She’s intended for his brother. He’s destined for adventure. Then a dangerous mystery throws them together, and all they want is each other.
All that clever, passionate Ravenna Caulfield wants is to stay far away from high society’s mean girls.
All that handsome, heroic Lord Vitor Courtenay wants is to dash from dangerous adventure to adventure.
Now, snowbound in a castle with a bevy of the ton’s scheming maidens all competing for a prince’s hand in marriage, Ravenna’s worst nightmare has come true. Now, playing babysitter to a spoiled prince and his potential brides, Vitor is champing at the bit to be gone.
When a stolen kiss in a stable leads to a corpse in a suit of armor, a canine kidnapping, and any number of scandalous liaisons, Ravenna and Vitor find themselves wrapped in a mystery they’re perfectly paired to solve. But as for the mysteries of love and sex, Vitor’s not about to let Ravenna escape until he’s gotten what he desires…
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“Good night, Miss Caulfield. Pleasant dreams plotting your revenge.” Lord Vitor bowed. His gait as he walked away was not entirely even. He favored his left leg, the leg she’d hit with the pitchfork.
Guilt and some confusion tangled in her belly. “I absolutely will not dream of you, even to plan revenge,” she said to his back.
Over his shoulder he turned a smile upon her that sent her breath into her toes. For a moment, almost, his smile seemed regretful. “I was referring to your revenge upon Ladies Penelope and Grace, of course,” he said.
An alien sensation swept into her face. She touched her cheek. It was hot. Hot?
At a slow pace he returned to her. His smile had vanished. He halted before her and bowed again, this time soberly.
“Miss Caulfield, I beg your forgiveness.” His voice was low and his gaze seemed to seek hers quite closely. “I intended you no harm, in truth. Still, I was unpardonably dishonorable to assail you and then tease you and then rescue you and then tease you yet again. Can you forgive me, or will those eyes like stars stare with accusation at me throughout the remaining weeks of this fete?”
Eyes like stars? It was a very good thing she didn’t regularly consort with lords. Their rote flatteries were positively inane. “You are still teasing. And you ask my forgiveness in the same words you asked Lady Grace’s.”
“But in this instance I am most sincere.”
“I am not in the habit of forgiving.”
“Perhaps you might make an exception this time.”
“I don’t know why I should.”
“Consider my injuries.” The dent deepened anew. “Perhaps I am already sufficiently punished.”
She tried not to smile. “I won’t apologize for that.”
“I never expected you to. Now may we put this unfortunate episode behind us and instead pretend to be two people who happened to become acquainted over spilled champagne?”
“Why should we pretend that?”
“It’s either that or the pitchfork.” His dark eyes glimmered.
“All right. But don’t do it again.”
“Kiss you in a stable or defend you from tabbies?”
The heat was back in her face. “Either.”
“I believe I can promise that.” He bowed again. “Good night, madam.” He walked away.
Ravenna stared at his back but her cheeks still burned. She dragged her attention to the floor. Nothing there could make her feel peculiarly hot or unsteady as his shoulders and dark hair and the muscular lengths of his legs did.
Where her gaze alit, a blot of dark liquid pooled about the pointed toe of a suit of armor. She crouched and studied the leak. It was not black but dark crimson and congealed. Blood. Undeniably, blood. Far too much blood for a mouse that might have gotten trapped in the armored foot, or even a cat. The hairs on the back of her neck prickled.
She stood and peered at the suit’s visor. The steel looked impenetrable, with a tiny slit over the eyes that was lost in shadow now, one of those old helmets from which she could not imagine how a knight would be able to see. She reached up and pried open the visor.
She jolted back. The visor clanked shut. But she’d seen enough to make her hot skin turn clammy.
“A student of medieval arms, are you, Miss Caulfield?” Lord Vitor’s voice echoed from the opposite end of the gallery. “And here I’d thought you preferred farm tools.”
“There is a dead man inside this suit.” …
Publisher and Release Date: Avon, August 2014
Time and Setting: Early 19th Century, French Alps
Genre: Historical Romantic Mystery
Heat Rating: 2
Reviewer Rating: 4.5 stars
Review by Caz
The second book in Ms Ashe’s Prince Catchers trilogy focuses on Ravenna, the youngest of the three foundling sisters who have lived for a number of years under the guardianship of Mr Martin Caulfield, the vicar of a small country parish. In the previous book, I Married the Duke, a fortune teller prophesied that when one of them married a prince, they would finally discover the truth about their parentage. Arabella, the middle sister, is determined to fulfil the prophecy, but ends up falling in love with and marrying the Duke of Lycombe – a happenstance which has an unexpected effect on Ravenna’s life.
She is a free-spirited young woman whose love of nature and animals has led to her becoming skilled in the care of animals, and also in the knowledge of human anatomy and medicine. For the last six years, she has resided with Sir Beverley Clark and his close friend (and long-term companion) Mr. Pettigrew, where she looks after their menagerie of dogs, birds and horses. She likes her life, and is stunned when Sir Beverley informs her that due to her sister’s change in circumstances, it is no longer possible or appropriate for Ravenna, as the sister-in-law of a duke to be employed in service.
Still intent on fulfilling the gypsy’s prophecy, Arabella inveigles an invitation for Ravenna to attend a house party in the Franche-Comté which will be attended by Prince Sebastao of a minor branch of the Portugese royal family. Ravenna accompanies her employer and his friend, ever mindful of the fact that she is not of the same class as everyone else and, in fact, determined to remain on the fringes, wearing her practical, drab dresses and pursing her usual daily routines with the animals.
The house party has been convened so that the prince – a rather dissipated young man – can choose himself a bride from the suitable young ladies his parents have chosen to be paraded before him.
Among the other guests is Lord Vitor Courtenay, half-brother of the Earl of Chase. Ravenna can see that every female head in the place has been turned by the extremely handsome and charming Lord Courtenay, yet he displays no interest in anyone – except her. The pair has great chemistry, and the way Ms Ashe creates and develops the romantic tension between the two is one of the most enjoyable things about the book. She is one of those authors who is able to write sharp, witty banter that never feels forced, or as though she has to try to be amusing – and it’s a joy to read.
Obviously, at a gathering involving a number of young ladies with marital ambitions towards the prince, and their equally ambitious mamas, there are bound to be metaphorical daggers drawn. The problems start, however, when the dagger turns out to be not so metaphorical and Ravenna stumbles across the body of a young man, dead from a stab-wound and encased in a suit of armour.
The snow sets in around the castle, meaning that the guests are pretty much stranded until it lets up, so Ravenna and Vitor work together to investigate the murder, exposing them to danger at the same time as it brings them closer together.
Ms Ashe has penned a thoroughly entertaining “country house whodunnit”, acknowledging in her author’s note, her debt to Agatha Christie and the indomitable Hercule Poirot. She has assembled a fairly large and, it has to be said, sometimes clichéd cast – a pair of bitchy twins, a gruff horse-breeder and his mousy daughter, a vivacious Scottish heiress and her no-nonsense mother, a retiring scientist, and the handsome earl and his even handsomer half-brother. But the fact that the secondary characters are all easily recognisable “types” shouldn’t be seen as a bad thing. They are well fleshed-out and familiarity with the tropes allows the reader to just sit back and enjoy the way the story unfolds.
Vitor and Ravenna make a very engaging couple. Vitor is a hero to die for; brave and honourable, he is not without his inner demons, but is also not a man to shy away from them. He has spent the last few years leading a monastic existence, trying to find a way to come to terms with a terrible betrayal and to find a more equable approach to life. He’s smitten with Ravenna from their first meeting, and he comes quickly to respect her intelligence and her abilities; he never wants her to be anything other than the woman she is. Ravenna is a terrific heroine – independent (without being stupidly “feisty”), clever and not afraid to speak her mind, especially in defence of those who find it difficult to defend themselves.
Ms Ashe is an excellent storyteller and I thoroughly enjoyed reading I Adored a Lord, but I do have a couple of criticisms. Firstly, Ravenna’s insistence in clinging to the belief that her station in life is too far beneath Vitor’s to allow them to be together is allowed to go on for a little too long; and secondly, while the identity of the murderer is brilliantly tongue-in-cheek, it comes rather out of left field, and doesn’t really make much sense in terms of the story as a whole. That said, though, it still make me laugh and neither of these reservations is enough to have spoiled my enjoyment of the book, to which I’m giving a most hearty recommendation.
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About the Author
Award-winning, best-selling author KATHARINE ASHE writes intensely lush historical romance, including How To Be a Proper Lady, among Amazon’s 10 Best Books of 2012 in Romance, and eight other acclaimed novels set in the era of the British Empire. With the publication of her debut novel in 2010, she earned a spot among the American Library Association’s “New Stars of Historical Romance.” She was a nominee for the 2013 Library of Virginia Literary Award in Fiction, and in 2011 she won the coveted Reviewers’ Choice Award for Best Historical Romantic Adventure. Katharine is also a finalist for the 2014 RITA® Award, the highest honor in the romance fiction industry, for How To Marry A Highlander.
She lives in the wonderfully warm Southeast with her beloved husband, son, dog, and a garden she likes to call romantic rather than unkempt. A professor of European History at Duke University, Katharine writes fiction because she thinks modern readers deserve high adventure and breathtaking sensuality too. For more about her books, please visit her at KatharineAshe.com
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