Romance Writers of America Rita Finalist - Best Historical 2007
"Julianne MacLean has a bona fide winner on her hands. I don't give it often, but I am giving it here - the sacred 10."
- MaryGrace Meloche, official reviewer at HistoricalRomanceWriters.com
"A breathtaking story. Your heart will sing as love conquers all, while MacLean's vibrant love story will strike the perfect chords and make you cherish this book."
4½ stars - Top Pick - Kathe Robin, Romantic Times Bookclub
American Heiress Series Book Six
No woman can resist him. . . Except one.
Lord Martin Langdon takes pride in his scandalous reputation as a scoundrel, and he considers the art of seduction a most rewarding pastime. So when this dashing rakehell learns of a particularly beautiful woman who is "impossible to flirt with," Martin is determined to prove that not even the prim and proper Evelyn Wheaton can resist his charms.
Evelyn knows all about the reckless rogue's shocking reputation and she wants nothing to do with him. She may be looking for a husband, but Martin is certainly not a candidate. The smoldering looks he sends her way, however, are a different matter entirely. She suspects there is great passion to be had if she'd throw caution to the wind and surrender to this scoundrel . . . but dare she risk her heart? And will Martin, who hides a most tormented past, find true love at last?
Read an excerpt...
From Chapter Six....
He slowly closed the door to his room, locked it, then faced her elegantly. "Are you following me, Mrs. Wheaton?"
Evelyn squared her shoulders. "I was about to ask you the same question, right after I boxed your ears for what you did to me today."
He chuckled, and his blue eyes sparkled like starlight. "You should have boxed them. Lord knows I deserved it. I was an absolute scoundrel."
They regarded each other for a moment, then Martin pushed away from his door and approached. He sauntered toward her, exuding confidence and the unquestionable determination to succeed at anything he set his mind to, then stopped mere inches away, forcing her to back up against her own door. He leaned closer and rested an arm against the jamb over her head, while she struggled to subdue the fiery sensation heating her blood.
She was not accustomed to this. Men did not do this sort of thing with her. And it was Martin. Martin!
"I admit," he said, "that for a moment this afternoon, I thought you might have forgotten our acquaintance, but then I realized I was wrong. You do remember. Some of it, at least."
She wet her lips and fought hard to slow her breathing. "How could I forget? You flirted with my best friend and led her to believe there was something between you, then you broke her heart. And you had the audacity to blame me when you were suspended from school."
He grinned. Her eyes fixed upon his full, soft lips, only inches away, and the strong line of his jaw. He was clean-shaven, but she could still see the dark shadow of manly stubble. She wondered how rough it would be under her fingertips after a day's growth. Then she closed her eyes briefly to steer her mind away from such a thought. She did not need to know that.
"Water under the bridge, Mrs. Wheaton," he said in a warm, silky voice.
She quickly shook her head at him in a defensive measure. "After all these years you still take no responsibility for it."
"And neither do you apparently. And to think the world believes you to be unshakably virtuous. If they only knew the whole truth about the famous vicar's widow."
Evelyn reeled at his impudence. "I beg your pardon, sir."
He smiled again, and she wondered where the bitter young man had gone. He was not like he had been at the train station years ago. Tonight he was exuding more charm than any man had a right to exude - teasing her again, toying with her in a scandalously wicked manner. This was the young man Penelope had fallen in love with. The man all of England had fallen in love with, in fact. The carefree rake. The champion. The charmer. But why was he suddenly charming Evelyn, when he never had before? He'd always ignored her, looked straight through her, because she was not pretty.
Oh, what was she thinking? Of course she knew why he was paying attention to her now. It was the same reason other gentlemen were. Because of her inheritance. She was fresh out of mourning and brought new money to the marriage mart. She could not let herself be truly flattered by this.
Or maybe he just wants to triumph over his rival, Lord Breckinridge, she thought, keeping her head out of the clouds and firmly upon her shoulders. She had seen the competition between them earlier.
Either way, his motives did not matter. Whatever they were - charm was charm, seduction was seduction, and she had to wet her lips again because her mouth had gone dry.
"So it seems we both have reputations," he said, "which means that we are similar creatures. Except that you are famous for being virtuous, and I am famous for... Well, quite the opposite."
Evelyn tensed. "And I thought you were famous because of all your sailing trophies," she replied. "How foolish of me."
He smiled again and it reached his eyes. "You? Foolish? I don't think so."
But she felt very foolish at this moment, responding with lavish desire to the sensation of his hot breath on her face and the intoxicating nearness of his strong, attractive, virile body.
Heart pounding, she drew a slow, deep breath, and remembered to whom she was speaking.
Martin Langdon. Charmer. Thrill seeker. Heartbreaker.
And she was Evelyn Wheaton.
Pious churchgoer. Shy mouse. Ugly duckling.
All at once her pessimism took hold. She raised a forefinger and pushed her heavy spectacles up the bridge of her nose, then placed her hand on his solid chest and slowly pushed him back.
"You are correct on one point, Lord Martin. I have never been a foolish woman, so you would do well to remember that."
She recognized the sudden look of defeat in his eyes, as if she had just thrown a glass of cold water in his face. But then he smiled again, and it surprised her, for there was respect in his eyes, as if he thought she was very astute - a formidable opponent, so to speak, which she most definitely was not. She was melting like hot butter right here in front of him.
"How do you mean, Mrs. Wheaton?" he asked, feigning innocence.
She was very aware of the cheeky tone in her voice when she spoke, which was completely out of character for her. She was not the cheeky type. At least she hadn't been before this moment. "I mean to say," she replied, "that I know why you are flirting with me - because like you, I am not famous for just one thing. Yes, I may be reputedly virtuous, but everyone also knows I am presently the wealthiest widow in England. You're not the only man who has made overtures, you know."
She was not about to tell him he was the only man who had made overtures like this. Sexual ones. Most gentlemen knew her reputation for being virtuous and used very different tactics. They talked about their flower gardens or how often they went to church. They occasionally quoted from the bible with a far off look in their eyes. It had become rather predictable.
Martin's discourse, on the other hand, was a far cry from predictable or biblical. It was a different approach to be sure. Fire and brimstone was coming to mind.
He raised a finger and wagged it at her, as if he were conceding this match to her - that yes, she was right and had won the point. "You're going to be a challenge, aren't you?" he said.
A challenge? So there it was.
She eyed him shrewdly. "It's at least nice to know what I am to you." Then she pushed him farther back still, and headed for the stairs.
He followed. "I won't insult you, then, by acting the part of a suitor genuinely in love. I can see you're too clever for that."
Evelyn kept walking as she pulled on her gloves. "It has nothing to do with cleverness, Lord Martin. I simply know you too well."
But she did not really know him. They'd barely had two full conversations. She just felt as if she did, because she had been watching him from afar for so many years....
Surrender to a Scoundrel