"A simply delightful tale of love, passion, lies and family life set against a wonderfully historical backdrop."—Fresh Fiction
Heartsick Harry DeVaux is convinced that his past makes him unworthy of the delightful Lady Elinor Tremaine. Harry agrees to accompany the intrepid Tremaines to Italy to explore Etruscan ruins, even if it chips away at his resolve to stay away from the woman he loves.
The intrepid Lady Elinor Tremaine is caught up in the Victorian fervor for exploring distant lands. Her travels throw her back in the company of an old friend—this time, far from the security of polite society.
Harry de Vaux, Viscount Tunbury, has loved Lady Elinor for as long as he can remember— but his family's sordid background put her completely out of his reach. Prowling through Etruscan ruins in Italy with Elinor is exquisite torture. She is so close, and so forbidden.
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Cheerful frivolity reigned in the ballroom of Huntingdon House. The dancers swirled to the strains of a waltz, jewels glittering and silks and satins shimmering under the brilliant light of the new gas chandeliers. Even the chaperones were smiling to each other and swaying unconsciously to the music.
Harcourt de Vaux, Viscount Tunbury, an angry scowl setting him apart from the rest of the company, pushed his way to the side of his old schoolfellow. Grabbing him by the arm, Tunbury spoke in a furious undertone. "Pip, your sister is dancing with Carruthers."
Pip, more formally known as Philip Tremaine, Viscount Rycote, turned and blinked. "Hullo, Harry. I didn't know you were here. I thought this sort of thing was too tame for you these days."
"Forget about me. It's Norrie. She's dancing with that bounder Carruthers."
They both looked at the dance floor where Lady Elinor Tremaine, the picture of innocence, was smiling up at her partner, whose lean face and dark eyes spoke of danger. He was smiling as well, looking down at her with almost wolfish hunger.
"What of it?" asked Pip.
"He's a bloody fortune hunter and a cad to boot. How could you introduce him to your sister?"
Pip frowned slightly. "He introduced himself, actually. Said he was a friend of yours."
Harry spoke through clenched teeth. "You idiot. That should have been enough to disqualify him. Where are your parents?"
"Dancing, I suppose."
Harry caught a glimpse of the Marquess and Marchioness of Penworth on the far side of the room, dancing gracefully and oblivious to everyone else. Turning back to find Carruthers and Lady Elinor again, he muttered an oath. "He's heading for the terrace." When Pip looked blank, Harry shook his head and charged across the dance floor.
* * *
Mr. Carruthers had timed it quite neatly, she thought. As the music ended and he twirled her into the final spin, they came to a halt just before the terrace doors. These were standing open, letting in the scent of roses on the breeze of the soft June evening.
"It is rather warm in here, Lady Elinor, is it not?" he said. "Would you care for a turn on the terrace?"
Before she could answer, a strong hand clasped her arm just above the elbow. "Lady Elinor, your mother wants you." When she turned to object to this high-handed treatment, she found herself staring up at the all-too-familiar scowl of Lord Tunbury. "Harry..." she started to protest.
"If Lady Elinor wishes to return to her parents, I will be delighted to escort her." Carruthers spoke frostily.
"Lady Penworth requested that I find her daughter." Harry's even icier tone indicated that there was nothing more to be said on the subject.
Lady Elinor looked back and forth between them and wanted to laugh. Carruthers was tall, dark, and handsome, or at least decorative, with a pretty bow-shaped mouth. Harry, equally tall, had broad shoulders and a powerful build. His square face was pleasant rather than handsome, his middling brown hair tended to flop over his middling brown eyes, and his wide mouth was more often than not stretched into a broad smile. Not just now, of course.
One would say the two men were not much alike, but at the moment they wore identical scowls. They did not actually bare their teeth and growl, but they were not far off. She could not manage to feel guilty about enjoying the sight. It was too delightful.
Carruthers stopped glaring at Harry long enough to look at her. He may have stopped scowling, but he was not smiling. He was stiff with anger. "Lady Elinor?" He offered his arm.
Harry's grip on her arm tightened and he pulled her back a step. His grip was growing painful, and she would have protested, but she feared it might create a scene not of her own designing, so she smiled. "Thank you, Mr. Carruthers, but if my mother sent Lord Tunbury, perhaps I should accept his escort."
Carruthers bowed stiffly and sent one more glare at the intruder before he departed. That left her free to turn furiously on Harry. "There is no way on earth my mother sent you to fetch me. What do you think you are doing?"
He caught her hand, trapped it on his arm, and began marching her away from the terrace. "I cannot imagine what possessed your parents to give you permission to dance with a loose fish like Carruthers."
"They didn't, of course. He at least had enough sense to wait until they had left me with Pip." Harry was dragging her along too quickly, and she was going to land on the floor in a minute. "You might slow down a bit," she complained.
"You little idiot!" He turned and glared at her but did ease his pace. "He was about to take you out on the terrace."
"Well, of course!" She gave an exasperated humph.
"What do you mean, ‘Of course'?" By now they had reached the end of the ballroom, and he pulled her into the hall and swung her around to the side so he could glare with some privacy.
She shook out her skirt and checked to make sure the pink silk rosettes pinning up the tulle overskirt had not been damaged while Harry was dragging her about. She was very fond of those rosettes. "I mean, of course he was going to take me out on the terrace. That's what he does. He takes a girl out on the terrace, leads her into one of the secluded parts, and kisses her. Marianne and Dora say he kisses very nicely, and I wanted to see if they were right."
Harry made a strangled sound. "Marianne and Dora? Miss Simmons and Miss Cooper...?"
"Among others." Lady Elinor waved a hand airily. "He's kissed so many of this year's debutantes that I was beginning to feel slighted, but I think perhaps he is working according to some sort of pattern. Do you know what it might be?"
He was looking at her with something approaching horror, rather the way her brother looked at her much of the time. "You and your friends discuss... What in God's name are young ladies thinking about these days?"
She shrugged. "Young men, of course. What did you suppose? That we discuss embroidery patterns? Don't you and your friends talk about women?"
He closed his eyes and muttered a prayer for patience. Then he began speaking with exaggerated formality. "Lady Elinor, under no circumstances are you to even dance with a rake like Carruthers, much less go into the garden with him. You have no idea what he would do."
"Fiddlesticks! I know precisely what he was going to do. He apparently has only two speeches that he uses to persuade a girl to let him kiss her, and I want to know which one he is going to use on me. Then I'll know if I am generally considered saucy or sweet."
"Norrie, no one who is at all acquainted with you would ever consider you sweet."
"Well, I should hope not. You know me better than that. But I want to know how I am viewed by the people who don't know me."
He grabbed her by the shoulders and turned her to face him. "Norrie, I want you to listen to me. A bounder like Carruthers will try to do far more than simply steal a kiss."
"I know that. You needn't treat me as if I am simpleminded. But I am hardly going to allow anything more."
"It is not a question of what you will allow. Just precisely how do you think you could stop him from taking advantage of you?"
She gave him a considering look and decided to answer honestly. "Well, there is the sharply raised knee to the groin or the forehead smashed against the nose, but the simplest, I have always found, is the hatpin."
"Hatpin?" Harry looked rather as if he were choking as he seized on the most innocuous part of her statement.
"Yes. It really doesn't matter where you stab. Gentlemen are always so startled that they jump back." She offered him a kindly smile. Sometimes he sounded just like her brother.
He went back to glaring at her. "Norrie, Lady Elinor, I want your word that there will be no strolls in the garden with disreputable rogues."
"Like you?" she interrupted.
"Yes, if you like, like me! Forget about rogues. You may not always recognize one. Just make it all men. You are not to leave the ballroom with any man at any time."
"The way we just left it?"
"Stop that, Norrie. I am serious."
He did indeed look serious. Quite fierce, in fact. So she subsided and resigned herself to listening.
"I want your promise," he said. "If you will not give it, I will have to warn your brother, and you know Pip. He might feel obliged to challenge anyone who tries to lead you into dark corners, and you know he is a hopeless shot. You don't want to get him killed, do you?"
He had calmed down enough to start smiling at her now, one of those patronizing, big-brother, I-know-better-than-you smiles. It was quite maddening, so she put on her shyly innocent look and smiled back. "Oh, Harry, you know I would never do anything that would cause real trouble."
"That's my girl." He took her arm to lead her back to the ballroom. "Hatpins indeed. Just don't let your mother find out you've heard about things like that."
She smiled. He really was quite sweet. And foolish. He had not even noticed that she gave him no promise. And then imagine warning her not to let her mother find out. Who did he suppose had taught her those tricks?
* * *
Tunbury hovered at the edge of the ballroom and watched Norrie hungrily. He had not seen her in more than a year, and then two months ago, there she had been. It was her first season, and somehow the tomboy who had been his and Pip's companion in all their games and pranks had turned into a beauty. Her dark hair now hung in shiny ringlets, framing the perfect oval of her face. Her eyes-they had always been that sort of greenish blue, shining with excitement more often than not, but when had they started to tilt at the edge that way? And when had her lashes grown so long and thick? Worst of all, when had she gone and grown a bosom?
But she was such an innocent.
She thought herself so worldly, so knowing, when in fact she knew nothing of the ugliness lurking beneath the surface, even in the ballrooms of the aristocracy. That ugliness should never be allowed to touch her. Her parents would protect her and find her a husband worthy of her, a good, decent man who came from a good, decent family.
Not someone like him. Not someone who came from a family as rotten as his. The Tremaines thought they knew about his parents, the Earl and Countess of Doncaster, but they knew only the common gossip. They did not know what Doncaster had told him, and he hoped they never would.
Yes, Norrie would find a husband worthy of her, but he couldn't stay here and watch. That would be too painful. He had to leave. He would leave in the morning and disappear from her life.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
I loved and enjoyed reading the wonderful, captivating and intriguing, romantic advanced reading copy that I received by Goodreads First Reads. Lady Elinor Tremaine's family invites Viscount Tunbury, Harry de Vaux, to go with them to Italy. Harry has been trying to avoid Elinor because of his family's scandal and his secret love for Elinor. Elinor has loved Harry for years and is frustrated that he only seems to see and treat her as a sister. In Italy, the Tremaine family see the Etruscan ruins and as Harry and Elinor discover hidden treasure and thievery, Harry and Elinor's feelings for each other cannot stay hidden. Read the highly recommended, wonderfully written, historical love story by the talented Lillian Marek.
This is the first romance novel I have read, and what a delightful introduction to the genre. The woman in the photo on the cover looks just like me. The description of the dress on the cover is similar to one of mine. Marek notes, "The ivory Pointe Duchesse lace on the wide bertha and trimming the sleeves was even more beautiful than she remembered, and the aquamarine silk played up the color of her eyes." (162) Joke..... not in my closet! Seriously though, I found the book great fun and a refreshing change from much of what I have read of late. Fifteen years ago I formed a book club that meets every other month. Thus, I have read quite of few books recently but nothing from this genre. While we have done some classics and non fiction, we tend to select relatively new novels. We are a group of women in our early seventies. We find much of the modern writing to be depressing, rude, gratuitous, and self indulgent. While several current authors do tell a good story, not too many have characters I like or would enjoy meeting. All too often they truly do represent our society today which is sadly more self absorbed and less generous than some earlier ones. Then along came Lillian Marek and her cast of gracious, kind, adventuresome, attractive characters. How wonderful! Of course, she included villains. Would not a book be dull without them? However, they don't take pleasure in eating their fellow humans, drinking their blood, or dismembering them either. They don't spend their days using drugs or fornicating with anyone or anything. They steal from and for others. That's about it. As explained about Marek the end of the book, "...she prefers fiction where the good guys win and the bad guys get what they deserve." (last page in the book, no page number) However, the novel does not focus on the bad guys but rather on the good ones, and that is part of what makes it so enjoyable. Lady Elinor is spunky, adventuresome, loyal, sexy, classy and, of course, beautiful. She is described as one who "...might have been taken for a bonbon, covered as she was with frill and ribbons...." (25) I'd love to actually meet her along with her compassionate, understanding and sophisticated parents. They could mentor a few parents I know today. The men in the novel are, for the most part, actual gentlemen who respect and honor women. What a lovely idea. How unusual in a book published today. For me (and others?) I need to care about the characters in a book. I want to be able to identify with them, to see myself, hopefully, in some of their better traits. I want them to be kind, loving and sensitive. I want them to show the best of a certain era, not the worst. Basically, I want to LIKE them! I like many of them in LADY ELINOR'S WICKED ADVENTURE. You will too. I promise. I encourage you to read this enchanting new book. You will not be disappointed. The author appears to have researched the Victorian era very well. The dialogue and expressions such as "ninny" (47), "cad" (2), "bounder" (5), "prig" (28), rake (5), numskull (124), rogues (6), jackanapes (295), drudge (312), or personage (322) are ones I have seen in the novels written at that time, the 1850's. The author seems to delight in the clothing and accessories, the "tourist" attractions of the time, and the lives of the upper classes in both England and Italy with a bit of France sprinkled about as well. I am certain she spent hours researching hair styles alone. Everything feels real, genuine and true to the period. The writing is masterful with exquisite sentences and images. For example, cannot you just picture these folks from the book? She writes, " Mr. Freeborn was as meticulously dressed as ever even more cadaverous next to his wife, a sweet dumpling of a woman with rosy cheeks and gray hair worn in a simple bun." (104) Wouldn't you like to meet them? And these are the minor characters. Can't you picture them in this room? "Far from flaking, the frescoes looked as fresh as the day they had been painted." (113) Or in this one, "The room itself suffered form a surfeit of things. So many chairs and small tables were crowded into the room that it had been difficult to navigate a route from the door to the marchese.....a danger that a careless elbow would knock over the velvet-covered tables topped with bibelots that flanked him." (240) Or how about the description of crossing the English Channel? Marek writes, "The Channel apparently took offense at such hubris. There was not a storm, precisely, but winds and tides and currents all decided to play a game of tag tossing the yacht about as if it were nothing more than a dinghy." (39) One almost becomes seasick just reading that. Ah, that I could write like that! Actually, I'd be happy if some of our more "popular" modern authors could. Bottom line: this is a wonderful read presenting interesting characters enjoying interesting lives. It is written without pornographic scenes, obscene language or gratuitous violence. What a refreshing change from much of our modern writing. My book club keeps asking its members to find a happy uplifting book that is well written with a sense of humor about people we actually like. Well, this is it -- our next book club selection. I cannot wait for Lillian's next novel. Good wishes, Julie Parmegiani
Lady Elinor’s Wicked Adventures by Lillian Marek my review Review Courtesy of April Hollingworth Set in the wonderful Victorian era with danger lurking around the corner, I found this to be a beautiful and elegant book. Throw in a feisty heroine and a dashing hero; it is a book to enjoy. The descriptions are stunning and send you back in time. Also you can’t help but love the characters, though granted you might feel like giving Harry a shake at times, but thankfully for him Elinor knows her mind. Opening Scene: London, 1852 Cheerful frivolity reigned in the ballroom of Huntingdon House. The Review: Harry has been in love with his best friend’s sister for years, but with his family’s history, he believes himself unworthy of the beautiful Elinor, yet the thought of her with anyone else is unbearable. Agreeing to accompany the Tremaine family to Italy to explore Etruscan ruins, wears on his intensions to stay away from the beautiful woman he’s always loved. Intrepid Lady Elinor is caught up in the Victorian fervor for exploring distant lands. Being thrown back into the company of her childhood friend Harry de Vaux, while treasure hunting, brings the startling revelation that she loves him. Now all she has to do is convince Harry to see her as the woman she is now instead of the child he once knew. But when a dangerous discovery leaves them fighting for their lives, will Harry finally admit how he feels or will he let his past haunt his present and destroy his chance of happiness, if they survive the dangers they face? Notable Scene: “You little idiot!” He turned and glared at her but did not ease his pace. “He was about to take you out on the terrace.” “Well, of course!” She gave an exasperated humph. “What do you mean, ‘Of course’?” By now they had reached the end of the ballroom, and he pulled her into the hall and swung her around to the side so he could glare with some privacy. She shook out her skirt and checked to make sure the pink silk rosettes pinning up the tulle overskirt had not been damaged while Harry was dragging her about. She was very fond of those rosettes. “I mean, of course he was going to take me out on the terrace. That’s what he does. He takes a girl out on the terrace, leads her into one of the secluded parts, and kisses her. Marianne and Dora say he kisses very nicely, and I wanted to see if they were right.” Harry made a strangled sound. “Marianne and Dora? Miss Simmons and Miss Cooper…?” “Among others.” Lady Elinor waved a hand airily. “He’s kissed so many of this year’s debutantes that I was beginning to feel slighted, but I think perhaps he is working according to some pattern. Do you know what it might be?” He was looking at her with something approaching horror, rather the way her brother looked at her much of the time. “You and your friends discuss… What in God’s name are young ladies thinking about these days?” She shrugged. “Young men, of course. What did you suppose? That we discuss embroidery patterns? Don’t you and your friends talk about women?” FTC Advisory: Sourcebooks Casablanca through Net Galley provided me with a copy of Lady Elinor’s Wicked Adventures by Lillian Marek. Published through Sourcebooks Casablanca. Kindle Edition. No goody bags, sponsorships, “material connections,” or bribes were exchanged for my review.
New to me author, debut novel and a ‘friends to lovers’ romance set against an archeological adventure in Italy during the Victorian period? Cue the excitement. I got some dashing surprises even beyond the enjoyment that I expected too. There was intrigue and oh lordy, there was humor- loads of humor. There were a few spots of melodrama, but on the whole it was a light, engaging read. The story opens with Harry deVaux, Viscount Tunbury, figuring out that the ragamuffin younger sister of his best friend, Pip, Viscount Rycote, had grown up. Elinor was vivacious, intelligent and beautiful- and he couldn't have her. Harry's parents were the talk of Society with the Earl's drinking and the Countess' open promiscuity. There was no way he would connect his bad blood to the lady and family he adored and who gave him the only happy years of his life showing him what real family was like. He will have to keep away now that his feelings have changed for Elinor, but Lady Penworth has other plans. She requests Harry's assistance and presence on a family holiday traveling to Italy to investigate Etruscan ruins that will help Lord Penworth let go the cares of dealing with government and politics. Lady Elinor Tremaine was thrilled that Harry had finally returned from his travels and would accompany her family on their European journey which is her first real adventure. She missed him and didn't realize until he was back why all those other gentlemen that came around never interested her. He was her childhood friend, but now she recognizes that her feelings for Harry have altered. If only she can get the oblivious Harry to stop treating her like a child. Elinor gets a bit of help from other interested parties even as she finds the adventures she was craving so long. Excitement, danger, and passion await the whole Tremaine family once they arrive in Italy. One of the surprises that hit me fairly early on was that this was not just Elinor and Harry's story regardless of the title and blurb. This is the story of Elinor's loveable and just a bit eccentric family from her parents’ ongoing mature love to Elinor and her brother's awakening love. Though it was a surprise, it was a very delightful one. In fact, if truth be known, I was more taken with the older couple much of the time. When the rest descended into melodrama, they were the voices of reason who loved their children and had patience with their foibles. Not that I didn't enjoy Elinor and Harry or even Pip and Lissandra, but they were young, impatient not always wise love in comparison. The main romantic pair had some passionate moments though they were just a bit spicy and mostly closed door on the details. I enjoyed the tension and romps leading up to the moment they get it figured out at least preliminarily. She's quite the spit fire and doesn't put up with his hang ups. It was amusing to see her sorting him out though I will confess that her leap from innocent virgin into sexy temptress during that first stolen night pushed past believable for me. I know its fiction, but no. Virgins from the Victorian era from a sheltered life don't whip their clothes off first and then grab the naked guy eagerly for intercourse which went like a charm of course. It niggled at me, but was just a small thing amongst a bunch of good things. There was a lot going on in this book to catch my interest and that needed resolution. Elinor's thirst for her own adventure and growing up a bit as she truly sees the worth of her own family as they show their strength of character while on the holiday adventure. Pip even shows that he is not as stuffy as Elinor labels him as he gets involved with a fiery Italian with connections to an old aristocratic family and to revolutionaries. Also, there was Harry's need to buck up and accept his past, to let it go while taking up his responsibilities to his family and his family's legacy. The suspenseful adventures presented to the family came from more than one direction. And of course all those romances. It was a lot, but I was still able to keep up even with the changing narrators. The plot got a bit loose at times and went more than one direction. But all in all, I love the promise of this one for a good beginning to the rest of a series. I think fans of lighter Historical Romance with just a pinch of spice to the romance and a strong authentic historical background would have a good time with this one. My thanks to Sourcebooks Casablanca for the opportunity to read this book in exchange for my honest review.