Unclaimed [NOOK Book]

Overview


Her only hope for survival…

Handsome, wealthy and respected, Sir Mark Turner is the most sought-after bachelor in all of London—and he's known far and wide for his irreproachable character. But behind his virtuous reputation lies a passionate nature he keeps carefully in check...until he meets the beautiful Jessica Farleigh, the woman he's waited for all his life.

Is to ruin the man she loves…

But Jessica is ...

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Unclaimed

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Overview


Her only hope for survival…

Handsome, wealthy and respected, Sir Mark Turner is the most sought-after bachelor in all of London—and he's known far and wide for his irreproachable character. But behind his virtuous reputation lies a passionate nature he keeps carefully in check...until he meets the beautiful Jessica Farleigh, the woman he's waited for all his life.

Is to ruin the man she loves…

But Jessica is a courtesan, not the genteel lady Sir Mark believes. Desperate to be free of a life she despises, she seizes her chance when Mark's enemies make her an offer she can't refuse: seduce Mark and tarnish his good name, and a princely sum will be hers. Yet as she comes to know the man she's sworn to destroy, Jessica will be forced to choose between the future she needs…and the love she knows is impossible.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"An addictively readable tale of revenge and redemption, love and family, Unveiled is brilliant."

– Booklist

"An exquisitely sensual and unforgettable romance by one of the genre's incandescent new stars."

-Booklist (starred review) on Trial by Desire

"Historical romance fans will celebrate Milan's powerhouse debut, which comes with a full complement of humor, characterization, plot and sheer gutsiness."

-Publishers Weekly (starred review) on Proof by Seduction

"A brilliant debut...deeply romantic, sexy and smart."

-New York Times bestselling author Eloisa James on Proof by Seduction

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781459213869
  • Publisher: Harlequin
  • Publication date: 9/27/2011
  • Sold by: Barnes & Noble
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 384
  • Sales rank: 54,999
  • File size: 433 KB

Meet the Author


Courtney Milan lives in the Pacific Northwest with her husband, an exuberant dog, and an attack cat. Before she started writing historical romance, Courtney experimented with various occupations, none of which stuck. Now, when she's not reading (lots), writing (lots), or sleeping (not enough), she can be found in the vicinity of a classroom.

You can learn more about Courtney at courtneymilan.com.

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Read an Excerpt


London June, 1841

Sir Mark Turner did not look like any virgin that Jessica had ever seen before.

Perhaps, she mused, it was because he was surrounded by women.

The uneven glass of the taproom window obscured the tableau unfolding across the street. Not that she would have been able to see anything, even had she been standing in the muck of the road. After all, it had taken less than a minute for the mob to form. The instant Sir Mark had come out the door across the way, a carriage had come to an abrupt halt. A pair of young ladies had spilled out, tugged along by an eager chaperone. Two elderly matrons, strolling along the gangway, had laid eyes on him a few moments later and darted in front of a cart with surprising speed.

The oldest woman now had one clawed hand on the cuff of his greatcoat and the other on her cane—and she was merely the most aggressive of his hangers-on. Sir Mark was thronged on all sides by women…and the occasional man, sporting one of those ridiculous blue rose cockades on his hat. Jessica could see nothing of him through the crowd but the gray of his coat and a glint of golden hair. Still, she could imagine him flashing that famous smile reproduced in woodcuts in all the newspapers: a confident, winning grin, as if he were aware that he was the most sought-after bachelor in London.

Jessica had no desire to join the throng around Sir Mark. She had no autograph book to wave at him, and the likes of her wouldn't have been welcomed in any event.

Sir Mark handled the crowd well. He didn't bask in the attention, as the men of Jessica's acquaintance might have done. Neither did he shrink from the pressing women. Instead, he ordered them about with an air of gentle command—signing the little books with a pencil he produced from a pocket, shaking hands—all the while making his way inexorably toward the street corner, where a carriage stood.

When Jessica thought of virgins, she imagined youths plagued by red spots or youngsters who wore thick spectacles and spoke with a stammer. She didn't think of blond men with clean-shaven, angular faces. She certainly didn't imagine tall fellows whose smiles lit up the dark, rainy street. It all went to show: Jessica knew nothing of virgins.

Hardly a surprise. She'd not spoken to a single one, not in all her years in London.

Beside her, George Weston let out a snort. "Look at him," he scoffed. "He's acting like a damned jackanapes—parading up and down the street as if he owned the place.''

Jessica traced her finger against the window. In point of fact, Sir Mark's brother, newly the Duke of Parford, did own half the buildings on the street. It would annoy Weston if she corrected him, and so for a moment, she considered doing so.

But then, Sir Mark's presence was irritation enough. Some days, it seemed as if every society paper in London sent out a new issue every time he sneezed. Not much of an exaggeration. How many times had she passed post-boys waving scandal sheets, headlines a half-page high declaring: Sir Mark: Threatened by Illness?

"He must think," Weston continued, "that just because his brother is a duke—" he spat those words "—and the Queen has shown him a little favor, that he can caper about, displacing everyone who stands as his better. Did you know they're considering him for Commissioner?"

Jessica slanted him another glance. No; no need to rile the man. He could work himself into a lather without any help from her, and for now, she still needed him.

"He's never had to try for anything," Weston groused. "It just falls in his lap. And here I've been running myself ragged, trying to put myself forward. Lefevre's spot was practically promised to me. But no—now it's Turner's for the asking."

Sir Mark reached his carriage. He smiled to one and all. Even inside the taproom, Jessica could hear the cries of disappointment as a footman closed the carriage door.

"I don't understand how he became such a darling of London society," Weston vented. "Would you believe that they've tapped him for the office not because he has any administrative experience, but because they wish to increase public approval? Why everyone cares about him, I can't understand. He's unwilling to engage in even the most time-honored gentlemanly pursuits."

By which Weston undoubtedly meant drinking and wenching.

"He wrote a book." Jessica pressed her hands against her skirt. Understatement served her purposes better than truth. "It has enjoyed a run of some little popularity."

"Don't start on the bloody Gentleman's Guide," Weston growled. "And don't mention the bloody MCB, either. That man is a plague on my house."

Before Sir Mark's conveyance could spirit him away, the footmen had to politely clear the crowd from in front of the horses. The carriage was closed, but through a window on the side that faced her, Jessica could see Sir Mark's silhouette. He removed his hat and bowed his head. It was a posture halfway between despair and exhaustion.

So. All those smiles and handshakes were false. Good. A man who put on one false front would put on another, and if all his vaunted moral superiority was an act, it would make Jessica's work very, very easy. Besides, if Sir Mark despaired over a little thing like a mob determined to pay him adulation, he deserved what was coming to him. One paid a price for popularity.

And Sir Mark's book had been very popular indeed. The Queen had read it, and had knighted its author for his contribution to popular morality. Thereafter, his work had been read in all the favored salons in London. Every Sunday sermon quoted passages from the Gentleman's Guide. Why, just last month, a diminutive version had been printed, so that women could carry his words about in their skirt pockets—or in intimate compartments sewn into their petticoats for just that purpose.

There was something rather ironic, Jessica thought, about proper young ladies carrying A Gentleman's Practical Guide to Chastity as near to their naked thighs as they could manage.

But women were not his only devotees. Some days, it seemed as if half the men of London had joined that benighted organization of his followers. They were everywhere on the streets these days, with their blue cockades and their supposedly secret hand signals. Sir Mark had done the impossible. He'd made chastity popular.

Beside her, Weston watched with narrowed eyes as the carriage finally started up. The coachman flicked his whip, and the conveyance moved slowly through the gathered crowd. He shook his head and turned to consider Jessica. It was only in her imagination that his eyes left a rancid, oily film behind.

"I don't suppose you asked me here just so I could talk about the insufferable Mark Turner." His eyes fell to her bosom in idle, lecherous speculation. "I told you you'd miss me, Jess. Come. Tell me about this.this proposition of yours."

He took her arm; she gritted her teeth at the touch of his fingers and managed not to flinch.

She hated that appellation. Jess sounded like a falcon's leash, as if she were captured and hooded and possessed by him. She'd hated it ever since she realized she had been pinioned—tamed, taught commands and trotted out on the occasions when he needed to make use of her. But she had hardly been in a position to object to his use of it.

Someday. Someday soon. It was not a promise she made as he led her to the table in the back room. It was a last breath of hope, whispered into darkness.

Jessica sat in the chair that Weston pulled up for her.

Six months ago, she'd sent him on his way. She'd thought she would never have to see him again. If her plan succeeded now, she would not have to. She would be free from Weston and London…and this life in its entirety.

Weston took his seat at the head of the table. Jessica stared across at him. She had never loved him, but for a while, he had been tolerable. Neither generous nor overly demanding. He had kept her safe and clothed. She hadn't needed to pretend too hard; he'd not wanted her false protestations of affection.

"Well, Jess," Weston said. "Shall I ring for tea?"

At the words, her hands clenched around the sticky wood of the taproom table. She could feel each of her breaths, sharp inside her lungs. They labored in the cavern of her breast, as if she were climbing to the top of a tower. For just an instant, she felt as if she had ascended some great height—as if this man was a small, distant specimen, viewed from on high. Reality seemed very far away.

What she managed to say was: "No tea."

"Oh." He glanced at her sidelong. "Ha. Right. I'd forgotten entirely. You're not still put out over that, are you?"

She had always thought that the life of a courtesan would take its toll slowly over time. That she might tolerate it for at least a decade to come, before her beauty slowly faded into age.

But no. Six months ago, her life had become unbearable over the course of one cup of tea. She didn't respond, and he sighed, slouching in his chair.

"Well, then. What is it you want?" he asked.

What she wanted sounded so simple. When she went outside, she wanted to feel the sunlight against her face.

She hadn't realized how bad matters had become until the first sunny day of spring had arrived. She'd gone outdoors—had been chivied outside, in fact, by a friend—to promenade in the park. She had felt nothing—not inside her, nor out. She hadn't felt cold. She hadn't felt warm. And when the spring sun had hit her face, it had been nothing but pale light.

This man had made her into dark gray stone, from the surface of her skin to the center of her soul. No nerves. No hopes. No future.

"I didn't come here to tell you what I want," she said firmly.

She wanted never again to have to fill another man's bed, telling falsehoods with her body until her mind could no longer track her own desires. She wanted to rid herself of the murk and the mire that had filled her. This life had bound her as effectively as if she were a falcon tied by a leather shackle, and she wanted to be free.

She steepled her fingers. "You've offered a reward to the woman who seduces Sir Mark Turner."

These words had an immediate effect. Weston sucked his breath in. "How did you know that was me? I thought I kept that quiet." He looked at her. "It's supposed to be quiet. It's no good if I ruin the man at the expense of my own reputation."

She shrugged. "A little research. There's not much secrecy among courtesans."

"I shouldn't have bothered. A reward of three hundred pounds, and the finest whores in all of London have failed. Don't tell me you're thinking of taking him on, Jess."

She met his gaze without flinching.

"You are thinking of it." Weston's lip curled. "Of course you are. You're between protectors. Honestly, Jess. If you're that desperate for funds, I'll take you back."

After what he'd done to her six months ago, the offer should have made her skin crawl. As it was, the proposition felt like nothing more than the cold gray of shadow.

She should have yearned for justice. She should have wanted revenge. She should, at a minimum, have wanted to extract something from him, of a size and shape to fill the desolate wasteland of nothingness he'd left inside her.

But she'd learned years ago that there was no justice, not for a woman like her. There was no way to crawl backward, to unravel the harms that had been done. There were only small, timid paths to be found through tangled underbrush. If you were lucky, you might hit upon one and escape the dark forest.

"It happens," she said, "that I have something none of those other women had."

Weston rubbed his chin. "Well, what is it?"

Desperation, she thought.

But what she said was, "Information. Sir Mark is returning to his boyhood home for the summer—a small market town called Shepton Mallet. I gather he wants to escape the adoring throngs for a period. He'll be away from his loving public. Staying, not in his brother's mansion, packed with servants, but in an isolated house, with only a few villagers to come by and take care of his needs."

"That's not precisely a secret."

"With nobody watching him, he'll have the opportunity to stray from his righteous path. He wouldn't dare, here in London—he's the center of everyone's attention. Out there…?" She trailed off suggestively. "At a very minimum, I should like the chance to try."

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 34 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(18)

4 Star

(11)

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(3)

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 34 Customer Reviews
  • Posted October 25, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    Good story

    We met Mark in the previous book about his brother Ash. Mark is chaste and has written a book that talks about not having sex before marriage. Of course, he is much sought after as a famous person but he really just wants to find the right woman and get married. Into his world enters Jessica, a courtesan. He doesn't realize it but eventually he finds out. Jessica is after him in order to collect prize money but soon finds herself in love. The last half of the book is about what she does to protect Mark's feelings and reputation and how she learns to accept love.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted June 1, 2013

    more from this reviewer

    Virgin hero - and not a priggish, religious type, but a sexy roc

    Virgin hero - and not a priggish, religious type, but a sexy rock star type. The book Sir Mark Turner wrote, on male chastity, has become a runaway hit, spawned the fan club from hell, and made him the target of every fluttering bosom in the country.

    Jessica is something of a stereotype - the hooker with a heart of gold, but, although she is financially desperate enough to take on the task of seducing Sir Mark, she is smart, savvy in the ways of men and women, admirable and entertaining.

    The sparks between the couple are evident from the first meeting, the conflict the keeps them apart seemingly unsolvable, and the humor outstanding. I laughed and giggled all the way through.

    He peeled away one layer of muslin and started in on the next. 'I'm undressing you.' The second petticoat joined the first on the floor. 'I feel like I'm taking apart a watch,' he said. 'It's easy enough to disconnect the parts, but I'm fairly certain I couldn't reconstruct the whole without expert help.'

    The love scenes and eventual consummation... hot hot hot, the ending satisfying, and the whole thing brought up some interesting thoughts about the ever evolving social roles assigned to women and men.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 14, 2014

    entertsining but

    It felt a litle dry to me and it wrspped up WaY too easy

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 21, 2013

    Wonderful

    This is a wonderful book. I enjoyed the first book in this series, but wasnt sure about this one because of Marks character. Its a great story, loved Jessicas character, loved Mark, loved the story, such a sweet romance, really a.great book. Looking forward to the next one.

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  • Posted February 4, 2013

    I have read quite a few by this author and loved them. But I am

    I have read quite a few by this author and loved them. But I am more than hlf way finished with this one and having a hard time even finishing it. Moves way too slow. Boring...... Not up to her usual.

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  • Posted June 21, 2012

    Good book

    I would recommend this book if you enjoy historical romance.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 2, 2012

    Loved it

    This is an excellent read

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  • Posted September 8, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    an excellent character driven Victorian romance

    In 1841 Sir Mark Turner's A Gentleman's Practical Guide to Chastity tome affirms what everyone knows about him; he is the most virtuous person in London while waiting for true love. However, Sir Mark has enemies who want to ruin him. They hire courtesan Jessica Farleigh to pretend to be a genteel lady of virtue to enable her to get close to the ethical Sir Mar. Her assignment is to seduce him into succumbing to a sexual tryst.

    Jessica and Mark meet and forge a friendship that has him wanting to disown his virtual values that guide his life. However, Jessica needs the money but knows she cannot live with herself if she harms the kind caring man she cherishes above her own need to escape a sordid lifestyle she loathes.

    Unclaimed is an excellent character driven Victorian romance in which each of the lead couple is willing to sacrifice something they hold dear for the other in a Gift of the Magi loving manner. Courtney Milan provides a wonderful charming historical fairy tale starring two fully developed individuals who learn that love is not enough when opposites attract.

    Harriet Klausner

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 13, 2011

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    Posted January 10, 2014

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    Posted February 23, 2012

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 12, 2012

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 24, 2014

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted February 21, 2013

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted September 30, 2011

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 7, 2012

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted August 11, 2013

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 2, 2011

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    Posted February 7, 2012

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    Posted December 18, 2011

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 34 Customer Reviews

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