Desperate to save her reputation, the beautiful heiress Antoinette Dupre escapes to Wexmoor Manor, a country estate in Devon. But she gets more than she bargained for when she encounters a masked stranger who, with just one touch, awakens in her an irresistible desire.
Gabriel Langley is on a mission. Antoinette has a letter he needs to take back his family's ancestral home, and he is willing to go to any lengths to claim it—even seduce her. And though aware he is playing a dangerous game, he cannot resist returning to her bed in the shadow of darkness . . . to become her secret lover.
But when Gabriel's true identity is revealed, their passionate midnight interludes are threatened. And they must face a web of scandal and blackmail that could destroy their one chance for love . . .
About the Author
Sara Bennett has always had an interest in history, and to survive a series of mind-numbing jobs, she turned to writing historical romance. She lives in an old house, with her husband and animals too numerous to mention, in the state of Victoria, Australia, where she tries to keep the house and garden tidy, but rarely succeeds—she'd rather be writing or reading.
Read an Excerpt
Her Secret Lover
The road to Wexmoor Manor, Devon
Antoinette Dupre closed her eyes behind her spectacles, shielding them from the flickering light as the sun dipped lower through the trees. Not far to go now. Lord Rudyard Appleby's manor was isolated, well off the main highway, which was one reason she was riding in a coach instead of traveling by steam train.
The other reason was that she was a prisoner.
She didn't want to go but she had no choice; she was completely in the power of Lord Appleby¬. And the most frustrating thing about that was she'd finally discovered a way to destroy him once and for all, but before she could put her plan into practice¬, he had sent her away into deepest Devon, to his house, Wexmoor Manor.
She put a hand to her bodice, feeling the reassuring crackle of paper. The letter was still there, safe. Her ticket to freedom, and more importantly, the freedom of her younger sister, Cecilia.
Thinking of Cecilia made her smile despite her dire situation. Her sister, three years younger than Antoinette, would think this a great adventure—traveling alone in a coach to an unknown destination—but then Cecilia, tall and fair and vivacious, was very different from Antoinette. Antoinette, small in stature, with glossy brown hair and brown eyes, was by nature serious and rather bossy and took her responsibilities to heart. Always as neat as a pin, still she struggled with a figure that was definitely more hourglass-shaped—dumpy if you were being unkind—than the fashionable ideal of slender and willowy. She did have one weakness, acompulsion she couldn't seem to resist and which she blamed on her ancestress, a mistress of King Charles II. Fine undergarments. Silk and lace and satin, frilly and feminine. Sometimes she wondered what it would be like, to hold a man in thrall, to give yourself over entirely to the sensual side. But, as it seemed unlikely Antoinette would ever know the answers to those questions, she contented herself with indulging in her secret wicked pleasure.
She took off her spectacles and pressed her fingers to her eyes.
The worst of it was she had no one to talk to, no one to trust. Cecilia was safely tucked away in Surrey with her governess, Miss Bridewell, and other than those two, Antoinette had no one else she dared unburden herself to. These past few weeks in London she'd been watched continually by Lord Appleby's servants, and she didn't expect Wexmoor Manor to be any different—worse, because at least in London she'd been able to go about, even attending the opening of the Great Exhibition, and enjoying the new sights and sounds.
But that was before she'd understood Lord Appleby's true intention in inviting her to his Mayfair house.
Suddenly the coach lurched. Antoinette dropped her spectacles. Outside there was a popping noise, followed by shouts from the coachman and his boy. She leaned forward to grasp the window frame, just as a galloping horse drew alongside the coach. The rider wore black, everything black, including a black mask covering the upper half of his face. He kept pace with the coach, and although her poor eyesight made him appear blurry, there was something almost mesmerizing about him. And then he leaned down and stared at her through the dusty glass.
And smiled the smile of a dangerous predator spying his prey.
He was there for only a heartbeat, and then he'd spurred his horse on, but it was long enough. Antoinette felt as if his regard had burned itself into her skin. As if he had left a brand upon her.
Confused, startled, her heart thudding, she pressed herself back into the soft leather of the seat. She told herself that this was England in the reign of Queen Victoria, and highwaymen belonged to an earlier and more lawless age. Or was this isolated corner of Devon yet to catch up with the more civilized parts of the country?
But if she was imagining things, then so was the coachman. Antoinette clung to the strap, bracing herself against the wildly rocking vehicle as the driver attempted to outrun the highwayman. Her straw bonnet slipped off as they tipped dangerously around a corner, and there was a loud bang as the coachman's boy fired his blunderbuss. Antoinette squeaked, trying to see beyond the window, but it was all a blur of trees and earth and sky. And then the coach began to slow until eventually it shuddered to a halt.
Antoinette sat a moment and caught her breath, wishing she could loosen her stays beneath the tight-fitting bodice of her tan taffeta and emerald green velvet traveling dress. Her hair, a moment ago neatly pinned and parted, was hanging down, hampering her movements, and her skirts and petticoats were tossed and tangled, displaying far too much silk-stockinged leg above her lace-up boots.
What now? she asked herself. Was she to cower inside and await her fate? Practical, sensible Antoinette had never cowered in her life. Bad enough that she'd been sent into the country to a place she didn't know by Lord Appleby, a man she detested, but to be trapped inside her coach by an anachronism? No, she wouldn't have it. Antoinette released the catch on the window and after a brief struggle forced it down.
Cold, moist air wafted in, and with it the pungent sting of gunpowder. Undeterred, Antoinette stuck her head out of the coach. The scene before her was chaotic. The coachman and his boy were on the ground, hands in the air, and the masked man on the horse was pointing a brace of pistols at them. "Be silent," she heard him order in a gruff voice as the coachman began to argue.
Antoinette's mind worked furiously. Was he after her money and her valuables? She'd brought so little with her. Most of her luggage was still in London, and her scant pieces of jewelry were locked in Lord Appleby's safe.Her Secret Lover. Copyright © by Sara Bennett. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Reviewed for queuemyreview.com; book release Nov08Let¿s have a show of hands. How many readers absolutely hate the TSTL (too stupid to live) actions by some of the heroines in romance novels? Yeah, me too. Next, how many readers enjoy an entire book built on the issue of a BIG MISUNDERSTANDING? Yep, I¿m with y¿all on that one too. Now what if the `big misunderstanding¿ could have been taken care of with just one question or conversation that the author took special pains to make sure DIDN¿T happen? Well, that¿s enough to make me want to scream out loud. Unfortunately, Sara Bennett¿s ¿Her Secret Lover¿ did exactly that.Heiress Antoinette is being held captive by Lord Appleby, an unscrupulous would-be suitor who only wants her for her inheritance. He orchestrated a moment where she was seen in his arms and now that her reputation is tarnished, he¿s pressing her to marry him. Just as she receives a letter from her old nanny with information that can ruin Lord Appleby, he sends her off to his country estate until she agrees to marry him. When her carriage is set upon by a highwayman demanding the letter, she¿s sure that said highwayman is in league with Appleby. It¿s on this `mistake¿ that the entire plot is built.Gabriel isn¿t really a highwayman. He¿s actually the rightful owner of Wexmoor Manor. At least he was, until Appleby used blackmail to force his father to sign it over to him. He¿s after the letter his mother wrote to Appleby (thus the blackmail) and he¿s sure Appleby¿s mistress MUST have it. So he dons a cloak and mask and holds up her carriage enroute to Wexmoor Manor. But as soon as he catches sight of Antoinette, his brown sparrow, he has a hard time remembering the letter. And when he touches her, all he can think of is bedding her. As you may have guessed, I really didn¿t like this book. ONE question or honest conversation at any time could have ended the conflict and resulted in the hero and heroine working together. But no, the author made sure this never happened. She even had the revelations made by a third person, so these two never figured it out. Made my blood boil with their stupidity in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary of their beliefs. And here¿s a few more things; Why doesn¿t she just say she¿s NOT Appleby¿s mistress? Well, that would ruin the plot. Why is the `big secret¿ in the letter never mentioned til late in the book? That would ruin the plot. The hero first touches the heroine in a darkened carriage in the middle of the night and is floored by her. How? He can¿t even see! And our heroine¿she can¿t call out for help at one of the inns on the road? If Appleby wants to marry her, he doesn¿t want her injured. DUH! Then she goes to see the local magistrate¿and doesn¿t tell him about Appleby¿s dire plot! Stupid!I could go on, but I don¿t think my blood pressure can handle it. I was so disappointed in Sara Bennett¿s latest offering. I have read and enjoyed other books by her, so I know she can produce stories that entertain. I guess I¿ll just mark ¿Her Secret Lover¿ down as a bad day for the author. Hey, we¿re all entitled. Right?