All eyes feasted on the beautiful flame-haired gambler in London's most infamous club. But Julia Prentisse was interested only in the rake-turned-recluse whom they now called "The Beast." She lured him out of the crowded club to a deserted warehouse, where she made her scandalous offer: If he married her and protected her from her uncle, she would help him catch the arsonist who had ruined his life.
An act of heroism had left Morgan burned, scarred for life. But Julia's bold gaze lit other fires he had long suppressed. And now this glorious stranger was his bride. But when he tried to claim his husbandly rights, she demanded three months gracethree months to know a stranger's mind, to touch a stranger's soul, to go where no woman had ever gone before. Into his lonely heart . . . With This Kiss.
|Product dimensions:||4.19(w) x 6.87(h) x 1.09(d)|
About the Author
Fortunately, fate has smiled on that calling. Victoria has twice been a finalist for the Romance Writers of America's prestigious RITA award, and has also been nominated for the Romantic Times Reviewer's Choice Award. With This Kiss is her fifth novel.
Victoria lives in Virginia with her husband and son, and loves to hear from readers. Please write to her at P.O. Box 246, Fairfax, VA 22030.
Read an Excerpt
The woman was putting on one hell of a show.
Morgan St. James's gaze drifted back to the redhead for perhaps the third time that hour. She stood by herself at the foot of the trente-et-quarante table, betting consistently on black. Her stack of chips had increased since she had started to play, but her winnings were not substantial. At least not enough to draw his attention. What caught his eye--and that of several other men in the room--was the manner in which she played.
She wanted to be noticed. Her motions were too deliberate and dramatic to be interpreted any other way. It was an altogether unnecessary performance. Her presence alone was enough to command attention. One couldn't help but notice her--for several reasons.
First and foremost was her appearance itself. Every inch of the woman was dazzling feminine perfection, from the top of her elaborately coiffed hair to the tips of her black high-heeled slippers. Her skin glowed like ivory cream, her eyes were as rich and intoxicating as warm brandy. And her body--sculpted as though every inch had been deliberately crafted to satisfy a man's most vivid fantasy. Her lush curves were wrapped in a rich, mouthwatering shade of pink satin that made Morgan think of a sugary peppermint confection.
He took a moment to study her hair. It wasn't a soft, golden-red titian or a rich, russet-tinged auburn but a bold, brazen red. Flame red.
Another thought occurred to Morgan as he watched her place her bets. The woman had money. She played with the calculated expertise of a seasoned gambler, yet she had the bold nonchalance of someone for whom winning or losing was a matter oflittle concern. In other words, someone whose wealth was vast indeed.
All of which begged one simple question: Who was she?
The fact that neither he nor any of the men with whom he was seated could answer that struck him as nearly unprecedented. The room in which they had gathered was London's notorious Devonshire House. Given the ever-increasing crowds drawn to London for the Season, something had to be done to distinguish between the high life and the rabble. Thus the establishment of an exclusive chamber to which admittance was gained solely on the basis of wealth and social status. It was the best of all worlds: an intimate club where the players could mingle freely with their peers, where only the finest champagne was served, and where fortunes that had taken twenty generations to amass were routinely won and lost on the turn of a card.
But this woman was an outsider to the rarefied atmosphere of their little club. Granted there were other women present, but their presence could easily be explained. The Boston heiresses who came to barter their wealth and virginity for an honorable British title, the dowager duchesses who sat gossiping together in one corner, the Season's Incomparables with their pretty little pouts and lowcut gowns, the French courtesans who clung to the sides of their latest paramours like pampered, well-heeled pets.
The redhead belonged to none of those cliques, yet she seemed somehow essential, as if the assembly would be seriously bereft without her. Morgan's gaze returned to the woman as if drawn there by magnetic force. She had won again, he noted, watching as the croupier pushed a thick stack of chips toward her ever-increasing pile.
His pleasure at watching her was abruptly diminished as he saw Jonathan Derrick, Earl of Bedford, cross the room and move toward her. The lust shining in his gaze was as clear and bright as a lighthouse beacon at midnight. Pompous ass, Morgan thought, battling a surge of possessive irritation. But to his considerable amusement, Jonathan Derrick proved no threat to the mental claim he had staked on the woman. As though aware of Derrick's amorous intent, the redhead lifted her gaze and watched him approach. Although her expression didn't change, the warmth in her brandy eyes turned to winter. She tilted her chin and turned pointedly away, giving the earl the cut direct.
Morgan applauded her silently. Brava. Nicely done. Derrick was the fourth man to approach her since she had arrived, the fourth man to be coolly rebuked. Very well. Let the fools rush in. All good things to those who wait.
He suddenly stopped himself, shocked at the train of his thoughts. Idiot. What was he thinking? He knew better. The woman was not for him. Never for him. Foolish even to entertain such an idea. He gripped the rich glass of burgundy sitting on the table before him and let out a low, steadying breath, fighting back a wave of tension. Let it go. Let it go.
Forcing his thoughts away from the woman, he turned his attention back to his companions and the conversation at hand.
"Did you see the Review today?" demanded William Conor, fifth Earl of Gravespark. He was young, excitable, and unable to handle the bourbon he drank in regrettably copious amounts. "What did I tell you? It's official now. They're engaged. Lady Isabelle Cartwright and Lord Roger Bigelow. Didn't I say it was only a matter of time before she--"
"That's enough, Gravespark," interrupted Edward Southesby curtly.
William Conor stared at Southesby with a confused frown. "What? It's right here in the paper. I don't see why . . . oh." He swung his head around, and his bloodshot eyes fastened upon Morgan. "Sorry, old man."
Morgan lifted his shoulders in an indifferent shrug. "May I?" he asked, reaching for the paper.
The London Review was an upstart paper, one that dared to challenge the authority and prominence of The Times. In all likelihood it would have failed miserably, were it not for a single column called "The Tattler," which was currently the rage among society. Mostly a gossip column, its anonymous author made occasional forays into the realm of social injustice and reform, thus giving the work a luster of moral righteousness.
He skimmed the column and felt curiously . . . flat. Nothing. As though he were reading about complete strangers, rather than a woman he had nearly married and a man he had once considered his best friend.
"She could have at least shown the decency to wait three years," asserted Conor. "I mean, really."
A sardonic smile curved Morgan's lips as he folded the paper and passed it back. "I believe that's the customary period for mourning. Contrary to popular opinion, I didn't die."
"No, of course not," Conor stammered, his face flaming. "Of course not. It's just that . . ." His gaze traveled to Morgan's hands and wrists. He studied the scars there with a look of undisguised horror. "Do you ever wonder what might have happened if--"
"No," Morgan replied, his voice steel. "Never."
An uneasy silence fell over the group. Morgan could almost hear the thoughts running through his companions' minds. Although his forays into polite society were few, he was not deaf to the rumors that circulated about him. As might be expected, the effects of the fire had necessitated a long period of recovery. In the aftermath of the tragedy, his self-imposed seclusion had led to vivid speculation among his peers. It was rumored--not entirely unjustly--that he had been grossly disfigured, a man whose hideous scars aptly reflected the true nature of his character.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Reviewed by RachelReview copy provided by book tourI'm obsessed with fairy tales and all things historical romance, so this book was a fantastic fit for me to review. I devoured it, yes devoured, in one sitting and was ready to come back for more once my hand clicked to the last page. Morgan St. James is known to many as the beast. Once a rake, he now lives in solitude in his beautiful estate away from curious onlookers and those who spout gossip about his reputation and character. Once handsome, he now carries the burden of a scarred body. Maimed in an arsonaist's fire, he isn't ugly by any means. Something that as you read you don't know until about half way through. The scars are on his neck. It is more his reputation as a bitter man that keeps the gossips whispering, that and the tragedy that befell his home so many years previously. Alone, bitter, and without hope, he worries he will die without producing an heir, for who could ever love a beast such as he? Enter in fiery Julia Pretense, who makes an offer that he can't refuse. Marry her so she can escape her Uncles' overbearing presence and she'll help him find the person responsible for the arson that stole everything from him. Together they search throughout the ton to find the man responsible. The same man that has been sending Julia love letters for the past few months. As the action unfolds the tension between the two main characters builds in a very satisfying way. I found myself drawn in to Morgan's plight more than Julia's, I felt sorry for him. That so many people would believe him to be a monster based on something that wasn't his fault to begin with is very believable. People only believe what they want to believe and because he lived such a charmed life it would make sense that those out to destroy him would be happy of his failures. It is very true of that era and the author does a good job conveying this. All in all I would give the book the rating Lovely Rose. I look forward to reading more from this talented author.
Wonderfully witty and romantic. I don’t often read historical romances, but when I do I sure know how to pick them. The dialogue was very clever, very witty, mature and humorous. Morgan and Julia played off of each other so well, I often thought I was in the same room watching them have one of many verbal sparrings. Morgan is cynical and a bit of a grump at times, but he has that underlying sensibility or sensitivity that lets you catch glimpses of his vulnerability. It’s not lost on him that people call him The Beast. He has learned to live with his scarred flesh, but at the same time he uses it as a shield to save himself from disappointment. But Julia doesn’t act or react towards him like he expects her to. I loved both the vulnerable and the cynical sides of him because it usually led to some interesting, if not, really funny observations, conversations and situations. Though he is “the man of the house”, he seems to get steam-rolled by Julia time and time again. Instead of trying to put her in her place, he finds himself amused by her antics and indulges her every whim. Technically, he’s the perfect man – caring, compassionate, passionate, protective, and he has a great sense of humor. Julia was a wonderful heroine. She doesn’t conform to society’s rules. She’s young, but she’s her own woman and knows her own mind. She’s also not afraid to speak it. She’s outspoken, opinionated, driven, stubborn, and inquisitive. She’s also a romantic at heart. Unlike most women of her time who don’t necessarily marry for love, Julia doesn’t want a loveless marriage, but breaking down her husband’s defenses may be altogether impossible. What I loved about them as a couple was that they were complete opposites in every way, but they both wanted the same thing. The author did a wonderful job of making each character entirely loveable and relatable. I quickly became invested in them; I cheered for them, I felt sad for them whenever they seemed to misunderstand each other, and when they finally sealed their relationship, I swooned with them. If you’re not usually a fan of historicals, I would still highly recommend this one, just for the intelligent and humorous dialogue and the suspense. This is definitely a book I will revisit and cherish.
From the very beginning of the book, I was immersed in the incredible romance and mystery beneath the pages. This book contains all the elements I relish reading: romance, mystery, incurable rakes, beautiful ladies, and all in an English setting. Julia made the ideal strong heroine even though she did not fit the typical English lady. And you cannot get more unconvential than Morgan, and I loved him as the reluctant yet capable hero. I was fascinated to see the growth and blossoming of their relationship, and the ending did not disappoint. My favorite element of the book was the mystery that was woven seamlessly into the story. The author knows how to keep the reader guessing at every turn. She never gave away the details, and in the end, I believe everyone was surprised at the outcome. My complaints with the book are so minor that they are almost not worth mentioning. There was some mild profanity in the book, but I truly did not find it overly offensive. The sex scenes are hot and may offend some people, but I was so glad that the scenes only appeared following marriage. There was implied fidelity to be sure. For my tastes, I did not find any of these offensive. I would whole-heartedly recommend this book to anyone who enjoys romance and historical fiction. My first 5-star romance this year! I received a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review. I was not financially compensated in any way, and all opinions are 100 percent mine.
Reviewed By~Rachel Review Copy Provided By~Book Tour I'm obsessed with fairy tales and all things historical romance, so this book was a fantastic fit for me to review. I devoured it, yes devoured, in one sitting and was ready to come back for more once my hand clicked to the last page. Morgan St. James is known to many as the beast. Once a rake, he now lives in solitude in his beautiful estate away from curious onlookers and those who spout gossip about his reputation and character. Once handsome, he now carries the burden of a scarred body. Maimed in an arsonaist's fire, he isn't ugly by any means. Something that as you read you don't know until about half way through. The scars are on his neck. It is more his reputation as a bitter man that keeps the gossips whispering, that and the tragedy that befell his home so many years previously. Alone, bitter, and without hope, he worries he will die without producing an heir, for who could ever love a beast such as he? Enter in fiery Julia Pretense, who makes an offer that he can't refuse. Marry her so she can escape her Uncles' overbearing presence and she'll help him find the person responsible for the arson that stole everything from him. Together they search throughout the ton to find the man responsible. The same man that has been sending Julia love letters for the past few months. As the action unfolds the tension between the two main characters builds in a very satisfying way. I found myself drawn in to Morgan's plight more than Julia's, I felt sorry for him. That so many people would believe him to be a monster based on something that wasn't his fault to begin with is very believable. People only believe what they want to believe and because he lived such a charmed life it would make sense that those out to destroy him would be happy of his failures. It is very true of that era and the author does a good job conveying this. All in all I would give the book the rating Lovely Rose. I look forward to reading more from this talented author.
‘With this Kiss’ is based on the basic concept of Beauty and the Beast. And along with it came a charming, rich, hateful, beast of a man called Morgan and a winding, witty and headstrong beauty with fury colored hair called Julia. The story began with a tragedy, flowed along in zigzags of realistically written calamities together with the unpredictable end. It was written beautifully, plotted perfectly and kept up at the right pace with amazing 1800’s dialogue that reminds a reader of Mr. Darcy and Elisabeth or Mr. Rochester and Jane Eyre. A side from that, it held its own mysteriousness as they (Julia and Morgan) make an arrangement that lands them at THE aisle fighting to find who is behind London’s Fires that claimed many lives even people close to them. I adored how “push and pull” Morgan and Julia’s relationship was and the fact that Morgan has never met anyone like Julia (go figure) in his dreadful life as a ‘rake’, a man who finds it easy to find a woman every now and then (this was before the fire that scarred him). With this Kiss was a straight up unputdownable book. It's the right arrangement of delicious mystery, steamy moments and heart-lurching moments that's an instant five star book that’ll simply quench a historical romance junkie thirst to read more of the genre.