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To Bed a Beauty: A Novel Mass Market Paperback – Feb 26 2008
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About the Author
Nicole Jordan is the nationally bestselling author of fifteen historical romances. She recently moved with her real-life hero to the Rocky Mountains of Utah, where she is at work on the next book of her scorching Notorious series–tales of dangerous rakes and bold adventurers during the Regency era.
Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.
How astonishing that a gentleman would ask a perfect stranger to become his mistress without so much as an introduction. —Letter from Miss Roslyn Loring to Fanny Irwin
London, June 1817
“They say he is a marvelous lover.” Unable to ignore such a provocative comment, Roslyn Loring reluctantly shifted her gaze across the crowded ballroom to scrutinize the tall, lithe nobleman who had just entered.
She had never met the handsome, rakish Duke of Arden, although she’d heard countless tales about him. He was the picture of a wealthy aristocrat–his fair hair gleaming amber under the chandeliers’ light, his commanding, elegant form garbed in a black domino, the cloaklike garment his only concession to costume for the masquerade ball.
He wore no mask, so his striking features were clearly visible. And his attendance was obviously welcome to everyone but her. Immediately he became the intent focus of a bevy of beauties, all eager to attract his notice. “What makes him so marvelous?” Roslyn asked, intrigued despite her regret at the duke’s unwanted arrival.
Her friend Fanny Irwin smiled. “His amorous skills, my dear. It is said he has the power to make women weep.”
Lifting an eyebrow behind her own mask, Roslyn pursed her lips wryly. “Why in heaven’s name would making women weep be a coveted skill?”
“Weep with rapture, my dear. Arden is extraordinary because of the exquisite pleasure he can bring a woman.”
“I cannot imagine.”
Fanny responded with the musical laugh that had helped make her one of London’s most sought-after courtesans. “I should hope not, since you have no experience with carnal matters. But it is a rare man who is concerned with his paramour’s satisfaction, or who will see to her pleasure even before his own. That kind of lover is priceless.”
Roslyn’s gaze narrowed thoughtfully. She was here tonight in order to gain a measure of experience, yet she had no desire to begin with the duke. Arden was a close friend of her new guardian, the Earl of Danvers, who had recently become engaged to marry her elder sister Arabella. Roslyn didn’t wish for the duke even to see her, since she was courting scandal attending a notorious Cyprians’ ball. She expected to make his formal acquaintance at her sister’s wedding in a fortnight, and it would never do to have him recognize her.
No doubt his grace would disapprove of her brazen excursion into the glittering realm of the demimonde. According to Arabella, Arden had been severely critical of his friend’s betrothal, skeptical that Lord Danvers could have fallen in love with the eldest Loring sister so quickly or so wholeheartedly.
Viewing the duke now, Roslyn had little trouble understanding his cynical response. His lean, chiseled features were remarkably handsome but rather proud; his bearing much as she would have expected from an aristocrat of his consequence–refined, commanding, a bit imperious. But a duke of Arden’s extensive wealth and power had the right to arrogance, Roslyn supposed.
That he was reputed to be such an extraordinary lover, however, quite surprised her.
Her musings were interrupted as Fanny continued her frank observations. “Not that I have any personal knowledge of the duke, I want you to know. He prefers to keep one mistress at a time. Doubtless that is why he has come tonight–to choose a new mistress.”
“What happened to his last one?” Roslyn asked, interested in learning all she could from Fanny.
“Possessiveness, my dear, which is a cardinal sin if you mean to keep your protector content. Particularly for a nobleman like Arden, who can have his pick of females.”
He did seem to be examining the merchandise, Roslyn saw as the duke casually scanned the ballroom. Just then his gaze lit on her and paused in obvious interest. Reflexively, she took a step backward, feeling the sudden urge to hide. She had come incognito, the upper half of her face concealed by a mask, her own pale gold hair covered with a powdered wig and widebrimmed bonnet.
But perhaps it was her uniqueness itself that attracted his attention. Although her décolletage was much lower than she liked in the costume she had borrowed from Fanny, she was dressed rather modestly as a shepherdess, while most of the other females here were scantily clad in the alluring costumes of Greek goddesses or Roman slave girls or Turkish harem beauties. Fanny had come as Cleopatra, which complemented her exotic features and raven hair.
When Roslyn saw that Arden’s focus remained fixed on herself, her heart skipped a beat. Even at this distance, she could feel the impact of his penetrating gaze.
“He is looking directly at me,” she murmured, half vexed and half concerned.
“That is hardly surprising,” Fanny said in amusement.
“Your combination of elegance and innocence is a novelty at a fete such as this. You are a rare English rose compared to the more exotic blooms for sale here.”
Roslyn slanted her friend an exasperated glance.
“You know very well I am not for sale.”
“But he does not know it. Arden naturally assumes you are here to display your wares and sell your services.”
“Well, I am not. I only came to find out how your colleagues comport themselves with their patrons.”
“You should be flattered to pique his grace’s interest,” her friend remarked, teasing.
“Good heavens, I am not flattered, Fanny! Rather I am alarmed. I don’t dare let Arden discover my identity. I will have to face him across the church aisle in two weeks, and I don’t want him bearing tales about me to my new guardian. I think I should find a potted palm to hide behind. Look . . . he is moving this way!” Taking another step backward, Roslyn slipped behind a marble column. Fanny joined her there, laughter lurking behind the eyeholes of her mask.
“You may cease laughing, traitor,” Roslyn muttered.
“It is not your reputation at risk.”
“No, I suppose not, since I gave mine away several years ago.” Fanny’s expression suddenly sobered a little.
“It is just as well that you have no interest in Arden, Roslyn. He may be a magnificent lover, but he reportedly has no heart. And you only want a man who is capable of falling in love.”
She intended to make a love match someday, and cynical, rakish dukes were not known for contracting matrimonial unions for any reason other than their duty and convenience.
Canting her head slightly, Roslyn peered beyond the column. “Blast it, he is still headed this way.” More urgently, she glanced behind her at the rear entrance doors. “I cannot stay here. There must be someplace I can take refuge until he quits the ball.”
“There is a gallery at the rear of the building with numerous alcoves where couples may be intimate, but they shouldn’t all be occupied yet, since the night is still relatively young. Why don’t you seclude yourself there for a time? Arden never remains long at these events. I will find you once he leaves.”
“An excellent idea,” Roslyn said, turning quickly.
“Don’t run,” Fanny advised. “That will only arouse his primal male urge to pursue fleeing prey.”
Forcing herself to pause, Roslyn threw an arch glance over her shoulder. “I have no intention of becoming any man’s prey. And if he should speak to you, Fanny, you cannot give me away.”
Her friend affected a mock wounded look. “I’ll have you know, I am the soul of discretion. In my profession, a guarded tongue is worth more than gold. Now go! He will forget all about you if he cannot find you. And if he persists, I will attempt to mislead him.”
“I wish you will send him to the devil,” Roslyn muttered as she moved away, vexed at having her plans for the evening spoiled by Arden’s unexpected presence. She was here to learn the secrets of attracting a gentleman’s ardor, and being forced to hide herself away would hardly help her attain her goal.
Keeping her head bent low to prevent her bonnet from being tracked, Roslyn skirted the crowd and slipped out the rear doors, only to find herself in a dim corridor. When her eyes adjusted, she made her way down the hall to an even dimmer gallery that apparently ran the width of the building. The yearly Cyprians’ ball was a public assembly, but for this occasion, all the rooms save the main ballroom had been poorly lit, the better for trysts and assignations.
As Fanny had advised, Roslyn found numerous empty alcoves stationed along either side of the...
Top Customer Reviews
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
The remarkably handsome Duke of Arden, is known as an extraordinary lover, a man who is able to make women weep with rapture. At the annual notorious Cyprian's ball, fate finds him on the lookout for a new mistress when his eyes catch hold of a beautiful masked shepherdess. He pursues and confronts her in a deserted alcove. But shockingly this woman seems to be immune to his advances. Hmmm...must be a ploy, for she is quite an actress too, pretending to be all innocent. So he *intensifies* his persuasive skills. And just when things become increasingly heated, she declines his offer and turns to flee with Arden left feeling rather stunned......
Weeks later, at her sister's wedding, Roslyn panics when Arden realizes that it was her at the ball. She fears the only way out of her dilemma is to tell the truth. So she assures him that she was only there for ....er...... investigative purposes. She wants to know how courtesans make men fall in love with them. Arden is intrigued. He admires her honesty but thinks its absurd to try and get a man to fall in love with you (if in fact *real love* even exists). And she wants *lessons* from him?.....What the devil? But after he ponders it for a moment, he's more than willing to help the delectable beauty with lessons on how to snare a man's heart....well someone has to be the guinea pig <grin>!
This is the second book in the Courtship War series. Having not read the prequel, I can't comment on that. I had no problems reading it as a stand alone. In fact, aside from some minor points, I very much like this book and LOVE the hero!
This book quite unusual as far as reformed rake plots go. The twist is that Roslyn doesn't even like Arden and she sees him for what he really is -a cynical rogue bent on enjoying the pleasures of flesh and nothing more. So she has no qualms about using him to help teach her how to gain affections of another man. Arden is confused -like a fish out of water. Here is a woman who has no interest in him (a wealthy duke no less!) at all but rather wants him as a teacher? This irks his male pride to no end. Then, when he realizes that he doesn't want Roslyn courting some other man, its Arden who in fact becomes the pursuer. This is takes up the major part -and best part IMHO- of the book.
I think that the characterizations and romance (including sizzling love scenes) are worthy of five stars and based on that I would recommend this book. But there are a couple of irritating points. The book needs a good editing -way too long. It could have been cut down without affecting the story. And still don't understand why authors completely ignore historical convention. Have an infamous courtesan at a society wedding? or a Lady taking in her deceased husband's mistress and all of her illegitimate children? -No way. I have a hard time believing that. But those things shouldn't keep you from reading an otherwise really good reformed rake book.
When Drew Moncrief attends a Cyprians' masked ball, his first intention is to find a new mistress. When the only woman he finds himself interested in, an innocent-looking blond temptress, flees his company, Drew finds himself determined to give chase. He attempts to secure the woman as his own, using skilled seduction and soft words, only to find that the woman then flees his company for good. And when he meets up with her again at his best friend's wedding, he realizes why she fled. Roslyn is a lady, not at all the sort of woman who should be in the company of courtesans. And when she asks Drew's help in learning the art of seduction, he finds himself compelled to assist her.
To Bed a Beauty is the second book in Nicole Jordan's Courtship Wars series, following To Pleasure a Lady (Courtship Wars, Book 1). This series is focused on a push-pull relationship between the hero and heroine, keeping tensions high until the pair manage to fall in love. In this book Roslyn was an absolute delight, a strong, confident woman who refuses to settle for anything less than true love. Roslyn is content with her simple life, but wants more for her future than just a marriage of convenience. She saw her parents endure such a union and knows that a marriage full of secrets and infidelity would not suit her. She wants passion, she wants children, and she wants love. To that end, she is willing to do anything to obtain them, even using the more-than-willing duke as her tutor. On the contrary, Drew Moncrief is a man who knows nothing of love. His mother is a purported ice queen, and Drew has been used for his money and title more often than he can count. He agrees to help Roslyn in her attempts to find love, though he finds the idea abhorrent, just so that he can get his hands on the beauty, though he doesn't expect to fall in love.
I liked To Bed a Beauty infinitely more than the first book in the series, and am eager to see how Jordan wraps up the story of the third Loring sister in To Seduce a Bride (Courtship Wars, Book 3). This series is full of confident young heroines who don't need a man to make them happy, but who understand that finding true love will round out their already fulfilling lives. These books can be read out of sequence, but I'd definitely recommend picking up To Pleasure a Lady before reading this book.
The first half of "TBAB" is good and slowly builds the sensual tension to a fevered pitch. There is chemistry between Drew and Roslyn and some excellent hero-jealousy. However, from the moment these two have sex for the first time, "TBAB" follows every formulaic romance you've ever read. There was nothing fresh or new to hold my attention. I was so disappointed I actually groaned aloud at one point because at every turn I seemed to know what would happen next.
I read book 1 and 2; book 3 I will save my money.
Having seen her parents destroy themselves in a loveless marriage, Roslyn Loring is determined to marry for nothing less than true love. She attends a Cyprian's masked ball in an attempt to find out what makes a man fall for a woman. It's there that she meets Drew Moncrief, the Duke of Arden, who is on the prowl for a mistress. Roslyn successfully evades him for a short time, but doesn't escape him altogether until after the two have shared a briefly passionate encounter. When Roslyn is confronted by Drew at her sister's wedding to his best friend, she has no choice but to admit to the suspicious Drew the true reason behind her attendance at the ball. When she goes so far as to ask him for lessons in seduction so she can seduce her handsome neighbor into proposing, Drew cannot refuse.
When Drew sees the familiar face of Roslyn Loring at his friend's wedding, it doesn't take long before he places her as the young woman he met at the ball. He threatens to expose her to her family if she doesn't tell him the truth behind her risqué behavior. Once he gets past the initial shock of Miss Loring's request to teach her the ways of seduction, he finds he cannot refuse her. When those lessons go beyond simple instruction and the two become intimate, Drew can no longer bear the thought of continuing to prime Roslyn for another man. He wants her for himself, but convincing Roslyn that he is ready to put his rakish ways behind him won't be easy. It appears that Drew may well have a lesson or two to learn from his delicately beautiful pupil.
TO BED A BEAUTY is the second in a three-book "Courtship Wars" series by Nicole Jordan. I read this book before reading the first book and enjoyed it very much as a stand-alone novel. I didn't feel as any details were missed by my not having read the first book. Roslyn is an independent, highly intelligent woman who is determined to marry on her own terms rather than those set out by society. Her strong feelings after the heartache and pain she and her sisters experienced at the hands of their parents are excellently written. Drew is a rake, a real ladies' man who is determined to never marry. Having been raised by a coldhearted mother he has his own reasons to avoid shackling himself to a woman. Watching these two fall for each other, incredulous at the deep emotions the other has stirred, was highly enjoyable. Secondary characters and events serve to enrich this wonderful story without detracting from Roslyn and Drew. Ms. Jordan is undoubtedly one of the masters of historical romance and I highly recommend this book as well as any of her previous work. I did go back and read the first book in this series, TO PLEASURE A LADY, and equally enjoyed it, but haven't yet read the third book, TO SEDUCE A BRIDE. If you enjoy fine historical romance, I hope you won't miss this latest series from Nicole Jordan.