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St. Louis, Missouri, 1879 The only things that have kept widower Stephen Worth alive for the past two years are the promise of revenge against the man who framed him for murder and the love for Andy, his son, who was taken by the beautiful but vexing sister of his dead wife. Now, full of desire for her, he must convince Kate to trust him before she learns the truth about his past—but his demons are all the ammunition she needs to keep his son for good.
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St. Louis, Missouri, 1879
Heiress Kate Barker thought she’d met the man of her dreams the night the mysterious English viscount swept her off her feet at the masquerade. Until his real identity is revealed – the cold, calculating scoundrel is really there to rip her world apart.
The only things that have kept widower Stephen Worth alive for the past two years are the pomise of revenge against the man who framed him for murder and the love for Andy, his son, who was taken by the beautiful but vexing sister of his dead wife. He didn’t know what to expect when he met Kate, but it wasn’t undeniable desire.
"I really enjoyed this book. The characters were great and the pacing was wonderful. I started reading intending to only do a few chapters. I finished this morning at four am. I could not put the story down." ~ author of Accidentally Compromising the Duke, Stacy Reid
Pampered city girl meets displaced European rich man turned cowboy. When Kate's brother-in-law shows up to claim his son after his wife dies, Kate is determined to keep them apart. If he had cared about his sone then why didn't he come to claim him two years ago after his wife died. Kate suspects... ...more
LOVE'S REVENGE by Joan Avery is an interesting American West Historical Romance set in 1879 Missouri. #1 in the "Worth Brothers" trilogy. "The Worth Brothers Series is trilogy about three English brothers and the American women they meet and marry." This is the tale of Heiress Kate Barker and her b... ...more
I really enjoyed this book. The characters were great and the pacing was wonderful. I started reading intending to only do a few chapters. I finished this morning at four am. I could not put the story down. There was just something compelling about Stephen and the journey this author took us on.... ...more
Love's revenge is the first in a exciting new series by Joan Avery. It has lavish description of late Victoriana draws you into her world. The novel begins at St. Louis’s masked “Veiled prophet's ball” when Katherine meets her “dark apparition who shakes her to her core”. She tries to convince he... ...more
I was gifted this book by a friend that loved it and boy am I glad she did! I enjoyed it. The pacing was good, the characters great, and the plot solid. The imagery was done well, and the history of the Indian conflict was blended in seamlessly with the plot. Our hero is on a revenge quest to tak... ...more
Joan Avery was an award-winning writer/producer at a major national advertising agency for over fifteen years before she retired to raise a family and write. Joan has been blessed with a daughter, two sons and two stepsons. She and her husband now have five grandchildren. Although she has lived in the Detroit area her entire life she has traveled extensively for both work and leisure. She and her husband, an attorney, have visited many fascinating parts of the world. Joan feels her travels enrich her writing. THE WORTH BROTHERS TRILOGY takes place in three of her favorite places.
The Veiled Prophet’s Ball was the most sought-after ticket in the city. Here, St. Louis’ elite would gather to mark the beginning of the city’s social season. She had attributed her skittishness to the day’s entertainments, but her unease continued to grow as the evening settled in. Deep down, she suspected it wasn’t the parade or the ball that had her off-balance. It was that strange feeling that something was coming. Uncle George’s melancholy only added to her disquiet. She hoped a bit of liquid refreshment would restore his good humor.
She couldn’t describe the strange unease she felt. Her heart beat slightly off rhythm and faster than usual. Her breasts pressed against the silver-threaded bodice of her costume. The cool night air washed across her warm flesh and she shivered, her bare arms unusually sensitive to the breeze. Something was going to happen. She was sure of it.
None of the costumed revelers spared a glance at the platform, but the sense that she was being watched prickled her skin. There was no reason to think it. No reason at all. And then a dark shadow caught the outside of her vision.
Across the street in the shadow of a lamppost, someone was watching her. The man’s stare pinned her in place and obliterated everything else around her.
A stab of excitement as strong as any she had ever experienced coursed through her. The exceedingly handsome man dismantled and devoured her piece by piece.
He was a stranger, this dark apparition, and yet there was something about him, something hauntingly familiar. She tried to look away, but it was impossible.
The heady, exhilarating feeling stormed through her body, leaving her palms moist and clinging to the delicate voile overskirt of her costume. The locket at her throat left a cool thin line as it encircled her increasingly warm flesh.
She studied him unabashedly, emboldened by his perusal. Again, she was struck by the feeling that something about him was terribly familiar. His features were handsome but not overly refined. They carried the weight of something unnamed—years of rough living, perhaps, or the pain of an unpleasant experience. Kate recognized the mileposts of personal anguish. It only served to strengthen the strange bond that had astoundingly grown between them in mere seconds.
It was an extraordinary thing, this feeling—part dejá vu, part second sight, part… She didn’t want to delve any further. Whatever it was, it was overwhelming in its intensity.
His deeply bronzed skin contrasted with the crisp white pressed linen of his shirt. His powerful jaw sat juxtaposed to the soft, dove-gray foulard of his cravat. His mouth was full, but not so that it betrayed weakness. She became aware of the strength of his shoulders beneath a cutaway jacket whose ink-black richness suggested newness.
He was smoking a cheroot and she watched his hands, fascinated. They were long and tapered—elegantly formed—and her mind wandered. She could feel their length firmly around the softness of her bare arms.
He continued to watch her. Kate was sure he sensed it too—this haunting familiarity. His face had changed when he knew she had seen him. His mouth softened and his eyes subtly reflected her own wonder. There was a connection between them, a link that explained the insanity that had overtaken her.
“Katherine. Here you are. I apologize for being away so long. John Wahl stopped me on a last minute problem with the arrangements for the ball.”
Her Uncle George was speaking to her as if in a dream. It was peculiar. This dark stranger still held her in his world against the pull of reality. She struggled to escape, suddenly embarrassed by her own willingness to stay within his grasp.
“Mary Katherine? Are you all right? You look flushed.”
“Yes, Uncle. I’m fine.” She struggled back into the real world. “I’m sorry. It must be all the excitement.” She rose.
“Are you sure, my dear? You look quite pale.”
Uncle George struggled to hold himself erect despite the obvious pain in his joints. Sadly, his eighty-year-old body was betraying him, but his spirit was still strong. His eyes sparkled like a child’s with the evening’s excitement.
She smiled to reassure him. Her uncle had been her comfort and her strength these last years—through her father’s death and then Lizzie’s. “Yes, I’m quite sure I’m well.”
This was reality, she reminded herself. The interlude moments before was a fantasy she had created to fulfill her own silly expectations.
“Are you ready to go in?” Uncle George asked and then paused before adding, “You look like an angel tonight, my dear.”
“I’m a fairy, really.” She looked down and raised her jeweled wand, suddenly self-conscious. Why was she so uncomfortable?
He had done this to her. The stranger had called up feelings more intimate than any she had ever felt.
She had to get hold of herself. She just needed a few minutes. It was only a passing aberration, a momentary lapse. She had let her imagination run wild. It was a bit of a self-fulfilling prophecy. She had wanted something to happen and she had tried to make it so.
“Are you ready?”
“Yes, of course.” Despite her resolve, Kate looked back. The man had gone. She should have felt relieved, but it wasn’t relief that knotted her stomach and left her palms sweaty.
He stood uncomfortably to one side of the Exchange Hall, only one of a handful of guests not in costume. He didn’t care.
The multi-colored lights from the fireworks filtered through the high-arched, leaded window behind him and glinted off the elaborate decorations. The walnut paneling of the magnificent room shimmered with the play of the light. Colorful swags had been added to the high stone galleries with their bas-relief sculptures. The bright fabric moved slightly in the artificial breeze created by the activity below.
At one end of the large room on a raised pedestal, a gilt throne had been prepared for His Mysterious Majesty when he arrived on his royal float. Ornately carved, its Baroque garishness was out of place in the beautiful room.
At the other end of the hall, a huge ice sculpture of the Prophet sat slowly melting amid a staggering array of delicacies—smoked salmon brought in by train especially for the evening, huge sides of beef, and sweet confections of every hue.
The size of the magnificent hall gave those guests farthest from him no face. They left only an impression of color. But he did not need a face to identify the woman who was the reason for his presence tonight. She stood out like an angel, all aglow in silver—a heavenly being playing among mere mortals. Katherine Barker had a radiance all her own. It did not surprise him that she had collected a large group of admirers. Pain shot through his soul, pain and resentment—and something else.
He had not been prepared for this other emotion. But then, he had not been prepared for Katherine Barker. From the first moment he saw her, he had had to constantly remind himself that desire would only defeat him. And yet, from the first, his body betrayed him. He would have to steel himself against these feelings. He could not let himself forget how hard she could fight against him.
He allowed himself to glance around the room. It had been a long time since he had been at such a formal event. He smiled bitterly at the familiarity of it all. It was all the same and yet different.
Gradually, the hum of conversations and the swirl of bright costumes became peripheral. He was bombarded with memories—London, a lifetime ago. He had not thought of London in years.
He forcibly brought himself back to the present—back to why he had come. His lawyer, Benjamin Ward, had insisted on his presence at the ball tonight mere hours after his arrival. Here, he could be introduced to the leaders of St. Louis’ social elite which might benefit him if he were forced into a court battle.
He laughed to himself. Ironically, even America had its aristocracy. It might go by a different name, but it was just as structured, just as narrow-minded, just as self-righteous and suffocating. And Katherine Barker was a part of it.
“My Lord, there you are. I’m sorry for the delay. Had to say hello to an old friend. Everyone is thrilled to have a viscount in their midst.”
He studied the man who had approached him. Ah, the Americans and their fascination with British titles. While his father was an earl, his lawyer had given him an honorific that rightly belonged only to his older brother. He would not correct him, though. The mistake could work to his advantage. He simply smiled.
Benjamin Ward spoke a little too loudly and with a little too much familiarity, but Ward had been recommended as the best lawyer in St. Louis and that was what he needed.
The portly attorney’s carefully trimmed black beard was streaked with just the right amount of gray to give him a stately appearance. Ward had meticulously waxed his moustache until it stood alertly out from his face. A silk handkerchief hung just so from his breast pocket. Everything about the man spoke of care with detail, and that was good.
“Have you been in the States long?” Ward asked.
“For over ten years now.”
“Have you visited St. Louis before, sir?”
“No, I’ve spent most of my time farther west…Denver and beyond.”
“Then your stay is of the more permanent variety?” A knowing look crossed the attorney’s face.
He had seen it before. Ward had already branded him a “Remittance Man”—the second or third son of an aristocratic British family forced into exile for a public embarrassment. The British inheritance laws took a heavy toll, especially on those who broke the laws of society. They produced more than their share of wastrels and profligates. The banished expatriates drank and gambled their way across the American West like vermin, living off the remittance checks sent by an older brother.
He smiled grimly. Ward was only half-right. “I’m a metallurgist, sir. My work has kept me here.”
“Then you and Miss Barker will have two things in common. She owns one of the larger iron-ore smelting businesses in the city.” Ward indicated the dance floor.
He turned to face a vision—a silvery vision with alabaster skin and the hair of an angel. The movement of the waltz fluttered her gossamer wings and played with the soft masses of her delicate pale hair. Her smooth porcelain skin was almost translucent in the soft gaslight. Her blue eyes were lustrous with excitement.
Whoever wore the raiment of the Prophet was an excellent dancer, for the couple moved down the floor in graceful swirls that sent Katherine Barker’s dress twirling around her, offering glimpse after glimpse of her delicate ankles and shapely calves.
When the waltz finally came to an end with the couple in front of him, he came face to face with perhaps his most dangerous foe.