After the Kiss

After the Kiss

by Karen Ranney

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No longer the proper English wife she always was, Margaret kissed a handsome stranger.Now the dashing earl will not rest until the beautiful widow he held in his arms so briefly is his forever.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780380812981
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 10/03/2000
Pages: 384
Sales rank: 844,347
Product dimensions: 4.19(w) x 6.75(h) x 0.96(d)

About the Author

Karen Ranney wanted to be a writer from the time she was five years old and filled her Big Chief tablet with stories. People in stories did amazing things and she was too shy to do anything amazing. Years spent in Japan, Paris, and Italy, however, not only fueled her imagination but proved she wasn't that shy after all.

Now a New York Times and USA Today bestseller, she prefers to keep her adventures between the covers of her books. Karen lives in San Antonio, Texas.

Read an Excerpt

After the Kiss
Chapter One

A great courtesan possesses both curiosity and courage.
The Journals of Augustin X

Wiltshire Downs, England Early spring, 1822

Naked, he sat cross legged upon a brilliantly hued carpet, a voluptuous woman on his lap. Her bare legs were on either side of his hips, her feet crossed at his back. One masculine hand rested on her thigh, fingers splayed, while the other curved around her waist. Her head was arched back, throat exposed, eyes closed, the look on her face one of sublime pleasure. His head bent, the edge of his smile carnal and anticipatory, captured forever in the act of his tongue gently touching an elongated nipple.

The artist had drawn the man in a state of arousal, a condition surely accentuated out of all proportion.

No man, Margaret Esterly thought, could be quite that large.

Her gaze returned to the painting time and again, even as a flush crept up her neck. A scene of sensuality and abandon. Almost shocking. But beautiful in a strange and unsettling way. That was the only reason, Margaret told herself, that she studied it with such avid curiosity.

The caption that accompanied the drawing was both confusing and evocative: The face, the ears, the breasts are rich with sensation. But close attention must be made to speak softly, murmuring words of tenderness in anticipation of the pleasure to come.

"You're too fascinated with those books, Miss Margaret."

She blinked, glanced up, her face warming.

On the other side of the table, Penelope sat chopping onions and frowning at her. The two years since they'd left London had brought a few changesto their lives, chief among them the friendship they shared. A not surprising development, considering that they were both London born and raised.

Margaret wanted almost desperately to be quit of London and its memories. To her surprise, Penelope was more than willing to join her in the country.

With Jerome's death, she had no family. Her parents had died of influenza when she was only a child. Her grandmother, a former governess, had raised her, but she had passed on a year after her marriage to Jerome.

The small cottage Margaret had rented from Squire Tippett two years ago wasn't a prepossessing place. The only furniture was a bureau, two small cots, two chairs and a small wooden table she despaired of ever making stand straight. Finally, she had shimmied a piece of wood beneath one leg, but it still wobbled from side to side. A fireplace took up one whole wall, a welcome warmth during the winters on the Downs.

"It's a good thing you hide them above the rafters when the girls come. I can just imagine what their mothers in the village would say if they knew you read such things," Penelope scolded.

Silbury Village, their new home, was situated in a river valley with a commanding view of the chalk uplands and the stark white form cut into the hillside. Majestically sized, not unlike the White Horse at Westbury, it was difficult to discern the shape of the carving except in spring when the villagers trimmed and re-cut the turf. Then, it was all too evident that the angles and curves formed the image of a crown. As if some ancient royal presence had marked this place forever his.

Almost completely encircling the village was the Bristol River, its waters churning through two grist mills. Perched above Silbury on a nearby hill were the skeletal remains of a priory. The town itself was full of twisting paths and unexpected steps, and houses constructed from the stones of the ruins, giving the buildings an aged, almost pallid appearance.

It was, as Samuel had told her, an inward looking place. The villagers were content enough to build the docks for which they were famed and ignore the world. It was because of her friend that she was here at all. Samuel had been born in the village and knew the squire from which she rented her small cottage.

Penelope stood, emptied the contents of the bowl into the stew over the fire. Their main meal of the day had not contained meat for weeks, but they were never short of onions. Margaret was beginning to detest the smell and taste of them.

"I have never read the third volume," Margaret said in her own defense. "He writes most compellingly about the Orient, Penelope."

Penelope turned and looked at her, one eyebrow rising. A perfect chastisement, Margaret-thought. She could not have done better with her students.

Another change in her life. She had begun teaching a few girls from the village over the last year. Doing so had given her an opportunity to use those lessons her Gran had taught her.

She would never have children of her own; that fact had been proven during her five-year marriage to Jerome. But three mornings a week, seven little girls ranging from five to ten years of age came to her cottage. For those hours, she thought not about her precarious financial situation, nor of her loneliness, but of each girl's talents and needs. Annie's enthusiasm for learning was delightful, as was the way Dorothy was advancing in her reading. She answered their questions and smiled at their laughter.

In turn, she learned from her students. On their walks she'd been shown how to listen for the grouse, or watch a new moon in order to predict the growing season. Margaret had stood in a meadow as she'd been instructed by seven excited voices, concentrating upon, the clouds and feeling small and insignificant beneath the bowl of sky. Had she'd ever truly seen the sky in London?

It was, after all, a satisfactory life. One that would be remarkably content but for two things-her loneliness and the fact that she was nearly desperate for money.

After the Kiss
. Copyright © by Karen Ranney. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

What People are Saying About This

Stephanie Laurens

Power, passion and dramatic flair...a rich tapestry of love...embroidered with golden threads of sensuality."
—(Stephanie Laurens, author of A Secret Love)

Mary Jo Putney

A writer of rare intelligence and sensitivity...a powerful story.
—(Mary Jo Putney, author of The China Bride)

Judith Ivory

A compelling, beautifully written tale...Ranney is a rich, rare find!
—(Judith Ivory, author of The Proposition)

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After the Kiss 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 18 reviews.
harstan More than 1 year ago

In 1820 London, the bookstore owned and operated by Jerome and Margaret Esterly has been failing lately. Days go by without even one visitor to the shop. Things cannot get much worse, but they do when the store burns to the ground, leaving Jerome dead, many rare books destroyed, and Margaret grieving her loss and her lack of a future.

Two years later, desperate for some needed funds, a still mourning Margaret attends a masquerade where she plans to sell a valuable erotic journal. The tome also contains a weird list developed by Jerome. Caught up in the reverie of the ball and escaping her depression, Margaret kisses Michael Hawthorne, the Earl of Montraine before fleeing into the night. The passion between them though fleeting leaves Michael believing he has found his better half. The country's Code Master begins a quest to locate and persuade the provider of that passionate kiss that they belong together. However, someone lurks in the background, keeping an eye on the widow just in case she finds her deceased husband's book that led to his murder in the fire.

AFTER THE KISS is a powerful Regency romantic mystery filled with more twists and turns than found in a private investigator novel. The technique of realistic surprises will please fans of historical mysteries as well as those who enjoy an ardent romance. The lead couple is charming and the villain is despicable even as he stays just outside the sight of the reader. Karen Ranney provides the sub-genre audience and a wider audience with a superb tale of suspense that will bring the author a new cadre of fans.

Harriet Klausner

Guest More than 1 year ago
After The Kiss is one story that readers of historical romance novels would never forget. The lead characters are most unforgettable, not only because of the strength of their love for each other, but also because of how they fully understood their feelings for each other. Karen Ranney's portrayal of two individuals who live in two different worlds is very moving. Her style of writing is so lyrical, reading her book is like reading a long poem. This book is her best, so far!
doxiemomx2 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I loved this book! It will be added to my absolute favorites list. Margaret and Michael are two tremendously likable characters with a great relationship. The relationship builds slowly, like most real relationships. His slow seduction of her is extremely erotic. I loved the inner turmoil that they both go through. I was riveted to the book from beginning to end.
AJRyan6of7 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
It's very rare that I give out five stars to a book, but this one definitely made it to the five star pile for me. It was that good. I've heard many times before that romance novels are boring because they are predictable. Let's face it: there's nothing new under the sun. But for me, it's not really the plot devices that make the's how the plot devices are used. In other words it's not necessarily the journey, but how you make the journey, that makes it interesting. Yeah, I've read dozens of books with this same basic plot before. BUT...I haven't read it as it happens to THESE characters. How will THESE characters react? How will THEY solve the problems? How will THEY fall in love? Give me a book that makes me interested in those questions, and I'm sold. From the very beginning, I cared about these characters. My heart went out to Margaret, a poor widow, from the very first paragraphs of the Prologue. I felt a bit of kinship with her in chapter one when she's guiltily indulging in her one great passion: reading. And she's doing it by reading an erotic book, fantasizing about one of the "models". How many of us have done the same with an erotic book and it's cover model? Margaret is a kindred spirit in a way, and I wanted her to find the man who would bring to her all the carnal delights she's read about in "The Journals of Agustin X".And sure enough, just as we thought she would, she finds him in the form of Michael, an Earl who is quickly losing money, and needs a rich wife to inject some capital into his bank account. Again, it's not a new plot point, but after reading so many books where the hero is wealthy beyond belief, to read one where he's not was refreshing.You see where the conflict is right away: Michael can't marry a poor widow, and Margaret's personality just can't allow her to be someone's mistress. I won't describe the plot any farther than that, because it's not really necessary. You know how it might unfold, but how will it unfold for these characters? This book compels you to keep turning the pages to find out.My final point about this book is the one reason that I think I loved it so much: It was one of the most erotic books I've read in a long time. And the best part about that was that it's erotic without being crude. Nowadays, some authors feel that being more and more crude is the only way to keep their readers interested. They could take lessons from Ranney, because, she packed more eroticism into the moments before Michael and Margaret kissed than many authors put into an entire love scene. That, my friends, is good writing, and that is why, for me, this book deserves five stars.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Ranney's writing just flows so easily that the story is finished before you realize that you're on the last page. She has become my favorite author to go to when I want an easy story. She never disappoints.
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