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The Taste of Innocence (Cynster Series)

The Taste of Innocence (Cynster Series)

4.1 39
by Stephanie Laurens

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For no gentleman is this more true than Charles Morwellan, the eighth Earl of Meredith. Although he's seen the many successful unions of his Cynster connections, he has also watched his father's obsessions nearly destroy their family and fortune, a mistake Charles will not repeat. But as Lord Meredith he must marry, so he offers for Sarah, the daughter of his


For no gentleman is this more true than Charles Morwellan, the eighth Earl of Meredith. Although he's seen the many successful unions of his Cynster connections, he has also watched his father's obsessions nearly destroy their family and fortune, a mistake Charles will not repeat. But as Lord Meredith he must marry, so he offers for Sarah, the daughter of his neighbors Lord and Lady Conningham. She's intelligent enough to run his social life, beautiful enough to grace his arm, and old enough to know the value of his offer.

For most young ladies of the ton, the right marriage is the culmination of years of training, perfect deportment, and intricate plans that would impress a general. But as a lady of independent means with a life of her own, Sarah is unwilling to wed unless it is for unbounded love.

But Charles always gets what he wants. He convinces Sarah to give him two weeks to win her; if he succeeds, they will marry immediately. And so begins an intense courtship. By day, Charles and Sarah are models of decorum indulging in innocuous walks, polite conversation, sedate waltzes. Each night they steal away to the lush, moonlit gardens, where sensual embraces turn to searing kisses, and much, much more. Both are swept away on a tide of passion and feeling neither can resist.

And yet, after the wedding, despite nights of insatiable passion, Charles remains aloof, as if the near-sinful sweetness of their nights exists only in a dream. Sarah battles to prove that true love is a force that can't be contained, a gift worth fighting for, but it's only when she's engulfed in a web of increasingly dangerous incidents that Charles discovers how much he's willing to surrender to protect . . . the taste of innocence.

Editorial Reviews

The Barnes & Noble Review
Laurens fans, rejoice: It's back to Regency England and the worId of the Cynsters in a sweeping romantic story starring two people with different reasons for avoiding marriage. It's time for Charlie Morwellan, the eighth Earl of Meredith, to take a bride; and the appropriate choice is Sarah, daughter of his neighbors the Conninghams. But though Sarah has harbored a crush on him for years, she is determined to marry for true love alone. Charlie's determined courtship and escalating seduction campaign, conducted discreetly by night over two weeks, wins Sarah's heart. But after their marriage, Charlie turns aloof by day, leaving her puzzled and hurt. Sarah seeks solace in charity work at the local orphanage, which she inherited from her godmother along with its land, but when a series of dangerous events threatens the orphanage as well as Sarah, it's time for Charlie to reconsider the price he'll pay for the taste of innocence. Ginger Curwen
Publishers Weekly
The 14th novel in Laurens's bestselling Cynster series, set amid the glittering ton of early 19th-century England, does little more than preserve the family line. Charlie Morwellan, eighth earl of Meredith, admits it is time, with the "matchmakers perennially salivating," to shackle himself to a suitable, docile countess. But he swears he will never (as his father did, bringing the family to the brink of ruin) allow love to control him. He sets his sights on quiet Sarah Conningham, a childhood acquaintance, who has made up her mind, despite her family's protests, to settle only for a genuine love match. Charlie stubbornly tries to remain aloof-even as Sarah tries to compel him to admit his love for her. Meanwhile, a nefarious (and anonymous) land speculator has his sights on Sarah's land (where she operates a village orphanage) and manages to interpose himself between the couple. The plot moves briskly but with little tension, and the author introduces a variety of intriguing side characters (many of whom, like Devil Cynster, will be familiar to fans), only to whisk them quickly offstage. While the love scenes sizzle, Charlie and Sarah dispatch their conflict with little fanfare, and the villain's motives and actions are unconvincing. (Feb.) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
Realizing that he must shoulder his responsibilities and marry, Lord Charles Morwellan pragmatically selects longtime neighbor Sarah Conningham as his bride. But Sarah wants to marry for love, so she strikes a bargain with him. If he can convince her to say "yes" in two weeks' time, she will marry him; otherwise, "no" deal. The resulting courtship is exquisite, and as Charlie and Sarah work toward better communication and understanding, they discover love as well. A villain out to take Sarah's beloved orphanage adds danger to the mix, but it is our lovers' maturing relationship that makes this book a winner. Australian Laurens (What Price Love?) is noted for exceptionally well-done, sexually explicit historical romances. [See Prepub Alert, LJ11/15/06.]

—Kristin Ramsdell

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HarperCollins Publishers
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Cynster Series , #14
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The Taste of Innocence

By Stephanie Laurens

HarperCollins Publishers, Inc.

Copyright © 2007 Stephanie Laurens
All right reserved.

ISBN: 9780060840877

Chapter One

February 1833
Northwest of Combe Florey, Somerset

He had to marry, so he would.

But on his terms.

The latter words resonated through Charlie Morwellan's mind, repeating to the thud of his horse's hooves as he cantered steadily north. The winter air was crisp and clear. About him the lush green foothills of the western face of the Quantocks rippled and rolled. He'd been born to this country, at Morwellan Park, his home, now a mile behind him, yet he paid the arcadian views scant heed, his mind relentlessly focused on other vistas.

He was lord and master of the fields about him, filling the valley between the Quantocks to the east and the western end of the Brendon Hills. His lands stretched south well beyond the Park itself to where they abutted those managed by his brother-in-law, Gabriel Cynster. The northern boundary lay ahead, following a rise; as his dappled gray gelding, Storm, crested it, Charlie drew rein and paused, looking ahead yet not really seeing.

Cold air caressed his cheeks. Jaw set, expression impassive, he let the reasons behind his present direction run through his mind—one last time.

He'd inherited the earldom of Meredith on his father's death three yearspreviously. Both before and since, he'd ducked and dodged the inevitable attempts to trap him into matrimony. Although the prospect of a wealthy, now over thirty-year-old, as-yet-unwed earl kept the matchmakers perennially salivating, after a decade in the ton he was awake to all their tricks; time and again he slipped free of their nets, taking a cynical male delight in so doing.

Yet for Lord Charles Morwellan, eighth Earl of Meredith, matrimony itself was inescapable.

That, however, wasn't the spur that had finally pricked him into action. Nearly two years ago his closest friends, Gerrard Debbington and Dillon Caxton, had both married. Neither had been looking for a wife, neither had needed to marry, yet fate had set her snares and each had happily walked to the altar; he'd stood beside them there and known they'd been right to seize the moment.

Both Gerrard and Dillon were now fathers.

Storm shifted, restless; absentmindedly Charlie patted his neck.

Connected via their links to the powerful Cynster clan, he, Gerrard, and Dillon, and their wives, Jacqueline and Priscilla, had met as they always did after Christmas at Somersham Place, principal residence of the Dukes of St. Ives and ancestral home of the Cynsters. The large family and its multifarious connections met biannually there, at the so-called Summer Celebration in August and again over the festive season, the connections joining the family after spending Christmas itself with their own families.

He'd always enjoyed the boisterous warmth of those gatherings, yet this time . . . it hadn't been Gerrard's and Dillon's children per se that had fed his restlessness but rather what they represented. Of the three of them, friends for over a decade, he was the one with a recognized duty to wed and produce an heir. While theoretically he could leave his brother Jeremy, now twenty-three, to father the next generation of Morwellans, when it came to family duty he'd long ago accepted that he was constitutionally incapable of ducking. Letting one of the major responsibilities attached to the position of earl devolve onto Jeremy's shoulders was not something his conscience or his nature, his sense of self, would allow.

Which was why he was heading for Conningham Manor.

Continuing to tempt fate, courting the risk of that dangerous deity stepping in and organizing his life, and his wife, for him, as she had with Gerrard and Dillon, would be beyond foolish; ergo it was time for him to choose his bride. Now, before the start of the coming season, so he could exercise his prerogative, choose the lady who would suit him best, and have the deed done, final and complete, before society even got wind of it.

Before fate had any further chance to throw love across his path.

He needed to act now to retain complete and absolute control over his own destiny, something he considered a necessity, not an option.

Storm pranced, infected with Charlie's underlying impatience. Subduing the powerful gelding, Charlie focused on the landscape ahead. A mile away, comfortably nestled in a dip, the slate roofs of Conningham Manor rose above the naked branches of its orchard. Weak morning sunlight glinted off diamond-paned windows; a chill breeze caught the smoke drifting from the tall Elizabethan chimney pots and whisked it away. There'd been Conninghams at the Manor for nearly as long as there'd been Morwellans at the Park.

Charlie stared at the Manor for a minute more, then stirred, eased Storm's reins, and cantered down the rise.

"Regardless, Sarah, Clary and I firmly believe that you have to marry first."

Seated facing the bow window in the back parlor of Conningham Manor, the undisputed domain of the daughters of the house, Sarah Conningham glanced at her sixteen-year-old sister Gloria, who stared pugnaciously at her from her perch on the window seat.

"Before us." The clarification came in determined tones from seventeen-year-old Clara—Clary—seated beside Gloria and likewise focused on Sarah and their relentless pursuit to urge her into matrimony.

Stifling a sigh, Sarah looked down at the ribbon trim she was unpicking from the neckline of her new spencer, and with unimpaired calm set about reiterating her well-trod arguments. "You know that's not true. I've told you so, Twitters has told you so, and Mama has told you so. Whether I marry or not will have no effect whatever on your come-outs." Freeing the last stitch, she tugged the ribbon away, then shook out the spencer. "Clary will have her first season next year, and you, Gloria, will follow the year after."

"Yes but, that's not the point." Clary fixed Sarah with a frown. "It's the . . . the way of things."

When Sarah cocked a questioning brow at her, Clary blushed and rushed on, "It's the unfulfilled expectations. Mama and Papa will be taking you to London in a few weeks for your fourth season. It's obvious they still hope you'll attract the notice of a suitable gentleman. Both Maria and Angela accepted offers in their second season, after all."


Excerpted from The Taste of Innocence by Stephanie Laurens Copyright © 2007 by Stephanie Laurens. 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.

Meet the Author

#1 New York Times bestselling author Stephanie Laurens began writing as an escape from the dry world of professional science, a hobby that quickly became a career. Her novels set in Regency England have captivated readers around the globe, making her one of the romance world's most beloved and popular authors.

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4.1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 39 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
i have read all her books thisi is not one of her best
ju11-11 More than 1 year ago
This is, by far, the best Historical Romance novel I have EVER read! I picked this up on the discount table while traveling. I had never read anything by this author before. However, after the first few pages, I was totally hooked! I then realized that this particular title was #14 in Stephanie Laurens 'Bar Cynster' series. I am currently on a quest to read all 13 titles prior to this one. I also understand that there are, at least, 2 more books in this series after this one. And ...... if that is not exciting enough ..... there is also another series by this author called the 'Bastion Club' that contains about 8 titles to date. While I have not yet begun to read this series, it looks as if it were designed to intermingle and compliment the 'Bar Cynster' series. I am totally addicted to these books! The sensuality/romance aspect of these novels is done so very well (and tasteful) that there leaves very little to the imagination but at the same time creates anxiety to move on to the next one. While it is true that each book can stand alone, I highly recommend reading them in sequence to better build the character base once you are committed to completing the series. It's like a movie you don't want to see end! I recommend anything written by Stephanie Laurens to anyone interested in curling up with a good book that will keep your interest and have you eager for more.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I really like Stephanie Laurens but i was a bit disappointed in this story. I was also thrown off by the fact it was apparently out of order. It mentioned Simon and Portia but they weren't together yet when they were the main characters in book 10 The Perfect Lover in this series. So that distracted me when i was right in the middle of Charlie's story. It was an ok story but i felt it was missing something extra. It won't be one of my fav's that i re-read a lot.
harstan More than 1 year ago
In 1883 Charlie Morwellan knows as the Earl of Meredith he must wed an acceptable aristocrat to insure the family line has the heir and the spare. However he vows to marry under his terms and not that of the matchmaking matriarchs who make him feel like a piece of beef. His wife will be quiet and reserved with love never entering the equation as he will not emulate his late father and almost destroy their proud line.-------------------- Charlie chooses childhood friend Sarah Conningham as he knows she meets his prerequisite conditions of a wife. However, Sarah insists, unlike Charlie, she will only marry a man she loves even if that means becoming a spinster. She believes Charlie loves her though he denies that and she admits to herself she has always loved him. As he pretends to not care for her, an unscrupulous speculator has plans for Sarah¿s land, which means this rogue has a scheme to make her property his anyway he can.----------------- The latest Cynster tale contains two interesting lead characters especially the return of Charlie (see A SECRET LOVE) their disagreement over love makes their courtship fun though resolved too easily especially as this is the prime theme of this historical romance. The story line is fast-paced especially when the villain sets in motion his plan. However too many Cynsters (multiplied faster than rabbits) make cameo appearances slowing down and unnecessarily extending the plot. Still fans of the series will want to read the latest entry.----------------- Harriet Klausner
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
as allways stephanie laurens never lits me down with every story she has written.
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