Widowed by the Battle of Waterloo, the ladies of Lyttlefield Park are returning to London society—with their futures in their own hands . . .
The widowed Lady Stephen Tarkington, Fanny to her friends, has finished mourning her cad of a husband and is ready to enjoy her freedom. The kind of freedom neither a gently bred miss nor a close-watched wife is permitted: dressing up as Aphrodite for a masquerade, drawing gentlemen away from the party, and hinting at late-night assignations with her dance partners. All is going pleasurably according to plan—until the Roman god Fanny kisses during a masquerade turns out to be Matthew, Lord Lathbury, whose proposal she refused years ago . . .
Lathbury is charming, passionate, inventive, everything Fanny wants in a lover—but unfortunately, he’s on the hunt for a wife. He’s more than willing to use all his wicked skills to persuade her back to the altar, but he can’t wait forever. And now Fanny’s position is more precarious than she once thought. If the tongues of the ton set to wagging, it’s possible no offer in the world will save her from ruin. But does she want to be saved? . . .
About the Author
Jenna Jaxon is the author of The House of Pleasure House series, as well as the historical romance trilogy Time Enough to Love. She lives in Virginia with her family and a small menagerie of pets. When not reading or writing, she indulges her passion for the theatre, working with local theatres as a director. Visit her at jennajaxon.wordpress.com.
Read an Excerpt
Glittering candles, the flames wafting to and fro with the gentle June breeze, illuminated Lady Beaumont's ballroom just enough for Frances, Lady Stephen Tarkington, to see the other revelers near her without being so bright as to take the fun out of the masquerade. As far as Fanny was concerned, masquerades should be conducted in semi-darkness at all times, even the unmasking. So much better to hide one's identity when one wished to be a little naughty. And oh, but she wanted to be the epitome of a naughty widow.
Her husband, Major Lord Stephen Tarkington, had died at the battle of Waterloo. Tonight, after a long year of mourning his passing, she had emerged from her widow's weeds in the most scandalous costume money could buy. Aphrodite in a filmy white muslin gown, the fabric so sheer she could scarcely feel it against her body. Arching her neck, Fanny pushed her breasts forward until they threatened to spill over her tight bodice, so low cut it skimmed the tops of the dark circles of her nipples. After a year of almost no social interactions, she wanted to burst back onto the stage of ton life in the boldest way possible. She smiled behind her glittery silver mask. From the looks of the costumed gentlemen, she had hit her mark.
"Good evening, my beautiful Aphrodite." A tall gentleman in a black mask and the red and white tabard of a Knight Templar bowed low before her. His deep voice seemed forced, obviously disguised.
"Good evening, Sir Knight." She curtsied, giving him a closer look at her décolletage. "Are you just returned from the Crusades? You seem to have the dust of the road still upon you."
"Gads, I do seem to." The knight brushed at his shoulders and a burst of motes flew upward. "M'valet took it out of the attics yesterday and the man obviously didn't attend to it properly."
"You must smite him forthwith, Sir Knight. Such insolence from a lowly squire cannot be tolerated." Ah, Sir Arthur Fremont. His annoyance at his valet had made him abandon his deep voice. She'd recognized the man's high-pitched tone. A dead bore really, although a wonderful partner at whist.
Sir Arthur laughed. "Off with his head, what?"
Holding up her slender golden snake, one of Aphrodite's symbols, she shook it at the wayward knight. "Be sure you do, Sir Knight! Accept no insubordination."
The man danced backward, bumping into a rather plump woman in the guise of some medieval lady in waiting, knocking off her precariously balanced cone-shaped headdress.
"My steeple! You've ruined my steeple!" Clutching the hat, now dented in the middle, the woman stormed off, Sir Arthur following and spouting abject apologies.
Laughing and looking for someone interesting to talk to, Fanny took advantage of the change of sets to make her way across the ballroom toward a rather brightly costumed man wearing the traditional green and brown garb of Robin Hood. He carried a bow and a quiver of arrows on his back; however, what drew her attention was his legs. Encased in fine brown stockings, Robin Hood's shapely legs set her heart to thudding. Of course, she saw men all the time in ballrooms in pantaloons and stockings, but something about those finely muscled calves fed a long dormant hunger and drew her toward him.
"Well met, Prince of Thieves." Fanny smiled up into the masked face, trying to determine who he was. A flirtation with this handsome gentleman might start the evening off well indeed.
"Any meeting with your loveliness, goddess, is sheer fortune." He sketched a bow and moved closer to her. "Are you not afraid I will steal something of value from you?"
Yes, a gentleman willing to play and one she did not recognize. That added spice to the wager. "What thing of value might I possess that you would desire?"
"I believe you possess many delights I could fancy, goddess."
"Indeed?" Again she lifted the snake. "I have only this bauble." She twirled it around, making it catch the candlelight. Oh, but she was enjoying this.
His eyes twinkled and he smiled. "Quite a bauble indeed."
She laughed and tucked the snake into her magical girdle, a leather belt of sorts, and reputedly Aphrodite's sole weapon. "And these."
From her pockets Fanny produced two golden apples, another symbol of the Goddess of Love. She held them before her bodice, right in front of her breasts. "Might you like these, my lord?"
The gentleman's eyes widened behind his mask, then went deepest black. "Ah, yes. You do have treasures I desire."
A shiver raced down her spine.
"I believe I will steal those jewels, goddess." Swaying closer to her, he took the gold-painted apples, his warm fingers brushing hers. He clutched the fruit and her body flushed.
Lord, it had been such a long time since she had flirted so shamelessly with a man. Years before Stephen had died. She'd need to keep her emotions under control while she was learning to navigate this world once more. Almost like being out for her first Season, yet fully aware of all the pleasures that could be the result of such a wild flirtation.
"Take pity on me, kind sir. Those are all I have, save my little snake." Fanny sent a soulful glance toward the thief's face and pulled it forth. "Would you let me exchange something for my apples?"
Robin Hood glanced around and grasped her arm. "Perhaps we should discuss this in a more private setting. I'm certain something can be arranged." A gleam of white teeth behind the mask and he was tugging her toward a darkened corner.
Too fast, even for her. Fanny slowed her steps. Yes, she'd come here tonight hoping for an assignation to a dalliance. A dalliance that might grow into something more than she had bargained for. "I think we should remain here, in the light of this sconce, lest you steal something more than I can afford." She plucked the apples out of his hands and stuffed them back into her pockets. "Even a goddess must be wary of a thief, no matter how handsome."
"Perhaps you shall change your mind before the night is out. May I help persuade you during the next set?"
"Not the next, but the one after it. By then I will have my guard in place."
"Do you think yourself impervious to me?"
"Is not a goddess more powerful than a mere woodsman?" She tried to look down her nose at him, but had to laugh at the effort. A mask made the gesture ridiculous.
"Not if the woodsman can overpower the goddess." He grasped her hands, warm skin to warm skin, no proper gloves between them. Peering deep into her eyes, he leaned forward, breathing into her ear, "Let us continue this lovely interlude in a more private place. The library —"
"There you are, my dear."
Fanny jerked back from the bold gentleman, who also straightened as a demure-looking Diana, complete with quiver and bow, appeared as from nowhere. She pounced on Robin Hood, grabbing his arm and squeezing it. "I have been looking for you, my dear. Wherever have you been?" The petite blond woman, in Greek robes and a white full face mask, smiled at her prey. "Not hiding from me, I hope?"
"Never that, my lady." Robin Hood's smooth voice betrayed a hint of annoyance.
"I have just been informed that Lady Beaumont has asked us to perform in a match of our archery skills for the entertainment of the guests. Two bowmen of strength, evenly matched." She cocked her head, cool eyes behind her mask glittering. "We don't want to keep our hostess waiting, do we?"
One lingering look from Robin Hood, then he took the lady's arm. "I am afraid duty calls, my goddess. Perhaps we shall continue our discussion of apples at a later time?"
"Assuredly, good sir. As we are promised for the third set, perhaps then." Fanny nodded to them both, thankful her silver mask hid her heated face. She made a shooing motion. "By all means, you must not let a lowly goddess keep you from the all-powerful hostess."
"I'm so glad you understand," Diana said, shooting her a nasty look that Fanny recognized at once. Lady Phoebe Campbell, who'd been out for two Seasons and had just managed to catch Lord Bayberry's youngest son. That must be Robin Hood here, to judge by the fierceness in Lady Phoebe's voice. An arranged marriage, or so her friend Charlotte had told their circle last week, which would explain why the lady wanted to keep Fanny as far away from her betrothed as possible.
"I wish you well in your competition. May the best bowman win."
The couple walked swiftly toward the doors that led to the main part of the house, Lady Phoebe grasping Robin Hood's arm in a death grip. Somehow she doubted Robin would be allowed to return for their set. No great loss if the gentleman was truly betrothed elsewhere.
Fanny stared after them, a smile forming on her lips. Where Lady Beaumont intended to hold such a match, she had no idea. Perhaps there was to be no such exhibition at all. A clever or determined woman wouldn't be above lying to secure her a husband. Fanny considered herself both, but didn't think she could stoop to lying to a man she loved. Stopping short in her musings, she shook off the image of her late husband, tall, wiry, always laughing. By the time she'd lied to him, she had no longer loved him. Anyway, that was in the past. Tonight was the beginning of her future life and she would damn well make the most of it.
With a shake that was partially a shiver, Fanny threw her head back and turned once more to the ballroom. The second set was making so if she waited just a little she could soon find an unoccupied gentleman to dally with. Even though she loved dancing and had not been able to do so for the past year, dancing was the last thing on her mind tonight. As though the clock had rolled back ten years to her own debut Season, she wanted to flit and flirt, to stretch her wings and soar amongst the ton's most eligible gentlemen. She had a deal of time to make up for and the possibilities were deliciously spread out before her.
Several Greek gods in strategically draped robes — everyone from Zeus with his thunderbolts to Hades clutching a huge drinking horn to Poseidon armed with his trident — mingled along the edges of the ballroom floor. A Roman soldier in a shiny breastplate towered over the crowd in the far corner. He must be Lord Walston, the tallest man by far in the ton, standing head and shoulders above all the other gentlemen. Height was impossible to disguise, unfortunately. That must spoil the fun for him every time. A sprinkling of Renaissance courtiers, one of whom she recognized as her brother-in-law, Lord Theale. A shock to her, to find him in attendance. Was her sister-in-law here as well? Strike her dumb with a noodle. She'd always known him to be such a high stickler; now to see him cavorting with a pretty shepherdess made her skin crawl.
She turned away quickly. Theale was the last person she wished to encounter when she was in search of a dalliance. Something he would never approve of, even though she was out of mourning. Speaking spritely to a couple of what she assumed were gentlemen in richly colored dominos, she continued her hunt for a flirtation. She spied a lowly shepherd in rough clothing, and a splendidly dressed sultan in colorful robes and a bejeweled mask. Surely a feast for a lady in search of male companionship.
About to head for the dazzling sultan, Fanny glanced about one more time, just to make sure no one else interesting had entered the ballroom, when she caught sight of two identically dressed men bearing down on her. Dark-haired, tall, and broad-shouldered — with shoulders and arms almost bared beneath a thin cape trimmed in gold braid — their slim hips covered in a skirt resembling a pleated kilt of white linen, showing off shapely legs in white stockings and sandals, the duo was breathtaking. Before she could blink they stood beside her, true Greek gods in beauty and stature. Her evening had just taken a most satisfactory turn. A pity their faces were obscured with identical silver half-masks, embossed with a cantering horse across the forehead. She'd wager they were equally handsome underneath.
"Goddess Aphrodite, we greet you in the name of our father, Zeus." The twin closest to her bowed and grasped her hand.
Suddenly unnerved by his very large, looming presence, she stepped back, trying to pull away but to no avail. The rogue held tight to her hand and raised it to his lips. "Do not be alarmed, my dear. We come to honor you with a request for the next set."
Warily, Fanny studied first the man holding her hand, then his partner. Twin Greek gods was an easy one to identify. "You are impertinent, sirs, as I cannot discern who is who. Are you Castor or Pollux?"
"I am Pollux, Aphrodite," the gentleman holding her hand said, giving it a squeeze that sent sudden tingles all along her arm. "My brother is Castor" — the other man bowed — "though friend, rather than brother, in earnest."
His rich baritone voice tugged at her memory, as did the deep blue eyes behind the mask. The warmth of his hand, however, addled her brain, turning it to mush. Grasping the obvious, she managed to ask, "How ... how do you propose to both dance with me in a single set, unless one of you secures another partner?"
"An apt question, from an astute goddess." Castor grinned. "I have already captured such a lady for my dancing delight. We four shall make up a set."
"Who is your partner?"
"That very pretty shepherdess over there in pink." He pointed to a young girl in a modest costume, laughing with a group of other young ladies. Well, she'd not have much competition in keeping the twins' attention.
"I should be delighted to make up your set. However" — she turned her attention back to Pollux — "the second set has not yet begun." Fluttering her eyelashes up at the handsome man, she squeezed his hand. "How are we to pass the time until our dance?"
His sharp intake of breath made her hold her own. Even more amazing, his eyes changed from deep blue to black in an instant. The wave of his desire hit her like a tangible thing. Her mouth dried, her heart raced, her whole head heated as though it had caught fire. Who was this man that he could affect her so?
"Come with me." He pulled her toward the double doors behind them that led to the other part of the house.
Heart pounding, Fanny ran on tiptoes in an effort to keep up with him. This was madness. Wherever was he taking her? And what on earth did he have in mind? Oh, but she knew what that was. That deep desire in his eyes told her exactly where his intentions lay. Would she allow him to have his way with her? She didn't quite recognize him; the mask hid just enough of his face. Still he reminded her of someone. Someone who had been most dear to her what seemed a lifetime ago. But that man had left London, swearing never to return to the ton years before. He'd retreated to his country estate and had not been seen in Town for seven years.
They raced down the corridor, Pollux still in the lead, Castor right behind her. That gave her some comfort. Pollux wouldn't ravish her in front of his brother, or friend rather. Still, the urgency of his headlong flight, dodging wide-eyed guests left and right, persuaded her that this man would stop at nothing to get her alone.
He turned a corner into a deserted hall and slowed finally. Stopping at a door on the far end, he glanced around then put his hand on the latch. "Keep watch, Cas. No one enters."
Castor grinned. "Not a soul, Pol. My word as a gentleman."
Pollux pushed down the latch, opened the door into a shadowy room, and drew her inside.
The flickering fireplace across the room gave the only light. Fanny's eyes took a moment to adjust to the dimness. A moment in which Pollux pulled her hard against him, crushing her breasts against his unyielding chest. He wrapped his arms around her, pinning her to him, and sank his mouth onto hers.CHAPTER 2
Fanny's building panic subsided at the touch of his lips. Soft, warm, almost tender, he kissed her with a gentleness that surprised her after the fierce desire that had erupted in him. She slipped her arms round his trim waist, every muscle hard beneath her hands. Oh, but she had missed this intimacy for such a long time. So good to be this close to a man again.
He slid his tongue along the seam of her lips and without thinking she opened them, eager for more. Their tongues tangled, then she drew him in, drinking in the glorious feeling once more. Here was the passion she had shared all too little in her married life and seldom with her husband. Only with ...
Realization hit like a blow from a fist. She pulled away, her hand going to her mouth. It couldn't be.
"Do you finally know me, Fanny?"
Speechless, she nodded, her heart beating oddly in fits and starts.
Pollux smiled and pulled his mask off over his head.
"Matthew." She whispered it, still unsure if it was truly him.(Continues…)
Excerpted from "What A Widow Wants"
Copyright © 2019 Jenna Jaxon.
Excerpted by permission of KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP..
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
Rcvd an ARC at no cost to author..(netgalley) Yeah I so did not like this book, and regretted giving my time to it. So we meet Fanny and I get that her husband was unfaithful to her so now that she is free she wants to go all wild and is not ready to make another commitment when she feels that she has to get to know Mathew for real, since she apparently did not take as much time with her husband and he ended up being horrid. That is the beginning of this book not making sense. She apparently knew Matthew for along a time, he was one of her suitors when she had her coming out season. And even though she did like him she went after the man she married, and when she found out her husband was cheating on her she did the same and for a good while. The stopped their affair seven years ago when Mathew wanted her to leave her husband and she didn't want that. So now her husband is dead and she passed her mourning period and wants to sleep with others, Matthew has proposed repeatedly and while she may be attracted to him she is thinking of it but wants time to as I mentioned go wild. Come to find out her daughter is also Matthew's and she kept it from him..Hated her and story.
Fanny, fresh out of mourning, encounters an old flame, Matthew, the Earl of Lathbury at a party. The summary and first chapter grabbed me, however as the plot unfolded I found myself less and less invested in the characters. The chemistry that seems to be there, fizzled as their history was explained. It seemed to me that Fanny used Matthew and Matthew, likable in other ways, came off a bit weak to me. The potential for this story is there and the two did find their happy ending.
Second Chance at Love I received an ARC of this book to read through NetGalley in exchange for a fair review. What A Widow Wants is the 3rd book in Jenna Jaxon’s The Widows’ Club Series. I have to admit I spent the first half of the book strongly disliking the heroine Lady Stephen Tarkington (Frances) or Fanny to her friends. She was flighty, self absorbed, an absent parent and appeared to be quite shallow. Her period of mourning has ended and she wants to go out a have fun and flirt with lots of men. The last thing she is looking for is a new husband. Matthew, Lord Lathbury has always loved Fanny, he’s waited for her for 10 years and is dejected when she turns him down flat when he proposes once again and suggests maybe they could just be lovers instead. Fanny ended up growing on me and the story twisted and turned with danger and melodrama. Medium Steam. Publishing Date December 18, 2018. #NetGalley #WhatAWidowWants #JennaJaxon #KensingtonBooks #LyricalPress
A story of a lost chance at a true love, only to accept another choice that did not turn out well. In her coming out season, Franny fell in Love with Matthew but as things go, she ended up marrying another man she pursued. Finding out she had a cheating husband she did the same. What? Well, she took up with Matthew her old love.. Not good I would say. Years later, her awful husband passes away and she finds herself, after her year of mourning, free and feeling she will do as she pleases. Meeting up with Matthew again, he still cares for her deeply, but she does not want to commit due to how she had been treated by her husband. But there is a lot more at stake, a daughter, who was really not her husband's. A sick brother in law who means her and her daughter harm. Can Matthew save them and will Franny finally commit to him? This is part of a series that runs parallel to the prior books and you see characters interacting. Although part of a series it can be read as a standalone I read this through NetGallery
Fannie, Lady Stephen Tarkington and Matthew, Lord Lathbury have been in love for ten years. She chose someone else over him when she was young and foolish. She meets him again at a masquerade and renews her acquaintance. He asks her to marry him, but she has just come out of mourning her husband and has no desire to marry at this time. The love affair continues where it left off. When she keeps putting him off, he starts paying attention to someone else. She knows she has to make a choice or lose him forever. She agrees to marry Matthew if her daughter likes him. He visits her in London and everything is ready for the wedding. When a surprising revelation comes to light, the wedding is off. Someone wants Fannie dead. Can Fanny and Matthew forgive each other? Will Fannie survive a deadly attack? I really liked this book but I didn't love Matthew. I wanted to smack him at times. This book is part of the series, The Widows Club which I recommend. I received this book from Net Galley and Kensington, Lyrical Books for a honest review and no compensation otherwise. The opinions expressed are my own.
For those who have a passion for romance stories, don’t pick this book up unless you have a large chunk of time, because you won’t want to put it down! Fanny, also known as Lady Stephen Tarkington, has just come out of her mourning period following the death of her abusive husband. The last thing she wants is another relationship like her first marriage, and feels she can’t trust any man, regardless of their romantic intentions. When a handsome, sexy beau from the past comes along and wants to marry her, she is reluctant to do so again, at least until she has finished playing the party scene and having fun as a widow. Fanny has a hard time deciding what to do, and Matthew has a hard time accepting her answer as a no. Just when I thought I knew what was going to happen next, the plot takes a twist I never saw coming, and there are a lot of twists throughout the book! I highly recommend this well written romance novel by Jenna Jaxon.
Frances (Fanny), Lady Stephen Tarkington, is attending a masquerade ball hosted by Lady Beaumont. Fanny’s husband, Stephen, the youngest son of a marquess, was killed at Waterloo just a year ago. Fanny also has a six-year-old daughter. Tonight, Fanny is scandalously dressed as Aphrodite and she is eager to flit, flirt, and maybe enjoy a dalliance. Happy to finally throw off her mourning, she is ready to find a man with whom to have she can have a sexual encounter. Fanny is soon approached by a man asking her to dance. She discovers he is Matthew, Lord Lathbury, whom she has not seen in seven years. He is an earl and had proposed to her before she ended up married to Stephen. Now, Matthew is proposing to her again. As much as she is attracted to him, she needs some time just to be free before deciding if she wants to marry again. However, she is open to having an affair with him. Matthew is going to Brighton for some weeks along with his friend, Gareth, the eighth Marquess of Kinellan, so Fanny decides to go there with another widow friend as her companion. She rents a house and is looking forward to sharing some good times with Matthew. As they relationship grows, Fanny is not sure whether she wants to marry Matthew or not. It seems that she would just be happy with having sex with the man and no commitments. When I first started reading this book, I was really appalled at the blatant and cold way that Fanny approached throwing off her widow weeds just so she could have sex again. She came across as a total skank. I stuck with the book because I had enjoy another of her novels. It took some twists and turns and in the end, became a little better, but not a book I would care t read again. Since I did enjoy another book of hers, I would like to try to read her book(s) in the future and hope that this one was just a one-off. Copy provided by NetGalley in exchange for a fair and honest review.
What a Widow Wants by Jenna Jaxon The Widows’ Club #3 Frances, Lady Stephen Tarkington was widowed after her husband died at Waterloo. She has a six year old daughter and was not happily married. She had heard, and believed, that a reformed rake made the best husband only to find out that her husband had no plans to reform at all. There was another man that offered to marry her but she had set her sights on Stephen even though Matthew, Lord Lathbury had a title and proved to be the better man. Matthew saw Fanny and knew he had to have her. He declared his love and his offer of marriage was turned down. When Fanny came to him to seek revenge (and wanted comfort) he was there for her only to be spurned again after four enjoyable months together. This should be the perfect second chance at love setting BUT...well...I wrote as I read: Fanny is petulant, selfish, immature, a bad mother, dramatic, stupid… and she didn’t wise up till it was nearly too late. I didn’t get her and didn’t warm to her. As for Matthew...he was a nice enough guy but a bit of a wimp to sit on his hands for ten years or even seven years waiting for a woman who continued to turn him down. I didn’t see the attraction between them and though they achieved their HEA eventually I never really invested in them or their story. Did I enjoy this book? Not so much Would I read more in this series? Maybe Thank you to NetGalley and Kensington-Lyrical Press for the ARC – This is my honest review. 2-3 Stars