The Secret of Flirting (Sinful Suitors Series #5)

The Secret of Flirting (Sinful Suitors Series #5)

by Sabrina Jeffries

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781501144486
Publisher: Pocket Books
Publication date: 03/27/2018
Series: Sinful Suitors Series , #5
Pages: 416
Sales rank: 98,800
Product dimensions: 4.10(w) x 6.40(h) x 1.20(d)

About the Author

Sabrina Jeffries is the New York Times and USA TODAY bestselling author of several Regency-set historical romance series, including the Royal Brotherhood, the School for Heiresses, the Hellions of Halstead Hall, the Duke’s Men, and the Sinful Suitors. When she’s not writing in a coffee-fueled haze, she’s traveling with her husband, caring for her adult autistic son, or indulging in one of her passions: jigsaw puzzles, chocolate, music, and costume parties. With more than nine million books in print in twenty languages, the North Carolina author never regrets tossing aside a budding career in academics for the sheer joy of writing fun fiction and hopes that one day a book of hers will end up saving the world. She always dreams big.

Read an Excerpt

The Secret of Flirting

  • Dieppe, France

    October 1830

    Monique Servais sat alone in her dressing room, reapplying face paint between acts. Once again, the Dieppe theater was performing Le mariage de Figaro, but this time she was playing the Countess and not Suzanne.

    She grimaced. Of course she was playing the older woman these days. Some ingénue had the role of Suzanne now that Monique had reached the advanced age of twenty-four.

    No, that wasn’t fair. It was her peaked appearance and her lapses in remembering her lines that had relegated her to the lesser role. She got little sleep anymore, with her grandmother Solange wandering outside the apartment at all hours.

    So it was just as well that Monique had an easier part. She would soon have to hire a servant to keep watch even at night. And how was she to pay for that? It wasn’t as if the theater would give her more money, especially in her current state.

    A knock came at the door, and Mr. Duval poked his head inside. “There is a gentleman who wishes to meet you after the performance.”

    “Another?” She waved her hand dismissively. “You know I don’t do that.”

    “I think you may want to speak to this particular man, my dear. He says—”

    “I don’t care what he says or how much he pays you.” She swiveled on her chair to look at Mr. Duval. “I can’t linger after the performance these days—you know that. Grand-maman is getting worse. Besides, I hate all those leering fellows. There was that merchant who thought he could convince me to become his mistress by giving me a fur tippet. And that . . . that vile Dutchman who wanted to suck my toes.”

    So far she’d avoided taking a protector. But if Grand-maman got worse, she might have no choice.

    She shuddered. “Not to mention the baker with the admittedly delicious cakes who also stank of fish. Even you said it wasn’t worth the money he paid you for an audience with me.”

    “And let’s not forget that British lord, the one who annoyed you so thoroughly.”

    Gregory Vyse, Baron Fulkham. Even after three years, she remembered his name. And his faintly accented French and the way the room had seemed to shrink to fit him when he walked in. Not to mention his eyes, so starkly blue in his handsome face, and his wealth of wavy hair, black as a starless night.

    Curse him. Turning back to her mirror, she resumed touching up her face paint. “British lord?” she said with forced nonchalance. “I don’t remember any British lord.”

    Mr. Duval chuckled. “You rage about him every time anyone mentions the virtues of tragedy over comedy.”

    “He was arrogant and insufferable in his opinions,” she snapped. “Of course I rage about him.”

    “So you do remember him,” Mr. Duval said smugly.

    She glared at Mr. Duval in the mirror. “I remember that you forced the man on me and that I regretted it. Just as, no doubt, I will regret the one you are trying to make me see tonight.”

    “This one is different.”

    “You always say that,” she muttered.

    “He’s from Chanay.”

    She paused with her powder brush in midair. Grand-maman was also from Chanay, in Belgium. “What’s his name?”

    “The Count de Beaumonde. He says he’s your great-uncle. Your grandmother’s brother-in-law.”

    She recognized the name. Grand-maman had spoken of the count many times, and with great affection, too.

    Monique’s hand began to shake so much she dropped the brush. “He’s here. In the theater.”


    “Who’s with him?”

    “Only a servant. But the count says he traveled from Calais today to speak with you and your grandmother.”

    She could scarcely believe it. After all these years of Grand-maman’s exile from her family, one of them had finally come to see her. Before this, not a single person from the Chanay branch had bothered.

    What was she to think? What did it mean? “Did he say why he’d come?”

    “No. But he said it was most important. Shall I tell him he can meet with you?”

    She had to say yes. These days Grand-maman spoke of nothing but her childhood in Chanay. The count might be able to cheer her. Besides, Monique was curious to meet one of the relatives her grandmother had seemed so amazingly fond of.

    “Set it up,” she said, “but not here. At the apartment. Tell him to come at eleven.”

    That would give her an hour after the play to make herself presentable. To make Grand-maman presentable and prepare her for seeing her long-lost relation. They must both make a good impression. Monique didn’t know why the man was here or what he wanted, but she was not going to let him see her looking like an overpainted harlot in this cramped dressing room. Or pitying Grand-maman for having such a granddaughter.

    After all, it wasn’t every day that one got an audience with a member of the royal family of Chanay.

    Unable to sit still, Monique paced the small parlor of their comfy apartment as her grandmother sat on the sofa doing embroidery. Ever since Grand-maman’s mind had begun to fail her, she’d reverted to old habits from her girlhood—embroidering reticules, speaking like a royal, and expecting luxuries that Monique could never afford.

    “Who is this visitor we are expecting?” Grand-maman asked.

    Having already answered the question twice, Monique said, a trifle impatiently, “Your brother-in-law, the count. You remember.”

    Her grandmother lit up, just as she had twice before. “Oh yes! A lovely man. How kind of him to visit! I shall be very happy to see him.” She rose. “Shall I call for wine?”

    Monique hastened to her side. “No need.” Especially since their one servant had left long ago. She gestured to the bottle of red Burgundy sitting on the tea table with three glasses and a little pile of petits fours. “We are all ready for him.”

    “Good, good. He must have the best.”

    A knock came at the door.

    Wiping her clammy hands on the skirt of her best gown, Monique stiffened her spine and walked calmly to the door.

    She opened it to find a white-haired gentleman who looked even older than her sixty-five-year-old grandmother. Dressed in a costly opera cloak of black satin, a suit of black silk, an ivory cravat, and a subtly patterned waistcoat, the darkly attractive fellow was the very picture of discreet elegance. Oddly enough, he reminded her of her late grandfather, who was of no relation to him whatsoever.

    The servant behind him was elderly, too, but he wore a soft smile that seemed to say he was glad to be there.

    Not the count, who nodded to her with great formality. “Miss Servais, I presume?”

    Sketching a curtsy, she said, “Good evening, sir.” She refused to show him more deference than that. The family had ignored her and Grand-maman for decades, after all.

    “You’re right, my lord,” the count’s servant murmured to him. “She could easily be the princess’s sister.”

    Which princess? she wanted to ask, but before she could, Grand-maman rose to eye the count uncertainly.

    “Who is this ancient fellow, Monique?” she asked with the bluntness she’d developed of late.

    Ignoring the way the man flinched, Monique said, “This is the Count de Beaumonde. Your eldest sister’s husband.”

    “It cannot be.” Grand-maman peered at him as she came near. “He is much too old.”

    The count bristled and scowled at Monique. “Did you not tell her I was coming to visit this evening?”

    “I did,” Monique said in a low voice. “But she doesn’t remember. In her mind, you are still as young as when she last saw you.”

    As he took her meaning, his features softened profoundly. “Ah.” He stepped into the room to approach Grand-maman. “Princess Solange, it is a great pleasure to meet with you again. You’re looking very well.”

    Her grandmother preened. “Oh, Count, you always were such a flatterer.”

    The rare moment of remembrance made Monique feel momentarily grateful to the man. Until she reminded herself that he and the rest of the family had exiled Grand-maman from Chanay for eloping with a common actor without her father’s permission.

    Monique tamped down her anger. Grand-maman felt no resentment and never had. She’d always said she’d made her choice while fully knowing and accepting the consequences. That she would do it again, given the chance.

    A thickness formed in Monique’s throat. Her grandparents had been very much in love. Still, Grand-maman’s choice had cost her time and again. Monique had learned from her example never to be so foolish as to choose romantic love over one’s family.

    The servant followed his master into the room. “Do you remember me, Princess?” the man said hopefully to Solange. “You used to call me Chanceux, because of my luck at cards. We had some merry times when you were a girl.”

    Grand-maman’s blank look showed that her rare moment of clarity was gone. “I—I . . . yes . . . of course. Chanceux.” Abruptly she turned to Monique. “I’m very tired. It is late for visiting, no?”

    “It is, Grand-maman.” The lump in Monique’s throat thickened even more. The old Solange would have exulted to have the royal family and retinue call on her after all these years. The new Solange barely knew who they were. “Would you like to retire now?”

    “Yes.” Grand-maman flashed the two men a vague smile. “Forgive me, sirs, but I am not so young anymore, you know.”

    What looked like regret crossed the count’s features. “Of course. You must rest. Sleep well, my beautiful lady.”

    Solange brightened. “Thank you. I shall.”

    Then she went out into the hall. Monique was torn between going after her and remaining with their guests, but Grand-maman was still capable of preparing herself for bed alone, so Monique preferred to leave her with her dignity.

    As soon as the elderly woman had vanished, the count said in grave tones, “How long has she been this way?”

    Monique sighed. “About five years now. It’s why we stopped touring with Grandpapa’s old acting troupe. But it’s worsened dramatically in the past year.”

    He shook his head. “How sad to see such a wonderful woman brought low.”

    She stiffened. How dared he? “Your concern comes a little late, sir. Where were you when her father cut her off from her family just because she chose to marry for love? Or when my mother was born, and the doctor said Grand-maman dared not have more children? Where were you when my father abandoned my mother, with me in her belly, shortly after being forced to marry her? Or when Grandpapa and Mother died of consumption, leaving Grand-maman to raise me alone?”

    She faced him down. “My grandmother is a wonderful woman. She deserved better from the Rocheforts.”

    The count looked momentarily taken aback by her bitter words. They surprised her, too. She’d never felt the loss of her royal relations to any great degree. But Grand-maman had. Not enough to leave the man she loved, but still . . .

    “Why have you come here?” she demanded. “What do you want from us?”

    He pulled into himself as she’d seen her grandmother do when faced with abject impudence. Usually from Monique. “I have come to ask a favor of you.”

    “You have the gall to—”

    “I would make it well worth your while. And your grandmother’s.”

    That gave Monique pause. More money would make things so much easier. She could hire staff to look after Grand-maman around the clock. Then she could work more, which would enable her to save more to make Grand-maman’s final days comfortable.

    It had been just the two of them since Monique turned eleven. Without Grand-maman to raise her, who knew what would have become of her? Monique owed her everything. So if she had it within her means to give it to her . . .

    Monique swallowed her pride. “What sort of favor?”

    He exchanged a glance with his servant. “Do you mind if we sit down?”

    “Of course not.” She gestured to the sofa and to the wine in front of it. “Forgive me. I am not used to hosting royalty.”

    As her great-uncle took his seat, the servant said, “Except for your grandmother, of course. She is still a princess.”

    “Is she? You wouldn’t know it to judge from how her family has treated her.” When the count began to frown again, she added hastily, “And she doesn’t consider herself one.” Monique sat down in the other chair and began to pour the wine. “That life is behind her.”

    Not entirely, though. Memory played tricks on Solange these days. Sometimes it was as if the past decades had never happened and she was a girl again, frolicking in the gardens of Chanay.

    “It doesn’t have to be behind her.” The count took the glass from her.

    Monique narrowed her gaze on him. “What do you mean?”

    “If you will do this one favor for us, we can take her home to the palace, care for her there, and make sure she is comfortable for the rest of her life.” When Monique tensed, he added hastily, “You would of course come with her. You would be welcomed back into the family. You are, after all, granddaughter to a princess and second cousin to the reigning Princess de Chanay.”

    Monique could hardly catch her breath. Her main worry would vanish. Grand-maman would be taken care of. And Monique would at last have family when Grand-maman was gone.

    A family who had not given her a thought until now.

    She glanced away. “I suppose I would have to give up the stage.” Her home, the only place she’d ever felt entirely at ease.

    His gaze hardened. “Of course. No member of the royal family can be an actress.”

    It would be as if her past life vanished, swept away by the hand of Chanay royalty as if it had never occurred. It was a great price to pay. She loved acting; it was all she knew.

    Then again, Grand-maman’s condition worsened by the day.

    “Forgive me, my dear,” the count added, “but you must see that living as a royal in Chanay is vastly preferable to being on the stage, for both you and your grandmother. I’ll admit that you are an excellent actress, one of the reasons we have come to ask this favor, but—”

    “Yes, what exactly is it that you want of me that would wipe away the years when you wanted nothing to do with us?”

    With a sigh, he sipped some wine, then set the glass down. “We want you to play your finest role yet. That of my great-niece Aurore, the reigning Princess de Chanay.”

    Two days later, the count ushered her into a lavish hotel suite in Calais. So the two of them could come here unencumbered, he had left his servant, Chanceux, in Dieppe to stay with Grand-maman. It was the first time Monique had been away from the woman who had mostly raised her, and that made her nervous.

    But not nearly as nervous as the prospect of meeting her cousin Aurore.

    She shouldn’t have worried. The count had not lied about Aurore’s situation. The princess lay insensible in her enormous bed, with three other ladies keeping watch over her.

    But even with the young woman’s cheeks flushed with fever and her eyes closed, Monique felt as if she were looking at her twin. Aurore had the same pale skin, the same full lips, the same ignominious bump on the end of her nose. Her cedar-brown hair was the same wildly disordered mass as Monique’s. It too could probably only be tamed by scraping it up into a heavy chignon that threatened to escape its confines with her every motion.

    They did have different chins—Monique had the cursed prominent one, while the princess’s was small and delicate. The princess’s cheeks were also marginally fuller and her neck a bit thicker, although illness might soon slim all of that, depending on how long she remained ill.

    “Aurore has been this way for days now,” the count said. “We dare not move her. But she was expected in London yesterday for the conference, and we can’t put the delegates off much longer. We must either present her or take her out of the running for ruler of Belgium.”

    Monique nodded. He’d explained everything earlier, but she still found it a bit of a muddle. Politics. This was about political machinations involving the new independence of Belgium.

    Apparently, the province of Belgium had broken off from the Netherlands and demanded to be its own country. Championed by the other major powers, who liked the idea of a buffer state between the powerful French and the equally powerful Dutch, Belgium had been granted its wish over the protests of the Dutch. All that remained was to set out the terms of the agreement and to select a ruler for the new country.

    That was the sticking point. Princess Aurore was the one most favored for the position. Firstly, Chanay lay in the middle of Belgium, and its royal line went back for centuries. Secondly, any other candidate would shift the balance of power.

    The French wanted one of their dukes, and the Dutch wanted one of their princes. The English had proposed Prince Leopold of Hanover for his connections to the English royal family and his neutrality, but that had not gone over well with the French. So, the Princess of Chanay was everyone’s first choice.

    That was why the count wanted Monique to play Princess Aurore. Her Highness would remain in Calais in secret, being tended by her retinue and her mother at a secluded location, while Monique made an appearance in London to soothe all the delegates’ concerns and show that Princess Aurore was worthy of the crown of Belgium.

    “Will you step in for her?” he asked now. “As you can see, she is in no condition to do what she must.”

    Stalling for time, Monique said, “What is wrong with her?”

    A pretty woman of about thirty rose from beside the bed, her face wrought with worry. “We aren’t sure. She fell ill shortly after we arrived here and were preparing to make the crossing to England. We fear she has cholera, though no one else in the hotel seems to be suffering. The surgeon has bled her twice, to no good effect.”

    The count grew angry. “You bled her despite my instructions? Bleeding is foolish, especially given her symptoms.”

    An older woman stood to stare him down. “Do not blame Lady Ursula. I gave the order. I will not risk my daughter’s life simply because you have these wild ideas about doctors.”

    Privately, Monique agreed with the count. Cholera was serious enough as it was, but if the use of an outdated “cure” like bleeding weakened the princess even more, it could prove fatal. No wonder her cousin looked so pale.

    The count’s lips thinned. He turned to Monique, his eyes hollow in his face. “You can see we need you. It will probably be some time before the princess has recovered enough to make public appearances.”

    If ever, Monique thought but didn’t dare say it. The rest of them already seemed anxious about Princess Aurore’s condition. “I’ll admit that she and I do look somewhat alike, but surely people who have met her before—”

    “No one has met her before, outside of the court of Chanay. Certainly no one attending the London Conference. The princess has never traveled much—she preferred to remain at home. And the only image of her is a court painting that few have seen. Besides, you even look well enough like her to match that.”

    “Yes, but looks aren’t the only thing,” Monique said. “The princess has had years of training and education in the royal family. I only know what Grand-maman has taught me and what I gleaned from my years in the theater.”

    The princess’s mother snorted at that and excused herself. Clearly she did not approve of the count’s plan.

    After casting the woman a foul glance as she hurried out, the count turned back to Monique. “You won’t have to appear in public often, and when you do, one of us will be always at your side to make sure you behave appropriately. It will take us a few days to journey across the English Channel in the private yacht, during which Lady Ursula, Aurore’s lady-in-waiting, will be able to instruct you in—”

    “Me!” Lady Ursula cried, clearly distressed. “But I had hoped to stay here with the princess.”

    The count’s blue eyes sleeted over. “You’re needed elsewhere. Aurore’s mother and the servants will remain with her. Thankfully, the English are providing us with a fully staffed residence in London, so we won’t require our own servants during our stay. But you, my dear, must go with us.”

    Lady Ursula’s lips trembled, though she merely bowed her head and said, “As you wish, my lord.”

    Sparing her a dismissive nod, the count smiled warmly at Monique. “Lady Ursula and I shall instruct you regarding the most important rules for proper behavior, but the delegates probably won’t care if you make a mistake. They’ll assume it results from your living isolated in Chanay all these years.”

    “But what if they do care? What if I stumble so badly that I ruin her chance at the throne? Or even worse, accidentally expose your scheme?”

    “First of all, Aurore has no chance at the throne unless this succeeds. And if something goes wrong, we will simply proclaim you to be ill, whisk you back to the Continent, and take her home from Calais.”

    “Her.” She curled her fingernails into her palm. “But not me. Or Grand-maman.”

    His smile no longer held any warmth. “Forgive me, my dear, but this contract of ours depends on your succeeding. If you don’t, things will go back to how they were.” When the pure ruthlessness of that made her suck in a breath, he softened his features. “And in any case, you will be successful. You’re an excellent actress—surely you are accustomed to adapting to roles. Have you not played royalty before?”

    “Well, yes, but all I had to do was act out someone else’s script. What if I blunder? Use the wrong word for something?”

    “I cannot see that happening. You speak English very well. To be truthful, you speak it better than the princess herself, which is a boon to us.”

    “Grandpapa was half-English,” Monique reminded him. “He made sure I was fluent in it. Though I know I have an accent.”

    “The delegates will expect that.”

    “But it’s not my facility with the language that I’m talking about. There are so many rules of deportment and—”

    “We will teach you all that. And I swear that in most instances, one or the other of us will be around to steer you right or cover your errors.”

    That wasn’t exactly encouraging.

    Something else occurred to her. “Aren’t you the least worried that someone who’s seen me on the stage in Dieppe might recognize me?”

    He waved that concern off with a flick of his bejeweled hand. “You wear wigs, costumes, and stage cosmetics—no one could discern the real you beneath all that. If my spies hadn’t already told me of your resemblance to Aurore, I would never have recognized you from your work on the stage.”

    She blinked. “Spies?”

    His mirthless laugh chilled her. “Come now, girl, did you really think the royal court forgot your branch of the family entirely? We did not, I assure you. One never knows when the heirs to the throne might perish, leaving some distant relation to inherit. As the oldest member of the family, I thought it important to keep track. That’s why I could meet with you so quickly after the princess fell ill. I’ve always known exactly where your family was.”

    Because of his spies. She shivered. All this time, he’d had people watching them!

    Though it seemed rather silly of him, to be honest. She was probably far down the line of succession, given that Grand-maman had been one of four children, all of whom must have had children themselves.

    That actually relieved her. She had no desire to be a Princess of Chanay, forced to marry whomever the family deemed appropriate. She didn’t trust love, but she didn’t trust royal families either. There had to be some balance between marrying for love and marrying whomever was thrust upon you by political convenience.

    “Even if someone could recognize you from Dieppe,” the count went on, “it wouldn’t be anyone you’d encounter at the few public affairs we’ll be attending. Only those of the highest rank or political consequence will be there, and they aren’t the sort to attend a provincial theater.”

    Though she bristled at his condescending tone, he had a point. Most of the foreigners at the theater were merchants and sailors, with the occasional courier thrown in. The highest-ranking gentleman she’d ever met in Dieppe had been . . .

    Lord Fulkham.

    Then again, he’d been only a baron. She knew enough about English peerages to know that a baron was nothing to a duke or a marquess or even an earl.

    She struggled to remember what more Duval had said about the fellow’s connections—and those of his friend—but that had been three years ago, and she’d been too irritated to pay attention. Still, a mere baron couldn’t be anyone of consequence. And as the count had pointed out, her costume, wig, and makeup would have disguised her. Besides, their encounter had been brief.

    Yet you remember him.

    Yes. But that was different. He’d annoyed her. While she had probably barely raised any notice in his arrogant brain.

    “So you will play Princess Aurore for us, then?” Calculation glinted in his eyes. “It’s the role of a lifetime, you realize. If you succeed, it will be a tour de force.”

    True. She could never tell anyone, but still she would know. What actress worth her salt could resist attempting such a daring thing?

    She did have one more concern. “What about when it’s done and you replace me with the princess, assuming she recovers? Surely the people I meet in London will notice the difference between us once she becomes queen of Belgium.”

    “Once she becomes queen, she will be too busy ruling to meet with anyone you might have met through the conference. And I can manage that—only allow access to her for those people I know she didn’t encounter. After a few years, it won’t matter—they’ll assume that any small differences they notice are due to age. And to her being married and having children, one hopes.”

    Poor Princess Aurore. They were already plotting out her future while she lay near death’s door. But that couldn’t concern Monique. She had her own family and future to think of.

    “It will only be a couple of weeks at most,” he went on, obviously sensing her weaken, “and Chanceux is more than happy to look after your grandmother in the meantime. Once it’s done, you and Princess Solange can both travel back to Chanay with us to begin your new life.”

    Her new life. Bound to the royal family. Expected to behave appropriately, marry appropriately, live appropriately.

    Her new life free of worry about Grand-maman.

    That was the important part. Once Grand-maman passed on, Monique could choose to leave, to go back to her old life and do as she pleased. But for now . . .

    “I’ll do it,” she said.

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    The Secret of Flirting 4.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 30 reviews.
    gaele More than 1 year ago
    AudioBook Review Stars: Overall 4 Narration 4 Story 4 The first I’ve read in this series, the story is clever and quite engaging – with plenty of mystery to ferret out. The hero, Baron Fulkham, Gregory, is in service to the crown, as were many of his station to combat the scourge of Napoleon and the upheaval throughout Europe. In the midst of some delicate manipulations and political delicacies, there is a ball thrown, a ball in which Gregory is destined to meet the formerly reclusive Princess of Chanay. Unfortunately, Gregory is convinced that the woman, posing as the princess is an actress he met a few years back, one Monique Servais. He’s determined to get to the bottom of the charade, and to see just why (and how) she is using her skills to impersonate someone else. Monique was approached by someone claiming kinship to the ‘real’ princess, and in need of Monique’s skills – skills that she has been using at every opportunity to provide home and security for her ill grandmother. Gregory recognizing her is bad enough, but his digging into her reasons, AND placing her in dangers she didn’t expect as the stakes for gain and political one-upsmanship grow larger each day. Together, both Monique and Gregory are delightful – snark, sizzle and steam rise from their every interaction as they struggle with their own feelings of attachment, and wonder how to uncover truths while not destroying relationships, reputations or negotiations. Fully realized, completely engaging and utterly well-suited in intelligence, temperament and that pesky thing called attraction, it’s time to see another formerly reserved and uptight man find his match in one wholly unexpected, emotionally available and intelligent woman. Narration for this story is provided by Justine Eyre, and she’s managed to capture the dueling (and dual) characters and personalities with flair – never over-reaching or overacting to make a point. Monique has a flexibility that shows a flash of humor and enjoyment when sparring with Gregory, Gregory’s rather ‘stick up butt’ initial and public persona is quite obvious through tone and pace, while his quiet moments, when he lets his guard down and actually relates with Monique, shows an enjoyment that is evident in the delivery. Never too fast or hesitating far longer than necessary for moments of import, the performance highlighted and served the writing beautifully and helped to hold my interest throughout. I received an AudioBook copy of the title from Simon and Schuster Audio for purpose of honest review. I was not compensated for this review: all conclusions are my own responsibility.
    LEH0644 More than 1 year ago
    A government official is in France and meets a gifted actress. While he is attracted to her, he treats her in a condescending manner and ridicules the comedy play. Three years later, he meets her again only this time she is posing as a princess of a remote Belgian principality. Belgium has recently been named a separate country and the princess is in the running for its leader. What is she up to and where is the real princess? He also realizes he has never forgotten her and his feeling for her has gotten stronger. He wants her, whether as his mistress or his wife.
    BuckeyeAngel More than 1 year ago
    From the moment Baron Fulkham met Princess Aurore of Chaney, he knows she’s not the princess, but an actress he met several years ago that totally entranced him. He’s determined to get to the bottom of why. This was a great story as are all of this author’s books. She creates great characters in familiar settings, has a way of connecting the characters in her books seamlessly, and is able to throw in some good drama. This one had a couple of twists I hadn’t actually seen coming, but really enjoyed. Once I started this book, i didn’t really put it down until it was done. I look forward to her next book. **I voluntarily read and reviewed this book
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    While I had a little trouble getting into this book, overall it’s a quick read even though it’s over 400 pages. There’s a lot more action and suspense then I thought there’d be, which I enjoyed. And of course a romance at the heart of it all.
    JulieD2 More than 1 year ago
    Ooooh! Intrigue and hot sexual tension are abound in The Secret of Flirting. Spymaster Gregory, Baron of Fulkam, has to have his wits about him when he meets Princess Anne, he’s sure he’s seen her before on the stage as she actually is being replaced by a actress named Monique, a lady he’d met several years before. The story opens up to intrigue and a clever mystery develops with danger lurking for Monique and the Princess. A tight drama and hot romance are in the cards for this excellent plot line and Ms. Jeffries characters were excellent for the story as usual. A story not to be missed. I highly recommend it!
    JoRead More than 1 year ago
    This is the fifth installment in the series but it can definitely be read as a standalone. I’ve only read a couple of the previous books and truthfully I never felt lost or felt like something needed explained. I think that’s always a big plus when it comes to series. I think my favorite character here was Monique. From the moment we meet her she’s witty, composed, compassionate, and loyal. She stays true to her character even when she’s posing as her cousin, Princess Aurore of Chanay, candidate for the throne of recently independent country of Belgium. Another thing I liked about the story was the witty banter. If you’ve heard rumors this author delivers when it comes to that I assure you the rumors are completely true. The plot in itself was engrossing from the get go. We have assassination attempts, political intrigues, family secrets, and even a love story that was considered taboo at the time. Other reviews say the plot was confusing but I didn’t find it so. However, what I did find difficult to understand was Gregory’s personality. Gregory, or Lord Fulkham, undersecretary of state (and unofficially “spymaster”) having met Monique a few years prior, and being the one responsible for deciding who would be Belgium’s new ruler, took it upon himself to unmask Monique. At any rate, it didn’t feel he was doing it because it was the right thing to do but because it would further his own political ambitions. Also, the way he treated Monique throughout most of the story felt wrong. In truth, the more I read the more I disliked the man and made it hard for me to get why she fell in love with the guy. It wasn’t until almost the end of the book that I warmed a little to him and the romance took another light. All that being said, I won’t deny that at times it was hard to put the book down. Even with all my nitpickin, the chemistry between the main characters felt real and the suspense was enough to keep me turning the pages. **I received this book at no cost to me and I volunteered to read it; this is my honest opinion and given without any influence by the author or publisher.**
    candy-b More than 1 year ago
    Monique Servais was an actress, she also took care of her grand-maman. Her grand-maman was the Princess Solange of Chanay. Belgium broke from the Netherlands and now needed a ruler. So they set up the London choose one and Princess Aurore was the most popular, she was neutral. Gregory Vyse, Baron Fulkham, he was there to keep the peace with all the delegates. When he was introduced to the princess, he recognized her as Monique Servais, but how to prove it? I enjoyed this story.The way the princess and Gregory interacted was great. The characters were so lifelike and full of life. The plot had a few twists and the author took the bits and made it into this lovely tale. It was fun and sad, her grandmother was having trouble remembering things. She was afraid without anyone to watch while she worked, made her fearful for her safety. I highly recommend this book, I am sure you will love it as much as I do. I received this ARC for free and voluntarily reviewed it.
    PegC51 More than 1 year ago
    Gregory Vyse, Baron Fulkram, Undersecretary of the Foreign Office, in control and ambitious (to a fault), and spymaster extraordinaire is knocked of his feet by a princess, or is she an actress posing as a princess? She may or may not want to rule Belgium, and someone might be trying to assassinate her. It is his job to protect her, as soon as he determines who she is. Gregory and Monique are great characters and will make a wonderful couple (if they make it). The secondary characters range from sweet, caring, and loveable to demanding, frustrating, and obnoxious, each serving his or her purpose. At least one of them is quite dangerous. The story absolutely holds your attention beginning to end. How does this all work out? Just as it should, of course, with a few surprises. I received this book from the author and publisher via NetGalley. The review is my own.
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    Clever story with witty, sensual dialog.
    Hfowler More than 1 year ago
    The next book in the Sinful Suitors series brings us the very serious and often times rigid rule follower, Gregory Fulkham. He is the spymaster for the British government and he has been placed in charge of a conference to select a king or queen for the newly independent country of Belgium. What he never expected to see was the French actress that captivated him three years ago walk into the ballroom and be called the Princess Aurore of Chanay. He knows it is her but she insists on the farce and will not come clean. When her life is threatened, he whisks her off to his country estate where their chemistry heats up the page and their confrontation with the truth peaks. The story was great. The interactions between the two main characters was dynamic, explosive, humorous, and sweet. Loved every minute of Monique winning the rigidly standoffish Gregory and help him break many of his own rules. I loved it and it is another great Sabrina Jeffries story.
    DianaInSC More than 1 year ago
    Wow! One of Sabrina Jeffries’ best novels! This is an exciting and intriguing romance that kept me up way too late. I didn’t care about the clock when I was totally captivated by Monique and Gregory’s exciting tale! I really love this couple. They have such a great dynamic between them, and their flirty seduction was oh so hot! The author is at the top of her game. Bravo on writing such a winner! The novel is set in Autumn 1830, and it is inspired by the actual events surrounding the choosing of the first monarch of Belgium. The historical foundation is solid, and I love how a few extra characters were inserted into the realistic setting. I recommend this book to all historical romance fans. It is part of a series, but it can be read as a standalone. I received a free advanced reading copy from the publisher via Netgalley, and I voluntarily wrote this honest review.
    GangstaProf More than 1 year ago
    I very much enjoyed this book and the opportunity to finally hear Fulkham’s story. I love romances with a spy storyline, so this one certainly checked that box for me, and Monique is a great heroine. I'm hoping we get a novella with her uncle and Fulkham’s mother! :)
    Robindpdx More than 1 year ago
    This was an excellent, well-written historical romance. Spymaster Baron Fulkham is introduced to the Princess Anne of Chanay and he is immediately sure it is really Monique Servais, an actress he met three years previously. The story was fast-paced, the heroine and hero were wonderful, the dialogue was witty and the chemistry was sizzling. I enjoyed this book and look forward to reading more books by this author.
    BookReview4you More than 1 year ago
    The Secret of Flirting by Sabrina Jeffries is book Five in The "Sinful Suitors" series. This is the story of Gregory Vyse, Baron of Fulkham and Princess Anne of Chanay aka Monique Servais. I have read the previous books (and loved them!) in this series but feel this is easily a standalone book. Monique is trying to take care of her grandmother who has dementia. Monique has taken to becoming an actress which has lead to all her money and spare time going toward helping her Grandmother. Her Grandmother was once the Princess but left family and friends behind to marry an actor. That title has now gone to a cousin and now Monique has been asked to pretend to be that cousin in exchange Monique's Grandmother will be taken care of. Gregory and Monique had meet a few years back behind acting stage where Monique was working. There was an instant attraction from both ends but nothing further happened. Now in the present day Gregory meets the Princess who he thinks is the actress Monique that he meet and couldn't get off his mind. Monique is a great actress and has Gregory starting to doubt his theory but then an attempt is made on Monique's life that brings her safety to the forefront along with Gregory's feelings. Gregory is trying to make a name for himself in the Political world but he can't do that with an Actress as a wife so can his feelings be anything more? Really loved their story and must say the sweet Epilogue put the 'Cherry on Top' of this story!
    Noire More than 1 year ago
    I received an ARC of this book to read from NetGalley in exchange for a fair review. The Secret Of Flirting is book 5 in Sabrina Jeffries series The Sinful Suitors. This book could be read as a stand-alone but I’ve really enjoyed reading the other books in the series so I do recommend reading them all. When spymaster Baron Gregory Fulham meets the actress Monique Servais after her performance of Le mariage de Figaro he leaves her with the impression that he’s an arrogant ass after he tells her that comedic roles lack the depth of feeling that tragic ones do. When they meet again in London she’s a princess, one of the candidates that he as an undersecretary for the foreign office will vote on as ruler of the newly independent country of Belgium. Sparks fly between the two who can’t possibly be together unless they are willing to risk it all and he can keep her safe from an assassin. Lots of secrets and sizzle make for a very entertaining novel and I highly recommend reading this book. Will be available for purchase March 27, 2018 #NetGalley #TheSecretOfFlirting
    PDX_reader_Jane More than 1 year ago
    The Secret if Flirting by Sabrina Jeffries The Secret Of Flirting is book 5 in Sabrina Jeffries series The Sinful Suitors, but it can stand alone. Sabrina is a master at portraying strong women characters and men who want to control them --- and that’s where delicious dialogue and scenes appeal to me! Monique is a talented actress in France. Baron Fulkham (Gregory) is an English master spy. He attends one of her performances. Their introduction did not go well: Monique thinks he is arrogant and Gregory thinks she is impudent. Annoyed with each other, yet neither can forget the brief meeting. Three years later, Gregory is in charge of the conference to choose who will rule over new Belgium. Princess Aurore of Chanay is the foremost candidate. However, she is extremely ill and can’t attend. Enter Monique, who bears a remarkable appearance to her cousin, Aurore. Monique is asked to impersonate the Princess at the conference. Both Monique and Gregory remember each other. He is determined to expose her as a fake. Assassination attempts, attraction and betrayal draw them together. This book has all the ingredients that Sabrina Jeffries is known for: plot, great characters (both likeable and despicable!), witty dialogue, sexy scenes and vindication! I received an ARC of this book for my honest opinion: I would buy this book if I didn’t have a copy
    georgia1 More than 1 year ago
    When I see a book by Sabrina Jeffries, I know before reading that I will be lost in a wonderful world of the imagination. I picked up a book of hers years ago, "The Truth About Lord Stoneville" and it opened up the world of historical romance for me again after a few years hiatus. I have been hooked ever since! This author has a wonderful prose that draws you quickly into the story and it is easy to get lost in the characters. Such is the case with the hero Gregory, Baron Fulkham, spymaster (yes we have a wonderful spy!) and actress, Monique Servais aka Princess Anne of Chanay (which she isn't!). Does that get your attention yet? It should because this is a story of things not being what they seem but outside forces make it seem so. Monique is the granddaughter of a Royal princess of Chanay but ran away with an actor years ago and became an actress. Estranged from her family she meets Gregory after one of her performances but nothing comes of it. Fast forward three years later, Monique is taking care of her grandmother and asked to impersonate her cousin and pretend to be a royal. Gregory steps back into the picture and just knows, Monique is the girl he met years ago. This story is full of intrigue, suspense, betrayal and yes a romance. I so enjoyed this tale and although part of a series, this can be read as a standalone. Do not let this one pass you by! Lori D
    nku More than 1 year ago
    The Secret of Flirting (Sinful Suitors, #5) by Sabrina Jeffries I must say I have enjoyed the first four Sinful Suitors and I loved this one... I am thankful to #NetGalley for allowing me to preview this book. It is always great fun to revisit the St. George's friends and their wives..and that pocket watch. This is Gregory and Monique's story...full of laughs, suspense, and plenty of feels... Is she an actress or a princess and what is he hiding from his past....Can't wait for the next story...I think maybe it's Hart's turn.
    Sandy-thereadingcafe More than 1 year ago
    3.75 stars-detailed, complex, intriguing 3.75 stars--THE SECRET OF FLIRTING is the fifth instalment in Sabrina Jeffries’ THE SINFUL SUITORS historical romance series. This is spymaster Baron Gregory Fulkham, and actress Monique Sevais’ story line. THE SECRET OF FLIRTING can be read as a stand alone without any difficulty. Any important information from the previous story lines is revealed where necessary. Told from dual third person perspectives (Monique and Gregory) THE SECRET OF FLIRTING follows Baron Gregory Fulkham as he is tasked with naming the royal head to the new kingdom of Belgium. As Belgium fought and won their independence in1830, the London Conference and the House of Lords was tasked with naming their new ruler. As Princess Aurore of Chanay on her deathbed due to an unknown illness, her look-alike doppleganger, French stage actress Monique Servais was called into service to ‘portray’ the princess at future gatherings. Enter Baron Gregory Fulkham, the man in charge of determining the rightful heir, and the man who would discover the truth to the identity of the reigning princess. What ensues is the building relationship between Monique and Gregory, and the potential fall-out as Monique aka the princess is targeted by an unknown assassin, in the hopes of destroying her chances at the crown. Our heroine, actress Monique Servais is the sole custodian of her ailing grandmother so when an offer for aid comes with the opportunity to play her grandest role to date. Baron Gregory Fulkham recognized Monique immediately although her resemblance to the ailing princess was unmistakable and not without merit but proving our heroine’s secret meant revealing his own failings as it pertained to revealing the truth. THE SECRET OF FLIRTING is a detailed, complex and intriguing story line; an entertaining, historical look at passion, betrayal, revenge and espionage; at one family’s hidden secrets, and another family’s secret past. The premise is engrossing; the romance is passionate; the characters are spirited, damaged and energetic.
    JuliaAD More than 1 year ago
    I have liked this whole series. Gregory and Monique are great characters. We have watched Gregory in the other stories and I am glad to get his now. He always seems a little cold and aloof. But, Monique brings out the fire in him. He isn't able to keep his cool demeanor when she is around. After a bad introduction, he sees her again 3 years later. But, this time she is calling herself Princess Aurore. This can't be Princess Aurore, it is Monique. Gregory knows she is an actress, but why does she look so much like the princess and what is she doing? Will she try to take the throne for herself or is something else going on. Secrets are Gregory's specialty and he will get to the bottom of this secret.
    stanhope3234 More than 1 year ago
    3.5* I love the Sinful Suitors series and this is book #5! Gregory Vyse, Baron of Fulkham, lives a lonely life of a spymaster. He guards his personal life and never lets anyone to close, especially women. His parents relationship was proof that Love was unstable and empty. Monique Servais is a beautiful actress in Dieppe and she the talk of the town. She has no time for admirers, her grandmother who was in declining health needed her at home. Monique loved her grandmother but she longed for freedom to pursue her acting career. On the night that Gregory and Monique meet they proceed to insult each other with arrogance and insults but they both are left with a lasting impression of the other. Three years later Gregory meets Princess Ann of Belgium who looks remarkably like the beautiful Monique Servais. Gregory knows that the princess is Monique but how to prove it? Then the attempts on her life and their mounting feelings for each other start things are not as clear as they seem to be. With Monique’s life on the line and his career hanging in the balance Gregory must find away to save them both. The book has strong characters and is full of witty banter and sexual tension, with that being said it was not as good as the other books in the series. I think it just missed the mark with a bit of a far fletched plot. I still think the book was very much worth the read.
    Historical_Romance_Lover More than 1 year ago
    I really enjoyed Gregory and Monique's story!! At first appearances, Gregory and Monique don't like each other at all when they meet at the theater, but why is it that neither has forgotten about the other three years after their first meeting? When they meet up again, Monique is playing the part of her cousin, the Princess of Chanay, who is bedridden with some illness and can't make the trip to London. Gregory is certain that the princess is the woman that he met three years ago, but Monique won't admit to the charade. As they spend more time together, the truth finally comes out, but at this point, someone is trying to kill Monique (the princess) and Gregory is not about to let anything happen to her. Can they find the person who is trying to kill the princess and get their HEA? I've really enjoyed this series and am really looking forward to Hartley's story, which comes out in July!
    carvanz More than 1 year ago
    When Gregory Vyse, Baron Fulkham, met the beautiful French actress, Monique Servais in Dieppe, she was impudent and seemed not at all concerned about his rank or station. Now three years later he is certain the woman he was just introduced to as the Princess Aurore of Chanay is the woman he has not been able to forget. The question is why she is masquerading in such a position and more importantly, who is trying to kill her. Gregory has a background that hinders his ability to give his heart freely and yet it continues to yearn for the woman who has him in turmoil. Monique, holding her own in a profession that can leave a woman’s reputation in tatters, is simply determined to provide for her grandmother in what few years she may have remaining. This hero was charming and fun, protective and seductive, and a bit confused how he was to make things work between him and his heroine. Monique was a strong heroine who held her own against him except when he turned the heat up. Then she found herself yielding or tempting him whichever the case may be. I really enjoyed this romance filled with political intrigue, drama and suspense. There was a sprinkling of humor throughout, a cast of characters to throw suspicion around, and a villain that was not evident until revealed. I voluntarily read and reviewed an advanced copy of this book provided by NetGalley and Pocket Books. All thoughts and opinions are my own.
    MADreaderMD More than 1 year ago
    Gregory Fulkham finally meets his match! After managing spies all over England and the Continent, he's poised to take over as the head of the Foreign Office. All he has to do is manage a little conference to determine the ruler of the newly independent Belgium. As if all the normal intrigue and backbiting isn't enough, he comes face to face with the one woman whom he's ever given a second thought. She just happens to be a woman he knows to be an actress, but now she's posing as a princess, who is one of the candidates for ruler of Belgium. Is it really her? Can he be sure? Further investigation is definitely called for, so he's going to stay very close to this princess! Monique knows the moment Fulkham spots her that all her family's plans could go up in smoke if he exposes her as a fraud. She just has to make sure to give the performance of her life to convince him that she is a princess. She has too many people depending on her. But it's so very difficult not to let down her guard when he is the only man she has ever felt passion for. She knows she's flirting with danger--and that's even before she realizes there's a real threat lurking at the conference. I enjoyed all the intrigue in this story, as Fulkham and Monique tried to dance around each other and figure out how to meet their objectives. When they eventually began working together to meet the larger threat, it got even better. I'm always a little sad when two characters from different social stations can't just be together without there being some kind of transformation, but I guess due to the time period, it just isn't possible. The couples from the previous Sinful Suitors books make appearances, but this book stands on its own pretty well. It isn't necessary to read the other books to know what is going on in this one. I received an ARC of this book from the author.
    tsmb02 More than 1 year ago
    I just adore Sabrina Jeffries' books. They always provide great characters, a great story, great humor and this book is no exception. Monique Servais is an actress in Dieppe and lives with her grandmother, who has developed dementia and it is getting harder to look after her while she has to work. Her grand-maman was born into royalty, but left that life to marry her true love and thus was cut off from her family. Now years later, the Count de Beaumonde, grand-maman's brother-in-law. was looking for Monique's help. He would like Monique to pretend to be Aurore, the reigning Princess de Chanay. If she could pull it off, he would take care of her grand-maman the rest of her life. The real princess is ill but she needs to be in London because she is the front-runner to becoming the Queen of Belgium, which is seeking its independence from the Netherlands. It would only be for a short time, and really what could go wrong! ;) What Monique did not count on while she was pretending to be Princess Aurore was to run into Gregory Vyse, Baron Fulkham, whom she met three years earlier and has not been able to forget. Right away Lord Fulkham realized that it was Monique, but she kept denying it. Now the game was on. As Gregory and Monique spend more time together, their feelings for each other grow. When an attempt on their lives happen, secrets start to unravel and Gregory and Monique have an even bigger issue on their hand. Together they have to work to figure out who is behind all their issues and how they are going to solve their problems. I loved these two characters. Gregory's life has always been all about work. Monique's life has been all about work and taking care of her Grand-maman. Together these two find something wonderful that they were missing in their lives. The mystery that they had to figure out to get to their happy ending was so fun and enjoyable. It kept me constantly guessing at the end results. Overall, I just adored this book and I highly recommend it.