Published by Berkley on May 1st 2018
Purchase: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo
Once the Countess of Riverdale, Viola Kingsley throws all caution to the wind when adventure calls in the form of a handsome aristocrat. . . .
Two years after the death of the Earl of Riverdale, his family has overcome the shame of being stripped of their titles and fortune--except for his onetime countess, Viola. With her children grown and herself no longer part of the social whirl of the ton, she is uncertain where to look for happiness--until quite by accident her path crosses once again with that of the Marquess of Dorchester, Marcel Lamarr.
Marcel Lamarr has been a notorious womanizer since the death of his wife nearly twenty years earlier. Viola caught his eye when she herself was a young mother, but she evaded his seduction at the time. A prize that eluded him before, she is all the more irresistible to him now although he is surprised to discover that she is as eager now for the excitement he offers as he is himself.
When the two defy convention and run away together, they discover that the ties of respectability are not so easily severed, and pleasure can ensnare you when you least expect it.
She was not wearing her bonnet and there was no other outdoor garment in sight. He could not see her bag beside her. She had signed the register—he had seen her do it—surely proof that she was staying, though why on earth she had chosen this particular inn in this particular village he could not imagine. Carriage trouble? Nor could he imagine why she was alone. Surely she had not fallen on such hard times that she could not afford servants. It was hardly likely she had come for the express purpose of participating in the harvest celebrations. He might soon be kicking himself from here to eternity, though, if she was not staying. Or if she repeated her famous reproof and sent him away.
But since when had he lacked confidence in himself, especially when it came to women? Not since Lady Riverdale herself, surely, and that must be fifteen years or more ago.
“Miss Kingsley,” André said suddenly and with a clicking of his fingers and great indignation. He looked from his brother to her and back again. “Marc! Surely you are not . . .”
Marcel turned a cold gaze upon his brother, eyebrows raised, and the sentence was not completed. “You may take the carriage,” he said again. “Indeed, you will take it. When you reach Redcliffe Court, you will inform Jane and Charles and anyone else who may be interested that I will arrive when I arrive.”
“What sort of message is that?” André asked. “Charles will turn purple in the face and Jane’s lips will disappear, and one of them is sure to say it is just like you. And Bertrand and Estelle will be disappointed.”
Marcel doubted it. Did he wish André was right? For a moment he hesitated, but only for a moment. He had done nothing to earn their disappointment, and it was a bit late now to think of yearning for it.
“You hate this sort of country entertainment,” André said. “Really this is too bad of you, Marc. I am the one who suggested staying awhile. And I left that house party before I intended to in order to give you my company just when I was making some progress with the redhead.”
“Did I ask for your company?” Marcel asked, his quizzing glass in his hand.
“Oh, I say. Next time I will know better,” his brother told him. “I might as well go on my way, then. I always know when arguing with you is useless, Marc, which is most of the time. Or all the time. I hope she intends to be back on the road within the half hour. I hope she will have nothing to do with you. I hope she spits in your eye.”
“Do you?” Marcel asked softly.
“Marc,” his brother said. “She is old.”
Marcel raised his eyebrows. “But so am I, brother,” he said. “Forty on my next birthday, which is lamentably close. Positively decrepit.”
“It is different for a man,” his brother said, “and you very well know it. Good Lord, Marc.”
He left a few minutes later, striding off without a backward glance and only a cursory wave of the hand for the villager who asked redundantly if he was leaving. Marcel did not accompany him out to the innyard. He heard his carriage leave five minutes or so after that. He was stranded here, then. That was more than a bit foolish of him. The crowd was eyeing him uncertainly and then began to disperse, the platter of meat pasties having been reduced to a few crumbs and the festivities beyond the inn doors apparently being imminent. The former countess was drinking her coffee. Soon there were a mere half dozen villagers left in the taproom, and none of them occupied the tables between him and her. He gazed steadily at her, and she looked back once over the rim of her cup and held his gaze for a few moments.
Marcel got to his feet, strolled out into the hallway, turned the register to observe that yes, she had indeed signed it for a one-night stay as Miss Kingsley, and then strolled to the outside door to glance out. He crossed to the dining room and entered it by the hallway door. She looked up as he closed the door behind him and then set her cup down carefully in its saucer, her eyes on what she was doing. Her hair, swept back and upward into an elegant chignon, was still the color of honey. Unless his advanced age had dimmed his excellent eyesight, there was not a single strand of gray there yet. Or any lines on her face or sagging of chin. Or of bosom.
“You told me to go away,” he said. “But that was fifteen years or so ago. Was there a time limit?”
Today the giveaway is a Print copy of winner’s choice from the Westcott series, US only.
We are curious…
Do you prefer a hero and heroine that are older or do you like them to be younger?
~~Reviewed by Tracy~~
Marcel Lamarr, The Marquess of Dorchester is not happy, his coach has stopped at an inn to take care of a horse with a loose shoe, and he and his brother Andre are stuck in the taproom until it can be repaired. He just wants to get home, make an appearance and then go back to his libertine lifestyle in London. Being home just reminds him of his failings and he has no desire to think about them.
While he is brooding, he happens to glance over to the dining room and sees a face from the past – the Countess of Riverdale, a woman he loved and who told him to go away 14 years ago. He learns from his brother that she no longer uses the Westcott name, she is now Miss. Kingley.
Viola Kingley is running away. Over two years have passed since she learned the awful truth – her marriage of over twenty years was invalid, she is not the Countess of Riverdale, her three children are all illegitimate and the society that used to revere her now shuns her. She thought she had made peace with it all, but at a recent family gathering, she lost it and just needed to get away and be alone. In her rush to leave, she refused all offers for transportation and rented a carriage – a carriage with a bad axle and now she is stranded at an inn in the middle of nowhere. She secures a room and goes to the dining room for a meal and that is when she sees him – the man she loved but sent away 14 years ago.
Marcel approaches her and asks if there was a time limit when she told him to go away. When she says no, he suggests they spend the day together, which leads to the night together. Then he suggests they run away together – not for forever, but for a few weeks – just until what is between them fades – which it will. Viola agrees, surprising both of them.
They enjoy a wonderful affair and when Viola senses his withdrawal, she tells him she wants to go home. He is hurt and angry, he is not ready to end things, but he lashes out with polite, yet hurtful words. They make plans to leave the next day, but everything changes in the blink of an eye. Viola’s frantic family has found them. To save her reputation, Marcel announces that they are betrothed and decided to get away and steal some private time before they told their families. Viola is shocked but plays along. Later she confronts him, but now they are interrupted by the arrival of his family! The story is repeated and plans are made.
Viola loves Marcel, but she will not marry him, she already endured one loveless marriage and has no desire to shackle herself to a man who doesn’t love her and will not be faithful. But how will they be able to end this farce without hurting anyone?
I really loved this story, Marcel is such a complexed character, he has deep hurts in his past and there are things that he must address before he can even think about a relationship with Viola. Viola too has things that she must make peace with before sharing her life with anyone. I really loved them both, but I felt like they deliberately misunderstood each other and let it drag on until almost the last page. But when they finally talk, it was wonderful and I loved it.
This is the fourth book in the Westcott series, and it can be read as a stand-alone title, but for the best understanding of Viola’s backstory, I would suggest at least reading the first book, Someone to Love before you read this story.
I voluntarily read an Advance Readers’ Copy of this book and all the opinions in this review are mine.