London, 1727. When Miss Eden Lowther catches the eye of Lord Percival Falloure, Marquess of Tavistoke, she’s delighted, for his wicked lordship is anything but boring. The canny coquette who declined five suitors the season prior sets out to capture the infamous “Terror of the Ton” for keeps, but the man she finds behind the façade isn’t at all what she expects.
Having suffered heartbreak and humiliation two years ago, Lord Tavistoke is wary of love. But once on the market, always on the market until wed or dead. Desperate to throw London’s single ladies off the scent, Percy looks to reestablish his rotten reputation with a rousing scandal. His mark: Miss Eden Lowther, a tearing beauty reported to have left devastation in her wake last Season. If anyone has asked for ruination, it is the heartless “Hellion of Holker Hall”…
Eden and Percy soon find themselves falling dangerously in love, despite their fears and her family’s objections. But can love alone save them when a ruthless rival forces her hand.
Each book in the Once Wicked series is STANDALONE:
* To Love a Libertine
* Once a Courtesan
* A Wicked Reputation
About the Author
Read an Excerpt
To Love A Libertine
By Liana LeFey, Erin Molta
Entangled Publishing, LLCCopyright © 2016 Liana LeFey
All rights reserved.
Another night wasted in the fruitless pursuit of amusement. Disgusted, LordPercival Falloure, Marquess of Tavistoke, turned from the blurry reflection in the carriage window. Honesty had poisoned him, ruining his enjoyment of the simplest God-given pleasures.
The carriage stopped, and Percy alighted to stare up at the finest house in Leicester Square. Even his home seemed to belong to some other man. It didn't make any damned sense. This was his world, and until recently he'd been quite content with it.
But his eyes had been opened, and he could not unsee what had been seen. Memory assaulted him, and anger surged, rising in a bitter, impotent tide. He stifled it. "Dead men make poor targets," he muttered to himself. "Better to focus on those still living."
Going inside, he tossed his coat to a footman and at once proceeded to the library to pour himself a brandy. The chair by the fire beckoned like an old friend. Easing himself into it, he kicked off his shoes and rifled through the pile of correspondence awaiting his leisure.
A letter from his solicitor. One from Lady Sotheby. Another from Mother. One from Cousin Lucy. He left their seals intact. They could wait until morning.
The graceful script on the next envelope, however, caught and held his eye. The name it bore was that of Henry Herbert, Lord Montgomery, but the hand in which it was written belonged to Lady Montgomery — Sabrina.
Breaking the seal, he scanned the page. A wistful smile curved his mouth for a moment. He seared it away with a gulp of brandy and tossed the letter into the heart of the fire. It wouldn't do for anyone but Montgomery to know how close they remained. No one else would understand.
The next letter was from one Miss Jacqueline Trouvère. Under the guise of her new identity, Raquel — the first woman he'd ever helped escape London's seamy underworld — now ran a charity school for girls on the outskirts of London. The spidery lines contained a request for additional funds. The building he'd purchased had been spacious enough to accommodate an increase in the number of pupils, but she feared running short of provisions and was in need of more staff. He'd have his solicitor see to it in the morning.
Yet another letter waited, one written in a rather untidy hand, thanking him for the doll he'd sent and asking him to please visit again soon — with assurances tea and scones would be provided along with the very best in doll society. He would have to see about arranging it with her mother.
Remaining correspondence consisted of invitations to balls at which he would be accosted by marriage-minded mamas and their uninspiring offspring. The approaching Season filled him with antipathy. Since his disastrous attempt to woo Sabrina two years ago, he'd been treated like choice stock on the auctioneer's block. To make matters worse, his once-favorite pastime of tupping other men's lonely and obliging wives had lost its appeal.
In fact, most of his vices had lost their appeal. He'd tried to pick up where he'd left off prior to meeting Sabrina, but there'd been no satisfaction in it. Though she'd never intended it, the woman had forever altered his perception of life.
Thanks to her, ignorance was a bliss now denied him. The persistent demon of his newborn conscience never allowed him rest, never permitted him the carefree hedonism he'd once practiced with such fervor. Thanks to her, he'd been afflicted with the pestilence of actually giving a damn about other people besides himself.
Having seen the horrors Raquel had endured the day he helped Sabrina rescue her, he'd never visit another brothel again. And how could he seduce another man's wife when the idea of being made a cuckold now inspired nausea? After seeing firsthand the plight of London's unwanted children, how could he ever risk siring another bastard? Some of his issue had been passed off as other men's get, but others would grow up in full knowledge of their illegitimacy, forever tainted by it, through no fault of their own. They would suffer for it, and all because of his selfishness, his lack of self-control.
Thanks to Sabrina, he knew what it was to love someone and lose her because he was unworthy. Unwittingly, she'd shown him the contemptible truth of himself, and he'd been unable to live with it. Too much the coward to consider ending his miserable life, his only alternative had been to live it differently.
I've been bloody well reformed. The depressing thought made him take another swallow. Amber fire slid down his throat, but it brought little comfort.
It wouldn't be so bad if every unwed female in London didn't seem to sense this new weakness. They gave him no peace. Like bloodhounds on the scent, they were — relentless, always nipping at his coattails. The thought of getting cornered and marched down the aisle by one of their insipid number made him break out in a cold sweat. One day he would stick his neck in the nuptial noose, but not yet.
Desperate men took desperate measures, and he was damned well overdue. He set down his glass. It was time to reestablish some notoriety. Yes. One good round of harmless mischief and he would be left in peace again.
His gaze lit upon the pile of invitations he'd intended to ignore. Choosing one at random, he strode to his desk and penned a swift acceptance. The Wyndham ball would be as good a place as any to start.
He turned, annoyed. "Yes? What is it?"
"There is a ... young woman here who insists upon seeing you, milord. I would not have bothered you but for this." The servant's face showed his disapproval as he held out a small parcel wrapped in a rag that was none too clean. "She says she was sent here to deliver a message from a mistress Seraphina."
The name brought Percy up short as he reached out to take the parcel. There was only one Seraphina who knew his real name. He didn't need to open the wrappings to know what lay inside. "Send her in at once," he commanded. "And if I ever see you reveal your dislike for one of my guests again, you will find yourself dismissed without a reference. Do you understand?"
Face reddening, the man nodded. "Yes, milord."
The urchin who shuffled in a few moments later looked a frightened, bedraggled mess.
He waited until the door closed before speaking. "I am Lord Tavistoke. You have a message for me?"
"Mistress Seraphina sent me, your worship." The child's thin voice trembled as she spoke. "But it weren't to deliver no message."
"Then why did she send you to me?"
"It's me sister, Abigail. She — she's gone. Mistress Seraphina told me you helped her once. Said you would help me."
Oh, God ... "You were right to come to me. What is your name?"
"Fanny, your worship."
"Fanny, I'll help you if I can. Tell me what happened."
The girl looked up at last, leveling a watery brown gaze at him. "She's just a babe, me sister. Mum died an' I had no choice but to find work, or we'd have starved. Madam promised not to let none of the men near us as long as I did me work an' kept me mouth shut. An' that's what I did. I worked days, when there weren't no men about, an' kept quiet."
Her chin began to quiver, but she took a deep breath and went on. "Last night Madam told me to come downstairs an' clean up after a brawl. One of the men saw me an' wouldn't stop starin' — it scared me. Madam called me to her an' threatened to hurt Abby if I didn't do as she told — if I d-didn't ..."
Tears spilled down her cheeks, and Percy's heart burned. "Tell me how your sister disappeared," he said to avoid her breaking down before he learned what he needed to know.
"I waited until the house quieted. Then I took Abby an' we climbed out a window. One of her bully boys must have heard summat, 'cause he come 'round back lookin'. I'm quick on me feet an' got away, but he got Abby. I was too afraid to go back. I didn't think she'd hurt Abby, her being so little, but I knew she'd kill me for sure. Even so, I went back the next day to see if I could get her to let Abby go if I stayed in her place, but she weren't there. Abby was gone, too. I asked, but no one knows where they went. Seraphina said Madam had sold the place. Then she told me to come to you. Said you'd help. Said you was London's St. Michael, she did."
That a prostitute should call him an angel, much less the Archangel, almost made him laugh aloud. "How old are you?"
"Fourteen, your worship."
"Don't call me that," he said, trying not to sound irritable. "I am to be addressed as 'my lord.' How old is your sister?"
"She'll be ten this year."
Nine years old and at the mercy of a flesh-peddling brothel proprietress. God help her, and God help him find her before it was too late. "I'll do what I can, but I need to know as much as you can tell me, starting with a detailed description of your sister and this Madam."
One week later — The Wyndham Ball
"Well, you can't expect them to give up on you now, old fellow." Montgomery scoffed. "You've given them hope, popped your head up out of the burrow, so to speak. And once on the market ..."
"Always on the market, until wed or dead," Percy said, glaring. "Yes, I know. I'll marry in a few years, provided I can find someone to tolerate me. In the meantime, however, I'd like this constant harassment to cease. I'm half afraid I'll look out of my window one morning to find my house under siege."
"It cannot be that bad."
"Ha! It's bloody well ridiculous — dangerous, even," he retorted. "Last week one particularly enterprising female actually climbed over the wall and got into my garden. A footman discovered her attempting to enter my residence through a window, no doubt to run straight through the house and out the front door screaming compromise. I thank Providence I was away at the time. I tell you, these women are going to be the death of me."
A lopsided grin lifted one corner of Montgomery's mouth. "I'm afraid you'll have to leave England if you want any peace. Every unwed female here is eyeing you like a chocolate comfit during Lent."
"I need a plan before leaping into the fray again," Percy said with a disgusted snort that earned him a few disapproving looks from passersby. As usual, he ignored them.
"I wish you good fortune in implementing any strategy you come up with," said the other man. "However, you ought to know by now that forethought is of little consequence when love is involved. Your heart will tell you when it is right, not your head."
"I haven't a heart," Percy drawled, snagging a glass from a passing tray and downing its contents. What heart he'd possessed had been spent two years ago. "I'm a soulless cad, a remorseless roué, remember?"
"You've more heart than any man I know," said Montgomery, all seriousness. "Your compassion and bravery puts that of others to shame, myself included, though I wish it were otherwise. I haven't the courage to do as you've done."
Such praise made Percy uncomfortable. "It is but recompense for the life I've led, and inadequate at that. Besides, you have other considerations, responsibilities I don't share." He glanced about to be sure no one was near enough to overhear. "Thus I'm at liberty to put myself at risk where you are not." He sighed. "I hope to God no one ever finds out what I've been up to. Let the bloodhounds get so much as a whiff of altruism on my person, and I'm finished."
Montgomery laughed. "Most men would deliberately fail to conceal such generosity in the hope of impressing others."
"I'm not most men, and I care nothing for the opinions of my so-called peers — excepting yours, of course."
"What will you do?"
The quiet question galvanized him. "I intend to throw them off the scent. A rousing good scandal ought to do the trick, don't you think? I need but find the right female to act as a foil."
"Oh? And here I thought you sought peace," teased his friend. "What sort of female do you seek?"
Percy grinned and raised his now empty glass in a mockery of a toast. "One with no heart to wound." Across the room he spotted Wells. "Pardon me, old boy, but I've just seen someone with whom I would consult on the very subject. We'll play a round of cards later." Stopping, he half turned back. "Oh, and congratulations, by the bye."
"Told you, did she?" said Montgomery with an abashed smile.
"Much as I adore my little Magpie, I hope this one is a boy," his friend whispered.
"You've plenty of years yet to get your heir. Still, I shall add my hope to yours and wish you luck," Percy said, happy for his friend. If that happiness was tinged with a bit of envy, he chose not to acknowledge it. Bidding Montgomery adieu, he sought out Wells.
"Miss Eden Lowther, The Hellion of Holker Hall," the man growled a few minutes later, nodding toward a blond woman of exceptional beauty. "Don't be fooled by her sweet face or winning ways, man. She might look like a very angel, but she's got the devil's own heart, if indeed she possesses one at all."
Perfect. "If I may inquire, what evil deed has earned the lady such harsh rebuke?"
The color in Wells's ruddy cheeks deepened. "You remember Dewhurst?"
Percy nodded. "Took himself off to his family's country estate to recover from a fever last Season, didn't he?"
"Such is the falsehood spread by his family."
"The fellow tried to hang himself after her refusal unseated his mind. Damned near succeeded in buying himself a grave at the crossroads, too. He was discovered just in time by his brother, who cut him down. I visited him recently, and he's still not quite right. Empty husk of a man. I tell you, that female" — he stabbed a finger toward the gallery — "is a bloody siren. She cares nothing for those she lures to their doom."
Percy assessed his mark. She was delicate and slim — but pleasingly curvy — with hair like warm honey. Her smile, however, was what drew the eye. Quick and radiant, it lit her entire face.
Catching him staring, the girl held his gaze for an instant before turning away in such a manner as to show off her long, graceful neck.
He chuckled. The little coquette! No wonder the poor bastards in her entourage behaved like lovesick fools. It was obvious to his practiced eye she was an expert at the game of inviting a man with her eyes and then dismissing him with her cheek, whetting his desire all the more. "And you say this is her second Season?"
"And she turned down how many offers?"
"Five," said Wells from between clenched teeth, his eyes chips of ice as he stared at the woman. "The highest ranking was a viscount like me. The wench is biding her time, waiting for a bigger catch."
"My rank certainly ought to be enough of a lure for her avarice. May I surmise you were one of those she declined?"
Sullen silence greeted the question, but the other man's face told the tale. A slow smile lifted Percy's cheeks. Miss Lowther was indeed the perfect candidate: beautiful and heartless.
* * *
From her corner of the gallery, Eden regarded her hopeful devotees with carefully masked disdain. Mice, all of them. Not a real man amongst the lot — unless one counted Lord Abingdon, which she didn't. She repressed a shudder. Almost old enough to be her grandfather, Abingdon was out of the question. If only he would realize it and leave her be.
Reformed rakes make the best husbands her married friends had all said. Such was her belief, too. After all, her own dear Papa had been one before Mama tamed him.
Snapping open her fan, Eden fluttered it to hide a smile that twitched with the strain of overuse. The newly married Lord Creighton, who was now openly admiring her décolletage, was reputed to have numerous unwed friends of that ilk, but where were they?
A flash of peacock blue embroidered with gold caught her eye, and her heart beat a little faster. She knew of only one man who wore such clothes.
Excerpted from To Love A Libertine by Liana LeFey, Erin Molta. Copyright © 2016 Liana LeFey. 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
The plot was light-weight and plodding. Character development was promising but ultimately disappointing. Author shows promise but this is not her best work.
Not a good read
I absolutely loved this story!! Percival wants to do what he can to get the marriage minded mamas to stop looking at him as marriage material. So he comes up with a plan to make a scandal with the most notorious woman of the season. He didn't count on his plan backfiring! I loved the banter between Percival and Eden as well has the sparks that flew every time they were close to each other. I also loved watching as we learn that Percival is so much more than we think he is. That he is so much more than just a scoundrel. Definitely a much read historical romance!!
I received an eARC, from NetGalley and the publisher, in exchange for an honest review. 'To Love a Libertine' by Liana LeFey is the story of Eden Lowther and Lord Percival Falloure, Marquess of Tavistoke. Eden has been infatuated with Percy since she seen him a few season ago...but has never met him..until now. Eden has been asked to marry by several men but she has been holding out waiting possible for Percy. Percy used to be rake of the 'first order' and since his broken engagement he has taken to being a better person. Now Percy finds that he is attracted to Eden but her parents are not happy about him trying to court their daughter. Eden's step-mother has another person in mind for her daughter. Eden has a few doubts about if he is really over his former love. Percy has set out to convince Eden and to also convince her parents. Eden seems to be easy to be convince but what about her parents?
It's the Seasons 1727 in London, where all the elites gather in the ballrooms. The ladies put on their best attires with the aim of catching the eyes of a prospective husband. Gossips are ripe at these events. Percival (Percy) is a Marquess. He used to have an unsavoury reputation up until two years ago when he had a heartbreak. He is the most eligible bachelor in town and is constantly pursued by the ladies. He comes up with the plan of going back to his old ways to get some reprieve from his pursuers. Eden is very popular with the gentlemen. She has turned down several suitors in the past. She is not after money or a title. She wants the real thing. To find someone to love and who would love her in return. Percy approaches Eden at the party thinking that she is the perfect target for what he has in mind. What he doesn't expect is for her to politely give him as good as she gets. She is attracted to him but feigns indifference. Percy finds himself thinking about her more than he should and pays her a visit under the pretense of owing her an apology. Catherine, Eden's mother does her best to keep them apart. She has someone else lined up for Eden but with her own agenda. Eden has no interest in Catherine's proposal but this woman is selfish and ruthless. She refuses to listen to Eden. Percy doesn't give up easily either. As the story unfolds it becomes clear that Ravenhood, the intended has secrets and a liason with Eden could save his reputation or even his life. At the same time a young girl goes missing and Percy is doing his best to find her. This is a complex plot with many twists along the way. There is prostitution. Corruption and jealousy. Blackmail and child slavery. When everything comes to light, it's quite shocking. The culprits are the least likely suspects. Percy has a side which he hides well. Not many knows about the good work that he does. Can Eden accept him as he is despite his shady past? This story builds up slowly until it comes to a point when it becomes impossible to put the book down. It's beautifully written and the characters are very well developed. It shows how damaging gossips can be and that people can change by learning from their mistakes. I was kindly issued with an advanced ecopy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
A taste of the forbidden leads to more than either bargained for. Liana Lefey pulled me in with To Love a Libertine. Danger is a welcome backdrop to this intricate foray into love. Percival and Eden have so much working against them. Secrets, disapproving family, vendettas and trust. I received an ARC in exchange for an honest review and would describe To Love a Libertine as complex, fast paced and addictive. Ms. Lefey made quite the impression on me with this mysterious and unforgettable couple.