Lady Arabella Blydon has beauty and a brain, and she's tired of men who can see only one without the other.When a suitor tells Arabella he's willing to overlook her appalling bluestocking tendencies on account of her looks and fortune, she decides to take a break from the Marriage Mart. During an extended stay in the country, she never expects to meet Lord John Blackwood, a wounded war hero who intrigues her like no other man.Lord John has lived through the worst horros of war...but nothing could have been as terrifying to his tormented heart as Lady Arabella. She is intoxicating, infuriating...and she makes him want to live again. Suddenly he's writing bad poetry and climbing trees in the pitch-dark night...just so he can dance with her as the clock strikes midnight. And even though he knows he can never be the sort of man she deserves, he can't help wanting her. But when the harsh light of day replaces the magic of midnight, can this tormented soul learn to love again?
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July 30, 2002
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Excerpt from Dancing at Midnight by Julia Quinn
Oxfordshire, England, 1816
If, one by one, you weeded all the world '
Arabella Blydon blinked. That couldn't be right. There weren't any gardeners in The Winter's Tale. She held the book farther from her face. Even worse. She pulled the book closer. The type on the page slowly focused.
If, one by one, you wedded all the world '
Belle sighed and leaned back against a tree trunk. That made a lot more sense. She blinked a couple of times, willing her bright blue eyes to focus on the words that lay before her on the page. They refused to obey, but she wasn't about to read with, her face pressed into the book, so she squinted and plodded on.
A chilly wind passed across her, and she glanced up at the overcast sky. It was going to rain, no doubt about that, but if she were lucky she'd have another hour until the first drops fell. That was all the time she'd need to finish The Winter's Tale. And that would mark the end of her Grand Shakespearean Quest, the semi-academic endeavor that had occupied her spare time for nearly six months. She'd started with All's Well that Ends Well and proceeded alphabetically, wending her way through Hamlet, all the Henrys, Romeo and Juliet, and a host of other plays she hadn't even heard of before. She wasn't exactly sure why she'd done it, other than the simple fact that she liked to read, but now that the end was in sight she was damned if she was going to let a few raindrops get in her way.
Belle gulped and looked this way and that, as if afraid that someone had heard her cursing in her thoughts. She glanced back up at the sky. A beam of sunshine burst through a tiny hole in the clouds. Belle took that as a sign for optimism and plucked a chicken sandwich out of her picnic lunch. She bit into it daintily and picked up her book again. The words seemed just as unwilling to focus as before, so she moved the volume closer to her face, which she contorted in a number of different ways until she found a squint that worked.
"There you go, Arabella," she muttered. "If you can just hold this exceedingly uncomfortable pose for another forty-five minutes, you should have no problem with the rest of your book."
"Of course your facial muscles will probably be quite sore by that point," drawled a voice from behind her.
Belle dropped her book and whirled her head around. Standing a few yards away was a gentleman in casual, yet elegant, attire. His hair was a rich chocolate brown and his eyes were the exact same color. He was looking down at her and her solitary picnic with an amused expression, and his lazy pose indicated that he'd been watching her for some time. Belle glared at him, unable to think of anything to say but hoping that her scornful gaze would put him in his place.
It didn't seem to do the trick. In fact, he looked even more amused by her. "You need spectacles," he said simply.
"And you are trespassing," she retorted.