I just finished reading my cousin's latest historical romance yesterday morning on the bus ride into work. It only took me a week to gobble it up - which for me is really speedy.
This is the first of her new Pembroke Palace series, following the mad attempts of the Duke of Pembroke to break his family's curse and have all of his sons married off before Christmas. Devon Sinclair is the eldest son and the pressure is on to find himself a bride before his father uproots every last plant and shrub on the palace grounds to ward off the flood he fears is coming.
Devon is disturbed by his father's mental state when he returns from several years abroad in America. He needed to put some distance between himself and his brother Vincent after a tragic accident severed their familial bonds. But on his return, Devon finds that his father believes an ancient family curse is destined to carry them all away in the rising waters that have England drenched in an unrelentingly wet spring. This in itself would be distressing, but the duke has legally changed his will in order to force his sons' hands.
So Devon sets himself to the task at hand, delighted that a young neighbor, Rebecca Newland has arrived for the ball thrown by his father. He once came to her aid when she and her father, the Earl of Creighton, were stranded in a driver-less coach in a fog-shrouded wood. Devon has no idea the young lady has done nothing but dream of him every day since then.
Rebecca has grown up tucked away in her father's house, trying to help him cope with chronic pain and an aversion to leaving his home. She's compensated for her lack of society by feasting upon a diary she found secreted away, which tells the romantic and erotic tale of Lydie and her lover, Jess. Devon finds himself attracted to a woman who is technically an innocent - but not in her dreams.
This book is a true delight for all you fantasizers out there. I know I'm a card-carrying member. Imagine if you will the object of your girlish fantasies. Now just imagine if that very man appeared in person, was attracted to you (yes, YOU!), and Fate joined you to this man as an inheritance-preserving wife.
Don't stop there. Imagine if you read a scintillating diary to him, one you'd read to yourself over and over until you knew it by heart. Imagine if your dream man was no longer a dream - but flesh and blood, listening to you read those very words even as he makes them come to life with his own hands and lips. It's so mind-blowing and so hot it makes me melt.
Of course, nothing could work out so perfectly, and Julianne throws several nasty flies into this intoxicating ointment. But for now I'll leave you with an excerpt that shows you what could happen if your dream man walked into your bedroom - for real...
Oxfordshire, England, April 1874
" 'Why don't you turn to your favorite entry,' he said.
Seated on the edge of the bed, she looked up at him. I should not let this go further, she thought. I should ask him to leave.
She opened the book and flipped through the pages near the start, and began to read aloud.
Today was my birthday, and Jess gave me a beautiful white stone he had found on a beach when he was a boy. He told me he'd been keeping it all these years just for me, even though we met only six months ago. I will never, ever part with it, Diary. Not as long as I live.
But that is not all that happened today, for I was very, very wicked, and if Mother and Father knew what I had done, they would surely send me away.'
Rebecca stopped reading and glanced up at Devon, who was listening attentively. She cleared her throat to continue.
'I never felt such wild desire and passionate yearnings in my body.'
Rebecca stopped reading again when Devon slowly sat down beside her.
'Continue,' he said.
Feeling the heat of his muscular thigh touching hers on the bed, she fought her own dizzying desires and swallowed nervously.
'He kissed the side of my neck while he eased me onto my back.'
Devon leaned closer and pressed his open mouth to her neck, just below the line of her jaw. His warm, wet tongue sent gooseflesh tingling down her body, as he suckled downward to the juncture at her shoulder.
She went weak all over, and was powerless to resist the lure of erotic sensation as he laid her down on the soft mattress.
'Keep reading,' he whispered between kisses as he tasted the base of her throat. Rebecca barely managed to hold the book open in front of her.
'He unbuttoned the top of my nightdress and kissed my breasts, until I was filled with such hunger, it was all I could do to keep from crying out.'
Devon had already begun to unbutton her gown, and quivering as she was with desire, she could not continue to hold the book. She let it fall to the bed and reached up to touch his face. She had wanted this for so long. He had been living in her heart for four lonely years.
With dark, mischievous seduction in his eyes he crawled over her on all fours. He began nuzzling her breasts with his lips and cheeks, tickling her with his hair, dropping wet kisses down the center of her trembling belly until she gasped with delight.
'What happens next?' he asked."
- Julianne MacLean, 2007