The Wicked Marquis
The lady meets her match – and he’s hopelessly ineligible.
Poverty stricken marquis, Lord Tamar, is regarded in Blackhaven as an amiable eccentric and a gifted painter, rather than as a wicked man. But Tamar has secrets that he dare not reveal to anyone, let alone to the delightful Lady Serena, the Earl of Braithwaite’s sister, who suddenly lights up his world.
To Serena, fed up with London etiquette and sent home to her family castle in disgrace after her engagement is broken, the fascinating Tamar is a breath of fresh air. Accepting his help with the mystery of the strange barrels in the castle cellar, she is soon in the midst of danger involving smugglers and spies and a friend’s broken heart.
But it is her own heart which is in most danger, as she falls swiftly and desperately in love. And neither her family nor Tamar himself would ever countenance a marriage between them. Moreover, the marquis turns out to have committed a far more shocking crime than mere poverty.
I had a lot of fun writing this story, so it’s difficult to pick just one scene. You can read the whole of Chapter One on my website (https://www.marylancaster.com/the-wicked-marquis), but here’s a short except that’s typically Tamar – light-hearted, unconventional, and over-bold! Serena has just encountered him for the first time, while he’s trespassing, painting in the grounds of her family home. Neither is really aware of the other’s identity.
“Why do you paint at the castle? There are better views in the environs of Blackhaven, surely, than this orchard.”
He cast her a sardonic glance. “Did I mention the bailiffs? I’m hiding.”
“Really?” she said, intrigued all over again.
“I’ll tell them you’ve gone to Scotland, if that would help?”
“It might,” he said, gratefully. “Thank you.”
“We might need the rest of the town to tell the same story, of course, but… Are you laughing at me?”
“I’m delighting in you, which is quite different.”
She cast him an uncertain glance. His teasing was verging on flirting, which she really couldn’t allow, especially given her disgrace. Besides which, he was a stranger of whom she knew nothing, and an artist to boot. She doubted anyone would consider him respectable let alone safe.
“It’s a good thing and quite harmless,” he assured her, reaching up to pluck a solitary leaf off an apple tree branch. It was pale, golden brown and, halting his step, he held it up to her hair.
“Almost what?” she asked, bewildered.
“The same color.”
“Is that good?” she asked with a hint of defiance.
“Exact would be better,” he said. “For the leaf.”
She couldn’t help smiling. “You talk a lot of nonsense, you know.”
“So I’ve been told.” His gaze dipped from her eyes to the region of her lips, and her breath caught.
“I should go.” Although she meant it to be decisive and forbidding, the words sounded as reluctant as she felt about leaving the eccentric stranger just yet.
“Must you?” He sounded flatteringly disappointed. Slowly, his gaze lifted back to hers.
He had rather beautiful eyes for a man, large and dark and yet always with that shade of laughter, as if he was never serious about the world. They caused a thrilling little twist in her stomach, as though a flock of butterflies had just taken wing.
She swallowed. “Yes, I must,” she said firmly.
“Then meet me again tomorrow.”
“Here?” he suggested.
She raised her eyebrows. “If you’re still hiding from your bailiffs.”
“Until tomorrow, then.” He raised his hand to her cheek, his fingertips just brushing her skin. A smile flickered across his lips and was gone as he lowered his head…
What a terrific introduction to a new-to-me author. I’m always a person that seems to attach myself to the underdogs, and Tamar has to be one of my favorite leading men this year. Even though Tamar has a title and is a Marquis, his family’s past has left him broke and out of favor. When the sister of an Earl breaks her engagement, she is disgraced and sent to live with her brother. A chance meeting with an artist will change the course of her life forever.
I was completely captivated by the whole story. Tamar is witty and fun and doesn’t care what people think of him, he lives his life to the fullest. But he does have his secrets – underneath the bold character he shows the world, is a man who has his own demons to fight. Serena is drawn to him and both are drawn into a mystery and conspiracy I didn’t see coming.
This is a solid read with great characters with some action and suspense thrown in to keep it moving nicely. I’ll definitely be picking up more to read from this author. Even though this was the fifth book in this series, it read fine as a standalone although I hope to go back and read the rest. Reviewed by Cyrene