Cold, arrogant, and demanding Henry Eldridge, Marquess of Riverton, would never dally with a mere servant. But when Henry is injured in a horrible fire, his pretty housekeeper Cassandra nurses him back to health, throwing them together day and night. As he slowly heals from his burns, their friendship blossoms, and the class walls between them start to crumble. Cassandra is surprised by glimpses of a kind and thoughtful man beneath her employer’s hard façade—and even more surprised when she develops tender feelings for him. But anything between lord and servant is impossible…and besides, as a widow, she knows love only leads to heartbreak.
Henry is changing, as well. His close brush with death has opened his eyes to his self-imposed emotional isolation…and has urgently reminded him of his duty to marry a well-bred lady and produce an heir. Determined to do right by his family name, he immediately begins searching for a suitable bride. But Cassandra is the only woman who is never far from his mind or his heart. Contrary to everything he’s been taught to believe, he realizes his lovely housekeeper might just be his perfect match. Now, if only he could convince everyone else of that. Especially Cassandra…
“Oh, indeed?” he said softly, in a tone that scared her with its evenness. “What you feel for me is mere…servitude?”
No! Good Lord, there was nothing subservient in the way she’d pressed into his body in the snow, or when she’d cradled his face in her palms, or slept spooned up against him on the library floor. But admitting that would only make a complicated situation even more tangled. “Yes, I suppose, if that is what you wish to call it.”
He took a step toward her. “And when I recognized you even blindfolded, and your body trembled as I whispered in your ear, that was merely lord and housekeeper?”
She swallowed, her face heating. “I…” She cleared her throat. “That was a misunderstanding.”
He took her hand in his and tugged. She stumbled forward, nearly colliding with him. She would have, if she hadn’t braced her hand on his chest. She had to tilt her head back to look him in the eyes and she was very aware that he hadn’t removed his fingers from her wrist. Each one was distinct, burning her like brands.
“In that case, touch me,” he growled.
“What? No, I—”
“If you’re not affected by my presence, man to woman, I want you to prove it.” His eyes blazed with challenge.
“You are being ridiculous,” she said, her voice quaking as much as her heart.
He untied his cravat with one hand and let it drop to the floor, revealing his throat and his collarbone—smooth, pale skin, unmarred by the fire. She saw the pulse in his throat, saw that it was beating faster than normal.
“Touch me,” he ordered. Like Satan whispering temptation in her ear… Do you want the apple? Take it. Taste it. Her hand was still on his chest. Take it.
She wanted to so much, with a yearning that left her weak. She slid her hand up, her fingertips brushing his shoulder. He was tense. When she touched skin, he sucked in a quick breath.
A heady feeling, to know a simple touch could affect him so strongly. Heady and hot, and not at all servile.
It occurred to her, she was playing right into the scoundrel’s hands.
She didn’t care. The contact, the warmth of him, the way his pulse trembled under her fingers, had a similar effect to the whisky. It was like flame dancing along her limbs. Her nerves tingled, surging and alive. She let her thumb brush his collarbone, memorizing the contour of the graceful, jutting sweep, and paused at the hollow of his throat where she could feel the pounding of his heart.
No, she couldn’t… But she was already letting her head fall forward, her willpower succumbing to the hard, harsh rhythm of her body. Her lips grazed the hollow and his fingers tightened around her wrist, almost hurting her but not quite. She breathed him in, salt and spice and skin.
And licked him.
Publisher and Release Date: Entangled Scandalous, 25 Jan 2016
Time and Setting: Buckinghamshire and London, 1817
Genre: Historical Romance
Heat Level: 2
Reviewer Rating: 5 stars
Review by Claudia
Henry Eldridge, Marquess of Riverton, is everything one would expect of an aristocrat: cold, arrogant and superior and he would never, ever dally with a servant. Following a house fire that leaves him severely injured and scarred for life, he becomes far more than surly and bad-tempered. In order to prevent him from giving in to melancholy, his surgeon asks Cassandra Davis, Riverton’s housekeeper, to find him something to keep his mind occupied. An intelligent woman possessed of an enquiring mind, Cassandra hits upon the idea of having him teach her to speak German. During their time together, both learn more about the other person and begin to see the other as more than just the station they occupy in life.
This is a wonderful and delightful romance about two people who are scarred by life and try to do best with what they have. I loved that the story focuses on the characters, who are wonderfully complex and three dimensional.
Cassandra is a beautiful person and she is definitely not the typical heroine you find in historical romances. She is thirty-two and a widow and is so very compassionate and loving qualities that shine through in every way. Nevertheless, she has her own demons to fight and learns a lot about herself during this story, learning how to let go of her past, how to see beyond station and society’s dictats and especially to see that it’s possible to embrace second chances and be happy, even if doing so means that life is not always easy and living with the person you love isn’t always a bed of roses.
But it’s the hero who has the biggest obstacles to overcome and the biggest changes to go through. Born to a position of entitlement and taught early never to love or trust, Riverton gradually changes from a cold, disdainful aristocrat to a loving a compassionate person. He is a great hero and the author’s skill in showing how he embraced that change is impressive. She shows him evolving not only through actions and words but also via small things, such as how he is addressed during the story and how he views himself. In the beginning, for example, we always hear about the Marquess, Riverton or other formal title, which shows his station. But as the story progresses and he begins to change, his given name is used more frequently.
This is very much a character-driven story with no big adventure plotlines or mysteries, but that didn’t stop me falling in love with it. Ms Maxton paints an accurate picture of what life was like for servants at the time the book is set, and the difference in station between Cassandra and Henry is never belittled or ignored – both of them are very aware of it and it shows in every act and every sentence. Their exchanges are always meaningful and often the smallest gestures have the biggest impact. They have terrific chemistry and the sparks between them really do fly.
This is the first book by Lily Maxton I have read, but it will definitely not be my last. An Improper Bride is very well-written, the characterisation is excellent and the development of the romance is lovely. I was totally sucked into the story and was sorry to see it end. It’s a book I’m sure I’ll return to and one I’m happy to recommend to anyone who enjoys seeing two wonderful people falling in love with each other. You will love them, too!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Lily Maxton grew up in the Midwest, reading, writing, and daydreaming amidst cornfields. After graduating with a degree in English, she decided to put her natural inclinations to good use and embark on a career as a writer. When she’s not working on a new story, she likes to tour old houses, add to her tea stash, and think of reasons to avoid housework.