Brianna Penderley has a knack for getting into precarious situations, especially when it comes to her love for archaeology. In the heart of Naples, her terrible Italian has her accidentally becoming engaged to two men at the same time. Of course, Daniel Wolcott-the Earl of Thornton and the only man ever able to vex her-shows up to rescue her.
Daniel has spent the majority of his life exercising rigid control over his emotions, determined never to become the rake his father was. But when he goes to aid his mentor's danger-prone niece once again, he finds himself struggling to control his attraction to a woman who is his complete opposite.
When their situation goes from bad to worse, Daniel and Brianna find themselves swept up into a perilous adventure, and they must work together to set things right. Now, if they can just avoid killing each other in the process.
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1856 — London, England
Miss Penderley was in trouble again. Of course she was. He should have known that was the case as soon as he'd received the summons from Sir Walter.
Daniel Wolcott, the Earl of Thornton, leaned back against the blue-brocade-covered armchair and regarded the man seated across the expanse of the desk. "She managed to become accidentally engaged to not one but two men and at the same time? Whilst in Italy, of all places. Do I have that correct?"
Sir Walter Penderley sighed heartily. "Yes, apparently so. Though, I do not know the exact details, my boy. Unfortunately, my wife's letter was rather absent of important information. Apart from disclosing of my niece's accidental betrothals, all she added was that help would be needed to delicately untangle Brianna from the predicament."
Daniel swore softly. For over ten years, Sir Walter Penderley had been in charge of the intelligence department for the War Office, and for twenty years before that, a spy himself. Looking at him, though, with his easy smile, gray hair, and jovial girth, he would be the last man you would expect to have such authority and power on behalf of the British Empire. But he was excellent at his job. Just not so excellent at keeping his niece under control. "No offense, Sir Walter, but wherever trouble is, Miss Penderley is sure to be at its very center."
"Yes, my niece has a tendency to get herself into some rather unusual predicaments," Sir Walter agreed.
"Putting it rather mildly?"
"Possibly," Sir Walter conceded. "But I must implore you to travel to Naples and extract her from the situation, Thornton. My wife and daughter are there with her, but I feel, considering the circumstances, a man needs to be there to assist. I would go myself if it wasn't for this nasty Frantleigh investigation, but time is of the essence. You know what Italian men are like; they are particularly hot-headed when it comes to affairs of the heart. And I don't wish for Brianna to try to intervene between the two and get hurt, or worse, married."
"She should be married. Someone needs to control her impulsive ways." The woman was far too headstrong and used to running headfirst into situations without properly considering her actions beforehand. She should have married years ago, and then perhaps, whoever the poor chap was could have had her well in hand before now.
But then Daniel shook his head. Who was he fooling? Miss Penderley was like a bright, burning flame, and one he doubted any man could control. He suddenly felt sorry for her unfortunate fiancés. They obviously had no idea what they were getting themselves into, becoming engaged to the chit.
"Are you offering, dear boy?" There was a look of eagerness on the old man's face that alarmed him.
"Good God, no," Daniel exclaimed. The thought of marrying Miss Penderley, and the ensuing mayhem it would cause to his well-ordered life, sent a chill down his spine. He wouldn't wish that hoyden on anyone. "Any man who ends up stuc — ah, married to your niece would be in for a life of constant chaos, with her rash and headstrong nature. No disrespect, Sir Walter, but that is certainly not my idea of a suitable marriage. Besides, you know I have no particular wish to marry until I absolutely must."
Sir Walter looked at him appraisingly for a moment. "You are not your father, my boy."
The mention of his father had him stiffening up reflexively. No, he was not his father, and he damn well wasn't going to end up like him either — a rake and a wastrel who had broken his mother's heart time and time again, until eventually, he'd broken her spirit and been the catalyst for her death. A man Daniel had spent the better part of twenty years doing his hardest to never emulate, particularly as the man's blood flowed in his veins. Hence why Daniel adhered to a well-ordered regime, at least in his personal life. There was no way in hell he was going to lead such a chaotic life as his parents had, nor would he take part in such a disastrously tempestuous relationship.
"It's a moot point in any event." Sir Walter slumped slightly in his chair. "She wouldn't have you."
"Wouldn't have me?" For some reason, the man's words rankled. He did, after all, have to spend the majority of his time at balls and assemblies fending off determined mothers from foisting their darlings on him. His sister enjoyed reminding him that he was considered quite the catch, thanks to his title and fortune — and much to his annoyance. But here Sir Walter was, saying the irrepressible Miss Penderley wouldn't have him?
"No. She dislikes your 'stuffy ways' — her words, not mine — as much as you abhor her rather free-spirited nature."
"Well, at least in that, we are agreed," Daniel allowed. But still, the fact that she thought him to be stuffy annoyed him. Clearly, she didn't know about the occasional clandestine missions he assisted Sir Walter with. She wouldn't think him stuffy then. Although, why he was allowing Miss Penderley to affect him while she was over a thousand miles away was a mystery.
"Will you go to Italy for me? I do love the gal, as much as she's caused me headaches over the years. I'd hate to see her forced to wed some foreigner she didn't mean to marry."
Now it was Daniel's turn to sigh. Sir Walter had been the one to recruit him to spy for The Crown over fifteen years ago, believing in him as no one else had. He was also one of the few people who knew that Daniel's father had very nearly bankrupted the earldom. So, when he'd presented Daniel with an offer to covertly use his position as the new Earl of Thornton to periodically gather intelligence for the War Office, both to help his country and retain a rather decent fee, Daniel had jumped at the opportunity. And over the years, Walter had become not only his mentor at the War Office but a friend.
Not to mention that the indomitable Miss Penderley was one of Daniel's sister Sophie's best friends. And Sophie would throttle him if he let anything happen to her.
Of course he would go and rescue Miss Penderley again, as he had done for umpteen years. As much as she vexed him with her devil-may-care attitude, he felt duty bound to ensure she remained safe, even if she failed to appreciate any of his efforts to do so.
Irritated at the thought, he ran a hand through his hair, caring little that his valet's styling work was ruined in the process. "If I am to rescue her again from another tight scrape, tell me how, exactly, she got herself accidentally engaged to two men at the same time? I would never have believed such a thing possible."
"We are talking about Brianna," Sir Walter reminded him, a fatherly smile of indulgence at the corner of his lips.
Daniel picked up the glass of whisky in front of him and swallowed the contents in one mouthful. Of course they were talking about Brianna. He sometimes wondered if Walter had really recruited him simply to rescue his wayward niece on the many occasions that she needed it. "Yes, her recklessness and propensity to dive into situations, with no thought to the consequences, often gets her into these sorts of predicaments. Although, two fiancés are a first, even for her."
Sir Walter bobbed his head morosely. "Yes, but she is half Italian. She cannot truly be blamed for her somewhat passionate nature. It is in her blood, after all."
"Does Brianna take after her mother then?" Daniel asked.
A long, drawn out exhale echoed through the room as an expression of sadness spread over Sir Walter's face. "I don't actually know, as I never met Edward's wife in person. My brother eloped with her in Italy, and it was over a year after the fact that we even received word of their marriage. Then, another year later, I received a missive informing me of their deaths." His jaw tightened for a moment. "I have heard, though, from all accounts, that Bree's mother was a very passionate and stubborn lady, fierce in protecting those she loved. So it would appear that yes, Brianna does indeed take after her mother."
"So it would seem." The thought of Brianna being fiercely protective of those she loved was uncomfortable. Daniel had to resist the urge to tug at his cravat.
"Yes, well, Brianna has always been stubborn and determined, even as a babe," Sir Walter continued. "I remember when I traveled to Italy after my brother died; I was shocked to discover that not only had Edward and his wife had a daughter, whom I hadn't known about, but that the child was the sole survivor. After my brother and his wife were murdered, a man by the name of Fabrizio Bianchi smuggled her out of the town, apparently in contravention of his employer's instructions."
"His employer?" Daniel questioned.
Sir Walter drummed his fingers on the desk. "He refused to tell me the man's name, superstitious that if he did so, the man would find him. A load of nonsense of course, but there was clearly fear behind Fabrizio's refusal, which was probably well-founded, as the fiend had ordered Fabrizio to kill Brianna by drowning her. What sort of monster would order such a thing?"
In Daniel's work over the years, he unfortunately was never surprised by the evil some would sink to. But even still, to order the death of a child was, without question, the very depths of depravity. "But this Fabrizio did not carry out his employer's order?"
"Thankfully not," Sir Walter said. "And luckily, he sought me out when I traveled to the region seeking answers about my brother's murder. That is when he presented me with Brianna."
Daniel had never had to deal with a baby being foisted upon him on one of his missions. Thank the Lord. "That must have been a handful for you ..."
Daniel put the glass onto the table with a deliberate clunk. "Regardless of her nature, how do you expect me to extract her from such a situation?" He'd helped get her out of various scrapes in the past; the time when Walter had asked him to travel to Cairo and assist her after she'd managed to infuriate a bunch of tomb thieves on her expedition there came readily to mind.
She had been helping on an archeological dig, with her aunt playing chaperone, when some thieves had confronted them, trying to steal one of the artifacts Brianna had uncovered. Thus Bree had used one of her shovels to successfully fight the two bandits off; however, the men had apparently suffered great dishonor by being bested by a woman.
Sir Walter had received word from his various sources that the thieves were going to attempt to seek retribution. Which is how Daniel found himself there, attempting to rescue her yet again. In the end, some gold coins had been enough to satisfy the men's honor. An offer she'd already made through an intermediary before Daniel arrived, but it had been refused as it was coming from a woman.
Then there was the time when she'd alarmed the Egyptian government by trying to take some relics out of the country. They were fakes, but the officials who'd confronted her hadn't let her explain before confining her and her aunt to their hotel room under house arrest. It was only when Sir Walter sent Daniel down to negotiate on her behalf that they'd been allowed to leave the country.
He had no doubt she'd have eventually charmed her way out of that one without him. But she kept putting herself into these situations with her endless gallivanting and treasure hunting, and one of these days, she was going to get herself into more trouble than she could handle.
Like getting engaged to two men. This specific problem she was currently in may not have been life-threatening — yet — but it was completely unique.
"Come, my boy." Sir Walter's eyes twinkled. "You're creative enough to come up with something that will untangle her from the mess she's in."
Daniel was careful to keep his own face devoid of any expression. "Why don't you simply tell me what you have in mind?"
"No plan, my boy," Sir Walter replied.
The old codger was expecting him to traipse to Italy and rescue his niece with no plan? No. That did not sound like the Sir Walter he knew and had been recruited by all those years ago.
"But perhaps this might assist." Leaning down, the older man opened one of the desk drawers, pulled out a single piece of parchment from inside, and pushed it across the top of the desk.
Daniel took the paper and scanned it. His gaze flew to Sir Walter, who wore an expression of compete innocence. But Daniel knew better. "Absolutely not," he said. "Not a chance in hell."
Sir Walter harrumphed noisily. "It is not a real marriage certificate."
"I would bloody well hope not. I shall not be using it."
"Well, apart from dueling with the two Italian Romeos, which I am sure is as illegal in Naples as it is here, what do you intend to do?" Sir Walter asked, taking a measured sip from his own whisky glass.
"I shall figure something out, but not this." Daniel held out the paper to Sir Walter. Certainly not. Even the thought of being in a pretend marriage with such an impetuous woman, who would literally turn his life upside down, sent an uncomfortable shaft of something that felt an awful lot like fear down his spine. She was reckless and rash, just like his father. He didn't do well with those types of people.
"Keep it, dear boy. It just might come in handy." Sir Walter smiled genially across at him. "And you know from experience, 'tis always best to be prepared."
Daniel stared at the offending piece of parchment, then reluctantly folded it and shoved it into his jacket pocket. It felt uncomfortable nestled against him, like it was going to burn a hole clear through the cloth. But darn it, he did like to be prepared.
"Good chap." Sir Walter stood. He wandered across to the side table and picked up another letter before handing it to Daniel. "This is the letter my wife sent."
Taking the pages, Daniel quickly scanned their contents. Sir Walter had been correct; Lady Penderley really hadn't provided many details, apart from where they were staying in Naples and that Brianna had gotten engaged to two Italian men who spoke little English, which is how she thought the mishap occurred. The lady didn't even disclose who the men were. "So, there was some sort of miscommunication?"
"It would seem so," Sir Walter agreed. He perched his bulky frame on the edge of his desk.
"Why the language barrier?" Daniel asked, feeling once again confounded. "Brianna's half Italian. Does she not, at least, speak some of the language?"
Sir Walter shook his head. "Not one shred, I am afraid. My stubborn niece refused to learn any Italian whatsoever, no matter how hard I tried to get her to. I think she felt she was already different enough here in England with her Italian heritage, and she did not wish to seem even more so by learning to speak her mother's native tongue."
Morosely, Daniel shook his head. "She should have listened to you. Then at least she wouldn't be in this wretched predicament. Entirely of her own making, of course." The woman's stubbornness would be her undoing.
"Yes, well, what is done is done," Sir Walter's no-nonsense manner was back in place. "We must move forward and find a way to rectify the situation. And immediately, too."
"I shall sail for Naples tomorrow." The sooner he left, the sooner he could get this situation in hand and return. "I will retrieve her and bring her straight back to London. That should rectify the situation."
"She may not wish to leave immediately." Sir Walter straightened and returned to his chair, carefully avoiding Daniel's gaze. "I'm certain my wife and youngest daughter will see the benefit of doing so. But I doubt Brianna and Travis will."
"Your son is also with the ladies? Then why is Travis not assisting with this situation if he is there, too?"
Sir Walter steepled his hands together in front of him. "He's apparently gone off chasing some sort of archaeological treasure on his own. You know what Travis is like."
"Rather like your niece, to be frank, sir," Daniel replied.
Sir Walter paused for a moment. "Yes, well, there are only six months separating them, and they did grow up in the nursery together. They are rather like two peas in a pod, and both share a passion for collecting antiquities. Which was the purpose of their visit to Naples. Travis and Brianna were searching for some specific antiquities, and you know what they're like if they haven't found what they are after, particularly when it comes to those old objects they both collect."
"They're like ruddy dogs with bones."
"An apt description." Sir Walter sounded rather pained in his agreement. "However, now that Travis has gone off somewhere, I rather doubt he is even aware of the pickle Brianna has gotten herself into."(Continues…)
Excerpted from "The Elusive Earl"
Copyright © 2018 Maddison Fitzsimmons.
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 loved this story it had everything. Miss Brianna Penderley parents were murdered and she was just a baby. Her uncle came looking for her and brought her back to England, where she grew up. But like her mother, she was adventurous, impulsive and always in one form or another in trouble. The one always sent to get her out of trouble was Daniel Wolcott, the Earl of Thornton. the had been friends since childhood and knew each other very well. Daniel's father was a wastrel and no good, he caused his mother to die and he could not forgive him. He would not love ever, at least that is what he told himself, he would never be like his dad. There was intrigue, one really mean man, death, and lots of action. Something is always happening and there is not a dull moment. The actors are great and interact with each other well. Even the secondary characters are so lifelike. There are a lot of twists to this tale, but it makes it all the better to keep your attention. You are always seeking what happened next? I love where Daniel finally tells her he loves her, a wonderful scene. I would be more than willing to read another of her great books. I received this ARC from Net Galley and voluntarily reviewed it.
The Earl of Thornton, Daniel Wolcott has been rescuing Brianna Penderley her entire life what’s one more mission going to her rescue. Her uncle asks him to go to Italy to rescue her once again and what a grand adventure this rescue turns out to be. Her cousin, Travis, is kidnapped to blackmail Bree into turning over her Mother’s journals. Daniel has always know Bree was trouble and once he settles down to marry he wants a calm, boring wife not an adventurous lady like Brianna who is always getting into trouble. Brianna thinks Danial is a stuff snob of society, without an adventurous bone in his body, he’s all business. Daniel has vowed to not be like his promiscuous fun loving father who broke his Mother’s heart over and over again. They are attracted to each other, both are fighting the attraction, Daniel struggles to control his attraction to a woman who is his complete opposite and Bree see Daniel in a whole new light, he’s not as stuff as she thought. They’re thrown together running across country on a perilous journey to save her cousin it becomes harder to deny what the heart and soul wants, if only they have the courage overcome their differences and hold onto the one they love to live HEA before it’s too late. This is my honest opinions after I voluntarily read a copy of this book that was provided to me with no requirements for a review.
I loved it! The story is very engaging and entertaining. I loved all the characters. It has right amount of mystery, intrigue, romance, and adventure. I think it's a must read for historical fiction fans, especially for those who enjoy reading about treasure hunts. Brianna Penderley has been the bane of Daniel's life for quite some time now. The girl has a bad habit of finding trouble and he is the one who comes to her rescue every single time. But he cannot help it, he feels that he owes it to her uncle to help her out on difficult situations. Not that she is ever thankful. She is headstrong, stubborn, and has no sense of self-preservation. So, when he is told to go to Italy and save Brianna from not one but two fiances, he of course goes. And what he finds may very well change the course of his life for good. Because as it turns out she is even more danger than they thought initially. The kind of danger that will lead the two of them to spend way too much time in each other's company... and that changes things... Brianna simply wanted to know more about her mother, but deciding to get her mother's journals translated turns out to be the worst decision of her life. Travis is kidnapped and now she must save her cousin even though it means putting herself in danger. The only good thing is that Lord Thornton is here. She trusts him to keep them safe. He will find a way to protect them and resolve all the problems. That's what he does and he is very good at it. What she doesn't count on is changes in her feelings towards him. The more time they spend together, the more she knows about him the more she feels for him... will their story end happily or in heartache like her parents? It's a very well-written story. I enjoyed reading it from the beginning until the very end. It was definitely worth the read.
Brianna's parents were killed in front of her when she is a baby by someone looking for a legendary treasure. She is taken in by her uncle and raised as his own child. Brianna is high spirited and stays in trouble all the time. She takes after her mother who was adventurous. Daniel works for Sir Walter, Brianna's. uncle. Brianna is in Italy where she gets engaged to more than one man. Daniel is sent to rescue her, again. Daniel thinks she is too wild to marry. He wants a nice, gentle woman who won't cause any problems, but gets the ship's captain to marry them to protect her. An annulment can be gotten later. Brianna's cousin gets kidnapped and the random is some journals that belonged to Brianna's mother which may have the location of the treasures. Loved this book. It is about treasure hunting, villians, a princess and treachery.. Will the treasures be found and her cousin saved? Great book. I loved it. I received this book from Net Galley and Entangled Publishing for a honest review and no compensation otherwise.
"The appreciation you show me, after all I have done for you over the years, takes my breath away." Or so sarcastically says our Hero Daniel to our heroine Brianna as he tries to get her out of another mishap. Actually he has been doing that all of their lives, always to the rescue of Bree. He maintains tight control over his emotions as he again goes to aid his mentor's niece to get her out of a scrape of being engaged to two men at the same time. The problem is the suitors are speaking Italian that she does not really understand! Daniel is a spy, adventurer and a hero although Bree just thinks of him always around to help her. Seemingly they do not really like each other, but emotions under the surface are always waiting to erupt. This story had many twist and turns that kept me turning the pages to find out what would happen next. From a treasure that everyone is looking for and thinking Bree was the key, keeps them fleeting villains and trying to find out who is friend or foe. Prepare to be thoroughly entertained and breathlessly waiting for the next book by this author! Lori Dykes
I haven't read the first book in this series yet, but now, I just have to. This was such a fun story with super fun characters. That's a lot of fun, right there. I'm a sucker for bantering, and these two were so good at it. They were witty and quick. The chemistry was steamy. They took me on the adventure with them, and you never knew who was going to show up or what was going to happen when, because there was always something happening. I loved this one, guys. You will too. The ARC of The Elusive Earl by Maddison Michaels was kindly provided to me by the author for review. The opinions are my own.
I loved Brianna and Daniel's story!! Brianna has gotten herself into another mess and Daniel has been sent to extract her from it once again. But this time, there seems to be a lot more going on than the mess that Brianna caused. Always at loggerheads with each other, the two must pose as husband and wife as they move to finding a solution to Brianna's problem. Could all the bickering they find themselves in really be a mechanism to hide their true feelings? As the journey continues, they find themselves growing closer. Could the person the thought they hated really be the one to give them their HEA? I loved every single minute of Brianna and Daniel's journey! This is a must read for any historical romance lover!! I can't wait to read the next book in the Saints & Scoundrels series!!
All I can say is WOW! This is the second book from Maddison Michaels and it’s as wonderful as the first one (The Devilish Duke). I couldn’t put it down. The plot, the romance, hidden treasure and a villain who surprised me. Brianna Penderley’s parents were murdered when she was a baby. The murderer ordered his servant to kill her, but he hid her and sent for her English uncle, Sir Walter Penderley. Her parents were searching for an ancient treasure as was the greedy villain. Bree grew up with her English cousins, Travis and Amelia, her best friend Sophie and Sophie’s brother Daniel, Earl of Thornton. Bree has always loved Daniel but he’s very stuffy and thinks he wants a loveless marriage. The Penderleys, except Sir Walter, travel to Italy where they hope to find her mother’s journals and the treasure. Daniel is sent after them to protect Bree, and the others, as she is in danger. Daniel is aware that she is a princess and her Grandfather’s heir and takes her to him with the others following. Except for Travis who has decided to search for the treasure on his own. For Bree’s protection, Daniel marries her. Eventually, they all end up at her Grandfather’s palace. She it thrilled to have found family on her mother’s side. Because this is a very well written story I won’t say more as it would be easy to spoil this marvelous book. Travis is rescued with the help of a woman named Sabina, and Amelia runs into Samuel Boyd, heir to an Earl who accompanies them to the palace. I’m looking forward to their HEAs. I highly recommend this book to anyone who likes an adventure along with the romance.
Would you like to go on a treasure hunt? Join our heroine Brianna Penderly on a jaunt from England to lovely and dangerous Italy in search of the lost treasure of King Aleric. A funny incident sends our hero, Daniel Wolcott, Earl of Thornton, to save the day and Bree. Daniel's exasperated to be sent, once again, by Bree's Uncle to clean up her mess. Along the way we find too many suitors, kidnapping, lots of water, worried family, new family, intrigue, vengeance, justice, glorious treasure and love. Daniel and Bree are completely wrong for each other. She's headstrong and reckless. He's stuffy and abhors emotions as they only lead to chaos. Opposites sometimes attract, will our couple be able to resist or will they be helpless when faced with true love? Don't miss the very romantic happily ever after. I've not read this one before. I confess that I'd never heard of Madison Michaels until I was offered the opportunity to receive an arc of The Elusive Earl. I love a chance to check out a new author and to share my opinion of a book. I hope that my review will entice you to try out Ms. Michael's work. You won't be disappointed. I now have to catch up on her earlier work, I like her style.
The author takes you on a thrill ride with a spunky young lady called Bree by friends and family. She is spontaneous and fearless and often finds herself having to be rescued from scrapes by the “grumpy” Earl of Thornton. Proximity leads to love and a happily ever after.
A little bit of everything thrown in! Murder, a most evil villain with a penchant for butchering his victims, a hunt for missing, treasure which includes a fabled elixir of life, a missing princess, kidnap, mafia. Not to mention that the hero is an Earl who moonlights as a spy for the crown. Talk about everything but the kitchen sink in the story! Still, a little ambivalent with the overall story. Brianna (the missing princess of course) is an orphan but brought up by her loving aunt & uncle who treat her as very much part of their family. Avid archaeologists, Bree and her cousin Travis had been working on the journals that Bree’s mother left her that speak of a hidden, lost treasure. When Bree, who speaks no Italian mistakenly agrees to 2 proposals of marriage while in Italy, her uncle sends her childhood protector Daniel, the Earl of Thornton to (yet again) extricate her. Bree and Daniel have been somewhat at loggerheads since young; Daniel being her one constant in saving her whenever she gets herself into any sort or misadventure/trouble. While Daniel tries to be staid, sensible and hates for the boat to be rocked, Bree is impulsive and lively to the point of recklessness. Which leads to a definite clash of characters and opinions. I liked that from at the beginning, even when Bree is sniping at Daniel for being stuffy that she feels safe and protected just by his presence & that she knows he will always be a constant in her life. When they are thrown together in a pretend marriage, the chemistry between them rather explodes, But every time, Daniel does an about turn “this was a mistake”, “this will never happen again”. After a while, it got a bit tiresome. Still, an overall entertaining read.