Love Is a Rogue
Wallflowers vs. Rogues, Book 1
Now Available from HarperCollins Avon
Once upon a time in Mayfair a group of wallflowers formed a secret society with goals that had absolutely nothing to do with matrimony. Their most troublesome obstacle? Rogues!
They call her Beastly Beatrice.
Wallflower Lady Beatrice Bentley longs to remain in the wilds of Cornwall to complete her etymological dictionary. Too bad her brother’s Gothic mansion is under renovation. How can she work with an annoyingly arrogant and too-handsome rogue swinging a hammer nearby?
Rogue. Scoundrel. Call him anything you like as long as you pay him.
Navy man Stamford Wright is leaving England soon and renovating Thornhill House is just a job. It’s not about the duke’s bookish sister or her fiery copper hair. Or the etymology lessons the prim-yet-alluring lady insists on giving him. Or the forbidden things he’d love to teach her.
They say never mix business with pleasure. But when Beatrice and Ford aren’t arguing, they’re kissing.
Sometimes temptation proves too strong to resist…even if the cost is a heart.
Reviews for Love Is a Rogue
“Witty, insightful dialogue and expertly developed characters fill the chapters of this page-turner. Gripping and emotionally charged, this romance promises more good things from the series to come.” (Publishers Weekly (starred review))
“Driven by the magnetism between an intellectual who has a way with words and a complex and heroic carpenter, Bell’s start to her circa-1830’s Wallflowers vs. Rogues series is brilliant and intoxicating.” (Booklist (starred review))
“Beatrice, and by extension, Bell, understands that books are so many things: an escape, a balm, a place to work things out and a soft space to land. Love is a Rogue is a love letter to bookish girls, a reminder that our greatest power often lies within ourselves — if we’ll only have the courage to unleash it.” (Entertainment Weekly, Grade A-)
“Love is a Rogue has it all with laughter, romance, and all the emotions. Whether this is your first venture into historical romance or you’re a long-time fan of Lenora Bell, this book will make your heart flutter!” (The Nerd Daily (9/10))
“…an absolute delight, filled with sparkling banter, sensual passion, and heart-tugging emotion.” (The Romance Dish)
* * * * *
Read an Excerpt
From Chapter One
Beatrice peered over the window ledge. Whispers and . . . smacking noises? Were they kissing? And, incidentally, what would a kiss from Wright be like? She stuck her head farther out the window.
Her spectacles slipped off her nose and plummeted straight for his head. She dropped into a crouch beneath the window, cheeks flaming and heart thudding. She could only hope that he was too occupied to notice a pair of spectacles falling from the sky.
Silence from below. She risked a quick glance out the window. Egad. She dropped back to a crouch.
Wright had found her spectacles, and apparently he meant to return them to her. He was climbing straight up the rose trellis like a pirate scaling the rigging of a ship, making a beeline for the library window. He couldn’t climb the stairs like other people. Oh no, he must display his brute strength by climbing hand over hand.
Mortification. Noun. Late fourteenth century. From Late Latin mortificationem, “putting to death.”
Could she make a dash for the library door? Not without her spectacles. Nothing for it but to face him.
She’d faced humiliation before. Stared it down. Dared it to break her.
This would be a very brief interaction. He would hand over the spectacles; she would thank him, and then send him on his merry way back down the trellis.
“Greetings, princess.” His voice was velvet-wrapped gravel.
Beatrice rose on wobbly knees. He was fuzzy without her spectacles, a huge shape blocking out the sunlight, a hulking blur with azure eyes. A blue to drown in, she’d heard one of the upstairs maids say swoonily. Beatrice’s brain sank beneath water. Her thoughts went blub, blub, blub. Which wasn’t like her at all. Words were her stock-in-trade, were they not?
Apparently, when confronted by the sudden appearance of a far-too-handsome rogue at her window, she lost the ability to form words into sentences . . . or even to speak at all.
Pull yourself together. Not an ounce of ninny, remember?
He balanced easily on the trellis, gripping the wood with one enormous hand and dangling the wire loop of her spectacles from the fingers of his other hand.
“Good day, Wright.” She spoke in the most nonchalant and unconcerned tone she could summon. “Lovely day for climbing rose trellises, what?”
He dangled the spectacles closer to her. “I presume these are yours?”
“Er . . . yes. I lost them while”—trying to see down your trousers—“watering the roses.”
Ludicrous. If she’d been watering the roses, she would have poured water on his head.
“Really?” His voice dropped to a rough, conspiratorial whisper. “Because I thought you might have been spying on me.”
“Don’t be silly. I needed a breath of air. I opened the window and I . . . I don’t have to explain myself to you. Hand over my spectacles immediately.”
His laughter was low and intimate. “A lofty lady would never spy on a carpenter, is that it?”
“I wasn’t spying.”
“I see,” he said with a smirk.
“I don’t.” She held out her palm.
Instead of giving her the spectacles, he reached forward and set them on her nose, using one thumb to gently hook the wires over each of her ears in turn. She was so startled by his touch that she froze in place.
His thumb brushed her right ear. Somehow the tip of her ear was connected to the pit of her belly. Which was connected to . . . everything.
His face sharpened into focus.
She’d known his eyes were blue. What she hadn’t known was that his left eye contained an uneven patch of golden brown, like a sunflower silhouetted against a summer sky. His chin was hard-angled, and there was a cleft slightly to the left of center. Dark whiskers shadowed his strong jawline.
Don’t do it, Beatrice. Do not melt into a puddle of quivering ninnyhood.
She took a steadying breath. “You’d better climb back down before that trellis breaks under your prodigious weight.”
“Don’t worry about me, princess.” He winked. “Repaired this trellis myself. It’s built to last.”
“Do stop calling me princess,” she said irritably, the nonchalance she’d been striving for making a fast retreat.
“You’re imprisoned in a tower.”
“I’m here quite by choice. I’m writing, or I would be if you weren’t making so much noise.”
“Is it the noise that distracts you?” He flexed the muscles of his free arm. “Or the man.”
Beatrice gulped for air. Why must the man incessantly call attention to his physical endowments? “Such an ostentatious display might be efficacious where housemaids are concerned, but it has no effect whatsoever on female scholars.”
“You’re not fascinated by me.” His voice swirled from velvet to smoke. “You never watch me from behind the curtains.”
He caught her gaze and held it.
He’d seen her watching.
A fresh wave of mortification washed through her mind. “If I happened to glance out the window from time to time, it was due to sheer frustration. You’ve ruined what was meant to be a tranquil literary haven.”
“And here I thought I’d been inspiring you.”
“I was sure you were scribbling away at a romantic novel and needed inspiration for describing your hero. That’s why you were always gazing at me from the window.” He gave her a smoldering look. “I’d be happy to provide a more up close and personal study.”
“You conceited peacock!”
“Admit it. You enjoyed the view.”
“I’ll admit nothing of the sort.”
He plucked a single red rose and offered it to her through the open window. “For you, princess. It matches your cheeks when they’re flushed from my proximity.”
“You . . . you . . .” Beatrice sputtered.
“Scoundrel?” he suggested.
He tilted his head. “That’s a new one.”
“Have you considered that your renovations might progress more swiftly, Mr. Wright, if you did more carpentering and less flirting? First Jenny and now me—don’t you ever exhaust your store of vexatious trifling?”
He propped his elbow on the window ledge and leaned closer. “I thought you weren’t spying on me.”
“I wasn’t. I was watering the roses.”
“I think you were watching.” His gaze dropped to her lips. “Because you wanted to see what a kiss from me would be like.”
Beatrice wasn’t accustomed to men perusing her with that hooded, hazy look in their eyes. She was no beauty. She never incited desire.
She never experienced desire.
And yet . . . the glow in her belly was spreading. She still felt the soft brush of his fingers along the edge of her ear.
“This conversation is over. Be on your way.”
“Not yet.” He wrapped his hand over the window ledge. “I have a question to ask you.”
“I don’t want anyone to overhear me asking it.”
“That doesn’t sound proper.”
“I’m never proper. Don’t even know what the word means.”
“It’s from the Latin proprius meaning ‘one’s own, particular to itself.’ It’s not until the mid fourteenth century that we see the usage meaning ‘by the rules’ or ‘correct and acceptable.’”
“I don’t play by the rules, either.” He slid one knee onto the ledge. “I’m coming in.”
Her sanctuary had been invaded by a rogue.