DeadlyCharades

Reviews

A VERY PROPER THIEF is one of those true Regencies with style and class. Patricia Harrison is clearly an author to follow. Her characters are endearing and their conflicts very real. The plot is well thought-out and filled with all the dilemmas and frustrations you expect in a great Regency book. I thoroughly enjoyed A VERY PROPER THIEF. Highly recommended! 4 Angels
……Naomi, Fallen Angel Reviews

A VERY PROPER THIEF will steal readers’ hearts with its charming characters and sweetly sensual plot. Eloquent writing, combined with a fast-moving plot will keep readers interested. The enjoyable conversations between Daphne and Victor were similar to a fencing match. Reality was brought to the story not only through the dialogue, setting and clothing, but also by referring to what was happening in the world at that time; specifically, the war with Napoleon. A VERY PROPER THIEF is a very appropriate tale for lovers of historical romance.
…….Joyce Handzo, In the Library Reviews

A VERY PROPER THIEF is a highly entertaining Regency romp. Patricia Harrison has done an excellent job of bringing the period to life in this entertaining story. We have a thief and a rogue in this story and all their adventures are sure to bring a smile. A VERY PROPER THIEF held my attention from the very first page. The characters are all wonderfully written. I highly recommend this one to all lovers of Regency romance. 4 _ Hearts
..…..Chere, The Romance Studio

Excerpt from A VERY PROPER THIEF

Daphne watched while Sophie and the Manleys joined a laughing group of young people. She relaxed, gratified, when they received Sophie with evident pleasure. “Mr. and Mrs. Manley seem an ideal couple,” she commented, accepting a glass of cordial from a footman.
“ Naturally.” Lady Silversby impatiently waved the footman away. “I hand-picked them.”
Daphne choked on her drink, and Lady Silversby snorted in delight at her reaction.
“ You heard right, my girl,” the marchioness said with relish. “Something as important as marriage cannot be left to the whims of younglings. Charles was the man I wanted for Esther, and I made sure they met. I knew they would hit it off, and of course, they did.”
“ But if they had not hit it off, Lady Silversby, what then?” Daphne asked.
The marchioness looked at her as though she had lost her senses. “But I knew they would, dear child, do you not see? They are perfect for each other in every way. I am never wrong,” she added comfortably, a complacent expression on her thin, sharp-featured face. “’Tis the duty of parents, or godparents, to arrange the happiest connections for their children. Do you not agree?”
“ Miss Summerhayes has decided views on marriage, Lady Silversby, and does not hesitate to share them.”
Daphne started at the deep, mocking voice, nearly spilling her cordial. Slowly she turned her head. Lord Courtlea stood beside her, a sardonic smile on his lips, his gray eyes glinting with amusement. Her heart leaped with the oddest mixture of alarm, aversion and pleasure.
Lady Silversby lightly struck his maroon sleeve with her fan. “You scamp, Victor! Eavesdropping is a disgusting habit, quite the outside of enough.”
“ Indeed, I agree, and I fear my skill at it will never equal yours, sweet lady.” His smile widened, and he kissed Lady Silversby’s cheek.
Daphne goggled in surprise. The marchioness cackled with laughter, looking archly pleased. “Your tricks don’t strike sparks with me, rascal. Oh, what is it now?”
She turned sharply to an anxious-faced footman hovering nearby. As he spoke hurriedly into Lady Silversby’s ear, Daphne took a sip of her cordial. It might have been plain water for all her noticing.
“ Have a care, Miss Summerhayes, your hand is trembling,” Lord Courtlea murmured, his voice like warm honey. “Shall I find you a chair, lest you swoon?”
“ I am in no danger of swooning,” she retorted, stung that he should notice her reaction. Nevertheless, she set down her glass on a nearby table and took a deep breath before facing him. “You startled me, my lord, with your abruptness. Not to mention your comment on my opinions.”
He cocked a brow, bur forbore to answer as Lady Silversby rejoined them.
“ I must be off.” Her heavy gold and diamond earrings swung as she shook her head. “That fool girl, Dora Brown, has managed to fall into the conservatory fish pond.”
The earl laughed, unfeelingly, to Daphne’s mind, although her own lips twitched. “May I be of help, Lady Silversby?” she asked. “The poor girl must be prodigiously overset.”
“ Overset? The lackwit is probably laughing hard and trying to catch all my fish into the bargain. No, child, you remain, and keep this rascal out of harm’s way. Too many ladies here are as susceptible as Maryann Bisely, and are as like to fall easy prey to his blandishments. Take care you do not.”
With another cackling laugh and a keen look from her snapping black eyes, Lady Silversby departed with the footman. In the little silence that followed, Daphne, having heard the earl’s sharp intake of breath, glanced up at him. A frown had replaced his smile, and the look he sent after the marchioness chilled Daphne’s blood.
“ Who is Miss Bisely?” she heard herself ask.
“ A friend.” The earl bit the words out. “Lady Silversby enjoys making her little jokes at my expense.”
Daphne suspected that Maryann Bisely must mean more to him than a mere friend. In the context of Lady Silversby’s words, Miss Bisely was probably Lord Courtlea’s mistress, or at least someone with whom he was having an affair. A pit seemed to open in Daphne’s stomach, and for a moment she felt quite ill.
Lord Courtlea looked away, a slight flush on his cheeks. “Pray think no more of it, Miss Summerhayes. The marchioness delights in causing dissention.”
“ Does she indeed?” Daphne said vaguely. She pretended to study the mythological scenes painted on her linen fan while she struggled to recapture her composure.
She could understand Miss Bisely, or any woman, losing her head over this arrogant lord. His attractiveness went far beyond his handsome features and magnificent form. Some power within him drew people as a magnet draws iron. Men seemed to respect, if not fear, him. Women, whatever their age or station, melted as if ready to relinquish their virtue at his merest whim.
As Flora, she had felt that power and barely resisted it. Too much, however, stood between them for her to think of him other than as an adversary: the emerald brooch; his callous treatment of her brother; his belittling of Sophie; his complete selfishness. Strangely, that thought did not bring comfort, but a twinge of something like regret.
With iron control, Courtlea subdued his fury at Lady Silversby’s gibe. He had been discreet: how had she known about Maryann? He forced a smile.
“ The lady has a vicious tongue, but sometimes her words make perfect sense. You are ordered to have a care of me, Miss Summerhayes.”
She looked up, her face lacking some of its lovely color, and he knew with a sinking heart that she had made the connection between him and Maryann Bisely. Courtlea bit his lip. He could not explain: one did not discuss one’s mistresses, past or present, with ladies at a social gathering,
And why, he asked himself in amazement, did he even consider explaining?
“ If you find Lady Silversby so unkind, why do you come?”
He did not care for the distaste in her stiff tones and in the glance she slanted at him.
“ Her ladyship is an old friend of my father,” he said lightly. “She is also godmother to my brother Edgar. Now, Miss Summerhayes, what would amuse you? Cards? Music in the Green Saloon? Perhaps a stroll through Silversby’s conservatory?”
Preferring the conservatory with its promise of seclusion, he gestured toward the wide glass and wrought-iron doors that showed inviting glimpses of foliage and flowers.
Her gaze followed his gesture, but she shook her head. “Sir, pray do not think of my amusement, nor consider Lady Silversby’s suggestion an order. You and I disagree on all matters, it seems. Indeed, I wonder you care to approach me, after our meeting at the Royal Academy yesterday.”
He looked down into her serene, lovely face, and felt the challenge to stir her calm into something other. Not anger; he had had enough of her cutting tongue. Then he noticed the rigid set of her head and how her fingers twisted the tassel of her fan. Perhaps the lady was not as cool as she appeared. He decided on the truth.
“ How could I help but approach?” He nodded toward a group of beaux boisterously steeple chasing over a row of chairs. ”Almost all the gentlemen here are well known to me, and hardly a one is worth listening to. Courtesy prevents me from discussing the ladies’ abilities for discourse. When I saw the belligerent Miss Summerhayes, I knew she alone, with her definite notions and stimulating conversation, could relieve my boredom.”
He neglected to add that she stimulated him in other ways too intimate to discuss openly.
“ Oh, what a gallant compliment, my lord,” Miss Summerhayes retorted. “Clearly, you believe I exist only to satisfy your whims.” She turned away to join the steady stream of guests edging toward the Green Saloon. Determinedly, he kept pace.
“ Would you rather I said your beauty astounds me?” he drawled, enjoying her perfect profile. “Would you prefer to hear that your eyes threaten to drown me in pools of delight, and that your rosebud mouth promises sweets without number?”
She stopped stock-still, turned startled green eyes on him, and, to his complete surprise, burst out laughing.
“ Why, my lord, I believe you have a sense of humor. I suspected it, and now you have confirmed my suspicion. Do you perceive me as a simpleton, whose head may be turned by such glib words? Fie, sir, I am not so easily won.”
She looked a carefree girl, her perfect white teeth flashing and her face bright with laughter. It was the first time she had freely laughed in his company, and he smiled, charmed and pleasantly warmed.
“ Tell me, pray, if compliments to your intelligence and your beauty do not move you, except to amusement, what will win your regard?”
A shadow quenched the gay light dancing in her eyes. “I ask pardon, my lord, for my frivolity,” she said coolly, turning away. “’Twas misplaced, and ill advised.”
Her abrupt dismissal stung, but he held his place, silently cursing Lady Silversby and her malice. He considered revealing the truth to the forthright Miss Summerhayes, and then wondered if he had gone quite mad.
The chattering guests filled rows of gilt chairs in the Green Saloon. Only the back row was empty.
“ Pray be seated, Miss Summerhayes,” the earl said, pulling two chairs even farther back. “One should not be too close to the music.”
She shook her head, looking toward her cousin Sophie in a group well forward toward the gleaming pianoforte.
“ No, my lord, excuse me, I beg, but I must—”
“ All the chairs are taken, I fear,” he interrupted smoothly
Without a further word, but obviously reluctant, she sat down, her slim body stiffly erect. Courtlea took the other chair, turning it slightly toward her. He thought the character in her face heightened her beauty, adding an irresistible fascination. Her gown of some supple fabric delightfully molded her breasts and thighs. Desire stirred in him, tightening in his gut. He wanted her, and he cared not why.
Her cheeks had grown pink, her breathing more rapid, evidence that she was aware of his scrutiny. He realized he had bent close, almost touching her shoulder.
“ Mr. and Mrs. Manley seem a most devoted couple,” she said a trifle breathlessly, wielding her fan hard enough to stir the curls atop her head.
“ Indeed,” he agreed, leaning back, delighted his closeness had affected her, “but they are young yet. Soon enough the bloom will fade, and they will begin to hate each other.”
“ Why, that is so cynical!” The fan paused, and she stared at him wide-eyed. “Surely one should expect more from marriage?”
He shrugged. “Did not you yourself categorize marriage as a union of incomes and bodies? Is that not a cynical view? Granted, the pleasure involved in the joining of bodies—”
“ Sir!” Color flamed in her face. “Lower your voice, I beg! Recollect where you are.”
He glanced about indifferently. “No one is near enough to overhear, even if one could hear in this din.”
“ Nonetheless, it is not a proper subject for discussion.” She turned her profile to him, chin firmed, and again wielded the fan. “I may only add that I hope your own marriage may cure you of your skepticism.”
“ That unhappy event is far, far in the future, Miss Summerhayes,” he murmured with a laugh. “I have neither the intention nor the need to marry for at least ten years.”
“ As to that, sir,” she said crisply, shooting him a sharp glance, “it seems gentlemen, even husbands, may set up mist—alternatives—to serve their needs without shame. Avenues not open to ladies, or wives, unless they care not for utter ruin and loss of reputation. Is that just?”
“ Naturally not, madam,” he drawled, amused and impressed by her forthrightness. “Our young ladies are nurtured to find satisfaction only in the arms of their husbands.”
“ Satisfaction? And what of love, sir? Does not love—deep, true love—enter into your consideration?”
Leaning close, he murmured in her ear, “I cannot say from personal experience, but I believe the charms of love to be grossly overrated. A woman is a woman. Supply her with a home and babies and she is content.”
“ Oh!”
Her shocked exclamation rang out in a sudden silence. The crowd had quieted as a violinist and his accompanist had entered, and now heads swiveled inquisitively toward the back row.
To her credit, Miss Summerhayes did not blush or look away in confusion. Her chin lifted a trifle, and she smiled calmly into all the avidly curious eyes. The musicians began to play, and almost as one the heads turned to the front.
The look she gave Courtlea would have scorched a lesser man.
“ Sir, you are more than severe,” she all but hissed, snapping her fan closed. “It would be justice indeed if the lady who becomes your wife has the same cold, passionless notions of marriage as yourself. Good day, sir.”
She rose, and ignoring a rustle of whispers, marched down the aisle. A young gentleman beside Sophie met her eye, turned crimson and leaped to his feet. With a nod of acceptance, Miss Summerhayes sat down in his place and was lost from view.
The earl stretched out his legs and settled his large frame as comfortably as possible in the small chair. Yesterday he had decided to dismiss the sharp-tongued vixen from his mind. Today, without thought or design, he had gone to her side the moment his eye lit on her. Thank the gods he had approached her, for he had discovered Miss Summerhayes was not as cold to him as she would have him believe. He was sure of it. He prided himself on his knowledge of women, even though this intriguing female did not conform to any he had known.
However, he sensed a struggle within her. One much as his own conflict; a push and pull between calculating brain and fleshly desires. Courtlea smiled, letting the music wash over him. He would not seek her out for dancing or supper. No, let her wait, and wonder, and fret, until she came looking for him. Wisdom told him to avoid her; that red-headed saucebox was not really his taste. Yet, if she herself desired an affaire de coeur, he might consider it. Nay, he would bed her with the utmost speed.

Dangerous Deceptions