Bonnie Dee
The Countess Takes a LoverHistorical
Samhain Publishing
May 6, 2008
ISBN-13: 9781605041582
ISBN-10: 1605041580

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Countess Meredith de Chevalier, a widow with a reputation for being sexually adventurous, is intrigued when she is approached by a gentleman who wishes her to “make a man” of his son. Sensing a passionate man beneath Christopher Whitby’s reserved exterior, Meredith takes on the challenge, inviting the botanist to her country home to revitalize her abandoned greenhouse.

Chris finds people to be a chaotic, animalistic species, and has chosen to devote his life to the study of plants. One kiss from the vivacious countess, however, and his inner animal is aroused. But lust is only a fraction of what he feels for the vulnerable woman hiding behind a brittle façade. He resolves to coax her to grow until her petals unfurl in a glorious bloom.

To her surprise, Meredith finds Chris brings much more to life than just fallow soil. But just as their love begins to thrive, he learns about the secret arrangement. Meredith must risk her heart for the most dangerous lesson of all—love.

What people are saying

Joyfully Reviewed, Recommended Read by Shayna:
“By the end of this deliciously enthralling tale, I was left wanting a Chris of my own. THE COUNTESS TAKES A LOVER is a sexy historical romance I Joyfully Recommend!”

All About Romance–Desert Isle Keeper, Reviewer Abi Bishop:
“Meredith and Chris’s relationship, based as it is on lust and sexual awakening, demanded a focus on the physical that would have become repetitive if not for the unique quality to each of their meetings, and Dee’s almost poetic attention to detail. In addition, the scenes weren’t there so we readers could get our jollies. Character and relationship development was happening there. I’m serious.”

Mrs. Giggles, 84
Ooh, now this is a story to stoke your inner cougar …The role-reversal does some most amusing wonders for this story, I must say, because I find myself tickled at times as to how these characters can play so beautifully into the roles normally reserved for the opposite sex.

Karen Scott’s blog, Reviewer Azteclady:
“A welcome change from the usual run of romantic stories is that the hero is both the socially awkward and the inexperienced one in the relationship. It’s true that this doesn’t last very long, for one of the things that attracts Meredith to Christopher is the fact that behind his bookishness hides a strong and passionate personality. During their first lovemaking, Christopher’s reactions are lovely rendered. He is insecure and scared, surprised, amazed, moved, grateful. I could very well see him there. ”

Romance Reviews Today, Reviewer Karen Garrabrant
“It was truly refreshing to see a mature female character in that of Meredith. She makes no excuses about her reputation or her lifestyle. She is a woman of the world, but when it comes to Christopher, all the walls she has built up tumble down. Christopher is a beta hero who loves deeply but is also intelligent and respectful.”

Just Erotic Romance Reviews, Reviewer Aggie Tsirikas, 4/5 stars
“Their sexual escapades seem filled with mutual emotion as the lessons progress. And some of these lessons are imaginative and lend piquancy to their time together. Overall, this is the type of historical that some readers might want to enjoy in one sitting.”

The Good, the Bad and the Unread, Reviewer Devon, Grade B
“Dee pulls off an entertaining role reversal here. Meredith is the jaded, sexually experienced one. She has suffered in the past, and is now devoted to making money and her own pleasure, remaining emotionally distant. Sound familiar? Christopher is the dreamy virgin. He never seems weak or wimpy though. It’s that whole brain as the sexiest organ idea. Christopher is so passionate and focused on his flowers, the idea of that focus being turned on a woman is romantic and hot.”

Romance Junkies, Reviewer Natasha Smith, 4 ribbons
“Bonnie Dee has penned a delightful and very thoughtful novel with THE COUNTESS TAKES A LOVER. I found it utterly enchanting and quickly became overwhelmed at the emotions it invoked in me. I love historical romances that make me feel and THE COUNTESS TAKES A LOVER was just that type of book. “

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Read an Excerpt

Placing the cup back on the saucer and setting it aside, she prompted him. “Pray of what concern is this to me, Lord Whitby?” She laced her fingers together on her blue satin-draped lap and arched a quizzical eyebrow.

The Countess Takes a Lover

“I’ve heard… That is, I’ve been given to understand that on occasion you’ve taken a young man…under your wing, as it were.” His face reddened and he shifted on his chair, boot heels digging into her floral carpet.

“‘Under my wing’, sir?” Of course, she understood, but chose to watch him squirm and flounder for words—a small amusement to brighten a dreary day.

“You’ll take a young gentleman in hand and educate him in…accomplishments that might further his understanding of the fairer sex.”

“Take him as a lover, do you mean?” she asked just to see his face grow even more florid.

The gentleman rose from the chair and walked toward the fireplace, a hand tapping nervously against his leg. Perhaps he found it easier to pose his proposition when not looking into her eyes.

“Yes, madam.” Whitby fingered the carved ivory tusk resting on the mantle. It was an odd choice for a lady’s salon, but she kept it there to remind herself of her late husband, who’d brought it back from one of his trips to the Dark Continent.

“Let me be frank, Countess. As I said, my son is a booby, a nincompoop, a weak-kneed nancy. I can’t imagine passing my title on to him as he is now and don’t believe I shall ever see any progeny at the rate he’s going. I wish him to become a red-blooded man. In short, I want him to grow up.”

“Perhaps this is something you should discuss with your son.” She traced her finger around the rim of her cup, enjoying the sensation of the delicate china against her fingertip.

The man heaved a sigh and turned away from the fireplace. “That is impossible. Talking to him is like finding one’s way through a fog bank. His head is…” He spread his hands. “Not in the world we inhabit I can assure you. Unfortunately, he has an academic’s mind and would be perfectly happy spending the rest of his life at university or playing with his posies rather than behaving like a proper man.”

“I see.” She knew the type—a man so enamored of knowledge that he had no room in his head for earthly pleasures.
Walking back to the little chair, Whitby perched on the edge once more. “When Christopher was younger, I overlooked his propensity toward bookishness, thinking he would abandon it once women caught his attention. That hasn’t happened.”

“How old is the lad?” Her curiosity was piqued despite her full intention of shooting down Whitby’s ridiculous proposal.
“Hardly a lad anymore.” He heaved a sigh. “Twenty-five. Finished at Cambridge yet still laboring at cataloging and studying his infernal plants!” He clicked his tongue and shook his head.

“You want him to take an active interest in your business concerns.”

“I don’t give a damn about that. I have men of affairs to run the estate. What I want is a son who’ll cut a swath in society, gamble, drink and ride to hounds like any normal gentleman, a son who’ll find an appropriate wife and get her with child.”

The countess laughed. “You believe I can help you with all that, sir?”

“I believe you are capable of turning a boy into a man. When sensual desires are awakened, the rest of those things will naturally follow.”

“Why not take him to a bordello? That is a common rite of passage is it not?”

“When James was nineteen, I attempted that. He wouldn’t, er, take the bait, as it were. Too high-minded to indulge in a bit of fluff. In all honesty, I don’t believe the boy’s ever…” He raised his eyebrows significantly. “But a woman like you could take him in hand without ever letting him know he was being handled. You could teach him the things he needs to know not just in the bedchamber but in the ballroom. You could make a real man of him.”

“Please, sir, I assure you tales of my prowess have been exaggerated. Besides, why would I be interested in such an endeavor?”

The red flush was back in full force. “I suppose ‘for the challenge’ would not be sufficient recommendation and so I’ve come up with a monetary proposal to tempt you.” He cleared his throat and produced a folded sheet of paper from his breast pocket, which he handed to her.

The countess took it in one gloved hand and glanced at the number. “A generous figure.” She looked at the man fidgeting before her. “You do realize, Lord Whitby, that I am not a whore?”

The Countess Takes a Lover

His face became scarlet. “Of course not! I didn’t mean to offend, but I was given to understand—”

“However,” she continued, folding the paper carefully along the crease and offering back to him. “I’m not averse to accepting favors in return for favors, between friends. For instance, if I were to ask you in your capacity as a member of Parliament to rally support on behalf of a particular bill, I would expect your cooperation.”

“Oh.” He blinked, and then a smile shone across his florid countenance at the realization he would lose nothing financially and could still accomplish his goal. “That would be entirely possible. Quite possible indeed, provided you complete your end of the bargain.”

“Have no fear on that account.” Meredith smiled. “I look forward to meeting the young man. What was his name? Christopher? After an initial introduction, I’ll let you know if I’ll be able to assist you in this matter.” She took another sip of her tea, letting Whitby know by her manner that he was dismissed. She’d long ago learned if one acted like royalty, one was likely to be treated as such.

“Good. Very well then, madam. I will arrange a meeting. Where would you like it to take place, a dinner party, a ball, or something more intimate? I must say, it’s rather difficult to get the boy to commit to any social event.”

“Invite me to a light tea on Friday.” She imagined her target would be more relaxed in his natural environment, and she could better assess his personality, his interests and his strengths and weaknesses.

Whitby rose and bowed. “Thank you. I may, of course, count on your discretion should you choose not to…exchange favors?”

The countess laughed lightly. “Certainly. How would I profit from letting it be known you asked me to make a man of your son?”

“Yes, well…” He cleared his throat. “Good day, madam. I shall tell my wife to send an invitation for Friday.”

As she watched him walk from the room, she wondered how he would explain to his wife the sudden need for them to befriend the infamous Countess du Chevalier. Only her connection to nobility allowed her entrée into society despite the rumors of her scandalous, outrageous behavior.

Most of the stories weren’t rumors; the bacchanalian parties at her country estate, the affairs with gentlemen and occasionally women, the encounters with whomever caught her fancy, from a head of state to a common laborer. The countess was egalitarian in her sexual proclivities. She indulged in far more decadence than prudish society even imagined. Charming and seducing a bookish man was not going to be a problem. By the time she finished with Christopher, he would be a work of art. Any woman lucky enough to land him would never know that she had the Countess du Chevalier to thank for her pleasure.

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