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Proof By Seduction
Cover of Proof By Seduction
Proof By Seduction
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She was his last chance for a future of happiness...

A gifted fortune-teller from a humble background, Jenny can make even the most sophisticated skeptic believe her predictions simply by batting her smoky eyelashes. Until she meets her match in Gareth Carhart, the Marquess of Blakely, a sworn bachelor and scientist.

He just didn't know it yet

Broodingly handsome, Gareth is scandalized to discover his cousin has fallen under the spell of "Madame Esmerelda," and vows to prove Jenny a fraud. But his unexpected attraction to the fiery enchantress defies logic. Jenny disrupts every facet of Gareth's calculated plan--until he can't decide whether to seduce her or ruin her. Now, as they engage in a passionate battle of wills, two lonely souls must choose between everything they know...and the boundless possibilities of love.


She was his last chance for a future of happiness...

A gifted fortune-teller from a humble background, Jenny can make even the most sophisticated skeptic believe her predictions simply by batting her smoky eyelashes. Until she meets her match in Gareth Carhart, the Marquess of Blakely, a sworn bachelor and scientist.

He just didn't know it yet

Broodingly handsome, Gareth is scandalized to discover his cousin has fallen under the spell of "Madame Esmerelda," and vows to prove Jenny a fraud. But his unexpected attraction to the fiery enchantress defies logic. Jenny disrupts every facet of Gareth's calculated plan--until he can't decide whether to seduce her or ruin her. Now, as they engage in a passionate battle of wills, two lonely souls must choose between everything they know...and the boundless possibilities of love.
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    London, April, 1838

    Twelveyears spent plying her trade had taught Jenny Keeble to leave no part of her carefully manufactured atmosphere to chance. The sandalwood smoke wafting from the brazier added a touch of the occult: not too cloying, yet unquestionably exotic. But it was by rote that she checked the cheap black cotton draped over her rickety table; routine alone compelled her to straighten her garishly colored wall hangings, purchased from Gypsies.

    Every detail—the cobwebs she left undisturbed in the corner of the room, the gauze that draped her basement windows and filtered the sunlight into indirect haze— whispered that here magic worked and spirits conveyed sage advice.

    It was precisely the effect Jenny should have desired.

    So why did she wish she could abandon this costume? True, the virulently red-and-blue-striped skirt, paired with a green blouse, did nothing to flatter her looks. Layer upon heavy layer obscured her waist and puffed her out until she resembled nothing so much as a round, multihued melon. Her skin suffocated under a heavy covering of paint and kohl. But her disquiet ran deeper than the thick lacquers of cream and powder.

    A sharp rat-tat-tat sounded at the door.

    She'd worked twelve years for this. Twelve years of careful lies and half truths, spent cultivating clients. But there was no room for uncertainty in Jenny's profession. She took a deep breath, and pushed Jenny Keeble's doubts aside. In her place, she constructed the imperturbable edifice of Madame Esmerelda. A woman who could see anything. Who predicted everything. And who stopped at nothing.

    With her lies firmly in place, Jenny opened the door.

    Two men stood on her stoop. Ned, her favorite client, she'd expected. He was awkward and lanky, as only a youth just out of adolescence could be. A shock of light brown hair topped his young features. His lips curled in an open, welcoming smile. She would have greeted him easily, but today, another fellow stood behind Ned. The stranger was extraordinarily tall, even taller than Ned. He stood several feet back, his arms folded in stern disapproval.

    "Madame Esmerelda," Ned said. "I'm sorry I didn't inform you I was bringing along a guest."

    Jenny peered behind Ned. The man's coat was carelessly unbuttoned. Some tailor had poured hours into the exquisite fit of that garment. It was cut close enough to the body to show off the form, but loose enough to allow movement. His sandy-brown hair was tousled, his cravat tied in the simplest of knots. The details of his wardrobe bespoke an impatient arrogance, as if his appearance was little more than a bother, his attention reserved for weightier matters.

    That attention shifted to Jenny now, and a shiver raced downher spine. With one predatorial sweep of his eyes, he took in Jenny's costume from head to toe. She swallowed.

    "Madame Esmerelda," Ned said, "this is my cousin."

    A cold glimmer of irritation escaped the other man, and Ned expelled a feeble sigh.

    "Yes, Blakely. May I present to you Madame Esmerelda." The monotone introduction wasn't even a question. "Madame, this is Blakely. That would be Gareth Carhart, Marquess of Blakely. Et cetera."

    A beat of apprehension pulsed through Jenny as she curtsied. Ned had spoken of his cousin before. Based on Ned's descriptions, she'd imagined the marquess to be old and perhaps a little decrepit, obsessed with facts and figures. Ned's cousin was supposed to be coldly distant, frighteningly uncivil, and so focused on his own scientific interests that he was unaware of the people around him.

    But...
About the Author-
  • Courtney Milan lives in the Pacific Northwest with her husband, an exuberant dog, and an attack cat. Before she started writing historical romance, Courtney experimented with various occupations, none of which stuck. Now, when she's not reading (lots), writing (lots), or sleeping (not enough), she can be found in the vicinity of a classroom.


    You can learn more about Courtney at http://www.courtneymilan.com.

Reviews-
  • Publisher's Weekly

    Starred review from November 2, 2009
    Historical romance fans will celebrate Milan's powerhouse debut, which comes with a full complement of humor, characterization, plot and sheer gutsiness. The setting is 1836 London, where fortune teller Madame Esmerelda, née Jenny Keeble, plies her dubious trade at the fringes of respectability. She draws the ire of Gareth Carhart, marquess of Blakely, when his young cousin and heir falls under Madame Esmerelda's spell. Socially inept scientist Gareth wants to prove that Jenny is a fraud, leading to some delightful nonsense as Jenny inventively complicates the terms of Gareth's “proof,” but the more these two tangle, the more they come to see each other's attractive qualities among the flaws. If too much psychoanalysis sometimes gets read into a single heated gaze, such freshman flaws barely distract from the joy of watching the characters develop amid delightful plot twists.

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Proof By Seduction
Courtney Milan
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