It isn't easy making a living as a lady's companion when one possesses a sharp tongue and an original mind. That's why Emma Greyson has gone through three such positions in six months. Her current post at a tiresome country house party has her bored to tears—until an extraordinary encounter with the legendary Edison Stokes leads to a secret position as his assistant.
Stokes is on a peculiar mission, searching for an anonymous thief who has stolen an ancient book of arcane potions. He suspects his quarry is among the party's guests—and that the villain is looking for an intuitive woman on whom to test a certain elixir. A woman just like Emma...
For Emma, the new post brings unexpected passion and chilling danger. But when murder strikes, she realizes the awful truth. Unless she and Edison devise a scheme to outwit a merciless killer, she could forever lose the man of her dreams—and even her very life....
About the Author
Amanda Quick, a pseudonym for Jayne Ann Krentz, is a bestselling, award-winning author of contemporary and historical romances. There are over twenty-five million copies of her books in print, including Seduction, Surrender, Scandal, Rendezvous, Ravished, Reckless, Dangerous, Deception, Desire, Mistress, Mystique, Mischief, Affair, With This Ring, and I Thee Wed. She makes her home in the Pacific Northwest with her husband, Frank.
Read an Excerpt
The Bastard was here at Ware Castle.
Damn the man. Emma Greyson clenched one gloved hand into a fist on the balcony railing. Of all the thoroughly rotten luck. Then again, it was all of a piece, she thought. Her luck had been rotten for some time now, culminating in complete financial disaster two months ago.
Nevertheless, discovering that she would have to spend the next week trying to avoid Chilton Crane was really too much.
She drummed her fingers on the ancient stone. She should not have been so startled to see Crane arrive that afternoon. After all, the Polite World was a relatively small one. There was nothing odd about The Bastard being among the many guests who had been invited to the large house party.
She could not afford to lose this post, Emma thought. Crane might not remember her, but the only sensible thing to do was to stay out of his path for the duration of the house party. With so many people about, it should be a simple matter to disappear into the woodwork, she assured herself. Few took any notice of paid companions.
A slight whisper of movement in the darkness below the balcony jerked her out of her glum reverie. She frowned and peered more closely into the deep shadows cast by a high hedge.
One of the shadows shifted. It moved out of the darkness and glided across a moonlit patch of lawn. She leaned forward and caught a glimpse of the figure who moved like a ghost through the silver light. Tall, lean, dark haired, dressed entirely in black clothing.
She did not need the brief glint of moonlight on his austere, ascetic cheekbones to recognize the man below.
Edison Stokes. By chance she had been returning from a walk yesterday afternoon when he arrived at the castle. She had seen him drive his gleaming phaeton into the courtyard. The sleek carriage had been drawn by perfectly matched, well-trained bays.
The huge creatures had responded to Stokes's hands on the ribbons with calm precision. Their willing obedience indicated that their master relied on technique and skill rather than whips and savage bits for control.
Later Emma had noticed that the other guests watched Stokes with sidelong glances whenever he was in the room. She knew their ferretlike interest meant that he was very likely both extremely wealthy and extremely powerful. Quite possibly extremely dangerous.
All of which made him extremely fascinating in the minds of the bored and thoroughly jaded elite.
The shadows shifted again. Emma leaned a little farther out over the balcony. She saw that Stokes had one leg over the sill of an open window. How very odd. He was, after all, a guest in the castle. There was no need for him to skulk about this way.
There was only one reason why Stokes would choose such a clandestine approach. He was either returning from a tryst with the wife of one of the other guests or he was about to conduct one.
She did not know why, but she had expected better of Stokes. Her employer, Lady Mayfield, had introduced them last night. When he had inclined his head very formally over her hand, her intuition had sparked briefly. This was not another Chilton Crane, she had told herself. Edison Stokes was more than just another debauched rake in a world that already teemed with an overabundance of the species.
Obviously she had been wrong. And not for the first time lately.
A burst of raucous laughter spilled from one of the open windows farther along the east wing of the castle. The men in the billiard room sounded quite drunk. Music poured forth from the ballroom.
Down below her balcony, Edison Stokes vanished into a darkened chamber that was not his own.
After a while Emma turned and walked slowly back into a dimly lit stone passage. She could safely retire to her bedchamber, she decided. Lady Mayfield would be in her altitudes by now. Letty was extremely fond of champagne. She would never notice that her paid companion had disappeared for the evening.
The sound of muffled voices on the little-used back stairs brought Emma to an abrupt halt midway along the corridor. She paused and listened intently. Soft laughter echoed. A couple. The man sounded disgustingly cup-shot.
"Your maid will be waiting up for you, I assume?" Chilton Crane mumbled with ill-concealed eagerness.
Emma froze. So much for her hopes that her luck would improve. The glow of a candle appeared on the wall of the staircase. In another moment Crane and his companion would emerge into the hall where she stood.
She was trapped. Even if she whirled and ran as fast as she could, she would not be able to make it all the way back down the corridor to the main staircase.
"Don't be silly," Miranda, Lady Ames, murmured. "I dismissed the girl before I went downstairs this evening. I certainly did not want her in the way when I returned."
"There was no need to get rid of her," Chilton said quickly. "I'm certain we could have found some use for the chit."
"Mr. Crane, are you by any chance suggesting that my maid join us under the covers?" Miranda retorted archly. "Sir, I am shocked."
"Variety is the spice of life, my dear. And I have always found that females who are dependent upon keeping a post in a household are extremely willing to do as they are told. Eager, in fact."
"You will have to indulge your taste for the serving classes some other time. I have no intention of sharing you with my maid tonight."
"Perhaps we could look a bit higher for someone to make up a threesome. I noticed that Lady Mayfield brought along a companion. What do you say we arrange to summon her to your bedchamber on a pretext of some sort—"
"Lady Mayfield's companion? Surely you don't mean Miss Greyson?" Miranda sounded genuinely appalled. "Never say that you have a mind to seduce that bland creature in spectacles and caps. And that dreadful red hair. Have you no taste at all in such matters?"
"I have often found that drab clothing and spectacles can conceal a surprisingly lively spirit." Chilton paused. "Speaking of Lady Mayfield's companion—"
"I'd rather not, if you don't mind."
"There is something oddly familiar about her," Chilton said slowly. "I wonder if I have encountered her elsewhere."
Panic uncoiled in Emma's stomach. She'd had reason to hope that Crane had not recognized her earlier when, trapped in the music room, she had been forced to walk right past him to escape. He had glanced only casually in her direction.
She had told herself that men such as Crane, who enjoyed forcing themselves on their hosts' hapless maids, governesses, and paid ladies' companions, did not commit their victims' features to memory. Furthermore, her hair was now a different color.
Fearful that a previous employer, who had dismissed her for insubordination, might have warned her acquaintances about that insolent, red-haired female, she had worn a dark wig during the short period of her employment at Ralston Manor.
"Forget Lady Mayfield's companion," Miranda ordered. "She is a boring little thing. I assure you I can entertain you in a much more interesting fashion than she can."
"Of course, my dear. Whatever you say." Chilton sounded vaguely disappointed.
Emma edged back a step. She had to do something. She could not stand here like a cornered hare and wait for Miranda and Crane to emerge from the stairwell.
She glanced over her shoulder. The only light in the darkened hall came from a single wall sconce halfway along the corridor. Heavily timbered doors sunk deep in the stone marked the entrances to the various bedchambers.
She whirled, picked up her skirts, and hurried back along the stone corridor. She would have to hide in one of the rooms. The castle was very full, and each room on this floor had been assigned to a guest. But surely they would all be empty at this hour. The night was young. Ware's friends were still downstairs, enjoying the dancing and the flirting.
She paused in front of the first door and turned the knob.
Her heart sank. She rushed to the next door. It too refused to budge.
Panic ate at her. She went to the third door, seized the knob, twisted. And breathed a ragged sigh of relief when it turned easily in her hand.
She slipped quickly into the room and shut the door very quietly behind her. She surveyed her surroundings. The bright moonlight pouring through the window revealed the heavy curtains of a large, canopied bed. There were towels on the washstand. The dressing table was littered with elegant little bottles. A woman's lace-trimmed nightgown lay across the bed.
She would wait here until Chilton and Miranda disappeared into one of the other bedchambers. Then she would make her way back to the rear stairs.
She turned, put her ear to the door, and listened to the footsteps moving down the hall. They were coming closer.
A dreadful premonition seized Emma. What if she had stumbled into Miranda's bedchamber?
The footsteps paused in front of the door.
"Here we are, Chilton." Miranda's voice was muffled by the heavy door. "Just let me get my key."
Emma stepped back from the door as if it had turned red-hot. She had only seconds. Miranda believed her door to be locked. She was no doubt busily rummaging about in her reticule, hunting for the key.
Emma searched the moonlit room with desperation. There was no space under the bed. She could see that traveling trunks had been stored there. That left only the massive wardrobe. She ran toward it. Her soft kid evening slippers made no noise on the carpet.
Crane's drunken laughter echoed on the other side of the door. Emma heard the soft ting of metal on stone.
"There now, see what you made me do?" Miranda said. "I dropped it."
"Allow me," Chilton said.
Emma yanked open the heavy wardrobe, pushed her way through a forest of frothy gowns, and climbed inside. She reached out and pulled the door closed behind her.
She was instantly enfolded in utter darkness. A man's arm wrapped around her waist. She started to scream. A warm palm clamped around her mouth. She was pulled roughly against a strong, rock-hard chest and pinned there.
Terror crashed through Emma. The problem of being recognized paled into insignificance compared to her new predicament. No wonder she had found the door of this bedchamber unlocked. Someone else had already sneaked into the room.
"Silence, please, Miss Greyson," Edison Stokes whispered directly into her ear. "Or we shall both have a great deal of explaining to do."
On Monday, April 26th, barnesandnoble.com welcomed Amanda Quick to discuss I THEE WED.
Moderator: Good evening, and welcome to the Auditorium, Amanda Quick! We're so glad you could join us to chat about I THEE WED. How are you this evening?
Amanda Quick: Thank you so much for having me. I'm delighted to be here.
Marco Aurelio from Fortaleza, Brazil: Do you think that romantic literature is the best market for women writers?
Amanda Quick: I think romantic literature is a terrific market for women writers but certainly not the only one. Women write in all fields of fiction.
Meaghan from Oregon: What do you love most about Regency England, and why did you return to it for this latest novel?
Amanda Quick: I love the Regency period partly because it is a great backdrop for the kind of characters that I like to use in my books. The Regency was famous for wit and conversation and nuance. At the same time it has a very "modern" feel in terms of the way the people thought and wrote. I especially love their attitude toward science.
Elizabeth Rainbird from Perth, Australia: I just want you to know I love your books but can't question you on I THEE WED as it will some time before it gets to Australia. I don't suppose you are planning a trip over here any time soon?
Amanda Quick: I have no plans in the immediate future for a trip to Australia, but I would really love to travel there one of these days. I think most Americans have a special affection for Australia because we share some similarities in our history.
Gina from Boca Raton, FL: I love Emma Greyson in your latest, I THEE WED! Where did she come from?
Amanda Quick: Emma was born from the feeling I had that I wanted to do a character who was not in a socially powerful position. That gave me the opportunity to emphasize her gutsy qualities. Glad you liked her.
Marco Aurelio from Fortaleza, Brazil: Hello, Amanda! I'm so excited I could join and talk to you! I started reading you in Portuguese with AFFAIR, and I enjoyed it a bunch! I'm enjoying your books. Really. I have two questions: 1) Are you already working on another book? 2) Who do you read? Who do you enjoy reading when it comes to contemporary fiction? Thank you. I wish you very good luck with this book and in all your other endeavors!
Amanda Quick: Yes -- seems like I'm always working on another book! I'd probably go a little nuts if I wasn't. As for who I read, well, that is a long list, and it certainly includes a lot of my friends, such as Elizabeth Lowell, Stella Cameron, and Susan Elizabeth Phillips.
Carolina de Paula from Los Angeles, CA: Dear Miss Krentz, I am extremely addicted to your novels. Thank you for writing wonderful stories. I know today's discussion is I THEE WED. However, I am curious, going back to MISCHIEF: How did you come up with Zamar? Thank you so much.
Amanda Quick: I invented Zamar because I wanted to set a story around the attitudes and excitement that people in the Regency felt toward the discovery and exploration of ancient civilizations. But a great deal has already been written about their feelings toward ancient Rome and Egypt and Greece, et cetera. I decided to come up with my own "lost" civilization. It was a lot of fun, I have to tell you. It also gave me some room to push the envelope in terms of the plot.
Jane from Bennington, VT: I love your women -- of all your characters in your historical romances, which female protagonist do you think would fare best in today's society, and why?
Amanda Quick: Great question. Actually, I think any of my female characters could adapt to today's society because all of them are intelligent, energetic, and resourceful. A good heroine can go anywhere and into any time period, I always say!
Cissy from Indiana: I want to echo those who loved I THEE WED. I'm still chuckling over some of the dialogue. I also wondered if there's a chance we'll be seeing Emma's sister again in a later book.
Amanda Quick: Thanks for the question, Cissy. Glad you liked I THEE WED, and I especially appreciate the comments on the dialogue because that is how I tend to "think" through my plot -- in terms of what the characters will say to each other. Some writers see a story as if it were a film unfolding. Others see the setting with great clarity and work from that. Me, I hear conversations in my head. Which may not necessarily be a great sign...
WENDY from Sonora, CA: How do you get your historical information? Do you read history books?
Amanda Quick: As it happens, I studied history in college. But the fact that I had studied it kept me from trying to write historical romance for several years. I didn't think I could get into the fantasy. But one day I sat down and wrote a futuristic romance under my Jayne Ann Krentz name and halfway through it I suddenly realized that it "felt" like a historical romance. That was when I decided to try my hand at historicals.
BG from Pennsylvania: What's your favorite of your 15 Amanda Quick novels? My favorite is MISTRESS. Do you prefer to write as Amanda Quick or Jayne Ann Krentz?
Amanda Quick: The truth is, my favorite book is always the one I'm working on right now. Once I've written a book, I never go back. All I care about is the next story.
Tiffany from Ohio: First of all, your plots are amazing. I see them as circles, with the end tying back to the beginning -- it's almost reminiscent of Dickens, but with much more flair and style. Anyway, in your books, especially the most recent, the characters always end up talking about having babies, or having them. Do you have any kids yourself?
Amanda Quick: Dickens? Wow. Gee, thanks. I'll be happy to answer your questions anytime! But back to reality here. Yes, the characters in my romance novels (and in lots and lots of romance novels) often end up talking about babies and families and such because at the core of the romance novel is the foundation of the family and an affirmation of solid family values. If you write romance, family stuff goes with the territory.
Wendy from Sonora, CA: Do you ever connect your characters from one novel to another?
Amanda Quick: I haven't done much with connected books in the past, but I am starting to experiment a bit with the concept. There will be a link, for example, between I THEE WED (my current hardcover) and the one that will appear next spring. I hope you enjoy the change of pace.
Kim from Oregon: Amanda, I had the chance to hear you speak about women's fiction writing at the Seattle RWA Conference last fall. Do you think women fiction writers are taking more chances these days, both with historicals and contemporaries? Is the market ready for these bold new story lines? I love them.
Amanda Quick: The good news as far as I am concerned is that the women's fiction market is the most innovative market in fiction publishing right now. No other genre is as creative, fresh, lively, and welcoming to new ideas as romance/women's fiction is today. Our enthusiastic, adventurous readers have made all this experimentation possible. Romance readers are the greatest! They'll try just about anything so long as there are compelling relationships at the heart of the novel. Historical, futuristic, paranormal, funny, serious, suspenseful -- anything goes in romance today. It's a great time to be writing.
Marco Aurelio from Fortaleza, Brazil: When did you know you wanted to become a writer? Did your parents, siblings, or friends say anything when you started writing? Do you have friends who write too? Thank you!
Amanda Quick: I think most writers become writers the day they realize that they want to tell the story their way. The urge to write is never a rational, logical decision -- it is a compulsion. Big difference. As long as you're compelled to write, you do it whether or not you get published. You can't stop yourself. If you can stop, you probably were not meant to be a writer.
Kal from New York: I was very pleased to see the committed lesbian couple that made an appearance in one of your Regencies. I hope that you will include other gay couples in future books.
Amanda Quick: I have great respect for two honorable people who make a commitment and stick to it. Honor is in short supply in this world. We need to encourage that virtue whenever we can.
Stacey Smith from Austin, TX: Hi, Jayne. First off, I want you to know that I am extremely happy with all your books, especially the ones you write about Regency England, and that is why I am so excited with the publishing of I THEE WED. Question: Is this hero going to be anything like Angelstone from DANGEROUS? I loved Prue, and I think she and Emma are going to have some things in common. Also, I want to know when to expect another book from your Jayne Anne Krentz series. I especially loved TRUST ME and ABSOLUTELY, POSITIVELY. Thanks and keep up the good work.
Amanda Quick: Thanks, Stacey. Glad you liked I THEE WED. Yes, as a matter of fact, there will be another Jayne Ann Krentz book out any day now. The title is EYE OF THE BEHOLDER. Hope you like it.
David from Oregon: Like your books, especially Amanda Quick and the Jayne Castle "Flower" series. Keep at it. I haven't seen (or at least remember) any serious bloopers in the Amanda Quick stories (military history major). Keep it up. Thanks a lot for the stories.
Amanda Quick: Glad you haven't found any glaring errors. As a history major myself, I have a lot of respect for accuracy. At the same time, as a writer, I have an even greater respect for the demands of good storytelling. Sometimes the two demands create some problems.
Colleen from Schenectady, NY: I always enjoy reading about Zamar in your novels. What prompted you to create another classic culture for your Regency characters to investigate?
Amanda Quick: I was looking for a suitably exotic backdrop for my characters. At the same time, I didn't want the story line to be tied down to what was then known about other ancient civilizations. I needed more room for the story. Hence the invention of Zamar. Hey, if you like Zamar, you're going to love Vanzagara in I THEE WED.
Joy from Michigan: Are you working on a new Regency book now, and what is it about?
Amanda Quick: There's always a new book either in my head or going down on the computer. In this case the next one is, indeed, another Regency and, yes, it will be connected to the current one, I THEE WED. The tentative title is THE WICKED WIDOW.
Jill Rosenberg from Los Angeles: In I THEE WED the "Zangarian" philosophy and practices appear to correspond with wiccan/pagan (or its Eastern counterpart) practices. Did you do research on these subjects for this book?
Amanda Quick: Haven't researched wiccan/pagan practices, but I have always been interested in Eastern philosophies because of the emphasis on self-control and self-mastery. I have always believed that the first step to a truly civilized society is personal self-discipline.
Sue Trice from Louisiana: What is your best advice for someone just starting out writing romance stories?
Amanda Quick: If you're interested in writing romance, I assume you read widely in the genre. It is the only way to find out just how broad this field of fiction is and to get a handle on where your type of story will fit into it. The next step, I think, would be to check out joining Romance Writers of America. They offer a lot of information that is extremely helpful to new writers of women's fiction and romance in particular. You can find them on the Web.
BG from Pennsylvania: Did you choose the name Edison for your hero as a tribute to Thomas Edison, a famous man of science?
Amanda Quick: Actually, no, I never thought of Thomas Edison when I named my hero, but I certainly should have because I really enjoy the history of science and use it a lot in my work. Between you and me, I've used up a lot of good names, and my "name the baby" books are pretty tattered and torn. I'm down to using obituaries and the telephone book these days in a desperate quest to find interesting names for characters!
Ruthanne Rubin from Baltimore County Public Librar: I love all of your books no matter what your name. I just finished I THEE WED this morning. I found myself wondering if your next book would be about your newest heroine's sister.
Amanda Quick: Not the heroine's sister, but there will be a link...
Tiffany from Fredericksburg: This isn't a question but a commendation about your style of writing. I read romance novels because you made the heroes just as likable as the heroines. Unlike others in the genre, they are intelligent and for the most part kind. Thanks for not putting rakehells in your novels!
Amanda Quick: I've got to like my own heroes and heroines, too, you know. Otherwise it wouldn't be as fun to write their stories.
Mary from Virginia: I really love all your books! The characters seem like friends. I almost hate to finish the book -- I want the story to continue. Have your ever read Georgette Heyer? Hers were the first Regency books I read as a teenager. I have been hooked ever since. Thank you for my many enjoyable hours spent with your characters.
Amanda Quick: Thanks. And, yes, you bet I've read Georgette Heyer. Every Regency romance author I know has read her! Heck, she invented the genre.
Tiffany from Ohio: Have you ever thought of doing a historical set in America, like colonial times?
Amanda Quick: For some reason, at least until this point, the type of characters I enjoy doing have always seemed to fit best into a fantasy version of the English Regency period -- maybe because that time and place seem more distant to me, as an American, and therefore easier to render in fantasy terms.
LaDonna from Michigan: Hi, Amanda. I've been a fan of yours for many years. Thank you very much for all the wonderful friends you've given me. I won't ask which of your characters is your favorite, but I'd really like to know which just seemed to take on a life of its own once you created him or her, and which was the most difficult labor?
Amanda Quick: Hard question to answer. The truth is, if the characters don't take on a life of their own somewhere in the course of the book, I'm in trouble. Emma in I THEE WED was pretty lively, though, I must say.
shy from Atlanta: First there was WITH THIS RING and now I THEE WED. Will you continue to use the marriage vows as your titles, and will each new book have a slight connection to the last book like with WITH THIS RING and I THEE WED?
Amanda Quick: That was the general idea but things went awry, as they so often do with my more brilliant notions. The working title of the next book is THE WICKED WIDOW, which, as you can see, sort of jumps ahead beyond the marriage vows.
Terri from southern California: I read recently that there is great concern that the price of mass market romance novels might drive the genre out of business, since hardcover books at a discount may close the gap on $7.00 softcovers. What do you think? Is mass market romance an endangered species?
Amanda Quick: Don't think so. I think what has been created is a thriving secondary market. There certainly are a lot more used bookstores around now than there were 20 years ago when I started writing -- and a great many of them specialize in romance, I've noticed. Collecting romances has become big business, too.
Jen from Washington, D.C: Do you feel you have "modernized" the genre of romance throughout your writing career by creating stronger heroines and more sensitive heroes?
Amanda Quick: I think, at its heart, the romance novel hasn't changed very much. None of the genres change much because the archetypes that animate them don't change. The classic heroic virtues are at the core of all the genres, including the romance genre: courage, honor, determination. These are the things we look for in genre fiction. Only the superficial stuff changes a bit when each new generation of writers gets hold of it.
Moderator: Thank you for joining us, Amanda Quick. You have been a great guest, and we wish you all the best of luck with I THEE WED. Before you go, do you have any closing comments for your online readership?
Amanda Quick: I've had a great time this evening. Thank you all for your interest in my books and thank you, barnesandnoble.com, for everything you've done to support romance fiction.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
As always, Amanda Quick has written a wonderful romance with a witty, intelligent heroin and a large, handsome hero. That's where the similarity to other romance novels end. Ms. Quick successfully invents lost islands and civilizations and thrills us with her descriptions of old England. I loved this book as much as all her previous books (which I reread on a periodic basis). The only complaint I have about Amanda Quick as an author is that she just doesn't finish books fast enough. And why, oh why do they have to end?
THis book had me reading it from 10 in the morning till 7 in the evening.....COULDN'T PUT IT DOWN!!!
Enjoyed this light read. Liked the humour and the characters. The romance didn't make me want to vomit over it's mushiness like some of this genre does. Happy to read her again.
This is a romance. Fast read, simple (and totally predictable) plot, nominal suspense (which the predictability vitiates). It may be set in the Regency period, but the characters are more like 20th C. people time-warped back to then (scandalous language and behavior! Simply scandalous!).In other words, typical romance. The plot revolves around a mystery but I think if you read it for the mystery you'll be disappointed, because it's just a plot device for getting Mr. and Miss into each other's..."arms." Yeah, "arms."
Emma lives as a ladies companion, having lost previous jobs because she's too opinionated. She's an interesting character and fun to read about particularly when she meets Edison Stokes. A man born illegitimate he's faught his way up through society and is now pretty much accepted.Both of them are hunting the same goal, but in different ways and they're not sure where they both fit into each other's worlds.Fun, light with some paranormal overtones.
Steady Pace..Enjoyable read
Sort of part of a series, but only loosely linked. Basically a stand alone, and one of her better ones, I think. Emma is quick witted and resourceful, Edison is wrapped too tight but driven. The blurb gives clues. I find it to be a nice, non-demanding read about once a year or so. Enough suspenseful and sensual tension to keep one's interest without being gory or a bodice-ripper. Barbara Rosenblatt is a good audio performer and doesn't overplay the roles.