Blog Blitz for Hot Winter Nights boxset
A Racy Regency Christmas Collection
For 8 days I’m introducing each book in this collection.
Today highlights The Rogue’s Seduction by Lauren Smith
Review and Excerpt
The Rogue’s Seduction by Lauren Smith
London’s favorite lady seeks the help and protection of London’s most wicked devil to escape one marriage, only to fall into another.
“There was no going back from that kiss.”
Lord Vaughn Darlington is a desperate fortune hunter, a Lord in dire straits and a notorious rogue. Perdita Darby, a wealthy heiress in a terrible situation comes to him with a proposal. She’s being blackmailed to marry a brute to save her papa and wants the Lords protection. After a short time together, true affection grew between them; she drew out the gentleman in him, he’s her white knight. He agrees as a way out of his financial ruin, but soon that no longer mattered. He wanted to win her heart and claim her as his wife. I enjoyed reading this. It has fun banter and teasing as well as affection. The heroine has her own mind, she smart, fiery, as well as alluring and sweet. The hero comes off as a rogue but soon shows his soft side as well as his full protector mode. One of my favorites of this boxset.
“I must see Lord Darlington at once,” she told the man, praying he would let her inside. She could not take the risk of being seen and starting a scandal. Or rather, a different scandal than the one she was meticulously planning already.
The man hesitated, his body barring her entrance through the still partially closed door. “This is late, even for my master.”
Perdita didn’t back down. “I am aware of the hour, but he will want to see me.” She raised her chin and announced this with such regal bearing that he would not dare question her. He sighed and stepped away from the doorway. Her mother’s lessons, it seemed, hadn’t been wasted on her after all.
“This way, madam.” He waved a hand for her to step inside. She entered the townhouse, her body relaxing, but only just. She may have been out of view of the street, but she was still in very dangerous territory.
Two dim lamps illuminated the hall and staircase. She was surprised they were still lit. Was the master of the house still awake? She had assumed he would be, but the house was hushed and ghostly quiet. She took a moment to study her surroundings with open curiosity. The foyer was bare of any decorations, paintings, or even end tables. The starkness of it surprised her.
So this is where the Devil of London resides.
The furniture she glimpsed through a cracked-open door a few feet away—the drawing room perhaps—was outdated and threadbare. It made sense. The master of this house was rumored to be a desperate fortune hunter in dire straits. His desperation was no fault of his own, but rather due to his parents’ untimely deaths and their accumulated debts.
It had to be a heavy burden to enter adulthood with the responsibilities of maintaining title and lands held in one’s own family without any money by which to do so. Any man in such a position was a dangerous man—particularly when it came to rich, unmarried heiresses.
“Please wait while I speak to the master. Who shall I say is calling?” the butler asked.
“Perdita Darby,” she said, trying to still her trembling as she watched the butler go upstairs.
Perdita swallowed the knot of fear in her throat. This man had been desperate enough to kidnap her dearest friend, Alexandra Rockford, in order to win a five-thousand-pound wager by seducing her. That alone earned him his nickname in her eyes. To treat a woman’s virtue as something to be wagered on! In the end, however, he had failed. Alexandra had been rescued by Ambrose Worthing, a man so in love with her he had fought his best friend to free her.
Alexandra had assured Perdita that Lord Darlington hadn’t been entirely wicked—he’d only planned to convince the men involved in the wager that he had bedded her when he had not. But that did not make the Devil of London a hero, by any means. At best, he was a villain with a conscience. But Perdita was desperate enough to risk herself in his house tonight, knowing the danger and scandal that could fall upon her.
This is a terrible idea. Unfortunately, she had no other option. Only Lord Darlington could help her. She was prepared to do just about anything to escape her situation.
“Madam.” The butler appeared at the top of the stairs. “His Lordship will see you now.”
Perdita stared up at him, startled. “Upstairs? Not the drawing room?”
The old codger had the audacity to grin at her. “He insisted you meet upstairs, or I was to show you out.”
The nerve of the man, demanding she meet him upstairs! Did he treat all gentle-bred ladies like this? Or, knowing who was paying a call upon him, he was perhaps doing his best to frighten her off. Yes, that must be it. He thought she would be too afraid to go upstairs.
I’m not afraid. Well, I am, but I’ll be damned if I let him know that.
She lifted her skirts and ascended the stairs, her heart hammering. She followed the butler to a room where the door was slightly ajar. She glanced at the servant, but he was already departing.
Perdita pushed the door open and froze when she realized it was a bedchamber. Darlington had the audacity to call her to his bedchamber? Did he believe she had come for amorous reasons, or that she would condone such a brazen attempt at seduction? It was entirely possible, given the scandalous hour and the fact she was without a chaperone, but she would set him straight if he dared to try to seduce her.
She wished for the hundredth time it would have been possible to visit him during the day, but there had been no alternative. People would have seen her enter his home, and that would be the end of her carefully kept reputation. She tensed when a dark, rich voice spoke.
Vaughn Darlington, the viscount dubbed by ton as the Devil of London. His voice sent tingles of excitement and fear through her. She took an instinctive step back toward the door.
“Fleeing so soon? I would have wagered you were braver than that, Miss Darby. Or perhaps, given the lateness of the hour and the method of this meeting, I should call you Perdita?”
She bristled and pushed the hood of her cloak back to better peer around the room. There was a four-poster bed against one wall and a fire crackling in the hearth. The wood floor showed dusty outlines of where carpets had recently been. The dark-green brocaded curtains about the bed were faded, and a few rings were missing, letting the fabric gape in odd places. Worn and peeling silk wallpapers depicting men hunting in the forest covered the walls. A once beautiful wardrobe stood in one corner, a door missing. The shaving stand held a white china basin with a large crack down its side.
The masculine air of the room was overpowering, just as the man himself was, but the circumstances and the condition of his rooms filled her with a strange pity that made her go still as she turned her focus on the man himself.
Leaning against one worn, ancient chair was Lord Darlington. He was tall, broad shouldered, and had a dangerous look about his all too beautiful face. With piercing blue eyes and light-blond hair, Darlington could have passed for an angel if it weren’t for the sensual, wicked curve of his lips. He wore buff trousers and a white lawn shirt, with a dark-blue waistcoat. His cravat had been untied and lay loose over the back of one chair.
Perdita’s heart quickened. She had never stood in a room with a man in a state of partial undress like this. She forced herself to rally to the task at hand.
“Lord Darlington, I come here with a proposal.” Her tone was brusque with a manner of business about it. This was not about seduction, no matter how sinful he made her feel. Though she’d rehearsed this speech a dozen times on her own, she had not been prepared for the strange and frightening feelings that assaulted her now as she spoke to him alone.
He crossed his arms as he studied her with that wicked twist of his lips, making her breath quicken. She shifted in place, and her boots scraped softly against the wood floor.
“Do go on.” He chuckled, seeming to enjoy her discomfort.
“Well, you see…” She spoke haltingly, still mortified that she was here begging him for his help. “I need to stop an unwanted marriage proposal.” She twined her fingers nervously as she removed her gloves. “My mother has convinced a certain gentleman that I am willing to consider his offer, when I most certainly am not.”
She tried not to think of Mr. Samuel Milburn and how that man had made it clear he would imprison her in a life that would slowly kill her. She could still see him leaning in close to her and whispering: “The women I care for know better than to seek the company of others, when I should be enough. My home has all you will need, so I will hear no talk of travel or nights out. They would only distract you from your duty, which would be pleasing me.”
He was a brute and a tyrant and worse, but Perdita’s mother, despite her ambitious nature, didn’t usually believe in society gossip.
Perdita did. She’d heard that Milburn had thrown a woman to her death from a window, but because the woman was his mistress, no questions were asked. It had been dismissed as an unfortunate accident. All Perdita knew for sure was that this man was a monster. She had tried to tell her father and mother what she’d heard, but her words had been dismissed as idle talk. If her older brother Thomas hadn’t been away at sea serving in His Majesty’s royal navy, she would have sought his help.
In Perdita’s experience, being a wealthy heiress was a terrible burden. It put a mark on her. She’d fought off fortune hunters for the last few years, but a man like Milburn was dangerous in other ways. He didn’t care about her money—he cared about breaking her spirit and possibly even killing her if she didn’t give him what he desired. She was sport.
She’d made the mistake of meeting him at a dinner party last fall, and he had immediately shown an interest in her once he’d learned she was none other than Miss Darby, the beloved lady of the ton who all sought to please with their praise and their many invitations.
Perdita had not wished to cultivate such a favored reputation on purpose, but it had happened quite naturally. But to Milburn she became a prize he wished to win—and then suffocate and destroy. Once he had her in his sights, he had been able to contrive a scheme that could destroy her family and blackmail her into accepting his proposal.
“What does this have to do with me? Or did you merely wish to tumble in my sheets to avoid marrying some silly young buck? I don’t care much for ruining innocents, but in your case I might make an exception,” Darlington said, his sharp gaze on her.
Perdita considered reminding him he had in fact attempted to ruin her innocent friend over a wager, but she thought better of it. Quarreling with him now would not aid her in acquiring his help.
“I wish to engage your services.” She still couldn’t say the words. It was too humiliating.
“My services?” He shifted slightly, a frown curving his lips. “What services do you require?” When Darlington said services, it sounded sinful, wicked.
“I wish to hire your cooperation in appearing to be engaged to me, publicly. Not a true engagement, just for a few months, to deter the other gentleman so he will leave me be.” She glanced down, playing with her gloves. She was betting that Milburn would lose interest if he believed he had another challenger for her hand.
His eyes turned wintry, almost chilling as they settled on her fidgeting hands. “So I’m to play your fiancé? What’s to be my reward in scaring the bounder off?” Darlington still leaned against the side of the chair, but Perdita was more aware of him than ever. The small distance between them seemed to shrink every second.
“I will pay you. I have access to some of my dowry. It is invested in a private bank with Lady Rosalind Lennox. My father put the funds in his name, but he allows me to have some control over them.”
Darlington stroked his chin. “I require a more permanent solution than a temporary flow of money. You said you bank with Lady Lennox?” He continued to stare at her with that assessing gaze, and she suddenly feared he might not agree, that he might consider blackmailing her directly for her funds in the bank by exposing her visit to his townhouse. Surely he wouldn’t dare.
When he still gazed at her expectantly, she realized he awaited some response to his question. She nodded.
“Then you are acquainted with Lord Lennox, her husband? He is a selective but successful investor. I wish to be involved in whatever scheme he chooses to invest in next.”
Perdita nodded again. She was well acquainted with Rosalind Lennox, but she only knew of her husband, Ashton Lennox, in passing. Perhaps she could persuade Rosalind to allow Darlington to invest with her husband. She only hoped such a request wouldn’t seem inappropriate to her friend. It was a risk she had to take to avoid marriage to a man like Samuel Milburn.
“I believe I can arrange a meeting. As to whether he allows you to invest…” There was no way she could guarantee that.
Darlington pushed away from the chair and came up to her. The simple action seemed to change everything between them. Before he hadn’t seemed so threatening. But now with his towering frame so close, she felt very much like a tiny rabbit facing a very large wolf. She knew he was tall, but standing inches away from him made her feel small and feminine in a way she never had before. It took a moment for her to catch her breath. She had to tilt her face back to look up at him.
“I suppose that would be good enough. But you know once we have begun this charade, everyone will expect us to marry.” It sounded like he was warning her. They would never marry. If there was one thing she was certain of, she would not marry the Devil of London.
“I am aware of that. After a time I deem prudent, you may cry off our engagement and go on as you please.” She had to be completely sure Samuel Milburn was no longer interested in her, and only then could she risk a public break with Lord Darlington. Otherwise, her family’s reputation would be ruined, and her father might be facing penalties under English law.
His lips twitched in an amused smile. “And you are ready to brave the ton after being jilted by me?” The wolfish smile that stole across his lips was not reassuring. “I doubt any other man would have you once I’ve been your lover.”
“We would not be lovers, only engaged.”
Darlington laughed softly. “Any woman I asked to marry me would certainly be my lover beforehand. I wouldn’t wish to marry a woman unless I was positive I enjoyed my time with her in bed.”
She ignored his scandalous words. “Being jilted by the likes of you, even if some assume we’ve been lovers, is better than having a man like Samuel Milburn find a way to compromise me. I know the sort of man he is, and as unbelievable as it is, he is worse than you.” She threw her shoulders back and glared at him, daring him to argue the point.
“Milburn?” Darlington’s eyes widened. “That’s the man who is chasing your skirts?”
“Yes. Do you know him?”
He nodded slowly. “Unfortunately, I do.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
USA TODAY Bestselling author LAUREN SMITH is an Oklahoma attorney by day, who pens adventurous and edgy romance stories by the light of her smart phone flashlight app. She knew she was destined to be a romance writer when she attempted to re-write the entire Titanic movie just to save Jack from drowning. Connecting with readers by writing emotionally moving, realistic and sexy romances no matter what time period is her passion. She’s won multiple awards in several romance subgenres including: New England Reader’s Choice Awards, Greater Detroit BookSeller’s Best Awards, Amazon.com Breakthrough Novel Award Quarter-Finalist and a Semi-Finalist for the Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley Award.
Hot Winter Nights – boxset
A Racy Regency Christmas Collection
Brook Ridge Press (October 3, 2017)
This fabulous collection features eight sexy new tales of Regency era Christmastide romance by beloved authors Tammy Andresen, Amy Rose Bennett, Heather Boyd, Dawn Brower, Amanda Mariel, Nina Mason, Christina McKnight, and Lauren Smith. Here’s a list of the never-before-published novellas in HOT WINTER NIGHTS:
Taming a Christmas Wallflower by Tammy Andresen It started as a bet. Will Maddox simply needed to kiss the Duke’s daughter, a bluestocking and a wallflower. But the more time he spends with Lady Amelia Chase, the more he realizes he wants so much more.
An Improper Christmas by Amy Rose Bennett Attempting to mend a broken heart by indulging in an affair with a rakehell would not be the wisest course of action for a young lady of the ton. But when Miss Lily Godwin has a chance encounter with the mischievous Lord Nash at a Yuletide house party, she is sorely tempted to throw all dictates of decorum out the window. After all, it’s Christmas.
The Duke and I by Heather Boyd The Duke of Stapleton abhors Christmas nonsense, but could a kiss exchanged under mistletoe with his daughter’s shy companion alter his opinion of the season?
Secluded with My Hellion by Dawn Brower In the midst of the blizzard, Gavin Barrington, the Earl of Havenwood, and Lady Odessa Lynwood must overcome the earl’s worst fears and figure out if their love can conquer the challenges they must face.
Her Perfect Rogue by Amanda Mariel When Julia Honeyfield is sent away to a brothel, she runs away…only to find herself in the Duke of Selkirk’s arms. Dare she trust him to protect her?
The Twelve Nights of Christmas by Nina Mason Rollo Gillingham has only twelve nights to win back Penelope Pembroke, the woman he left with his promise to return ten years before. Come Christmas Day, which will she choose–the man she loves or the man her parents want her to marry?
Bedded Under a Christmastide Moon by Christina McKnight Brigham Clarke,Viscount Whitmore, has endlessly championed those less fortunate than himself by introducing social reform bills in London…all while his wife, Melloria, remains alone in Hertfordshire. When Brigham arrives for the Christmastide holiday, Melloria has only one thing on her mind–the seduction of her husband!
The Rogue’s Seduction by Lauren Smith London’s favorite lady seeks the help and protection of London’s most wicked devil to escape one marriage, only to fall into another.