Lord Geoffrey Fitzroy leads a charmed existence. As the second son of the Duke of Breconridge, he has none of the responsibilities of his older brother and all of the advantages, leaving handsome Geoffrey free to enjoy his rakish pursuits. And pursue them he does, leaving hearts fluttering all over London. But one night, at a ball brimming with high society’s most sought-after beauties, only one truly intrigues him: the regal, aloof, and mysterious Miss Serena Carew.
Magnificently dressed and wearing jewels befitting a queen, the lady is considered the prize of the season: a noble-born heiress raised in India. But even as Geoffrey’s fascination grows, Serena deflects his curiosity—and with good reason. Serena’s exotic past contains a perilous secret that could destroy her. Yet her plan to live in safe solitude is thwarted by her hungry heart, and soon Geoffrey’s passionate seduction finds her blissfully bedded—and wed. Will her deception destroy her chance at happiness as Geoffrey’s wife? Or will the devotion of her new husband bring out the hidden truth of her undying love?
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He knew in an instant that she was different from every other woman in the ballroom.
Lord Geoffrey Fitzroy watched the lady as she paused in the arched doorway, a figure of perfect, self--contained calm beyond all the others, with their swirling spangled silks and too--bright laughter. She didn’t fidget or preen, the way women usually did while they were waiting to be announced to the company. She simply stood, and made standing look more elegantly fascinating than Geoffrey had ever dreamed possible.
“Who is that divine lady?” he asked his brother Harry, the Earl of Hargreave, who was beside him at the far end of the ballroom with the other gentlemen who’d rather drink than dance.
“Which lady?” Harry asked as he reached for a fresh glass of wine from the tray of a passing footman. “The room is filled with ladies.”
“The one in blue,” Geoffrey said, amazed that his brother needed more description. To him there was clearly only one lady among the scores in attendance who could be called divine, a term he had not used carelessly. Even at this distance, she was exceptionally beautiful, but not conventionally so, with pale skin and gleaming dark hair that she wore without powder. “There, in the doorway.”
“That’s Miss Serena Carew.” Harry turned toward Geoffrey, one brow raised with bemusement. “I cannot believe you don’t know her. Or rather, of her. No gentleman truly knows the distant Miss Serena Carew. None of us poor sots are worthy of her acquaintance.”
Geoffrey emptied his glass, setting it on a nearby sideboard. “Then that’s only because she has yet to know me,” he said confidently, smoothing his sleeves to spruce up his already-immaculate evening coat. “A lack I intend to remedy at once.”
“I thought you kept clear of unmarried ladies,” Harry said. “I recall you being quite firm on the subject of remaining a bachelor as long as was humanly possible.”
Geoffrey shrugged, his gaze still intent on the lady. “I’m not intending matrimony, Harry. I’m fully aware of how far I can go before her family begins demanding the banns be called. Exactly how far.”
“A moment, Geoffrey.” Harry took him by the arm to hold him back. “Take care with this one. You should know the lady’s story before you begin the chase. She’s old Allwyn’s granddaughter, and he guards her like a hawk with a favorite chick. That’s his sister, Lady Morley, with her now.”
“What of it?” Geoffrey smiled, nonchalant. It didn’t matter to him that she was the granddaughter of the Marquis of Allwyn, not when he himself was the son of the Duke of Breconridge. “That’s hardly enough to put me off.”
“There’s more,” Harry said. “Her father was employed by the East India Company, and she was born and spent her childhood in India.”
“Truly?” Geoffrey studied her with fresh interest. “Where? In Calcutta, with all the other English?”
“At first, yes,” Harry said, tapping his ebony cane lightly on the floor. “But the father had a falling out with the Company after his wife died. Resigned his commission outright. Turned Turk, as they say, and went off to make his fortune trading muskets and gunpowder for jewels and living like a pagan in the hills, complete with a harem of Hindi mistresses. I don’t know all the details—-I doubt Allwyn himself does—-but you’ll see soon enough how it has marked Miss Carew.”
Geoffrey’s curiosity grew as he continued to watch Miss Carew and her aunt. They had been announced to the company and were slowly making their way through the room, the older woman smiling and nodding and greeting friends. Miss Carew simply followed. It was as if she’d removed herself to another place entirely, a place she preferred far more to the gaiety and music of this ballroom. Geoffrey was not only attracted, he was intrigued. What could be more fascinating than a beauty with a mysterious past?
Not, of course, that he’d confess any of this to his brother.
“I cannot believe you’d call a lovely creature like that ‘marked,’ ” he said instead. “Surely you exaggerate, Harry.”
But Harry shook his head. “Judge the lady for yourself, and decide if I exaggerate. You’ll see soon enough that she is not at ease in company—-any company.”
Geoffrey grinned. “Fifty guineas says that she’ll dance with me.”
“Fifty?” Harry said, chuckling. “I’ll say a hundred, the surest wager I’ve ever made. I’ve never once seen that particular lady dance with anyone.”
“One hundred it is, then,” Geoffrey said, patting Harry on the shoulder. “Watch me proceed, brother, and be astonished. I’ll be collecting those guineas before the late supper.”
Geoffrey plunged into the crowd, determined to win both the wager and the lady. Based on experience, he’d every reason to be confidant, too. He was tall and handsome, with an easy, infallible charm that women of every age and rank found nearly impossible to ignore or resist. He’d begun beguiling his nursery maids in the cradle even before he could speak, and since then the results had been the same with every other female he encountered.
It was simply a fact: he liked women, and they liked him, very much. Why should Miss Carew be any different? In his estimation, Serena Carew was the most interesting and beautiful young lady in the room. It only made sense that she should be dancing with him.
There was, of course, the faint possibility that she would reject him outright, the way his brother had predicted. Some ladies did insist on the nicety of a proper introduction, even in a crush like this, but he’d risk it for the chance to speak to her first, without the aunt or anyone else interfering. Besides, he never tired of the intoxicating challenge of pursuit, the first step toward flirtation, passion, even seduction. Anything was possible.
She was turned away from him now, her back to him as he drew closer. Her shining dark hair set her apart from all the powdered heads around her, with the pale nape of her neck an elegant, vulnerable curve above the blue silk of her gown. She wore drop earrings and a necklace of diamonds and sapphires so large that on any other woman her age, the stones would surely have been paste. Yet on Serena Carew, Geoffrey knew they were genuine; nothing about her would be so blatantly false.
“Miss Carew,” he said when he was at last close enough that she’d hear him.
She did, and turned to face him in a single fluid movement. From a distance he’d seen she was a beauty, but he wasn’t prepared for the impact of that beauty with only a few feet between them. Her skin was golden ivory, her mouth full and red, her nose regal, and her brows perfectly arched, but it was her eyes that stunned him: almond--shaped and the color of clearest amber, deep--set and shadowed with mystery, and perhaps melancholy as well. Geoffrey wasn’t sure. Blast, he wasn’t sure of anything when he stared into eyes like that.
But to his chagrin, he clearly had not affected her the same way. There wasn’t a flicker of warmth in those golden eyes, nor encouragement, either.
“I do not know you, sir,” she said, a simple declaration.
He smiled his most winning smile, determined to thaw her chill, and not just because he knew his brother was watching.
“Lord Geoffrey Fitzroy,” he said with as much of a bow and flourish as he could manage in the crowd around them. “Your servant in every way, Miss Carew.”
She did not smile in return, nor did she so much as dip her head in acknowledgment of his higher rank. Instead she regarded him impassively, her expression not changing even a fraction.
“Indeed, sir,” she said. “If you are in truth the nobleman you profess to be, then you cannot be my servant. It is impossible for you to be both.”
“But I am,” he said, smiling still. With a different inflection, her words might have been banter, teasing and intimate, but she was making it clear enough that they weren’t meant to be anything but discouraging. Damnation, could she have somehow learned of the wager he’d just made with his brother? What other reason could there be for her to be behaving so coldly toward him?
“My name and title are mine through birth,” he said, “but you, Miss Carew, are the sole reason for my devoted servitude, and I—-”
“Lord Geoffrey, good evening!” exclaimed Lady Morley, joining them. “Why, Serena, my dear, I see you have already met one of the most notable gentlemen in the room.”
Lady Morley beamed at Geoffrey, her dark eyes sharp beneath her oversized, frizzled wig. Clearly she’d overheard, and clearly, too, she was determined to repair matters as best she could.
“Such a splendid gathering, Lord Geoffrey,” she continued. “I trust you are enjoying yourself?”
“I am, Lady Morley,” he said. He didn’t usually consider chaperones allies, but in this case, he’d take any help that was offered. “Especially now that I am in the company of two such lovely ladies.”
Lady Morley chuckled happily and fluttered her fan. It was the response that Geoffrey had hoped to win from Miss Carew, who continued to regard him with the same degree of dispassionate interest that she’d display toward a lower order of insect.
“Lord Geoffrey is the son of His Grace the Duke of Breconridge, Serena,” Lady Morley said, a not--very--subtle explanation for the younger woman, “and he is the younger brother of the Earl of Hargreave. His charm, of course, is all his own.”
Geoffrey smiled, charmingly. He’d heard this kind of explanation from mothers and aunts and older sisters so many times that he could interpret its true meaning perfectly: This handsome fellow may be a mere second son, Serena, but he’s one with his own fortune and therefore well worth your attention, and while the older brother may be married, his wife has only given him a daughter, so there’s still a chance for you to become a duchess.
Geoffrey hoped that Miss Carew interpreted the message this way, too. “I see the musicians are returning to their chairs,” he said, bowing toward her, “and the next set of dances will be beginning shortly. Will you honor me with the pleasure of a dance, Miss Carew?”
“Of course she would,” Lady Morley swiftly answered for her. “Serena, dance with Lord Geoffrey.”
“No!” protested Miss Carew with haste, and almost alarm. “That is, you know I do not dance, Aunt, and I—-”
“Nonsense,” Lady Morley said briskly, the merest hint of admonition in the word. “You dance like an angel, my dear. I insist. Go, take your place with Lord Geoffrey among the other couples whilst room remains on the floor.”
Still Miss Carew hesitated, her unexpected reluctance an unflattering challenge to Geoffrey. Perhaps she truly did dance like a goose. A beautiful face was no guarantee she’d be light on her toes. But for the sake of that beautiful face, as well as for the wager—-he could practically feel his brother’s gaze in the middle of his back—-he was determined to persevere.
“One dance, that is all,” he said softly, coaxing, and holding his hand out to her. “I ask for nothing beyond that.”
“Very well.” With a sigh she looked down, avoiding his gaze, and carefully placed her hand in his palm. “One dance and no more.”
“One dance, then,” he repeated. He closed his fingers around hers to lead her toward the floor. Her hand was cool and soft, as reserved as the rest of her, which did not surprise him.
“I must apologize for my aunt, Lord Geoffrey,” she said. “She can be unconscionably forward where I am concerned. Pray do not feel any obligation to dance with me.”
“There is no obligation, Miss Carew,” he said firmly, and just as firmly pulled her along until they stood facing each other, waiting for the other dancers to take their places in line. “When we are better acquainted, you will realize that I seldom, if ever, do anything I don’t wish to do. I’m stubborn that way. I wished to dance with you, and now I am, and I only hope that you will come to find the experience enjoyable as well.”
Before she could answer, the gentleman at the head of the line loudly announced the dance’s name: Lady Randolph’s Frolic. At once the musicians began to play, and Geoffrey had no choice but to bow and begin leading Miss Carew through the steps. The dance was a rollicking country reel that was complicated to follow, and offered no opportunity for further conversation. All that Geoffrey could do was smile, and admire Miss Carew as she danced.
It was impossible not to. She was dressed in much the same fashion as the other ladies, and it was clear that beneath her blue silk gown, her slender figure wore the whalebone--stiffened stays and hoops that were required for every proper English lady.
But she didn’t dance like an English lady. Not at all. Oh, she followed every step with a precision that would make her dancing--master proud, her back straight and her head held high. Yet there was a sinuous grace to her movements that could never be learned in any London drawing room, nor would it be entirely proper there, either. Her amber eyes lost their sadness and sparkled, and her lips parted and gradually began to smile with pleasure. The slight dip and sway to her hips, the arch to her wrists and arms, the way she unconsciously framed the rising swell of her breasts with every gesture—-all of it was innately seductive, and the fact that she seemed entirely innocent of the effect she was creating only made it all the more enticing.
Geoffrey couldn’t look away, and neither could any of the other men around them. He couldn’t recall a dance that was over and done so swiftly, nor another that he’d wished would never end.
“Mercy,” she said breathlessly, pulling free of Geoffrey’s hand to draw her fan from her pocket. She spread the blades with a single sweep and began to fan her still--flushed cheeks. Belatedly she remembered to curtsey, her fan still in her hand.
“I thank you, Lord Geoffrey,” she said as she rose. “If you please, I should like to return to my aunt now.”
He’d won his wager with his brother. He’d had his dance with Miss Carew. He’d made every other man in the room envious. He’d no reason not to do what she asked, and lead her back to her aunt’s side. But instead he stood before her, oddly off--balance and incapable of doing what he should or what was expected.
“If you please, Lord Geoffrey,” she said again, uneasily this time. She was already composing herself, withdrawing back into being that proper English lady.
And he did not want to let her go.
“Another dance,” he said, reaching for her hand.
She pulled away, shaking her head. “I agreed to only the one dance, Lord Geoffrey.”
“You can’t deny that you enjoyed yourself,” he said. “You do indeed dance like an angel.”
She shook her head again and closed her fan. “If you’ll excuse me, Lord Geoffrey.”
“Then come walk with me in the garden,” he said with all the charm he possessed. “The moon is full and the stars are bright.”
She blushed, gathering her skirts with one hand. “Forgive me, but I must return to my aunt directly.”
“Kāyara,” he said, smiling still as he called her a coward in Hindi. He hadn’t planned to say that; it simply came out.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
I always enjoy Bradford's books - this one was no exception - lots of intrigue but a happy ending
This is book 2 in the Breconridge Brothers series. Lord Geoffrey Fitzroy is captivated by Miss Serena Palmer from the moment he sees her across the ballroom floor. No where near ready to settle down and take a wife, he starts a flirtation with her. Because of something she is hiding from everyone, Serena doesn't let any of men that might want her hand get close to her. But with all the charm that Geoffrey is pursuing her with, it is hard to resist him. They are soon caught in a compromising position and forced to marry. What will Geoffrey do when he learns the secret that Serena has been hiding from him? Will it ruin the happy marriage that neither thought they wanted? Loved this story! Geoffrey was a rake, but once he found what he wanted there was no stopping him. He hadn't planned on falling in love but when it did he did everything in his power to hold on to it. Serena had secrets that would ruin everything if they came to light. She was determined that no one find them out. She thought that if she got close to anyone, they would find out and she would be ruined. Because of this she became known as an ice queen. Lucky for her, Geoffrey was able to break through her barrier and she the wonderful woman she was keeping from everyone. I can't wait to read the next book in the series which is about Geoffrey's brother River! Thanks go to Random House for a copy of the book in exchange of an honest review.
This is an intriguing story. I love Regency era stories that include a piece of India. It was such an exotic place at that time with the sons who were not heirs trying to make their fortunes and not always in a lawful manner. Serena’s father was one such son, and Serena’s tragic history is brought out in the story gradually. What we do know is that she has a life-ruining secret and she maintains a distance from everyone as a result. Geoffrey is determined to meet Serena and break through her façade, and he is given a chance when he speaks Hindi to her. There are obstacles, however, not only with Serena’s own hesitation, but also in her family and their hatred for Geoffrey’s family. I did not read the first book in this series, but found I didn’t need to. There were some allusions to it as it was about Geoffrey’s older brother and his wife and they feature in the story quite often. Geoffrey is a likeable, affable, rake who has set his sights on Serena. He is discouraged by everyone from toying with her as she is a gently bred lady and he hasn’t the best reputation. Their attraction and informal courtship is enjoyable and romantic. Geoffrey is a very considerate hero and despite his rakish ways, he is not jaded or arrogant. He will be on many top lists for best hero I am sure. Serena’s secret really weighs her down and has her doubting, second quessing, and resisting Geoffrey until she really can’t resist him anymore. Her nightmares added a dramatic effect to the toll her body was taking by keeping her secret. It gets a bit tedious but at least she keeps moving on with her attraction to Geoffrey. You can feel the oppression that she feels in her family’s home. I understand that unmarried females were not allowed to go about unsupervised, but Serena truly had no freedom whatsoever. Geoffrey really had to be creative to find her alone. I loved the bookstore scene where Geoffrey followed her to and approached her. Bradford writes their love scenes well. There was emotion in their coupling and all their encounters were nice (meaning hot). There were a few of them too which I always appreciate. Spoiler here – the only disappointing thing was how flat the reception of her secret was to everyone around her. Serena is so consumed with the expectation that she’ll be tossed out by Geoffrey that she runs away, yet Geoffrey is like “meh”. I would have expected him to be more disappointed and annoyed that she didn’t share her secret and trust him, etc. etc., but he was immediately accepting and for the most part, so was his family. I think it could have been a bit more dramatic and would have added a little more to the intrigue of the story. Overall, I enjoyed it and would recommend it. I will now have to read the first one and then the third book as well when it is released. Thank you to the NetGalley for the ARC.
Although I found this book hard to get into and found the plot bogged down at points, it is a very acceptable read. The story is of Lord Geoffrey Fitzroy and a beauty he spots at a ball . She is Miss Serena Carew (or is she). Serena has a secret that could land her in trouble with her family and the law. She could be charged with fraud if knowledge of her deception becomes common knowledge. As I said the plot doesn't flow along and make this an easy read, but after putting it aside for other reads I did finish it and found it acceptable. I had read other books by this author so I was surprised to find the plot bogging down at times. I received a free copy of this book from Netgalley so I cxould leave an honest review.
A Sinful Deception was a delightful and truly enjoyable historical romance. Romantic, emotional, with a few secrets in store, this book was wonderful and I really liked it. Serena was an interesting heroine. She had secrets in her past that kept her distant from everyone in her life, but she was also likable and clever enough to know when she found something worth fighting for. My only issue was how much stock she put in her secrets. She was so convinced that they would ruin everything that she never gave Geoffrey a chance to decide for himself. It wasn't a major issue, but it was a little annoying. Otherwise, I thought she was great. Geoffrey was simply adorable. He was so sweet, kind, and just and overall wonderful character. He had a reputation for being a carefree rake but, despite what other people thought of him, he was much more than that. I thought he was perfect. The romance was lovely. Serena and Geoffrey were perfect together. They were infatuated with each other when they first met and their feelings only deepened as the book went on. No matter what happened, their feelings for each other were never in doubt and they were obviously devoted to each other. Not to mention the chemistry they had between each other. I thought they were a perfect couple. The plot was well paced and, though a little slow in places, I was still kept interested the entire way through. I really liked the story and the ending was perfect. Sweet and enjoyable, A Sinful Deception was a wonderful read and I really liked it. Romance lovers, this is definitely a book worth checking out. *I received a complimentary copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review
Isabella Bradford is the pseudonym for Susan Holloway Scott, who writes historical romance set during the Georgian period in England. Her first series, the Wylder Sisters, feature three sisters of aristocratic birth who choose to marry for love rather than duty and honor. This was a time when marriages based on love were in its very beginnings and, while perhaps quite fanciful for the period, it is a lovely notion. With A Sinful Deception, Bradford’s second book in her Breconridge Brothers series, she continues this theme. This series follows the happy endings of three brothers, all sons of a duke, who also marry for love rather than mere duty. This book is very enjoyable and has surprising hidden depths of emotion and feeling. Serena Carew is the beautiful and aloof granddaughter of a marquess, and the daughter of a man who flung off tradition and constraints to live a free love sort of existence in Calcutta, India. While Serena’s father married an Englishwoman and sired a daughter, he also kept a harem and one special concubine, Serena’s mother, a Hindi woman. When illness ravaged Serena’s family and home when she was a teen, she alone was saved but at a horrible cost. It is this secret that haunts Serena night and day, despite her large dowry and fortune, her exquisite beauty, and her mysterious air that captivates Geoffrey Fitzroy. Serena falls hard for Geoffrey even as she knows she shouldn’t. His family is well connected—despite its mistress to a king ancestor—and he is expected to marry well. He pursues Serena at first for mere dalliance and pleasure, but they are caught in a compromising position and are forced to wed. Despite her happiness and love for Geoffrey, Serena lives in terror that the truth will eventually come out. I really like the way the internal narrative is presented here, for both Geoffrey and Serena. It reveals their true natures and the difficult circumstances that have led them to their current situation. What is crystal clear, however, is their love and affection for one another. Both share a love of India and its culture, despite Serena’s painful past experiences. Geoffrey understands her and only wants to love and protect her. Serena must learn to accept Geoffrey’s trust and love and allow herself to be loved for herself, not where she comes from or her dubious background. Harry and Gus—from the first book in the series—return here in loving domestic splendor. I really enjoy the family dynamics of the Fitzroys and, though they tend to be a bit modern in their views, they are liberal and open minded in a refreshing way that works well within the story. We also briefly meet Lord Rivers, the youngest Breconridge son, whose happy ending we’ll read in A Reckless Desire. A beautifully written and poignant story, and Isabella Bradford is now an auto-read author for me.
A Sinful Deception by: Isabella Bradford Lovers of Victoria Alexander, Amelia Grey, Sabrina Jeffries, Cathy Maxwell and Julia Quinn will love this story. Regency at it's best.
All I can say is to grab your tissues and settle down to read this book. Isabelle has written a book to grab you and not let you go. You will feel this one down to your core. I have moved this story to the top of my re-read list. Poor Serena who loses her whole family. She is lucky to have been saved from an Indian fever in India. There is a major spoiler that follows her through the entire book. Then she meets Geoffrey and after some spoilers they marry-swearing they don't want to. I am glad I don't live back then and have to worry over girl and boy babies to save the family dynastics. I hope you give this book a chance. It will get you in a good way. Enjoy this read. I have this book for an honest review for NetGalley.