About A Most Devilish Rogue
Years ago, when Isabelle Mears was still a young miss too infatuated to know better, she surrendered her innocence to a dishonorable man. Though ruined and cast out from society, she has worked hard to shelter her illegitimate son, Jack. Having sworn off men in her quiet but dignified life, Isabelle is unprepared for the deep longing that rips through her when a handsome stranger rescues her rambunctious six-year-old from the pounding ocean surf.
George Upperton is a man in trouble with debts, women, and a meddling family. He is, by all accounts, the last gentleman on earth Isabelle should be drawn to. But loneliness is a hard mistress, and caution gives way to desire . . . even though Isabelle is convinced that happiness can’t be found in the arms of such a devilish rogue. Only when Jack is kidnapped does Isabelle discover the true depth of George’s devotion—and how far a good man will go to fight for the woman whose love is all that matters.
“Chin up, dear, we’ve almost arrived.”
George suppressed the urge to roll his eyes at his mother. Gads, how could the woman beam so after hours of jostling in a carriage through the Kentish countryside, crammed in with his sisters?
He exchanged a glance with Henrietta. “And not a moment too soon,” he said. “I can barely stand the excitement. We’ll go from being packed into this carriage to being packed into a house with entirely too many people.”
How he dreaded the thought of a house party, even if the host was his oldest friend. Worse than a ball, because the blasted things lasted days rather than mere hours. He could only escape to the card room in the evenings, while the rest of the day he’d have to find more creative means of avoiding his mother’s attempts at matchmaking.
Mama’s smile wavered not at all. “Sarcasm does not become you. How many times must I say it? You’d do better to put on a bright outlook. I imagine you’d attract a bride if you did that.”
His left eye twitched, as it always did when his mother brought up the topic of matrimony. “I’ll keep that in mind, should I wish to attract one. What do you recommend? Something like this?”
He pulled an exaggerated face that doubtless exposed his back teeth. God knew his cheeks would ache soon enough if he maintained the expression. It didn’t help matters that he’d tweaked a few bruises in the process.
“Stop this instant,” Mama scolded, but the woman, Lord help her, could never manage to sound stern. “Pity you had to turn up with your face all beaten. Why you men insist on pounding each other is beyond me.”
“It’s sport.” He’d explained the state of his face away with a minor lie about an incident at his boxing club. The truth would only give Mama the vapors.
“Be that as it may, I am certain you will meet your future wife at this party. See if you don’t.”
“Ah yes, and Henny”—he winked at his sister—“will announce her engagement to the head groom at the same time. Why, I think a double wedding at Christmas will be just the thing.”
Mama made a valiant attempt at creasing her brows, but an eruption of laughter quite ruined the effect. “You are completely incorrigible.”
“But endlessly diverting.”
“And if you turned that charm on a few young ladies . . .”
He held up a hand. “Madam, I believe I’m not the only incorrigible one in this conveyance.”
“Nonsense.” Mama tossed her head, and the feathers on her bonnet scrubbed across his sister Catherine’s face. “I’m simply determined. There’s a difference.”
Single-minded and obsessed were the terms that immediately leapt to George’s tongue, but he swallowed them back. Of course his mother wanted to see him wed. It was what mothers did once their children reached an appropriate age. Unfortunately, his idea of an appropriate age didn’t agree with hers by at least ten years. For God’s sake, he was only twenty-nine.
He caught Henrietta’s eye. Her mouth twitched into a smirk that spoke volumes. Better you than me. But Mama would turn her attention back to her oldest daughter soon enough. No doubt the moment they reached the ballroom where Revelstoke housed his pianoforte. Coupled with what Catherine passed off as singing . . .
In spite of himself, he winced. He prayed Revelstoke had laid in a good supply of brandy. He was going to need it in vast quantities if Mama insisted on her daughters being part of the entertainment.
The carriage rumbled to a halt at the head of a sweeping drive. The stone bulk of Shoreford House rose gray against a backdrop of blue sky. Shouts hailed from the yard, followed by a heavy thunk as the steps were let down. George leapt from his seat, ready to hand his mother and sisters out of the conveyance.
A gentle breeze bore the salt tang of the Channel, mingled with an earthy heaviness that wafted from the stables. The late August sun beat a gentle warmth on the back of his neck.
“I can’t believe you’ve actually come.”
George turned to find Benedict Revelstoke approaching from the main house, a grin across his cheeks. But as he neared the carriage, his gaze glanced over the bruises on George’s face, and he frowned. “I was about to ask how far your mother twisted your arm to convince you to come, but I see she’s resorted to more drastic means of persuasion.”
George clasped his old friend’s hand. “Do me a favor and don’t call attention to it. If I have to put up with any more cold compresses and female twittering, I may as well take to my bed permanently.”
“I don’t know how you’ll avoid it. Once Julia gets a good look at you . . .”
“I thought I heard my name.” Benedict’s wife appeared just beyond his shoulder, waddling from the house in the wake of a prominent belly. “Gossiping about me behind my back, are you?”
Revelstoke caught her hand and pulled her close. Their fingers entwined as if they couldn’t bear as much as an instant apart. For a moment, they stared into each other’s eyes, and in that brief expanse of time, they disappeared into their own realm where only the pair of them existed. It lasted less than two seconds, but an entire conversation seemed to pass between them.
Fighting the urge to roll his eyes, George cleared his throat. God help him if he ever became that love-struck.
Excerpt ©2013 Ballantine Books. All Rights Reserved.
SUSANA SAYS: One of the best I’ve read in recent years: 5/5 stars!
I’ve always been fascinated by the idea of rehabilitating a fallen woman in a Regency; in this case, Isabelle was a victim, but to the whole of society—including her parents—she was a fallen woman. Tossed into the streets pregnant with no means of support. Nice, huh? Most girls in that situation would have no recourse but to sell themselves. Fortunately, Isabelle finds a kind woman willing to share her humble home with an outcast and her illegitimate son.
Regency society is much more tolerant of male lapses, and George has made a lot of them. He never really thought much about it, though, until he met Isabelle and her son Jack. They are victims, while he—well—he deserves whatever consequences come from his careless actions. He’s drawn to Isabelle more than to any woman, but for the first time he considers the consequences before pursuing her. She doesn’t deserve the censure she’s suffered over the past seven years; nor does he wish to put her through the same thing again.
But something links the two of them together, and even though Isabelle knows there’s no future for them, she can’t stop herself from giving in to her passions. But there’s a lot about George Upperton that she doesn’t know; once she does, will she regret her recklessness?
This is a fascinating story that I didn’t want to put down. George does seem quite a devilish rogue in the beginning, but no worse than your average Regency rake. He’s arrived at a turning point in his life, and meeting Isabelle is just the impetus he needs to pull him back into reality. His rehabilitation into responsible manhood is both convincing and delightful. Somehow one knows that these changes are permanent, and not dependent on Isabelle at all.
And Isabelle…well, she too has some issues to resolve, even though she is essentially a victim here. Bitterness—who wouldn’t be bitter under the circumstances?—distrust, self-deprecation, fear—all of these things have to be dealt with before she can accept the happiness and love she deserves.
This is the second of the a series. I’ll be checking out the first one, A Most Scandalous Proposal, as soon as I’m finished writing this!
About the Author
They say that once you reach your forties, you undergo some sort of mid-life crisis. That must have been what happened to Ashlyn Macnamara when she finally made up her mind to set down some of the stories that had been accumulating dust in the dark recesses of her brain for years. As space becomes available, other plots and characters have developed the pesky habit of moving in to take their place.
Ashlyn lives in the wilds of suburbia outside Montreal with her husband, two teenage daughters, and one loudmouth cat. When not writing, she looks for other excuses to neglect the housework, among them knitting, reading and wasting time on the internet in the guise of doing research.
She is represented by Sara Megibow of Nelson Literary.