Scandalous Loversby Robin Schone
Frances Hart spent her life as a devoted wife and mother. Now, newly widowed, she is determined to discover all Victorian London has to offer and to experience real passion for the first time. Acclaimed barrister James Whitcox knows no equal among his peers, but he also knows there's more to life than professional expertise and duty. He is determined to be equally versed in the pleasures of the flesh. To that end, he joins the very secret Men and Women’s Club, an exclusive society founded to examine and explore the many aspects of human sexuality. And when their paths cross, Frances's honesty and need inspire James to action: Together they will tutor each other in physical desire, in passion…and in love.
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By ROBIN SCHONE
KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP.Copyright © 2007 Robin Schone
All right reserved.
Chapter OneHe saw through the eyes of a woman.
The five-globe gas chandelier. The twenty-foot-long mahogany table.
The twelve members of the Men and Women's Club.
Doctor. Banker. Publicist. Teacher. Student. Professor. Suffragette. Architect. Philanthropist. Journalist. Accountant....
Unerringly he focused on the barrister who sat at the head of the conference table.
Silver frosted the crisp chestnut hair at his temples; uncompromising lines radiated outward from cold hazel eyes.
The truth forcibly struck him.
During twenty-four years of marriage, his wife had been the perfect hostess and mother. And then she had died.
Pinned underneath the wheels of a carriage.
He had not known the woman who bore his name, and who had borne his two children. He had not known her fears, her dreams, her needs.
Staring at the man with the silver-frosted hair and the cold hazel eyes, he realized that this was the man she had seen over breakfast each morning: she had seen a stranger. James Whitcox. Husband. Father. Barrister, Queen's Counsel.
Recognition erupted into an explosion of sound. The mahogany door slamming into a burgundy-papered wall snapped James back into his own masculine perspective.
The woman whose pale green eyes he had for one infinitesimal moment stared through stood frozen in the doorway, handextended to recapture the brass doorknob that had escaped it. Her face beneath a round straw hat was gently marked by maturity. Vibrant red hair framed her temples. Her green-checkered velvet coat with matching walking skirt and green silk polonaise were unapologetically feminine.
She was a woman who did not hide from her sexuality. Clearly she did not belong to the Men and Women's Club.
The squeak of a chair sliced through the quiver of vibrating wood. Even as he watched, the mahogany door rebounded off the wall.
She had a small hand. It was covered in a tan, kid-leather glove.
Any second now that hand would grasp the doorknob, and the woman would walk away. A stranger. As his wife had been a stranger. And he would never know....
James snared her gaze. "What does a woman desire?"
The harsh words ricocheted off the gas chandelier.
His voice was not that of the gentleman he had been raised to be: in public; in court; in bed. It was the voice of a man: commanding; demanding.
The chagrin in the woman's eyes blossomed into surprise. At the same time, her gloved hand wrapped around the brass doorknob. "I beg your pardon?"
Her voice was clear, the clip of gentility softened by a faint country dialect.
She wasn't from London.
Her origins were of no consequence. James didn't want a socialite's pardon: he wanted a woman's honesty.
"Does a woman desire the touch of a man?"
His wife had in the past spoken of the latest on dits, charitable activities, and of their children. The members of the Men and Women's Club had in past meetings discussed the biology, the history, the philosophy, and the sociology of sex. Not once had they acknowledged the existence of simple human need.
But James did need. Did this woman?
He raked her face with prosecutorial eyes. "Does a woman desire to touch a man?"
Shock stunned the members of the Men and Women's Club-men and women who had yet to understand the difference between sexology and sexuality.
"Are women repulsed by a man's sex?"
Passing carriage wheels shrilled. The faint blare of a German polka wafted up from the street below.
Inside the burgundy-papered meeting room, the silence was absolute.
"Exactly what is it," James pressed, "that a woman desires from a man?"
Something flickered inside her eyes-something James had never before seen.
"Pray accept our apologies, madam"-masculine censure shuttered her face-"on behalf of Mr. Whitcox. We are in a private meeting, as you see. If I may direct you...."
Immediately her gaze skittered away from James and found Joseph Manning, founder and president of the Men and Women's Club.
She opened her mouth-
To accept the apology on James's behalf, perhaps. Or to ask directions to the room she had all along intended to visit, a museum exhibition where men would not inflict unwanted masculine needs upon her.
"Pray accept my apologies, madam," James ruthlessly intercepted, "on behalf of Mr. Manning. He forgets that the purpose of the Men and Women's Club is to discuss sexual relations."
The woman's gaze snapped back to his.
"Doctor Burns"-James indicated the woman who sat to his left with a short thrust of his head-"is a firm believer in Darwin's theory of sexual selection; whereas, Mr. Addimore"-he indicated the accountant who sat to his right-"is more interested in Malthus's thesis for population control. Mrs. Clarring"-he indicated the philanthropist who sat on the right side of the accountant-"is an expert on erotic composition in still-life paintings."
"Mr. Whitcox, this is highly irregular-"
"If you had not interrupted when you had," James ignored the publicist's sharp reprimand; she was a beautiful woman, but her beauty did not touch him, "I would even now be delivering a lecture on English law and divorce. Are you interested in English law and divorce?"
The woman's small, gloved hand clenched. "No, thank you-"
"Are you interested in Mr. Darwin's theory of sexual selection?"
"I'm not familiar with Mr. Darwin's theories." Dark rose tinted her cheeks. "I really must-"
But James couldn't let her go-not until he knew whether that brief flicker inside her eyes had been a result of feminine need and not the effect of flickering gaslight.
"Are you interested in erotic art?"
He knew her answer before she opened her mouth-the only answer any respectable woman could rightfully claim.
"I have never seen any works of erotic art-"
"Would you like to?"
The woman's head snapped back. Simultaneously, a volley of "Mr. Whitcox!" rang out.
"Miss Palmer." James turned to the thin, anemic teacher who underlined flowery prose in archaic French novels and labeled them erotic metaphors. "Have you ever seen a French postcard?"
Her pinched nostrils turned purple. "Sir!"
James glanced one by one at the men and women who sat stiffly upright, ten in medallion-backed armchairs, the journalist in a lattice-backed wheelchair. He had investigated each member before joining their circle of five bachelors, five spinsters, and one wife whose husband preferred the oblivion of alcohol over the comfort of feminine arms.
"We have discussed sexual symbolism in art"-his gaze slid past the young men in their dark, tailored wool suits that resembled his own, lingered on the young women in their conservative dresses and dark bonnets-"but how many of you ladies have ever seen a painting or photograph whose sole purpose is to arouse and titillate?"
Angry red blotching their faces, the women gazed past James's shoulder ... or at the notes on English law and divorce neatly stacked by his left hand ... or at the mahogany table ... anywhere but into his eyes.
They knew how to respond to a sexless gentleman. They did not know how to respond to a sexual man.
"We are here to discuss sexology, sir," Jane Fredericks curtly rallied; the white feather in her black bonnet pointed to the ceiling like a signpost to heaven, "not pornography."
He studied the twenty-seven-year-old suffragette who idolized Josephine Butler, a clergyman's wife who had successfully campaigned to repeal the Contagious Diseases Acts on the basis that it enabled men to enjoy sex without suffering. Not once in the seven months that James had been a member of the Men and Women's Club had he seen inside her eyes a spark of warmth, of need, of curiosity.
"Have you never wanted to see what it is that excites a man, Miss Fredericks?" he dispassionately queried.
Frigid green eyes stared at the wall behind him. "No."
She believed her lie.
Seven months earlier James, too, would have believed it.
He sought out the woman with the pale green eyes. "What of you, madam? Do you desire to see a French postcard?" James remembered the gold with which he had paid his mistresses, and the jewelry with which he had gifted his wife. Compensations, both, for enduring his touch. "Or do you think that women are naturally repulsed by objects that incite lust in a man?"
Red-gold lashes shadowed her cheeks. She had elegant cheekbones.
Her gaze seared James's left hand. She stared at his wedding band, a badge of respectability.
Marriage had paved the way to political appointments.
What had marriage brought his wife? he wondered. Social position? Daughter of the First Lord of the Treasury, she had possessed a privileged place in society before marrying James.
What had marriage brought to the fashionably dressed woman who now stared at the lie that circled his finger? She shone with the confidence of knowing a man's protection, but did she enjoy satisfying a man's desire?
"I suggest, sir," the woman said finally, calmly; eyelashes slowly rising, her gaze pinned his, "that your wife would best be able to answer your questions."
Straw hat screening her face, she stepped back.
"My wife is dead."
The words ripped through the chill spring air.
She paused, head snapping upward.
James's gaze was waiting for hers. "I will never know which of my touches excited her, or which ones repulsed her. I will never know how I failed her, or even if I failed her. I will never know what she needed, because I never asked."
"Why not?" The rejoinder was swift. The woman's body remained poised for flight.
"Because I was afraid," James said.
Feminine gasps greeted his admission: a man could do or say many things as long as he didn't admit fear.
"I am still afraid."
A masculine protest overrode the feminine gasps. "I say, there-"
James ignored the accountant's objection.
"I am forty-seven years old, and I have never experienced a woman's passion."
"Mr. Whitcox, sir!" the suffragette sputtered over the hiss of the gas chandelier.
"I need to know that it's not too late."
The woman with the vivid red hair remained motionless, her expression arrested.
"I need to know that men and women share the same needs."
A shudder vibrated the wooden table; a door slamming below.
"I need to know that there can be honesty between men and women."
A short, urgent shout sounded from the street outside.
The solitude that dogged his every waking moment stretched out before James. "I need to know that a man and a woman can live in the same house, and lie in the same bed, and be more than two strangers."
Low murmurs bounced around the mahogany table, feminine whispers recoiling off of masculine rumbles: "I never-" "-does he-" "-not himself-" "-grief-"
"Mr. Whitcox, really, sir," Joseph Manning cut through the jumbled voices, "there's no need for this melodrama."
"I am being honest, Mr. Manning," James riposted, every fiber in his body concentrated on the woman who stood on the threshold. "Are you offended by honesty, madam?"
He had no difficulty reading what lurked inside her eyes: uncertainty.
"I try not to be."
"Are you frightened by your sexuality, or is it a man's sexuality that frightens you?"
"Sir, I cannot answer for all women."
"I don't expect you to answer for all women."
He only wanted her to answer for herself, one woman to one man.
"I'm not certain what it is that you're asking," she evaded.
James leaned forward, daring her to be a woman of flesh and blood, and not a paragon of feminine virtue. "I am asking if you want to be touched by a man."
Crackling paper underscored his challenge.
"I am asking if you are repelled by the thought of a man who needs the touch of a woman."
Her pupils dilated, darkness swallowing light.
James did not relent. "I am asking if you lie awake at night aching for the satisfaction that men are told respectable women do not desire."
Desire reverberated inside the room.
Sighing wool slid over squeaking leather. Six women leaned forward, waiting to hear a member of their sex acknowledge what they themselves were afraid to admit.
"I do not indiscriminately desire a man's touch"-the gently accented voice was quiet, resolute; the woman's chin firmed-"but yes, I do desire to be touched."
Emotion squeezed his chest. James recognized it as hope.
"Do you desire to touch a man?" he asked. "To give pleasure, as well as to receive it?"
The wooden table groaned as five men leaned forward to better hear her answer.
She took a deep breath, green-checkered coat rising and falling over her full breasts. "I do not believe that all men want to be given pleasure."
It was not the answer James had expected.
The question she had earlier asked shot out of his mouth: "Why not?"
Memory clouded her face. "If it were so, surely a man would not apologize to a woman when he touches her."
Pain slashed through James. He had apologized to his wife every time he had come to her bed.
He had apologized through his restraint, that he not overwhelm her with his masculinity. He had apologized through his silence, that he not repulse her with labored breathing or an animalistic grunt of completion.
Their sexes had touched, but they themselves had not.
Every release James had gained had been weighted with the knowledge that his wife did not share it. It had been her duty to submit. It had been his duty to procreate. Their duty had made them strangers.
"You are concerned that you did not satisfy your wife," a feminine voice unexpectedly charged.
James focused on pale green eyes instead of the past.
"There is no need for a woman to lie awake at night, aching with need. Women have hands and fingers." She notched her chin, daring him to judge her. "We do not need a man to give us satisfaction. We are quite capable of satisfying ourselves."
A shocked intake of breath shot down his spine.
"You said you wanted to know if women have the same needs as men," she continued, "I believe they do."
A distant Big Ben bonged the half hour.
"I believe there are women who may want more out of marriage than what their husbands are capable of giving to them, just as I believe there are men who may desire more than what their wives are capable of giving. I do not believe either are at fault."
The pain James had earlier felt briefly shone in her eyes. "You said you needed to know if there can be honesty between men and women. I believe we have both just now proven that it is, indeed, possible. Good day, ladies"-she curtly bobbed her head-"gentlemen."
Having opened the door on feminine desire, she now closed it.
"You are afraid of your sexuality," he goaded.
The closing door halted; her head snapped upward.
"I am forty-nine years old"-laughter abruptly illuminated her face; the soft skin at the corners of her eyes crinkled-"and have been married for thirty-four of those years. I have five children, and eight grandchildren. I assure you, sir, there has been no time to fear my sexuality."
Nor had she possessed the opportunity to explore it, she did not need to add.
James did not share the laughter she so generously offered.
She had married at the age of fifteen; he would have been thirteen, studying at Eton.
Silver glinted out of the corner of his right eye, a flash of metal spectacles.
Marie Hoppleworth, a perennial student at the age of thirty-six, focused on the enigma that stood in the doorway.
What was it that compelled one woman to speak honestly before twelve strangers, when the members of the Men and Women's Club could not speak honestly among themselves?
"You are not from London," he said shortly.
One second the woman's eyes were alight with laughter; the next second they clouded with wariness. "No."
James had been a barrister too long not to recognize the look in her gaze: she was hiding-but from what?
Deliberately he used the provocative term for the metropolis that lured like a flame both the young and the old, the poor and the wealthy. "Why did you come to the City of Dreadful Delights?"
"I wished to experience a season of entertainment," she said with sudden reserve, "and amusement."
James's voice was pistol sharp. "Without your husband?"
Had she come to London to find a man who would not apologize for touching her?
How could he blame her if she had?
She visibly recoiled. "I am a widow, sir."
A widow who did not dress in mourning black.
His youth had been filled with ambition. Her youth had been filled with children. Did she yearn to experience all the things as a woman of forty-nine that she had not experienced as a girl of fifteen?
Excerpted from Scandalous Lovers by ROBIN SCHONE Copyright © 2007 by Robin Schone. 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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I expected a rather explicitly sensual romance - and it was that, indeed! - but it was so much more. The characters really come alive with depth and feeling. The time period, and the issues women faced in trying to be seen and heard as people in the late 1800's, makes this more than just another romance. I particularly liked that the hero was enlightened from the start and supportive of the heroine all the way through. The author also made the reader aware of issues the secondary characters faced without detracting from the main couple.
I've read many novels that entertained me but this one touched me. Ms. Schone is a subtle writer and I had to read every word, sometimes re-reading whole paragraphs, to catch what was going on but it gave the story more depth. This story is one of discovery and love. It's a keeper.
Fans of Robin Schone have been waiting patiently for her next release and with Scandalous Lovers it was worth the wait. In this beautifully written Victorian Romance a middle-aged widow and widower find more than passion, and discover that true ectasy is obtained only when the heart is engaged. The country-bred Frances Hart has spent her forty-nine years as an obedient wife and perfect mother and grandmother. Upon her husband's death, she travels to London, changes her appearance by purchasing a lovely wardrobe and dying her hair, and finally obtains the freedom to see the sights and do whatever her heart desires without having to answer to anyone. During her outing at the famous Crystal Palace she looks for a water closet and instead enters a meeting room where The Men and Women's Club of London are meeting to discuss social, moral and philosophical views of Victorian Society. There she meets the handsome, over fifty year-old, barrister James Whitcox. He sees Frances, is immediately drawn to her, and longs to ask her the question he had never asked his wife before she passed away 'What does a woman desire?' and 'Does a woman desire to touch a man?' Frances, never having been asked those questions by her husband, answers honestly and frankly. From there she is asked to join 'the society' and she and James are drawn closer to each other and eventually come together in intense passion, ecstasy and love. This is a hauntingly beautiful story that is well-researched and written in one of the most romantic periods of history. The imagry of the beauty of the Victorian Era, together with the well-written passionate erotic love scenes, makes for an intense, descriptive, pleasurable read. The story is as intense as the love scenes and has a powerful ending. James defends a woman accused of murdering her husband with the dreaded disease of the time, syphilis. He then finds himself defending Frances, as her eldest son, David, upon discovering her affair with James, her attendance at The Society meetings and free life in London, attempts to get her committed to an asylum, as the family does not understand her newly found freedom, believing she is going through a woman's change and is hysterical. This is a romance written for the mature, experienced adult, comfortable with their sexuality. Very few writers have the capability to address mature love and sexual matters, but Robin Schone has done it in Scandalous Lovers to perfection. If you have the pleasure of real, true ecstasy in your life, you will come away from this book recognizing it and being thankful that you have it. If you had it and lost it, you will be plagued with fond memories of those moments. If you have not yet had the pleasure to find it, you will yearn for it. A hauntingly beautiful story destined to be on the bedside tables of many women to be read again and again for years to come.
In the 1880s, country bumpkin Frances Hart, before she turns fifty, decides to travel to London to explore the city as a widow with few restraints except those she places on herself. She recognizes that having wedded as a young teen and been married for over three decades that just her restricted roles as a mother and wife for over two thirds of her life will be hard to overcome, but she is determined to do so especially the sensual sexy side of the city. With the accidental death of his wife of twenty-four years, the mother of his two children, London barrister James Whitcox concludes he never really knew her. He feels sad and a bit depressed but not out of grief for her death, but because he never took the time to truly be with her beyond his duty as a spouse and father. He joins the Men and Women¿s Club, a group that openly discusses sexual intercourse. When Frances Hart accidentally enters a club meeting, James feels that he found someone to put into practice the sexual relation discussions even if she is an older woman that turns them into SCANDALOUS LOVERS. --- Though a historical erotic romance as hot as a novel gets, the deep look into Victorian society makes for a complete delightful tale. The two souls feel they failed at inter-gender relationships their first time around, which adds fathoms of depth to the lead protagonists having a second chance with experience, each vows to flaunt the restrictiveness of proper society and go after passion and perhaps love. After reading this heated insightful story fans will agree that this is an author who shone quite a powerful light on 1880s English society. --- Harriet Klausner
One of my all time favorite Romance Novels!! I loved that it was an older couple and they came together in such unusual circumstances. I already read this twice and I recommend it highly!! Read it!!!
This author is new to me, but after 2 books, I'm hooked. I expected erotica but feel I got much more; this book actually educated me. I am 71 yrs. old and wish I'd known these techniques long ago. I hope you take that comment in a kind way and not make fun of me. It's never to late to learn...and there is someone for every ago. After all, this heroine is 50 and experiencing some sexual situations for the first time. Thanks, Robin, I'll be reading more of your books!