As many of you have discovered by now, I seem to have an angel on my shoulder when it comes to winning books. At the book draws held by my RWA chapter, at blog contests - my name comes up and the books come to me. This latest book was won from a contest held at missmakeamovie, a group blog where Christine Wells and I both contribute.
1 - Christine also blogs at Romance Bandits, a 20-member group blog which includes these authors:
2 - The Dangerous Duke is Christine's second release.
Scandal's Daughter was released in 2007.
3 - Part of Berkley Sensation's Historical Romance category, The Dangerous Duke gives us a heroine whose brother, a stubbornly idealistic vicar, is held prisoner for failing to divulge the names of men who burned down the home of the Duke of Lyle, along with three heirs to that title. The hero is the newest duke, never thinking he'd inherit, being so far down the line.
4 - We meet Lady Kate Fairchild, radiant widow of a man who disapproved of a woman admitting to a sexual appetite. To keep her desires in check, Kate wrote a diary about a phantom lover, and poured all her yearning into a delectable journal meant for her eyes only.
5 - Maxwell Brooke, Duke of Lyle begins his new role by hunting down the men responsible. More equipped for this job than most, Max has been working in secret for the Home Office for years, taking care of the King's business with lethal efficiency.
6 - Lyle procures Kate's diary - written in Italian to safeguard its contents from prying eyes, and hands it to his sister Louisa to translate. It is not the memoirs with which Lady Kate has threatened the government, however. Louisa translates instead a tale from Lady Kate's most erotic imagination.
Christine uses lines from Lady Kate's diary to open each chapter.
7 - Here's the opening to Chapter Ten:
"I could gaze on him for eternity, but where is the joy in only looking? A statue would do as well.
I'd no idea a man's skin could be so soft..."
8 - Christine includes a very charged secondary romance between Lyle's sister, Louisa and his fellow Home Office operative, Jardine. Lyle and Jardine have been rivals as well as working together as spies for the security of the country. Their relationship circles like arena combatants, and the romance between Lyle's sister and Jardine is just as edgy.
9 - Lady Kate's uneasy sexual relationship with her late husband runs a thread of claiming one's own erotic nature into The Dangerous Duke. Her husband Hector had disapproved of Kate displaying any sort of sexual appetite. As she and Lyle's relationship develops, Kate must confront the dichotomy of the expected demeanor of a lady, and the reality of her true desires.
10 - Christine really knows how to end each chapter with a hook. Like this, for example:
"Ordering a duke to fetch and carry for her was perhaps equal in insolence to his own conduct. As a duke, he might be affronted; as a gentlemen, he must accede to her wishes. It was the oldest trick in the book to get rid of a man, but sometimes simple maneuvers proved the most effective.
He took the order without a blink. 'It would be my pleasure, Lady Kate.'
Stupidly, Kate was disappointed. He was going to give in as easily as that? She'd thought him a worthier foe.
But the duke did not take a step towards the supper room. A slight lift of his finger and one of her tiresomely efficient footmen materialized at his elbow.
Without taking his gaze from her face, the duke murmured, 'Fetch your mistress a glass of water, will you, Arnold?'
She started at his use of the footman's name. 'How - ' No. She would not give him the satisfaction of voicing her surprise. A chill skittered down her spine. How did he know so much?
Kate glanced at Sidmouth, who looked a trifle bemused at their byplay. She would not give up. She must find a way to see him alone before he left the ball. There would be no other opportunity to speak with him privately without causing gossip.
The orchestra struck up a waltz. She'd almost forgotten she'd instructed them to do so. She must not let the duke throw her off balance like this.
Doing her utmost to ignore Lyle's disturbing presence, she turned the full brilliance of her smile on the Home Secretary. 'Oh, how fortunate! I do love to dance the waltz. Dear Lord Sid - '
A hard, masculine arm clamped around her waist and swung her into the dance."
11 - I really enjoyed the spy elements in this book. I'm a huge fan of MI-5 and loved the scenes between Lyle, Jardine and the head of operations.
12 - Christine has a sexy new Regency in the wings, Indecent Proposal - a future release from Berkley Sensation.
13 - I leave you with an excerpt from The Dangerous Duke. Enjoy!
"Should she believe him when he said she was in danger? He couldn't be so uncertain of his talents as to think he needed to steal her away to seduce her. An unpleasant fluttering in her stomach made her take a sharp breath. At least she would not be so foolish as to succumb to him again.
She glanced up briefly from her bread and butter and saw him watching her with that curious cold fire in his eyes. It was a struggle to smile at him and appear unconcerned, as if that heated encounter after the ball hadn't occurred.
Lowering her gaze, she took a swift sip of coffee. She gulped and fought the urge to choke. The hot slurry burned its way down her throat; she felt its heat all the way to her uneasy stomach.
'Is the coffee to your taste, Lady Kate?'
Her eyes watered with the effort of suppressing a cough, but she managed it. 'Oh, yes. Very, er...pleasant.'
Kate was renowned for never losing her aplomb, even in the most fraught situations. For some reason, it had become a point of honor with her to remain in complete control of herself when the duke was near.
Defiantly, she took another painful sip of the brew.
'You like George's coffee?' He lifted his mug to scrutinize its contents. 'How extraordinary. I find it almost undrinkable, but unfortunately I've had to make do with his services on this journey. The man's culinary skill scarcely compares with his discretion, but the latter is far more valuable to us at present.'
Kate cleared her throat. 'Where are you taking me?'
'To a hunting box in the shires. An almost forgotten part of my holdings. My great-grandfather was never fond of hunting, so he leased the house each season. This time, it will be leased to us, a Mr. and Mrs. John Wetherby.'
Husband and wife? She ought to have known he would try a trick like that. 'Why not say we are brother and sister?' she said evenly. 'It would make more sense.'
A gleam in his eye told her not to push the matter any further. Swiftly, she changed the subject. 'You don't look at all like plain Mr. Wetherby.'
An inscrutable expression came over his face. 'And yet, a bare fortnight ago I was plain Mr. Brooke.'
She gave a wry smile. 'Somehow, I doubt anyone would describe you as plain, whether you were a commoner or a duke.'
There was an arrested look in his eyes. He glanced away. 'It hardly matters. At this season, we're unlikely to be troubled with neighbors.'
He smiled, returning his gaze to hers. 'In fact, we will be quite alone.'
'I can't make out where we are,' she said, peering through the travel-grimed window at the scenery.
'We're in Leicestershire. It's probably best you don't know exactly where,' said the duke indifferently.
How she wanted to hit him! She turned her head to look at his straight-nosed profile. 'Best for whom?'
'For me, of course. Your ignorance will hinder you if you try again to escape.'
'There's plain speaking! I mean to wait before I attempt another mad dash for freedom. So for the moment, we may both rest easy.'
A gleam stole into his eyes. 'Somehow, I doubt I shall rest easy tonight.'
'Oh?' She raised her brows, pretending innocence. 'I would have thought you'd be fatigued from the journey. I know I shall sleep like the dead.'
Before she knew what he was about, he took her chin in hand, tilting her face to the light. 'Almost, I am convinced,' he said. 'And yet, you've behaved like a cat on hot bricks since we left the cottage.' He smiled. 'Tell me - ' He smoothed a stray curl behind her ear. 'Do you think I'm going to ravish you in a moving vehicle?'
Most of the air left her lungs. She forced out, 'On past experience, I should say it's very likely.' Her skin tingled where his fingers brushed it. Why wasn't he wearing gloves?
'But so uncomfortable,' he replied, withdrawing his hand with a faint smile at the reaction she hadn't been able to hide. 'Unnecessary, too, when all the delights of a soft bed and a cozy fire await us. Perhaps even some decent coffee. A hot bath...'
She shivered. Mr. and Mrs. Wetherby. Oh yes, he knew what he was about.
The duke's character couldn't be further from that of the considerate lover who pleasured her so sweetly between the pages of her journal. What Lyle wanted, he took. Would he even care how much pleasure he gave?
No. She would not speculate about how adept a lover Lyle might be. She'd no ambition to become his mistress.
'I beg your pardon?' The duke's deep voice interrupted her thoughts.
She blinked. 'Nothing. I didn't say anything.'
'On the contrary. You snorted.' "
- Christine Wells, 2008