I sneak into the library (with a lamp in hand; Miranda’s always reminding me to carry a lamp when I intend to go into a dark room). I’ve avoided everybody in the ballroom because a friend is coming tonight to show me something very special.
And by “very special” I mean “pornographic.”
The library door opens a crack and Caroline Linden slips in. She’s carrying The Book — a very plain, thin volume, something you might hide between the pages of another book or even in your skirts. Really, it looks like nothing.
“You brought it!” I leap up and exclaim in a stage whisper (because we’re alone in the library, natch).
“Shh!” She slaps a palm over my mouth and darts a glance back at the closed door. “Keep your voice down. Do you want everybody to know?”
“Okay okay.” I’m staring at the book. “So this is The Book your heroine is looking for so desperately?”
Caroline nods. “This is it, the very book Joan Bennett sneaks out of her house to buy — that is, before Tristan, Lord Burke, follows her and makes that impossible.”
“He follows her? Why? Does he know about The Book?”
“No. You see, Joan terrorizes her brother into signing a note promising he’ll go to a ball, making a horrific impression on Tristan, who’s there at the time.”
“Oops. Is he handsome?”
“Does she swoon over him and instantly regret her behavior?”
“She thinks he’s a jerk. She calls him Lord Boor.”
“Ha!” I sober momentarily, hopefully. “But it’s love at first sight on his side at least. Right?”
“He thinks she’s fat.”
“Wait, but . . .” I gather my thoughts. “Let’s get back to The Book!”
“That’s the point. Joan goes to her brother’s in the first place as an excuse to go shopping alone–”
“For The Book!”
“For the book. But Tristan follows her–”
“She really riled him up, didn’t she?”
“Definitely. At the bookshop they quarrel, and she’s so distracted that she storms out without the book.”
“Without The Book?!”
“Without the book. So Tristan takes it.”
I consider the potential drawbacks and benefits of this. “Does he read it?”
“No. He doesn’t even know what it is. He goes to the ball and gives it to her.”
I’m incredulous. “He just gives it to her? Just like that? The Book? In the middle of a ballroom?”
“Well, he puts it down the back of her dress because she says she can’t carry it around.”
“Because The Book is . . .”
“Porn,” Caroline finally confirms.
“Porn,” I say a little dazedly. I’ve never read early nineteenth-century porn. Or, really, any porn. “So . . .?”
“Can we read it already?!”
“Sure.” She opens the plain cover.
I read. ”Oh, goodness,” I whisper, this time not because we’re in a library.
Caroline turns the page.
“Oh . . . goodness.” I look up. My cheeks are probably bright pink, though not nearly as pink as the other sorts of cheeks of the lady in The Book. “Joan wants to read this?”
“But– But–” I stammer. “What is she going to do with all this . . . er . . . knowledge? And does Lord Burke know?”
Caroline gives me an elusive smile. She’s not going to tell me — drat her. But I have a copy of Love and Other Scandals waiting on my bed table at home, so I’ll know by tonight! In the meantime . . .
I pluck Fifty Ways to Sin from Caroline’s fingers and settle back in a comfy chair. “You go out and have fun in the ballroom. Lady B is dying to see you again. I’ll just finish this up first.”
“Oh, will you?”
I glance up at her innocently. “For educational purposes, of course.”
We’re celebrating Caroline’s visit to the ballroom today with a giveaway of a signed copy of Love and Other Scandals to one randomly chosen commenter. Have you ever hidden a book or something else that you just couldn’t bear for anybody else to see? Do tell!
If you’d like a peek at the naughty book Joan and every other innocent maiden of the ton is dying to read, click here.