Once, a long time ago, Coco Wild learned to never allow a man's kiss to move her, for that way led to downfall. A slender beauty with alluring eyes, she built impregnable defenses around her emotions. The men who came to adore her, fought to conquer her and learn her mysteries, made her the toast of London, but none were able to rouse her passions.
But that hard-taught lesson is about to unravel because of Sir James Stoker. Back in England with a treasure of gold from his adventures, newly knighted by Queen Victoria herself, and feted everywhere, the handsome explorer has the world at his feet. He's exactly the man Coco might have dreamed about when she was young: a tall, fair hero with a charming smile. Now he's turned his energy toward winning her, the most desirable and the least attainable woman he knows; and Coco's aft-aid James may just find his way past the thorns that have so long protected her from the world, and awaken her slumbering heart...with just one kiss.
Judith Ivory's work has won many honors, including the Romance Writers of America's RITA and Top Ten Favorite Books of the Year awards and Romantic Times Reviewers' Choice Award.
Read an Excerpt
The light in the room grew hazy with the passing of a cloud outside. The incoming sunlight became muted, dust motes dancing visibly in the beam that poured through the windowpanes. Mrs. Wild turned toward him slightly, sitting crookedly in her chair, raising one elbow leisurely up onto her chair back. She sat on her discarded coat.
James meant to bring the conversation back to where it belonged, into the realm of inane chatter, niceties, all unpleasantness minimized.
But she said, "I think the Burtons and Livingstons of the world quite mad to pursue so much danger, let alone discomfort."
Exactly. James felt a little zing of rage, injustice. He found himself adding, "It's almost galling, you know." A kind of confession poured out. As if he were under the influence of laughing gas, giddily telling a stranger the truth. "A chipped tooth. It hardly seems worthy enough damage, considering I was at wit's end, lost, sick, and sure of dying in the midst of people to whom I could barely speak. I mean, I should be missing a leg, an arm, be wearing an eye patch. But no. Not even a scar. I am healthier and stronger than the day I left England. With nothing to show for three and a half years of hell but a tooth I banged on something or other on one of the numerous occasions when I blacked out and fell flat on my face." He let out a snort of disgust. "And within the hour, even that will be fixed" He took a breath.
God, give him enough time and he would tell Mrs. Wild here his life's story.
His mouthful was hardly the heroic tack, hardly the vein in which he, the Queen, and the Vice Chancellor spoke of these things. James had not told his true feelings to a soul. Not even himself,apparently. For he was mildly appalled to hear these wordsand feel the extreme satisfaction of saying them. They were so true. And here he was, pouring himself out to an unknown woman in a dentist's waiting room, just because she seemed to recognize the truth when she heard it and have some sympathy for it. Just because she had a pretty face and an understanding mien.
He pressed his lips together, not sure what he had doneother than discomfit himself considerably.
She smiled at him and leaned forward. Again the light touch of her hand over his, again quickly with drawn. "Don't worry," she said. As if she could read his mind now as well. "I won't mention it. I can see that you have embarrassed yourself by speaking so openly. But believe me, there is nothing wrong with being open. Everything right with it, in fact." She waved her hand as if she could wave away his concern. "And your secrets are safe with me. Honestly. I have no one to share them with. And even if I did, I never tell tales. It's unseemly, don't you think? To go around telling one person what another one told you? I mean, if a person had wanted someone to know, he could have said him self, no?"
James said quickly, "You are so right. Thank you."
She nodded, her mouth pulling into a smiling line, just the faintest humor. Then she held up her new silver case of cloves. "My pleasure," she said, repeating his words, indicating an exchange.
Rightly or wrongly, James felt his distress ease. Apparently, a cozy dentist's parlor could be a haven for a few minutes, a place to babble in safety. For that was certainly how it seemed.
The strangely charming Mrs. Wild stood. From her chair James picked up her coat, a loose, silky bundle of dense fur. He held it for her. It was not bulky, but rather the well-trimmed, feather-soft undercoat of a winter animal. The label sewn into the satin lining bore a name: Wonh. And a city: Paris. The coat perfectly matched the fur at her cuffs and collar and the small hat that sat back on her head. The hat's nettingstudded at each juncture with tiny bits of cut jethad been folded back, presumably so she could have her good, eye-mopping cry. The net sparkled with these bits.
James stared down at it as he helped her, an arm at a time, into her coat. A coat sublimely soft in his hands, the lovely weight of smooth, glistening fur that poured all the way to the floor. It was really a gorgeous piece.
As was the woman who smoothed her gloved hands down the front of it, then pulled the coat's collar to her throat, her fists tight about its edge.
On a whim, James said suddenly, "I have a party to go to tonight. In my honor, actually. I would be delighted if you would accompany me."
She glanced up, lifting one eyebrow. Her gentle smile became arch, faintly amused, faintly skeptical. She said, "You are a lovely young man."
The operative word was young.
"A dear," she added. She smiled again, less kindly.
All right, he had overstepped. It had been overly familiar for him to ask such a thing. As if he could pick her up off the street. But James found himself, since returned to England, not always in harmony with the rules of protocol and society. The same rules he had lived by four years ago occasionally struck him now as stupid, arbitrary. Why not? Why couldn't he ask a charming woman to go to an enjoyable celebration, and thus make it more enjoy able?
She said, "You must find yourself a nice young woman to go with you to your parties."
She reached above her head and lowered the netting of her hat over her face. For an instantfrom behind the bobbinet, as her eyes held hisit seemed to be something more, something beneath all her chic and polite smiling: a flicker of indefinable sadness. Then it was gone.
"Thank you," she said again. Whatever James had seen, if he'd seen anything at all, she recovered quickly. "Please tell Mr. Limpet that I have decided to keep my terrible tooth a while longer." She laughedonce more the treat of that whisper-like sound. "I am just too attached to it, tell him. I can't give it up just yet. Maybe tomorrow. Maybe never. Thank you again, Mr. Stoker."
And, with a sway of sliding fur, the lovely Mrs. Wild turned and disappeared through the haze of motes and sun out the door into a bright spring afternoon.
Sleeping Beauty 3.8 out of 5based on
More than 1 year ago
James Stoker a young Cambridge professor/geologist/explorer, falls in love with an older more experienced woman, a soiled dove, if you will. She is at first put off by his youth but he's such a handsome, thoroughly male, earnest and open fellow she just can't resist for long. James and Coco fall in love but have to hide their relationship as Coco's reputation could ruin James' career. There is treachery afoot as one of her former, lovers, from long ago, frames James, out of jealousy, for crimes he didn't commit. Of course everything comes aright in the end though it seems there is no way that can happen. The protagonist in the book is truly despicable and I found myself wanting to throttle the chap.
The language in the book seems typical of the era. I find this makes a book more believable. There are some very steamy love scenes so if you're a prude this book is not for you.
I have ready many, many romance books in my 63 years and I know a good book when I see one.
Judith Ivory is genius. I loved "The Proposition" which, I highly recommend. I think would also be a great movie. I wouldn't say that about many books I've come across.
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