Lady of Desire (Knight Miscellany Series #4)

Lady of Desire (Knight Miscellany Series #4)

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780804119740
Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
Publication date: 01/01/2003
Series: Knight Miscellany Series , #4
Edition description: Reissue
Pages: 432
Sales rank: 608,346
Product dimensions: 4.15(w) x 6.85(h) x 1.10(d)

About the Author

Bestselling author Gaelen Foley is a National Reader’s Choice Award winner, two-time winner of the Golden Leaf, and recipient of the Romantic Times Reviewer’s Choice Award for Best First Historical Romance. She lives in Pennsylvania with her husband and two spoiled bichons frises, where she is hard at work on her next novel in the Knight family series. Readers can write to her at P.O. Box 522, South Park, PA, 15129, or e-mail her via her Web site at www.gaelenfoley.com.

Read an Excerpt

London, 1816

The hackney coach rumbled under the arched stone passage and rolled to a halt in the torchlit innyard, but even before the driver could throw the brake, let alone descend to assist his solitary passenger, the door swung open and she jumped out—a tempestuous, tousle-headed eighteen-year-old with the fire of rebellion in her dark eyes.

Sans maid, sans chaperon, Lady Jacinda Knight thrust the carriage door shut behind her with a satis- fying slam. She turned, shrugged her leather satchel higher onto her shoulder, and passed a simmering glance over the galleried coaching inn with its double tier of white-painted balustrades as a pair of postboys dashed out to assist her.

“My luggage, please,” she ordered, heedless of them gawking at her slender figure wrapped in a ruby velvet redingote with rich sable fur at collar and cuffs. She paid the coachman, then marched across the cobbled yard, her guinea-gold corkscrew curls bouncing with her every determined stride.

At the threshold of the busy inn, she paused, warily scanning the motley assortment of bickering, rumpled travelers. A child squalled on his mother’s hip; plain, rustic-looking folk dozed on chairs and benches waiting for their stagecoaches to depart. A drunkard was making a nuisance of himself in one corner, while a beggar boy had crept in to escape the damp chill and huddled near the crackling hearth.

Lifting her chin a trifle self-consciously, she proceeded into the long room among what her count- less wellborn beaux would have called “the Great Unwashed.” She felt their stares following her, some rude, some merely curious. She noticed a man squinting at her feet as she passed and realized that beneath the long hem of her coat, her gold satin dancing slippers were visible.

She gave him a scowl that suggested he mind his own business and yanked the fur-trimmed hem over her toes. Doing her best to keep her feet tucked out of sight, she strode to the high wooden counter, where the booking agent sat ignoring the lobby’s chaos, safely hidden behind a crinkled copy of the London Times. Above him hung a chalkboard scrawled with a timetable of arrivals and departures, fares and destinations.

Jacinda tugged briskly at her gloves and hoped she looked like she knew what she was doing. “Yes, excuse me, I require passage to Dover.”

“Stage leaves at two,” he grunted without lowering his paper.

Her eyes widened at such rude, poor service. “You misapprehend me, sir. I wish to hire a post chaise.”

This got his attention, for only the wealthy could afford to hire the yellow-painted private carriages. He peered over his paper, then heaved up out of his chair and slouched over to attend her just as the two post-boys came laboring in under her hastily packed traveling trunks. The booking agent plucked his quill pen out of the inkpot and wiped his nose with ink-stained fingers. “Destination?”

“Dover,” she repeated crisply. “How soon can the chaise be made ready?”

He glanced over his shoulder at the dusty wall-clock, then shrugged. “Twenty minutes.”

“I shall want four horses and two postilions.”

“It’ll cost ye extra.”

“It does not signify.” Absently pulling her small leather money purse out of her satchel, she hurried to tip the postboys.

The booking agent’s eyes glazed over as he stared at her purse, plump with gold guineas and bright silver crowns and shillings. His quill pen hovered over the blank waybill, his whole demeanor improving at once. “Ahem, my lady’s name?”

“Smith,” she lied evenly. “Miss. Jane. Smith.”

He glanced around for her chaperon, footman, or maid, of which, for once in her life, praise heaven, she had none. He raised his scraggly eyebrows. “Will Miss Smith be traveling alone, then?”

She lifted her chin a notch. “Quite so.”

His dubious look alarmed her. Holding his gaze like a seasoned gamester, Jacinda slid a few coins across his desk. Pursing his mouth, he pocketed them with no further questions, and she breathed a sigh of relief. Then the booking agent entered her alias in his logbook and copied it onto the waybill. This done, he pointed with his quill pen to her two traveling trunks piled behind her. “That all your baggage, Miss, er, Smith?”

She nodded, laying her gloved hand oh-so-casually over the gilt-tooled coat of arms emblazoned near the clasp. Hiding her family crest from his view, she waited until he bent his head again to continue filling out the waybill, for if he saw it, she knew that no bribe would be sufficient to dissuade him from sending back to Almack’s for her tribe of formidable elder brothers, who would come rushing to drag her home in a trice. Aiding and abetting her escape, after all, was akin to crossing all five of the Knight brothers, a blunder no man in the realm dared make; but Jacinda refused to be thwarted. She was going to Dover and thence to Calais, and no one was going to stop her.

Soon the booking agent had collected her payment and had sent the lads out to ready the chaise. While they bore her trunks away to be loaded into the boot, she paced restlessly in the lobby, nearly jumping out of her skin each time the tinny horn blew, announcing another stagecoach’s arrival or departure.

Since she had a bit of a wait, she sat down on the bench by the wall beneath the candle-branch. Loosening the ribbons of her bonnet, she reached into her satchel and pulled out her beloved, well-worn copy of Lord Byron’s The Corsair to read a bit while she waited. She tried to lose herself in the romance of the dashing outlaw, but she could not concentrate with the excitement of her adventure racing through her veins.

Nervously, she checked her travel documents one more time, securely tucked between the pages of the book, while memories of her Continental tour danced through her head. Two years ago, her straitlaced eldest brother and main guardian, Robert, the duke of Hawkscliffe, had been assigned to the British delegation at the Congress of Vienna. He had taken his wife, Bel; Jacinda; and her companion, Lizzie, with him on the trip to enjoy the lavish festivities celebrating the end of the war. With Napoleon locked away at last, it had been safe again to tour the Continent. Robert had led them on a roundabout course to the Austrian capital, visiting some of the most important and beautiful cities of Europe along the way—and at each one, a whole new crop of charming young gentlemen to flirt with, she thought in wicked pleasure. What fun it had been—though blind Cupid, devil take him, had continually missed her heart with his golden arrows. Of all the places she had seen, Paris, the city her mother had loved, had been holy ground to Jacinda.

Soon, she thought dreamily, she would be in Paris again, among her mother’s glamorous friends of the decimated French aristocracy. At last, she would be free. By heaven, she would not stay here and be forced to marry Lord Griffith, no matter how perfect he was or how advantageous the match, for their families’ lands adjoined each other in the northern wilds of Cumberland; no matter, even, that he was the only man her brothers unanimously trusted to become her husband, their friend from boyhood days and on through Eton and Oxford.

A handsome, sophisticated man of nearly forty, Ian Prescott, the marquess of Griffith, was possessed of a cool, steady temperament that was just the thing, her brothers had decided, to balance her “youthful passions” and “headstrong ways.” For his part, Ian was tranquilly prepared to marry her whenever she was deemed ready and willing, but Jacinda refused to be given in holy matrimony to one who was not her love, not her soul mate, but a man she thought of as an extra brother—yet another skilled, patient guardian who would gently tell her what to do, make all her decisions for her, try to buy her obedience with expensive baubles, and treat her like a pretty little fool.

Tonight at Almack’s, in the hopes that it was the one place she would not dare make a scene, Robert had told her that after her recent bit of mischief at Ascot, the much-anticipated match between their two powerful families must no longer be delayed. The negotiations for her marriage settlement were almost finished, he had said, and tomorrow they would set the wedding date. She had been nothing less than shocked.

The problem with her brothers was that they were a hundred times too protective and could not take a joke where she was concerned. It had been nothing but harmless fun, that day at the horse races, she thought innocently.

Informed of her fate, however, she had instantly realized drastic action was in order. There was no reasoning with Robert when he got that holier-than-thou look in his eyes. His wrathful gaze and rum- bling tone had reminded her afresh that he was not merely the starchy, lovable eldest brother whom she had cheerfully tormented throughout her childhood; he was also one of the most powerful men in England, an imperious, august personage whom even the prince regent found intimidating. So, she had slipped out of Almack’s; run all the way home; hastily packed her things; and whistled for the first hackney that came rolling down St. James’s Street around the corner from her home, the imposing Knight House on Green Park.

“Spare a penny, m’um?”

Startled out of her thoughts by a small, timid voice, she looked up from her traveling documents and instantly suffered a pang of compassion. Before her stood the bedraggled street urchin who, earlier, had been crouching by the hearth fire. The child stared at her imploringly, his small, grimy hand held out in hopeful expectation. He looked about nine years old. His puppy-dog eyes were huge and brown, his little face smudged with dirt. His filthy clothes, little more than rags, hung off of his bony frame like a scarecrow’s. His grimy feet were bare. Her heart clenched.

Poor, miserable pup.

“Please, m’um?” The pitiful thing shivered and sent a furtive glance over his shoulder at the booking agent, as though afraid of being noticed and thrown off the premises.

“Of course, my dear,” she murmured tenderly, opening her satchel at once. She pulled out her embarrassingly fat change purse and picked out three shiny gold guineas—then a fourth. It was as much as she could spare with the long and costly journey to France ahead of her.

The boy stared, wide-eyed, at the small fortune of gleaming coins, but made no move to take it, as though he didn’t dare.

Her gaze softened at his mistrust. Clearly, the child had known little of kindness. Loosely holding her money purse in her left hand, she held out her right, offering him the coins. “Go on, take it,” she coaxed gently, “it’s all right—”

Suddenly his grubby hand shot out and snatched her money purse. He bolted off across the lobby in an instant, her coin purse clutched tightly to his chest. Her jaw dropped. For a second, she could only stand there in shock, left holding nothing but the four gold coins she had meant to give to him. Sheer outrage exploded through her veins.

“Stop, thief!”

Nobody paid her the slightest attention, and it was altogether possible that this shocked her even more than the theft.

Her eyes narrowed to blazing slashes. “Right!” she muttered under her breath. Slinging her satchel over her shoulder lest it be stolen, too, she dashed out after the little pilferer herself. A moment later, she burst out into the clammy April night and saw the boy pounding across the sprawling innyard.

“You, sirrah! Stop this instant!”

She heard a trail of triumphant laughter as the scamp flashed out of sight around the corner of the inn- yard’s enclosing wall. He was as quick as a cat, apparently accustomed to fleeing for his life. She picked up her skirts and raced after him over the dewy cobbles, but she might as well have been barefoot, for her dancing slippers were instantly soaked and torn.

Her untied bonnet fell off and went tumbling down her back. She left it where it lay and flung around the high brick wall. There was a fortune in that purse. Without it, her plans were a shambles.

She saw him racing up Drury Lane. “Come back here, you little savage!” Dodging an arriving stagecoach, she kept her gaze fixed on the child, pouring on all the speed she could rally, her satchel bumping against her side.

Insolent as brass, the pickpocket glanced over his shoulder and saw her gaining on him. Taking evasive action, he ducked into a dingy side street, but Jacinda would not be shaken, heedlessly following him deeper and deeper into a maze of dark lanes and cramped, twisting alleyways, for it was a matter of pride now. She would not be gulled and robbed blind by a mere street arab. Not after the night she was having.

Giving chase with the same stubborn determination that had earned her a reputation as a sportswoman of superior skill at riding to the hounds, she ignored each pounding jolt to her knees and hollered after him again like a fishmonger’s wife, her breath beginning to strain against her light stays. “Don’t you know you could be hanged for this, you little heathen?”

He ignored her, weaving nimbly through a series of narrow, twisting passageways into the seedy back alleys toward Covent Garden Market. Here piles of litter crawling with rats lined the cramped brick walls, but Jacinda barely noticed them, all her focus trained on her wily quarry.

Malnourished as he was, the boy soon began to tire. Urged on by imminent victory, Jacinda poured on a fresh burst of speed, her fingertips grazing him. He glanced wildly over his shoulder. Surging forward, she caught him suddenly, seizing the back of his filthy coat collar.

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Lady of Desire (Knight Miscellany Series #4) 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 65 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Jacinda Knight has suffered the protection of her five overbearing brothers her whole life. When she is informed by the eldest, Robert Knight (from The Duke) that she is be wed to a family friend she makes the decision to run away to Paris and become a woman of her own means. But her plans are foiled when she is pickpocketed. She chases the scrawny urchin through the city and winds up in the slums of St. Giles Rookery. She finds herself in the midst of a gang war between The Firehawks and The Jackals. It is here that she meets Billy Blade. They share one stormy kiss before Billy returns her to her brother Lucien Knight (from Lord of Fire). Billy is not at all what he seems. He hides a terrifying past. As a child, and the son of a Marquess, Billy suffered terrible abuse at the hands of his father. At the age of thirteen he runs away from home and decides to make a new life for himself in the fast paced city of London. Over the years Billy builds up a reputation for being the protector of the weak in the Rookery. His gang, the Firehawks, work to fend off a dangerous rival gang, the Jackals. One night, while attempting to break into an aristocrat's home, Billy and his men are arrested and thrown into prison. The only possible way to avoid the noose is for Billy to use his influence as the son of a Marquess to save both his neck, and those of his friends. With his secret identity revealed Billy, Lord Rackford, is forced back into the life he loathes, that of the ton. It is here that he is reunited with Lady Jacinda, whose wanton kisses he has never been able to forget. If you've never read anything by Gaelen Foley before you'll definitely enjoy this book. However, if you have read the other books from the Knight Miscellany odds are you will find yourself disappointed. I certainly did. Billy Blade started out as a shockingly exciting rogue that had me swooooooooning, absolutely FANTASTIC! However, the fantasy does not last. Upon his return to society Lady Jacinda seeks to 'civilize' him. In the process of schooling him in the ways of etiquette Jacinda turns him into a '...damned dancing bear...' I was outraged with Foley. Billy Blade was a fascinating character, whereas Lord Rackford is completely whipped by Jacinda. In my opinion, this book is the weakest of the Knight Miscellany. But this series is beyond wonderful so in truth, Lady of Desire is not that terrible of a book. It has its entertaining moments but in comparison to her other work I found it decidedly lacking.
theshadowknows on LibraryThing 21 days ago
This story is mostly about our hero the Earl of Rackford, who, under the alias "Billy Blade," is first introduced as a robin hood-esque gang leader. I appreciate the author's efforts to depict a side of regency London counterpoint to the luxury and wealth of the aristocracy, but the overall execution of this depiction doesn't esure the makings of a great story. The first half of the book is an improbable tale of swashbuckling gang fights, runaway heiresses, and mad capers through the seedy underbelly of London - personally I found it rather hard to buy. The second half finds Billy restored to his inheritance and grapling with his nightmarish childhood. He is reintroduced to society and determined to have Lady Jacinda Knight for his own. As for Jacinda, she's supposed to be rebellious and feisty, and we first meet her running away from home because her mean brothers are forcing her into a loveless marriage. She generally behaves like a brainless child and doesn't improve much as the story progresses. Rackford was pretty interesting, (despite his rather ridiculous moniker,) but he was unevenly matched with Jacinda and in the end couldn't carry the story on his own. I mostly picked this up because I loved the Duke (the first in this series) so much, but I was disappointed with this fourth installment of the Knight Miscellany.
onyx95 on LibraryThing 21 days ago
Growing up under the `protection¿ of five older brothers, the thought of marriage to another man that felt like a brother was out of the question for Lady Jacinda Knight. Running away to France was the only solution that she could come up with, until she ran into trouble, got her money pouch stolen and witnessed a brutal beating and death of a man in the back alleys of London. Finding her hiding in a garbage pile and scared to death, Billy Blade soon realized she was not a normal `Jane Smith¿ but a lady who didn¿t belong in the shadowed alleys with the thieves. Shocked to find out who she was, Billy had no choice but to take her home and admit to her intimidating brothers that he had kissed her, before realizing who she was. Big brother that he was, Lucien informed Billy never to see her again unless he was willing to admit and accept his past and himself as Lord Rackford, William Spencer Albright, the future Marques of Truro.Book 4 ¿.. London 1816, is a very different time, and yet Gaelen Foley has the ability to write these brash, unusual characters that keep with the era, the dignity and the stringent rules of decorum is amazing. I liked Billy Blade from the start (having actually first met him in `Lord of Ice¿) and was happy that Lady Jacinda had a spunky side to match him. While there are a few fighting scenes and some harsh memories, the bulk of the story revolves around the tough street kid (Billy Blade) dealing with his own self doubt because of his abusive father. Makes for a great character - to show such strength as leader of the street gang and then to show how each of his decisions has effected him since he was a young man. Great to also see Robert (who has the best line in the book - ¿Ahem. How shall I say?¿ ¿..) and a little bit of Lucien and their ladies. I will be looking for the next of the Knight Miscellany (Devil Takes a Bride).
aromagik on LibraryThing 21 days ago
Gaelen Foley always writes books that touch my heart. Don't miss this one.
lina_em on LibraryThing 21 days ago
billy is one of london's notorious gang leader fighting for th poor. when he meets jacinda on the run from a marriage she does not want, he is taken by her beauty. of course, she's a lady and he's a street urchin. little does she know that he's actually the long lost second son of lord rackford. when he is caught in a robber, he must save his men by becoming the earl after his brother died. now that he's a lord, he plays into jacinda's world, courting her only to be thwarted by her need for freedom. this was funny and light-hearted. the ending is worth reading.
mom2lnb on LibraryThing 21 days ago
With Lady of Desire, Gaelen Foley has racked up another solid story in the Knight Miscellany series. From what I can tell so far, Ms. Foley seems to be an author who is consistently good. Her attention to history and details really help to bring her stories vividly to life. I really enjoy her exploration of topics outside the social aspects of the ton, which deftly bring to life the more realistic side of life in that era. Her descriptions of life in the rookery and some of the social and political issues of the time give voice to a different segment of the population, as well as a stark reminder that unfortunately some things never really change. However, in spite of my appreciation for the author's strong writing style, I found the storytelling in Lady of Desire was not quite as much to my liking as its predecessors in the series. The story got off to an explosive start, but then seemed to loose some steam especially through the middle, and while the ending satisfactorily wrapped everything up, I felt that it was a little too simplistic. I realize that when a person believes that death is imminent, they can do some rather unusual and extraordinary things, but ultimately, Billy's ready forgiveness of his father for a lifetime of hurt and abuse, just didn't quite ring true to me. Billy had felt thoroughly unloved and unlovable all his life, and to have just a few words be able erase all that, was a bit too easy in my opinion. I did like Billy's realization that even the bad things in life can bring about good if we let them, but again, I felt like his revelation came about a bit too quickly with no real introspection to show how he came to that conclusion. I was also a little disappointed that Lady of Desire, like it's predecessor, Lord of Ice, was somewhat light on the actual romance. There were just so many things going on in the story that I thought the plot itself in many ways overshadowed the relationship development. At times it felt like a historical novel with romance in it rather than just a romance, but readers who have a preference for that sort of thing should really enjoy this book.I had been extremely intrigued by Billy when he made his first appearance in Lord of Ice. For a thief lord, he was very charming with an air of danger about him that was very appealing. I was immediately certain that he would play a significant role in a future book(s), and was pleasantly surprised when I discovered that he would be the hero of this story. I loved Billy's early scenes with Jacinda in the rookery. I was instantly mesmerized by his scrumptious bad boy looks and persona as well as his Robin Hood style of robbing the rich to give to the poor, but when he took up his rightful title as Lord Rackford, I felt like he changed a little too much, loosing that aura of mystery and danger. At one point, Jacinda muses about how she has truly made a gentleman out of Billy, but it was a pity because she ¿rather liked him as a heathen,¿ which is exactly how I felt. I did enjoy the scenes where he sneaks back to the rookery though. His sly, cunning scheme to exact revenge on his former gang rivals had me grinning from ear to ear. Typically I would feel a great deal of sympathy for a hero with a past as tortured as Billy's, and although I did to some degree, it wasn't as strong as with some other characters of this type that I've read. I think this was because Billy was an extremely intense alpha who rarely allowed himself to be vulnerable. Even in those infrequent moments when he let his guard down a little, I couldn't help but feel that he was still holding something back. I suppose this was understandable given his past abuse and harsh life in the rookery, but in the end, not wholly satisfying to me. All in all, Billy was a very interesting hero, just not my favorite kind, but again readers who enjoy this type of character should really like Billy.Jacinda was a strong heroine who was a cr
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