Baron Edward Christie prided himself on his reputation for even temperament and reserve. That was before he met Caroline Parker. Wedding a scandalous beauty by special license days after they met did not inspire respect for his sangfroid. Moving her to a notorious lovebirds' nest as punishment for her flighty nature was perhaps also a blow. And of course talk has gotten out of his irresistible clandestine visits. Christie must put his wife aside—if only he can get her out of his blood first.
Too hot to refuse. . .
Caroline Parker was prepared to hear the worst: that her husband had determined to divorce her, spare them both the torture of passion they can neither tame nor escape. But his plan is wickeder than any she's ever heard. Life as his wife is suffocating. But she cannot resist becoming her own husband's mistress. . .
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Mistress by Marriage
By Maggie Robinson
BRAVA BOOKSCopyright © 2011 Maggie Robinson
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Chapter OneHe had been the coldest man in England. They called him Frozen Frazier. How fitting it was for him to be encased in ice at the bottom of the alp. —The Count's Courtesan
"If you don't do something about your wife, we will." Edward looked at the two gentlemen, viscounts both, who had already helped themselves to his best conciliatory brandy. He knew as soon as he'd received Lord Pope's note he was in for it. Caroline had gone too far. But when hadn't she?
"It's libel. Or slander. I cannot remember which. But we'll sue you for every groat you've got, Christie, and the publisher too, unless you control that woman. We've got friends in high places."
Edward wore his impassive Christie face. His grandfather had been known for it. His father had been known for it. Now it was his turn. The house could be engulfed in flames, the ship sinking, the heart breaking, but a Christie was always cool and collected. He'd heard the sobriquet "Cold Christie" a time or two and wasn't offended. It suited him perfectly most of the time. "I have very little influence over Caroline. We've lived apart for years."
"But you keep a roof over her head and the clothes on her back!" Lord Douglass objected. It was rumored he was to appear in the much-anticipated The Senorita's Senor, and he wasn't clacking his castanets about it. His ex-mistress Victorina Castellano had apparently described Douglass's masculine equipment in an entirely unflattering but anatomically correct way.
Edward shook his head. "That's not precisely true. She earns enough to dispense with her allowance. My man of business tells me she hasn't touched much at all since she's been writing her books."
"Books! As if the trash she writes deserves such elevation. She's worse than the worst scandal sheet," Pope blustered. "Because of her my wife left me!"
"Surely the fact that you caned your mistress nearly to death had something to do with that," Edward murmured. He watched as Pope's fist clutched his brandy glass, expecting it to shatter at any moment. The fist or the glass, he wasn't sure which.
Each of the so-called gentlemen in Edward's library was the thinly-disguised villain in one of Caroline's wildly successful novels. He didn't read them himself, of course, could only reluctantly permit himself to imagine their lurid content, but his sister Beth gave him regular book reports on their irregular content. The slender books came out monthly, and Beth was amongst the first who lined up eagerly to buy them. Edward was quite sure Beth lived to torture him with every salacious revelation. But he couldn't throw his widowed sister out, as she was helping him raise his children. Not that either one of them was doing a particularly creditable job. The boys, and especially little Alice, were nearly as bad as when Caroline was their stepmother. Perhaps in some ways worse.
He'd made a dreadful mistake—just the one—and was paying for it every day. A dutiful son, when he was one and twenty he'd married the sweet seventeen-year-old girl his parents picked for him from her cradle. They were neighbors, grew up together. He'd liked her well enough. Alice had been raised to be his perfect wife. Her behavior was faultless, her conversation unexceptional, their lives organized. They'd been lucky with his heir Neddie, a honeymoon baby, and then two years later Jack came along. Little Alice didn't even remember her mother, and all three had needed a new one.
If he was honest, Edward had been lonely, too. Alice had been good company, soothing and steady. Then he laid eyes on Caroline Parker, glittering, glossy, and entirely unmotherly. Steady as a fault line. Soothing as a razor blade at one's throat.
It had been a disaster. Nearly every day of it, if not the nights. He and Caroline disagreed on the most fundamental things. She babbled incessantly at breakfast; he wanted nothing more than to be left alone with his toast and the Times. She encouraged the children to mischief—they'd gone through five governesses in the year she lived with them. And even though Caroline had indulged their every whim, the children hadn't really known what to make of her. She was nothing at all like his wife. She was nothing at all like anyone he'd ever known.
Now she was writing about lords and their ladybirds, books that were so—so—graphic they'd put a blush to a whore's cheek. Or at least that's what Beth said.
Edward put his glass down. It was June 14. He'd see Caroline tonight; it wasn't as if he had to make a special trip. It was their night to remember their last. "I'll speak to her. That's the best I can do. I hear most Jane Street gentlemen are flattered by her work."
Pope was crimson. "Well, we are not. She can't be allowed to destroy lives and champion those whores. Why, she's just a whore herself."
Edward's long fingers were suddenly wrapped around Pope's cravat, whose knot he inconveniently tightened. "I suggest you leave now, both of you. If I hear from my wife you have threatened her in any way, I shall do more than this." He shoved Pope down on his arse. He'd have to get the carpet cleaned tomorrow.
Hell and damnation. It wasn't as if Caroline needed the money to write such rubbish. He'd piled an enormous amount in her account the past five years. Guilt money. Guilt for asking such an unsuitable woman—a stranger—to marry him. Guilt for letting her down, because he couldn't, wouldn't, shouldn't have to change. Guilt for still wanting her as much as he ever had. Guilt, because unless one of them died, their lives were absolutely ruined by his single, mad, impulsive mistake.
He shouldn't go to her tonight. He could send a note, or simply not turn up at all. Perhaps she didn't even mark the date. Maybe she was still in the country with her sister. But no, he knew she'd been back for days, probably came back just to see him ...
Or have one of her damn tea parties, where the courtesans confessed. He really should warn Conover now that he had set up his mistress. But maybe Con wouldn't care if his tattoo turned up on some poor chump's shoulder in the next installment of the Courtesan Court series.
Edward picked up his glass, then set it down again. He needed to be clearheaded, though one minute with Caroline turned him into a prize idiot. In her company, the only head he thought with fought to get free of his breeches at the earliest opportunity.
It was time to discuss a bill of divorce. It would be criminally expensive, embarrassing, endless, and, if successful, a scandal even worse than the one they were living. But he had the letters, and right was on his side.
Or he could step in front of a fast-moving carriage.
Or go on as he was.
What he could not do was live with Caroline. That had been tried, and found wanting.
When she woke up, Caroline knew perfectly well what day it was and wished she'd never come back from her sister's home in the country. Not only had her garden completely gone to seed and weeds, but she'd pulled a muscle in her back trying to fix it which had made solid sleep the past few nights nearly impossible.
But Mary had been much too happy with her decorated major, who had been knighted for his frostbitten Canadian service to the Crown. Their twin boys and two daughters were the most adorable children on earth, their puppy well behaved, their small manor house charming. And Mary was pregnant again, swollen and beautiful. It had been three weeks of absolute, unadulterated, harmonious hell. Caroline thought she'd turn green with envy, and toward the end she could barely lift the corners of her lips to smile. Even her cat Harold had enough and coughed up an enormous hairball on Mary's new brocade settee.
She hated feeling this way, so base, so jealous. Her sister had endured dreadful hardships—blizzards, wild Indians, wars—and deserved every idyllic minute of her new life. Mary's husband Sir Jared was missing two toes and three fingers, for heaven's sake. How dare Caroline begrudge her sister the happiness that would never be hers?
So she'd plunged right into her Jane Street life when she came home, met her new neighbors, hosted her tea, and felt an enormous pit of emptiness, which would only get deeper when Edward came tonight. And he must come. If he didn't—
Well, she'd simply go on. Alone, alone, alone.
My, but she was being maudlin. Positively lachrymose. Lugubrious. Sepulchral. She spent much of her time with a dictionary handy trying to broaden her vocabulary for her novels. After all, one had a duty to educate one's readers.
How ironic that she, Queen of the Happy Ending, was stuck somewhere in the mucky middle of a never-ending tragedy. No, that wasn't right—it was a farce.
She would ask Edward to divorce her. He had the evidence; it was only his prickly, nearly-Parkerian pride that was holding them back from any sort of resolution. Then she might leave the Jane Street house and move where no one had ever heard of her or her novels.
Or she might become exactly what everyone thought her to be.
She doubted she could find a worthy man to sleep with her. Edward only seemed to do it for some sort of punishment. Whether he intended to punish himself or her, it had the same result. Caroline pulled the sheet over her face to block out the infernal sunshine, not at all ready to face the day or the night.
Her maid tapped timidly on the door, as she did every morning. Poor Lizzie had once been mistress of her own Jane Street house, until Lord Pope had scarred her body and scared her witless. Caroline had offered her protection, and done what she could to ensure that no other girl would fall victim to the appetites of Randolph Pope. Although she'd called him Randy Poop (quite juvenile of her, really), everyone in the ton and beyond now knew of the viscount's unnatural proclivities after they read The Vicious Viscount. He'd once had the audacity to come round to Number Seven, but Caroline had kneed him in his withered balls just as her brother Nicky had taught her to do, then poked him out the front door with her best parasol from the umbrella stand. It had not been nearly enough, but it had been a satisfying start.
"Good morning, Lizzie. How are you?"
"Just fine, Lady Christie. Will you be wanting your breakfast in bed?"
Caroline didn't want to step out of bed for a week, but she supposed she could laze away the day tomorrow, doing a postmortem on Edward's performance, reliving each glorious inch of his penile perfection. It simply wasn't fair that at forty, he was more handsome than he'd ever been, the dusting of silver at his temples so distinguished, the planes of his cheeks so sharp, his chin completely resistant to doubling. She had seen him standing ramrod straight on the street quite by accident four months ago, his head bare against the winter wind, his hazel eyes keenly fastened upon a very attractive fur-clad woman with whom he was conversing. Caroline had crossed the street and hidden in a tobacco shop until he kissed the woman on the cheek and walked away. She'd had to buy a box of Spanish cigars for her publisher to kill the time.
But what if there was no penile perfection to savor? Caroline had gained at least a stone this year, worrying over Lizzie, writing six books, untangling her girls from unwise entanglements, stewing in Surrey with her sister and her family. It was probable that Edward would not find her at all attractive, or even kiss her on the cheek.
Hell and damnation. She was crying over milk that hadn't even had a chance to spill yet. And anyway, she wanted a divorce. It wouldn't do to keep sleeping with a man who despised her and broke her heart every June 14.
"I'm up, I'm up," Caroline muttered. "Tell Mrs. Hazlett I'll be downstairs in an hour. Poached eggs, please. Toast, but no butter or jam."
Lizzie lifted a blond eyebrow. Her face was as fair as ever; Pope had at least spared her that.
"Oh, very well. Jam. And butter. But no bacon. And kippers are out of the question. I mean it."
Lizzie curtsied, grinning just a bit at her victory. "Very well, my lady. I'll bring up your washing water in a trice."
"Don't hurry. You know I'm working on my special project." Caroline stretched and reached for an old but exquisite Chinese robe embroidered with giant red poppies. Edward had hated it. It did not match her plain white muslin night rail, but she considered it her writing uniform. For the next forty-five minutes she sat at her desk and poured ink on the pages of the notebook she currently called Pride and Artifice. No doubt her publisher would want to change the title, but she thought it very clever, if a bit derivative. The hero, a widower with three children and an enormous sense of self-consequence, was soon to meet a shallow red-headed vixen who would change his life forever in one turn around a ballroom.
When she was done, she washed the ink off her fingers and face and went downstairs to eat. The rest of the morning was spent revising The Harlot's Husband, as her publisher wanted her to be more explicit. Caroline wasn't sure she could use all the naughty words he suggested, but she'd try.
After a light luncheon that she was too nervous to eat, she spent approximately four hours in a bathtub, scrubbing every nook and cranny, calling on Lizzie for more hot water and lotions to turn her into temptation incarnate. Her husband, that vexing man with an enormous sense of self-consequence, was coming for dinner.
Chapter TwoCamilla gazed up at the rigging, where the terrifyingly tall pirate blocked the scorching sun. "Drop to your death," she whispered. "May the winds blow and your brains be battered across the deck." —The Captain's Concubine
At first it had been for the sex and the anger, but for the last two years, Edward had arrived early enough for dinner. Caroline, for all her hoydenish ways, was a creature of habit. She always dined at eight if she was at home. Judging from the blaze of lights at Seven Jane Street as daylight was hours from waning, she was home. Candles were costly, but since Caroline had become a writing sensation, she spent her money without economization. Her money, not his. As he had told Douglass and Pope, she was nearly self-sufficient. Edward imagined it suited her pride to be as independent from him as possible, not having to beg for pin money. As far as he knew, she didn't gamble or entertain lavishly, unless one counted her weekly teas with the other residents on the street.
He had meant to punish her by setting her up on Jane Street—but how like Caroline to turn the punishment into pleasure, consorting with courtesans like some sort of fairy godmother. He should have known she would find a way to thwart him. She always did.
He passed muster with the two night security guards at the mouth of the little cul-de-sac, hired by the eleven men and one woman who owned the dozen houses to keep out gawkers and undesirables. Not that Caroline owned her house outright, but it was she who tended to the particulars of Jane Street residency. She was the queen of her little lane, and her female subjects adored her. Some of the gentlemen, as evinced by Pope and Douglass, were probably less enthusiastic.
There had been some trouble recently, and the guard duty had been doubled at the elaborate iron gate. Edward had stood in irritation as the two men poured over a list, finally satisfying themselves that Edward Christie was an approved, if rare, visitor.
Before his fist hit the door, Caroline's butler Hazlett opened it. Her staff was small, suitable for the little jewel box of a house: Hazlett, his wife who was the cook/housekeeper, an orphaned kitchen boy, and the poor maid whom Pope had beaten so savagely. Edward knew it only because he bribed Hazlett an enormous amount to keep him informed of Caroline's activities. His dustup with Pope that afternoon worried him, and he would be sure to warn Hazlett when he took his leave.
"Good evening, Lord Christie. You're expected." Hazlett took Edward's gloves and placed them carefully on the waxed credenza in the tiled hall. Edward hadn't worn a hat in years, no matter the weather, and the butler looked at his bare head with some disapproval. For a man who was employed on the most sinful street in London, Hazlett was an amusingly high stickler.
Excerpted from Mistress by Marriage by Maggie Robinson Copyright © 2011 by Maggie Robinson. Excerpted by permission of BRAVA BOOKS. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Redonk Nutshell: Husband who has banished his wife to "Courtesan Court" considers divorce despite their intense attraction I picked up this book (bundle, actually - these three books are currently available as an e-bundle) solely because of the buzz it generated via SmexyBooks, Smart B*tches Trashy Books, etc. I wan't sure what to expect, having never read anything by Maggie Robinson. Our story is about Edward Christie and Caroline Parker, spouses for several years, though living separately. Edward banished Caroline to a townhouse in the notorious "Courtesan Court" after discovering what he believed to be infidelity on her part. He visits her once a year to partake in his marital duties, then leaves her. Caroline is a vivacious beauty, a woman with a tumultuous past who has grown tired of her strained relationship with her estranged husband. They both agree that divorce would be best, though scandalous. The problem, however, is that they can't seem to shake their intense attraction from each other. Edward is cold and devoid of emotion while Caroline wears her heart on her sleeve. They drive each other to insanity, which ultimately ends up creating sparks in the bedroom. During the process to collect information in order to petition for divorce, Edward discovers information about his wife he'd never known, and his world suddenly shifts around him. He realizes, albeit too late, that he loves her and he wants desperately to keep her. He has only to convince Caroline, and unfortunately Caroline has her mind set against him. Okay. I had to adjust my expectations while reading. Some authors have a romantic way with words that weave an intricate and dreamy web of exposition. Other authors throw it out there, raw and unbridled. That latter is Maggie Robinson. There is little sugar coating in her tone, and once I got past that I found myself settling in just fine to watch the story unfold. Her main characters are complicated creatures. It's a lot of fun watching them struggle with the unwelcome attraction they each share toward the other. Edward's Achilles heel is his wife, and it drives him nuts. It's ultimately why he wants to rid himself of her. Caroline is just tired of being jerked around on his emotional chain, and she's finally at a point where she can admit to herself it's time to let it go. What really takes this sensual story the extra mile is the intricate ties our main characters have to each other. It goes beyond physical, and it takes the span of the story for our hero and heroine to realize it. It's lovely. What we get is a sensually charged story of two people at ends rediscovering each other. I enjoyed it. I look forward to checking out the other books in this series. Mistress by Marriage by Maggie Robinson, 352 pgs, Aug 2011 Rating: B Romance: 4/5 Raunch: 4/5
It was delightful to read a Regency era romance where the hero is 40 years old and the heroine is 31. The "opposites attract" love/hate relationship between staid and proper Barron Edward Christie and his outlandish and bold wife, Carolyn Parker, develops from lust to love in this well written novel. Both Edward and Carolyn are complex, imperfect, and engaging characters. Stubborn pride and unwillingness to compromise plague their relationship until Edward decides to get Carolyn "out of his system" by visiting her more often than their yearly anniversary tryst. This plan to treat his wife like a mistress backfires when the physical attraction between the two grows even more heated and the couple slowly begin to realize that there is more to the relationship than lust. Long held secrets and feelings are revealed slowly and trust builds between the two. The storyline is inventive and held my interest throughout. Tea parties with courtesans, writing Gothic romance novels, eluding a depraved peer of the realm, kidnapping one's own wife, sharing dark secrets of the past, and finally taking a good look at themselves and their individual behaviors makes this a very good read. I found the humorous internal dialog of both characters a very welcome touch and actually laughed out loud in several parts during the unfolding storyline. Carolyn's thoughts and worries about "middle age spread" and Edward's very creative lustful thoughts are hilarious. This romance has it all----humor, angst, dark secrets, good character development and inventive storyline.
When I started reading this book I was not too pleased with the hero. Edward Christie was overly serious, proper and quite cold. Deep down he was a passionate man but he felt it was not appropriate actually act on those feelings. He was a widower who loved his first wife but they had a very proper and businesslike marriage. Lady Caroline on the other hand is a very demonstrative passionate woman and feels she shouldn’t have to apologize for it. The marriage starts out very tumultuously and there are events that are referred to but not exactly explained in detail. After a year of tensions and unsuccessful attempts to try and change her and force her to fit the mold of the wife he feels is proper, he buys her a house in a part of the city where men keep their mistresses. They have a strange arrangement where they come together once a year on their anniversary. Lady Caroline is an author. She uses the information she gleans from her neighbors to write very risqué novels. She bases her villains on the people in the ton. Caroline uses her books to mete out punishments for bad behavior by people who would otherwise have things covered up. This has made her some very dangerous enemies because the descriptions and names she uses make it very clear who they are representing. The book begins after they have been married for quite some time. The tension between them is quite obvious and the book has quite a few twists. I thoroughly enjoyed this book. It was not just another romance. I appreciated that it had some very unique circumstances. Mistress by Marriage was a fun rollercoaster ride of secrets, betrayals, passion and love. Favorite Quote: What started as the merest brush of lips changed to devouring possession. Who possessed whom Edward wasn’t sure, for they took turns slating their lips over the other, their tongues tasting and tangling, their hands busy exploring. Reviewed by Patti. Book provided by publisher. Review originally posted @ Romancing the Book.
In Mistress by Marriage, Maggie Robinson put the sizzle on the page while allowing the reader to use their imagination. I truly enjoyed the struggle between Baron Edward Christie and his wife of 6 years, Caroline Parker Christie. Baron Christie has a reputation of being reserved and calm. He takes this reputation to extremes in all situations except with his red-headed wife, Caroline. She stirs irresistible lust in Christie's body that he can't control. Christie marries Caroline by special license only a week after they had met at a ball held by Lady Huntington. Within a year of that marriage he surprises Caroline on her birthday and finds her in a compromising situation with an old friend, Andrew Rossiter. Because of her supposed indiscretion, he moves her into a "love nest" house on Jane Street, where many of the influential ton kept their mistresses. Christie then visits Caroline every June 14 for sex and to inflict more anger on Caroline. The passion in this relationship flows both ways. Neither can control themselves. Christie believes that Caroline committed adultery and after five years has decided he will petition for a divorce. Caroline is prepared for this news and believes it is for the best since they can't seem to live together or stay away from one another. While this is mainly a romance, there is some suspense and mystery woven throughout the plot which only adds to the story line. The characters seem to react in believable ways in the many situations they are put into. In my opinion, this is a fabulously written suspenseful, mystery romance. I would definitely recommend it as a read for anyone that likes romance. Mistress by Marriage by Maggie Robinson was provided free of charge by Kensington Publishing for an honest review.
Great read if you liked His Lady Mistress you'll love this one!
Six years ago, prim and proper Baron Edward Chase, out of character, married Lady Caroline Christie within a week of their first meeting. One year later, angry with what he perceived her betrayal, he exiled his wife to Jane Street. Once a year on their anniversary date, over the next five years he visited her to make love with her; meanwhile she has become the popular author of the scathing exposé Courtesan Court gothics. Thus in 1820, Edward needs to flush out of his mind and body his constant lust for Caroline. He decides to make her His Mistress by Marriage as he assumes having her available 24/7 will lead to his tiring of her and ergo expunging her from hm. Caroline humiliated by her exile initially says no, but changes her mind and agrees to be his mistress-wife as she assumes he will divorce her soon so she can at least have something of value though she still wants him. The third Mistress Regency romance (see Mistress by Mistake and Mistress by Midnight) is a great historical starring powerful protagonists and a deep support cast. The story line is a fast-paced gender war with some intrigue caused by a humiliated debaucher who starred in one of Caroline's gothics. Readers will appreciate the amusing (extracts from the novels especially are jocular) battle between the staid spouse and his unconventional Mistress by Marriage wife. Harriet Klausner
Simply...superb. I thought, after finishing "Mistress By Mistake" I would be hard pressed to find another I liked as much. Well, I was mistaken. In "Mistress By Marriage" the Plot was great. The characters were delightful and the tension between the lovable Christies was "HOT"! I savored every word not wanting this delicious story to end. I was honored with an ARC of this book and will, on the first day of publication, purchase "Mistress By Marriage" for my E-book Collection. This is a definite reread and recomendation to those who love Historical Romance and Romance novels alike. You wont be disappointed.... What I wrote during my read; "Half way through and savoring every word! Scintillating read. Love the quotes before every chapter reminicent of "The Luxe" books. This is a GOOD one folks." "This book captivated me and drew me in from the Prologue. I can't put it down. It has the same fast paced, I wanna know what's gonna happen, feel as "Mistress by Mistake"."
I can't believe I wasted money on this book. The male lead was a cold, insensitive bully who didn't see any reason not to demean his wife. The female lead was a wimp who let him humiliate however he wanted. The love scenes were anything but, with no tenderness or warmth, and bordered on pornography. Neddless to say I'll never buy this author again.