Cover image for To please a lady
To please a lady
Johnson, Susan, 1939-
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Publication Information:
New York : Bantam Books, [1999]

Physical Description:
324 pages ; 18 cm
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X Adult Mass Market Paperback Central Library
X Adult Mass Market Paperback Central Closed Stacks

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She risked everything for a Scottish outlaw who would do whatever it takes...

Author of more than a dozen national bestsellers, award winner Susan Johnson is unmatched when it comes to writing novels that thrill, excite, and seduce. Now she once again captivates with this exciting historical novel of sensual adventure and forbidden love....

Roxane Forrestor was determined to live life on her own terms--even in a man's world. The beautiful Countess of Kilmarnock had so far survived the political and romantic intrigues of Scotland's most powerful suitors. So why couldn't she resist the brash Robbie Carre? Why did she find it impossible to throw the rebel earl out of her bedchamber even though it meant harboring a wanted man?

Robbie cared nothing for his own safety. But he knew all too well that his ruthless enemies, desperate to capture him, would use Roxie and her children as pawns. He would brave the odds to protect them, would fight for his fugitive love with Roxie...even if their stolen moments of pleasure cost him his life.

Author Notes

Susan Johnson was born in 1956 and grew up in Australia. She is a former journalist. She lives in London with her husband and two sons.

Susan Johnson was born in 1956 in Queensland. She is an Australian author of memoirs, literary fiction, short stories and essays. She has also worked as a journalist for Australian newspapers, journals, and magazines. She soon became an adjunct Professor of Creative Writing at Queensland University of Technology. Her titles include: The Broken Book, Life in Seven Mistakes, On Beauty, My Hundred Lovers, and The Landing. She has earned several awards including: Commonwealth Writers' Prize, National Biography Award, Nita Kibble Literay Award, and Vance Palmer Prize for Fiction.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 1

Publisher's Weekly Review

Johnson's latest historical, set in 18th-century England, relays the May-September romance between 18-year-old Robbie Carre, the roguish hero of Johnson's Outlaw, and 30-something widow Roxanne Forrestor. The sexually charged story opens with Robbie, who has recently returned from exile in Holland, making a sudden appearance in Roxanne's boudoir. Beyond his hopes of ravishing the object of his affection, the lad aims to reclaim his ancestral lands. Soon, those closest to Robbie find themselves in jeopardy: Roxanne is forced to become the mistress of a powerful duke in order to protect her children from Robbie's adversaries, a decision that doesn't sit well with Robbie. Demanding, stubborn and childishly irrational, Roxanne's young lover behaves more like one of her children than a romantic hero. Some readers will no doubt be titillated by the older womanÄyounger man romance, but others will likely find Roxanne's maternal role in the relationship distasteful. That said, Johnson, as in her other novels, rewards readers with a slew of footnotes detailing the historic setting. (Oct.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved



Edinburgh Late April, 1705 "Robbie Carre is back." "So I've heard. The question is where?" The two men spoke in undertones, their words lost in the sounds of music, conversation, and laughter swirling around them. Guests of honor at the evening soiree, they'd found a rare moment of privacy in the crowded ballroom, but both men cautiously scanned the room as they spoke. Robbie Carre had friends everywhere. "He'll come for her. There's no doubt," the Duke of Queensberry murmured. A thin, swarthy man of middle age, he had the natural look of a conspirator. "She's unrivaled." The words, husky, low, palpably lustful, were uttered by the Duke of Argyll, the new commissioner who'd come from London to bring Scotland to heel. Queensberry wondered if their hostess would be able to thwart the young man's predatory instincts. "I hear she's in love," he maliciously noted. "So?" Argyll shot Queensberry an insolent look. "So you might wish to cultivate your seductive skills. The Countess of Kilmarnock is no ingénue. Twice widowed and with her pick of suitors, from the Indies to the poles, she might prove a formidable challenge." "Then the prize will be that much sweeter," Argyll said, his gray gaze following Roxane Forrestor's twirling progress across the ballroom. May Kilmarnock's wretched family rot in hell!" Slamming the bedroom door behind her so hard the paintings quivered on the silk-hung walls, Roxane stalked across the rich Turkey carpet, pulling her tiara from her coiffed head. "They have their damned nerve!" She flung the diamond headpiece across the room with such fury it bounced twice before coming to rest. "Could I be of some help?" a deep voice drawled. Spinning around, she scrutinized the shadowed reaches of her large bedchamber. The indolent voice was familiar, and a sudden stark fear gripped her senses. "Lord God, you can't be here!" she exclaimed, shock and horror in her tone, her eyes tracing the dim outlines of the young man lounging on her gilded chair, her frustration and anger dissipating before the horrendous jeopardy of his position in Edinburgh. "The house is awash with your enemies!" As if to punctuate her exclamation, the melodious strains of violins drifted in through the opened windows from the floor below, numerous voices joining in on the chorus of the familiar Scottish ballad of Muirland Willie. "Like Muirland Willie I've come for you," Robbie said, his pose utterly still, his dark eyes traveling slowly down the countess's fashionably attired form. "Do you know how long it's been?" "Not long enough. You're insane, Robbie." She glanced back at him in her swift passage to the windows. "They'll hang you if they find you here!" Shutting a window, she pulled the green velvet drapes closed, then moved to a second window. "You have to leave." "I thought I might keep you company tonight." He rose from the chair, all grace and languid power. "No! Don't even think that." Her words ended on a hushed vibrato, for he'd walked from the shadows, tall, lean, beautiful, his hair lying in waves on his shoulders, the auburn curls striking against the pure black leather of his jack. "I can't do this, Robbie," she whispered, moving away, as though putting distance between them could allay her clamorous heartbeat. How beautiful he looked--breathtaking, dressed in leather like some pagan warrior, taller than she remembered, broader as if he'd grown in the month of their separation, the powerful intensity of his youth dazzling. "I thought of you every second the month past." He advanced across the carpet, immune to the sense of danger terrifying her. "I counted the hours. . . ." "No, Robbie," she gasped, retreating, the faint music reminding her of the hundreds of guests below, many of them dangerous. "Don't say that, don't pretend everything is fine when it isn't. It's terrifyingly not fine." She glanced fearfully at the draped windows as though they might be seen through the heavy velvet. "You have to leave right now!" He shook his head so faintly his long hair barely rippled in the candlelight. "Sorry," he murmured, moving toward her, "I'm staying." "Than one of us has to be sensible," she sharply replied, the way she might speak to a recalcitrant child. "In any event, I have to go back downstairs or I'll be missed. I'm hosting this political soiree," she went on, trying to maintain her composure against his inexorable advance. "Is the reptile Queensberry still as charming as ever?" The outlawed young Earl of Greenlaw's words were casual, as though he wasn't a mere floor away from his mortal enemy. "Yes, no--" She moved back a step, then another. "Lord, Robbie, you know what he's like." "Filled with gentle malice. Smiling while he shoves his knife into your heart." He took note of the short distance between the countess's back and the wall. "We'll have to see what we can do to curb his arrogance." "Not we, Robbie," she corrected him. Finding her retreat arrested, she pressed her palms into the cherrywood wainscoting and tried to hold herself steady against the violent beating of her heart. Robbie Carre's tall, rawboned body was much too close, and the memories and implications of that closeness made her tremble. "Please, Robbie, just leave." Her voice was taut with emotion. "I can't. I wish I could." He stood very still, his expression grave. "But the last month was the longest of my life." "Please, Robbie, be sensible. In a few years you'll forget this ever happened." "Us, you mean?" "There can't be any us, Robbie. Do you want me to begin listing all the reasons? The very first one is that my five children are in peril if I'm seen with you." Her brows came together in apprehension. "And the other thousand after that don't matter." "Go, then." All suave charm and indulgence, he shifted slightly so his body no longer curbed her departure. "We'll talk about this later." "There's no later, Robbie Don't you understand?" Her in-laws from her first marriage to Jamie Low had given warning they intended to protect their four grandchildren from the taint of the Carres. The Erskines, the family of her second husband, Kilmarnock, had practically threatened to have her thrown into the Tolbooth if she spoke one word to any of the Carres. They wanted nothing to blemish the chance of Kilmarnock's only issue, Angus, being given an English peerage. "We'll make certain no one sees us together." "This isn't sport, Robbie. The Erskines are rabid Queensberry supporters. They'd like nothing better than to see your whole family drawn and quartered in their castle courtyard." "Why would they suspect that I've returned?" "Because you're a hotheaded Carre." "Hot-blooded, more like," he said with a grin. "How soon can you rid yourself of your guests?" "Robbie!" she wailed. "Listen!" "Darling, darling," he soothed her, gently brushing her mouth with his fingertip. "I've heard every word. Now go be a gracious hostess to all the treacherous cutthroats downstairs, and I'll be here when you return. No one knows I'm in the country." He leaned forward so his breath was warm on her mouth, then his lips met hers in a delicate, restrained caress, a butterfly kiss of politesse and affection. "So you're safe, your children are safe." His bronzed fingers curled over her silk-covered shoulders, pulled her close. "There now, that's better." His arousal was blatant against her belly, black leather and lilac silk gliding against each other in the smallest of undulations--invitation, enticement, potent memory in the exquisite drifting impulse. He murmured deep in his throat--half groan, half sigh, paradise regained after months in the wilderness. As he leaned into her soft, voluptuous body, his kiss subtly changed, deepened, his mouth slowly forcing hers open, his tongue gently exploring, tasting, sliding far into her mouth, prelude to the more tantalizing offer of his virile body hard against hers. A scorching heat ignited deep within her, her response immediate, extreme, so fierce with memory and need she moaned, a soft, low, animal sound that gave voice to the urgent desire burning through her senses. "A month's too long," he whispered, rubbing against her, crushing a handful of skirt in his hand and lifting it up. Panicked at the sensation of cool air on her thighs, she twisted her mouth away, swiftly brought her hands up to push him away. "No! Please, Robbie, no." Immune to her pleas, he recaptured her mouth, the pressure of her hands insignificant against his strength. Like a man intent on claiming what was his, he branded her with a demanding, possessive kiss that burned away reason, brought the throbbing between her thighs to fever pitch, made her forget everything but reckless desire. They were both breathless when he finally released her. With his erection straining his black leather breeches, it required a deep breath to master his rash impulses. "Go now," he whispered. "But don't be gone too long." Shivering, she clung to him, fear and longing a chaos in her brain, the feel of him tantalizing, his body toned, hard, exquisitely tempting--like his arousal. And knowing how he could make her feel, how insatiable his sexual appetite and stamina, she wondered if she was capable of leaving him. But she'd survived as a widow in a man's world because she rarely let impulse overwhelm the practical considerations of her life. Inhaling to steady her dizzying susceptibilities, cautioning herself against succumbing to reckless urges, she lifted her head from his chest and gazed up into his dark eyes. "Darling Robbie, if I allow this, I put my children in jeopardy. No matter how much I want to make love to you, I can't." "Do you think I came from Holland only for that? I wouldn't have to go so far for sex." "I understand," she acknowledged. "But how can there by anything more with the limitations curtailing me? And you shouldn't have written, not with Queensberry's spies everywhere." He took a half-step back, scrutinizing her with an inquisitor's fierce regard, all the grace and charm stripped from his face. "The letter was sent through Roxburgh. Are you saying he's suspect now? I think you found someone new." His voice took on a rough, flinty edge. "That's what I think." "You're wrong," she responded coolly. "Everyone's suspect since the bribes from London have escalated. And I've slept alone the last month, if you must know." His smile was instant, unutterably warm, like a brilliant ray of sunshine after a storm. "Alone? For me? I'm honored." "Don't be presumptuous," she retorted, testy after his accusations, not inclined to allow him such simplistic guidelines of right and wrong. "I've been busy trying to keep my in-laws' clutches off my children since you left for Holland. It didn't give me time to invite any men into my bed." "I'm just arrived in Edinburgh, the spies haven't sent in their reports yet." Indulgent to her temper now that his jealousy was assuaged, he repressed his smile of satisfaction. "So your children are safe." "For how long?" Determined to resist his dangerous temptations, she moved away. He could have stopped her but he let her go, half turning to follow her progress. "Don't be here when I return," she quietly ordered, reserve in her tone, the Countess of Kilmarnock speaking now. "I can't see you." He didn't reply beyond the merest inclination of his head, but he'd felt what she'd felt when they'd kissed. As if reading his thoughts, she spun around and faced him, her hands clenched at her sides. "Damn you, Robbie, you can't have everything you want." "But then I don't want everything," he murmured. "I only want you." Snatching up her tiara from the carpet, she swung the glittering diamond headpiece in the curve of her fingers, disturbed, agitated, out of temper with her conflicting needs, with the impertinent young man smiling at her. "This isn't a game, Robbie." Vexation showed in her violet gaze. "I'm not available--for a score of reasons you wouldn't understand." "I understand perfectly. I'll take care of them all." "If you're not hung first." "We'll have our estates back by fall," he replied, undisturbed by the menace in her words. "You worry too much." "And you don't worry enough." Setting the tiara on her titian curls, she glanced in her dressing table mirror and adjusted the glittering ornament minutely, "I have my children to consider, not just my carnal urges. I'm sorry," she briskly added, as if her bracing tone would strengthen her resolve. "I can't become involved with you." Turning from the mirror, she twitched the folds of her skirt into order, looked at the young Earl of Greenlaw for a breath-held moment, and then, in a swish of lilac silk, walked from the room. Excerpted from To Please a Lady by Susan Johnson All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.