The daughter of a duke learns early in life the proper etiquette
for nearly everything. What dish to serve roasted larks in.
When to acknowledge a rather risqué dowager countess
and when to give her the cut direct. What to wear whilst boating
down the Thames, and how to fend off the tipsy advances of an
earl with very little income at the picnic afterward.
New York Times and USA Today bestseller!
TOP PICK! "As
always Hoyt infuses her pleasurable love stories with
marvelous characters, a depth of passion and the joy
of love, and she does this with the ease of a master
storyteller. She spins a lush fairy tale that sweeps
readers away and her deep-sigh reads are always a treat.”
—Kathe Robins, RT Book Reviews
Starred Review "In
the latest emotionally stunning addition to her Maiden
Lane series, Hoyt deftly lightens her realistically
dark plot with touches of deliciously dry humor, and
the sinfully sensual chemistry she creates between her
shrewd, acid-tongued heroine and her scandalous sexy
hero is pure romance.”
—John Charles, Booklist
Starred Review "Excitement
"Heartwarming, realistic and poignant
to read. I loved these 2 characters; they were perfect
for each other.”
—Steph Kwan, Bookaholics Romance Book
"NOTORIOUS PLEASURES by Elizabeth
Hoyt is incredible, steamy, and erotic.”
—Kate Garrabrant, Fresh Fiction
"Ms. Hoyt has done it again. In
the past, her wonderful stories, has caused me to be
late to pick up my kids, forget to cook dinner, and
stay up way too late. Notorious Pleasures is no exception.”
—Night Owl Reviews
"NOTORIOUS PLEASURES is filled with as much darkness, romance and temperature-busting passion as the first book in the series.”
—Silver, The Romance Reviews
"I highly recommend NOTORIOUS PLEASURES with its brilliant writing, memorable characters, well-constructed plot and luscious romance. It's a must read for all lovers of historical romance!”
—CarolAnn, The Romance Reviews
Everything, in fact, Lady Hero Batten reflected wryly, but
how to address a gentleman coupling vigorously with a married
lady not his own.
“Ahem,” she tried while gazing fixedly at the
molded plaster pears on the ceiling overhead.
The two people on the settee appeared not to hear her. Indeed,
the lady gave a series of loud animal squeals from under the
skirts of her atrocious puce-and-brown-striped gown, which
had been flipped up to cover her face.
Hero sighed. They were in a dim little sitting room off the
library of Mandeville House, and she was regretting choosing
this particular room in which to fix her stocking. Had she
picked the blue Oriental room, her stocking would be straight
by now and she’d already be back in the ballroom—far
away from this embarrassing predicament.
She lowered her eyes cautiously. The gentleman, wearing an
anonymous white wig, had discarded his embroidered satin coat
and was laboring atop the lady in his shirtsleeves and a brilliant
emerald waistcoat. His breeches and smallclothes were loosened
to facilitate his endeavors, and every now and again a flash
of muscled buttock was visible.
Sadly, she found the sight mesmerizing. Whomever the gentleman
was, his physical attributes were quite . . . astonishing.
Hero tore her gaze away to look longingly at the door. Really,
few would find fault with her should she turn and tiptoe from
the room. That was exactly what she would’ve done when
she’d first entered had she not passed Lord Pimbroke
not two minutes before in the hallway. For, as it happened,
Hero had noted the atrocious puce-and-brown-striped gown earlier
in the evening—on Lady Pimbroke. Much as Hero
was loath to embarrass herself, her own feelings were not,
in the end, as important as the possibility of a duel and
subsequent injury or death to two gentlemen.
Having come to this conclusion, Hero nodded once, took off
one diamond earbob, and lobbed it at the gentleman’s
backside. She’d always quietly prided herself on her
aim—not that she used it much in everyday life—and
she was rather gratified to hear a yelp from the male.
He swore and turned, looking at her over his shoulder with
the most glorious pale green eyes she’d ever seen. He
wasn’t a handsome man—his face was too broad across
the cheekbones, his nose too crooked, and his mouth too thin
and cynical for true masculine beauty—but his eyes would
draw any female, young or old, from across a room. And once
drawn, their gaze would linger on the look of arrogant male
virility he wore as naturally as he breathed.
Or perhaps it was merely the, er, circumstances
that gave him the look.
“D’you mind, love?” he drawled, the anger
in his expression having changed to faint amusement when he’d
caught sight of her. His voice was gravelly and completely
unhurried. “I’m busy here.”
She could feel heat suffusing her cheeks—really, this
was an impossible situation—but
she met his gaze, making quite sure hers did not wander lower.
“Indeed. I had noticed, but I thought you should
“Unless you’re the type who likes to watch?”
Now her face was aflame, but she wasn’t about to let
this . . . this wretch get the better of her verbally.
She allowed her gaze to drop swiftly and scornfully down over
his rumpled waistcoat and shirt—fortunately the tail
hid his open breeches—and back up. She smiled sweetly.
“I prefer entertainments in which I’m not in danger
of falling asleep.”
She expected her insult to anger him, but instead the rogue
“Happens a lot to you, does it, sweetheart?”
His voice was solicitous, but a sly dimple appeared beside
his wide lips. “Falling asleep just as the fun’s
about to begin? Well, don’t blame yourself. Like as
not, it’s the gentleman’s fault, not yours.”
Good God, no one ever spoke to her like this!
Slowly, awfully, Hero arched her left brow. She knew it was
slow and awful because she’d practiced the movement
in front of a mirror for hours on end at the age of twelve.
The result made seasoned matrons tremble in their heeled slippers.
The devilish man didn’t turn a hair.
“Now, as it happens,” he drawled obnoxiously,
“my ladies don’t have that problem. Stay and watch—it’ll
prove instructive, I guarantee. And if I have any strength
left over after, maybe I’ll demonstrate—”
“Lord Pimbroke is in the hallway!” she blurted
before he could finish his dastardly thought.
The mound of puce-and-brown-striped skirts quaked. “Eustace
“Quite. And heading this way,” Hero informed
Lady Pimbroke with only a touch of satisfaction.
The gentleman exploded into action. He was up and off the
lady and throwing down her skirts to hide her pale, soft thighs
before Hero could even blink. He caught up his coat, made
one swift, appraising glance about the room, and turned to
Hero, his voice still unhurried. “Lady Pimbroke has
torn a ribbon or lace or some such thing, and you’ve
kindly consented to help her.”
He placed his forefinger against her lips—warm, large,
and quite shockingly inappropriate—At the same time,
a male voice called from the hallway.
Lady Pimbroke—or Bella—squeaked in fear.
“There’s a good girl,” the rogue whispered
to Hero. He turned to Lady Pimbroke, bussed her on the cheek,
and murmured, “Steady on, darling,” before disappearing
under the settee.
Hero had only a moment to watch Lady Pimbroke’s pretty,
insipid face go ashen as she realized fully the peril she
was in, and then the door to the sitting room crashed open.
“Bella!” Lord Pimbroke was big, reddened, and
quite obviously intoxicated. He glanced belligerently around
the room, his hand on his sword, but froze in consternation
when he saw Hero. “My lady, what—?”
“Lord Pimbroke.” Hero casually stepped in front
of the settee, obscuring a large masculine heel with her wide
She employed her left eyebrow.
Lord Pimbroke actually backed up a step—quite gratifying
after the reception her eyebrow had received from the rogue—and
stammered. “I . . . I . . .”
Hero turned to Lady Pimbroke, touching lightly the horrid
yellow braiding on the elbow of her gown. “That’s
fixed, I think, don’t you?”
Lady Pimbroke started. “Oh! Oh, yes, thank you, my
“Not at all,” Hero murmured.
“If you’re done here, m’dear,” Lord
Pimbroke said, “then perhaps you’re ready to return
to the ball?”
His words may have been a question, but his tone of voice
most certainly was not.
Lady Pimbroke took his arm rather sulkily. “Yes, Eustace.”
And with a perfunctory good-bye, the two left the room.
Almost immediately, Hero felt a tug upon her skirts. “Hist!
I can hardly breathe under here.”
“They may return,” she said serenely.
“I think I can see up your skirt.”
She moved back hastily.
The rogue rolled out from under the settee and stood, towering
Nonetheless, she glared down her nose at him. “You
“Now, now. If I was, do you really think I’d
She sniffed, sounding rather like Cousin Bathilda at her
most priggish. “No doubt you’d boast of it.”
He leaned over her, grinning. “Does the thought have
you all hot and bothered?”
“Is your wig growing tight?” she asked politely.
“Because I would think your swelled head would make
it quite uncomfortable.”
His smile became a trifle grim. “My head isn’t
the only thing out of proportion, I assure you. Maybe that’s
why you came in here? To sneak a peek?”
She rolled her eyes. “You have no trace of shame, do
you? Most men at least pretend to be abashed when caught in
wrong doing, but you—you strut about like a feckless
He paused in the act of donning his coat, one arm thrust
out, the sleeve half on, and widened his beautiful green eyes
at her. “Oh, of course. Moralizing. Naturally you must
hold yourself superior to me when—”
“I saw you engaging in adultery!”
“You saw me engaging in a pleasant fuck,”
he said with slow emphasis.
She flinched at the crudity but stood her ground. She was
the daughter of a duke, and she would not flee from a man
such as he. “Lady Pimbroke is married.”
“Lady Pimbroke has had numerous lovers before me and
will have numerous lovers after me.”
“That does not forgive your sin.”
He looked at her and laughed—actually laughed—slow
and deep. “And you are a woman without sin, is that
She didn’t even have to consider the matter. “Naturally.”
His mouth twisted cruelly. “Such certainty.”
She stared, affronted. “Do you doubt me?”
“Oh, no, far from it. I believe absolutely that the
thought of sin has never once crossed your perfect little
She tilted her chin, feeling a thrill of excitement—she’d
never before argued with a gentleman, let alone a strange
one. “And I begin to wonder if any thought of righteousness
has ever crossed your shameless little mind.”
He watched her a moment, a muscle twitching in his jaw. Then
he bowed abruptly. “I thank you for going against your
own inclinations and saving me from having to kill Lord Pimbroke.”
She nodded stiffly.
“And I hope most fervently that our paths never cross
again, my Lady Perfect.”
Unaccountably, Hero felt a pang of hurt at his dismissive
words, but she made sure not to let the weak emotion show.
“I will certainly pray that I never have to suffer your
presence again, my Lord Shameless.”
“Then we are in agreement.”
For a moment she stared at him, her breasts pressing against
her stays with each too-fast breath, her cheeks hot with emotion.
They’d drawn closer in the heat of their argument, and
his chest nearly brushed the lace of her bodice. He stared
back, his eyes very green in his loathsome face.
His gaze dropped to her mouth.
Her lips parted and for an endless second she forgot to breathe.
He turned and strode to the door, disappearing into the dim
Hero blinked and inhaled with a shudder as she looked dazedly
around the room. There was a mirror hanging on the wall, and
she crossed to it to peer at her reflection in the glass.
Her red hair was still elegantly coiffed, her lovely silvery-green
dress properly in place. Her cheeks were a little pinkened,
but the color was becoming. Strangely, she didn’t appear
all that changed.
Well. That was good.
She threw back her shoulders and swept from the room, her
step graceful but quick. Tonight of all nights, it was important
she present a serene, lovely, and perfect aspect,
for tonight her engagement to the Marquess of Mandeville was
to be announced.
Hero tilted her chin at the remembered sneer of the stranger
as he’d mouthed the word perfect. What could
he possibly have against perfection anyway?