ALL AFTERNOON WITH A SCANDALOUS MARQUESS – Alexandra Hawkins
Lords of Vice , Book 5
St. Martin's Paperbacks
Diphill Green, England - 1812
Fifteen year old Catherine Deverall is facing imminent beating and rape by her adopted brother Robert Royles. Handcuffed in an outer building, Catherine gets the upper hand and ties him up, handcuffs him , and puts a gag on him. Her birth father and mother were both married to someone else when she was born, and to avoid scandal, her birth father paid the Royles family to take her in at birth to avoid scandal. Catherine must now make her own way in the world as she escapes.
London – 1817
Several of the Lords of Vice, a group of men dedicated to gambling, card games and women, have just entered the newest brothel in London, the Golden Pearl. Overseen by a woman wearing a half mask who calls herself Madame Venna, Simon Wyndham Jefferes, Marquess of Sainthill, or Saint, is impressed despite himself. So begins a year long quest to get the masked Madame Venna into bed with him.
A year later Saint is about to reach the goal he kept for himself, and he succeeds. But as he sleeps Catherine (Madame Venna) sneaks into a hidden room, and her best friend Anna calls Abram, her biggest pugilist turned footman, to remove Saint. Fright is not even a part of the terror she feels at the feelings rushing through her veins. She must get rid of Saint as soon as possible before she does something crazy like fall in love with him. Saint reacts as other man would do; he tries to ignore Madame Venna for the next six years.
London - 1824
The Lords of Vice are seven friends who met before any of them could shave. There are Vane, Reign, Sin, Frost, Dare, Hunter, and Saint. Several of them have now married, but the single ones are still frequenting the Golden Pearl. Since their one night together, Saint has bedded many others at the Pearl and even had several mistresses, but it is Madame Venna who still holds his attention against his will. It is said Saint's father died while atop his mistress, and after his mother married someone else, she sent him away to school, and started a new family that Saint has never met. Never having a family, Saint envies the other married Lords, but can't see himself doing the same. Finally, Saint decides for some reason that Madame Venna isn't just ignoring him, she's afraid of him.
After Catherine escaped her “home” she arrived in London, and by age twenty one she opened the Golden Pearl. She was taught the business by an older woman, and from the first day money rolled in to her brothel, but she knows with the secrets she has, she will eventually have to leave London. Her father, Lord Greenshield, has been trying to contact her through her lawyer for awhile, but she refuses to contact him. He sold her to a family of fear and physical abuse, why should she care what he thinks of her? Unknown to all of London, Madame Venna also has a second life as Catherine Deverall. She has a small house and does good works and lives a quiet life that she treasures away from the Golden Pearl. When Saint finds the name Catherine Deverall, he accidentally meets Catherine and becomes enthralled with her also and introduces her to his friends. He can't figure out how he could be attracted to two such different women.
Alexandra Hawkins has continued her Lords if Vice series with the usual unique situations and clearly drawn characters. Both Catherine and Saint have parents who pretty much gave them up at an early age, but they try to ignore the hole it has left in their hearts. Saint has spent six years trying to get over Catherine, and Catherine has spent six years trying to talk herself out of being attracted to him. Told from their points of view, we learn how each of them grew up, and how each of them has coped with what life has thrown at them.
Secondary characters are Anna, Catherine's good friend at the brothel, and the other Lords of Vice and some of their wives. And like a bad penny, her adopted father, Mr. Royles, and her biological father Lord Greenshield, both want a part of Catherine, and she must accept that she probably can't continue to be Madame Venna much longer.
ALL AFTERNOON WITH A SCANDALOUS MARQUESS introduces us to a house of prostitution, its proprietress, and one of its patrons. Despite Catherine's double identity and her many years in the trade, she carefully keeps her innocence of the world outside her brothel. Saint, while captivated with both the innocent Catherine, and the passionate Madame Venna, must come to terms with what type of woman he actually wants in his life. Easy reading and fascinating characters make ALL AFTERNOON WITH A SCANDALOUS MARQUESS a light-hearted read for this month. While there is no date for the next Lords of Vice story, I am sure it will have its own unique story and characters.