Critics call her "a matchless storyteller." (Romantic Times) Readers have fallen in love with Mary Balogh's sparkling blend of wit and romance. Now this dazzling writer sweeps us back to Regency England, into a world of dangerous secrets and glittering intrigue, as a dashing lord meets his match in a fiery beauty who vows to be...
No Man's Mistress
Lord Ferdinand Dudley is accustomed to getting what he wants...that is, until he appears at the door of Pinewood Manor, attempting to claim his rightful estate, and is met by the bewitching fury of Lady Viola Thornhill. She refuses to cede him the home she calls her own. He refuses to leave. So the contest begins. Each day under the same roof brings its share of frustration...and temptation. But Viola knows it is a battle she cannot afford to lose. Marriage is out of the question, and she will be no man's mistress even as Dudley's unnerving presence threatens to melt her resolve. Against his better judgment, Lord Ferdinand Dudley is beguiled. This maddening beauty has stirred him as no woman had before. And now he is bound and determined to make her his own.
Fraught with all the misunderstandings and misadventures typical of a Regency-era romance, this heartwarming sequel to Balogh's debut hardcover, More Than a Mistress, is a fun but familiar tale that fans of the period will savor. When Lord Ferdinand Dudley visits the small village of Trellick to examine Pinewood Manor, a small estate he won in a card game, he is surprised to find that the property hasn't been neglected or abandoned. Viola Thornhill, the "country lass" whom Ferdinand had met during the town's May Day celebration, has settled in Pinewood, and she has no intention of surrendering her home to a gambling London dandy. Viola insists that the late Earl of Bamber left her the estate, and she determines to stay put until Ferdinand produces a copy of the earl's will that proves her wrong. Meanwhile, Viola tries everything possible to make Ferdinand's first country experience unbearable including setting the villagers upon him with complaints and having a cockerel wake him before sunrise. Ferdinand takes everything in stride, however, and he slowly begins to realize that he doesn't want Viola to leave; he's falling in love with her. Viola harbors feelings for Ferdinand as well, but her checkered past keeps her from entertaining hopes of a future with him. Although Ferdinand and Viola seem like mere stereotypes at first, it becomes clear midway through that Ferdinand is not the rake he appears to be and that Viola is no innocent country lass. Balogh's prose is simple and straightforward, and few of the novel's twists and turns are uncharted. Nevertheless, her charismatic characters and swift pacing will keep romance enthusiasts riveted to the page.
Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.
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May 26, 2002
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Excerpt from No Man's Mistress by Mary Balogh
Chapter 1 The picturesque village of Trellick, nestled in a river valley in Somersetshire, was usually a quiet little backwater. But not on this particular day. By the middle of the afternoon it appeared that every villager and every country dweller for miles around must be out-of-doors, milling about the village green, enjoying the revelries. The maypole at the center of the green, its colored ribbons fluttering in the breeze, proclaimed the occasion. It was May Day. Later, the young men would dance about the maypole with the partners of their choice, as they did with great energy and enthusiasm every year. Meanwhile, there were races and other contests to draw attention to the green. Pitched about its perimeter were tented booths with their offerings of appetizing foods, eye-catching baubles, and challenging games of skill or strength or chance. The weather had cooperated in magnificent fashion with warm sunshine and a cloudless blue sky. Women and girls had discarded shawls and pelisses they had worn in the morning. A few men and most boys remained in their shirtsleeves after engaging in one of the more strenuous contests. Tables and chairs had been carried from the church hall onto the lawn outside so that tea and cakes could be served in full view of all the merriment. Not to be outdone, on an adjacent side of the village green the Boar's Head had its own tables and benches set up outside for the convenience of those folk who preferred ale to tea. A few strangers, on their way past the village to destinations unknown, stopped off for varying periods of time to observe the fun and even in some cases to participate in it before continuing their journeys. One such stranger was riding slowly down toward the green from the main road when Viola Thornhill glanced up from serving tea to the Misses Merrywether. She would not have seen him over the heads of the crowd if he had not been on horseback. As it was, she paused for a second, more leisurely look. He was clearly a gentleman, and a fashionable one at that. His dark blue riding coat looked as if it might have been molded to his frame. His linen beneath it was white and crisp. His black leather breeches clung to his long legs like a second skin. His riding boots looked supple and must surely have been made by the very best of boot makers. But it was not so much the clothes as the man inside them who attracted and held Viola's appreciative attention. He was young and slim and darkly handsome. He pushed back his tall hat even as she watched. He was smiling. "You ought not to be serving us, Miss Thornhill," Miss Prudence Merrywether said, a customary note of anxious apology in her voice. "We ought to be serving you. You have been rushed off your feet all day." Viola reassured her with a warm smile. "But I am having so much fun," she said. "Are we not fortunate indeed that the weather has been so kind?" When she looked again, the stranger had disappeared from view, though he had not ridden on his way. His horse was being led away by one of the lads who worked in the inn stables. "Miss Vi," a familiar voice said from behind her, and she turned to smile at the small, plump woman who had touched her on the shoulder. "The sack race is ready to begin, and you are needed to start it and award the prizes. I'll take the teapot from you." "Will you, Hannah?" Viola handed it over and hurried onto the green, where a number of children were indeed wriggling into sacks and clutching them to their waists. Viola helped the stragglers and then directed them all as they hopped and shuffled into a roughly even line along the appointed starting point. Adults crowded about the four sides of the green to watch and cheer. Viola had set out from home early in the morning looking ladylike and elegant in a muslin dress and shawl and straw b