Taken from Lisa Kleypas's website:
Wealthy entrepreneur Rafe Bowman has come to London to marry Lady Natalie, an aristocratic bride who will help to further his ambitions. But two things stand in his way : Lady Natalie's disapproving companion Hannah . . . and Rafe's passion for a woman he should not want and can never have . . .
They walked through the winter garden in silence, while Hannah struggled with the certainty that Rafe Bowman was even more dangerous, more wrong for Natalie, than she had originally believed. Natalie would eventually be hurt and disillusioned by a husband she could never trust.
"You are not suitable for Natalie," she heard herself say wretchedly. "The more I learn about you, the more certain I am of that fact. I wish you would leave her alone. I wish you would find some other nobleman's daughter to prey upon."
Bowman stopped with her beside the hedge. "You arrogant little baggage," he said quietly. "The prey was not of my choosing. I'm merely trying to make the best of my circumstances. And if Lady Natalie will have me, it's not your place to object."
"My affection for her gives me the right to say something"
"Maybe it's not affection. Are you certain you're not speaking out of jealousy?"
"Jealousy? Of Natalie? You're mad to suggest such a thing"
"Oh, I don't know," he said with ruthless softness. "It's possible you're tired of standing in her shadow. Watching your cousin in all her finery, being admired and sought-after while you stay at the side of the room with the dowagers and wallflowers."
Hannah sputtered in outrage, one of her fists clenching and raising as if to strike him.
Bowman caught her wrist easily, running a finger lightly over her whitened knuckles. His soft, mocking laugh scalded her ears. "Here," he said, forcibly crooking her thumb and tucking it across her fingers. "Don't ever try to hit someone with your thumb extended—you'll break it that way."
"Let go," she cried, yanking hard at her imprisoned wrist.
"You wouldn't be so angry if I hadn't struck a nerve," he taunted. "Poor Hannah, always standing in the corner, waiting for your turn. I'll tell you something you're moore than Natalie's equal, blue blood or no. You were meant for something far better than this."
"A wife for convenience and a mistress for pleasure. Isn't that how the peerage does it?"
Hannah stiffened all over, gasping, as Bowman brought her against his large, powerful form. She stopped struggling, recognizing that such efforts were useless against his strength. Her face turned from him, and she jerked as she felt his warm mouth brush the curve of her ear.
"I should make you my mistress," Bowman whispered. "Beautiful Hannah. If you were mine, I'd lay you on silk sheets and wrap you up in ropes of pearls, and feed you honey from a silver spoon. Of course, you wouldn't be able to make all your high-minded judgments if you were a fallen woman . . . but you wouldn't care. Because I would pleasure you, Hannah, every night, all night, until you forgot your own name. Until you were willing to do things that would shock you in the light of day. I would debauch you from your head down to your innocent little toes"
"Oh, I despise you," she cried, twisting helplessly against him. She had begun to feel real fear, not only from his hard grip and taunting words, but also from the shocks of heat running through her.
After this, she would never be able to face him again. Which was probably what he intended. A pleading sound came from her throat as she felt a delicately inquiring kiss in the hollow beneath her ear.
"You want me," he murmured. In a bewildering shift of mood he turned tender, letting his lips wander slowly along the side of her throat. "Admit it, Hannah, I appeal to your criminal tendencies. And you definitely bring out the worst in me." He drew his mouth over her neck, seeming to savor the swift, unsteady surges of her breathing. "Kiss me," he whispered. "Just once, and I'll let you go."
Sigh. Wow, what a scene, and it's one of many awesome and breathtaking moments in A Wallflower Christmas. What a great story! I loved how Rafe fell not for the woman intended for him but for the woman's prickly companion. My favorite scene in the book was when Rafe loses a silly wager to Hannah and has to give her something of his as a prize. He hands her a worn tin soldier he carries in his pocket. Hannah thinks nothing much of the toy trinket until Rafe's sister Lillian, one of the original Wallflowers, tells her about the significance of the toy soldier to her brother. That story, that scene, was amazing. The way Lillian let Hannah know that Rafe giving her that item was NOT a casual gesture got my heart pounding and made me so sad for what Rafe had endured as a child.
I also loved the snippets of our earlier wallflowers. Seeing them with the men they loved, living happily ever after, was so fun and added such a nice element to this Christmas story. Furthermore, I enjoyed the way Lisa brought in the historical significance of the Christmas tree and treated us to some back story of how trees in the home came into vogue. Can you imagine all the lit candles in today's dried up old trees? HELLO, fire hazard?!? Yikes!
To get the discussion started, tell me what you thought of the book, your favorite scene and share some of your favorite Christmas traditions or memories. I will be giving a $25 Amazon gift card to one lucky commenter today, so let's get the party started and let's hear it for all the Wallflowers out there! May they find their happily ever after in 2011!
For today's recipe I am sharing my late mother's Pumpkin Bread. It's not the holidays in my house without the scent of Pumpkin Bread cooking in the oven!
Barbara's Pumpkin Bread
*This recipe makes 2 loaves
3 C sugar
1 C vegetable oil
1 small can of pumpkin
1 C raisins (or go without if you prefer)
3 1/3 C flour
2 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. of baking powder
1 tsp. each of cinnamon, nutmeg and ground cloves
Sift dry ingredients together
Cream sugar and eggs and then add oil and pumpkin
When blended well, add dry ingredients and mix well
Bake in large, greased loaf pans at 325 degrees for 1.5 hrs
Enjoy and my best wishes for a peaceful holiday season and wonderful New Year!