A fresh talent offers a rollicking new twist to the historical romance in this breezy tale of love, lust, and secrets set against the backdrop of Regency England.
The meddling mothers of the Regency would do anything to wed their daughters to Andrew Carrington, the wealthy, handsome, and athletic heir to an earldom. There is one problem, however. No woman in all England would suit the determined bachelor, for Andrew far prefers the company of men—at his table and in his bedroom.
But with privilege comes responsibility. Andrew must take a bride. And while Phyllida Lewis, the penniless, spirited, and curvaceous author of romantic novels, is not quite what his family had in mind, a marriage to her would enable Andrew to live his life as he pleases. The arrival of Matthew Thornby, the honorable and dashing son of a self-made baronet, into their cozy arrangement makes Andrew's happiness complete.
Yet a shrewd enemy is waiting in the wings, threatening to expose them all—an act that will surely lead to scandal and ruin.
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Phyllida and the Brotherhood of Philander
London, March 1, 1812
Andrew Carrington awoke with a headache, no memory of the previous night, and a sneaking suspicion that he was not alone. He opened his eyes and groaned. Daylight—bright, intrusive, accusing daylight—was peeping through the chinks in the hastily pulled drapes covering the windows of the bedroom in his Grosvenor Square town house. "Damn," he muttered.
"Mornin'," a cheerful voice assaulted him. "Back in the land of the livin'?"
Andrew turned his head a fraction of an inch. The pain was excruciating, stabbing. "Not exactly living, no," he said. He studied the irritatingly pert face a couple of inches away. "And just who the hell are you?"
The face lost some of its good humor and took on what Andrew imagined was a more habitual look of ill-usage and distrust. "Don'tcha remember?" he asked. "Covent Garden, White's, the Brotherhood of—of—Phil somefink or other?"
Andrew focused his tired eyes. His companion was young, little more than a boy, although his voice had broken, thank goodness. He had a pretty face, but pinched, scrawny, as if he'd never had a full meal in his entire life. Which, Andrew reflected, he probably hadn't. His body, perhaps as a result, was possessed of a certain whipcord muscularity—the reason, no doubt, Andrew had been drawn to him in the first place. Andrew snorted. "White's?" he said. "I doubt that very much. Covent Garden, I'll accept. As to the Brotherhood of Philander, I imagine they'd throw us out."
"Yeah, well," his companion admitted, "you're right there,guv'nor. Bruiser at the door took one look at me and said we'd 'ave to find other accommodation. White's—" he grinned, showing an alarming, gap-toothed smile, "—worth a shot, just to see what you recollected. But you done me right. Took me 'ome wif you. Most nobs wouldn't let me near a mile o' their place."
"Always was a soft touch," Andrew said.
"Nah," the boy argued, "you ain't soft. 'Ard as steel you was, don't you worry. Just tight as a tick, that's all."
Andrew groaned again. Worse than he thought. No, he decided, exactly as he had feared.
"You gonna be sick?" his companion asked. He looked around for the slop jar, couldn't recognize so utilitarian an object in the elegant furnishings of the large room, and brought forth the full, reeking chamber pot.
That did it. Only mildly nauseated before, Andrew, confronted with the effluvia of a night's worth of two drunken male bodies, coughed up the remainder of his stomach contents, retching and heaving over the side of the bed.
The boy held the pot until Andrew appeared to be finished, touched his dark, pomaded locks in a tentative caress, and said, "Feel better then, love?"
"No," Andrew growled. "I feel like death warmed over."
The boy shrugged. "Some breakfast'll put ya to rights. Betcha serve a real spread."
Andrew lay back on the pillows and took a few deep breaths. At least his headache had abated. "Wouldn't you like to know?" he teased.
The boy's face fell. "You wouldn't kick me out wifout breakfast, guv?"
"Why not?" Andrew asked. "I paid you well enough to buy your own."
The boy sniffled. He looked about twelve years old like that, with his tousled hair, badly in need of a wash and a cut, falling over his eyes, and with his narrow face and hollow chest. "Ain't the same," he said. "Thought I was gonna eat like a lord."
"Well, you won't," Andrew said, as the boy's face hardened and closed, his eyes narrowing into shifty, veiled slits. "Because I'm not a lord. I'm just Mr. Carr—" That's all he needed, he thought, his lips clamping shut. Why not tell this little whore where he banked and direct his man of business to open a draft account for him? Must be losing his mind. If only Harry hadn't been sent away. . .
The boy's face relaxed, just enough that Andrew stopped worrying where he'd left his pistols and whether they were loaded. "You pullin' me leg?"
"No," Andrew said. "I am not a member of the peerage. Never said I was."
"No, I mean, you told me your real name," the boy said on a note of wonder. "Nobody done that since I started working." He stuck out a grimy hand. "I'm Kit."
Andrew shook the offered hand automatically, both embarrassed and touched by the human gesture intruding on the sordid commercial transaction. "Kit," he said. "Short for Christopher?"
"Dunno," the boy said. "Everybody calls me Kit."
"I shall call you Marlowe, then," Andrew said, smiling. "Kit Marlowe. How does that sound?"
"I'm just Kit," the boy protested.
"Ah, but you see, Christopher—or Kit—Marlowe is one of our patron saints."
The boy scuttled a few inches away in the wide bed. "You a Papist?"
"Ha!" Andrew abandoned himself to humor for a few seconds. "No, Marlowe, I am a Protestant and a sodomite, much like you. Christopher Marlowe was a poet who had the admirable good sense to proclaim his two greatest loves to be tobacco—and boys." Andrew slid his eyes sideways to see how his nervous companion took this. "Although I can't abide the noxious weed myself."
Kit didn't look happy at this revelation. "Ain't a sodomite," he muttered. "Just do it fer money. And I ain't a boy, neither. Almost eighteen."
"Indeed?" Andrew said, pleased to learn that he had not been so far gone last night that he need accuse himself of robbing the cradle. It was difficult to stretch his mind around the fact that the last time they had been together, Harry had been the same age as this waif. Kit was more than a foot shorter and doubtless half Harry's weight—and that with a good breakfast inside him. "Most of your fellows pretend to be younger."
"Ya see, guv, I'm old enough to know I oughta be gettin' out of this life while I can."Phyllida and the Brotherhood of Philander
A Novel. Copyright © by Ann Herendeen. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
What People are Saying About This
Impeccable research, fantastic characters, and even a bit of mystery made this one of the best novels so far for 2008. Be prepared to be shocked, to learn something about the Regency world, and to laugh out loud. Ms. Herendeen writes a dynamite tale.