Published by Entangled Publishing on November 21st 2016
Purchase: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo
Brandon St. Clair, the Earl of Vale, has never been one to follow the rules. Even though he must marry a wealthy heiress so that he can be rid of the pile of debt he inherited with his title, he can’t stop thinking of another. Amelia Somerton is the daughter of a forger and is not a suitable wife. But that doesn’t stop Brandon from making Amelia a different offer, the kind that breaks every rule of etiquette…
Sin runs in Amelia’s family. And even though she now rubs elbows with the aristocracy, she knows the truth—she has the ability to forge priceless works of art. She’ll never be seen as an acceptable wife, not that she wants to marry, anyway. So when the earl scandalously offers her the one thing she’s always dreamed of, she can’t help but take it. But what begins as a simple arrangement, soon escalates into much more, and as the heat between them sizzles, each encounter becomes a lesson in seduction…
Amelia turned to the end of the sketchbook, and a single candle illuminated her most recent work, a rough sketch of Lord Vale’s handsome face. She’d captured a knowing glint in his eyes, a lazily seductive glance that had upset her balance more than once.
A soft knock on her bedchamber door startled her. She set her sketchbook aside, donned her night rail over her nightgown, and cracked the door to find the flesh and blood model of her sketch standing in the hall.
“I saw the candlelight beneath the door. I’m glad you’re awake,” he said.
Her brow furrowed, and she peeked around him. “Is something amiss with Chloe?”
“Then why are you here?”
“I thought to show you the secret passageway,” he said.
“Now? It’s well past midnight.”
“All the guests are asleep. It’s the perfect time.”
Perfect for him. He was fully dressed, from jacket and waistcoat to shined Hessians. He looked like he was ready for a ride in the country. Amelia was dressed in her nightclothes. Even though the fabric covered every inch of her skin, from the high neckline and long sleeves to her slippered feet, she still felt exposed.
“I’m not sure this is the best time to—”
“There’s no better opportunity.” He stepped inside and closed the door. “Your sister watches you like a hawk. My grandmother misses nothing.”
Amelia backed up a step.
“You’re not afraid, are you?” he asked.
Now that he was inside her bedchamber with candlelight flickering across his face, she had second thoughts. Could she do this? Could she be alone with a man for hours each night and paint his portrait? She didn’t fear physical harm from him. Her instincts told her she would be safe with him. But there were other disconcerting factors—a fluttering at the back of her neck and the wild beating of her pulse when he looked at her. And the way her heart seemed to rush to the spot on her hand or arm every time he briefly touched her.
“Let me show you the passageway. If you have second thoughts, you can back out of our arrangement. I’ll send a message straightway to Stirling at the Royal Academy that I am no longer in need of his services,” he said.
At the mention of the old, master painter, Amelia shook her head. “No. Show me.”
Art lessons were a once in a lifetime opportunity and she couldn’t let propriety or discomfort get in her way, no matter how highly attractive she found her subject.
A second passed, then two, before Vale nodded. “He carried his candle to the chest of drawers and held the light close to the paneled wall.
Amelia bent to look where he was indicating. “I don’t see anything.”
“Look close. Here,” he pointed to the molding at the base of the wall.
She saw it then. A small crack that was nearly invisible with the paint.
“If you press the lever by the molding, you will hear a click and the door will open,” he instructed.
Amelia ran her fingers across the molding until she felt a small lever. She pressed down and felt a latch release at the same time she heard a click. A door opened in the paneling, and darkness met her eyes.
Vale held up his candle, and the glow lit a passageway. “The passage leads directly to my study. Follow me.”
Amelia reached for her own candle and followed behind him. Candlelight flickered off the corridor’s walls and the hair on her nape stood on end. “How far is it?” she whispered.
“We’re almost there.”
She’d never liked small spaces and the corridor was dim and cramped. A trickle of sweat beaded between her breasts. Reaching out, she pressed a hand against his jacket between his shoulder blades. His strength and warmth beneath her palm kept any panic at bay.
“We’re here.” He lowered the candle to show her another lever to press. A door sprang open and she followed him into a room.
She took a deep breath and blinked as her eyes adjusted from the dimness in the corridor to the brightly lit room.
Three rows of bookshelves lined with supple leather volumes graced one wall. A large pearwood desk occupied the wall opposite a stone fireplace with a coal grate. The desk was covered with papers and a wooden globe rested on an end table.
But it was the two canvases on easels in the corner that caught her eye. A smaller canvas was for the Aelbert Cuyp landscape. The larger one, measuring five feet tall and three feet wide, was the exact dimensions for a portrait that she’d scrawled on a note and handed to his butler. Her wooden box of art supplies rested on an end table close by the canvas.
“Are they acceptable?” he asked.
“You can work here each night after the guests retire. No one but my butler and most trusted staff enter here. I often work late at night and they are used to my unconventional work habits.”
In the brightly lit room, Amelia’s concerns vanished. She could easily paint here for hours without threat of discovery.
“I have one question,” she said. “What was the secret passageway used for? Were the past earls of Vale involved in espionage on behalf of the Crown?”
His lips twitched in amusement. “Hardly such a noble cause. My great grandfather was profligate and his mistresses often visited Rosewood. The secret passageway was a convenient means for his lovers to come to him. I’m certain the tales have been exaggerated, but the corridor speaks for itself. Only a handful of people have ever known of its existence.”
She hadn’t expected such an explanation. She’d imagined spies and noble self-sacrificing men taking risks on behalf of their country. Not the illicit affairs of an old earl.
She motioned toward the door hidden in the paneling. “Then why does the passage lead to the study and not the master bedchamber?”
His smile turned up a notch. “Because my great grandmother, the countess, would have heard everything.”
“Oh.” Amelia’s face grew warm. Whatever answer she had expected it wasn’t that. A sudden thought occurred to her, and she eyed him with newfound knowledge. “You won’t be making any visits through the passage into my bedchamber.”
His placed his hand across his heart. “My vow as a gentleman. I’d never visit a lady’s bedchamber unless I’m invited.”
Heavens. The way he said it suggested he was often invited. Amelia felt a rush of heat across her skin. She hadn’t even started to paint him and she was thinking scandalous thoughts. She needed to maintain all boundaries.
Arching an eyebrow, she glared at him. “Since that will never happen, I will begin working tomorrow night, my lord.”
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~~Reviewed by AnnMarie~~
Real Earls Break the Rules is the second book in the ‘Infamous Somertons’ series by Tina Gabrielle. I haven’t read the first book, and can happily say that it didn’t matter in the slightest when it came to following this story and it’s characters.
Ever since Brandon Sinclair took on the role of Earl of Vale, he has had to deal with trying to deal with all the debt that his father left upon his death. In order to give himself some breathing space he wants to sell one of the family’s sought after paintings. He doesn’t want to let his family know what he is having to do to make ends meet. Keeping that in mind, he wants to hire somebody to make a copy of the original painting to replace on the wall, then he can sell the original with nobody being the wiser. The person he knows that will be the perfect artist is Amelia Somerton.
Amelia is a daughter of an infamous forger, he is currently on the run. One of Amelia’s sisters is married to Brandon’s best friend, and that is how he knows about Amelia and her talents. He approaches her to put forward his request, for her to copy the painting, but also to paint a portrait of him. All to be done in secret because of the time they would need to spend alone together. The money he offers is more than she would expect, but, being very attracted to the man, Amelia knows she could lose her heart to him. Plus if they were to be caught alone together the consequences wouldn’t bear thinking about. They would have to marry, and she knows that Brandon should marry a woman of consequence with a good dowry. She tries to turn him down, but when he offers her what she’s always wanted, art lessons from a master artist, she can’t help but accept the deal.
There is to be a house party that Amelia and her sisters are invited to, at Brandon’s house. It’s decided that Amelia will sneak to Brandon’s study in the night to paint, then spend the day sleeping just like all aristocrats tend to do. During their many hours together they find that they not only lust towards each other, but that they could be falling in love with each other. They both need to fight both lust and love but it gets more and more difficult. Also the more that Brandon thinks that he could manage his father’s debts if he were to give in to his feelings for Amelia, the more things go wrong with one of his businesses. That particular business being the one he had hoped could be profitable enough to finally pay off his father’s debts.
He is getting hemmed in from all angles, not least of which being his grandmother trying to persuade him to marry one of the girls attending the house party. One that it has been expected he would marry from when they were children. Her dowry would definitely solve all Brandon’s money worries. If it were just him to suffer from having no money he wouldn’t care. But his sisters need to have their debuts in London, his tenants need roofs over their heads, he employs people to work in his businesses. He can’t let all those people down. So much responsibility weighs on him. He knows what he has to do, but his heart is breaking in two. He needs Amelia in his life, but she can’t be his mistress, and shouldn’t be his wife. He’s at a loss about what to do. Can he find a way to keep his estates running, his family happy, and find happiness for himself and Amelia too?
What a wonderful story this is. Amelia is such a strong character, and very refreshing with her plain speaking. Brandon is the ultimate hero, doing so much for his family, struggling in silence with the weight of his father’s debts, yet trying to keep everybody he cares about happy and cared for. One of the best things about it is the fact that there really does not seem to be any light at the end of the tunnel for our couple. I couldn’t think of a single way that Amelia and Brandon could be together. Such a passionate, perfectly matched couple not to get their happy ending would have been so unbearable. So when the light began to shine at long last for them, I felt such a sense of relief and happiness, I couldn’t help but laugh out loud. A very very well written book with love, desire, passion, intrigue, mystery, back stabbing, deceit, and excitement throughout from the beginning to the end. A book that I 100% recommend.
I voluntarily reviewed an Advanced Readers Copy of this book.