Who will be the last unmarried man standing? No man in his right mind would want to get married, but every duke, earl, and viscount knows that a fellow must do his duty in the end. So four of London's most desirable gentlemen make a wager-the prize going to the one who remains unwed the longest. Gideon Pearsall, Viscount Warton, thinks he has a fair shot at winning. After all, he's managed to enjoy the favors of many a lady while resisting the parson's noose. Even when he's stopped dead in his tracks by the most scandalous woman in all of London-Judith, Lady Chester-he vows to have her bedded but never wedded. Beautiful, and more than a little bit naughty, Judith has always kept herself within the bounds of respectability, even while playing by her own rules. And the experience has taught her to avoid marriage. She has no desire to resist Warton's hot kisses, and his tempting touch is impossible to ignore. But soon both Judith and Gideon can't help but wonder . . . is it possible to be a little bit wicked and still follow your heart?
Bestselling author Alexander returns to Victorian England for her latest, the promising kickoff to a four-book series. In 1854 London, four titled gentlemen make a bet: the last man to avoid the inevitable trap of marriage wins an expensive bottle of brandy-as well as his precious freedom, for as long as necessity will allow. The first to face his trial is Gideon Pearsall, Viscount Warton, who lost his heart years ago to a conniving woman who briefly married him to make another lover jealous. Gideon firmly believes he will never love again, and the new "adventure" he's begun with Lady Judith Chester is merely that-a chance for excitement, a quenching of desire. Lady Chester, for her part, feels the same. A widow whose former husband abused her in secret, Lady Chester simply wants to enjoy her freedom with a man who's merely bad, rather than controlling and cruel. But the wounds of the past have a way of catching up with the carefree lovers, conspiring to expose their real, raw feelings for each other. The rich characters in this first installment of Alexander's "Last Man Standing" series (wickedly similar to Stephanie Laurens's Bastion Club novels) make this a satisfying start, though one hopes for a little more action and passion in future installments. Copyright (c) 1997-2005 Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. -- PUBLISHERS WEEKLY.
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December 31, 2006
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Excerpt from A Little Bit Wicked by Victoria Alexander
It was far and away the perfect opportunity, and only a fool would let it slip away. Gideon Pearsall, Viscount Warton, was no fool.
He suspected no one else in the overcrowded parlor at Lady Dinsmore's monthly evening of Musical and Literary Entertainments had noted the lovely Lady Chester discreetly leave the room. But then he doubted anyone else had been watching the charming widow with as close an eye as he had. No, all eyes were on the hostess's insipid nephew, who even now, with a spritz or two of something into his mouth and numerous clearings of his throat, prepared to regale the gathering with his poetry of youthful passion and dubious quality. Gideon was confident therefore that no one would notice as well when he followed Lady Chester's example. He sent a quick nod of thanks heavenward that he had had the foresight to plan his own escape and had positioned himself in the back of the room.
He slipped out a side door and glanced down the corridor to catch a flash of blue silk skirt as the lady turned the corner. Access to Lady Dinsmore's terrace lay in that direction, as he, and anyone else who had ever attempted to flee their hostess's endless and not especially talented relations' attempts at music or literature or whatever, well knew. Perhaps Lady Chester was in need of a breath of fresh air; it was extraordinarily stuffy in the parlor. It was possible as well that she could be meeting someone. Lady Dinsmore's terrace was as well known as a trysting spot as it was as a refuge. Still, Gideon doubted it. Widows were not as encumbered by the strictures placed on society as never-married women; therefore Lady Chester had no particular need of secrecy. Beyond that, given everything he had heard about her, he suspected the lady rather liked being the center of gossip. And gossip, usually remarkably accurate, indicated the lady was not currently involved with anyone. Excellent. He grinned to himself. He too could use a bit of fresh air.
Gideon had known Lady Chester for years, although he did not, in truth, know her at all. She was a passing acquaintance, someone to nod a greeting to on the street or exchange idle pleasantries with at a social gathering, nothing more than that. It was not until the Twelfth Night Ball she had hosted more than a month ago that what should have been little more than a few casual words between the two of them had without warning been fraught with something more significant and completely indefinable. It struck him with a force akin to a lightning bolt, an abrupt awareness of sorts, perhaps of a kindred spirit or the possibility of adventure or a heretofore unsuspected and unimagined attraction. One of his friends had said at the time that there was something in the air that night. Something of a magical nature. It was nonsense, of course. Still, the moment had dwelled in the back of Gideon's mind, lingered just beneath the surface of his well-ordered life. Under other circumstances, he would not have hesitated to call on the widow. But there had been something in that moment that had urged caution as well. That too was extremely odd. Gideon was nothing if not cautious, yet he'd never before experienced a sense of caution in connection with a woman, even when he should have. It was damn near irresistible.
He pushed open the glass door to the terrace, and his breath hitched at the cold of the February night. Still, it scarcely mattered at the moment. The night was unusually clear given the season, and Lady Chester's figure was silhouetted against the star-laden sky. She stood a scant dozen feet or so away, gazing into the night. He started toward her, then paused, for the first time in years not entirely certain of himself.