A year after her husband’s tragic death, all Lady Julianna Barrows wants is to be left alone and forget that most of her heart went with him when he passed. Instead, she finds herself the subject of many a matchmaking scheme and lurid offer to ease her widowhood, as well as save her fading fortune. Desperate to avoid having to remarry, she takes on a position as a tutor, only to discover that the man she’s helping unexpectedly stirs her heart and passion.
Nash Wolverton boxed his way out of the London slums and into immense wealth, but he couldn’t care less about Society’s approval. Except he has his by-blow daughter’s future to consider. To ensure her acceptance into Society, he’ll endure anything―including procuring a tutor to transform him into a gentleman so he can secure a suitable, boring wife.
Yet what he wants changes the moment he hires Julianna. She may be a lady, but she’s far from tedious. Bold and compassionate, she is nothing like the women of the ton. Suddenly, she’s elicited a simmering desire in him, and even a longing to love and be loved that he always thought out of his reach. Knowing what he planned to settle for can now never be enough, he vows to win her love. But as the walls she’s built begin to crumble, Julianna’s fears threaten to tear them apart and she alone must decide if protecting her heart trumps breaking Nash’s.
He met Julianna’s worried gaze and smiled. Was she worried for him? That was a first. No, wait. It was a second. She had been anxious for him that night at the ball, as well. Every part of him wanted to learn more about this delicate creature standing before him. Like how she happened to be here. He’d bet his fortune she’d never willingly admit her secrets.
“I suppose you’re here to seduce me,” he said, forcing a serious, contemplative tone.
Her lovely mouth parted. “What?”
“I have to tell you, I’m not one to be easily seduced.” He dropped his voice low, teasing. “But for you I’ll make an exception.”
“How very generous of you,” she replied with a smirk, high color rising on her sculpted cheekbones.
He purposely yanked his clothes into a semblance of order before catching her gaze once again. He stilled his hands and narrowed his gaze. “Should I be concerned about your dogged pursuing of me? You’re not cracked are you?”
“I’m beginning to wonder,” she grumbled, forcing him to press his lips together to keep from smiling.
She shoved her hair over her shoulders. “Rest assured I’m not doggedly pursuing you.”
“How disappointing.” He allowed the truth of his feelings to shimmer at the surface for a moment before lightening his tone. “And here I thought I must have so intrigued you at the ball that you investigated me, learned where I had my country home, and made your way here with your daughter all in the hope of encountering me and trying to talk me into marrying you.”
The color on her cheeks deepened and spread, rather alluringly, to her chest. Her gaze darted away for a moment before settling back on him. “Actually, I did come here in search of you, though not with marriage in mind.”
He lifted his brows slowly, even as his blood raced through his veins. He really should not keep teasing her, but it was impossible to resist. “I like how you think, Lady Barrows.”
Her brows furrowed together before her eyes widened. “I’m not thinking of you like that at all. I don’t even see you in that way. More like a dog in need of training.”
“Your flattery is rather lethal,” he chided playfully, enjoying the rapid reddening of her lovely skin.
She pressed her hands to her cheeks while a smile played at her lips. “You’re muddling my thoughts.”
“Dogs can have that effect.”
“Do be serious.”
“Do you want me to be a good boy and sit?”
“No, roll over and play dead,” she said straight-faced.
He couldn’t stop the bark of laughter that escaped him.
She grinned in return. “What I meant to say before you befuddled me was, I did come here to find you, but―”
“Ah, ah, ah.” He wiggled his finger at her. “I find when women insert the word but into their sentences nothing pleasant follows for the man.”
“Do try and listen.”
“I am.” His repressed laughter vibrated his words.
“Are you always this way?” she asked with a laugh.
“What way is that?” He loved how her eyes twinkled when she smiled.
“Do you always show so much affection to your daughter and banter so lightheartedly with ladies you barely know?”
He quirked his mouth as if he were lost temporarily in deep thought. “I do always show an enormous amount of affection to my daughter. I grew up without the benefit of knowing whether my mother or father loved me, and I never want my daughter to doubt my love. And as for bantering with ladies I don’t know, I know you.” That husky sound had crept back into his tone. Something about this woman did that to him.
Her eyes grew wide so that he could see that gold flecked the green.
“What is it you think you know about me, Mr. Wolverton?”
“Call me Nash.” He wanted to hear his name from her lips. He couldn’t say precisely why―it was another gut desire―and one he’d never experienced.
She shook her head. “I couldn’t possibly.”
“You could possibly.” He leaned close as if to whisper a secret. “I’ve just given you leave to do so.”
“It’s not proper,” she said, her pink tongue darting out to lick her full lips.
He had a brief image of taking her mouth with his and slipping his tongue inside her warm, beckoning caverns. He had no doubt she’d be sweeter than honey. “Are you always proper, Julianna?”
Her hand fluttered to her neck. “Yes. I’m rather boring that way. Are you always this improper?”
“I’m afraid so. I’m rather exciting that way.” He slid one finger down her bare, silken arm from the crook of her elbow all the way to her small hand. Taking her slender, cool fingertips in his he lifted them to his lips, telling himself he shouldn’t and knowing he damn well would anyway. He pressed a kiss to the edge of her fingers, the contact of his lips to her flesh making him ache painfully.
About the Author
Julie Johnstone is a best-selling author of Regency Romance and the author of a new urban fantasy/paranormal romance book. She’s been a voracious reader of books since she was a young girl. Her mother would tell you that as a child Julie had a rich fantasy life made up of many different make believe friends. As an adult, Julie is one of the lucky few who can say she is living the dream by working with her passion of creating worlds from her imagination. When Julie is not writing she is chasing her two precocious children around, cooking, reading or exercising. Julie loves to hear from her readers. You can send her an email at firstname.lastname@example.org or find her at www.juliejohnstoneauthor.com, or on Facebook at authorjuliejohnstone and juliejohnstoneauthor or at twitter @juliejohnstone.
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Julianna, Lady Barrow, is trying to step back into society after over a year of mourning for her beloved husband, Henry, but her heart is not in it. She’s still grieving, and not at all ready to be cheerful. She especially is not looking for a new husband or a dalliance. To make matters worse, her late husband left her in a precarious financial situation. It appears she will have to remarry, or actually find a position. When an opportunity arises for Julianna to tutor Nash Wolverton and his daughter on how to act properly in society, she jumps at the chance.
Nash was raised on the streets. He worked his way up to owning a gaming club, and now has become involved in shipping. He wants his daughter to be accepted in society, and to have a better life than he had. He truly desires a wife, and thinks Julianna is the perfect choice. He knows she is dead set against remarrying, but hopes that proximity with him and his daughter will change her mind.
Julianna and Nash have an immediate attraction, which is a bit shocking to Julianna, as her marriage was somewhat passionless. Still, she genuinely loved Henry, and fears ever loving again and taking the risk of losing someone and going through all that suffering. Nash does his best to woo her, but their situation is looking very bleak.
Both of these characters were well developed for a short novel, and I found myself liking both of them. Anyone who has suffered loss can feel sympathy for Julianna’s reluctance to put her heart on the line a second time. I also admired Nash for his strength and determination. Their happy ever after didn’t come easily, but it was well written and believable, as Julianna had to come to see on her own that some risks are worth taking.