Thursday, 29 March 2012

Disgrace & Desire

DISGRACE and DESIRE by Sarah Mallory
pub. UK Dec 2010.
Harlequin Historical
"Beautifully tortured heroes and heroines that go against the grain, fast-moving drama that is both intriguing and riveting, and chemistry between our lovers that either has you screaming in exasperation or breathlessly sitting in awe – DISGRACE AND DESIRE has it all.  Yet another amazing story from the fantastically talented Sarah Mallory." (romance junkies). Read the full review at

They call her the Wanton Widow...Breathtakingly beautiful Lady Eloise Allyngham scandalises and seduces the ton in equal measure. With all of London falling at her feet, wagers abound over who will capture the fast, flirtatious, disgraceful Lady Eloise - and her fortune...Dashing Major Jack Clifton has vowed to watch over his late comrade's wife, but her beauty fires his blood, and her behaviour intrigues him even further. Only the lady is not what she seems, and Jack must discover the secret she fiercely hides if he is to protect her... (scroll down to read an extract) 

Eloise moved around the room, bestowing her smiles freely but never stopping, nor would she promise to dance with any of the gentlemen who begged for that honour. Her eyes constantly ranged over the room, but it was not an acquaintance she was seeking. It was a dark-haired stranger she had seen but once.
Suddenly he was beside her.
'Will you dance, my lady?'
She hesitated.
'Sir, we have not been introduced.'
'Does that matter?'
A little bubble of laughter welled up. All at once she felt quite reckless. She held out her hand.
'No, it does not matter one jot.'
He led her to join the set that was forming.
'I thought you would never escape your guard dog.'
'Mr Mortimer is my very good friend.  He defends me from unwelcome attentions.'
'Oh?  Am I to understand, then, that my attentions are not unwelcome?'
Eloise hesitated. This encounter was moving a little too fast and for once she was not in control. She said cautiously, 'I think you would be presumptuous to infer so much.'
His smile grew and he leaned a little closer.
'Yet you refused to stand up with the last four gentlemen who solicited your hand.'
'Ah, but I have danced with them all before. I like the novelty of a new partner.' She smiled as the dance parted them, pleased to see the gleam of interest in his eyes.
'And does my dancing please you, my lady?' he asked as soon as they joined hands again.
'For the moment,' she responded airily.
'I agree,' he said, his eyes glinting. 'I can think of much more pleasant things to do for the remainder of the evening.'
She blushed hotly and was relieved that they parted again and she was not obliged to answer.
Eloise began to wonder if she had been wise to dance with this stranger: she was disturbed by his effect upon her.  Goodness, he had only to smile and she found herself behaving like a giddy schoolgirl! She must end this now, before the intoxication became too great. When the music drew to a close she gave a little curtsey and stepped away. Her partner followed.
'I know I have not been in town for a while,' he said, 'But it is still customary to stand up for two dances, I believe.'
She put up her chin.
'I will not pander to your vanity sir.  One dance is sufficient for you, until we have been introduced.'
She flicked open her fan and with a little smile she walked away from him.
Alex was waiting for her.
'Our host tells me Lord Berrow has sent his apologies for tonight. He is gone out of Town. However, Parham expects to see him at Renwick's soirée tomorrow.'
'How very tiresome,' said Eloise. 'If we had known we need not have come.' She tucked her hand in his arm.   'Let us go now.'
'Are you sure?  You will disappoint any number of gentlemen if you leave now: they all hope to stand up with you at least once.'
Eloise shrugged. If she could not dance with her dark stranger she did not want to dance with anyone.
'There will be other nights.'
She concentrated on disposing her diaphanous stole across her shoulders rather than meet Alex's intent gaze.
'What has occurred Elle?  I mislike that glitter in your eyes. Did your last partner say anything to upset you?'
She dismissed his concern with a wave of one gloved hand.
'No, no, nothing like that. He was a diversion, nothing more.'
'He was very taken with you.'
'Did you think so?' she asked him, a little too eagerly.
Alex frowned.
'Does it matter to you that he should?'
Eloise looked away,
'No, of course not. But it is very flattering.' She tried for a lighter note. 'He was very amusing.'
Alex looked back across the room to where the tall stranger was standing against the wall, watching them.
'I think,' he said slowly, 'that he could be very dangerous.' 

© Sarah Mallory

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