice his shoulders? They're quite broad."
Daphne frowned, wishing her sister would use pronouns with a bit more moderation. "Whose shoulders?"
"Lord Biltmore's!" Belle made the pinched face again, then let out a long breath. "No matter. If he doesn't strike your fancy, there are plenty more eligible men I can introduce to you. I just thought he'd be—"
Daphne reached out and clasped the hand Belle waved about. "Lord Biltmore is the finest of gentlemen. Thank you for hosting this dinner. You arranged it all for me, didn't you?"
A mysterious smile curled at the corner of Belle's mouth and a gleam lit her eyes. "It's only the beginning."
Oh no. Belle didn't undertake any task halfway. Daphne had once asked her to replace the ribbon sash on a plain morning gown. Within a few hours, Belle had transformed the gown into a shimmering confection of silk and delicate lace. If matchmaking became her sister's mission, Daphne would not have a moment's peace. "You are newly married and a duchess to boot. Surely you have more pressing matters to attend to than filling my social calendar."
"Not a one. This is your chance, Daph. No one deserves happiness more than you."
"I am happy." But she wasn't happy like Belle was with Owen. That was a rare thing.
"You know what I mean."
Daphne bit her lip. "Yes." If her sister was determined, why not let her do her best? There was no one in the world Daphne trusted more. She gave Belle a fierce hug and extricated herself before she turned completely maudlin.
Needing a moment, Daphne poured herself some tea, wandered to the rear of the drawing room, and sank into a plush armchair near an open window. A warm breeze tickled the wisps on her neck, and the simple pleasure of it made her eyes drift shut.
This season was her chance, presented to her on a silver salver. She, a poor girl from St. Giles, would mingle with nobility. With just a smidgen more luck, she might marry a respectable gentleman. Someone kind and good. Greedy as she was, she even dared to hope she'd fall in love. With a man who viewed life the same way she did—as a chance to bring happiness to others.
Lord Biltmore seemed the perfect candidate. His manners were impeccable, and he treated her like a rare treasure, or a fragile egg that might break if jostled. His boyish smile held not a trace of cynicism, and the way his russet-colored hair spiked up at the crown—much like a tuft of grass—was utterly endearing. Although he'd lost his parents and two older brothers in recent years, he managed to see goodness in the world around him and reflect it back tenfold.
The viscount could have his pick of the season's debutantes, yet he appeared to be taken with her—a newcomer with few connections and no fortune to speak of. The advantage of being an unknown was that she had no reputation—so far, it was unblemished.
She could hardly believe how nicely the pieces of her life were falling into place.
A shadow slanted across the teacup in her lap, and she looked up. A torso clad in a finely tailored dark blue waistcoat appeared, precisely at eye level.
"Miss Honeycote, might I have a word?"
Daphne blinked, tilted her head back, and directed her gaze to the face above the snowy white neckcloth. What Lord Foxburn lacked in manners he certainly made up for in good looks. His tanned skin set off his startlingly blue eyes. The fine lines at their corners seemed to have resulted not from smiling, but rather from glaring, if his current expression was any indication. Although his mouth curved down at the corners, his lips were full. She was quite sure that his genuine smile—should she ever see it—would be dangerously charming.
Excerpted from Once She Was Tempted by Anne Barton. Copyright © 2013 Anne Barton. Excerpted by permission of Grand Central Publishing.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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