It was common gossip that "Duff" D'Abernon, Marquis of Darley, had returned from Waterloo a changed man. Gone was the reckless youth and in his place was a sullen recluse more interested in tending his horses than attending balls. But now the Marquis was entering the game again, openly flirting with the beautiful, witty, and thoroughly disreputable Annabelle Foster. Annabelle's no stranger to scandal. The actress-playwright is rumoured to have had liaisons with any number of powerful men, with an illegitimate daughter to show for it. She won't chance heartache again, even for a man as tempting as Duff D'Abernon. What she offers instead is a compromise: a true friendship between equals. Each agrees to the terms. A bargain is struck. And an idyllic summer begins. But what starts as friendship soon blossoms into searing passion. And the only thing worse than risking their hearts is not risking them at all...
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Susan Johnson is the award-winning, national bestselling author of the novels Hot Spot, Hot Legs, and Hot Pink, among others.
From Publishers Weekly:
It's 1816, and actress and playwright Annabelle Foster loves (and desires) handsome Murray D'Abernon, 13th Marquis of Darley, who goes by the name of Duff and reciprocates her feelings. Belle's widowed mother dotes on Duff, and Duff's stately but swinging parents venerate Belle, who has single-handedly reversed the (what we would now call) post-traumatic stress disorder that laid him low following the Battle of Waterloo. But society says they mustn't marry, and she says they mustn't even go to bed, although she is subject to "throbbing between the legs" and his buckskin breeches frequently show "turgid veins inflated and pulsing." Belle's had it, though, after a soul-sickening season with the despicable Walingame, who says she has "no rights" and dares call darling Duff a "fucking cunthound." Men! No woman alive could pass up the chance to hang with Duff; she accepts his wager that he won't proposition her for two months. He, of course, is confident that she'll make the necessary moves. Johnson frequently crafts one-sentence paragraphs, sometimes as many as five in a row, but no construction can introduce suspense into her turgid tale. The sprinklings of period language seem pasted-on. Characters are heavenly or vile. But for those who like their social history liberally sauced with lubricity: yum. (Aug.)
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