THE MAKING OF A LEGEND…
When Christian Forester, Viscount Berkeley, flees the stuffy ballrooms of London for his Scottish hunting lodge, the last thing he expects to find ensconced before his fire is an incredibly beautiful woman. But the plight of lovely young Sarah Highgate, who has run away from an unwanted betrothal, inspires an eminently practical exchange. He’ll safeguard her reputation with the ton while she advises him how to best attract a proper bride…
As the undisputed belle of the season, Sarah has enchanted plenty of suitors. Still, she isn’t interested in marriage, especially not to the pompous bore her father has chosen for her. But her hasty escape seems reckless now that she’s estranged from her family and has no one to count on besides Christian. Turning the luckless lord into such a catch has another unplanned consequence for Sarah: Has he run away with her heart?
The Legendary Lord is the sixth installment of Valerie Bowman’s Regency-set Playful Brides series.
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Read an Excerpt:
In his thirty years of life, Christian had never seen a sight quite like the one that greeted him when he kicked open the bedchamber door. A beautiful woman stood there brandishing a sword at him. Well, brandishing might be a bit of an overstatement. She could barely lift it an inch from the floor, but she was obviously attempting to brandish it.
Normally, Christian was at a loss in front of a beautiful woman. Well, other than his friends, of course. And this woman was extremely beautiful. She had lush black silky hair that fell in fat curls past her shoulders. She’d obviously unpinned it for her nap. She had pale skin, red lips, an adorable upturned nose, and eyes of palest green, almost crystalline. They were tilted, like a cat’s, and framed by long, sooty lashes. She was dressed as a servant. Had she run away from some estate? Only there wasn’t an estate near here. She must have come far. Regardless, whoever she was, she was an incomparable beauty. And a stranger.
“Get out of here right now, or I’ll cut you in half.” The sword quavered in the woman’s grip, but her eyes narrowed to slits. “I mean it. Leave now. You won’t want to see me angry. I promise you. I’m quite good with a sword.” Again, the sword quivered up another inch.
In other circumstances, Christian would have stuttered in the face of such beauty, wouldn’t have known what to say, would have made an ass of himself. God knew such lack of debonair sophistication was a large part of the reason he’d failed to find a wife in London after all these years. But the audacity of this par tic u lar woman—or, more correctly, his anger at her audacity— mixed with his exhaustion, made his encounter with this beautiful woman quite dif fer ent from all the others.
“What if I told you I have a pistol?” he asked dryly, studying her face to gauge her reaction.
She tossed her curls and lifted her chin higher, but her eyes flashed with a hint of fear. “I have a sword,” she announced, her voice quavering slightly.
“I see that. But I’d like to think we would both agree that a pistol would trump a sword were this little confrontation to turn into actual combat.” He stepped toward her, all the while assessing how carefully and quickly he might disarm her.
Her eyes flashed again. She took a step back. “I . . . I don’t believe you have a pistol. You’d have shown it by now. And I will slice you in half if you take another step closer.”
He pressed his lips together to keep from smiling. “Well, you see,” he said, squinting, “I don’t usually point pistols at ladies. But I’m quickly beginning to consider making an exception in your case. Especially if you continue to threaten me and refuse to put down that sword.”
She did exactly the opposite. She lifted the sword even higher, but the muscles in her upper arms quivered. It had to be a chore for her to keep the thing aloft.
“If you have a pistol, show it. I dare you to,” she said, her jaw clenched.
“Oh, my dear Miss House Thief, don’t tempt me. Now, I’m going to ask you one more time to put down that sword before I force you to put it down. It’s entirely your decision.”
“You’ll have to kill me first. And I’m no house thief.” Her quaking arms lifted the sword even higher, and she had the audacity to jab it toward him slightly.
That was it. Christian was through with this farce. He had to disarm her before she hurt herself or him or, God forbid, the dog, who’d sat in between them watching this peculiar exchange, his ears switching from side to side, no doubt in an effort to hear each of them more clearly.
Christian reached her in two long strides, wrenched the sword out of her hand, twisted her arm behind her back, and pulled her sharply against his chest. “You say you’re not a house thief, but let me see if I have the right of it. You’ve broken into my home and you’re trying to kill me? With my own sword?”
The woman struggled to pull her arm free, but Christian held her fast, her backside squirming against him. He wasn’t about to allow her to scramble away from him. God only knew what she’d scoop up to fight him with next. The dog, perhaps?
“Your home? How do I know this is your home?” she asked in a tone that was both demanding yet edged with fear. And in an accent that was obviously not of a maid, but of a lady. Unexpected.
Her breath came in panting gasps, and her breasts— which Christian had quite a good view of, actually, given that he was close to a foot taller than her— were heaving.
She was frightened. Good. Thieves shouldn’t get too comfortable.
“I damn well know it’s not yours, Miss Thief.”
“I told you. I am not a thief. Let go of me.” She struggled harder to break free of his grasp.
He tightened his hold on her arm. “Is anyone else with you?”
“How long have you been here?”
“This is my third night.”
“You have been in my home three nights?” Outraged, he glanced around the room, searching. “What have you taken?”
“Nothing. How many times do I have to say it? I’m no thief.” She attempted to elbow him in the ribs. He stepped back just in time, mentally thanking his fencing days at Eton for his quick reflexes. He secured her elbow so she couldn’t do it again.
“I don’t want to hurt you,” he said calmly, “but unless you can tell me in the next five seconds who you are and why the hell you’re in my house, I’ll be happy to toss you out in the snow, thief or not.” She stopped struggling and made a small gasping noise. That was more like it.
“You’re Master Christian?” Her head snapped to the side, and he saw the outline of her patrician profile, though she still had her back to him.
Christian tightened his grip on her warm wrist. “I’m the one asking questions here, not you,” he growled near her ear. The lily scent was definitely coming from her. Her ebony hair was giving off the essence. It smelled . . . good. Too good.
“I’m trying to prove that I’m not a thief,” she insisted. She’d stopped struggling for the moment. “How else would I know your name?”
Copyright © 2016 Valerie Bowman and reprinted by permission of St. Martin’s Paperbacks.
Lady Sarah Highgate is nothing, if not a dutiful daughter. For as long as she can remember, her parents have drummed into her head that her purpose in life is to make the most advantageous marriage possible and to obey them. Up ’til now, she has done just that, but finding herself engaged to a man she has no desire to marry has sent her fleeing to her family’s remote Scottish residence, hoping that her actions will cause her ruin. The problem is, she ends up at another home completely. When the owner comes home to find her in his bed, they get off to a very rocky start.
Christian Forester, Viscount Berkeley, immediately knows that someone is trespassing, and he intends to send them packing. He’s surprised to find himself challenged by a beautiful sword-wielding young lady, intent on protecting herself. Christian has been traveling, and looks a little scruffy and worse for wear, but he convinces Sarah that he doesn’t intend to harm her. Sarah, feeling intimidated, stresses the fact that she’s a lady and her father is an earl. Christian is not impressed, and hides his own title, just introducing himself as Mr. Forester.
As can be expected, Sarah and Christian get snowed in, and over the next days, they get to know each other very well. Sarah tells of her demanding parents and engagement, and Christian confesses that he badly wants a wife, but is only successful at being friends with many ladies. Sarah’s bravado begins to fade, and she is now sick at the thought of being ruined. She’s ready to go home and face the music and accept the marriage her parents have arranged. Though Christian is very attracted to Sarah, he won’t try to change her mind, so he decides to help her instead. He arranges for some of his good friends with lofty titles to concoct an alibi for Sarah, saving her reputation. In exchange, Sarah coaches Christian on how to dress and act with ladies to catch their attention. Their idyll ends, and they part and go their separate ways. Yet, each continues to think about the other….
Months later, they both arrive back in town for the season, Sarah, as an engaged woman, and Christian as the new and improved version of himself. Soon Christian’s good looks, his new expensive clothes, and his new outlook, have him surrounded by young ladies, wondering why they have never noticed him before. As much as they try, Sarah and Christian can’t keep away from each other, though they clearly have no future together. Their meetings soon turn to stolen kisses, then to passion, yet neither makes any attempt to change the course of their lives.
Christian is a wonderful man – I have a hard time believing that he was just previously ignored, despite a shaggy haircut and less than topnotch wardrobe. A handsome young man with a title and a fortune would surely have been pursued by many. He also disappointed me by not having the will to try to change Sarah’s mind or confess his feelings. As for Sarah, she was a lovely person, but very spineless. Her one act of rebellion seems to have taken all the spark out of her. Their friends can see that they’re perfect for each other, and urge them to find a way. While they do find their happy ever after, I found the manner of it disappointing, as it showed Sarah in a disrespectful light, and humiliated her almost-groom, whose only sins were arrogance and wanting to marry her. There were a lot of enjoyable parts of THE LEGENDARY LORD, which had a light, somewhat fairy tale quality about it. If you’re following the Playful Brides series, this installment is a must read for you.