"I wish you to tutor me in...sex."
Lady Bea Lindsey is desperate. She's newly engaged to a very nice but dull gentleman and is fully aware that if she wants any joy in her marriage bed, she'll have to call the shots. But first she needs to be taught. And who better to instruct her than irresistibly sexy rogue Ralph Sylvester?
Ralph is surprised by Bea's request, but he can't turn down the woman he's lusted after for the past nine months. He agrees on one condition. For the next seven days and nights, Bea must relinquish total control to him. No pleasure will be off-limits, no act of lovemaking forbidden, no desire too shocking.
It's every man's fantasy... until the student surpasses the teacher...
Secretly delighted to be without a chaperone, Ralph offered Beatrice his arm. "Shall we?"
She nodded and laid her smooth hand and slender forearm atop his sleeve. The frisson of awareness that light touch set off was almost alarming. It was alarming.
"Tell me, do I seem dreadfully grownup to you?" She looked up at him through her lashes, the old shyness spiced with a knowingness that was refreshingly, intriguingly new.
"Dreadfully." He steered them toward the dining room door.
Her heeled slippers put them on equal footing, reminding him of all the many advantages being of a like height might bring when seeking to have sex standing. Feeling as though his flesh was afire and his clothes too tight, he led them out into the corridor.
The library was on the same level. They had to cross the minstrel's gallery to get there. Moving them along at a slow stroll, Ralph pointed out the various improvements made since her last visit, shamelessly angling for more time alone with her.
Halfway through, she stopped and turned to face him. "Ralph?" Her cornflower blue eyes lifted to his.
His heart skidded to a stop along with his feet. "Y-yes?"
One word from her and he'd gladly forgo duty and decency and even his friendship with Rourke. One word was all that kept him from opening one of the doors adjoining the gallery and pulling her within.
"You have a spot of frosting on your cheek. May I?" She moved to the front of him.
Deflated, he nodded. "Yes, thank you."
She slid the tip of her forefinger into her mouth, whetting the digit. She hesitated and then reached up. "Sorry, I don't have a handkerchief at hand," she said, swiping at the spot.
"I don't mind," he said. Indeed, had he suspected such a happy outcome, he would have smeared himself with the stuff.
Her upturned face brought their mouth all but meeting. Were this another place and time, were they two very different people, he might have happily seized hold of her buttocks, lifted her high against his hips, and taken her against Kate's prized leather wall papering.
"There, I've got it." She stepped back, licking frosting from her finger and like as not the salt from his skin, too. "Now you're perfect," she added, her grave gaze traveling over him and, he fancied, lingering on his lips.
"Thank you...milady." Even with nine months' of shored up fantasies involving every exotic sexual position his mind could fathom, still he didn't forget the gulf in their stations.
She tilted her face to the side, pretending to study the gilt-framed landscape lying just beyond him. "So formal you are, Ralph," she said, reaching around him and touching the edge of the frame, her loose three-quarters length sleeve falling back to reveal the shapely arc of slender, white elbow. "Shall I address you as Mr. Sylvester then?"
He remembered her asking him the same question nine months ago and smiled. "I'd rather you didn't." He took a step toward her, his pulse thrumming. "It's one thing for a married matron such as your sister to call me by my surname, but a beautiful unattached young woman doing so would have me feeling old."
Like a lamp being turned down, the teasing light in her eyes dimmed. She stepped back, spoiling the moment.
"Yes, well, I suppose we should be getting on. Surely Kate and Rourke will have finished tucking Lucy in. I think it's wonderful that Rourke is such an involved father."
"I suppose," he said, still too drunk on jasmine to give much thought to fatherhood or babies.
Her face fell. They walked the rest of the way in suddenly awkward silence.
Reaching the library, he released Bea with reluctance and stepped back for her to precede him.
"There you are," Rourke called from the rose marble mantel shelf upon which several silver-framed photographs of Kate and Baby Lucy commanded pride of place. "Och, Sylvester, you must have taken the lass the roundabout way."
"Yes, we thought you two must have gotten lost," Kate chimed in, sharp-eyed gaze darting between them.
Ralph did indeed feel lost only not in the way Kate meant. For a handful of magical moments he'd lost himself in Beatrice Lindsey and the foolish fantasy they might somehow find a future together, but Beatrice's stiffening beside him crushed it.
"Lady Beatrice was catching me up on London gossip."
He slanted his gaze to Beatrice, who'd slipped behind the camel-back sofa as though seeking to set some barrier between them.
Her hands plucking at the sofa's curved back, she sent him a grateful smile. "Were it not for Ralph guiding me, I should have found myself quite lost," she said brightly, a bit too brightly.
She left the furniture and floated about the room like a fairy, pausing from time to time to remark upon the handsomeness of the recently redone jade-colored walls decorated with white Chippendale scrollwork in the fashionable Gothic mode, the burled walnut Eastlake chimney piece, and various other improving features. Nervous as a cat, Ralph thought, wondering why. As much as he might want to believe he was the cause, he suspected it was another matter entirely.
Hattie entered followed by a parlor maid in a neat lace-frilled cap, black dress and bibbed apron, the latter bearing a silver tray of champagne flutes. Ignoring the serving girl's gimlet-eyed gaze—he'd turned her down for sex but the other day—Ralph accepted his flute, wondering what more wanted for celebrating. The absentee birthday baby was tucked snugly into her crib.
Pushing away from the fireplace, Rourke raised his glass. "To our dear sister, Bea who we are verra pleased to have with us on this happiest of occasions." He turned to Bea who, along with Kate, had drawn up by his side. "And yet at it's sad we are to welcome you back only to part with you so soon again."
Part with you? Was Beatrice about to embark on some sort of journey? There was a great fashion these days for well-bred young women of means to hare off on The Orient Express to Istanbul and back. He'd made a wager of sorts on that vogue sometime back, but like the majority of his wagers it had never come through.
A broad grin split Rourke's face. Addressing Bea, he said, "Katie only just told me your grand news."
Foreboding hit Ralph like a fist. What grand news?
Rourke turned to Bea. "If you and Mister....." Breaking off, he turned to Kate.
"Mr. Billingsby," she provided, setting her untouched champagne down upon the marble mantel.
"If you and Mr. Billingsby are half as happy as your sister and I, then it's blissful you'll be indeed."
Ralph cinched his fingers about his flute and focused every fiber of his being on not snapping the fragile stemware in twain. Around him glasses clinked, stopping in silence at his. Impervious to their stares, he knocked back his flute, emptying it in a single sparkling swallow, too bruised to care how coarse he must seem, too numb to taste the fine French bubbles as anything better than brine.
Saluting Beatrice with his empty glass, he asked, "When does the happy event take place, milady?"
She bit at her bottom lip but didn't answer. No matter. She was as good as gone. For the second time in his life, a woman he loved was walking away from him. At least his mother had looked back at him. Since her announcement was made, Bea hadn't bothered to lift her gaze from the floor.
Beaming, Kate answered for her. "In three weeks, our Bea-Bea will walk down the aisle as a bride!"
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Setting: The Tutor is set in the late-Victorian Scottish Highlands. Throughout Queen Victoria's reign (1837-1901), the monarch had a deep love of Scotland. Her estate of Balmoral, purchased in 1848 largely at the behest of her beloved consort, Prince Albert, was her favorite royal residence, the site of many happy memories during her marriage and her preferred refuge from the world after Albert's death.
Likewise for Lady Beatrice—Bea—Lindsey, the heroine of The Tutor, her sister and brother-in-law's restored Highlands castle starts out as a refuge from the pettiness of the London haute ton and her gambler father. Upon meeting Ralph, however, Scotland becomes a great deal less about solace and a great deal more about sensual pleasure and yes, romance.
Hero Worship: I confess, I adore bad boys who are partially but not entirely reformed. I also have an abiding respect for self-made men and women who work for a living. Ralph Sylvester, my hero in The Tutor, fills the bill on both counts. The son of a prostitute and a former pickpocket, a master of sleight of hand and an ace mimic and imposter, Ralph has come a long way from the East London Streets. At the opening of The Tutor, he is using his considerable skills as the private secretary of his former partner-in-crime and now railway magnate, Rourke, the hero of my Men of Roxbury House finale, Untamed. Still, Ralph lives in a limbo land: a gentleman but not quite, a friend but also an employee, a pseudo-gentleman with a dark past he must keep buried. Unruffled on the outside, on the inside Ralph roils with conflict and uncertainty—especially when it comes to a certain delectable young miss whom, he tells himself, is beyond his touch.
For me that sort of internal turmoil is captured perfectly by actor Simon Baker in the hugely popular CBS television series, "The Mentalist." A former faux psychic and con artist or "mentalist," Baker's "Patrick Jane" lends his acute observational skills to the right side of the law, assisting the local detective force solve crimes while wearing a three-piece suit, no less! And no, it doesn't hurt that like Ralph, Simon Baker is packing a whole heap o' man pretty. ;)
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In The Tutor, I break with my tradition of casting my former rescue cats as characters. That said, both Bea and Ralph are enormously attached to her sister's childhood pony, Princess, whom Ralph rescued from dire circumstances as a costermonger's cart horse and returned in time to live out her golden years in peace and comfort. Princess is loosely based on the equine character of "Ginger" in the classic fictional autobiography, Black Beauty by Anna Sewell.
Unlike Sewell's character, real life horses can't speak for themselves. To help horses (and donkeys and burros, too!) come back from a life of hard knocks, visit Best Friends' Animal Society's Horse Haven. Established in Kanub, Utah since the eighties, Best Friends is the nation's largest sanctuary for abused and abandoned animals. The Society is the real deal, folks. I've been a supporter since 1996.
Finally, for my feline loving readers, I resume my cat casting tradition in A Harlequin Christmas Carol out this November 10, 2010 in plenty of time for the winter holidays. In my novella, "Tomorrow's Destiny," bookshop proprietress, Fiona MacPherson (yes, another Scot!) has a cat, The Grey Ghost, based on my Sweeney. Sweeney had a previous role in my very first Harlequin Blaze book, It's a Wonderfully Sexy Life and after spending several years out of the limelight, he tells me he's ready for a comeback. Check back in September for Sweeney's updated bio, including his new "publicity" photo and latest weigh-in.
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"I love, love, love, fun and well done historical novels that can take me away from my reality and this novel really took me away... Hope Tarr is my new favorite author."
"With The Tutor, Hope Tarr gives readers a very enjoyable late Victorian tale with both plenty of steamy scenes as well as plenty of romance...the result is a good, hot read."
"Yeah it is that steamy. It is sexier than most of the contemporary Blaze books I've read, and I read a lot of Blaze books... If you are looking for a steamy historical beach read, this is it!"
"Entertaining, Exhilarating and Insanely Erotic, The Tutor was one of those books I just couldn't put down."
"The Tutor sizzles. The chemistry between Ralph and Bea is mesmerizing and titillating. In addition to the strong physical scenes and attraction between the two, the story of their blossoming love is enduring. The combination of all angles makes for a very hard-to-put-down story and one that will leave the reader with a smile on their face.
Hope Tarr is a most delightful author and I greatly look forward to reading more by her in the very near future."
4 1/2 Stars!
"Set in 1891 Scotland, this sizzling story has it all—multifaceted characters, strong conflict, and potent sexual tension. Don't miss it."
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