Filled with suspense, seduction, mystery, and passionate love, the unforgettable romance novels of Madeline Hunter have earned critical accolades and captivated readers. Now, in The Charmer, the nationally bestselling author weaves a spellbinding tale of an exiled duchess, a charismatic aristocrat, and a once-in-a-lifetime seduction worth risking everything for...
Although most early 19th-century romances have a narrow scope, the subgenre
continues to draw readers thanks to the ingenuity of writers like Hunter (The Seducer, etc.), whose newest offering is based on a seldom-visited chapter of English history. As rioting spreads throughout Britain in 1831, rising
political figure Adrian Burchard, the illegitimate son of a nobleman, is charged with bringing a young duchess back from Paris because the votes she controls in Parliament are urgently needed to defeat a voting reform bill.
Sophia Raughley, who has painful reasons of her own for objecting a return to England, soon finds that even her strong will is no match for Adrian's. Resentful at being used and manipulated by others, Sophia battles his attempts
to control her even as the sexual and emotional attraction between them intensifies. Society throws up obstacles, however: for one, Sophia's elevated title places her out of Adrian's reach. A violent plot to marry her off to a man chosen by her late, rigid father adds believable complications and will have readers holding their breath, hoping for a happy ending. With its rich historical texture, steamy love scenes and indelible protagonists, this book embodies the best of the genre. (Dec. 2) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information. -- PUBLISHERS WEEKLY.
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December 02, 2003
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Excerpt from The Charmer by Madeline Hunter
Adrian crossed the drawing room's threshold and found himself in the middle of an Arab harem.
Women swathed in colorful pantaloons and veils lounged beside men dressed in flowing robes. A fortune in silk billowed down from the high, frescoed ceiling, forming a massive tent. Two tiger skins stretched over the pastel tapestry rugs, and bejeweled pillows and throws buried settees and chairs. An exotic, heavy scent drifted under those of incense and perfume. Hashish. In the darkest corners some men kissed and fondled their ladies, but no outright orgy had ensued.
A man on a mission, with no interest in this type of diversion, Adrian walked slowly through the costumed bodies, looking for a female who fit the description of the Duchess of Everdon.
He noticed a canopied corner that appeared to be the place of honor. He aimed for it, ignoring the women who looked his way and smiled invitingly.
The canopy draped a small dais holding a chaise longue. A woman rested on it in a man's arms. Her eyes were closed, and the man was plying her with wine. Adrian's card had fallen ignobly to the floor from her lax fingers.
"I am grateful that you have finally received me, Duchess," he said, announcing his presence. Actually, she had not agreed to receive him at all. He had threatened and bluffed his way past the butler.
Her lids slit and she peered down her body at him. She wore a garment that swaddled her from breasts to bare feet, but which left her neck and arms uncovered, revealing pale, glowing skin. In the low light he could not judge her face well, but her hair was a mass of dark curls tamed by a gold band circling her head.
She looked very sensual with the red silk wrapping her curves and her armlets and anklets gleaming in the candlelight. The blond, bare-chested man who held her thought so too. Adrian half-expected him to take a bite out of her while he watched.
The duchess gave Adrian a frank assessment and he returned one of his own. The only living child of the last Duke of Everdon had attained instant importance with her father's unexpected death. For the last two weeks everyone who was anyone in England had been speculating about Sophia Raughley, and wondering what she had been up to during her long absence from England.
Adrian did not relish reporting the answer to the men who had sent him here. From the looks of things, the new duchess had occupied herself lo these last eight years in Paris with becoming a shameless libertine.
She twisted out of her lover's hold and stretched to grope for the card, almost falling off the chaise longue. She appeared childishly clumsy suddenly, and a bit helpless, and Adrian experienced a pang of pity. He picked up the card and placed it in her fingers. She squinted, and gestured to her partner to bring a candle close.
"Mister Adrian Burchard," she read.
"At your service, Your Grace. If we could speak privately, please."
Gathering her drapery, she rose to her feet. With the breeding of centuries stiffening her posture, she faced him.
"I think that I know what service you offer, and you have wasted your journey. I am not going back with you."
Of course she was. "Again, I ask to speak with you privately."
"Come back tomorrow."
"I have come the last two days, and now tonight. It is time for you to hear what I have to say. It is time for you to face reality."