Augusta Ballinger was quite sure that it was all a dreadful mistake. The chillingly pompous and dangerously disturbing Earl of Graystone could not possibly wish to marry her. Why, it was rumored that his chosen bride must be a veritable model of virtue. And everyone knew that Augusta, as the last of the wild, reckless Northumberland Ballingers, was a woman who could not be bothered by society’s rules.
That was why the spirited beauty had planned a midnight encounter to warn the earl off, to convince him that she would make him a very poor wife indeed. But when she crawled in through his darkened study window, Augusta only succeeded in strengthening Harry’s resolve: to kiss the laughter from those honeyed lips and teach this maddening miss to behave! How could he possibly know that it was he who was in for a lesson…as his brazen fiancée set out to win his heart and an old and clever enemy stepped in to threaten their love, their honor, and their very lives?
With its predictable resolution, obvious villain and a hero and heroine who are strikingly similar to those in the author's most recent contemporary romance ( Sweet Fortune, written as Jayne Ann Krentz), this Regency falls short in both originality and intrigue. The scholarly Harry Fleming, earl of Graystone, prizes loyalty above all else. A former spy, he is haunted by his failure to nab a traitor known as the Spider. Furthermore, his wife was ``a lying, deceitful, falsehearted bitch.'' Now a widower, Harry's in the market for a second wife. He has selected as his bride Augusta Ballinger, a reckless but steadfastly loyal woman, and knowing she will balk, he persuades her guardian to present the engagement to her as a fait accompli. Despite her attraction to Henry, Augusta is indeed convinced that a free spirit doesn't belong with a stick-in-the-mud scholar. But the marriage proceeds, and as Harry tries to fashion a proper wife out of Augusta, he begins to believe that a document linked to the suspicious death of her brother two years earlier may offer a clue to the identity of the elusive Spider. (Nov.)