Rival Desires by Annabel Joseph
Release Date: October 7, 2019
Rival Desires, an erotic historical romance, in the Properly Spanked Legacy series by Annabel Joseph.
Lady Ophelia’s voice is so lovely, so incomparable, she’s permitted to break convention and appear on the London stage. The young ingenue has more admirers than she realizes, but after long years cloistered at a Viennese music school, she has no idea how society’s games of courtship and seduction are played. The Marquess of Wescott is prone to bucking convention too—not always in a good way. He and his friends are frequent subjects of gossip for their rakish behavior, like their regular forays to Pearl’s Emporium, where lovers of discipline explore risqué fantasies in secret rooms.
Wescott and Ophelia’s fates collide on a dry autumn night, when a fast-moving fire strands them together on the outskirts of London. As the sun rises, they learn convention can only be stretched so far. They’re obliged to wed in a quick, quiet ceremony, and embark upon married life as little more than strangers. From the start, their dueling personalities tangle into knots of frustration and regret.
But marriage is marriage, and they must learn to live with one another. Lord Wescott tries to bring his wife into line using the disciplinary tactics he’s honed over the years, but Ophelia’s not so easily tamed. She’s a stubborn soul, determined to resist her husband at every turn. Life is not an opera, and love is not easy.
For Wescott and Ophelia, the battle has only begun…
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His bride-to-be stood looking out the window, dressed in a maidenly white gown with a pale sage sash. Her blonde, braided hair was pinned atop her head in the crown Hazel had described, baring her neck and slumping shoulders. She looked so bereft his heart thumped in sympathy.
“So…you’ve told her we’re to be married?” he whispered to her mother. He’d expected more of a reaction, at least for her to turn around.
“I’ve told her,” the woman replied through tight lips. She took up a chair near the fireplace. Wescott approached Lady Ophelia, remembering the bewigged sorceress of the night before, with her bright, full dress. Now she looked small and fragile, in her gauzy, understated column of a gown. How could this be the same woman? He clasped his hands and stopped a few paces behind her.
She turned her head to the side, running small fingers over her pale throat. “I’m sorry, but I can’t speak,” she said in a whisper. “My voice has not returned.”
“I’m sorry to hear that.”
His own voice sounded too loud in the silent room, especially after her whisper.
“I’m sure your lost voice is only temporary. At least I hope so. At any rate…” He cleared his throat, feeling like an ass. “Thank you for seeing me. I must begin by apologizing with the most abject regret for my behavior last night.”
“Last night…” She repeated the words in a pained murmur. “I cannot think of it. I cannot even look at you.”
He frowned at her exposed nape. “Nevertheless, I am here.”
“Yes, you are here to perform your duty, and ask for my hand. My mother says you are a gentleman, but I can hardly believe it.”
Her whisper held as much rancor as a shouted insult. “Lady Ophelia,” he replied, as calmly as he could. “Neither of us wished for this to happen. The unorthodox circumstances, the fire—”
“Fire or no, it has ended in disaster. I should have refused your assistance.” She shook her head. “I’m ruined now. That’s the word, though no one is using it.”
“You’re not ruined, because I’m here.” He grasped for patience in the face of her disdain. “Lady Ophelia, please accept my deepest apologies for my conduct last night. It was wrong of me to lie down with you. That was my fault.”
She pressed her forehead to the window, letting out a breath. “I wish I’d made you leave,” she whispered.
“I worked very hard to ensure you wouldn’t. It’s pointless to dwell upon it at this point. We must be married and make the best of things.”
“The best of things.”
He barely heard her peevish exhalation. Her shoulders drew up tight.
“Yes, the best of things,” he repeated. “There’s nothing else to do…”
Annabel Joseph is a NYT and USA Today Bestselling BDSM romance author. She writes mainly contemporary romance, although she’s been known to dabble in the medieval and Regency eras. She is known for writing emotionally intense BDSM storylines, and strives to create characters that seem real—even flawed—so readers are better able to relate to them. Annabel also writes non-BDSM romance under the pen name Molly Joseph.
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