In this spectacular new romance from acclaimed New York Times bestselling author Jane Feather, fate deals one stubbornly single young woman and one deceptively heartless man a shocking hand in a high-stakes bet. But is love in the cards Jack Fortescu gambles to win, and this time his prize is not only his rival's lavish mansion but everything in it-including the man's beautiful sister! But when it comes to games, Jack has met his match. . . . Left homeless by her brother's escapade, Arabella Lacey has two appalling choices: pack her bags-or agree to marry the lunatic who's taken over her house. Why would such a handsome-and outrageously wealthy-man want such an unromantic arrangement Arabella intends to find out, and have a little fun in the process at Jack's expense . . . literally. As Jack discovers that his reluctant bride is no ordinary beauty, he feels a stir of admiration, among other emotions, that wasn't part of the bargain. Now he's the one with everything to lose. . . .
In this boundary-pushing page-turner, bestseller Feather (The Bride Hunt) forsakes the familiar terrain of the Regency era for an earlier decade, that of the French Terror. Englishman Jack Fortescu, the duke of St. Jules, lost his sister in the Terror. Determined to take vengeance on Frederick Lacey, the man who betrayed her to the securit , Jack ruins him at cards, gaining his fortune after Lacey kills himself. With the estate, however, comes Lacey's 28-year-old half-sister Arabella, who's self-confident, blunt and wary of the intentions of the polished but arrogant duke. When he proposes a marriage of convenience, deciding that possessing his enemy's sister is his final revenge, Arabella's suspicions redouble. But she's without support in the world, and marriage would bring her into the London political circles she has always wished to join. While their marriage is more satisfying than either expects, the distrust on both sides and Jack's silence on his past create obstacles that only Arabella's emotional bravery can overcome. Rich with details that put the "historical" back into historical romance, this tale seethes with breathtaking tension even as it explores the aches and joys that a true emotional union brings. (Mar. 29) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information. -- PUBLISHERS WEEKLY.
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March 28, 2005
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Excerpt from Almost a Bride by Jane Feather
The slither of the cards across the baize table, the chink of rouleaux as the players placed their bets, the soft murmur of the groom porters pronouncing the odds were the only sounds in the inner chamber of Brooke's gaming club. Six men sat around the faro table, five playing against the banker. They wore leather bands to protect the laced ruffles of their shirts and leather eyeshades to shield their eyes from the brilliance of the chandeliers, whose many candles cast a dazzling glare upon the baize table. The banker's face was expressionless as he dealt the cards, watched the bets being laid, paid out, or collected at the completion of each turn. To the spectators gathered around the chamber it seemed as if winning or losing was a matter of complete indifference to Jack Fortescu, Duke of St. Jules.
But there were those who knew that it was far from the case. Something other than the usual game of chance was being played out in the elegant room, where despite the late hour the day's summer heat remained trapped, fusty with the smell of sweat mingled with stale perfume and spilled wine. The concentration at the table was focused upon a near-palpable current between the banker and one gamester, and gradually the other players dropped from the game, their supply of rouleaux diminished, their hunger for the gamble for the moment overtaken by this other battle that was being fought.
Only Frederick Lacey, Earl of Dunston, continued to place his bets on the lay out of the cards, with an almost febrile intensity. When he lost he merely thrust his rouleaux across the table to the banker and bet again. The duke, impassive as always, turned up the cards in steady rotation, laying winners to his right hand, losers to his left. Once his cold gray eyes flickered up and across the table to his opponent in a swift assessing scrutiny, then his gaze returned to the table. Neither man spoke a word.
"By God, Jack has the devil in him tonight," Charles James Fox murmured from the doorway, where he stood watching the play. Like several of the others in the room he wore the exaggerated costume of the macaroni, an impossibly tight waistcoat in bright crimson and gold stripes and a beribboned straw hat over hair that was powdered a crazy shade of blue.
"And the devil's own luck it would seem, Charles," his companion replied in the same undertone. His own costume, rich in lace, ruffles, and gold velvet though it was, was almost somber in contrast with the other's. "The luck's been running with him for months."
"And always against Lacey," Fox mused, taking a deep draught of burgundy from the glass he held. "I saw Jack win ten thousand guineas from the man at quinze last night."