The next steamy historical romance in USA TODAY bestselling and RITA award-winning author Meredith Duran’s “wonderfully indulgent” (Publishers Weekly) Rules for the Reckless series.
A DEAL WITH THE DEVIL...
Trapped in the countryside, facing an unwanted marriage and the theft of her fortune, Jane Mason is done behaving nicely. To win her freedom, she’ll strike a deal with the most dangerous man she knows—a rising star in politics, whose dark good looks mask an even darker heart.
...NEVER GOES TO PLAN.
The bitter past has taught Crispin Burke to trust no one. He’ll gladly help a lovely young heiress, provided she pays a price. Yet when a single mistake shatters his life, it is Jane who holds the key to his salvation. And in a world that no longer makes sense, Crispin slowly realizes that she may be the only thing worth fighting for...
About the Author
Meredith Duran is the USA TODAY bestselling author of thirteen novels. She blames Anne Boleyn for sparking her lifelong obsession with British history (and for convincing her that princely love is no prize if it doesn’t come with a happily-ever-after). She enjoys collecting old etiquette manuals, guidebooks to nineteenth-century London, and travelogues by intrepid Victorian women.
Read an Excerpt
A Lady’s Code of Misconduct
The first sensation was light. Red, the color of hellfire.
Then . . . weight. Weight compressing and lifting. Squeezing and relaxing.
Breathing. Air. Nose-throat-chest. A body—flesh, his own, his mind anchored within it.
He flexed his fingers.
“Look!” The soft voice startled him. It came from nearby. “Did you see that? His hand . . .”
Girlish voice. Recognition sifted through him, thinning the murk. He felt himself settling more deeply into this body. Pillow cradling his skull. His toes, trapped by smothering weight. Blanket. The air scratched in his nostrils. Smell of . . . soap.
“Open your eyes,” whispered the girl.
His eyes! Yes, he could open them.
The light was scalding. So bright! He could not bear it.
“Go fetch your mother.” A new voice, hoarse, masculine. “Go!”
Hurried footsteps. Floorboards groaning. Slam of a door.
A vise closed on his fingers, crushing them. “Crispin. Open your eyes. Now.”
He knew this voice. It was the voice of command, of expectations. It was the voice of disappointment, but he had always tried to answer it, to prove himself worthy.
He forced open his eyes, braving the glare.
His father gazed down at him. Face deeply lined. Rheumy eyes, shining strangely.
A tear plummeted, splashing Crispin’s chin.
* * *
Later. Much later. Or only minutes. Surfacing from deep sucking darkness. Exhausted, bone weary, so hot.
The light had gone. Square stamps of darkness filled the windows. A low fire revealed the contours of the room. A man, gray-haired, with pitted cheeks, slept nearby in a settee, his limbs contorted, slumped at an angle that guaranteed a backache tomorrow. The woman beside him, who nestled into his shoulder—her eyes were open, fastened on Crispin’s.
She blinked rapidly, then eased straight. “Can you hear me?”
What an odd question. He cleared his throat. Searched for his voice. “Yes, Mother.”
She reached for her husband’s arm, squeezing silently until he started awake, rubbed his eyes, saw what she had seen.
The wrongness registered on Crispin then. This bedroom—he knew it. It belonged in his parents’ London townhouse. But a Gainsborough now hung in place of the still life. The carpet was the wrong shade. And his parents . . .
They looked shrunken. Hollow-cheeked, aged.
He pushed upright. His head exploded.
Time skipped then. He was flat on his back, gasping. His parents were hovering over him, caught in the middle of an argument.
“—call the doctor back at once,” said his mother. “Let him decide.”
“No. I am going to wake him.”
Crispin took a strained breath. “What happened?” he asked.
Their relief was almost comical—wide-eyed, gaping. But they both fell silent. Some charged look passed between them. His mother laid her hand over his.
“You’ve been ill,” she said.
That much was clear. He tried to remember . . . anything. But recent days felt hazy. The tour through Italy? No, there had been much more after that. Studies with the German tutor? They felt very distant. He was missing something. But he felt sure he should be in Cambridge, cramming for the exam. “Why am I here?”
The question had a peculiar effect. His mother’s grip slipped away. She retreated a pace from the bed. “Oh, Crispin.” Her voice was clogged with tears.
“A fine question,” his father bit out. “Should we pretend to be strangers, then? Your goddamned stubbornness—”
“Stop it,” his mother choked.
Strangers? Crispin’s bafflement redoubled, pulsing in time to the ache in his head. The agony was . . . exquisite.
He felt for the source of it, moving gingerly, groping across his own skull. What on earth? A patch of hair had been denuded. It was growing back short and bristly. The stubble covered a thick gash, as though he’d been axed.
“What happened?” He heard fear in his own voice now, but for God’s sake—“How long have I been here?”
“Five days,” his father said. “But we can see you off by morning if that is your preference.”
“Stop it!” His mother loosed a sob. “I won’t have it—”
The door banged open. In came his sister. God above! She had brought a young woman with her, a stranger—here, to his sickbed!
“Awake again!” With a dazzling smile, Charlotte drew the other girl forward. “I promised you, didn’t I? Look, Jane! I promised you.”
Charlotte was beaming, oblivious to her own lunacy in showing off her invalid brother like an animal at the zoo.
At least the other girl looked properly mortified. She stared at Crispin mutely, her great brown eyes seeming to plead with him, perhaps to save her from his family’s madness.
Crispin cast an amazed glance at his parents, waiting for them to scold Charlotte, to escort this stranger out.
But they said nothing. They looked grim, resigned. Indeed, his father’s expression was all too familiar—the tense, dour face of a man disappointed too often to be surprised by it. “We should give them a moment of privacy,” he muttered to Crispin’s mother, and then pushed and prodded the others toward the door.
Surely they were not serious! “Wait,” he said—but the door closed, leaving him alone with the stranger, who looked as miserable as he felt.
A strange fragment of laughter fell out of him. It made the girl flinch, for which he felt a flicker of regret, but really, what else was there to do but laugh? He had woken into a nightmare. The room changed, his parents changed. Only the main themes remained constant: their disapproval and disappointment. His inability to please them.
At least his brother hadn’t appeared to condemn him. “Madam,” he began awkwardly, but she interrupted him.
“Listen,” she said. “I know you must be confused. But I promise you, I can explain.”
He stared at her. She spoke as though they knew each other. He had never seen her before in his life. She did not look like the kind of fashionable, flashy beauty that Charlotte usually befriended. Her prettiness was quiet, easily overlooked. Her dark eyes held mossy hints of green and gold. The muted lilac and jet of her walking dress, the modest neckline and minimal trimming, could have passed for half mourning.
Yet she had offered to explain, and he would gladly take that offer. Besides, the resolute set of her square jaw, the levelness of her gaze, and her cool voice seemed . . . steadying. An air of authority surrounded her.
“Go ahead, then,” he said.
“Everyone thought you would die.”
Shock lashed through him. “How charming,” he said—aiming for dryness, failing with a cough.
“Your injuries were grave.” She sounded insistent, as though he had argued with her. “And you were . . . asleep . . . for five days. Nobody could help you. The doctors told your family not to hope.”
Her pause seemed to suggest that he would find this sufficient. “And? Go on.”
She opened her mouth, then seemed to falter. Her gaze broke from his to wander the room, a certain desperate haste to her survey, as though she were looking for something better to discuss.
But when she met his eyes again, she took a deep breath and said in a resigned tone, “And so I thought it a perfect solution. Besides, the archbishop had heard the rumors—he knew you weren’t expected to live.”
The archbishop? She was babbling. He felt exhausted again and leaned back into the pillows to close his eyes. This is a dream, he told himself. A nightmare, that’s all.
“Mr. Burke.” Her voice came from very close now. It shook. “Please. We can undo it. You mustn’t believe I meant to cross you!”
He opened his eyes and she flinched.
Why, this girl was afraid of him.
He struggled to hide how disturbed he was. He knew his family often believed the worst of him, but until now, he had not imagined the world did so as well. “Who are you?”
“Who am I? I’m . . . Are you joking?”
“My sense of humor is not so poor as that,” he said. “Who are you? How do you know me?”
The color drained from her face. “I . . .” Her lips opened and closed. “I’m Jane,” she said unsteadily. “And you . . .” Her indrawn breath sounded ragged. “You, Crispin, are my husband.”
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
I read these historical romances constantly so it was very refreshing to find the main characters much more complicated and interesting than the usual "romance clones." Excellent writing and thia author just keeps improving. The imagery she creates when describing love making is beautifully erotic yet not explicit and that somehow makes it that much more romantic.
A strong female character, apparently at the mercy of others comes to understand her own power and place in society in this unique and clever story from Meredith Duran. Jane Mason was the daughter of a political force with a philanthropic mother, always taught to carefully examine the facts presented and be unafraid to share her opinions. But, with their death and she unmarried and in need of a guardian, she is sent to her Uncle, where his plans to marry her to her cousin and gain control of the not insubstantial fortunes is hatched. Belittled and constrained at every opportunity, Jane’s cleverness and belief in herself, instilled from childhood was unwelcome at best, dangerous at worst. As her uncle was looking for power and upward mobility, Jane had the opportunity to listen and learn, as she planned her own what next. Coming to hear Crispin Burke, a politician with little capacity for trust and well known for his bullying ways. Jane’s plan is starting to come apart, and perhaps he can help. Brought into an agreement fueled by his own search for power and control, he’s looking to ‘help’ Jane in the most superficial ways, expecting his own boon. Interestingly, when the bottom falls out for Crispin, Jane isn’t put off: she believes something in him is good, and despite the lies and agendas, she is willing to take a chance on him, despite it all. Twists and turns galore highlight this story, as the two start to unravel the threads and get to the real story behind the deceptions and agendas. Setting up the romance as a ‘convenient and purposeful’ relationship starts to change to attraction and admiration is cleverly done, and the revelations from both Crispin and Jane add depth and emotion to build their budding connection in the reader’s eye. A ‘whip through it” repeatedly book, it demands that you turn the page to find the next moment, next revelation and even next slip where true feelings are revealed and exposed. A story laden with redemption for Crispin, a reclaiming of personal power and voice for Jane and the solid palpable sense of true admiration and love between them as Duran brings in social commentary, political concerns and even some personal angst to bring us to the conclusion. Adding to the enjoyment is the layers of intrigue, personal and political, that act as jumping off points to each twist, turn and moment for growth. The second that I have read in this series – it’s a wonderful story, and I now have to read the others I have missed. I received an copy of the title from the publisher for purpose of honest review. I was not compensated for this review: all conclusions are my own responsibility.
Meredith writes with such knowledge of the historical aspects of her books...it makes even someone like me who does not typically read romance look forward to her books!
Love! This book! And Meredith Duran!
This one took me a bit longer than usual to get into and to finish. I think that maybe I went in to this read expecting too much. Crispin had me with his name. Then the dark, broody, good looks, sharp political mind and fierceness stole my heart and turned me into a mushy pile. With further turns of the pages that turned in to new chapters, I found myself in love with Jane and Crispin together. Jane found herself in a predicament. The only way she saw out of it was to do what needed to be done. She had to make a deal with a devil. But this devil was not the devil she was expecting. He was so much more and then some. Crispin put Jane’s world on a new course. She may have just change the scales in Crispin’s world also. Jane was strong, independent, resourceful, smart, capable, and fierce in her own rights. She was a very worthy female lead. She was able to capture my devotion on her own. I loved Crispin and Jane. I would like to go back and read the other stories in this series. I have just added a new historical author to my repertoire. Pick up A Lady’s Code of Misconduct read it, enjoy it, fall in love with Crispin and Jane.
I loved Jane!! She was a woman that had plans of her own and wasn't going to let those in her life stop her from getting what she wanted. Even if that included an unwanted marriage. I really didn't like Crispin at the beginning of the story, but he grew on me after his accident and his personality transformation. I really liked watching them work together to get Crispin through his memory lost and their other tribulations. I really enjoyed this story and hope that Duran is planning to continue this series!
Crispin Burke was known as the black sheep of the family and when they needed him to be, also the scapegoat. He grew up trusting no one. He had determination, though, and a lofty goal. Crispin wanted to be the Prime Minister, and he was well on his way to attaining that position. He was wealthy and powerful and used blackmail and bribery to get whatever he wanted, including votes. Crispin had his share of enemies, though, and one of them tried to kill him. Jane Mason, an heiress, had been planning her escape from her Uncle’s house, for a while. The controlling man was siphoning money from her account and insisting that she marry his son. But, Jane took matters into her own hands and married a man on his deathbed, Crispin Burke. Crispin had been unconscious for days and was not expected to live. The problem, though, was that the ruthless politician woke up and to his utter surprise, found himself a married man. Because of Crispin’s head injury, he couldn’t remember the last five years of his life. He accepted Jane’s lies about their marriage, as truth. Crispin promised to be a good husband and treated Jane with respect. In fact, Crispin was such a kind and thoughtful man, that Jane began to fall in love with him. But, what if Crispin recovered his memories? Could Jane escape his wrath? A Lady’s Code of Misconduct held my interest from the very first page. It’s an in-depth well-written fascinating story, crafted with complex characters and situations. I loved watching Crispin and Jane, meet their challenges, grow and change. A Lady’s Code of Misconduct is an intriguing and captivating read. I loved it. Thank you, Pocket Books and NetGalley, for my advanced review copy.
A Lady's Code of Misconduct is a romance about a young man who is master manipulator and a young lady who is willing to do whatever she can to escape an unwanted marriage and the evil guardianship of her uncle. When we first meet our heroine Jane, she is a quiet ghost of a girl who tries to stay in the shadows of her uncle's home as much as she can. She is clever and quick-witted but she hides these aspects of her personality for the sake of her own self-preservation. When our questionable hero Crispin is introduced, he is very much a predator, always on the look-out for a victim to bilk or to exploit in his quest for more power. I liked Jane from the beginning and empathized with her over her powerlessness and precarious position in society. Women of her time were truly at the mercy of their male relatives and her uncle had very little mercy held in store for her. I understood completely her plot to escape her uncle and applauded her attempts and ultimate victory. Crispin isn't terribly likable in much of the book, but honestly I can't imagine that Duran intended for the reader to think he is a nice guy from the beginning. I ended up liking him well enough, but I never quite understood what really caused him to be as big of villain as he was in the start of the book. I get that his family failed him and treated him shabbily but there were things he did that seemed borderline sociopathic. I get that his little boy feelings were hurt real bad but that doesn't excuse everything. Also, I found the political aspects of the book super boring. I don't enjoy reading about 150 year old fictional political machinations in Victorian England. Call me crazy. I can see why this info was important to the storyline. However, I had to drag myself through the political parts of the book. I would recommend this book to romance fans and feel that it is a great example of a well written period romance with an HEA. I received an ARC in exchange for an honest review.
February 1860. We are taken into a scene of relief after tragedy. Crispin Burke awakes in his parent’s London townhouse after being beaten half to death and left to die. He narrowly escaped death, but not without a price – his memory. Upon awakening, Crispin comes to realize he remembers nothing of the past few years and that only his long-term memory remains. This is not his only surprise, however. He wakes to find he is also newly married, and can remember nothing of his bride, Jane Mason. This is not only caused by his lack of memory, but, unknowingly to him, the fact that the marriage certificate was forged and fake. Flashback to three months earlier. Jane, in an effort to flee her corrupt uncle, did the only thing she could to secure her freedom and her fortune. Jane’s parents had previously died and left her with a sizeable fortune. Funds were available at present and embezzled by her Uncle, whose care she was left in. Money was running out quickly and the only amount left was secure in a trust that no one could touch until she was married, with an amount that would be available to her and her husband and an amount available only to her. In a desperate plan to access her money, her uncle planned her to be married to his son, Archibald. She fled and ran into Crispin Burke, who convinces her to stay and spy on her uncle for him, and in return, he would have an Archbishop sign marriage papers that would free her from her uncle and give her the fortune at last. Soon after this takes place, Crispin is found with an injury to the head and is said to be dying. Believing this is her ticket out, Jane finds the Archbishop, has him sign marriage papers and goes to be with her dying “husband.” Miraculously, he wakes, leaving Jane trapped in her role as his wife and fearing for the day his memory returns. An ambitious and corrupt politician, Crispin was known for bribery and dirty deeds and can now remember none of that. He was feared widely and was out to get as much money and power as he could, and it had finally caught up with him. Jane stays, as she has no choice, but she leaves a bag packed in order to be ready to flee at a moment’s notice. As time goes on, Jane comes to find that the old Crispin is nothing like this new Crispin. Caring, respectful and giving, she finds herself falling in love with him. She tries to help him put the pieces of his life back together and helps to guide him to do what is right in his political career, with the hope he never remembers the past five years of his life. Meanwhile, he is falling in love with her, although he knows someone like her never would have married someone like him and vice-versa. However, he does not care what occurred in the past to make them meet, he just wants to be sure he keeps her by his side. A Lady’s Code of Misconduct is a book that is not only extremely relevant to our current political state, but it is also extremely addicting. It is filled with the mystery of finding who may have attacked Crispin and why, suspense when it comes to Crispin regaining his memory and the romance of two people falling in love. I could have easily sat and devoured this in one evening as each of the chapters seemed to end on a cliffhanger that just won't let you put the book down. Quill says: A Lady’s Code of Misconduct is the perfect book to sit in your favorite chair with and let the world pass by for a little while you get lost in the past.
Intrigue and romance make a great couple in this fast-paced historical romance by author Meredith Duran. The plot is intricate, filled with twists and turns as well as deep-seated emotions to keep the reader on the edge of their seats. Crispin is not a nice man...at least that is what he wants us to believe. HIs character is complex and at times heart breaking. I liked him from page one when he was at his worst and as he changed it turned into love for who he was becoming. Jane hides a warrior inside her reserved demeanor and watching her unravel into the real Jane was a treat. I liked her take control personality and how she treated Crispin throughout the book. She definitely got my attention from the start with her needlepoint scene and later when she had a heated talk with his family. This book caused the engagement of all my emotions. I was fearful, angry, sad, hopeful and even cried in many of the scenes in this book. It has some truly dynamic scenes where the reader will see glimpses of Crispin's past life and how it affects him and caused him to be the man he was in the present time. I give it 5 STARS.
Intense, riveting, painful and delightfully readable! I haven’t read all of this series, but I’ve read enough that I knew I’d not be disappointed. When a story and writing style make me stop and reread certain thoughts, I’m on my way to being entrenched. Here are some of the quotables: A man cannot alter his very nature. The machine of progress should not crush those most desperate for its boons. Love does not last. Life steals it away. Bravery can’t be purchased. … So where, then, should one look for it? ************ Throughout the story, Jane Mason is seeking out. Out from the tyranny of an uncle who lives off of Jane’s inheritance. Six years is a long time of cowering, denying the essence of who she is. She needed to make them believe her docility, that she be beaten and totally manipulative. But when cornered, the time right, she embarks on her escape. Jane’s existence when her parents lived, made her an intelligent, wise and driven woman. Her mother, with her passionate charity work helped shape Jane. Her father’s work in parliament and his sincere desire to see a better society for all, also greatly influenced Jane. Her life with her uncle has taught her the duplicity of man, political manuvering for gain of power, and an astute understanding of man’s hidden agenda. She’s full of grit, determination and aspires to escape. Her moment of decision comes, she takes it, and her journey to be truly free begins. But can she attain it? Crispin Burke is her vehicle, albeit unbeknownst to him. He is a man who wants power and she freedom. Both do whatever it takes to achieve their goals. Jane has a hard time defining what freedom, however. Crispin and Jane both live by the motto, trust no one. Will they be able to learn to trust each other? Survival may very well demand it. Excerpt: “I won’t run away from this,” she said slowly. “That wasn’t what I dreamed of. That isn’t…freedom.” “There are many degress of freedom.” His glance fell to the paper. “I expect one doesn’t realize that until all of them are stipped away.” ****** This is a story perfectly plotted, a page-turner in every respect, characters intensely real with challenges seemingly unsurmountable. Duran uses hook after hook to pull you into this captivating read. Her turn of phrase, often poetic in its imagery, makes a delightful, entertaining and emotional read. A highly recommended series with this particularly book being fantastic! ARC provided by the published. All opinions and comments are only influenced by the telling of a great story!
Brought together by desperation ... Crispin and Jane seem like total opposites. He's a darkly brooding man with a past. She's used to life's finer things, raised with the utmost of class. When circumstance removes the rose colored glasses from this woman of means, she will stop at nothing to even the score. Yet will her plan of action, be her biggest risk or their greatest gain? A Lady's Code of Conduct is a courageous trek through the ravishes of a broken heart as it travels the pathway to love. Meredith Duran turns darkness into light with this wickedly enchanting read.
I had read a novella from this author was a bit excited to get the chance to read a new book. I liked Jane. She's smart and witty and in a crappy, but normal situation for a woman of that time. Crispin was dark and cocky and easy to like. Especially when he wakes up. And I just I adored their banter together... ...and without that, I started to lose interest. One of the main plot points revolved around politics and that was extraordinarily boring to me. I wanted just the two of them, as much as possible. I did enjoy the conflict and reading them figure things out. I especially loved getting POV from both of them. Overall, parts of the story were quite dry, but the characters more than made up for it. I'll definitely be looking for other titles. **Huge thanks to Pocket Books for the invite to read**
A Lady's Code of Misconduct was a great book that really held my attention. It combines romance with adventure and suspense in a steamy package. Jane Mason is living with her uncle and aunt who are using her for her inheritance. Her uncle, who is a large figure in politics, has taught her to quietly observe but allows her to have no input in anything. Jane is frustrated and puts together a plan to escape. A condition of her inheritance is that she gets married. She plans to marry the first man she can so that she can escape her uncle's home. Crispin Burke is a political figure that has less than above the board tactics. He has risen in politics by using methods of bribery or threats. Crispin has noticed Jane for the first time but she is nothing like the ladies he is used to entertaining. She has a mind which he finds refreshing. Crispin becomes aware of Jane's plan to escape and is able to intercept her and make her aware of a way to escape the doom her uncle has plans for her, but in exchange she has to spy for him. When Crispin is hurt and not expected to live, Jane uses Crispin's own advice and forges a marriage to him. When Crispin unexpectedly lives, he finds himself married to Jane and plans to become a better man. Jane helps him turn his life around, but the two have to get past their trust issues to see if their marriage can work. I loved how Crispin was able to get past the man he once was and become the man Jane needs him to become. Their romance was beautiful and quite steamy. There was a great deal of action and suspense that keeps you engaged.
1860 Jane Mason, age 23, lives with her aunt and uncle, her guardians after her parents’ death. Jane’s inheritance pays for the household, Marylebigh. Her aunt and uncle control her wealth and her life. In addition, they are planning to marry her to her evil cousin, Archibald, so that they can keep control of her money. Weary of her cloistered life, she plans to escape to London. Jane is not allowed to have male visitors. However, Crispin Burke, a member of Parliament, is welcome as he and her uncle discuss politics. Constantly berated by her aunt and uncle, she is angry that they are spending her money to support Burke’s political agenda. Under her father’s will, when Jane marries, she will gain control of her inheritance. Her uncle stole her father’s political career after his death and now he wants to steal his fortune. When Jane flees into the night, she is intercepted by Crispin. It appears that the man Jane had contracted to wed her to allow her to get her inheritance has been paid off by her uncle and now she is desperate for Crispin to wed her. She offers him 5,000 pounds. But he counters with a request that she become a spy in her household to discover what political things her uncle is up to. She agrees and he manages to return her to her room as if she had never left. As Crispin suggests, she agrees to a long engagement to Archibald only if she is allowed to have a season in London. London - 1860 Jane is being watched like a hawk by her aunt. The woman is counting the days until Jane is married off to Archibald. Will Jane finally be able to escape the control of her aunt and uncle? I was literally bored to tears by this book. If you like politics and a weak plot, you may enjoy this. I have read books by this author before that I enjoyed, but this one is simply boring. Copy provided by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for a fair and honest review.