Some Like It Brazen

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Overview

She was the toast of London society. He was its scorn. Together they would find a passion like no other in this breathtaking tale of forbidden desire...

Born a lowly gentleman farmer, Edward Sinclair is thrust into the role of the Earl of Harrington when a distant relative dies. A more unlikely nobleman there has never been. For Edward's stark masculinity and brute strength set him apart-and earn him the demeaning title of the Peasant Earl.

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Overview

She was the toast of London society. He was its scorn. Together they would find a passion like no other in this breathtaking tale of forbidden desire...

Born a lowly gentleman farmer, Edward Sinclair is thrust into the role of the Earl of Harrington when a distant relative dies. A more unlikely nobleman there has never been. For Edward's stark masculinity and brute strength set him apart-and earn him the demeaning title of the Peasant Earl.

A spoiled heiress, Lady Bianca is known as the Ice Princess for toying with the affections of her suitors. But she has fallen for the one man her father, the Duke, won't let her marry: a rogue with no fortune to call his own. When another man, the Peasant Earl, arrives in London with an even worse reputation, Bianca is ready to exact her revenge.

Only Edward sees through the raven-haired beauty's silly flirtations-straight into her heart. What starts out as just a game, turns into a dangerous contest of wills, one that will require nothing less than complete surrender...

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

When Lady Bianca Carstone's father forbids her to marry notorious rake Lord Aldron, the petulant maiden hatches a rebellious plot, setting off this entertaining and passionate Regency romance. Fearless, impulsive and used to getting what she wants, Bianca infuriates her father by striking up a disingenuous courtship with London's newest and most disrespected member of the ton, Edward Sinclair, earl of Harrington. Patronizingly referred to as the Peasant Earl for his humble upbringing as a gentleman farmer, Edward is attracted to Bianca the moment he sets his eyes on her, and soon recognizes her as a far deeper and more responsible woman than others would think. Despite Bianca's selfish intentions, the charade swiftly escalates into a meaningful, intense relationship, fueling spiteful gossip. Their trust in one another is further put to the test when a former beau tries to push his way back into Bianca's life, forcing Bianca and Edward to question the strength of their love and the lengths they'd go to salvage it. While the abrupt ending leaves too many unanswered questions, this engrossing tale will keep readers amused. (Mar.)

Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780821778579
  • Publisher: Kensington Publishing Corporation
  • Publication date: 3/1/2007
  • Series: Zebra Historical Romance Series
  • Format: Mass Market Paperback
  • Pages: 352
  • Product dimensions: 4.22 (w) x 6.88 (h) x 0.87 (d)

Read an Excerpt

Some Like It Brazen


By Deborah Raleigh

ZEBRA BOOKS

Copyright © 2007 Deborah Raleigh
All right reserved.

ISBN: 9780821778579


Chapter One

"For God's sake, Edward, halt your fidgeting before I have you tied to the bedpost," Lord Bidwell groused.

Edward Sinclair, fifth Earl of Harrington, smiled with rueful amusement. He was a large gentleman with the thick muscles of a person accustomed to hard labor and chestnut curls that were brushed toward a countenance too bronzed for fashion and features too forceful for beauty. He was, however, blessed with warm hazel eyes and an unexpected pair of charming dimples.

Thankfully, he was also blessed with rare good humor and a patient nature. A stroke of fortune considering most would have bolted after a fortnight of enduring Biddles's wretched notions of how to mold a proper gentleman.

"I defy any gentleman not to do a measure of fidgeting after three tedious hours of being brutally bathed, brushed, and bedeviled. I can assure you that I have been more kindly handled during taproom brawls."

"Halt your complaining. You are fortunate your form is such that I had no need to order a corset. They are damnably uncomfortable, according to most," Biddles retorted with a supreme lack of sympathy. "Of course they are all the rage since the Prince has taken to wearing them. Perhaps we may yet consider one."

Edward lifted one warning brow. "You would not dare."

The slender, flamboyantly attired dandy with a narrow countenance and piercing eyes smiled with a bland superiority.

"Not only would I dare, my dear Edward, but I would twist, tuck, and squeeze you into it myself if I thought it necessary." With a flourish the gentleman produced a lacy fan to wave before his pointed nose. "I have warned you that all of society will be anxious to cast their judgment upon the new Earl of Harrington. Especially since they are already titillated by your elevation from farmer to earl in one fell stroke. Do not doubt every eye will be searching for some exposure of your rustic manners and lack of worldly experience."

"Meaning that they will expect me to arrive at their soirees complete with mud on my boots and a cow in tow?"

"That is precisely what they will expect."

Edward smiled wryly. "It is not that I doubt your judgment, Biddles, which is always quite beyond question," he murmured. "But I must admit that I have yet to comprehend how being scrubbed until I am raw, and then strangled by my valet-who by the way is taking inordinate pleasure in my torture-is to assure the ton that I do not reek of the country."

The ebony fan was abruptly snapped shut as Biddles advanced across the hideous paisley carpet. During his rigorous training in manners, deportment, and dancing since arriving in London, Edward had not yet had the opportunity to do more than make a cursory inspection of the enormous townhouse. Certainly there had been no time to renovate the opulent grandeur to a more simple style suitable to a bachelor of modest taste.

"Dear God, Edward, how often must I remind you? A gentleman can always be distinguished by his attire, and most importantly by the tie of his cravat. It is what sets apart a true nobleman from those of lesser quality."

Edward could not help but chuckle at the absurdity of his friend's words. It was precisely the sort of logic he would never comprehend. Regardless of the number of titles that were dumped upon his unwilling shoulders.

"Do you mean to tell me, my dear Biddles, that among a nation with the greatest minds and the most progressive scientists, as well as highly respected philosophers, poets, and warriors, all we have to set us above the savages is the perfection of a knot in a length of linen?"

There was a cough from one of the numerous uniformed servants that were crowded into the room until Lord Bidwell's unnerving gaze fell upon the hapless man.

"Leave us," he commanded. "I will speak with his lordship alone."

As one the servants anxiously filed out of the room, all too pleased to be away from the dandy's sharp tongue and habit of flaying those who dared to interfere in his torturous lessons. Only the well-trained valet was daring enough to linger a rebellious moment to pluck a tiny thread from the shoulder of Edward's mulberry jacket before he too joined the mass retreat.

Once alone with his friend, Edward strolled to glance at his form in the floor-length mirror. He grimaced at the satin white pantaloons and silver waistcoat. Such elegance might be de rigueur for an evening in London, but he felt a dashed fool.

Gads, he had seen trained monkeys who looked more comfortable in satin and diamonds than he did.

What did he know of society? He had not been raised to take his place among the upper ten thousand. Indeed, during most of his eight and twenty years he had been only vaguely aware of any connection to the aristocracy. The knowledge that he had become heir upon the death of the old Earl, followed swiftly by the death of his son and two nephews, came as much of a shock to him as to the horrified Harrington family, which viewed him as little better than a puffedup encroacher.

The sudden slap of the fan upon his shoulder had Edward reluctantly turning to meet the glittering gaze of the elegant gentleman.

"Edward, there are few who are as well versed in traversing society as I," Biddles warned in stern tones. "Which, I flatter myself, is precisely the reason that you requested that I be the one to introduce you to society. I am quite as cognizant of the ridiculousness of the ton as you. Perhaps more so. But while I might secretly find the shallowness and too-common lack of intelligence a source of amusement, I have never made the mistake of underestimating the power that society wields. Never."

Edward heaved an inward sigh. His friend was right, of course. Even if he did not care a fig for the opinion of society for himself, he could not forget that he now possessed a farflung family that depended upon him to maintain a certain dignity. One of the many burdens that had come with the title.

More importantly, however, was the knowledge that if he hoped to use his newfound position to help those he had left behind, he would have to win the confidence of his fellow noblemen. His seat in the House of Lords would be meaningless if he were seen as a bumbling simpleton without the necessary skills to move through society.

Or to demand entrance to the various gentlemen's clubs, which, of course, were where the true power was hoarded.

"Forgive me, Biddles." He offered a faint bow of his head. "I do not mean to make light of my entrance to society. It is only that I feel awkward and not at all confident that I shall not make an utter ass of myself."

The thin features abruptly settled back into the familiar sardonic amusement.

"Do not fear, Edward. You may not be the most dashing or elegant of gentlemen, but you are intelligent and you do possess a measure of charm when you choose to exert yourself."

"Thank you ... I think."

The pale blue eyes glittered. "And with a bit of luck, you will not be a complete ass."

He tilted back his head to laugh at the tart compliment. Biddles would never be considered a comfortable companion. He could play the buffoon to perfection or suddenly reveal the razor-edged brilliance that had once made him the most successful spy the Crown had ever possessed. But Edward did not regret his choice in seeking help.

Despite the fact that Biddles was currently the proprietor of Hellion's Den, an elegant gambling establishment, he was undoubtedly a leader of society and the perfect companion to introduce Edward to the more fastidious ton.

"Well, I may wound several maidens unfortunate enough to be my partner upon the dance floor and forget which fork to use, but at least my cravat is glorious perfection and my coat cut so tightly I can barely breathe. I trust no one shall mistake me for the gardener."

Biddles offered a condemning sniff. "As if any gardener could afford a coat cut by Weston."

"Or would be ridiculous enough to want one." Edward sucked in a deep breath. As much as he might long to remain in the dubious comfort of the drafty house, he knew that it was impossible. It was time to take his place as Earl of Harrington. Whether he desired the position or not. "Shall we be on our way?"

Lady Bianca, daughter of the Duke and Duchess of Lockharte, was in a towering fury.

Not an uncommon event.

Despite the endless parade of governesses who had tried to coax, coerce, and downright bully her into becoming a properly modest lady, she possessed a fiery temper and habit of speaking first and thinking later. Often much later.

In her defense, however, she was always swift to admit when she was in the wrong and never took her ill humor out upon servants or staff who were in no position to defend themselves.

Not that any servants willingly lingered when Lady Bianca pitted her will against her father. It was said below stairs that it was preferable to stick a hand into a hornet's nest than to stumble into a blue-blooded battle.

Even the butler, who was well known to consider himself just a step below royalty, was swift to scamper toward the servant's quarters when he heard the first of the delicate Wedgwood plates launched against the door.

Unaware of the household exodus to safer grounds, Bianca stomped angrily from one end of the vast library to the other. She briefly considered hefting a few of the rare, leather-bound books at the door. They would make a much nicer thud than the china she had tossed. But while she was furious enough to throttle something, or better yet someone, she had not plunged into utter stupidity.

The large, silver-haired duke with a powerful, handsome countenance could be astonishingly indulgent toward his only daughter. Most would say too indulgent. But he would have her head on a platter if she so much as touched one of his beloved books.

As if sensing her smoldering need for destruction, her father settled more comfortably upon the elegant damask sofa and waved his hand toward the shelves of painted china.

"I do believe that you missed one of your mother's Wedgwood plates, Bianca, in case you are still in the mood to act like a petulant child," he drawled.

Bianca came to an abrupt halt to glare at her father. She could actually feel the hair on the nape of her neck stand upright, like the hair of a bristling cat.

"This is unacceptable. You had no right to refuse Lord Aldron's offer of marriage," she gritted between her clenched teeth.

A silver brow arched at her scathing words. "As a matter of fact, I had every right. Despite your oft-stated belief that you are in charge of the world and everyone in it, I am still your father and I will not have you toss away your future upon a practiced rogue. Certainly not one who would make you miserable within a week."

Bianca sucked in a sharp breath. She had known that the duke possessed no great fondness for Lord Aldron. How could she not? The two men had only to be in the same room for the ice to begin to form. But she had not thought he would sink to tossing about such slanderous insults.

"Lord Aldron is not a rogue."

"Bah. Only an innocent such as you would not know of his infamous reputation." Her father's expression hardened with an unfamiliar disgust. "For God's sake, he is a hardened rake, a gambler, and an adventurer who has been mired in scandal from the day he stepped foot into London."

Bianca resisted the urge to roll her eyes. Innocent or not, she was perfectly aware of Stephen's reputation. It was that hint of danger that had attracted her to him in the first place.

Well, that and his delicious blond hair and deep blue eyes, she acknowledged with a faint shiver.

For a young maiden who had been kept ruthlessly protected her entire life, what could be more fascinating than a gentleman who dared to ignore the tedious rules of society?

He was fiery, unpredictable, and most of all perfectly willing to teach her of the world outside her pampered existence.

Quite simply irresistible.

"You are hardly one to throw stones, Father," she retorted, her dark eyes flashing fire. "From all I have heard, you indulged in your own share of scandals when you were young."

"My scandals did not include fighting duels, hosting Cyprian balls in my home, or leading innocent young females into danger."

Her brows snapped together. "Danger? That is absurd."

One of the very few who did not fear her temper, the Duke rose to his feet and regarded her with a somber expression.

"I am not a fool, Bianca. I am well aware that the scoundrel has lured you from the house so you could attend boxing matches and horse races, as well as a bawdy pantomime that was not fit for the eyes of a harlot, let alone an unwed lady," he interrupted in stark tones.

Her breath caught in shock.

Oh ... botheration. So much for her carefully elaborate schemes to hide her exhilarating outings.

Obviously being a Duke included knowing every damnable thing that happened in London.

It was with an effort that she met his accusing gaze. "Do not hold Stephen to blame. It was upon my urging that he escorted me to such places."

"Which is the only reason I did not take a horsewhip to him, I assure you."

"And I only urged him to do so because I am sick to death of being treated as if I am a witless idiot without the ability to think for myself or to make even the simplest of decisions."

His eyes narrowed at her sharp words. "You are my daughter. It is my duty to protect you."

Bianca nearly screamed in frustration. On how many occasions had she heard the familiar lecture?

A hundred? A thousand?

Certainly it was trotted out whenever she happened to be in danger of having a bit of fun.

"I am not your daughter. I am a pretty doll you put on display and then tuck away when I am not of use. At least Stephen realizes that I am a woman perfectly capable of knowing something of the world."

"Oh, no doubt Lord Aldron has played his role well. He is, after all, a highly successful seducer and quite accustomed to doing whatever necessary to please a lady." He lifted a deliberate brow. "I wonder, however, if you have considered why the gentleman has shown such a marked interest in you after so assiduously avoiding debutantes?"

Bianca had a sudden vision of a cat toying with a mouse.

And she wasn't the cat.

"He finds me ... fascinating."

"No, my child. What he finds fascinating is your rumored dowry."

She blinked in shock. Then blinked again.

"Father."

"The man is without a feather to fly with," the Duke retorted in hard tones. "Despite having hocked every belonging he possesses, he is still mired in debt. There is not a gambling house in town that will allow him across the threshold, and his clubs have long since turned him away. His only hope to avoid fleeing to the Continent is to snatch a bride too naïve to see beyond a handsome countenance and shallow charm."

Bianca gritted her teeth. She would not listen to her father. She could not. To do so would mean that the gentleman who had stolen her heart, the one who had offered her the promise of a glorious future without tedious rules and expectations, was nothing more than a lie.

The servants had been wise to go into hiding.

"I will not listen to such slander. Stephen loves me."

The Duke curled his lip in disgust. "Lord Aldron loves no one but himself."

"You do not know him as I do."

"I know him far better than you, Bianca." There was a brief pause before her father lifted his chin to a stubborn angle. "Which is precisely why he will never be your husband."

Her chin tilted to match his own. Damn and blast but she was weary of being dictated to as if she were a mindless dolt.

At least Stephen made the pretense of listening to her desires.

"I am two and twenty, Father, and quite at liberty to do whatever I please. You cannot halt me from wedding Stephen." Her hands were planted on her hips just in the unlikely event the Duke did not realize the extent of her resolution.

The Duke calmly adjusted the cuffs of his elegant coat. Her teeth snapped together at his deliberate nonchalance.

"Perhaps not, but do you truly believe that either of you will be content living in some decrepit cottage or renting rooms in the stews?" He smiled without humor. "I assure you that it might seem charming enough in storybooks, but there is nothing pleasurable in scrubbing your own floors or freezing before an empty grate. Besides which, Lord Aldron would barter off his own mother before becoming a pauper."

"Pauper?" Her momentary bravado faltered with stunning speed. "You would disinherit me?"

Without warning, her father's eyes darkened with what seemed an emotion strangely close to regret.

"There would be no need for such drastic measures. I simply have nothing to offer as a dowry."

"But ... that is absurd."

"It is the simple truth."

"I do not understand."

(Continues...)



Excerpted from Some Like It Brazen by Deborah Raleigh Copyright © 2007 by Deborah Raleigh. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
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  • Posted December 9, 2008

    more from this reviewer

    Engrossing Regency romance

    Used to getting anything she wanted especially from her father, spoiled Lady Bianca Carstone is stunned when her sire informs her she will not marry the disreputable rake Lord Aldron. Deciding to teach her father a lesson and achieve her objective, Bianca sets in motion a plan to court Edward Sinclair, the new earl of Harrington. --- Until the recent death of an unknown distant relative, Edward was a simple gentleman farmer. Now a highly ranked aristocrat the Ton still belittles him as an upstart Peasant Earl. When Edward meets Bianca for the first time he feels an attraction like nothing he ever felt before. While she plays her scam out using him, he realizes she actually uses a hedonistic shell to hide how much she cares about others less fortunate than her. As they fall in love, Lord Aldron returns with a scheme to split the pair for his personal gain. Unless Edward trusts his beloved, Aldron will triumph. --- Regency romance readers will gain plenty of pleasure with this delightful tale starring two likable protagonists who on the surface seem a poor match, but deep inside both share in common plenty such as caring about others. The character driven story line is fast-paced gripping the audience all the way though the final confrontation seems a bit too hasty. Still Deborah Raleigh provides a wonderful tale of the Ton as her heroine proves SOME LIKE IT BRAZEN. --- Harriet Klausner

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