The third instalment in the Westruther series, THE WICKEDEST LORD ALIVE, will be in stores on 1 July in the United States. In Australia, the e-book will be available on 1 July and the print book will be on sale on August 27.
This is Xavier, Marquis of Steyne’s story. He’s the sarcastic, cool, enigmatic one.
His attitude to love is uncompromisingly cynical, as you can see from this conversation with his cousin Cyprian, the poet:
“I’m writing a poem about thwarted love,” Cyprian announced. “I’m having the Devil of a time with it, if you must know, Coz.”
“My heart bleeds,” said Xavier.
The boy slapped his knee and sat up with sudden energy. “That’s just it. The heart. The organ of amour. The receptacle of tender emotions in a man’s breast. I have never been thwarted in love, so how am I to write about it?”
Xavier snorted. “Romantic love is a pretty concept dreamed up by people who need some noble justification for slaking their lust.”
Cyprian stared at him as if he’d just killed a puppy. The young man swallowed, then his widened gaze strayed to his work.
Mercilessly, Xavier added, “Given the entire concept is a construct, you need only use your imagination if you want to write about it. Make it up, why don’t you? Just as so many deluded idiots have done before you.”
Before Cyprian could frame a response, Lydgate strolled into the room. “Ah,” he said, taking in the situation in a swift glance. “Pricking the bubble of love’s young dream again, Xavier?”
Xavier snorted. “Merely stating facts.”
“Don’t listen to him, Cyprian,” said Lydgate. “A more cynical man you will never meet.”
Cyprian had been staring at Xavier with blank horror. Now, he shook himself and laughed. “Oh, I have learned by now not to regard anything my cousin says about tender emotions. It is well known he has an icicle for a heart.”
The boy hadn’t meant to wound him. He certainly hadn’t succeeded.
“I wonder,” said Lydgate with a gleam of speculation in his eye.
“My heart is an organ which pumps blood, nothing more,” said Xavier.
For a while, it seems as if Xavier has spoken the truth:
Lizzie tried to contain it, but her true objection came out. “You are so cold and unfeeling. You do not care for me at all. You do not even try to—to woo me, or…”
…Cold and unfeeling, was he? The blood in his veins pumped hot and hard when he thought about bedding her. He intended to feel every bloody inch of her.
But of course, after a shaky start to their arranged marriage, Lizzie begins to hold her own against Xavier:
“Behold, my esteemed family,” murmured Xavier to Lizzie when he judged she’d grown a little calmer and more settled.
“They are most congenial,” she said. “Are you sure they are related to you, my lord?”
He deserved that, no doubt. He turned to look at her. “Why, Miss Allbright. I’d no notion you could dish out irony with the best of them.”
“I am learning from a master,” she replied.
By the end of the book, Xavier’s attitude to love has undergone a shift:
There was not enough poetry in the world to describe this feeling. He certainly couldn’t find the phrases to do it justice.
You can read more about Xavier’s story here.