All the king's horses and all the king's men could not surpass the intellect and beauty of Merlin Lambourne. As the infamous Napoleon's deadly army grows ever closer, Lord Ransom Falconer frantically searches for an inventor who can create a new way to defeat the advancing forces. He unexpectedly finds that only the lovely Merlin is adequate for the challenge. Drunk from her intoxicating beauty, Falconer whisks Merlin back to his home on a trail of tender kisses, oblivious to mounting whispers of scandal. His quickly falls under the spell of her magical touch. But as Napoleon draws nearer, Falconer must use Merlin's own inventions to protect her from danger. The magic of love surrounds them as they fall under the spell of undeniable passion.
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December 01, 1999
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Excerpt from Midsummer Moon by Laura Kinsale
For the fourth time, His Grace the Duke of Damerell lifted the knocker with his free hand and brought the tarnished brass crashing down on its mottled-green base. For the fourth time, the sound echoed on the other side of the oaken door, unanswered. Ransom Falconer's mouth drew back in the faintest hint of a grimace.
He and his horse appeared to be the only civilized creatures within five square miles. Had he thought otherwise, he would never have allowed himself such a show of emotion. The overgrown Tudor walls rose above him, gray stone and neglect, an affront to the values of ten generations of Falconers. Admittedly, from where he stood on the threshold Ransom could see the romantic possibilities of the place: shaped gables and tall oriel windows and dark spreading trees, but at the very thought of such sentimentality those Falconer ghosts seemed to stare in haughty disapproval at his back. Without conscious intention, his own aristocratic features hardened into that hereditary expression of disdain.
Princes had been known to quail before such a look. There had been a few kings, too, and innumerable queens and duchesses and courtly ladies, all struck dumb and uneasy beneath the Falconer stare. Four centuries of power and politics had evolved and improved the expression, until by Ransom's time it was a weapon of chilling efficiency. He himself had learned it early...at his grandfather's elegant knee.
As it was, when at last the rusty lock creaked and crashed and the door opened on a complaining groan, the figure peering out from the gloom received the full force of His Grace's pitiless mien. The young maid would have been forgiven by a host of knowledgeable Whigs if she'd turned tail and run in the instant before Ransom recalled himself and softened his expression. But she did not. She merely wiped her hands on a grimy white apron and lifted a pair of vaguely frowning gray eyes. "Yes?" she asked, in a voice which might have been testy had it not been so preoccupied. "What is it?"
Ransom held out his card in one immaculately gloved hand.
She took the card. Without even glancing at it, she stuck the engraved identification into one bulging pocket of her apron.
Ransom watched his calling card disappear, shocked to the core of his pedigreed soul at such poorly trained service. "Mr. Lambourne is at home?" he prompted, keeping his voice quietly modulated. She might be a country mouse of a maid, a shade too softly rounded to be in vogue, but she was a pretty chit with those misty-gray eyes and elegant cheekbones, made more striking by the stark simplicity of her coiled chestnut hair. Not that His Grace the Duke of Damerell was in the habit of dallying with housemaids...she was not at all in his usual style in any case...but he found no advantage in needlessly frightening her. Ransom even allowed himself a moment's human pleasure, his glance resting briefly on her full lower lip before he looked up and lifted one eyebrow in expectant question.
She blinked at him. He found himself experiencing a peculiar sensation. Her eyes held his, but it was as if she did not even see him standing there, but looked past him at some distant horizon. Her mouth puckered. She lifted her hand, resting one delicate forefinger on that sweetly shaped lower lip.
"Square the coefficient of the diameter of the number three strut," she murmured.
"I beg your pardon?"
She blinked again and dropped her hand. Her eyes came into soft focus. "Can you remember that?"
"I'm afraid I don't?"