No one knows that Cheyne is working with Scotland Yard to catch a blackmailer plaguing London's wealthiest aristocrats. He'll need a daring young woman to help capture the culprit--but no gilded English lily will do. Mattie, with hair black as midnight and a fearless soul to match, is just perfect. But Cheyne doesn't know just how far Mattie will go to find the adventure she craves. And when he finally realizes how much she means to him, it may be too late to protect her....
About the Author
Read an Excerpt
If she didn't escape before dawn, she wouldn't get away at all. Mattie Bright tiptoed through the darkened house, her boots clutched in one hand, her skirts lifted in the other. If she was discovered, the consequences would be terrible - another morning of lessons in elocution, manners, and peerage from Mademoiselle Elise; more fittings for her new Worth gowns; and after that, more calls. If she had to sit through another afternoon listening to Society ladies and their daughters gush about gowns and lace, calling them "deevie", which was their private word for divine, she'd squall like a bobcat in a pickle barrel.
"Deevie indeed," she muttered.
Such affectations irritated her intensely, causing her to slip in her determination to improve her character. For Mattie was engaged in a great endeavor, to reform, to become more tolerant, more even-tempered, calm, and above all, sweet-natured. These were the qualities of the great lady Papa had always wanted her to become. Sadly, she lacked most of them. Closest to her heart was the desire to be like other young women. Other young ladies seemed to glide along with sweet smiles and kind words, never growing angry at things like women not being allowed to vote, never losing their tempers or wishing they could take charge because some man was making an all-fired mess of things.
Mattie hurried down the stairs, through the drawing room and past a table on which were scattered her mother's books on conduct. Her resolve to improve vanished. Glaring at Mama's copy of Titled Americans, Mattie cursed every girl in it who had married an English lord. Ever since her parents' efforts to conquer New York society had failed so embarrassingly, their hopes of establishing social preeminence had fastened on their twenty-three-year-old daughter.
Ordinarily she would have refused to have anythign to do with such carryings-on, but just before he died, Papa had asked Mattie to do just one thing for him. Marry a titled Englishman. It would make all his hard work, all his efforts to give them a better life, worth it. And he and Mama hadn't been satisfied with low standards like the Jeromes, whose daughter Jennie married Lord Randolph Churchill. Papa and Mama aimed high, and Mattie must set her cap for the best, like Consuelo Yznaga, who became Duchess of Manchester, or her goddaughter, Consuelo Vanderbilt, the new Duchess of Marlborough.
The path to gentility had been a rough and long one for Mattie. It had begun as soon as Papa grew wealthy, with many a rebellion along the way. But over the last few years Mattie had come to realize how different she was from most girls, and after a while she'd begun ot suspect there was something wrong with her. Otherwise she wouldn't find inventions and new ideas more fascinating that Paris fasions and marriage offers. Her character was flawed, or she would long to be as sweet, loving, and giving as her mother and her friend Narcissa. Just when she thought she'd turned herself into a lady, she'd forget to control her tongue or her temper or both.
Table of Contents
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
In 1899 London, Texan Mattie Bright wonders why she ever made that deathbed promise to her father that she would marry an English aristocrat. She knows how much he wanted to break into high society, but the doors remained shut to him. Still, Marriage is the last thing on her mind as she seeks reform such as women¿s suffrage and would rather enjoy the new inventions that have modernized life (at least for males). While driving through the city, Mattie almost hits Cheyne Tennant while he is out riding a horse. He thinks she is one of those ¿New Women¿ and should take her horrid accent home. She believes he is a stuffy Regency-type aristocrat who would never soil his shirt. However, he turns out to be more than just a nobleman. Cheyne is also a private investigator trying to uncover the identity of the person blackmailing the folks of the upper class. They soon start working together on his case, putting in motion a plan that places Mattie in peril from a dangerous scoundrel. JUST BEFORE MIDNIGHT is a wonderful historical romantic intrigue that brings the end of the nineteenth century resplendently alive. The story line is fast-paced, filled with action, while providing insight into the waning influence of the English aristocracy to the growing nouveau riche, including expatriate Americans. The lead charcaters are an intrepid couple who seems at first to be opposites, but soon learn they share more than just a deep attraction to one another. Suzanne Robinson rescues readers from the recent wintry weather with this engaging treasure. Harriet Klausner