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  • Written by Susan Johnson
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Written by Susan JohnsonAuthor Alerts:  Random House will alert you to new works by Susan Johnson

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On Sale: January 13, 2010
Pages: 320 | ISBN: 978-0-307-57484-8
Published by : Bantam Bantam Dell
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Synopsis|Excerpt
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Synopsis

Dear Readers,

I had heard the gossip. Who in London hadn't? But whether or not the elusive Venus Duras would favor one of her numerous suitors didn't concern me. After all, I had a surfeit of obliging lovers. And then I bumped into her. Literally.

She was utterly enchanting, the most dazzling creature I had ever seen. I knew she had to be mine. But she was aware of my reputation and thought me a libertine. When I invited her to a dinner party, she gave me the cut direct.

Within hours our heated encounter became the talk of the town. Who could resist a wager or two on the delicious possibilities? Could I conquer the unconquerable Miss Duras? Would she resist or succumb to my legendary powers of seduction?

It became a luscious game and tantalizing spectacle--wildly provocative, uncertain in outcome, a delight and fascination to all society. Never in my wildest dreams did I think I would ever meet my match. But then, I never dreamed I would meet a real-life Venus.

Yours,

The Marquis of Redvers

Excerpt

Crystal Palace
London, May 1851


The Marquis of Redvers caught sight of the Honorable Sarah Palmer and her aunt  Lady Tallien before they saw him, and quickly slipped away  down the nearest aisle. The crowds at the Great Exhibition offered  him refuge, the daily attendance of forty thousand a veritable crush  beneath the glass barrel vaults of Paxton's brilliant design. Taking no notice of the exhibits, he moved swiftly through  the throng, concerned only with putting distance between himself and  the two ladies. Sarah, newly out, had set her cap for him--always  reason for evasion--while her aunt Bella, one of his many lovers,  had begun making demands of him of late. Definitely time to move on, now  and in the future.

Quickly glancing over his shoulder, he detected no telltale  bobbing pink bonnet feathers in the mass of humanity behind him and,  gratified, he determined to make his unavailability crystal clear  next time he met the Palmer ladies. But not today, not after two  nights of women and carouse; he was damned tired. And if Sarah Palmer  didn't understand he wasn't in the market for a wife, her aunt  certainly should, as did anyone in the ton with half a brain.

Swiveling around a second too late, he crashed into a lady  reading a brochure. She began to pitch backward, her astonished cry  swallowed up in the din of the crowd. Reacting instinctively, he  caught her arms, pulling her hard against him to keep them both from  falling. Her eyes flared wide at the impress of his muscled chest  against her breasts, his powerful thighs braced against hers.  Stunned, she looked up into dark eyes suddenly regarding her with  interest.

She was exquisite--golden-haired, dazzling, graphically  voluptuous--and even after two sleepless nights of debauch, the marquis's  senses instantly came alert. "Pardon me," he murmured in a deep, low,  fascinated tone.

"You're pardoned." A modicum of reserve underlay her words.

But he didn't let her go. Her lavish breasts, shapely thighs, and  wide-eyed beauty were too intriguing. "You're French," he said.

"Unhand me, please." Her voice was cool now, her arms held out  wide.

A gentleman despite all his profligate ways, he released her and stepped  away. But he took note of the brochure in her hand, the machine on the cover a  vast conglomeration of gaslights and mirrors. The exact one, he reflected,  gazing over her shoulder, on display in the booth behind her--the  apparatus set at the head and foot of an operating table. "I've been thinking  of buying a dozen of those," he remarked, pointing at her brochure, his smile  gracious.

Her surprise showed.

"For my tenants' hospital," he mendaciously added.

"You must have a very large establishment." She was wary. He'd never  seen that look before in a woman; his reputation for pleasing women was well known.

"Just a small one at each estate," he improvised.

The caution left her eyes, replaced by a spark of interest. "Do you  employ doctors, or just nurses? I've found that nurses  often . . ."

Her conversation became quite animated at that point and, guiding her to  one side of the stream of traffic, he replied to her questions with answers  that further encouraged her passionate interest in the very odd field of  patient care. He was infinitely charming, but then he'd had enormous  practice.

Was she equally animated in bed? he wondered, debating how best to  discover that fact for himself. And if the purchase of a dozen of those light  contraptions might entice this dazzling woman into his bed, he decided it would  be money well spent.

He invited her to dinner--just a small party of relatives, he  spontaneously devised--and her hesitation was rather that of propriety  than disinterest.

"You may know my aunt, Lady Markham," he offered. Her dress and manner  were of his world; he understood the requirements of protocol.

"My father does," she replied. "Her husband brokered the treaty  between Greece and Turkey."

"Your father?"

"Pasha Duras."

"Ah . . . the freedom fighter." Pasha Duras had served  in the Greek government for a time; his name was well known in Europe. "I  could send a carriage for you at nine."

"Will your aunt be there?"

If he had to drag her from her bed. "Yes," he said.

"Well, then . . . I'd like that." She finished with a  smile that outshone the operating room lights. "My name is Venus."

Perfect casting, he reflected, wondering if she'd inherited her  namesake's amorous persona as well. "I'm Jack Fitz-James."

"The Marquis of Redvers," she said with distaste. "I'm afraid I'm busy  tonight. If you'll excuse me." And turning abruptly, she walked away.

But the marquis never withdrew from a challenge. Apparently she was  planning on staying in London for another fortnight at least. Plenty of time,  he mused, watching her disappear into the crowd, for a leisurely  seduction.



Found a new woman?" Ned Darlington quirked his brow in sardonic query as  the marquis approached the Turkish exhibit. Pushing away from the  glass display case filled with the weapons they'd come to see, he added,  "Is she blond or blond?"

Jack's gaze narrowed in mild scrutiny. "How the hell can you tell?"

Baron Darlington's tone was indulgent. "How long have I known you?"

"Long enough, apparently." The marquis slowly smiled. "But this one's  utterly gorgeous."

"Aren't they all?"

Jack's smile only broadened. "So cynical, Ned, when I'm enchanted."

"No doubt that single-minded fascination accounts in no small measure  for your success with the ladies."

"I do like 'em. That's no secret." The marquis's dark brows flickered  with pithy import. "The lady calls herself Venus."

"How appropriate, considering your reputation for fucking."

"I rather thought it auspicious."

"So when are you joining her in bed?"

"Since she cut me cold, it might be a few days."

The baron chuckled. "Losing your edge, my fine stud?"

"She's French."

"And obviously doesn't know of your special talents for pleasing the  ladies."

Jack's perfect white teeth flashed in a grin. "Apparently she does, and  that's the rub."

"So you'll have to change her mind."

"My thought exactly."

"French ladies know what they want. Maybe you're not her style. Have you  thought of that?"

"We were having a very pleasant conversation until she discovered my  name."

"Along with your propensity for vice." Ned shrugged. "If she's  prudish, don't waste your time."

"But I want to."

"You want to assail the impregnable citadel? Since when?"

"Nothing's impregnable," the marquis softly murmured.

The baron cast his friend a speculative look. "That comment almost calls  for a wager . . . and if I didn't know your unerring seductive  skills, I'd hazard my money."

"She just has to come to know me better," Jack Fitz-James said with a  disarming grin.

"I expect she will. Have you ever been refused?"

"Not until today."
Susan Johnson

About Susan Johnson

Susan Johnson - Legendary Lover
Susan Johnson, award-winning author of nationally bestselling novels, lives in the country near North Branch, Minnesota. A former art historian, she considers the life of a writer the best of all possible worlds.

Researching her novels takes her to past and distant places, and bringing characters to life allows her imagination full rein, while the creative process offers occasional fascinating glimpses into complicated machinery of the mind.

But most important... writing stories is fun.
Praise

Praise

"[Susan Johnson] is one of the best."
--Romantic Times

  • Legendary Lover by Susan Johnson
  • May 02, 2000
  • Fiction - Romance - Historical
  • Bantam
  • $7.99
  • 9780553578676

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