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  • Written by Mary Balogh
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  • Written by Mary Balogh
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Written by Mary BaloghAuthor Alerts:  Random House will alert you to new works by Mary Balogh

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On Sale: December 30, 2003
Pages: 368 | ISBN: 978-0-440-33491-0
Published by : Dell Bantam Dell
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Synopsis|Excerpt

Synopsis

Meet the Bedwyns—six brothers and sisters—men and women of passion and privilege, daring and sensuality.

Enter their dazzling world of high society and breathtaking seduction…where each will seek love, fight temptation, and court scandal…and where Morgan Bedwyn, the willful youngest daughter, discovers that true love is a temptation no woman can—or should—resist.

Young. Ravishing. Exquisitely marriageable. From the moment he spies Lady Morgan Bedwyn across the glittering ballroom, Gervase Ashford, Earl of Rosthorn, knows he has found the perfect instrument of his revenge. But wedlock is not on the mind of the continent’s most notorious rake. Nor is it of interest to the fiercely independent Lady Morgan herself…until one night of shocking intimacy erupts in a scandal that could make Gervase’s vengeance all the sweeter. There is only one thing standing in his way: Morgan, who has achieved the impossible—she’s melted his coolly guarded heart. For Gervase, only the marriage bed will do, but Morgan simply will not have him. Thus begins a sizzling courtship where two wary hearts are about to be undone by the most scandalous passion of all: glorious, all-consuming love.

Excerpt

Chapter One


It still felt somewhat strange to be part of a gathering of the creme de la creme of English society again and to hear the English language spoken by virtually everyone. Not that the English were the only nationality present, it was true. There were also Dutch, Belgians, and Germans, among others. But the British predominated.

Gervase Ashford, Earl of Rosthorn, was standing just inside the ballroom doors at the house Viscount Cameron had leased on the Rue Ducale in Brussels, looking about him with considerable interest. He was searching for familiar faces. He had seen several since his recent arrival from Austria, but he expected to see more here. The vast majority of both ladies and gentlemen looked exceedingly young to him, though. He felt strangely ancient at thirty.

Most of those young gentlemen, and a few older ones too, wore military dress uniforms--some blue or green, but most scarlet and resplendent with rich facings and multitudes of gold lace braiding. Like peacocks, they outshone the ladies in their pastel shaded, softly flowing, high-waisted gowns. But the ladies looked delicate and very feminine in contrast.

"One feels at a distinct disadvantage dressed even in one's very best civilian clothes, does one not?" the Honorable John Waldane said ruefully into Gervase's left ear--the buzz of a hundred voices or more all raised to be heard above the rest of the hubbub plus the sounds of the orchestra tuning their instruments more than occupied his right.

"If one came here with the intention of impressing the ladies, yes, I suppose so," Gervase admitted with a chuckle. "If one came to be an invisible observer, no."

At the moment he preferred to be as unobtrusive as possible. He still felt a little self-conscious around British people, wondering how much they remembered from nine years ago, and wondering too just how much there was for them to remember. Although there had been a few rather public scenes, he was not sure how much of that whole sordid business had become public knowledge. Waldane, who had been one of Gervase's acquaintances at the time and who had hailed him with the greatest amiability when they ran into each other two days ago, had made no reference to it. But, of course, the reputation Gervase had earned since then was undeniably notorious to anyone who had spent time on the Continent.

"Old Boney will probably be captured any day now and dragged back to Elba and kept in irons for the rest of his life if any of his guards have a brain in their heads," Waldane said. "These officers will no longer have an excuse to play at such gallantry or to dazzle the ladies with such a gorgeous display."

"Jealous?" Gervase chuckled again.

"Mortally." Waldane, slightly more portly than he had been nine years ago when Gervase last saw him, and balding at the crown of his thinning fair hair, laughed ruefully. "There are some ladies one might enjoy impressing."

"Are there?" Gervase raised his quizzing glass the better to see to the far side of the crowded ballroom. He recognized Lord Fitzroy Somerset, the Duke of Wellington's military secretary, in conversation with Lady Mebs, and Sir Charles Stuart, British ambassador to the Hague. But his attention moved obligingly onto the young ladies, none of whom he could be expected to recognize--or feel any particular interest in if he did. His tastes did not run to the very young. "By Jove, you are right."

His glass had paused on one member of Sir Charles's group, who was even then turning half away from its other members in order to greet the approach of two young officers of the Life Guards, gorgeous in dazzling white net pantaloons, scarlet coats, blue facings, and gold lace--and dancing shoes instead of their cavalry boots.

She was a very young lady indeed--not long out of the schoolroom if his guess was correct. He would not perhaps have noticed her if Waldane had not set him to the task. But, having looked, he was forced to admit that sometimes one could draw sheer pleasure from simply gazing at extraordinary beauty.

He was gazing at it now.

She was really quite outstandingly lovely, the more so perhaps because the simplicity of her white gown was in marked contrast to the bold richness of the uniforms worn by the two officers. It was a short-sleeved, low-bosomed, high-waisted gown of lace over satin--but Gervase was not interested in the gown. His practiced eye noted that the body beneath it was slender and long-legged, coltish yet undeniably feminine. Her neck, long and swanlike, held her head at a proud angle. And proud she had every right to be. Her dark hair, piled elegantly and threaded with jewels that might well be diamonds, gleamed under the light of a thousand candles in the chandeliers overhead. Her face--oval, dark-eyed, and straight-nosed--was classical perfection. Its beauty was nothing short of dazzling when she smiled, as she did in response to a remark made by the officer on her right, raising a lacy white fan to her chin as she did so.

It seemed to Gervase that he might well never have seen a lovelier woman--if she could be called a woman. She was little more than a girl really--but as breathtakingly lovely as a perfect rosebud that has not yet burst into full bloom.

Fortunately, perhaps, for the young lady in question and any parents or chaperons who were hovering in her vicinity, he preferred mature blooms to tender buds--they were more amenable to being seduced. He had looked his fill and was prepared to move his glass onward.

"That one would be well worth impressing," John Waldane said, noting his friend's pursed lips and the direction of his gaze. "But alas, Rosthorn, she has eyes for no man unless his broad shoulders are encased in a scarlet coat." He sighed forlornly and theatrically.

"And unless he is not a day older than two and twenty," Gervase agreed, noting the youth of the two Guards officers. He must indeed be getting old, he thought, when even military officers were beginning to look like schoolboys playing at war.

"You do not know who she is?" Waldane asked as Gervase turned away, intending to remove to the card room.

"Should I?" he asked in reply. "She is someone important, I presume?"

"One might say so," his friend told him. "She is staying with the Earl and Countess of Caddick on the Rue de Bellevue, since their daughter, Lady Rosamond Havelock, is her particular friend, though her brother is here too. He is attached to the embassy at the Hague in some capacity but is currently in Brussels with Sir Charles Stuart."

"And?" Gervase prompted, making a circular motion with his hand as if to hurry his friend along.

"One of the officers talking to her--the taller, golden-haired one on her right--is Viscount Gordon," Waldane said. "Captain Lord Gordon, Caddick's son and heir. The only son in fact. Hence the military commission in the Life Guards, I suppose--all glory and gold lace but absolutely no danger. They will prance around on horseback on the parade ground, looking magnificent and sending all the ladies into a collective swoon, but they would swoon as a body themselves if this threat of war against Boney were to prove more a reality than an exciting game."

"They may surprise us yet if given the chance for glory," Gervase said more fairly. He took one step toward the ballroom doors. Obviously Waldane, mistaking his interest in the dark-haired girl for something more personal than it was, wanted him to beg for her identity.

"She is Lady Morgan Bedwyn," his friend said.

Gervase paused and looked back at him, his eyebrows raised. "Bedwyn?"

"The youngest of the family," Waldane said. "Fresh from the schoolroom, newly presented at court, the richest prize on the marriage mart if she has not already been snatched off it by Gordon. I understand that an announcement is expected any day. You had better keep your distance, Rosthorn, even if the wolf did remain behind in England when she came here." He slapped a friendly hand on Gervase's shoulder and grinned.

The wolf. Wulfric Bedwyn, Duke of Bewcastle. Although he had not seen the man for nine years and had not particularly thought about him in four or five, nevertheless Gervase could feel all the cold fury of an old hatred as he was reminded of him now. It was to Bewcastle he owed the strangeness of these English faces and these English voices, and his own self-consciousness in being among them--his own people. It was to Bewcastle he owed the fact that he had not been in England--his own country, his father's country--since he was one and twenty. Instead he had wandered the Continent, not really belonging in France despite his French mother because he was English by birth and the heir to a British earldom, and not safe in many other European countries under French occupation for the same reason.

It was because of Bewcastle--whose friendship he had once cultivated--that his whole life had been turned upside down and permanently changed for the worse. Exile really had seemed almost worse than death for the first year or so--that and the terrible humiliation and his impotence to convince anyone that he had been wrongfully treated. He had consoled himself eventually by becoming exactly what he was expected to be--a rake who cared for nothing and no one except himself and the gratification of his own desires, whether sexual or otherwise. He had certainly allowed Bewcastle to win in more ways than one.

Ah, yes, he realized in that flashing moment while he still looked over his shoulder at Waldane, the hatred, the burning desire to do Bewcastle harm in return, had not faded in nine years. It had only been pushed beneath the surface of his consciousness.

And now he was in the same building--the same room--as Bewcastle's sister. It was almost too good to be true.

Gervase looked across the ballroom once more. She had one gloved hand upon the sleeve of the golden-haired officer--Captain Lord Gordon--and was proceeding with him onto the dance floor, where the lines were forming for the opening set of country dances.

Lady Morgan Bedwyn.

Yes, he could well believe it. She carried herself with all the proud bearing, even arrogance, of a born aristocrat.

He could make mischief if he chose, Gervase thought, his eyes narrowing on her. The temptation was almost overwhelming.

As she took her place in the long line of ladies, and Captain Lord Gordon--a handsome young stripling--went to stand opposite in the line of gentlemen, her full smiling attention was on him. And he was very eligible--the son and heir of an earl. Indeed, she was thought to be all but betrothed to him.

The thought of causing mischief grew even more appealing.

She was doubtless an innocent, despite the arrogance. She had probably been hedged about with governesses until the very moment of her presentation and with chaperons ever since then. He, on the other hand, was anything but innocent. It was true that, despite his reputation, he had only ever turned his seductive charms on women who could match him in experience and, usually, in years too. But if he chose to turn those charms on a young innocent, he might perhaps succeed in turning her attention away from a scarlet coat.

If he chose.

How could he not so choose?

As the music began, he felt the very definite stirrings of a slight temptation. Though truth to tell, it was not so slight either.

Lady Morgan Bedwyn performed the steps of the dance with precision and grace. She was small-breasted, Gervase could see, and willowy slender, neither of which physical attributes normally aroused him sexually. He was not aroused now, of course, merely appreciative of her perfect beauty.

And yes--quite powerfully tempted to make trouble for her.

"Are you for the card room, Rosthorn?" John Waldane asked.

"Perhaps later," Gervase said without withdrawing his attention from the dancers, whose feet were thudding rhythmically on the wooden floor. "I must go in search of Lady Cameron and ask her to present me to Lady Morgan Bedwyn at the end of the set."

"Oh, I say!" His friend reached for his snuff box. "You devil you, Rosthorn! Bewcastle would challenge you to a duel even for raising your eyes to his sister."

"Bewcastle, as I remember it, does not deal in duels," Gervase said disdainfully, his nostrils flaring at the remembered insult. "Besides, I am Rosthorn. It is quite unexceptionable to request an introduction to the girl, Waldane. Or even to invite her to dance with me. I am not planning to invite her to elope with me, you know."

Though there was a wicked sense of satisfaction in imaging how Bewcastle would react if he did run off with the girl. Did he dare contemplate such a thing?

"Five pounds on it that she will insist upon dancing every set with a scarlet uniform and will grant you no more than the time of day," John Waldane said, chuckling once more.

"Only five?" Gervase clucked his tongue. "You wound me, Waldane. Make it ten, or one hundred if you wish. You will, of course, lose."

He could not take his eyes off the girl. She was Bewcastle's sister, someone close to him, someone dear to him. Someone through whom Bewcastle's pride and consequence, even if not his heart, could be hurt. It was doubtful that the man had a heart--any more than he himself had, Gervase thought cynically.

It was strange how fate sometimes turned in one's favor--though it was about time. Belgium was as close as Gervase had come to returning home even though his father had been dead for longer than a year and his mother had long been urging him to come home to Windrush Grange in Kent to take up his inheritance and his duties and responsibilities as the new Earl of Rosthorn. He had been in Vienna when Napoleon Bonaparte escaped from Elba in March. Now, two months later, he had taken the tentative step of moving to Brussels in Belgium, where the British and their allies were beginning to gather in some force for the expected showdown with Bonaparte. Many of the British who had sons in the military had brought their wives and daughters and other family members with them. A large number of other Britons had come flocking there too simply because Brussels during this spring of 1815 was the social place to be.

And that number included Lady Morgan Bedwyn, sister of the Duke of Bewcastle.

Ah yes, he was very much more than slightly tempted.

Fate had dealt him a potentially winning hand at last.
Mary Balogh|Author Q&A

About Mary Balogh

Mary Balogh - Slightly Tempted

Photo © David Wild

Mary Balogh is the New York Times bestselling author of the acclaimed Slightly novels: Slightly Married, Slightly Wicked, Slightly Scandalous, Slightly Tempted, Slightly Sinful, and Slightly Dangerous, as well as the romances No Man's Mistress, More than a Mistress, and One Night for Love. She is also the author of Simply Love, Simply Unforgettable, Simply Magic, and Simply Perfect, her dazzling quartet of novels set at Miss Martin's School for Girls. A former teacher herself, she grew up in Wales and now lives in Canada.

Author Q&A

Mary Balogh on Romance Writing


Romance authors are prolific writers. Knowing that there are so many romance books published each year, how do you keep your ideas fresh and avoid traveling over well-worn territory?

I read very little romance. One reason is that because I write romance all day I look for a different type of literature to fill my leisure hours. Another reason is that I want my ideas to be my own. I don't want to pick up trends from other writers and I certainly do not want to unconsciously plagiarize from anyone else—and it is easy to do precisely because it is unconscious! As far as keeping my own writing fresh is concerned, it is a matter of constant attention. Sometimes I have a plot idea that seems great and fits the story well—and then I recall that I used the same idea four books ago. I try not to do the same thing over and over—and if I do reuse an idea (the fake betrothal, for example) I try to use it in quite different ways each time.

Many of you write with recurring characters in your stories. How do you keep track of what your characters have done to ensure that your storyline stays true?

I keep lists of characters and places and key descriptions. But on the whole I am a "head" person—I keep everything stored in my brain. If I am not sure of a detail, then I have to go rummaging through the previous books to check. But it is, of course, hugely important to keep the details consistent. My books Slightly Tempted and Slightly Sinful not only are related but also run concurrently. I had to get both plots and sets of characters to converge at a certain time and a certain place (the same scene occurs close to the end of both books). That meant keeping very detailed time lines for each book. I did not want one group arriving at the appointed place a whole month ahead of the other group! It was tricky—but then part of a writer's job is to be able to pull off these things. It is part of the fascination of the job!

Do you visualize your characters as anyone in particular? A celebrity or a significant other?

No, never. My books are purely creations of the imagination. Though I do have a mental picture of my characters, it is not as anyone I know. I remember once grimacing when told by a reader that she pictured one of my heroes as an actor whom I disliked. But that of course is the privilege of the reader. We all see things differently with our different imaginations. How wonderful to work in a medium in which so much personal freedom is allowed both writer and reader—unlike film or television.

If you write historical romances, how do you do your research?

In great bulk at the start, reading both history and contemporary sources. But since most of my books have been set in the same historical period (the Regency), I am constantly adding to my knowledge. And there are two great e-mail loops of Regency fanatics to which I belong. What the people on those loops do not know about the Regency period is not worth knowing. Everyone is very willing to share expertise. I am British by upbringing. This is a huge advantage to a writer of historical fiction set in Britain. I have an intuitive feel for what people would do under certain circumstances or feel about various issues, and how they would speak. I spend a month there each year to soak up atmosphere.

Level with ushow easy or difficult is it to write a love scene?

I don't really think of my books as romances. I think of them as love stories. They are emotional experiences, bringing together as they do two people who are quite separate entities to the point at which they commit their lives to each other in a deep love relationship. Sex is a crucial aspect of such a relationship, and so it is important to me not to leave the reader outside the bedroom door, so to speak, and thus remind her that she is not one of these characters but a reader holding a book. I love writing love scenes. I look forward to them. I never write them for titillation purposes. My love scenes are an integral part of the love story, the moments at which the passion of the growing relationship is at its most intense—either negatively or positively, showing what is wrong with the relationship or what is right. Love scenes are as much as emotional experience as a physical—perhaps more so.

Which do you think readers prefer, the more erotic/graphic romance or the old-fashioned romance that leaves most everything to the imagination? Has this changed over the years?

I think there are a wide variety of tastes out there. Books have clearly become more graphic over the years. I do not know which type of book is the most popular. A survey of readers would have to be taken to get that answer. Very few of my readers have ever objected to the explicit nature of my love scenes—even when I was writing traditional Regencies. And no reader has ever asked for more sex in my books. So I suppose for my own readers the balance is just right.

In the publishing business, do you feel there is a stigma attached to romance novels and, by extension, romance authors? Are the subgenres that are being used to define novels todayromantic suspense, historical romance, romantic mysteryan attempt to eliminate any stigma attached to the romance genre?

In the publishing business itself? If there is, I have not felt it. I have always been in the romance program with editors of romance. The fellow-authors I tend to meet are romance authors. So I suppose I would not know what the overall house attitude is. I suppose in the reading world in general there is some stigma on romance—perhaps because it is primarily a woman's genre and anything that is heavily feminine is still seen as intrinsically inferior and irrelevant to the "real" world. My answer is always that romance and happy marital love are as real as all the horror stories we watch on the news each evening. It is just that the emphasis, the perspective is different. And I far prefer my perspective!

What are some things that you think could help increase awareness and sales of romance books?

My main suggestion is already being implemented—though I don't claim any credit! The sleazy covers that used to adorn our books so that male buyers would choose the books to go into their stores are gradually becoming a thing of the past. They almost never gave an accurate idea of the book within the covers. I wept over some of mine! Most romances now look like real books.

What do you love about your fans? Tell us about a memorable encounter with one of your readers while on tour, or via your website or email.

It would be strange indeed, I suppose, if I did not love them because they love my books! But in particular I love the way many readers become so immersed in the books that they treat the characters as if they are real people—and they discuss them as such in groups, sometimes quite heatedly. They hate to let the characters go at the end of a book—and even more so at the end of a series. If a book is part of a series, they speculate on what will happen in the future books. Many of them will beg for stories for some minor character they enjoyed. Many go out looking for my backlist, which is horribly out of print. Perhaps my most memorable encounter with a reader happened at a large convention. When she saw the name on my name tag, she threw both hands in the air, went down on both knees, and declared herself to be my number one fan. What was memorable about it was that she is a New York Times bestselling author—and at the time I was still writing the small Signet Regencies!

Have you ever written a book outside the genre?

No. I have written outside the Regency era, though not far outside it. I have written a few Georgians (18th century) a Victorian, and two Welsh books set in the 1830s (I grew up in Wales). But I have never wanted to write anything but romance.

What do you think is the future trend for romance novels?

Since I do not read much romance, I really have no idea here.

What are you working on now?

I have just left behind a six-part series of books about the Bedwyn family. I feel rather bereft. I have just started a quartet of books about four teachers at the same school in Bath. Two of these teachers appeared briefly in one of the Bedwyn books, so I am not completely out on a limb! The first book has no title yet, beyond Governess I. Since that is hardly a title to make a book fly off the shelves, it will eventually be renamed!


  • Slightly Tempted by Mary Balogh
  • December 30, 2003
  • Fiction - Romance - Historical
  • Dell
  • $7.99
  • 9780440241065

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