Coffee. . .tea. . .or a pastry chef sweeter than any confection. . .
Scotch trifle fit for Queen Victoria, scones with clotted cream. . .Alys Redcake knows the way to a man’s heart. Yet she is unaware that with each morsel–and flash of ankle–she is seducing the handsome marquess frequenting her father’s tea shop. Unmarried at twenty-six, Alys’s first love is the family business. But thoughts of the gentleman’s touch are driving her to distraction. . .
With his weakness for sugar, the Marquess of Hatbrook can imagine no more desirable woman than one scented with cake and spice. Mistaking Alys for a mere waitress, he has no doubt she would make a most delicious mistress. And when he finds himself in need of an heir, he plans to make her his convenient bride. Yet as they satisfy their craving for one another, business and pleasure suddenly collide. Will Hatbrook’s passion for sweets–and for Alys–be his heart’s undoing?
“Do you know, it was your ankles that attracted me when we first met.”
Alys found it hard to take a breath. “My ankles?”
“Yes. And your fiery dark eyes. You have a magnificent spirit.”
She swallowed hard, fisted her hands in the too-tight gloves. “I like your hair.”
He leaned casually against the wall. “You do?”
“Yes. I always think of it as sun-kissed.”
“I spend a lot of time outdoors. But the color usually darkens in the winter.”
“A pity. It’s quite nice as it is.” She spoke the next words in a rush. “You have hungry eyes, I think.”
The corners of his eyes crinkled. “I do?”
“That was my first impression of you. An austere, almost haughty demeanor, but hungry eyes.”
“Austere. I never thought of myself that way.”
“You seem to set yourself apart a little. No one would think you were the average man.”
“I could say the same about you.”
She took a step forward. “But I am not a man.”
He lifted her hand, touched her cheek with one finger. “I know that.”
Time seemed to have stopped. Her lips parted instinctively, even as her brain screamed, “This is a marquess! What are you thinking?”
“I’m a woman,” she whispered.
One finger became a palm against her cheek. It slid down along her jaw, then caressed the back of her neck. He drew her toward him. The side of her arm touched the wall, underneath a painting of Jupiter seducing a maiden.
“Alys, you are lovely.”
Her breath caught. His fingers had found her back now, made circles on her skin. His other hand reached out to her free arm. It moved down her arm and found her gloved fingers. He tugged until her hand was on his chest.
“Are you real?”
His mouth quirked. “Oh yes, Alys.”
He tilted toward her, until she could feel his warm breath on her cheek. She kept her eyes open, saw the way his eyebrows fanned out at the edges, how the tip of his nose was just a little crooked. He had a tiny mole high on his left cheek. His upper lip, slightly shorter than the lower, had a prominent bow. He smelled like gingerbread.
She felt the tips of her breasts harden. The unfamiliar sensation made her want to press herself against him. He seemed to feel the same way, because his hands linked behind her, pulled her forward.
“You’re very warm.”
“You’re very pretty.”
Then, they were much too close not to kiss, even she knew that, who had not been kissed in more than a decade. Her lips moved toward his, his head dipped to her. Breath met, then soft skin. Her hand crept to his neck and her fingers clasped him, clung.
She felt the moist tickle of his tongue at the corner of her mouth. Surprise opened her lips and he swept in, bringing ginger and cake and something unfamiliar, so male, so foreign, yet so enticing she felt her legs quiver.
Her other hand moved inside his coat, inside his waistcoat, until all that was between her and his warm flesh was a thin shirt and her glove. How he radiated heat. The muscles of his shoulders moved under her other fingers as he toyed with her mouth.
Then, suddenly, he was no longer inside her mouth, against her. He moved her hand from his neck. Had she done something wrong?
“Yes?” Hatbrook asked.
Fingers of shock danced down her back when she realized someone else had come into the corridor. She dared not extricate herself and reveal her face.
“Your mother sent me to ask after you?”
She recognized the footman’s voice and sagged with relief.
“I’ll be right down, James. Thank you.”
She kept her face to Hatbrook’s shoulder until the footsteps died away. A moment later, she felt his finger under her chin, lifting. His gaze found hers.
“We should have expected that.”
“It’s the middle of a ball.”
His lips brushed the tip of her nose. “Thank you for everything tonight, Alys.”
She nodded, robbed of speech.
Publisher and Release Date: eKensington, 4 July 2013
Time and Setting: Victorian England
Genre: Historical Romance
Heat Level: 2
Reviewer Rating: 3.5 stars
Review by Jenny Q
I wanted to read this the moment I saw it. I have a huge sweet tooth, and I thought the premise of this one sounded adorable. And it was. Pastries and romance and a dashing marquess — could there be a sweeter combination?
Alys Redcake is perfectly happy with her life. She’s quite happy to be past marriageable age and able to focus on her passion: her father’s growing bakery business. As the chief decorator and maker of special occasion cakes, Alys’s services are in demand among the Ton. She’s proud to be a working woman, whether or not it is deemed unfashionable, and proud to have a measure of independence and a sense of purpose. But all of that changes when Michael Shield, the Marquess of Hatbrook, falls in love with her Scotch trifle, and her father decrees it’s time for Alys to marry and settle into family life. Suffocated by her parents, a war-wounded brother, two sisters — one chronically ill and the other chronically husband hunting — and faced with a future saddled to a man she doesn’t love and banished from her beloved bakery, the charming and handsome marquess who can’t get enough of her sweets and wants to sample her more personal delights is becoming more appealing by the day. Perhaps a partnership with Michael, illicit and inappropriate though it may be at first, could provide a pleasurable solution to her dilemma and allow her to have her cake and eat it too!
I thought The Marquess of Cake was super cute in the beginning and I loved the sexual tension and honest banter between Alys and Michael, but just at the point they really came together, the large cast of supporting characters and a couple of subplots rose up to detract from the development of Alys and Michael’s relationship, which ended up centering more on Alys’s efforts to make Michael cut back on sweets for his health and Michael’s seemingly sudden desire to stifle the independence and intelligence that had drawn him to Alys in the first place. So while the book started off very strongly, I thought the plot and romance development fizzled out a bit and didn’t live up to its full potential. But it was still an enjoyable read, something different, something sexy, and quite satisfying in the end.
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About the author
Heather Hiestand was born in Illinois but her family migrated west before she started school. Since then she has claimed Washington State for home, except for a few years in California. She wrote her first story at age seven and went on to major in creative writing at the University of Washington. Her first published fiction was a mystery short story, but since then romance has been her focus, with forays into speculative fiction. That first published romance short story was set in the Victorian period and she continues to return, fascinated by the rapid changes of the nineteenth century. The author of many novels, novellas and short stories, she has achieved bestseller status on Amazon’s Romance Anthologies and Historical Romance lists and on Amazon UK’s Romance Short Stories list. At Barnes & Noble, she is a top 100 bestseller. With her husband and son, she makes her home in a small town and supposedly works out of her tiny office, though she mostly writes in her easy chair in the living room.
For more information, see her website at http://www.heatherhiestand.com. Heather loves to hear from readers! Her email is firstname.lastname@example.org. She spends too much time on Twitter where she is @hahiestand.