Together by Christmas: The Unmasking of Lady Loveless\Christmas Reunion\A Mistletoe Masquerade [NOOK Book]

Overview

The Unmasking of Lady Loveless by Nicola Cornick

This holiday season Lord Alexander Beaumont is on a mission of seduction and revenge, and the target is his estranged wife, Lady Melicent. Once Alex learns that his supposedly inexperienced wife is "Lady Loveless"—the writer of erotic literature setting London alight—he's determined to unmask her for the wanton she really is. But when his Christmas nights with ...

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Together by Christmas: The Unmasking of Lady Loveless\Christmas Reunion\A Mistletoe Masquerade

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Overview

The Unmasking of Lady Loveless by Nicola Cornick

This holiday season Lord Alexander Beaumont is on a mission of seduction and revenge, and the target is his estranged wife, Lady Melicent. Once Alex learns that his supposedly inexperienced wife is "Lady Loveless"—the writer of erotic literature setting London alight—he's determined to unmask her for the wanton she really is. But when his Christmas nights with Melicent take an unexpected turn, Alex finds his heart is in danger!

Christmas Reunion by Catherine George

Felicia Maynard hasn't laid eyes on her first love, Gideon Ford, for years, but here he is on her doorstep, looking devastatingly attractive and insisting they spend Christmas together. As the magic of Christmas casts its spell, will Gideon claim Felicia, once and for all, as his bride?

A Mistletoe Masquerade by Louise Allen

Lady Rowan Chilcourt agrees to masquerade as a simple lady's maid to help her friend avert an undesirable marriage. But while working among the servants she meets the handsome Lucas Dacre. As Christmas approaches, Rowan begins to fall for Lucas, until she discovers that she isn't the only one masquerading under the mistletoe&#hellip;.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781426841545
  • Publisher: Harlequin Enterprises
  • Publication date: 10/1/2009
  • Sold by: Barnes & Noble
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 320
  • Sales rank: 653,196
  • File size: 204 KB

Meet the Author



For the first 18 years of her life Nicola lived in Yorkshire, within a stone's throw of the moors that had inspired the Brontë sisters to write Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights. One of her grandfathers was a poet, and her family contained teachers and avid readers who filled the house with books. With such a background it was impossible for Nicola not to become a bookworm.

Nicola went to school in a historic building that had originally been the dower house of a stately home. It was the sort of school that taught girls how to find a rich husband and how to get in and out of a Rolls-Royce gracefully.

Unfortunately Nicola did not pay enough attention to the bit about the rich husband and has therefore never had the chance to practice the bit with the Rolls- Royce. She was too busy reading. It was also at school that Nicola developed her love of history, English literature, and French, due to some truly inspirational teachers.

Meanwhile, Nicola spent her evenings reading piles of romances and historical novels and watching costume dramas with her grandmother. Her grandparents were very influential to her and also taught her canasta, ballroom dancing, and how to grow rhubarb, all of which she is determined to incorporate in a historical romance one day.

At 18 Nicola went south to study history at London University and during her holidays did a variety of jobs, from sticking price tags on shoes in a factory to serving refreshments on a steam railway. When she left college she had to settle for something far less interesting in order to earn a living and worked as an administrator in a number of different universities. She moved to Somersetand lived for seven years in a cottage haunted by the ghost of a cavalier.

Nicola met her future husband while she was at university, although it took her four years to realize that he was special and more than just a friend. Her husband, being so much more perceptive, had worked this out much sooner but eventually an understanding was reached.

This lack of perception also meant that Nicola did not realize for years that she was meant to be a writer. She wrote bits and pieces of novels in her spare time but never finished any of them. Eventually, she sent in the first three chapters of a Regency romance to Mills and Boon and, although they were rejected, she found she had become so addicted to writing that she could not stop. Happily, her third attempt was accepted and she has never looked back.

Nicola loves to hear from her readers and can be contacted by email at ncornick@madasafish.com or via her web site, http://members.madasafish.com/~ncornick/.



Catherine George was born in a village on the Welsh-English border, where the public library featured largely in her life. Her mother, who looked upon literature as a basic necessity of life, fervently encouraged Catherine's passion for reading, little knowing it would one day motivate her daughter into writing her first novel.

At 18, Catherine met her husband, who after their marriage swept her off to Brazil, where he worked as Chief Engineer of a large gold-mining operation in the mountains of Minas Gerais, a setting which later provided a very popular background for several of Catherine's early novels.

Nine happy years passed there before the question of their small son's education decided their return to Britain.

Not long afterward a daughter was born, and for a time Catherine lived a fulfilled life as a wife and mother who always made time to read, especially in the bath! Her husband's job took him abroad again, to Portugal, West Africa, and various countries of the Middle East, but this time she stayed home with the family. And spent a lot of lonely evenings in between the reunions when her husband came home on leave.

"Instead of reading other people's novels all the time," he suggested one day, "why not have a shot at writing one yourself?" So Catherine did.

But first she took a creative writing course. Encouraged by the other students' enthusiasm for her contributions, she decided to try her hand at romance, and read countless Mills & Boon novels as research before writing one herself. Her first novel, which Romantic Times voted best of its genre for that year, was accepted, along with all 54 written since.

These days son and daughter have fled the nest, but they return with loving regularity to where Catherine and her husband -- back for good from his travels -- live, with Prince, the most recent Labrador, in a house built at the end of Victoria's reign in four acres of garden on the cliffs between the beautiful Wye Valley and the River Severn.



Louise Allen has been immersing herself in history, real and fictional, for as long as she can remember, and her first attempt at historical fiction at the age of eight was three pages of improbable medieval drama set in the local castle. Some considerable time later she joined forces with a friend and became one half of the writing partnership Francesca Shaw — what began as a decidedly tipsy storytelling session in a Burgundian vineyard led on to a series of Historical Romances, all but one set in the Regency period.

Career changes meant that the partnership had to end and Louise now writes about her favorite historical period alone — which means she can keep all her gorgeous heroes to herself.

She lives in England in a village in Bedfordshire with her long-suffering husband who is not only a wonderful cook, but also the perfect inspiration for every romantic hero imaginable. All their spare time is spent at their Norfolk cottage on the coast where, although they have no pets, they are permitted to share the garden with a very bossy pheasant called Percy.

With a degree in geography and archaeology, Louise finds landscapes and places are a powerful influence on her writing, and ideas for plots and characters often arise directly out of locations. Venice, Burgundy, the Hertfordshire and Norfolk countryside, the Greek islands — all have proved inspirational.

Louise writes in her head until the story can't be contained any longer and has to get out and onto paper, an unpredictable process as the hero and heroine are quite likely to take over and ruin all her pathetic attempts to keep to any sort of plan. She consoles herself with the thought that it is, after all, their story.

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Read an Excerpt

London, December 1806

Three weeks before Christmas

When Lord Alexander Beaumont entered Whites that night the entire room fell silent. No man would meet his eyes; their gazes slid away to study the pattern on the carpet or the brandy in their glasses. Throats were cleared, cuffs inspected with startling intensity.

"Gentlemen?" He raised one quizzical dark brow. "Would anyone care to enlighten me as to what is wrong?"

There was silence.

"Charles?" he prompted.

"Devil take it, Alex," his friend Charles Wheeler complained, "I knew you would ask me."

"That's what friends are for, Charles," Alex said smoothly. "Well?"

Charles stood up. He loosened his neck cloth, palpably ill at ease. "Don't know where to start, old fellow."

"Try the beginning," Alex advised.

"Good luck, Charlie," someone said sotto voce.

"It's Lady Melicent," Wheeler blurted out. "Your wife."

His wife.

No one ever spoke to Lord Alexander Robert Jon Beaumont about his wife.

"Thank you, Charles," Alex said. "We may have been apart for a couple of years now, but I am still aware who Melicent is."

Wheeler winced. Several men drew in their breath in sympathy.

"She's… She's written a book," Wheeler said. "Several books. This is the most recent." He grabbed a slim tome from the hands of a man at a nearby table and handed it to Alex.

"Steady on, Charlie," the man protested. "I was enjoying that!"

"Bentley…" Wheeler said in a warning tone. The man's eyes flickered to Alex's hard face and he fellsilent.

"'The Adventures of a Woman of Pleasure by Lady Loveless.'" Alex read the gold lettering aloud. He flicked open the book.

"'Being naked and laid open to him kindled so great a rapture in her that she lay in wanton pleasure waiting for him to plunge his huge—'"

A great harrumphing and clearing of throats followed. Alex closed the book softly and looked at his friend. "You are claiming that Melicent, my wife, is this Lady… Loveless?"

"Yes! Don't call me out," Wheeler added as Alex took a purposeful step toward him, murder in his eyes.

"Bentley bribed the publisher and found out that the manuscripts are sent from someone called Mrs. Durham, from Peacock Oak in Yorkshire.…" He made a pleading gesture. "You know that was Lady Melicent's maiden name and that she resides there now." He shook his head. "She has to be stopped, Alex. She bases the characters in her books on members of the Ton and they are too accurately portrayed for comfort." He gestured to Bentley again. "Will's betrothal to Miss Flynn was ruined because there is a scene in the book where a character called Bill Gentley ravishes an actress in a box at the theater during a performance!"

"We all know that happened," Alex said dryly.

"That isn't the point!" Bentley piped up.

"Bentley lost an heiress worth sixty thousand," Wheeler said. "Lady Loveless's sources are impeccable. Which is why she has to be stopped."

Alex tapped the book thoughtfully against the palm of his hand. "She will be."

"What are you going to do?" Wheeler asked.

"I am going to Yorkshire," Alex said. He smiled at the look of horror on his friend's face. "No need to fear, Charles—it is the north of England, not the North Pole."

"Yorkshire in winter," Wheeler spluttered.

"Yes," Alex said, "and I will take this with me." He raised the book, and the candlelight gleamed on the gold-lettered name, Lady Loveless, on the cover. "It will prove useful… for research purposes."

"Devil take it, Alex," Bentley called, "I was reading that!" But he spoke to thin air.

Lady Loveless indeed.

How very apt for his estranged wife.

Out in the street it was snowing, tiny flakes on the edge of a cold east wind. Alex turned up the collar of his coat, refused the offer of either a hackney carriage or a sedan chair, and set off down the dark streets toward Cavendish Square. Almost he relished the idea of a run-in with a pickpocket or thief. It would at least relieve some of his anger and frustration.

The wind stung his face. He felt cold inside as well, his heart shriveled, encased in ice. Melicent. He thought of his bride on their wedding day. They had met for the first time a mere week before. Melicent had been a gangly debutante in her first season, with long conker-brown hair and huge brown eyes. She had been impossibly shy and seductively innocent. Even though Alex had been furious to be forced into marriage by his father, the Duke of Beaumont, he had tried not to blame Melicent.

He had been attentive to her throughout the wedding breakfast, trying to draw her out, thwarted by her reserve. Later that night he had consummated his marriage, treating his young wife with gentleness and patience, but the encounter had not been a success, for she had lain as still and cold as a statue and he felt unfulfilled and empty afterward. A few more unsatisfactory couplings had followed, but after a fortnight or so he had not sought her bed or her company any longer. Running the Beaumont estates had kept him fully occupied; they were both wife and mistress to him. He needed nothing more.

Occasionally he would appear at balls to squire Melicent in a dance or two. His mother insisted on it and it silenced the gossips and his own guilty conscience. He and his wife had never spoken of their unsatisfactory marriage. It could not be said that the two of them had drifted apart, he thought now, for they had never come together in the first place.

He was sure that no one, least of all Melicent, had guessed at the fury that had burned him up inside. She would have had no notion of the frustration and rage engendered by the threats the Duke of Beaumont had used to force his younger son into marriage. Alex's father had wanted to ensure the succession and he had known that his heir, Alex's elder brother, Henry, with his preference for men, would never marry. The duke had therefore blackmailed Alex, threatening to deny him the right to run the Beaumont estates if he did not wed. Alex had loved Beaumont with a passion from the moment he was born. The lands and the people were his life. He was the only one in the family who cared a rush for them. His father could not have chosen a more effective weapon.

The weight of the book in Alex's pocket brought his thoughts back to Melicent and reminded him that she might have been an untutored virgin when first they had married, but that she had certainly gained some experience from somewhere—or someone—in the meantime. The anger kindled in him once again. How could Melicent, with her sweet, honest eyes, her generous smile and her patent innocence, have become Lady Loveless, the shameless purveyor of erotic literature? It seemed impossible.

They had been married for two years and it was a month after the Duke of Beaumont's death when Melicent had told him that she was going to Yorkshire to care for her mother and that she would be staying indefinitely. Her own father had died the previous year, her mother was an invalid and Melicent's feckless young brother Aloysius was running wild.

They had quarreled for the first time in a married life previously marked by indifference. Alex had forbidden her to go. He could see now that he had been driven by pride; it was one thing for him to treat Melicent with careless unconcern, but quite another matter for her to defy him. And she had defied him.

"You don't want me!" she had said bitterly, her belongings scattered about her as she hastily packed a portmanteau. "You have never needed me. Mama does."

He had not heard another word from her in two years.

Now she would be hearing from him. He would go to Yorkshire and confront his errant wife. He paused. No. He would go to Yorkshire and seduce his errant wife according to the style laid down by Lady Loveless. He would expose her for the wanton she must surely be.

Peacock Oak, Yorkshire

Two weeks before Christmas

Lady Melicent Beaumont put down her pen and rested her chin on the palm of her hand. It was impossible to concentrate when she could hear her mother's querulous tones floating down from the room above:

"I want Melicent! Where is she? And where is the doctor? I told you to send for him hours ago! I feel as sick as a cushion, and if he does not come soon I am like to perish here and now in my bed! No, do not build the fire any higher, you foolish woman! It is far too hot in here and is positively smothering me—"

Melicent sighed. She could not have blamed Mrs. Lubbock very much if she was tempted to take the pillow and squash it firmly over her mother's face. Mrs. Durham, a hypochondriac whose imaginary illnesses were always so much worse than anyone else's, had taken to her bed when Melicent's father had died and she had made everyone dance attendance on her ever since. It had taken Melicent only a few short weeks to realize that her mother was a tyrant. Unfortunately by then it was too late to turn back. After her last, dreadful quarrel with her husband she would not, could not, creep back to London with her tail between her legs. And so she was trapped here in Peacock Oak, in the little grace-and-favor house provided by a distant cousin, the Duchess of Cole; trapped in this drab existence with her ghastly mother and her idle brother and a very long-suffering servant.

"Miss Melicent is working, ma'am," she heard Mrs. Lubbock say with stolid patience. The housekeeper was a treasure, unflappable and fortunately impervious to insult. "She has sent for the doctor—"

"I will not see him!" Mrs. Durham was becoming shrill. Melicent sighed.

She reread the lines she had just written.

"'BorwickHall is built in late seventeenth-century style with decorative plasterwork in the drawing-room.…'"

She sighed again. The style was very dry. Mr. Foster, the antiquarian for whom she worked, disliked flowery language in his architectural guides, and so her prose was dull enough to send even the most devoted country house visitor to sleep.

Mrs. Lubbock's heavy tread sounded on the stair and then the housekeeper knocked softly on the door of the study.

"Begging your pardon, Miss Melicent, but your mama is refusing to see the physician. I sent for Dr. Abbott, but he is out on a call and his wife said she would send his nephew, who is here to help him over Christmas, it being the time that many people fancy themselves ill, so Mrs. Abbott says…"

Mrs. Durham's bell rang sharply, simultaneous with the heavy knocker sounding on the front door. A wail came from upstairs:

"Lubbock, where are you?"

Melicent rubbed her eyes. They felt tired and gritty from writing in the afternoon's gray winter light. She really should have lit a candle, except that candles were expensive and she could not afford the luxury.

The knocker sounded again. Evidently the doctor's nephew was an impatient man.

Mrs. Durham's wailings intensified.

"Please go up to Mama, Mrs. Lubbock, and see if you may calm her," Melicent said wearily. "I shall explain to the new doctor that Mama cannot see him at present. I expect that Dr. Abbott warned him of Mama's caprices, but I do not doubt that he will still be annoyed, having come all this way for nothing."

Mrs. Lubbock lumbered back up the stairs and Melicent stood a little stiffly, wiping her ink-stained fingers on her brown worsted skirts. There was no time to check her appearance in the mirror. The hallway was cold. In winter they kept a fire only in the drawing room for visitors and in Mrs. Durham's bedroom, which was often unhealthily stuffy. The rest of the house felt like a cold larder in comparison. Mrs. Lubbock's fingers turned red and chilblained in the kitchen. Melicent kept a hot brick at her feet when she was working, but even so her hands sometimes became too cold for her to write.

She opened the front door. A blast of cold air swirled into the hall, bringing with it a powdering of snow. The day was even more inclement than Melicent had imagined. Dark gray clouds lowered over the roofs of Peacock Oak.

She could barely see the gentleman standing in the shadow of the porch, other than to acknowledge that he was very tall and broad shouldered. The spiteful wind clipped her ankles and set her shivering, and she stood aside quickly to allow him entrance.

"Please come in, sir," she said. "You must be Dr. Abbott's nephew. Thank you for coming so promptly, although I fear you had a wasted journey. Mama will not see visitors today." She could not quite keep the exasperation from her tone, no matter how she tried. "Indeed, it is very bad of her to put everyone to so much trouble, particularly when she knows we cannot afford to pay—" He stepped into the light and she turned to look at him properly for the first time. For one long, agonizing moment her mind refused to accept the evidence of her eyes.

"But you are not the doctor!" she said foolishly. "You are…" Her voice dwindled to nothing.

The gentleman raised one dark brow in mockery, then bowed elegantly.

"Your husband," he said. "Indeed I am."

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Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing 1 – 11 of 9 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 2, 2010

    Together by Christmas

    Typical Christmas romance

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  • Posted December 27, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    enjoyable book

    I enjoy anthologies for those times I don't have to sit down and enjoy a full novel. All three stories were enchanting.

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  • Posted September 21, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    All three stories are great but the Standout in this Anthology is by Nicola Cornick

    The UnMasking of Lady Loveless....

    Lord Alexander Beaumont suspects that his estranged wife Lady Melicent is the infamous author Lady Loveless. This author is the talk of the ton with her erotic tales of romance and seduction written under the guise of events happening within the ton. But Alex and Melicent have been separated for over two years and while he has given her space this latest antic proves too much and he is on his way to confront her about these books.

    But once he arrives he finds that all the hurt and anger that caused their separation has melted away. Yes he had been forced to marry her to appease his overbearing father but perhaps what was considered a disastrous match is really a blessing he never took full advantage of.

    When the hurt is replaced with love, the anger with passion and the love is let free the holiday's become a joyous and wondrous event. Melicent will even overlook her out of control brother and hypochondriac mother for one more moment alone with Alex and when he promises her a lifetime of happiness nothing can keep them apart.

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