Bennett's latest skirt-lifter featuring Courtesan Aphrodite, a Victorian London madam, stars Portia, Lady Ellerslie, who's weary of living her life to honor her deceased husband, a war hero and favorite of the queen. Courtesan Aphrodite grants Portia's wish to spend one night at Aphrodite's establishment with the man of her choice. While in disguise at Aphrodite's Club, Portia encounters Marcus Worthorne, a man she admired as a young girl before her marriage to elderly Lord Ellerslie. The two engage in a heated tryst, which leaves Marcus obsessed with uncovering the mystery woman's identity. The complexity of the novel increases dramatically when Portia must reconcile her desire for personal happiness with her duty to her country as she and Marcus continue their sizzling clandestine affair. An intriguing subplot involving vicious attempts to assassinate Queen Victoria adds depth and substance to this pleasing historical romance. (Jan.)Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
A Seduction in Scarletby Sara Bennett
One wicked night . . .
Lady Portia Ellerslie, dearest confidante to Queen Victoria and a woman of impeccable breeding, normally wouldn't dream of dallying in Aphrodite's Club, London's most exclusive and erotic bordello. But one lonely night she finds something enticing about the idea of a wild encounter in the notorious hothouse. Donning a daring, dangerously… See more details below
One wicked night . . .
Lady Portia Ellerslie, dearest confidante to Queen Victoria and a woman of impeccable breeding, normally wouldn't dream of dallying in Aphrodite's Club, London's most exclusive and erotic bordello. But one lonely night she finds something enticing about the idea of a wild encounter in the notorious hothouse. Donning a daring, dangerously low-cut scarlet dress and a veil to mask her identity, she arrives at the club ready to succumb to the torrid desires raging inside her . . . and is shocked to find herself gazing into the eyes of Marcus Worthorne, the man she swooned over at seventeen.
Could lead to a lifetime of ecstasy . . .
Back then, Marcus barely knew she was alive, but now he's about to make her most wanton fantasies come true. Portia's proper life is about to change forever . . . because for Marcus one night with the lady in red could never be enough.
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A Seduction in Scarlet
It was far too early to go home, Marcus decided as he strolled though Covent Garden. Besides, Sebastian and Francesca would be there, glowing with connubial bliss. Since his brother had married, he didn't want to go anywhere unless Francesca was with him—in short he'd become a complete bore. Here he was, Marcus thought, freed from his stewardship of Worthorne Manor and a brief, disastrous stint in the Hussars, ready to experience all that London had to offer, and with no one to share it.
That evening, Sebastian had come to his room. "What are you doing with your life? You're drifting," he'd said.
Marcus had shrugged and grinned and told his brother he was jealous. "Not everyone has a purpose," he said, choosing his waistcoat. "What do you think? This one, or the new one from Bond Street?"
Sebastian sighed and shook his head and gave up, for the moment.
Afterward, he had been to the theater and enjoyed a rowdy supper with some of his regimental friends, but they were called back to the barracks and now he was all alone. Although normally that wouldn't have bothered Marcus, tonight he was restless. Maybe he should visit one of the bawdy houses and while away an hour or two? Or attend one of the supper rooms in the Strand where girls in flesh-colored tights and short skirts kicked their legs up high? He considered his options.
A passing pretty woman in an expensive dress and bonnet smiled, glancing at him out of the corner of her eyes. Marcus recognized the look. She was plying her trade, looking for a wealthy gentleman for the evening. Just for a moment he consideredbeing that gentleman, and then suddenly remembered that he did have an engagement, after all. He searched in his waistcoat pocket—ah, here it was! An invitation from the exclusive Aphrodite's Club.
"'An evening of pleasure, where you can sample the delights we have available just for you,'" he read under his breath.
Sample the delights . . .
Marcus grinned. That sounded exactly what he needed. Perhaps some of Aphrodite's delights would sooth the restlessness in his soul, and restore his usual carefree nature. His mind made up, he hailed a passing hansom cab and set off for Aphrodite's.
Portia felt as if everyone in the room was staring at her; not directly, but with curious darting glances. But they couldn't see her; the veil covering her face made certain of that. She might as well have been invisible.
The knowledge gave her power, and a sense of security. She was free to look and judge and make her choice, and no one would know. For someone who had spent much of her grown life with the eyes of others upon her, watching and judging her, it was incredibly liberating.
She almost hadn't come tonight.
Victoria—Her Majesty the Queen—was feeling poorly, and Portia had been expecting a summons to the palace to sit with her. Fortunately, it hadn't come. Portia felt equal parts of relief and guilt over that. Victoria was increasing again, and it frustrated her that she could not do all the things she wished to. She relied upon her friends and ladies-in-waiting to take her mind off her thickening body. But tonight Prince Albert had stayed at her side, and Portia was not required.
After supper she went early to bed, pleading a headache. Her mother, whose own headaches were infamous, did not need to be convinced and let her go without a quibble. Hettie, her faithful maid and only confidante, had been waiting. Her plain, good-natured face was creased with concern.
"Are you sure, lieben? You can change your mind."
"Hettie, you said you would help!"
Hettie took her hand, squeezing it. "And so I will. As long as you are not expecting to find love."
"Love?" Portia raised an eyebrow. "I am seeking passion, Hettie. A warm body holding mine. I want to feel like a woman instead of a monument. Is that so wrong?"
"No, lieben, of course it isn't. Come and let me help you dress . . . "
When Portia was ready, Hettie wrapped her closely in a dark cloak, then Portia slipped out to the waiting hired coach.
Now here she was in Aphrodite's sparkling salon.
There were plenty of gentlemen present. Some were good looking but most were not. Portia did not expect a god. She was looking for that certain something, that moment of attraction, that spark that said this was the one. Behind the veil her gaze traveled from man to man. This one too short, this one too fat, this one whose voice was too loud, this one glancing at his pocket watch as if he had to be somewhere else . . .
Was she seeking fault? What if she did not find him?
Portia moved a little restlessly, and the scarlet silk rustled about her. The dress was tight and low-cut, giving her slim body a new voluptuousness and making her feel surprisingly sensual. Hettie had announced that it was a dress to wear to an assignation, as if she knew, and no man would be able to resist her. And the brilliance of the color . . . it had been so long since she'd worn anything other than mourning and half mourning.
She'd dreamed about the dress last night. One of her restless, feverish dreams in which a man held and caressed her in the darkness. And then, just before the end, he turned to the window and the moonlight fell upon his face and she saw that it was him. Marcus Worthorne. Her seventeen-year-old fantasy from that summer long ago.
Portia sighed now, and wondered if that was her trouble. She didn't want just any man; she wanted someone who didn't exist. Because of course the Marcus Worthorne who had grown and developed in her mind wasn't the boy she'd known at seventeen. He wasn't real. He couldn't possibly be.A Seduction in Scarlet. Copyright © by Sara Bennett. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold. <%END%>
Meet the Author
Sara Bennett has always had an interest in history, and to survive a series of mind-numbing jobs, she turned to writing historical romance. She lives in an old house, with her husband and animals too numerous to mention, in the state of Victoria, Australia, where she tries to keep the house and garden tidy, but rarely succeeds—she'd rather be writing or reading.
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