Published by Sourcebooks Casablanca on July 4th 2017
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The Spare Heirs Society Cordially Invites You to Meet Fallon St. James: The Mastermind
When the love of Lady Isabelle Fairlyn's life is betrothed to her twin sister, Isabelle vows to find a suitable replacement before the end of the season. He must be a talented dancer, have a keen fashion sense, and be perfectly dashing in every way.
Fallon St. James is the farthest thing from perfectly anything. As head of the secretive Spare Heirs Society, he must stick to the shadows...even as Isabelle's friendship pulls him reluctantly into the light. But when Isabelle gets involved with the one man who could destroy Spares, Fallon must decide between protecting his life's work―or risking everything to save the woman whose warm smile leaves him breathless.
“Am I dead?” Isabelle’s voice croaked as if she’d never used it before.
“No. Thankfully not,” came a male voice from the far side of the room.
She gasped and pulled herself up a bit against the pillows. Why was there a man with her in a strange bedchamber? Had he hit her on the head and brought her here? Isabelle’s mind reeled with questions, each punctuated by the pain in her skull.
Coals from a near-dead fire sprang to life in the grate across the room, lighting a tall silhouette. The man dusted his hands off and turned toward her. “You did have me worried there for a bit though.”
Blinking into the haziness that was the other side of the room, she forced her eyes to adjust to the light. There was something familiar about his deep voice, the confidence in his movements, but she couldn’t make sense of any of this. “Whose bedchamber am I in?”
“Mine.” St. James came into focus as he moved to her side, but his answer was no answer at all.
This room couldn’t belong to St. James, and she couldn’t be lying within it. None of this was real. It was all a dream caused by the bump on her head. She must have hit it quite hard to envision herself in such a place, with St. James of all people. It was rather amusing, really, aside from her throbbing head. That part wasn’t amusing at all. But the setting she’d placed St. James in did bring a smile to her face.
A large bedchamber filled with plush furnishings and covered in busy floral patterns—ha! And in her mind she’d made her most stern—and only male—friend claim he lived there. Dreams were entertaining at times. St. James’s chosen place to sleep would be on a cot beside a desk. Or perhaps he never reclined at all; he only caught a quick nap in a chair between meetings. She giggled, which only drew him closer. A look of concern made him look more serious than ever as he stood surrounded in flowers.
She scowled back at him and laughed. “St. James, I’m in your bed—your overly feminine bed,” she whispered up to him. “Are we married in this dream? Don’t you want to kiss me, have your way with me here on our wedding night?”
“Devil take it, you’re delusional. I’ll have the doctor return,” he muttered. He leaned against the bed, next to her, and lifted a hand to check something on her forehead.
“Oh, a doctor! Yes, I’ll need one of those. I am injured. Horribly injured! Save me, St. James. The only way I’ll live is if you kiss me.” She reached up and grabbed the fabric of his waistcoat, pulling him closer. He braced a hand on the bed on the other side of her body, smoothed her hair back from her face, and watched her. The fabric of his waistcoat was textured by the pattern of gray threads stitched into it and was rough under her fingers, drawing her attention from the intense look in his eyes. How odd to have such detail in a dream.
“Your clothing feels so real.”
He’d removed his coat and cravat. His waistcoat hung open, and his clothes were rumpled, as if he’d slept in them. She’d never seen him in such a state of undress. She moved her hand to his shirt and splayed her hand across his chest. The heat of his skin warmed her fingers as his heart beat beneath her palm. Dream St. James had a broad chest and muscles that twitched at her touch. She lifted her hand to his shoulder, her other hand skimming up his side. His breath hitched in his chest. It was odd that she’d never noticed the real man’s fit form, never before caught the look in his eyes that was one part caring concern, one part intense desire.
He moved his hand over her hair, the pad of his thumb caressing her cheek. St. James was her friend, only a friend. She wouldn’t be able to face him for a week once she woke from this scene, him sitting so close, her touching him. “This dream…”
“Isn’t a dream,” he said, not breaking the contact he had with her. Instead he searched her eyes and continued to touch her cheek, her temple, in soothing, gentle caresses, as if she might break.
It took a moment for his words to sink into her aching skull. “It isn’t…” She froze in her exploration of his body, her gaze dropping to her hands that had been roaming over his chest for well over a minute. “What?”
“You aren’t dreaming. I found you on the floor of the museum earlier today.”
“And you brought me here? Why? Wait… Earlier today?” She had to leave. She had to find her family. She tried to push St. James away to sit up, but he didn’t budge.
“You were unconscious. I know you’re confused, but you’re safe now…in my home, my bed.”
“Your… No, truly. Where am I?” She ripped her gaze from his to scan the room beyond him, looking for anything that made sense of the past few minutes. This room could not be Mr. St. James’s private quarters. It didn’t fit what she knew of the man. And why was she in his private anything? She couldn’t be. Her reputation. Victoria’s wedding. She needed to gather her things and leave this place, wherever it was.
“You’re in my bedchamber—truly.”
“What?” She stared up at him, taking in the sympathy and, unfortunately for her, honesty in his expression.
“You need to rest,” he said in a tone that would command armies but not Isabelle on her sister’s wedding day.
“I need to leave,” she stated as she pushed against his unyielding chest in an effort to sit up…
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~~Review by Amy~~
Elizabeth Michels goes big in The Wicked Heir, the newest addition to her Spare Heirs series. This story abounds with big adventure and big romance. I love heroines who are smart and determined, yet new to the splendor and risks of love. I love dashing heroes who use their brains to scheme and their muscles to protect those important to them. And I love historical romantic suspense because the stakes are always high. Instead of just suffering societal consequences, if the hero and heroine don’t solve the problem, they could lose their lives. You’ll be swept away by this story where danger and passion intersect on every page.
Lady Isabelle Fairlyn was known to fall in love easily. When the love of her life is betrothed to her twin, Isabelle is determined to find a replacement. One who meets all her requirements for a happy match. He must be a fine dancer, fashionable, have an engaging smile. And most importantly, he must be someone to take her away from her father’s home, a place of constant bickering, to a world where no one yells and there is always peace and joy.
Fallon St. James was nothing like Isabelle’s dream man. As head of the Spare Heirs Society, he’s used to living in the shadows, on the murkier side of the law. This group was his life. One couldn’t always adhere to honesty and virtuous actions when it was a matter of surviving and managing the lives of men who might otherwise have nothing. Men born of quality but without inheritance, lands, or the ability to work in trade. Fallon gave those men a wage and, more importantly, a purpose – influencing and quietly profiting from society, keeping the seedier side of London running safely. Fallon’s entire life was exact, carefully orchestrated and planned, but once he met Isabelle Fairlyn, he was completely thrown from his normal course.
Upon meeting Fallon, Isabelle immediately decided that they would be the best of friends. Being Isabelle, she quickly confided in Fallon all about her unrequited love and pursuit of a match. Fallon was intrigued by Isabelle. She was beautiful, guileless, and seemed to live within her dreams to keep the ugliness of the world at bay. She was a curiosity to him and he couldn’t seem to walk away from her. He liked the light and laughter she brought into his world. Isabelle enjoyed that her new friend was so different from anyone of her acquaintance. He was so serious and stern yet kind. She’d never experienced the feelings he seemed to elicit in her.
But when Isabelle sets her sights on the one man who could not only destroy her life, but also the life Fallon has built, he has no choice but to step in. So, after a series of rash decisions, Fallon takes Isabelle to the one location he is sure she’ll be safe. His bedroom. But neither anticipated the feelings that would develop between them. Despite their growing attraction, Fallon knows he shouldn’t encourage anything with her. Isabelle was a distraction from everything he should be focusing on. Once this whole ordeal was solved, she’d return home. “And the light she brought into his life would be extinguished.”
As with all the books in this series, I was immediately hooked. Ms. Michels writes a strong, suspenseful plot interwoven with a beautiful romance. I adored Fallon and Isabelle. Isabelle had such a positive view of the world. She was refreshing and enchanting. Though she appeared to live in a dream world at times, she was no fool. Just romantic. She needed an anchor and Fallon became just that when her life became a storm around her. Fallon was a control freak of sorts. The Spare Heirs Society was his life and he felt obligated to always be in control of every facet of the group. He had to learn that accepting help didn’t make him weak. He thought no lady would ever fit into the life he’d carved out for himself. But Isabelle was no average lady. Their strong, developing relationship is only enhanced by the suspenseful plot. The suspense kept me turning the pages even as the intense romance made me want to stay immersed in the story. Ms. Michels’ flawless writing style beautifully depicts the era detail, and society rules and rituals. I fell in love with these characters as they learned and grew as a result of the obstacles before them and as a result of each other. I have loved every book in this series. I am eager for Brice and Victoria’s story. I can’t wait for Brice to meet his match.
I voluntarily reviewed an Advanced Readers Copy of this book.