For three years, Lady Veronica Smithson has been perfectly happy as a widow—and thoroughly independent. Still, the right gentleman could provide the benefits of marriage without the tedious restrictions. And in Sir Sebastian Hadley-Attwater, renowned explorer and rogue, Veronica is sure she has found him.
Sebastian will come into his inheritance in a matter of weeks—if his family deems him responsible enough. There's no better way to prove his maturity than with a wife. But though Veronica will share his bed, she refuses to marry. However, Sebastian has a plan: An intimate sojourn at his new country house will surely change Veronica's mind. For Sebastian never takes no for an answer. And he intends to persuade his Christmas mistress that they belong together—in this, and every season to come. . .
"This Victorian yuletide romance provides erotic sizzle and delectably clever dialogue on every page." –USA Today
|Product dimensions:||5.37(w) x 7.50(h) x 0.50(d)|
About the Author
New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Victoria Alexander was an award-winning television reporter until she discovered her love for fiction. Since the publication of her first book in 1995, she has written 24 full-length novels and six novellas. With books translated into a dozen different languages, she has readers around the world and has twice been nominated for Romance Writers of America prestigious RITA award. Victoria is now settled in Omaha, Nebraska, with her family.
Read an Excerpt
His Mistress by Christmas
By Victoria Alexander
KENSINGTON BOOKSCopyright © 2011 Cheryl Griffin
All right reserved.
Chapter OneNovember 30, 1885
"He's the one," Veronica, Lady Smithson, said softly, more to herself than to the woman beside her. She smiled with satisfaction. She did so love it when all went according to plan.
"Shhh." Portia, Lady Redwell, hushed her and gazed with pride at the speaker behind the podium on the stage at the far end of the room.
"... and admittedly, while it was somewhat more adventure than we had bargained for, in hindsight it was not merely exciting but quite remarkable." Sir Sebastian Hadley-Attwater paused in the polished manner of an expert speaker and gazed out at the audience seated before him in the Explorers Club lecture hall.
A knowing smile carved deep dimples in a face that would be altogether too handsome were it not a bit browner than was fashionable. An intriguing scar slanted across his forehead above his right brow. His blue eyes, under hair so dark a blond it was nearly brown, gleamed with humor and intelligence. He scanned the room slowly, and only a woman long in her grave would fail to wonder what it would be like to have those eyes gaze at her and her alone.
Veronica noted the moment he caught sight of his cousin, sitting beside her toward the back of the hall. His eyes lit in recognition, and Portia beamed. Portia's parents had died when she was very young, and her aunt and uncle had taken her in. She'd grown up with Sebastian and six other cousins. He nodded slightly in acknowledgment of her presence, then continued his perusal of the audience. His gaze settled on Veronica briefly, although he was no doubt staring at her hat, one of her most impressive, then continued on.
"In conclusion, allow me to say there is only one thing in life that stirs the senses more than stepping foot upon an unknown land or seeing with your own eyes sights only a handful of your fellow men have ever seen."
His gaze returned to Veronica, this time meeting hers. She raised her chin slightly and cast him a slow smile. A smile of acknowledgment and encouragement, although from what she had heard of the famous adventurer, little encouragement was needed. His exploits with women were as extensive as his adventures in foreign lands, at least according to gossip and Portia.
"And that"—his smile widened and his dimples deepened, if possible—"is at last returning home."
The most delightful sense of anticipation shivered through her. Oh yes, he would do.
Applause erupted from the crowd that had gathered to spend the evening in the illustrious adventurer's presence and listen to his stories of uncivilized lands and unknown peoples. It had been an evening filled with the excitement of daring tales told by a master storyteller. Sir Sebastian had held the crowd in his hands.
Veronica leaned close to her friend and spoke low into her ear. "He's the one."
"I heard you the first time," Portia said absently, clapping with an unusual display of enthusiasm. A proud smile curved her lips. "The one what?"
"The one I want."
"The one you want for what?" Portia's attention remained on Sir Sebastian, who was now accepting the accolades of the crowd in a modest and unassuming manner. While Veronica suspected there was nothing modest and unassuming about the adventurer, his demeanor added to his appeal. He would do nicely.
"And now, as anyone who has heard me speak before will attest, I have been rather more efficient than usual tonight."
An amused chuckle washed through the crowd.
"Therefore we have time for a few questions." Again his gaze sought hers. A challenge sparked in his eyes, as if daring her to do more than meet his gaze. Veronica did indeed have a question, but not one she was prepared to ask. At least, not yet. Immediately a dozen hands shot up. Sir Sebastian pointed to a gentleman toward the front.
"Sir," the man began. "In your third book, you relate an encounter with a tribe during your expedition down the Amazon, and I was curious as to whether ..."
"Oh, yes, he's perfect," Veronica murmured.
Portia snorted in a most unladylike manner. "Nonsense. I was raised with the man. I can tell you any number of ways in which he's not the least bit perfect. Why, I can recall ..." Portia glanced at Veronica. "The one you want for what? What are you talking about?" Her eyes narrowed. "What are you planning?"
"Sir Sebastian." On Veronica's other side, her aunt Lotte rose to her feet. "I should like to know, given your renown as an explorer and adventurer and as I have been told you are most forward thinking ..."
"Stop her." Portia clutched Veronica's arm.
"Would that I could." Veronica patted her friend's hand in a comforting manner and bit back a grin. She should have expected this. Miss Charlotte Bramhall had her own campaign to wage.
"Thank you, ma'am. I do try to be progressive." Sir Sebastian favored Aunt Lotte with his compelling smile. A smile that surely made every other gentleman in the hall wish to be him and every lady wish to be with him. Veronica wondered if the older woman was at all affected.
Apparently not. Aunt Lotte's expression remained firm.
"Excellent." Aunt Lotte nodded. "Then I should like to know your opinion as to the acceptance of women as members of the Explorers Club."
A groan passed through the crowd, and Portia's hand tightened.
Sir Sebastian's brows drew together. "I'm afraid I don't quite understand the question."
"It's very simple, young man. Do you or do you not support full membership for women?"
Sir Sebastian chose his words with obvious care. "It seems to me, as you are here tonight and the lectures of the society are open to all, there is no need to grant full membership to the fairer sex as it would only be a ..." He thought for a moment. "An undue burden, as it were." Again he smiled an altogether pleasant smile, although Aunt Lotte might well interpret it as condescending. Poor man. He might have come face-to-face with uncivilized natives in the far jungles of the globe, but he had never done battle with Miss Charlotte Bramhall. Sir Sebastian continued with innocent disregard for his imminent danger. "It's my understanding that full members residing in London are required to participate fully in all matters regarding governing of the organization."
"And you think that a burden?" Aunt Lotte squared her shoulders.
"Rubbish. As progressive as you may be, Sir Sebastian, perhaps you are not aware of the significant advancements made in the last twenty years by women through independent travel and sheer determination. Women who can explore the reaches of the Nile can certainly handle the dubious burden of administration of a mere organization."
"I have no doubt of that." He chuckled. "But, my dear lady, there is also tradition to be considered. Progress cannot be allowed to simply sweep aside traditions that have been nourished through the years."
"Tradition, sir, is simply a male excuse—"
"Miss Bramhall!" Sir Hugo Tolliver, director of the Explorers Club, leaped to his feet, fairly pushed Sir Sebastian away from the podium, and glared at Lotte. "This is neither the time nor the place for a debate as to the merits of membership."
"Do tell me, then ..." Lotte glared right back. "When would you suggest—"
"Now, ladies and gentlemen," Sir Hugo pointedly addressed the crowd. "Refreshments are being served in the foyer, and as is our tradition, Sir Sebastian will be joining us." With that, Sir Hugo escorted Sir Sebastian off the stage and toward the door.
People stood and headed toward the foyer, toward what was more than likely tepid lemonade and the chance to make the personal acquaintance of the adventurous Sir Sebastian.
Lotte stared after them. "What an annoying beast that man is."
Veronica rose to her feet. "I assume you are speaking of Sir Hugo. Sir Sebastian struck me as most cordial and quite charming."
Lotte scoffed. "Cut from the same cloth, no doubt."
"He is a man, dear." Veronica smiled. "We must make allowances."
"Ha." Lotte's brows drew together. "Women have allowed men to get away with this kind of nonsense for centuries. It's past time we took our proper place in society." She glanced at Portia, still seated and trying very hard to look as if she had never met Lotte, or Veronica, either, for that matter. "Are you coming?"
"Of course we are." Portia reluctantly got to her feet. "He is my cousin, after all."
"Then you should take him in hand."
"Go on, Aunt Lotte. We shall meet you there," Veronica said quickly.
"Very well." Lotte started off, determination in the set of her shoulders and the spring in her step.
"Whatever possessed you to bring her with us tonight?" Portia glared at her friend.
"I didn't bring her with us. It was simply a coincidence that she had already planned to attend. A pleasant coincidence."
"Not the word that immediately comes to my mind." Portia huffed. "I was afraid this sort of thing would happen."
"What sort of thing?"
"I knew she would make a spectacle of herself."
"Scarcely that, darling. She simply asked a question." Veronica took Portia's arm, and they started after the crowd streaming toward the exit.
"But what a question! Women as members of the Explorers Club indeed."
"She was entirely right and I quite agree with her, as you well know," Veronica said smoothly. "And if she hadn't asked, I very well might have."
Portia heaved a long-suffering sigh. "I don't know why the women of your family have to be so ... so ..."
"Independent in our thinking? Intelligent and not afraid to show it?"
"Yes," Portia snapped. "It's not at all becoming."
"You'll never find another husband if you don't learn to be more circumspect." A warning sounded in Portia's voice. "Men do not want women who are overly intelligent."
"And I do not want a man who would expect me to be someone I'm not," Veronica said in a lofty manner. "Besides, I have no intention of marrying again."
Portia stopped in mid-step and stared. "Good Lord, Veronica, don't be absurd. Of course you will. I know I will. Although I would prefer to choose a husband myself," Portia added under her breath. In recent months, her well-meaning family had begun a concerted, and not especially subtle, campaign to find Portia a new husband, placing one eligible bachelor after another in her path. "We're women. It's what's expected of us."
Veronica cast her a pleasant smile. "I prefer not to do what's expected of me."
"Yes, I know." Portia rolled her gaze heavenward.
"Furthermore, I don't see why women in our position should be expected to marry."
"And what position is that?"
"Marriage gives women financial security. Even in this day and age women have few ways to provide for themselves." Veronica shrugged. "You and I have independent wealth. Our financial futures are assured. Therefore there is no need to marry."
"No need to marry?" Portia's eyes widened at the blasphemy.
"None at all." She hooked her arm through Portia's and again herded her toward the door.
"But surely you don't intend to spend the rest of your life alone?"
"No, I don't." Veronica shook her head. "It's only been a little more than three years since Charles died, and I am already tired of being alone. And I am not the type of woman to whom the idea of flitting from one man's bed to the next is especially appealing." "Thank God." Relief sounded in Portia's voice.
Veronica smiled. She hadn't yet decided if she would tell Portia exactly what she planned. Still, she might need the other woman's assistance, even though Portia's proper nature might well be too shocked to permit her to render any true aid.
Veronica scanned the crowd in front of them. An indomitable Aunt Lotte was making her way toward the foyer. Through the open doors she could see Sir Sebastian, surrounded by admirers, most of them female. He spoke to everyone who approached him in what, even from this distance, struck Veronica as a charming and gracious manner. It was most admirable.
"Tell me more about your cousin."
"I don't know what more there is to tell." Portia thought for a moment. "You've read one of his books."
"Then you know of his foolish pursuit of adventure in the guise of expanding man's knowledge of the unknown. I can't bear to read them myself. They're rather heart-stopping, you know."
"But he does know how to tell a story," Veronica murmured. Indeed, she had found his prose to be evocative and even sensual.
"The family hoped he would go into business or study the law. Instead he has spent the last dozen or so years traveling to those places on this earth few civilized men have ventured. It's most distressing."
"Well, it's not law." Veronica bit back a grin.
"He always was something of a rebel as a child. Always doing things he shouldn't. Never following anyone's rules but his own. Still ..." Portia heaved a resigned sigh. "He has always been my favorite."
"Somewhere deep inside you, Portia, you long for adventure."
"My life is rather dull," Portia said under her breath, then realized what she'd said. "Not dull. How absurd. I don't know why I said that."
"Those least likely to bend ..."
"Are most likely to snap. Yes, yes, you've said it before, but it's utter nonsense." Portia scoffed. "I have no intention of bending or snapping."
"Of course not," Veronica said. "You're quite content with your uneventful life."
Portia nodded. "Indeed I am."
Veronica knew better. It struck her on occasion as both odd and remarkable that she and Portia, along with Julia, Lady Winterset, knew one another as well as they did given they hadn't known each other at all until a few years ago. It was chance that they had happened to meet at Fenwick and Sons, Booksellers, but no doubt fate that they had become fast friends. They had each lost their husbands some three years ago to accident or illness or mishap and had met at a time when each needed a friend who was not tied to her loss. While not one given to overt displays of piety, Veronica often thanked God she had found these friends, in truth, these sisters she'd never had nor ever missed. Now she could not envision her life without them.
"Aside from Sebastian, we are quite a proper, well-behaved family," Portia said firmly, although Veronica did wonder how a proper, well-behaved family could produce a man who wandered the far reaches of the earth. Or perhaps it was only a proper, well-behaved family that could.
"He certainly doesn't look the least bit well behaved." In truth, with his rugged good looks, Sir Sebastian looked like a hero from a novel. "He looks like a man who plunges headfirst into adventure."
"It's the scar." Portia studied her cousin. "It makes him look like, well, exactly what he is."
"No doubt a souvenir from one of his expeditions."
"I suspect he likes people to think that." Portia chuckled. "The truth is he fell out of a tree when he was a boy." The closer they got to Sir Sebastian, the slower the crowd moved. They were scarcely walking at all now. Portia tapped her foot in impatience.
"I gather it's been some time since you've seen him."
"He's been back in England for several months, according to the rest of the family. But he's yet to make an appearance at any one of the gatherings they have subjected me to of late. Although with Christmas less than a month away, those gatherings will become even more frequent and Sebastian is certain to attend." Portia craned her neck to see around the crowd. "I understand he's purchased a house in the country."
"Oh?" A casual note sounded in Veronica's voice. "Do you think he intends to stay in one place for a while, then?"
"I have no idea what he intends, but I will certainly ask him if we ever get close enough. Why are you asking questions about Sebastian?" Her eyes narrowed. "And you never answered me. What did you mean by he's the one you want? The one you want for what?"
"I haven't decided yet."
A break appeared in the crowd in front of them, and Veronica urged Portia forward.
Portia stood her ground. "Veronica Smithson, I don't believe you have ever lied to me before."
"Nonsense, Portia." Veronica shrugged. "I have lied to you on any number of occasions."
"And I have never known you to be undecided about anything."
"Ah, well, there's always a first time."
"What are you planning?"
Veronica peered around her. "There's a path opening behind you."
Excerpted from His Mistress by Christmas by Victoria Alexander Copyright © 2011 by Cheryl Griffin. Excerpted by permission of KENSINGTON BOOKS. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Victoria Alexander's newest book, His M. By Christmas, is a story that resonates with all the spirit and sparkle and energy of the holiday season while highlighting all the meaningful reasons we celebrate, the traditions we value, and the importance of family and all the people we love, and who love us, to our lives -- and the resulting tale is heartwarming and wonderful.. Ms. Alexander has a remarkable gift for lighthearted, romantic storytelling and here her love of Christmas and all its traditions shines through. In HMBC she takes her readers on a merry journey and her story sparkles ever so brightly as she displays her inimitable voice and style and all of her distinctive trademarks to their best advantage -- giving readers a well-paced story with a thoroughly engaging plot, thought-provoking and vibrant prose, an abundance of clever, intelligent dialogue, two well-defined and genuinely likable lead characters, and a fascinating and colorful cast of supporting characters, all neatly wrapped together and superbly blended with her utterly delightful sense of humor. A great Christmas or anytime read. Highly recommended!
Reviewed By~Desere Review Copy Provided By~Publisher From one of the most brilliant historical authors of our time comes the tale of Lady Victoria and Sebastian, two people who each want and crave a little certain something in life and both will not stop to get it. Lady Veronica wants to taste the forbidden passion she craves and still be seen as a true lady. However she does not bet on her target for passion being so forceful in getting what he wants. Sebastian does not back down. The fun really starts in this book as she gets more than what she bargains for in Sebastian; this is a tale of a true battle of wills. The author had me so captivated and entranced that I could not wait to get to the end of the book just to see the outcome. I loved every character and the way the author describes every single detail had me wishing I could be Lady Victoria so I could just grab Sebastian for myself. I loved how he was the ultimate historical to die for hero. He really crept into my heart and I loved how he showed Lady Victoria that she has indeed met her match. With the author's beautiful writing style you get taken back to a time where being a Lady and getting what and who you want with all the benefits and none of the complications prove to be very tempting indeed. Favorite Quote: "It's a persuasive invitation".
I don’t know when I’ve laughed so hard. This was a terrific book. Steamy and full of snark! Yes, she’s one of my absolute favorite authors but she has outdone even herself this time!
This was the first book I've ready by Victoria Alexander and I found it to be quite entertaining.
Awful. I mean bad. Bad. Bad. No chemistry. No action. It was sort of like reading a cookbook. There was a lot of discussion about chemistry and them wanting to be together, but I didn't actually see it. And I certainly didn't feel it. May have turned me off to this author entirely.
Just plain bad. Didnt expect from this author. Glad it wad checked out from library.
Why don't you try to read this worth reading..