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He Said Never (Zebra Historical Romance) Mass Market Paperback – 26 Nov 2004
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Returning home to Belgravia from a certain boudoir in Trafalgar Square, Viscount Rathbone is surprised to see a beautiful young woman in the street at twilight - when no true lady walks along. Yet she is none other than the ward of the powerful Duke of Worley, Prudence Tamhill, whose virtue and charm have been singled out for praise by the Queen herself. Rathbone insists on escorting her safely home in his carriage, though her presence at this side will prove a singular temptation to a lord who knows very well that a stolen kiss is the sweetest. Never had Prudence imagined that one kiss could mean so much - or that it would change her life forever. Why did she allow him such liberties? The viscount has a reputation that would shame Casanova, and his friends are little better. When Prudence finds out that they staked a fortune upon a scandalous wager, daring Rathbone to enter her bedchamber at midnight, she is furious. To save her reputation, her guardian insists that they marry. And her troubles have only begun...because his passion for her is too tender to resist.
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As readers of the series know Benjamin Exeter, Viscount Rathbone is the wildest of the friends and the last one expected to marry. He has no intention of doing so but he finds himself fascinated by the ward of the powerful Duke of Worley, Prudence Tamhill. She is lauded for her beauty and virtue and is also the heiress to a shipping fortune. Rathbone finds himself amused by her image and has the feeling that their is much more to the serene Miss Tamhill than meets the eye.
He's right, of course! Prudence has been putting off marriage and the suitors her guardian keeps shoving into her path as long as possible so that she can come into her inheritance and be an independent woman. She also has a more secret quest that she undertakes to discover if the man who raised her upon her mother's death and until his own was really her true father. She is intent on this quest when Rathbone comes upon her in Green Park - at dusk and without chaperon! At first he cannot believe his eyes, but eventually maneuvers her into his carriage and escorts her home. At the garden gate they share several sweet and sensual kisses and both walk away from the encounter a bit dazed.
Over the next weeks, as they continue to meet again socially their attraction continues to sizzle. Meanwhile, Rathbone is challenged to a wager by one of his gambling acquaintances to obtain a ring from Miss Tamhill and produce it within one week. As he is about to attend a weekend houseparty which she will also be attending, he thinks it will be a piece of cake. How wrong he is and by the end of the weekend he is desperate enough to break into her room while she sleeps to snatch the ring. What follows is a very funny and sexy turn of events that results in discovery and ultimately marriage.
Though marriage was the last thing on his mind, Rathbone finds himself not only resigned, but almost content with his fate. He likes Prudence and thinks they will get on well together. Prudence feels the same, but feels strongly that she must resolve the issue of her paternity one way or another. She is shocked to find that Rathbone is willing to support and assist her in her quest. He finds he wants her undivided attention and knows he will never get it until she puts this issue to rest. And so they work together to discover the truth all the while, falling in love.
Her quest, however does get a bit old and I felt it was drawn out way too long toward the end of the story and that's my biggest complaint. But the payoff in the end is amusing and readers of the series will chuckle at Rathbone's realization of who his father-in-law turns out to be! I don't know what's next for this author but I'll be interested to find out. Though this is a series, it's not that important to read them in sequence as each stands on it's own. A recommended story and author.