Monday, July 30, 2012

A Duchess Monday Featuring Author Stephanie Laurens

Happy Monday everyone! Ready for a little Duchess Monday? How about some Stephanie Laurens's Mastered by Love? One of the first historical romance author's I read when I hit my twenties and she's remained one of my favorites over the past decade. 

Here's today's snippet and all the book details for those that might be interested in looking up the title.

Happy reading!

Mastered by Love
Stephanie Laurens
Bastion Club Series

Back of the Book:

The men of the Bastion Club proved their bravery secretly fighting for their country. Now their leader faces that most dangerous mission of all: finding a bride.
As the mysterious leader of the Bastion Club known as "Dalziel," Royce Varisey, tenth Duke of Wolverstone, served his country for decades, facing dangers untold. But as the holder of one of England's most august noble titles, he must now take on that gravest duty of all: marriage.
Yet the young ladies the grand dames would have him consider are predictably boring. Far more tempting is his castle's willful and determinedly aloof chatelaine, Minerva Chesterton. Beneath her serene fa├žade lies a woman of smoldering sensuality, one who will fill his days with comfort and his nights with sheer pleasure. Determined to claim her, he embarks on a seduction to prove his mastery over every inch of her body . . . and every piece of her heart.

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Days passed, and Royce advanced his cause not one whit. No matter what he did, Minerva evaded him at every turn, surrounding herself with either the estate people or the castle’s guests. 
The plays had proved a major success; they now filled the evenings, allowing her to use the company of the other ladies to elude him every night. He’d reached the point of questioning his not exactly rational but unquestionably honorable disinclination to follow her into her room, trampling on her privacy to press his seduction, his suit. 
While playing a long game was his forte, inaction was another matter; lack of progress on any front had always irked. 
Lack of progress on this front positively hurt. 
And today, the entire company had decided to go to church, presumably to atone for the many sins they’d committed. Despite none of those sins being his, he’d felt obliged to attend, too, especially as Minerva had been going, so what else was he to do?
Wallowing in bed when that bed was otherwise empty—devoid of soft, warm, willing female—had never appealed. 
Seated in the front pew, Minerva beside him, with his sisters beyond her, he let the sermon roll over him, freeing his mind to range where it would—the latest prod to his escalating frustration was its first stop. 
They’d chosen Midsummer Night’s Dream for their play last night—and Minerva had suggested he play Oberon, a chant promptly taken up by the rest of the company in full voice. The twist of fate that had seen her caught by the same company’s brilliant notion that she play Titania, queen to his king, had been, in his opinion, nothing more than her due. 
Given their natures, given the situation, even though their exchanges on stage had been oblique, the palpable tension between them had puzzled a number of their audience. 
That tension, and its inevitable effects, had resulted in another near-sleepless night. 
He slanted a glance to his right, to where she, his fixation, sat, her gaze dutifully trained on Mr. Cribthorn, the vicar, rambling from his pulpit about long-dead Corinthians. 
She knew who and what he was; no one knew him better. Yet she’d deliberately set out to cross swords with him—and thus far she was winning. 
Accepting defeat on any stage had never come easily; his only recent failure had been over bringing to justice the last traitor he and his men knew lurked somewhere in the government. There were some things fate didn’t allow. 
Be that as it may, accepting defeat with Minerva was…entirely beyond his scope. One way or another she was going to be his—his lover first, then his wife. 
Her capitulation on both counts would happen—had to happen—soon. He’d told the grandes dames a week, and that week was nearly past. While he doubted they’d haul themselves all the way back to Northumbria if they didn’t see a notice in the Gazette this coming week, he wouldn’t put it past them to start sending candidates north—in carriages designed to break axles and wheels as they neared Wolverstone’s gates. 
The vicar called the congregation to their feet for the benediction; everyone rose. Subsequently, once the vicar had passed on his way up the aisle, Royce stepped out of the pew, stepped back to let Minerva go ahead of him, then followed, leaving his sisters trailing shawls and reticules in his wake. 
As usual, they were the first out of the church, but he’d noticed one of his more affluent farmers among the worshippers; as they stepped down to the path, he bent his head close beside Minerva’s. “I want to have a word with Cherry.” 
She glanced back and up at him. 
And time stopped. 
With Margaret and Aurelia distracting the vicar, they were the only two in the churchyard—and they were very close, their lips inches apart. 
Her eyes, rich browns flecked with gold, widened; her breath caught, suspended. Her gaze lowered to his lips. 
His dropped to hers… 
He dragged in a breath and straightened. 
She blinked, and stepped away. “Ah…I must speak with Mrs. Cribthorn, and some of the other ladies.” 
He nodded stiffly, forced himself to turn away. Just as the rest of the congregation came flooding down the steps. 
Searching for Cherry, he set his jaw. Soon. She was going to lie beneath him very soon.

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