A Wild Pursuit
A Wild Pursuit
Warning! In describing relations between characters, I may wreck a book for you by making it clear who someone marries, or the outcome of a book. Please do not read about The Inside Take if you're wary of knowing who is paired with whom!
» Stephen Fairfax-Lacy, of course, first appears as a character in Duchess in Love.
» Sebastian's mother originally began as a truly tough, nasty character (I wrote Sebastian's visit with his mother, now Chapter Six, first). But I'm not much good at writing truly villainous types – and how did Sebastian become so great if his mother was a true horror? – so before I noticed it, she wiggled her way into the book and I grew fond of her.
» One of the most fraught decisions in writing this book had to do with Esme's baby. On one side, I wanted sweet William to be Miles's baby, because Miles wanted a son so much. And I knew that Sebastian would love William with precisely the same passion as he would have loved a son of his own blood. So everything was set, and I was typing along... and suddenly a little birthmark appeared on William's back. There are, by the way, literary antecedents for this sort of thing: in Homer's Odyssey, Odysseus returns home after years and years, and his nurse recognizes him by his birthmark. So there you go... me and Homer.
» To my utter surprise, a reader pointed out that my hero, Stephen Fairfax-Lacy, borrowed his last name from one of my favorite novelists, Georgette Heyer. In The Grand Sophy (one of my favorites!), the heroine’s name is Sophy Fairfax-Lacy. I can only say that it was an unconscious tribute to one of my favorite novels of all time.
"A Wild Pursuit is really the consummate romance novel. Eloisa James develops the perfect mix of romance and humor, sizzle and dazzle, and it's virtually impossible not to fall in love with the characters, as she brings them to life with her impeccable dialogue. I thoroughly enjoyed A Wild Pursuit and can't wait until the end of next month to read Your Wicked Ways. This historical romance is well deserving of a "Perfect 10"
- Astrid Kinn, Romance Reviews Today (posted March 1, 2004),
If you like heroines who refuse to live within the constraints defined by a stifling society in historical England, who blatantly break the rules without apology and are shockingly unembarrassed by poor reputations, you'll enjoy the fast-moving tale woven by Eloisa James..."
- The State, Columbia, SC (posted February 21, 2004)
4 ½ Stars
- Romantic Times BOOKreviews (posted February 2004)
"After reading James's newest offering (following Fool for Love), some might be tempted to call her "the historical Jennifer Crusie."...A faked affair, a trumped-up engagement and an unfortunate encounter with a stubborn goat snowball into a hilarious yet sharp war between love and respectability. Punctuating her story with spot-on lines like "She had felt very a la mode in her chamber, but now she felt dismally overdressed, like a dog wearing a sweater," James gives readers plenty of reasons to laugh. "
- Publishers Weekly (posted February 3, 2004)
"Being a devotee of anything written by the fabulous Eloisa James I have devoured her novels each and every time they are on the bookshelves... This book is a real hoot! Put A Wild Pursuit at the top of your reading list. The dialogue is witty, wild and totally outrageous, as usual with this unique author... Eloisa James is an author you can fall in love with as she weaves stories that are unforgettable, charming and glowing with the power of love."
- Suzanne Coleburn, Reader To Reader Reviews (posted March, 2003)
"Stephen [Fairfax-Lacy] has his hands full at this unusual house party. A trio of women has him in their sights. Bea, who is wooing him for immoral purposes; Helene, who is using him to make her husband jealous, and Esme, who needs him as her fiancé in her quest for respectability. The staid and dull Stephen rises to the occasion causing a perfectly zany time where laughter and tears abound.
A near perfect read, A Wild Pursuit sparkles with wit and has a cast of delightful characters. "
- Susan Wilson, reviewer for Old Book Barn Gazette (posted March, 2003)
Lady Esme Rawlings has made a decision. Stephen Fairfax-Lacy (last seen in Duchess) would make a far better husband than her gardener... even if that gardener is really Marquess Bonnington. Here they are at lunch; Esme’s new resolve is somewhat surprising to everyone at the table, including Lady Beatrix Lennox (Bea), who has some interest in Fairfax-Lacy herself.
Stephen had no sooner seated himself than Lady Rawlings leaned towards him with a very marked kind of attention. There was a sleepy smile in her eyes that would make any man under the age of seventy think of bed -- ney, dream of bed. Yet it wasn't until Lady Beatrix Lennox was ushered into a seat across from him that Stephen began enjoying himself. As Lady Beatrix sat down, Esme -- as she'd asked him to call her -- was showing him the intricate figures on the back of her fan. And he glimpsed something in Bea's face. Just enough to make him draw closer to Esme and bend his head over her fan.
He was, after all, an old hat at campaigning.
"Romeo and Juliet, are they?" he asked Esme, peering at the little figures painted with exquisite detail on the folds of her fan.
"Exactly. You see --" one of Esme's curls brushed his cheek. "There's Romeo below the balcony, looking up at Juliet. Bea, would you like to see it? The workmanship is quite elegant."
"Humph," Lady Bonnington said, "Least said of that reprobate, the better. So what's on the fan you are regarding so closely, Lady Beatrix?"
Bea blinked down at the fan. "Romeo and Juliet," she murmured. There was something odd happening here. She glanced across the table while pretending to examine the fan. Esme's impending child was hidden beneath the tablecloth, which meant that she looked like any other gloriously beautiful woman in London -- except there were very few women who could match Esme. And to all appearances Esme had decided to seduce Stephen Fairfax-Lacy. Her Stephen. In fact, Esme presumably had must have decided to follow her aunt's advice and marry, not seduce, Stephen. Of course she wasn't thinking of seduction, given her delicate condition.
The realization gave Bea a most peculiar sinking feeling. Esme's hair was caught up in a loose topknot; fat silky curls caressed her shoulders and cheeks. She wore a gown of French violet silk, cut very low in the bosom, and very short in the sleeves. But more importantly, she was burning with a kind of incandescent sensual beauty.
"Romeo and Juliet, did you say?" Lady Bonnington barked.
"The balcony scene," Bea explained, pulling herself together and handing over the fan. She didn't want to woo Stephen. Therefore, it hardly mattered if Esme decided to do so. "I've always thought it was an absurd scene."
"How so?" Stephen asked, one dark eyebrow raised.
Bea blinked, trying to see what was it about the man that drove all the women in his vicinity to hanker after him. He was handsome, but she'd seen better. Somewhere. He was waiting for a reply so she shrugged. "Romeo stands below, wailing up at Juliet like a pining adolescent."
"That seems a bit harsh. He is in love."
"He only met the woman twenty minutes earlier. But you're right, he thinks he's in love. The funny part, to my mind, is when Juliet suddenly says: do you plan to marry me, and if so, where?"
Esme grinned. "How extraordinary. I read the play long ago, but I never realized that Juliet proposed to him."
"If that thy bent of love be honourable," Bea quoted, "thy purpose marriage, send me word tomorrow. Juliet bluntly asks him to marry her, although he hasn't said a word on the subject previously."
Esme's eyes flicked to Stephen with a meaningful laughter that made Bea's stomach twist. She was so beautiful! It was almost too much to bear. Bea could paint her cheeks the color of the rainbow, but she could never reproduce that flair of raw sensuality that Esme just tossed in Stephen's direction.
"I saw a hilarious parody of the balcony scene once," Esme was saying, her voice a glorious, husky alto.
"Oh?" Stephen bent towards her, his eyes bold and appreciative.
Naturally, Bea thought. Given the pick of the three women in the house, Helene, herself and Esme, what man wouldn't chose Esme?
"This Juliet almost threw herself off the balcony in her eagerness to join Romeo," Esme remarked. Her eyes seemed to be speaking volumes. Bea considered pleading a sick stomach and leaving the table.
Marchioness Bonnington had been examining the painted fan; she put it down with a little rap. "That sounds very unlike Shakespeare."
"Do share it with us," Stephen said.
If he got any closer to her shoulder, he could start chewing on her curls, Bea thought. Just like the goat.
"I only remember a line or two," Esme said, and her crimson lips curled into a private smile for Stephen, so seductively potent that Bea felt it like a blow.
"Romeo stands below the balcony, bellowing at Juliet." Esme continued. "And she says 'Who's there?'"
Stephen had just caught a tantalizing glimpse of Bea's eyes. She looked...pained. Stricken? That was too strong. He deliberately returned Esme's smouldering gaze with one of his own. "And what does Romeo reply?" He pitched his voice to a deep purr.
Esme flashed a smile around the table. "I do hope this won't embarrass any of you."
"I doubt it," Lady Bonnington said sourly. "After the astonishments of the last month, I consider myself as fairly unshockable."
"The scene takes place in the early morning, If you remember. Juliet says: Who, Romeo? O, you're an early cock in truth! Who would have thought you to be so rare a stirrer?" Esme said it with dulcet satisfaction.
There was a moment of silence and then Stephen roared with laughter. "I'll warrant you Romeo clambered up the vine as fast as he was able!"
"She wouldn't allow him to do so," Esme said. Her eyes were sparkling with mischief, and she had a slim hand on Stephen's arm. "The next line was something like this: Nay, by my faith, I'll keep you down, for you knights are very dangerous if once you get above."
Stephen laughed again, and then tilted his head towards Esme and murmured something in her ear. Obviously, it was a comment meant for her alone. Likely something about getting above. Bea chewed very precisely and swallowed her beef. Perhaps Arabella would allow her to return to London on the morrow. It wasn't that she was jealous, because she wasn't. It was just that no man could resist Esme, and certainly not Stephen, who had frankly told her that he hoped to marry. Slope was bending down at Esme's shoulder, interrupting her tete-a-tete with Stephen. Bea looked back at her beef. She liked Esme. She really did.
"My lady," Slope said quietly into Esme's ear. "We have an unexpected guest."
"All right," Esme said, only half listening. She'd forgotten how much fun flirting was. She was actually enjoying herself. She hadn't thought about wretched, wretched Sebastian for at least a half hour. Arabella was right. Stephen Fairfax-Lacy was charming, and he had a ready wit. He was fairly handsome. She had almost -- almost decided to marry him. Of course, first she had to make certain that Helene didn't want him for herself.
Slope, seeing that the guest in question had followed him into the dining room although his mistress hadn't yet noticed, straightened and announced: "Marquess Bonnington."
Esme's head jerked up. There he was.
No gardener ever wore a pearl gray coat of the finest broadcloth, with an elaborately tied cravat of a pale, icy blue. He looked every inch a nobleman, from the top of his elegantly tousled hair to the tips of his shining Hessians.
There were murmurs all down the table. The scandalous marquess had returned from the Continent! Or from the garden, if only they'd known.
She met his eyes and there was a flare of amusement in them that made her smoldering rage burst into flame. No doubt, he thought to simply return to her bedchamber. Without giving a thought for her reputation, for her child's reputation, for her future.
"Ah, Bonnington," his mother said. "There you are." She sounded as if he'd been to a horse race rather than exiled to the Continent. Or living in a garden shed, for that matter.
But he waited, as polite as ever, for his hostess's acknowledgement. Esme's hands clenched into fists. How dare he think he could simply come and go in her house, just as he had walked into her bedchamber at Lady Troubridge's house?
"Lord Bonnington," she said, inclining her head. "How can it be anything other than a pleasure to see you, after so many months." She reached over and put a hand on Stephen Fairfax-Lacy's shoulder. He had broad shoulders. She was almost certain that he would be as good as a lover as Sebastian. He certainly would be less exhausting.
Stephen looked up, and Esme smiled down at him brilliantly. "Marquess Bonnington has joined us just at the very moment I was to make an important announcement. May I introduce my fiancé, Mr. Fairfax-Lacy?"
There was a moment of utter silence in the dining room.
Then Sebastian went into a low bow, the kind with a flourish and a good deal of gloved violence. His eyes were pitch black in the candlelight, but Esme wouldn't have been surprised if they burned straight through her. "I seem to have arrived just in time for a celebration," he said, and the sardonic note in his voice was clear for all to hear.
Esme swallowed and tightened her hand on her new fiancé's shoulder. She had always been impetuous, but this was without a doubt her wildest moment yet.
"What a delightful surprise!" Marchioness Bonnington crowed. Obviously, she saw her son's freedom within reach.
"Yes, indeed," Helene chimed in, giving Esme a darkling look that said, clear as day: I have use for that man, remember?
Even little Bea seemed shaken, although she said nothing.
And to Esme's endless relief, her brand new fiancé also refrained from expressing his surprise.