Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Lady Elfin Malloren, sister of Cyn (My Lady Notorious) and Bryght (Tempting Fortune) is 25, virginal and destined to become a spinster with no future except to oversee her brother's estates. Bored of feeling safe, she longs for "wild adventure" and the loss of her virginity. How better to get the job done than to go in disguise as a Frenchwoman named Lisette to Vauxhall's Midsummer Night's masquerade? While hiding from an unwanted suitor, Elf overhears Lord Fort Walgrave, sworn enemy to her family and the man who haunts her dreams, plotting treason. Her effort to bring the traitors to justice without Fort's head ending up on a stake turns into a nicely tense romantic liaison between Elf (still disguised as Lisette) and Fort. Richly atmospheric and evocative of 18th-century London, this charming tale will please Beverley's many fans, and create new ones. (July) FYI: Beverley is one of only three members in the Romance Writer's of America's Hall of Fame.
Read an Excerpt
Tonight she was not Elfled Malloren, well-behaved lady, but a new creature entirely.
Lisette, she had christened the scarlet lady in the mirror. Lisette
Belhardi, which translated roughly to bold-and-beautiful. Mademoiselle Lisette,
visiting from Paris, and bolder by far than Elfled Malloren could ever be.
Elf felt wonderfully like a newborn person in a mysterious land. Even Vauxhall Stairs was different, being specially ornamented for Midsummer Night. Hanging lanterns glinted rainbow reflections off the dark, rippling waters of the Thames. Over nearby chatter and the impatient calls of the boatmen lined up on the river behind, she could hear the orchestra in the Grove.
"Welcome to Vauxhall, ladies!" cried the grinning young man who assisted Elf and Amanda up the steps and received a penny from each for the favor. With a wink he added, "I'm sure two such lovely darlings'll soon find gallant escorts on a night such as this."
Amanda pulled her blue hood farther forward. "Elf," she whispered, "are you sure this is wise?"
She tugged Amanda forward. "We cannot leave. There are so many boats waiting to land passengers there's scant chance of one leaving for a while. Come along." Elf guided Amanda into the stream of visitors heading toward dark Vauxhall Lane. She'd visited the gardens many times and knew the lane was a mock danger, too short and crowded to present any hazard. Its real purpose was to make the glittering splendor of the illuminated gardens burst dramatically upon the eye.
Even so, her heart beat a little faster as she entered the shadows, for this
was an adventure because they were unprotected. Amanda had insisted on
carrying a very serviceable knife in her pocket, and made Elf wear a bodice
dagger, but they had no man with them.
This novel situation didn't make Elf at all nervous. In fact, she was relishing it like a fine wine. Secretly she hoped to meet an exciting rascal tonight now that her brothers weren't around to scare such men away.
After all, there had to be exciting men somewhere in the world.
In moments, she and Amanda spilled out of the dark lane into the light of a thousand lanterns. Colored lamps festooned tall trees, garlanded high arches, and snaked around Grecian temples and ancient grottoes. Nearby a fairy glade had been created, with costumed actors posing as characters from "A Midsummer Night's Dream."
"'I know a bank whereon the wild thyme blows . . ;.'" Amanda quoted, at last caught by the excitement. She did not resist being swept up by the chattering, laughing throng of masked and costumed merry-makers. "Oh, you were right, Elf. This is great fun!"
Letting the noisy crowd carry them along, Elf wondered how many members of Polite Society were here. Could an enchanting partner become distasteful when the mask came off?
What then created the enchantment?
Perhaps just the adventure, the wickedness.
Something wicked, she had said to Amanda. Of course, she didn't intend to do anything truly wicked . . .
This excerpt from SOMETHING WICKED by Jo Beverley, copyright © Jo Beverley Publications Inc., 1997, appears here by permission of Penguin Putnam Inc.