The Reluctant Suitor

The Reluctant Suitor

3.3 73
by Kathleen E. Woodiwiss

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For as long as she can remember, Lady Adriana Sutton has adored Colton Wyndham, to whom she has been promised by an agreement of courtship and betrothal since childhood. As a young girl, she was wounded by Colton's stubborn refusal to comply with his father's wishes and by his angry departure. He was too proud and too stubborn to accept a future not of his own

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For as long as she can remember, Lady Adriana Sutton has adored Colton Wyndham, to whom she has been promised by an agreement of courtship and betrothal since childhood. As a young girl, she was wounded by Colton's stubborn refusal to comply with his father's wishes and by his angry departure. He was too proud and too stubborn to accept a future not of his own choosing. Rather than submit, he fled from his ancestral home for a life of adventure and danger as an officer in the British army.

The years have been immensely kind to Lady Adriana. No longer the plain, thin tomboy Colton had spurned, she has blossomed into an uncommon beauty desired by nearly every eligible bachelor in the land. Yet the only man she desires is the decorated hero who has finally come home to claim his rightful title. Arrogant, unmoved, and seductive as ever, he remains averse to the idea of their betrothal in spite of his growing desire for her.

To demonstrate his belief that love cannot be forced, Colton agrees to court Lady Adriana for ninety days, after which time he will be allowed to keep his precious freedom if he so wishes. But much has changed since he balked at his father's plans. Forced into a courtship with this stunning, spirited woman, who is as different today from the young chit he left behind as spring is to winter, the heroic heart that was once closed to Adriana is moved by her charm, her grace, and her sensuality ... and begins to yield. But a secret from Colton's past may doom their burgeoning love ... even as the treacherous schemes of a sinister rival threaten to steal the remarkable lady from his arms forever.

A lush and spellbinding story of passion and betrayal that grandly sweeps the reader into the magnificent ballrooms and intimate boudoirs of Regency England, The Reluctant Suitor is romance as only the incomparable Kathleen Woodiwiss can deliver it — a love story that will dwell in the reader's heart and memory forever and stand proudly as one of the author's very best.

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Editorial Reviews

New York Times
“A phenomenon.”
Atlanta Journal-Constitution
“The queen of historical romance.”
Publishers Weekly
The hardcover debut of historical romance doyenne Woodiwiss (The Flame and the Flower) recalls the era of romance writing when a hero could be said to sport his "fleshly horn" or "bold blade of passion" with no trace of irony. Some readers may find the prose a bit overblown ("she strove to unmount the iron-thewed thigh"), but the racy escapades are as entertaining as ever. Prodigal son Colton Wyndham returns to his home in England after fighting in the Napoleonic wars. His father, with whom he had a contentious relationship, has recently died, and Colton is the new Marquess of Randwulf. He enjoys flashing his "dark, shining orbs" at his beauteous neighbor, Lady Adriana Sutton, while in the throes of "manly imagination," "manly awareness" and "manly cravings." Upon discovering that his late father signed a betrothal agreement linking him to Adriana, Colton is torn between rebelling against his father's dictates and succumbing to his desire for Adriana. Adriana, still wounded by Colton's vehement declaration years ago that he would not wed her, fears that Colton will break her heart again and is determined not to fall prey to his charm. The mating dance starts slowly, but the introduction of a poisoning expert; a baby switching; and Colton's lowborn first wife, thought to be dead, keeps the plot lively. The prose is overwrought even by Woodiwiss's standards, but there's plenty here to amuse fans. (Mar.) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
Wounded and war-weary, Maj. Colton Wyndham, the new Marquess of Randwulf, returns to England and is stunned to find that the gangly child he had been betrothed to years earlier has evolved into a ravishing beauty. In accordance with his late father's wishes, Colton must seriously court Adriana for 90 days-though she has no intention of being hurt again, and he has no intention of being coerced into marriage. Before the couple are united, greed, jealousy, and treachery take their toll. The language is occasionally overdone and the attitude of some characters toward women is offensive, but a complex plot, a well-matched pair of protagonists, and a host of intriguing secondary characters, including an especially despicable villain, keep everything else on target. Woodiwiss is a legend in the romance genre and is credited with inaugurating the sensual historical fiction movement in 1972 with The Flame and the Flower. This is her original hardcover debut, and her many fans will be waiting. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 11/15/02.] Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Hardcover debut by an enormously popular romancer (36 million copies sold worldwide). Lady Adriana Sutton has grown into an enchanting young woman, ardently pursued by many a Regency buck. Whom shall she choose? Dear reader, do not hold your breath, as many a page must be turned before the bosomy beauty finally makes up her mind. Let's see, there's Roger Elton, low-born but one of nature's gentlemen and very handsome, what with his warmly glowing grey orbs and all. Adriana is understandably pleased by the mishap that allows her to straddle his powerful thighs for a moment, something that seems to strike him equally. "Poorly suppressed amusement momentarily compressed manly grooves that formed deep channels on either side of his mouth." Yet mere dimples are not enough to win the heart of this giddy goddess, and since childhood she has been betrothed to Colton Wyndham, the brother of her dearest friend Serena. Now that Colton is about to become a marquis, it seems that she must do her father's will. But Edmund Elton, Roger's father, advises his son (in nearly incomprehensible Cockney) to breach the ramparts, as it were, before the competition. Undaunted, Roger wades through a sea of apostrophes and dropped aitches, assuring his sire in no uncertain terms that Adriana is not a filthy slut to be taken whenever a man is in the mood, but a lady born. He must and will marry her, despite his lack of a pedigree, and to hell with the two others, each a marquis, who vie for her hand: Colton Wyndham, now Lord Randwulf, and Riordan Kendrick, Lord Harcourt. Wed to Colton after some minor complications, Adriana is aghast when a shameless hussy named Pandora-nay, far worse, an actress-accuses him ofbigamy and shows off her wrong-side-of-the-blanket brat to them. Can this shocking revelation be true? Will true love prevail? Coy, absurdly overwritten, but the fans will love it.

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HarperCollins Publishers
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6.74(w) x 4.14(h) x 1.22(d)

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The Reluctant Suitor

By Kathleen E. Woodiwiss


ISBN: 0060533307

Chapter One

Wiltshire countryside, England Northeast of Bath and Bradford on Avon September 5, 1815

Lady Adriana Sutton whirled through the gracefully arched portico of Randwulf Manor, spilling effervescent laughter over her shoulder as she deftly avoided the reaching hand of an eager young swain. In copying her lead, he had jumped down from his mount and raced after her in his zeal to catch her before she could dash up the stone steps and escape into the Jacobean mansion of her family's closest neighbors and friends. At her approach, the massive door was drawn open and, with quiet dignity, a tall, thin, elderly butler stepped aside to await her entrance.

"Oh, Harrison, you're positively a dear," Adriana warbled cheerily as she flitted through the spacious vestibule. Safely ensconcing herself in the hall beyond the steward, she spun about and struck a playfully triumphant pose for the benefit of her pursuer who came to a teetering halt at the threshold, causing her to lift a brow in curious wonder. As zealously as Roger Elston had dogged her heels in his nearly year-long quest to claim her for his very own, even intruding when not invited, it seemed as if his dread of the late Lord Sedgwick Wyndham, the sixth Marquess of Randwulf, had actually intensified rather than abated in the months following the nobleman's death.

If there had been occasions when Lord Sedgwick had grown exasperated by the apprentice's impromptu visits, it certainly hadn't been the elder's fault, for Roger had seemed unusually tenacious in his endeavor to win her hand, as if that had been even remotely possible. His gall had reached amazing limits. Whenever formal invitations had been extended to select groups or close friends were enjoying private dinners with the Wyndhams or her own family, as long as she had been a participant, her single-minded admirer would present himself on some pretext or another, if only to speak with her for a moment or two. It made her rue the day she had ever yielded to his first unannounced visit to her own home at Wakefield Manor. Even after his audacious proposal of marriage, which her father had answered forthrightly by explaining that she was already committed, Roger had continued to chase her hither and you.

As much as she had foreseen the need to issue a stern directive that would have permanently banished the apprentice from her presence, Adriana had not yet subdued the qualms that plagued her. At times. Roger seemed like such a lonely individual, dearly evincing his troubled youth. Whenever she came nigh to severing their association, she found herself mundated with reminders of all the helpless creatures that her lifelong companion, Samantha Wyndham, and she had once nurtured as children. To exhibit less compassion to a human being in desperate need of a little kindness had seemed inequitable in comparison.

"I do believe that dastardly fellow is afraid of you, Harrison," Adriana teasingly surmised, lifting her riding crop to indicate her boyishly handsome admirer. "His reluctance to confront such a man as yourself has plainly led to my advantage. If you hadn't opened the door when you did, Mr. Elston would've likely caught me and made me rue the fact that Ulysses and I left him and that paltry nag plodding along behind us again."

Although Roger had not been invited on their planned outing today, he had nevertheless shown up at Wakefield Manor just as her friends had arrived on horseback to join up with her and a recent female acquaintance. What else could she have done other than politely offer the man a mount? In spite of his awareness that she was obliged to another by a formal agreement her parents had signed years ago, Roger's perseverance seemed indefatigable, causing her to wonder if the man actually thought he could, by his own resolve, put to naught such a contract and win her hand.

In a guise of perplexity, Adriana gathered elegantly arched brows as she laid a slender finger aside her chi. "Still, as much as I've tried to rein in Ulysses, I fear he can't abide the sight of another steed racing ahead of him. He refuses to walk beside any of the geldings from our stables, as Mr. Elston can well attest by his efforts to keep up today. Indeed, I wouldn't be at all surprised if the gray considers it a personal affront to be associated with them. You know yourself, Harrison, that Lord Sedgwick used to complain fairly often about the stallion's indomitable spirit"

The steward's ephemeral grin hinted of a humor more often masked by a dignified mien. "Aye, my lady, that he did, but always with a twinkle of pride in his eye because of your ability to handle such a headstrong stallion. His lordship took enormous delight in boasting of your accomplishments to any who'd lend an ear. Why, he was just as proud of you as his own darling daughter."

Having been in the Wyndhams' employ for several decades, Harrison had a fine recollection of the Suttons' arrival at Randwulf Manor in a quest to show off their third and newest daughter. Slightly more than a score of years later, the lady now held claim to the affection of nearly everyone living on the premises. As for her riding skill, Harrison had heard enough praise from his late lordship to be conversant of the fact that the girl rode well enough to ruffle the pride of equestrians who considered their own talents unmatched. In view of her present companion's lack of experience in that area less than a year ago, it wasn't at all surprising that he continued to lose without fall. If anything, his defeats had strengthened his determination to succeed, to the degree that he usually fared better now than other participants in their spontaneous races. At least this time he had been nigh upon the girls heels when she had darted through the doorway. But then, considering the long climb from the hitching posts to the manor, her pursuer's leaping strides had allowed him more of an advantage in the final moments of their contest.


Excerpted from The Reluctant Suitor by Kathleen E. Woodiwiss
Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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