It is whispered behind the fans of London's dowagers and in the corners of fashionable ballrooms that scandal follows willfully wild Lady Beatrix Lennox wherever she goes.
Three years before, the debutante created a sensation by being found in a distinctly compromising position. Now, the ton has branded her as unmarriageable, her family has called her a vixen, and Beatrix sees no reason not to go after what -- and who -- she wishes.
And she wants Stephen Fairfax-Lacy, the handsome Earl of Spade. Beatrix, with her brazen suggestions and irresistibly sensuous allure, couldn't be more different from the earl's ideal future bride. Yet Beatrix brings out a wildness in the earl he has tried to deny far too long. Still, he's not about to play love's game by Lady Beatrix's rules. She may be used to being on top in affairs of the heart, but that will soon change.
After reading James's newest offering (following Fool for Love), some might be tempted to call her "the historical Jennifer Crusie." In this book, as in her previous ones, her flawed, outrageous and sometimes willfully blindered characters stumble through obstacle courses erected through their own misapplied judgments, making readers hoot with self-recognition every blundering step of the way. Very pregnant Lady Rawlings, once known as Infamous Esme for her wild affairs, has decided to renounce scandal for the sake of her child a goal too often thrown off track by her passion for the formerly upright Marquess Bonnington, who resides on her estate disguised as her gardener despite her attempts to fire him. In contrast, Esme's houseguest, Stephen Fairfax-Lacy, seeks a little scandal, but not so much that his Parliamentary career would be put in jeopardy-which rules out a tryst with the dramatically ruined minx Lady Bea, another of Esme's guests. A faked affair, a trumped-up engagement and an unfortunate encounter with a stubborn goat snowball into a hilarious yet sharp war between love and respectability. Punctuating her story with spot-on lines like "She had felt very a la mode in her chamber, but now she felt dismally overdressed, like a dog wearing a sweater," James gives readers plenty of reasons to laugh.
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February 23, 2004
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Excerpt from A Wild Pursuit by Eloisa James
In Which Scandal Brews in Wiltshire
It is a truth universally acknowledged by women that it is far easier to dress when the point is to cover one's body, than when one desires to leave expanses of flesh delectably uncovered.
In the days of Esme Rawlings's reign over London society, it took her hours to clothe herself. She would emerge as a caterpillar from its coccoon: silky black curls gleaming over pearly shoulders, bodice miraculously suspended in air at the very moment of dropping to her waist, delectable curves swathed in a fabric so light and revealing that many gentlemen weakened at the knees at her very sight. Other gentlemen stiffened. It was all a matter of constitution.
These days it took precisely twenty minutes to throw on enough clothing to cover herself, and gentlemen in her vicinity never showed reaction beyond a sharpish discomfort at the apparition of a woman with a stomach the size of a large cannonball.
"I am plump as a pork pudding," Esme said, peering at herself in the mirror over her dressing table.
"I wouldn't say that," her aunt said with her characteristic drawl. Viscountess Withers was seated in a small chair, riffling through her reticule. "Drat, I cannot find my handkerchief."
"Stupendously stout," Esme said disconsolately.
"You are carrying a babe," Arabella said, looking up and narrowing her eyes. Clearly a pair of pince-nez would have come in handy, but spectacles were inconceivable, given the dictates of fashion. "I never liked the look of it. But you, my dear, might go far to changing my mind. How dare you look so delightful? Perhaps your example will finish the ridiculous habit of women confining themselves. Such a punitive word, confinement."
"Oh pooh," Esme said, rather rudely. "I am reaching elephantine proportions. No one would wish to see me on the streets of London."