RT Book Review
INVITATION TO SCANDAL
by Bronwen Evans
Genre: England, Historical Romance
Setting: England 1809
RT Rating 4 Stars
With snappy dialogue, lively action, a hero that believes in honor above all and a strong heroine who loves fiercely, Evans’ story will have readers laughing and crying, savoring every scene.
Rheda Kerrich has been helping the townspeople and trying to hold on to the family home for her brother in her own unconventional way, as local smuggler “Dark Shadow.” She has one last shipment to deal with before retirement, but then Rheda gets stuck under a barrel of French brandy and is found by Rufus Knight, Viscount Strathmore.
He is immediately attracted to Rheda, thinking she is a simple village girl. Rufus is in Kent to find the smuggler and decides to seduce Rheda, but he will not rest until he finds the Dark Shadow — the only one who can clear his father of treason. But the closer he gets to Rheda and the truth, the more dangerous things become. (BRAVA, May, 320 pp., $15.00)
Reviewed By: Jill Brager
Invitation to Scandal is set in the coastal village of Deal, Kent, a notorious smugglers’ stomping ground. I thought of the premise for the book when I read a Daniel Defoe poem about smuggling and it mentions Deal.
“If I had any satire left to write,
Could I with suited spleen indite,
My verse should blast that fatal town,
And drown’d sailors’ widows pull it down;
No footsteps of it should appear,
And ships no more cast anchor there.
The barbarous hated name of Deal shou’d die,
Or be a term of infamy;
And till that’s done, the town will stand
A just reproach to all the land”
Daniel Defoe 17th Century
But I thought to make it more interesting, the smuggler would be female. There were so few ways a LADY could make a living in the early 1800′s and it seemed logical, given Rheda Kerrick lived near Deal, that she’d devise a means to save her brother’s inheritance.
Of course she’d not counted on the devilishly handsome, Viscount Strathmore, Rufus Knight, deciding that the smuggler called Dark Shadow, her, was the key to clearing his father’s name. Nor did she expect his wicked attempts at seduction to have her craving his touch…
Here’s an excerpt – Rufus has helped to free Rheda from being trapped by a very large barrel of French brandy…
Rheda’s eyes slowly flickered open, and she saw a canopy of blue sky above her. For several minutes, while she recovered her senses, she lay on the fragrant grass, enjoying the sunshine and the sensation of firm, strong hands expertly stroking her legs . . .
She bolted into a sitting position and tried to slap off the far-too-familiar hands.
“What do you think you are doing?” she forced out in a wobbly voice, her body heating with shame. She’d actually been taking pleasure in his touch. She tried to gather her legs to her chest, but his hands tightened around her ankles.
“I am merely trying to help the blood flow back into your limbs.” He flashed a smile so roguish it had Rheda nearly succumbing to his charm. Then he added, “It has been the most pleasant of tasks. You have extremely pretty legs.”
Don’t blush. Don’t give him the satisfaction.
“Shall I continue?” Without waiting for a reply he slid his long, lean fingers up under her dress.
She followed their path with her eyes. She seemed frozen—his touch calming her into submission—much as her touch did with her horses. He stroked up her stocking-covered leg, the sensation very seductive. It was shockingly so, once his fingers met the bare skin of her thigh.
Rheda felt a sudden warmth pool in her stomach. She had never experienced such a purely primal, feminine reaction to a man’s touch before. But then she’d never allowed any man such freedom with her person.
She dragged her gaze from his hands, up his broad chest and wide shoulders, onward past his perfectly tied cravat. This man was too handsome for her own good. Like a poisonous eel, he looked harmless, but a touch could be deadly.
His eyes darkened, reminding her of the hot chocolate she’d drunk this morning. They locked with hers, causing heat to sear along her nerve endings, where previously she’d had no feeling at all.
“Your legs may experience some tingling once the circulation starts working properly.”
Oh, she tingled all right.
“That is enough, thank you.” He did not loosen his grip on her ankles. “My legs are perfectly fine.”
“Now that I have freed you,” he said in a voice as smooth as the fine French brandy she held in her barrel, “you will return the favor by helping me.”
The hairs on her arms prickled. This could not be good. If he discovered her true identity, it would get back to Daniel. If that happened, Daniel would definitely put an end to her activities. She needed more time . . . Not only that, they could be in serious trouble, accused of participating in free trade.
His next words threw her off balance. “You’re very tempting, you know.” His voice and the fire in his teasing eyes were having a similar seductive effect as the alcohol would have.
Who was she fooling? She’d been off balance the minute he’d gazed upon her.
“Your beauty cannot be disguised by these rags. I see someone has given you fine silk stockings, your lover perhaps. He must be a wealthy man.”
“I have no lover.” Rheda could tell by the quirk of his brow that he did not believe her. A woman dressed as she was, with hidden silk stockings. No wonder he had jumped to the wrong conclusion. She shook her head. “Besides, I had nothing to do with the face God bestowed on me. It is not meant to entice you. I cannot help how I look.”
He nodded. “No more than I can help wanting to glory in it.”
With those husky words, he rose over her, slowly pressing her back into the fresh green grass. She felt every inch of his lean, hard body, and his masculine scent filled her nostrils. Rheda’s body betrayed her, welcoming the feel of him; the aroma of sandalwood and virile man became a heady rush that enhanced all her senses.
His lips hovered by her ear as he ran his hand slowly up the inside of her leg. His fingers found the top of her thigh, and with a small cry, she pushed her hands against his shoulders and squirmed beneath him. She tried to twist away from his touch, but he captured her wrists in his other hand and thrust them on the ground above her head.
“Come now, do not play coy with me. You are old enough to know the games men and women play. I would give you great pleasure. I would satisfy you more than any of your other lovers.”
She’d had no other lovers. How could she make him believe that?
Before she could respond, his lips found hers in a drugging kiss. The slight stubble around his chin was abrasive on her skin—Rheda decided she liked the feeling. He played with her lower lip, sucking it between his, gently nipping. It made her light-headed. His tongue probed the entrance to her mouth until she surrendered and opened to him. His tongue swept in, and a tremor rocked her. He tasted divine. Like the waves crashing on the rocks, something wild and wanton unlocked and broke free. She embraced the madness his kiss was unleashing within her.
She’d never experienced a kiss like it. With each heaving breath she could feel her breasts pushing against a solid wall of muscle, and to her horror, her nipples hardened. Her gasp formed a tangled knot in her throat. She could not speak. She could only feel the heat of his hand burning her skin where he touched her, igniting bewildering forces in her blood.
Finally he drew back. “What is your name?” he murmured as he lightly tickled the back of her knee.
Rheda’s brain spun. She could not give him her name; things had gone too far. She could barely think with his hand stroking her leg. Her heated skin turned maddeningly sensitive to his touch. It was humiliating to have one’s body react wantonly at the mere touch of a stranger, even if he was the most attractive man she’d ever clapped eyes upon. She shivered and jerked involuntarily, the movement causing his muscled thigh to slip between her legs.
He flashed a smile full of sin and pressed his thigh against the most intimate part of her. Sizzling warmth flooded her lower body, making her burn with mortification. Her heart pounded in a frantic beat as she realized for the first time in her life she was aroused—aroused and infuriated.
“Do not . . . Get your hands off me.”
Ignoring her words, Lord Strathmore’s lips pressed lightly to her neck and he whispered, “Where did you get the barrel?”
There is another excerpt on my website. Be one of the first to win a signed coy of INVITATION TO SCANDAL. Simply tell me in which county in England Deal is situated (I think it’s mentioned above).