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Authors: Kasey Michaels

Tags: #Romance

What a Gentleman Desires

BOOK: What a Gentleman Desires
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Wicked intrigue unfolds in
USA TODAY
bestselling author Kasey Michaels’s series about the Redgraves—four siblings celebrated for their legacy of scandal and seduction…

Plagued by the scandal that once destroyed his father and now threatens his family, Valentine Redgrave dreams of dark justice. Brother to the Earl of Saltwood, with secret ties to the Crown, he won’t rest until he infiltrates and annihilates England’s most notorious hellfire club. To cross its elite members is to court destruction, yet he’s never craved a challenge more. Until he encounters enigmatic governess Daisy Marchant, who behind a plain-Jane guise harbors a private agenda and appeals to his every weakness…and desire.

Valentine’s hunt for revenge is Daisy’s key to finding her sister, who may be lost in the clutches of a deadly Society. But his seductive charm unlocks passion that can undo them both. Now, the only way to escape death and rescue their families is to trust each other in love and loyalty…even as they tread deeper into danger.

Praise for
USA TODAY
bestselling author

KASEY MICHAELS

“Kasey Michaels aims for the heart and never misses.”

New York Times
bestselling author Nora Roberts

“A multilayered tale.… Here is a novel that holds attention because of the intricate story, engaging characters and wonderful writing.”

RT Book Reviews
on
What an Earl Wants,
4½ stars, Top Pick

“Michaels’ beloved Regency romances are witty and smart, and the second volume in her Redgrave series is no different. The lively banter, intriguing plot, fascinating twists and turns…sheer delight.”

RT Book Reviews
on
What a Lady Needs,
4½ stars

“The historical elements…imbue the novel with powerful realism that will keep readers coming back.”

Publishers Weekly
on
A Midsummer Night’s Sin

“A poignant and highly satisfying read…filled with simmering sensuality, subtle touches of repartee, a hero out for revenge and a heroine ripe for adventure. You’ll enjoy the ride.”

RT Book Reviews
on
How to Tame a Lady

“Michaels’ new Regency miniseries is a joy.… You will laugh and even shed a tear over this touching romance.”

RT Book Reviews
on
How to Tempt a Duke

“Michaels has done it again…. Witty dialogue peppers a plot full of delectable details exposing the foibles and follies of the age.”

Publishers Weekly
on
The Butler Did It
(starred review)

Also available from Kasey Michaels and Harlequin HQN

The Redgraves

What a Lady Needs
What an Earl Wants
“The Wedding Party”
Rules of Engagement

The Blackthorn Brothers

The Taming of the Rake
A Midsummer Night’s Sin
Much Ado About Rogues

The Daughtry Family

“How to Woo a Spinster”
A Lady of Expectations and Other Stories
How to Tempt a Duke
How to Tame a Lady
How to Beguile a Beauty
How to Wed a Baron

The Sunshine Girls

Dial M for Mischief
Mischief Becomes Her
Mischief 24/7

The Beckets of Romney Marsh

A Gentleman by Any Other Name
The Dangerous Debutante
Beware of Virtuous Women
A Most Unsuitable Groom
A Reckless Beauty
Return of the Prodigal
Becket’s Last Stand

Other must-reads

The Bride of the Unicorn
The Secrets of the Heart
The Passion of an Angel
Everything’s Coming Up Rosie
Stuck in Shangri-La
Shall We Dance?
The Butler Did It

Coming soon, the next sparkling novel in the Redgraves series

What a Hero Dares

KASEY MICHAELS

Dear Reader,

As you may know by now, many of my favorite Regency Era heroes are fops. Well, not
really
fops, but as is said nowadays: “But he plays one on TV.”

Valentine Redgrave, youngest brother of the Earl of Saltwood (
What an Earl Wants
), enacts just such a part in London society for his Regency “audience.” Boon companion, nary a serious bone in his well set-up body, Val is loved by all if admired by none, as he is, after all, only a younger son, currently without prospects; outwardly dangerous as a dandelion.

But not without wit, or else he couldn’t so quietly and successfully serve the Crown…and now, the Redgrave family in particular. Because there is trouble afoot, and the Redgraves are in it up to Valentine’s exquisitely tied cravat.

Did I mention Val has a weakness for ladies in distress? Oh, yes. His sister Kate (
What a Lady Needs
) vows his penchant for playing knight in shining armor will land him in deep trouble someday.

So to prove Kate’s point, I couldn’t resist plunking down Miss Daisy Marchant, governess-on-a-mission, in his path…and in his way.

Or in other words: here comes trouble!

Let’s go have some fun, and romance, and danger as these two mismatched creatures—much to their mutual surprise—stumble their way into love. And please visit me online on Facebook or at my website,
www.kaseymichaels.com
, to catch up on all my news.

Kasey Michaels

To Ruth Ryan Langan and the memory of her sweet Tom-babe—theirs was a love story for the ages.

Being a man would be an unbearable job—
if it weren’t for women.
—O. A. Battista

PROLOGUE

E
NGLISH
PIGS
. F
RENCH
DOGS
.

Roasted beefs! Frog eaters!

Sworn enemies. Temporary truces.

The histories of England and France can be plotted out on a time line of wars between the two countries: a legacy of insults, envy and, paradoxically, smatterings of admiration.

But, mostly, the populace of the two countries heartily disliked each other, which did not keep them from occasionally
using
each other for their own gain.

English gold and wool for French brandy and silks, for instance; the boat traffic across the Straits of Dover was never ending, both in times of peace and when the two countries were at war. In peacetime this was called
trade;
in times of war the term was
smuggling.
This dance of advance and retreat, peace and conflict, had gone on so long many seemed to believe the pattern was some sort of natural order, and merely accepted the ever-changing status quo.

It was left to more inventive minds to see the larger picture, and seek a more permanent solution to this near-constant conflict. One, as it would naturally follow for some of those clever minds, which included immense personal gain.

Charles Redgrave, Sixteenth Earl of Saltwood, was just such a man. He understood enough of history, of the vulnerabilities and peculiar appetites of men, of the way the world works, to believe the unpopular French king would assist him in his dream of being named at least nominal ruler of Great Britain. He felt himself qualified for this role thanks to a thimbleful of possibly illegitimate royal Stuart blood flowing in his veins, his immense wealth and the ruthless pursuit of enough land in Kent to proclaim it his own kingdom if necessary.

When a man like Charles Redgrave dreamed, he did not dream small dreams.

In return for this assistance, Charles believed, all he had to do was assassinate the bumbling George III (and probably the Archbishop of Canterbury, as well), and hand over a large part of the English treasury to Louis XV. Louis would be popular again, and Charles happy beyond his wildest dreams and ambitions. And, at last, there would be a permanent (and mutually profitable) peace between the two nations, all thanks to Charles IV of the House of Stuart.

Really. Even if most people would agree the Earl of Saltwood had more than a few slates off his roof. Either that, or the man was so thoroughly insane he was, in fact, dangerously brilliant.

To give the earl some credit, somewhere in this idea was perhaps a kernel of a chance for possible success, although it should be pointed out that rarely is it a particularly splendid notion to begin any Grand Plan with the words: “Off with his head!”

In any event, both men were called to their final rewards before things could get out of hand, one still hated, the other unfulfilled.

Decades later, Barry Redgrave, Seventeenth Earl of Saltwood, learning of his father’s ambitions—and of his unique and titillating
modus operandi—
also set his sights and hopes on France, and Louis XVI, who was proving to be even more unpopular than his papa. Barry’s plan was to convince England (by fair means or foul; hopefully foul, actually, because that was much more delicious) to intercede on Louis’s behalf.

He pointed out that revolution in France could just as easily become revolution in England. Louis and his queen, the lovely Marie Antoinette of “let them eat cake” infamy, would be
so
grateful, and in return support Barry’s
coup d’état...
again, a plan ending with a Saltwood on the English throne.

But just as the Bastille fell, Barry was lying dead on the dueling field, shot in the back, purportedly by his unfaithful Spanish wife. Not that much later, the embattled Louis lost his head, literally.

Both earls had employed a rather strange route to their hoped-for success, that of gathering together secret groups of wealthy, politically and socially powerful men, in point of fact forming a corrupt and sexually deviant hellfire club known only as the Society. Whether through ambition, sexual appetite or even discreet blackmail, the Society moved beyond its original devil’s dozen thirteen members, all of whom quickly went to ground when Charles died, and most certainly repeated their ratlike scurry for the exits after the scandal of Barry Redgrave.

After nearly a half century of on-again, off-again existence as a haven for seditionists and easily-led sexually promiscuous devil worshippers, the Society was as dead as Charles and Barry.

The world could heave a collective sigh of relief, even if it never knew it perhaps should have been holding its breath.

The Saltwoods buried the history of the last two ambitious and possibly mad earls under the deepest carpet at Redgrave Manor and moved on, Barry and Maribel’s four children eventually reaching adulthood and going into Society (no, not that Society!). The scandal of Barry’s murder and their mother’s involvement, along with never quite quelled whispers of the possibility of some deliciously naughty hellfire club, moved on with them.

But that was all right with the family, who rather
enjoyed being referred to as those scandalous Redgraves. The dowager countess, Lady Beatrix (Trixie) Redgrave, fairly reveled in the notoriety, actually. She certainly did nothing to discourage it at any rate, and had bedded more lovers since Charles’s death than many Englishmen had teeth left to chew their roasted beef.

And then one day about a month in the past, the Eighteenth Earl of Saltwood, Gideon Redgrave, was shocked to learn that the Society, the tawdry creation of his sire, his grandsire, intended to be the instrument of their success, was back in the treason business, this new devil’s thirteen conspiring with none other than Napoleon Bonaparte.

The Redgraves looked to each other, but only for a moment, as none of them were the sort to drag out the Society for another airing, and then began the race to identify and stop whoever in blazes was using the methods of the Society for their own gain.

The protection of England was, of course, the Redgrave family’s immediate and main co
ncern. Of course!

But, yes, there were also all those unknown, sordid bits of Redgrave history that needed to be safely kept beneath that deep carpet.
...

BOOK: What a Gentleman Desires
9.45Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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