Maggie Windham leads a dignified life… until stolen letters bring her to investigator Benjamin Hazlit’s door. When it becomes clear Maggie is being blackmailed, Benjamin becomes determined to find not just the letters, but the way to Maggie’s heart.
And she’s been perfectly capable of keeping them…until now. When she’s threatened with exposure, she turns to investigator Benjamin Hazlit to keep catastrophe at bay. But Maggie herself intrigues Benjamin more than the riddle she’s set him to solve. As he uncovers more and more of her past, Maggie struggles to keep him at a distance, until they both begin to discover the truth in their hearts…
This book may contain explicit intimate scenes, so if you are not 18+ then I probably wouldn’t recommend it for younger readers.
Heaven help me, but I LOVED Lady Maggie’s Secret Scandal. After reading five books in this series, surprisingly, I am not bored of tired of them yet, which I usually take a break after book 3 or 4 if it’s a lengthy series, but nope, not with this bunch, I find that I cannot get enough of this Windham brood.
“Mr. Hazlit, a pleasure.” Hazlit took her hand and bowed over it. “My lady, you’re in radiant good looks. His lordship must be attending to more than just his letters if you’re blooming so nicely.” “Blooming?” She beamed at the man. “Westhaven, we must have Mr. Hazlit to dinner. He says I’m blooming.” She withdrew her hand. “I’ll leave you gentlemen to your business while I go blossoming on my way.” She closed the door quietly, leaving Westhaven to watch the bemused expression fade from Hazlit’s face. “Women in the throes of early motherhood should all be so serene as your lady wife,” Hazlit said. “You’re to be commended.” “I’m to be pitied.”
“I have freckles.” And still her expression did not betray her exasperation. Ben was left to note the ramrod straight posture of her spine and the slight narrowing of her eyes. A less courageous man might have taken warning. “Where the angels have kissed you and where I fully intend to.” He spoke just loudly enough for the nearest clerk to overhear, which had the intended effect of spiking Maggie’s guns.
I thought I loved the previous couples, but I just think Maggie and Ben gave the others a good run for their money. I loved their chemistry, the way they slightly tolerated each others presence, to from being casual to being smitten with each other. To me, it’s much more entertaining to read when the hero and heroine isn’t too fond of each other at the beginning and about mid way through, that changes drastically. I cannot abide instant romance as that isn’t very believable to me.
“Why were you crying, Maggie mine?”
“Greetings, affianced wife.” She crossed her arms. “Greetings, my lord. I suppose I should be grateful you didn’t stand amid the roses and serenade me.” “Now that’s interesting.” He took a wicker chair and tried not to notice how pretty her bare feet were by moonlight. “You don’t sound grateful. I was in the glee club for three straight years at university and always chosen for solos. Shall I demonstrate?” As he filled his lungs with air, she put a hand over his mouth, her fingers bearing the fragrance of cinnamon and flowers. “You are daft, Benjamin Portmaine.” He covered her hand with his own and brought it to his thigh, linking their fingers. “I’m engaged, which might qualify as daft, but my lady seems bent on avoiding me. Be warned, Maggie mine: I gave you today to rally your nerves and even suffered through dinner tête-à-tête with His Grace. Tomorrow we shop for a ring—His Grace’s orders, or Her Grace’s, carried by her most trusted emissary.”
Benjamin Hazlit was mentioned in some of the previous books, but you didn’t get the real feel of him until now and lets just say I loved the man. My favorite part of the book is when he tries to convince Maggie to marry him in earnest, that he doesn’t want a fake engagement, he wants to real deal, all the bells and whistles. She keeps telling him she isn’t going to marry him, but ‘ol Benny boy isn’t having any of that, he is going to get his Maggie, even if he has to swive – ahem, love – her to death. Another thing I loved is when he called her ‘Maggie Mine’….*sigh*.
“Why won’t you marry me?” “Gracious, you are persistent.” She patted the bun he’d so expertly fashioned. “Has it occurred to you if I marry you all my wealth and independence would be forfeit?” “If you don’t trust me to leave your fortune in peace, transfer your wealth to your brother’s name. He’ll steward it as you direct.” Gayle would be more conscientious with her money than she was, which was saying something. “And what of my freedom, my independence?” How such a big man could move so quickly was beyond her. One moment Maggie was looking around for her boots and stockings, the next she was flat on her back with fifteen stone of determined earl poised above her. “You call it independence, but you never so much as go for a drive in the park, Maggie Windham. You do not make social calls except on your family members, you do not entertain, and you do not permit yourself even a dog for companionship. As my countess, you’ll have the run of the society functions, your invitations will be accepted by all and sundry, and you will have my charming and devoted company at your beck and call, even and especially in your confinements. Plural, God willing. Marry me.”
“Mr. Hazlit!” She kept her voice down with effort, but when a man sneaked up behind a lady and slid his arms around her waist, some exclamation was in order. “Hush.” He turned her in his arms, though part of Maggie was strongly admonishing herself to wrestle free. He’d let her go. She trusted him that far, when a servant was likely to appear any moment with a tea tray. “Something has you in a dither. Tell me.” His embrace was the most beguiling, irresistible mockery of a kindness. Gayle had offered her a hug a few days ago, a brusque, brotherly gesture as careful as it was brief. This was different. This was… Benjamin Hazlit’s warm, strong male body, available for her comfort. No conditions, no awkwardness, no dissembling for the benefit of an audience. She sighed and tucked her face against his throat, unwilling—or unable—to deny herself what he offered. For a few moments, she was going to pretend she wasn’t alone in a sea of trouble. She was going to pretend they were friends—cousins, maybe—and stealing this from him was permitted. She was going to hold on to the fiction that she was as entitled to dream of children and a husband to dote upon as the next woman. “You are wound as tight as a fiddle string, Maggie Windham.” Hazlit’s hand settled on her neck, kneading gently. “Are the domestics feuding, or has Her Grace been hounding you?” “She never hounds or scolds.” Maggie rested her forehead on his shoulder, her bones turning to butter at his touch. “She looks at us, disappointment in the prettiest green eyes you’ve ever seen, and you want to disappear into the ground, never to emerge until you can make her smile again. His Grace says it’s the same for him.” When she was held like this, Maggie could detect a unique scent about Hazlit’s person: honeysuckle and spice, like an exotic incense. It clung to his clothing, and when she turned her head to rest her cheek on the wool of his coat, she caught the same fragrance rising from the exposed flesh of his neck. That hand of his went wandering, over her shoulder blades, down her spine. “You are tired,” he said, his voice resonating through her physically. “What is disturbing your sleep, Maggie? And don’t think I’ll be distracted by more hissing and arching your back.” “I’m not a cat.” “You’ve cat eyes.” He turned her so his arm was around her waist. “Let’s sit by the fire, and you can tell me your troubles.”
I will say Maggie’s biological mother was a very unpleasant sick lady. I am glad she was able to get her sister Bridget away from Cecily’s clutches with the help of Ben, Deene, Archer, and Their Graces.
“I do not want to marry you, Benjamin.” “You’ve been crying.” He brushed the pad of his thumb over her cheek, her skin silky soft to his touch. “We don’t need to set a date if you’re not ready to.” “You aren’t listening to me.” She wrapped her fingers around his wrist and removed his hand from her face. “I cannot marry you, and this is all moving too quickly. I don’t want to shame my family—that’s the last thing I want, but I don’t want…” She raised troubled eyes to his. “I don’t want to make a laughingstock of you when I jilt you.” “Portmaines are not strangers to broken engage-ments.” “Port…?” He saw when she recollected his family name. “Were we to marry, you’d become Maggie Portmaine.” “But we’re not going to marry.” She was appallingly convinced of this, and it irritated him more—worried him more—each time she emphasized her position. “You said things were moving too quickly, Maggie, but if you’ve conceived, they can’t move quickly enough.” Her gaze became haunted, and her hand went to her belly. “You listen to me,” he said, dropping his voice and covering her hand with his own. “Just for today, we are engaged. We need make no other decisions than that. You can jilt me, and I’ll step aside, or we can marry, or we can remain engaged for a time and make further decisions later.” She was listening; she was even watching his mouth as he spoke. He kissed her on the lips for no other reason than he didn’t want her arguing with him. “I want you for my countess, Maggie. I’d made up my mind before we found ourselves in this contretemps, but I wanted to woo you, to squire you about and give you the attention and courting you deserve. Give me a few weeks. We’ll know better what we’re dealing with, and we’ll placate the Lady Dandridges of Society in the meanwhile.” “I can do that,” she said slowly, “but, Benjamin, that’s all I can do. You must not take a notion that we will be wed.” “And if there’s a baby?” She shook her head, but when he took her in his arms, she went unresisting into his embrace. He hoped there was a baby, which surprised him. He understood the necessity for an heir but hadn’t felt any urgency as long as Archer enjoyed good health.
As I finished this book, I sighed with happy contentment as yet another Windham sibling snagged them their intended and got their happy ever aster. I am a bit curious to see how Louisa’s book is, as she was yet again one of those silent characters that lurks in the background – you know they exist, but you don’t hear a peep out of them.