The Choice - Lady Of Beauty...And Mystery
by Edith Layton
ISBN: 0061013927 HarperCollins Publishers
A lovely young woman whose ethereal beauty has enchanted the London ton, Miss Gillian Giles can combat a suitor's unwanted embrace with deadly efficiency. But her talent for self-protection can't help her stave off the most proper advances of one Damon Ryder, the Season's most eligible bachelor. Caught in a compromising position with him—one that could irreparably ruin her reputation—Gilly is dismayed when Damon unhesitatingly offers marriage.
Most young ladies would be thrilled to land such a handsome, wealthy husband. Gilly, however, has a mind of her own—and more than a few secrets to hide. She believes marriage to Damon to be impossible, but Damon is equally determined to convince her otherwise. And if he isn't enough trouble, two other suitors, both charmingly irresistible, have now set their sights on winning her, too. Pursued by three devilishly persuasive men, how can the headstrong Gilly possibly resist falling in love?
Excerpted from Chapter One
It was mild, but coot in contrast to the ballroom. The trees above him were in full green leaf, the music from the ball seemed faint and faraway, and somewhere a nightingale did scales.
It was a small walled garden, cleverly designed, Damon thought. London had built itself up at an incredible pace since he'd gone abroad, but the best townhouses still had gardens. Damon was grateful for it. He stood alone in the shadows, near a stone cherub tipping his pitcher of water so it spilled into a small pool. The tumbling water sounded better to Damon's ears than the music of the waltz he heard faintly from afar. There was a bench, but he stood, his back against a tree, one ankle crossed over the other, relaxing, smoking his thin cheroot. His friends thought it was a filthy habit he'd picked up on his travels. It was. But he thought it better than shoveling snuff up his nose, the way they did. And it had gotten him outside now. He stared up at a camellia-colored moon and decided the fashionable world of London was much better seen through a thin blue smoky haze.
He soon saw it much more clearly.
"Here!" a male voice called excitedly. it was so close, Damon's pulse raced. He dropped his cheroot, grinding the glowing ash beneath his heel. From force of habit, his hand snaked into an inner waistcoat pocket, closing around the small pistol he always carried there.
There was a patter of footsteps on the shell path as a gentleman and a lady suddenly exploded from the shadows into the moonlight in front of the cherub. Damon's shoulders relaxed. They were unaware of him.
The moon lit them theatrically. He had to think fast. Anassignation, probably. Why else would a man and a maid stray from a ball, and go off alone into the moonlight? A married or engaged couple wouldn't have to, a proper couple wouldn't dare. it would be awkward for all of them if they noticed him. Maybe they'd move on. He hoped so. From where he stood it was better than a front row at the theater. And just as bad. Because a man leaving a front row seat before the act was over made himself noticed by everyone in the audience, and was an insult to the actors, too.
But there was no place Damon could go without being seen. There was nothing but bushes at his back, and the garden wall behind those. He was a captive unless they left. Even if he stepped lightly he'd set the shrubbery to rattling. He sighed and resigned himself to being uncomfortable-bored, at best. Or so he thought until he saw the lady clear.
"Where is the poor thing?" she asked worriedly, looking into the shadows.
Damon shrank back. The sprite! Unmistakable. He'd noticed her earlier, inside, at the ball. He'd noticed little else after that. She wore a pale gauzy green gown that showed a small, delicately curved figure to perfection. She was so lithe, it had taken him a moment to realize, she had all those curves when she'd first danced into his view. Because, for once, it hadn't been the first thing he'd seen.
Hair pale as moonlight, little animated oval of a face glowing bright as sunlight. Her small, even features made a man look twice at that pretty pink mouth. He couldn't see the color of her eyes from where he'd stood. She was the most enchanting female he'd seen since he'd come to London. She'd looked ethereal as she'd stepped through the intricate paces of the country dance.
He'd forgotten what he was about to say.
"Even you?" His friend laughed when he saw it. "Even such a rebellious jaded rogue as you, Damon, find her delectable? Well, but she is something, isn't she? Utterly ineligible, of course. At least for you and me. Too well-connected to sport with. Not half enough to wed. But something to look at, isn't she?"
"Ineligible? How so?" he asked, his eyes never leaving her.
"Award, merely, of the Viscount Sinclair's. But there's no birth there at all. No money neither, except for whatever Sinclair decides to settle on her. She and her sister are orphans. Their parents were great friends of the family or somesuch, who knows? There it is. Obscure or nonexistent family, parents complete unknowns. Lovely piece though, ain't she? Why can't I find needy orphans like that? if Sinclair wasn't ... the man defends her like she was his daughter. And he, the greatest rake in London Town after his wife died, until he wed again. Still-who better than he to know a fellow's evil intentions? He's a devil with the sword and a demon with pistols. Yet there's that wretched Dearborne prancing with her. He'd better watch his step in more than the dance. So should she, A rake's one thing. But there's no greater cad in London than Dearborne."
Damon had watched, waiting for the music to stop. But when it did, the sprite immediately waltzed off with another gentleman.
"Fortune or no, her dance card's probably filled," his friend said with a smug smile. "Serves you right for coming so late. Don't worry, you won't be alone long. Most of the females in the room are watching you, hoping you'll claim their next waltz. Daresay not a few would burn their dance cards for the chance."
He had been noticed, Damon knew that. Not only by eager mamas and their wallflowers. Many of the dancers were looking at him, too, even as they whirled around the floor with other men. He'd been told he was attractive, and had used that information to his benefit many times. He also had funds now, and supposedly everyone knew that, too. But that wasn't the reason for the fascinated stares he was attracting...
From the Critics
I simply love this book.
Edith Layton understands the deepest emotions that rule the heart.
Mary Jo Putney
Edith Layton writes pure enchantment. In The Choice, she creates two marvelous characters, Gilly and Damon, whose rare truth and honesty create a beautifully nuanced relationship. This is a book to read when your spirits need refreshing.
One of romance's most gifted authors, Layton (The Cad) here tells the story of the ethereally beautiful Gilly Giles, desired by many but deemed unmarriageable because she has neither fortune nor family (although she is, mysteriously, a nobleman's ward). When the malevolent rake Dearborne, seeking vengeance because Gilly has spurned him, announces to a crowded ball that he has seen her in a strange man's arms, Damon Ryder, newly returned from making his fortune in America, preserves Gilly's fragile reputation. Thinking quickly, Damon claims that he and Gilly are engaged; they must maintain the farce at least through the social season. During this time, Damon falls in love, and Gilly blossoms into full womanhood. Alas, two other men complicate affairs. One is the nobleman whom Gilly thinks she loves, the other a libertine eager to take advantage of her confused emotions. This is a top-notch Regency, told with flair and fraught with sexual tension.
Patricia Rice author of Blue Clouds
The Choice brims with Edith's delicious wit and heart-warming characters. Gillian, the delightful misfit, is sure to charm her way into every reader's heart.
Joan Wolf author of No Dark Place
I simply love this book. Two thumbs up!
Harriet Klausner - Under the Covers
The youngest son of a powerful nobleman, his parents and siblings pampered Damon Ryder until one day he decided to prove to himself he can succeed without any help. He journeyed to America where he made a fortune as a businessman. After two years overseas, Damon returns home, seeking a spouse and ultimately a family.
At a ball, he observes Gillian Giles beat up notorious rake Lord Dearborne in the nearby gardens. Dearborne claims to his peers that he interceded when Damon made illicit advances on Gilly, a ward of the dangerous Viscount Sinclair. Damon protects Gilly's protection by claiming to be her fiance. As he escorts Gilly about the town, he falls in love. However, Gilly believes that her common blood is not good enough for an aristocrat. Another problem is that she still loves somebody else.
Regency fans that choose an Edith Layton novel know they are in for an entertaining tale. Ms. Layton's latest novel THE CHOICE is a wonderful sequel to the poignant THE CAD. The story line is intriguing as Gilly represents a different type of lady then normally graces a historical romance. Damon is a warm hunk, who will garner much accolades and wishful desires by readers. Ms. Layton scores big time with a winning novel.
Marilyn Heyman - Under the Covers
Damon had made his fortune and was now looking for a wife. He was considered the catch of the season. One look at Gilly and he was smitten. But why did she insist that she was ineligible?
Gilly had come out into the garden with Lord Dearborne because he told her that there was an injured dog needing attention. Damon was outside enjoying a cheroot and the cool night air when he saw them. When Lord Dearborne tried to take advantage of Gilly, she was able to protect herself. Lord Dearborne looked quite the worse for wear when he stumbled into the ball and told everyone that he had been trying to protect Gilly from Damon and that Damon had attacked him. What could Damon do put protest and tell the avid listeners that he and Gilly had known each other for quite some time and that she had accepted his proposal of marriage.
Gilly is the ward of Bridget and Ewen Sinclair, our old friends from Edith Layton's THE CAD. Damon and Gilly make the rounds of balls, rides in the park, etc., to validate their "engagement." Damon hopes to make it real but Gilly, as much as she wants Damon as a friend, is eager to break off the engagement. Damon is very persevering.
"He mightn't be what she wanted, she thought as she willingly went back into the warm shelter of his arms and offered up her mouth to his again. But the man she did want was right again, as usual. Because she had done well for herself, and had gotten more than she'd expected, or deserved."
Gilly had always been in love with Lord Drummond but he only saw her as a child and a friend. When Drum returns to town, things really liven up! Gilly affects the lives of three men and must make THE CHOICE.
Another wonderful book by Edith Layton - a follow-up of The Cad. Gilly is a charming and unusual woman that sparkles with life. Damon is a charmer and a thorough gentleman and Drum is fascinating. I can picture Damon being nominated for the hero of the year (if there is such a category) for his strength, kindness, his strong character and his even stronger love for Gilly. The story keeps the reader enthralled, loving every word. What I especially enjoyed, aside from the wonderful hero and heroine, were the secondary characters. They were fleshed out, good and bad, and all fascinating in their own right. If you enjoyed reading THE CAD, you will love this one as well. More kudos to Ms Layton.
© 2005 Edith Layton. All rights reserved.