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Prim, proper, and thrifty, Eve Dinwoody is all business when it comes to protecting her brother’s investment. But when she agrees to control the purse strings of London’s premier pleasure garden, Harte’s Folly, she finds herself butting heads with an infuriating scoundrel who can’t be controlled.
HE’S RUNNING THE SHOW
Bawdy and bold, Asa Makepeace doesn’t have time for a penny-pinching prude like Eve. As the garden’s larger-than-life owner, he’s already dealing with self-centered sopranos and temperamental tenors. He’s not about to let an aristocratic woman boss him around . . . no matter how enticing she is.
BUT LOVE CONQUERS ALL
In spite of her lack of theatrical experience-and her fiery clashes with Asa-Eve is determined to turn Harte’s Folly into a smashing success. But the harder she tries to manage the stubborn rake, the harder it is to ignore his seductive charm and raw magnetism. There’s no denying the smoldering fire between them-and trying to put it out would be the greatest folly of all . . .
“What do you see when you look at me?”
What did she see when she looked at him?
Eve inhaled, trying and failing to tear her gaze from his.
Mr. Harte sprawled across her dainty settee like a Viking marauder in a pillaged Christian church. His broad shoulders took up more than half the width, his arms lazily draped over the back. His scarlet coat was spread open, contrasting with the sedate gray-blue of the cushions almost shockingly. One long leg was thrust straight before him, the other cocked open and resting on a booted heel. The pose made the apex of his thighs very . . . obvious . . . and even as she kept her eyes locked on his she could feel heat rising in her cheeks.
What did she see?
She saw violence and anger, kept under a control that was tenuous at best. She saw power and a strength that could hurt her—kill her—if he so chose. She saw the innate brutality that was, in larger or smaller part, in all men.
She saw her most terrible fears.
But—and this was the truly unprecedented part—she saw more in him. She saw temptation—her temptation—alluring and frightening at the same time, his virility so strong it was nearly a visible miasma in the space between them.
She wanted him. Wanted that brash gaze, those long, muscled thighs, that mocking, insulting mouth, and the shoulders that went on forever, big and brawny and so very, very male.
This was madness—she knew that intellectually. She’d never wanted a man before—was in fact afraid of almost all men, let alone one so obviously, blatantly sexual.
She took a breath, hoping that he couldn’t read all this from her gaze—and knowing it was a lost cause already.
His heavy-lidded green eyes were far, far too perceptive.
“I see . . .” She paused to lick suddenly dry lips. “I see that your hairline is nearly a perfect arc across the expanse of your forehead. That your eyebrows tilt ever so slightly up at the ends and that the right has a scar through it. I see that when you are solemn, the outer edges of your lips reach just to the midpoint of your eyes, but when you smile, they go beyond the corners. I see that your chin and jaw are almost in classical proportion and that a small white scar forms a comma on your chin just to the right of center.” She finally glanced away from him, breathing heavily, certain that she’d not thrown him off the track with her artist’s eye’s impressions. She inhaled again and ended, “I see every line of your face, every line’s intersection and how they relate. That is what I see when I look at you.”
“And is that all you see? Lines?” His voice was deep and amused.
She chanced a peek.
He still watched her, his gaze utterly unperturbed by her observations about his countenance.
No, she’d not fooled him at all.
She licked her lips again, buying time. “I see,” she said carefully, cautiously, “a very self-possessed man.”
“Self-possessed,” he drawled. “I’m not sure what that means, frankly. It sounds, just a bit, like a coward’s answer.”
Her gaze flew to his, outraged.
But before she could take him down a peg, he chuckled softly. “Tell me, Miss Dinwoody, would you like to know what I see when I look at you?”
She shouldn’t. She really, really shouldn’t.
“Yes,” she blurted, and then winced because she knew well enough what men
thought when they looked at her: ordinary, if they were charitable. Plain if they were not.
She braced herself for mockery, but when she glanced again at him, his gaze was hot and hard. Certainly not gentle.
Certainly not kind. But he wasn’t dismissing her, either.
He looked at her as if they were equals. As if he really saw her, a woman to his man.
“I see,” he said, his deep voice musing, “a woman afraid, but fighting her fears. A woman who carries herself like a queen. A woman who could rule us all, I suspect.”
She gazed at him, her breath caught in her throat, afraid to exhale and break the spell.
A corner of that wicked mouth tilted up. “And I see a woman who has a deep curiosity. Who wants to feel but is worried—of herself? Of others?” He shook his head. “I’m not sure.” He leaned forward slowly, destroying his pose, and she had to fight herself not to scoot her chair away from him. “But I think she has a fire banked within her. Maybe it’s only embers now, glowing in the dark, but if tinder were to be put to those embers . . .” He grinned slowly. Dangerously. “Oh, what a conflagration that would be.”
Publisher and Release Date: Grand Central Publishing, November 24, 2015
Time and Setting: London, 1741
Genre: Historical romance
Heat Level: 2
Reviewer Rating: 5 stars
Review by Maria Almaguer
Through nine books now, veteran writer Elizabeth Hoyt has created an entertaining, glamorous, and gritty world in her Maiden Lane series set in the St. Giles neighborhood of Georgian era London. Though the books need not be read in order, I feel it adds to the richness of the story, as many past heroes and heroines are mentioned or make cameo appearances.
Readers first met Eve Dinwoody, the illegitimate daughter of a duke, in Dearest Rogue. Eve is the younger sister to Val, the outrageous and immature Duke of Montgomery, a mysterious and enigmatic man who blackmails people for sport. And Eve is the only person who fiercely loves him despite his faults since he saved her from a childhood tragedy and also because he feeds and shelters her.
Eve is very smart and serious. She manages the books for her brother’s many investments and interests while he frequently travels. That’s how she meets Asa Makepeace, the owner and manager of Harte’s Folly, a struggling and magical theatre/pleasure garden in London. It’s her job to make sure that her brother’s money is being spent efficiently and effectively and she clashes with the blatantly virile and shocking Asa.
Mr. Harte sprawled across her dainty settee like a Viking marauder in a pillaged Christian church.
At first, Asa finds Eve shrewish and uptight but she very quickly intrigues him with her contradictory nature of both discipline and her vulnerability in her fear of dogs and of touch.
The juxtaposition of the two – her iron core and her delicate exterior – was oddly fascinating.
Eve is also desperately lonely. She has no friends save her loyal servants. So when Asa literally crowds himself into her life, filling her small world with light, love, and addictive passion, she is overwhelmed, curious and, for the first time, dares to dream of a different future for herself. Above all, Eve realizes this is not a way to live, in constant fear and hiding.
If there was one thing Asa Makepeace knew how to do it was seduce a female. Even one with a poker up her arse.
Asa has long been estranged from his large, religious, and mostly conservative family – many od whose stories have been told in previous Maiden Lane novels. Eve helps Asa to heal the rift and he helps her come out of her shell of reserve and trepidation. The scenes with Asa’s many lively siblings add color, humor, and humanity to an already lovely romance.
Eve is drawn to Asa and wants to experience all the passion he has to offer a woman. Their love scenes are playful, sexy, and daring. He tempts her and makes her want things she never thought she would ever have.
It was lovely to be wanted.
The relationship between Eve and her servants, especially Jean-Marie, her Creole bodyguard, is touching and vivid. Ms. Hoyt brings all her characters to life and, as in all the books in the series, there are hints of another book, this time in the glimpses we are given into the activities of the mysterious Bridget Crumb, the very young and efficient housekeeper to the Duke of Montgomery, as she takes charge of the absent lord’s London townhouse.
Sweetest Scoundrel is a big, bold, and beautiful love story, and one I’m certainly recommending.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Elizabeth Hoyt is the New York Times bestselling author of over seventeen lush historical romances including the Maiden Lane series. Publishers Weekly has called her writing “mesmerizing.” She also pens deliciously fun contemporary romances under the name Julia Harper. Elizabeth lives in Minneapolis, Minnesota, with three untrained dogs, a garden in constant need of weeding, and the long-suffering Mr. Hoyt.
The winters in Minnesota have been known to be long and cold and Elizabeth is always thrilled to receive reader mail. You can write to her at: P.O. Box 19495, Minneapolis, MN 55419, email her at: Elizabeth@ElizabethHoyt.com. or find her at: