Society dictates that a governessshould be modest, quiet, and keep to herself. She should never contradict her employer. And, above all, she must not attract the attention of any male in the household. But Michael Severson doesn't see Isabel Halloran as a governess -- he sees her as a woman, one whose lush curves cannot be hidden behind a dowdy gown ... and whose efforts at hiding her sparkling intelligence are betrayed by her wit. Years before, Michael had left Regency England, falsely accused of a crime. Now he is back, dedicated to seeking retribution -- but not to taking a bride. But when his scandalous actions compromise Isabel's reputation, he does the unthinkable and offers her his hand -- a marriage in name only. But although his bride's passions are untried, Isabel's sensuality clearly matches his own. And with each day, and night, that passes, Michael becomes determined that every kiss, every caress, will be made with one goal: to seduce his proper wife into tender submission.
Having fled to the colonies to avoid being framed for murder, Michael Severson returns years later to England to find the real killer in Maxwell's latest Regency confection, a slightly darker entry than her usual fare (Seduction of an English Lady, etc.). Michael needs a way into society if he's to make any headway exonerating himself. At a house party in the country, the perfect opportunity presents itself in the form of Miss Isabel Halloran, a governess. The two find themselves in a compromising position from which marriage seems the only escape but Isabel harbors a secret of her own, and she's not sure she can trust Michael to keep it. The murdered mistress who haunts the lovers weighs down the story, and the central mystery remains underdeveloped until the latter half of the book, when suddenly the secondary characters begin piling up. In addition, the chemistry between the protagonists isn't as convincing as it could be because Maxwell too often tells rather than shows their attraction. Still, the author's fans will warm to her appealing protagonists, even if there isn't much to distinguish this effort from the many other Regency mystery-romances crowding bookstore shelves. (Sept.) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information. -- PUBLISHERS WEEKLY.
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August 31, 2004
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Excerpt from Temptation of a Proper Governess by Cathy Maxwell
Miss Lillian Wardley's bed was empty.
Isabel Halloran, her governess, greeted the sight with a combination of frustration and panic. Lillian had a reputation for being promiscuous. Curbing her wild ways was one of the duties Isabel had been hired to perform three months earlier.
Isabel did not need a clash of wills with Lillian tonight. She was fighting her own demons or rather, one demon, Lord Riggs, Richard, a man she once believed she'd loved until he had attempted to take her by force. He was a guest under this roof, and she was determined to avoid him. She didn't want him to know she was there. The pain of his betrayal was still too fresh.
Isabel had no desire to be out wandering the halls, looking for her errant charge.
She should have known Lillian was up to something. The seventeen-year-old had been too quiet, too accommodating, and had excused herself far too early for bed that evening. Her unquestioning obedience was out of character and had disturbed Isabel enough for her to rise from her own bed, throw her brown day dress over her nightgown, and check on Lillian.
It was half past midnightý and she had a sinking suspicion where Lillian might be.
Holding a protective hand around the candle flame, Isabel hurried across the hall to knock on Nanny's door. It took more than one knock to disturb the older woman's sleep.
The door opened. "Miss Halloran, is there something with the children?" Nanny rasped, squinting at the candle flame. She had the care of Mr. Wardley's three younger children by his second wife, a very buxom former tavern girl with ambition to match her husband's.
"Lillian is missing."
"Missing?" Nanny repeated without comprehension.
"She's not in her bed. I need your help finding her."
Nanny came awake. "Oh, dear." She opened the door while she reached for her dressing gown hanging on a nearby nail. "The last time she did this we found her with the stable lad. 'Twas before your time. I know you've heard about it."