Tuesday, January 05, 2010
An Improper Holiday by K.A. Mitchell
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
This was such a delectable quick holiday read! K.A. Mitchell delivers again with a steamy historical romance that keeps the fires in the heart as warm as the ones in the hearth.
Summary: He followed all the rules…until one man showed him a dozen ways to break them.
As second son to an earl, Ian Stanton has always done the proper thing. Obeyed his elders, studied diligently, and dutifully accepted the commission his father purchased for him in the Fifty-Second Infantry Division. The one glaring, shameful, marvelous exception: Nicholas Chatham, heir to the Marquess of Carleigh.
Before Ian took his position in His Majesty’s army, he and Nicky consummated two years of physical and emotional discovery. Their inexperience created painful consequences that led Ian to the conviction that their unnatural desires were never meant to be indulged.
Five years later, wounded in body and plagued by memories of what happened between them, Ian is sent to carry out his older brother’s plans for a political alliance with Nicky’s father. Their sister Charlotte is the bargaining piece.
Nicky never believed that what he and Ian felt for each other was wrong and he has a plan to make things right. Getting Ian to Carleigh is but the first step. Now Nicky has only twelve nights to convince Ian that happiness is not the price of honor and duty, but its reward.
Warning: Just thinking about reading this book in 1814 could get you hanged, so the men in this book who enjoy m/m interaction of an intimately penetrative nature are in a hell of a lot of trouble.
I love when one character is oblivious to his own feelings and what they mean while the other is hellbent on making sure they stay together. Add to this storyline the need to keep true to honor and duty and you've got a pairing for the history books. Nicky and Ian's attraction is palpable and while it's easy to see how the book will turn out early in the story, the journey there is no less enjoyable.
Excerpt: Ian tugged at his cravat, itching to be free of the starched cloth and the high collar of his coat. What the devil was taking Simmons? Every bit of sinew and bone—both real and phantom—ached for a chance to settle into the mattress and forget the whole blasted holiday.
He wished he could lay the fault for his pains on the ride this afternoon, but Rowena had a softer gait than he deserved, especially after his dash pell-mell for land unpeopled by the heir to Carleigh. Upon his return, he had stayed with a groom to be sure she had not suffered from his ham-fisted treatment and seen to her getting a soft warm mash as a reward for the exercise.
No amount of mash or currying could excuse either his behavior toward a creature under his care or his assault on Nicky. Whatever the provocation—and Ian should have realized a man like Lewes could scarcely be counted on to speak the truth—Nicky hadn’t deserved the violence of Ian’s temper any more than had the gentle bay mare.
When at last the door opened, Ian spun ’round to be relieved of his coat, sufficiently irritated by Simmons’ delayed arrival to forgo his usual greeting.
Perhaps the fellow had been overindulging in whatever libations were being offered to celebrate the day in the servants’ hall because the valet was clumsy rather than deft, struggling just to ease the coat from Ian’s shoulders.
“And I shall be retiring, Simmons.”
Instead of the expected “Very good, sir,” the man left his arms pinned behind his back and brushed his fingers beneath Ian’s cravat. The unanticipated contact awakened Ian’s skin, his flesh alight with delightful ripples of sensation.
“What the devil?”
He would have turned to face the man, but Simmons stepped closer, hands moving to remove the starched tie while pressing his hips intimately against Ian’s arse.
The shock and terror in his gut, even the pain of his confined shoulders, could not dampen the rush of arousal evoked by the touch, by the strength of another man’s embrace.
“Simmons. I must ask that you remember yourself.” Ian twisted free, retreating to place a wall at his vulnerable back, but his all-too-vulnerable front was exposed to—Nicky.
The identity of his assailant did little to mitigate Ian’s dismay.
“Are you mad?” Ian struggled with his coat, anger lending him sufficient strength to tear one of the sleeves from the body.
Nicky locked the door and removed his own coat. “It is Boxing Day, after all. Simmons has the evening off, as do almost all of the servants. Surely you would not deprive the man of his well-earned holiday.”
“It is not Boxing Day for another hour,” Ian asserted as the solemn toll of the chapel bell made him a liar. He flung his torn coat to the floor.
Nicky’s cravat parted company with his shirt, revealing a neck still defined with the strong tendons Ian had once traced with his tongue. Quelling thoughts of other flesh his mouth longed to revisit grew more impossible with each piece of clothing Nicky dropped onto the Aubusson rug.
“What are you doing?”
“I am preparing for bed. That bed.” Nicky indicated the four-poster in the center of the room.
“Is the castle so crowded the son of the house has been turned out of his rooms?”
“If it pleases you to think so.” Nicky straightened, torso bared to Ian’s gaze.
Firelight gilded Nicky’s skin, gleaming on the fine hairs of his breast, drawing Ian’s eye to the waist of Nicky’s breeches where the hair thickened and darkened. The garnet on his signet ring flashed as Nicky’s hands moved to those buttons.
Ian shut his eyes. “No.”
“No?” The amusement in Nicky’s voice had Ian looking again, forgetting what imminent danger had prompted his action. But Nicky only bent to remove his shoes and stockings, gifting Ian with the sight of the firm curve of his backside under the tight kerseymere breeches.
Nicky brought his hands to rest above his hips, fingers disappearing under the waistband. “Is it truly no or is that what the good soldier, the dutiful second son, feels compelled to say?”
Ian’s throat burned as it tightened, but he could not look away.
“Whom do you seek to save with your denial, me or you?” Nicky persisted. He stepped closer, but made no move to touch Ian. “Why are we to be denied pleasure when you must know how precious and brief life is?”
“The risk of—”
“You threw yourself against a wall of French rifles in service to your father’s idea of honor. Can you not permit yourself something your own honor knows is right? How can it be wrong when we both desire it?” Nicky shoved his breeches down and stepped free, the proof of his desire standing proud and hard.
As swiftly as snow falling off a steep roof, Ian’s body dropped into a pit of raw need. He made a last effort to find any handhold which might keep him from the abyss.
“I do want…” you “…this, but only what we did before. We cannot, I will not…” He tried making a gesture to communicate the specific deed.
“Bugger me?” Nicky grinned. “Fuck me?”
Despite Ian’s shock, the coarseness of Nicky’s words brought a faster beat of blood to Ian’s prick. That unabated grin suggested Nicky knew damned well what effect he had wrought. His next step brought Nicky close enough to try the truth with his hand. Fingers traced the outline of Ian’s prick beneath a layer of wool and linen, a light pressure that offered nothing beyond exquisite torment. A quick hard rub against the crown, dragging the linen across the damp skin until heat pulsed from the tip, the touch as unerringly accurate as Ian’s own.
Pleasure stole his breath as surely as a fist to the stomach. Sucking the air through his teeth, he reached a hand to Nicky’s shoulder, hips tipping into the caress.
Nicky leaned forward until his breath moved against Ian’s ear. “While I find your concern utterly charming, what makes you believe you could take my arse if I didn’t allow it?”
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