Jessica Peterson began reading romance to escape the decidedly unromantic awkwardness of her teenage years. Having found solace in the likes of Rhett Butler and Mr. Darcy, it wasn’t long before she began creating tall, dark, and handsome heroes of her own.
A graduate of Duke University, Jessica worked at an investment bank before leaving to pursue her writerly dreams. She lives with her husband, the tall, dark, and handsome Mr. Peterson, in Charlotte, North Carolina.
Hello lovely readers! My name is Jessica Peterson, and my latest historical romance release, THE UNDERCOVER SCOUNDREL, hits shelves on June 2. It’s the third and final book of THE HOPE DIAMOND TRILOGY, a Regency-set series I pitch as THE THOMAS CROWN AFFAIR meets a (very sassy!) Jane Austen.
Thanks for having me on Ramblings today. I’ve been a guest here a few times now, and I’m always overwhelmed by the lovely response I get from readers. Thanks for taking the time to stop by and say hello!
THE UNDERCOVER SCOUNDREL is a delicious blend of sexy spies and second chance romance – two of my favorite tropes. Our hero, Henry Beaton Lake, is a ginger-haired giant who may or may not bear a striking resemblance to Clay Matthews (Go Pack Go!); he is, however, definitely an undercover agent of His Majesty’s Alien Office. Lady Caroline, Countess of Berry, fell in love for the first time with him when she was a mere seventeen. They married in secret and, after a night of forbidden passion, Henry mysteriously disappeared…
Fast forward twelve years, and Henry and Caroline are unexpectedly reunited by Henry’s most dangerous assignment yet – tracking down the infamous French Blue diamond (which will later be known as the Hope Diamond). All sorts of danger and naughtiness ensues!
To celebrate SCOUNDREL’S release, I thought I’d share a fun excerpt from one of my favorite parts of the book. Hope you enjoy! Happy reading.
The author of The Millionaire Rogue returns to her dazzling series about a bygone era filled with romance, espionage, and one dangerously seductive diamond…
Mr. Henry Lake spent the past twelve years uncovering the most scandalous secrets of Europe’s wealthy and powerful, serving as one of His Majesty’s most decorated spies. But when a mission to find the legendary French Blue diamond brings him back to London, and face to face with a beautiful noblewoman he once loved, it’s his own hidden passions that are uncovered…
Lady Caroline, dowager Duchess of Berry, knows better than to lose her head over a man. After an embarrassing romantic entanglement forced her into a loveless marriage and early widowhood, she learned to never trust in desire, especially when it comes to the man who once broke her heart. Only, despite her good sense, she finds Henry impossible to resist—even when he once again places her in deathly danger…
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The French Blue would be used as Henry had always intended: an enticing piece of diplomatic bait, in the hopes Old Boney would exchange British prisoners, perhaps a Spanish city or two, in his quest to collect the crown jewels.
Henry would do his duty by England. That duty, of course, would bring him back to Paris, where he would continue his work. He was too good, too experienced, to be allowed to stay in London; Caroline had no doubt his loss these past weeks had been felt, acutely.
Pain, black and swelling, punctured her relief. She’d always known he would go back. But that didn’t make it hurt any less.
These two things warred inside Caroline: her love for Henry, a love she could no longer deny, a love she’d all but admitted by helping him win back the French Blue; and the need to protect herself, to keep her carefully tended wounds—wounds that, after twelve years, had never fully healed—from opening again.
But Henry had opened them, and she knew it was too late to stanch the bleeding. She felt rent in two, equal parts love and fear, longing and sadness. The euphoria of having him near, and being so in love, was tinged with an ache Caroline knew well.
She smoothed her hair behind her ear, and looked at Henry as she drew upright. Tonight. It was all they had left. The wild chase that had brought them back together was done.
But they still had tonight.
Henry held out a hand to her, and she took it. He brought her close, his fingers entwining with hers as she stepped into the wedge of shadow put off by the wall.
“Caroline,” he said quietly. Would this be the last time, she wondered, that she’d hear him speak her name? “Thank you. I was an ass to believe I could do this alone. Without you.”
She grinned. “I only had to tell you three hundred times that I could help. At last, I get my due! Tell me, is the Alien Office looking to recruit new spies? I daresay I’d be smashing at it.”
Henry tugged her closer, set her hand to rest against his chest and covered it with his own. His heart beat strongly against her palm. Desire pulsed, dimly, low in her belly. “What about your gardens? And that book! You still need to finish that book.”
“Oh, that book,” Caroline sighed, looking up at Henry. “I have that dreadful book, and you’ll have Paris.”
His grin faded. He squeezed her hand, ran his tongue along his bottom lip. For a moment he looked away. “I hope—sincerely—that I have not caused you overmuch pain, coming to London like this. I never meant to take captive your life, you know. It just.” He shrugged, that half-grin of his returning full force, dimple and all. Caroline thought she might faint. “Happened. I don’t regret it, Caroline. No matter what happens next, I don’t regret it.”
Tears pricked at her eyes. It was her turn to look away. “Tomorrow. This is going to hurt tomorrow, Henry.”
With his other hand he cupped her face, his thumb brushing her eyelashes. “I know,” he said. “You and I—it seems the world conspires against us, doesn’t it?”
Caroline scoffed. “An understatement if there ever was one.”
She looked up and met his gaze. He was still grinning, and that gaze—it was as full as she felt.
“I’ve waited for you,” he whispered. “And even if we were only together for a little while, it was worth every minute of the twelve years I waited.”
The lump in her throat was so enormous she could hardly breathe. “I’ve waited too, Henry.”
Again his grin smoothed into seriousness. “Promise me, Caroline, that you won’t wait anymore. That tomorrow you’ll start over.”
A beat. “But tonight?”
He dug his hand into the hair at the base of her skull. He looked down at her for a long moment, his pale eye swirling with emotion. “Tonight I want to be with you, Caroline. If you’ll have me.”
Tears burned against her closed eyelids. Tears of relief. “Yes,” she breathed.
And then Henry was curling his body around hers, pressing her back to the wall as his mouth came down on hers. His arm propped on the wall beside her head, he kissed her hard and well and sure. He surrounded her, his body, his scent, and she drank deeply, wrapping her hands around the nape of his neck, her fingers tangling in his hair as she pulled him closer, closer; he was never close enough. Desire flooded her every vein and sinew, pulsing between her legs and in her chest. She wanted him, badly.
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