A world-weary British spy and master of disguises living in Regency Venice, James Cordier has been dispatched by the government to retrieve highly sensitive letters in courtesan Francesca Bonnard's possession. A few mishaps later, it's clear that Cordier isn't the only one wanting something from the notorious Francesca, who fled England following an affair that left her humiliated, divorced and friendless. Lord Elphick, her ex-husband, is a man with multiple mistresses and great political ambitions. Cordier's mission and Francesca's inability to ever trust a man again lead the two into a marvelously and intricately danced tango of a romance. An Italian woman with a penchant for emeralds, a grudge against Cordier and a misguided love for Lord Elphick sweetens the pot, but Chase hones in on her leads admirably. The two delight with sparkling dialogue, sizzling sex appeal and a surprising amount of pathos. (June)Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Your Scandalous Waysby Loretta Chase
James Cordier is all blue blood and entirely dangerous. He's a master of disguise, a brilliant thief, a first-class lover—all for King and Country—and, by gad, he's so weary of it. His last mission is to "acquire" a packet of incriminating letters from one notorious woman. Then he can return to London and meet sweet-natured heiresses—not/em>… See more details below
James Cordier is all blue blood and entirely dangerous. He's a master of disguise, a brilliant thief, a first-class lover—all for King and Country—and, by gad, he's so weary of it. His last mission is to "acquire" a packet of incriminating letters from one notorious woman. Then he can return to London and meet sweet-natured heiresses—not adventuresses and fallen women.
Francesca Bonnard has weathered heartbreak, scorn, and scandal. She's independent, happy, and definitely fallen; and she's learned that "gentlemen" are more trouble than they're worth. She can also see that her wildly attractive new neighbor is bad news.
But as bad as James is, there are others far worse also searching for Francesca's letters. And suddenly nothing is simple—especially the nearly incendiary chemistry between the two most jaded, sinful souls in Europe. And just as suddenly, risking everything may be worth the prize.
Spy, secret agent, and "retrieval expert" for the Crown, nobly born James Cordier is the best in the business, so getting some politically crucial letters from Francesca Bonnard, the most notorious courtesan in Europe, should be a simple task. But James hadn't counted on Francesca's being wary, smart, and incredibly desirable-or on his reaction to her. He also hadn't counted on someone wanting her dead. As oftentimes with author Mary Balogh, Chase does an exceptional job of turning a ruined woman into a believable heroine of surpassing quality and strength, making her sympathetic and giving her a worthy hero. Fascinating, compelling, and filled with unforgettable characters, this second volume in the "Fallen Woman" series is not to be missed. Chase (Not Quite a Lady), an exceptionally gifted historical romance writer, lives in Massachusetts.
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Your Scandalous Ways
Didst ever see a Gondola? For fear
You should not, I'll describe it to you exactly:
'Tis a long cover'd boat that's common here,
Carved at the prow, built lightly, but compactly;
Row'd by two rowers, each call'd 'Gondolier,'
It glides along the water looking blackly,
Just like a coffin clapt in a canoe,
Where none can make out what you say or do.
Lord Byron, Beppo
Tuesday, 19 September 1820
Francesca Bonnard thoughtfully regarded the ceiling.
A century or two ago, the Neroni family had gone mad for ornamental plasterwork. The walls and ceilings of the palazzo she rented were a riot of plaster draperies, fruits, and flowers. Most fascinating to her were these winged children called putti. They crawled about the ceilings, lifting plaster draperies or creeping among the folds, looking for who knew what. They clung to the frames of the ceiling paintings and to the gold medallions over the doors. They vastly outnumbered the four bare-breasted women lolling in the corners and the four muscled adult males supporting the walls.
They were all boys, all naked. Thus the view overhead was of many little penisesforty at last count, though there seemed to be more today. Were they reproducing spontaneously or were the buxom females and virile adult males getting up to mischief when the house was asleep?
In her three years in Venice, Francesca had entered a number of ostentatious houses. Hers won the prize for decorative insanitynot to mention quantity of immature malereproductive organs.
"I shouldn't mind them so much," she said, "but they are so distracting. The first time visitors call, they spend the better part of the visit dumbstruck, gaping at the walls and ceiling. After giving the matter serious thought, I've decided that Dante got his idea for the Inferno from a visit to the Palazzo Neroni."
"Let them gape," said her friend Giulietta. She rested her elbow on the arm of her chair and, chin in hand, regarded the deranged ceiling. "While your guests stare at the putti, you might stare at them as rudely as you like."
They made a complementary pair: Francesca tall and exotic, Giulietta smaller, and sweet-looking. Her heart-shaped face and innocent brown eyes made her seem a mere girl. At six and twenty, however, she was only a year younger than Francesca. In experience, Giulietta was eons older.
No one would ever call Francesca Bonnard sweet-looking, she knew. She'd inherited her mother's facial features, most notably her distinctive eyes with their unusual green color and almond shape. Her thick chestnut hair was her French paternal grandmother's. The rest came from Sir Michael Saunders, her scoundrel father, and his predecessors. The Saunderses tended to be tall, and she wascompared, at least, to most women. The few extra inches had caused the caricaturists to dub her "the Giantess" and "the Amazon" in the scurrilous prints they produced during the divorce proceedings.
Her divorce from John Bonnardrecently awarded a barony and now titled Lord Elphickwas five years behind her, however, as was all the nonsense she'd believed then about love and men. Now she carried her tall frame proudly and dressed to emphasize every curve of her lush figure.
Men had betrayed and abandoned and hurt her once upon a time.
Now they begged for her notice.
Several were coming today for precisely that purpose. This was why Francesca did not entertain her friend in the smaller, less oppressive room, the one adjoining her boudoir, in another, more private part of the house. That comfortable, almost putti-free parlor was reserved for intimates, and she had yet to decide which if any of her soon-to-arrive guests would win that status.
She wasn't looking forward to deciding.
She left the sofa on which she'd been lounginga position that would have horrified her governessand sauntered to the window.
The canal it overlooked wasn't the canal, the Grand Canal, but one of the larger of the maze of secondary waterways or rii intersecting the city. Though not far from the Grand Canal, hers was one of the quieter parts of Venice.
This afternoon was not so quiet, for rain beat down on the balcony outside and occasionally, when the wind shifted, against the glass. She lookedand blinked. "Good grief, I think I see signs of life across the way."
"The Ca' Munetti? Really?"
Giulietta rose and joined her at the window.
Through the sheeting rain, they watched a gondola pause at the water gates of the house on the other side of the narrow canal.
Ca', Francesca knew, was Venetian shorthand for casa or house. Once upon a time, only the Ducal Palace bore the title palazzo, and every other house was simply a casa. Nowadays, any house of any size, great and small, might call itself a palazzo. The one opposite might have done so, certainly. Outwardly, from the canal side, it was similar to hers, with a water gate leading to the ground floor hall or andron; balconied windows on the piano nobile, the first floor; then a more modest second floor; and above that, attics for the servants.
No one had lived in the Ca' Munetti, however, for nearly a year.
"A single gondolier," Francesca said. "And two passengers, it appears. That's all I can make out in this wretched downpour."
"I see no baggage," Giulietta said.
"It might have been sent ahead."
"But the house is dark."
"They haven't yet hired servants, then." The Munetti family had taken their servants with them when they moved. Though they were not as hard up as some of the Venetian nobility, they'd either found Venice too expensive or the Austrians who ruled it too tedious. Like the owners of the Palazzo Neroni, they preferred to let their house to foreigners.
"A strange time of year to come to Venice," said Giulietta.
"Perhaps we've made it fashionable," said Francesca. "Or, more likely, since they're bound to be foreigners, they don't know any better."Your Scandalous Ways. Copyright © by Loretta Chase. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
Meet the Author
Loretta Chase has worked in academe, retail, and the visual arts, as well as on the street—as a meter maid—and in video, as a scriptwriter. She might have developed an excitingly checkered career had her spouse not nagged her into writing fiction. Her bestselling historical romances, set in the Regency and Romantic eras of the early nineteenth century, have won a number of awards, including the Romance Writers of America's RITA®.
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