King George sends his private investigator, an Irishman, Kieran Flynn, Lord Montsimon, on a mission, the reason for which is unclear. Is it a plot against the Crown? Or something entirely unrelated? Flynn’s inquiries lead him to the widow, Lady Althea Brookwood. Known amongst the ton as a rake, Flynn is rarely turned down by a lady, and when Althea refuses not just him but many other men, he becomes intrigued. After her neighbor, Sir Harold Crowthorne informs Althea that he means to take her country property, Owltree Cottage, by fair means or foul, she must search for help. The first man she turns to is promptly murdered and the second lies to her. That leaves Flynn, Lord Montsimon, a man she has been studiously avoiding. But Montsimon is decidedly unhelpful, and more than a little mysterious. Her only option is to seduce him. Althea has little confidence that she will succeed, especially as before her husband was killed in a duel, he often told her she was quite hopeless at intimacy. When a spy is murdered, Flynn wonders just what Althea knows and what her involvement might be with the man the king wants Flynn to investigate.
Read an excerpt:
(Lord Montsimon and Lady Althea Brookwood are forced to share a bed for the night.)
The attic room had a low, sloping ceiling. A green hook rug covered the floor and a jug, basin, and towels had been placed on the tall dresser. A straight-backed chair sat in the corner and the bed against the far wall. Mrs. Fletcher’s description of the bed had been accurate: the small wooden bedstead was covered in a bright quilt and not designed for two. Althea stared at it, her throat tight with dismay, as Montsimon shut the door. His nearness in the small space was overwhelming.
Seemingly unaffected, Montsimon peeled off his coat and sat on the feather-filled mattress, which sank visibly under his weight. He looked annoyingly at home. He tugged at his cravat then undid the buttons on his shirt to reveal a strong throat and a glimpse of dark chest hair. She took in the male strength, the cleanliness and beauty of him and turned away to fuss with her cloak before hanging it over the chair.
“Would you help me off with my boots?”
“I’m hardly a valet,” she said, sounding peevish.
“Not as strong, but we shall manage,” he said with a grin. His waistcoat joined his coat on the chair. How much was he going to remove? She wished her breath would slow.
Althea took hold of the mud-splashed, black leather Hessian boot and pulled. It didn’t budge.
“Perhaps a bit harder?”
Annoyed by his manner, she gave a violent yank. The boot slid down Montsimon’s well-defined calf so fast she fell onto her derriere on the hard plank floor.
“Are you all right?” Montsimon’s grin widened as he leapt up.
“Perfectly.” She waved his hand away and climbed to her feet, resisting a rub of the damaged area. “Your other foot if you please.”
“If you’re sure?” he asked with a burst of laughter.
With a dismissive scowl, she planted her feet and taking a firm hold of the boot, eased it down more gradually. It slid off his leg without further mishap. There was something disturbingly intimate about his broad chest encased in white linen, the form-fitting grey trousers and his big stockinged feet. Had she ever seen Brookwood this way? He always came to her chamber dressed in his banyan and slippers. And she had dreaded the sight of him.
Montsimon stood, ducking his head under a beam. “You’ll never manage that dress on your own.”
She crossed her arms. “I’m keeping it on.”
“Such a pretty gown was meant for a drawing room, not for sleeping in.”
“Nevertheless, I shall sleep in it.” She perched on the chair and took off her shoes.
He frowned. “Give me a look at those.”
“Why?” She handed them to him.
He turned a shoe over in his big hands. The sole of one had worn through. “These are about to fall apart. I had no idea you wore such flimsy shoes.”
“They are meant for drawing rooms, my lord. As is my dress.”
“That gown will look like a rag in the morning. As you have nothing else to change into, you will have to bear it until we return to London.”
Why did he so often make sense? She brushed down her skirts, which were already dreadfully crushed, and was forced to agree. She wasn’t a shy, green girl; she just didn’t want to inflame Flynn’s passions. It would take very little, she suspected. But her underwear covered her and was perfectly modest. “The bed is too small. A gentleman would sleep in the chair.”
His eyebrows flew up. “It’s made of wood.”
He flapped a hand in dismissal. “I intend to sleep in that bed, my lady. Where you choose to sleep is entirely up to you. I’m going downstairs to wash at the pump. While I’m away, you can undress and hide beneath the covers.” He paused, one hand on the doorknob. “Again, do you require help to undo those impossible little buttons at your back?”
“Odd that this problem didn’t occur to me when I chose to wear it.” Her lips puckered in annoyance. While they were arguing, what remained of the night was passing. She turned her back. “If you will.” If he treated her like a servant, she would do likewise.
Her hair had begun to escape the topknot, and she swept it up out of the way, scattering pins. She tingled under the gentle touch of his fingers as they moved down her back. Her gown fell away. “What are you doing?”
“Unlacing your stays. You can’t sleep in this uncomfortable garment!”
“I had intended to,” she said, pulling away as he tugged at the laces. Too late, she felt them give.
“You have lovely hair, Althea,” he said softly.
His use of her name was very seductive. Her pulse skittered alarmingly. She spun around, clutching the bodice of her dress to her chest as her stays slipped to the floor.
Montsimon looked her up and down, warm approval in his gaze.
She backed away from him, longing for the shelter of darkness. “Once I’m in bed, shall I blow out the candle?”
“If you wish.” Montsimon closed the door behind him.
I love spy stories and I love regency stories and this book was a perfect fit of the two. Althea has been given a rough shake in life, as a lot of women back then were. They were more cattle than humans. Her father sold her off basically and then the lout she was married to up and dies, leaving her with basically nothing. Then suitors start circling her like dogs with a bone. When more dangerous events begin to happen in her life, one of those suitors surprisingly comes to her rescue. I really enjoyed the espionage and intrigue with an awesome dash of romance. Great, great story.
About the author:
Maggi Andersen and her lawyer husband live in a quaint old town in the Southern Highlands of New South Wales, Australia. She enjoys her garden and hand feeds six kookaburras and a variety of birdlife.
Apart from writing, reading and reviewing books, Maggi enjoys watching movies, Downton Abbey, going to the gym and swimming.
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Knox Robinson Publishing: http://www.knoxrobinsonpublishing.com/book/what-a-rake-wants/
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