SATURDAY SPOTLIGHT: A Man Without a Mistress by Bliss Bennet

a man without a mistress
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A man determined to atone for the past…

For seven long years, Sir Peregrine Sayre has tried to assuage his guilt over the horrifying events of his twenty-first birthday by immersing himself in political work—and by avoiding all entanglements with the ladies of the ton. But when his mentor sends him on a quest to track down purportedly penitent prostitutes, the events of his less-than-innocent past threaten not only his own political career, but the life of a vexatious viscount’s daughter as well.

A woman who will risk anything for the future…

Raised to be a political wife, but denied the opportunity by her father’s untimely death, Sibilla Pennington has little desire to wed as soon as her period of mourning is over. Why should she have to marry just so her elder brothers might be free of her hoydenish ways and her blazingly angry grief? To delay their plans, Sibilla vows only to accept a betrothal with a man as politically astute as was her father—and, in retaliation for her brothers’ amorous peccadillos, only one who has never kept a mistress. Surely there is no such man in all of London.

When Sibilla’s attempt to free a reformed maidservant from the clutches of a former procurer throw her into the midst of Per’s penitent search, she finds herself inextricably drawn to the cool, reserved baronet. But as the search grows ever more dangerous, Sibilla’s penchant for risk taking cannot help but remind Per of the shames he’s spent years trying to outrun. Can Per continue to hide the guilt and ghosts of his past without endangering his chance at a passionate future with Sibilla?

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EXCERPT

Sibilla edged around the bottom of the table, closer to where her aunt had been sitting. Her hand groped under the chair, searching in vain for the missing reticule.

“Mmmm,” her brother replied, the slightest slur marking his speech. “Find some of the stranger positions men have taken regarding the suppression of prostitution highly amusing, though. Ever come across Reverend Madan’s volumes? Says England ought to become a polygamous society! Legalizing multiple marriage, the only viable remedy for men’s incorrigible need for sexual variety, so he writes.”

Her brother’s remark raised another laugh from the young bucks, but drew only a snort from her. Had Reverend Madan considered what would happen if a man developed an “incorrigible need” for his neighbor’s second wife? Or his third?

With a huff of frustration, Sibilla half rose from her crouch. Aunt Allyne’s reticule was nowhere in sight. Glancing over her shoulder to ensure none of the gentlemen were looking in her direction, she scampered back to the dining room door.

When she put a hand down to help her rise, though, instead of soft carpeting, her fingers lit on the smooth, polished surface of a man’s evening slipper. A blush, half embarrassment, half amusement, suffused her face. She hoped the footman would not give her away.

But when her head tilted upward, it wasn’t a footman or other manservant whom she found. Instead, her gaze was captured by eyes of the deepest blue, dark and unsettled as a stormy winter sea. Familiar eyes, she realized with a stifled gasp—the man from the park, the one who had pulled her from her horse and insulted her so abominably. He hadn’t been present at dinner. What could a man of his ilk be doing at Lord Milne’s?

“I wonder if the reverend intended that women also be given the right to marry more than one man?” he asked in a quiet voice as he crouched down beside her. “Surely, the incorrigible need for variety extends to the female sex? Women are far more libidinous than men, or so I have always heard . . .”

Before she could reply, she felt his hand, bare, warm, grasp hers. He stood, pulling her to her feet, as a blush of awareness warmed her fingers. She dropped his hand, unnerved, and stepped into the passageway. Why had she not put her gloves back on after removing from table?

He stood taller than she remembered, and slimmer, though large enough to shield her from the gentlemen in the dining room. Realizing she was staring, Sibilla jerked her own eyes free from his, only to find them flying to his other features—a thin blade of a nose, nostrils slightly flared, as if scenting for danger; high, narrow cheekbones; a shock of midnight hair in danger of tumbling into short, spiked lashes. Only the shape of one eyebrow, curved at both ends like a tilde, hinted that humor might occasionally lighten that sober countenance.

“Are you unfamiliar with Reverend Madan’s work, then?” Sibilla whispered, determined not to be intimidated. “Perhaps that gentleman would lend you a copy of the relevant volume, so that you might satisfy your curiosity on the subject.”

“You have no opinion on the topic yourself, then?” the man asked, as coolly as if they were discussing a performance of the latest opera rather than mankind’s sexual proclivities.

“Certainly I have an opinion. Though my aunt frequently tells me that a lady’s opinions on political matters are unlikely to be of interest to a gentleman.”

“The question of whether a man or a woman is more libidinous is a political one? In what regard?” he asked, his eyes crinkling with curiosity.

“In too many ways to number. But if you would like a specific example, then I would point to the discussion in which the gentlemen are currently engaged, on the subject of suppressing harlotry. If the female of the species is more driven by libidinous desires, then laws regulating streetwalkers would be the most efficacious route to dampening the trade. But if the male’s drives are more at fault, then the laws should be reframed to regulate male, rather than female, behavior.”

“What if both are driven by such desires?” the man asked. “Should both the woman who prostitutes herself and the man who buys her wares be subject to arrest?”

“Should not the focus still be on the man, as he is the one with the means? Women would not prostitute themselves if there were no financial gain to be had from the transaction. Do you not think—”

Sibilla stopped abruptly, realizing that the sounds of conversation from the dining room had grown silent as their voices had risen. Viscount Dulcie stood by her interlocutor’s side, a curious expression playing about his handsome features.

“You are kind to come and retrieve your aunt’s reticule, Miss Pennington,” he said, holding out the article in question. “May I escort you back to the drawing room?” Cutting a quick look at the man beside him, Dulcie offered his arm with a gracious nod.

“Thank you, my lord,” she replied. The flush that had faded during her sparring with the dark-haired man burned again across her cheeks. “Sir.” She nodded to him before turning to take the viscount’s arm.

She struggled to slow her pace to Dulcie’s, quashing the urge to flee. Her awareness of the silence, and of the male gazes focused on her retreating back, made it surprisingly difficult. One gaze in particular seemed to burn right through her, and not the one belonging to her brother. No, the scrutiny sending prickles of awareness trailing up and down her spine belonged to the cool blue eyes of the imperturbable stranger. The first, and perhaps only, man to deem her worthy of intelligent conversation this entire evening.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

bliss bennetDespite being born and bred in New England, Bliss finds herself fascinated by the history of that country across the pond, particularly the politically-volatile period known as the English Regency. Though she’s visited Britain several times, Bliss continues to make her home in New England, along with her husband, daughter, and two monstrously fluffy black cats.

You can connect with Bliss at: www.blissbennet.com * ~ * ~ * Facebook * ~ * ~ * Twitter.

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