Bestselling author Patricia Grasso's spellbinding new novel blends breathtaking passion and peril into an unforgettable romantic adventure as a prince engages in a game of deception to win the woman he loves. . .
Beautiful Belle Flambeau relishes her independence even as she dreams of a family of her own. When a vicious attack leaves her with an ugly scar, Belle retreats from society, her hopes of love and courtship dashed. Yet the darkly handsome, wounded stranger who seeks shelter on her property seems intent on proving otherwise, beginning a seduction that is slow, delicious, and utterly scandalous. . .
Prince Mikhail Kazanov wantsnay, needsa loving, nurturing wife, not one of the shallow, empty-headed fortune hunters vying for his attentions. Drawn to Belle, Mikhail uses subterfuge to woo her. But though their heated attraction explodes into sensual bliss, the truth drives Belle awayand into danger's path. Now, as an enemy makes his violent intentions known, Mikhail must find a way to win Belle's trust again. For with their loveand her lifeat stake, he cannot afford to fail. . .
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Tempting the Prince
By Patricia Grasso
ZEBRA BOOKSCopyright © 2007 Patricia Grasso
All right reserved.
Chapter OneLondon, 1821
He smelled her fear.
Shrouded in darkness and swirling fog, he watched her glancing over her shoulder when she reached the sickly yellow glow from the gaslight. She knew he was there. Somewhere. Lurking. He loved the hunt, especially when his quarry knew he was watching and waiting.
Rejecting him had sealed her fate. An insulting laugh and a toss of her mahogany curls had answered his proposition.
When she rounded the corner, he cut through the next alley to get ahead of her and leaned against the stone wall. Footsteps approached, heightening his anticipation.
She was almost here.
She would be his.
She would regret refusing him, if only for a moment.
Leaping out as she passed, he grabbed her from behind and slashed the blade across her throat. He pushed her to the ground and stood over her. The gurgling sounds of her struggle to breathe lessened, each beat of her heart pumping the life out of her.
Using his bloodied blade, he hacked a long length of her hair. Then he pressed a gold sovereign into the palm of her hand and closed her fingers around the coin.
"Thank you for an enjoyable evening, my dear."
The unmistakable aroma of horse droppings floated into the garden on agentle breeze.
Belle Flambeau stood in her blossoming domain and sniffed the air, a smile touching her lips. The odor of horse dung from Soho Square shouted springtime.
Wisteria trees bloomed purple against the red brick house, while yellow tulips conspired with purple crocus to startle the eye with vibrant color. A fragrant lily of the valley ground cover reclined in front of the silver birch tree guarded by lilac, gardenia, rose, and pussy willow shrubs. Forsythia nodded in the breeze at their old friend, the purple pansy that lived in the shade beneath the oak tree.
The garden goddess promises minor miracles.
The clever business slogan pleased Belle. Her success in reviving plants had spread to the great mansions the previous season. Already, gardeners for those wealthy aristocrats had requested her services.
Belle narrowed her violet gaze on the pansy and walked toward the oak tree. The pansy's failure to thrive troubled her. Each day she snatched the pansy from death's grip but found it wilted again the next morning.
Belle glanced over her shoulder and saw one of her sisters walking across the grass. Bliss looked disgruntled.
"Why does Fancy insist on keeping the duke's identity a secret?" Bliss demanded, her voice shrill with anger.
"To which duke do you refer?"
"Our father, of course." Bliss rolled her eyes. "Investing would be easier if I knew which companies he owns." Her sister waved in the direction of the house. "The duke has always supported us in style. Why does our company need to pauperize him? If he retaliates, the Seven Doves will fail, and we will live in the poor house."
Belle placed her hand on her sister's shoulder. "Calm yourself."
Bliss took several deep breaths and then asked, "Is your touch making me feel better?"
Belle gave her an ambiguous smile. "Fancy will never forgive Father because, as the eldest, she remembers the relationship they shared."
"You're only a year younger," Bliss said. "Don't you have memories?"
"When I think of Father," Belle answered, "I see a tall, dark-haired gentleman holding Fancy on his lap."
"Did he never hold you?"
"At first I was too young to share his lap with Fancy." Belle shrugged, feigned nonchalance masking her remembered hurt. "When you and Blaze arrived, I suppose I was too old. The man could only hold one baby in each arm."
"Being born between the oldest and a set of twins is not the most auspicious position," Bliss said. "Being ignored could not have been pleasant."
"I enjoyed Nanny Smudge's attention." Belle lifted a rectangular gold case from the basket looped over her forearm. "Search for the duke with the initials MC and a boar's head crest."
Bliss shook her head. "Admitting ignorance of one's father's identity is humiliating. Does your illegitimacy bother Baron Wingate?"
Belle paused before answering, squelching the rush of irritation. None of her sisters could resist the opportunity to insult her future husband. "Charles understands that we cannot control our origins."
"I worry the baron will hurt you."
"I appreciate your concern." Belle watched Bliss disappear into the house and turned to the ailing pansy. All thoughts of healing the flower vanished with her sister's concern.
I refuse to become love's victim, Belle told herself. Like Mother.
Gabrielle Flambeau, the daughter of a French aristocrat, had escaped the Terror when the citizens slaughtered her family. A penniless countess, her mother had won a position in the opera and caught the eye of a married duke. Together, her mother and her anonymous father had produced seven daughters.
The Flambeaus had wanted for nothing. Except the duke's love and attention.
The daughter had learned hard lessons from the mother, though. She refused to die broken-hearted.
Charles Wingate loved her and accepted that she intended to go to her marriage bed a virgin. She would never consider becoming any man's mistress.
Turning her thoughts to the pansy, Belle knelt in the dirt and set her wicker basket beside her. She reached for the white candle and its brass holder. Next came a tiny bell, followed by the Book of Common Prayer.
Finally, she lifted the gold case engraved with the initials MC and a boar's head. The case contained Lucifer matches and sandpaper to light her healing candle.
Belle traced her finger across the initials MC. A gentleman's accoutrement, the case had been left behind fifteen years earlier, and her father had never returned for it. A wealthy duke could easily replace one gold case, and she had cherished this memento of her father.
Hearing the door open again, Belle saw Blaze and Puddles, the family's mastiff, entering the garden. Blaze headed in her direction while Puddles raced around sniffing for a particular place.
"Are you practicing your hocus-pocus for the season?" her sister asked.
Belle smiled at that. "The garden goddess cannot perform minor miracles without a bit of showmanship."
"Good Lord, the stench from Soho seems stronger than usual today," Blaze remarked, pinching her nostrils together for emphasis. "What is wrong with that sorry-looking pansy? Is it choking from dung stink?"
"I revive the pansy every afternoon and then find it wilted again by morning," Belle said. "I cannot understand its problem."
"The garden goddess fails to save a flower's life?" her sister teased. "This could ruin your business."
The black-masked mastiff loped across the garden toward them. Reaching the oak tree, the dog lifted his hind leg perilously close to the pansy.
"Puddles, no." Down came the leg, and Belle rounded on her sister. "Tell Puddles to conduct his business against the stone wall, not near my pansy."
"Sorry." Blaze gave her a sheepish smile and then knelt in front of the dog. She stared into the mastiff's eyes for a long moment and then patted his head. Puddles bounded across the garden to the stone wall and conducted his business there.
"Thank you." Belle relaxed and teased her sister. "If my pansy dies, I will consider you and Puddles its murderers."
Blaze crouched beside her. "Listen, Puddles dislikes Baron Wingate."
Belle gave her a rueful smile. "Charles has disliked your dog since the day-"
"Puddles lifted his leg to the baron because he doesn't trust the man."
"I will not listen to another word against Charles." Her sisters' disapproval of the baron irritated Belle. "None of you, including Puddles, needs to like Charles since I am the one marrying him."
"If you say so." Blaze returned to the house, the mastiff following her.
Banishing all disturbing thoughts, Belle gave her attention to the pansy. She lifted her right hand to make the beginning blessing but heard the door slam behind her.
Another visitor? Her pansy would expire before she could revive it. Perhaps ignoring whomever-
"Belle." The voice belonged to her youngest sister, who did not sound especially happy.
Raven plopped down on the grass beside her. "I need your advice."
Belle leaned back on her haunches. "What is the problem?"
"Constable Black may ask me to use my special gift to help with that Slasher investigation."
"Do you mean the one the newspapers have dubbed the Society Slasher?"
"My problem is Alex," Raven said, referring to their neighbor, the constable's assistant.
"A brick is more sensitive than Alexander Blake," Belle said, waving her hand in a dismissive gesture.
"I want to help the constable," Raven said, "but Alex makes me feel ... young."
"You are young." Belle studied her sister for a long moment. "You told him you loved him, didn't you?"
Raven nodded, her misery etched across her face. "How do I behave around Alex?"
"Men want what they cannot have." Belle touched her sister's hand. "Treat Alex with chilly politeness and icy disdain."
"Be careful with Baron Wingate," Raven said before leaving. "I cannot trust the man."
Belle took a deep, calming breath and hoped her other three sisters did not interrupt. Then she prepared to heal the pansy.
As Nanny Smudge had taught her, Belle began with the magic blessing. She touched her left breast, her forehead, her right breast, left and right shoulders. Finally, she touched her left breast again.
After removing a Lucifer match and sandpaper, Belle lit the white candle. Then she waved the tiny bell above the pansy, its tinkling sound breaking the garden's silence.
Belle placed her fingers against the pansy. "Ailing, ailing, ailing. Pansy, my touch is sealing, and thy illness is failing. Healing, healing, healing."
Taking the Book of Common Prayer, she held it over the pansy and whispered, "It is written. It is so."
Belle extinguished the candle's flame and made the magic blessing to complete the ritual. The pansy perked up almost immediately.
A hand touched her shoulder.
"Enough interruptions," Belle exclaimed, whirling around. "Charles, what a surprise."
Baron Charles Wingate stared at her, amusement lighting his brown eyes. "What are you doing?"
Belle blushed at being caught kneeling in the dirt. "My pansy needed tending."
The baron offered his hand to help her rise. When she reached for it, he dropped it to his side. "Your hands are dirty."
"This is dirt, not dung."
Charles shook his head in disapproval. "Playing in the dirt is unseemly behavior for a baroness, not to mention whispering to flowers."
"Ooops, you just mentioned it," she teased him, rising without his assistance.
"I do not consider that amusing. Once we marry-"
"Really, Charles, you are much too particular." Belle put her hands on her hips. "Do not forget we met when your gardener hired me to revive that rosebush."
"Darling, I don't mean to scold." He smiled, suddenly amenable. "Your meeting with my fastidious mother concerns me."
"Concerns or worries?" Belle touched his arm, trying to soothe him. "I will behave properly."
"Promise you won't mention working for money." Charles brushed the dirt off his sleeve where she had touched.
Belle smiled at that. "I promise."
"Do not mention gardening, either."
"My lips are locked." She pretended to button her lips together.
"Above all else, do not mention your sister singing in the opera. Mother dislikes such women."
Belle lost her good humor. Fingers of unease touched her spine. Was he embarrassed by her family?
"If you cannot be expensively attired," Charles continued, "then be certain your gown is modest."
Belle narrowed her violet gaze on him and brushed an ebony wisp off her forehead, leaving a smudge. "Are you implying-?"
"I have a sterling idea," Charles interrupted. "We could contrive to mention your father."
Belle gave him a blank stare. Was he serious? Or had he bumped his head, rattling his brain?
"You know, sweetheart, the duke?"
"That could prove awkward," Belle said, "since I do not know which duke sired me and my sisters."
"Doesn't His Grace support you and your sisters?" Charles sounded annoyed. "His Grace's barrister must mention him when he delivers your monthly allowance."
"Percy Howell calls my father His Grace."
"You said your sister knows the duke's identity."
"Fancy refuses to name him."
"Then we will mention your deceased mother was a countess, albeit a penniless French refugee," Charles said. "We can only pray that your anonymous noble bloodlines and your incredible beauty sway Mother into approving our union."
Belle's irritation rose, inciting her to sarcasm. "I will pass the whole evening in prayer."
"I must leave now," Charles said, reaching for her hands. "Mother doesn't like waiting." He lifted her hands to his lips but dropped them again when he saw the dirt.
"Where are you going?" Belle asked when he walked in the direction of the alley exit.
"That disreputable dog growled at me." And then he disappeared into the alley.
The baron's snobbishness made Belle uneasy. She feared his mother was worse. After all, the woman had raised him. Beneath that haughty exterior beat the heart of a decent man. If only she could snatch him away from his mother's influence.
Belle sighed, knowing that was impossible. She only wished Charles was not so concerned with appearances.
One mile and a world away from the Flambeau residence stood the great mansions in Grosvenor Square. Offensive street odors did not dare assault aristocratic nostrils in this enclave of the wealthy. Here, fragrant gardens masked the occasional whiff from passing horses.
Prince Mikhail Kazanov sat at his thirty-foot dining table set with the finest porcelain, crystal, and silver. Perched on the chair beside his was his four-year-old daughter, Elizabeth.
Mikhail stared at his plate, his grim expression mirroring his mood. Instead of beef, the prince saw his former sister-in-law's coy eagerness. The roasted potatoes bore a striking resemblance to his former mother-in-law's determined look.
He felt hunted.
His year of mourning had ended the previous month. Lavinia, his late wife's younger sister, had made her come-out two weeks earlier and immediately targeted him for her husband.
Even his former mother-in-law had become dangerous company. At the opera the previous evening, Prudence Smythe had reminded him that Lavinia had come of age and then proceeded to extol her virtues.
He had barely escaped entrapment. Thankfully, his brother Rudolf had seen his panicked expression during intermission and interrupted the woman's dialogue.
Lavinia and Prudence Smythe were not alone in their ambition. Every maiden and widow in London was bent on tempting a prince into marriage.
He wanted a wife to give him an heir, and his daughter needed a loving stepmother. The society ladies of his acquaintance were shallow and greedy, unfit to mother his daughter.
"Daddy, your elbows are resting on the table."
"Excuse my lapse in manners, Bess."
Mikhail sliced a piece of beef, raised it to his lips, and then glanced at his daughter. Elizabeth had stabbed a piece of beef with her fork and raised it to her lips.
He winked at her. She winked in return. Slowly, he chewed the beef and swallowed. His daughter did the same.
Mikhail set his knife and fork on his plate and reached for his wine goblet. Elizabeth set her fork on the plate and reached for her lemon water.
Lifting his napkin, Mikhail dabbed at each corner of his mouth. His daughter lifted her napkin and dabbed at her mouth.
Mikhail leaned close to her and puckered his lips. Elizabeth puckered her lips, too, and gave him a smacking kiss.
"Thank you, Bess. I needed that kiss."
Elizabeth gave him a dimpled smile. "You are welcome, Daddy."
"What should we do before visiting Uncle Rudolf?"
"I want to go to Bond Street."
That made him smile. "What do you want to purchase?"
"I want a mummy," Elizabeth said, her disarming blue eyes gleaming with hope. "Cousin Sally got a new mummy, and I want one too."
His heart ached for his only child. "The Bond Street shops do not sell mummies."
Her expression drooped.
Mikhail lifted her delicate hands to his lips and proceeded to kiss each of her tiny fingers. Then he pretended to gobble them, eliciting her giggles.
"Daddy, does the stork bring mummies?" (Continues...)
Excerpted from Tempting the Prince by Patricia Grasso Copyright © 2007 by Patricia Grasso. Excerpted by permission.
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
Loved this book and the others in this grouping. Wish this author would write more books.
I agree with the other reviews, all time great love story, action packed, mystery and some romance.
In 1821 the seven Flambeau sisters each possess a different 'gift'. Belle, for instance, is blessed with the ability to heal people by touching them. She is contented with her lot as she loves gardening, enjoys helping people and looks forward to her upcoming marriage. Everything changes when Belle is the victim of an ugly assault most likely by the serial killing Society Slasher that though she survives leaves her face scarred and her fiancé dumping her.----------- Unable to cope the once happy healer hides in her garden, her last place she has any enjoyment. Meanwhile Prince Mikhail 'Mick' Kazanov and his daughter Bess want a wife and mother. She suggests he try shopping at the 'mummy stores' for a spouse who can tell her fairy tales and loves gardening. Mike knows he found a wife that he and his daughter could love, but Belle rejects his efforts to court her so he works a deal with her father the duke, her siblings, and his daughter to assist his plan to marry the woman he loves.--------------- The latest Flambeau sister and Kazanov brother Regency romance (see PLEASURING THE PRINCE and SEDUCING THE PRINCE) is a delightful tale. The story line is action-packed from the onset with the Slasher doing his horrific deeds while Mick and Bess court Belle. Fans of this princely series will enjoy this fine entry as Belle is one of the most fascinating characters amongst a horde of interesting players especially the Flambeau felines.----------- Harriet Klausner
You must buy this book! Ms. Grasso writes another spell binding Flambeau Sister Story mixed in with another tantalizing Kazanov Brother. You are immediately drawn into Belle¿s gentle world. Then tragedy strikes. You feel Belle¿s soul deep courage and her ache to overcome all the challenges life has thrown in her path and the despair she faces believing no one will love her scarred imperfection. Enter Prince Mikhail who believes, as all arrogant males, he can make her love him. But in the end it is he, Prince Mikhail Kazanov, who is humbled by true love. The Prince learns that love isn¿t his to command. In that risking love he must trust that love will return to him. Not an easy challenge while dealing with ¿The Society Slasher¿ who threatens the very thing he loves. Ms. Grasso has so artfully crafted an intriguing plot around the strength of her characters that you find yourself turning the pages faster and faster to visit all the charming and characters from her previous books. They all participate in finding the killer and trying to insure that Belle and her Prince find true love. Pleasantly surprising are several subplots that are as intriguing as the main plot. I cannot wait to read the story of Blaze Flambeau and Alexander Blake, but first there is the teaser for ¿Enticing the Prince.¿
This book held my attention, but it was as much or more of a mystery as it was a romance. The female characters, although wonderfullly written, were not realistic. It is not a peaceful book, that gives us a break from what we see in the news.
this book is one of the greatest love stories of all times. it has action and romance. suspence and pleasure. you won't be able to put this book down till the vey end.
This is the continuation of the Kazanov Prince Series. This story is about Belle Flambeau and Prince Mikhail Kazanov. Belle's story starts and is enter twined with Pleasuring the Prince. However I recommend reading the entire series - To Love a Princess, To Catch a Countess and Seducing the Prince. Belle and Mihails story begins after Belle is attacked and her face cut and scarred. Prince Mikhail is looking for a mother who meets 'certain criteria' set out by his young daughter. He spys Belle while visiting her father and secretly marries her. That is where the excitement begins as he must work to earn her love and keep the secret. There are 3 blonde 'witches' constantly causing problems as well as former in-laws. Very entertaining!