Ever since a gossip sheet revealed the details of her extensive dowry, Princess Anna Tarasova has been overrun by fortune-hunting lords. When her childhood sweetheart mysteriously appears in London and asks to court her, it seems too good to be true.
For Captain Mikhail Abromovich, who is both soldier and spy, being chosen to represent Russia in secret negotiations with Britain should be the assignment of a lifetime. The terrible part is that he's certain Anna won't believe his love real once his deception is uncovered and that's one risk he isn't willing to take...
Each book in the It's in His Kiss series is a standalone, full-length story that can be enjoyed out of order.
Book #1 Just a Kiss
Book #2 One Last Kiss
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One Last Kiss
It's In His Kiss, Book 2
By Ally Broadfield, Robin Haseltine
Entangled Publishing, LLCCopyright © 2016 Ally Broadfield
All rights reserved.
London, March 1812
A knock sounded at the front door. Not again. Princess Anna Tarasova's chest tightened as she waited for Bentley's laborious footsteps to shuffle past before rushing to the window. There had been a constant stream of callers every day for months, with no end in sight. Though the front stoop wasn't visible from the parlor, she hoped she might catch a glimpse of a carriage or a servant in livery or some other clue to the identity of the caller. No matter how hard she pressed her forehead to the glass, she couldn't see anything useful. No carriage, no servant in livery. Nothing.
"Marya, quick. Go out and fetch me something so you can attempt to identify our visitor."
Her maid sighed and, after setting down her mending, headed for the door. "How much longer can we expect this rush of suitors to last?" Marya had started out as her nurse, but as Anna and her sister grew, she couldn't bear to leave them, so she had gradually become their lady's maid and protector.
"I'm sure I have no idea." Anna plopped down on the settee, picked up her knitting, and tried to focus on the scarf she was making for the orphans their parish church supported. Surely the odds were in her favor that at least one of her new admirers would suit. Her luck had to turn sometime.
Marya returned almost immediately, holding Anna's shawl.
Her heart thumped against her ribs. "Well?" she asked, dropping all pretense of disinterest.
"I don't know. I think I've seen him before, but I don't recall his name. Bentley showed him to His Grace's study."
Unable to stay seated a moment longer, Anna stood and rushed to the door, listening for any sign of activity. "Go make sure no one is about. I'll have to get close enough to hear his voice if I am to determine who it is."
"That's a dreadful idea. I'm certain your uncle will let you know as soon as whoever it is leaves."
"You know I'm too impatient to wait that long. Please?" She took Marya's hand and looked into her eyes, knowing Marya would never refuse her. Waiting had never been her forte, and she had already wasted enough time on false hope.
Marya's lips curved downward, showing the weight of her disapproval. "Very well, but I leave it up to you to come up with an excuse if we are caught."
Anna listened at the door as Marya's footsteps trailed off, then became louder again. She stepped back just before the door swung open.
"No one is about, but that could change at any moment. Do hurry. I'll keep watch."
Smiling her thanks, Anna tiptoed down the corridor toward Uncle Henry's study. She glanced around one last time before shamelessly pressing her ear against the smooth plane of the door. Uncle Henry's voice was barely discernible through the thick wood.
"Sunderland, I grant you permission to court my niece, but please understand that she has the consent of both myself and her father to choose her own husband. My permission does not guarantee her acquiescence."
Biting back a sigh, Anna turned away from the door and drifted back to the parlor. Sunderland. She would not enjoy refusing his proposal. He was a perfectly pleasant man, moderately good looking, and reasonably proficient at maintaining a conversation on the dance floor. Refusing Ravensdale's overbearing attentions had been her pleasure, but Sunderland was rather desperate to hold onto his properties and needed to marry someone with a sizable dowry to accomplish that. She hoped he had other prospects lined up, because with his family's history of financial mismanagement, she wasn't about to trust him with the control of her properties. Or rather, she wasn't about to give his philandering father access to her wealth. Certainly, she recognized how fortunate she was to be wealthy in her own right, but she didn't think it was too much to ask to marry someone who valued her more than her net worth.
Marya had returned to her mending, and Anna once again attempted to knit. Her stomach clenched. She would eventually have to accept a marriage proposal, but she had yet to be introduced to any man who was worth the risk of having to cede control of her estate. She was not that desperate to marry. Yet.
The door creaked open and Uncle Henry entered. "That makes eight this week." He dropped heavily next to Anna on the settee and ran his fingers through his already disheveled hair. "You've another suitor to add to your list, Anna. I have half a mind to hunt down that Lady Nonpareil who wrote the gossip sheet with the terms of your dowry. Or better yet, the person who gave her the information. The entire household has been in chaos for more than two months, and the list of gentlemen clamoring for your hand continues to grow."
Anna kept her eyes trained on the scarf. "I think we both know that would be a useless endeavor."
"More than likely, but it would give me great satisfaction." He patted her hand. "Don't you want to know who your new suitor is?"
She couldn't very well tell him she already knew. "Of course."
"Sunderland. He's not a bad sort, but his father is. You are a logical choice for him."
Anna set down her knitting and tilted her head toward the ceiling. Feigning interest in the mural, she said, "I've always dreamed of landing the perfect match based upon financial necessity."
Uncle Henry shrugged. "You can't blame him for trying."
"I suppose not." She clasped her hands together. "However am I to handle the ball tonight? We will be overrun. Perhaps you should start withholding your consent."
"On what grounds? Much like the terms of your dowry, I'm certain it's already quite well known that you have free rein to choose a husband."
Anna raised a brow. "But your refusal would narrow my prospects."
He bit back a smile. "So you want me to be considered a killjoy instead of you."
Anna and her sister, Natalya, had been in England for nearly two years, ever since her father decided it was inevitable that Napoleon would attempt to conquer Russia. He insisted they go to stay with their aunt and uncle before troop movements made it impossible for them to complete the journey. It was likely also his solution to ease them out of mourning following the death of their mother.
The door creaked open again, and her sister appeared. "You could allow me to attend the ball. Surely some of Anna's suitors will be interested in me once they realize she has no intention of marrying them."
"Natalya. You must stop eavesdropping. I cannot imagine where you learned that wicked habit." Uncle Henry shook his head.
Anna met Natalya's eyes and bit her lip to prevent a laugh from escaping.
"I'm sorry, Uncle Henry, but truly, now would be the perfect time for me to come out. There is no shortage of suitors."
"Managing your sister is already more than I can handle. Besides, I thought we all agreed you would not make your debut until Anna is married."
Natalya focused her gaze on the Aubusson carpet and pushed at the fringe with her foot. "You and Aunt Sarah and Anna agreed. I was not consulted."
He nodded. "That is as it should be. You are barely sixteen."
Her lips tightened. "I shall be seventeen next month. What if Anna never chooses anyone? Then where will I be? I shall be labeled a spinster before I even come out."
Uncle Henry rose and strode to her, taking her hands in his. "I'm sorry, poppet. I must ask you to endure for a bit longer. After all, patience is a virtue that will aid you well in life."
Natalya raised her brows. "I certainly hope so. Otherwise I've already wasted an exorbitant amount of time."
Anna quashed the smile threatening to form on her lips. "Natalya, will you help me choose a dress for the ball? Perhaps if you help me look especially enticing, I shall discover the man of my dreams tonight."
Natalya shrugged. "I suppose it's worth a try."
"Thank you for the vote of confidence."
A knock sounded at the door and Bentley entered. "Your Grace, are you at home for Lord Shelby?"
Uncle Henry took a deep breath. "I suppose so. There's no point in putting him off. He'll only come back later."
Natalya dashed out the door and waved for Anna to follow her. She put a hand to her unsteady stomach and let the smile fade from her face as Natalya bounded up the stairs. The entire process would have been more agreeable if even one of her suitors had taken the time to get to know her at least a little before applying to her uncle for permission to court her. How would she ever find someone who wanted her for more than her dowry now that someone had revealed the details of it to Lady Nonpareil? And if she did find such a man, would he be agreeable to her maintaining control of her inheritance? If only her mother was around to guide her. She missed her more than ever.
* * *
"So you're not really a princess?" George Caldwell asked as they waited for the dance to begin.
Anna stiffened. She had already agreed to dance the minuet with him and there was no polite way to rescind. Surely he could not be as terrible as her friend Charlotte, Lady Marley, had warned.
"No, I assure you my title is legitimate. In Russia, the children of the emperor are titled grand duke or grand duchess. As a cousin of the tsar, I am a princess."
"How odd." He waved a hand in dismissal. "Then again, you Russians have a strange way with names as well."
"I beg your pardon." Really, he was too much. The epitome of English pomposity. And she was half English. She had never been more grateful for her training in deportment. Her mother's dear voice echoed in her head. A princess never shows undue emotion. You must learn to school your features.
"Princess Anna Feodorovna Tarasova is quite a lot to remember. Why is it necessary to use your middle name?"
Anna refrained from rolling her eyes. Aunt Sarah would not approve, even when Anna was so egregiously provoked by Mr. Caldwell. "Our middle names are patronymics."
"Pardon my ignorance, but what is a patronymic?"
There was not enough polite intent in the world to pardon Mr. Caldwell's ignorance. Anna bit back a sigh and pasted a smile on her face. "My middle name is derived from the name of my father. It shows respect for one's ancestors."
"If you say so."
Anna was never more pleased to reach the end of a dance. Next up was a country dance with Monsieur de Bonnaire, a deposed French loyalist. Though she didn't know him well, there was a sort of kinship between them since they were both in London to avoid the machinations of the war. Since she did not see him in the ballroom, she strode to the refreshment table and sipped lemonade to quench her thirst. He appeared just as the musicians returned for the next set.
"Good evening, Your Highness." Monsieur de Bonnaire bowed over her hand. She set her glass on a tray and allowed him to escort her back to the dance floor. The fact that he wasn't one of the many men clamoring for her dowry put her at ease with him. Though his future was as uncertain as hers until the war ended, he had never expressed any worry about his finances.
While they waited for the music to begin, he asked, "Do you have any new information from St. Petersburg?"
"I'm afraid not. All is well at home, though as I've mentioned before, my father believes that Napoleon will soon attack Russia. It has been reported that he is displeased by Emperor Alexander's refusal to join his blockade of England."
Bonnaire nodded. "Yes, I can see why that would be upsetting for him. He has little chance of conquering Britain if he does not succeed with the blockade. Have you received any indication that Russia might ally with England? That sort of alliance could be the answer to both of us finally being able to go home."
The music began to play, and Anna held her answer as she moved away. When she came back to him, she said, "No, I have not heard anything of the sort, but remember that my father is retired from diplomatic service, and even if he weren't, he would certainly never share such a thing in a letter."
"Yes, of course. How silly of me." He shot her a smile.
The dance required them to part again, but when she returned to her partner, she asked, "Have you any news from home?"
He shook his head. "No, and I haven't had any success in locating my cousin, my only remaining relative."
Anna frowned. She couldn't imagine what it would be like if Russia had been torn apart in the same way France had been. "Do not lose hope, Monsieur de Bonnaire."
"Thank you for your kindness, Your Highness." The music came to an end and he led her toward the refreshment table, where her next partner, Lord Ashdown, was to meet her. Her closest friend, Charlotte, and her husband, Sebastian, the Earl of Marley, had hoped she and Ashdown would form an attachment, but as fond as she was of him, there was no special attraction between them. In fact, though she'd received several offers, she had yet to feel that special something for anyone.
After a quick glance around, she determined there was just enough time to dash to the retiring room before their dance if she hurried. She ought not to have had so much lemonade.
Holding her smile in place, she strode along the edge of the ballroom and exited into a corridor.
"Princess Tarasova. How delightful to find you here."
A shiver of revulsion crawled up Anna's neck. Lord Ravensdale reached toward her dance card and she drew her hand back. She had already refused him twice, and rather firmly at that, yet he still would not cease his attentions. Studying his profile, she decided it was his demeanor more so than his nose that elicited his resemblance to a bird of prey.
He stared down at her. "If you don't mind, I would like to claim a dance."
"I thank you for the honor, my lord, but I'm afraid my card is already full."
Before she was able to turn to leave, he clasped her wrist, sending another wave of revulsion creeping over her.
"You will keep me in mind if you find yourself with an unclaimed dance?"
"Of course, my lord." She inclined her head. "If you'll excuse me, my partner awaits." She watched in horror as he slowly drew her hand to his lips, but managed to wait until he turned away before scrubbing the back of her glove against the fold of her skirt. Relief that she hadn't allowed him to see her dance card flowed through her. She wouldn't have put it past him to harm someone on the list in order to create an opening for him to force his own suit.
She pushed open the door to the ladies' retiring room and her steps faltered.
"... always so prim and proper. I've never seen her without a polite smile pasted to her face. She really is the ice princess. She never exhibits emotion of any kind."
"And she never does anything that could be considered even mildly inappropriate. Where is that Russian passion I've heard so much about? She may be the most uninteresting person I've ever encountered."
"She'll still make a match before either of us. Not only is she beautiful, but if Lady Nonpareil is to be believed, she's also wealthy beyond measure."
Anna smoothed her skirts and forced her lips to curve into her signature smile before moving forward. She inclined her head toward the gossiping busybodies then proceeded into the private chamber. The large looking glass framed her sapphire dress and matching jewelry. Perhaps she should choose less icy colors, but they went so well with her pale complexion and blonde hair. Closing her eyes, she took a deep, fortifying breath. When she emerged, the room was empty.
There were so many chandeliers in the ballroom, Anna had to stop herself from shielding her eyes against the light after the dimness of the corridor. She cast her gaze downward and soon found her forward progress halted abruptly.
Lord Sunderland clasped her arm to steady her. "I beg your pardon, princess. It's quite crowded in here tonight and I'm afraid I was not looking where I was going. Please accept my apologies."
"Of course, my lord. It is no matter." Her stomach clenched. He had no way of knowing that she had overheard part of his conversation with Uncle Henry, but surely he would not make an offer for her tonight. She already dreaded having to refuse him, and to be forced to do it at the ball, with everyone watching, would be horrid.
Excerpted from One Last Kiss by Ally Broadfield, Robin Haseltine. Copyright © 2016 Ally Broadfield. Excerpted by permission of Entangled Publishing, LLC.
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
I really enjoyed this story! Anna has loved Mikhail since they were children, so when he appears back in her life, she is thrilled. But what she doesn't know is that his courtship is a scam... I loved watching these old friends reconnect and fall in love. The banter between the characters and the political intrigue made me wish that the story wouldn't end. I'm definitely looking forward to more stories in this series!
Between these pages you will find a delightful romance with intrigue, spies, that are full of chemistry, childhood crush, and delightful fun characters in this well written read. I really enjoyed the plot of young love having a second chance. The book starts off with us getting to know Princess Anna and Captain Abromovich as the author takes us back to their younger days when each loved the other in secret only to come face to face years later both still very attracted to the other. Mikhail knowing he cannot give Anna what she needs with his background of spying and moving around, he tries his best to step aside but duty calls and he must use her coming out to try and get the information he is looking for. The threat of Napoleon invading Russia Anna father sends her and her sister to London with their aunt and uncle in hopes of keeping them safe. Once he settles things there he hopes to join them. Ann starts her season but with the news of her rich dowry is leaked out she has more suitors that is only after her money than she can handle. With none that appeal to her she is at a lost until her childhood friend from long ago comes forward. She welcomes her old friend with open arms not knowing he is hiding secrets and could be using her to reach his goal she falls head over heels for him all over again. Mikhail is on a mission to achieve his goal he is under orders to court Anna. This is something he really doesn’t want to do because he has loved her for a long time. His only thought is what will she do and think if his deeds are every uncovered and she thinks he really doesn’t love her for who she is. Will they get this second chance at love or will their love be torn apart? I really enjoyed this read watching love bloom as these two falls for each other again. I loved the twists and turns in a plot that was very entertaining mixing fact with fiction in a very intriguing story that is well written with delightful characters. I loved how easy it was to like Anna when the going got tough she stood her ground but was still very much a lady that has no trouble showing her spunk when needed. Mischa was not only handsome but true to his cause. My heart really went out to him that he followed the orders given but truly loved Anna and did his best to show her. This story has such depth from the characters to the plot that it really pulls you in. I enjoyed the supporting characters loved how Anna and her sister got along and taught each other how to be sneaky. They are both a little on the cheeky side which really made them believable characters. I even found a few chuckles and laughs along the way. The author gives such detail to each scene that you have no trouble picturing them as they unfold. With a very delightful plot and characters it is a very believable story. I can’t wait to see who she picks next in this wonderful series.
Cute at times, but I had a tough time really connecting with the main characters. The espionage parts got a little confusing toward the end, and the solutions to everything felt rather simplistic. Still, not a bad read--I'll go with the "it's not you, it's me" theory and hope the next one works better for me. Rating: 3 stars / C+ I received a complimentary copy in exchange for an honest review.
Princess Anna Tarasova is in England with her sister. Her father fears that Napoleon will invade Russia and he wants his daughters safe. Anna is a prize on the marriage mart because of her wealth, but her heart belongs to Mikhail Abromovich. They grew up together on her father's estate. He is the son of the stable master. Now they meet again in London where Misha has been sent to negotiate a treaty that would ally Russia with England and Sweden. It must be kept secret. How can he win Anna when he can't be honest? This book is a wonderful combination of romance and suspense. London makes a perfect setting for secret diplomatic negotiations as well as a passionate romance. Anna is an intelligent and perceptive woman who knows her own heart. All she needs to do is convince Misha that they are meant to be together. Not an easy task. Misha loves her but in his heart he knows that Anna won't forgive him. What a stubborn man! Their attraction is amazing. I enjoy seeing them together. I was on the edge of my seat when Anna was in danger from a dangerous enemy. Ally Broadfield did a wonderful job with One Last Kiss. Like Anna I fell in love with Misha. I loved seeing Misha rescue those two young boys. What a man. I wanted a HEA! The characters are well written and charismatic and the story has unexpected twists.This was an entertaining book that has heart. I received a copy in exchange for an honest and unscripted review.
Russian royalty in Regency romance - great combination! Another great Regency romance in this well written series, this time with political intrigue, undercover spies, an important treaty and a chance for childhood love to develop into adult romance! It is also another chance to catch up on the main characters from earlier stories in the series, though you don’t have to read them to enjoy this one. With Napoleon threatening to invade Russia, Princess Anna Tarasova and her sister have been sent to London to stay with their aunt and uncle and to participate in the Season. Anna has an fabulous dowry and, after a gossip sheet revealed this, she’s been inundated by fortune hunting members of the nobility. None of them, however, cause the slightest stir in her heart. It is only the sudden arrival of her childhood friend, Captain Mikhail Abromovich, that reveals why no others would do. However, he’s under orders to use their previous relationship to hide his hidden mission which is to represent their homeland in secret discussion with Sweden and Britain. Meeting again rekindles their feelings but he’s not allowed to share his mission with her, nor does he feel worthy of her . . . will their love stand a chance or will secrets drive them apart? I really enjoy how this author manages to write such highly entertaining banter between her characters, making it easy to visualise their encounters, expressions and emotions. The political intrigue, with double dealing, secret keeping and so much more together with the well defined characters make this an engagingly different read, with the unusual focus on the role of Russia and Russians in the impending war against Napoleon.The dangerous near end situation was unexpected and I particularly appreciated how Anna fought back and didn’t faint in a fit of the vapours! I’ve said it before and I’ll no doubt say it again – I can’t wait to read more in this series and others by this author in future! Thanks to the author, publishers and NetGalley, too, for letting me read this in exchange for my honest review.
I received an eARC, from NetGalley and the publisher, in exchange for an honest review. \ 'One Last Kiss' by Ally Broadfield is book two in the "It's In His Kiss" series. This is the story of Princess Anna Tarasova and Captain Mikhail Abromovich. Anna is from Russia but now living in England. There a 'rag' magazine posted the details of her dowry....so now she is being hunted by fortune hunting gentlemen. Anna has turned down several proposals and is holding out for love. Mikhail used to be a childhood friend of Anna when her father and his father were friends. Mikail is now a Captain and Spy. Now he is sent to be we Anna and use her as a cover for what he is really doing. Anna has not ideal what he is up to and thinks he has come to court her. This was a easy, sweet read that I really enjoyed!
Princess Anna Tarasova has been in London for two years at her uncle Henry’s. She was sent to her mother’s native land by her father until the danger has passed. Since the extent of her wealth has become public knowledge, Anna has had to fend off suitors who have been descending upon her like birds of prey. Her heart has always belonged to Misha, now a soldier in the Russian army. At a ball, trying to avoid unwanted prospective grooms, Anna thinks she might have espied Misha amongst the crowded room. The following day, she learns it was not an illusion. Misha, Captain Mikhail Abromovich, the son of Anna’s father stable master, has come up in the world. However he is not merely a soldier but an envoy in secret negotiations, which will take place in the greatest of secret: the fate of several countries depends upon it. Misha has always been in love with Anna, but his mission makes it all but impossible to do what he most wants, as to succeed, he must betray Anna’s trust, and all may be lost. To begin with, upon seeing the blurb, I knew Ms. Broadfield would get everything Russian right, and thus merits a full, shiny star. The Russian last names, patronyms, nicknames are all spot on; nothing was left to chance, and it’s also evident that she did extensive research to make the story as authentic as possible, for which I will be eternally grateful. The historical context is impeccable, and most intimately tied in with the romance. I loved the abundance of little details, which served to enrich the story while not detracting from it. While the premise seemed rather predictable from the onset, I knew my heart was eventually going to break for both Anna and Misha. They had not seen each other in six years, and I very much appreciated that while Anna’s love for Misha never faltered, she was nevertheless cautious and reasonable and needed to make sure that what had once been was still there, and this from both sides. The prose is subdued and sublime, with a bittersweet undertone that reflects the melancholy of the Russian soul, as well as the inevitable heartbreak that will crush both Anna and Misha. There were a few little things that marred the whole, among others when a romantic moment occurs, a mishap involving puppies made the interlude somewhat unsavoury for me, and I was perplexed at addressing a Russian princess by her first name! However, where I had thought a misunderstanding unnecessary, I was proved wrong, as a national disaster was barely averted. ONE LAST KISS is remarkable because it’s very distinctive, as it shows us the Russian side of the war, all the characters are very well defined, and Anna and Misha are very engaging; the romance is absolutely lovely! I received a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.