Lia Kincaid, illegitimate daughter of the Duke of York, comes from a long line of notorious women. Raised by her grandmother, formerly mistress to the late Marquess of Lendale, she has little hope of a respectable marriage. But the new Marquess, her childhood friend, Jack Easton, would make a very desirable protector . . . if he weren’t too honorable to take her to bed.It s bad enough being saddled with a title he never desired. Now Jack must resist the beautiful woman he desires far too much. Duty calls, and he is duty-bound to choose a wealthy bride. But then Lia makes another outrageous suggestion: asking Jack to devise some tests to find her the perfect paramour. Tests that involve flirting, kissing, and other pleasurable pursuits. Tests that, in a matter of weeks, could transform friendship into the ton s greatest scandal, igniting a passion even duty can t deny. . .
“Trying to set me up as a courtesan is rather drastic,” Lia said. “I’m not you or Mama. I’m not a patch on either of you.”
“Nonsense. You’ve grown into a stunning young woman. With a little help from me and some financial support, you could very well take London by storm.”
There were so many things wrong with that plan that Lia didn’t know where to start. “I have another idea, Gran, and I’m convinced it’s the best one we could possibly come up with.”
Her grandmother had been reaching to replenish her teacup, but her hand halted in midair. “I’m listening.”
“I’ll join Mama’s acting troupe. They’re looking for new company members now that they’re in London. Mama said so in her last letter. And I’m sure I could live with Mama and Mr. Lester in their town house in Kensington.”
Her grandmother regarded her with a dubious air. “Unfortunately, there are a number of critical drawbacks to that plan.”
“You can’t sing, dance, or act.”
That was rather a low blow. “I’m not much of a singer, I grant you. But I’m sure I can learn to dance, and you know very well I can act.”
Lia had been playacting for as long as she could remember and had often dreamed girlish dreams of following in her mother’s famous footsteps. She’d put on any number of recitations for her grandmother and his lordship over the years and had staged skits and little dramas for the servants, often with help from the kitchen maids and footmen. Granny and Lord Lendale had often told her that she was as fine an actress as Mrs. Siddons.
“My darling, the truth is you’re a dreadful actress,” her grandmother said in a patient tone.
“But you and his lordship were always so enthusiastic about my performances,” she protested.
“Because we didn’t want to hurt your feelings.”
“But what about the amateur theatricals I put on up at the house? The servants all seemed to think I was splendid.”
Her grandmother rolled her eyes.
She couldn’t help feeling daunted, but she had no intention of conceding—especially if the alternative was to become the next Notorious Kincaid. Lia was convinced she’d make an utter fool of herself as a courtesan, especially because her heart wouldn’t be in it.
“I don’t care what you say,” she said. “I’m writing to Mama tonight and telling her I’m coming to London. I can at least try out the notion on her and Mr. Lester and see what they say.”
Her grandmother seemed to waver for a moment, but then she grimaced. “I feel certain your mother will not be amenable to you taking up the theatrical life.”
“But she will be amenable to me becoming someone’s mistress?” Lia asked with disbelief.
Granny starched up. “It was good enough for me, was it not?”
“Look how well that’s turned out.”
“I’m sure under certain conditions your mother will agree to this plan,” Granny said, clearly determined to ignore Lia’s objections.
“And what are those conditions?”
“That won’t become entirely clear until I’ve had a chance to speak with Jack.”
Lia’s mind blanked for a few moments. “What in heaven’s name does Jack have to do with me becoming a courtesan?”
Granny’s eyebrows lifted with delicate incredulity. “Because you’re feeling a little squeamish about this plan, I think he should be your first.”
Lia got a very bad feeling—which was something, considering how alarming the entire discussion had been thus far. “First what?” she asked, praying she had misunderstood.
“Your first lover, of course. But only if I can persuade him to agree to our terms.”
After reading My Fair Princess , I was anxious to find out Charles’s BFF Jack’s story–and I’m happy to say, seeing him as the star of his own story made me love him even more. (Though OMG, could he wait any longer to tell Lia those three magic words? Men! Fortunately he knows how to bring an excellent ending, which makes up for much.)
I enjoyed Lia too, though her idea of becoming a courtesan/seeking a protector–which on a certain level seems to make a teensy bit of sense, but would have made her absolutely miserable which everyone who knows her realizes (except her mother and grandmother, argh) goes on for waaaaaaaaaay to long, which was frustrating. Ms. Kelly gave her a powerful experience to show her the error of her thinking, though, and, like Jack, she helps to bring together the awesome ending when it counts.
Once again the secondary characters are a lot of fun, both those who have had their own books already and those who will hopefully have them in the future. In all, I can’t wait to see where this series goes next!
Rating: 4 stars / B+
I voluntarily reviewed an Advance Reader Copy of this book.
Vanessa Kelly is a USA Today Bestselling, award-winning author who was named by Booklist, the review journal of the American Library Association, as one of the “New Stars of Historical Romance.” Her Regency-set historical romances have been nominated for awards in a number of contests, and her second book, Sex and The Single Earl, won the prestigious Maggie Medallion for Best Historical Romance.