My Fair Temptress (Governess Brides Series #7)

My Fair Temptress (Governess Brides Series #7)

by Christina Dodd

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Miss Caroline Ritter, accomplished flirt, acknowledgedbeauty, and ruined gentlewoman, offers lessons toany rich, noble lord too inept to attract a wife. Discardyour silly affectations and your garish clothing!Learn the art of witty conversation, elegant dancing,equestrian feats and irresistible seduction at theopera! With Miss Ritter's help, you can become themost sought-after aristocrat at the ball!

Send your request to the Distinguished Academyof Governesses.

Please, absolutely no devastatingly attractive menwith hidden agendas, such as secret missions orvengeful plots against evil villains—specifically notJude Durant, the earl of Huntington, the mosthandsome, the most covert, the most dangerousof all the aristocrats in Regency London.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780061750014
Publisher: HarperCollins e-books
Publication date: 03/17/2009
Series: Governess Brides Series , #7
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 384
Sales rank: 132,427
File size: 865 KB

About the Author

New York Times bestselling author CHRISTINA DODD builds worlds filled with suspense, romance, and adventure, and creates the most distinctive characters in fiction today. Her fifty novels have been translated into twenty-five languages, featured by Doubleday Book Club, recorded on Books on Tape for the Blind, won Romance Writers of America’s Golden Heart and RITA Awards, and been called the year's best by Library Journal. Dodd herself has been a clue in the Los Angeles Times crossword puzzle.

Read an Excerpt

My Fair Temptress

By Christina Dodd

HarperCollins Publishers, Inc.

Copyright © 2007 Christina Dodd
All right reserved.

ISBN: 9780061259487

Chapter One

The Distinguished Academy of Governesses
London, 1849

Miss Caroline Ritter squeezed a handful of her damp, shabby skirt. "I need to procure some method of providing sustenance for myself."

Adorna, Lady Bucknell, the proprietress of the Distinguished Academy of Governesses, folded her hands on her desk and gazed at the young lady seated before her. Outside, the March rains lashed at the windows, the occasional splatter of sleet a reminder that winter hadn't yet loosened its hold on London.

Rather more forcefully, Miss Ritter said, "In other words, I need a job."

Pinning her with a direct gaze, Adorna asked, "What are your accomplishments?"

Miss Ritter hesitated a telling moment.

Adorna tried to make it easier for her. "What do you do best?"

"Flirt," she said promptly.

Adorna believed her. She had seen many a young ladycome through her study at the Distinguished Academy of Governesses, all of them in need of assistance, but she had never felt such a kinship as she felt now for Miss Caroline Ritter.

This young lady was beautiful. Her smooth, tan complexion reminded Adorna of the tale repeated about the Ritters—that four hundred years ago Mr. Ritter brought home a bride from some exoticlocale, and since then the women of the family had been temptresses who led all men astray. Miss Ritter certainly fit the role.

She was tall, almost gangly, with long arms and slender fingers, yet she moved with a grace that pleasured the eye. Her high bosom and narrow waist would naturally rivet any man's attention, and her voice, low and warm, gave the impression of interest and kindness. She had gathered her straight brown hair into a severe chignon at the base of her neck, yet fine strands had escaped their confinement, and the auburn highlights encased her striking face like a summer sunset. Her wide chin gave the inference of defiance, and the dark lashes and brows that decorated her slumberous aquamarine eyes strengthened the impression of unusual and delicate beauty.

Never had Adorna seen so exquisite a visage since the day, thirty years ago, when she had gazed into a mirror and realized that she herself was a diamond of the first water.

Yet time had wrought changes on her own face, so that now Miss Caroline Ritter could accurately be described as the loveliest woman in England.

Leaning back in her chair, Adorna said aloud what she had been thinking. "I remember you. Three years ago you were all the rage."

"And I've heard of you." Caroline met Adorna's gaze directly. "You were the most famous debutante of your time."

At the tribute, Adorna allowed a small smile to cross her lips. "I was."

"Some say you were the most famous debutante of all time."

"So my husband says, but I tell him that is simply flattery. It works, of course. He is very good at getting his way." Adorna allowed her mind to drift back thirty years to her debut. "Do you know, I had fourteen offers of marriage in my first Season?"

"That is extraordinary." Miss Ritter modestly lowered her eyes. "I had fifteen."

Ah. A rivalry. How delicious. "Four abduction attempts, two by the same man."

"Only three abduction attempts, but all by different men."

"And fifty-three stolen kisses." This game amused Adorna. "I kept a tally."

"I kept a tally, too, and I assure you, you're far ahead of me in that contest." Miss Ritter's mouth drooped in disappointment. "My chaperone was far too watchful until...until she wasn't."

"Mine was having her own scandalous evening." Adorna chuckled warmly. "She is my aunt, Jane Higgenbothem, now Lady Blackburn. Perhaps you know of her?"

"The famous sculptress? Indeed, I do! Her work is magnificent. My father invested in some of her works..."Miss Ritter eyed the crackling fire with Some longing. "I imagine her dedication to her sculpting distracted from her duty to keep you untouched."

"Something like that." Lifting the bell at her elbow, Adorna rang, and when the maid appeared, she requested a generous tea be served. Returning to the matter at hand, Adorna said, "Unfortunately, Miss Ritter, there is very little call for such a talent as flirting."

The girl half rose from her chair and leaned across the desk to seize Adorna's hands. She fixed her with her amazingly bright aquamarine gaze. "Please. Lady Bucknell, I truly have need of employment. You have a reputation of finding a position to fit every young woman. You must have something I can do."

"Your circumstances are difficult." Adorna's sympathy was unfeigned. "I understand you were compromised during your debut Season?"

Miss Ritter kept her chin up and a brave smile on her lips. "Not just compromised. Ruined."

Adorna hated to press her, but if she was responsible for placing the young lady into a household, she had to know the circumstances. "By a married man."

"By Lord Freshfield."

"He is very handsome." The viscount had followed his family tradition and ruthlessly used his face and figure to marry an older woman—a woman with money.

"Very handsome, indeed. He could turn a girl's head." Miss Ritter's eyes froze to the color of the winter sea. "But not to that extent, my dear Lady Bucknell. I was a foolish girl, but not a wanton."

That was the damning part of the tale Adorna had heard. That Miss Ritter had been infatuated with Lord Freshfield. That she had encouraged him to behave badly. But Adorna well knew how gossip twisted the truth. "I've met Lord Freshfield, and he's not an admirable character, scarcely fit for society, much less the company of a young lady." Shrewdly, she added, "I hope he hasn't bothered you since."

"We no longer move in the same circles." Miss Ritter sank back down into the chair. "We never shall again."

Miss Ritter hadn't really answered the question, Adorna noted. So Lord Freshfield had not only destroyed her life, but now sought to destroy her innocence. That man was nothing but . . .


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