It's all about the Story...

Sarah Christopher is desperate to expose Sylvie Girardvs true nature. Rescued by Sarah’s family on the road to London, the alluring Frenchwoman is an expert at using her feminine wiles to get what she wants, and has set her sights on ensnaring the affections of Sarah’s brother Frederick.
Only Arthur Ponsby seems immune to Sylvie’s charm. That’s because Arthur has long been in love with Sarah. He’s determined to protect her, even after Sylvie betrays his feelings to the shocked young woman.
As their efforts to thwart Sylvie prove dangerous, Sarah’s eyes are opened to the immense power of desire and the worth of her unlikely hero.

Read an excerpt from The Lure of Pleasure

Sarah knew their plan wasn’t going well, but she had no idea how ridiculous it appeared to a general audience until Vivian interrupted their stilted conversation at the Singletons and insisted Sarah accompany her to the withdrawing room at once.

“What are you doing?” Vivian demanded.

“Mr. Ponsby… Arthur… decided…”

“Don’t gammon me! I’ve known you far too long and love you far too well. I don’t know what’s going on out there but that man is miserable. And you look as if you would like to fly from him at a moment’s notice. In fact, I’ve never seen the pair of you look so uneasy in each other’s company.”

“He’s going to help me discover the truth about Sylvie. You wouldn’t and I didn’t know where else to turn.”

Sarah explained all about her visit to Arthur’s rooms and although Vivian’s feathered brow rose high on her forehead she didn’t scold or interrupt.

“This is the only way we can hold private conversation together,” Sarah finished.

Vivian shook her head. “If Sylvie is as devious as you claim she’ll see right through this. And think of how it looks to the rest of our acquaintance. You appear to allow his suit out of pity.”

“What can we do?”

Vivian shrugged. “I don’t know. I suspect it would appear entirely different if he could make love to you in earnest. He does admire you very much.”

“I told him I would marry him if he would help me,” Sarah said, feeling her cheeks burn at the admission. “But he said he wouldn’t.”

“Sarah! You don’t love him.”

“No,” she agreed, and a pang of regret pinched her heart. “But I do admire him. He’s impressed me in this past week more than in the whole of our acquaintance before. He’s a worthy gentleman, Vivian.”

“But you can do better?” Vivian posited. As if trying to ferret out Sarah’s true feelings on the matter.

Feelings that had been in a tumult since the day she’d learned Arthur cared for her so much. “Can I? Perhaps in looks, fortune or address. But not for heart and nobleness of nature.”

Vivian gazed at her thoughtfully. She took Sarah's hand.

“If you truly feel that way, I have a suggestion. But if it goes wrong, it would almost assuredly destroy you in Society’s eyes. Since your friendship with George Mahew, you haven’t been on steady ground.”

“Would I still have your friendship?” Sarah countered. “Would my family cast me off? That’s the approbation I would be lost without.”

Vivian smiled and outlined her plan.

Sarah listened, trepidation staining her features an embarrassed crimson. It was a truly daring step, and if it played out the way Vivian proposed and Arthur didn’t offer for Sarah, she would surely be ruined.

He would never let that happen. Sarah was sure of it. He might hate her for it, though. And while she didn’t love him, she had lately come to realize she desired his good opinion.

It would be better not to warn him, Vivian said. Much, after all, would depend on his natural reaction. And if he wished to be done with her, the blame would all be hers, as it should be.

She had to select her witness carefully. Not Sylvie, they agreed. It would only make her suspicious.

“It must be someone who lacks discretion,” Vivian said. “Who would be most likely to spread the tale and yet not have their word disputed?”

“Melinda Lloyd,” Sarah answered at once.

Melinda was a contemporary of Sarah’s with a laugh that put off most listeners and an unwise tongue that drew them back. She and her mother had witnessed her ‘elopement’ with George Mahew and had tinged the tale with enough drama to ostracize George from Polite Society. Sarah and Melinda, subsequently, weren’t on good terms.

She wasn’t present tonight although her new husband held a post in the Home Office so she was most likely in Town. It would only be a matter of time before they were thrown together.

It gave Sarah time to consider the ramifications of the plan in minute detail. But after two more abysmal outings in Arthur’s company, Sarah became resigned to the fact she must force the matter.

A note came to her on the third day. “Tonight. The Wallaces. V.”

They were certainly invited. Lucy, Duchess of Wallace was one of her uncle’s dearest friends. That they’d so few dealings with them was strange, until Sarah thought of what Portia had said when she’d suggested the dinner party.

Still, she pressed Portia to keep the engagement.

“I promised Vivian I would be there,” she said. “And I told Mr. Ponsby I would be there too.”

Although Town was light of company, the Wallaces’ public rooms were filled to brimming. And it was an unusually warm night. When Sarah saw Melinda and some of her friends step out onto the terrace, she knew there would never be a more opportune moment.

Arthur was nearby although he’d been silent for most of the night.

Sarah’s heart hammered. It was such a bold step. But they must do something. She reached out and touched his arm.

He flinched as if he’d been struck.

“The Wallaces have a fine garden,” Sarah said. “May we go for a breath of air?”

“Of course,” he rose and offered her his arm to lean on. He held himself stiffly as if afraid to be too familiar.

“Have you made a discovery of some sort?” he asked when they stepped out into the night air.

Sarah shook her head and indicated Melinda and her circle. He obligingly guided her to the opposite end of the terrace where a bush held a stunning autumnal array of noisette roses.

“Well?” he asked.

“Vivian has seen through our charade,” she said. “She thinks it’s quite apparent to anyone who sees us together that your attentions aren’t sincere.”

“I can’t press you,” he admitted. “Not when I know you don’t want… this.”

Sarah sighed. She stroked the petals of one of the flowers on the bush. “Perhaps, we can contrive a few attentions that look like courtship but aren’t. You could present me with one of these roses, for instance, and I could tell you something about it.”

He nodded, his face easing in relief. He twisted a flower from its stem, laughing because he pierced his thumb on a thorn in the process. The flower was in its last bloom. It showered petals at their feet and he glanced at them, his tone amused. “I see I can botch this too.”

He looked up, his brown eyes glittering with humor in the moonlight, a soft smile on his face. He offered her the rose with a flourish. The stage was so perfectly set, Sarah wondered if there was some other force at work as she took the flower from his hand.

She planted her other hand on his broad chest. “Arthur…” she whispered. “I’m so very sorry…”


She smothered the word by pressing her lips to his.

He stiffened, but didn’t push her off or pull away as she’d imagined he might. When she stepped closer to secure the contact, his arm stole around her waist and his lips pressed back.

It was her first real kiss and she owned it pleasant. As he drew back the barest fraction and then pressed deeper, a jolt of something—a spark —careened inside her mind and through her entire body.

She barely registered Melinda’s gasp of astonishment and the hushed giggles and whispers of her friends as they retreated. She knew she should break the contact now that Melinda was gone but she truly didn’t want to.

His lips were firmer than they looked and purposefully mobile as the kiss continued. Obviously he knew what he was about even if she did not. That made her wonder whom else he had kissed.

He drew back first and the unguarded glow in his eyes stole her breath away. For a moment they merely gazed at each other.

Then, remembering they hadn’t been alone, he snapped his head around in a panic. “They’re gone,” he said. “Do you think they saw us?”

Realization dawned on him. The change from joy to pain brought the sting of tears to her eyes. She tried to take his hand but he shook her off.

Sarah wanted to sink into the ground. “You wouldn’t have done it if I asked you to,” she said, knowing there was no way she could truly justify her behavior.

“No,” he agreed. He breathed deeply, mastering himself, then offered her his arm again. “I’d better take you in now.”

Crossing the threshold was a horrible moment. It was obvious Melinda had spread her gossip in record time. There were too many stares. Too many whispers.

Sarah balked.

Arthur’s hand descended on the one she used to grip his sleeve and squeezed, dispensing the comfort he wouldn’t accept from her in the garden. He glanced around and then set them in motion, guiding them toward her uncle who watched their approach with a frosty expression. Standing beside Castleton, Portia gripped his arm and whispered something intended to prevent an ugly outburst, Sarah thought.

Arthur met Castleton’s cold stare squarely. He bowed.

“Lord Castleton,” he said in a low voice. “I fear I’ve been too hasty. I’ve just asked your niece to marry me and she has honored me by accepting.”

“Is that so?” Castleton said. His eyes raked Sarah and she clutched Arthur tighter in consequence.

“I should have come to you first,” Arthur said. “But I allowed the roses and the moonlight to beguile me.”

“I see,” Castleton said, although he did not sound convinced. “Are you going to marry Mr. Ponsby, Sarah?”

“I told him I would,” she said through her dry mouth.

The Duchess of Wallace approached, her daintiness overshadowed by her husband’s massive form. “Castleton?” she asked. “Is there a problem?”

Her uncle looked around the room at the watching eyes. Sarah wondered how many other times his bright smile had flashed with no real inclination or pleasure.

“Far from it,” he replied. “I’m sure you don’t mind if I share your news with the company, children?”

Arthur shook his head, answering for both of them.

“Sarah and Arthur are engaged,” Portia said quickly.

“Oh.” There was such relief in the duchess’s face. In fact, she seemed genuinely pleased. She kissed Sarah on the cheek then rushed away to share the news. The mood of the room changed. What was scandalous for an unattached couple was looked on as a fond indulgence for a newly engaged pair.

Her mother chided Arthur for his impulsiveness even as she offered him her hands. Melinda and her friends came up to surround Sarah, asking for the details. Vivian appeared from somewhere and embraced her.

Sarah clung to her friend, not daring to look in the direction of her family. Over Vivian’s shoulder she could see Sylvie Girard watching her and the Frenchwoman didn’t look deceived in the least.

Copyright 2011, Barbara Satow