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Kiss Me, Annabel
Cover of Kiss Me, Annabel
Kiss Me, Annabel
Essex Sisters Series, Book 2

The rules of marriage . . . according to Miss Annabel Essex

A husband must be:

Rich.

Make that very rich. She's had enough of leaky roofs and thread-worn clothing.

English.

London is the center of the civilized world, and Annabel has a passion for silk and hot water.

Amiable.

Good-looking would be nice, but not necessary. Same for intelligent.

Isn't she lucky? She's found just the man! And her chosen spouse is nothing like the impoverished Scottish Earl of Ardmore, who has nothing but his gorgeous eyes, his brain—and his kisses—to recommend him.

So what cruel twist of fate put her in a carriage on her way to Scotland with just that impoverished earl and all the world thinking they're man and wife? Sleeping in the same bed? Not to mention the game of words started by the earl—in which the prize is a kiss. And the forfeit . . .

Well. They are almost married, after all!

The rules of marriage . . . according to Miss Annabel Essex

A husband must be:

Rich.

Make that very rich. She's had enough of leaky roofs and thread-worn clothing.

English.

London is the center of the civilized world, and Annabel has a passion for silk and hot water.

Amiable.

Good-looking would be nice, but not necessary. Same for intelligent.

Isn't she lucky? She's found just the man! And her chosen spouse is nothing like the impoverished Scottish Earl of Ardmore, who has nothing but his gorgeous eyes, his brain—and his kisses—to recommend him.

So what cruel twist of fate put her in a carriage on her way to Scotland with just that impoverished earl and all the world thinking they're man and wife? Sleeping in the same bed? Not to mention the game of words started by the earl—in which the prize is a kiss. And the forfeit . . .

Well. They are almost married, after all!

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  • Chapter One

    London
    April, 1817

    The day the Scotsman came to Lady Feddrington's ball, Annabel's sister decided to give him her virtue, and Annabel decided not to give him her hand in marriage.

    In neither case had the Scotsman indicated a particular interest in undertaking such intimate activities with an Essex sister, but his participation was taken for granted. And, naturally, both of these decisions took place in the ladies' retiring room, which is where everything of importance takes place at a ball.

    It was in those middle hours, when the initial excitement has worn away and women have an uneasy feeling that their noses are shiny and their lips pale. Annabel peeked into the retiring room and found it empty. So she sat down before the large mirrored dressing table, and started trying to pin her unruly curls so they would stay above her shoulders for the rest of the evening. Her sister Imogen, Lady Maitland, plumped down beside her.

    "This ball is nothing more than a breeding ground for parasites," Imogen said, scowling at her reflection. "Lord Beekman has twice asked me to dance with him. As if I would even contemplate dancing with that plump toadlet. He should look lower . . . perhaps in the scullery."

    She looked magnificent, a few gleaming black curls falling to her shoulders, and the rest piled high on her head. Her eyes sparkled with the displeasure of receiving too much attention. In all, she had the magnificent rage of a young Helen of Troy, stolen by the Greeks and taken from her homeland.

    It must be rather annoying, Annabel thought, to have nowhere to direct all that emotion except toward unwary gentlemen who do nothing more despicable than ask for a dance. "There is always the chance that no one has told the poor toadlet that Lady Maitland is such a very grand person." She said it lightly, since mourning had turned Imogen into a person whom none of them knew very well.

    Imogen flashed her an impatient look, twitching one of her curls over her shoulder so that it nestled seductively on her bosom. "Don't be a widgeon, Annabel. Beekman is interested in my fortune and nothing more."

    Annabel raised an eyebrow in the direction of Imogen's virtually nonexistent bodice. "Nothing more?"

    A sketch of a smile touched Imogen's lips, one of the few Annabel had seen in recent months. Imogen had lost her husband the previous fall, and after her first six months of mourning she had joined Annabel in London for the season. Currently she was amusing herself by shocking respectable matrons of the ton by flaunting a wardrobe full of mourning clothing cut in daring styles that left little of her figure to the imagination.

    "You have to expect attention," Annabel pointed out. "After all, you dressed for it." She let a little sarcasm creep into her tone.

    "Do you think that I should buy another of these gowns?" Imogen asked, staring into the mirror. She gave a seductive roll of her shoulders and the bodice settled even lower on her chest. She was dressed in black faille, a perfectly respectable fabric for a widow. But the modiste had saved on fabric, for the bodice was nothing more than a few scraps of cloth, falling to a narrow silhouette that clung to every curve. The piéce de résistance was a trim of tiny white feathers around the bodice. The feathers nestled against Imogen's breasts and made every man who glimpsed them throw caution to the wind.

    "No one has a need for more than one dress of that pattern," Annabel pointed out.

    "Madame Badeau has threatened to make another. She complains that she must sell two in order to justify her design. And I should not like to see another woman in this particular gown."

About the Author-
  • Eloisa James is a USA TODAY and New York Times bestselling author and professor of English literature, who lives with her family in New York but can sometimes be found in Paris or Italy. She is the mother of two and, in a particularly delicious irony for a romance writer, is married to a genuine Italian knight. Visit her at www.eloisajames.com.

Reviews-
  • Publisher's Weekly

    Starred review from October 10, 2005
    As smooth, full-bodied and intoxicating as a fine wine, this Regency romance, the second in a series following the impoverished Essex sisters (after Much Ado About You
    ) is vintage James. Every exchange showcases the author's subtle wit, and not one of the encounters between the book's well-matched protagonists—refined beauty Annabel Essex and the simple but capable Ewan, earl of Ardmore—lacks for passion. Annabel has practiced every smile and come-hither glance for one purpose: to snare a wealthy husband. The last person she wants to charm is a handsome Scottish earl who's rumored to be poor. Nevertheless, their attraction pulls them together, as does circumstance, and before long, they find themselves en route to Scotland and marriage. During this weeklong journey, the protagonists' passions and personalities blossom as they take part in a delicious game to elicit truths and kisses from one another. A full quiver of secondary characters—including Annabel's troublemaking sister, Imogen, and the tired rake Garret Mayne—complement the primary romance and provide tantalizing glimpses of relationships that will no doubt be developed in future books.

  • Library Journal

    November 15, 2005
    With her sister Tess now happily married (see "Much Ado About You"), Annabel Essex has decided it is time for her to do the same. But whom should it be? Certainly not the dashing but reportedly penniless Scottish Earl of Ardmore, with lands in the distant north. Much better the mild-mannered, wealthy, very English Lord Rosseter, with property in Kent. Or so she thinks, until a robbery forces her into a compromising situation and her life heads off in an unexpected direction. Second in the author's series about the four Essex sisters, this well-choreographed story displays the exquisite use of language, appealing dialog, and lush sensuality that are hallmarks of James's work. Fans are sure to be waiting for this and the subsequent installments.

    Copyright 2005 Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

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Essex Sisters Series, Book 2
Eloisa James
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