BP Note: When we were contacted by eKensington with their list of upcoming books one of the ones that caught my eye was Always a Stranger by Amara Royce. I happen to be a fan of stories set outside of the US and I have been fascinated with Asia since I was a young child and discovered a certain series by James Clavell. As a result when I looked at the cover image and read the blurb I really wanted to do something but unfortunately I knew with my other commitments I did not have time to agree to do a review. Luckily both Royce and eKensington were open to my posting an excerpt so I hope you enjoy.
An international affair, London’s Great Exhibition has taken the city by storm. As its newest Royal Commissioner, Lord Skyler Ridgemont must ensure the performers are properly contracted. Among them is the delicate and graceful Hanako Sumaki. Draped in vivid silk robes, Hanako’s exotic Japanese fan dance captivates Skyler-and he longs to learn more about her…
But Hanako’s enigmatic employer keeps his exquisite charge very close. The consummate artist, she shows the handsome nobleman many faces, but never her true heart, which holds a desperate secret. When Skyler learns the real reason Hanako has been brought to London, he will risk his entire world to win her trust-and save her from losing both body and soul. It’s a feat that will require the type of courage only love can give…
The blurb came from the author’s website.
Unable to speak, he stared back at her, mesmerized by the play of the streetlights on her face. So he did what seemed most natural. He leaned down and met her lips again.
This time, something seemed to come apart between them. A gate opened. Perhaps a bonfire ignited. The moment their lips touched, the kiss exploded into something ravenous, something barely civilized. Where this intensity came from, he had no idea. And he was ill equipped to control it. His hand came up to stroke her cheek, but then it wrapped around to cradle her head, to hold her tight to him. The warmth he’d felt from her burst into a white-hot flame that concentrated in his chest and swiftly spread lower.
She gasped and leaned into him; he wrapped his arms around her and pulled her against him hard. He deepened the kiss, ever mindful of the slightest sign of her withdrawal or resistance. But there was none. She opened her mouth to him, her mouth exploring as his did. He almost couldn’t breathe with the wonder and fierceness of the moment.
The carriage stopped.
Immediately, she drew away. Tense and flustered, she touched her lips gingerly, which made him want to pull her to him again. Her body heaved as she tried to calm her breathing. He was breathing rather hard himself.
They had arrived at the Jade Garden. A melee of guilt and responsibility stomped and crashed upon that heat in his chest. He could have no respectable intentions toward Miss Sumaki. What were the odds that her Mr. Broek would not notice she’d been quite thoroughly kissed? What risk had he just placed upon her, after so vehemently saying he would protect her? There was no other choice. Upon his honor, he had to accompany her into the Jade Garden and somehow placate her employer and extricate himself without demeaning Miss Sumaki in the process. She thought he had a facile way with language; this would be a fine test.