Message From The Author
Winner Takes All With HAZARD
By Cynthia Helwig
The New York Times and USA Today clearly understand what it takes to be a bestselling author. That's one reason Jo Beverley's name was added to their elite list of Who's Who more than once.
Beverley definitely steps up to the plate again with her newest Signet release. And this Regency historical's title, HAZARD, certainly describes the sensual gamble that unfolds between its covers. The twice-jilted Lady Anne Peckworth decides to gamble with fate and take charge of her tumultuous life in the face of a sensually provocative, enticingly dangerous relationship with a man beneath her social status.
Fans may recall that Lady Anne Peckworth was first jilted in Beverley's 1994 Company of Rogues release, Forbidden (which was reissued in '97), when her betrothed Lord Middlethorpe falls for a troubled, formerly abused widow.
But Anne's second failed courtship was entirely unintentional. Beverley had received letters from fans inquiring as to what had happened to that sweet-natured girl who was left standing at the altar and decided to send one of Middlethorpe's buddies, Con Somerford, in to rescue the jilted bride for her last Signet release, The Dragon's Bride ('01).
"When I tried to write this…it didn't work. Anne thought Con cold and knew he didn't care for her. Con thought her boring. I pushed on with the book, I even got them locked in a shed together half-dressed, but absolutely nothing happened. I'd always wondered what would happen if a hero and heroine didn't take to one another, and now I know."
As many readers know, the courtship between Anne and Con formed the backstory to Dragon's Bride—sans the shed incident!—and Con moved on to reunite with a former love.
But Beverley, however, was slightly dismayed. "By the end of the book, I still had poor Lady Anne, now in a worse state. Gladly, I realized that Con's secretary, Race de Vere, wouldn't be able to leave this alone."
HAZARD, which means risk and danger, was also a dice game that would eventually set the stage for craps—and one that aptly entices Lady Anne to the edge of Regency norms.
How, you might ask? For one, Lady Anne takes to the spicier side of life, playing dice with the utterly unsuitable Race. She reenters the marriage mart of her own volition, her slight limp notwithstanding, and accepts not one but two marriage proposals. And to top it all off, she even plans her own elopement!
"During the Regency era, clever, bold, and resolute people did manage to get what they wanted while not destroying lives, but it meant going to the edge. Anne starts off unable to imagine outraging anyone, but she learns from Race. She learns more about her own abilities, and she learns to take risks until she finally breaks free. By that time Race is desperately trying to stop her, but she has command of the game and knows what she wants, no matter what the consequences."
Both her hero, Captain Racecombe de Vere, and her heroine, Lady Anne Peckworth, spark off each other like flint against steel. Propositions and arguments are plentiful as the devilish Race tries to make this kindhearted and gentle beauty question whether
she is simply an observer, instead of the participant she truly wants to be in the game of love. Knowing
he is partly to blame for Lady Anne being jilted for the second time in her life, Race decides to shake up her world, but has no idea what potential disaster he is risking for himself and her.
Unforeseen disaster, a masterful plot, engaging characters and
passion is exactly what Jo Beverley delivers to her readers in her twenty-third masterpiece.
Next spring look for Anne's foster brother's story in ST. RAVEN. For excerpts and more titles from Jo visit her website: www.jobev.com.
When Anne's sister goes into early labor, the household is thrown into disorder and Anne finds herself alone with Race, at midnight, playing hazard. They're playing for farthing points (a farthing was a quarter of a penny), but they both begin to realize that they may be playing for their lives, especially when the courtship lessons start…
"Some will try to woo you by being pitiful," he said. "Resist."
"Being wooed that way, or wooing?"
"Have you ever used your foot to try to snare a man?"
"I have never tried to snare a man at all!"
"How exasperated some of your suitors must have been."
"Why? What do you mean?"
"You are a Duke's daughter, a princess within walls of power. A little encouragement would have been welcome," he tugged her into his arms. "What would you have done," he asked, fitting her against his firm body as if it were the most natural thing in the world, "if one of those unpromising gentleman had
"Insisted that he let me go."
But she whispered it. Perhaps it was because they were so very close, but perhaps it was to avoid any chance of waking anyone at this most interesting moment. There was no place for her arms to go except around his neck. Her heart was fluttering, and various parts of her body were, she felt, coming fully alive for the first time.
Her fingertips against his collar.
Her legs brushing his.
Her breath almost close enough to his to blend…
"And if he did not?" He held her closer still so she was pressed to his body along her whole length, encircled as she encircled.
"Well," he asked, brushing a kiss against her cheek, speaking close by her ear, "what would you do?"
"Scream for help?" It was the merest breath.
"If you scream, someone will come." He drew back to look at her. His eyes still smiled, but to her they were full of deep and alien mysteries.
"You really should scream, you know."
"I won't," she replied. "You have my word on it."
"No matter what I do…?"
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