Saturday, November 22, 2014

Cerise went to #Paris and came home w. tales of Josephine from #Malmaison! Part 4

Entrance to enchanting Malmaison
Josephine's home in what is now suburban Paris truly gives the feeling of having been hers. From the decor to the flower gardens, the furniture and appointments, the house is a glorious example of Directorate and Imperial decor.

But it tells you about the feeling conveyed by what we Anglophiles call the period, the Regency. The colors are muted, pastoral, juxtaposed by splashes of vermilion, encrusted in gold filigree.

I showed you one pillar from the lobby and parts of Josephine's reception room or Music Room. Here I give you tastes of more.
(Do please note these are my pictures and while they may not be professional grade, please do cite them as my copyright, should you download and use them.)
Seating in one part of her large and inviting Music Room

Napoleon's bedroom made to look like a military tent!

Portrait of Josephine

Josephine's Boudoir with her dressing table
Josephine's Bathing room where she bathed, dressed and
occasionally ate because it was so warm in here!
One set of gold plated serving ware created for the Empress and Emperor, bequeathed to Josephine's son, Eugene.
The service, passing down through generations of Eugene's descendants, wound up in Russia prior to WWI.
Between the two world wars, the owners sold the set back to the State of France.

Josephine's gardens, famous when she was alive for their beauty, astonish visitors still today. The French government cares for the property, employing landscapers and gardeners. Here, even in mid-October, we see one of her rose bushes in beautiful bloom.

Today a trip to Rueil-Malmaison on the RER from Paris is a joy. The town retains the charm of its former smaller self and Josephine's house is tucked into a corner of it, a bit of a walk from the train station but worth it on a fine day.

What I came away with was a feeling of how much Josephine enjoyed the house, how she relished the gardens and how she lavishly entertained. It is a fine credit to her that she had the foresight to leave the house and its contents to her son and that he tried, as did the family and subsequent non-family owners, to keep the possessions in tact. Though time and wars took their toll and many of the items in the house are now "claimed" from the palace at Saint Cloud or the Tuileries, the house is a marvelous representation of the Empress's personality and taste.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Cuz you need a NAKED cowboy, you need a Desiree Holt naked cowboy! All of them! Including her new man!

The latest installment in the Naked Cowboys series is now up for preorder and goes live November 25. To celebrate, here’s a recap of the first four books and a teaser for the new one.

Stark Naked
Reenie Davenport learned the hard way that men are cheating, promotion-thieving poison. A month after making a fresh start in Texas, she looks forward to taking a breather at her old college friend Amy’s family ranch. Instead, she’s left breathless when Amy’s very drunk, very sexy, very naked brother lands at her feet. Even as she hardens her heart, a small part of her wishes that quickly tossed towel would shift…just a little.
When Matt Stark shows up at Reenie’s door to apologize, he can barely squeeze a word past her emotional barriers. Suddenly nothing else matters except convincing her not all men are clones of her ex. Sweet-talking her into lunch is only the beginning.
One touch, and boom! Much to Reenie’s dismay, lunch ends in a hot, flaming dessert—in her bed. Shutting Matt out isn’t as easy as simply blowing out a match. Especially since this cowboy is equally determined to unlock her heart.

Buck Naked
Amy Stark has it all together—except for chronic bad taste in men. She’s firmly in hands-off-all-men mode when a flat tire forces her to accept the help of exactly the type of man she’s sworn off. Arrogant, cocky and condescending.
When she runs into him again later that day and then finds out her brother has invited him for dinner, the fire between them has a sizzle of a different kind.
At eighteen, Buck Montgomery left home to make his mark on the bull-riding circuit. He may have had wild success in rodeo but his personal life is in the dust, and while he’s ready to start a new life he’s wary to expose his heart. Buck knows he should tell Amy the truth, but every time he opens his mouth, hers is right there with kisses like molten lava.
When his past resurfaces at the worst possible time, Buck can only wonder if Amy will love the man he has become…or if the man he was will chase her away.

Stripped Naked
Taking over as publisher of The Hill Country Herald was supposed to help Jinx Malone put her personal and professional disasters in New York behind her. Instead, she’s barely settled at her desk when news of a murder hits the police scanner.
Who knew Rowan County could be this exciting? And who knew her first story would bring her into head-butting, hormone-pumping contact with something that’s an even bigger pain in her ass than a cheating ex—a know-it-all cop?
Sheriff Dillon Cross thought retreating to Rowan Country would help him get over a bad case of burnout. But only a few weeks into his job, he’s standing over a dead body in a ditch, arguing with his least favorite thing: a sexy, in-your-face reporter.
Before they’re through buzzing around each other like angry hornets, the last thing either expected happens. They’re in bed, burning up the sheets. But is it a new beginning, or just a bad rerun of past mistakes?

Bare Naked  
Tired of the devious twists and turns of the corporate world, Georgie Zielinski takes her savings and her 401K to little Saddle Wells, Texas where she has bought a closed, rundown Bed & Breakfast. Using her knowledge of years in the hospitality business she plans to rehab the place and open her own B&B. Cade Hannigan was once on top of the world and disgustingly arrogant about it. Now he has fallen to the bottom of the barrel, working as the janitor at the Lone Star Bar and drinking himself to sleep every night.
Cade loses his job at the exact moment that Georgie needs a handyman to help her with the B&B. They are a most unlikely pair, the world weary blond and the down and out cowboy, but electric sparks fly between them. As they work to bring to life the old building to life, something sexually explosive grows between them. Then Cade’s past comes back to slap him in the face and it all falls apart.
It will take more than hot sex to put this couple back together. Come take a wild ride with a hot blonde and the latest naked cowboy.

One click takes you to all of the above:

And now……
Naked Desire
In Saddle Wells, she hopes to build a business—and maybe a new life—on the strength of that recipe. But she’s totally unprepared for her sizzling attraction to the artisan carpenter her new friends send her way. Jesse Orosco is ready to roll up his sleeves to renovate Cyn’s storefront, but it’s the self-doubt lurking in her beautiful eyes he wants to tackle first. The five-foot-nothing red-headed dynamo makes his mouth water, and not just because of the tantalizing aromas drifting from the back of her shop.  The buzz about the rub’s mysterious ingredient has customers lining up for more, and soon everyone who tries it is making beautiful music in the bedroom—including Cyn and Jesse. But her reluctance to go public with their relationship—and someone in town with a jealous bone to pick—could drive a wedge between Cyn and her smoking-hot cowboy.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

#Cover Reveal for #3 in my #Regency Romp #series, MASQUERADE WITH A DUKE! Take a peek!

You put LADY VARNEY in your TBR pile and she became a big seller. You bought RENDEZVOUS WITH A DUKE and put him at #15 and #2 on various best seller lists. THEN you bought the box set of THE STANHOPE CHALLENGE, Regency Quartet, for 99 cents and made them #2 (to date on Amazon) and put me on the Top 100 Best Historical Fiction authors list!!!

Color me grateful I could bring you hours of pleasure!


Drum roll!

Here is the cover reveal of #3 in the series starring Victor Cameron, MASQUERADE WITH A MARQUESS!

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Cerise made #59 on Amazon's Top 100 Historical Authors list for #Regency, RENDEZVOUS and THE STANHOPE CHALLENGE! OMG!

There is that sublime moment in your life when you see something so wonderful, so terrifically glorious that you stare and blink, then DROOL!
That just happened to me this afternoon when I stumbled across the notation on THE STANHOPE CHALLENGE page on AMAZON that I am #59 on their Top 100 Historical Authors list!
I could barely speak. Jaw worked. No sound came out. Had to read. Re-read.
Squealingly happy. Yeah, I know that squealingly is NOT a word, but you get me!
Above me at #58? Georgette Heyer. So you know, I was TOTALLY blown. Like totally.
And wow, am I really thanking all of you who put me up there. Working on my next Regency Romp and ready to do the Cover Reveal for #3, MASQUERADE WITH A MARQUESS, starring Victor Cameron.
Return for that...and him!
AND THANKS AGAIN for loving my novels.
I am honored.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Cerise went to #Paris, came home w. tales of #Josephine's #Malmaison (and ate best #frites ever!) Part 3

My pix of entrance to Malmaison, taken a few weeks ago!
Bet you didn't know that Malmaison means Bad House. Who named it that? Not Josephine Bonaparte. Not Napoleon, either.

The Vikings!

Yes. They used to raid and hunt in the forests around town of Malmaison-Rueil and the French named the area the Bad House or Bad Area because no one should be caught there.

That, my friends, is one tidbit I learned on my recent 2 week trip to France. On the day hubby and I took the RER to Rueil, the sun was gloriously shining and the temperature hovered in the mid-60s. We walked from the train station, turned down an offer of a cabbie to drive us to Josephine's house and hoofed it toward the south east part of the town. Two miles later, we looked around and said, as we often did, we're hungry. We decided on a FAB.U.LOUS cafe in the center of town and ordered two champagnes (cuz tourists get thirsty) and our luncheon.  Here, (yes, I want you to drool), I had a marvelous French onion soup and a hamburger with frites.
A pillar in the entry.


The house is in pristine condition, saved by the French at the behest of Josephine herself. When she died in 1814, she bequeathed the house and all its contents to her son, Eugene who was to keep it in trust for the State of France. For the most part, his descendants were able to do that and the result is this truly enjoyable house.

Yes, as hubby agreed, it is a home. Comfortable and colorful and rich, the house is a marvelous representation of Josephine's taste. I have pictures galore and will share the best.

Here you see detail from a pillar in the entryway. When Josephine bought the house, as ever, she was in need of funds. She wanted to make the house look grand, especially because Napoleon had just waged his Egyptian Campaign. She wished to welcome him with symbols of that and so when she had the entryway reconstructed for his return, she asked for marble pillars. But she had not the money for marble. The pillars are therefore stucco and painted to appear as if they are marble. This decoration recalls the Egyptian influence atop the faux marble!

Here is the glory of Josephine's Music Room where she entertained and had others do so as well! More pictures
of this in Part 2 of her house.

Throughout the house, color and textures are vibrant. Most of the furniture is original to the house or was brought from other homes Josephine shared with Napoleon. The effect is dramatic and comforting. Also throughout are representations of Napoleon in various forms. In sculpture and painting, this house where he lived with Josephine from approximately 1798 until he became emperor is filled with his presence.
A marble bust of Napoleon in a side stairway!

Oil by David of Napoleon Crossing the Alps in a room with many of his swords and uniforms.

Oil of Napoleon celebrating the Italian Campaign.

Josephine's gardens, most famous for her roses, were in bloom when we visited. Though it was mid-October, the gardeners had done their work and we were treated to glorious blooms.

All of these pictures are mine, FYI, so if you take any to use, please credit me as Cerise DeLand.
Thank you and return for more of the joy of Josephine's house in a few days!

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Desiree Holt has a big Xmas story for your sugarplum dreams: BANG THE DRUMMER! LOL!

From The 12 Brides of Christmas from The Wild Rose Press
Spicy version of 12 drummers drumming!
A Recommended Read from AllRomance eBooks
Now available for Preorder

Jill Kennedy has plans for a Christmas wedding. She's put down deposits for the flowers, photos, and venue. Now all she needs is a groom. A drummer who'll keep her life as steady as he keeps the beat to his music. With her good friend Charlie Costello as her wingman, she'll interview percussionists, one per month until she finds the right tempo. But with Christmas approaching and no groom in sight, she's starting to wonder if she'll ever bang the drummer of her dreams.

Jill Kennedy curled up on her couch studying her iPad, frowning. Her Christmas tree still twinkled in the corner although the holiday was long past. Coldplay’s latest CD bumped its tunes out from her iPod docking station. The last of her Christmas candles flicked in glass holders on the coffee table, filling the room with the scent of pine and cranberry. She should be feeling mellow, but instead her nerves were jumping and a headache was creeping slowly up from the nape of her neck.
Charlie Costello lounged next to her, sock feet resting on her coffee table, his hands tapping a steady rhythm on his thighs in time to the song.
Jill tucked a strand of her shoulder-length sable-colored hair behind her ear as she studied the information on the iPad screen.
“I think I’ve got everything taken care of. Booked the Creekside Winery. Ordered the decorations. Set up a tasting for the food and Stella’s designing the wedding cake.” She glanced up at Charlie. “Why are you looking at me in that strange way?”
He gave her his familiar lop-sided grin. “You are the only woman I know who plans and pays for her wedding without knowing who the groom is.”
She flipped a hand at him. “I’ll have one by then. It’s in the plan. You know.”
He threw back his head and laughed. “Yeah, I love your interview process. You aren’t even dating anyone right now.”
“Because look how poor my choices were in that arena, right?”
He snorted. “So this is better? Tell me how?”
Jill pulled up another memo on her iPad. “Okay. I have a list.”
“A list? This I gotta hear. Lay it on me.”
 If she didn’t need his help so badly, she would have smacked him. “It’s very specific. I asked around about different drummers in different bands and narrowed it down to the twelve most likely prospects. You know. Twelve drummers drumming, for Christmas.”
“Like a grocery list,” he teased.
“No, Charlie.” Damn him! “Like an interview process for a job.”
“Is that what this is, kitten? A job?”
“It’s a lifetime commitment,” she sniffed. She wished he’d just let her get on with this. All these questions were making her have tiny doubts about the wisdom of her decision. She gave herself a mental shake. “I’ll do one a month until I hit on the right one. The exact right one. First I check out their musical talent and their band history.”
Charlie gave a roar of laughter. “Because that’s such a requirement for stability?”
“Because it has to be a drummer so I need his performance history,” she snapped.
“Maybe it’s a different kind of performance you should be worrying about.”
“That comes later. After the phone calls and the coffee dates to see how he is in person and match our likes and dislikes.”
“Coffee dates?” He cocked an eyebrow. “Not even a romantic dinner?”
She wanted to sling the iPad at him. “I’ve been that route, remember? The whole nine yards, and what did I get? A bunch of losers. No, I’m doing this like a project for work. As a systems analyst, she knew the importance of things being able to mesh on a practical basis. ”
So you’re going to interview these bozos and then—what?”
Drummers,” she told him. “Interviewing drummers.”
He cocked his head. “And that’s why?”

“I told you.” She blew out a breath of exasperation. “Drummers have the best beat. The best tempo. They’re the heart of the band.” She grinned. “And have the best rhythm in bed.”

Saturday, November 15, 2014

STANHOPE CHALLENGE hits #14 on Amazon Regency list and hits #49 on ARe BIG LIST!

ARe readers put STANHOPE on their

Fanning myself with my lace and pearl fan!!!! THE STANHOPE CHALLENGE box set is flying high! Thanks to all of you readers who adore a good Regency tale!
I grope about for my smelling salts. I sit and tap my toes on Aunt Matilda's Aubusson rug. Can I dance alone in the parlor? Will she think me mad? Send me off to Bedlam?
Fanning self.
I planned to look at all my pictures from my recent scrumptious trip to Paris and upload them to my computer. But gee, I may have to go sneak a cup of hubby's brandy.
I will be putting up good pix, you realize, don't you?
Of Malmaison. Swoon.
And Fountainebleau. Be still my heart.
Saint Chappelle. Oh my.
Chantilly. I am definitely using Chantilly in a story soon. Did you know that the Duc d'Aumale who was the last inhabitant, was brother to Charles X, last Bourbon king, donchaknow, and he fled to England with a to-die-for art collection.
So I have to use that, don't I?
tee hee.
You know I will!
THANK YOU (blazing big kisses) to all of you who are buying my books and loving them!
Where is that brandy....

Friday, November 14, 2014

Morticia Knight brings us #M/M historical, HESITANT HEART! Exclusive excerpt!

M/M BDSM Historical (1920’s)
Sam is a naïve young man who arrives in Hollywood to escape his brutal father. When the older, sophisticated Aaron rescues him, Sam discovers what it means to fully surrender himself to another.
Eighteen year-old Sam Cunningham is used to living with lots of secrets. He’s had to hide his true nature his entire life or else incur the wrath of his strict and abusive father. When he’s faced with a horrible ultimatum, he flees to Hollywood where he hopes he can escape the fate his father has planned for him.
Aaron Rubenstein is a wealthy and sophisticated man who loses himself in painting portraits of bound men to help stave off his loneliness and despair. Unable to find a lasting connection with anyone, he’s had to resort to paying lovers not only for their affections, but to be allowed to indulge in his darker passions. Aaron’s only respite is his nights at the Hampton Road sadomasochism club where he’s a respected Dominant.
Naïve and inexperienced in the ways men can please one another, Sam takes a job at a bathhouse where he first glimpses a beautiful older man. Aaron notices the sweet towel boy watching him with interest every time he patronizes the Temple of Eros bathhouse. A traumatic incident for the innocent towel boy triggers Aaron’s protective tendencies and he’s compelled to rescue the gentle Sam from the clutches of the Temple’s manager.
They embark on a journey together that teaches them both things about themselves that they never knew. As their bond deepens and Sam is trained for his first night at the Hampton Road Club, an unknown danger lurks. Will Sam’s father find him and destroy both men’s chance for true happiness together? Or will Aaron protect his boy and keep him for always?
Reader Advisory: This book contains a scene of branding.
Buy Links:
Totally Bound:
Amazon UK:
To follow what madness I might be getting into, check out my blog here:
Also on Facebook and Twitter: @morticiaknight
* * * * * * 
The boy stirred again, and this time his lids fluttered open. He appeared confused then frightened as he peered up at Aaron. There was an immediate tension in his body.
“Ah, you’re back with us.” Aaron smiled in reassurance. “Can you sit up?”
The only response Aaron received was a continued stare from the large doe-like eyes of the obviously terrified towel boy. His beautiful aquamarine eyes…
“Come on now. Saul’s gone to get some help…”
Aaron frowned as the young man trembled and shook his head, still seemingly unable to speak. His head lolled to the side and Aaron feared he might pass out once more. It had to be the heat of the room. Aaron pressed his hand lightly to his chest.
“Breathe. You’ll make yourself faint again. How can I find out your name if you do that?”
A whoosh of air came from the boy and he gulped in more. He exhaled forcefully again and in and out until his breathing became regular.
“There we are, much better. Let’s get you out of this dreadful heat.”
Aaron rose gracefully to his feet, dragging his charge along with him. He resisted and Aaron paused. It would have been no effort to force the boy to go where Aaron wanted, but he had no interest in doing that. There was obviously something that the young man was very upset about and Aaron was determined to find out what it was without frightening him any further.
“S-sir, wait. I need to get you a towel to cover yourself.”
This is what’s bothering him?
It seemed unlikely, but Aaron was willing to tread carefully with him until he calmed down some more.
“I’m sure all the patrons of this purportedly elegant bathhouse have seen one or two danglers in their time, so don’t fret upon my account.”
Aaron had his arm around the skinny little thing and once again advanced them toward the door of the steam room.
“Are…are you taking me to a private room?”
The trembling and tension increased and a realization slammed into Aaron. The boy was a terrible actor and his purity was genuine. Aaron stopped and angled the young man’s body to face him, holding one shoulder to keep him there. Grasping his chin gently and raising it, Aaron waited until the boy’s eyes met his own.
“Is that what you think? That I want to pay you for your sexual favors?”
Watching in dismay as he nodded, his lip quivering, Aaron wondered if any jury would really mind all that much if Aaron strung up the bathhouse manager. The act would have to be a service to society, after all.
“That’s not going to happen, understand? You’re not going to do anything you don’t want to do and I’m not going to molest you in any way. But I must insist we leave this room. The temperature is beginning to get to me as well.”
The door opened and Saul entered along with the hostile looking manager. Aaron bent down to whisper in the young man’s ear.
“Trust me.”
Incredibly, the boy completely relaxed and moved closer to his side. The manager gave the towel boy a quick glare before turning to Aaron.
“Mr Rubenstein, I do apologize. I don’t know what’s gotten into him. Get away from Mr Rubenstein. You’re fired.”
Aaron felt the boy buckle and Aaron clutched him tightly to his body so that he wouldn’t collapse again.
“Such a shame. And here I was looking forward to his company this afternoon.”
The manager arched his eyebrows and straightened up. “Oh, beg pardon. Of course.” He lifted the corners of his mouth into a gruesome fake grin. “Whatever pleases you, sir.”
“Excellent. Right now it would please me to escape the suffocating heat of this room.”
The manager gestured for them to go ahead and as he passed Saul, he noted the narrowing of his eyes. Saul knew him well enough to know that Aaron never hired the young boys at the bathhouse. Once they’d exited, Aaron turned to the manager, his arm still loosely draped around the towel boy’s shoulder.
“I would like the nicest room you have, along with some seltzer water. Is there any fruit available? I’m wrung dry.”
“Absolutely, Mr Rubenstein. Will Mr Liebowitz be joining you both?”
“Not today, I’m afraid. I want this delectable creature all to myself.” Aaron regarded Saul and gave him a wink, the action hidden from the manager’s view. “Another time, perhaps?”
Saul snorted then seemed to regain his composure. “Ah, well. I suppose I’m being given the bum’s rush then, eh?” Saul gestured to the towel wrapped around his hips. “If you will all excuse me, I do believe I’ll change into some grander duds and be on my way.”
Aaron acknowledged Saul again then turned back to the detestable manager.
“Lead the way. I’m quite anxious to enjoy my afternoon.”

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

#99cents for limited time! STANHOPE CHALLENGE, the #REGENCY #boxset about a family cursed to never find happiness w. those they love

THE STANHOPE CHALLENGE is my first boxed set Regency release.  Starring a family of brothers who believe in the family curse, they are reluctant to fall in love and to marry the ones they love.

Only 99 cents for 4 novels, the box set is on sale for the introductory time!

The books in this series sat on 3 different bestseller lists for over 12 weeks.

Now the stories are expanded. One is poignant. One is funny. One is sweetly heroic and the last is a spicy adventure on sea and in a pasha's harem!

So this is a set you do not want to miss!

99 cents! Run!

Allromance ebooks





Monday, November 10, 2014

Who's your #hero? FB Party w Desiree Holt tomorrow at 11 EST/10 Central!

We've got fun, giveaways, guests, discussions of what makes a hero, military and not!
We start at 11 EASTERN/10 Central.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

EXCERPT from THE STANHOPE CHALLENGE, 4 brothers, 4 romances, 1 family curse! #99cents

Need nibbles of my Stanhope men in action?
 Of course you do!
The Stanhope Challenge, Book 1

Lord Adam Stanhope faces the Stanhope Challenge of wanting to marry…and knowing it will be loveless. But he takes one look at his childhood friend, now a lovely widow, and proposes a marriage in name only. But when he learns that his bride is determined to be his lover as well as his wife, he faces a bigger challenge: Accept her delicious offer to delight them both in bed or spend his life in a greater torment…alone.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
And the taste?

Excerpt Copyright 2014, Cerise DeLand, All rights reserved.
London, January 1809
It is a truth, universally accepted, that a politician in want of the premiership must also be in want of a wife.
Felice knew that was her new husband’s justification for marrying her so quickly.
“A reason as good as my own,” she told herself as she combed her hair back from her face and fluffed the ruffled bodice of her wedding dress. She pursed her lips, wondering how Adam really kissed a woman. How he kissed his mistresses. He had merely brushed her own mouth with his after the ceremony minutes ago. She’d always thought her lips worth more than a peck—and she was determined that this second husband of hers would do more than ignore her.
“I’ll insure that he does,” she resolved, with a check of her figure in the cheval mirror in the retiring room of her new brother-in-law’s mansion on Grosvenor Square. “After all, the fictitious Miss Proper has charms that Adam does not know about.” Nor should he!
That secret could ruin her marriage. “And I intend to keep both!”
So go to your wedding breakfast and be done with this mooning! You accepted his proposal! Now reap the rewards! London Society is open to you—the excitement of their lives, their intrigues ready fodder for your pen. For your romances and your poems.
She frowned at herself.
Be honest, Fee. You want more than inspiration for your stories. More than a means to repay that nefarious man your first husband’s debt. You want Adam Stanhope gracing your own bed, not just his look alike walking on the pages of your newest romance. You want him inside your body. Making you wet and warm. And kissing your—
A quick knock at the door had her whirling.
“Dear Felice,” cooed her husband’s Great Aunt Amaryllis from behind the portal. “Do come out now. We are quite eager to applaud you and Adam. The guests, too, are clamoring for the receiving line!”
Most likely, the men want more wine while they make wagers on how soon Adam will bed me. And the women? They want to assess how a country mouse like me managed to snare the renowned, rich and eloquent Adam Stanhope. Third son of the earl. Widower. Father. Some day soon, the head of his party, if the papers and broadsheets are to be believed. And thereafter certainly, Prime Minister.
“Adam Stanhope,” she murmured to herself. “A great catch, Fee. If you can intrigue him.”
And there was the rub.
Adam, now thirty, was notorious for outlandish behavior. When he’d turned seventeen, he’d run away from home and sailed to Hong Kong to work with his cousin in his Far Eastern trading company. Four years later, he’d come home to finish his education at Cambridge, marry the beauty of the Season and run for Parliament. He’d won twice now. But since his wife had died in childbirth, Adam had made a name for himself as a rake. He was just like his brothers in that regard. Still, he was the only one who had married and challenged the Stanhope family curse. For it was a legend that no matter whom a Stanhope married, no matter that person’s quality of character or breeding or good intentions, once wedded, a Stanhope lived in hell.
“I will be happy.” Felice repeated the phrase that had become her motto ever since Adam had appeared in Kent last month and proposed. “I’ll dispense with this hideous man plaguing me at once. Then I will devote myself to ensuring Adam is happy. I will be a social asset to him. And a good mother to his son.”
What more could a man ask for?
* * * *
“A politician has to have a wife! Who the devil put that ridiculous rule about, Reggie?” Adam Stanhope asked his friend as he paced in his brother Jack’s drawing room at eleven in the morning. He threw back another shot of Jack’s fine brandy and coughed. “Oh, lord, that burns all the way down. Whose idea was it to stay out all night, eh?” He scrubbed his hand over his face, acknowledging his predicament had less to do with excess alcohol than with Fee Wentworth. Correction, Stanhope. “Dammit, you’d think a respectable widower with an heir earned the right to be free!”
“No help for it, old man,” Reggie responded and drained his glass of spirits. “Damn good stuff, if I say so myself! But see here, Adam, you admitted you need her. We’ve been through this entire argument before. You’ve got a bit of a reputation, courtesy of that Miss Proper ramblings and—”
The far door burst open. Adam’s oldest brother, Jack, appeared in all his dark imperious hauteur. He took one look at both men and slipped inside to shut the world out. “Now, Adam. Reggie. What the hell are you doing in here drinking?”
Adam cocked a long black brow at the man who expected to be obeyed in all things. “Drowning my sorrows.”
“Too late for that!” Jack’s mouth twitched in a grin. “Get the hell out here and let’s toast the good health of the bride and groom.”
“Come, come, Jack, you know what this means for me.”
Jack’s black brows arched high. “Oh, I do. One look at your bride and I have a very good idea that—”
Adam scowled at his brother. “She’s lovely.” Damned gorgeous, in fact. And mine, god help me now. “But I have ruined her.”
Jack startled. “You’ve had her? Already?”
“No, no. That’s not what I mean.”
Jack strode over to remove the snifter glass from Adam’s fingertips. “I know what you mean. And this does not help.”
“I’ve known her since she was ten, Jack!” Adam thrust out a hand, roiled by what he had just done to this sweet, shy woman.
“And? She was a charming child then. Now you have—“
“Wrecked her life! That’s what I’ve done!”
Jack narrowed his eyes on his brother. “How late did you stay at White’s last night?”
When Adam said “Ba!” and shook his head, Jack peered at Reggie. “How late?”
The man winced and brushed imaginary crumbs from his cravat. “Five. Six. Not certain. We were winning at dice, you see, and couldn’t leave.”
Jack stared at the ceiling. “I hope to god it was profitable.”
Adam grinned. “Five thousand in my pockets I hadn’t had before!”
The far door opened again. An auburn-haired man stuck his head in and grimaced. “What the hell is the delay here?”
Jack beckoned him. “Wes, Adam is having a rather belated moment of introspection. Do come in and help me talk sense into our youngest brother.”
Wes took a step inside and shut the door behind him. In his cavalryman’s dress blues, he leaned back against the door. “What’s the matter, Adam? Nerves?”
Adam rolled his shoulders. “Every man’s entitled. You told me so yourself.”
“That,” Wes chuckled as he limped over to the chair beside Adam and fell into it, “is before a man goes into battle!”
“Well, I am!”
Wes gave him the quelling glance his men termed The Demand. “You are married.”
“I know I thought it a good idea. Despite the nightmare I lived through with Sarah.” The mere mention of his first wife sent a wave of revulsion through him. “Everyone thought it a good idea. My colleagues. The Prime Minister. But you both, most of all, know this won’t work.”
Wes pursed his lips. “I’ve seen your new lady wife, and I say give it a go. If you admit defeat before you start, you’re doomed.”
“This is not a cavalry charge,” Adam murmured.
Wes shrugged. “Perhaps it should be.”
“Wes, have a little pity,” Adam pleaded, his head splitting from too much whiskey and too little sleep.
“No pity for you,” Wes shot back. “Felice lives up to her name in temperament as far as I can tell. And her figure, Adam, has certainly become more alluring than when I last saw her in Great Aunt Amaryllis’ garden.”
“She was ten!”
“Was she, now? Hmm. No wonder she was flat-chested.”
“Now see here,” Adam admonished his older brother. “Her figure is—”
“Superb and yours to explore.” Wes wiggled his brows suggestively, then looked at Jack. “We met her when we first summered at Aunt’s house. What year was it Father foisted us off on the poor old gel?”
Adam groaned. “It doesn’t matter!”
I liked her then. Enjoyed her wit and intelligence every time we met. Now I’ve gone and hurt her irrevocably.
Jack shook his head. “Don’t argue with him, Wes. He’s got a snoot full from an all-night gambling rout at White’s. It only encourages him to debate you. And neither of us can ever outtalk him.” He gave his brother, the Colonel and Man of Action, a wide-eyed look of despair. “The curse is upon him.”
“Oh, hell,” Wes mourned. “Not that again.”
Adam frowned at both of his brothers. “That again? I don’t seem to recall that either of you is yet married. Why not?”
“Not our time,” Jack told him.
“No woman I like enough,” Wes added. “You, Jack?”
“None I cannot live without,” Jack said with pointed disdain for the subject. “Come on, Adam, let’s do our drinking out there with all the others.”
“They all wonder, you know,” Adam offered, his gaze on the door.
“What?” Reggie asked when the two Stanhope brothers didn’t respond to him.
All three Stanhopes considered Reggie Mortenson with bleak expressions.
Adam answered for them all. “They wonder when Felice will leave me. As we speak, they are out there taking wagers on the number of months she remains.”
“The Stanhope women don’t all leave,” Jack reminded Adam.
The three brothers winced and looked at anything but each other. Adam knew each man thought of his own mother and how each had died in succession. And even though Jack’s mother passed away after a riding accident, Wes’s died of consumption and Adam’s of childbed fever, the ton declared each woman had suffered first and foremost from a broken heart.
“He says he loved each one,” Jack reminded them of the phrase their father repeated to them often.
Adam shut his eyes. “He declares he loved Clarice’s mother, too!” Their charming half-sister Clarice had been Stanhope’s by-blow, conveniently born between Jack and Wes.
“Aye,” Wes acknowledged with a smirk. “In his prime, the man was a walking satyr.”
Jack inclined his head toward Wes. “Astonishing, isn’t it, that he managed his estates as well as he did, hopping from bed to bed like a right royal degenerate.” He flourished a hand. “Yet, he cared for each woman he bedded.”
Adam growled. “How can you believe him?” He had never known their father to be honest with anyone, least of all his three legitimate sons. “You were four,” Adam reminded Jack, then faced Wes. “And you were two when I was born and my mother took a childbed fever. How can you know that he tells the truth?”
Jack rolled a shoulder. “Perhaps on this one issue…”

Adam shook his head, hands fisted on his hips. “I long to see the day each of you faces a woman whom you do not wish to kill with the family curse.” He straightened his cravat and ran two hands through his hair. “Open the damn door, Wesley, I’m ready to claim my bride and ruin both our lives.”