Like her four sisters, Lady Audrina Bradleigh is expected to marry a duke, lead fashion, and behave with propriety. Consequently, Audrina pursues mischief with gusto, attending scandalous parties and indulging in illicit affairs. But when an erstwhile lover threatens to ruin her reputation, Audrina has no choice but to find a respectable husband at once.
Who would guess that her search would lead her to Giles Rutherford, a blunt-spoken American on a treasure hunt of his own? When a Christmas snowstorm strands the pair at a country inn, more secrets are traded than gifts--along with kisses that require no mistletoe--and Audrina discovers even proper gentlemen have their wicked side. . .
Praise for the novels of Theresa Romain
"Hilarious and utterly adorable. . .passionate and just plain fun." –USA Today bestselling author Courtney Milan on Season for Temptation
Praise for Theresa Romain and her Holiday Pleasures
"Theresa Romain writes witty, gorgeous, and deeply emotional historical romance. --Vanessa Kelly, one of Booklist's "new stars of historical romance"
"Theresa Romain has a talent, a rare ability to blend beautiful writing, great characters, delicious banter and a lovely romance, all in one perfect package." --TBQ's Book Palace
"Season for Temptation was an absolute delight to read, and is one of my favorite books of the year. It has it all--witty dialogue, amusing circumstances, charming characters and a perfect romance." –Rakehell.com
"If you're looking for a sparkling, witty Regency romance that will have you laughing with joy and sighing with satisfaction, look no further than Theresa Romain's Season for Temptation." –The Romance Dish
"[A] holiday charmer that is rife with lively wit, delightful prose, and an abundance of unforgettable characters." --Library Journal on Season for Surrender
"Witty, romantic, and deep.. . .I loved everything about this book." --The Season for Romance, Top Pick! on Season for Surrender
"Full of lovely prose and endearing characters who readers can take to their hearts." --RT Book Reviews, K.I.S.S. (Knight in Shining Silver) hero award on Season for Surrender
"Season for Scandal grabbed me immediately and had me tearing up by about a quarter of the way through." --All About Romance
"This third book in Theresa Romain's aptly named Holiday Pleasures series is both playful and profound, and has a subtle, stirring power that will affect you long after you've read the final page." --USA Today's Happy Ever After blog on Season for Scandal
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Season for Desire
By Theresa Romain
KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP.Copyright © 2014 Theresa St. Romain
All rights reserved.
Wherein the Adventure Begins, Much Against the Will of Certain Participants
December 11, 1820
Sunset fell early over the wintry moorlands of northern England, and prudent men abandoned the road to the criminal, the desperate, and the mail coaches.
Giles Rutherford wouldn't exactly call his father prudent, but neither was the elder Rutherford criminal or desperate—for now. And though hale and fit for a man in his middle fifties, Richard enjoyed traveling through darkness no more than Giles, especially when travel came paired with steady rain. In the weeks before Christmas, their native Philadelphia froze under a snow blanket, but this frigid rainfall went to the bone more quickly.
For once, then, Richard marked the end of their day's travel with little protest. He was willing enough to be persuaded to pull up the carriage outside the Goat and Gauntlet, a post-house tucked within the ancient stone walls of York.
Once settled in a private parlor, Giles let the fire's warmth lick at his sodden boots as his father ordered a generous dinner from a servant. The room to which they had been escorted was low-ceilinged and slope-floored like many old buildings in this country. Lamps on the table and mantel cast pools of warm light in the dim room. A simple table and chairs were drawn up near the fireplace, a wide structure of smoke-blackened bricks. Within, the coal fire glowered at its own inadequacy.
Ah, there was the problem: The parlor window's wooden sash had warped in its frame, allowing the December chill to leak in. Before Giles could decide whether his aching hands were up to the task of setting the window to rights, the servant entered the parlor again with a stoneware jug. And ... a man in a filthy red coat.
Giles lifted his brows. "That is not what you ordered for dinner, is it, Father?"
Richard ignored him, standing to accept the jug—coffee, how Giles hoped it held coffee—while also accepting an introduction from the man in red. "You are a servant to the Earl of Alleyneham? My, my, this is an honor." He sounded cheerful, as always.
"Are we meant to bow or to curtsy?" Giles took the urn from his father's hands, nodding a dismissal to the servant who had brought it. Oh, blessed warmth. The stoneware was hot enough to make his hands prickle as though quilled; every little bone and joint tensed, then eased into relief. Giles could almost have groaned as he poured out the first cup.
He seated himself with cup in hand, then realized he had missed the first part of the exhausted-looking servant's story.
"At first, Lady Audrina was thought to be visiting a friend," the man was saying. A footman, probably, because of his scarlet livery—now splashed and dirtied by long hours on horseback and muddy roads. "But when the hours for calling passed and she did not return home, the earl suspected an elopement."
"That suspicion seems premature. Why shouldn't he think she went shopping with her maid? Or calling on another friend?" Giles could almost feel his father's look of reprimand as Richard drew out a chair for himself. "What? Those seem more likely possibilities than that she eloped with some rakehell."
The footman's expression did not change, except that he blinked rather more quickly. "If you will pardon my frankness, sir, Lady Audrina is the sort of young lady far more likely to dash off to Scotland than to pay a call in Mayfair."
"She sounds exhausting." Giles took a sip of coffee. It was strong and scorched, bitter on his tongue and beautifully warm.
"The earl cannot permit his youngest daughter to elope," continued the footman. "His lordship and Lady Irving, with whom he said you were acquainted, are traveling here with greatest possible speed."
"Lady Irving," Giles said. "Perfect. Wonderful. This is your doing, Father, isn't it? So certain were you that she'd want to sell her jewels that you told her all the details of our planned path through England."
Richard seemed not to hear, which was a certain indication that Giles was correct. "I had not thought Lady Irving was much of a traveler," he said to the servant. "I hope she's been well since we met her in London several weeks ago."
"Her ladyship is quite well, sir, I'm sure. She is willing to render assistance to Lord Alleyneham and was quite sure such amiable gentlemen as yourselves would be, too."
"I'm not the slightest bit amiable." Flexing his fingers, Giles grimaced. His hands were always more painful after a day of travel.
Fidgeting, the footman tried to straighten his wig atop his short-cropped hair. The headpiece had gone sad and flat, but white hair powder still clung to it. How had it survived the ride? The servant must have tucked it inside his coat, only to slap it atop his head before requesting entrance to the Rutherfords' private parlor.
These English and their priorities. Image was everything, wasn't it? Though Giles was half English by birth, he would never understand them.
Once his head had been properly covered, the servant continued as though Giles had never attested to his own lack of amiability. "Should the fugitives' arrival precede that of their pursuers, sir, his lordship requests that you arrest them."
"Arrest them?" Graying and ever elegant, Richard sat up straighter in his solid wooden chair. Giles had inherited his mother's raw-boned ruddiness—but though he little resembled his father, he knew well the animating expression that crossed the elder Rutherford's features. This sounds like an adventure!
"'Arrest,' Father, is one way the English say 'stop.' You do mean 'stop,' don't you, ah ... man in the wig? And not anything more dramatic than that?"
"Yes, sir. I mean that you are requested to stop them, sir. If you would."
"Stopping a carriage could be very dramatic," Richard mused. "A few obstacles across the road, perhaps, to halt it. And then—rip the door open and carry the young lady to safety? What do you say, Giles?"
"I say that this has nothing to do with us whatsoever. One wild goose chase at a time is enough."
"Where is your chivalry, son?"
"I left it on the gangplank in Philadelphia." He'd had to. It was hardly chivalrous to leave five younger siblings on the verge of adulthood—especially Rachel, whose mind remained in childhood as years advanced. But Richard held the funds from which his younger children drew stipends, and for all Giles knew, this quest in England would beggar them.
In most families, sons formulated harebrained schemes and fathers tried to talk sense into them. For Giles and his father, the situation was entirely the reverse. Not that Giles had ever been able to talk his father out of any scheme the elder Rutherford set his mind to.
Which was why, after two months traipsing about every corner of England where Giles's late mother might have been thought to hide either jewels or clues, the Rutherfords now found themselves in the parlor of the Goat and Gauntlet with not even a whisper of a hunch.
Instead, they had found a dirty footman asking for help for some spoiled English princess.
Giles's wrists ached; he realized he was clenching his fists, resting them like stones on the table. Time ticked raggedly, unpredictably, when he felt these aches. And it was harder to dismiss the quest, the reason they had crossed an ocean. The reason he'd bidden good-bye to so many loved ones who needed him.
Lifting his hands to shake out their tension, he frowned at the servant. "How do you know the happy couple hasn't already traveled beyond this inn? If you'd passed them on the road, you'd have seen them."
The footman swayed on his feet.
"Sit if you like," Giles added. "Here, by the fire. You must be cold." A sidelong glance at his father: There, see? I'm not a complete monster.
"Thank you, sir, but I couldn't seat myself. It would not be proper." The servant shook his head, setting the wig askew again. "I do believe the carriage broke down at some point, as its tracks left the road. I could not trace them once they left it."
"Why not? A carriage is large. As it rolled, it would have crushed grass and moved pebbles and—"
Richard cleared his throat.
"Well, perhaps such signs wouldn't be visible in the rain," Giles granted. The roads in this country were ancient and deeply rutted. Any moisture turned them into a sloppy stew, and rain and sleet had traded control of the sky for the past three days. Assuming frequent changes of horses, this was probably as quickly as a pair of eloping Londoners could reach York on their way to Scotland.
"They might choose not to stop at this inn, though," Giles added. "They could even be on a different road."
"They're not." Richard shrugged off the possibility of events proceeding other than as he wished. "This is the swiftest road from London. And if they don't choose to stop, we will make them stop. We'll stop every carriage if we need to. It will be an—"
"Adventure." Giles spoke the word along with his father, his mouth a wry twist.
Giles wanted to throttle whoever had coined the word adventure. Everything was an adventure to Richard Rutherford, from days on sleet-sludgy roads to his grandiose plan to establish a London jewelry firm to rival Rundell and Bridge.
"Perfect," Giles murmured again. "Wonderful. A plan without flaw. Do tell me, man in the wig, why is the earl set against his daughter marrying? Don't earls want their daughters married, as a rule?"
For the first time, the footman looked something besides tired; a stricken expression crossed his face. "That is a question best asked of his lordship, sir."
Maybe it was the man's sudden apprehension. Or maybe the fact that, for a wage that was likely no more than a pittance, he'd been willing to chase across England with nothing but the frailest of hopes, the smallest chance of success. To this footman, apparently fleeing was preferable to staying behind, and begging help from strangers was preferable to failure.
Giles didn't seek out adventures—but he was not, as a rule, a monster. And this man had ridden for his life as though pursued by a fiend indeed. "We shall help you," Giles decided. Not for the sake of the heedless eloping aristocrat, but for the tired servant.
"Of course we shall," Richard echoed. There had never been a question in his mind, Giles knew; to be asked for a favor was to do all in one's power to grant it.
Giles hefted the stoneware urn of coffee. "Take off your wig, man, and sit and have some coffee until your master arrives. I'll keep watch on the road."
As the youngest of the Earl of Alleyneham's five daughters, Lady Audrina Bradleigh had often dreamed of running away to Scotland.
This was not that dream.
A dream would never include the company of David Llewelyn, whose angular face wore an impatient expression as he peered down at her. "Finally coming around. Good. I thought you would sleep all the way to the border."
Nor would a dream include a pounding head, the jouncing of carriage wheels over ruts, or the sickish, bitter aftertaste of laudanum.
Swallowing a groan, Audrina shoved herself to a seated position. Slowly, slowly, making sure her head didn't fall off and her stomach didn't reverse course. Through slitted eyes, she took in her surroundings. Rain sluiced down the coach windows and thudded on the roof; the carriage lamps were lit against the fall of night.
There was light enough for Audrina to recognize the deep green of the velvet squabs on which she reclined. "Llewellyn, you rotter," she said through dry lips. "If you must kidnap a woman, use your own carriage instead of filching your mother's."
His mouth curled with humor, though he retreated to the opposite seat. "This is no kidnapping, my dear Audrina. It is the adventure you always wanted."
This had to be a dream. But the flask he extended to her contained water that spotted her hands and gown as she fumbled open its lid. Water that soothed her throat enough to ask, "The border, you said. You are making for Gretna Green?"
"Coldstream Bridge, actually. It's far closer. Unless you will marry me in England."
She capped the flask and tossed it back to him, not wanting his fingers to brush hers a second time. "Not in England. Not anywhere."
"What call have you to protest? We've already consummated our union, after all."
"Spare me such romantic twaddle. I know you have consummated with others before and since."
"True." His brows drew together, sharply dark in the flickering lamplight. "But I don't mind marrying you. We amused one another, did we not?"
"That depends on what one means by amusement. " If he meant the physical crisis—he'd enjoyed himself, certainly, but she had never achieved the same level of delight.
Another jolt; her teeth snapped together, setting up a drumbeat in her temples. The rain must be turning the roads to a stew of ruts. "Ugh. As soon as my wits are clear I shall throw myself out into the elements."
An empty threat. She was not even certain she could feel her fingers and toes.
"The laudanum is fogging your wits, I expect." Llewellyn looked as bland and unconcerned as though pronouncing upon the weather.
Had she really ever thought him attractive? Dashing? She had indeed; his dark elegance and risk-mad recklessness had once seemed a male version of her own hopes and wishes. But that had been months ago, foolish months ago. He wanted her dowry to cover debts, he had admitted in a careless moment. She had dropped him.
It seemed he felt entitled to the money all the same.
Audrina shut her eyes, letting her heavy head fall back against the squabs. "I expect you are right. I'm not in the habit of taking laudanum. How did you do it?"
"Get you to take it, you mean? Easy as anything, my dear. A small bribe to your lady's maid, and she was willing to add a vial to your evening tea."
"Do not," she groaned, "call me your dear anything. And please cease to call me by my Christian name. I insist you stop at the next inn." From which she would scribble a note about having her maid sacked.
"Of course! That'll give people the chance to see us together."
"No. You shall enter first, and I will ..." Her vision was blurring; she squeezed her eyes shut, but could not imagine the next step to take. She had no chaperone and no money. Not even a change of clothing, unless the treacherous Sally had deigned to pack a few items. No one would ever believe she was a lady of quality carried off against her will.
"Don't worry, Audrina. I will take care of you." Llewellyn's voice seemed to echo, as though he called from a long distance away.
"I won't accept anything from you."
His laugh clanged from the coach walls. "You already did; you drank from that flask. Didn't even think to ask what was in it, did you?"
Water? Tinged with something else ... still so bitter in her mouth.
"You rotter," she said again, weakly. Then the world went gray.
When color and sight returned, a new face was looking down at hers. This one was like a statue: still as if carved, all strong spans and hollows, with short-cropped hair that glinted copper in the light of the ...
Not of the carriage, but a lantern hanging from a hook on a rough plaster wall. "Where's the carriage? Where am I?" Her head felt so heavy, but instinct returned before sense. She did not know this man who gripped her arms tightly. Quicker than thought, she kicked out, and he cursed at her.
With a strange accent. "You are American?" Good God, where was she?
"And you are not." He released her arms—not all at once, but slowly, letting her sag until her back found purchase against the solid wall. Then he lifted his hands at once, splaying them broad and empty. "But you are the wayward daughter of the Earl of Alleyneham. Correct?"
"I ... suppose so, yes. What has become of ...?"
"That fellow with you?" The large man rubbed at his chin. "He'll be all right. You're at the Goat and Gauntlet, a post-house in York."
Excerpted from Season for Desire by Theresa Romain. Copyright © 2014 Theresa St. Romain. Excerpted by permission of KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP..
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
This was my first read from Romain. I enjoy romance in any for and this holiday read was one to make me happy. Wicked ride for the season . . . Lady Audrina Bradleigh has expectation place upon her. This holiday season is something she will never forget. Thanks to NetGalley and the delightful Holiday Read.
I’m always up for a foray into the Regency Era and Theresa Romain offers a lovely diversion in her Season for Desire. A story that blends the Christmas theme with a decades old family mystery involving puzzle boxes, this is a light and loosely interpreted romance. One of my HUGE pet peeves in historical romances is language use; I can overlook some of the social conventions being tested, and I can even let go of a rigid application to the time period, within reason. Just as I wouldn’t expect hair straighteners, hybrid-vehicles, radio music or internet. I DO expect language to fit and flow, flawlessly. Most jarring in this story is misuse of language and phrases not in use at the time, or Christmas Carols not yet written. Each time one of these appeared, I was ripped from the story, halting all progress and disturbing my flow. And every reader will tell you that flow for a reader is all important to being able to just lose yourself in a book – the best part about reading fiction. To the good: the characters in this story were wonderful. A ginger-haired, freckle-faced hero is an anomaly in romance, and Giles is wonderfully portrayed as the eldest child, taking responsibility for everyone, even when not needed. Audrina was a touch on the spoilt side, acting out because she felt a need to rebel against her demanding and controlling father, but with no real malice or ill-intent. Her worst flaw was her heedlessness to consequence as she bumbles through to find a path pleasing to her. These two were so very well-matched that there wasn’t the usual angst and push-pull in these relationships, they just were suited well and accepted the fact as a given: their relationship was sweet and honest, with tons of giving and caring on all sides. Secondary characters provided a nice backdrop to the story, and the search for the clues to the mystery contained in puzzles and threat from a potential blackmailer all provided the needed angst and tension to keep the plot flowing forward. The fourth in this series, but the first I have read, this was an interesting and mostly enjoyable read – sure to please those who are fans of lighter interpretations of the Regency Era. I received an eArc copy of the title from the publisher via NetGalley for purpose of honest review. I was not compensated for this review: all conclusions are my own responsibility.
A charming, sweet holiday read, Season for Desire was a lovely historical romance. With a varied, interesting cast of characters, a mystery to solve, and a blackmailer trying to ruin the fun, this book was great and I really enjoyed reading it. Audrina was a lovely heroine. She was independently minded and determined to find her own way to happiness. My one issue with her was that she seemed to act first, think about consequences later. But, that was more of a problem at the beginning and she grew up over the course of the book. Overall, I thought she was great. Giles was a total sweetie. He tended to think less of himself because he didn't exactly fit the mold of an attractive society gentleman. But, he was, first and foremost, a genuinely good man. He was very loyal to his loved ones, determined to take care of his family, and impeccably honorable. He was just adorable and I really liked him. The romance was very sweet. Audrina and Giles seemed to simply understand each other, no need for misunderstanding or pretenses. There was some heat between them, but this was a mostly sweet romance. I thought they were a lovely couple. The secondary characters played a fairly large part in the book, particularly Giles's father and Lady Irving, who had a romance of their own. They were both great characters, with Mr. Rutherford's charm and irreverence and Lady Irving's sense and sharp wit. I liked them both. The plot was well paced and I was kept interested the entire way through. They mystery of the puzzle boxes kept me engaged, as well the the constant threat that a certain blackmailer posed. I really enjoyed the story and the ending was lovely. Season for Desire was a light, sweet, delightful read that I really enjoyed. Romance lovers, this is a book worth checking out. *I received a complimentary copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review
I loved this book! It has everything: abduction, blackmail, mystery, humor, puzzles, illness, being snowed in and more than one romance and HEA! It's the final book in the 'Holiday Pleasures' series, but it can totally stand alone. We're given a glimpse of characters from previous books, but you won't be confused at all if you haven't read the other titles. This is the kind of book I love, one that has me turning the pages when I should be going to bed and keeps me thinking about the characters well after The End.
The pacing of this story was perfect: no lags, yet enough conversation and description to give depth of the characters. Many scenes were hilarious to imagine: Audrina in a puddle outside the door of her captured kidnapper, unsuccessful efforts of trying to open the puzzle boxes, decorating for Christmas - how many heads were in that hall, anyway?! And the snowed-in feast that included triple-rise crackers! Also a fun surprise - that there were two love stories unfolding. My favorite character is actually Giles' father for his unending optimism during adventures and serenity under caustic attacks. Great entertainment!
This is book 4 in the Holiday Pleasures series. Lady Audrina Bradleigh is expected to marry well and behave with propriety. Since she is not one to follow the rules, this leads her to do outrageous things including indulging in illicit affairs. One of her cohorts decides to take things a little far and kidnaps Audrina thinking to marry her to get her dowry which he desperately needs. Lucky for Audrina, her father has help in finding her and saves her from disgrace. Wanting to keep her out of trouble, Audrina's father has her go with Giles Rutherford, his father and Lady Irving to find a long lost family heirloom. Giles Rutherford is indulging his father in a quest to find the long lost jewels that his mother left behind when she married her husband and moved to America. He needs to make sure that his father doesn't make any unwise decisions that would affect the whole family. Thinking to never marry because of debilitating arthritis he inherited from his mother, Giles is surprised to find himself so attracted to Audrina. Over the course of solving the mystery of the missing jewels, Giles and Audrina develop feelings for each other. Can those feeling overcome the difference in their stations and what they thought they wanted out of life? I really, really enjoyed this story. The secondary characters were just as entertaining as the H/H. Romain did something with this novel that I haven't seen much of before. The point of view changed multiple times between the H/H as well as the secondary characters. I thought this was a refreshing change and added a lot to the enjoyment of the story. The interactions between all the characters was so enjoyable. It was like watching a well written comedy that had me laughing out loud throughout the story. Bravo, Theresa Romain!! Thanks go out to Kensington Books for a copy of the book in exchange of an honest review.
Romain’s thoughtful, eloquent writing style sets readers up to be drawn back in time with this fantastic story. This author paints a brilliant picture of the world surrounding her characters, taking readers on a journey across England. This was an exciting and adventurous story. Romain really had me thinking and trying to figure out the riddle. I had so much fun with this. It all played right in to the romance and intrinsically close-knit aura of the novel. Romain has some quite intricate character development in this novel. I loved how well we got to know not only the main characters, but their immediate family and friends as well. The pace of this novel does slow down a bit when the author goes into background information on the characters. It is pertinent to the story at hand and is quite interesting but there is a definite shift in the pace of the story when she does this. It’s almost as if you’re having a one on one moment with the character in question. It was quite unique. This was a very intriguing look at the lives and relationships of Romain’s main characters that can easily be read as a standalone, even though it is the 4th novel in the series. It was a very enjoyable novel that I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend to others. Please note that I received a complimentary copy of this work in exchange for an honest review.
If it were possible to rate SEASON FOR DESIRE on a scale of 1 to 10, I would rate it a 15! And for those who like lots of sex and groping, rogues and rakes: don’t bother; there are no broad shoulders, slim waists, long legs, muscular thighs nor big hands. It’s a beautifully written story, a great suspense, it has superb characters, and it’s oh so romantic. Do not miss this fantastic book! Thank you, Ms. Romain, for this holiday gift!
2.75* "Audrina pursues mischief with gusto, attending scandalous parties and indulging in illicit affairs. But when an erstwhile lover threatens to ruin her reputation, Audrina has no choice but to find a respectable husband at once. Who would guess that her search would lead her to Giles Rutherford, a blunt-spoken American on a treasure hunt of his own?" Theresa Romain I had a really hard time reading this book. In the beginning I was lost, and felt that I was missing something. This is book 4 of the Holiday Pleasures series and not a stand alone book. There was a main romance between Giles Rutherford and Lady Audrina Bradleigh and then a secondary romance with Richard Rutherford and Lady Irving. There were some very humors and then very touching parts of the story but not enough to keep me wanting to turn the page. I have to say my favorite character was Lady Irving. She was very funny and blunt to a fault. I didn't like Ms. Romain's writing style and at first I struggled with it then I'm not sure if I just got used to it or if it changed midstream. Many times I thought about putting the book down and not finishing it. The only thing that saved it was the last fourth of the book. I really wanted to like the book. The book blurb was intriguing and I love the cover. I do not feel that the story matches the blurb.