Hi friends!!! I’m so excited to welcome back our friend Theresa Romain! She’s absolutely fabulous! And she was the first person to figure out “ALBTALBS” stands for “A Little Bit Tart, A Little Bit Sweet!” Which yes is the actual name of this site! I know, right?! She’s also got a new book coming out on Tuesday – Lady Notorious! Whee! A good month for historical romance releases indeed!
Limecello, thanks for the chance to visit ALBTALBS! I always love stopping by here, and this time I’ve got an exclusive excerpt to share. It’s from Lady Notorious, my next historical romance—coming your way next Tuesday, February 26.
In Lady Notorious, Cassandra Benton is an unofficial Bow Street Runner who works alongside her twin brother until he’s injured on a case. To cover the family’s expenses, Cass takes a private case for George, Lord Northbrook. The scientifically-minded marquess, a duke’s son, suspects his father’s life is in danger from one of the friends who formed a tontine with the duke—a survivor’s wager—decades before. But which friend is the culprit? To help George protect his father, Cass masquerades as a family cousin and infiltrates the ton. And the more she learns, the more she places her heart at risk…
You can order Lady Notorious now in print or ebook from your favorite retailer. (Links provided below!)
For more order links, or to read the first chapter, click here.
Who knew love would be her secret weapon?
Cassandra Benton has always survived by her wits and wiles, even working for Bow Street alongside her twin brother. When injury takes him out of commission, Cass must support the family by taking on an intriguing new case: George, Lord Northbrook, believes someone is plotting to kill his father, the Duke of Ardmore. Decades before, the duke was one of ten who formed a wager that would grant a fortune to the last survivor. But someone can’t wait for nature to take its course—and George hopes a seasoned investigator like Cass can find out who.
Cass relishes the chance to spy on the ton, shrewdly disguised as handsome Lord Northbrook’s notorious “cousin.” What she doesn’t expect is her irresistible attraction to her dashing employer, and days of investigation soon turn to passionate nights. But with a killer closing in and her charade as a lady of the ton in danger of collapsing at any moment, Cass has no choice but to put her life—and her heart—in the hands of the last man she ought to trust . . .
And for a steamy excerpt, read on! In this scene, Cass has just made her public debut as George’s notorious illegitimate cousin. When they arrive home in the wee hours of the morning, George checks on the progress of one of his ongoing chemical experiments. (To put it in modern terms, he’s trying to invent photography.) It’s not long before he gets interrupted, though…
It was closer to dawn than midnight when they returned to Ardmore House. George parted with Cass when they reached the third story. She went, he assumed, to her bedchamber, while he went to his experiment room.
Lighting one of the amber-shaded lamps to dispel the darkness, he peered at the paper he’d set into place before leaving for the Harroughs’ ball. He had painted a heavy sheet of paper with a solution of silver salts, then laid it upon the glass top of the smaller camera obscura. The camera’s cunning method of reflection would shine an image up onto the paper, he thought, and—perhaps—imprint upon it. He had placed the camera before the window, so it looked out upon the facing buildings of Cavendish Square, and left it to stew in the diffuse evening light.
By the ruddy glow of the lamp, he spotted no results. Everything was a uniform pale shade, the paper still damp.
He would leave it longer, though daylight would quickly darken the entire sheet if it rested on the glass. Inside the camera obscura with the paper, then, and a wooden board atop the glass to block it. The only light would enter through the lens. It would be a small amount, a little image if it worked. But it just might. By evening, he would know if this trial had succeeded.
Carrying the lamp to the doorway to light his steps, he tugged at his cravat and was already dreaming of bed.
Then a whisper split the nighttime silence. “George.”
A female whisper.
“Cass?” He held up the lamp. “Cass? Are you all right?”
A pause. “I…need your help.” Her bedchamber door was open partway; her form made a shadow around which candlelight spilled.
In an instant, he’d doused the lamp, returned it to its place on the worktable, and stepped back into the dark corridor. Cass was no longer in the doorway, so he tapped at the door before pushing it open further.
“Yes, come in, come in,” she replied. He entered the room.
“Close the door,” Cass said. She sounded impatient.
She looked impatient. Impatience was in every line of her body, from her half-unpinned hair to her bare toes peeking beneath the hem of her gown. Impatience was scattered about the lamplit room: slippers on the floor, gloves bunched and draped on the vanity, stockings tossed over the top of a dressing screen.
At the sight of her discarded clothing, impatience was not the sentiment that settled upon George. He forgot that he had been tired or that his cravat was scratchy about his neck. He could think only that a woman was shedding her clothing in his presence, and then it was difficult to think of anything at all.
George was casting about for something to say besides what have I done to deserve this—good or ill—when Cass spoke again. Impatiently, of course. “I can’t get this gown off.”
He shut his eyes. He must pretend not to notice the erotic clutter of castoff garments. “Thank you for the information. Let me summon Gatiss for you, shall I?”
“No!” She sounded shocked. “I’m not going to wake a servant at three o’clock in the morning just to undress me as if I were a baby!”
Undressing. Lord. This conversation was not going to veer back in a safe direction, was it? Yet it must continue. George required his eyes to open. “Assisting women with garments is the purpose of her position as lady’s maid. She expects to be woken when she’s needed.”
“She might expect it, but…I don’t want to do that.” Cass bit her lip. “It doesn’t feel right. I’m used to doing for myself, and this is the first time I haven’t been able to. But that’s not Gatiss’s fault.”
“It is,” George said. “Because she helped dress you in whatever contraptions you now can’t undo.”
“They’re not contraptions. They’re just clothes. But they fasten up the back, and I can’t reach. Can’t you help me?” She turned, presenting him with her back. “It’ll take three minutes. There’s no reason to wake up Gatiss for something you could do in three minutes.”
George sighed. “I might be your fake cousin and your real investigative partner, but I am also a man. You’re asking me to undo your clothing. I might get ideas.” I’m already getting ideas.
Beautiful ideas in which he continued removing his cravat and progressing to his bedchamber. But in this version of the fantasy, a redheaded temptress accompanied him, and she undid his buttons just as he unfastened hers, and they fell onto the sheets and…
A hand touched his. “George. It’s just me.” Earnest brown eyes met his. “I’ll ring for Gatiss if you really don’t want to help, but…it’s just me.”
Oh, he was willing to help, all right. That was the problem.
He wouldn’t let on. He mustn’t. “Right. Sorry. Can’t think what came over me. Do forgive my maidenly bashfulness and turn about.”
He knew who she was. He didn’t need reminding of that. She wasn’t Mrs. Benedetti; she was Miss Benton, and it was all a role, and he had a job to do just as she did. And right now, that job was undoing the damned buttons. It was irrelevant that they were the buttons on Cass’s gown, and that they would open the bodice of her dress. It did not matter in the slightest that she smelled of sweet flowers and her tumbling-down hair shone like copper and bronze.
He undid the damned buttons, gritting his teeth against everything else in the world. There was a short march of them, covered in the same blue silk as the gown. They seemed to grow tinier and more sleek with each movement of his fingers, slipping away like minnows.
She was saying something now. It was words and sentences, but he could hardly take in what she was saying. For he’d finally undone the buttons; the fabric parted; and there was her shift, nearly transparent, and the top of her corset. They had been hidden beneath the rich silk; they hid still her skin, and he wanted only to undo more and more until every layer between them was stripped away.
“What do you think?” she asked.
He found it difficult to swallow and shape a reply to what she’d asked him. Whatever it had been.
“George?” she pressed.
“I shall become capable of listening in a moment.” He turned his mind to chemical solutions. Acids and salts. Unsuccessful experiments. “There. All right. Speak freely.”
“I was saying”—her voice was tinged, again, with impatience—“that I thought the evening was a great success. Your idea of the wrenched ankle was a good one. Braithwaite was only too happy not to dance.”
“Most gentlemen are.” Did he have to unlace or unbutton anything else? Surely he’d done penance enough for whatever sins he had committed today.
Or perhaps not, as he was continuing to commit the sin of lust. He really couldn’t help it. Acids salts unsuccessful experiments think think think.
Cass was oblivious. “He was only too happy to talk about Gerry too, since the man wasn’t there. Braithwaite said Gerry’s gout is worsening, so it’s hard for him to get about. And Cavender told me—”
“I can’t do this,” George blurted. “Your gown is falling off and— Look, just ring for Gatiss. Or anyone. The cook or the scullery maid. The stableboy if you must.”
She turned her head to the side, regarding him aslant. “Why, Lord Northbrook. You can’t be thinking I have designs on you. Me, with an illustrious man such as you?”
The amusement in her voice did nothing to dampen his growing arousal, though he tried to respond as lightly as she. “If you did, you’d be at least the tenth woman this week. I haven’t kept count higher than that.”
She reached a hand up to her shoulder. Feeling about for his fingers? No, she was only tugging at the edge of the now-unbuttoned bodice. From the front, she likely looked almost dressed. She could have no idea of the view with which she now presented him.
I hope you enjoyed meeting Cass and George—and that you’ll check out the rest of their story when it’s available on February 26!
You know, I really should make a new Teaser Tuesday/Thursday graphic – maybe some day. In the meantime – what’d you think of this excerpt?! 😀 (I mean, A TONTINE?!?! COME ON NOW!! <– is stoked) And that excerpt! Whew! 😀