Win a signed print copy of THE LANGUAGE OF LOVE

Greetings on the second Saturday of 2022!

I’m giving away an autographed print copy of my newest book, THE LANGUAGE OF LOVE on my website.

It’s super easy to enter, all you have to do is tell me which of my secondary characters you’d like to have their own story.

I had this same question in my last newsletter, the prize in that case is a print copy of THE FOOTMAN. If you enter my website giveaway I’ll put your name in for both prizes.

When/where will this secondary character story appear?

I’m writing a novella for an anthology that will come out next November, called DUKE IN A BOX (more deets on that soon!)

Don’t worry, the character doesn’t have to be a duke–which is a good thing since my only secondary character who is a duke is the villain from INFAMOUS.

Anyhow, here is the link to the MONTHLY GIVEAWAY page on my website, with instructions for how to enter.

May the best secondary character win!

Book Launch & Please help me choose the couple for my next novella!

Happy New Year!

I hope everyone had a fun and safe NYE. I made it until about 11:15, which is pretty good for me. But then I woke up at 11:59, which was serendipitous. Our power went out a few times but came back on, THANKFULLY. We were out for several days in mid-December and because we are on a well and septic no power means no water or sewer or heat or light. Luckily we have some fireplaces, which we kept going around the clock as the temps had dropped into the minus digits. What a year!

We had about a foot of snow overnight. Shoveling is not-so-welcome, but the precipitation is extremely, desperately needed since we are in a drought.

I am asking for help choosing one of my secondary characters to feature in a novella. I often get request or questions about various characters and now is your chance to vote on who you’d like to read about. Either drop a comment on my website or you can email me at:

Also.. THE LANGUAGE OF LOVE, book 4 in THE ACADEMY OF LOVE series came out yesterday. It’s on Amazon KU and you can also grab print copies.

Here is the link to Amazon: READ NOW!

Book 4 in THE ACADEMY OF LOVE Series!

She’s not who he thought she was.

But he’s not who he’s pretending to be, either…

Annis Bowman lost everything when she trusted the wrong man. Now, she needs money, and she needs it fast. Finding a wealthy husband is her only viable option. It’s just her wretched misfortune that the only man who truly interests her is poor as a church mouse.

Henry Singleton, the new Earl of Rotherhithe, is ready for desperate measures. He’s tired of not knowing if women are interested in him—or his wealth. Switching identities with one of his employees is the perfect solution. So, imagine his disappointment when the lovely Annis turns out to be a heartless fortune hunter…

When a series of unfortunate events—and a huge coincidence—trap them in a marriage neither expected, can Annis and Henry overcome the misunderstandings, lies, and suspicion that stand between them? Or is their chance for a happily ever after doomed from the start?

Get ready to meet your newest book boyfriend. This steamy and sexy marriage of convenience story will give you all the feels on your way to a happily ever after.

Happy Monday and Hello November!

I hope everyone had a happy Halloween yesterday. We’ve never once had trick-or-treaters (do kids even still do that?!) in the fifteen years we’ve lived here. For the first few years I was prepared with bags of candy and lots of Halloween decorations. Now I skip the decorations, turn off all the lights, and Mr. Spencer and I share the candy while watching scary movies.

That’s actually a lie …

I dont’ actually watch scary movies. I usually keep a blanket over my head and ask repeatedly, “What’s happening now?” (I’m not kidding)

Anyhow, I’m VERY pleased to share the final “recovering” of my series THE SEDUCERS.

For whatever reason, I recovered these books out of order, so the last cover is for MELISSA AND THE VICAR, which is really book 1 in the trilogy.

I am in love with this cover!

I think the red-orange (roarange?) color perfectly fits the spirit of this steamy, racy story of redemption and second chances. Melissa is a world-weary brothel owner who falls in love with a country clergyman. This smart and sexy historical romance has lots of humor and tons of steam. And yes, there is some of my signature angst to keep you turning pages.

I’ve included the blurb below the image and also a link to Amazon, which has exclusive rights to the ebook version of MELISSA AND THE VICAR.

Melissa Griffin is quite literally sick and tired. She’s the owner of one of London’s most exclusive brothels, but her failing health is telling her she can’t continue to keep working at her current pace. A relaxing stay in the country is exactly what she needs. Falling for the small town’s gorgeous young vicar—a virgin, no less—was never part of her plan. Their love is scandalous, forbidden…and everything Melissa never knew she wanted. Denying her feelings is unthinkable. Avoiding devastation when her past inevitably drives them apart? Impossible.

Magnus Stanwyck never resented his vow of celibacy…until meeting Melissa. As beautiful on the inside as she is on the outside, the mysterious woman captures his heart in a way he never could’ve anticipated. No matter what stands between them, no matter the cost, he’ll do whatever it takes to possess her—heart, body, and soul.

By day, they’re opposites who were never supposed to be together. By night, their passion threatens to overtake them. When all is said and done, can Melissa and Magnus overcome the obstacles (and enemies) that stand between them? Or will fate deny them their happily ever after?

MELISSA AND THE VICAR is a steamy, full-length romance novel with elements of taboo love, marriage of convenience, and opposites attract. If you love older woman and younger men stories with lots of sizzle and heat you’ll adore Melissa and Magnus’s love story.

This is book 1 in THE SEDUCERS series, a Regency romance trilogy that explores life on the wild side!

This book contains adult themes and is for adult readers who are not easily offended or shocked.

Apparently ‘Tis the Season to be adding new books for pre-order, because I’ve gone and added ANOTHER book …

In fact, I’ve got an entirely new series coming up and it’s called THE BELLAMY SISTERS. Here’s the blurb for PHOEBE Book 1: 

PHOEBE book 1 in THE BELLAMY SISTERS is a sensual, sexy, and heartwarming love story about the girl next door and the powerful, wealthy stranger who changes her world forever.

Meet the Bellamy sisters, five young women who will do anything to save their siblings and keep the wolf from the door.

Lady Phoebe Bellamy will do anything to save her family from ruin—even marry the devil himself…

The Bellamy family has only four months before they’ll lose the very roof over their heads. While Phoebe’s older sisters venture out into the world to earn the necessary funds, Phoebe herself—plain, levelheaded, and responsible—stays home to care for her younger siblings and parents. But then she meets Viscount Needham, a fabulously wealthy, brand new peer, and everything changes.

When Phoebe learns that her father is determined to marry one of his daughters to Needham, she knows it’s time to act. She certainly can’t imagine saddling any of her beloved sisters with the brutally handsome upstart. So, she does the unthinkable and proposes to Viscount Needham herself…

Paul Needham attended the best schools, belongs to all the proper clubs, and can buy and sell half the House of Lords and still have money to spare. And yet the ton still treats him with disdain. Marrying one of their own is the fastest way to legitimize his place in society. But that doesn’t mean that he has to like his bride. He certainly won’t ever love her. Their marriage will be nothing but a mutually beneficial business arrangement.

Except it doesn’t feel like a simple transaction when Phoebe is in his arms…

They are complete opposites with nothing in common. Class differences and prejudices divide them. Is love enough to bridge their two worlds—or are they destined for heartbreak?

PHOEBE is the wickedly witty and sensually steamy first book of a five-book historical romance series. Each story in THE BELLAMY SISTERS stands alone.

That’s it for today, but I’ll be sending out a newsletter sometime this next week, so if you’re not on the list for that, sign up for a chance to win some cool swag and get exclusive excerpts.

Happy Sunday!

The “re-covering” of my SEDUCERS series continues and I’m thrilled to unveil the new cover for HUGO AND THE MAIDEN.

I loved the pink of the first cover so much that I asked my cover designer to keep it for this one. Like the new cover for JOSS AND THE COUNTESS, this is substantially sexier.

Hugo is one of my favorite characters and this cover does an excellent job of depicting the powerful body I imagined for him. And of course he is dressed in his signature black. 

HUGO AND THE MAIDEN is available in print from all booksellers and in ebook exclusively on Amazon and in Kindle Unlimited.

Here’s a link to Amazon:

If you have enjoyed my historical erotic romance series VICTORIAN DECADENCE, then you’ll be pleased to hear that I have two new books up for pre-order in the series: HER BEAST & THEIR MASTER.

HER BEAST is a character you won’t have met in the other books. Malcolm Barton popped up in Smith’s book (THEIR MASTER) and captivated me so utterly that I immediately started writing his book and finished it before Smith’s. 


The beast only wins the beauty’s heart in fairy tales. In real life, he destroys it…and her.

Malcom Barton is what the man who murdered his wife made him—a beast. Scarred and broken in mind, body, and spirit, he lives his life in the shadows.

Until he sees her.

Julia Harlow is the only light and warmth to shine into his cold, dead heart for years. Wild, spirited, and free, she’s…everything.

She’s also the daughter of the man who burned his life to the ground.

Kidnapping Julia and keeping her prisoner to his dark, deviant desires seems like the perfect way to destroy his enemy.

He never expected her to enjoy her captivity.

It’s not long before she makes him want things he thought he’d never have again. He wants her.

But if the cost of his much-deserved revenge is a happily ever after with Julia, is it a price he’s able to pay?

Her Beast is a full length historical romance with elements of BDSM, power exchange, and ménage. If you are easily triggered by violence or unconventional sexual situations you should not read this book.

Yes, Smith’s book is finally up for pre-order. As some of you might know, this book has been a real wild ride to write. It’s no surprise that Smith’s story is different. This is my first ménage story and it was so much fun to write a polyamorous love story!

You’ll get to learn what made Smith the way he is and, yes, you’ll learn his real name. I don’t think anyone will be expecting Smith’s story …


Mr. Smith has lived his entire adult life with one goal in mind: Revenge.

Thanks to the wealth and power he has amassed over the years, that goal is almost within reach.

The only other thing that he’s ever wanted is a child of his own. But with his lifelong plans finally coming to fruition, now would be a terrible time to start a family …

Besides, finding a woman who is willing to tolerate his voracious and adventurous appetites is extremely unlikely. Until Moira Dunsmore—a far too mysterious and intriguing courtesan—enters his life. Striking a bargain with Moira to bear his child is too appealing an opportunity to pass up.

Smith never imagined that Moira would be so open to his unconventional lifestyle—or so accepting of his live-in male lover. And he certainly never expected to feel anything for her.

But she is…
And he does …

Love is something Smith has had precious little experience with in his life. Can he trust in love—and Moira? What if the price of their happily ever after is his long-awaited revenge?

Their Master, book 5 in the VICTORIAN DECADENCE series, is a sensual and emotional historical romance novel featuring a mysterious, bisexual hero, a heroine who is far more than she claims to be, a gorgeous and oh-so-eager body servant, and a polyamorous HEA that none of them ever saw coming.

Get ready to fall in love with the most unconventional lovers that Victorian England has ever known.

THEIR MASTER contains plenty of hot f/m, f/m/m, m/m, ménage action with lots of spicy bedroom scenes. This book is for adult readers who are not easily triggered or offended.

So, that’s all the news I have today. I hope to be sharing the new cover of MELISSA AND THE VICAR with you soon. 

I’m also scheming away on another series, this one about five sisters forced to take drastic measures to save their family from losing everything–including the roof over their heads.

I’ve got a series title: THE BELLAMY SISTERS, and I’ve got titles for the books: PHOEBE, HYACINTH, SELINA, KATHRYN, & AURELIA … now I just need to get them out into the world. 

Until next time, happy reading!

DANGEROUS is on sale for $1.99 on Amazon…

Don’t ask me for how long, because I’m always the last to know. 

Anyhow, this is the book that started it all! It is #1 in THE OUTCASTS series, which feeds directly into my new series, THE REBELS OF THE TON. You can look at these two series as one big 6 book love fest! 

Here is the affiliate link to DANGEROUS

Or you can just click on the pretty book cover below and it will take you there. 

Here is the blurb and some nice things that people have said about the book:

“Spencer is my new auto-buy!”
New York Times bestselling author Elizabeth Hoyt

What sort of lady doesn’t make her debut until the age of thirty-two? A timeless beauty with a mysterious past—and a future she intends to take into her own hands . . .

Lady Euphemia Marlington hasn’t been free in seventeen years—since she was captured by Corsairs and sold into a harem. Now the sultan is dead and Mia is back in London facing relentless newspapermen, an insatiably curious public, and her first Season. Worst of all is her ashamed father’s ultimatum: marry a man of his choosing or live out her life in seclusion. No doubt her potential groom is a demented octogenarian. Fortunately, Mia is no longer a girl, but a clever woman with a secret—and a plan of her own . . .

Adam de Courtney’s first two wives died under mysterious circumstances. Now there isn’t a peer in England willing to let his daughter marry the dangerously handsome man the ton calls The Murderous Marquess. Nobody except Mia’s father, the desperate Duke of Carlisle. Clearly Mia must resemble an aging matron, or worse. However, in need of an heir, Adam will use the arrangement to his advantage . . .

But when the two outcasts finally meet, assumptions will be replaced by surprises, deceit by desire—and a meeting of minds between two schemers may lead to a meeting of hearts—if the secrets of their pasts don’t tear them apart . . .

“Minerva Spencer’s writing is sophisticated and wickedly witty. Dangerous is a delight from start to finish with swashbuckling action, scorching love scenes, and a coolly arrogant hero to die for.” 
—New York Times bestselling author Elizabeth Hoyt
“Readers will love this lusty and unusual marriage of convenience story.” 
—New York Times bestselling author Madeline Hunter
“Smart, witty, graceful, sensual, elegant and gritty all at once. It has all of the meticulous attention to detail I love in Georgette Heyer, BUT WITH SEX!” 
RITA-award winning author Jeffe Kennedy


I love this new cover!

Why did I decide to change the look of this book (and THE SEDUCERS trilogy)?

Well, as much as I love the covers, I think they didn’t communicate the spiciness of the books. I figure these stories deserve the “Shirtless Dude” treatment. 

So, here is cover number one. I’m not sure why I didn’t start with the first book in the series, MELISSA AND THE VICAR, but the way things are going it will be the last one to get changed.

I’ll post the updates as they come along …

If you’ve read this book, what do you think? Which do you like better, the old cover or the new one?

Here is the old for comparison:

Smart and Sexy Historical Romance on the way!








I would really like your opinion, let me know in the comments below!


Minerva Spencer books for sale in Target

Greetings Gentle Readers:

Not one, not two, but THREE books in Target!

Minerva Spencer books for sale in Target

Here are Infamous, Outrageous, and The Arrangement for sale in Target.

This week my mom is visiting and we decided to take a longggg road trip to Colorado Springs to check out one of the fantastic Asian food markets (there are at least 8 of them in The Springs!)

I highly recommend the Asian Market, which we spent almost two hours browsing and could have spent oodles more time exploring.

Anyhow, we also did some other shopping and because I LOVE Target (even before they carried my books, but now I love them even more) we popped into one of the Targets in CS. And there were my lovely books!!

Did I squee and smirk? Yes, I did …

I think the Target employee who was stocking books must have thought I was the most out-of-control shopper he’d ever met.

So, what have I cooked with the load of Asian groceries I hauled home? So far I’ve made yellow curry, massaman curry, Vietnamese egg rolls, and pad Thai. Today will be green curry day. Do I like curry? Yeah, just a wee bit.

Here is a pic of the pooches, who are growing by leaps and bounds:

Great Pyrenees Puppies!

Here are Spot and Rover. Do they look guilty? They should. They just chewed up their dog bed…

And here is a #booksandshoes picture! Yes, I have more shoes to show off.

The Rebels of the Ton Series by Minerva Spencer

Here are my lovely Rebels of the Ton and a favorite pair of Chuck Taylors


INFAMOUS and an interview with John Charles!

Yay! It’s another book birthday.

This is book 3 of THE REBELS OF THE TON, which you can think of as book 6 in THE OUTCASTS series as it features the twin sons of Hugh and Daphne from BARBAROUS. Lots of fun cameos with characters from other books.

This is a holiday romance and a “two-fer” love story featuring Richard and Lucian and their love interests Celia and Phyllida.

I just had an interview with John Charles of the Poisoned Pen Bookstore, if you’d like to listen/watch, here is the LINK

I always love talking with John and we chat about books, trends in the romance world, and of course a bit about chickens and dogs, too!

Here is a picture of me on Unboxing Day with Spot and Rover.


Hello Gentle Readers!

Lately I’ve been getting a lot of questions about the order of my books in THE OUTCASTS and THE REBELS OF THE TON. 

Although the books are two separate series, there is quite a bit of cross-over. In fact, you can think of THE REBELS OF THE TON as THE OUTCASTS 2.0 since it features the children of of the heroes and heroines from the first series.

Below I’m going to list the books in order and also include the heroes and heroines and their connections to the other stories. 


DANGEROUS: Adam and Mia are the H/h in this book. They are both in their thirties and have children from other marriages when they meet. Mia’s son is Jibril (who changes his name to Gabriel when he moves to England). Adam has three daughters: Catherine, Eva, and Melissa. 

BARBAROUS: Hugh and Daphne are the H/h in this book. Hugh has no children, but Daphne has twin sons, Lucien and Richard. 

SCANDALOUS: Martine and Sarah are the H/h in this book. To say more about their situation would be a spoiler!


NOTORIOUS: Jibril/Gabriel and Drusilla are the H/h in this book. Gabe is Mia’s son from her marriage to the sultan, who is mentioned in DANGEROUS. 

OUTRAGEOUS: Eva and Godric are the H/h. Eva is Adam’s middle daughter. 

INFAMOUS: this book features a double romance with Richard and Celia and Lucien and Phyllida. Rich and Luce are Daphne’s twins from BARBAROUS–all grown up! 

I recommend you read the books in order for maximum pleasure, but each story stands alone–although you might hear some names and wonder who they are, that is no big deal to the stories (plus a little unfulfilled curiosity is healthy for the imagination!)

I hope this answers some questions. If I’ve left anything out, please feel free to drop me an email. I love hearing from readers.



An excerpt from INFAMOUS ….


Chapter 1

The Duke of Stanford’s Ballroom

London, 1818

“Quit yanking on your cravat, Richard—you look as though you’ve been mauled by those beetles you’re so bloody fond of,” Lucien said under his breath.

Richard laughed. “Thank you, Luce, I can always count on you to give me the words with the bark still on them.”

Lucien’s cheeks darkened. “Sorry.”

Richard couldn’t help noticing that his twin’s eyes were in constant motion as he searched the swelling crowds for something. Or someone.

And Richard could guess who.

“I don’t mean to be an arse, Rich,” Lucien said. “It’s just—”

“I know, I know. It’s a burden to have a barnacle like me stuck to your side.” Richard patted his brother’s shoulder.

Lucien snorted. “Idiot.”


They both grinned.

Richard squinted around at the multitude of people packing the receiving area of the Duke of Stanford’s town house. “Remind me why I’m here again,” he asked his far better dressed, more attractive, and more gregarious identical twin.

So, identical in theory.

In addition to the spectacles Richard wore and his brother did not, Richard was a good stone and a half lighter than Lucien, who’d filled out in the chest and shoulders in a way Richard hadn’t quite managed yet.

And then there were the spots that had plagued them both from age fourteen. Lucien’s had magically disappeared when he’d turned seventeen but Richard’s were only now clearing.

Yes, identical, but different. Richard smirked at the thought.

“You’re here for the girls,” Lucien reminded him, somehow able to speak while smiling, a new skill and something that must have been on the curriculum at Eton those last two years—the two Richard had skipped, instead going straight to university.

Richard snorted. “Yes, because all the girls were so impressed by the way I trod upon—” He made a frustrated tsking sound. “The devil! I can’t even recall the poor girl’s name.”

“Nobody remembers that incident except you,” Lucien said. “Well, and likely her. I don’t recall her name, either. You need to stop thinking that nobody likes you, Rich. If you just put yourself out a bit, you’d see.”

Richard could not believe his twin could be so oblivious of the insults, mocking names, and even an ode that had circulated about Richard this Season. He could only think that Lucien was so insensible because he was falling deeper in love by the hour and could see nothing other than one spectacularly beautiful face, whether she was in the room or not.

“And,” Lucien added, “if a roomful of pretty women isn’t enough reason to be here, remember your promise to Mama.”

“Oh, that’s hitting below the belt,” he muttered.

Lucien merely smirked.

Unfortunately, what his brother said was true. If Richard hadn’t—in an extremely weak moment—promised their mother to stick it out for one Season, he could have been tramping the Fenlands and adding to his already considerable beetle collection.

But their mother, Baroness Ramsay, had chosen the perfect time to corner him—just after he and Lucien had returned from a year of unfettered hedonism on the Continent—and he had foolishly capitulated.

So, here he was. Thank God it was getting near the end of the Season because he wasn’t sure how much more tomfoolery he could bear. In Richard’s opinion, a London Season was remarkably like a term at Eton, but with girls to join in the mockery.

Richard sighed and scanned the crowd. And then immediately wished he hadn’t. Because, dead ahead, was Sebastian Fanshawe, the Duke of Dowden and Richard’s chief tormentor from Eton.

“Good Lord,” he muttered beneath his breath, turning so that the other man mightn’t see him.

Dowden hadn’t changed a whit in the almost three years since Richard had last seen him. He was still the physical embodiment of male perfection, tall, broad shouldered, golden-haired and blue eyed. And he still had the same punishing wit and barbed tongue.

It didn’t matter what Richard did or said, Dowden would abuse him. And only the two of them knew the reason why.

The names, digs, and even a snide ode that some wit had composed about him didn’t bother Richard any more now than they had at school.

That said, it was a damned shame that Dowden had so much influence over the ladies.

Especially over one girl in particular: Miss Celia Trent.

Just thinking Miss Trent’s name gave Richard a heavy feeling in his groin—an unfortunate development with the potential to embarrass him right here in the middle of the Duke of Stanford’s ballroom if Richard wasn’t careful.

He wasn’t the only bloke who suffered such a physical reaction to the woman’s sensual, almost overripe beauty, but he was the only man in the room whose twin was madly in love with her.

Richard felt like a dirty dog about the way his body reacted to the woman his brother hoped to marry, but he was a human animal in his prime breeding years and he could hardly control his body’s reaction to such stimulus.

Could he?

But he could control his behavior. And so he behaved respectfully and with reserve toward the object of his lust and his brother’s love.

Not that his actions mattered to Miss Trent since she seemed to have taken an aversion to Richard before they’d even met.

Lucien leaned close to him and said, “I’m going to speak to Celia’s father tomorrow.”

Richard groaned. “Why do you feel that you have to marry her, Luce? Just because you kissed her?”

Lucien hissed. “Would you keep your bloody voice down?” He glanced around, as if anyone else cared about their conversation. “You know I’ve been thinking about it for weeks now. Long before the kiss.”

“Yes, but you only started mentioning marriage since that irritating lawn party a few days ago—which was also the same day—”

“Yes, yes, you already announced that, thank you very much. It so happens that that particular . . . issue is what has made the matter, er, pressing.”


Lucien rolled his eyes. “You know why.”

“I don’t, actually. It’s not as if you ruined her.” Richard snorted at the words. “Ruined her,” he repeated. “How stupid and dramatic that sounds. Have you ever given any thought to that phrase and what it means? As if she were some sort of object, like a plate you dropped and ruined because it is now broken. It’s not as if kissing—or even sexual intercourse—can only happen one time, so how can you ruin a woman by having sex with her? I have sex with delightful regularity. And yet nobody says that I am ruined.”

Lucien was staring at him in a familiar way. Richard could almost predict his brother’s next words: What is wrong with you?

“What?” he asked when Luce only stared.

“Mother must have dropped you on your head. That is all I can think of to account for it.”

“Besides,” Richard continued, ignoring the tired insult, “I saw her after you kissed her. I can tell you, without equivocation, that she most certainly did not appear ruined. Perhaps you should think on it a few days.”

“I don’t want to. There have to be dozens of men soliciting her father for her hand.”

Richard wanted to ask why they’d do so if she was so clearly ruined but kept that unhelpful question to himself.

Instead, he said, “Maybe some of them have also—”

One dangerous look from Lucien’s narrowed eyes froze the rest of the words in his throat.

Instead, he soothed his twin. “Even if there are a hundred men, none of them can be more eligible than you. Indeed, you possess the only thing Trent is looking for in a son-in-law: lots and lots of brass. Even I, as woefully ignorant of ton gossip as I am, know the man is below the hatches.” He smirked. “In fact, if Miss Trent knocks you back, her father would probably marry you himself.”

“Very droll.”

Richard could see his brother wasn’t listening. “Are you sure about this, Luce? You’ve hardly had a chance to live life or explore the world. We had a smashing time on our trip, didn’t we?”


“Well, don’t you think—”

“I love her.” Lucien’s voice was low and firm.

Love. Richard rolled his eyes and heaved a sigh at the ridiculous word. It was his contention that human beings were not designed for monogamy. He strongly suspected what his brother was feeling was really lust.

Even if he did credit love as actually existing, he doubted that a person could fall in love with somebody when allowed no more than a few minutes a week to chat with the object of his desire.

Richard considered trying to tell his brother that it was his breeding imperative that was driving him to distraction and sending him to Miss Trent’s father’s house tomorrow, hat in hand.

But that was a subject on which his mother had told him he must be circumspect.

“People don’t like being compared to ducks or beetles or horses, Richard. You must reserve your observations on man’s biology for those who can appreciate and understand them.”

Lucien was not one of those people, so there was no point in arguing.

Besides, Richard could understand his brother’s fascination—if not love—for Miss Celia Trent.

Before meeting Miss Trent, Richard had believed that all healthy, attractive, unattached females under the age of forty were largely the same. Which was to say desirable. He’d never felt his brother’s brand of madness for one woman in particular.

But one look at Miss Trent’s gorgeous face, voluptuous body, and lively blue eyes had turned him into a gaping fool just like every other man—married or single.

The male populace’s reaction to this one woman was laughable, really. Because, as attractive as Miss Trent was, there were dozens and dozens of other women who went unnoticed while the men of the ton clamored like a pack of hounds after a single female.

He had observed the same thing in the animal kingdom. Or at least as much of the animal kingdom as he’d had the opportunity to study in his few years.

To his way of thinking, people were no better than the gaggle of geese that roamed Lessing Hall, his parents’ country home, terrorizing the populace, both human and animal.

Every year for as long as Richard could remember the two dominant ganders—Wellington and Soult—had warred over a white tufted goose named Harriet. The two males would de-feather each other and end up battered and bloody in their determination to have Harriet.

Meanwhile, dozens of perfectly fine geese went unbred.

Richard glanced around the ballroom that lay below them: yes, the same thing was true here. Except not geese, of course, but hundreds of perfectly breedable young women, a great many of whom were hiding in corners while only a handful were chosen to dance time and time again.

Slave to his animal impulses that he was, Richard caught himself searching the room for Miss Celia Trent.

He shook his head; really, he was no better than a gander, every bit as driven to de-feather all the other males in his vicinity in his pursuit of Celia Trent.

No, not that; she is to be Luce’s wife.

Beside him, Lucien heaved a put-upon sigh. “Try not to wear that expression, Rich.”

Richard turned to meet Lucien’s light brown eyes—identical in color to Richard’s, although only half the size since they weren’t magnified by spectacles—and found his brother frowning.

“What expression?”

“The one you’re wearing right now.”

The receiving line inched forward.

“I’m sorry, but you’ll need to be a bit more specific, Luce—I know your vocabulary is limited, but give it a go.”

“You get this look—as if you’re observing mankind’s foibles from a lofty height.”

Richard snorted.

“It’s true, and I’ve seen the same look when you’re categorizing beetles or watching animals copulate.”

Richard laughed. “Oh, and what look is that?”

Lucien’s features shifted until his expression was smirky and heavy-lidded.

Richard had to admit it was an expression that made him want to plant his brother a facer.

“I don’t look like that,” he objected.

“Not right now. Right now you look annoyed and your eyebrow is doing that thing.” Lucien sounded jealous.

Richard snorted; the one thing that he could do that his perfect brother hadn’t yet mastered was lifting his eyebrows independently of each other. You’d think that being well liked, more athletic, and the Earl of Davenport would be enough for his slightly older twin. But no: Luce coveted Richard’s eyebrow thing, too.

“I realize the expression is just a defense when you’re nervous,” Lucien went on, with the assurance of a person who knew Richard almost as well as he knew himself.  “But it makes you look like a right arrogant, suspicious . . .”

“What?” he asked when his brother broke off. When Lucien didn’t answer, Richard followed his gaze.

Lady Stephanie Powell and Miss Celia Trent had placed themselves in a position to be better observed by his brother and all the other young bucks, most of whom arrived at these affairs as late as possible.

Richard knew the young women’s plumage display was for his brother rather than himself, but he enjoyed it nonetheless.

Miss Trent’s hourglass figure, ultramarine blue eyes, and mink-colored curls were an attractive contrast to her friend’s slender, blond wholesomeness.

“Smile,” Lucien hissed as they reached the front of the line and he bowed over the hand of their hostess.

“Good evening, Your Grace,” Lucien said in a suave, sophisticated, grown-up voice that Richard didn’t yet possess.

“Good evening, ma’am,” Richard echoed, his voice breaking in the middle of his three-word sentence.

“Viscount Redvers,” the duchess spoke his name with a look of amusement on her handsome face, her gaze on Richard’s cravat.

Does it really look that bad?

With the gauntlet of the receiving line over, they headed toward a scene that looked remarkably like the descriptions he’d read of Roman gladiatorial pits.

“Bloody hell,” he muttered as they fought their way through the bodies. “Why don’t they open a door?”

“The Regent is expected,” Lucien explained.

Even Richard, who as good as lived in a cave—well, it was actually shared lodgings off Sidney Street—knew the Regent had a pathological fear of fresh air.

“Davenport, old man,” someone ahead of Lucien called out.

“Beaky,” Lucien replied, grinning at his best mate.

“Hallo there, Redvers. Didn’t expect to see you here,” Viscount Beakman said.

“I needed to use a bloody pitchfork to get him here,” Lucien said, looking in the direction where Miss Trent had last been spotted. But it was impossible to see more than a wall of people in either direction and none of them was Celia Trent.

“Could I grab you for just a tick, Davenport? I’ve got that thing to ask you about.”

Lucien frowned. “Thing?”

Beaky gave Richard a significant look. “You know—the thing.”

“Ah, yes. That thing,” Lucien said, comprehension dawning, cutting a last, yearning look toward the ballroom. “But I’ve not got terribly long.”

“No, no, it shan’t take but a minute. Let’s go over to the cardroom. A man can’t hardly hear himself think in here.”

Luce grabbed Richard’s shoulder. “Don’t sneak off the minute I turn my back,” he warned him, and then pushed his way into the sea of bodies.

Richard sighed; here was the beginning of yet another long, tedious evening.


Celia watched the two brothers leave the receiving line and then disappear into the crowd.

“It is difficult to credit that they’re supposed to be twins,” Stephanie said to Celia, not bothering to lower her voice.

Millie Bowles, standing on Steff’s other side, tittered and leaned toward them, employing her fan to cover her mouth but actually raising her voice. “It’s difficult to believe they’re even brothers, not to mention identical twins.”

“Oh look, there’s Phyllida Singleton,” Steff said, her glorious green eyes fixed on a slender dark-haired girl greeting several of the other homely, impoverished, or otherwise unpopular wallflowers who were clustered together in a corner.

“Is that the same shabby yellow ball gown she wore to the Kittridge, Oldham, and Acton balls?” Millie asked with an avid smirk.

“I doubt she owns three identical, shabby yellow ball gowns,” Celia said sharply, earning a hurt look from Millie and an amused one from Steff.

“What’s wrong with you tonight, Ceelie?” Steff asked. “You’re in a positively savage mood.”

“Nothing.” That sounded too curt so she added, “I’m just not interested in chattering about people who aren’t even worth a moment of my time—like Phyllida Singleton.”

Her words caused more tittering, and she knew the cut would make its way to Phyllida’s ears before the evening was over. Well, so be it. The unfortunate female should appreciate getting any attention, even if it was cruel.

Some part of Celia’s mind cringed at her appalling thoughts and words, but she shoved her qualms aside with practiced brutality.

Celia let the other two women sharpen their claws on Phyllida as she caught sight of a familiar pair of broad shoulders and a golden head. And just as quickly lost sight of Lord Davenport when he disappeared in the direction of the cardroom, leaving his brother to stand alone.

Something about the sight of Richard Redvers just standing there made her jaws clench. Rather than appear anxious or self-conscious, he surveyed the denizens of the ballroom from his taller-than-average height with the confidence of a general observing a conquered battlefield.

Didn’t the man care that he was the butt of so many ton jokes?

Lily Kendall drifted up to their group. “Did you see who Lord Davenport brought with him again?”

“We already saw,” Millie confirmed.

“Why does he bother?” Lily muttered. “I’ve never seen such a lump in my life.”

“He asked Maria Trevallion to dance at Lady Warnocke’s ball and the poor thing couldn’t think of a way to avoid it. He trod on her skirt and ripped off most of the flounce, taking part of the skirt with it.”

“I heard he ripped off so much that she was almost naked.”

They all twittered over the well-worn piece of gossip.

Celia studied the man in question. He appeared to be staring blankly at the dance floor, his thick spectacles glinting under the light of several hundred candles, looking as if he’d fallen asleep while standing up.

Speaking objectively, Richard did look like his brother, but his appearance was like Lucien Redvers’s reflection in a warped mirror, with spots, although she’d noticed those had begun to fade. He was just as tall but gawky—too slender—and his clothing was a disgrace, rumpled and without any style.

His lips appeared thinner than Lord Davenport’s full, sensual mouth—a mouth more than one young lady had sighed herself to sleep over—but Celia suspected that was due to the odd smirk he seemed to wear in repose.

He stood alone and appeared unconcerned as humanity washed around him like the incoming tide rushing around rocks on the shore.

Celia envied him that—the ability to be comfortable in his own skin. If she were standing all alone like that she’d have developed hives all over her body by now.

That’s why she made every effort to ensure she was never in his position.

Almost as if he’d heard her thoughts—he turned in her direction. His expression was lofty and contemptuous: as if he were examining one of his beetles. No, not that, she corrected. Because if he were doing that he’d probably look interested. Instead, he was looking at her as if she were a bluebottle fly or some other common insect that wouldn’t merit a second of his time.

Perhaps he is correct in his assessment, Celia. After all, what is interesting about you other than your looks?

Ah, touché, she mentally congratulated the inner voice that critiqued her every thought and action.

“Is he a simpleton, do you think?” Millie asked in her piercing voice.

“If you don’t keep your voice down, he might think you are interested, and you will be his next dance partner,” Celia said coolly.

Millie flushed, but the others chuckled.

“What? Are you suddenly feeling sorry for him?” Steff demanded, her eyes slyly flickering in the direction of Lucien, who’d emerged from the cardroom.

“I’m not—but that doesn’t mean I want to make a spectacle of myself.”

Millie’s eyes became glassy at the implied criticism, her chin quivering.

Celia wanted to stop talking about Richard Redvers.

In fact, she’d like to forget the man, altogether.

No, what you want to do is forget your horrid behavior toward him these past months.

Fine. I would like to forget that, too. But it wasn’t my intention that mocking Richard Redvers would become everyone’s amusement of choice.

It wasn’t your intention, but you did everything in your power to make it happen.

Celia was sick and tired of arguing with her conscience—a battered, bruised, and malnourished thing that refused to die no matter how badly she abused it.

Besides, the accusation wasn’t fair. While Celia might have spread the rumors and planted the barbs, it was Sebastian who’d conceived of them.

The Duke of Dowden started it, but you fanned the flames, Celia.

Another truth.

Sebastian had been relentless; his quips and slights and comments were cunning and cruel and spread like wildfire. He was so adept at sowing lies that most people never guessed they came from him. Or her.

At least Celia hoped none of the people around them—with the exception of Steff and Sebastian—ever connected her with any of the cruelty this Season.

Part of the reason that Celia had joined in the baiting was the same as everyone else’s: to make sure that she didn’t become the butt of Sebastian’s rapier sharp wit.

But more importantly, she’d done everything that Sebastian told her to do because she knew he could wreck her.

He had told her he would.

“You want to become Countess of Davenport, my girl, and there is no need to deny it. But even with a face that could launch a thousand ships, you won’t be able to land the handsome young earl without some help. You’ll need invitations to the finest events.” Sebastian had given her a smile that could probably launch no small number of ships, itself.

But wasn’t that how it was in nature? Often the most beautiful creatures were also the deadliest.

Celia had returned his pleasant, utterly empty, smile. “What makes you think I can’t secure such invitations on my own?”

The duke had grinned, exposing his pointed canine teeth. “Oh, my dear, sweet, innocent girl. It would take so very little to ensure that the only ballroom you ever see the inside of is a public assembly room.”

Celia had been too stunned to reply.

“Don’t ruffle your feathers, my lovely. I will guarantee you entrance to every single function of any note. All I want in return is a little assistance.”

“I don’t understand. What can I do that would possibly help you in any way?”

“You can do whatever I tell you.”

And that had been the beginning of it all; Celia had become part of Sebastian’s inner circle, an esteemed, but not particularly comfortable position to occupy.

A person needed a long spoon to sup with such a dangerous man. Even his ex-lovers—gossip suggested—suffered when Sebastian was finished with them.

The Duke of Dowden was wealthy, gorgeous, and had evaded matchmaking mamas for almost five years.

And, for reasons of his own—reasons she’d never inquired about—he had a vehement hatred for Richard Redvers.

Once Celia had agreed to Sebastian’s demands—not that she’d ever had any choice—he had made good on his promise, somehow managing to get her invitations to parties and balls and routs and a half-a-hundred other affairs she never would have attended without his connections.

And all she’d needed to do was spread a bit of mischief.

And create a bit yourself—don’t forget that.

Celia winced at the reminder of the vicious “Ode to Odious” she’d written, which made it painfully clear who Odious was meant to be.

Other than Sebastian, only Steff knew who’d written it, and that had been by mistake.

Celia would never have told the sly beauty anything private. She knew that Lady Stephanie had befriended her for two reasons, and neither one was because she actually liked Celia’s company. First, she wanted to be seen associating with the only woman who could compete with her physical beauty.

And second, she was Sebastian’s cousin and did whatever Sebastian wanted.

So Steff had become Celia’s bosom companion and the two of them had served up a constant buffet of cruel gossip with a smile.

Had Celia sacrificed Richard Redvers, Phyllida Singleton, and dozens of others like them on the altar of her own ambition?

You know you have, Celia.

But I’ll make it all up to Richard when we’re sister and brother.

And how is that?

I’ll bring him into fashion—introduce him to women who are not wallflowers. There are dozens of things I can do to help him.

Her conscience enjoyed a robust laugh.

Celia fumed in silence.

“I’ve heard he’s quite brilliant and went to university two years early.” Millie’s shrill voice cut through her uncomfortable thoughts.

“Studying to be a vicar,” Steff said with a dismissive sniff.

“No, he’s one of that sort who goes about collecting beetles.”

“Ewww!” All five of them shivered with disgust.

“Beetles!” Milly screeched.

Either the word itself or Millie’s piercing voice drew a glance from the subject in question.

“Oh no! He’s looking at us,” Lily Kendall hissed.

He appeared to be, but then his attention was caught by Phyllida Singleton, who approached him with another drab-looking female.

Redvers seemed to come to life, a rare smile transforming his usually inscrutable features and making him almost as handsome as his brother.

“Look, he’s going to ask Phyllida Singleton to dance,” Millie said with her penchant for pointing out the obvious.

“He always does; they’re perfect together. An old maid and her specky swain,” Steff said.

The others laughed.

But Celia didn’t join in.

Instead, anger flared up inside her as she watched the pair. If Richard Redvers had even an ounce of sensibility he would flee London and never attend another ton function.

And if he disappeared, then Celia could stop. She could just stop.

But he was stubborn and stupid and arrogant and insisted on remaining.

And so she was driven to ever greater heights of cruelty.

She needed it all to end, and end soon, or she’d go mad.

Please God, please let Lucien give me some sign tonight . . . some hint . . . and let this horrid, horrid Season come to an end.

If I were you, Celia, I wouldn’t be so eager to attract the Almighty’s attention.

Once again Celia had to admit the truth of such moralizing cautions. Given her behavior, she was far more likely to attract punitive lightning bolts than divine benedictions.

All five of them watched in silence as Richard Redvers led the plainly gowned wallflower out to the dance floor.

That was where Celia should be right now—on the ballroom floor, dancing. But she’d purposely kept most of her card free for Lucien because he usually claimed two dances right away. But not tonight.

No, tonight he’d blithely gone off to the cardroom and left her here.

Left her to watch his brother and Phyllida Singleton enjoying themselves.

They might be unpopular, but even a fool could see that both outcasts felt confident and loved and secure. Neither of them would ever have to worry that they’d return home one evening to find all their possessions tossed onto the street.

Celia tasted the coppery tang of blood and stopped chewing her cheek, forcing herself to breathe and relax.

You don’t have the luxury of relaxing, my dear Celia; you need to take care of matters before time runs out.

What am I supposed to do? Club Lord Davenport over the head and drag him to the nearest vicar?

Her lips twitched a little at the mental picture.

But the smile was short-lived. She had already jeopardized her fragile reputation by allowing Lucien to detach her from the crowds at not one, but three events.

The young earl had been a perfect gentleman the first two times, doing no more than holding her hand, his behavior forcing Celia to all but launch herself at him the last time they’d been alone together.

Even then, he’d tried to be the gentleman. “I don’t want to harm your reputation,” he’d protested—but not very strongly—before capitulating and kissing her.

Kissing was a skill that Celia had carefully honed, and by the time she was finished with him, he’d believed that it had been his tongue that had first led the charge and his hands that were to blame for marauding over her body like Viking invaders.

Indeed, if there had been a vicar with a special license standing beside them at the Lorings’ garden party, Lord Davenport would have married her on the spot.

Unfortunately, the only thing present had been his guilt and heartfelt apologies.

And so Celia had been forced to wait and wait and wait.

All the while her father’s finances had taken an alarming turn—downward. He’d informed her not long ago that she’d better catch herself a wealthy husband before he was hauled off to debtor’s prison.

Matters at home—home being the ramshackle collection of rooms he’d leased for the last six months—had become grimmer than ever. They were down to just Henson and a day-maid to wait on them.

And poor old Molly Henson only stayed because she had nowhere else to go.

Which is exactly the choice you’ll have shortly.

Davenport needed to offer for her, and he needed to do it quickly. Celia had planted the seed almost six weeks ago, but there had been little enough time to cultivate the delicate sprout in his thick male brain. And it bothered her to no end that Steff was always around when Celia had any time near Lucien.

Steff was beautiful, wealthy, and had all the connections that Celia lacked. She’d seen the admiring looks Lucien occasionally gave her best friend.

The voice inside her laughed at the words best and friend when applied to Steff, who was as conniving and selfish and petty a person as she ever hoped to meet.

A lot like you, in other words.

Celia could not refute the accusation.

Her head throbbed badly enough to blur her vision, but she forced a bored expression onto her face while she swept the room with eyes sharper than any raptor’s.

She tried to convince herself that all of this—the incessant balls with the same people, the thinly veiled insults about everyone, by everyone, even the people you believed were your friends, and the constant, crushing fear that you would start slipping down the social ladder and not be able to stop— was not only necessary, but enjoyable.

But the lies and cruelty and duplicity became more difficult to maintain by the day.

This was her second Season and Celia had seen that it was a short step from where she was standing to where Phyllida Singleton lurked with the other undesirables. The only way to keep from becoming Phyllida was to make sure somebody else filled that position. It was cruel and unpleasant, but it was the way of the ton.

Three young men came to ask them to dance but Celia begged off, offering a vague excuse.

Soon Steff and Millie and their partners were swirling around the floor along with Richard and Phyllida. The last pair weren’t exactly swirling and she saw the awkward man tread on Phyllida’s toes. It must have hurt, but Phyllida just smiled up at him and said something that made him laugh.

Celia had to admit Richard Redvers was considerably more handsome—a lot more like his glorious, golden twin—when he smiled like that.

She suspected that the gilt on Lucien Redvers was largely a by-product of his money and position rather than any real difference in the twins’ outward appearance. As the younger son of an earl, Richard would have only an allowance while Lucien would get all the delicious money and property and status that went with the Davenport title.

Celia’s eyes narrowed as she watched the two carefree wallflowers laughing and dancing while she stood on the sidelines ignored and neglected.

How dare they flaunt themselves while she stewed alone on the fringes? If they enjoyed each other so much, why didn’t Richard offer for the woman—whose nickname was The Squab? If they—

“What is the belle of the Season doing all by her lonesome?”

Celia started at the sound of Sebastian’s smooth, cool voice.

“Hallo, Sebastian.” She offered her hand and he bowed over it.

“Where is your beau?” Sebastian was tall—a good head taller than most of the people around them—and glanced around the room with a superior smirk. “Is he neglecting you?” His gaze stopped at something on the dance floor and Celia knew what it was even before he spoke. “Ah, Odious and The Squab.”

Celia winced to hear the names—both of which had originated in her mind—spoken out loud.

His lips twitched and he turned his speculative gaze on Celia. “Don’t fret, darling. Your young lordling is not avoiding you; Davenport has been dragooned into helping poor Beaky out of a fix.” Sebastian cocked his head. “But what if I bring the young lordling  to you and lay him at your feet?”

Celia swallowed down her self-loathing and smiled up at him, her expression—she hoped—world-weary and bored rather than desperate. “Would you? That would be lovely, Sebastian.”

He chuckled and turned back to the dance floor. “I’m getting the most amusing notion as I stand here. Something . . . devious. Something that will make for a rather infamous end to the Season.”

Celia swallowed. “Infamous?” she asked, aiming for an insouciant tone but almost choking on the terror that shot through her at his words. What, in the name of all that was unholy, had he conceived of now? She had to force the next words to leave her mouth, “Do tell, Sebastian.”

In the years to come, when Celia looked back on that conversation, she would be horrified by how quickly one’s life could change.

She didn’t know it then, but that exact moment—only a few seconds in time—represented a critical fork in the road of her life.

While Celia could never know if the other fork—the one where she denied Sebastian what he asked—would have been better, she would soon learn that it could hardly have been any worse.